Hi, sorry! As I have been out of action on the blogging front.
I have however been working ceaselessly behind the scenes to bring you my new story, ‘Private Parts’. Unfortunately, in order to read it, you have to learn a new language, the book, being set thirty years in the future, having forced me to write it in an evolved version of English. Yeah, it’s a right bore. I thought I would give you just one page at a time though (starting mozapan) so as not to freap you out nor nukeyflip your thortpacs…see, not too hard is it?
It is a joy, making up a new language. I remember sitting on the floor in my sister Penel’s room, at 67 Barton Road, opening a blue book of blank paper, and deciding to have a go at it. We must have been about eight years old. Remember we had no telly, and were on a whole different level of naivety than kids these days, or even kids those days. Our conversation went something like this: ‘Hmm, OK, so…what will ‘tree’ be? ‘
Penel pulled random sounds out of her brain to come up with something like: ‘Fligol?’
‘Yes. Perfect. ‘Fligol’,’ (writing down ‘Fligol – Tree’.) ‘And what will…erm…’house’ be?’
‘Yeah. Plotchlotch. Brilliant.’ (writing down ‘Plotchlotch – House.’)
‘What about ….’two’, ‘three’?’
‘Well, we need to start at ‘one’. ‘One’ should be ….’blonk.’’
‘And ‘two’ should be….’
‘ ‘Plizza’, of course. And ‘three’ should be….’Ndolik’. Yes.’
My sister read over my shoulder ‘Blonk, Plizza, Ndolik.’
We laughed. Probably for about five minutes. We always made the most of simple pleasures.
‘It’s going to be quite a difficult language to learn,’ observed my sister, gasping for breath.
‘We haven’t finished yet. We need a word for ‘the.’’
‘Hmm. ‘The’ could be….’eekin’.’
‘Eekin,’ yes, OK.’
‘What about ‘is’? We need ‘is.’ How about ‘drippock’ for ‘is’?’
‘So…if ‘big’ is say….’flagganoo’ then ‘the house is big’ will be ‘Eekin…plotchlotch….drippock…flagganoo.’
Unwieldy as it was, with a bit of practise, we got it down: ‘Eekin plotchlotch drippock flagganoo.’
It was dawning on us that we needed all the colours, all the numbers, all the names of all the objects in the world. We entered a state of mild panic. I remember looking around desperately at all the things: the window! the road! the sky! the clouds! the cupboard! and saying something like ‘We haven’t got anything for ‘floor’, what’s ‘floor’? How about ‘shally-gling-gling’? We took turns to write it all down.
‘God, we need a word for ‘word,’ I exclaimed, increasingly appalled at the enormity of the task.
We soon realised we needed words not only for all the objects but also all the concepts. It just got bigger and bigger. We ended up with pages and pages. I wish I could find them now, as I would love a good vlatt, but they are not to be found.
We had of course not understood that a language evolves over centuries, organically, through the need to communicate. The resulting eccentricities, similar to the quirky bends and kinks in a woodland path, formed as walkers wend their way around trees and shrubs, are the fascinating hooks that make you love to learn a language. You can’t really just make one up. It’s too artificial.
Anyway, so now, forty years on, I have, I hope, understood a bit more about language, in order to bring you ‘Private Parts’, the book. I showed the first page to Grampa the other day. He read the opening: ‘My tretcher turned itself off.’ ‘Och! What’s ‘tretcher’?’ he said. He read the second sentence. ‘ ‘My slozerlok opened.’ What’s slozerlok? Och! What does it mean?’ It was getting him in a terrible panic. I explained that the reader has to suspend the need to know what it means, and learn from the context. A few days later I asked him if he had read any more of it. ‘No!’ he said. ‘I cannae face it! It would have to be a labour of love.’
My experience of attempting to learn Modern Greek to university standard in one year was very like this. Every sentence I read had two or three or even four words I didn’t know. I started out very keen, looking them all up in the dictionary and writing them into the book in neat pencil, but it took so bloody long. I started by necessity to hone my not very scholarly ability to suspend my need to know. It meant that I never got that good at Modern Greek, but at least I had partially read the works, and was increasingly brilliant at imagining what they might be meaning.
Please imagine the movie of ‘Private Parts’ as you read. It will, I think, be fascinating for the audience to try to guess who the actors are for the entire first three quarters of the movie. Then, as the darsks (dark masks, see I’m helping you) come off, they’ll be like ‘Ooh, it’s Johnny Depp! Should have guessed from his vaddervanilli. And Damn! No one struts a moufleur like Meryl. It’s obvious now that you know!’ (By three quarters of the way through, the more language-oriented section of the audience will, of course, be fluent in Keddaling and will, one hopes, be confidently using ‘vaddervanilli’ for ‘willy’ and ‘moufleur’ for ‘vagina’.)
I realise that I wouldn’t have been able to write ‘Private Parts’ without first writing ‘Shardonnay’ and ‘Wantababy’ and even the tits book from 2007, ‘A Breast of the Times’, which broke down my every last barrier to writing down embarrassing things. This new one though is the worst of the lot, and as Grampa says, (although how he can he know, not having performed his labour of love yet?) ‘plumbs new depths’.
First page of ‘Private Parts’ will be posted later today. Thanks to all my readers!