Thursday, December 25, 2008

"Get your coat, Antonia, we're leaving!"

Poor Harold Pinter was a great playwright, excellent cricketer, watchable actor, discerning ladies' man, quondam pretender to the Albanian throne and political adolescent.

Now that he's dead all sorts of ingrates will mock his penchant for Milosevic and rudeness to Americans.

"Art has always been free of life. Its flag has never reflected the colour of the flag that flies over the city fortress," said Shklovsky.

I would add that artists are not housepainters. They may be able to dash off a challenging abstract, but will probably bugger up your wainscoting.

I like to think I'll be remembered for my sexual prowess and ability to dislocate my shoulders, not for my Dadaist car maintenance or Esperanto poetry.

z"l, says the Cymru Rouge. Chwarae teg.

Hallelu Baloo

We're not Christians here at Beis Boyo, but we hear this and declare "Choon"!

Scots words from the original German, sung by some Fenland elves in a setting by one of Wales's best and gentlest sons.

"What a fine example of an integrated community".

Merry Christmas to you all.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Party Party

Let's go down to a party
(And I said)
If that's not good enough
Then we'll both end up in
Heartache heartache.

So crooned Paul Haig, late of scowling Scottish songcrows Josef K, before embarking on what for all I know is his current career as an impersonator of Ward Cooper, evil genius of the Genesis album market. The resemblance is canny.

A jolly number, the video of which reminds me of how splendid 1980s tailoring could be, "Never Give Up (Party Party)" had all the ingredients for becoming a hit - not least of which was a title with brackets in it.

This always works. Think of "Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine", "Escape (The Piña Colada Song)" and "I'm The Pope (You Know What I Mean)". MC 900 Ft. Jesus's "Truth Is Out Of Style" could have moved mountains if he'd added some parentheses.

And, on that subject, isn't Your Lord 6 Ft. Blonde Blue-Eyed Jesus about to enjoy His celestial birthday party? How He must delight in the demented diversity with which we mortals join in the celebrations. Poles mark the occasion by adopting a carp and letting it cavort in their bath, if they have one. Tagalogues nail themselves to trees in a sincere form of flattery. Catalans pay homage by naming their yule log after bowel movements.

Here on the feral high streets of Albion we have work Christmas dinners. These epitomise the British devotion to enforced cheer in confined spaces. Paul Haig's equally tuneful compatriot the K Man is a devout Calvinist who will not snub The Creator's yuil, especially if Management is paying, and so he developed a technique for dealing with these horrors at his various place of employment.

"I developed a technique for dealing with these horrors," he bellowed thoughtfully at The Tethered Goat the other day.

"Source a few sociable, chain-smoking bastards like yourself, get pished in a nearby bar, then rock up at the restaurant on time. Your boss and his cronies will already be up one end of the table, so you can grab the other. All the bores who've been parking their cars or hiding from drunks will fill the space between and leave you alone. A triumph for Scotland!"

"I'm looking at an empty glass, by the way," he added.

I nodded in regret at how things can go wrong if you heed not the words of the K Man. My own immediate colleagues, it must be said, are a bateau ivre heaving with wit, poise and beauty, so all of our frequent works outings resemble an En Vogue calendar shoot in Oscar Wilde's drawing room hosted by John Cassavetes.

The same could not be said for one of my previous places of work. There I broke the K Man rule, and ignorance was no defence. I made the common Christmastide mistake of taking pity on a lonely soul. Let us call him Feargal.

This fellow had recently joined our team, and was looking forward to getting to know us better at our Christmas dinner. So all the warning signs of his insane venality were already there, had I the eyes. Like Renfield I escorted this vampire to the '70s sitcom trattoria where the gang had gathered.

Sure enough, Feargal kept me waiting a crucial ten minutes while he knotted his scarf. We then pushed aside the wicker-clad chianti bottles to expose the open leaves of my personal Doomsday Diary.

Two places remained at the table. The first was at the smoky end nearest to us, where a blonde and a brunette were demonstrating their novel resuscitation methods on a bottle of barolo and an International Finance editor amid raucous drumming of pipes on primrose waistcoats.

The second lay at the other end of the table between - between! - a married couple who had met during their final-year exams in Censorious Silence at the University of Disapproval, where they both graduated pursed lips cum Birkenstocks.

He was a Green Party councillor, she played the bassoon. I had a feeling they both thought of me during their monthly bout of joyless coupling. Otherwise their chief interests were solidarity with the Castro régime and opposition to smoking and children. Oh yes, and they were Esperantists.

Feargal did not hesitate. He slid betwixt blonde and brunette with a Sid James swerve and cracked open a pack of Major. I couldn't escape. The look the other couple gave me mixed yearning with contempt in a way that only cohabitation has accustomed me to. I sat down, ordered a bottle of grappa and asked them how the Havana Philharmonic's wind section was doing.

I trust you will now run through the checklist as you approach the restaurant doors. How late are you? How drunk are you? How many of you are there? Do you smell of perique soaked in rum? Why not?

You will leave at the end of the evening either with an unlisted phone number smeared in lipstick on your cuffs, or much wiser about Turkish police interrogation methods. In the best of worlds, perhaps both.

In the meantime, enjoy the awkwardness of Paul Haig's performance on "Never Give Up", and ask yourself why the brackets didn't work for him on this occasion. Perhaps he hesitated on the threshold too sober and too long:

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Das Lied Bleibt Gleich

We have an enigmatic German gardener at work. He rambles, Blott-like, through borders both herbaceous and international, dazzling guards and gardenias alike with the light refracted freestyle from the top of his dome and Mercedes W123.

Was he once a singular faction of the Rote Armee Fraktion? He remains as shtum as Stammheim at any mention of Leila Khaled, but deemed Danny the Headhunter from Withnail & I to be a "man with much wisdom concerning hair" after I'd loaned him the DVD.

He disappeared recently, only to return to the Tethered Goat last week. Our liquid luncheon party thought he'd been to Scotland, which is very pleasant this time of year. Instead, he assured us, he'd been on a chainsaw course at Wellington College.

We squeaked in emasculated awe. Short of attending a seminar on throwing bags of hammers at a wall, I cannot imagine anything butcher.

"Ja, I have learnt much more English," noted Der Uli. "Fuck off out of here! Every word there was fuck this and that," he added.

We explained that this is not the sort of language one uses in front of our elegant and exacting barmaid. Der Uli looked as if we'd recommended an Autobahn speed limit. "This was not correct?"

We elaborated that a proper register in the chainsaw-wielding community might not chime with the drunk-hosing sorority. We encouraged him to try out his new lexicon elsewhere, noting in particular that Reading night-club bouncers appreciate a midnight shove on the shoulder accompanied by a cheery "Fuck off out of here".

This exchange got me thinking about many issues of public concern. The Breaking of Andrew Sachs, the Exposition of Captain Jack Barrowman, the Resignation of Sir Terry Wogan - it all adds up to a Britain ill-adjusted to brandy-baffled gentlefolk and their 45 rpm needs.

With this in mind, Gyppo Byard and I have decided to launch a campaign to teach youngsters like Sachs, Wogan and the BBC the art of self-restraint. Too long have we allowed unbelted youth hegemony over our airwaves and watering holes.

At moments like this, Madame Boyo and I like to ask what Gramsci would have done. "The old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear," was how the Sardinian dwarf put it to his cellmate Il Stronzone. Morbidity is a Welsh national characteristic, so the dialectic chose right once again.

Careless readers will know that this blog supports rap music, in both its hip and hop varieties, as well as diverse "skools". I therefore propose adapting this genre because of its singular ability to appeal to young and old alike.

My rapper of choice is, of course, Schoolly D. The banning of his "Signifying Rapper" by Page & Plant out of Led Zeppelin is one of the most egregious acts of cultural vandalism of our tarnished times, ranking alongside Classics FM and the Taliban destruction of the Bamian Buddhas.

The Devil repaid his debt to Robert Johnson by giving Jimmy Page the features of Norman Lamont, while Jermyn St is clearly continuing to boycott Robert Plant. In the meantime, some stout heart has risked the Wrath of Crowley by posting Mr D's finest moment on YouTube, where I urge you to check it one time:

Word, I'm sure you'll agree.

But it doesn't really speak to the wearers of tweed and nutria, unless they use these materials as underwear or to upholster their Cotswold "cribs". Instead, why doesn't Schoolly drop the ostinato from "Kashmir" in favour of, say, the opening minutes of Eric Coates's London Bridge March, as heard at 1'45" on this recording?

This splendidly little-known piece is unlikely to bring Schoolly any legal problems, and the interview with Mr Coates himself will give a few pointers as to the desired diction and cut of cloth for Mr D's Home Counties comeback tour.

Now to matters of wording. A study of the middle quatrains of "Signifying Rapper" will soon reveal Schoolly's mastery of New York vernacular and his flair for the picaresque. For those readers without Internet access, allow me to quote:

He said, you know your daddy and he's a faggot
And your mother's a whore
He said he seen you sellin asshole door to door
Yeah that's what he said, listen to what else he said mister badass pimp

He said, your granny, she's a dyke
And your other brother, he's a faggot
And your little sister Loo
She's so low she sucked the dick of a little maggot
Yeah that's what he said.

And I for one do not doubt it. Nonetheless, the London Bridge March time signature requires a more sprightly tempo, and much of the Bronx argot may be lost in Berks. I would recommend something along the lines of:

Your father rather enjoyed his time at Peterhouse,
And your dear mother - how is she, by the way? -
Went to great lengths to get you into Wellington
Where, I gather, you courted easy popularity with the prefects.
I doubt whether your housemaster approves
Of your current employment by an
Involuntary Albanian marriage bureau, either.

Furthermore your grandmother - I forget which -
Spent the late '20s in Berlin,
While your younger brother summers in Morocco,
And your sister Louise, despite her youth,
Already enjoys local renown as an undiscerning fellatrice,
Or so I'm told.

Try it out for yourselves by trilling along to the clip of Coates, either by following the melody or adopting rap's sprung Sprechesang.

It can only help to revive Schoolly D's career, which has flagged since 2000's "Funk 'N Pussy", and might at least improve the demeanour of Britain's notoriously tetchy après-pub masseuses. It is Advent, after all.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Booze endormi

The mascara-streaked bombshell/site that is Mrs Pouncer's Counsel has hostessed a refreshing romp through readers' favourite cocktails. I recommend Gyppo Byard's heroically pedantic take on the Traffic Lights in particular.

Myself, I learned to make cocktails in Soviet Russia. This was an unfortunate choice, on reflection. Hence my party specials:

Северное сияние (Severnoye siyaniye - Aurora Borealis). One part vodka, two parts Crimean Sekt. Thus called because that's what you start seeing. Popular with sailors and date-rapists.

Ёршь (Yorzh - Stickleback). One part vodka, 3-4 parts zhiguli beer à goût. Thus called because it feels like you're swallowing one. A soldier's breakfast. Useful before and during Aeroflot internal flights.

Папаха Махтумкули (Papakha Makhtumkuly - Magtymguly's Beaver). Three parts arack to three parts buttermilk, strained through the insides of a sheep into a hat made from the outsides of a sheep. Using the same sheep is said to give best results. Drunk in the desert at dawn to ensure a good day's sleep. Thus called because that's exactly what it is.

Зааминский чай (Zaaminsky chai - Zaamin tea). Half a poppy-stalk's worth of opium sap, dripped into a cup of green tea by an increasingly friendly youth. A refreshing reward for village elders, available in the backrooms of chai-khanehs throughout the wartorn Zaamin district of remote Uzbekistan.

Бульбаш (Bulbash - Potatohead). A Belarussian cocktail. You hollow out a potato and fill it with potato moonshine. You give the potato to a Russian, who drinks the contents. Then a Ukrainian steals the potato. You thank them both. Then the Germans turn up.

Бакинские комиссары (Bakinskiye komissary - The Baku Commissars). An Azerbaijani apéritif. Two generous measures of Hungarian Eger Bull's Blood, or indeed any blood, half a bottle of Sumqayıt port, a pinch of gunpowder and a match. To be drunk flambé from an Armenian's skull.

Looking forward to seeing you all at New Year.