Affection, Logic, Grammar and Music

He farts! said Amy.

It’s the only conclusion I can come to.

Into the telephone!

Her voice fell in disbelief. English people’s voices tend to rise in disbelief but Amy’s falls.

Ah, she said.

She said ‘Ah’ with that particular intonation that can mean either ‘I know more about this than you can even guess’ or ‘I have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about’. It is rarely possible to tell which.

We were discussing Thumper, the better half’s telephonic admirer. The other morning I slept late. It had been a punishing night with the dog. Interventions had been necessary at 1am, 3am and again at 6.30, two of them involving the garden hose and one taking place in a brisk squall of rain. Then at 7am he woke me again, and when I had irritably put on my dressing gown, sou’ wester and slippers and was encouraging him into the long journey downstairs he looked pityingly at me and returned to his bed. Furious and for the first time in the night I fell into a deep sleep, from which I was woken an hour or so later by the familiar sound of the better half on the telephone. It was her regular morning call.

Thumper, I can’t understand a word you’re saying.

This was as expected. It was always thus. But then she added:

All I can hear is your wind.

At least that is what I think that I heard. But I was half asleep, as I have explained.

She ended the call.


Of course.

He farts?

It irritates the better half when I interrogate her on that subject.

Tea, she said.

The tea comes from TFC, the Turkish food shop in Dalston. It is excellent black tea (they do a very good green type too) it is extremely good value and it is guaranteed to start anyone’s day in a cheerful frame of mind.

I returned with a steaming mug and to the subject.

(That last sentence, by the way, is an example of the figure of speech known as syllepsis, which in turn is a sub-category of zeugma. I can still vividly remember the day I first learnt about zeugma. Our teacher decided against troubling our young minds with the sub-categories, which I now know also include prozeugma, hypozeugma, diazeugma and hypozeuxis, and treated the entire category of zeugma as essentially one and the same; we were after all only ten years old. It was a golden summer afternoon at the very end of the 1950s. The sun streamed through the not entirely clean windows; modern window-cleaning fluids had still to be invented. From outside came the sounds of cricket. Some of my fellows longed to be out there too, but not me; I loved grammar lessons more.

And no, since we are discussing grammar, it should not correctly be ‘I’ rather than ‘me’ in the last sentence. ‘me’ is disjunctive not accusative, like ‘moi‘ in French.

The example offered by the teacher was:

He came by ship and by chance.

It has, you will agree, a classical feel to it.)

He farts into the telephone? I said to the better half.

What do you mean, he farts?

You said all you could hear was his wind.

Don’t be silly, she said.

I think he’s very shy, she added.

This didn’t get me much further.

Amy said: Was Thumper at the Great Secret Miss Slumber Party?

I don’t think so. I don’t think that he and the better half have ever met. And at the party she was with the Dawn Chorus of the Unattached, talking Russian, which I don’t imagine he does. He may have slipped in, of course, unobserved.

If you don’t know, it doesn’t help. If you know people and see them with kefir, you know them better.

That’s why the Dawn Chorus of the Unattached disappeared before the kefir took hold. They didn’t want to be known better.


(See above.)

But that is another story.

She tried a different tack.

What do you think Thumper farts? If he farts.

You mean like God Save the Queen?

I was being facetious – as I thought.

Better half she say he is shy. Maybe he muscle control better than he control words. Maybe he make lovely music. With telephone, unpleasant odour-free. Too shy to express feelings in words. But with farting all possible.

Not God Save the Queen then.

Maybe All the Things You Are. With drum solo.

We shall never know.

Tsk, said Amy, who is never defeatist.

Express feelings more wholesome way, she said. Than thumping.


At end of thumping, she continued, there is snap of Lycra replaced. So you say.

Yes. I heard that.

And at end this time?

I replayed the tape in my mind.

I do believe there was.

So! Thumper must be farting songs. People can’t fart All the Things You Are, with drum solo, through Lycra. Lycra distort lengths of sound waves. Physics. Also through Lycra not loud enough for better half to hear. If you hear snap of Lycra replaced, must be farting songs. Logic.

I was not fully convinced, but I reminded myself that the Chinese invented logic millennia before we did in the West, at a time when we were still going on about our feelings, for Heaven’s sake. I imagined Thumper peeling whatever Lycra garment it was down over his buttocks, dialing the number and then applying the phone to his bottom, so as to perform a popular song expressive of his desires. I imagined the solitary rehearsal required, not to mention the beans consumed a given time before (that in itself involving getting up at an unheard-of hour of the morning) so as to prime himself to deliver the goods when the time came. It might or might not be wholesome: it was certainly thorough.

Later I cunningly caught the better half off guard.

All the Things You Are, is it? With a drum solo?



As so often the better half forgot that she had been mysterious earlier.

More Mariah Carey, she said.

I regard that as conclusive.

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8 thoughts on “Affection, Logic, Grammar and Music

  1. SB says:

    This odour (unpleasant to some) could be part and parcel of the live performance in this distinguished art form (étomane ), unfortunately lost in the telephone transmission.

    • SB says:

      Even more, the very unpleasantness of the odour could be a well measured counterweight to the shallow pleasantness of the music performed, the beautiful aesthetic medium to penetrate the general anaesthesia of a layman. Ask G, the art philosopher, in whose remarkable shoes you’ve been trying to walk. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that the next successful piece of, say, Damien Hirst is made in the same technique. As an art collector you are certainly aware that no true art is to judge by its reproduction.

      • alablague says:

        For God’s sake, don’t tell G. Within a month they’ll all be farting at the Hayward and the Arts Council will be paying for the All Bran.

        I suppose that ‘shallow pleasantness’ is the right phrase for Mariah Carey; but I don’t think that Thumper would agree and I myself, whilst I have little interest in her melismatic vocalisings, have followed her personal vicissitudes with avuncular concern in the pages of Heat magazine.

  2. alablague says:

    SB: The better half has a Russian saying:

    “There are two hundred people in the world; the rest are just farmers and workers.”

    She doesn’t know who said it first. Do you?


    • SB says:

      Marx? Many Russian sayings are corrupted Karl Marx quotes.
      I think it could be quite a number in the world of contemporary fart if someone of a considerable stature, talent and prominence did a politically charged piece using the above-mentioned technique. Shouldn’t we break the news and the wind lest some unprincipled fraud use the idea without the due depth?
      And I meant ‘shallow pleasantness’ in relation to the work of Kern and Hammerstein II only as opposed to, say, the Concerto Grosso by Karlheinz Stockhausen for 19 terrorists, two planes and two World Trade Towers.

      • SB says:

        (You certainly know that in Russia you don’t quote Marx; in Russia Marx quotes you. Hence the corruption).

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