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Thursday, 11 September 2014

Block over what I stumble

 POLITENESS I'm really bad at this.

Early on VR said, "When people say 'How are you?' don't tell them." Return the question in a meaningless exchange. Why not just clear our throats?

Told someone's mother-in-law's sister has died the answer should be: "Oh dear." emphasising and lengthening the second word. Would this response differ if informed King Canute had died?

"Put yourself in the position of the person telling you," I was instructed. My mind didn't seem agile enough. Was the teller really undermined by tragedy? I would ponder. And the moment would be lost.

The hackneyed language of politeness worried me. Hello./Hello. It's a fine day./It is indeed. Being polite meant never surprising anyone.

Foolishly I decided only to say interesting things:

"Hello RR."
"I've got double cataract."
"Oh my God."
"But they're not ripe yet."

People crossed the road a hundred yards away.

Pulchritude was difficult. Introduced to a stunner over drinks (this happened less with time) I would gulp wine then say "Do you go for Ozu?" The clever ones, imagining I'd uttered a haiku - perhaps half a haiku - responded with an impromptu one of their own. I would ask for my coat. 

I’m not sure there’s a cure.

Smoothness isn’t the only criterion:

I wake and feel the fell of dark, not day
What hours, O what black hours we have spent
“This night! What sights you, heart, saw; ways you went!
And more must, in yet longer light’s delay.

Reasons why: You’re tempted to arrange words more logically in lines 3 and 4. But jaggedness creates separate mini-messages, opening up dramatic pauses. Heart almost rates its own exclamation mark. Does fell have that meaning? Who cares? It’s full of menace.



  1. What, does he find the days too long?
    Anyway, I love that kissing hand picture. Reminds me soo much of myself. I learned very fast to greet my Magyar husband's friends with a strong handshake but then letting my hand float in nothingness because I knew it would be lifted to their lips.
    Oh, I was soo young and did not feel I deserved such a treatment.
    Now.......forget it.

  2. The effect is great, but I think it's enhanced by knowing that one definition of fell is "a thin, tough membrane under the hide". How many of the ladies thought you were offering to buy them anise liqueur?

  3. I was under the mistaken impression all this time that I am a polite person. Until I was told that I have "a resting bitch face." My good friend, the Water Rat, high-fived me and I feel quite pleased. Give me jagged poetry anyday of the week.

  4. Great title by the way

  5. Ellena: Please believe me - I had no desire to instruct you in etiquette. It is quite clear from the aristocratic attitudes you adopt in your comments you have a high-flown background. That you come from ball-gowned conversaziones warmed by vast conflagrations in fireplaces that could accommodate a Chevy Impala. Occasions where it is both meet and rife to issue the command: Throw a few more kulaks on the fire.

    MikeM: Sometimes, when I'm in a playful mood, I can have just a little too much of science and hard reality. With GMH the sound is often sufficient, without the meaning.

    RW (sZ): Dear Heartsease, so glad you weren't sad. For bitches may - under the right circumstances - melt. They may also melt others. A bitch with German origins only requires a seven-pound sledgehammer to appear quite menacing.

    MikeM: A title written in a spirit of apprehension. Might someone believe I had made a mistake? Nah - TD's commenteers are all sophisticates.