I have been asked to compile a report on the Tosspot. It is a great honour and I hope to acquit myself with really fantastic splendour. That would be a feather in my cap. I decided the best way to approach the Tosspot is to tackle him fruit by fruit. It is not that fruit looms large in his tosspottery, but dimpus dempus, as they say in Latin, they being the Tosspot’s acolytes.
Before proceeding, with I hope fantastic splendour, it is meet to say a few words about those acolytes. Not every (lower case) tosspot has acolytes, but the definitively upper case Tosspot does. That goes without saying. So why did I say it? Aha! For the same reason that we are going to tackle him fruit by fruit. The Tosspot’s acolytes come in a variety of caps and colours, but what they all have in common is possession of a key to the hillside sanctum. It is as fine a sanctum as anybody in search of a sanctum could wish for. Set halfway up a hillside, concealed by serried beds of hollyhocks, it is both stony and capacious. There is a joke going the rounds that the Tosspot is himself stony and capacious, and the acolytes guffaw, though it is unclear what, if anything, it means. I guffawed myself, when I first heard it, to seem one of the in-crowd, but so many and various were my slips and fumbles in other respects that I was always marked as an outsider. That is perhaps why I have been entrusted to write this report. An acolyte would just witter adoringly, like a moonstruck calf.
With the fruit by fruit approach, it is essential to get the fruits in the correct order, otherwise even the most fantastically splendid report writer can get into all sorts of pickles. I know that to my cost. A while ago I was asked to write a report about bike wankers. You might think that is a topic that does not lend itself to the fruit by fruit approach, but you would be wrong, very very wrong. But I made the fatal mistake of starting off with plums, then bananas, and quite frankly after that I was done for. The report was binned, and justifiably so.
I am not going to make the same mistake again, which is why for my Tosspot report I decided to place the fruits in a very specific order, one derived from a close reading of certain obscure texts by Madame Blavatsky. HPB herself does not actually refer to any fruits in the passages I consulted, but that is the point of my close reading, to eke from her words meanings which may not have been apparent even to her. You cannot read just any old writer using this method and expect results. I have tried it, for example, with H. Rider Haggard, Marie Corelli, and Dennis Wheatley, and in each case I ended up in a perfect flap. Either my fruits were in a blithering chaotic order or there was no hint of fruit or, come to that, of order. I ended up having to visit a greengrocer and buy one of each fruit and align them by hand across the table, which took hours, and even then I had no idea if the order was appropriate to my purposes. But I know I can trust Madame Blavatsky, at least in this regard.
The order of fruits is one thing, however, while the broader ramifications of a report on the Tosspot are something else again. Quibbles aside, there is the question of tone. Though come to think of it, having mentioned quibbles, casting them to one side is easier said than done. My bike wankers report suffered from a surfeit of quibbles, quite apart from the fruit order debacle. Try as I might to shove them out of sight and out of mind, they kept rearing their heads, and snorting, sometimes deafeningly. I plugged my ears with cotton wool to no avail. Eventually I had to go out to a park bench to write my report, thinking that the sight of ducks in a duckpond across a lawn punctuated by beds of lupins would help me settle to the right frame of mind. It did, to some extent, but then it began to rain, and I do not recommend writing in the rain. Ink gets smudged.
Tone, though. Tone for the Tosspot. What should it be? Valedictory? Captious? Smitten? It would be easy enough to adopt a tosspottish tone, if one had a gift for such, but to do so would I think lack a certain dignity. And it would not sit well with the fruit by fruit approach which is, if it is anything, the pinnacle of dignity. I would defy anyone to write a report, on any subject under the sun, adopting a fruit by fruit approach, and not thereby impart to one’s text a measure of dignity unsurpassed. And let’s face it, the Tosspot himself presents a pretty undignified figure at the best of times. Those trousers alone are enough to turn the strongest of stomachs. I will not even begin to describe the socks. In fact, I am not going to mention the socks in my report. I shall go straight from undignified trousers to undignified boots, and it will be as if the socks never existed. That is the best way, believe me. I know whereof I speak.
Having given the matter much thought, and prodded that thought by gazing for several hours at Madame Blavatsky’s milky grey eyes in a photograph, I have concluded that the tone of my report ought to be set by what we call the fruit test. The idea with this technique is to get “inside” the fruit, as it were, and then to allow the fruit to dictate the tone of one’s text. It is absolutely critical, of course, that one selects the proper fruit for the task. Putting the fruits in the correct order is child’s play by comparison. Somewhat surprisingly, the very worst thing one can do is to use real items of fruit, bought from a greengrocer, lined up along the table, to make one’s selection. That is what a naïve young reporter would do. After all, it seems to make sense. But as my mentor said to me, from within the dark interior of his booth, in his booming voice, “Beware! Beware of real fruit!” The import of what he said was not clear to me then, but by heaven it is now, in spades, with brass knobs on.
And so I don my special gloves, and I cut some capers, and I prepare myself to pick the most important fruit I shall ever pick.