Words And Meaning

“I have had what, in many respects, I boldly call the misfortune, to set my words sometimes prettily together ; not without a foolish vanity in the poor knack that I had of doing so ; until I was heavily punished for this pride, by finding that many people thought of the words only, and cared nothing for their meaning.”

John Ruskin, The Mystery Of Life And Its Arts (1868)

No such problem for Mr Key, I am happy to say, for judging by my bulging postbag, almost all of my readers devote many hours to cogitating upon the meaning – indeed the multiple meanings – of each and every postage at Hooting Yard. But just in case there are one or two of you out there who still, tragically, overlook significance at the expense of verbal blather, I thought it would be helpful to pluck from that postbag one pertinent letter, and reproduce it in full. It is from Tim Thurn, who can often be a picky wanker, but whose devotion to Hooting Yard has never been in doubt.

Ahoy there, Frank! he writes, I thought you might be interested to hear about the little routine I have devised for myself to help me winkle out the deep and deeper meanings of your many and various postages. This is what I do. As soon as I have finished reading, I get up from my chair and go straight to the bathroom, wherein I fill the sink with ice cold water, steep in it a towel, and then wrap the towel tight about my head. This is to prevent my brain from overheating. I next gargle with Dr Baxter’s Effervescent & Volatile Gargling Fluid, and cut a few capers while gargling, though the vigour of my capers is constrained somewhat by the cramped dimensions of my bathroom.

The next step is to go down to my cellar, a dank pit which light never penetrates, and to lie sprawled on the floor. Before sprawling, however, I fumble about in the blackness to locate my vintage bakelite cassette player, and depress the knob which sets the tape going. The tape, which is a loop and which is thus always ready to play, is a recording of the Urbane Blodgett Sextet performing the song cycle Drink Ye Every One The Waters Of His Own Cistern, Until I Come And Take You Away. I don’t know why, but I find this music perfectly suited to the cogitations I must now embark upon while sprawled in the darkness. The Sextet’s lean and flashy songs grate on their scrannel pipes of wretched straw, which is my kind-a music!

Hours may pass as I plumb the depths of my mental basin, thinking over the Hooting Yard postage I lately read. Sooner or later, the meaning, or meanings, become clear, and not just clear but incandescent. It is almost as if there is actual light in the cellar. Almost. I fumble for the cassette player, press the stop knob, and blunder my way up and out. The towel around my head is usually still damp, so I wring it out over the bathroom sink and hang it up to dry before dashing out into the streets to buttonhole passers-by with an excitable account of my new knowledge.

I thoroughly recommend this method of discovering the many, many profundities inherent in the Hooting Yard oeuvre, and I am so grateful to you, Mr Key, that I am even tempted to make a donation. But only tempted, for on reflection I much prefer to wallow in a puddle of moral turpitude and filth, like the sordid ingrate I am.

Passionately yours, Tim Thurn

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