Thursday, 13 November 2014

Grappling with Issues

November is a Big Month for writers – in particular those who attempt the crazy exercise of writing a novel in a month. Last year, I engaged in NaNoWriMo but cheated, somewhat, by re-editing a draft of a novel that I had shelved for a while. Sadly it remains on the shelf.

For Scots, and especially Edinburghers, the 13th of November represents another important literary date: Robert Louis Stevenson Day. My friends at the UNESCO City of Literature throw themselves into this each year, with a mixture of events both intellectual and frolicsome. Two years ago a “tache-mob” was organised, where literary types gathered sporting the celebrated RLS moustache.

Another sort-of related theme that has taken over November is where (mainly) men let the hair on their top lip grow out. I’ve nothing against this, but I believe it has resulted in a resurgence of tache-fashion. Not, I confess, something I view with much passion.

Let’s not be churlish: “Movember” raises not only money, but awareness of an important issue. We are not as entrapped in the taboo over cancer as we used to be, but I think there’s a vital factor which is the way men deal with things mentally. The UK Movember website suggests numerous, complex factors affecting men’s health:

  • Lack of awareness and understanding of the health issues men face
  • Men not openly discussing their health and how they’re feeling
  • Reluctance to take action when men don’t feel physical or mentally well
  • Men engaging in risky activities that threaten their health  
  • Stigmas surrounding mental health

It’s that last one that gets me. If men were more minded to fix their minds, wouldn’t the former factors follow suit? Sadly, many men hide behind a mask that prevents them from confronting their problems. Ultimately, Movember is a fun way to address this. And so, my next Cautionary Tale is just a bit of fun… but with a serious message.

from Charlotte & The Charlatan – and other cautionary tales


Gesticulate Gerry


Gerry was fond of a drink or two, and although not a soul in his work-place would think, when he got down the pub, that this mild-mannered man from finance without but a hair out of place, with a beer down his throat, was all over the place. And Why? Because Gerry seemed to lose the capacity to articulate his mildly intelligent words without an absurd need to over-gesticulate.

            In the office you’d hardly call Gerry flamboyant, passionate, animated. There was nothing about him you loved or hated; he was neither a winner nor loser. But down the boozer, his arms flew around like a windmill; his fingers were nimble, his hands, never still; he’d give vent to his words with elaborate gestures; a casual onlooker could probably guess what his dramatised spraff meant – which Gerry performed without hint of embarrassment.

            In the mirror you’d see him perform in full flow, with waving and gesture out-camping his colleagues with exaggerated posture, as if so engaged with his story the floor was a stage for each anecdote, adage, analogy, tale. Arms, fingers and sometimes legs would fly out and around like semaphore flags – you could say his stories were quite metaphorical, or in this case, downright semaphorical.

            If he was eclipsed by another body, you could still see Gerry’s limbs fly around like a fire-fly, like a demented marionette with its strings all akimbo; behind that silhouetted torso, like a daddy-long-legs in a lamp-shade – but more so. Gerry had arms too, and long ones at that, which presented a danger; a cause of alarm for the casual stranger. Keep an eye on your beer; hold on to your hat.

            Yet Gerry, with all his gesticular flair wasn’t only content with just groping the air. He thought nothing of grappling with gentlemen’s bits, nor – for the pursuit of a narrative – grabbing a handful of threepenny bits. You had to admit, he was entertaining, though Gerry’s behaviour took some explaining back in the office, after the weekend. If given the slightest interrogation, he’d pretend it was all gross exaggeration.

            You could never accuse him, for all his exuberance, of outlandish or concupiscent deviance: Gerry had no time for human touch, intimacy or lusty intention. His life was inert in that department, he had no truck with whatever affairs of the heart meant. In the morning he could barely recall how many body-parts his fingers had fumbled, or how many glasses tumbled as he threw out his shapes, molesting tits and arses for the sake of a quip: Gerry couldn’t give a flip.

            Only, one day in his morning shower, preparing himself for the 9-to-5 hour, he recalled the weekend’s escapades, his indulgence of over-dramatic charades, he wished he’d tried a similar action upon himself. He was caught in the single person’s accumulation of wealth that leads a man to care little, or naught, for his health. For all Gerry’s secret existence gesticular, he’d failed to feel for a far bigger issue testicular.