April 1, 2023

Titles Like a Tattoo by Margery Higglebottom

You’ll be happy to know, dear reader, that my skin remains unsullied. Not that the opportunity has never presented itself. In the heart of the darling Bedfordshire countryside there lives a certain much-loved radio personality who has often tried to wend his baritone way onto my left thigh. Why the left I have never cared to ask, though I believe I have a reasonable idea, but the point is that I have always chosen to resist taking the inky plunge. However, It has been unavoidable, in my ample years, not to make a concerted effort at titling my work.

Much of what you will read in the coming articles [my housekeeper, Miss Mabe, says these are posts but I resent such a fleety term] may give you cause to regret that I didn’t simply pass the job on to someone more naturally proficient. I hope not, but I fear I have given up worrying about critics. Maybe fear is the wrong word, no matter, we have strayed from the route. The purpose I have brought you on this, thus far, rather rambling journey of self-discussion is that the process of naming brought to my mind a flaw which I have fought with throughout my life, one that I suspect is common to us all.

You see, I have never been afraid of making decisions (my well worn body is a daily reminder that I am not a victim of over-thinking), however I have been subject to a great reluctance to finalise. Whether it’s a novel, a home or an over developed liaison, I have never been happy to slap a title on it. How could I hope to sum such a complex web of characters, memories or conjugations with a mere word or two? On many a lazy morning I’d pour out these concerns to the aforementioned radio artiste as we lay in the warm and downy nest our love had made.

“Get up or shut up,” he would say, affectionately. Fortunately, wiser words were at hand from the sensitive mouth of his platonic housemate who, for the sake of discretion, we shall call Sir LB. Over a cup of tea and a freshly toasted crumpet [the baked good, not, as yet, myself] LB would sooth me with chatter about  the general irrelevancy of titles on anything other than a superficial level.

“Aha!” I would reply, “But are we not a disgracefully superficial species?”

“Oho!” he would inevitably counter, “Why treat a spade as a spade if you wish it to grow into a digger?” In the sixties one could talk like this, you understand.

Sadly, in spite of the wise counsel of LB and innumerable others the fact remains that I cannot let the topic of the title lie.  To this day I insist that any reference to my work made in interviews be descriptive, simply so that I may be spared the wince-inducing effort of contorting my tongue with their titles.  Thus any journalist foolhardy enough to attempt a smooth transcription of such a meeting must negotiate a minefield, entrenched with such verbal stumblings as, ‘in the one when…’ and ‘the story with…’.  I suppose that may explain the heavy layer of dust that is currently the only thing filling the in-tray of the desk in front of me, though that may be down to a decade of noughty (sic) laziness.  Still, I cannot complain, the fear has brought me my first article for this, my maiden voyage into Zine culture, and in some ways it brought me LB.  Though that is, as they say, another story for another day.

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