Wednesday, 31 December 2014

My Foreskin Has Gone for a Burton

‘There doesn’t exist a profession that isn’t in here!’ said a clerk as he flourished an elegantly blue-cloth bound book. I was in the Oxford office of the Department of Employment, where I’d gone to report that I had just become unemployed. I proved him wrong: he couldn’t find the job I had just left, so insisted, against my protests, on putting me down as a ‘Microphone Boom Operator’, because that was something that was in his book and sounded to him a bit like what I’d been doing.

His little book would doubtless also have had trouble with some of the positions held by Richard Burton: not the actor, not the seventeenth century author of ‘The Anatomy of Melancholy’, but the nineteenth century explorer, adventurer, translator of the ‘Kama Sutra’ and the ‘Thousand Nights and a Night’, etc. etc. At one time he worked for the British Government as an undercover (perhaps literally) investigator into conditions in the brothels frequented by members of the Indian Colonial Service. One of his reports explains that, at the time, the usual price for a pre-pubertal boy was, if I remember rightly, five and a half rupees. Provided he were uncircumcised of course: a circumcised boy cost a mere four rupees.

There must I think be some flaw in the reasoning that tends to the obvious conclusion that the going rate for a foreskin was one-and-a-half rupees. I suppose foreskins, unlike boys, are not fungible.

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