Harold Strachan's Last Word

That's art


If I were a woman I’d hate to be called a babe. I’d hate even more to be called a chick. A reasonably dof babe stands a chance of becoming a reasonably dof woman, I suppose, but a chick can become somebody’s din-dins or an ingredient in a tin of catfood, and that’s it. And if I were a full-grown female H sapiens of purpose in this life I’d hate like anything to be called a girl – like my brain had got stuck at the age of ten or something, and the only parts of my person to develop into adulthood were my you-
knows. Then even in this day and age, as they say, there’s this bloke called Fihlokwake Mkize who is employed as flatboy round here to clean the twelfth floor windows without falling to his doom, and he says to me from outside one day, he says, I am now fifty years old, do I have to wait ‘til a hundred before I get called a man? 

Well, it’s all very complicated, see. I mean there’s this mystique about being one of the boys (++ male) or a window boy (– gender) or a girl (hominid dishwasher in pink PnP maid’s uniform) or a girl as visually defined in that telly advert for some machissimo poker paradise where all this mindless crumpet stalks round and round a swimming pool clad in naught but three samoosa-shape minimal bits of cloth with strings and fifteen centimetre stiletti under their heels, and smile with all 64 teeth all day. And what cause do they have to smile?  Why, there’s this ou with sufficient IQ to breathe and take nourishment and he’s in a sort of gym where he declares that he wins his friends, and demonstrates this by seriously thumping around with his fists a number of great big men. Also he wins his girls, which he emonstrates by sitting at the above pool clad in but one minimal samoosa with strings plus a white vest, and he’s covered almost entirely by wriggling giggling pink female flesh until you start to feel maybe you wouldn’t mind seeing somebody with some clothes on. Finally he declares he wins his poker too, and there you see him with some clothes on scooping up a huge mound of chips with his huge hands in this gambling hell, most other men being still unconscious. End of advertisement. 

Every showing brings to mind a similar ou I knew, name of Buks, back in the days when I taught figure drawing to senior graphics and fine art students, three hours a day, five days a week. Fifteen hours. A lot of studying the human body, that, and I always stressed good drawing is more what you do with your eyes than what you do with your pencil. Then one day the model agency phones to say they have a very sturdy suntanned and oiled body-builder signed on, and would we like a male model for a change? Why not? chorus the students, why do we always have females?  Because in my experience men like talking big about all the babes they shag, say I, but when it comes to standing revealed in every detail with people studying every detail they go all kind of silly and get... well sort of... you know... out of shape. As it were.

Never to worry! cry all, we’ll let him wear his underpants! And anyway, say I, body-builders don’t know how to look graceful, they’re always pumping up their monstrous muscles for the cameras. We’ll relax him! they cry, we’ll tell him to shut his eyes and go dreamy!  

So okay, we sign him on if the agency tells him he mustn’t oil himself all over to make his muscles shiny and he must wear his underpants. Two pairs, just to make sure, because of the majestic musculature. The students explain to him he is here to show the human side of things, he should just close his eyes and relax as when sleepy. So he does that, he’s doing fine, but then quite slowly at first, he... he ...starts showing the animal side of things, I mean he slowly gets... gets... he gets... OUT OF SHAPE. All drawing stops. All fall quiet, all are motionless, as hypnotised. I fear some sort of Hindenburg crisis pretty soon.
Okay all, I declare, break for a cuppa.

No no! cry all, we’ve just had one! Further hypnotism. Then after a bit a lad called Billy says to his partner: I don’t know, Baz, says he, I’d have expected better than that, and other side of Basil a wild flame-headed creature called Daisy Pegg declares Yes, I’ve seen better in my time, and ou Buks slowly slowly gets back in shape and the drawing resumes as if nothing has happened.

Bi-m-by Buks comes for his money. Hey sorry man, says he. That red-hair babe was undresseen me wif her eyes. Yes, say I, that’s what I teach them. That’s art? says Buks. That’s art, say I.

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