Academic journal article Cross / Cultures

11: Jeux d'Esprit

Academic journal article Cross / Cultures

11: Jeux d'Esprit

Article excerpt

Type Face No. 1

This exuberant specimen has exploded into your life already, so apart from slightly varying facial characteristics, he will be readily identified. His predominant facet is a buoyancy that no hint can squelch or no apology convince. He is, first of all, happy and adjusted. He is suspicious of anything connected with the arts, and there has never been anything in poetry since "The Burial of Sir John Moore," especially after a few rounds of rum. His favourite topics are Headley in his heyday, sex, Headley in decline, the kidney condition of his car, and the softness of the present generation of schoolboys.

Handsome, with a trim mustache, live-skinned, hair kempt, nails kempter, dark glasses, tending to bulge a little in the middle, and desperately alone without the boys in immediate circumference. Possible habitats are insurance offices, Government Service, but more usually selling something or other. Convinced absolutely of the quality of his product.

Intellectually, never ventures further than Frank Yerby, though may have read two or three Somerset Maugham novels. Descends very swiftly into familiar abuse when addressing the lower orders, because 'it's the kind of language' they understand. Weekends at nightclub bars, can be seen in loose flowing Tower Isle shirt, describing speed at which he traversed the Junction Road, threatening his own life and limb, and modestly attributing his preservation to the ductility of his car.

Played cricket and football for his college, but did not manage to enter a university. Swims, may shoot, likes card-games heavy with liquor, can swear in front of his old man, so does not use normal speech. Extremely deferential to his wife-to-be, extremely generous to all children, if not a bachelor. Fears cancer, balding, serious discussions, women. Ignores politics except on Sunday morning around rum-table conferences. Believes in Federation, the Reader's Digest, God (but will not admit it), inevitability of impotence, the lower classes knowing their place, and security.

[PO, Sat, Jan 26,1957:6]

Type Face No. 2

This silver-haired, mousefooted, velvet-tongued spinster can be discovered in the darkest comers of institutes, lending libraries, archive offices, and anywhere that pamphlets and reports gather dust. She has seen the rise and fall of several young gentlemen of the department or the firm, and watches their exits with a fixed smile.

Several years older than the water-cooler, and equally self-contained outwardly, she has survived the great Kingston earthquake, and can remember when the boss was still in knickers and with a lisp. As exact as hygiene, she still carries her own lunch to the office, and at the lunch hour there is not a surviving soul who would dare think of sitting in what she affectionately calls her 'pew'. Thirty-six mastications to each fragment of her sandwich; and the wrinkled little finger will poised as she sips her Ovaltine.

She instituted the tea-break, can fix the Gestetner machine, will not take any more dictation, and justifiably considers herself, from eight-thirty to five, the dial's centre of all department activity. Everything about her is knowledgeable, charming, neat, but somewhat feline. She can be said to purr approval, to hiss at the mistakes of the youngest typist on the staff, and to walk on felt feet from desk to desk.

Somehow she has never married, and one feels that perhaps there is more than maternal affection in the way she drapes the covering over her typewriter, as she might prepare a son for school; or cleans its keys, as if they were a little boy's teeth. When she has closed the office, dusted her desk, fixed her hair, and walked neatly downstairs to a point on the sidewalk where an old friend of the family will pick her up, she still carries the office with her, even when she has become somebody's aunt on a St Andrew verandah and is devouring love stories until supper. She must be the only specimen alive that actually longs for Monday mornings. …

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