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Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Proof we're alive
and (mainly) happy

I thought I’d invented the word tactility but it already exists. Merriam-Webster gives two meanings: (1) capable of being touched/felt, (2) responsiveness to stimulation via the sense of touch. It's the latter I'm interested in.

VR recently asked me to taste a beef skirt casserole. It not only tasted fine but it met another of my criteria: it had that gluey consistency (often more apparent from a re-heat) that gains my final approval.

Grapes have tactility potential. Bite them slowly; dwell on the moment your teeth pop through the outer skin - the essence of a tactile experience.

Bread's freshness is identified by its smell and its unique resistance (or lack of it) to your incisors. But a slice of tomato turns the bread soggy ruining its initial appeal; for me salad must be confined to a sideplate.

Expanding my thesis: tactility is also sensed with the ears as well as the finger-tips. Edna, my mother-in-law, loved one-arm bandits. But she admitted that if the machine's crunching sensation - a sound and a vibration - were removed, she would give up the vice.

When wood-sawing is going well there's confirmation in the rasping sound and the consistent mini-shudder communicated from blade to handle.

Tactility can be proof of unpleasantness - eg, efficient tooth-drilling vs. the actions of a butcher dentist.

Then there is the ultimate tactile sensation which nature has embedded in us to ensure we keep on breeding. Stopping short of that consider the kiss: the feel of the lips, of course, combined with tiny movements of the jaw, the sounds and zephyrs of someone else breathing, and that (frequently divine) smell.

PS: Yes, I know, sound is a vibration. But the above is physiology not physics.


  1. Small granules of salt in mature Cheddar cheese.

    Soundwise - the breaking of a Leki walking pole when I fell on it - a disastrous occurrence, but a pure, satisfying hollow snap almost compensated.

  2. You are so right......and we don't pay attention. I immediately think of creme brulee and the insanely delicious crack of the back of the spoon. Does the sand shifting beneath my feet count? I am glad that Edna has been spared the indignity and disappointment of the push-button slot machines.....no-arm bandits. Slimy gym clothes!

  3. Sir Hugh: Glad you got my drift. I take it the salt granules are a good thing not a bad. As to the snapping walking pole, you show true authorial detachment in being able to separate the unexpected good from the overall bad. I wonder if you might have been capable of the ultimate detachment, had it not been a pole but your femur.

    Stella: Again I'm pleased we're in synch since, as you can see, I widened the original field to include other senses. What I failed to include - as VR later pointed out - was the fifth sense: sight. Definitely the creme brulée and definitely the sand; the latter in particular since that also takes in sight; the lazy movement of that type of sand is, I think, unique.

    Glad too you picked up on Edna. Frequently she and I failed to communicate but on this occasion I was very careful, taking things step by step, and in the end she gladly confirmed my belief. Are slimy gym clothes good, bad or just memorable?

  4. After an hour (walking) the treadmill in a humid gym, everything I'm wearing feels like glue.

  5. Regarding Sir Hugh's walking pole. I have never broken mine. However, the ankle has been broken and to this day I can't decide whether or not my fertile imagination invented the sound of my it snapping.