Friday, 15 March 2013
Profanity and the Shop Dummies
I was in the park helping the homeless get their heads around some basic philosophy, but my mind kept wandering to the subject of profanity, offensive language and its relationship to some of the most inexplicable experiences I had had in the past.
In the past I had been hung over the three-storey outdoor balcony of the pool hall from my ankles by Nazi skinheads before they head-butted me in the dark alley outside - knocking one of my bottom teeth out. I had been chased by fifty well-dressed football hooligans while skidding around in cowboy boots and then reduced to the foetal position when caught, taking uncountable blows by foot and fist to the tune of dripping blood, laughter and screams. I had been stabbed through the tricep on the top deck of the 18 (to Kirkton) bus with a double-edged flick-knife which was honed to a razor’s edge and pushed through the seat behind. And one icy Hogmanay, a cheap, cream-handled butter knife was held to my throat by a balding psychotic stranger as I sat on a wooden chair egging him on because my mind may have been as distorted as his at the time.
...and the rest. Beatings, jail cells, terrible accidents, strange surroundings... Chef’s jaw had once been broken by a madman who had been released from prison that same day and he maintains that the hospital record was filed away and forgotten long before his own memory could put it to rest.
Why... after that... words could only exist as icy figures skating gracefully across a frozen country pond.
With this in mind, there I was in the park, on a Friday, teaching a homeless person how to properly dice a shallot (complete with Sabatier/cutting board/blueroll) while contemplating the meaningless nature of her life, when Chef approached carrying two shop dummies - one dressed in a Christmas jumper and leg warmers, with a conspicuous CND motif painted on the forehead, the other beaten-up and half-destroyed. I hadn’t seen him for a few days and I thought he cut a dashing figure draped in purpose as he strode through the park with the mannequins effortlessly placed beneath his arms.
“I’ve got it,” he said as he approached, “I finished the experiment and collated the data.”
“The experiment. The experiment? What experiment?”
He proceeded to tell me of his shady wanderings over the past month-and-a-half.
Around six weeks previous, Chef had paid a visit to half a dozen clothing stores trying to convince them that if they had any mannequins they were disposing of, to contact him first. Well, one independent maker and seller of quality and original bohemian boutique fashion was being run out of business by the massive global chain retailers of overpriced, slave-produced rags and she happened to offer chef three of the best quality plastic people money could buy. So lifelike and attractive were they, one could consider them sculptures or strange pieces of high-grade pop-art.
Chef then continued to tell me of his strange, secret experiment, undertaken in an attempt to give me the raw material for my defence in the Kangaroo Court where I was soon to appear.
He had taken a hacksaw to the back of the dummies, both female, and carefully and ingeniously attached a motion-sensor and amplified recording of three unique looped audio tapes.
The first dummy simply looped the word “Fuck” - the second looped recording said “Love”.
He was carrying them back from where he had bolted them down, naked in Gellatly Street. The public had dressed the “Fuck” dummy, shown it compassion, treated it with respect and reverence - there were offerings of sandwiches and cigarettes placed at its feet. The “Love” dummy had been hacked by a machete, urinated on and badly burnt.
Next to the “Love” dummy though, a large wooden cross had been placed on the ground and around it was strung a small makeshift plaque of wood. The plaque was scratched freehand with the legend, “Sleep tight Maria. Sleep tight our little girl” and sat serenely above a small, worn brown teddy bear on the ground below.
“They might understand soon that FAMINE, DROUGHT and WAR are the words they are obliged wince at, as humans you know...” said Chef.
“Profanity is yesterday’s news, discrimination is today’s cutting edge. Stephen Fry sorted all that out.”
I wasn’t so sure.
Chef was. He thought the whole world was ready for the language of the kitchen. "The celebrity chefs are taking care of that," he argued.
"Empty words," I remember replying.
I said goodbye to the homeless woman while packing up my knife and block. “Bless you,” she said - but then coughed -“Arsehole” - under her breath.
She was a good woman.