If there’s one thing I despise in a columnist it’s the phrase: "I was watching TV the other night.''
Writers should be out living - goddammit! Not watching TV.
They should be dragging themselves through the gutter. Sharing the slumgullion of the Earth’s forgotten.
Living as a wastrel or sampling the high life, sipping cocktails out of coconuts under bendy palm trees, not crouching in your lair.
While we live, let us live - that is how you have experiences worth relating to your readers.
The only thing worse than admitting you get ideas from TV is dragging your kids into a column.
Anyway, I was watching TV the other night with my kids when I saw something that convinced me we are returning to the Middle Ages – and not the good, cool, shiny-armour Middle Ages either.
How it happened was this.
I was out carousing heartily with some other worthies when it occurred to me to tick off the ways in which this age was reverting to savagery.
One: the return of slavery. This most pernicious of institutions. From child slavery to debt slavery. More and more people are either being born owing something to their master it will take a lifetime to pay off -without the prospect of manumission - or are born free and subsequently captured and sold - and let's face it, being killed or face a fate much worse than death ... for there are things worse than dying.
Two: The return of armour to the battlefield. By World War I the development of weapons had outstripped armour technology. It really wasn’t worthwhile wearing armour, the mobility you were sacrificing outweighed the marginal protection armour could give you.
But armour technology has now caught up. If you look at pictures of troops in our various foreign capers, they are beginning to resemble some futuristic knights of an increasingly savage dystopian age.
Three: Jousting. Here is where my electric television machine comes in. These modern gladiators were being led bloody from the field of honour on a new program called Extreme jousting or possibly Full Metal Jousting or something similar.
Now in the actual Middle Ages, (still called the Dark Ages by many – those who don’t know it’s really called the Middle Ages) it was much, much better to be on top, rigorously enforcing primae nocta and droit du signeur daily (and nightly, with even more rigour) with the local vassal and peasantry and the odd scullery maid.
But in this present age our lords exercising droit de signeur have, to say the least, bizarre tastes – no, no, nay, not for them a buxom scullery maid or a bedirndrilled maiden.
Primae nocta was of course the right of the lord of the manor to sleep with the bride of any of his subjects on her wedding night.
Here's how I see all this playing out - with me on top naturally.
Ah yes I can see myself gazing o’er my ramparts eager for any sign of nuptials in the village below.
Then, one sight of a streamer, or confetti, or indeed single whiff of wild boar roasting, I wander down to the village and say to the assembled revellers: “Hist! Streamers, white dress, bridesmaids – there’s not a wedding going on here by any chance is there?
Peasants: “No, no, no my liege.’’
His Lordship rising in his stirrups: “Really, because you know - I have dibs on the missus … what’s this? Presents? A wedding cake?’’
Vassals: “No my lord, we were just … um ... a lark, that's it, yes ... having a bit of fancy dress. We were going to invite you but we thought, you know, it really wasn’t, um, really your bag.’’
“OK,’’ I say as I disconsolately turn my pony back up the hill – “Keep me posted please, vassals.’’
Looking forward to lording it o’er you all.