Friday, 11 January 2008

A STRANGE CONSEQUENCE OF BEING EAVESDROPPED

Yesterday evening I was in a pub in Lewes chatting with m'good friend Alex about this and that. I explained how and why I don't really buy the idea that myths are predominantly organic things that, through very gradual evolution, come to mirror the subconcious, but hold rather that they may just as easily in many instances be born fully fledged through oracular or Muse-evoking creative procedures, and then be conserved for various reasons such as an aristocratic family's claims to hero/demi-god ancestry, and that such changes that occur often happen consciously through the craft of the poet, the dramatist, the story-teller, frequently with an audience effect in mind. So the dragon that guards the Fleece is in my opinion more likely to have been inserted to provide thrill as it is to have evolved organically into the story as a mirror of the Shadow archetype in the collective subconcsious. Alex relayed some interesting mythology he had learnt from his anthropological fieldwork with the Nishi people of North-East India, and some curious similarities with Egyptian myth then came to light. I then saw a biro on the floor and picked it up: "That means one of us is going to want to write something down."
And so our discussion continued. After a while a middle-aged man with dark black hair and a mediterranean look who had been hovering for a few moments nearby suddenly came over and introduced himself. He appologized for having eavesdropped, and told us that he had been wanting for some time to organise late night group intellectual discussions, after a Spanish tradition which I forget the name of. Something like tertulia, or something like that. We offered him a seat, and so he entered into the conversation, which continued with new enthusiasm. "We should exchange emails," we soon decided, and the biro I'd found on the floor found the use to which it had been destined.
After a while Dominic's nephew appeared, Merlin by name, and he turned out to be just as erudite, and again the conversation grew in pace and passion. I outlined my Titian Bacchus and Ariadne constellation-map theory to Dominic, the elder man, while the other two were at the bar, and he held my gaze and told me he thought I'd come up with a very important addition to the history of art. I don't recall everything that we talked about but something that stuck in my mind was when I suggested Dominic might enjoy Virgil's Georgics, to which he replied that he had been put off them because he was made to copy them out while at Eton as a punishment for being bad at Latin. He also told me his family had been given an ancient Egyptian calcite bowl by Howard Carter, the fellow who famously opened the tomb of Tutankhamun.
"Come round some time. Handle it."
"Please!" was my head-nodding reply, as I recalled how while in Greece I had similarly been invited to handle an ancient Greek vase by a rich Greek lawyer, and had done so.
After some time Alex had to get back home, but the remaining three of us continued until last orders, and then we removed to a bar in Lewes called the Rainbow. It was full and big and noisy as if it was a Friday, rather than a Thursday, and after a while I realised that karaoke was the main event. Dominic calmy informed me that he was going to go and sing a song. And so he did. At which point I realised he was wearing a pair of green wellies, trousers tucked inside them, dried chalky Downs mud all over his trousers and jacket, so he made quite an unusual figure as he belted out Brown Eyed Girl.
I observed to Dominic that several of the young ladies in the bar had a Spanish look about them, and he then proceeded to speak to most of them, in Spanish. He was fluent since he was himself half Spanish.
For the second time in the evening last orders were called and we spilled out onto the pavement. More conversations with Spanish ladies followed, into which Dominic kindly drew me, telling them in such Spanish as I could understand due to the few words common to English that I had "an enormous intellect". Possibly it was not the size of my intellect they were interested in. Dominic lead our conversation towards the topic of introversion and extroversion, and he, Merlin and I all emphatically agreed that we were extroverts who usually seem to be introverts simply because what is going on in our minds is not usually what people want to talk about. Dominic then said that he felt that English culture imposes an introversion which the English attempt to break out of through alchohol which results in yobbishness. I don't know if he had read Watching the English, the book I have had cause to mention often in my own eavesdropping adventures, but the same theory is propounded there, and it does make a lot of sense.
Then one by one people drifted off until there were only Dominic, Merlin, myself and three youths of a slightly chavacious orientation who seemed to illustrate perfectly the kind of aggressive alchohol-facilitated extroversion Dominic had just been describing. They began to take issue with Dominic's green wellies.
"It's because I'm posh," he informed them. "Haven't you heard of the green welly parade? I've been on the farm."
Dominic was not particularly intimidated by these three fellows, and so answered all their jibes with responses, but he, Merlin and I soon decided to leave. As we got into my car - I having offered them a lift home - one of the three yobs picked up a cardboard box and threw it at my car. I was actually rather glad they had chosen so soft a missile, but never the less was irked that they had performed so disrespectful and uncalled-for an act. I found myself reversing the car to where it had formerly been parked, and opening the door to get out and ask this fellow what the blazes he meant by it.
"Just drive off!" advised Dominic wisely. But I didn't find myself able to do that. I got out of the car and walked up to the three gentlemen, squaring up to them, and enquiring of the one in question as to why he had thrown a box at my car. He didn't have a ready answer, but the chap to his right advised me to leave, while the one to his left told me that in his belief my car was "a piece of shit", from which I presume I was supposed to surmise that it deserved to have a box thrown at it.
"It gets me from A to B," I said, turning to him. It came out almost in a friendly, chatty sort of way, and perhaps it was for this reason that it silenced him, as if by confusion as much as anything else.
I repeated the question to the guy who had thrown the box, and they in unison repeated their suggestion that it would be advisable for me to leave. Going through the alternatives in my head, which either involved injury to them (they were after all of relatively slight build compared to myself) or else injury to myself, had they resorted to foul play of some kind, I saw potential complications, so with a final "I'm not impressed," I turned and walked back to my car. As I did so a pencil fell out of my jacket pocket. The guy who had given his opion of my car picked it up and shouted "you dropped your pencil" and threw it in my direction. "Keep it," I said in reply, after all I was already up one biro. This was a surreal ending to our little chat, because it could again have been easily heard as a friendly exchange of chit chat:
"You dropped your pencil."
"No no, really, I insist, you keep it."
I presume one of them was destined to need to write something down.
"Christ," I thought as I drove off, "what in the name of Dionysos did I think I was playing at there?"
Arriving back in Westmeston I started to fix up some tapenade and marinaded wild mushrooms on toast with herbs and extra olive oil, when Vincent, my landlady's partner, appeared in the kitchen.
"Someone's up before me," he said. In confusion I looked at the clock on the wall, and his eyes followed me, prompting him to then add, "My goodness, is it...is it really only ten past one?"
Squaring up to groups of youths is one thing, but this was just too wierd, so I finished my toast and went upstairs and read the Georgics to calm myself down.

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