Tall Tails

A Canterbury Tale-ish type (re the rather naughty ‘Wife of Bath’) of absurdist ill-repute, cunningly disguised as a Herculean drama

a forestbather in ukraine
5 min readNov 25, 2021

Spetsnatz = Russian special forces

A nervous man sidled up to me, cig in hand, hand in hair, hiding his face from the human race
As I watched a gushing fountain in Trafalgar square
Camouflage patterned rucksack stuck in the past on my back
In front of the great phallic statue of Nelson
Though to be fair
He was probably very well hung to have such a column
More than me surely, as I have no personal monument
Dedicated to any attribute of mine, on any allotment, or scrubland
No bollard, miniature lighthouse, or traffic cone
But in my defence a few have mentioned balls
(as in “what the fock, trying to get shot?”)
Though I never won any of my wars
Not for want of tempting fate (somewhat overrated) and I did once wrestle naked
With an ex-Spetsnatz soldier, holding only shoulders
Who grappled with me within the confines of the Budapest Russian Embassy
We did start with towels wrapped around waists, considering the circumstance rather chaste
These soon dropped of their own accord, and I would have thus mentioned two swashbuckling broadswords
I fear though witnesses might beg to differ, two at last count, as we fought and parts bounced
Two gladiators at a Greek colosseum were we, in front of a woman who was a matron, and a waitress, who was in fact Ukrainian
And she stiffled open laughter: “you have not advanced since stonehenge, say nothing of pyramids, obelisks or Alexandr!”
Since small members were valued in Greek culture
And depraved satyrs were portrayed with large erect genitals
We were not sure if this was a worthy parable
Eiffel would have confirmed, noting nothing about our composition (he after all designed one of Budapest’s train stations as well as that Parisian erection)
Post battle we settled for a Budapest public bath
Where in the steam room I brushed against Big Ben and a leaning tower, both somewhat in my path
Which was rather more than enough after an hour
Whatever the aesthetics of such encounters
And pisa was followed by pizza with my Russian friend Карен
(Karen) who practised karate chops on our many walks
And pushups at dawn on iced lawns
So when I sat in Trafalgar square a month hence
And the fellow with face half hidden, sidled up and said, in a voice much too tense:
“There are wild geese meeting tonight in the ‘Crib and Hay’”
I replied: “a bit over 169 ft tall that column,” troubled by 3 extra inches
The meeting was a connection to the Balkans, a domain of dictators, dukes and princes
100 Deutschmarks a month salary
With Karen fighting for the brotherly Serbs on the other side
Of this shooting gallery
Karen, who knew not where I lived a year later, recovering from a war wound away from the slaughter
Called me at home (this well before mobile phones) to congratulate me on the birth of my first daughter
And that has always been a mystery
Bigger in the realms of absurdity than the imprecise measurement of Nelson’s big device
That my Russian friend, who I could have killed in a hateful war, for 100 Deutschmarks a month, not a cent more
Was able to dial the right line in the right country at just the right time
At the risk of repeating myself in too many words
Though Eiffel repeated constructions too; the theory of chaos is real, and reality is absurd
And anyway, Eiffel designed the Statue of Liberty, along with Bartholdi
And given a choice between a woman, albeit a statue
Promoting peace, virtue and justice
or one of a man with a rather large penis, good at war
Satyr or greek gladiator, I am not sure
Do I really need to say any more?

NOTES The ‘matron’ in the Russian embassy; well, she had to be KGB (or MSB by then). Our contract was to take a group of Russians and give them ‘physical’ and English language training over a month in a grand old building in a forest. Russia was briefly not the enemy it has become now.

Regarding the naked wrestling…her suggestion! Towels did fall but she strictly suggested we continue. The Ukrainian waitress ended up acting in my theatre group, called the Sostoi Ut Drama Society, but that is another tale..

The brief meeting in Trafalgar square did entail the words “ wild geese,” an embarrassingly out-of-date term for mercenaries.

Now, about the topic of Classical Greece and penises:

…as can be seen in the statues dotted here and there…

…and the paintings of satyrs on vases with rather encumbrant erections, as well as horns and a tail, it has been surmised that the ‘Greeks' did value small penises, though I am not sure a survey was taken of Greek partners on this pertinent matter .

In Classical Greek comedy, fools also routinely sported large genitals—“the sign of stupidity, more of a beast than a man.” So, too, did artistic representations of the Egyptians, who were long-time enemies of the Greeks.

The dramatist in Theatre of the Absurd mixes the comic and the tragic to put the spectator ill at ease, in order that they may gain awareness of the strangeness of the world.

Written for dverse, open mic night

I wish I knew where Karen lived now.