Sunday, June 29, 2008

Elephant Talk

A conversation at The Tethered Goat this lunchtime:

Boyo: You going to The Glade this year?

The K Man: Dunno. Weather was terrible last year. Would've have flooded my wellies if I'd had any. It was like the Somme, man. Like Stalingrad.

Boyo: I think the problem at Stalingrad wasn't the rain so much as the cold.

K Man: Ah, so it wasn't that bad after all!

Boyo: And Von Paulus and his men weren't charged £30 a head for getting in, either.

K Man: Thirty quid!?! More like £125!

All history is contemporary.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Wounds of Armenia I

Gyppo Byard's heather-hawking Armenian anabasis has reminded me of my long and inglorious association with that fine country.

Although shaped like one of those moulded bed pans men toy with in NHS hospitals, Armenia has everything going for it in terms of attracting a Welsh:

  • it, like random chunks of the Amazonian rainforest, is about the size of Wales (see also other fun countries Albania and Israel);

  • The Armenian for "good morning" is "Barry Lewis" (բարի լույս);

  • Their big neighbours are still a source of annoyance, and they don't let you forget it;

  • They used to live on the plains, but are now stuck in some useless mountains;

  • They are short and dark, while their history is long and darker - think of The Crow, but with better music;

  • Their menfolk are largely engaged in loafing and criminality; and

  • Turks killed my great-grandfather at Gallipoli in 1915, the same time as they killed most Armenians' great-grandparents.

There are differences, of course, Armenian women and the weather being the most striking, but these only add to the allure.

As a student at the University of That London in the 80s, I was always on the lookout for ways of funding my Art Pepper way of living (this was the time before lifestyles).

Stints as a ballet impressario and art dealer had brought me deep joy, some cash and the attention of law-enforcement agencies in countries where civil servants wear sunglasses indoors, so male-modelling and sperm donation seemed the next step. Until an academic, whom I shall call Dr Steffan ap Sioncs, advertised for Armenian lessons.

Dr Sioncs was a Welsh, and a specialist on Georgians (the Stalin-boosting wine merchants, not the lynching-prone peanut fanciers or lady-dodging poets) who wanted an insight into the language of their frumpier neighbours. I spoke no Armenian beyond basic greetings, enquiries about alcohol availability and slanders on the Turkic national epic Crazy Dumrul, but possessed guile and a copy of the CIA's marvellous "Spoken Eastern Armenian". We went to work.

I would prepare a lesson the night before my weekly class with Dr Sioncs, and rebuff his polite questions about grammar points and non-spook vocabulary with assurances that he must not harrow his narrow Silurian mind with too much Armenian at this delicate early stage.

I even persuaded him that the Georgians had lifted their spaghetti alphabet from the elegant Mesropian Armenian script rather than from the commonly-received tin of soup. This had the virtue of not being true and of getting him into immense trouble with any Georgians he might want to share it with.

This nonsense went on for months, to the benefit of all. The landlord of the Friend in Hand got his tab paid, Dr Sioncs could order a bottle of prolapse-friendly Zhiguli beer in Yerevan, and any number of distressed young ladies avoided being seeded with frozen shots of Chateau Boyo.

But this was not even the beginning of my dealings with Armenia and its ungrateful denizens. There was a prequel, a sequel, and a tragic coda. Of which more anon.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

We Live As We Dream, Alone

Gyppo Byard has pitched his vardo in the lay-by of British womanhood and started hawking the scented heather of Oriental delight.

The lively one-sided debate he provoked raises questions not about the media as the message, but the difficulty of perceiving that message while drinking buckets of soave with your girlfriends in the various chrome-plated bars of English market towns.

"Sex and the City: The Movie" opens in cinemas here this week, and Mrs Boyo is marching her phalanx of the Rosa Luxemburg Sexual Illiteracy Combat Brigade through the piles of empty Thornton's boxes, rosé wine bottles and mascara puddles to pressgang stragglers into the popcorn galleys for what she hopes will be anti-Romaticism aversion therapy.

I fear she may be wrong. I enjoyed the TV series "Sex and the City" as a sort of "Coupling" for simpletons. There is considerable evidence, however, that many lady viewers see it not as a "satire on the self-delusion of gender-based empowerment in late-capitalist society", to quote Mrs Boyo, but rather as a practical guide for the perplexed.

I would therefore suggest that the makers of this and other fine comedy programmes should preface each broadcast with the following message:

"The lives portrayed herein are fictional. Any attempt to spend yours in lunchtime frascati sessions while squealing about orgasms and harrassing waiters will leave you a penniless and lonely lush. You will die in a pool of your own wee in a failed attempt to struggle into a frock designed for a Neapolitan teenager. And - no: gay men do not find you fascinating. They see you as ungainly object lessons in why they made the right choice. Enjoy the show."

It seems the kindest thing they could do.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Stalin Wasn't Stallin'

Mrs Boyo and I start the day with target practice and Radio 4's Today Programme Bingo - combining the two if possible. As respectively a Marxian Spenglerist and a Welsh de Maistrean of reptilian sang froid, we find the consequent rise in blood pressure helps us blend in with the neighbours, while the kitchen-table cries of "House!" remind us of what we're meant to be living in.

Today runs three types of story:

I. Things Today thinks we need to know (global warming, Gaza, what Bono's up to).

II. People doing things that aren't illegal, but which Today thinks ought to be (drinking, smoking).

III. People doing things that are illegal, but which Today thinks have "root causes" (recreational drugs, bombing).

The aim of Today Bingo is to find a story that combines at least two, and ideally all three of these elements. If it then interviews a BBC correspondent to reinforce its point with exquisite solipsism, you've got a full house.

The other morning I was quick to bag a story that sounded promising. The gist was "Naturists are taking teens to their nudy camps, but what if there are paedos about?" It had a strong strain of Element II - naturists are not illegal, but their suburban vulgarity puts them firmly on the Today list of undesirables. I could also stake a claim to Element I, as Today was running stories on "The Kids" all week.

No chance of Element III, I'm glad to say, unless the London media were even more depraved than I'd thought, but two out of three put me well ahead of Mrs Boyo and her Element II bid on the weather forecast (it was snippy about the Home Counties, where Todaythink maintains people ought to be guilty about residing).

But then I realised, with almost toast-crunching horror, that I agreed with an aspect of the item. Naturists - or nudists, to use the technical term - were alright in Carry On films and Sunday Express cartoons, but there remains something suspiciously German and 1920s about them in real life.

I have a list of types who, while not criminal or inherently evil, I would not allow near "The Kids". These are Quakers, vegetarians and Esperantists. Quakers are worthy in a wheaten way, but are Wrong About Everything. Vegetarians deny God's meaty bounty, and dare to be smug about it. Esperantists are usually an intersection of the last two, like in a Venn diagram *.

To that number I now add nudists. The Lord filled Britain with brambles and damp weather, and made our kinfolk lumpy and uneven of tooth. He also granted us the bounty of Scotswomen to weave sturdy tweeds and the colony of Malaya to provide sap for our gumboots, so that we might adapt to the tepid discomforts of these islands.

Not good enough for nudists, apparently. Like Quakers, they think they know better than God. As this is a free country, nudists are free to frolic on the sunkissed beaches of Llanbedr and get bullied on the Today programme like the rest of us, but they set an example of poor taste, self-absorption and blasphemy to our youth.

Mrs Boyo pointed out that Stalin locked up as many Quakers, vegetarians and Esperantists as he could lay his iron fists on, when not distracted by trying to destroy the few clever, well-born and good-looking people who'd survived his mate Lenin. I replied frostily that this argument of guilt by association didn't intimidate me.

Until I understood that she wasn't trying to contradict me at all.

(* Thanks to Scaryduck, for explaining a Venn diagram in response to my gesticulations.)

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

The Severn Pillows of Wisdom

Back from a bracing week of clouds and tooth decay in Wales, I have the latest news and developments so you don't have to.

1. The government in Cardiff has decided that the English name of the country will henceforth be spelled !Wales!. The idea is to make people think we are not only musical, but a musical. This ought to bring the pink pounds pouring in, and give our homophobe community something to do since the last gays in the villages left to be something in the London media.

2. In order to overcome the North-South divide, the regions of Wales are to be renamed as follows:

  • North Wales coast - The Rhylviera

  • Rest of North Wales - Mid Wales

  • Mid Wales - Middlewales, in order to make the Tolkien-cultists infesting Machynlleth feel at home.

  • South-West Wales - Ireland (Tenby will be called Galway and Pembrokeshire West Cork. Having your head slammed in a pub door by the Young Farmers will be known henceforth as "the craic")

  • The Valleys - Little Switzerland. Tonypandy will be twinned with Zürich's Needle Park.

  • Glamorgan - Westworld.

  • Cardiff - The Torchwood.

3. In a similar move, the Welsh language will be rebranded as Gaelic, so no one will be scared of it anymore.

4. The Academi Gymreig, which attempts to regulate the Welsh language, has issued its latest list of words we ought to use instead of just saying English ones with a comic accent. They are:

  • Spambot: plastic luncheon-meat holder.

  • Charlota: singing bustily.

  • Chwerthfawr: laughable.

  • Cotseinio: to mark oneself out as a bit of a tool.

The model sentence provided was "Chwydais 'nghinio yn syth yn y spambot wrth glywed Glenys Blydi Kinnock yn ceisio charlota. Chwerthfawr oedd i'w gweld hi yn cotseinio ei hun gymaint."

5. Under family pressure, my brother Annwn has agreed to call his dog Bruno, instead of Duw ffyc aye - his all-purpose greeting.

6. The Senedd has announced the summer list of who is and who isn't currently Welsh. Terry Jones is out, and anyone who 'd like to play for the national football squad is in.

7. Plaid Cymru capo Dafydd Iwan returned No Good Boyo's jaunty greeting on the gristly streets of Dolgellau, and so is assured of both of my votes once again.