Monday 14 October 2019

Modern Skills

Move over Reading, Writing & 'Rithmetic! It seems there are more useful Modern Skills to be taught. Ronald Searle, a Pipistrello-favoured artist, enlightens us thus:

Ronald Searle illustration from Down With Skool! - A Gaul and a Roman passing each other in the Alps

Ronald Searle illustration Frontispiece Nicely Mounted from Slightly Foxed But Still Desirable

Ronald Searle Christmas Card illustration of a reindeer hoisting Santa up a chimney
Heightsmanship ... a.k.a. Abseiling

Who would have thought that in the 21st Century, gainful employment could be had from a demonstrated proficiency in any or all of these old-fashioned and rather Manly Hobbies? Careers advisors of yore never foretold the arrival of either:

a) the Boxed-Set TV Costume Drama necessitating all Actors to be on a horse and/or wielding a sword every episode, or

b) the abseiling Window-Washer dangling down the skyscrapers of our cities.

However, judging by the staggering numbers of extras these days littering our screens*, riding hither and thither and masterfully making minced meat of one another, and the be-girdled window washers manfully loitering between their Spiderman jobs in the cafes about town, I have been wondering where these skilled hordes learnt these necessities of modern life? Upon hearing last week that 9-year old M is a champion fencer for his skool, I suspect that the more traditional curriculum has finally been thrown over for these more bankable skills.

* We're still catching up with Poldark, Game of Thrones, Vanity Fair, Gentleman Jack etc. etc. Slowly, slowly ...


  1. I very much enjoyed fencing. I was also very deep into ballroom dance (especially Argentine tango) at the time. What made fencing so wonderful for me, a person who spent my entire childhood the subject of fights during team-picking (nobody wanted me, who always came in last in any race, who is terrified of water/swimming and who has magical repellent powers when it comes to balls, fencing was very different. My dancing skills worked wonders in assessing which foot my opponent was on and being able to back him (always male) into a corner. And strength was irrelevant. What counted was reflexes. No balls. After completely slaying one big, muscled guy (who was clearly used to winning in sports, especially against a GIRL), he ripped off his mask and spat out, "You are SO AGGRESSIVE!" As if that were a fault! In sport!
    Sadly, I have never had an opportunity to call on my swashbuckling skills, but then again, I doubt players of basketball, football, soccer, tennis, baseball et al. have transferred their game skills to real-world uses either.
    One last point: my fencing classes were in NYC, which meant a good number of my classmates were actors.

  2. I'm delighted to hear you can fence, Taste of France! Do put your hand up as a fighting extra if a Three Musketeers-style production come to the environs of Carcassonne! It would be terrific if you could brandish a sword once more before the muscle memory gives out ...

    It does amuse me that of all the skills you might need to get work as an actor, this and riding should be the most useful these days. How many budding actors slaved over piano or singing practise and yet only had one part in all their career which required them to demonstrate this? But put a sword in their hand and they've a job for life!

    As for team sports, so greatly emphasised in more recent times as being so Essential to getting on in the Real World, of course the reality is that it's a Dog-Eat-Dog world where the dogs have no interest in the ball that's being tossed around in any event.

    I cannot tango, so am further impressed by your arsenal of talent, but whenever a bit of dancing of the ballroom variety is required, I do have a tendency to lead, haha!

  3. Looking at the first image I feel sure that I have enjoyed Searle's illustrations in books and magazines over the years. His work smacks of the 20th century in all the best ways. Thank you for sharing some of his work with us!

  4. I agree, Bea, his work is distinctive and so amusing. I'm pleased it sparked some favourable recognition for you!

  5. Maybe it's time to pick up a sword. After 15 years with the same company, it may pique my interest.

  6. I found those comments by Taste of France interesting and amusing. The reaction to her defeated counterpart in fencing would be something she'd likely only hear from an actor in NYC. C-Suites are populated by those who put those early life-skills learned in team sports to good use. I've always maintained this is one big advantage men traditionally have had over women: far more early exposure to team sports and learning from losing and failure how to win and work constructively with others they don't necessarily like or have much in common with. I often cite Maureen Dowd's NYT column quoting a longtime political adviser: "get 9 men in a room and you have a baseball team; get 9 women in a room and you have a riot". GSL's fencing is done in dimly lit taverns over drinks with repartee rather than swords. Taste of France would hear no such protests nor be facing some candy-ass schmuck so easily cornered as that thespian with no balls.
    Pippy, I know'd you do mum and dad proud.
    Mr Searle's work is quite good.

  7. Loree, for so long as the likes of HBO continue to churn out cast-of-thousands costumed epics for our televisual entertainment, there's going to be a need for sword swingers of all stripes and persuasions. You mayn't be the only former pharmaceutical executive laying in the mud covered in fake blood at the end of the working day. Imagine the stories you'd bring back to the family home!

    GSL, the last time I had to be in a room with 8 other females who weren't of my choosing was in my all-girls high school, {shudder}, so I can only take MD's comment at your word. But good to know you aren't a-feared of some mixed doubles wordsmanshipping in a tavern!

    Perhaps I can get THE ITALIAN to FOLLOW ALONG with what YOU and YOUR ITALIAN are watching!!!
    I want the CROWN to hurry up!!I think NOVEMBER we will see her RETURN!

  9. Golly, Contessa, it does sound like it, doesn't it? It's not as all-consuming as it sounds, haha - we've been watching it all over some months. The Crown is one I'm completely behind on. We started it and Victoria absolutely ages ago but I think I'm still part-way through the first series of both! While I love goggling at the sets and costumes, a couple of hours at a time is quite enough.

    For pre-WWII Period shows we can highly recommend The Durrells (I think I'm on the second series there, haha!), and I love love Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries - both very light and frothy with excellent visuals. But to go back to when we became devotees of the 21st Century lavish boxed sets, we got hooked on Rome and The Tudors. If you've not seen either, do give them a try! We've seen both complete series a couple of times and I could start either of them again. Lush visuals, plenty of plot lines, loads of characters who are household names today etc etc. And plenty of sword-and-horse action!! 10/10!!

  10. Wow, those are gorgeous illustrations. I love the split.

  11. RS was a wonderful illustrator who evidently had a wonderful sense of humour. He always makes me chuckle.


Thank you for commenting, it is greatly appreciated.

It can be a challenge to persist in the matching up of street signs and other exciting pastimes this comment feature may send your way, so if it gets too annoying, feel free to email your comment to me at pipistrello (at) flyingwithhands (dot) com and I'll post it for you.

Bats In The Belfry