07:29:21 am on
Thursday 13 Jun 2024

On Being Even-handed
Sjef Frenken

Jack and I were discussing unusual abilities some people have, in between bites of our respective lunches at the Bayshore food court. I don't know how we got onto the topic, but then a logical progression of thought is not one of Jack's strong points. In any event, I was telling him about hearing a program on the radio in my youth, in which a man hummed a tune while simultaneously whistling another. I remembered that he also did a two-part rendition of Frère Jacques, whistling one part and humming the other. As a twelve-year-old, I'd thought that pretty much the acme of artistic prowess and cultural achievement.

Jack was not impressed: "It was probably faked -- with two guys," he said.

I said: "Jack this was not a commercial station, this was the state radio; they'd never do that."

"Yeah," said Jack, "but it was radio, not TV, so you didn't actually see them, did you?"

I had to admit, no I hadn't seen the guy do that trick."

I felt I had to come up with something else to impress him. I said: "You know, my Dad was a prisoner of the Germans during the second half of World War II. Not having much to do all day, he taught himself to write with both hands.

"Some trick!" said Jack, not impressed. "Lots of people know how to do that."

"But that wasn't all," I continued. "He also taught himself to write forward with one hand and backward with the other, AT THE SAME TIME. And forward with one hand and backward upside down with the other. And vice versa."

"Hmm," said Jack. Which was as much as admitting that he was close to being at least a little bit impressed.

"To top it all off," I went on, "he also could write one word forward with one hand and a totally different word upside down and backward with the other hand. Simultaneously."

"Wow," said Jack. "I've always wished I could use my left hand as well as I can my right hand. I could have been a lead guitar player rather than a bass player."

Jack paused. Then he asked "So your Dad could use both hands equally well?"

I said "Yes, he became fully ambidextrous."

"Jeez," said Jack, and winked at me: "I'd have given my right arm to be ambidextrous!"

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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