Author Topic: Sign language

Sign language
« on: September 07, 2007 »

Whilst perusing this book it struck me that the youth of today, the bulk of whom seem to be under the age of 50, have no idea how to conduct themselves. This was confirmed most forcefully on my recent trip to Wales, undertaken despite Theodore's abhorrence of all things Welsh, contracted after a peculiar experience in the boy scouts which even now he refuses to elaborate upon other than by developing a tic. He also harbours resentment that his monograph on the Welsh language (The Foolllish Tngue) was less than well received by scholars or press on either site of Offa's Dyke.

Although Theodore and I now lead separate lives, they continue to intertwine thanks to the vagaries of fate and, I suspect, his libido, which remains undernourished by the companionship he repeatedly seeks in the small ads in the conservative press ("Good hunting grounds" goes the boast). Our days of sexual congress may be long past, but he continues to entertain the notion that the flame still flickers. I fancy he sees his ex as strangely forbidden fruit, thus more desirable. In this respect I cannot be of service.

We undertook the journey west to visit mutual friends, of which we maintain a shrinking roster. Know that the bulk of them have always been won through my efforts and he has ever ridden my coat tails.

Of course we took the train, the motorcar being a conveyance neither of us utilizes, me because I never obtained a licence due to mother's fear that it would mean the end of my virtue, Theodore because he doesn't agree with the "theory" of internal combustion, and dislikes it almost as much as he does the Welsh - who incidentally I find to be a charming people, dear reader. Though so very foreign.

As a welcome respite from the intolerably noisy platform (tannoy pollution is at an all-time high; did I miss a shareholder's meeting where this was approved?), we made for the so-called 'quiet car'. Anyone familiar with this construct should dissuade themselves from the notion that it is anything of the sort. The most frequent conversational gambit of new entrants to this purported haven of peace is "SHHHH! This is the quiet car," whereupon the subject is promptly forgotten and the decibels are as loud as in any other part of the train, if not louder, perhaps as a kind of healing aural balm for the pain incurred when one's mobile phone is surgically removed from one's ear, such monstrosities of modern living being banned. Perhaps, also, noises seem louder where they are meant to be dampened.

How precisely does one tell people to Shut Up in this day and age? It cannot be done without harm to feelings on either side of this temporary relationship of fellow travelers (as I resent having to ask it). And quite apart from feelings, lodging a complaint may invite actual abuse; I no longer read the useless pulp which passes for newspapers these days, but thanks to screaming headlines am aware of the casual violence meted out to the meddlesome. Thus one suffers in ironic silence, or "grows cojones" and, should one avoid becoming a tabloid statistic, turns into the people's pariah, as only a minority will likely approve of the citizen's arrest.

We chose silence. Or rather, I did, as Theodore was engrossed in his iPod, from which emanated an almost continual loop of Bolero.

The rolling stock was delayed and we arrived at our transfer station in Swansea a few minutes after our next train - the last of the day - had left, whereupon we were courteously deposited into a taxicab for the 60-odd mile trip north deep into the heart of what Theodore kept muttering was darkness. It was perhaps appropriate that the horseless carriage came to our rescue in the city which is home to the DVLA.

Our visit was very pleasant, our hosts kind and solicitous as one could wish for, even going so far as to indulge my former spouse with his request for a room with a double bed "in case I pull at the pub" (or churchyard, more likely; at his worst he is nothing so much as a priapic vulture with a keen nose for weepy oestrogen, offering a very soothing line in condolences). His peculiar dietary needs were likewise met: poached egg in galia melon.

The physical highlight of the trip was a group bicycle ride which was more social event than opportunity to transport ourselves from A to A. I noted that several of our number were mounted upon 'fixie', which to my mind is a very curious thing: imagine not being able to freewheel, ever! It sounds a bit like my marriage before I sought liberation. I have found very decent people attached to such machines, so it either attracts them or the experience transforms them, so much so that it's almost as if as components are removed, evangelism takes their place. Neither Theodore nor I care for organised religion, though we have nothing against belief systems in which the neophyte is permitted to instruct his own soul. In any event, gear monogamy is something of which I can heartily approve. As the Clinton campaign was fond of saying, fortunately as a prod to themselves rather than as an insult to the electorate, Keep it simple, Stupid.

The weekend was entirely a success, made more so by the reported comment of a local lass upon being propositioned by Theodore in the delightful bicycle museum in Llandrindod Wells: "Did the sheep all say no?" As if consent was high on his list of priorities.

A trip round the bend
« Reply #1 on: September 30, 2015 »

Having informed Jeremy Corbyn's office that I am making preliminary and of course confidential investigations into renationalisation of the train line to Mumbles, which after it is reconstructed can once again become a thriving public transport option, I joined a group of cyclists in Wales; their goal was recreation rather than matters of civic import, but I felt confident that their esprit de corps could be harnessed to a more noble cause once I unveiled my scheme in all its glory.

First there was the matter of transporting my bicycle and myself to Cardiff, a disagreeable task for anyone familiar with both Cardiff and the poor accommodation for bicycles on trains.

When I arrived at the appointed carriage and tried the door it appeared to be jammed. A few seconds later a young man in disheveled rugby kit brushed past me as he quickly exited the car. Inside I was surprised to find my former wife velcroed to the rack, like a modern day suffragette. It transpired Gertrude was on her way to the same ultimate destination as I, to take part in a demonstration of some sort. She was not engaged in a preliminary protest, but had mysteriously become entwined in the otherwise useless bike straps. What she was doing there in the first place she would not satisfactorily explain. I waited patiently while she disentangled herself, then installed myself in her place, attaching my bicycle to my person using spare toeclip straps.

"Are you not sitting in one of the main compartments of the train?" she enquired distractedly, still flushed from her previous situation and, I noted, missing a pump, which was finally located in the spokes of a fine looking randonneur.

I informed her that I preferred this company to that in the main compartments, then busied myself with some papers until a jobsworth stuck his head in to inform me that it was required I obtain a berth elsewhere. I made a note of his employee ID, which he did not provide with any degree of agreeability, then settled myself in the WC, which was reasonably comfortable but proved to be in sufficient demand throughout the journey to disrecommend its use as an ad hoc office in future.

The train arrived in Cardiff late due to Canadians on the line. As I vacated the cubicle I had to make my way past a disgruntled queue, at the head of which was Gertrude and, coincidentally, the rugby player who had nearly bumped into me previously. He must have been on the receiving end of a tongue lashing she'd delivered to him previously, as they appeared to be avoiding mutual eye contact. She was flushed again. I said my goodbyes as any civilised person would, but she merely smiled, which aroused my first suspicion, as she so rarely favours me with a look less than withering. There was no time to ponder this: I needed to catch up to the group of cyclists who would be so vital to my (and by proxy Jeremy's, if he was the man I hoped he was) plan.

Once outside the station I scattered change to occupy the poor souls attracted to the lights of the city centre then made my escape as they scrambled to claim their newfound wealth.

The group that awaited recruitment a few miles down the road consisted of approximately three dozen; not ideal, but admittedly several magnitudes greater than I attract to my humble box at Speakers' Corner on a good day. Intellectual stimulation has never been popular, despite the pains evolution has taken to provide our species with a mostly working brain. Still, it was sufficient as a kernel.

I thought to begin with a few statistics to warm up the crowd, and was clearing my throat when almost as a single organism they departed, generating a breeze sufficient to scatter my notecards in the Tesco parking lot. As the route was due to dive into lanes shortly thereafter, and I was not equipped with GPS due to the disturbing militaristic origins of that technology, nor map as my father had been an Ordnance Survey mandarin and I was privy to how unreliable cartographers could be at the outer fringes of the empire, I had little choice but to abandon the result of hours of painstaking research in order to keep up.

The night was an astronomer's delight. I recognised most of the well known constellations and a few others the RAS have not deigned in include in the official roster, including Gertrude, which conjoins with Perseus, sharing a head with Medusa – a discovery I happened to make shortly after my honeymoon. The dullards at Wikipedia don't allow my entry to remain for any length of time.

The next several hours were pleasant for cycling, less so for preparing the ground for the rousing speech I planned to make at the food stop. While it is not impossible to have a conversation while moving, the experience is often less than satisfactory, all nuance lost as words get lost in hedges. I had briefly hoped to have a captive audience in anyone stopped by a puncture, of which we were blessed with no less than four, but alas, concentration becomes focused on repairs, all other considerations swept aside. It's as well I hadn't thought to 'prepare' the road in advance, as some unscrupulous campaigners might have done, the end justifying any means.

Of my fellow travellers I could ascertain little, other than that some were Welsh, others more fortunate. While there have been natives who achieved distinction and acclaim, it is because they gathered sufficient strength to overcome the first hurdle life threw at them. This should not be taken as an insult to anyone who gives the matter thought.

Several times I was chosen by ride leader Claudine for wayfinder duty, an opportunity which in other circumstances I might have used to thin the herd. The only participant I found objectionable attained this status by often electing to ride no-handed. This is a foolish activity which detracts from the pleasure of those who take cycling seriously. Sorely tempted as I was to put my own pump through his spokes, it would not do to irk the organisers with my frontier justice.

When we arrived at the pub I prepared myself to give the speech I had mentally pieced together, first stopping at the toilets as it is unwise to attempt to convince anybody of anything on a full bladder. While drying my hands my attention was drawn to Male Angel, a "Sexual Performance Enhancer."

Though I require no enhancing, I have a friend who does, so as a thoughtful gesture attempted to procure the capsules, which only resulted in my coins being eaten. When I approached the barkeep his face assumed a sympathetic cast, yet he claimed there was nothing he could do as he was busy serving customers. I then went out to my bike to find a tool from the saddlebag which might prove useful.

Reader, if you ever think to attempt to open a Durex machine with a tyre lever, save yourself the bother: it doesn't work, no matter how far you shove it in. Thus did the barkeep find me, defeated and cursing, whereupon he ejected me from the establishment. I used the time wisely, rewriting my notes at a picnic table. When the others finally left I was too cold to gather my wits to attempt even a few minutes "hobnobbing", and so resolved to bide my time until we reached the end of the ride.

What can be said about the ride itself? The organisers are to be commended for sourcing a splendid selection of lanes, along with a panorama at dawn that even a man such as myself who hasn't time for poetry can appreciate as a Kodak moment for the soul. I am reliably informed we passed Japanese Knotweed and Himalayan Balsam along the way. Vegetation is not my strong suit. I make a study of people and their foibles, which recipients of my insight are seldom able to see for themselves and rarely grateful to have pointed out, though one would think they have the most to benefit. I would personally welcome the opportunity to have my faults brought to my attention, if I could find anybody qualified to assay them.

As the riders gathered at the cafe for breakfast, at last my moment had arrived. Unfortunately I wasn't there to seize it. Somewhere along the sweep of Swansea bay I had stopped to add a finishing sheen to my speech and lost track of even the Tail End Charlies. I overshot the cafe, landing instead at a scenic overlook. There I found Gertrude.

"Stop ogling," were the first words she said to me, though I was doing nothing of the sort, as I am long past adolescence.

"I'm up here," she then sighed, though anyone presented with those natural formations in all their glory can hardly be blamed for giving them their full due of attention. I am referring of course to the Mumbles.

Gertrude was quite topless. She had tied herself to what appeared to be a large shed in the shape of an apple. I will admit to being sufficiently nonplussed that for the second and last time I dropped my notes into a parking lot, where the wind swept them away for good.

"What on earth are you up to?" I asked her, Jeremy Corbyn temporarily on the back burner.

"Making a statement about the original sin of sexual repression," she said. "I await imminent arrest. What are you doing here? You hate Wales."

"That is a typical exaggeration," I informed her. "Kindly don't mix up the people with the country. I am here to convince a group of cyclists to help revive Labour's fortunes."

"How, pray tell?" she asked, frantically waving to a police car whose driver merely honked and waved back.

With a flourish I presented the picture I'd had professionally photoshopped to illustrate my talk to the cyclists. "Voilà!"

Nearly a full minute of silence passed, which was perhaps a new record for her. I was forced to explain the obvious: "The old Swansea and Mumbles Railway was variously propelled by horses, sails, steam, electricity, petrol and diesel. It's time the cyclist had a go. Imagine: the world's first passenger service, running again in its original location. Nationalised, of course, with cyclists pulling for the greater good. Get on your bike, indeed!" I will admit to being rather swept away by my brief oration.

Gertrude said nothing constructive, so I made no record of it. Shortly afterwards she unbound herself from the apple and caught a lift from the police car which had passed by earlier; evidently she had made an impression.

By the time I eventually found the cafe all the cyclists had disappeared, like the best of intentions.