Friday, June 26, 2009

Ysbryd Mathonwy

The House of Boyo is off to the Wales tomorrow to attend the annual Cwyniad.

It is also a chance to have our masculine child, Bendigeidfran ap Saisladdwr aMhorcaunt de Boyo, initiated in the Ways of the Welsh.

The Cymru Rouge cadres of Ferryside have been ordered to trawl in a furlong of cockles and pluck a crwth in preparation.

In the meantime, listen to this:

Happy holidays, innit!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Songs of Innocence and of Experience

Among those who claim descent from the Oghuz Turks, the Book of Dede Korkut is both epos and guide to etiquette.

This wonderful work, available in an elusive Penguin Classics edition, catalogues the manner in which Oghuz boy-cubs became prowling adult Turks. The process was simple and satisfying:

The Turks would gather to feast. Tents would be tethered to Turcoman traders, miscellaneous meats would be grilled on the backs of Circassian maidens, wine would flow from the hollowed skulls of Armenian waterbearers - the hollowed skulls of live Armenian waterbearers - and bards would drone out dastans to the baleful beat of the bağlama on bared Byzantine buttocks.

Everyone was having a good time, except for one group of beardless youths. They sat tentless at a ragged Bokhara rug. Blinded Bulgarian bumboys dumped gobs of gristle on their laps. The wine was boxed. Pointy-headed urchins etched their caricatures in dung, and the Owl of Afrasiab soiled their caps.

One angry jigit approached the ataman and asked wherefore were they being treated thus. The chieftan replied that they had not proven themselves as men, let alone Turks, and had no right to sit with their bone-sucking elders.

The youths decided to consult a friendly tribesman whose name, Crazy Dumrul, hinted at the nature of his advice. At his urging they rose as one and marched off towards Georgia, which they treated much as General Grant would in later, happier times.

After much rumspringa, charivari and defenestration, they returned to the camp with a skein of Mingrelian limbs and innards. From these they fashioned a remarkable coat for the ataman, who was well-pleased.

Aksakal Dede Korkut, the sage of the Oghuz, would then bestow beards and names upon the striplings - Wolfsmack, Lowbrow, Moonbelt - all good stuff like that, and they would have their lunch at last with much trilling of timbrels and strumming of Kurds.

Our Western societies are pleasantly devoid of spirituality and so largely lack these wholesome rites of passage:

  • Disentangling your classmates' underwear at a sixth-form disco or stealing an Oxford bobby's helmet are but echoes of our hunting fathers' bulging bugles.
  • In rural Wales the 18th birthday midnight beating in the police cells recalls the okipa ordeal of our fondly-imagined Mandan cousins on the banks of the Missouri.
  • Various guilds, boarding schools, cults and branches of the armed forces still shave and bludgeon novices' sweetbreads, but more out of colossal depravity than any tribal atavism.

Should we bring back spooky torment as an essential part of growing up? BBC Radio's Thought for the Day seeks to do so through the medium of whimsy, and the Catholic Church in Ireland has an individual take on the question as well.

Myself, I think that we fortysomethings can act like Dede Korkut and share our wisdom with the damp-palmed youths of today without the need for five-hour dutar riffs or flaying the citizens of Tbilisi alive. With that I would like to launch the No Good Boyo Moral Tutorial Course.

“Give us a boy and we will return you a man, a citizen of his country and a child of God”, the Jesuits used to lie.

I wouldn't go that far, but would venture the slogan "Let the boy listen to my self-serving tales of overseas misadventure, and he might be able to divert frisky ladies and not end up being steamboated in a Turkish gaol."

I aim low, so that others might soar.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Maipes Môn

Iron Chancellor Otto von Bismarck said "Politics is the art of the possible". Irn-Bru Chancellor Gordon Brown must interpret this as meaning "Do what thou Wilt", as he has nudged Dads' Favourite Caroline Flint mewling through the Cabinet catflap and settled Glenys Kinnock in her silken basket as Minister of Europe.

This means I need to issue some urgent clarification. Readers of this web blog may have noticed that I have:

This is, as Mrs Boyo says of me, both unfortunate and true. When Glen was just another moule-munching Euromoloch I neither knew nor cared what she thought, but her recent promotion and return to these pebble-dashed isles has caused a ripple of concern to coast across the smooth surface of my brain. The way I see it is this:

  • The Minister of Defence is in charge of putting our feral youth in tanks and pointing them at the Taleban;
  • The Minister of Health tries to keep superbugs safely isolated in hospitals; and
  • The Minister of Education hands out 'A' levels or whatever to anyone who makes it to 18 without falling foul of the said ministers of defence and health.
So what sort of power could the Minister of Europe have over my holiday plans? Mrs Boyo had rather set her hand-crafted heart on retracing the Molotov Line, what with the anniversary this year, and we don't want to be turned back at Calais by order of the Holyhead Hydra - especially with the boot of the car full of Mrs B's mine-laying maps and Pole-detectors.

I would therefore propose to Lady Kinnock a hudna - the kind of ceasefire favoured by Hamas. The Cymru Rouge pledges not to refer to her manifest evil or idiot family very much if she in turn promises not to make us spend the autumn in Berkshire.

She reads The Guardian. She'll appreciate our sincerity.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Dharma Chums

I've lived a long life, blessed with the company of obliging women, two-eyed progeny and a subsidised bar at work. In the course of this life I have been taught many bitter lessons, and have learned nothing from them except this - you do not mess with Buddhists. They will have you every time:

  • China took on the Dalai Lama, and look at the state of the place now;

  • Leonard Cohen is still rocking out, while Brian Adams dances for coins down the Labrador docks; and

  • An Indian court has ruled that Richard Gere can enter the country and manhandle the ladies anytime he sees fit.
Most recently the hollow-faced drabs and keffiyeh-toting posh boys at The Guardian fell foul of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the Iron Lily of the Irrawaddy. What on Earth were they thinking?

Within hours of suggesting that the Burmese were anything but rapt in expectation of her 1,000-year rule, they were steamed and paddled by a phalanx of wall-splitting acrobatic lawyer-monks before they could chant a cheongsam. You just don't screw with The Suu.

An erstwhile colleague of mine had a narrow escape when he tried to string along The Aung many years ago.

His task was to knead some journalistic sense into the slovenly sub-editors on the Far Eastern desk. In their English way they had gone native, and were given to publishing ten-page speeches by Chinese Communist Party officials with no more editorial intervention than a misleading headline. Summaries and subheadings were as alien to their adopted way of life as dairy cuisine and credible film dialogue.

He decided to show them how it should be done by dismembering a piece of Burmese copy before their opium-dimmed eyes. This masterpiece was a 12-page address by some pockmarked psycho to his mates in the military junta to mark Election Abolition Day or something.

The Gang of Twenty-Four had slapped the headline "SLORC cadre address to committee plenum" across the screed and, in a gesture to context, added the postcode of the government massage parlour where this nonsense was spouted. By way of acknowledging the forthcoming "struggle session", the Red Guards had scattered subheadings like "Deracinate periphery roaders" through the bulging rant like wilting petals in a tank track.

My colleague - let us call him Phil - launched his re-education and self-criticism campaign with little initial resistance.

"The headline should say what the man talked about. Was it the economy? Politics? His mum? Old Guard splittism? Help the reader, eh, especially as it is probably just the one reader by now."

The militant youth nodded glumly.

"An introduction ought to tease out the gist of the headline. This braid-belted berk is complaining that decent people think his country's run by bastards for bastards, and it would take less space to say that than typing out 'Chez Madame Minh, 14 Ne Win Terrace, Rangoon Y666' for us to say as much. So let's do it."

Grunts of grudging assent. Phil was on fire.

"And how about explaining who these people are? I mean, here on page five, Aung San Suu Kyi. Who the Hell is Aung San Suu Kyi?"

Phil later admitted that he could have picked a better example from among the many Scrabbletastic names in the speech. But he was a manager. His was not to know, but to guide.

The worsted vanguard clutched their hand-thrown mugs of Fairtrade sludge in horror, for a shard of Caligari lightning had cast the gaunt spectre of Suu across Phil's chiaroscura pate. Her olive-black eyes were burning down an etiolated arm into the depths of his Springboks shirt.

Phil was saved by one of the shockworkers, who turned her russet cheeks on him and declared "I could never work with someone who didn't know who Aung San Suu Kyi was!"

"You'd better resign then, chuck, 'cos I'm your boss and I've never heard of him!" crowed our hero. San Suu slunk back into the inky depths of Lake Inya from which she had never fully emerged.

Phil went on to enjoy a satisfying career as a middlebrow managerial thug, the only man to have escaped the Damnation of the Daw. He survived because the sole spiritual force to enjoy greater unthinking bourgeois support than Basic Buddha is the British "Not In My Name" public-secretariat.

And that is why Aung San Suu Kyi and her malevolent minions have been so swift to silence The Guardian. Despite poor personal hygiene, its readers have a strength that passeth all understanding. Pray God that they never realise it, for they could destroy worlds.

Shantih shantih shantih