YOUR MASTERMIND QUIZ FOR NEW YEAR’S EVE

This blog posts every Saturday and the next post will be Saturday 7th January

YOUR MASTERMIND QUIZ FOR NEW YEAR’S EVE

1.Why do you think that men have nipples, and what possible primitive evolutionary purpose could they ever serve? I don’t know many, I mean any, men, who have effectively suckled a baby, and if there were some aeons back in the primal mists of time, are there I wonder any hoary oral folktale remnants of how they and the baby felt about the experience, surely of piquant sociological interest to anyone, and especially those nursing women with cracked nipples due to breast feeding (you take over feeding her now, Derek, and stop watching fucking Countdown just because maths whiz Carol Vorderman won Rear of the Year not once but twice! As if a brainbox’s backside is all that bloody matters, when you have a new baby…) You might of course reasonably argue that the male nipples function as sensitive erogenous zones, but I personally find that too glib an assertion, because by way of helpful anecdotal example all of my upper body (and my lower body if I’m being rigorously scientific) not just my fetching tit area, is an effective erogenous zone, as far as I can see (eh… bollicks…trade secret…)

2.Talking of sex, why do tomcats behave in such a disgusting manner when copulating in public by jumping on and straddling the queen (specialist term, ‘she-cat’ to you) and crudely biting their usually unwilling partner’s neck, by way of tender caresses and touching amatory endearments? If a man were perverse enough to do that in public to a woman, they would quite rightly be arrested, though possibly not in provincial Greece, where they have seen absolutely everything that defies belief over the centuries (the most recent examples being the Nazis and the Junta) and absolutely nothing surprises them, especially on the remoter islands.

3.Talking not of sex but of that chaste if always exciting item known as language, why do certain English words, usually adjectives, only ever appear in one unique context? For example, ‘condign’ (‘fitting’, ‘worthy’) as far as I can see, only ever appears with ‘punishment’ as ‘condign punishment’. Can any impressively well-read lady or gent out there, provide me with a genuine literary quote where ‘condign’ appears beside some other noun? A sumptuous and I would suggest ‘condign’ fish dinner in the always open Ostria restaurant. Merihas, Kythnos (the best grilled squid in the Cyclades, so it humbly boasts) as a prize… (and does that mean that I get the prize?)

4.More about words. Why do 90% of people always use the word ‘disinterested’ wrongly (they usually think it means ‘uninterested’ or ‘bored’ or ‘distracted’) and they love the word so much they use it at least twice a day? It properly has a range of subtle meanings, including ‘not having a personal interest in something’, in the sense of being neutral or non-partisan, or not receiving any moral or pecuniary advantage in some context. The only place where ‘disinterested’ is used properly countless times over in a single text, and it is in Sanskrit, is in the Bhagavad Gita, the sacred Hindu scripture which explores the ethics of Karma and Binding Attachment and Liberating Disinterest apropos one’s Earthly Deeds. Read it in English if you haven’t already. There is in fact a paperback translation by the world-famous Beatles guru, the late Maharishi Mahesh (1918-2008) and it will broaden your horizons.

5.Why do certain really bad US film actors achieve major careers and why are they always male and never female? Though yes, granted that Sandra Bullock (born 1964) invariably acts badly in mostly third rate movies, but she was a real star as the peevish, pampered woman in Crash (2004) not the car crash movie, the other one by Paul Haggis, with Matt Dillon (born 1964) on top form as the racist cop John Ryan who did a massively ‘disinterested deed’ at the end of the truly brilliant film? Examples of toweringly inept but bankable actors include Owen Wilson (born 1968), blond and fluffy-haired and affable star of Midnight in Paris, an atrociously unfunny 2011 movie by Woody Allen who is now 81 years old. Owen is supposed to be a highly successful screen writer Gil Pender (why not Ces Pender… I wonder…heh?) who decides to risk all and embark on being a serious novelist, and goes to Paris with his caricature of a shallow wife and tyrannical uptight in-laws to get in the mood. I didn’t believe a word of it Woody, for Owen has no presence and no aura and no range, and looks and acts like he should be a contented shoe shop manager in uptown Chattanooga, making the gals’ hearts skip a beat when they walk in and approach the cute little boss direct. Allen is on record as saying that Wilson has a seriously funny bone, but no he really hasn’t Woody, and you are evidently losing the plot alas, and it is nothing to do with age. Worse still, the critics, God bless them, all clapped their hands and said Midnight in Paris is a masterpiece and a return to the great man’s top form. To quote that fine novelist and Dickens biographer Peter Ackroyd (born 1949), he once wrote to the effect that critics are in the main those people who write rubbish about rubbish. Spot on Peter, and look, and this is a genuine offer, if ever you find yourself here in Kythnos…

Another inexplicable non-starter, wouldn’t you agree, is the Canadian Ryan Gosling (born 1980), who again can’t act, isn’t funny, isn’t authentic, isn’t anything, though like Wilson he looks pretty and in his case, laudably, he has serious ethical and political concerns. And yet this bad actor is a mega-earner and a major celebrity. Why so? Compare Gosling and Wilson with a real 5-star actor like Brad Pitt (born 1963) who isn’t only good looking but is a virtuoso with an accent in Tarantino’s 2009 Inglourious Basterds as the explosive Kentucky colonel Aldo Raine; in the Coen Bros’ Burn After Reading (2008) as the idiot gym employee Chad Feldheimer, accidentally killed in a cupboard by George Clooney, and as the jabbering lunatic Jeffrey Goines, in that otherwise dreary and overwrought 1996 movie Twelve Monkeys by Terry Gilliam, which also stars Bruce Willis. Brad Pitt deserves every penny he earns and surely much more recognition than he gets for his massive talent.

6.Am I, Utterly Appalled O Kyrio Iannis of Kythnos, the only person who cringes at those ugly and pointless cliché words that simply didn’t exist pre- about 1990?  I mean hogwash terms like ‘judgemental’ (why not ‘prone to passing judgement’ or simply ‘hypercritical’ or ‘prejudiced’ as some folk blithely use it to mean); ‘empathy’ and even worse ‘empathetic’. Should someone ever tell me that I was empathetic, I would say remarkably horrible and outstandingly unempathetic things to the buggers. But if anyone can give me an accurate and nuanced account of how ‘empathy/empathetic’ means anything different in any sense from ‘sympathy/ sympathetic’. I will give them all my copious loose change immediately.  Sympathy after all is a highly allusive and poignant word with a whole spectrum of meaning, unlike the cooked-up neologism ’empathy’ which makes me think of NW3 therapy groups and bad poetry and the Guardian’s G2 on a bad day. Two years ago, in these pages, I also instanced that wholly meaningless word ‘iconic’ which is still everywhere you look. As I said then, you can put it in front of any noun whatever, and it makes its wonderfully brainless and valueless sense: iconic biscuit, iconic t-shirt, iconic nipples, iconic buttocks, iconic village, iconic verb, iconic bungalow, iconic gin palace.

Meanwhile, 40 years ago, you old uns might recall, the vogue word among both lightweight and heavyweight cultural commentators was ‘clout’, in the sense of impact or charisma or pazzazz, and things they liked always had lots of clout. It was eventually laughed out of existence, thank God, and no one uses it now. Can the same thing, I ask you, be swiftly speeded up with those iconic words, judgemental, and empathetic? Hit, nay ‘clout’ yourself on the chops in front of the mirror every time you use them, and you’ll soon shrug off the noxious habit.

Happy 2017 to all, and especially my faithful followers in beautiful Albania and fabled Uzbekistan..

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BAD BOYS AND WORSE GIRLS

BAD BOYS AND WORSE GIRLS

This post appears a little early, but from now on they should appear every Saturday until further notice. The next post will appear Saturday 31st December

‘For a day and a half, I hovered between life and death, rolled up in a sea of tangled blankets and sheets, which stifled me, bound me, then unknotted into anguished and empty laces, where I rowed and thrashed like a shipwrecked person.’

 from Astragal  by Albertine Sarrazin (translated by Patsy Southgate)

‘The rumour in the town [in Kent in 1939] was that one night a lady member of the [local Fascist] party had been divested of her clothes, then tied in a crucified position on the blackboard easel, and painted with silver paint, until she resembled the little statuette which used to be seen on the bonnets of Rolls- Royces.’

From Touchett’s Party by Denton Welch ( first published in UK ‘Chance’ magazine in 1953)

Have you heard of those 2 short-lived literary enfants terribles, one a Frenchwoman and one an Englishman, one criminal in the conventional sense, the other arguably beyond the pale as a sexual deviant,  because he was a homosexual, when admitting as much usually meant being shunned and abhorred, and even risking jail? Interestingly, they were both severely crippled in the prime of their youth, of which setback they made much that was brilliant and enduring in their fiction. Albertine Sarrazin (1937-1967) was best known for her fugitive novel Astragale (1965) and Denton Welch (1915-1948) as well as being a fine writer, was also a gifted artist. Sarrazin, often described as a female Jean Genet (1910-1986), another jailbird writer, was a French Algerian of debatable parentage. Abandoned and put in an orphanage by the social services, she was then adopted and taken to Aix-en-Provence in France. At the age of 10 she was raped by a relative of her stepdad, whereafter she made several attempts to run away from home. Her understanding step-parents eventually had her put in a hideous reformatory incredibly called The Good Shepherd, where she had an instant apprenticeship in the life of crime, at which she was soon to excel. Despite this predictable trajectory, before being institutionalised Albertine was a precocious child at school and excelled at Latin, literature and the violin. Her bedside photograph taken in her early 20s, shows her to be stunningly good looking, with a potently handsome Mediterranean face.

Eventually with her husband Julien Sarrazin, a petty thief, she transformed into a romantic and also dangerous Bonnie and Clyde figure. In and out of jail both before and after her marriage, she was regularly, whenever she needed the money, a successful prostitute. This tiny woman was an unrepentant heavy boozer, who once engaged in armed robbery with a female accomplice, for which she was jailed for 7 years. She died in hospital aged 29 of kidney failure, compounded by the attentions of an inept anaesthetist. In prison, she had published 2 books, La Cavale and Astragale (both 1965) and also penned La Traversiere  (1966) in her precarious freedom. There are in addition Lettres a Julien (1971) and 2 posthumous prison memoirs. As all but Astragale are untranslated, and as I exasperatingly cannot read French, it might sadly be some time before I can get to grips with these.

Astragale gets its title from the French for talus bone, something which her heroine Anne (just like the author) had broken when she escaped over a 30-foot high prison wall. Sarrazin doesn’t bother changing the name of the passing motorcyclist who fortuitously rescues her, her future husband and  criminal Julien, and it also turns out that Anne-Marie was Albertine’s baptised name. You can gauge of the book’s impact by the fact that Astragale has been filmed posthumously twice, in 1969 and 2015. The novel meanwhile has been reissued in English in 2014 by Serpent’s Tail, an impressively radical and courageous imprint which doesn’t ever mince its printed words, so to speak.

Anne/ Albertine is ultimately taken by Julien to a succession of criminal hideouts, all of the occupants treating the 19-year-old fugitive in numerous begrudging and spiteful ways. One of these criminal wives, Annie, manages to steal a huge amount of money that her lodger has acquired by burgling at dead of night the premises of a businessman she has picked up off the street. Anne explodes at sheepish Annie, then stalks out limping into the night, but later relents and returns to forgive her for her betrayal. This unusual motif of not caring too much about anything, intelligible in someone so painfully battered by life, runs throughout the narrative, and when the philandering Julien admits to an affair, Anne tells him she doesn’t care at all, as long as he does not abandon her! The Serpent’s Tail edition has a foreword by the celebrated US rock musician and poet Patti Smith (born 1946) and Smith shrewdly points out that with Sarrazin’s literary hero Anne (= Albertine) always waiting and hoping for Julien’s return, effectively he had cracked open her resistant heart, just as she the fugitive had agonisingly cracked her ankle. Furthermore, Smith has no problem in touchingly explaining her Sarrazin worship by comparing her hero’s vain adoration of Julien, with Smith’s own painful attachment to the controversial and gay photographer Robert Mapplethorpe (1946-1989) who died prematurely of AIDS.

Like Denton Welch, the crippled fugitive is obliged to seek hospital surgery in her desperation, and in her case with an obligatory faked identity. Meanwhile Welch’s autobiographical masterpiece, A Voice Through A Cloud (1950) is about his nightmarish time in hospital after being knocked off his bike and crushed by a negligent motorist. His subsequent rough and ready treatment at the hands of pre-war Home Counties doctors and nurses almost beggars belief.

‘Suddenly without any warning she [the radiographer] gave my body a sharp little jerk which sent such agony through me that I screamed out in distraction. Sweat broke out all over me; I lay there wondering what the woman would do to me next. She had me there alone, I could do nothing but beg her not to jerk me again.

The woman after the first shock of my scream said: “Oh, I never pinched you! Fancy making all that fuss! I never pinched you.”

At the opposite extreme of the social scale to Sarrazin, Denton Welch was born of wealthy parents (he had an American mother) and was raised in China. His manners as a child were uppish and rather melancholy, and once aged 7 he turned to his Mum and said that, ‘a flea would despise the amount of lemonade I’ve got, Mother.’ His Shanghai background appears in his debut autobiographical work, Maiden Voyage (1947) which was praised by the eccentric literary figure Edith Sitwell (1887-1964) and influential John Lehmann (1907-1987) publisher and 50s editor of London Magazine. Educated at snooty Repton, Welch went on to Goldsmith’s College, London to train as an artist, at which he showed precocious talent. Unfortunately, the accident to his vertebrae ultimately led to spinal TB, which resulted in his tragic death and unfulfilled promise at the age of 33.

As well as the unfinished A Voice Through a Cloud, Welch also wrote In Youth Is Pleasure (1948) a sensuous account of adolescence, and the stories Brave and Cruel (1944) of which waspish and suave Touchett’s Party above is an impressive example. Welch’s work is intense, finely wrought, and brilliant, when it comes to the description of the most nuanced inner sensations, especially those of the helpless invalid who fears quite rightly for his imminent mortality.

‘I gazed around me at the high white bed, the beetroot-pink curtains, the new-lit fire just scenting the air with smoke; but what held my attention was the shaggy Indian carpet. It was unexpectedly white with coarse flowers and leaves twining over it – perhaps the ugliest thing in the ugly room. But it was not ugliness that I was dwelling on as I stared at it; I was hugging to myself the feeling of having a room of my own again.’

A Voice Through A Cloud

To that extent, he is a far subtler writer than Sarrazin, though the latter certainly redeems herself by her pungent and abrasive candour, her true and often awful story which we know is thus, because she tells us exactly what she has experienced in the finely evoked rawness of her flawless memory. Incredibly, another and better known enfant terrible, the notorious US writer William Burroughs (1914-1997) author of the 50s novels Naked Lunch, Queer and Junkie, and a stylist of another colour with his random cut and paste collage, claimed Denton Welch as his principal influence. This patently fails to register in terms of the Englishman’s precise yet decorous prose, nor in his vividly idiosyncratic insights, and I would say that saturnine Burroughs was cheerfully flattering himself to that extent.

PS.In case you feel a little less well read than you thought you were, be assured that I had never even heard of Albertine Sarrazin until December 2016. It was a festive gift from a remarkable Englishwoman called Jan, who is one of those rare people who know how to choose not just suitable, but perfectly and uncannily appropriate gifts for her friends and family. My love and thanks to you, the one and only Jan from good old Suffolk (for it was in a Bury St Edmunds record shop in 1974 that I first discovered the glorious jazz and salsa singer Flora Purim).

PHOBIAS AND FETISHES

PHOBIAS AND FETISHES

After a 5 month sabbatical , this blog resumes, and will appear once a week for the time being. The next post will be on Wednesday 28th December. In case you are wondering, the reason for the sabbatical was that I wanted my online novel Passion For Beginners immediately preceding this, to get as much attention as possible. Meanwhile, Merry Christmas and an excellent 2017 to everyone.

Once, over fifty years ago, I met a bald man with an overwhelming  terror of tinned peas. His name was Watson Wilson, he was in his late fifties, a distant relative of my father, and he lived in Bath in the West Country. Just to clarify matters, and as he conscientiously explained, it was only when the things were served on his plate that he came out in cold sweats, and felt an enormous desire to run in an ugly panic he knew not where. So, rather strangely it seemed to me, walking past a colossal row of tins in a supermarket did not unnerve Watson in the least, and as he had no garden and neither did most of his friends, and as furthermore, they rarely if ever dined in each other’s houses, garden peas did not disconcert him either. What’s more, just like my mother up in neanderthal West Cumbria, his stout wife Madge did not possess a refrigerator in 1964, and neither did any of her friends, so that frozen peas were also not on his green and globular radar.

This was Watson’s only phobia, so I found out by gentle interrogation. The fact that something specifically arrayed like a nightmare on his plate could unman him, made me think he had possibly been forced to eat the bilious vegetable by a bullying parent or maybe some mean-spirited relative he was obliged to stay with during the holidays. But then I reflected he was such a stable and calm man these days, it was unlikely he had endured a traumatic or brutal childhood. Although he had sent me down on the train for a summer holiday, my Dad, true to form, hadn’t set eyes on or even corresponded with Watson for some 40 years (since 1924!) and he was the last person in the world to venture into speculative psychology. Like most West Cumbrians, and most contemporary Greeks for that matter, my father had virtually nil interest in cause and effect, and believed that things were as they were, and that effortful reasoning only confounded matters and made everyone concerned needlessly unhappy.

I was 13 years old in 1964, and curious, by which I mean irredeemably nosy about everything, and especially the world of people and their frequently startling and appalling ways. That partly explains why I wanted from an early age to be a writer, someone who in my book is ideally (qv my heroes Flaubert, Dickens and George Eliot) a massively nosy bugger who loves poking their snout into people’s far from private dramas. And I will gratuitously add at this point, that much of contemporary UK fiction indicates a yawning absence of pungent characterisation rooted in authorial nosiness, and instead a pallid tendency towards languid riffing on the minutiae of affect and disaffection between the amiable puppets on stage, whether they are supposedly pirouetting in 2016 or 1916 or 1816. That weary set-in-aspic poetic, I would assert, rules the roost these days, or alternatively we are treated to something that is all plot, plot, plot, and the characters, God love them, can all go hang…

They had just stopped hanging murderers in 1964 in Britain, and it was also the advent of the Beatles and the Stones and sexually explicit drama on TV, and lots of other powerfully magnetic freedoms if you were 13 years old. Which reminds me that Madge Wilson in that year unwittingly brought the intimate and embarrassing unspoken world into a vivid focus for me, as at 58 poor old Madge had an ineffable animal smell, a pungent odour about her that even I, a pubertal teenager, knew was not B.O. It was all amateur guesswork then for a 13-year-old boy from a remote province, but in hindsight I can say that her smell originated powerfully from you know where, and that 50 years ago it was relatively common for women from late middle age onwards to have that ineffable rutting scent about them. Not that I ever go around sniffing for the definitive evidence, but surely the opposite is true nowadays, as female hygiene is a standard item of self-awareness for women of all ages, and deodorants and sprays of all kinds are remarkably cheap. Withal and for that matter, there were thousands of well stocked Boots chemists 50 years ago, which surely must have sold something a competent remedy to Madge’s remarkably feral scent. The conclusion can only be that Madge didn’t notice it herself, as presumably neither did Watson, or assuming they, did both of them thought it inevitable and nothing could be done about it…

Watson was a sturdy and stocky man, though a little pale, who always seemed to be sitting down and never standing up. He had a very gentle voice and surpassingly gentle and light blue eyes. They were full of a kindness which issued from him as a generous and modest radiance, and he had not an ounce of pride or vanity. In fact, there was so much gentleness, you could have siphoned it off and bottled it and offered it to those sadly in need of the same thing. The same was true of Madge, though her tender kindness was more of the bustling and resonant type. Watson talked in something of an elevated whisper, whereas she was frankly assertive and always with a hint of teasing comedy whenever she uttered. They had no children but the walls of their cheap terrace were plastered with photos of beaming godsons and nephews and nieces and their offspring, and it was obvious there was a yawning hole in their marriage which they had courageously turned upon its head and made it a source of bounty for themselves and others.

Madge was also massive, a huge woman, while not at all obese, which is to say she was impressive and genuinely attractive in her girth and splendour, both at the front and at the rear, at the prow and at the stern. Her bosoms more or less dwarfed the dimensions of the sizeable and unfussy kitchen, and indeed outdid all other spheres in the whole of Bath as far as I could see, apart of course from the omnipresent celestial and thus invisible spheres. Her skirted backside likewise was like that of a stately ocean liner or the rear of a graceful she-elephant as it swayed in ceremony, albeit minus a howdah. Fittingly this vast and grand woman was enormously generous, not least and most pleasingly when it came to the meals she provided me. Every morning she gave me what I would call a Full As A Bull’s Arse Bath Breakfast. In those days, I ate meat, and on my plate, were bacon, sausage, eggs, beans, tomatoes, mushrooms, fried bread, and best of all and wait for it…chips. Chips for breakfast! I’ll say that again. Chips for your breakfast, man, and am I dreaming? I didn’t know the phrase then, as I hadn’t read Henry Miller at 13, but these days I would whisper fuck me gently and fuckaduck. Bring it on, yes, yes, you are the one and only woman of my dreams Madge Wilson, as you give me more, much more, far much more, than is humanly conceivable! Because chips for breakfast is surely one of those things you always want and never get, just like sex at 4 in the morning (eergh, fuck, not now, maybe later, maybe not, zzz) or a last drop of delicious red wine at the bottom of the treacherous bottle, when you have all too obviously emptied it to its pitiful lees.

One night Madge and Watson took me out on the town for a treat of a high order. The gift of the uproarious gab, comedian Bob Monkhouse (1928-2003) was on at the local theatre, and we went there midweek replete with Quality Street chocolates, treacle toffees, and cans of Schweppes pop, and the Wilsons laughed their heads off unabashed at his stream of incredibly blue gags and sultry fantasies, of which perhaps I comprehended 10 per cent. In 1964 this incendiary thing would never have been allowed on his TV appearances, but this city venue doubtless doubled as a club theatre from the comedian’s long established reference points, and in club theatre of course you could do or say more or less absolutely anything, even 50 years ago. 36-year-old Monkhouse had a face which looked polished and buffed, then oiled to a gleaming shine, and likewise he had a sunny fluency and slickness that indicated an obvious terror of that thing called depth (just as Watson was terrified of that thing, called tinned peas) though give the comic his due he had plenty of width in the sense of phenomenally agile punning and his ingenious doubles entendres. Years later, I learnt that he kept written mementoes, such as every single theatre programme of every one of his shows, and visual souvenirs of all his performances meaning Super 8 films and later video recordings and DVDs, not to speak of tapes of all radio shows going all the way back to the 50s, and up until his death some 40 years after the Wilsons and I saw him live. It was all scrupulously catalogued and cross referenced to a fault, and as you can imagine he needed a small warehouse to store it… and though it obviously constitutes a unique documentary treasure trove for anyone interested in the period and the light entertainment mores, it also suggests a degree of fanatical obsession that borders on the…

Borders on the what?

And who on earth am I of all people to talk about obsessions?

One day Madge decided she wanted me all to herself and while Watson caught up on some jobs in his Bath backyard, she took me on the train to her home town of Bristol. Madge didn’t do things by half but led me on this red hot day to the zoo and then to the zoo café and there encouraged me to gorge myself on steak or plaice and chips or oh so healthy and robust spaghetti bolognaise and chips and rice, or whatever was dearest and grandest on the menu. And have those strawberries and cream for pudding, my darling, it’s almost your last day with us, so best to get your money’s worth. And oh yes, what would you like to drink, what takes your fancy, my pet?

I have no memory at all of what I saw in Bristol zoo, but I shall never forget looking in pained awe at the counter, at a bottle of Coca Cola, with its incredibly sensuous and highly sexual design, rather like an erotic version of a 10 pin bowling pin. Was there anything more curved and pleased with itself in the whole universe, except perhaps Jayne Mansfield (1933-1967) whose mesmerising backside I aged 13 truly believed was made out of solid 1000 carat gold? Hard to believe it, but not only had I never had a bottle of Coke, I had never seen nor heard of the world’s favourite soft drink. 50 years ago. It must for certain have been available even in bloody old Workington, but I who observed and noted everything when it came to sweets and treats and comics and brainless TV shows, had never once spotted its like. Instead up in West Cumbria it was the fabled lemonade lorry that was king of the road and majestic sovereign of the imagination, like a festive carnival totem, and where no less than four of the juggernauts raced and competed against each other to sell door to door the week’s supply. There was Underwood’s from Maryport, Brothwell and Mills and Cartmell’s, both from Workington, and Arnison’s from distant and lacklustre Penrith. We lived in a drab and dour pit village close to Maryport, so were the pampered beneficiaries of the best lemonade in all known universes, beyond all praise Underwood’s, whose munificent like will never be known again, and I, as child of the house, was, under moderate supervision, allowed to choose the flavours. Offered on a notional silver tray Underwood’s lemonade, orange crush, limeade, grapefruitade, raspberryade, pineappleade, American cream soda, dandelion and burdock, ciderade , I would have swiftly opted for 6 bottles of pinappleade and nothing else, as its suavely proud and exquisite deliciousness would have conquered the most frowning, pouting gourmet.

My mother tutted aghast when I tried this, lectured me sharply on my selfishness, and made me compromise with a paltry 3 of those and 3 of the rest. And as I said before, this confirms the eternal paradigm scenario that you never ever get exactly what you want, and no one will ever give me 6 perfect and complete in themselves bottles of pineappleade, nor their symbolic  and luxurious equivalents (unlimited sex, unlimited wine, unlimited world cinema, a life subscription to the London Library, a free runabout ticket to every possible inhabited Greek island, about 100 such gems that is, and a whole week of listening to Miles Davis and nothing else.)

Will they?

Mm. I thought I would just run it past you.