The chief characteristic of a tub-thumper is a mania for thumping tubs. What this means, irrespective of the tub-thumperâ€™s particular preoccupation, is that they must have within handy reach a thumpable tub.
One might be deluded into thinking that any old tub can be thumped once it has been up-ended, so that the base of the tub is uppermost, and it rests upon its top, which may or may not still have its lid attached. This fancy, for a fancy it is, is quite wrong, for reasons which I hope to demonstrate. I say â€œhope toâ€, because I fear my attempt may bite the dust, distracted as I am by the presence, directly outside my window, of a tub-thumper who is thumping his tub with such vigour that birds have scattered from their perches and the very earth is trembling!
You will note that I ended that last sentence with an exclamation point. I did so to drive home, in the only way I know how, the sheer volume of the din being thumped by the proximate tub-thumper. His tub is an empty tub, giving his thumping noises a hollow, booming tone. It is not unlike the noise beloved of those odd people who drive their cars through cities with the windows down, sharing their choice of bass-heavy thumping racket with pedestrian passers-by. I have never understood why such people wish to advertise their monumental stupidity and lack of even a modicum of taste. Be that as it may, one can at least say of them that they are mobile, and therefore, if one remains rooted to the spot, like a growing carrot or parsnip, the volume of their thumpings fades away soon enough.
The same cannot be said of the tub-thumper outside my window, who is not inside a moving car, but encamped, next to some placards, on the path. Thump thump thump, he thumps, thumping his tub, and at the same time he is shouting. I am not sure what he is shouting about, but at a guess he will have taken as his subject either Jesus or Mohammed or carbon footprints. Currently these are the favoured topics of tub-thumpers. Go back twenty years and you will find something else compelling their attention, although the thumping of the tub itself will be identical.
Boffins at a research lab have tried to show a correlation between tub-thumping and teenagedom, where the teenagedom can be either chronological â€“ the thumper actually is a teenager â€“ or mental, where the thumper is long past teenagedom but still has teen-associated cerebral characteristics. This lapse of the brain is often occasioned by a deep interest in people and places far, far away, of which the thumper is ignorant in the profoundest sense.
As with the thumper outside my window who is making this piece such a trial to write, the thumped tub is often accompanied by a brandished placard. The best placards are those which are misspelled, ungrammatical, or incoherent. â€œBehead those who insult the Prophetâ€ is a delightful example of the latter type, where the perceived insult is the assertion that Mohammed was a violent maniac fond of, er, beheading people.
Speaking of Mohammed, it is not true that in order to be an effective tub-thumper one must have a beard and wear a pair of sandals. In the past, at a time when, say, vegetarianism rather than carbon footprints was among the thumpersâ€™ chart-toppers, beards and sandals were commoner than they are today. Fashions change, but thumping carries on, unstoppable.
It is apparently unstoppable outside my window. Much as I would like to give you a thorough taxonomy of tubs thumped, I am afraid I am at the end of my tether. And tethers, their lengths and limits, are a different subject altogether, one to which I shall turn when I have sprawled on a pallet in a darkling chamber, plugs inserted in my ears and a damp cloth covering my eyes.
The Hooting Yard Tsar took to tub thumping once, and it saved his life.
Hamilton has two municipal water tanks in a park, right in the centre of town. The Tsar discovered a tree branch he could climb to look over the edge of the smaller, disused tank. It was roofless and dug two stories into the ground. And it had a wild park-like space inside that needed exploring. He climbed in. He couldn’t reach the bottom from his final handhold, but it was low enough for him to jump from. His mistake didn’t occur to him until he wanted to go home.
The Tsar could hear people walk past, but the acoustics seemed to direct his shouts for help straight up. He heaved sticks, but they went in the wrong direction to be seen, or weren’t understood. No one else was curious enough to climb the branch to look into the tank that day. There was a heavy rainstorm and he experienced one of the most miserable nights of his life,
only metres from a friend’s house.
The following morning he started to think and search. He found a buried rusty barrel, dug it up with his remaining stick and proceeded to tub thump. He did not thump for Jesus or Mohammed, but he thumped for his soul. A hard day’s tub thumping finally made someone curious enough climb the branch and look down into the tank.
(He has so many of these stories I don’t know why he is alive.)
Readers may need to be reminded about the Hooting Yard Tsar to whom Mr Webster refers. References to his appointment and duties can be found buried somewhere within the 2003-2006 Archives.
Let’s see if this works. To the right is the tank:
If Google’s satellite coverage of Hamilton wasn’t so pathetic I could show you the tiny world concealed within.