Fieldwork may be testing at times, but it has its compensations.
Partly as a means of exploring the HA attitude to wishy-washy middle-class values, and partly to have something to talk about, I related to SKUP my ethical dilemma concerning the use of shampoo which has not been tested on animals. He listened intently, but made no comment on the moral substance of what I was saying. Instead, when I had finished, he asked to borrow the shampoo, claiming that he'd had a marvellous idea for making lots of sovereigns from it.
I was reluctant to allow SKUP access to any of my Earthly goods, for fear that I would never see them again. I told him that it was because I wasn't supposed to be polluting Virginian culture by exposing it to decadent bottles of shampoo from Cambridge, but SKUP would have none of it, and pleaded until I finally gave in. It wasn't as if he'd have much use for shampoo, after all...
When he brought it back about three hours later, the bottle was nearly empty, and SKUP was wearing a huge grin.
"RICHard," he said, gleefully, "I am going to make you very wealthy! When you return to Earth, you must sue these people at `The Body Shop'!"
Oh-oh, suing again.
"SKUP, I don't mean to sound dim, but why must I sue them?" I asked. "On what grounds?"
"It says here This product has not been tested on animals."
"So? It hasn't been tested on animals."
"So that's where you're wrong - it has been tested on animals, I know it has. You can sue them for lying!"
"Lying, right. And just how do you know it's been tested on animals? Did one of them smuggle out a note in the bottle?"
"Because I've just spent some time personally testing it on Lakka's third wife's rabbits. Didn't you hear them squealing?"
Fieldwork was never supposed to be like this...
What is fieldwork supposed to be like?
Well, it's supposed to consist primarily of endless days of drudgery making precise notes about all aspects of a culture. This gives the raw evidence from which a model of individuals' collective belief systems can be hypothesised, and experiments conducted to turn those hypotheses into theories. Eventually, what emerges is a cogent understanding of what exactly makes the society tick. The things that the people do and the way that they do them, although initially seeming strange and haphazard, have actually evolved over centuries as a system of checks and balances on behaviour, which overall have had a beneficial effect on the culture. Each belief, taken independently, may appear unfathomable, but woven together with other beliefs they can often be seen to make sense and have a definite purpose, even if the members of the tribe are unaware, or only dimly aware, of that purpose. "Circumcised men can't drink milk because the hearth god says so," might seem odd to us, but in a society where milk is scarce, that means there's more available for the infants who can make better use of it.
It's this gradual coming together of a whole picture of a society from disparate examples of it in action which makes fieldwork so compelling - and, at times, so frustrating!
In these early stages of studying the HA, of course, my notes weren't remotely detailed, consisting mainly of complaints about the HAish language's brutal treatment of my vocal chords. I felt, though, that once I was more able to converse without going through SKUP, I was sure to begin to start making progress.
My other chief complaint was my hut. It was gradually becoming intolerable, and the longer I stayed there the more I became aware of the other wildlife with which I shared it. I mentioned to SKUP once that I'd found a rat gnawing at my underpants, and his reaction was to ask if he could borrow them to use as bait himself. I didn't enquire as to what he would do with a rat if he caught one, but my guess is that it would involve some culinary practice best left unexplored.
The last straw came when I awoke one morning with a strange, scratching feeling on my leg. I sat up, gingerly pulled aside the bedclothes, and saw the most enormous beast of a spider I have ever had the misfortune to witness.
"SKUP," I called out, then, louder, "SKUP!". The spider was scuttling about, its horrible brown legs each almost 5cm long, and its ugly, fat body perhaps 2cm. Its fangs were huge.
"SKUP!" I yelled, at the top of my voice. "There's a spider the size of a cat on my leg! What do I do?"
A sleepy-looking SKUP appeared. As soon as he saw the spider, his eyes opened wide, and his jaw dropped in amazement.
"Is it ... poisonous?" I gulped.
"Very," he replied, warily. "One bite from that and you'll be paralysed within moments like a statue. An hour or so after that, and you'll be dead."
The spider seemed to be looking for the juiciest part of my leg that it could find. It crawled over my knee, and onto my thigh.
"What shall I do?" I asked, trying my best to keep a stiff upper lip but not altogether succeeding.
"Very slowly, lie down flat on your back," answered SKUP, with authority.
I obeyed. "Will this stop it from biting me, then?" (hopefully).
"No," SKUP replied, "but it'll make you easier to carry out of here if it does."
The spider moved again.
"SKUP, if you don't do something soon, it's going to go somewhere where I won't be able to stay still." I was almost shaking as it was. "Can you perhaps kill it? Please?"
"Well I could pour boiling water over it, I suppose."
"W-What?! I'm about to have a venomous spider lay its eggs in my leg, and now you want to scald me as well? Just hit it with something, and quick!"
SKUP reached into his back pocket and pulled out a flask. From it he tipped a pale yellow fluid which my nostrils instantly informed me was HA whisky.
The movement stopped. I could feel my leg beginning to burn, but was too afraid to move it. Cautiously, I peeked down.
The spider lay dead, of course; nothing could survive the terrible fate that had befallen it.
SKUP was looking at the rest of his whisky, ruefully. "I must have tipped eight pennies' worth of it on your leg," he sighed.
"Yes, SKUP," I conceded, reaching for a boot just to make sure the spider wasn't thinking of resurrection. "Remind me to give you an extra six pennies for the whisky you used."
"Six pennies?" he repeated, indignantly. "I said eight!"
"Ahh, but there's still two pennies' worth on my leg. You're welcome to lick it off if you want, but if you prefer to let it go to waste, well, I'd just as soon wash it away."
As expected, SKUP didn't want his tongue going anywhere that water had been, so he reluctantly accepted six pennies as his compensation.
We can be hard bargainers at times, we anthropologists...
So it was that one morning I was walking across the village circle, trying to think of yet another scheme to get myself a better hut, when I was greeted by the village tailor. The term "tailor" perhaps rather glorifies his rôle; the HAish word describing his function translates literally as "he who does things with animal outsides". His main job (such as the HA have jobs) was an on-going attempt to coax vegetables to grow on his small patch of land, the idea being that he could sell the results to people too lazy to hunt or slaughter livestock. Since he himself was too lazy to pursue these market gardening ambitions, however, he resorted to a little clothes-making as a side-line, hence his claim to be a "tailor".
Anyway, a day or so earlier I had paid him the visit that I had promised myself, to arrange for him to make me some clothes. It was a bit early for him to be coming to me with excuses for having done nothing, so I was somewhat at a loss as to what he might want. HA clothes are so baggy that he surely wouldn't want to measure my inside leg or anything.
What he said was absolutely flabbergasting - it caught me completely by surprise. I've had expectations proved false before, but this time what happened had never even entered my head as a possibility.
He said, "I've finished your clothes."
At first, I thought my knowledge of HAish was insufficient, and he had used some idiom which meant "only another 6 months and I'll have done a sleeve," but no, he really had finished them. What's more, I'd ordered two sets and he'd finished them both. He took me to his hut, showed me the clothes, and let me try them on (despite his rather suspicious attitude to my grimeless flesh). They fitted a treat.
I felt as if in some kind of a daze. In my time with the HA thus far, the greatest industry I had ever seen any of them undertake was their ritual search for alcohol. No, I tell a lie, I did see a female HA beating one of her husbands quite energetically with a snake, apparently because he'd brought her the wrong one, but it was a one-off incident. How, then, had the tailor stirred himself to fix my clothes?
The answer was as confounding as the problem. "I wasn't doing anything else," the tailor replied.
As I wandered back to my hut, having left all but SKUP's shirt of my old clothes behind for the tailor to sell to someone in need of human-fed fleas, it occurred to me that I may have been granted a brief insight into the HA mind-set. It wasn't that they avoided work; rather, they put a premium on doing what they felt like doing, and if that happened to be what others might call work, so be it. I recognised that this same attitude had also been manifested among the more civilised orcs I'd seen in MEKTO, who more resented "having" to work, rather than working per se. If I'd gone to the tailor and told him I wanted my clothes before I left back for Earth half a year later, I would never have had them; the fact that (in my pessimism) I didn't even bother to ask him when they'd be ready meant he felt free to make them when the urge took him, which was pretty well immediately as it happened1.
I decided to test my hypothesis. I would approach Lakka and ask him how I could go about getting a new hut constructed. Such a large-scale proposition would doubtless need his permission, and he'd probably want to organise it, too, but I promised myself that I wouldn't even mention an interest in how long it would take; I'd only ask him if he could fix it up and what it would cost overall, but then, if he agreed to do it, I'd say no more until the project was finished.
I told SKUP first that I wanted a new hut, to see whether I was following the correct protocol by going to Lakka about it. SKUP was a little indignant at first, demanding to know what was wrong with the tumble-down shack I was enduring at the moment, but when I explained that it would help my studies tremendously if I could witness the construction of a new building, he acquiesced (it helped, his being an academic himself, of course...). Yes, naturally I understood that this would require some careful translation, and he would need some expenses to pay for all the extra time it would take him (sigh).
So it was that the next time I saw Lakka sober, I dragged SKUP from his hiding place and went over for a chat. The chief was indeed the only person in the village with the authority to permit a new hut to be built, and he readily agreed. He even offered me some space in his own compound for it, which I took to mean that he had his eye on another wife, and would move her in the moment I left back for Earth. "Of course, when I eventually have to leave the village, my hut would naturally pass to you," I commented, which was of course the precise answer he was hoping for; that sealed it.
The only other thing that needed to be negotiated was the price. This, reasonably enough, depended on what kind of hut I wanted.
"Just a normal, everyday hut like everyone else has," I said.
"You don't want a tower?"
"No-one else has a tower."
"But what if you had a hideous, illegitimate daughter that you wanted to hide from everyone?"
"I'll be gone before she's born..." I was not about to let Lakka charge extra for unnecessary additions.
"But if one of your wives went insane and behaved like a she-wolf?"
"She could move to my old hut. No tower."
"Well, what about a cellar then? You might - "
"I don't want to carry out any unspeakable experiments to bring the dead back to life, either. No cellar."
"So that's an ordinary hut, then."
"Yes, an ordinary hut. Except with a door that closes and a roof that keeps out the wet."
"An ordinary hut." He sighed.
I was suddenly seized with alarm at the thought that a disappointed Lakka meant an uninterested Lakka, and no interest meant no work!
"Well perhaps, as I'm taller than you, you could make its proportions a little larger?"
Having established all the necessary architectural details, Lakka and SKUP then entered into a heated bargaining session. After several minutes, Lakka was getting the better of it if SKUP's frown was anything to go by; I decided that perhaps I should intervene personally, to save SKUP from losing face.
"What does Lakka want?" I asked.
"Four goats and six chickens."
"What are you offering?"
"Three goats, nine chickens."
"How many chickens to the goat?"
"Lakka says 12, but these are good chickens."
"But I don't have any chickens."
"You will do when we next go to MIkuMIku."
"So how much does four goats and six chickens come to in sovereigns and pennies?"
"81 pennies?" So SKUP was arguing over the cost of an $8.10 hut. "Agree to four goats and six chickens."
"But RICHard - "
" - and remember that the two sovereigns a month I'm paying you could buy you six huts at that price."
"Not quite: five."
"OK, five, just agree with the man!"
Where did SKUP keep his calculator?
The next trip to MIkuMIku was one of the more surreal. I took the set of new clothes that I'd worn that week with me, so that Margaret could put them through the fort's laundry, but first I had to give her a fashion parade to show what the well-dressed HA was wearing this season. Reluctantly, I took off my leathers in another room, donning in their stead the baggy linen shirt, the baggy linen trousers and the baggy linen tunic that completed the outfit. I reappeared, and posed, warily.
As I feared, the pinnacle of HA sartorial elegance somehow looks faintly ridiculous out of context, and in this instance did substantially more so as I had on my motorcycling boots with it all. Still, at least Mike and Margaret found it amusing, or so I adjudged from the tears of laughter running down their faces as they thumped on the table begging me to change back.
It was the return trip to OLtic which was bizarre. SKUP had rustled up some goats (probably literally) in the village itself, so I only needed to buy the chickens in MIkuMIku. SKUP duly procured these for me at the market, and when when it became time to leave we packed them into one of the panniers on the Mullinger Mark III Ox and closed the lid. SKUP assured me that they would be fine inside, there was plenty of air, and he'd maintain a vigilant eye on them. This last promise I did not expect him to keep, since he had used his latest set of expenses to buy himself a bottle of SHEPKATmiMEK whisky, and was more interested in maintaining a vigilant eye on that than he was the chickens...
As it was, the chickens were fine in the pannier, it's just that they didn't stay in it. After some 20 minutes, when I was trundling along at around 40 miles per hour, one of them managed to get prehensile performance out of its beak and undid the catch. A moment later, the air was full of fluttering feathers as chicken after chicken leapt for freedom and bounced clucking off the road in whatever direction chance determined. As soon as I realised that I was not being attacked by space aliens armed with chicken-firing bazookas I pulled to a halt, but by then some of the little critters had regained consciousness and were happily flapping for cover. It was the first time in my life that I had encountered a form of currency which could run.
SKUP reacted instantly. "RICHard," he said, "it looks like you're going to need help."
"Put it on expenses!" I cried, diving after one of the less mobile chickens and managing to retrieve a good portion of its tail before the rest of it ran squawking beneath a bush.
Given this cash inducement to leap from my bike and race into the undergrowth, SKUP casually dismounted and strode off down the road. It was getting dark, so I didn't hold out much hope of either of us having much success, but I was spurred on by the realisation that I might not get my house if I couldn't find all six birds (or, alternatively, if I couldn't find 0·5 goats).
I finally managed to catch one scrawny old hen by trapping it with a large branch that I had snapped with off a tree with the superhuman strength that comes with mad panic. It was while I was stuffing the loudly protesting bird back in its pannier that SKUP finally emerged from the gloom; under his arms he had all the remaining chickens.
"RICHard, it was amazing," he said, honestly surprised. "I just walked towards them and they came running to me, jumping up to me, as if they wanted to be with me."
"I knew there'd be some advantage to smelling like a hen house," I sighed. "Drop them back in their pannier, and take a sip of whisky. If any of them look like escaping a second time, breathe on them."
I awoke the next day to a furious crashing and banging. Could work have begun on my hut already? I hadn't handed over the payment yet, so it seemed unlikely, but I peeked through one of the many large gaps in my existing (barely) hut's door to see what was going on.
An orc boy was looking back at me, a rather guilty expression on his face, as if he knew he'd been caught in the act of doing something naughty and was debating whether to flee or simply deny everything.
I opened the door.
"It wasn't me," he said.
"I don't believe you," I answered.
"I was just passing," he replied. "Yes, that's right, I was just passing, and, and I saw this thing, right, snooping about, yes, I remember now, in a - no, up a tree - and it looked dangerous, so I picked up a rock, a big rock, it took two of me to pick it up it was so big, and I, er, I threw the rock at the thing, and then it made this loud noise and I must have killed it."
I couldn't help but be reminded of the dialogue of Jimmy Cagney gangster movies: "I, I put my hand in my pocket and I found the gun, yeah, that's right, I found it, right there in my pocket, someone must'a put it there to - to frame me, yeah, it's a frame up!"
The boy seemed to recognise that his story wasn't entirely convincing, and chose that moment to bolt. I looked around briefly, but couldn't see any obvious cause of the racket, so I went back to bed.
Half an hour or so later I was awoken by a knock at the door. It was Lakka, accompanied by SKUP.
"Lakka says," said SKUP, "that he'd be very happy if you could help fill in the pit that someone has dug blocking the road into the village."
"I've only just woken up!" I protested.
"Suit yourself," SKUP shrugged. "It's your motorbike down there."
Several days later, I was trying to get the soil out of my bike's braking clamps when SKUP came up to me, holding some of his correspondence course notes.
"RICHard," he said, without enquiring whether I was busy or not, "what does tort mean?"
"Ah," I replied, knowledgably. "That's Latin, a language they used to use on Earth. Actually, it's medieval Latin, I think, not original Latin - it's from tortum, meaning something twisted. A tort is a violation of civil law, other than breach of contract."
"I see, right," he studied hard. "Only from what I was reading, it seemed to be some kind of cake."
I groaned. "It is a cake, it's an Austrian cake, but the word is torte2, with an e at the end."
"I know that, I can read it. Why did you tell me how to spell it?"
"Because - " I realised that I didn't actually know why I'd told him how to spell it, so I had to splutter instead.
"So it's a cake," he repeated, not entirely convinced. "And are there any other kinds of tort I should know about?"
"No, those are the only two."
"But what about taught, the past tense of teach? That's another word that sounds the same."
"Gimme those notes," I snarled, and snatched them from his hands. After perusing a few lines, it transpired that the text concerned a case where some woman had made a decent living from suing small, family-run bakeries in different cities across several continents for not putting enough nuts in their tortes to meet the standards described in a little-known 300-year old law...
I looked up. "So you're still on suing," I said.
"Yes," sighed SKUP, taking back his notes when I held them out to him. "They didn't like my last essay, and they're making me do some more on suing before I can proceed to criminal law."
"What was your essay about?" I ventured, somewhat uneasily because although I was curious enough to want to know the answer right at that moment, I wasn't convinced that I would want to know it after he'd told me.
"The other day, I bought some whisky in MIkuMIku," he began.
"Yes, I remember."
"Well I had a reason: I was going to test what I'd written in my essay."
"Well, on the bottle it said Genuine 10-year old SHEPKATmiMEK whisky - "
" - and you're going to keep it a year and then sue them because the label would by then be wrong..."
SKUP nodded, sadly. "I thought it was a good idea." He sniffed; he seemed almost close to tears.
"SKUP, SKUP," I said, putting my arm round his shoulders (how was I going to explain that stain to Margaret?). "Don't get dispirited, everyone has to re-do work every once in a while."
"I'm always having to do it," he replied. "I spent over six hours on that last essay, and they told me it was hopeless."
"The thing is, SKUP, you're too imaginative. They don't want unique ideas every week on different ways to sue people; all they require is for you to show a basic understanding of what it is you're supposed to have learned. They're not concerned with great ideas for making money; if you can merely demonstrate that you know the general principles that you ought to know at this stage in the course, they'll be happy. The key to academia is to give the professors what they want."
"But it's not what I want!" he moaned.
This response presented me with a dilemma. I had already noted that an important facet of HA culture was to rate freedom of action very, very highly. Should I accept this, treat SKUP as a representative of the tribe I was studying, and give him no advice? Or should I compromise it, treat SKUP as an individual, and answer his plea for help?
Bugger anthropology: SKUP was a friend.
"What do you want?" I asked.
"I want to be a lawyer."
"So which do you want the most? To be a lawyer, or to write essays that you like but that your teachers don't?"
"To be a lawyer." He wiped a tear from his eye (probably the first water his cheek had seen since the last time it rained).
"Writing boring essays is easy, but uninteresting. Writing creative essays is hard, but interesting. The lesson you have to learn is how to make writing boring essays interesting. Understand?"
"I understand." He wasn't any happier.
"So how about if you take the ideas that you want to put into your normal essays, and try to hide them so that the professors don't know? So although you're really writing about suing the makers of orc whisky for being lax in their product descriptions, you've made it look like you're writing about, oh, I don't know, a whisky distillery which deliberately labels their bottles stating they contain ten-year old whisky even though they know the whisky is only four years old. It's much more prosaic, of course, but the professors will be able to look at the example without being distracted by it."
"So I should try to trick the professors? I should disguise what my ideas are, so they can't tell I have them?"
"Of course! Back on Earth, I'm like a professor, and my students do this sort of thing all the time. They apply my theories, not their own, because it gets them marks. Then, when they have finally passed their examinations, they have acquired the necessary experience to develop and apply their own theories."
Well, OK, I was being a bit optimistic there...
"I shall try this, RICHard," SKUP said, brightening up. "Thank you."
"My pleasure, SKUP," I replied. "And if it doesn't work, well, at least you went down fighting."
"If it doesn't work, I can sue you for giving me bad advice!" he smiled.
"An important man is coming to the village," announced Lakka.
I knew he was waiting for me to ask "Who's that then?", so I said nothing, just to annoy him.
"The man," continued Lakka, annoyed, "is HAIKAG to the HA."
I looked at SKUP. "What's a HAIKAG?"
SKUP shrugged. "I don't know the English word. He is our spiritual leader."
Spiritual leader? It hadn't occurred to me that the HA had any kind of spiritual side to their nature at all, but it was indeed something every anthropology textbook makes mention of.
"What does this HAIKAG do?" I asked, instantly entering data acquisition mode.
"Do?" SKUP seemed puzzled. "He is HAIKAG. He does what he wants."
Of course he does, but then so does every other HA...
I tried a different tack. "What does he teach?"
"From darkness comes light."
"And what does that mean?"
SKUP laughed. "Are you a complete idiot?"
"Let me guess: it means that from darkness comes light?"
"That's exactly what it means."
Lakka interrupted. "You want to meet the HAIKAG?"
Did I ever! "Yes please," I replied.
Lakka cast a sly glance at SKUP. "Take the path out of the village, and at the crossroads turn right. Keep on going and about 50 paces after old MOllok's cart there is another right turn you should take. Continue along this and follow the road as it curves until it forks: take the right fork. The road continues to curve, and you should follow it until it meets another road. Follow this in the direction of the sun. Ignore all turns until you get to the crossroads, then turn right."
"Keep on going, and you'll meet the HAIKAG."
It seemed rather a circuitous route, but it had to be worth it to meet this orc. "Does he know about me?" I asked.
"Most certainly," Lakka replied.
"And how will I know him?"
"He has no hair."
No hair? Orcs tend to have very thick, bristly hair. In older orcs is gets white, and for very old male orcs it may thin a little, but I hadn't yet seen a bald orc. "Let me write down those directions," I said, taking out my notepad.
Luckily for me, old MOllok's cart was where Lakka said it would be, although he hadn't mentioned that old MOllok would be asleep in it trying to shake off the remnants of the day before's hangover. The "road" was, naturally enough, little more than a muddy path, but I followed it as it turned through 90 degrees over the course of perhaps two miles, and I successfully identified the fork (there were other paths around which led into fields, but I was fairly sure they couldn't be it).
The track continued to turn gently, and eventually I came across the next promised junction. I followed this in the direction of the sun (somewhat surprised that it didn't run orthogonally to it), and kept on going until I reached the crossroads.
I realised at this point that the crossroads was the one I had originally stopped at when I left the village. Turning right would take me straight back into OLtic.
Naturally, I wasn't entirely happy at having just walked ten miles only to find that I'd come full circle. I had been sent on a wild goose chase, obviously, and would be mocked for weeks to come. The whole HAIKAG story was probably a lie from top to bottom to make me look even more of a fool than I would do already. Spiritual leader indeed! Angrily, I stomped off towards the village, an image forming in my mind of Lakka laughing at his practical joke but stopping in horror as I pulled every hair from his head in great clumps. I would have revenge!
Upon reaching the circle, though, I found a group of orcs waiting for me. Lakka was there, with SKUP alongside him, and a completely bald (but not at all old) orc slightly to one side.
"RICHard," called SKUP. "Your hut is finished."
Finished? What had they done while I was away, set it aflame?
The way SKUP was smiling, though, told me he thought I should be happy.
"You mean you've completed my new hut?" I asked, in disbelief: it had only taken them an afternoon.
"Of course! You must come and see it!"
In a state of numbness, I was led to Lakka's enclosure. There it was, a beautiful new hut, slightly larger than its neighbours but otherwise the same. Cautiously, I looked inside: it contained all my gear. The orcs must have transported it from my other hut for me.
"This is ... unbelievable!" I said. "I don't know how to thank you for making me such a perfect hut. It's better than I ever thought possible!" Of course, I had asked to see its being built, but still - a new hut!
"Is it worth an extra chicken?" asked Lakka, hopefully.
I pretended not to hear him. "You sent me out of the village so that it would give you time to build this, and I would get a nice surprise when I returned," I said. "How thoughtful."
"No," said SKUP, "we sent you out of the village because before anyone gets a new hut they have to walk completely round all the existing huts. While they do it, the HAIKAG's presence ensures that everything is as propitious as possible."
My anthropological training cut in. Making would-be hut owners walk round the village would be a good mechanism for ensuring that HA settlements didn't get too large; I was interested to hear what the official rationale was.
"Why must anyone who wants a new hut walk round the village?" I asked.
The HAIKAG answered. "Your feet hurt. You will go into your new hut and lie down to rest them. From the darkness comes light."
"You mean that after the pain of all that walking, relaxing in my new hut will make it seem even more like home?"
The HAIKAG smiled. "Again, from the darkness comes light!" he said.
In the dead of night, I crept up to the house where the boy who pushed my motorbike in a pit lived. Loudly, I banged on his door, crying, "I want to buy a clock! I want to buy a clock!"
An anguished voice inside told me I'd woken someone up. "What the fish is going on?" the voice said. "Do you know what time it is?!"
"If I did, I wouldn't want to buy a clock," I replied, and raced speedily back to my new abode.
1 The nearest I ever got to an explanation of why this might be was when he once commented in a state of drunkenness that I was "an interesting shape". I resolved to be flattered by the remark rather than insulted...
2 The word derives from the Late Latin torta, a round loaf. I thought I'd better note that here, to prove my academic snob credentials...
21st January 1999: ltlwo5.htm