Sound Words

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Dear Maud,

Looks can be deceiving, we are told, but then so can words – about looks, I mean.

Enter Tony, a talker. Unseen until his exit, this colourful creation rode a recent bus with me. His feats, though false, were apparently mighty; indeed, his last few days had been especially grotesque.

‘For two nights,’ he informed his new sidekick, ‘I haven’t slept. And today…’ (Here I sensed his rolling eyes.) ‘Eight coffees, four no-doze and a run of red bulls.’

His patter, Maud, was perfect; naturally, I tried to imagine his person. In my mind, he resembled a ragged, wild-eyed gigolo – an unstable admixture of Julian Clary and Iggy the Pop. And did he? Nay! Poor Tony looked more like a lovelorn clerk on holiday.

My mistake, Maud? To forget one thing: overheard words paint only self-portraits.

Not always, you say – referring, no doubt, to Waugh’s redoubtable Blanche, who, when faced with a ducking at college, duly intones:

Dear sweet clodhoppers, if you knew anything of sexual psychology you would know that nothing could give me keener pleasure than to be manhandled by you meaty boys. It would be an ecstasy of the very naughtiest kind. So if any of you wishes to be my partner in joy come and seize me. If, on the other hand, you simply wish to satisfy some obscure and less easily classified libido and see me bathe, come with me quietly, dear louts, to the fountain.

Here, surely, is a man who looks as he sounds.

Yours etc.