I was in my living room yesterday afternoon when I thought I heard my eternally un-named-friend say something about inflating the scrotum by making a hole in it, sticking a straw in and blowing.
“Not scrotum,” I heard Martin Soan say. “You’re talking about the sac. Otherwise someone will just go and blow up their testicles.”
“Was someone talking about an inflatable scrotum?” I said and switched on the recorder in my iPhone.
Seeing this, my eternally un-named friend told me: “I don’t want to be quoted in this! I know nothing!”
“You blow up the sac, not the scrotum,” said Martin Soan.
“Isn’t the scrotum the sac?” I asked.
“Oh, it might be,” said Martin.
“I thought,” said Matt Roper, “that the scrotum was the bit between the bum-hole and the balls.”
“That’s where you’ve been going wrong,” I suggested.
Matt said: “The scrotum would be just behind the sac, wouldn’t it?”
“No, no,” said my eternally un-named friend. “The scrotum IS the sac.”
“In Yorkshire, probably yes,” said Martin.
I still have no idea what he meant by this but, in reply, Matt said: “It’s called the tinner there. It’s the bit in ter middle.”
It was at this point, I think, that I again started to lose control of my understanding of the conversation.
“Do you know,” asked Martin, “what is fascinating about that bit between your arsehole and the beginning of your scrotum?”
“It depends on your predilections,” I suggested.
“It is the very first and very last point in acupuncture,” continued Martin. “It’s not called the bubbling stream. I know which one is called the bubbling stream.”
“They’re numbered?” asked Matt.
“Number One and the last one start in that same place,” explained Martin.
“Is this like connecting the dots?” I asked, “You end up with the shape of Fidel Castro’s face?”
“It is useful, though,” said Matt, “It is not just a no-man’s land.”
“Try sticking a pin in it,” suggested my eternally un-named friend.
“On Saturday,” Matt reminded us, “I’m going down to Totnes for three weeks of acupuncture.”
“Well at least,” I told him, “you now know the point where it will all start and end.”
“Basically,” said Martin, “those points are used if they’re kick-starting you. Acupuncture is like running a car: it’s getting your body to operate at its optimum efficiency. And sometimes, like a car, you get a flat battery and your body’s so fucked-up that they have to do those two points. To give you a clean sheet, so they can start treating you properly.”
“And have you been kick-started?” asked Matt.
“Yes,” said Martin, “I’ve been kick-started once in my life.”
“Via the tinner?” I asked.
“Yes,” said Martin. “Only once during 30 years of acupuncture. It was about seven years ago.”
“Does it hurt?” asked my eternally un-named friend.
“I think it’s the most extreme pain I’ve experienced,” replied Martin. “The bubbling stream is a point just to the side of the little nail on your little toe… That’s like a blue bolt of electricity which starts about 50 metres away, comes through an arc into my head, down through my body and exits by the little toe and disappears. Each pain you can actually visually describe but, as soon as it’s there, it’s dissipated.”
“You’ve had acupuncture for 30 years?” I asked Martin.
“Yeah,” said Martin.
“So how many pricks have you had?” I asked.
“He usually does between 4 and 5 a session,” Martin replied, “and I’ve averaged maybe one session a month for 30 years… Years and years ago, he looked at me and said The older you get, the healthier you’re going to get. It’s just like tuning a car. The funny thing is he’s really good at getting rid of warts.”
“How did you start on the acupuncture?” I asked.
“Well,” said Martin, “I came back from Holland with the Greatest Show on Legs and I got introduced to some heavy drugs over there. When I woke up in England, I was just covered in bruises and cuts and also I suddenly collapsed in the street. The Greatest Show on Legs had to go off and perform without me for a month until I could build myself up again by eating properly.
“About a year after that, we were in Wales – me and my wife Viv – and this girl who was an acupuncturist took one look at me and said You almost died some time ago. You were very, very ill. And it cut through to my core shocked me. I had been very, very ill. And she said: When you get back to London, I recommend you go and see this guy. And I did. And I’ve been going to see him ever since.
“I love the whole philosophy of the Chinese, which is you pay your doctor while you are well and, if you’re ill, you stop paying him. It concentrates everybody on staying healthy.”
“Western doctors,” said Matt Roper, “are great for life-saving and emergencies…”
“Yes,” agreed Martin. “Broken legs and things like that.”
“But Chinese medicine,” continued Matt, “is great for prevention.”
“I’m still not sure why it’s called the tinner,” I said.