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The Scots Week-End
The Holiday Friend


By the delicious warmness of the mouth,
And rowing eyes that smiling tell the truth,
I guess, my lassie, that as well as I,
You're made for love; and why should ye deny?

ALLAN RAMSAY

A NOTE ON THE ESTABLISHING OF SOCIAL CONTACTS

THE matrix or prime condition of a holiday is the abatement of labour. Energy is thereby released for other and more genial purposes, whether actual of the body or speculative of the mind, which for the greater part of the year, in the greater proportion of mankind, is spent in the quotidian offices of a mercantile, professional or industrial occupation. In the perdurable words of the Bishop, that is, a vacation provides both time and inclination. It is true that people who are brutish by nature, or in whom the felicities of curiosity and imagination have been starved by the mechanical circumstance of their environment, will squander this happy increment on the golf-links or the tennis-courts; and the muscular explosions that propel a volley or a forehand drive, as also the mental exertion required to equate windage and the parabolic drift of a slice, will sensibly hinder their perception of the aphrodisiac quality of leisure. Yet this quality cannot be disputed, and whatever may be said for the use of Arabian skink, eringoe root, the durian, the brains of sparrows, civet and nux vomica, it seems probable that the exploratory instinct and happy fantasy of love will find in idleness a more healthy nourishment than in any of these reputed specifics; and while there is a sufficiency of young men and women, their nature not yet perverted by athleticism, who have the virtue to perceive and the grace to admit the aggravation of amativity that should in all cases accompany a holiday-but especially in the months of July and August and September-it is clearly desirable that knowledge of the preparatory strategy and preliminary tactics of a love-affair should be more generally diffused. For in spite of the growing easiness of manners and the diminishment of formality there are still many who find difficulty in accosting a stranger without embarrassment-which is more ruinous to love than great ugliness or a sour breath-and of these many, some, could they but cross with courtesy and determination the frontiers of non-acquaintance, would make gentle, trustworthy and pleasing companions.

How, then - with what passport, that is, or recognisable yet decent countersign - should these frontiers be approached?

With discretion, in the first place. Let there be some period of diligent yet concealed reconnaissance during which the active or approaching party may assure himself that the objective is truly desirable and not patently beyond his reach; that it is not ineradicably habituated to nourishment and entertainment outwith his financial resources; that it is not surrounded by lovers already too strongly entrenched to be dislodged within the duration of a summer holiday; that it is not indissolubly joined to an ailing parent or a bespectacled friend.

Having satisfied himself on these points, the approaching party should behave with fortitude and resolution: but fortitude in a mask of gaiety, resolution in a garment of ease. Let him smile, but not lickerishly or with too gaping an aspect. Let him speak clearly, but on some trivial subject, for many young women, though agreeable to all the senses, have no more intellect than a pullet, and like a pullet from a thundering blue charabanc will flee squawking from any word upon the impasse in Ethiopia, the harmonic resources of Hindemith, or the incoherence of the Zeitgeist. As introductory gambits or forcing bids for a sentimental friendship, topics such as these have only a limited appeal; they may serve in Bloomsbury, but in Arran or Dunoon a comment on the weather is more generally acceptable, while a well-timed reference to sea-bathing or ballroom-dancing will establish a reputation, not easily shaken, for fluency and savoir vivre.

In the manner of the suitor - as he has now become - there should be apparent a courteous inclination to humour and amuse the object of his suit. To a strong and primitive nature this may be tedious, but a modern holiday resort is generally too populous to permit the more urgent approach of Solutre and the mammoth-hunters. A self-doubting and timorous mind, on the other hand, will be tempted to exaggerate its complaisance, and show anxiety to please: a fault more mischievous than the ash-plant. A safe course between violent Scylla and fawning Charybdis may be found in some small and seemingly careless display of generosity, such as the purchase of wine or sweetmeats. Mr Norman Douglas has said that chocolate is "of no value as an endearment, an incentive working not upon body but upon mind; it generates, in those who relish it, a complacent and yielding disposition". Mr Nash, the American poet, debating as rival allies the cocoa-bean and the grape, has clearly observed, and in a memorable poem succinctly described, their social values:

Candy
Is dandy;
But liquor
Is quicker.

But celerity in coming to the goal of desire will not be over-estimated save by the fool, the vulgarian and the base disciple of efficiency. The wise man, the gentle and the ingenious, will rather recall with favour the pleasant verses of Ben Jonson's friend, Sir John Roe, who sang:

Dear love, continue nice and chaste,
For if you yield, you do me wrong;
Let duller wits to love's end haste,
I have enough to woo thee long.

And yet to woo by wit, for the long fourteen days of holiday, one-only chance-got littoral acquaintance, might muscle-bind invention, or dehydrate it, make it sinewy and dry; do not emulate the limpet, that is doomed by lack of vision to fidelity, and grows in time so weary of faithfulness it will change its sex. Rather recall the virtuosity of that musician who, playing but one tune, could play it to perfection on thirty-seven different instruments.

Now a word against the belief that exposure of the limbs, so prevalent on the sea-shore, inevitably provokes a mutual amiability: summa ars est artem celare, said the Romans, and their decision, that ars - in particular summa ars, which implies a certain prominence - should be artfully concealed or clad, deserves a wider recognition than it has lately received. Even the all-comely, the smooth-symmetrical young woman who too liberally exposes herself is either a fool or unfortunate: a fool if, of her own volition, she puts all her goods in the shop-window; unfortunate if the company she keeps is so dull that womanhood, for its Boeotian gaze, must be spelt out in all its alphabet. Where manhood is not yet debased, her littlest smile should be a sufficient invitation, and the well-contrived oeillade the very duplication of Lord Nelson's flags at Trafalgar.


Jenny said to Jocky, gin ye winna tell,
Ye shall be the lad, I'll be the lass mysel';
Ye're a bonny lad, and I'm a lassie free;
Ye're welcomer to tak' me than to let me be.

Allan Ramsay


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