The Family History As A Method Of Torture

I spotted it in a trice – on the shelf of the council library. It was a self-published history of a local family. Paper-bound, A4 size, but about a centimetre thick. I’m a bit hazy about the exact family name but I remember it referred to a country town where they lived and styled them as ” Pioneer Nobility “.

That’s a concept you don’t see all that often in an egalitarian society – but it lurks in the heart of every amateur genealogist. If they can assert that their family is noble, and get you to believe it, they can control the universe.

I come from a mother and a father. They, in their turn, came from mothers and fathers. Funnily enough, so does everyone else riding the N0.507 bus to the train station. And so do you. It is the common experience of mankind to be born because of the combination of a mother and father.

The lucky ones get to know who they were. Even better – they might have gotten to see them for some portion of their lives and can treasure this. But there is a catch to the treasure – a curse, if you will…if you try to grasp too much of it, it turns to fire and burns away your happiness. And that fire can consume all the social oxygen and leave everyone around you asphyxiated.

I met today with a relative of my wife – a pleasant man who is the amateur genealogist for her family. He is good at it and has facts and figures of all the extended family at his fingertips. You have only to sit still long enough and you will find out when in 1887 one cousin shifted addresses in Adelaide, and how we know this, and what it means for the Scottish branch of the family in 1934…

It is not polite to sneer or yawn. Neither is it to run and hide in the toilet or fall lifeless to the carpet. One must look bright and attentive. And not scream.

But, just as with the accounting of dreams, so the history of someone else’s distant family connection to even more distant relations who have done no more than breed and move is the saddest and most banal of communications. No-one wants to know.

None of us are remotely interested in the thing, and unless you can prove in court that you are a direct descendant of a liaison between Benjamin Franklin and Cleopatra, we’re not likely to care. Publish all you like, prattle all you will, thrust forward parish records from the 19th century all you may – We. Don’t. Care.

But let me tell you about my uncle Agnes and the time she met the Kaiser in Woolies…

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Have You Ever Slept With A Woman?

I’ve tried. With limited success.

When you are young you attempt this for a variety of reasons – the chief one being the period of time before you actually go to sleep. You hope to be busy. If you are lucky, both of you can occupy yourselves profitably in this period, and the less said about that the better. Mind you, if there is money involved in that profit, one of you is doing it wrong…

But after that period in your life, the time spent in bed – the bit where you actually go to sleep – can be increasingly difficult. If sleep is wanted, and needed, you require a few simple things; warmth in winter, coolness in summer, a reasonable silence, and lack of movement. As you get older, these become less likely.

Oh, you may be as much a problem as her, and the equation equal on both sides. I’ll leave you to decide who is the culprit. You may wish to set a night-vision camera in motion at dusk to record who steals the covers, thrashes around like a squid, or snorts like a Union Pacific Mallet locomotive going through Ogden. Then replay it to accuse each other. It will be concrete evidence but you’ll never convince the other party that they are guilty.

The chiefest conclusion that you can come to about adults sleeping together is that the old American sit-com TV shows with the parents sleeping in twin beds instead of a double were not as ludicrous as they seemed. They eliminated at least two factors in the blood-shot-eye battles – movement and covers. The noise of snoring, snorting, gurgling or moaning was still there. Fortunately our hearing declines after 60 and this became less of a problem.

The wild card is provided by children or pets who insist on entering the marital bedroom and hogging the marital bed. Neither class of creature respects privacy, personal space, or the need to avoid flatulence. And they have the infuriating habit of sleeping while they prevent others from doing so. It is the reason dog-whips were invented, and recently I found out that you could use these on dogs as well.

The Social Register

A social register is a grille set into the floor or wall that emits hot air in winter.

No, wait, that’s a central heating system. The social register is a small book that is available at a public library that emits hot air all year round. It tells you who is considered to be important enough to be noticed by the people who are not important. It’s the handbook of snobbery.

My experience with these books is small. I was never asked for an entry in Who’s Who or DeBretts. The Amanach de Gotha is so much German to me. I did briefly feature in ” What The Hell Was That? ” but it has a limited readership. Most of the information in it was hearsay and I am glad I neither heard it nor said it.

The whole idea of public record of social standing is a little like zinc chromate paint – a necessary treatment but a sickly colour. You may read as many potted biographies in the book as you like, but the real question will be why you are reading – for moral gain or financial advantage? Worship or targeting information? And are you required to believe anything you read?

Remember that many of the people in there wrote their own guff – or were rich enough to hire someone to write it for them. Are they likely to be telling you dirty little secrets? Not on your nelly. What you’ll read is the image they wish to project – even if they are dim, cracked, and dirty to begin with the result is likely to be shiny and bright.

But do not be too discouraged or cynical. Social registries do have a benefit for the community. Once they are published the lies are out in the open – and recorded clearly for all to see. As time goes on the truth about most people surfaces, and then you can compare it to the advertisement for an even more piquant experience. The lawyers of the powerful will prevent you from scolding or scalding them, but they cannot stop you from laughing.

 

The Day Of Fools

April 1st.

My day. My birthday. April 1st, 1948. And laugh if you will, when I give the signal, but it has always been a pretty good day for me – fool or not.

As a small child the day was always a celebration that had no connection to anyone outside my family and friends. You’re centered in that as a kid. It was only in the latter part of grade school that the significance of the occasion as a national prank day came to my attention.

Of course, in the natural way that school children have, it was seized upon as an excuse to torment me. And I was a little ashamed of the connection – until one person said that they were jealous of me because I would be able to do anything I wanted to others on April 1st morning and get away with it. It was the dawning of, if not wisdom, at least a new career.

Most April Fool jokes are practical to some extent, but short of damage to property, there’s not much of a practical nature that one little kid can do. But if they are inventive, coats can be switched around in cloak rooms, water coolers can be blocked with wadded paper, and similar low-grade japes. If they talk fast and in a complex manner they can infuriate the slower minds without being actually culpable. But they must stop at noon so as not to overstep the immunity.

This year I simply told the staff members at work that their employment contracts were being rescinded in favour of the system of physical slavery. They were advised to practice the phrases ” Yowsah ” and ” Sho Nuff “. When, by accident, the Star Track man delivered three bales of cotton, I left them to it.

 

How To Foster Disapproval For Fun And Profit

Those of you who have enjoyed our previous BGA How-To entitled ” Treason For Tots ” will particularly enjoy today’s episode. You’ll learn how to turn smiles into frowns and curses into cash. Make sure you have your pencils and notebooks handy!

Disapproval is one of the most valuable of human emotions – it can be used in nearly any social situation to command attention. In the past, however, many people did not realise that it could also make money for them. Fortunately with the advent of the internet and social media this can now be tapped into.

When you disapprove of someone or something, it is a sign that someone is responsible for displeasing you. Oh, you might hear people complaining about the weather or losing at the horse races, but this is just small talk – the real point of any conversation is to disapprove of something concrete and to demand that someone be made to pay for it. The payment need not always be a lot of money – abject apologies and grovelling servility are also acceptable to some extent – provided, of course, that there is some cash on the table. It may be difficult to get an adequate apology from a young person who has no source of income other than a weekly allowance, but they can save up, and it builds their character.

On the other hand, if someone disapproves of you, it is perfectly in order to cry out that you are a victim. You can choose from a wide range of angst these days – racism, sexism, religious bigotry, age discrimination, etc. If you are a champion of fine cuisine, you can complain when your food is not available. If it is provided you can complain that it is not cooked well. If your diet consists of raw things only, you can complain that it is not fresh enough. Eventually you can bring it down to being bitter about the patterns on the china plates. It’s just a case of persistence.

Being a victim means that you can march, carry signs, scuffle with police, and set fire to things while wearing a mask. Those people who have pointed out that this is what arsonists do are just tools of the fascist fire brigades.

The assiduous Guild member will be able to foster disapproval of nearly everything by nearly everyone, and be able to whip the average crowd into a frenzy of mayhem and rage. Really skilled practitioners can work up a crowd of Buddhist monks and Amish Quakers into a knife fight, after which they withdraw and disapprove of the whole procedure.

Remember the Guild motto:

Where there is a wrong , there is a right, and your position is right behind that – picking up banknotes with a grain shovel.

Featured Image: A teenager asked to clean up their room…

When Someone Starts It Up

The” it ” can be anything – sex talk, politics, religion, a lawn edger…anything. You’ll know it’s ” it ” because everyone will edge away from the speaker and start to examine the paintwork on the cornices. Some will remember appointments and some will answer their mobile phones …” There’s an emergency at work and they need me…”. The fact that they have been retired for years might give you a clue. A clue that the topic is unpleasant, unwelcome, and unnecessary.

The wise person seeing this reaction will pull up and ask themselves whether they have been riding their hobby horse too fast – indulging their rhetoric a little freely – making a right prat of themselves. The unwise person will make use of the deadly silence that has descended on the crowd to get off more Trump jokes or try to convert the infidel.

The unfortunate part of this all is that the social media we all love has pointed us in the diametrically opposite direction from that of previous generations – we are now positively encouraged to be offensive, overbearing, and lewd. And the sad thing is we are being trained to do this to protest against people who are offensive, overbearing, and lewd. We tar ourselves with our own toothbrush.

Let us all resolve and publicly declare that we will be polite, careful, and discrete in the next twelve months. We will set off none of the media trigger wires that they so generously rig across our computer screens. We will cut everyone some slack, even to the point of cutting it so slack that they fall off the edge of the social media platform and are lost forever. We will allow dissent from our obviously perfect understanding of the universe – on the principle that they’ll find out how wrong they are when it’s too late and we’ll laugh at them as they are hauled away in a tumbril to a well-deserved execution.

Where did I put my knitting?

The Proper Use Of The Nose

I always used to take my nose for granted until I started to think about it. Consider:

a. Most people in the ancient world did not know what their nose looked like. They were poor and could not afford mirrors of any kind. If they lived in dry places that did not even have pools of water to look into. The only thing they ever saw of the organ was a blob on either side of their eyesight when they looked cross-eyed. Short-nosed people probably missed out on that.

b. This did not stop them from picking the thing pretty efficiently. The finger has a self-guidance system for the nostril.

c. You just tried that, didn’t you?

d. The nose smells everything until it hits on something that is so pungent that it cancels all sensation for a period. This might be natural naphtha emissions, rotten fish, or one of the Trudeaus. Cold weather in Canada right now, so a lot of the citizens are safe, eh?

e. You can find out things with your nose, and not all of them need to be where the drains are up. You can locate flowers, fresh rain, and a new car.

f. You can express emotion with your nose – disapproval with a sniff, contempt with a raised nose, etc. Some people can imagine sexiness in a twitchy nose, but then if they are reduced to getting their rocks off with that they might as well look at armpits or boils.

g. Phoooarrrr….armpits…

h. You can poke your nose into other people’s business pretty effectively these days and if you are a multi-billionaire media controller you make it sound as if you are doing something of public value. After you’ve snuffled around long enough you can sell the information you get for more billions. Eventually you’ll go to jail, but the more billions you have the longer away this can be.

i. Fill out this internet form, play this game, tell me all your details. I ‘ll scratch my nose while you do.