Saturday, 24 October 2009

Hanging Around Toilets

Look at this annual ‘Bog Dinner’. Dinner a la bog is all very Bunuel - remember that dinner-party scene in “The Phantom of Liberty” - an elegant soiree with guests seated at toilet bowls instead of chairs?

But don’t worry about menu, forget the diners, look down into the skylights.

Four years later on the roof of another toilet-block, another skylight, two members of another club - a model airplane club, are plane spotting. He’s standing; she’s sitting - sitting on a skylight in a skirt, holding a pair of wings.

Every so often a head pops up inside the skylight and a face looks up her skirt. As she watches the sky, her bottom comes within inches of a toilet-dweller’s eye. She’s sat on the skylight above the Gents. Look at his white knuckles – he’s performing a fingertip pull-up, to look up. It’s like an ape-house down the Gents – talk about hanging around in public toilets! And the pilot of the wingless plane, he’s staring straight ahead, oblivious, he doesn’t ogle - he’s a model. Yet in all other respects the grounded aviator and our voyeur are fellow voyagers’; twin heads, sealed in their clear plastic bubbles, like spacemen or skydivers.
Notice the plane is named “Snipe”, after the wading bird of the same name. But snipe can also mean “get at”, or “moan”. Yet another meaning of snipe is “to shoot from a concealed place”.  It could be argued that our puller-upper, skirt looker-upper might be driven to physically performing (discharging) all three interpretations of ‘snipe’ (from the concealment of the toilet, in reaction to 'the view') at the same time.

All this ‘monkey business’ makes me think of Alfred Jarry’s creation, the monosyllabic baboon Bosse-de-Nage (literally, “bottom-face”). Bosse-de-Nage was Dr Faustroll’s fellow traveler and ‘lighter of the way’ in a speculatively designed ‘bed-ship’ the pair rowed through the rues of Paris, by night (where every so often the good Dr would buff the baboon’s shiny red bottom in order to make it function as a headlight).This is how Jarry describes the strange craft in “Exploits and Opinions of Dr Faustroll Pataphysician” (published posthumously in 1911)
 “But this bed, twelve meters long, is not a bed but a boat, shaped like an elongated sieve. The meshes are wide enough to allow the passage of a large pin; and the whole sieve has been dipped in melted paraffin, then shaken so that this substance (which is never really touched by water), while covering the web, leaves the holes empty-the number of which amounts to about fifteen million four hundred thousand…The skiff is not only propelled by oar blades but also by suction disks at the end of spring levers. And its keel travels on three steel rollers at the same level. I am all the more convinced of the excellence of my calculations and of its insubmersibility in that, as is my invariable habit, we shall not be navigating on water but on dry land.

Yet this still leaves the question: Is wearing a skirt on a skylight more risqué than dinning on a toilet? And those wings she’s holding; wings were just what I needed (but didn’t manage to find) to go with my gymnastic ring-halo – my ‘hot halo’ (“If I Drew It I’d Have To Do It”, October 19th, 2009). Maybe I should hangout in toilets more.

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