Why a fretsaw is better than Viagra

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The Independent Culture
A READER WRITES: "You obviously have some deep-seated problem with your sexual identity to judge by your repeated use of the word 'manly'. Perhaps you should see someone about it." Well thank you very much, and see whom, precisely? My dentist? The exiled Iranian performance artists from the flat across the road? Probably the best choice would be one of those big muscley Old Compton Street homos, one of the ones with a moustache and a mighty belly and a pair of black leather chaps, and nipple-clamps and a Gaggia professional cappuccino machine, plumbed-in. It would be a whole new life and would certainly redefine my understanding of the word "manly", and yours too, if I had anything to do with it.

The actual sex might be a problem, but I could take Viagra. I have some Viagra. A judge gave it to me on the bare wooden stairs of a shady club. "Got something for you," he said, producing his little phial and extracting a blue lozenge."You are to take one before what it describes on the label as 'activity'." He got them on the Internet. Government Promises Illegal Stiffy Pill Crackdown, but they're powerless against cyberspace. You fill in a little form, on-line. Q: Are You Impotent? A: What sort of a fool tracks down an illegal Viagra website then declares that he is not impotent. Q14: Can You Live With Yourself, Being Impotent And All? A: Of course I can, compatibility and shared hobbies are more important in the long run, to hell with your lousy Viagra, I am going to buy a fretwork outfit and be happy.

And you know what? Maybe I will. The other day I was looking through an old copy of The Boy's Hobby Magazine. I don't know who The Boy actually was, but his obsession with fretwork was frightening. His Magazine was about little else. There were designs for useful fretwork artefacts - pipe-racks, pot-holders, desk-tidies, magazine-racks, watch- stands, working up eventually to a full-sized fretwork organ-case designed on the purest north German baroque Werkprinzip complete with free-standing 32-ft pedal flues, a trompette en chamade, angels, cherubs, Cymbelstern and adjustable bench, just the thing to set off the averagely cosy suburban living room. I may have been hallucinating, but I think there was even a design for an intricate fretwork tea-cosy.

I suppose it kept the Boy out of trouble, his hands innocently busy and out of the reach of the Devil, replacing the vile designs of abominable mill-girls with equally vile designs in wood. But the part-work was pervaded by a disturbing obsessionality. Only occasionally did other Hobbies even get a mention, and even then it was as an excuse for yet more fretwork. Train-spotting? Make This Handy Fretwork Notebook Holder With Concealed Beetroot-Sandwich Compartment. Bird-Watching? Why Not Build A Fretwork Hide, Guaranteed Not To Restrict The View? Boys! - Ask Father To Help You With This Healthy Fretwork Football!

All in all, rather horrid and distressing, but you can see how the Government might like it. No danger of a Crackdown on illegal fumed-oak salesmen; the Boy engaged with his fretsaw and pattern-book is safely off the streets, head down, motionless except for the frenzied pumping of his leg as he pounds his treadle-saw, probably wearing a smart tie as well as the sort of expression of pink-cheeked smug self-absorption which would sit well on the "face" of a New Labour lobbyist. Happier times! Instead of the pounding thud of techno, the gentle whirr of the sawblade; instead of the feral stink of sweat, amyl and cKone, the fresh wholesome tang of sawdust; instead of the emetic gurgles of the expiring Ecstasy-user, our casualty wards would have to deal with little more harrowing than cut fingers and sawdust-in-the-eye (which of course would reduce the drain on the NHS budget no end).

But it is too late for that. You can't turn the clock back. The day after the wicked judge gave me the Viagra, I wandered around London in a sort of well-intentioned trance, looking for a fretwork kit. "I am contemplating taking up fretwork," I would say; "I believe it is a useful and diverting hobby, and unequivocally masculine, involving, as it does, altering the shape of physical material using various sharp, heavy or percussive objects - in short, tools. Which of the many kits, available to suit all ages and pockets, would you recommend?" Nothing. Blank looks, and hasty consultings of the paedophile register which all toy-shops keep under the counter, or, if they don't, they bloody well should.

It is, I suppose, God's way of telling me to embrace my fate, swallow the bitter blue pill, and assert my manliness in the manner of the ancients. But it can play strange tricks, which is no more than we should expect from something which manages to reconcile the polarities of sex, providing its devotees, male and female, with both a wolfish, orgiastic tumescence and an abominable headache. I heard the other day of a man who took his illegal Viagra to see what would happen (funny how you don't hear of anyone taking it because they're bloody impotent) and suffered a delayed response, the bloody stuff kicking in halfway down the motorway to London, either because of the motion of the car or because he unconsciously harbours toward his manservant-cum-chauffeur feelings more complex than a simple master/servant relationship.

But, as usual, I think I have found a way to conflate and resolve all the tensions involved: my desire to demonstrate my manliness unequivocally, my desire to be good, my urge to plumb the very depths of carnality which our brief sojourn here below has to offer, and, above all, my yearning not to upset the Government. What I intend to do is invent a hydraulic fret- saw operated by the rise and fall of the bodily passions, and obtain a supply of lovely wood. I shall then take my Viagra, allow an hour to elapse, then retire to my bed to carve out, with my new tool, a manly fretwork moustache. Everyone will then be happy, and they'll all be wearing them in Old Compton Street before the month is out. !

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