An English In Kentucky


















Thursday April 3rd  2014  Tim Candler


     And here it might be worth pausing a moment to consider Chaka Zulu. Not in his incarnation as a little white boy, short for his age and freckled, but as a tall legend amongst Bantu Speaking People. In the current age Chaka Zulu might have become master of a corporate entity and might have been worshipped as a genius manipulator of the political class, or for the creation of places like Cancun, or Windows 8, and who knows, maybe there'd be a kraal instead of Time Square. But back, around 1800, at moments of disagreement, Bantu Speaking People would dress up fine, with special attention to their princes, draw lines and parade their warrior status with a display of courage and chants. Their womenfolk lining the hills to cheer their menfolk whenever a bold foray was made in the general direction of the enemy. And I guess it was a little like taking a picnic lunch to watch the First Battle of Manassas, without the part two of that particular day which included gathering up the picnic hamper to run for your life from an assortment of armed men who who wanted to own black people. But Chaka Zulu, who might have been dropped on his head a few times when he was young and whose mother had strong connection to the divine, when he'd worked his way to the head of his tribe, and probably because he might have been a little dominated by personal convictions, reckoned that any sort of ceremonious nonsense when it came to making his point, had to go by wayside. His victories where won by the iklwa stabbing spear, which was close quarter bloody work and resulted in a great many slow and horrible deaths. And of course, about the time Three Oaks and Guestling Halt was built on the railway line from Hastings to Ashford, a wide swath of Bantu Speaking Peoples including the Zulu, fell foul of the Gatling gun and the cannon and came under the sway of The English Speaking Peoples and number of Dutch Speaking People. And I guess too, there is an argument that might suggest that something like the iklwa stabbing spear, or the Gatling gun, or the thermonuclear device might come under the category of "Acts Detournement." The Steam Locomotive, The Hovercraft and the north bound platform of a railway station stuffed down there in a railway cutting might indeed be "Acts Detournement." But when you are probably around twelve, and if you happen to be on the northbound railway platform of an ill-conceived railway station, and instead of raising the issue of hanging being too good for a an invisible hand that might have desecrated a sacred footbridge, an elderly gentleman who had actually carried buckets of milk for the Navvies who built the railway station, asks you a question like, "He makes a good point, doesn't he?" you might suspect it's some kind of trick question.

     So you turn to face the squished up car park, where there is a bundling up of cars, some of them blocking others, there's a great deal of looking around from people in driving seats, fierce but terribly polite expressions on their faces. And down the hill from the Stoke Poges to Chalfont Saint Peter road there's a parade of  wives driving cars, some of them wearing hats and they have little wide eyes in case their husbands are all angry and fed up from having  failed to win first prize in the team building exercise, or maybe had had one too many beers for lunch. Anyway, it was tooth and claw on the civilian side of the railway station, and you're pondering an answer to what could have been a trick question, from an elderly gentleman you kind of admire. So you ask him if he'd seen the Steam Locomotive and he tells you it had been replaced by a Class 40 diesel called Dracula, and he muses on a little about his trip on the bus to Slough Railway Station where he'd seen a Class 55 Deltic, which he reckoned looked a little more like a railway engine than the kind of Tom, Dick and Harrys "we get around here." Then he flicks his cigarette in the direction of the civilians, and one of them gives him a nasty stare, and the elderly gentleman jeers back "what are you going to do about it!" And I tell him that yes indeed, the invisible hand makes a huge amount of sense, and he tells me that if I was a foot or two taller he'd buy me a beer. So I kind of swagger on out of the railway station, walk straight across the road, causing some consternation amongst the motor vehicle using public, who have to slam on their breaks because for some reason or other they thought I might have been blind, and I can kind of hear the rattle of keys being thrown away. I head on up the footpath that takes a person up the side of  the railway cutting, and I can see the invisible hand's good handwriting, and I can see he has put a lot of thought and time into his work, because it has quotation marks, there's a question mark after the first word, there's a full stop, there are two capital letters and the rest is in a very fine cursive. And none of it's upside down, even though there was no way he could have hauled a long enough ladder into the railway cutting without being subject to some kind direct action on the part of the key throwing away crowd. And too, the invisible hand had caused a huge commotion in a part of the world that not long ago had been little more than couple of Birch Trees, a few Pines and maybe a Red Squirrel or two. As well, the invisible hand had a photo of his handiwork in the Free Press, which cost thrupence, and there was a lot of humph  and ho-ha-ha. But if you happened to have been a man who gave their boy child something like "The Voyage of the Beagle" for a Christmas present, you might not have been able to help but give the invisible hand a nod of appreciation, and maybe follow it up with a slight smile of merriment. Then when you think no one's looking, have a damned good laugh. Which can set the boy child to some suspicion wandering, which included nosing around the garden shed, on the off chance there might have been a tin of black paint and a paintbrush hidden away in there.



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