Tuesday, 29 June 2010

A women’s word and how to use it

The second follow-up to my night in Cambridge, promoting my book Filthy English: the word that Maggie didn’t mention.

Before my appearance at Women’s Word, I made sure I read some of one of my friend Maggie Alderson’s novels, Handbags and Gladrags — chosen because it was on my daughter’s shelf.

I hadn’t finished it, though. I did that this week. And found in it a moment she could have — maybe should have — mentioned.

It’s on page 379 of my paperback edition and it’s the crux of the novel. (The plot: skinny fashion editor, fucked up by father’s suicide in front of her, has affair with Australian ├╝ber-macho photographer and finally abandons her ‘perfect’ marriage to Ollie, an effete adulterous, upper-class English make-up manufacturer/promoter.)

She is finally confronting her less than satisfactory husband, in their Notting Hillbilly apartment*.

Him: ‘Why are you looking at me like that?’

Her: ‘You cunt. You self-satisfied, judgemental, superficial cunt.’

The chapter — it’s the penultimate one, of course — closes quickly . . .

‘By the look on Ollie’s face, I knew those words had done the trick more effectively than any pyrotechnic display could have.’

I wish I’d read it before. I would have got Maggie to read it out. What do you call yours, indeed?

* Place and brand names are as essential and well-worked as they are in a Chuck Berry song. As the newly-wed couple of You Never Can Tell ‘furnished off an apartment with a two room Roebuck sale’, so Maggie’s couple have copies of Derek Jarman’s Garden and a book about Yves Saint Laurent artfully placed on a ‘kilim-covered ottoman’. No ‘Coolerator, jammed with TV dinners and ginger ale’, though.

PS One night, I was watching a TV documentary and I liked it so much that, unusually for me, I kept watching right through the credits. I saw that the director was someone called Jill Nicholls. I remembered that I’d been really good friends with a girl named Jill Nicholls when I was still at junior school. I also remembered that, a couple of decades ago, someone called Jill Nicholls had passed a message to me via a mutual friend, asking me if I was the same Peter Silverton she remembered from our childhood. I passed the message back, saying yes. Somehow, though, it got left at that.

Right after the TV documentary, though, I googled her. Took but a few minutes. (I found her via Linked In, if you’re wondering.) I emailed her. We exchanged news. She’d been recently widowed — and wrote a most moving eulogy for her late husband, a painter. You can find it online, if you try.

She came to dinner with me and my wife. She had pictures of our childhood. We told each the story (well, a story) of our lives since we were young and short-trousered — ankle-socked in her case.

She told me, too, that she had nearly finished another documentary, about one of my near neighbours, Diana Athill. Now she’s finished it. It’s on TV tonight, Tuesday, June 29 — but I'm sure it will be repeated and repeated and repeated.

A little more filthy (Israelite) English? (I was pointed in its direction by a Canadian student in Cambridge.)

Next up The final D of my 4-D defence of Freud. Finally.

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Six degrees of osteopathy

A follow-up to my last posting. Well, the first of two follow-ups actually. The next I’ll post tomorrow.

I don’t — as regular readers will surely agree — generally do personal health stuff etc here. I did, though, mention that I had a bad knee last week. Not that you probably care — I certainly wouldn’t if it was you — but I no longer have a bad knee.

For which transformation, I have one person to thank. Which is, frankly, only of interest to me and them. But I thought I’d share with you the (brief) story of how I came to find this person . . .

Garry Trainer, that is. He’s an osteopath, based around the corner from me, in Primrose Hill. A burly, middle-aged, twice-married Kiwi who likes a drink and has just taken up surfing again, he has my deep thanks for fixing my knee.

An hour or so on Monday lunchtime. A few needles — he does acupuncture, too. (I’m inherently sceptical but also acceptingly pragmatical.) A little back bending — no crackings, though. A hefty massage of the back and knee tendons.

Right away, I felt better — improved, that is. By the next day, I was limpless. So, for what it’s worth, this free add.

But I also thought I’d share with you how I came to put my body in Garry’s un-tender care in the first place. And how it connects to my (relative) closeness to Adolf Hitler's hand and Oscar Wilde’s penis.

Garry first, though. About two years ago, in the wake of the exams I sat for the first year of my course, my back got really bad. The worst I ever had. I couldn’t walk. I ended up not seeing the local shops — not much more than a hundred metres away — for nearly a month. I couldn’t get from one floor to the next in under five minutes.

I knew I had to get something done. I’d been to an osteopath years before and she’d done the trick. But she’d moved away.

Two new ones came recommended, both by people I respected. Jonathan Le Bon and Garry Trainer. I checked both their websites. I discovered that Le Bon was brother to Simon Le Bon, the popster, while Garry had had his hands on Gwyneth Paltrow. Well, which one would you have chosen to get closer to?

Me and Adolf Hitler? Well, I’ve shaken hands with not just one but two people who, as children, had their hair ruffled by him.

Oscar Wilde’s penis? I’ve shaken the hand of a man who, in pre-war Brighton, had his hair ruffled* by Bosie, Oscar Wilde’s boyfriend, nemesis and, I should guess, penis-handler.

I can also get to the Pope in one. Freud? Loads via London analysts, of course — particularly via Anna Freud. But also via an American cousin who is related to Joseph Paneth — a close friend of Freud’s who lent him the money for his wedding and who died of TB, at 32. Paneth was also a pal of Nietzche’s.

Hence, my personal variant on the classic parlour game. I call it Six Degrees of Separation Anxiety. It's just the same as Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon — only the link (or end-person) should, in some way, be odd or unsettling. I welcome all contributions to my game. Put your own links to the famous on the comments page.

* Hair-ruffling children was once a big thing in Britain — Germany, too, it seems. I was certainly a victim in my own childhood. Fears of hordes of marauding child-abusers seem to have put paid to hair-ruffling — which seems to have gone the way of spats and . . . Gordon Brown. (I can do him in one, too.)

Today, I am mostly listening to . . . Jackie DeShannon (and Jack Nitzche — no relation.)

Pins and begins

Nonchalant and want

An original demo

You’ve got to live for yourself — and nobody else

Next up The other follow-up — something Maggie Alderson didn’t mention in Cambridge.