Dulltown, UK/Europe: Today’s wrinkled old snapshot is the one of me being thrown out of the Bullingdon Club for being too nice, and also for being poor.
The lad, in his late teens or his early twenties, sitting at the next table in the café, I observed, had a cigarette behind his ear. Actually, the thing looked home-made; I thought that it might have been a shortish spliff, or joint, that he had rolled earlier, for later. A few years ago he might have been arrested by the rozzers, just for having the thing, but now no one is unduly bothered.
Above or behind one’s ear, that area, is surprisingly handy for the temporary storage of thin lightweight items isn’t it? I have been known to occasionally slip the odd pencil or pen up there. The upper human ear flap seems to have been especially designed for it. I wonder, when and where did that useful adaptation, mutation, pop up in evolution’s grand plan?
I wonder what it was that our distant ancestors, those scruffy cave dwellers, slipped behind their ears? Perhaps a twig or plant stem that they picked up, that looked a little bit like a wiggling snake or eel – that they decided to take back to the cave to show, and discuss, with their hairy cave-dwelling pals? Yes, I’m sure it was something like that.
The top of the human ear is just begging to be used for keeping small items safe, but accessible when you’ve got your hands busy with other stuff.
I expect, back then, if you had a blowpipe and you used poisoned darts in your daily hunting you could go out with your pipe under your arm and a dart or two readily available, within easy reach, behind each ear.
The top part of this organ is quite flexible, springy, and resilient – well, mine is. It can probably accommodate something as thin as a matchstick or as thick as a standard pork sausage. I recall, when I used to design and build theatre sets for a living, I would often wander around the place all day with a thick flat carpenter’s pencil stuck behind my ear. The trouble with that was that when you removed it, you could still feel a ‘ghost pencil’ lurking there for an hour or so afterwards. That was most annoying – especially when you had put your pencil down somewhere – you’d probably left it on that upstage rostrum, there, next to that mug of cold tea, a full ashtray, and one of the actor’s tatty well-annotated and doodled on scripts – and you’d keep reaching up for your pencil and find that it wasn’t there – ‘Damn!’ you’d say, ‘I’ll bet a bloody actor has wandered off with it!…’
I expect Leonardo and Michelangelo used to stick their paint brushes behind their ears as they stood back and pondered on composition, and Bill Shakespeare would slot his quill pen there as he gleefully plotted between scenes on how his leading characters could kill each other off in the most entertaining manner; I’ll bet Albert Einstein had a nice fountain pen behind his ear as he sat there in the Bern Patent Office toilet musing and thinking up a fresh angle on relativity.
I wonder if there is an ancient Egyptian wall painting or carving somewhere showing a scribe with a stylus parked behind his ear – I’m sure there must be one – I think I’d better Google it…