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.


maria said...

Thanks, you fragant little glebling, for visiting my blog. But do not mention the name of "Propaganda" - a 1980s band - unclean! Unclean! NO 1980s!!

The 1980s smell of poo. And worse. The decade smells like Harpic Bleachmatic Duo.

And fried rat's bum.

The 1980s make the 1970s look like peach surprise.

Mmmm... ELO... me thinks you have a pointsky about the 70s...


Let's rejoice at the middle aged folksy wearing 1960s fashions... like Nolly Gordon...

Oh, the blissful days.



maria said...

And gimme a fag. Pliss.

Gadjo Dilo said...

A pipe was also the last smoking device I gave up – 3 years ago. I can still feel the smooth curve of my Bent Rhodesian in the palm of my hand, hear the crackle and sigh of the McLintock's Black Cherry mixture as it curls in ecstasy under the licking tongues of flame, then taste that Christmas-pudding repleteness filling my tar-corrupted lungs.

Ethically a roundhead, aesthetically a cavalier, I'd be 5th columnist whichever side I joined.

No Good Boyo said...

Welcome, Maria! The 80s also smelled of Shake'n'Vac. I was transfixed by the skirt of the lady in the advert, though. "Fried rat's bum" - so you used to dine out too?

Gadjo, I imaged you were a briar man. I thought that ignoring the potential of the Bent Rhodesian was one of the missed comic opportunities of the last few decades, and reflected the coarsening of public taste.

I liked the house mixture produced by Mr Shave of Reading, or Balkan Sobranie. The Great Crowley smoked perique soaked in rum. Must have been like having a lobotomy. Too late now though.

Gadjo Dilo said...

I loved Balkan Sobranie cigarettes, especially the satisfying ovalness of them; but Balkan Sobranie pipe tobacco was like burning rubber!

The Great Crowley? Given his antics in the Himalayas, and his cruel and mad racism generally, I always suspected he'd have smoked Craven Flake.

Gorilla Bananas said...

We have a peppery powder in the jungle. I will not tell you its name for fear of your exciting your incredulity. You place it on the palm of your hand before eating it. Some apes lick their forefinger and deliver it to their tongue bit by bit. Others palm it down the hatch in one go. I sense, Mr Boyo, that you would prefer the second method. I swing both ways, depending on my mood.

No Good Boyo said...

GB, sounds promising. Keep it under your pelt, of course, or else every gap-year Justin will be turning up to "lick the palm".

Gadjo, Crowley was a buffoon with a corrugated palate. Col Deakin, whose memoirs I am editing, prefered a mixture of latakia, perique and Chinese gunpowder, which he procured from Fath Ali at 69, Rue des Souspires, Aleppo.

Gadjo Dilo said...

Crowley was certainly an interesting case. And an icon to many trying to escape overly restrictive childhoods etc; but most don't have the dosh he had to be so successfully abusive to themselves and others!

Gyppo Byard said...

Roundhead or Cavalier? Personally, I'd be a Clubman.

What I most love about this article is that the top link for information about lawless vigilantes who thumped anyone who came near them is 'Worcestershire County Council".

My birth certificate proves I was born in Worcestershire, although my home town was expelled a few years later for insolence...

No Good Boyo said...

Clubmen soundf broadly round of head in their devotion to family and public order. Which county was persuaded to take your hometown in? Wales will have you if need be.

Gyppo Byard said...

We were punished by lumping us in with the Brummies in "The West Midlands", an annexation we have never accepted. Mind you, given the ancestry of most of the local population we qualify for Wales, Ireland and Pakistan in that order.