The Wisdom of Crocodiles

Another quote from my third replacement 2016 diary. What a godsend that the cats peed/vomited on the other two.

It is the wisdom of crocodiles, that shed tears when they would devour.

Sir Francis Bacon, 1561-1626. British philosopher, statesman and essayist.

Do they? Actually shed tears? I must find out. Back in a tick.

Apparently so, but not – as Sir Francis Bacon would have you believe, from false remorse as to the fate of the creature whose bones they are crunching. Their tears are much like our own, and at times moisture does collect in the corner of an eye and run down a crocodile’s face, at mealtime or otherwise. Often this goes unnoticed because crocodiles mostly feed in the water rather than on land. As with our own tears, the primary function is to lubricate the eye.

However, the expression has stuck and tends to be applied to politicians and business executives who put the boot in behind close doors or engage in ‘briefing against’ to journalists, then inform everyone how very, very sorry they are to learn of their colleague’s inexplicable demise/dismissal/fall from grace.

I have to say, though, that women are particularly good at it. Give me a man any day. No, maybe I should rephrase that…

I used to work on the second floor of a ramshackle solicitor’s offices in town. We were all women, and boredom used to overtake us at intervals, so we would get distracted by stuff going on outside the window, down in the street. As it happened, we were right in the town centre, by the Post Office. We got to see it all – enviably unemployed people sitting around with a-bun-in-a-paper-bag at 11:00 in the morning; tiny, breakable infants mountaineering into the upper branches of sickly town trees whilst their mothers gossiped heedless below; old people falling over, being surrounded by concerned crowds and being picked up again …

One day we saw a fight, or an incipient fight. Two young men were prancing around one another, fists raised, but not in the traditional way – one of them at least was making ‘karate-chop’ hands. He was shouting but it was difficult to hear what he was saying. Probably something about being a Black Belt, and the other chap not wanting to tangle with him if he knew what was good for him. You could make up any number of scripts. Young men square up to one another in much the same way the world over, I suspect.

And of course we laughed. People look foolish and ridiculous when they’re angry. How many of us are James Bond heroes, capable of expressing deadly, icy rage with a straight face, and barely a tremble of an eyebrow to indicate the strength of feeling they are controlling – admirably. We are apes, basically, and when we are angry we behave like angry apes. We chatter and circle, we leap and threaten, we make karate-chop motions we probably wouldn’t know how to carry through.

But at least with men you know where you are. Women are so much scarier. A woman doesn’t have the desire (usually) or the physical strength (usually) to marmalize you with a folded fist or kung-fu fighting. But she’ll marmalize you all the same. Women use the ‘dark’ skill-set – gossip, bitchery, manipulation, social networks and sweet, sweet bullying – their language skills, generally. And crocodile tears  – the sort that won’t leave her with a pile of soggy paper hankies and a face like W C Fields for three days, i.e.:


– no, no – the elegant sort that won’t smudge one’s mascara and will require only a sideways wipe from an impossibly long, manicured finger-nail to remove. Women, at the top of their game, are impossible to read, impossible to predict and have no concept whatsoever of honour. After a bit of argy-bargy in a pub car-park after a few beers, a man might forgive his mate. A man might forget, when the beers have worn off, but a woman never will. It is not for nothing that Congreve tells us:

Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned, Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned.


3 thoughts on “The Wisdom of Crocodiles

  1. According to Joseph Conrad:
    “Being a woman is a terribly difficult task, since it consists principally in dealing with men.”

    Any thoughts? 😛

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, I think being a woman is a terribly difficult task, but for other, more biological reasons than dealing with men. I am planning to come back as a man in my next life. Ater that I’ll be able to give a definitive answer.

      Liked by 1 person

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