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Friday, 14 March 2014

The compulsive brush

French today. Our novel is No et Moi by Delphine de Vigan. Lou, a lonely young girl from a comfortable middle-class home takes up with No, a slightly older girl who lives rough in Paris.

Crisis time. Having decided to join No in her privations, Lou must pack before her parents get back. First item: a toothbrush. Lou is not alone. In dozens of books people planning quick departures do exactly that.

Me, I'd first pack my wallet. I'd understand if the departers were always American. Good orthodontics divides the free from the enslaved world, says the Declaration of Independence. Bad teeth are worse than incest. But some brush fetishists are from countries that are merely under-developed: France, say, or Great Britain.

Couldn't one's teeth wait? But the question's rhetorical. Last year, departing our rented French villa I left the over-night bag behind. When I arrived at our hotel guess my first purchase from the pharmacy. That's right! I too was transfixed by a universal urge. At the time I was less than 24 hours from home.

TOOLS NEGLECTED Our 20-year-old tumble dryer has tumbled into eternity. It's kept in the shed where space is tight. Needing to record its dimensions I opened up my toolbox to get my measuring tape. How remote the box's contents seemed.

Blogging as the genial Barrett Bonden I was always on about DIY. Angle grinders, Phillips-headed screwdrivers, Carborundum stones – all that manly stuff. Exchanging heart-wrenching stories with Crow and others. Now the closest I get to DIY is changing my desktop background pic. Mind you, I'm happier. For me DIY lacks the letter C: Don’t Imagine You Can.


  1. Bad teeth are not worse than incest. Bad teeth can be repaired or replaced. Incest cannot be undone, nor can the loss of innocence, and trust in the Universe, ever be replaced.

    Just saying, dear friend.

  2. Gosh! I didn't get any farther than that third paragraph before jotting down a comment. So, when I (finally!) remembered to add TD to my blog list, the image that showed up was not of the toothbrush, but of your toolbox. How had I missed that, I wondered?

    Of course, tools could still figure in your TD blog, couldn't they? How about showing us the tools for tuning a piano?

    I found my clarinet from soon-dropped lessons more than 30 years ago. It badly needs repair - who do they do that? The pieces of metal connecting finger tab to key looks like something from a Jules Verne novel - or from a Steampunker's costume.

    There will always be room for tools and essays about tools in this world and the more arcane the tool, the better.

  3. Still DIY in the tooth brushing dept. When that flips to DIYC, we'll pray the end is near. I wouldn't want to linger in that state for long. I agree that the incest comparison may have been an overreach.

  4. When I go backpacking for weeks at a time the thing I miss most is my electric toothbrush. I could take it, but it weighs an unjustifiable proportion of the weight of my tent.

    Some famous explorer cut off part of his toothbrush's handle to save weight. I also have done that, but only so 999it would fit in the bag containing the rest of my toilet stuff.

  5. Crow 1: In fact incest can pass unnoticed but I won't argue the point; it was there purely as an exaggeration, a yardstick for the American obsession about personal hygiene which occasionally encourages me to wear a shirt for a fortnight and thereby become an untouchable. No mention of my other exaggeration. The Declaration of Independence doesn't include that clause, you know.

    Crow 2: You must remember the biblical reference: in my Father's house there are many mansions. Each post I make is a desperate - nay pathetic - attempt to entice a blogocracy which is becoming increasingly bored with blogging in general and Tone Deaf in particular. When the subject is humdrum (tooth brushes, toolboxes) the more I must strain.

    Tools for tuning a piano: a box-spanner with a T-shaped handle and a good ear. If it's a Steinway, being prepared for a specific pianist and for a specific concert, there are other tools (eg, enabling the insertion of pads which change the keyboard's "feel") but these are not, strictly speaking, used to tune.

    Clarinet. Just needs cleaning (unless you stood on the poor thing) and then having the cork pads replaced, making the stops (or whatever they're called) air-tight. These pads are interesting; they have a coating of wax on the non-operative side. You warm the wax slightly, press the pad into the metal holder, the wax hardens and lo, the pad stays where it's put. Oh, of course, even more important: a new reed.

    Immutable law of DIY: if you've got a specific job and there's a specific tool, go out this moment and buy the tool. The saving in grief will be enormous.

    Hey, Crow, you gotta agree I give good value. I may be getting more and more unlovable by each post, more prone to unacceptable exaggeration, given to showing off, etc, etc. But, boy, don't I spill forth words?

    Mike M: Incest an overreach? For goodness, sake. Look up the definition for "hyperbole" or are you tacitly banning its employment? And please, please, read Swift's Modest Proposal (for solving the Irish famine problem) to get the full impact of what we'll all lose if hyperbole is banned.

    So life isn't worth living once DIY is beyond us? I have to say that's a very male judgement on the ageing process. Although there is of course an even more extreme stance; suicide mandatory at forty once we can't engage in competitive sport. Sounds like the basis for a rather banal short story: man who can't climb the bell tower any longer, stabs to death the younger guy who can and does. "I was so jealous," shouts the stabber as the juice from the machine changes from a soporific to poison.

    Sir Hugh: Time for you to write a fantasy about a rambler (the word chosen deliberately) who is so obsessed with excess weight he cuts off his left hand prior to his round-the-world walk. Reaches Timbuktu and discovers water is available to anyone proffering the left hand of friendship; dies of thirst.

  6. Our 9 year old washing machine died in a cloud of nasty smelling smoke and spewed ball bearings earleir this week. I don't grieve for it, only for the cost incurred, but replacing it necessitated a frenzy of spring cleaning - the utility room in which it lived was in such a disgraceful state the delivery men for the new one could not have been allowed to see it, even if they had been able to to get through the door. This brought to light the usual number of old toothbrushes, an item which, even when I'm feeling ruthless, I find it difficult to throw out, and a couple of new ones redundant since we embraced the electric version.

    Shortly after, half my left upper molar broke away in an encounter with a pathetically small and friable bread crust. One of the annoying things about this was that it had recently been repaired, and by farthe worst part of that had been, while frozen-faced and prone awaiting the results of the second x-ray, the dentist had subjected me to a lugubrious tirade about the state of the French nation in general and his tax bill in particular. Quite common these days, but he went on to attribute it to the godless state of the Republic, with mutterings about gay marriage and a final hope that when Jesus came again all would be better. I hadn't been able to reply to much of this, but did manage to ask if Jesus would be able to fix my molar?

    It was a nasty shock; I had usually had to do only with his wife previously, who though rather wan and sad-looking had seemed normal and pleasant, and a good and patient dentist.

    Fortunately I have been able to get an appointment with her to review the matter. The filling he put in is standing out like a piece of lost wax sculpture, but seems quite solid. Somewhat despondent and heartsick, I am tempted to say away with your crowns and bridges, just take the thing out, I haven't felt easy chewing on that side for ages anyway, but fear I might regret it as being irrationally and emotionally motivated.

    Further, my favourite tea mug is snicking ominously at its already cracked handle.

    I tell you all this, why? It has little to do with your post really. Who knows, perhaps in sympathy at what you said about the bored blogocracy. Now I must see if I have overrun the character limit.

  7. Lucy: It's part of a general malaise. A large chunk of ice has broken off Blogarctica and floated away; we're all drawing closer to each other for protection, behaving slightly irrationally.

    But cast your mind back to BlogEdwardian times when the summers were so warm, when strawberry punnets were made of thin laths of wood and the gels were so pretty.

    Who do you think wrote this?

    I loved these; I think cracking beetles on me belly might be my favourite. Drawing the fire was a laugh wasn't it? None of your nannying in those days, my brother and I were doing it left on our own in the telly room when we were just nippers... Best of all when a flaming sheet of newspaper made its way up a sooty chimney!

    There's a gayness there that's hard to detect in a life weighed down wth bursting washing machines, filthy utility rooms, FN dentists and cracked teeth. Yet it's the same person.

    The same person, but worrying about Mol, grieving about Joe, and, probably, just starting to emerge from SAD. I know you don't normally turn to music for consolation but there is a musical specific for what ails you. I've referred to it many times but it will stand repetition. When we had the French house and sailed overnight from Portsmouth to Caen Brittany Ferries used to wake us up at 5.30 am by playing Mozart's flute and harp concerto. Not a serious work but the association always left me in a joyously anticipatory mood.

    Can I send you the CD? I promise it will come in a brown paper wrapping and none of your nosy neighbours will know you're on drugs.

  8. The other exaggeration didn't touch a nerve. Besides, the D of I has become so distorted and misinterpreted since it was written, that someone is bound to start a radical political group on just that (hygiene) issue, form sleeper cells of gun-toting, tank-driving domestic terrorists, who will someday overtake the world. When that happens, I'm coming to live with you and VR. Obviously, Great Britain is the last stronghold of right-thinkers. That's right as in correct, not right as in conservative.

    I'm glad you're off that 30-word limit kick for responding to comments. There is so much more
    to be enjoyed in your longer retorts.

    In good form this morning, hope you don't object to the compliment.

  9. Oh, that poor rambler. I suppose he cut off his left hand because, being right-handed, it would have been difficult if not impossible for him to brush his teeth with the left hand.

    I've just emerged from the boudoir in my leopard morning robe after a night of crazy dreams. Now I read Lucy's comment and recognize a scene from the dream. How bizarre. Enough harebrained fuzziness, wo iss' der Lenz? Would somebody please ask Veronika to start singing!

  10. Well, it must have been me, I recognise the anecdote, but where and when? I have no recollection of it. This is one of the rubs of the moment, how fugitive it all is; I go back over old e-mails and blog posts and poems and many of them I've pretty much forgotten writing them. Saying goodbye to people also means becoming aware of the loss of one's own past selves. This never used to be a problem, I was heartily glad to see the back of most of my earlier past selves, but of more recent times so much seems to have diminished.

    I suppose that feeling is another symptom of the malaise of which you speak, and its reasons, which you have nailed succinctly. Doubtless it will pass, but I'm not entirely sure I want it to altogether, or not the middle bit, in case that means forgetting the cause of it.

    Anyway, what was the bit about cracking beetles? Sounds very strange, and Google won't help.

    And it turns out we have the Mozart, though I didn't know we did, and I don't know if it's a recording you'd approve of: it's one of a part-work issued by Le Figaro (not sure how we came by it, certainly not by subscription) it's the Royal Philharmonic conducted by Jonathan Carney, which sounds all right. So I shall take myself off to listen tomorrow, and I shall consider that it came from you, as I wouldn't have thought to listen to it for myself.

    So much for my shutting up, but thanks, so much.

  11. I'll get to the Swift...it sounds vaguely familiar. Meanwhile I've watched Nebraska, loathed the support cast's stunted acting for the first hour, then realized they were portraying stunted characters. Probably a better film on the big screen, but still a great portrayal of the life's dualities. I might not have tried it had I not read your review, so thanks. Please do carry on with the hyperbole, as I'm sure I will pray to live another day, if only for the sensation of having my teeth brushed by another.

  12. Lucy: I didn't include the passage as some kind of test - only to show you in a different mood. To demonstrate that you have the potential for being gay. In fact I'd compiled a list of Northern sayings and practices and this was your reponse to a couple of them. "Eeeh, I've eaten so much you could crack beetles on my belly." But don't worry about your memory; all this occurred in 2009.

    Of course we want to hang on to unhappy memories and experiences. They have ambiguous importance. The risk is of course accidie (we've exchanged views on this before, a long time ago) which E. Waugh, in an essay, suggests is the greatest sin against the Deity, In my case a sin against any talent I may have for intellectual progress. By all means wallow but also remind yourself of Kipling (which I have also previously prescribed):

    The cure for this ill,
    Is not to sit still,
    And frowst with a book by the fire.
    But to take a large hoe,
    And a shovel also
    And dig til you gently perspire.

    And then you will find
    That the sun and the wind
    And the djinn of the garden too,
    Have lifted the hump,
    The cameelious hump,
    The hump that was black and blue.

    I particularly like "frowst".

    The Mozart. Don't make me out to be such a spoil-sport. The performance is not crucial. What is important is which of the three movements should be played to achieve that arriving-at-Caen-early-in-the-morning state of mind. Difficult for me because VR still sleepeth and I must use YouTube v. quietly. I'm also surprised to find it lasts 27 min. - I thought it much shorter. Try the last movement, the rondeau.

    And thank you for feeling you can unload in this way. I'm flattered.

    MikeM: Dear friend. I'm frequently far too hard on you and for no good reason. You are the perfect commenter; from time to time you astonish me by actually taking heed of what I say. Which means I must be extra careful in the windy opinions I hand out.

    Just to explain about incest. The initial statement is hyperbolic but still ambiguous; you can't immediately be sure of whether I believe what I say. But the second sentence, about the DoI, adds hyperbole to hyperbole since it's clearly not true. Now you're pretty sure I'm into Anglo-puckish mood. But the first two sentences might be construed as being unrelievedly anti-American which is not really my aim - just teasing. Hence the third sentence in which self-deprecation, I hope, restores the balance. Actually, on past performance, I'm sure you understood all this even if you might not have summarised it in these words.

    See how much I care about your opinions. I've deliberately crushed my fragile butterfly on the heavy wheel of analysis, for your sake alone.

    Nebraska. Exactly! For instance, the two fat sons ("Two days to get from Billings. Ha-ha-ha.") were initially so loathsome that all one could do was loathe. A little time was required before one could stand back and realise the directorial skill in creating that passage and then have it executed by two actors who must have realised (because they did it so well) that our reaction would be what it was. Stunted characters all along including Bruce Dern (Silly old fool. So suicidally stubborn. Leave him out on the freeway.) and the son (What a weed. Who cares?) until finally we find the requisite amount of sympathy that the director was asking for.

    The only weak point is where the son punches Stacy Keach (at least he didn't shoot him). Too simplistically American. The director realises how much that punch will gratify his audience (Certainly me and, I suspect, you) and should be ahead of that crude resolution.

    As to Swift. His "modest proposal" is a sort of literary shorthand; it may not be necessary to read the thing all the way through. Wiki's initial summary may be enough. Kinda horrifying.

  13. The symbolism of the overnight or holiday toothbrush is indeed powerful. I remember once having left mine on a course needing to buy a new one and some toothpaste to go with it. For some reason the assistant who took my payment gave me the dirtiest of looks. (It happened to be Friday Evening.)
    I suppose the key to it is one of the problems of communication, i.e. not only do we have to attempt to be understood, also we have to try and ensure that we are not, as is all too often the case, misunderstood.

  14. Dear Robbie, and that from a man who hates gardening! I have known about the cameelious hump, both the poem and the condition it addresses, for as long as I remember, and am very pleased to have you recommend it here. However, if I am to take the advice contained, and it is a bright spring day and I will, as well as listen to the Mozart, I must not linger here, but will reply in more detail anon and elsewhere.

    Much love.

  15. Yes....the punch was absurd....even the approach toward Mr. Pegram, in the bar, was absurd. Dern carefully folding his certificate and turning away, walking out, would have been perfect. The first acting I perceived as stunted was that of the two principle sons, one of whom delivered the punch. I do appreciate your long comments, though I may not always re-comment in detail. I'm prone to jumping on bandwagons, and that's exactly what happened with the incest analogy....I read The Crow's comment and caught the rile. I suspect you are more pro-american than I am, though I usually limit shirt wear to one week. And speaking again of cinema....I watched Act I of "Barry Lyndon" last night, and already consider it Kubrick's finest.

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