Iron Years

My interest in politics was colored by fascism. My parents were fairly frugal in discussing political issues, because it could get you arrested. That  happened to a number of their friends, and my Rabbit’s doctoral supervisor was given twenty-four hours by the secret police to leave the country. He did.

My mother’s supervisor only returned to Portugal briefly, after the revolution in 1974. For fifteen years he was exiled in Paris, like many of the Portuguese intelligentsia (wow, bizarre spelling, but apparently it comes from the Russian интеллигенция, so that’s alright then). My dad visited him in France from time to time. Once he told my father that ‘he was now so old, he even had money in the bank.’

Until my mid-twenties, my whole life was conditioned by politics. It was the 1974 Portuguese revolution that stopped me fighting in Angola or Mozambique, like many of my older friends. And sent me to the U.K. for half a decade. The first two years were spent in prison, or the educational equivalent, which is called boarding school. At least, given the level of violence, bullying, homosexuality, and confinement, I always see it as a fair comparison. In Portugal you say ‘O que não mata, engorda.’ If it doesn’t kill you, it fattens you up. I put on weight.

There is a saying that schooldays are the best days of your life. That’s certainly not true. You can’t have sex on most of them for a start. What really happens is that we forget the bad stuff that happens to us, in order to stay sane. People that don’t have that valve live a tortured life—some end up in deep depression or in the nuthouse.

There’s a lunatic asylum about a mile from where I live, and I pass it almost every day. Every time I pass I think of this, and work hard at being happy. Because happiness is not a state of grace, it’s like wealth or success—you need to pedal furiously every day just to stay in the same place. And on downhill days you gain ground.

I occasionally speak to some of the people who live at the asylum. As far as I’m aware, they’re not criminals, or dangerous people. A kind of ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ done Portugal style—nice peaceful people, just nuts. They have a day release program, and on Sundays they make their way to the village, ask for money, and generally get in the way.

One guy in particular I know better than the others, because I once raised him from the dead. At least I thought I did. He’s an old black guy, who used to trudge the road between the asylum and the village, armed with a plastic bottle of Coca-Cola. However, the contents were not the ‘dirty water of imperialism,’ as the Brazilian left used to say, but ‘carrascão‘, rough Portuguese red wine. The kind that puts hair on your chest and lead in your pencil.

I had a quick look at the origin of that saying. Apparently lead in your pencil is a euphemism for sexual vigor. Well, I say!

Lead has a density of 11.34 grams per cubic centimeter (almost wrote pubic). Now you know where I’m going with this, right? And you want to come along for the fun.

Since I don’t feel like sharing too much personal information this morning, I went in search of a digital erect penis. Google is persnickety about what they think are obscene search words, so if you write in ‘penis’, you don’t get a list, just a few helpful suggestions such as ‘enlargement’. But there is a Wikipedia site, both wierd and wonderful, with all that’s required for my calculations.

The two most memorable lines on that site are, in no particular order:

Measurements vary, with studies that rely on self-measurement reporting a significantly higher average than those with staff measuring.


An adult penis with an erect length of less than 7 cm or just under 3 inches, but otherwise formed normally, is referred to in medicine as a micropenis.

How’s that for a technical term? And yes, for the sick ones among you, there is a hot (sorry) link on micropenis. There’s a picture on there, too, and it’s pretty damn sad. As for the first quote, all I can say is I imagine it depends on the staff.

So we establish that your average phallus, when greeting a lady, has a length of five and a half inches—I love the way that’s conditioned by time of day and room temperature. Wonderful avenues of research seem to open, quite possibly leading to a special aircon setting called the optoerector. For metric penises, that’s fourteen centimeters—guys, I’m giving you a free extra 0.3 millimeters here on rounding up errors. Count your blessings.

The penile circumference is on average 3.7 inches, or 9.4 cm. We can use that to determine the radius, and therefore the cross-sectional (ouch—echoes of John Wayne Bobbitt) area.

Assuming, as any physicist might, that the penis is approximately cylindrical, then the volume of this magnificent beast is 5.5 X 1.09 = 5.99 cubic inches. Almost 100 c.c. Goodness, that’s bigger than most motorbikes in Hanoi. Ladies, you could ride to Ho Chi Min City on that thing!

The equivalent lead in your pencil weighs (wait for it) slightly under two and a half pounds, i.e. slightly over a kilo. You couldn’t even raise a smile with that!

My advice? Penises, like gasoline, are best lead-free.

One day, my black friend had clearly consumed too much of the ‘tinto‘ medication he had just purchased. About two hundred yards up the road, he was lying on his back, inanimate. I stopped the car, and verified he was breathing. Pretty shallow, but ventilating. Maybe he has some extra medical condition besides alcoholic coma and madness. Anyhow, after a while, I managed to restore him to a walking position. He staunchly refused a ride, took a swig from the coke bottle, and returned to base. Slowly.

I still see him every other day or so, but now with a green bottle, this one made of glass. That’s more of an old school container for gut rot, and he always waves when I pass.

When I arrived at university, after being paroled from boarding school (for good exams, not good behavior), Margaret Thatcher had just been elected. One day I went to the Students Union, where her education secretary, Keith Joseph, was giving a talk. I was in the third row, and in the next row up was a Welsh girl, fully outfitted in punk rock gear. Her father was a top executive in big oil, and she was very active in one of the extreme left organizations on campus.

The hard line outfits at the time were the Socialist Workers Party and the International Marxist Group. Of course they loathed each other, but came together against a common enemy.

The girl interrupted the speech after Joseph had spoken only three minutes or so. She wanted to ask a question. The secretary of education asked if it was urgent, and explained he would be taking questions at the end. The girl nodded, and he turned to her expectantly.

“Why don’t you FUCK OFF?” she screamed.

That was my first experience with British politics. Somewhat of a shock after growing up in a fascist regime and then two years in a British boarding school.

When Keith Joseph left, there was a mob waiting outside. I vividly remember him being pelted with eggs and sprinting for his car. He made an urgent and undignified exit, yolk running down his pinstripe suit, dotted here and there with pieces of eggshell.

Such are my memories of the Thatcher years. Years of iron. And lead.

Atmos Fear and The India Road. Quick links for smartphones.

Atmos Fear and The India Road. Quick links for smartphones.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: