Tuesday, 1 July 2014

A COCK AND BALLS STORY by VALERIE LAWS (ooer missus!)

Someone snapped my book on a flight from Ibiza! Too thrilled not to post this. Now to lower the tone...

‘Mr Grant, really quite glad of an excuse to dismount, offered his cock to Lydia, who immediately flung a leg over it, explaining that she had put on a frock with pleats on purpose, as she always felt sick if she rode sideways.’

Round the Horne: Sandy claims as a pianist, Jules is '"a miracle of dexterity at the cottage upright'

          Some people have a juvenile sense of humour which takes delight in smutty double entendre and low forms of comedy. I’m one of them. I blame Julian and Sandy, whose utterly filthy sketches in Round the Horne I laughed at as a child even though I had no idea what the jokes were about as they were mostly in Polari, bringing underground gay slang into living rooms all over Britain. Anyway you have been warned, so if you like a rude joke, I’ll give you one (ooh missus!) Up Pompeii, the Carry On films, they were all family viewing on TV and nobody complained. If you understood, you must have a dirty mind. If you didn’t, no harm done. Nowadays Two Broke Girls has popularised this form of very English comedy in the US.

Frankie he say, Titter ye not!
          Reading old books, many of which are free or very cheap in new Kindle versions, provides many moments of unintended fnarr, fnarr fun. Or was it always unintended? The opening quote is from The Brandons, by Angela Thirkell who wrote very proper English novels of the 1930s upper crust. There’s more.

Lydia's cock waiting for her to fling her leg over it.
     ‘I know that once Lydia is on her cock, nothing will get her off. Last year... she had thirteen rides.’ The minx! Of course it’s about a fairground roundabout, we still had one at the famous Spanish City in Whitley Bay when I was a bairn, with horses, cockerels, swans to ride as you swirled round. The man in charge had a truly magnificent organ (stop it!) which he shared with all the riders at full power. But is Thirkell either extremely innocent, or cheekily pushing the boundaries here? The strapping jolly hockey sticks Lydia, who is fifteen, each year when the fair came to her village, ‘spent most of her money and time...and usually descended from her mount in a state of exaltation which lasted until after dinner and sometimes made her rather remote and disagreeable.’ Hmm. I reckon she’s getting more than her money’s worth out of that cock. Puts that whole Mary Poppins carousel scene into a whole new light.

No wonder people did so much ejaculating back in the day. They were always at it (come on!). ‘Robert ejaculates, and puts his foot on the accelerator’ (Diary of a Provincial Lady, EM Delafield). In Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey, Catherine her heroine is described thus: ‘At fifteen, she began to curl her hair and long for balls; her complexion improved...’ Ah yes I remember it well.

Don't try this at home.
     Titles too can seem mirthful to a modern mind: Baden Powell’s high-minded attempt to improve youthful morale, ‘Scouting for Boys.’ There was a fun recipe book for kiddies, ‘Cooking with Pooh,’ but beware, there’s also ‘Pooh Gets Stuck,’ so make sure to include lots of fibre. If you have any faves, do share them in the comments.

Seriously though folks, the thing about ebooks is you can change stuff, at any time: should we or shouldn’t we? The other thing that strikes a reader of older books is the use of language which is now considered inappropriate or offensive. I recently downloaded Monica Dickens’ 'One Pair of Feet,' her wartime nursing experience. She has various flirtations at dances with RAF officers including one whose nickname is the N word (he has dark curly hair.) No-one thought anything of it at the time, but now it’s such a loaded term that Stephen Fry changed the name of WWII air ace Guy Gibson’s dog to ‘Digger’ for the film of his life. The dog’s name was used as a codeword during the famous Dam Busters Operation. Some might argue that this is changing history, yet arguably the form of the dog’s name isn’t really important compared with the offence to and alienation of people new to Gibson and the Dambusters’ story. Gibson might have called his dog anything. Whereas, for example, to credit someone else (like, say, Mel Gibson) with the operation would indeed be wrong.
Mel Gibson invents the Bouncing Bomb for WWII's Ghostbusters Operation

          It’s an ongoing debate, to change or not to change, what to change, whether to have various versions (as they do with films after all), all are possible now: but it would indeed be a shame to change inadvertent rudery in old books to prevent new generations from giggling. Long may intercourse, ejaculation and cocks pop up on our Kindles! (Sorry, Matron!)

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13 comments:

madwippitt said...

Thank you for the giggles! A good way to start the day ... personally I'm all for leaving period stuff the way it is. If you change it, what will the archaeologists and antiquaries of the future have to work on? Now if you'll excuse me, I'm just off to re-read some of Ruby Ferguson's Jill books so I don't start to feel a bit queer after all the early jollity - they always help to make me feel gay ...

:-)

JO said...

Oh I remember Julian and Sandy!!

And yes, I think changing the 'n' word is right - it causes such distress when used thoughtlessly. And jokes about vicars and choirboys aren't funny any more either.

But cocks - they're still hilarious!

Nick Green said...

My favourite from Up Pompeii:

"Ooooh, dear, dear, these EUNUCHS! They burst into tears the moment you castigate them!"

John A. A. Logan said...

There's a demonic self-awareness in Pooh's smile there, Valerie - I think he's in on the joke!

I can see the sense in making adjustments where necessary to a remake of an old story...but probably best to leave the originals un-tampered with.

Good to see Frankie Howerd turn up in an AE blog post!

Catherine Czerkawska said...

Don't know whether this is true or not but we were told at uni that when the fashion for bowdlerising Shakespeare was going strong, they changed Othello's 'she played the strumpet in my bed' to 'she played the trumpet in my bed.' Clearly reason enough to murder her. If it isn't true, it should be. On the whole, I'm in favour of NOT changing things. Because where do you stop? I don't think we have a right not to be offended. I see things every day that offend me but I'm not sure I'd want them censored unless they were actively inciting hatred or discrimination in a contemporary setting. It's something you encounter when writing historical fiction all the time. In fact I didn't know the word 'presentism' and it was Valerie who told me about it. I've been writing about it - anachronism and presentism and the difference between - for my historical residency for the eBook Festival. I think it's a risky business, giving historical characters modern day sensibilities.

Jan Needle said...

Catherine, the quote is from Cymbeline, not Othello - she hath played the strumpet in my bed - and to my eternal happiness I got the bowdlerised version included in Knee High's touring production a few years ago by telling the story to Carl Grose and suggesting he work it in. With Knee High's characteristic delight in all things wonderful, in it went, and I heard it in Leeds Playhouse. Carl co-wrote and starred in Knee High's version of my Wagstaffe the Wind Up Boy, anotehr high point in my career as a nutcase.

Catherine Czerkawska said...

Excellent!

Dennis Hamley said...

The apotheosis, the zenith, the soldier's pole ('is fallen', if you remember your Antony and Cleopatra) must be Pauline Kiernan's amazing book Filthy Shakespeare (Quercus) a serious work of scholarship which is amazing and a perfect example of where close reading,high critical skills and a filthy mind can get you. If anyone's interested, I've got a spare copy.

Susan Price said...

When I first found out that Shakespeare - and Chaucer, and lots of them old boys - were full of filthy jokes, it came as a relief. They were just as smutty minded as I was! I recognised them as fellow human beings - bags of wind and shit - writing about other real human beings. So hands off the smut! (Though I do love the idea of somebody's light o' love playing madrigals on the trumpet in bed.)

As for the casual insults and sneers which were acceptable in the past and not now... I'm in two minds. I agree that it's dangerous to rewrite the past - but if we're too accepting, there are thousands of people around today who are just aching for reinforcement of their ugly views. "In the past, when Britain was Great, they weren't coy about speaking out and saying {fill in ugly prejudiced view here."] - So, what my argument here? That such books should only be in restricted libraries, available only to scholars? - I don't know.

I think we should also take the lesson that we aren't apart from history - we're making it now. We have attitudes that will be found desperately primitive in the future, just as we can hardly believe what was acceptable 50 or 100 years ago. We just can't see them, because they seem normal to us.

And it's highly likely that the future will be MORE repressive and segregated, and they will laugh at our nonsensical ideas of equality. I don't like that idea at all, but fear it may come about.

Lydia Bennet said...

good to hear you all discussing filthy rude funnies with your signature brilliance and academic rigour! x

Kathleen Jones said...

Thanks for a good giggle, Val. My Dad used to laugh himself sick at Frankie Howard without understanding very much of it. My parents were so innocent - most embarrassing moment? When my mum asked me (aged about 21) to explain oral sex during Smith and Jones! Glad to find me such a mine of knowledge she then asked about gay sex. I was glad to discover that ignorance of such things was no barrier to a successful sex life.

Bill Kirton said...

Very funny post, Valerie (an admission which makes me wonder about my mind). I'm with the rest on the subject of changing things - don't. On the other hand, it embarrasses me when I see or hear some of the sketches I wrote for our Edinburgh revues in the 70s. Tastelessness was rife. Nowadays, I'm much more sophisticated, witness my preference for offerings such as 'A woman walked into a bar and asked for a double entendre. So the barman gave her one.'

Jan Needle said...

dennis,i'm prob too late, but i'd quite like it if you slipped me a dirty one. oh bollocks, i'm at it again!