We know that thick people are lucky – on account of not realising how stupid they are. That is common knowledge, as people like them are apt to say. Clever people don’t give their intelligence a second thought, so they’re all right too.
But pity the poor half-way-houses. I’m one of them. One half of my brain is highly developed, but, unfortunately for those of us possessed of such a handicap, it is capable of judging how useless the other half is. One half inherited by genetics from a clever person (a twat, as it goes), the other from a half-wit (a good-natured twit). The worst of it all is, above and beyond the malformed and under-nourished poor half, the two halves don’t communicate properly – the links are down. I quite often find myself sat in the clever half, willing the laggard to come join us but he just stares back in dumb insolence.
It’s because each half is made to perform different tasks, I think. For example, I find mental arithmetic easy, and there are some subjects – the analysis of the motivations of sociopaths, where I possess a stunning insight into its complexities – and I ace IQ tests; others, philosophy, certain poems, I can’t even get started. I can play the piano, but I can’t master perfective verbs. Sometimes I can’t understand what people mean in normal (for them) everyday conversations.
Sometimes, when I’m entirely operating within the good half, I often can’t believe how useless ‘clever’ people seem to be, until a few moments later, when I find myself in the Liz Truss Zone, staring blankly, unable to think of anything to say, yet knowing that there’s a good answer out there waiting just beyond my grasp – you know, like when you can’t round off a text exchange, or get flummoxed by an aggressive idiot in an unwanted conversation. Not so much esprit d’escalier, as esprit de rentré dans la maison et assis à la table de la cuisine.
The other day, Marudeva came in and asked what we wanted for breakfast. ‘Funny,’ I thought, ‘that’s an out of character gesture.’ At first, I thought that perhaps it might be appropriate to reference the fact that they might be due a feast day of which I was ignorant, and should say something appropriate; then I thought that it would all sound too sycophantic, and I should be more begrudging and cynical in my reply, something he’d expect. But then, just before I answered, I was suddenly struck by the thought that he was perhaps standing in as the chef that morning, so I said, ‘I’ll have a pig’s head with an apple in its mouth.’ I know. Keith said, ‘some fresh eggs would be nice.’
Do you know that very clever people don’t think in pictures like the rest of us? They play with concepts, and can hold four or so concurrently in their matched, integrated, brain-halves at the same time. Me, I’m like a professional orange squeezer who can’t do press ups: one arm like one of Popeye’s; the other like Olive Oil’s.
I don’t know why, but I have started to refer to the dividing line between the two halves as the sandwich-line. God knows why, the answer probably lies in the untapped, unexercised, half. Oh what riches await, when, kick-started by a shock of 12,000 volts or a brick to the head, the dormant half springs into life.
Now you know – when I say my thoughts are all over the place, I’m lying. What I really mean is that my thoughts are rebounding too frequently inside the good half, too fast to make sense of them, and the odd one makes the leap into a place where it can’t be processed.
My coat: this is where I start with the thought. I say, ‘if ever Baden-Powell’s seminal work is brought up to date for the Twenty First Century, then Item 1, page 1, of Tramping for Men, must be, “Always carry a bottle of washing up liquid. A cheap serve-all that works for the skin as well as the clothes.” I cannot stress that too strongly.’ Baden-Powell, if anyone from overseas is tuning-in, was the outdoorsy, imperialist, ex-army type, who invented the Boy-Scouts. Здравствуйте товарищи!
Then I say, ‘Look at my anorak for example…’ I called him the man for all seasons. He had been inexpensive, but possessed a robust and easy to clean exterior which was acceptable come winter, come summer. The right side of my brain is forcing me into a digression here, unconstrained by the useless left, who should be acting as a revising chamber. I want to make a joke out of a pun of summa cum laude and summer come loudly. That’s the thing about having one good half, it gets its own way too often. Sorry, half of me digressed …. Plus, it looked a bit nautical and supported the student look I was trying to cultivate at the time. I’d bought him in a French supermarket for ten units. Francs and cents – whatever. I demur as to the date; it was another time, a Golden Age.
I’d already decided that I was going to have to start wearing him loose so as not to draw attention. I think I’d decided that back then. Forgive me, nothing has happened for so long, and I can no longer discern the before and after. He was on the wane. The hard plastic weave of outer material made the flaps on the pockets curl up slightly. I’d tried tucking them in but that only brought attention to the tear that had started in the corner of one of them. The same curly effect was starting on the stand-up collar. It chafed less that way, but the curly plastic edges were wearing away to its base material and they’d turned black. Proper ones softened into charming artefacts as they weather-in, but my cheap imitation could only decay into a misshapen, hard, black, plastic, lump to reveal the coarseness that underlies all commercial enterprises, as he aged. He also had a design fault in that he had this sort of breathable lining that was supposed to allow you to wear him fully buttoned up against the rain without sweating. In breach of this undertaking, he did the opposite. When it rained, the rain ran through the coat and mixed with the sweat to form a noxious amalgam.
Rain itself smells nice. Rain on roads. We were standing outside the front door after a rainstorm once and my mum sang, I can sing a rainbow to you but then the rag and bone man came so I had to run in and hide.
That song and the smell, they can’t be separated. But rain on clothes, giving off that rainy, pissy, old man smell. Stinking of urine. Did we all, or was it just me? Once it’s dried in, it’s part of your smell and no amount of washing up liquid will keep it at bay. And the man for all seasons, perspicacious as his acquisition had been, frankly he added to the problem.
Eggo and Cardo each had a high-end, branded one, as if they’d crewed a round-the-word racing yatch. Theirs were red too and weren’t dissimilar to mine from a distance, though when you got up close you could see that they were made out of a sort of sailcloth that ages nicely instead of going black.
This memory lark is a game of two halves, and the weak side, as usual, is already tired out and will be taken off at half-time.