Archive for the ‘People’ category

The Third Age

July 12, 2007

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 Thank you for waiting so patiently. This post marks the (somewhat belated) arrival of Volume III, which (for all you mathematicians) means that we’ve entered the third quarter of The Hutchison Monologues. Game on.

I’m hoping that this quarter will represent a significant renaissance for the ‘Logues, which, it must be said, have suffered a sad neglect of late. Once you’ve not blogued for a significant length of time, it can be hard to get back into it. But I will try; not only to satisfy my philanthropic urges toward my reading handful, but also for my own questionable amusement.

I’ve just come back from a week in Oxford chez mes parents. A lovely holiday, all told. And (I thought) a justifiable break from bloguing, since (I thought) mes parents were sans internet capabilities.

I occasionally propagate a story about my parents’ internet capabilities. Specifically, I have been known to give the impression that, having not used it for six months, those helpful people at Freeserve disconnected them on the assumption that they had died. In reality, I don’t know whether it is Freeserve company policy to assume death after six months of online inactivity. But it seems sensible.

Anyway, imagine my horror when, on the final day of our sojourn, we were trying to piece together some arrangements for a homeward journey. Curious about train times, I suggested that I might phone national rail enquiries, to which my inestimable father responded ‘why not just check the website?’

With all the innocence we can only expect from bona fide Luddites, he had assumed that I had consciously chosen not to use his (actually very active) internet connection for a whole week.

Honestly.

Chuckles Vision

June 24, 2007

What’s the easiest way to invigorate a film, TV or literary franchise? You know the scenario: there comes a time when a good idea is strained to breaking point. For ideas that were initially mediocre, this point can arrive even sooner.  Thank you for bearing with me for the past six months, but I think the time is ripe for introducing a new character into this tragi-comic opera.

And so, without further ado, may I introduce you to Chuckles Hutchison?

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 A fine specimen, and one whom I hope will prove a worthy inheritor of The Hutchison Monologues, in time. And of course, you can expect that the latter days of my own tenure at the ‘Logues will be peppered with Chuckles’ nascent adventures.

Big Brotha

June 23, 2007

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 ‘Afternoon, honkies.

Hope you’re all well today. I wonder whether you might help me to resolve a confusion that has arisen in my mind of late. It’s been festering for quite a while. Not quite keeping me up at night or anything, but festering nonetheless.

I’m sure you’re not watching Big Brother at the moment. I’m not either. I used to be quite into it, back in its fifth iteration, but the novelty (such as it still retained on the 5th time around the track) has now vanished entirely. There’s something about watching roomfuls of people shouting at the same time that just doesn’t do it for me anymore. Which is sad, in a way.

Anyway, just because I’m not tuning in anymore doesn’t mean that I won’t give my tuppence worth when events in the BB house leak over into the news. Which they did, you will recall. Said events happened some time ago now, but are as yet unaddressed ‘Logueswise.

Before we begin in earnest, an experiment. I’d like you to think of the most offensive word you can. Got it? Don’t tell me what it is. Probably best not to say it out loud at all, actually.

As you grew up, you’ll have noticed that swear-words are arranged in an unspoken hierarchy. To the chagrin of the devout, religious swear-words tend to be quite near the bottom. Scatalogical ones come next, followed by the sexual ones at the top of the heap. The structure of this hierarchy has always intrigued me. Give a group of people some swear-words, and they’ll usually rank them in a similar order of offensiveness (seriously, try it) but how did this ever come to pass? Who decides what’s offensive and what isn’t? Let’s think (as I’m sure we all do) about a certain enjoyable interpersonal activity. Why should one word for it be OK, whilst the use of another would lead to a swift ejection from any polite gathering?

The most offensive word I can think of is an anatomical reference. This anatomical portion, in itself, is not offensive (to me). Nor are the four letters that make up the word. I use them all the time. However, there is just something about seeing them altogether in the correct order that seems puts the wind up folks. Maybe that’s why people in Scunthorpe have a chip on their shoulder. When I was growing up, my friend told me that this word could never be broadcast on television, in any circumstances. I’m not sure where he was getting his information from, but it was clearly false.

Anyway, let’s get to the point. You’ll recall that a certain word passed the lips of art student and Big Brother contestant Emily Parr. The word was considered so offensive that not only did the addressees need to reflect upon the exchange into the wee hours, but poor old (racist?) Emily was booted out.

I think we all know the word I’m talking about here. That’s right. En eye gee gee ee argh.

Personally, I was surprised by the reaction that this utterance provoked. The sheer level of offence was staggering. I know that Big Brother has been known to turn a blind eye to the odd bit of racism in the past, and is obviously wanting to be seen as taking a firm stance now. But was all the furore justified? This is where I’m confused, and would welcome your thoughts. 

This word is everywhere. Watch Pulp Fiction. It is used by both black and white characters, to refer to both black and white characters. It is used to address people, and in conversation about people. I just choose this film as an example, as I’m sure there are loads of others. What about Amazing Grace? Can a word like this be used if it is being used in a historical context? I don’t see people campaigning for either film to be pulled from the shelves.

The same goes for music: isn’t this term common currency in certain genres such as rap? I was having a little look at The African American Registry, in which I found an interesting article about the history of this word. It talks about the increasing popularity of the word amongst young, urban black people, who use it as a pally way to greet each other (apparently). I seem to recall it popping up in a Michael Jackson song at some point in his extensive, accomplished canon. Is it OK for Michael to say it because he’s black? Of course, he’d be the first one to claim that it don’t matter if you’re black or white. Not if you’re thinking about being his baby, that is.

Let’s be clear: I don’t have very strong views about this. I have no particular urge to be allowed to use the word, in the same way that I don’t really wish to make regular use of words like quadragintesimal or galactophagist. They are of no use to me. But I do wonder:

If this word is so offensive, how can it be allowed to appear in films, music and books, but not on Big Brother? And does it stop being offensive when it is used by a black person to greet a black friend, or a white person to greet a white friend? If so, would it be OK for a white person to use it to greet a black friend? I wouldn’t mind if a black friend used it to address me, although I do not presume to speak for all those of paler complexion.

Sorry for the ramble. Best just not say it at all until we get all this sorted out.

Everything’s Beachy

May 24, 2007

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I’ve been meaning to dedicate a little post to Fraser’s 30th birthday party, but haven’t quite found the time. Or rather I have, but have chosen to spend it on other things.

I’ll recapitulate. You’ll remember the context of my ill-fated stumble into that Morningside barber last week: I was trying to find something suitably Hawaiian / Caribbean to wear to Fraser’s do, but wasn’t having any luck. One of my fellow party-goers had contacted the man himself in order to get the precise detail of costume requirements, and was told ‘Hawaiian…Caribbean…it’s all the same! Girls in bikini’s was my thinking’.

Anyway, we were eventually organised. Ross and Mrs H both voiced some misgivings about my wearing shorts; as a concession to Mrs H, I agreed to wear jeans on top (and thus look like I was wearing a nappy) until I got there. To quiet Ross’s concerns, I assured him that these particular shorts were possessed of an adequate internal netting to prevent any embarrassing relevations during the evening. So all was well.

Bidding fare-thee-well to Mrs H, Ross and I headed West. After a protracted detour around the outskirts of Glasgow (note: when on the M8, exits can appear on the right) we made our way down Sauchiehall Street, and parked up a dark side street. As I tried to free myself from my jeans in as subtle a manner as possible, Hugh Grant came inexpicably to mind.

We negotiated the tempestuous West Coast conditions (for which we were more-or-less as ill-dressed as it is possible to be) and found ourselves inside the venue. There was a noticeable lack of bikini wearing going on (amongst the ladies at least) but Fraser didn’t seem too disappointed. He was on especially good form having experimented with fake tan to preposterous, trans-racial excess.

A couple of photos should suffice:

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Fire Alarm

May 17, 2007

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 I had a most eventful lunch hour yesterday. I found myself scouring the Morningside charity shops for suitably grotesque beach-wear for a fancy dress party. In the process, I accidently got a Turkish haircut. Let me explain.

Mrs H recently made it known that it was time for another haircut. Regular blogue readers will know that this is the third haircut I have obtained since records began. On this occasion, I was intending to make my way down Morningside Road, browsing each and every charity shop, until I ended up at my barber of choice. I think it’s called ‘The Barber Shop’, or something similarly boring (but accurate).

Anyway, my charity shopping had been fruitless, and I passed an unobtrusive little barbers about half way down on the left. There was no queue, so I thought I’d pop in, knowing that my lunch hour had already stretched to epic proportions. I noticed a poster advertising the ‘hot shave’, on which a cartoon man beamed reassuringly at me from behind a cloud of facial foam. Yes, I thought, this will be alright.

My barber-cum-assailant entered stage left, and we were in business. He was a portly, pleasant-enough-looking chap of middle eastern appearance, and we were soon able to come to some mutual understanding about my requirements.

He set about the task with energetic brio, and several minutes later I was left with what I thought was an acceptable haircut. Of a quality in proportion to the six-pound price tag, anyway.

It was only then that things took an unusual turn. My attention had wandered slightly, but I suddenly realised that the barber was holding what looked like a length of twisted coathanger with a blob of wax on the end. With mild curiosity, I wondered what he intended to do with it. He dunked it into a bottle of clear liquid. Was he sterilising it? And for what purpose? Into which of my orifices did he intend to insert it? Imagine my alarm when he took a cigarette lighter to the end of said coathanger (which, I now realise, had been dipped in lighter fluid) and set the thing alight.

A number of things pass through your mind when a barber is unexpectedly standing before you with a flaming torch in hand. Is he experimenting with some moody lighting for his shop? Is he planning to start a bonfire? And all the while you’re wondering what you might do should he start attacking you with it.

Which he did, incidently. My ears were the primary target, and as he ran his flame over my beloved lugs, I was acutely aware of two competing social pressures. How does one balance their desire to remain composed in public with their desire not to have a conflagration where where their head once stood? It’s tricky.

The trauma was soon over, and I left the shop as if nothing untoward had happened. I can only assume that this memorable fire-ear conjunction was an attempt to get rid of that endearing downy fluff on my ears, which I’m afraid to say, is still there. Perhaps I should go back and let him have another go.

Absolute Anonymity

April 27, 2007

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You may have noticed (but probably not) that I’d put a new link amongst my blog recommendations. I suggest that you visit it. But not before you’ve read this post. That would just be rude.

I should probably warn you that the things you encounter on the site might not conform to your standards of taste and dignity. On more than one occasion I’ve been confronted with depictions of the unadorned female form. You will see things that are life-affirming, heartbreaking. This is a place where the depravity and dignity of humanity share a common stage.

The blog in question, of course, is Postsecret. It’s only technically a blog, really. It’s more like a regularly-replaced website. But one mustn’t quibble.

The raison d’etre of Postsecret is to provide a forum through which you can reveal your innermost secrets from behind a wall of anonymity. There’s something amusingly paradoxical about it: things that you wouldn’t tell a single person are paraded in front of the entire globe. Or rather, the small subset thereof who frequent the site.

I spend quite a lot of time listening to people’s secrets. It’s a real privilege. For most people, anonymity is very disinhibiting. Within minutes of meeting a person, I can be hearing about things that their nearest and dearest, who have known them all their lives, would never suspect in a million years. They feel they can tell me, because I’m ‘outside the situation’. I have no emotional investment in it.

In practice, though, my conversations with patients are usually pretty tame. Our agreement of confidentiality isn’t total, you see. There are instances in which I might have to break confidentiality, for example if people are in danger. People are probably wary of taking their discussions into Postsecret territory in case I should feel the need to reach for my Special Button Under The Desk.

A quick look at Postsecret will probably yield a mixed bag. Some confessions are mundane, self-indulgent whining. Others are outrageous, and it is difficult to see how someone could ever share them via the normal channels. It seems that the less chance you have of being found out, the more scandalous the revelations you are prepared to make.

Does Postsecret represent a glimpse of What Goes On Behind Closed Doors? Do we all have secrets like this? Or is it simply an outlet for the deviant few? Does it tell us anything about our society? Probably not. I get a strong whiff of the USA off of it, frankly. And how do we know that it isn’t the same handful of people writing in again and again? And, of course, how do we know if any of these statements are actually true?

It makes you wonder, though. Is there something that you have never divulged about yourself to anyone? If you had the guarantee of total, unconditional anonymity, what would you want to say?

All revelations are to be made via the comments facility. No one will mind if you set up a bogus email address for the purpose. Time to come out with it, I say. Spill your guts.

I am realistic enough to anticipate no response.

The Persistence of Memory

April 20, 2007

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I love Salvador Dalí. He is probably in my top five, as artists go. This is probably his most well known painting, though not one of my personal favourites. I thought I’d pop it in anyway. Have a look at his other paintings here.

I was in St Andrews the other day. Mrs H’s father has just retired (read all about it) so it was decided that we all go to St Andrews to get a family photograph. The task was entrusted to Peter Adamson, and a more amiable gentleman you would be hard-pressed to find.

It was interesting to walk around in St Andrews. It’s the sort of place where progress happens slowly, if at all. For the most part, all the familiar shops and haunts are still in their respective places. But now, walking down Market Street, I see no one I recognise. There was a time, of course, when one could walk the same route and be sure to be greeted by friends and acquaintances. But now the faces are blank.

I walked past The Coach House, where I used to live. The landlady’s grandchildren were outside in the garden. They look quite big now. They didn’t look up as I passed.

Towards the end of the morning, we found ourselves down on the West Sands, and we had a few snaps taken by the Elephant Rock. While I was there, I recalled a lazy afternoon on said Rock, a good five or six years back. I sat on the Rock with a couple of friends, just talking. There was nothing that needed to be discussed, but there was no pressure to be elsewhere. It was one of the last days we spent together in St Andrews. Somehow, it was a day that seemed to represent all that was good about being a student there. So much so, we decided to immortalise it, and our existence in it, by adding our signatures to the Rock.

The front door key to my parents’ house in Oxford was pressed into service for the purpose. When I got home to Oxford a few days later, it didn’t work. I never told my parents why.

Anyway, when we were there having photographs taken, I looked for my signature again. It had vanished, scoured away by a few years of gritty wind, and with it the last piece of evidence that I had ever been there at all.

I was just about to leave, when something caught my eye. The handiwork of one of my companions remained:

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As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more (Psalm 103:15-16).

It seems, however, that you can leave a lasting legacy. You just need to press quite hard, and use the right implement.