DAFT NOTIONS

The next post will be on or before Saturday 29th December. Happy Christmas and a perfect 2019 to all

DAFT NOTIONS

I love idiotic logic, don’t you, and the more idiotic the better, though to be sure I need to admit right away, so that you know this is not penned de haut en bas, that I am as capable of idiocy as anyone else. And I heard a real corker of a nonsense recently, when I was invited i.e. forced to sit down with Tasos and Panos who were having a spontaneous party sat on the chairs outside one of the port supermarkets, and decided that I should enjoy it with them. They are both about my age, one a fisherman and the other an electrician, and they were knocking back Tasos’s estimably incendiary homemade tsipuro/ grape brandy alongside mezzes of cheese and olives, in effect constituting an unlicensed kafeneion or bar, and using the defunct-in-December supermarket fridge as a table. At one stage our meandering discussion got onto drink generally, and Tasos declared as if it were a splendid paradoxical marvel that whisky, the Scottish stuff, was made out of onions

I got a laughing fit at that, which didn’t please the grizzly fisherman one iota, as Tasos takes his opinions very seriously.

He said belligerently, “It is malaka/you wanker! Whisky’s made from bloody onions…!”

I immediately assumed a charmingly compliant mien, and told him I’d thought it was made from rye or barley or wheat or other agricultural grain.

“Like fuck it is! It’s all those fucking onions they have up there in Skotia/ Scotland…!”

Tatiana the Rumanian shop assistant happened to be sat nearby and without consultation she googled the matter on her smartphone and confirmed what I had said…

Tasos growled, “Gamoto/ fuck it! Those pissy bloody phones will tell you any old useless shit…”

Half a century before all that, in 1969, I embarked on my degree at University College, Oxford, and wholesale ignoramus provincial that I was, began by studying Physiology and Psychology (PPP). This is where I bring my mother Mollie Murray nee Renney (1915-1990) into the picture, one of the most charismatic, dogmatic, lovable, infuriating, tolerant, tunnel-visioned individuals I have ever met in all my life.  When I was back at home in West Cumbria over the Christmas break, she began leafing through my General Physiology textbook, full of drawings and photographs of lungs and hearts and gall bladders and spleens and so on, then stoutly remarked:

“You’ll be thinking and fretting about your insides all the time, studying this! It gives me the shudders, all these creepy blinking photographs!”

In the event, she was exactly and diametrically wrong. Not only did that textbook not make me think about my insides, it made me instead think about the polar opposite, meaning the enchanting physical and sensuous world out there in all its possible profusion of genera and anomalies.  After 2 terms of looking at the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, of studying rheology, the science of liquid flow as in blood vessels, and the baroreceptors which monitor our blood pressure, I decided I was a damned sight more interested in the exotic and extravagant Classical Orient in the form of Ancient India, so that I took a deep breath and switched to Sanskrit and Old Iranian, meaning I had to attend at the small and homely Oriental Studies Department with its odorously varnished library in lovely Pusey Lane of blessed memory. Thereafter had I really hankered after staring at my insides, I could have opted to study Yogic Physiology replete with its chakra system, which seems to correspond to our plexuses as in the solar and the sacrococcygeal plexus. But no, I didn’t, or at least not until 5 years later, when I worked on approximately 3500 manuscripts of the Ayurvedic system of Classical Indian Medicine at the Wellcome Institute, London. There one learns that lashuna, garlic, is good for the eyesight which must surely be a supremely daft notion, otherwise all Greeks, Spaniards, French etc would never have myopia nor astigmatism and their opticians would be workless and found rooting in dustbins. On the other hand, in the Bhutavidya or Psychiatry division of the Ayurveda as expounded by the great authorities Sushruta and Charaka, they recommend that depression in males be treated by surrounding them with a large number of naked women, which strikes me 40 odd years on as being the sanest nostrum I have ever heard, and surely much better than Prozac and its variants.

Going even further back to 1962, when I began at my West Cumbrian Grammar School, there was a division in morning worship where C of E like me attended prayers and announcements in the massive School Assembly Hall, whereas the minority Roman Catholics had their own RC version in the dining room. One day I looked carefully and wonderingly at the latter, all gathered together in the refectory, and decided I needed to understand what, RC liturgy aside, the difference was. Suddenly as if struck by understated lightning, I was inspired to think that they definitely had something ineffable and unusual and highly original in the subtle disposition of their eyes…meaning mad as it sounds, some kind of phrenological imprint peculiar to Catholics, and not peculiar to the less distinguished Anglicans whether High Church or, as in my pit village case, the Low Church bastard sibling.

I continued for a good decade thinking I could spot an RC person a mile off, by, infinitely discreetly you understand, closely studying their eyes, and the relationship of those eyes to the overall inscrutable visage. For a whole 10 years I thought I could spot a Catholic from any distance, thanks to my own quasi-mystical means of nuanced calibration. Then would you believe, a woman called Myrna who I had been dating for a year, a whole 12 months, and of whom I had nil inkling as to her practised faith, whether current or lapsed, quietly disclosed to me that she was a Roman Catholic and had been so all her life…

I stared at her in amazement.

“But you don’t have the eyes,” I said to her, with a pleading sort of eloquence. “You don’t have the eyes of a Roman Catholic, Myrna.”

And with that, and God knows why, everything between us seemed to go steadily downhill.

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