A gentle treatise on the lost art of real bullshitting
© Chris Chapman.
An XK Jaguar purrs onto the Pub car park. The driver’s door opens and a cavalry twilled breeched leg, complimented by regulation Brothel Creepers, materialises.
Our Quintessential Cad has arrived. He is a fast disappearing specimen, one of a host of wonderful characters who, once upon a time, used to inhabit the English social scene.
Now, by Cads, I don’t mean tricksters and con artists, well not in the strictest sense. These types are rogues in a nasty sense and go out of their way to con people; they verge on the criminal fringe, if not deep within the fabric of it.
The sort of bounders I’m citing, are the fast vanishing, if not dead breed of Cad. The flamboyant deceivers; the sort who are so captivating that the persona they have built up and developed for so long actually becomes them. They become excellent salesmen, women adore them and if they are very good at it, most men dream of emanating them.
The second World War was a very good breeding ground for these types. The wearing of Regimental ties for soldier versions and handlebar moustaches for ex Spitfire pilots exemplified a sort of springboard, even though our Cad hadn’t been further than pen pushing in Catterick army barracks or flying a desk in the Air Ministry. The Navy hero types were a little bit harder to emulate; perhaps it meant adopting a rolling gate and a full set of whiskers, and although the notion of rum, bum and baccy might endear itself to certain sections of the public, it is not to be recommended.
Latterly, hinting at having been in the SAS was, and is, till tried by many ‘sorry’ types, especially after the Falklands and Gulf conflicts. In every Pub an amateur ‘Bull Shitter’ broadly hints that he had been in the ‘Mob.’ They usually sit quaffing a lonely beer at the bar. Grumpily, they stare silently into space, wondering why nobody ever talks to them. This type just don’t realise that the art of real ‘cadding’ is more, much more than telling stories about oneself, it’s a whole conundrum of facets from subtle name dropping and deportment, appearance and manners, subtle innocence and quite importantly the ability for remembering a host of filthy jokes. These latter SAS types are best left alone to drown in their own verbal hogwash. They are not fit to lick the ‘Brothel Creepers’ of the genuine article.
The real Cad frequents the nineteenth holes in Golf clubs and hostelries of a certain standard. Rarely are they seen in the better St James’s type of Club because they would be found out in an instant by the real type of chap; one that really knows the Prince of Wales or really did advise Jack Nicklaus who was being troubled, at the time, with an errant golf swing.
So let’s return and go to one of their operating retreats, a quaint suburban Pub, usually in the Home Counties just after opening time, perhaps thirty years ago. Robert a local chap always popped in for a relaxant G & T or two on his way home from work, as did six or seven others. They comprised the ‘early doors’ crowd and thousands of pubs up and down the land had the same concoction of customers.
As they quietly rejuvenate their body and souls after a day’s toil, their attention is drawn by one of the regulars to the arrival of this previously mentioned Jaguar XK into the car park. Robert jumps up, joins the throng around the window and shudders. He looks wildly around for some avenue of escape, but it’s too late.
‘It’s your brother in law’, the Landlord says, to the distraught Robert.
‘Hell,’ says Robert, swigging his G & T down in a single gulp. The arrival of Peter, his brother in law, was a periodic event. It filled him full of dread, not to mention acute embarrassment. Robert of course knew the real family history, the truth and also the assumed world that Peter lived in.
Peter descended on them about four times a year; ostensibly, to see his sister and nephew, but he always called in at Robert’s ‘local’ first. Robert, a barrister with set ideals and standards to maintain actually, if the truth were known, liked Peter in an obscure way. He was very kind, loving and generous to a fault, when he was flush.
Being flush is always a problem for Cads. Living on your wits, as in essence they do, at least until the latter activities of the quintessential Cad are reached. Later on, he develops the ability to finance a comfortable life style, without the lack of lolly, when the ‘rich widow’ stage is reached. Peter, in his late forties is pretty much at the peak of his powers, still single, or at least without a recognisable partner. He is still playing the field with younger ladies of an impressionable nature, and always very beautiful ones at that.
The figure of Peter our ‘QC’, fills the doorway. At six feet and with a frame resembling a sturdy tree of the oak variety, it is a very impressive image and demands attention.
At this point, we pause to describe the QC’s attire. It is a most important feature and usually the everyday attire for the serious type. To start with an immaculate blazer a crisp white shirt with cravat or Services tie is absolutely de rigueur followed by a pair of the aforesaid impeccable cavalry twills and the inevitable ‘brothel creepers’. The whole production must be of the finest quality and fit. Other modes of dress are really not important. Tweeds are optional for the weekends; again of impeccable quality and worn with panache. A business suit is rarely needed, as the true Cad doesn’t have a business as such. When the season demands, the hire department of Moss Bros is utilised for ‘Shooting’ attire etc.
Our QC spies brother in law Robert cowering in the corner.
‘Bobsy boy,’ he booms. They nearly always boom, but in a modulated sort of way. ‘How are you, you old bastard?’ This term of endearment is so wonderfully articulated that even the Archbishop of Canterbury, had he also been present, wouldn’t have raised an eyebrow if Peter had hailed him as ‘an old devil.’
Robert gets to his feet and grins idiotically. It always takes him four months to nullify the embarrassment of being called ‘Bobsy boy’ every time his brother in law pleasures the arena. He winces at the sight of his brother in law’s blazer badge depicting a Guards Regiment, knowing that his brother in law spent most of the war on the run from Military Policemen. Impersonating Officers was his primary forte. ‘Oh hello Peter,’ he says with as much enthusiasm as possible.
‘Evening young Fred,’ says our QC, to the Landlord, ‘fighting fit eh? How’s our adorable Elsie?’
The fact that Fred is a sixty three year old bronchial asthmatic blessed with Elsie, a battle-axe of a wife encumbered with a face like a pickled walnut, is neither here nor there.
The QC is greeted with due homage by other customers who know him, and most of them try desperately to think of excuses to be late for dinner. They really don’t want to miss this treat, if past performances are anything to go by.
‘Gentlemen’s measure?’ says Fred, holding a glass up to the Gin optic.’
‘Thank you. Relief of Khartoum of course Fred,’ says our QC, going over to Robert and clapping him on the shoulder. ‘Still on Salvation Army?’
This, for the unenlightened gin drinker, is a reference to purveyors of gin, Messrs Gordon and Booth. A ‘Gentleman’s Measure’ is of course a double tot. No Cad worth his salt would ever drink a single measure…of anything.
‘New car Peter?’ says one of the drinkers, in an ingratiating sort of way.
‘Oh,’ he replies dismissively, revelling of course in the fact that the subject has been brought up. It’s a precursor to a declaration of wonderful line-shooting. ‘It’s a bit of a beast, isn’t it?’ This statement gathers his audience’s attention. ‘Frightens the crap out of me. Bit of a one off, breathed on a bit by the boys in Coventry. Do you know, they’ve sealed the bonnet, can’t even get into the bugger myself.’ This last snippet of bullshit alleviates any inquisitive type asking to have a peep at the engine.
The fact that his Jaguar is the only one in existence depends on the audience. For instance, with an audience of non technical types, which can be found in certain rural areas, it has twelve gears, a fuel injection system made out of something NSSA’s dreamed up and fuel derived from plutonium extract.
This brings us onto the subject of what suitable modes of transport, in which, our ‘QC’ disport themselves, hither and thither, around their various stamping grounds. This facet, like their mode of dress, is a dead giveaway. Jaguars are always the favourite, closely followed by Aston Martins, Bentleys run a poor third and Mercedes run, not at all. The three star brigade are not au fait with the machinations of true bullshitting. It is however perfectly in order for the wife/girlfriend to own one; in fact, it’s almost obligatory.
Foreign cars are out, although our QC will admit to having owned a series of Ferraris and a Maserati or two, and when questioned, will admit to having raced them.
Why not a Rolls Royce, I hear you mutter. Too ostentatious and not rakish enough is the answer. QC’s don’t claim to be successful with shows of grandeur. Part of their strategy is understatement, which is after all, a great British tradition.
QC’s wouldn’t be seen dead in Range Rovers and other 4×4’s. These are far too common. Every Tom Dick and Sharron has one, and is only used for ostentation. BMWs are even worse. Drug dealers and rap artists are the main users of this marque.
Japanese cars, well, they’re totally infra dig. Any way had a spot of bother with Japs in Burma. So we don’t talk about them (another ploy to invite somebody to do just that) Volvos? They’re made for the wives of Range Rovers.
‘What happened to that works Aston you were testing?’ chaffed Robert, trying to regain a semblance of moral high ground.
‘Oh my dear old thing,’ says the QC, ‘that was an animal wasn’t it?’ He turns towards the ensemble, understanding exactly what his brother in law is doing, and prepares to deliver the coup de grace. ‘Took dear old Bobsy here out for a spin along the Kingston by-pass in the bugger.’
‘Oh hell,’ mumbles Robert into his Gin.
‘Had a slight difference with a Maserati. Had to take her up to the red line in fourth before he gave up the chase. Can you smell something? I said to Bob. Smell it he says, I’m sitting in it.
‘Bloody maniac,’ splutters Robert, gripping the bar at the mere mention of Maseratis.
The Pub reverberates to the burst of laughter. This is what our hero wants to hear.
Two career girls enter, not regulars, but well known to the early doors crowd as good sports and well able to take, as well as give, in the banter stakes. This is where the true QC shows his prowess. No leering looks, no buying drinks; in fact no acknowledgement whatsoever.
The two girls however do acknowledge a presence. They may register it subconsciously but the irresistible presence of our QC registers eight point five on the Richter scale. It’s a primeval throwback to cave women I expect.
Herewith another axiom of the true QC, a rule of thumb that has caused many a female heart to flutter. Treat a tart like a lady and a lady like a tart.
All females fall unfailingly into one or other category, but for us mortal men it’s hard to tell which. I mean we can go through life married to one sort or the other, spend a blissful fifty years in their arms and still be in total ignorance as to their sway.
In contrast our QC knows which category women fall into within a fraction of a second. Does he choose the ‘Tart’ or the ‘Lady?’ Both are like a red rag to a bull to our hero. When he’s on the rampage his whole persona lifts itself thousands of feet, nearer his partner in the heavens. Our pillar of the Valentino school of seduction deduces which is the tart or the lady by telling a rather risqué joke.
‘Heard one the other day,’ he says to the chaps, ‘about a rich dyslexic sex maniac.’ He takes a sip of his drink, not even bothering to glance in the direction of his intended victims, but knowing that their ears are twitching. ‘Bought himself a warehouse.’
One of the girls lets out a titter. She’s the lady, and well enough educated to boot. The other one scowls and pointedly looks the other way. She is the boot. Our QC now knows which is which and can react accordingly, depending on his mood.
Now, dear reader, I bet you reckon you’ve found a flaw in this means test. ‘What?’ I hear you cry, ‘If it was the ‘Lady’ who didn’t laugh, because she doesn’t know what dyslexic means?’ There are plenty of very thick ‘Ladies’ around, even dyslexic ones. And what if it was the ‘Tart’ who laughed because she was born in a ‘warehouse’, and it brings back fond memories.
Well, I don’t know. I mean I wouldn’t have to write for a bloody living if I knew answers like that…would I? Leaning on a bar counter; that’s where I’d be. Telling stories and lying a lot.
Our QC reverts to his motor car’s attributes, always a good ploy for initiating further revelations. ‘Only got the beast back from Coventry last week,’ says the QC, waving a hand at the car park, knowing he has hooked the lady and can leave her in abeyance for a while. For the uninitiated he is talking about his car, not his wife or whatever, and Coventry is where Jaguars are made.
Robert is hibernating in the corner. He mutters something about ’Here we go’.
‘They’ve shoe horned a W thirty six into her,’ our hero goes on. He takes a sip, and lights a proffered cigarette ‘Can’t tell by looking at her though. Wonderful boys those.’ Now he waits for the reaction. None of the assembled fans have any idea what he’s talking about. He knows this; it’s all part of the stratagem. The blue touch paper for his launch into the world of virgin fancy, undreamt of by mere mortals has been lit.
One of the mere mortals can bear the suspense no longer. He scratches the back of his head. ‘ Er…W thirty six you say….haven’t heard of that one?’
‘Hush hush old boy, had dinner with the Chairman the other day, asked me to test it for ‘em.’
Mouths hang open.
‘Been doing it for years, ever since the SS series.’ He finishes his drink and casts his arm over the audience like a blessing from the Pope. This indicates the rounds on him and Jack starts pulling pints and attacking optics with a relish that belies his years.
Robert has a quadruple Gordons and very little tonic.
‘I tell you what,’ continues the QC, ‘Four blowers, one for each bank, seventy two valves and ceramic pistons will knock the hell out of Ferrari at Le Mans this year.’
‘Jesus!’ gasps Robert, nearly spilling his drink.
‘Can’t touch it of course,’ our hero adds quickly, before the shell shocked audience succumbs to the advances of alcohol. ‘told you, bonnets sealed tighter than a duck’s arse.’
Now talking of arses, we must pause once again to consider another facet of QCs. That is the ability to always cover theirs. If he is a successful QC he hasn’t got where he is today without using bullshit. And bullshit does baffle brains, but as a certain Mr Barnum so quaintly put it, “Not all the time, but some of it”. You see, it is just possible that an engine with all these accoutrements is being developed, and who better to develop it than our own boys at Jaguar.
Meanwhile our shining light is working on a game plan for the girls…or at least the pretty one…the lady. There is a lull in the proceedings while the pub tries to envisage the millions of horse power quivering under the bonnet of the beast in the car park. The QC springs into action. A silver cigarette case is produced, opened and offered around to his fan club.
‘Players Perfectos on one side, Turkish on the other, hand rolled in Ankara. My chap in Belgravia gets ‘em. He turns round to the girls. ‘Do you indulge?’
It is of course no mere chance that the ‘lady’ takes a Player and the ‘tart’ looks startled and declines. She’s never seen a Turkish cigarette before and thinks that the oval shape contains something not quite legal at best, or at worst, a normal cigarette that this certifiable crackpot had sat on.
A Gold Dunhill is massaged into life, an action not unnoticed by the now fawning ‘lady’.
‘Fred’, booms the QC,’ ‘The girls are absolutely parched. Can’t have that’. He looks at his brother in law. ‘Robert, you old bastard, get the moths out of your pigskin.’ He passes the glasses over to the landlord and looks enquiringly at the girls. ‘Similar or something else?’
‘Relief of Khartoum and tonic please,’ says the Lady, with a smirk of intrigue.
The QC smiles, he’s got her. She knows it, we know it and the old sow sitting next to her knows it. As far as our lovable bounder is concerned he can keep his conquest on the back burner, for further use….if and when. In the meantime, it’s full steam ahead with further demonstrations of immodesty.
‘Glad to see you’ve remembered Fred,’ says the QC and points to the shelf containing mixers. A look of consternation floods over the Landlord’s face. He needs reminding.
‘Schweppes,’ mumbles Robert, reminding Jack of the QC’s last visit.
‘Ah yes,’ says Fred,’ ‘I got ‘em.’
‘Schweppes,’ says the QC, swinging theatrically round to face his frenzied fans. ‘Only thing I’ll ever drink.’ He looks almost dolefully at his audience. ‘Arnhem.’
‘Oh Christ,’ says Robert.
The QC’ unperturbed. ‘Went in with the first wave, Got knocked about a bit. Found meself in hospital near Pompey in the next bed to Pongo Fordham. Didn’t let on he was next in line to the Dukedom.’
‘Jesus,’ exclaims one of the greener members of the audience.
‘We shared six cases of Gordons with the Matron. Marvellous old dear, high as a kite right through the war. Blamed it all on the Kaiser. Anyway we had nothing to mix it with. Pongo used Epsom salts. He drank it on the lavatory to save time.’
Everybody digested this imagery. The mind boggling. The tummy gurgling.
‘Pongo got out first and within a day, ten crates of Schweppes Tonic arrived, courtesy of dear old Pongo. Turns’ out he was a major shareholder in the company. Never drunk any other tonic since.’
Well neither would the assembly now, so well did the tale go down. The QC puts his hand into an inside pocket and pulls out a wallet. This next ploy will kill as many birds as an artillery barrage and will demonstrate his credibility in a number of other areas.
‘Funnily enough I ran into Pongo a while ago. Left the family business; bit of a dark cloud you know. Apparently he went on holiday to South Africa and came back with a six foot Zulu wife.’
He looks around for the expected dazed reaction. The anticipation of the outcome is etched in every nook and cranny. That is, apart from Robert, he’s a facsimile of the etching on the Shroud of Turin.
‘They started a marriage agency in Holborn for Hottentots.’
While everybody digests this our QC fumbles with his wallet and a cascade of business cards fall out. ‘Got his card somewhere.’ He says.
This ploy of dropping his business cards on the floor achieves the desired affect as various members help him pick them up, and consequently glimpse a veritable ‘whose who’ of the British Establishment’s hierarchy.
‘I say,’ says ‘the lady,’ handing back one of the cards with a discernible crown embossed on its surface and a name not far from down the pecking order in line to the throne. Far enough, mind you, not to endanger the credibility or grounds of the possible, venturing into the world of fantasy, just credible enough.
‘Oh bless you my angel,’ says the QC, sensing an opening which would further enhance is image, he flicks the card over, ‘Oh good lord’, he declares, in a wonderfully understated way, ‘I should have phoned the old bastard,’ he gives the ‘lady’ a wonderful smile, not quite verging on an outright leer. ‘How’s your drink?’
Robert drifts further into a state of resignation and alcoholic stupor and watches our QC, manoeuvre the ‘lady’ inside the immediate circle, next to him, leaving her friend alone, without a backward glance. The underlying statement that they are now an ‘item’ is unmistakable, albeit on a subconscious level.
The phone rings and Fred answers it. ‘It’s Anne, Robert are you here?’ he shouts.
The QC breaks of in mid sentence, a sentence extolling the virtues and otherwise of the aforesaid ‘old bastard’. ‘Hang on Fred let me talk to her. Robert, this will cost you another round. ‘Hello Anne darling,’ he booms, ‘how’s my favourite little sister.’ The fact that he is in fact her younger brother and revels in the allusion of youth only helps to soften the diatribe which she was about to unleash on husband Robert. ‘Yes he’s here,’ continues our QC, holding up a warning hand to Robert who looks as if he’s about to shimmy over and make forlorn excuses. ‘No he won’t be long, but listen old thing, I’m only passing through, I don’t think I can manage to pop in tonight, got a very early start tomorrow, eighteen holes with Greg, but will be down this way again next Wednesday, I’ll take you all out to ‘Thatchers’.
The Greg our QC alludes to is of course Greg Norman, but not stated. Very clever.
‘Thatcher’s is a five star establishment renowned for its ‘Dover sole’. He took her there once, Robert had to pay.
The lady has sidled up to Robert, whom she knows in a gin soaked sort of way, ‘What a nice person your brother in law is?’ she asks in a not to subtle attempt to elicit information. ‘Is he married?’
‘I don’t think so,’ declares Robert, ‘at the present time.’
‘Where does he live?’
‘I believe he’s got the east wing of the Palace of Versailles’, he replies, not being able to resist.
Fred places two glasses of gin on the bar. ‘On your slate Robert?’
‘Why not,’ he replies, shuddering at the thought of his overdraft. ‘Why not.’
Our QC has finished talking with his sister and joins Robert and ‘lady’. ‘Look’ he says, can I have a word Robert?’
Robert knows what’s coming. The ‘lady’ sidles off to the ‘Ladies’. The ensemble talk amongst themselves occasionally holding up their drinks to our QC, imparting thanks for the drink.
‘How’s the old credit situation with Fred, Robert?’ asks our hero. This, dear reader, one must remember was before the plastic economy had taken over the roll from actual money. A pleasant way to refill the wallet, when needed, was to cash a cheque with various publicans. The downside of the transaction was the temptation to give the cash straight back to the publican rather than ones nearest and dearest, who was doing her best to purchase the occasional crust for their starving children. Another downside of this arrangement is the need to have the necessary in ones bank account to honour the transaction. The true QC can never be guaranteed to have this advantage and consequently daren’t ask known publicans to cash personal cheques. All credibility would be demolished if the cheque bounced.
‘How much?’ mumbles Robert, taking guard.
‘Couldn’t manage a hundred could you old boy?’ says our QC bowling his first ball.
‘What…pounds?’ splutters Robert, in forward defensive mode.
` ‘By the way you don’t happen to know her name do you?’ asks our QC showing another facet of ‘cadism’, by changing tack, rather like a googly.
‘Always called her Flossy,’ she’s the Lord Lieutenant’s daughter,’ lies Robert, knowing not her name or parental affiliations and scoring a boundary.
‘Is she by God,’ exclaims our QC, mind whirring with possibilities, all semblance of devious spin bowling vaporising. ‘How about fifty?’
Robert defends the ‘yorker’ and looked into his glass ‘twenty five?’
‘Have to be old boy; she will have to put up with a lamb chop.’
The yet to be acquainted recipient of the ‘lamb chop’ has returned and goes over to her, until half an hour ago, best friend. A short sharp exchange ensues resulting with the ‘best friend’ stomping out of the hostelry. The ensemble, realising that tonight’s show is drawing its final breath, sup up, and start straggling out, with last cheerful farewells to the orchestrator, with a discernible stagger to their cars.
‘Flossy’ comes over to our QC, who has just pocketed the hard earned boodle and is ready for the next step. Remember, he has hardly spoken to her all evening. The seduction is an art, a classical ballet of unspoken chemistry, which most females can sense, but only the true QC, of the male persuasion know well enough to employ.
‘Fancy a spin in the county Flossy?’ says our hero.
‘Wonderful,’ she replies, fluttering her newly applied eye lashes and revelling in her new name which she deems a term of endearment.
‘Splendid,’ replies The QC, ‘do you know, I happen to have some delicious lamb marinated in aquavit from Henry at the Ritz, which I’ve saved for someone special.’
The inferred ‘someone special’ is just the ‘icing on the cake’ for ‘Flossy, she melts. The fact that our QC lives a hundred miles away, in a converted cowshed, doesn’t matter; our hero will explain on the way that the plumbing is not all that it should be and he’s waiting for the Queen’s architect to come up with plans to convert it to something wonderful, only adds to her infatuation.
‘Well Bobsy,’ says our QC, taking Flossy’s arm, ‘must be off you know, give my love to Anne’.
‘Cherrio’ shouts Fred, ‘Call again soon.’
‘Love to Elsie’ says our QC, as he nears the door, taking accolades of near worship from those early door types that are still lingering. He turns and bowls Robert his last but most devastating leg spinner. ‘Oh Robert, forget to mention, Anne says your dinner’s in the oven.’
‘Oh Robert’ says Fred, after they both watch the Jaguar disappearing into the dusk, ‘fraid Peter didn’t pay for a couple of rounds, could you…’