In Competition No. 2415 you were invited to categorise six types of …walk? drunk? bore? I left it to you. Here is one of Sydney Smith’s types of handshake: ‘The retentive shake — one which, beginning with vigour, pauses as it were to take breath, but without relinquishing its prey, and before you are aware begins again, until you feel anxious as to the result, and have no shake left in you.’ The prize-winners, printed below, get £25 each, and Noel Petty has the bonus fiver.
There are many ways of sitting down. There is the ‘vesture-protective’, under which we may subsume both the trouser-hitch and skirt-smooth; there is the ‘backward flop’, accompanied by an expulsion of breath indicating recent exertions satisfactorily performed; then we have the ‘hypochondriacal’, involving a furtive dusting of the seat with a handkerchief before contact; the ‘provisional’, in which the buttock makes the very slightest of contacts with the leading edge of the chair, signalling both inferiority and eagerness to be of service; the ‘retrovisory’, a rearward glance being followed by a firm grip of the chair’s sides, possibly a relic of its last-minute removal by a sibling in early youth; and the ‘block-and-tackle’, when the full weight is taken by the arms and the body very slowly lowered into position, accompanied by the somewhat otiose information that the subject is not as young as he used to be.
Type 1 is confused and feebly surreal, involving for instance goldfish, mountains, Chinese policemen, and a train that turns into a miniature wheelbarrow. In Type 2 you are lecturing to an enormous, inattentive audience; your notes are in Sanskrit and the microphone does not work. The sudden realisation that you are naked does nothing to help. In Type 3 you are young again, running effortlessly over the downs, or reunited with a dead lover.