Punch articles– early 1970's
What do you want from 1972?
WHAT DO I want from 1972? 1973 mainly, though that may
seem a trifle buoyant. I always expect too much. Jollity, absurdity. .
. a sense of you-may if-you-wish (so long as it doesn't hurt people or
frighten the horses). Summat ter laff at anyroad, and let Brutality crouch
for employment. Laissez-faire, if you like. "O.K. and don't forget
to say: please." Right moosh, Laissay fares, please. D-ding (we're
off). . . . "How really far too more than utterly inconsiderate of
the London Bus Company always to colour their vehicles the very same hue.
One knows, in advance, exactly the right thing to wear to look well in
them. "How I long for uncertainty and exquisite surprise robed in
raiments of unreason" mused Tarquin. He wanted quite desperately
to be amazed and mounted the bus bright-faced and expectant. "Here,
would you like to sit down ?" asked an aged, kindly, black, gay,
jewish transvestite old roue stabbing to his feet with his cane. "No,
no, thank you; but it would crease and foul my clothes. I do prefer to
droop, actually," murmured Tarkers. Then he saw her: blonde and tempting,
a kind of military Jean Harlow, he decided, with silver buttons and leathern
pouch a-jingle. "Tenpenny, please. . . or anything to anywhere with
you," he whispered extending a white, divine Gothic digit or two
and introducing the shiny disks into the painted claws. Briefly they touched.
He treasured his ticket and loved her at once. He adored uniforms just
as much as unicorns, for in uniforms he would never be seen (preferring
costume), and of the fabulous beasts had only dreamt. She passed and clattered
efficiently up the spiralling steps, yodelling, yodeIling as she went:
"Any more fares, please. Any more fares." "Any Moor fairs,"
he brooded. Were there reaIJy be-turbanned albino gentlemen with nostrils
like Arab steeds in the upper compartment? Why did she sikh them. Tarquin
would have crossed deserts for her. . . in blue coats and cavalry twill
plus perhaps a cravat.
What if somebody said to you-take an hour off what you're doing and find nothing else to do and then we'll pay you just to tell us what you did? Ask a silly question and you get four silly answers like these from...
IT was like walking into a trouser-turnup.
Outside it was Wednesday and sunny. In the elephant-grass-front-garden blowflies blue and bothered a bag of whelks thoughtfully tossed in by a passing reveller. I should burn joss-sticks outside my house, even, and my father within. Oh the heat and oh for a smooth pint of draught "Photo" and a large "Amos" to wash away the dust, to get slightly "Brahms" and sleep it off in the sun.
In shorts it was boating weather. A day to be Ernestly Hemming one's Way across the Serpentine with slender sandwiches of cress and cucumber. A day for kite-flying/throwing shadows/heading the shot / esquimaux-baiting / drinking / dreaming/doing nowt much. But, merde alors et dammit, mon copain and dear Reader it was also a day to be doing. New-freckled and fearless I faced a concertina of letters caged in the box and did 'em. I fed fishes and turtles then hoovered the hall, swiped the stairs and wept the windows (got the stubborn stuff off with an oily rag).
Then it came, in a brash of bells, the blower. Leisurely I tore off my pinny and pounced. "Hello, Canine Beautician." "Punch magazine." By Poseidon's prong and me looking such a mess. Would I like to "squander an hour and then write about it?" Would I? Not half! It should be something I don't do normally. Easy; but was it? What to do? I raked my brain for the bizarre. Rat-juggling? I glanced down into a tank of tiny frogs that had been mere commas when I went away. I'll think of something and they must be fed. So, furrowed in thought, so much so I considered piercing my brows so's I could see where I was going when concentrating, I plunged into the front garden with machete and net to trap aphids to feed the little fellows.
Later with tweezers in one hand and a glass of greenfly in t'other, I had one: A right blinding Road to Damascus job there in my own front-yard. Eat! . . . I never eat, leastways not till after dark when the Children of the Night howl around the graves and they've closed. What though? I considered Catharticles Karsey Kebab House; but then playfully running my fingers thru' my pockets decided that whatever the excursion it must be near and cheap. An Indian blow-out? Of course, and luckily enough scarce two paper-bags away lies the Shilalipi Restaurant. Funny name "Shilalipi," sounds like something you could pick up from a tuba if you didn't wash the mouthpiece out.
The grub, however, is excellent. They do a Tandoori Chicken that's "fingerlickin' good." And the decor thankfully isn't that frightful flock-mock Bill Morris plus 3D expanded-polystyrene Taj Mahal bas-relief we have come to know and loathe. No, Shilalipi is cool and green. Only thing: the music. When you walk in, if it's empty, taped tamboura and tabla set the toes tapping; but soon as you're seated, switcheroo and it's a reggae selection and by the time you get to the Vindaloo section, "Hello Dolly." Service is really swift and I still had 20 mins. to kiIll when several lagers heavier I heaved myself into the street and home to the London Tadpolladium.
Ferreting for my key I was pleased to notice I could scorch the paint from the front-door with my breath. Excited I scurried for a scraper and finished the job in moments. Then I started on the downstairs and cleared up a few weeds. What a saving. I mean, some is better than none sometimes; but not nonetimes and they can be awfuIly often.
HOW TO KEEP A COMPARTMENT TO YOURSELF
I LIKE to sing on the train. Sometimes I lie full length on the seat for a game of "luggage rack basket-ball". This is quite exhausting and involves several oranges. Then, though of course I rarely do, a chap might want to make a smell or something of that kidney.
But tiens, let's get down to basic groundwork. It's a good idea to frighten and disgust as many people as you can before even boarding the train. At the turnstile or on the platform, make a few afflicted gestures, be really unusual. I find that slapping the back of my neck and hopping is a winner, if you keep it up. Smile and apologise, pointing to the skull. Arbitrary laughing and giggling upsets a lot, and this can be combined with eating insects. You can get a pack of six washable flies at 6p at most toy-shops and Harrods. Dribbling, I don't go for.
Once past the ticket-puncher you get involved in that peculiarly English exercise, the "polite stampede". This is when all sorts of important people striding at amazing speed attempt to wind you with their elbows or inflict crippling leg wounds with their important briefcases. Wallop. . . "I'm dreadfully sorry" /Gouge . . . "Oh excuse me" /Stab . . . "Look there's Geoff with the water-skis and albatross" /Outa the way/Important/Important. Sorry, but you must compete. The lucky winner will receive a choice of smoking compartment nearest the buffet-bar/or a bog/or slap bang in between depending on your appetite/constitution/ curiosity/retaining power and so on, etc. A friend of mine goes to the bother of strapping both legs behind his thighs a la Toulouse Lautrec and stumbles, another chum slips into the toilets on the station and entirely bandages his head in gauze, bumps into a few posts and is actually carried to his compartment. Assume now you're on and, by sheer fleetness of foot or strength of Brut, alone in a carriage. Now for action. How to keep the other sods out. Quickly. . . throw your suitcase/briefcase/handbag/ nosebag on to seat nearest corridor, dispense other baggage/papers/bowlers/ brollies on to every other. Light up a pipe if you can. I recommend Sean Stein's Herbal Smouldering Shag.
The trick is to multiply yourself as many times as poss. I've found that with a little practice at home with six ordinary armchairs I've improved my distribution technique quite astonishly and can make myself quite enormous under average conditions in 4.03 secs. This should keep out 85%.