Saturday, February 21, 2009

Atlantis - the Poor Man's Wales

From the Press and Instant Rebuttal Office of the Cymru Rouge:

The bourgeois and lumpen Anglo-Saxon media have circulated rumours that a Greek imperalist colony "the size of Wales" has been discovered off a beach in the Canaries.

In support of this assertion they cite Google Earth, a neo-Copernican organisation that propagates the "Round Earth" thesis, so you might as well say you read it on Wikipedia for all the impression it makes on scientific socialists.

The Prif Sasiwn of the Cymru Rouge takes this opportunity totally and utterly to reject any linkage between the Atlantean white settlers and the ordinary, working-class helots of Wales.

"Like the Dutch before them, the Greeks are not content with colonising other countries but are setting out to annex the very sea bed," explained the Cymru Rouge Commissar for Anti-Cosmopolitan Affairs, Griff ap Ystlum.

"And they're trying to cover up their irridentist activities by appropriating the history of Cantre'r Gwaelod, the historic Welsh county that some dolphins stole in the Middle Ages," he continued.

The authorities have been investigating any possible Atlantean acts of subversion in Wales itself.

"Machynlleth is full of bearded hey-nonny Englishmen in stripy clothes, usually trailing unkempt common-law wives and kids called 'Uthur' and 'Morgana' behind them on the way to the Social," stated the Prif Forthwyl (Mattock-in-Chief) of the Tangnefeddwyr police force, Chwyldro ap Ffistan.

"They live in wigwams and drink their own piss - and quite possibly ours too. We just don't know,"
he added.

"The Tangnefeddwyr are not sure whether this lot are a Socratic Fifth Column for the Greeks, but we've decided to make them more at home by relocating them to the historic site of Cantre'r Gwaelod itself," pledged ap Ffistan.

The scientific community was also wisely unanimous in refuting any links between Atlantis and Wales.

"Me and the missus went to Cephalonia, and we've got a good idea of what them Greeks get up to," commented the chairman of the Welsh Academy of Motor Mechanics, Gwil Garêj. "It's the seals I feel sorry for. As if they haven't got enough problems what with global warming, the Millennium and that."

"And there's no way this has anything to do with Wales," he persisted. "Look at that Atlantis - flat, with nice straight roads and not a cloud in sight.

"If we lived there you'd have mountains of slate, roads that end on cliff tops, it would be tipping down day and night and the sea would belong to Liverpool Corporation," noted Garêj. "And we'd still have a hosepipe ban."

The Cymru Rouge instruct the media that the random chunks of rainforest that disappear every day have nothing to do with Wales either, and that the arrival of Sting or the late Anita Roddick anywhere on Welsh territory will be regarded as an act of war.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

My Universities: Intelligence Officer

"Sgt. Rock is going to help me
make the girl mine
keep her stood in line"

Sang the nudge-wink Wurzels of XTC in one of their clunky early 80s singles.

"Not if I've got anything to do with it, duckboy!" I bellowed thoughtfully. I decided to join the Army immediately to stop this witless NCO from doling out the dolly birds to Andy Partridge.

Leech-charming comic-maven Ward Cooper bumped into me and pointed out that I should put on some more clothes or at least stop thinking so hard about Hanna Schygulla if I wanted to reassure the recruitment board.

He also told me that Sergeant Rock was an American and therefore unlikely to oblige XTC with anything other than a concert tour of Nicaraguan Contra camps and a good nuking, but I was taking no chances.

Swansea University's careers officer regarded me with professional distaste. He wanted to help nubile drama students audition for burlesque shows, but instead he had gits with highlights seeking ways to inflict themselves on the "media" and me with my random inquiries.

"Need to be Army officer. Real Army, not Free Wales one, mind. Got to stop Partridge," I panted.

"I hate you," replied Mr Thomas. "I fought for this country in Korea and Malaya, plus a brief excursion into Thailand on my own. I got malaria, nad rot and pink eye, and some sort of squid set up house in my spleen. They had to drain it with a home-brewing kit up my old man. There was piss coming out of my ears for weeks.

"Still, I managed to kill a brace of Communists and render at least one species of antelope extinct. And I never made it past private. Why should the Army make you an officer, you feckless dilettante?"

"Going to get good degree, world owes me living. Buffed bod deserves tailored uniform. Natural authority born of Promethean self-deception. I could go on, but there's no time," I wheezed.

"Very well," sighed the jaundiced killing-machine before me. "Do you have any regimental preferences? The Welsh Guards? Household Cavalry? Afrika Korps? The Chaplaincy?"

The Chaplaincy had appealed ever since I'd read and profoundly misunderstood Kingsley Amis's "The Anti-Death League", but none of these legions seemed likely depots for my small armory of skills, which Mr Thomas had grimly summed up as playing the flute and speaking Russian, in that order of proficiency.

"You won't want the Education Corps, they spend their time teaching Fenlanders how to dress. So it's a marching band or the Intelligence Corps, Boyo. Which is it to be?" he posed.

I'd spent too many autumn afternoons of childhood trying to catapult toads into bandstand tubas to fancy fielding the incoming amphibians myself, so I opted for Intelligence.

Now I'd never wanted to go to college in the first place, having set my heart on becoming an urban shepherd - herding my flock through the mean streets of Treorchy, learning about life, and sharing my Georgian idyll with the Valleys folk as they shared their heroin with me.

But my father had advised me to try yet more education - "Give it a go, boy. You can't drive or use power tools, and you've never fought a wolf. There's nothing for you by here." - and I was a good son.

I'd been drifting through my studies of the Nikhuyaki (Нихуяки) existential-nihilist literary movement of the Russian 1920s in the unfocused expectation of postgraduate work and a sinecure writing stuff like "Experimental Diversion: (Road)Sign as Sign-if-I-er in the Soviet Highway Code of 1928" at a Slavonic semiotics department somewhere like Uppsala.

I usually drowned any doubts in Steppenwolf measures of Don Daas red, but the more I considered the Boyo blend of torpor and ignorance, seasoned with non-plutocrat parents, the more I was inclined towards finding an actual job. Shop-lifting, dancing for pennies and suicide apart, the Army Intelligence Corps suddenly seemed full of promise.

My knowledge of this fine body of fighting men was gleaned from Evelyn Waugh and "Ill Met by Moonlight", so I imagined myself dropped smart-moustached into rustic Illyria with gold sovereigns sown into my shalwar and a couple of cantilevered peasant girls waiting to wash my minor wounds after a hard day confounding the Communists.

"I know what you're thinking by that fanciful twirl of your upper lip and fecund motion of your Levis," snapped Thomas.

"Assuming the brass hats are mad enough to take you, they'll just stick you in front of purloined Soviet tank manuals and a stack of dictionaries in some Holborn basement and lose the key. Wednesday, 1400 hours, Room 15, there will be an officer waiting to speak to you. Dismissed!"

The following week I slipped into my best linen suit for a chat with Colonel Diamond of the Intelligence Corps. This was the first test: can I get through the whole interview without thinking of Sir Sidney Ruff-Diamond, or at least not let it show?

Col Diamond was clearly trained not to react to ill-shaven young men with watering eyes. Even my "Our Man in Havana" attire didn't perturb him, although on beholding the majesty of his cavalry twill I saw I ought to have opted for a discreet blue pinstripe, stout tweed or at least a Pickelhaube.

He cantered past my history and personality with commendable sangfroid before drawing up before my knowledge of Russian, Russia and the Russians. "This is what interests us, Boyo," he barked cordially. "Gorbachev, perestroika, glasnost - watcher mecker it orl, eh?"

From somewhere I heard a fruity patrician accent reply: "Trouble with Ivan is this, sah. Perestroika and what have you sounds promising, but dissemblin' is second nature to your Communist - assuming he had a first one to start with." The voice was mine, as amplified by my employment aversion instinct. "Need to keep our eyes peeled and our guard up."

From the truffling noises billowing about Col Diamond's 'tache I gathered my analysis was in line with current military thinking. He also thought my flute-playing was a good sign - "keeps the spirits up, what?" - but then he'd never heard it.

We got along splendidly. As I rose to leave, Col Diamond asked "So if yer getter decent degree will yer join th'Corps or go orf and do yer PhD?"

"Join the Corps!"
I replied, rather taken with the idea in its own right. I had all but forgotten about my mission to stop XTC (and its breakaway factions like Shriekback, for that matter).

"Yer wrong!" he declared. "If yer've got it in yer, fer pity's sake get it out! Applies ter books as well as ter tapeworm. Otherwise yer'll regret it th'rester yer life and be no bally use ter anyone, sighin' fer yesteryear like some Frenchman. Here's how!"

The colonel was right. Just because I'm as stupid as I sound doesn't mean everyone else is. I learned a valuable lesson that day, one I've chosen to ignore ever since.

Girded with a double-first in Russian Expressionism and Innumeracy honoris causā - the highest honour the University of Wales can bestow without money changing hands - I took myself off to London to pursue doctoral research on Great Maritime Inverts of the Late Tsarist Epoch and gave no further thought to Diamond, derring or do.

One Russell Square afternoon a professor attended my lecture on Masturbation in the St Petersburg Student Imagination (I'm not making this up) and invited me for a celebratory curry. This tandoori night soon became a weekly institution, as we discovered common interests in smoking, Belorussian syntax, North Indian cuisine and slack-drawered undergrads.

Months passed in scholarly seediness before the professor pushed away the remains of our ox Madras, dismissed the second-year slatterns, cleared his throat and said "Don't quite know how to put this, but some friends want to know whether you'd still be interested in the Intelligence Corps. Fast-tracked to captain, minimal blanco-ing of your Sam Browne."

"Col Diamond?"
I ventured.

"Hmm." Perhaps the time to liberate the Letts had come. A good time could be had in Daugavpils with a quirt and some Swedish crowns.

"I'm interested."

A few days later I received a breezy letter asking whether I'd had enough of white Rastas, libraries and plain women in leggings and fancied a change. "Ra-ther!" I thought with a slap of the thigh, and called the number supplied.

"Fact is, Boyo, we've recently acquired this stack of Russian tank manuals..."

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Sic pereant omnes inimici tui, Gwalia!

A press release by Cymru Rouge Solutions PLC:

Morgangrad [formerly Cardiff], 13th Cayo, Anno Cambriae Rubrae [13th February, 2009]:
The Prif Sasiwn of the Cymru Rouge congratulates itself, and invites all Welsh to do likewise, on the vanquishing of the Normano-Jutish corporatist ultramontane British People's "Alliance" clique!

This den of comprador squirrels raised their puny pennants in paws green and furred from Hunnish practices, then sought to deny the uniqueness of Welsh coal - Welsh coal, hewn from Welsh rock by the twelve fingers of child soldiers chanting slogans of narrow nationalism and slate-based autarky!

Now that pennant lies sodden in the seed of Silurian scorn, and the fierce, four-dimensional banner of Marxist-Glyndŵrism rears regal above a paddy-field of clenched peasant fists!

The British "People's" Alliance and its chief Guelphist "lackey" David Lindsay strove to subject the workers, peasants and shrieking, indoctrinated youth of Red Wales to the warped whims of lords-lieutenants, and to pen them like quisling quail in the prison of "preserved counties".

Once again, literally millions of ordinary, Maoist commissars, syndicalists and teachers of applied atheism rose up and followed the example of Commander Martyr Billy MacKenzie in shouting out a militant "NO!" to these comb-over clowns and packing them off to the country hotels where they lie with their dogs as others do with wives.

Brawd Rhif Un Huw Samphan dashed the knitted mitten of defiance across the mottled chops of the Powellite marionette "Lindsay" and pledged to put up a Cymru Rouge parliamentary candidate in each seat that the "British" People's Alliance might contest.

Within a mere seven months these hirelings, catamites and kennel-fanciers had fled to the four rims of the earthly disc to forego the humiliation of being belted, beetled, bleached and bentsched by the Viet Vyrnwy in every constituency of this and any other land.

Now, some Bernsteinian revisionists and bourgeois nationalists have criticised the Cymru Rouge for its focus on this pack of yokels to the exclusion of "New" Labour, the Liberal "Democrats", "Plaid" Cymru and the Tory "Bastards".

These parties attack Cymreictod through its institutions - the Assembly, the Eisteddfod, the Rugby Union and the sheath-bursting musk of our masculinity. Lindsay, on the other hand, was like the hedgehog in that he understood one big thing - and lived in a hedge.

He knew that our language and equally wholesome coal are the twin axes around which the fulcrum of Welshness revolves, and to deny us our consonant clusters and clods of carbon is tantamount to turning us into a bunch of Cornishmen.

And now Lindsay cowers under a deckchair, flecking the Sandbanks spume with his Saxon spittle, while we Welsh wade on, our oddly-shaped balls in our hands, towards an ever-swelling destiny.

¡Caminemos hacia la luz del Glyndŵrismo!

Brawd Rhif Un Huw Samphan
Brawd Rhif Dau Ta Mogs
Brawd Rhif Tri Paul Pot
Chwaer a Hanner Y Fonheddwraig Boyo

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Un bateau ivre

The news that Obama-inspired People Power prevented a booze-weary Aeroflot pilot from taking to the clouds in his wingèd trolley-bus brought up queasy memories of my encounters with Soviet-era air travel.

Aeroflot was called "The Flying Gulag" by the unfortunates who were obliged to skid from runway to runway in its dusty crates. The in-flight staff were trained to punch you at the slightest comment and spent their time ferrying all the food and drink up to the cockpit for a slap-up mid-flight feast with the pilots.

I don't remember any of their air crew being drunk, but that might be because I, like the other 150 million inhabitants of the First Socialist State in the World, kept myself topped up at all times on various skull-numbing fluids.

My sole encounter with a drunken airman came at Moscow's endless Sheremetyevo Airport in 1986, courtesy of the Polish state airline Lot.

I was writing a fond postcard to my soon-abandoned Black Earth ladylove in the post office when a poorly-shaved bear in a blue suit a size too small slurred a request to borrow my pen.

This happened a great deal in the Glorious Soviet Union, as the Ust-Kamenogorsk Ballpoint Pen Factory and Nuclear Testing Ground concentrated on producing James-Bond jobs that poisoned Bulgarian journalists and turned into speed boats etc.

I reluctantly handed over my prized Bic, only to notice that my petitioner was wearing a Lot pilot's uniform. As a subtle protest against Soviet oppression I had spent the previous two months learning Polish instead of Russian, and couldn't resist the chance to show off my linguistic brio.

"Here is my pen!" I announced with a Cracowian bow.

"Prząbwość niech kładowięckiego żibrząb sztont śmigrzydzły!" declared the ursine Pole as he embraced his new-found if clearly simple compatriot.

All correspondence forgotten, he opened his pilot's jacket to reveal a half-bottle of finest Dagestani brandy. My shoulders still pinned within his mighty paw, we lurched off to the underground car park to celebrate what I gather was our "szkrątnowalkówięnrzność".

I felt uneasy about this prospect for a number of reasons:

  • The Soviet Union was enjoying a predictably disastrous period of Prohibition, and swigging firewater in one of their sensitive border facilities was likely to earn you a hands-on tour of the local drunk tank followed by two years in a uranium mine.

  • Poles were regarded as the weak link in the great Chain of Socialism, and any association with these backsliders might lead to an evening attached to a KGB car battery.

  • For reasons I shall go into, I was wearing a 1950s Red Army cavalry officer's uniform under my fisherman's sweater and loon pants.

My companion - for the sake of simplicity let us call him Kapitan Mieczysław Wrzaszczyk-Ćwierczakiewicz - found us a bulky concrete pillar to hide behind while we exchanged swigs of Makhachkala three-star cornea-rot. Soldiers skulked at the nearby Central Committee limousine pool.

All Slavonic languages merge into one when you've taken on half a pint of spirits, so I was able to tune into Mieczysław's musings in the middle of an impressively clinical account of the internal workings of Iranian women.

He flew the Warsaw-Tehran route, the destination of which afforded him more opportunities for alcohol and spousal abuse - other men's spouses, I gathered - than the BBC news might suggest.

"Pięknię kobietą, ale chopi-chop - skrzy pierst części mórze!" he explained, with cheery gestures that suggested a unicorn had recently tried to saw through his glans.

But the return stopover in Moscow, with its familiar aromas of cheap petrol, damp hair, fried gristle and bark-enriched cigarettes, brought on a wave of nostalgia for Poland and his shrewish wife Małgorzata.

Hence the recourse to Caucasian monkey-juice and the tearful letter of confession that she would never receive - not least because the Soviet postal system had diverted all Poland-bound material to a large fire near Zhlobin as a matter of policy since 1921.

This was all very interesting, but we both had flights to catch, so I offered to escort "Mike" - I could no longer manage more than one Polish syllable at a time - up to the departures lounge.

"At least you get to sleep it all off on this leg of the flight, eh?" I remarked as we staggered up the motionless, herring-scented escalator.

"You must be joking!" he wailed. "Kazimierz has been drinking brake-fluid since Tabriz, so I'm in the driving seat!"

At this point I fell over. As Mike helped me up he saw the Soviet Army collar stick out of my sweater. With a cry of "Skafander przeciwprzeciążeniowy!" he lurched off towards the crew entrance, where a few other uniformed Poles were propping one another up and trying to fit their arms into one sleeve of a jacket.

I never saw him or his plane again.

While writing this I've received a number of urgent demands for clarification as to my unusual attire at the time. In short, I had bought the cavalry uniform from a retired Soviet Army officer in Voronezh with the ruse that we had a military museum at Swansea University (formerly Sketty Catering College) that needed ideological balance.

"It's all Wehrmacht and Free Wales Army by there, Igor," I had explained.

The true reason, as usual, was to ease my assignations with the female wing of progressive studentry, most representatives of which were called Hillary.

In 1986 the Hillaries loved a man in righteous Red Army uniform, perhaps because it was good practice for when the Warsaw Pact rumbled up Bexhill High Street and billeted its hunky officers in Mummy's house (Daddy moved away to France with That Slut back in 1978).

This was all to change. By 1988 Gorbachev was friends with that awful President Reagan and you could buy Perestroika! t-shirts in Top Shop.

Meanwhile The Guardian had noticed that General Rabin was busy breaking bones on the West Bank, so you suddenly needed the Full Yasser (keffiyeh, Bundeswehr surplus jacket, shades and stubble - the lips of a corpulent voluptuary were optional) to part a sociology 2nd-year from her black leggings.

Worse was to come. Within months the Berlin Wall was gone and you could pick up Soviet Army uniforms, Kalashnikovs and atom-bomb kits on the Ku'damm. My outfit was well-tailored in bilious cotton, rather than the boxy khaki polyester of the 1980s infantryman, but once you have to explain the difference it's time to move on.

I dug the ensemble out one more time, at the request of the college Catholic chaplain "Desperate" Dom Leo Bonsall. I was giving him my full high-kicking staircase descent when his housekeeper's husband wandered in.

This refugee from eastern Poland had last seen a Soviet cavalry officer riding his Aunt Jadwiga to market in Brześć nad Bugiem in 1940, and the bastard had never come back with the change he'd promised either.

"Skafander przeciwprzeciążeniowy!" he yelled and lurched for the kitchen, where a few other Poles were eating goose fat and trying to fit all the countries of Central Europe into one map of inter-war Poland.

I never saw him or his wife's gołąbki again.

Sunday, February 01, 2009


"I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by mad, overfed, phlegmatic naked Germans," as Ginsberg might have written if he'd been a Welsh blog-jockey instead of an excitable American with an unlimited supply of bongo cigarettes.

Man of science Francis Sedgemore and mighty sage Prof Norman Geras have both taken on the knotty, veiny problem the Swiss have been having with their usually so affable German neighbours.

"Swiss authorities are trying to fend off hordes of German ramblers dressed in nothing more than a rucksack and walking boots," reports The Times in an article bristly with single entendres. "Sehr prickelnd und schön," noted comedy German Michael Lücke to the maniacs at Bild Zeitung.

Francis is appreciative of the humour with which the crabbed Swiss are trying to trample on the Germans' historic right to wander around other people's countries in big boots, and I have to agree that many a violation of the natural order is acceptable if it's done with a certain panache.

Prof Geras, however, turns his mind to the proposition of wearisome liberal John Stuart Mill that "the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others".

Mill thought offences against public decency could require restraint, while Sir Norm (that's right - where's his gong, Mr Brown?) maintains that trailing your Teutonic testes in the innocent faces of Alpine fauna is somehow ok. The professor has asked for his readers' opinions on the matter.

"On Liberty" is the only book Madame Boyo has burnt that wasn't written by Will Self, but I as a politics student appreciated its brevity and lack of footnotes. And so I shall attempt to answer Prof Geras's poser.

Heather tycoon and gonzo anthropologist Gyppo Byard thinks that Evolution Itself demands a ban on wandering about in the nip. "When a man sees a naked woman he perceives an invitation, when a woman sees a naked man she perceives a threat," he mused.

This is true only up to a point. An au naturel encounter with most female members of the Socialist Workers Party or House of Lords, for example, would strike the average male as an invitation to consider the Rule of St Benedict, whereas the ladies of the House of Boyo regard my weekly rain-barrel ablutions not as a threat so much as an opportunity for target practice and amateur surgery.

It's all very well Byard's pontificating from his ivory vardo on such matters. We Boyos have had firsthand experience of this abomination.

Madame B and I took a trip to the Cotswolds some time ago, and visited the feudal burg of Malmesbury to jeer at the villeins of Baron Dyson. The town has fine Abbey Gardens that stretch down a wooded hillside to a stream, but we thought the entrance fee too steep and went for a stroll in the nature reserve on the other bank instead.

We were happily watching a plucky yeoman coot face down a couple of Angevin mallards when I saw a fat man wearing what appeared to be nothing as he plashed through the ferns. I was about to remark on this when a scrawny but similarly skyclad 30-something stopped in his barefoot tracks by the brook, startled at our clothed appearance.

"Have we stumbled across the Austrian Consulate's away day?" asked Madame Boyo in a voice that carries well across steelworks, let alone water.

Our visitor showed a clean pair of cheeks and fled.

Later research revealed that the Abbey Gardens are run by a pair of depraved "naturists" - or "nudists", to use the technical term - who allow fellow degenerates to frolic in the briar and hawthorn thickets four times a year.

We were unlucky enough to be passing by on one such jubilee, although I imagine the nudists could complain that they hadn't paid good money to be heckled by literally rive-gauche Marxists.

I have made my views on nudists known in a previous post, and will merely summarise why they need restraining by whatever police force Mill had in mind in his beige dystopia:

1. Class. When workers, peasants and progressively-inclinded soldiers feel like stripping off, they head for the beaches of Spain, slap on some baby oil and cheerily threaten hawkers who take too close an interest in their wives' breast enhancements.

Aristocrats only present themselves in flagrante during the annual selection of chambermaids, on horseback, or both, and are usually drunk.

Nudists, on the other hand, are always petit bourgeois. Line them up on parade and ask the Esperantists, Quakers and vegetarians to fall out, and you'll have no one left. So you line them up again and summon the Red Guards.

2. Aesthetics. The lords and serfs mentioned in my first point are easy on the eye due to manual labour or good breeding.

Nudists, however, are pale, bulbous, whey-haired and meek before the demands of gravity. They could hide for weeks in a pile of parsnips without anyone noticing.

3. Eugenics. Britain is as brambly and moist as Opus Dei underwear, and not designed for nude cavorting. If you do so it will not make you a Nietzschean superperson, it will merely usher mouldy, rheumy Death your way.

And after all, despite the urgings of common sense, Mill thought we ought to save people from killing themselves.

4. The Common Weal. Scotland has little going for it beyond tweeds and Hunter Wellington boots, and each purchase counts in these lean times. If these industries collapse, the last usefully employed Scotsmen will have to join their compatriots among the cabinet ministers and legislators of London. This can only exacerbate social tension with the native English.

5. Blasphemy. God made this country lukewarm and itchy on the outside, so that coddlers of the hot-water bottle and sippers of lemon could peer out at it through pebbled windows and give thanks for our excellent array of cardigans and television channels. Those who think they know better than The Almighty are poor sextants for our already rudderless youth.

I hope that I have provided answers practical, theological, Wildean and dialectical to Prof Geras's question, and would be happy for this or any other post to be appended to the next edition of On Liberty and The Highway Code as a warning to the curious.