I’ve Forgotten How To Swear
Wednesday, 25 August 2010
Is this a good thing? Well it would be, but for one small problem.
I was up in Edinburgh last week for the UKIPT poker tournament. It began well; I won every pot I played for the first couple of hours (which was quite a few pots, I was in an active mood) and my chips were soon up to 27,000 from the starting stack of 15,000. It wasn’t as easy a table as one might hope for in this tournament - the UKIPT events have relatively small buy-ins, and the opening field is usually quite soft - but I was sitting between Marius Lietuvninkas (who’s currently top of the UKIPT leader board after playing 4 events for 3 cashes and 1 final table) and Joeri Zandvliet (who won the UKIPT Manchester and went on to finish 4th in this one). Lietuvninkas and Zandvliet: if those two names were read out in the Vic, one of the Cockneys would be bound to chuckle “Local boys…” It is interesting how far people travel to play this grass-roots British tour. These two are Lithuanian and Dutch.
Anyway, relatively strong table but I was doing fine. Then I lost a huge 50,000 pot after flopping a set and losing to a straight. Then I found a pair of kings, reraised all in for a chunky 9,000 and ran into aces. Quite a mind-blowing five minutes of poker, that was. But don’t worry! That is not when I was trying to swear. I never lose my temper at the poker table. Besides, I decided that this was good luck disguised as bad: now I had the chance to wander off into the Edinburgh Fringe and search gleefully, as I have done many times over the years, for weird and wonderful (or weird and terrible) entertainment.
My friend Ben and I hit the jackpot immediately with a show called The Buffoons, somewhere near Grassmarket. Apparently (Ben discovered in a random conversation the next day) these were drama students paying tribute to an ancient French theatrical tradition of “airing society’s ills” on the stage, throwing taboos at the audience to see what happened. But there was no clue in the performance, nor any programme, to indicate such dramatic ambitions. We were just looking at five young people in weird costumes, running around shouting rude words. They were good performers, but the material was right in the gutter. There was a rape sketch. There was a crapping sketch. There was a sketch about an old lady whose womb fell on the floor. There was a sketch about someone in a wheelchair that was ABSOLUTELY NOT OKAY.
And then there was the fruit sketch. This involved one of the actors coming on with a basket of fruit and shouting rude puns. It began with him pulling out an apricot and shouting “RAPE-ricot!”. Then there was a pear: “A pear… of TESTES!”. Then there was a bag of frozen peas (not technically fruit, but why quibble?) accompanied by a cheery cry of “Pea-DOPHILES!”
Of course, none of these things actually is taboo in modern comedy, and certainly not in Edinburgh at festival time. Rape, testicles, paedophiles, whatever; it’s hard to walk across the Pleasance courtyard and find a conversation about anything else. But these kids’ relentless devotion to the grim was quite diverting; we were laughing, if not entirely for the right reasons. I’ll say this (and it’s a compliment, this is the Holy Grail of Edinburgh, and that special place in the Venn diagram where it doesn’t matter if something is stunningly good or shockingly bad): we certainly weren’t bored.
We saw three more shows the same day, went drinking and I forgot about The Buffoons. Forgot about them, that is, until about 45 minutes into a comedy show at The Caves the following night. It was a show that called for lots of audience participation, and it was quite a small audience. By 45 minutes in, when the comedian was calling for two people to join him on stage, everyone had been up already apart from Ben and me. We looked at each other. I’m not massively keen on audience participation. But he seemed like a nice guy and we couldn’t let the silence go on all night, so up we hopped.
It turned out that we were up there for a swearing competition. We were supposed to shout swear words at each other to win a prize. Ben kicked it off with a rousing f-word. Then it was my turn. Ben waited. The comedian waited. The audience waited.
Unfortunately, there was only one swear word in my head.
Yes, from the depths of memory it had emerged, and now clung to my brain like a chorus of I Should Be So Lucky if you wake up to it on the radio. It ricocheted around my mind to the exclusion of all else. “Rape-ricot, rape-ricot, rape-ricot”, sang my inner voice, deafeningly.
Fortunately, I managed to replace it with a loud new train of thought: “Don’t say rape-ricot, don’t say rape-ricot. Everyone will think you’re a lunatic.”
But there were no other words there. So I said nothing at all. The comedian waited politely for about a minute, in total silence, then sent us back to our seats and Ben won a miniature swingball kit.
I am worried that this is now a permanent condition. Maybe all the swear words in my head have been replaced, forever, by rape-ricot? I don’t swear very often so it isn’t a huge problem (if it were my brother, then there’d be trouble) but God forbid I stub my toe in a public place any time soon.
What’s the oddest thing that’s happened to you in Scotland?