Saturday, 26 October 2013

Seduction: Ancient and Modern

Decimalisation and the changes that have taken place in weights and measures have shafted English writers. It’s just too difficult to make the necessary conversions. For example, it is quite unacceptable to modernise “the murderer inched towards his victim, his heart pounding” to “the murderer centimetred towards his victim, his heart kilogramming”. And how can you express the old adage “inch by inch it’s a cinch, by the yard it’s very hard”? Here’s my best attempt “millimetre by millimetre it’s much simpler, by the metre it defeats you”. Hardly trips of the tongue, does it?

Reversing the situation, it is almost impossible for the youngsters of today to understand the words of some dated novels, poems or songs. My prime example is one of the songs I sing down on the huerto when creating yet another plaster arch between the beams. There are sixteen new beams, which makes eighteen spaces to fill. Each space takes about a day to complete and I start by installing six formers then laying twelve or so lathes on top of them. I then spend an age cutting short lengths of bamboo to fill the inevitable gaps where the lathes meet the wobbly beams (they are actually trees with the bark and branches removed). I finish the preparation by placing four leaves on the lathes (to leave their imprint) and by making and installing three wire-ties which will become embedded in the plaster.

Have you followed all that or just lost interest? Anyway, I am then ready to pour plaster between the beams: it usually takes ten mixes of the stuff. All of this means that I climb up and down to my wobbly scaffolding at least twenty-five times each day. In short, it’s all a bit boring which is why I sing. My prime example of dated English is Mary of the Mountain Glen. Here’s the first verse in case you’ve forgotten it.

Mary of the mountain glen
Seduced herself with a fountain pen
The pen it bust, the ink went wild
And she gave birth to a blue-black child
They called the bastard Stephen
They called the bastard Stephen
They called the bastard Stephen
Because that was name of the ink
Not Quink

Singing this to any of my grandchildren would produce an increasingly blank face. They might, just possibly, know what a glen is. After that it will be downhill all the way from the fountain pen to Quink. So, whilst placing all that plaster (nearly one hundred bags) my mind has not been idle. Here is my creation: a modern verse for the song:

Mary grew very fond of her son
She thought she would have another one
One day when she was all alone
She seduced herself with a mobile phone
The phone it rang, Mary went wild
And she gave birth to a cellular child
They called the little one Samsung
They called the little one Samsung
They called the little one Samsung
Because that was the name of his Dad
Step Dad.

So what’s next? Assuming a little health problem is dealt with, I shall be back to work on Monday and will finish the plastering later in the week. Then I will spend a day or two laying a concrete slab on top of the plastered beams followed by replacement of the original roof tiles. Tradition claims that these old clay tiles have been shaped on a virgin’s thigh, which is perhaps why they are so rare nowadays post the invention of the fountain pen and mobile phone.


  1. You underestimate youth- a quick search on google will reveal quink et al. As a kid I was up on rods, poles and perches and had a 1910 Pears cyclopaedia. They are not wiser, and no stupider than us...

  2. Good going, a very fortifying life. And with the side effect of you having become a sing and song writer.

    You never told me what you are going to use the hut for. Would it be too brave to guess as a micro brewery?


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