Sunday, April 20, 2008
Et puis je fume
Richard "Elastic" Bond, linguist and Depeche Mode analyst, had an effective way of deciding what people were like without having to get to know them. He asked which side they would have fought on in the English Civil War.
It's a deceptively simple question, but reflection on it drapes the inner walls of your brain with doubt. I'd always considered myself one of Nature's Roundheads, but an access of honesty made me realise that I'm a Cavalier. I've had no concern for the common weal ever since.
Being a Cavalier doesn't mean you're a Royalist, social conservative or git. It's an attitude. A certain élan, insouciance, indifference to details like success, fondness for French words, a blithe torpor maintained through flashes of ruthlessness - these mark the Cavalier.
A Roundhead need not be a Messianic reformer or friend of the poor. An inexorable quality, dependable but not always right, marks Cromwell's children.
It's not a question of left or right. The Bolsheviks, apart from Trotsky, were Roundheads. The Nazis in the main were Cavaliers. In Spain, the Nationalists were Roundheads, and the Republicans Cavaliers.
There's a queasy glamour attached to being a Cavalier. Minor royals and suburban punks don't turn up to fancy dress parties dressed as Comrade Beria (although Mrs Boyo does).
If you want to be remembered far beyond your worth, be a Cavalier. Look at Dixie.
Like Elastic Bond, I tend to sort people into two groups. Mine are smokers and non-smokers. As with Prince Rupert versus the New Model Army, it has little to do with whether you're a slave to the weed or not.
Smokers don't know the way but usually get you there, by which time you don't care anymore. They are not always kind, but feel some remorse later. They have wit and no sarcasm. They write and play music with aimless enjoyment, don't object strongly to ironed clothes, and are lazily good in bed.
Non-smokers. Well. The chances are you work for one, unless you're a burlesque dancer.
I gave up smoking week before last. I'd come to it relatively late and applied myself with zeal. When cigs weren't doing it anymore, I switched to the pipe - aptly described by leechmeister Ward Cooper as "the smoker's equivalent of meths". Gradually I cut down in line with shrinking fugged-up public spaces and expanding family.
I don't miss it, because I will always be a smoker. It's a lost cause, and worthy of devotion - with a cigarette or without.