On The Brink

I was on the brink, but there was muffling, so it was not quite clear to me what I was on the brink of. Muffles have that effect, they make things uncertain and imprecise, it is in their nature. Much of the time muffles are not unwelcome. It is a small mercy to be muffled against the sundry horrors with which the world is rife. I am tempted to list them, but I will forego the opportunity, partly because my horrors are unlikely to coincide with your horrors. We will have differing lists. That which I am ecstatic, yes, ecstatic, to be muffled against may be a source of thrill and pang for others, and vice versa.

Not that we should confuse a brink necessarily with a horror. Some brinks border horror, but others do not. That is why it was so unhelpful, in the circumstances, to be muffled. I did not know what I was on the brink of, so I did not know whether to shrink from it, or to embrace it with open arms. Those are two common responses to being on the brink. Making a quick about turn or striving desperately forwards are two others. In all cases it is obviously a bloody good idea to know the nature of the brink before deciding what to do.

But how to make an informed decision when there is muffling? Therein lies the beauty of brinkmanship. This is a much misunderstood term. What it means, in essence, is to follow the tenets of Brinkman. Like his near-namesakes Superman and Spiderman, Brinkman is a superhero. His adventures have been recorded in comic books, television serials, and motion pictures, most recently the blockbuster Brinkman 7 : Back From The Brink! which, I am afraid to say, is somewhat less exciting than that exclamation mark may lead you to believe. It certainly lacks the punch and sheer emotional engagement of my bemufflement on an unidentified brink. As I said in my review of the film,

Brinkman 7 : Back From The Brink! is somewhat less exciting than that exclamation mark may lead you to believe. It certainly lacks the punch and sheer emotional engagement one might experience if one were on an actual brink, especially with attendant muffles.

The six earlier Brinkman films were not only full of thrills and spills, but contained lots of scenes where Brinkman was given the opportunity to expound his tenets of brinkmanship. I saw all of the films, several times, and I took notes, because I wanted to be prepared, when on a brink, to know just what to do.

It is in Brinkman 4 : The Brink’s-MAT Robbery that Brinkman comes closest to dealing with muffles. This is the film where Brinkman is called in to help solve the so-called “crime of the century”, when robbers stole twenty-six million pounds’ worth of gold, diamonds, and cash in a raid on the Brink’s-MAT warehouse at Heathrow Airport on 26 November 1983. In this fictionalised version, the befuddled coppers think the name of the warehouse is a reference to some sort of mat or rug which Brinkman uses to bridge the gap over a brink and what lies beyond the brink, and make an urgent call on the Brinkphone. Even though Brinkman has no idea what they are talking about – he does not own such a mat or rug – he is a superhero, so he changes into his costume of red and green and yellow jumpsuit with an orange winged helmet and visor, both of which have a startling and garish letter B emblazoned upon them, and he leaps into the Brinkmobile and heads across town to police headquarters. On his way there, he drives into an area of mufflement. Though he is not actually on any kind of brink at the time, it is instructive to watch as he copes. To a soundtrack of pounding music, recorded I think by a group of hairy persons practised in the art of the power ballad, Brinkman revs the engine of the Brinkmobile and utters one of his exclamatory catchphrases – “Crikey!” or “Crumbs!” as I recall – and simply roars through the muffles with recklessness, aplomb, and pluck. I had to put down the pad in which I was making notes to clap my hands in spontaneous applause.

I recalled that lesson when I stood on the brink, muffled. There were two problems. First, as I said, Brinkman was not on a brink when he found himself enmuffled. It would be too charitable to say that, on the contrary, he was on the brink of solving the Brink’s-MAT Robbery, because he wasn’t. He hadn’t even arrived at the police station. Second, he was aboard the Brinkmobile, whereas I was on foot. I didn’t have a Brinkmobile, or an ordinary car, or even a bicycle. There was just me, in my Uggs, on a muffled brink.

I reflected for a long time. Then I shouted “Crikey!” or “Crumbs!”, and I jumped.

NOTE : In spite of the wealth of evidence to be found in the comic books and television serials and motion pictures, there is a persistent misapprehension that Brinkman’s Brinkmobile is not a souped-up jalopy but a ship. This clearly stems from the widespread misunderstanding of the word “brinkmanship”. While it is true that in Brinkman 5 : Ahoy There Brinkman!, Shiver-Me-Timbers! Brinkman spends most of the film aboard a ship, getting into all sorts of flaps with pirates and ghosts of pirates, it is clearly not his own ship. In fact, there are several scenes where it is made explicit that it is one of L Ron Hubbard’s Sea Org ships, though for legal reasons the specific name of the ship was obscured by filmic muffle.

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