I'm not sure if I've addressed this point before in these pages, but a few weeks ago someone asked me if my conversations with Jack were always as polite, formal and sequential as they are portrayed in these little sketches. After I had recovered from a laughing fit, I assured my inquisitor that my memory was rather selective in that respect, and that considerable editing had to be brought to bear on our lunchtime palavers, particularly on the stream of Jack's all-purpose adjectives which he liberally sprinkles throughout his discourses, but which are not fit for regular consumption by readers of such a family-oriented eMagazine as Grubstreet.ca.
Let me give you a more typical example of our conversations, sans expletives.
When I last spoke with Jack, a few days ago, he mentioned that in France the first Muslim woman had been arrested for wearing a veil contrary to a recently enacted law. He suggested that this was a typical example of the Law of Unintended Consequences, in that strict Muslim women would then no longer go, or be allowed to go, outside their homes. I said that there loomed another problem down the line somewhere: France being a world leader in fashion, it is not inconceivable that the veil (worn by many European women in the early part of the 1900s) might make a come-back. What then?
Next, if I recall correctly, Jack said he had an additional word to add to the list of altered definitions he had brought to my attention a few weeks ago: A TELEPHONEY ... a telemarketer who informs you that you've won an all-expenses-paid trip on a Caribbean cruise-liner.
"Good one," I said.
That got us on a little side-track on how with the addition of one letter you could make a female out of a male: LAD and LADY; HE and SHE.
From there it was only a hop to doing the same thing with two letters: MALE and FEMALE; MAN and WOMAN. As you can see, it doesn’t take much to amuse us.
Next I mentioned that I had come up with a little poem, the title of which is DAILY RECIPE FOR A LONG, HEALTHY AND FRUITFUL OLD AGE. It goes like this:
Have a nap,
Have a crap,
Just make sure
They don't overlap.
"Good one," said Jack in turn.
Then we got to talk about the film CASABLANCA, and Bogie's line about a hill of beans. Jack said he never understood why a hill of beans should be an indicator of insignificance. I said "it's not the beans, but the hill that's the important factor: you can't have a hill of beans -- the beans will keep rolling away from you, like ball-bearings." Jack said he ‘got it’ now.
He had another question about what he called stupid sayings: "what's a kettle of fish?"
I said I had it on good authority (a nice lady from Newfoundland of my acquaintance) that the actual reference is to a "quintal" of fish -- a measure of weight.
Then we got onto books we had recently read. Jack gave me his review of one of Georges Simenon's detective stories. Jack is a great fan of Simenon's, partly, I think, because of the author's rather libertine attitude toward women. I countered with some observations on my umpteenth reading of Somerset Maugham's short stories.
"I'm particularly struck by SM's phrases like 'a romp in the bedroom' and 'a slap-and-tickle' to describe the adventures of his characters in their bedrooms," I said.
Jack said "I think it must be the English way of dealing with sex -- they can't take it seriously. We French, on the other hand..." He let his thought die out as his eyes took on a hazy, unfocussed look.
Of course our lunch took a lot longer than the time it took to recount my recollections, but these were the highlights, I think. You get my drift.
Sjef Frenken is a renaissance man: thinker, writer, translator and composer of much music. A main interest, he has many, is setting to music the poetry, written for children, during the Victorian and Edwardian eras. Nimble of mind, Sjef is a youthful retiree and a great-grandfather. Mostly he's a content man, which facilitates his relentless multi-media creativity.
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