Many and various are the pitfalls one can face when using swarfega. You don’t need me to tell you that, but I’m going to anyway. I shall show you how to anticipate the common pitfalls, how to sidestep them with a certain elegance, and, where the pitfalls are gaping chasms that cannot be avoided, how to emerge from them more or less unscathed. As I say, you probably know all this already, but that won’t stop me from telling you, if I have time.
First, though, there is something else I needs must address. When I have given this talk on previous occasions, whether in village halls or in windswept marquees, there are always one or two people in the audience who think the subject of my talk is Swarfegapit Falls, a putative cataract of tumbling water akin to, say, Niagara or Victoria Falls.
Often I might be half-way through my talk, or even close to its end, when someone in the audience will pipe up with a complaint. These nitwits can become quite hot of head. One fellow insisted on brandishing at me a fat book called, I think, A Gazetteer Of The World’s Wettest Waterfalls, holding it open and jabbing his finger repeatedly at what he claimed was a colour plate of a mezzotint of Swarfegapit Falls. Another such ninny held aloft a marmalade jar, emptied of marmalade and now containing water, water which, he shouted, he had personally collected, perilously, from the seething roiling churning sloshing foot of Swarfegapit Falls.
I usually deal with these interruptions by calmly pointing out that there is no such waterfall, and politely suggesting that my hecklers pay closer attention to the typography in my publicity material. This rarely satisfies them. For example, the gazetteer-wielder leaped on to the stage and began thumping me with the gazetteer, and the marmalade jar man similarly leaped on to the stage, unscrewed the lid from the jar, and poured the contents over my head, quite ruining my majestic bouffant.
The point I am trying to make is that while there are pitfalls to be faced when using swarfega, equally, if not more so, there are pitfalls to be faced when simply talking about the pitfalls to be faced when using swarfega. These latter pitfalls can be more alarming. In all my years of using swarfega, for example, I cannot recall a single occasion when, having prised the lid off the tin and being ready to dip my hand into the squelchy cleansing agent, I have been set upon by a nincompoop either bashing me with a gazetteer or pouring a jar of water over my head. It is true that several times my majestic bouffant has been ruined in swarfega-related circumstances, but I must admit this has almost always been my own fault, by absent-mindedly preening my bouffant just moments after getting my hands covered in swarfega.
Given the number of times my talks are interrupted by people demanding their money back because I am not talking about a waterfall, whether or not they physically attack me, it has crossed my mind that perhaps there actually exists a tumbling cataract called Swarfegapit Falls somewhere in the wide world. I have thus employed a gaggle of unpaid interns to fan out across the globe in search of it. They regularly report back to me on their progress. To date, none has found convincing evidence of a waterfall so named. More worryingly, one by one, my keen and perky interns fall silent, so that I have had to engage a second set of interns to fan out across the globe to track down the original gaggle. The reports I receive from the second lot make for sobering reading. It appears that, in traipsing through far-flung places in search of Swarfegapit Falls, each of the pioneer group has fallen into a pit. So cavernous are these pits, near waterfalls, that none has ever emerged. They may even have fallen into bottomless pits, riddled with subterranean vipers, like the one at Shoeburyness. Such are the pitfalls of unpaid internship with a lecturer giving talks on the pitfalls faced when using swarfega.
They can’t say I didn’t warn them. “There may be pitfalls,” I announced, breezily, for I always like to make my announcements breezily. But even I had no idea how many perilous pits there were in the vicinity of waterfalls. It has come as something of a surprise. The next surprise I am waiting for is when, or if, one of my interns manages to avoid the pitfall of falling into a pit and reports back to me the startling news that, yes, the ninnies and nincompoops were right all along, and there is in fact a waterfall called Swarfegapit Falls.
Should that day come, I will have no option but to tear up the text of my lecture and start all over again. I will announce, breezily:
Many and various are the pitfalls one can face when using swarfega. You don’t need me to tell you that, so I won’t. Instead, I will tell you about the pitfalls one can face when searching the globe for that mighty tumbling cataract, Swarfegapit Falls.