Measured Extravagance

2001-01-15 - 1:51 a.m.

I don't consider myself an Anglophile - my casual interest in England pales in contrast to the devotion of the fervent Janeites and ardent Sherlockians of my acquaintance. Nonetheless, today could be summed up as mechaieh's day of Anglophilia, as my waking hours were divvied up between savoring Sarah Caudwell and bashing away at a poem on riding the Tube, both activities accompanied by buckets of tea (and Krispy Kremes in lieu of biscuits).

The middle two Caudwells are very dry and very funny:

"Parents," said Leonidas, with a sign of remembered weariness, "can be very difficult."

"They have suffered," I said, "a traumatic experience - you must make allowances."

    from The Shortest Way to Hades

When not snickering at Caudwell's witticisms, I was sorting some of my clutter from last year's trip to London - cheerfully vicious reviews from The Independent, brochures for the Snowdon retrospective, postcards galore, and public transportation maps. I spent some time remembering how much fun it was to ride The Tube -- even though I concede I would probably find it maddening if it were my main means of transportation, if only because I would tire of hearing the same buskers' tunes.

Realizing I'd forgotten how to pronounce "Islington," I came across a summary of the vagaries of English pronunciation, as well an unexpected definition from The Babbler's Handbook

Islington Joke - n. (also known as "an Islington" or "Islingtonism") This joke has developed due to a theory that if anything, no matter how unhumourous, is repeated enough, it will get to such a point that the sheer repetition of it will generate humour. The joke is as follows: "How about I meet you at Islington in five minutes?" To which the correct response is "Hmmm... Well, let's see. I would have to get on a bus and then transfer, so it will take me at least five minutes." and then "Hmmm... OK. How about five minutes then?" And so on. I suppose the original humour is that one could not reach Islington in such a short period of time, unless they are very close. But one should ignore this. It is not what is actually said, but how often. To achieve the best effect, the joke should be repeated at least ten times each and every hour. One must realize, before starting, that it won't even appear to be slightly humourous until it has been repeated thirty or so times. One must also treat it seriously at all times, otherwise the effect is lost.

One of those "oh, so that's how that works!" moments, it was.

As for the Tube stop of Islington, I finally ran down the pronunication in my print dictionary, although it was the net that yielded a note that there are at least four different proper ways to utter "Marylebone."

Wrangling with line breaks, every now and then I'd hurl the thesaurus across the room and then peer over at, which, among other educational tidbits, quotes a description of marmite as "salty tractor grease." (I actually don't mind marmite, but I found this very amusing.)

Going back to London won't happen this year, but I can wait. My memories are still rich enough to feed upon. For one: Adam Cooper dancing the Swan - now there's a vision that might have taken Tchaikovsky's breath away, could he have seen it. Sugar-plums not wanted tonight- I'm thinking of that tormented man, and how (I suspect) he yearned in vain to be both ravished and sheltered by such a lithe and dazzling strength.

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