Friday, 3 May 2013

Vicarious sex and heraldry

The Bonfiglioli ABC   (continued)

C:  Concupiscence.   Coat-of-arms.    


Concupiscence

To a 19 year old virgin (please don't snigger; it was the early 1950s) Bonfig's explicit revelations of sexual adventure were a world away from my experience, a little uncomfortable but exciting.  I had only recently left an all-boys school and my weekend activity tended to be healthy and outdoor, mostly climbing in the Grampian Mountains.  Even a midnight bivouac at 3,000 feet near the summit of Braeriach, snuggled under a groundsheet with Irene and a half-bottle of rum, failed to stir what I later came to recognize as a healthy response.  I must have been at that time much younger than my years.

     Bonfig's lurid tales, much relished in the telling, included his greenstick seduction by the family housemaid, his cuckolding of a fellow NCO and a brief affair with the wife of a well-known poet.  

     My reaction may have appeared calm and non-committal but only because I really didnt know how to react.  My affectation of coolness drove him to tease me with yet more erotic tales.

Coat-of-Arms.

Bonfig and I left our mark on the Bridge of Don Barracks. 

     Did you know, sir, he said one day to the Company Commander, that your coat-of-arms above the square is painted in the wrong heraldic colours?

     How do you know? said Major Brown.  Are you an expert on heraldry?

     As a matter of fact, I am, sir.

     In that case, youd better get hold of some paint, fix up some scaffolding and paint the damned thing right!’    

     Only later did Bonfig plead vertigo and volunteer me for the job.  So it was that Sgt Ginger Ross and I did the jobbing painter work under Bonfig’s ground-level supervision (no matter how odd that may sound), changing lions’ tongues from sanguine to gules and carefully lettering the motto scroll.  I hope subsequent painters followed the colours we laid in so painstakingly. 


     I realize now that Bonfig’s description of a terrified Karli in All the Tea in China (for me, his best novel) ‘clinging limpet-like to any rope or spar above twenty feet’, may well have been based on a very personal fear.