Tuesday 13 December 2011

Earthy and Graphic

I am on holiday and refusing to write about mental health...

My old employer Swansea Sound's weather lady got it right this morning as I heard while running in the gym: "I'm sorry but I can't sugar-coat it - the weather's going to be AWFUL". I found out how right she was when I went outside to swim. And they hadn't put the cover on the pool last night so it had virtually frozen. Is this neglect because ubiquitous smiling beardie and inexplicably popular hippy-capitalist Richard Branson recently took it over? The staff are too busy painting everything red.

The water was bitterly cold on the first length but it got worse as I swam back, this time right into the 50 mph wind which blinded me with a blast of hail. I recuperated in the Jacuzzi feeling I had earned a bacon sandwich at Forte's in Bracelet Bay where I head after mooching for a couple of hours in Swansea town centre.

The sea looks quite calm in Swansea Bay but as I turned the corner past the twin rocks of Mumbles head I could see the rolling high seas beyond. Very cosy eating my lunch with a hot cuppa while looking out on the storm through this old Italian caff's picture window.

Time to reflect that Mumbles is of course so named after the two above-mentioned, breast-like rocks - possibly from the French "mamelles" or Latin "mammillae" but I think from an older Celtic coinage - you won't find a more universal root than this onomatopoeic representation of breast-feeding. We can only hope that Thomas Bowdler, the infamous and much-ridiculed censor of Shakespeare who lived here for much of his life, was unaware of this etymology and so went about his business unembarrassed in the village.

My favourite bowdlerising is in Iago's report in Othello (Act I, Scene I) transforming "I am one, sir, that comes to tell you, your daughter and the Moor are now making the beast with two backs" (Shakespeare) to "...your daughter and the Moor are now together" (Bowdler's "The Family Shakespeare"). Nothing could better illustrate the contrast between the earthy and graphic Elizabethans and the (somehow grubbier?) 19C prudery - so much is conveyed in that coy evasion "together".