Posted tagged ‘F.Scott Fitzgerald’

Steam on the inside

November 13, 2012

Many tides ago I recall reading in some obscure magazine that it is not a good idea to make friends while on a cruise. The reasoning for this was that, although initial contact with the strangers you’ve just met was favourable, after a few further meetings they can start to annoy you. His jokes are rotten, her voice is grating and things like that. Avoiding your new acquaintances can be difficult as big as the boat might be, there are limited spaces to hide on a ship. Diving over the side is not an option, especially if there are sharks in the water or if you can’t swim. There’s a lot of islanders that can’t swim, you know.

I’ve singled out cruise ships but irritating holidaymakers can be found on any kind of vacation. Or location. On a train, for instance. There’s no telling who will sit beside you on a long train journey. If it’s the chatty type you’re in for a long haul. Guess what, I was once the victim of a gabby traveller who could talk the leaves off a tree.

My ordeal began, as these things do, quietly enough. The carriage I was in was empty save me and I settled down for an enjoyable read of my Kindle. The silence was broken by the siren of the train signalling it was about to move. I had selected my novel from the library mode of the machine and breathed out a pleasant air of satisfaction as the train trundled on its way. Suddenly, there was a back draft as the door of the train opened and a middle-aged man jumped into the cabin with the verve of a superhero.

“Hello there, I’m Dan.” Dan offered his hand to me and during the clasping of hands he tried to wrench my arm from the socket. A firm handshake is one thing, why do some men go the extra inch? It’s definitely a my car is better than your car kind of thing. Male alpha/beta nonsense. And we all know what these men are hung up on.

“What are you reading?” Danman asked.

For me, this is bad practise. It’s Ok for close friends to ask this personal question not complete outsiders. I was also reading a Kindle which should give me amnesty from this type of query. The whole point of the Kindle is for private reading. There are no big covers displaying your reading material only a leather bound wrapping protecting the e-reader. My hesitation lasted a lifetime forcing Dan to utter another enquiry.

“Do you speak English?”

This was a lot easier to answer. “Yes”

“So what are you reading then?”

And now there was nowhere to hide or run or dive and attempting to shield my pulp reading matter I lied to Dan that I was reading that masterpiece of complex human relationships dealing with the theme of madness, Tender is the Night.

“Tender is the Night.” was my lying reply.

“Fitzgerald, eh.” Danman was on the ball with books. He went on. “Don’t you think Redford was miscast in the Great Gatsby? He ruined the whole film for me. A better choice would have been James Franciscus.”

This was too much for me “James Franciscus has never been in a decent film or TV show in his life.”

Dan was not for budging. “Franciscus was absolutely sensational in Beneath the Planet of the Apes. He outHestoned Heston.”

“Are you kidding? The Apes saga was Chuck’s best work.”

Dan sat back in his seat deep in thought before resuming the conversation. “I’ll let that one go. Let’s go back to Gatsby. Lloyd Bochner would have played the part much better than Redford.”

“Dan, You’ve lost the plot. Bochner must have been about forty when The Great Gatsby was made. He’d be too old.”

“Actors change their appearance. They’re never too old or young.” Now I’d had enough. What am I doing, sitting here arguing over trivialities with a stranger on a train? Goodbye, Danman, I’m going to jump. I opened the door of the carriage and leapt outside.

My fall was broken with a soft landing. I had jumped into a small lake which was beside the railway. How lucky was that? And then I remembered I couldn’t swim. More serious was my worry that I didn’t know if the Kindle were waterproof or not. At least as I was in Britain there were no sharks or stingrays or piranha. I heard a splash in the near distance. Crocodiles? Alligators? With my head barely above the surface I could see a figure powering toward me through the water. It wasn’t a caiman it was Danman.

Chibber in the Jazz Age

July 4, 2012

It had been another of those social gatherings where we felt out of place. On Twitter you’re anonymous and foxes paws are irrelevant, at a high class event it’s different. It’s hard to become invisible especially when all you bring to the party is inanities. Try as we might, me and Chibber just couldn’t compete with the Joneses or the Powells or the Ashford-Webbs of this world. They had us beat in the paddock in the intellectual stakes; we were definitely oxymoronically double-dashed: an also-ran non-runner.

Chibber kicked an innocent stone that was lying in the pavement as went home.

“Did you hear that double-breasted suit guy? I can speak six languages.”

“Seven. It was seven.” not for the first time I corrected Chibber.

“Six. Seven. Doesn’t matter. It’s still more than one.” Mathematically, I did not argue with this statement. Chibber went on. “Then the other geezer. I can play nine different instruments. And they’re all those stupid snobby instruments. The piano. The harpsichord. The clarinet. And…and…all the rest.”

“You’re right. He didn’t say anything about a guitar now did he?”

Me and Chibber were both failed six-string guitarists. It’s easier listening to rock music than playing it. Various excuses were mooted and mantrad (sic): hard to fine time to practise, fingers too fat for the frets, hard to fine time to practice, fingers too fat for the frets, hard to find time to practise, fingers too fat for the frets.

“I’m going to learn to play the trumpet.” said Chibber.

“The trumpet?”

“Yeah. Think about it. It’s only got three buttons-”

“Valves. I think they’re called valves.”

“Valves then. Three valves. Now all you’ve got to do is blow and finger three buttons, um, valves. There can’t be many combinations in three valves. In layman’s terms, basically, the trumpet is a three cross: three singles, three doubles and a treble.” Chibber was over the moon. I tried to fell him with bigger numbers.

“Some trumpets have four valves. That‘s a Yankee combination”

“No. No. Forget the Yankee, Yankees are impossible. I’m going to learn on a three-buttoner.”

We walked along and Chibber ignored the discarded crushed can that was left in his path. I could tell he was in a charitable mood. I didn’t want to upset him but I had more things to say on the matter.

“If it were that easy, we’d all be trumpeters. Maybe there’s a certain way of blowing that takes skill or the valves have different settings. Quarter open or half open or something like that to get different sounds.”

“You’ve always got to rain on my parade , haven’t you?”

We walked on and I tried to cheer him up. “Juggling. Why don’t you become a juggler? Everybody likes a juggler at a party. Ashford-Webb’s sonatas would have to take a back seat to a guy levitating balls in the air.” I waited for his reaction. It was forthcoming.

“That’s it. You’re right. Juggling is an art,” he said, he was totally convinced. “and how hard can it be to juggle three balls? At every given time there is one ball in your hand so there’s only two balls to keep an eye on.”

“That’s right,” I said “and to really shatter Jones and his Bechstein Grand, to tongue -tie the multi-linguistic Powell, nay, to trump the high society set in all its splendour you could juggle four balls. That’ll show them whose boss.”

“No. No. Forget four balls. Three will be hard enough.”