An English In Kentucky


















Saturday March 22nd  2014  Tim Candler


     The fathers, would say things like "good chap" or "jolly good," or "bang on." Or if the wife started to blubber they'd blush, try to pat the wife's shoulder and mutter something like, "pip-pip old fruit."  I guess it was a sort of lingo, passed down from generation to generation. Its origin in the tree climbing era of our species when we used hand signals and grunting rather than words to express meaning. Which is a solution to communication our species appears to quickly be returning to.  But in 1960 something, this use of language did cause a younger mind to wonder a little why everyone fussed so much about the English Speaking Peoples, and things like "We'll fight them on the beaches..." And too, it could cause some to question the necessity for an entire classroom devoted to teaching the English Language to schoolboys who could already speak it well enough to get through lunch.  But, at least with the town fathers you had a few words to listen to, because over time, a boarding schoolboy learned that the rural fathers might well have had the power of communication through anything like a spoken word bred out of them, so it was quite easy to think of them as some kind of  kinetic statuary, or a remnant from God's fist attempt to make Adam, which is a discussion amongst boarding schoolboys that can lead to detention.  Probably much fairer to think of rural fathers as having had a more "matter of fact" approach to their children, and I guess too, that boarding schoolboys can all look alike, so a rural father spotting his own entail in the crowd may well be confusing. And if you happen to have been a  boarding schoolboy from one of the more rural areas in 1960 something, I can see this "matter of fact" approach by your father, as being an explanation for why you tended to respond poorly to simple activities like climbing stairs, or keeping goal. Town fathers, for their part had, had a rather unpleasant capacity to be what I guess might be called 'chummy,' and here I don't mean the stuff you use to troll for Shark, I mean it more like "tally-ho, bang on, pip-pip, jolly good."  Which if you say often and loudly enough does indeed absolve a person from any responsibility to indulge in a thought process that might have an emotional content. Which is kind of comforting in a Pillar of Hercules kind of way.

    At the same time, the father's were obviously of the drinking classes, which was perfectly understandable and very forgivable,  because most who had accepted responsibility for having fathered a child old enough to be sent off to a boarding school, and could afford to do so in the early part of the 1960's, had done their bit in the Second World War, but probably not in Korea. And they were perhaps a little shaky from having had hand grenades thrown at them, seen their friends killed or drowned or fall to earth in a burning aeroplane, and they might even have taken the odd pot shot at the enemy themselves. And at home in their bottom drawer they might have had a medal hidden away. All of them, experiences enough to feed nightmares considerably more impressive than one about being a Tufted Duck lost in the grasslands of Lake Kioga.  And the fathers who might have managed to avoid all that sort of tomfoolery pretended otherwise, so people wouldn't go all red in the face with rage, whisper behind their backs and call them "conchees" or "desk Walla's." Which I guess is kind of like the word "commie" or "chicken hawk" here in the United States. And it was an odd thing too, if a person had actually been through hell in the war years they'd tend not use words like "conchee" or "desk Walla," preferring the expression "rum business" as a catch all phrase that summarized the 1930's the 1940's and the 1950's. Also, the fathers seemed to me at least, like the sort of silent giants who knew how to appreciate a Steam Locomotive, and maybe would buy their boy children an engine for the electric train set as a Christmas present rather than the 'Voyage of the Beagle,' or books by anthropologists who investigated Cargo Cults and the wonderful business that is a Potlatch Ceremony, or Bertrand Russell's  'The ABC of Relativity,'  or 'The Collected Works of Sir Francis Bacon.' All of them damn good reads if ever you reach the age of about seventeen and had convinced yourself that becoming the chief of a Steam Locomotive might not be all it was cracked up to be.  And always worth pausing a moment to give thought to the current decade, wonder a little what the equivalence  might be, and maybe come away with an understanding that not very much has changed amongst the rulers of the English Speaking Peoples, who have taken to calling themselves, "1%." And I guess we all have to accept that mathematics is indeed a more universal language, even if some of us still have a soft spot for "Whoa Neddy," and "Rum Business."



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