Have you ever been compared to an abusive, alcoholic, prostitute murdering villain with a penchant for housebreaking and kidnapping? No? Gotta say, it was a first for me too!
Of course, it was all done in the best possible taste (uncrosses legs in the manner of Kenny Everett playing Cupid Stunt flashing suspenders and crimson gusset at camera) and arose during a very impromptu but totally wonderful drinking-to-excess-and-partying-to-the-wee-hours session that evolved last night from what was a very staid inaugural meeting of a very nice group of people known (to me at least) as The Tunbridge Wells Village Green Preservation Society.
More of the TWVGPS some other time, as they don’t really feature in this bit other than as the launch pad for what followed – viz the drinking to excess, partying to the wee hours stuff – when myself and a certain Dr of my acquaintance decided after the meeting to rendezvous with some friends who had been enjoying a polyopticon presentation of ‘Withnail and I’ at a local pub and eatery. When the film finished they came downstairs to join us at the bar and it was then that the young lady in question (“that was no young lady, that was…”.) leapt at me in a most melodramatic fashion, pointing a sinister finger and shouting ‘Lawks a mercy, guvnor, it’s Bill bleedin’ Sykes’!
I noticed her eyes were rolling like those of a startled colt and that she seemed a bit ‘twitchy’, so initially wondered if she’d taken the film to heart and partaken of a ‘Camberwell Carrot’, but then realised the eye-rolling was dramatic license and that the ‘twitching’ was in fact the effects of gravity working on her unfettered upper ladybits, which had been liberated for the evening from the constrictions of undergarments. While the influence of ‘PG’ (not the tea) was very much in evidence, it was actually the effects of mine own dulcet tones stirring her to these peaks of thespian extreme and her detection of the light cockney inflection that vies for dominance with the Sussex burr in my regular speaking voice.
Now, dear reader, ‘tis fair to say that I have something of a distinctive voice. Not distinctive like the rich, mellow tones of a young Richard Burton or the fags-n-whisky rumble of yer man Lanegan (BTW for anyone who hasn’t heard any of Mark Lanegan’s work you really should. Start with ‘Bubblegum’ – you won’t be disappointed) or even like the affected rising falling dipthongy modulations of a Christopher Walken, but distinctive none the less.
Personally, I hate it, which may come of something a surprise to those who have noted that in the right situation (or often the wrong one) I can talk the hind legs off of a sturdy donkey, but liking the SOUND of your own voice is not the same thing as liking the TONE of your own voice, and while I’ll put my hands up to the former I can state emphatically that the dull, monotonal mumble that escapes my lips is not something I relish. It is, however, notable for another reason, and that is its authenticity: It is Working Class Tunbridge Wells, and therefore, just like the town itself, straddles the borders between Kent and Sussex, and contains elements of Saaf London cock-a-knee barra boy swagger and the Silly Sussex drawl that becomes more pronounced the further west you go. It is the voice of the migrant hop and apple pickers on their way to Margitt for a pint o’ whelks an’ a bucket o’ jellied eels mixed with that of the clay-pit and farm labourers of the Weald. It is ‘Home’.
What’s funny about this is that people tend to pick up either one or the other but rarely both, and usually it’s the element that is least familiar to them that they pick up on. This is certainly true of the lady in question – who for my own amusement I will refer to hereafter as Sweaty Betty Babcock, though she is neither sweaty nor a Betty Babcock (though the Betty bit comes close) – who has a fairly noticeable West Country twang of her own*. I really enjoyed this part of the evening, because it confirmed to my friend K – IMO the loveliest lady in the whole of Kent on the basis of her ‘sage nodding’ and her unwavering determination to see the best in everyone and to listen with rapt interest to any old waffle as though it is the wisdom of the Gods – what I had been telling her about the Mockney/Silly Sussex crossover effect since I’d been asked in her presence by the barmaid in a different pub two weeks earlier ‘do you come from Somerset or somewhere?’
Coming back to last nigh: The evening was also greatly enriched by SBB’s spontaneous performances of Lionel Bart musical numbers – of which she seemed to have an intimate knowledge, implying, IMHO, the heart of a frustrated west end Diva – complete with dance routines and some highly emotive hand-wringing. Equally lovely were K’s fumblings with a bra that wouldn’t behave itself and insisted on trying to give her three tits where she could only deliver two. I stand by my remark that women wrestling with unruly undergarments, be they bolshy bras, droopy tights or wayward knickers, is inherently delightful and endearing, and that Victoria’s Secret is missing a trick by not designing in the occasional flawed gusset or bent underwire.
That said, I have every sympathy too, knowing that when my undercrackers decide to go west, young man (or in any other direction that goes against the general plan) there is absolutely nothing delightful or endearing about it, and that it is testament to the intrinsic decorum and grace of the feminine form that we owe thanks.
Anyhoo, I’ve just realised I’ve typed over a 1000 words of this old tripe, and having recently been accused of dipping my feather in the mucky inkwell of purple prose** I guess that’s probably enough for one day. Suffice to say I had a bloody lovely night with some bloody lovely people and even the long walk home at half past four in the morning couldn’t take the shine of my conker. That said, Bullseye needed the walk anyway, so it kind of killed two birds with one stone.
So thank you K & SBB and Dr C and long-suffering P (who has to share his girlfriend with me and all the other people who rely on her sage nodding for emotional succour) for making an old man very happy in a delightful and unexpected way after a hard week staring at a blank computer monitor while struggling to write my final exam essay on the final module of my OU course. I really needed it.
*For the record, BTW, the real Betty Babcock was a contestant on Bruce’s Generation game in the 70’s, and it speaks volumes about the workings of my brain that I can remember this yet struggle with the names of people I actually know and/or any other sort of important fact or figure constantly. The ‘Sweaty’ was no more than a charmingly fragrant feminine glow brought on by the combination of some frighteningly expensive perfume (I’m guessing), and the impromptu dancing arising as part of the excessive partying session mentioned earlier.
** I will freely admit that, as far as the blog goes, my writing is often self-indulgent, deliberately disjointed and rambling, wilfully tangential and irritatingly bloated. That’s not the same thing as ‘Purple’ though – it’s just my idea of fun. And just for the record, The Color Purple is everywhere in nature, and God put it there for us to notice and enjoy. Would the finest claret taste like that if you took the purple out? No, I don’t think so either…