Dabbler Diary: Sex, Violence and Paraphernalia

Down in the country this weekend where I had a read of the local paper, The Wilts and Glos Standard. This is what appeared in last week’s ‘100 Years Ago’ feature:

Saturday October 26th 1912

Effigy burning. On Thursday of last week some of the villagers of Siddington, among whom was a preponderance of women folk, marked their disapprobation of the supposed ill-conduct of a man towards his wife by burning his effigy within sight of his abode. On Saturday an attack was made on the individual in person, who narrowly escaped being tarred and feathered and ducked in a pool. As it was, his clothes were torn, his bicycle destroyed and daubs of tar sprayed on him before the police escorted him to safety.

I know we’re not supposed to approve of mob justice, but, my word, how satisfying that must have been for the preponderance of disapprobating women folk.

On these pages we recently pondered the decline of Guy Fawkes Night vis-a-vis Halloween. Perhaps we could put an effigy of Jimmy Savile on this year’s bonfire?


When I was a youth growing up in the Cotswolds I did find the local girls quite intimidating, and I don’t think I was alone.

When we went out on a weekend night there was a segregation of sexes – the young women would sit around a pub table, whilst the young men would congregate around the bar. The lack of interaction between the groups would later continue on the dance floor, apart from the odd glance and comment. Things only really got going when a slow number was played just before closing time, during which, for the lucky, some frantic snogging would ensue.

Looking back, I’m sure this was a major reason there were so many marketplace punch-ups after closing time. Sexual tension would have built up to almost unbearable levels in the course of the evening, and if you’d been deprived of the thrill of a snog, a good second best was to be found in the adrenalin rush of a barney.


I used to enjoy reading The Standard whenever I came home as it was a good way to keep abreast of the doings of school friends. A handful would regularly be up before the magistrate for various weekend misdemeanours. Once we’d reached a certain age, it was those of my sister’s generation who hit the headlines.

Nowadays, I don’t recognise the names (unless it’s the son of one of my contemporaries). Despite the reluctance of the sexes to talk to each other people did manage to marry, and even have kids. This sort of thing eventually sorts out all but the most committed hooligan.


Recent Dabbler Diary items may have left readers knowing more than they would wish about the habits of The Dabbler’s editorial board. But our masthead claims we’re the blog for connoisseurs of everything so it would be wrong to feel inhibited about sharing further.

Discussions at our recent editorial conference touched on the subject of how frequently members of the Editorial Board showered (severally rather than jointly, for the avoidance of doubt). Agenda-wise, I think it came under AOB.

I was the only one of four who showered every other day, the rest doing so every morning. As the other members of the Editorial Board are more or less quite normal in many respects I suspect this habit may be widespread.

Have you all gone mad? It’s not as if most of us are getting dirty or sweaty at work. Or that we’re short of anti-perspirant deodorants. Under these conditions even my bi-daily shower would have been seen as excessive by a previous generation.

We have a very fat civilisation and it’s also neurotically clean.


The village pub was on fine form on Saturday night, what with Gloucester winning against the much-disliked Leicester (in truth, the jollity probably had more to do with the round bought for everyone by a rugby-loving member of the local squirearchy). A local lad, Henry Trinder, happened to be playing.

The name Trinder rang a bell – what was ‘Trinders’, we wondered? A shop. But what sort? It eventually came: Trinders was a tiny tobacconist, next door to Scotts, the gentleman’s outfitters on Castle Street (still extant).

It was a narrow box of a place, possibly panelled. A glass-topped counter ran along the back with lots of little shelves and cubby-holes on the wall behind. I never used it for more than buying the odd pack of stubby Embassy’s but I always admired the window with its array of smoking paraphernalia. I particularly recall the wooden pipes, long fluted ones, short gnarled ones, all splayed on stands.

Paraphernalia is a lovely word, which describes a lovely thing. There’s something very satisfying – to a man, at least – about owning a set of specialist tools. For some reason the pleasure increases if they give the impression of being carefully crafted.

A friend of mine took up cigar smoking just so he could start collecting and deploying paraphernalia (he gave up as he couldn’t stand the taste and the smell). Whilst few of us would go that far I do think many of us miss the sort of manly paraphernalia that might accompany a smoking habit.

Which is why I think the introduction of electronic cigarettes could be interesting for the paraphernalia fan (paraphernaliac?). These things have a fixed delivery mechanism but can be inhaled through just about anything. They also have various bits that require storage. It’ll surely be no time before a new e-smoking paraphernalia industry comes into being, probably upmarket and craft-led. Here’s one of the first movers: artisanal Corn Cob Billiard e-pipe anyone?

Dabbler Diary is brought to you by Glengoyne single malt whisky – the Dabbler’s choice.
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28 thoughts on “Dabbler Diary: Sex, Violence and Paraphernalia

  1. wormstir@gmail.com'
    November 2, 2012 at 14:29

    Not that I would know anything about that sort of thing, but there’s currently a move to make really high tech vapour pipes for wacky baccy, like this one http://www.ploom.com/pax, which retails at about £200 and is sort of like a bong that Apple would make.

    Is the showering every day an american thing? As far as I’m aware our continental cousins are more laissez-faire when it comes to washing every single day. I don’t do it for smell reasons, but just to stop myself turning up at work looking like I’ve been asleep in a hedge

    • Gaw
      November 2, 2012 at 15:03

      I suspect that in Europe there’s a North/South divide: beer/wine, butter/olive oil, daily showering/intermittent showering. I believe the last is supported by statistics on per capita soap usage.

      • info@ShopCurious.com'
        November 2, 2012 at 15:17

        You dirty devil, Gaw. I’ve vague memories of being given a ‘weekly bath’, but these days I’m curiously clean – having a shower in the morning and another shower or bath after my daily exercise. Is that too much information?

        • Gaw
          November 2, 2012 at 15:37

          Yes, when I were a boy Sunday evening was bath night.

          I recall hearing back in the ’80s the possibly apocryphal story of the Cambridge college servant who bemoaned how in the old days the young gentlemen bathed once a week and changed their shirts daily, whilst the current students bathed daily and changed their shirts once a week. Probably assisted by liberal sprays of Blue Stratos.

          In my days at the Varsity, back in the ’80s, baths were located in cubicles, open top and bottom, in the stone-flagged cellar of a draughty old dormitory block. God knows why you’d want to bathe daily in them, especially when the Fens were gripped by one of their appalling freezes. There were no showers, of course.

          • philipwilk@googlemail.com'
            November 2, 2012 at 19:54

            Ah, varsity baths. At the “other” place (the one in the Thames Valley), we too had cubicle baths (in the old part of college) and more conventional ones (in the new building). I was told by one of the dons that back in the early 20th century there had been great reluctance on their part to instal baths at all, for undergraduates. What did they need baths for? The Oxford term was only eight weeks long, after all.

          • info@ShopCurious.com'
            November 3, 2012 at 17:34

            In fairly recent times I’ve stayed at Cambridge and Oxford colleges for reunions, Gaw – they now have en-suite showers designed to fit one body so precisely there’s no room for soap (Malty), which is probably why the bars provided are a millimetre wide sliver.

            Back in the dark ages, I spent one year out of college in digs where there was only a bath, which was always filled with curly black hairs and mud from one of our housemate’s hockey matches.

        • johngjobling@googlemail.com'
          November 2, 2012 at 16:34

          Twice a day Susan, blimey you must be waterlogged.

          Lots of talk about water, none about the soap. Must be a southern trait.
          Psycho turned me off showers, no cross dresser with a carving knife would get near me.

  2. davidanddonnacohen@gmail.com'
    November 2, 2012 at 14:55

    Ah, Worm, I clicked on your link and found my heart warmed by the claim to be “the world’s most pocketable, premium loose-leaf vaporizer.” Certaintly, it is not as pocketable as the standard loose-leaf vaporizer but is much more pocketable than the supreme loose-leaf vaporizer (CAUTION: will not fit in overhead compartments; must be turned off during flight).

    But I really clicked on “Read More” to take advantage of the brief mention of the editorial board to comment on the bar that now pops up whenever I visit assuming that I’m ok with cookie usage (I am), telling me I can opt out (I don’t wish to) but then asking me to click on “Accept.” My issue is not just the not-entirely-pedantic point that, if you’re telling me I can opt-out, a button labeled “Accept” is entirely ambiguous. Am I accepting opting out, or am I accepting cookies? My larger issue is that I try to keep my pushing of odd buttons to a minimum, because there’s really no telling what that thing does.

    • Gaw
      November 2, 2012 at 14:59

      David, in the course of writing that comment you made yourself more expert on, er, cookie law than any member of the editorial board. All we know is that we had to do it (whatever it is) in order to stay legal.

      • davidanddonnacohen@gmail.com'
        November 2, 2012 at 15:19

        OK, I pushed the button and the matrix hasn’t (yet) crashed.

      • davidanddonnacohen@gmail.com'
        November 2, 2012 at 15:21

        So I googled “English cookie law” and got EU cookie law, which, somewhat to my disappointment, does not mandate at leats 16 chips made with Belgian chocolate before a biscuit can be called a chocolate chip cookie.

      • peter.burnet@hotmail.com'
        November 2, 2012 at 15:33

        you made yourself more expert on, er, cookie law than any member of the editorial board.

        Given that the editorial board apparently meets for the purpose of discussing showering habits while getting stinko, it’s a small miracle any of you still claim expertise in basic sentence structure.

    • Worm
      November 2, 2012 at 15:20

      fear not David, I have searched high and low to find a new cookie button thingy, I can assure you if you click on the new one I have just installed at the top of the page it then disappears, and we don’t ever have to see it again.

  3. davidanddonnacohen@gmail.com'
    November 2, 2012 at 15:24

    Thanks Worm.

    Actually, I got both the old and new buttons and pushed them both. I therefore offer you, free and gratis, my new testimonial:

    The Dabbler: I push their buttons.
    — David Cohen

    • peter.burnet@hotmail.com'
      November 2, 2012 at 15:53

      I know nothing about cookies or what they do. I always push “I Accept” because it makes me feel wanted.

  4. markcfdbailey@gmail.com'
    November 2, 2012 at 15:29

    If I knew how to paste photos into the comments I would show you my esmoking paraphenalia; it bears the same relationship to the real thing as an ecigarete does to an honest to goodness tab.

    Showering every day? Technical point. Those countries that favour bathing every other day tend to be rather keen on the use of the bidet, a bathroom fixture not in common usage in these isles. Of course I assume they take pride of place in the Gaw and Worm households.

    • Worm
      November 2, 2012 at 15:45

      Until I was approximately 13, I genuinely thought bidets were for washing your feet in

      • Gaw
        November 2, 2012 at 16:04

        Yes, a lot of pennies drop around about then. A little later I had a similar revelation regarding the ray gun-like ‘electric muscle massager’ I’d stumbled upon in the wardrobe of one of my mum’s friends (I was just being inquisitive).

  5. bensix@live.co.uk'
    November 2, 2012 at 17:06

    Perhaps we could put an effigy of Jimmy Savile on this year’s bonfire?


    A 30ft effigy of disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong wearing a Jim’ll Fix It badge will be burned at a town’s annual bonfire celebrations this weekend.

    • michaeljohnnoble@gmail.com'
      November 2, 2012 at 21:55

      Am I alone in feeling mildly disappointed that the baying mob stopped at petty vandalism and didn’t continue their course until Savile’s decaying corpse had been exhumed and placed on trial postmortem?

      It would not only have been a thrilling throwback to the days of the wars of religion, but might have gone some way to satisfying the lust for revenge currently abroad in these isles.

      • Gaw
        November 4, 2012 at 10:46

        From what Paul Gambaccini said this might have been what Savile would have wanted.

        BTW I must have missed the baying mob…

  6. Gaw
    November 2, 2012 at 17:15

    Thanks Ben – I hope someone goes the whole hog as Savile would make a terrific guy.

    BTW that 100-year-old newspaper report I began with is very well written isn’t it?Three long sentences requiring quite a bit of grammar and containing lots of long words – so nothing like today’s journalese. I should have mentioned that.

    • markcfdbailey@gmail.com'
      November 2, 2012 at 17:36

      Agreed. Isn’t ‘disapprobation’ a fine word?

      • Gaw
        November 2, 2012 at 18:03

        It is.

        One receives the impression that the writer really enjoyed constructing this piece, in crafting such a precise description. I think this linguistic precision – the control, the restraint – contrasts with the scene described to create an ironic effect. It’s funny without overtly setting out to be and I feel this isn’t accidental.

        I wonder whether the secret of quite a bit of English humour is to be found here: there’s something of the Waugh or Wodehouse about it. Or so it seems to me.

  7. nigeandrew@gmail.com'
    November 2, 2012 at 18:20

    I remember the baths at Cambridge being the biggest I had ever seriously seen (to paraphrase Martin Amis on another subject altogether). The only baths I’ve ever come across in my life that I could lie full-length in – in fact they’d accommodate two bathers. Happy days… And phenomenal water pressure – filled up in no time.

  8. andrewnixon@blueyonder.co.uk'
    November 4, 2012 at 11:10

    Gaw, you make it sound as if a nice hot shower is some kind of chore. In fact it’s a treat and when I win the lottery I will get one of those fancy all-round car-wash type things and spend all day in it.

    • johngjobling@googlemail.com'
      November 6, 2012 at 19:13

      Ending on a technical note, we have our own water supply from the Eildons, delivered to the house via a pressure booster kit. This has the advantage of being pure and sometimes peat laden, good for the complexion and azaleas. It has the disadvantage of supplying the shower head at such a rate it is nicknamed the jet wash and divers lead boots are required to maintain position in the cubicle. Also a good belay. Plus a carbon fibre jock strap.

      • Worm
        November 6, 2012 at 19:59

        On a plus note Malty, think of the exfoliation!

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