Any advance on a thousand? By Jan Needle

They do say a picture is worth a thousand words, and here’s some sort of proof. I put up a pic on my last blog which I thought was self-explanatory. A young man on a donkey cart, quite clearly taken in the far west of Ireland, quite clearly in the early 20th or late 19th century, quite clearly using a mobile phone.

It was widely misinterpreted. People seemed to think I was making some point about anachronisms in writing. I was not. I was trying to share my sense of delight, and my perennial problem with what exactly history is, or might be. 'Junk,' the great man said. Or did he say 'bunk'? Or 'the bunk'? Or 'the bunkum'? Or just 'bunkum'? Nobody exactly knows.

(And Voltaire, incidentally, never disagreed with a word I said, but defended to the death my right to say it. Nor did Goering reach for his revolver on hearing the word culture.)

The problem with my attempt at making a point through humour was, apparently, that although new technology can do almost anything – the picture I photographed was hanging on a friend’s wall in North Wales – you’ve got to go along with said technology. The blogsite allowed me to choose from several sizes to reproduce the picture, and I chose the wrong one. It was a design thing. I didn’t want the pic to overwhelm my deathless prose.


All I achieved was making it just too small for the glorious image to speak for itself. People thought it was just a picture of some bloke sitting on a cart with a bicycle. Scratching his earole, maybe? Who cared?

So, let me try again. First, the picture as big as it can be. Voila.

Secondly, another picture, taken on my mobile phone in a coastal graveyard in wild west Cornwall a couple of weeks ago. To me it was unarguably an English version of the ‘mannequin pis’ in Belgium, without the pis.

Strangely, I was the only one of our party who noticed this phenomenon. The other three just thought I had a dirty mind, and no respect for religion. Both true, but that’s beside the point.

And what is the point, you ask me? Quite honestly, I’m damned if I can remember. Two pictures, which to me spoke many, many words.

Talking of which, my Napoleon book’s just come out in German. I’ll have to read it, to see if it reveals any of the things I hoped came out in English. Funny business, isn’t it?

PS. By English I meant Cornish, naturally. Forgive me, friends. These days one cannot be too careful. And not just about photographs.


Bill Kirton said…
I think you may have missed a trick, Jan. I'd like to have the picture of the Mannequin sans pis for closer forensic analysis. Without wishing to be indelicate, it does seem to me that there's a certain discolouration of the area where, had even metaphorical micturation occurred, the offending - albeit figurative - substance might have made contact with the surrounding organic material, thereby confirming the accuracy of your observations and confounding your companions. But what do I know?
Susan Price said…
The bloke with the phone is probably saying, "I'm on the cart..."
Nick Green said…
"I'm on the cart doing a backwards wheelie..."
Nick Green said…
And if I'm not mistooken, the old man has a selfie stick.
Jan Needle said…
Sue, I once stood up on the Ffestiniog Railway with my first ever mobile phone (foisted on me by a son, natch) and announced loudly "Just pulling into Euston". No one laughed.

Bill, I sometimes think you're more disgusting than me, even. We must have a drink...
Jan Needle said…
Nick - what's a selfie stick?
Nick Green said…
It's for catching mermaids.

Sorry, that's a selkie stick.
Jan Needle said…
now you're making me sulky
Lydia Bennet said…
If it's not about anachronisms, I'm not sure what the top photo IS about, perhaps this is all a mystery! As for the second, to me it looks like a sad little child's grave rather than a ludicrously contrived tourist attraction like the original pee'ing creature. Though normally I'm as fnarr-inclined as the next person.
glitter noir said…
Now you've really done it, Jan. Scientists at the MacRath Institute were ready to submit their final report to me. And it would have made for a hell of a piece: their tests and analyses seemed to prove beyond doubt that the driver is missing one sock--as if he'd dressed in haste, despite his calm bearing, as if he'd fled from something...for instance, the scene of a crime. My boys had also noted stains--clearly of blood on the front wheel of the bicycle...clearly thrown onto the cart--almost, you'd think in a frenzy of fear. The men's posture and expressions clearly indicate collusion of some infernal sort, which they're trying their best to conceal. They're killers, of course. But--today the lab boys noted what appears to be a ghostly denim-clad leg beneath the donkey's back legs. One leg. Only one leg. Have you added this to tell us we haven't got a leg to stand on? I've fired the lab boys and will start again.
Jan Needle said…
on mature reflection (mature! ye gods!) the whole thing is becoming clearer to me. what i took to be a random shuttlecock in the telephoner's hand is in fact a sheaf of copy which he is about to phone over to his night editor. this is in reality an early paparrazzist, almost certainly on the trail of a historic mystery story, possibly involving Princess Diana. he might,indeed, be the infamous white Fiat driver, bereft of his modern wheels by the exigencies of Connemara road-building. bereft, also, of his camera, because William Frieze Greene hadn't invented it yet and Japan had not yet been discovered. as to the number of legs on the donkey, that is standard in certain parts of empire, i'm told. as is the wearing of one sock by taxi driver's in the west of ireland. ask ruby barnes.
Jan Needle said…
the bicycle "wheel" is in fact a satellite dish to boost mobile reception.
Jan Needle said…
taxi driver's is an example of the idiot's apostrophe. i invented it myself.

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