For some reason I appear to have collected a lot of female followers. I’m not complaining, after all I became used to such happy circumstances at an early age but am as bemused now as I was then. After all, am I not a particularly unattractive misogynistic anti-social racist irreligious bigot?
Ah well, the state of affairs remains curious but I have to recognize it as fact. Since most of my followers are female and many have complained when I write about manly things, such as engines, I thought I would start to devote the occasional post to that dear to all female hearts and the dizzy brains they keep supplied with over oxygenated blood, gossip.
Gossiping does not come as naturally to men as it does to women. Gossiping is a skill, an art passed down from mother to daughter as early as in the womb. It isn’t just in the genes, it is also in the hormones. Too much exposure to testosterone in the womb will have sweet and adorable little Priscilla dismantling Daddy’s car with his tool kit rather than playing with dolls and disinclined, for the rest of her life, to gossip.
Careful analysis has led me to conclude that a ‘good bit of gossip’ contains a few essential elements. Firstly, it must be incredible in the true meaning of the word, unbelievable, beyond comprehension. This allows the narrator to commence bosoms aheaving with a breathless, ‘You´re never going to believe this meduck but…’ A seasoned narrator will enhance the telling with posture. Bobbing on tippy toes, rolling eyes and hands clasping cheeks either side of a slack jaw are all warning signs, especially if emulated by the listener, of a ‘good bit of gossip’. Good Gossipers respond well to encouragement and Good Listeners know this so each time the gossiper pauses for yet another gulp of air, the listener will interject a strangled, ‘No!’ or ‘Never!’ or two. Finally, however implausible, however outrageous or even physically or scientifically impossible, the story must be one the listener really, really wants to be true.
This weekend I was once again blessed with innumerable visitors first of whom were the daughter of the Tanzanian Ambassador to Angola and her friends (delightful and attractive, no photos, sorry!) who wished a pleasant place to barbecue and mysteriously chose Fort Hippo and its grumpy resident. Then there was the young lady who claimed to know me from the late Nineties. Recognizing how detailed reminiscences of that period could damage the happy marital equilibrium I currently enjoy with Marcia, I feigned amnesia occasioned by years of alcohol abuse and chose to water the vegetable beds. I still have problems coping with thunderstorms. Every time the lightning flashes, I leap out of bed shouting, ‘I’ll buy the negatives!’
Jako and his charming wife, Rianne pitched up, also to enjoy a barbecue. They had brought with them some steaks which, once I had caught sight of them, left me convinced there couldn’t have been much left of the original owner once these had been sliced off. Nevertheless, with more visitors than Jako had anticipated, I realized even these generous portions would not be enough so I hauled out more beef and set to making a beef curry. With the prep done and the curry simmering gently on the stove, I rejoined the table just as the conversation turned to funerals.
‘I should be buried in a hole and forgotten about,’ said Jako, ‘with not even a gravestone.’
I agreed with him whole heartedly and said as much.
‘I keep telling Marcia she should pay a couple of fishermen to take me out beyond Angolan territorial waters and dump me overboard.’
Marcia was horrified.
‘How many people were there at my mother’s funeral?’ she demanded.
‘Half the city,’ I conceded. I was still an alcoholic in those days and recall the horror I felt when the family, ignoring the fact I was clearly tanked up to the eyeballs, insisted I be a pall bearer. I couldn’t walk in a straight line without falling over at the best of times, never mind over rough ground unable to see my feet with a bloody body on my shoulder.
‘It is our custom,’ she said, ‘it is our duty to give the deceased a good send off. It says so in the Bible.’
‘Does it?’ Jako (deeply religious) and I echoed with a sudden intense interest.
‘Yes!’ Marcia insisted, ‘God says it is the duty of a wife to give her husband a respectful funeral which all his friends and family must attend. The wife must cater for all of them, anything less is disrespectful. What would everybody think of me?’
What would Alex feel watching his future being lowered into the ground? I am not talking about the love, care and attention his father could no longer provide, I am talking about the equivalent of his school fees for the next several years. OK, he's too young to understand school fees so ask him this; if he can't have his Dad back which would he prefer, a smart funeral for his Dad or that 50cc quad 'bike he was bugging him for?
Let me explain what is involved in a ‘respectful’ funeral.
First, I keel over and die.
Marcia makes several panic stricken phone calls before running through the village, tearing her clothes and every ten yards or so, rolling in the dirt all the while wailing louder than a bust turbine.
Thus alerted, everyone and anyone pitches up to my house and stays there. And I really do mean, stays there. I can see it now. Every inch of floor space, inside the house, inside the shop, the verandas, the garden will all be covered with bodies every one of which will require feeding. Military style field kitchens will be set up and our fridges and freezers emptied to sustain the five thousand. Others will come to pay their respects and they will need to be fed and watered (alcoholed) as well. The funeral will be delayed until relatives from abroad can make it to Angola. Marcia will pay a fortune for the services of some venal undertaker so that I can rest in a lacquered box with glitzy handles and be transported in a real hearse rather than in a cardboard box in the back of my perfectly fit for purpose truck. During the funeral, Marcia will need to be supported but at frequent intervals, even her slight frame will be too much for aides and she will be allowed to sink to the ground and roll in the dirt. Under an unforgiving sun, countless oiks, most of whom I successfully avoided in life, will give never ending eulogies. Tribal Elders (with an automatic right to speak) will relate incomprehensible parables of ants defeating elephants and living forever as impatient worms either side of my grave queue up to get in and turn me not to dust, but shit. After the funeral, everyone who attended will repair to Fort Hippo for another feeding frenzy. A week later is the ‘Missa’ when everyone again comes to stay for the night and get fed.
It’s all mindless shit, isn’t it? Christ, they’ve even commercialized death. What difference would it make to me if I were given a smart funeral or be fed into a wood chipper and spread as fertilizer across my land, other than the former option condemning the surviving members of my family to penury? It would be cheaper me insisting my body was flown back to Germany for disposal.
To illustrate her point, Marcia came up with a bit of good gossip.
Just recently, a man called Avelino de Almeida died. He knew he was popping his clogs and being a wealthy and influential citizen, used the time he had left to make his own, very exact, funeral arrangements. About the time of his death, another man, also called Avelino de Almeida (it is a very common name in Lusophone countries) also gasped his last. Both cadavers were consigned to the mortuary in Luanda. Even though the rich Almeida’s death was hardly unexpected, his widow was much overcome and some of her duties, amongst which was the washing of the body, were taken up by others. Being wealthy, the family could pay to have this done and, after a good lathering the body was dressed in the deceased’s very expensive clothes, deposited in his luxurious coffin and transported to the wake. The son, apparently, suggested that the body before them was not that of his father. The widow, however, insisted that it was and that the undertakers had merely made him up to look younger and healthier. The widow’s confusion was later put down to the enormous shock the realization of suddenly being incredibly wealthy in her own right had occasioned.
The funeral was attended by all the great and powerful of Angolan society. The passage of the cortege shut the city down. Everyone waxed lyrical at the loss of such a giant among men as the gleaming coffin, hand made by craftsmen and imported at great cost, was lowered into the soil in the smartest corner of the cemetery.
Pretty much around the time grave diggers were patting the soil down over this Avelino de Almeida, the family of the other Avelino de Almeida were at the mortuary to collect their dear departed so they could wash his body and prep him for his funeral. Being impoverished, they had an old suit in which to dress him. Resigned to their loss, they were not as overwrought as the rich Sra. Almeida so had no hesitation in pointing out to mortuary staff that the unfortunate soul presented to them was not their Avelino de Almeida. Poor they may have been but they still wanted their corpse, not someone else’s.
Faced with no choice, the relevant authority informed both families of this most unfortunate cock up. The rich widow was disinclined to denude her purse further by restaging a massive funeral and agreed it was, under these extraordinary circumstances, perfectly reasonable for poor Sr. Almeida to continue to rest peacefully in his smart digs, which would henceforth belong to his family and not hers. Instead of a wake and a funeral, poor Sr. Almeida’s family settled for a service around his opulent grave content in the knowledge he was resting in a fine spot dressed in a thousand dollar suit. Since there was an open grave and an old but clean suit going spare, rich Sr. Almeida was quietly interred there.
‘Don’t you see?’ asked Marcia, ‘the rich man was buried in a cheap suit in a pauper's grave and the poor man got a rich man’s burial!’
Marcia was missing the point, of course. Neither of the two Sr. Almeidas could care less. Realizing that there had been a monumental fuck up but that honour had nevertheless been satisfied, rich Sra. Almeida didn’t really give a flying toss about how her husband was actually buried. The whole expensive charade had been just for show.
‘It’s true!’ insisted Marcia mistaking my cynicism for scepticism, ‘I heard a woman talking about it in the taxi; she heard it on the radio!’ Ah well, it must be true then.
Still, it was a good bit of local gossip. Both Jako and I enjoyed the story and we really, really wanted it to be true.
I don't know about you but a girl with her own tools who is able to repair an engine is quite appealing to me. Sadly my better half would not know the difference between a screwdriver and a hammer. She can't cook nor dance worth a dam either. Just my luck. As for posthumous arrangements, I believe it is the Yanomami indians of South America that grind up the bones of the deceased and serve them in a soup to the tribe. Not sure I'd quite go there myself but an old fashioned pine box would suit me just fine.ReplyDelete
General being driven in his staff car by a Women's Royal Army Corps driver when the car suddenly breaks down. The driver starts digging around under the bonnet when the General notices a tool kit on the floor.Delete
'How about a screwdriver?' the General calls out.
'Might as well, Sir,' says she, 'there's fuck all else to do...'
I like that one...Delete
As for female followers.
Me thinks you are quite the charmer, when the wind is in the right direction
I think you are probably also very charming John if the mood takes you! XDelete
Don't be fooled, Frances, he's a tart!Delete
Only with hairy menDelete
Women I can take or leave
Like you, I don't want any fuss over my death. Just so long as it is being shot by 6 jealous husbands when in my 90's. Alas, I have no chance of living that long.ReplyDelete
As for the gossip, I can just picture Les Dawson doing those oh so funny sketches of his.
As for your own wake, it sounds as though you should start saving!
How could I forget Cissie and Ada! Picture changed to one far more relevant, thanks RJ! Pakistan off to a shaky start, Weren't those last five overs of the WI innings just brilliant!Delete
I was watching that game and thought the Windies had blown it early on. They appear to have some backbone, tragically missing from the Brits.Delete
Good picture at the top now.
Not much of a girly girl myself. All though I can't repair an engine, I do know how to change the oil on my motorcycle.ReplyDelete
As for my final resting place, toss my ashes over the Gulf of Mexico and be done with it.
I am sure you have all your bits in the right places, Melinda,Delete
I can't see the point of going to all the trouble to burn me first, just toss my body into the sea, after all, that's where we all originally came from, a state still replicated as we swim in amniotic fluid for the first nine months of our lives.
Im starting my own family cemetery on our land in montana as its legal to do so. Ive asked relatives if they want to be buried there too. so far no takers...ReplyDelete
seriously? "particularly unattractive misogynistic anti-social racist irreligious bigot"... i agree with all the above, but dont flatter yourself. thats not why i read your blog.
You go to prison here if you get caught burying your relatives on your land, they have to be dead first.Delete
If none of my attributes floats your boat, I cannot imagine what does!
I am writer; I like to read other perspectives... of good writers. You are a good writer, sir. And also a bit self-deprecating. Now that can be charming if its written in the correct way...Delete
i got sick and died, was born again and i am middle aged by the time i finished reading this! haha! i've warned my family not to even tell anyone when i die. i would just like to slip away with no notice.ReplyDelete
You have warned your family to keep schtumm but I bet you can't resist blogging about it!Delete
I am one of your female readers, and that was a very pertinent post as I have just returned from Leicester ( Ayup meduck!!)ReplyDelete
where we have had my father in law's cremation today. He was 99... and no one rolled in the dirt! I actually have enjoyed some of your more technical posts…..I think I said a while ago that you had taught me a lot about generators that I didn't know. Hope Marcia is feeling well….say Hi from me. X
Wilco Frances! She seems to be a little better today, still with a craving for green vegetables but that can only be good.Delete
Sorry to hear about your FiL, I hope your better half is taking it OK. I lost my father over twenty years ago which was a bit of a bummer.
I'll be back to the more technical posts soon, something always breaks around here!
Hippo, we just like watching a train wreck. Just kidding. It's this...I've never met anyone like you and find you fascinating. So many of the blogs I follow are decorating/style etc. all the time. It gets boring. Guess I'm not a girly girl. Don't like to wear makeup nor style my hair. My three children are grown and I've been married to the same man for 42 years. I'd rather look at the stars than paint my nails. I have traveled and lived a good life, but like Candide, will stay home now and tend my garden. So, here is one demographic of your female followers. Besides, we females are inherently nosy.ReplyDelete
It does seem like there is always something about to happen at Fort Hippo's, doesn't it?Delete
Jesus had many female followers but unlike you he didn't wear spectacles. Some of his female followers were keen on washing his feet but this pissed Jesus off. All that foot washing delayed his visits to "The Cock Inn" where he drank heavily and played dominoes with his mates. Or am I just gossiping?ReplyDelete
Not gossiping, YP, merely surmising.Delete
I thought for a moment that we were in for some knitting patterns.ReplyDelete
Are my eyes deceiving me, or are your 'I's a slightly lighter colour than the rest of your script? I notice this is not the case in the above comments, just in your writing. I think we deserve an explanation.
re my funeral.... as long as it's cheap!
I have studied my 'I's and cannot see a difference. I even checked my eyes in the mirror but they look OK too. I shall try pressing the 'I' key harder next time.Delete
Strange; Lady M can see it too (I was talking capital I's).Delete
Strange indeed. I have zoomed my screen to 150% and cannot see a difference but that could be a combination of being half blind and my screen. I wonder if anyone else has noticed the same effect? One thing I am aware of is that if I do the draft post in Word and then cut & paste (as I did in this case), strange things happen.Delete
Surely the idea of inexpensive weddings should catch on too. Why oh why do people, (mostly women) believe in the need to rack up huge debts for their "special day"? Most marriages don't last long enough to justify such wasteful extravagance, and who the hell remembers one wedding from the next.ReplyDelete
My two friends from Shanghai who recently visited and became engaged are planning some silly extravagance at a resort hotel, (at which unfortunately they have asked me and my o/h to be celebrants....dear God help me get out of this one), when really the most important thing is that they are happy and committed to one another, not that we need to prance around in some fairytale. And they're two men, just in case anyone should think I am mysogynistic.
Mine in Gibraltar cost £10.Delete
My last wedding (to Dominic's mother) must have cost someone a fortune. There were hundreds of guests, the reception was held in the favourite restaurant of the ruling party, we had use of the President's cavalcade of Mercedes limousines complete with police motorcycle escort, the bride's dresses were made in France and brought in on the state airline. I remember all of it as if it was yesterday.Delete
If it was tomorrow, I wouldn't turn up.
Not sure whether to feed your ego further, Tom - in that inimitable charming way of mine. You promised me a lot. Lucky (for both of us) that I am unlikely to take you up on it. Who wants to be slaughtered by Marcia?ReplyDelete
The reason most of your followers are female because they take the time and have it - to read your not so short stories. Men are busy. You know, nailing something, bringing home the bacon, chopping the wood, running the country and playing cards. And men are competitive: So their interest in other men nailing something bigger, bringing home even better bacon, fashioning the dining room table from a tree they themselves have felled, and being beaten at Poker is somewhat limited. Why do you think lions yawn as wide as they do?
As to being buried I agree with Yako. Thank the Lord Marcia is not Indian. She'd have to throw herself on your pyre. And then what would become of the children? It's bad enough to be orphaned once. Twice is downright child abuse.
Now who is generalising? From the comments I can see I was guilty of that. All but one of my female readers appear to be well balanced, well rounded, interesting individuals. The other is barking mad.Delete
but I love the engine stories....ReplyDelete
Next I shall be explaining how a differential works... It is interesting. No, really it is, think about it; you have one shaft going in that supplies power yet two shafts coming out each that can spin at different speeds. Fascinating.Delete
I came here too look at the snake bitten toe. I am still waiting for an update. On engines etc, I am thinking maybe when your jeep is dead, you should get a land rover. I reversed into an iron gate, bent it beyond any recognition. Broke the indicator casing. ordered a new one from Germany arrived 2 days later for the princely sum of £2.55 plus postage. and just a screw driver to put it on. a we are looking for a replacement one at the mo. but was a long wheel base with seats in the back or benches. they just don't seem to die.ReplyDelete
on dying. hell I will be cremated and chucked in the river dart. no b*stard is digging me up, digitally re-imaging my face and putting my bones on display (I hate that in museums), it seems so disrespectful. Fish food for me. cheapest box because I am a cheap person. and the song to be played as I disappear behind the curtain... Queen "we are the champions".
can we have a picture of the toe now please? I am starting to think it is zombiefied
When your time comes, why don't you just drive your Landy into the River Dart and save on the box?Delete
What is this with you and toes? Alright, next post, I promise.
I said I was cheap not stupidDelete
"For some reason I appear to have collected a lot of female followers."ReplyDelete
Do you have a special place for us Hippo?
P.S. Men are pretty good at gossip mind you.Delete
Yes, Barefoot, Pregnant and in the Kitchen.Delete
I am one of your many female followers , from Thane, near Mumbai, India.
Thank god you will not die in india. The 'circus' for a funeral is much worse here. And no, unlike what one of your other readers wrote, the wife does not jump onto the husband's burning pyre ! That is old and banned and no more !
Though of course, i would'nt mind dumping some other people on a burning pyre !
My dear Khushi-khushi, welcome! God, that name is sexy!Delete
Considering that Indian women are among the most beautiful in the world, I always thought Sati a terrible waste. But the Vikings were really sick. Not only were the deceased's wives and retainers expected to join his burning body on his last voyage, his dogs were thrown on as well!
Isn't all this talk about paying for funerals a bit premature given that you haven't paid for the wedding? Come to think of it if you blow your fortune on the wedding, she won't have any money left, and will just dump your carcass in the sea as you want. Broke ass that I am, I managed to do our wedding 12 yrs ago for 1400 U$. Pig roast for 50 guests, tent, all the fixings and wedding dress included. Perhaps I need to try my hand at arranging cheap ass funerals as well.ReplyDelete
PS, your "I" looks fine from here.
You wore a dress?Delete
One of the worst (best) gossips i've known is a man. I tend to be a good listener so have heard many stories over the years.ReplyDelete
I want to be buried at sea, and here, we can't dump the body overboard unless we're at least three miles out. So burials at sea are done only after cremation.
I'm a mechanical retard but do want to learn about engines and things, it just takes me a long, long time to get it.