‘Digging deep, so it is,’ said Country Mouse.
‘Is that definitely the right expression? Don’t you mean “biting hard”?’
‘Digging hard, biting deep, whatever. The recession’s got me by the throat. I’m brassic. Skint.’
‘You’ve a tautology going on there, because brassic and skint mean the same thing.’
‘Two tautologies, actually, because brassic is in fact rhyming slang for skint. Boracic lint, see?’
This exchange explains (a) why Country Mouse and I get on so well and (b) why we aren’t invited to many parties.
‘So is all this a roundabout way of asking me to buy the coffee?’ I said, as we went into Robsons.
‘Yes thanks, and also a roundabout way of warning you not to get your hopes up for your birthday prezzie.’
‘Ah well! I wasn’t expecting much. When you get to my age…’ I waited for her to tell me I was still a young flapper, but the pause went on rather.
‘Thought I’d make you a present,’ she said happily, and put down the menu. ‘They do toasted tea-cakes here.’
‘Would you like one?’
‘Yes please. Something along the lines of an embroidered cushion cover, I was thinking.’
‘What are the other options?’
‘Embroidered hankie, embroidered wall-hanging, embroidered tablecloth. Or a scarf.’
‘An embroidered scarf?’
‘I’m going to be honest with you. I’ve managed to live for nearly twenty-nine years…’
Country Mouse choked on her tea-cake.
‘…TWENTY-NINE YEARS without owning anything embroidered.’
‘Is this the most the word “embroidered” has ever been used in casual conversation?’
‘No. We once discussed the history and usage of the phrase “embroidered the truth” at an all-night session of the Lewes Pedants’ Society.’
‘How come I missed that one?’
‘Arbitration insisted we use the online Free Dictionary to settle the fight. Odd site that is, peppered with links to ‘Nine Surprising Mistakes Women Make That Men Find Totally Unattractive.’
‘Weird,’ said Country Mouse, wiping butter off her elbow.
‘Anyway, back to me. Surely instead of buying embroidery thread you could use the money in the fine charity shops of Lewes to get me something surprising and un-embroidered.’
‘Embroidered has now lost all meaning.’
‘For instance, Library Boy gets his 1950s jigsaws in Age UK. And Grange Girl once found an (un-embroidered) Liberty’s scarf in Martlets.’
‘They have ice-cream sundaes here.’
‘Go on then. And the Red Cross is tops for Beano annuals.’
‘I suppose I could stretch to a fiver.’
‘Ooh push the boat out why don’t you.’
‘That’s a strange expression, isn’t it? Oh god I can see from your face that you’re going to tell me its origin.’
‘Eat your sundae.’
‘Believed to be a corruption of the word Sunday.’
‘There are good DVDs in the British Heart Foundation.’ I took my purse out to pay the bill.
‘Delicious,’ Country Mouse said, running her finger round the empty glass. ‘No, my mind’s made up. Your purse is right tatty. Hand it over, and next time you see it, it’ll be looking ever so pretty.’
Beth Miller, 22nd September 2011. Published in VivaLewes.com