There are many people in life that could benefit from a sound beating. The captain of the Chinese ship that spilt oil on one of the largest marine national parks in the world? Beating. Those people who scuff along five abreast so you can’t get past? Beating. Tony Abbott? Drizzle with chocolate sauce, roll in Milo and devour with Maggie Beer’s French Vanilla ice cream? KIDDING. Beating.
Of course you can’t deliver a good beating with a line of knuckles in a fist, a cutthroat razor or a blocked ballet shoe (as my mother once did out of sheer irritation). A sound birching needs a cane. And when I say cane I’m not thinking of one of those grey medical aids you can buy from the pharmacist with a little rubber-tipped claw on the bottom, but a thin rattan or wooden implement, preferably with some sort of silver inlay or bejewelled detailing, a point at one end or a deadly stiletto hidden inside the shaft.
My old ballet teacher Miss Komisky had a cane she would use to tap offending body parts as she barked out orders between puffs of her Gauloises. It was black and knobbed, with a small handle across the top. I don’t remember much of her teachings (apart from ‘good toes, naughty toes’), but dang I remember her smell and that cane.
There’s pages of Molesworth devoted to canes, which, as any fule kno, is spelt ‘kanes’.
In Oman, the style of the local gents was impressive: every fellow looked crisp and cool in white dishdasha and little embroidered hat, sporting a thin camel crop with a crook at one end. (As an aside, Annoi my red-blooded travel companion found the combination of handsomeness and freshly laundered white clothing almost too much to bear.) The implication to me was that if any stray camel should appear on the sandy streets the well-prepared Omani gent would be ready and able to give it a light touch across the flanks and send it harrumphing back to the herd, but from what I could gather, many chaps would use their cane as an ornament only. Obviously, I had to own one.
I wound up buying not only a long, bendy bamboo camel crop with a copper tip but a magnificent black walking cane with a silver knob and a hard iron point. I bargained somewhat, but the vendor could sense my excitement and I could only beat him down to $30 (imagine the bargain if I’d owned a cane already!).
At a recent picnic in the Botanical Gardens I had the chance to give the silver-topped cane an airing, and can I report that the experience was heartily enjoyable. A cane can be used to point one’s friends in the right direction, as an aid to good posture when seated on the train and to scare off the flocks of voracious moorhens and swans scavenging around the edge of our picnic. The silver-topped cane was in fact a key part of the satisfaction of the day. As my mate said recently: “it’s hard to imagine why you wouldn’t buy a cane.”
Of course if I stepped out on the streets of Melbourne sporting a cane, swishing away streetkids, rapping shopkeepers over the skull or skewering flyaway papers tumbling from a professor’s satchel, it would pretty scotch my chances of ever having a boyfriend again. But what fun life would be.