Mops Held High

“Wring out your mops! Let your buckets clang! Peel off your protective gloves and shove them down a hygienic waste chute! Let us spray our polish against the burning sky!”

These were the stirring words bawled from a podium by Seg Merv, the janitor-revolutionary who led the so-called Janitorial Uprising. From a broom cupboard in a corridor in a large public building, he marched at the head of no fewer than five or six other janitors, mops held high, to the very gates of the Princeling’s palace. There, they were not cut down, as they half-expected to be, by the swords and catapults of the Princeling’s Palace Guard. Instead, they were met, just outside the gates, by a seedy and wheedling emissary, who took them into the broom cupboard of a palace annexe and plied them with mugs of steaming tea.

We do not know what the rebellious janitors were promised in that stifling cupboard. But forever after Seg Merv was a bitter and beaten man, shunned by other janitors. It was said that the incandescent fire of his revolutionary praxis had been doused by something as simple as a hot drink, without sugar. Certainly it is true that before the day of the historic march was done, all the janitors were mopping floors again, Seg Merv himself mopping not just floors but the impossibly grandiose floors of the Princeling’s palace itself!

The story, or a version of it, is retold in a new film by trendy goatee-bearded director Chippy Van Bang. Merv/Princeling imagines that the seedy and wheedling emissary was in fact the Princeling himself, in heavy disguise, and that his seedy and wheedling ways were more than a match for the severely flawed praxis of Seg Merv. It was a praxis, of course, which had been hammered out in a thousand janitorial broom cupboard meetings held in secret, by candlelight, with much cigarette smoke and gruff shouting by Slavic janitors with tremendous moustaches. Although his sympathies are with Seg Merv, Van Bang shows that the tides of history were in the Princeling’s favour. The director, who also wrote the screenplay, worrying away at it for over twenty years, suggests that integral to the Princeling’s triumph was the Blearsy-Blunkettiness of his vision, which simply swept Seg Merv’s moppy rhetoric aside. There may be a slight problem there with a vision being able to sweep aside rhetoric, but in the spirit of this extraordinarily powerful film I am not going to let niceties get in my way. Chippy Van Bang certainly doesn’t, for as usual with his work, any niceties are obliterated much as if they had been thoroughly mopped from the floor of a corridor and wrung out into a bucket.

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