Sunday, March 29, 2009

Derwydd Bryn Doncyn

The House of Boyo has been touched by triumph and tragedy in the past week:

  • On the Vernal Equinox all of Madame Boyo's calculations came right and our son Bendigeidfran ap Saisladdwr aMhorcaunt de Boyo was born not made. Offerings are to be brought to Foel Offrwm, Dolgellau, on the eve of Saint Trisant's Day.

  • Then four days later Sioba Siencyn, sheath and cymbal of the Welsh Nation, followed the badger spirit guide to the oak groves and pitheads of Avalon, there to prepare leek poultices and tend the flames of the ever-burning second home.
Siencyn was able to greet Bendigeidfran before his passing, and our son is at a week old already studying the antient texts that he bequeathed on pillars of slate.

Myn Duw, mi a wn y daw...

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Die Verwandlung

Victor Carroon, the British astronaut in the Quatermass Experiment, endured his painful transformation into a malign extraterrestrial carpet with silent, stoic anguish. I am bearing my steady evolution into my own father with less dignity.

Readers of this web blog will know that I've long lamented the failure of the Antient Order of the Dad to lead me along the Path of the Hush Puppy. It looks like this impertinence has earned me an Ovidian punishment.

In my bachelor days I used to spend a few weeks at my parents' house each summer while they tramped around Bavaria in search of the Spear of Destiny. One year my father had abandoned his opposition to the video recorder ("Satan's trouser-press!" was his initial judgment) and filled a bookshelf with tapes for me to plunder.

To my New Statesmanly chagrin his video collection (pronounced "vie-deo" in Wales, by the way) consisted entirely of grim Brit war flicks like "Ice-Cold in Alex" and a couple of staid thrillers. After a comprehensive audit I found two films worth watching - "The Day of the Jackal" and another copy of the same.

I'd brought a worn tape of "Betty Blue" with me in lieu of human female company, otherwise I was at the mercy of Houseburner's Choice on the S4C Welsh channel. There was nothing for it but to go out and get bat-punching drunk down the Llawes Goch tavern every night and challenge the town's leading Gypsy artist to smoking competitions. Country ways.

Now, however, my dvd rental list is choked with offerings from Dirk Bogarde's khaki hetero phase and "Tora! Tora!Tora!", which I realised is not about exuberant Hasidim. There's certainly more Frederick than Bill in my Forsyth selection.

I shall pass over the Venn intersection with my father on politics and clothing with little comment. It is as much a question of age and affluence as of genes. Yes, both Lord Tebbit and Mr Netanyahu make a lot more sense to me now than they did in the 1980s, and my IRA funeral party chic has long been decommissioned in favour of sludgy tweeds and a tendency for my head to keep growing through the top of my hair.

Of more concern are major divergences from my previous philosophical theses on weighty matters. Film choices are one. Motor vehicles are another.

Keen Boyovians will recall the touching combination of reluctance and incompetence with which I approached learning to drive, while Mrs Boyo's cadres may prefer her more dialectical accounts.

Once I'd wrenched the certificate from the cold, hairless palm of the driving examiner, I swore to Mrs Boyo that our car would do no more than ferry her good self to that airstrip where she meets her Colombian chums near Dunwich and take our daughter Arianrhod on trips to the vet.

A few weeks passed and I'd become a sparking plug of chauvinist velocity, my right arm lobstered large from cabbie's elbow, my flecked eyes set on sneer alert for any signs of non-reverse parking or adherence to rural speed limits:

  • I have to be lured from the driving seat by offers of raw steak, rum and an evening's viewing of the Top Gear three-part special on Wankel engines;

  • On my frequent exiles from the Boyo bedroom I find solace in running my sac up and down the fan belt, which is warmer and more legal than hanging around that nurses' training college in the early hours; and

  • Mention the word "escort" and once I'd have obliged with my little black book of big black ladies. Now I whimper "The Mark III - why, Ford, why?!"

More precious pillars of my persona may now be bracing themselves for the blows of banality.

My taste in music is so exquisite that previous lady friends have cited it as unreasonable behaviour. So when will I buy my first brass band medley or compilation of "hits"? And is that Mireille Mathieu luring me onto the rocks - in German?

As Gyppo Byard has gallantly recalled, I like my ladies the way I like my lemons - bitter, jaundiced and unwaxed. So what signs of decay can I next expect? I think of my father's film collection, and the words "Joan Greenwood" toll like a leper's bell in my inner ear. A yearning for Felicity Kendal will mean I've got off lightly.

Like Dorian Gray, I peer queerly at the picture that hangs in my study. A pipe has appeared in the breast pocket, true, but is that a ballpoint pen that now nestles beside it? Has the hour struck when, like Zhatko before me, I murmur "mon semblable - mon père"?

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Let us bathe, Prodike

I'm pleased to report that Stay-At-Home Indie Pop (not one of the Ludlow Indy-Popps, I fear) has launched a thoughtful catalogue of people who irritate him by their very act of being.

His first target is a crass fellow "down the gym" (pron. "gime": Simpson's Dictionary and Menu-Reader).

The simple presence of this character at a gymnasium would have propelled him straight into the 110% buffoon category for me, but would also have raised questions as to what Pop was doing at such a grim institution.

There are few acceptable reasons for being "down" a gym, as opposed to taking exercise in a manly way like playing rugby football, pleasuring bored housewives, smearing your face with spoor and stalking ramblers through a thicket, or a combination of the above. Here are some:

  • You work at the gym in a non-motivational, spandex-free role, especially if it involves tempting the lost souls with corned beef sandwiches, ale and Senior Service untipped in the cafeteria;

  • You escort your Stepford Child there for some activity that Mrs Boyo put in motion but never gets round to attending, and keep your own callisthenic cavorting to the minimum;

  • You reassure depressed 30-something mothers at the weekly Water Tot Splash Slot that there are bald Welshmen who find them attractive, and not necessarily two at a time; and

  • You are a property developer assessing the premises with a view to converting it into a massive cake factory.

As Cavafy might have waned elegaic, Anglo-Saxon culture has taken the best of the Greek Tradition and reduced it to owl-haunted rubble.

To the Ancients the gymnasium was a place where, yes, you could run around and lift heavy objects if you felt the need, but it also invited deep thought and discussion with your fellow citizens.

The topics of debate ranged beyond "I've packed my glutes/hey, feel the pecs on my abs!/I've just burnt something to the max", encompassing as they did politics, arete, agape and who would win in a fight - the minotaur, or the eagle that ate Prometheus's liver?

And, to sharpen the point that there's more to life than tossing a plate around, the Greeks made athletes practice their vile arts naked.

This held the men up to female ridicule and unwarranted attention from middle-aged bachelors, and gave young chaps an idea of which young lady to ask to the agora for a refreshing jug of wine and twigs.

And what about the symposium? For the Greeks, sympotein meant "Your round, son, get 'em in!", and that is exactly what everyone did from Hades to the Hellespont.

If you wanted to talk about the Epiriote Question or how many squaddies you can stick up the arse of a wooden pantomine horse, this is where you would do it - over a bowl or three of Cyprus Sherry.

On the other hand, if you wanted a lewd sing-song about the Queen of Sheba or just to ogle some good-time girls' tonguing a primitive oboe, the symposium was also the place for you.

Turning up at a symposium in Brown's Britain with a bucket of wine, a brace of Moroccan boys and a courtesan to hold your toga is not likely to do your professional reputation much good unless you are a gangster rapper or attend the School of Oriental and African Studies.

More likely a fish-eyed "facilitator" in an Asda suit will ask you first whether you've registered for Image and Signal Processing and Analysis, Calcified Tissues, Regen(e)dering Hierarchies or Start Your Own Nationalised Bank, and second whether you'd leave, please. And not a flute-girl in sight.

We ought to show the Grecians some respect by returning these terms and calling our own debased gymnasia and symposia something more honest, such as "sweat planks" and "bore holes".

"You going to rub your damp buttocks on a sweat plank this afternoon, Justin?" "Cheers mate, but I've got to talk about growing deficit awareness down a bore hole. Fancy some drunken gay sex instead?"

The same goes for kebabs, although the Grand Turk may have had a hand in turning the noble souvlaki of Plato's day (pronounced συβλaκή (süblahké) back then, of course) into the cone of pink impacted knackers we see impaled in gibbets up and down the high streets of modern Albion.

We are all Persians now.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Scherzo di Follia

For everyone there is a mirage of cheated desire that beckons across the Gobi wastes of current domesticity.

For some it's the backward glance of a girl as she left a student party on, or in Wales under, the arm of some lunk. For others it's the trace of her perfume, her cigarette or a splash of her favourite cider on your lap.

For me it's a family sack of Maltesers and a roomful of bearded nuns.

The English are masters of enforced jollity, and audience participation is its most vicious form. It bookends their lives from pantomine to wedding discos, and reaches an anguished acme in the singalong film phenomenon - a Basingstoke ballo in maschera barking at a cinema near you.

I think you know what I mean. The "Rocky Horror Picture Show" is one thing, a crowd of strange men in suspenders and make-up belting out "The Time Warp" in your local shopping precinct is another.

To be fair, "Rocky Horror" receives the Boyo imprimatur if only because buxom ladies can be counted on to cram themselves into their younger sisters' basques for the evening.

There is, however, little for the hetero lech to enjoy in "Singalongasoundofmusic", what with its arch Baron and lonely goatherds all yodelling away like bald dachshunds.

I attended such an Alpenfest at the Reading Hexagon some years ago on a Cymru Rouge cultural alienation course. My companions were Sioba Siencyn, Bob Friog and the latter's trainee odalisque Becky.

We are graduates, we read Sontag, we relish the coy outré, but we still hadn't achieved the necessary poise to take this collision of Berkshire Gay Pride's moustachioed nun and knickerbocker factions in our velveteen stride.

The same applied to the dozen Henley parents who'd brought little Jake and Annabel along for a wholesome afternoon of Julie Andrews. They found themselves Von Trapped between the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence and the subscription list, all leering their way through "My Favourite Things" with a variety of Hunnish gestures.

The audience was 97% kinky, 2.9% shocked shiresfolk and 0.1% detatched sophisticates such as ourselves. We settled down to enjoy the irony both onscreen and off.

As in all of these singalongs the high priests of the camp cargo cult had allocated each of us a bag of totems and fetishes to lob at the film like perverted Pavlovian poodles whenever a key word like "wedding", "Nazi" or "Baroness" was mentioned.

Now, my "Sound of Music" moment of truth is that I have always liked the elegant Viennese Baroness and could never understand why the Captain dropped her for that guitar-mauling drab Maria.

I imagine the discalced nun would spend her wedding night squeaking "Gesumaria!"with her nightie and rosary wound round her throat, whereas the Divine Elsa would swing upside down from the chandelier in a cat's cradle of garter belts and saddlewear and set the church bells a-pealing three valleys away with her bel canto bellows of carnal blasphemy.

I admit that the plot of the film would have been different ("Von Trapps stay in Austria, dispatch ghastly children to boarding school, maintain dignity by not plaguing world with song, emerge from War with estate intact, go on to play worthy role in the local Österreichische Volkspartei"), but the sheer venom and shower of projectiles directed at poor Elsa by the cabal of unconvincing Carmelites around me was too much.

During the interval our party assembled for light refreshments at the bar, and Becky hoofed off in search of chocolate. "You'll be lucky," I remarked. "Unless the Hexagon has misjudged its audience, the kiosks will be stuffed with poppers and edible crucifices."

I was setting out my views on the Baroness at appropriate, lubricious length, as received with polite contempt by my Mariolatric colleagues, when I sensed the air stir behind me.

Even with my back turned I could tell she was a blonde. Slender in tweed for the Venetian market, freshwater pearls and campari passant, buoyed by an undertow of Shalimar and righted by an almost accurate dash of Hydra Lustre, she was a feast of South Oxfordshire feudal foxiness.

"I quite agree," she chirped in the eager tones of a lady imbiber who'd laid off the sauce for some serious man-pulling. "She's hard done by, the Baroness. I mean, compare their hair alone - "

Our guest's own hair was Jane Asher after a fight at the Liberty sales, and I was falling rapidly in love. Any woman distracted enough to seek straight adult fun at the largest gathering of inverts in the Thames Valley might just be The One for me.

I imagined our cottage outside Shiplake, weekend lunches at The Plowden Arms, Elgar on 78s, boar-sticking with her father ("Brought my own over from the Auvergne, no fight in th'local porkers"), exemption from speed limits ("Told th'magistrate it dates back to the Normans") and waking in a tangle of bed sheets, Pimm's and harnesses. Oh yes.

I was about to suggest that, as the only unattached heterosexuals in a quarter-mile radius, we should explore our compatibility further in the snug of The Hobgoblin public house, when Becky came crashing through a gaggle of mascara'd novices, a jumbo bag of Maltesers held aloft in her dimpled hand.

"Boyo, Boyo, look what I've got, and I had to fight off two men in gingham and pigtails for it! There's enough for both of us -"

And lo! my Nettlebed nymph had fled among the habits and hosen.

My legal advisor The K Man points out that I am, of course, happily in thrall to Mrs Boyo and no longer entertain thoughts of other women, real or imaginary.

Nonetheless, a trace of Guerlain and angostura bitters can still summon a happy vision of sloshed ladies cantering down country lanes. But then comes the chorus of stevedores in wimples singing "Climb Every Mountain", and the reverie is lost in a puff of amyl nitrate.