Adversity, Fantaseuphoria, and Jac the Lad

Adversity

I’ve tried to look at it
in a number of
different ways,
but it seems to me
that life is one
long continuous struggle
against bastardry.
I wish I didn’t
have to think of it
like this,
but they’re there,
everywhere,
peeping from behind
their Berlin Walls
and juggling us
other poor buggers
around.
I don’t want to
kick against the pricks,
as the prophet says,
but I don’t want to be
kicked around.
And all the bastards
seem to be wearing
big boots.
I don’t want to
make a fuss,
and I don’t want
to be a martyr:
I just want to
get on with it,
and quietly.
But it really is
a game sometimes
of Jesus Christ,
or Cool Hand Luke,
or Jack flapping over a
cuckoo’s nest.
Might even be a hand of
Butch and Sundance
or the Great Unwashed 
Not-nice Brigade,
for all I know.
I’ve tried to look at it
in a number of
different ways,
but
the unicorn evils do
run you through,
and it is
hard to dance
with a devil on your back.


Fantaseuphoria

I want to be
a busker  –
put a tambourine
around myself
get rid of
the clutter of life
sell the wife
tell the boss
to stuff his job
to hell with
the mortgage
on the dog just
get a drum and
strap it on my back
and go to town  –
hum a tune
jump up and down
hail a crowd of
people round
listen to the ring
of cash against
my soul
the wail
of my harmonica
the clash of cymbals
round my heart
and let it sing
in a one-man
freedom band
and let it play.
Thank God for
troubadours,
I say.

(From ‘Musings on the Merry-go-Round: A Medley of Verse for us Riders of the Earth’)


Note: I suppose that most of us must have gone through a period in our lives when all the odds, for various reasons, seemed stacked against us, and we felt like bucking against the whole damn system in which we found ourselves ensnared and/or victimized – in any way that we could. ‘Adversity’, is what emerged from such a period, a long time ago, for me. Writing it gave me some relief, and later I was able to look back on that bad time and laugh, especially over having exacted a measure of retribution which served to very much balance the scales. (A discreet triumph; when you have beaten the system, you must keep quiet about it). The piece itself caused chortles, too, among others who read it, colleagues who had shared that time with me and given me their sympathy and support. The second poem, ’Fantaseuphoria’ is vaguely related, but is a wholly ‘spur of the moment’ reaction to the daily humdrum – crystalized in a flash and given direction in a flight of fancy (‘What am I doing here? I should grow long hair and beard, and be off painting ladders to the stars!’) There is a decided mischievousness about the seventh line, no need to add).

I remember clearly the exact situation which gave rise to the feelings which resulted in ‘Fantaseuphoria’. The scene? The oak-panelled, chandeliered ground-floor gallery of a mansion in Westphalia, northern Germany, commandeered at the end of WWII (as were a host of other select properties) by the British Army of the Rhine; this residence, built during Germany’s 19th century Imperial period, served the area as its Garrison Officers’ Mess. It was a magnificent old building of grey stone in an idyllic setting – and is the same which features also in ‘View from a Window’ in the list of poems to the right of your screen. Yes, it was  a bitter evening in the Winter of ’74; inside all was warm, brightly-lit, and Christmassy; outside, where the street lamps wavered like spirit lights behind a lattice of branches, snowflakes the size of Smith’s Crisps were floating gently earthward…

Dinner had finished over an hour ago, and I had just come down again after doing a little reading in my room. As I descended the open stairway to the long ground-floor gallery, I noticed that there was an unusual amount of hubbub (it was normally pretty quiet down there). There came waves of assent and bursts of laughter. Some dozen resident officers were seated or standing around a circular card-table at the far end of the room, and the conversation there was dominated, I saw, by a newcomer, an RAMC (Medical Corps) Major. He was a robust, silver-haired man of about fifty years, and was engaging all-comers with his flamboyant talk. Next to him, on the table lay a pack of cards, and I guessed he had been entertaining those gathered round with card tricks. I joined the melée, and stood among the onlookers, a little to his left. After just a few moments it became evident that I was listening to a ‘Glamorgan boy’. All that he talked about I cannot remember, now, but that it made me smile a lot and exchange glances with the others. One detail in all of this has remained quite vividly in my mind, and that is that as he talked he held in his hand a book – a paperback – with which he emphasized his words, now waving it this way and that in front of him, now pointing it toward the particular person to whom he was making a point. Then he slapped it down on the table, and I saw that it was a cheap novel of the pulp-fiction kind (like the ‘Weird Tales’, etc., magazines which once enjoyed popularity). On its cover was a picture of a woman in a backless dress. It was black. She was slumped over a roulette wheel; and protruding from her back was a dagger. At that moment prim Neddy Armitage, the only other Mess member who was Welsh (although you would have never guessed it in a million years) suitably horrified at the quality of this invasive reading material, grimaced and shot me a glance of disapproval. But who was this newcomer? He had not been at dinner. This, ladies and gentlemen,  was Major Jac Davies, Cardiffian extraordinary, and reserve army doctor currently engaged on a short tour of duty of the area’s medical facilities and quartered in our Mess for that night only.

The group broke up, and I introduced myself to Major Jac as a native of Wales’ rugby capital. We had hardly exchanged more than a few words when I realized that unusual activity was going on around us; there was a bustle as tables were drawn aside and chairs were being arranged in rows. ‘What’s going on?’ I muttered. ‘Don’t you know?’ said  Major Jac, ‘There’s a show on here tonight’. (He knew, of course!). And sure enough, within ten minutes the musicians entered with all their gear – two young men and a young woman, and took their position at the end of the room. Major Jac motioned to me, and led the way to the stairway, where we sat down on the sixth or seventh step, with a commanding view of the scene. Pretty soon the steps below were occupied too, with a small scattering above us.

The two young fellows were drummer and guitarist; the girl (I say ‘girl’ quite comfortably as she could hardly have been more than about nineteen or so) was the vocalist. I recall that she was an attractive, long-haired redhead wearing black jeans and a white top. ‘Oooh, look at her… ‘  murmured Major Jac at my side. The band struck up. I recall that the singer, at an early stage, stopped singing to cast an impatient look at the drummer, whose playing had evidently inhibited her style, but on they went, and it was very enjoyable to listen to; there were a couple of Joan Baez numbers in the repertoire. Again, Major Jac murmured ‘Look at her… ‘,  leaning across and asking me ‘Do you know she?’ the grammar of which puzzled me until he added ‘She’, by Charles Aznavour?’ It was a fairly recent release; I said that I had heard it. ‘What a song!’ he said, ‘She…’. When the show ended the crowd broke up. Major Jac excused himself, and I wandered about, mingling to chat about the performance with the odd knot of friends. After some minutes I noticed Major Jac in earnest conversation with the redhead, eliciting a long series of hearty giggles from her until she eventually couldn’t help collapsing like a sheaf of corn into a big bear-hug. How does he do it? I wondered. Anyway, the band departed; it was late, and within a short while everyone climbed the wooden hill. As I climbed into bed in my garret at the top of the house, I thought what a lad this Major Jac was. He was there at breakfast the next morning, and after many a bonhomous word between two compatriots at table we shook hands warmly before each went his way. And so ended my personal acquaintance with Jac the Lad.

On a hot summer’s day about eight months later I was home in Wales, watching TV over a snack. Switching channels, I stopped to look at one of those ‘police’ type programmes. The subject was domestic murders. The lady interviewer was uncharacteristically smiling rather a lot, I thought, considering the seriousness of the discussion. Then the camera switched to the interviewee, and I could scarcely believe my eyes – it was Major Jac! Completely relaxed, leaning back in a comfy chair and now in civilian clothes, of course. I had caught only the last few minutes of the programme, during which Jac the Lad took from a table at his side one of those broad-bladed kitchen knives, the kind we use for carving the Christmas turkey. He held it up, saying to the interviewer ‘This is the knife commonly used in most domestic murders’. Then he turned to face the camera, and said, with the dead-pan, infectious humour and that almost imperceptible glint in his eye which had incited myself and so many others to more than a smile that night in the Mess the previous winter,  ‘If I had known this years ago, I would have invested in this company’.

8 thoughts on “Adversity, Fantaseuphoria, and Jac the Lad

  1. Great stuff. ‘Adversity’ is so true. Works well with the short lines and subtle half rhymes. ‘Fantaseuphoria’ puts me in mind of ‘The Welsh Swagman’, Joseph Jenkins, and Major Jac sounds like a fascinating character – lovely story-telling.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, Jacydo. I had a vague memory of Joseph Jenkins, very likely, I think, from a past discussion with you, and have just looked him up. I remember discussing briefly, too, my encounter with Major Jac and its sequel, in relation to ‘Fantaseuphoria’.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Diolch yn fawr, trouz49! So glad you liked what you saw. There are something like 67 items posted so far, and a good many more to come.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Jem! Happy indeed that you’ve visited ‘The Ig-Og Mabinog’ and like what you’ve seen so far. As a rugby man, there are a few on here that I think you’d like to take a look at. 🙂

      Like

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