Wednesday, November 23, 2011

But what it don't get I can't use

“If I had a little money, it’s a rich man’s world,” sang Grange Girl, dancing into my kitchen waving a ten pound note. She essayed a soft shoe shuffle round the Brabantia bin, and without changing key, or indeed, tune, segued straight into “If I were a rich man, yabba dabba dabba doo.”
I sipped my tea thoughtfully and watched her, waiting for the financial medley to come to a halt. This happened sooner than I’d hoped; for, slipping on a stray tea-bag, to the melody of Forever in Blue Jeans (apparently money talks, but it don’t sing and dance and it don’t walk. Who knew?), Grange Girl sat heavily on the floor and silence ensued.
“Explain,” I said.
“I’ve only gone and won the Lottery!” she cried.
“Well why didn’t you say so?” I helped her to her feet and offered her a biscuit from my secret tin. She took a chunky chocolate cookie and dunked it messily in my tea but I said nothing.
“What are we, uh, you, going to buy first?” I gabbled excitedly. “We need champagne!” I checked the rack but there was only a dusty bottle of blackberry wine someone had brought to a dinner party four years ago, the swine. I made fresh tea instead.
“Ooh Grangey! New house? Lamborghini? iPads for all your friends?”
Grangey nibbled her biscuit. “I thought I might buy a new Scrabble dictionary,” she said.
“That’s oddly modest; you could buy a solid gold Scrabble set.”
“Yes, I’m thinking a dictionary. Or I might buy breakdown cover for my car.” Her hand snaked towards the biscuit tin, clearly heading for a foil-wrapped one, but I quickly hid the tin behind my back. “Did you say OR, Grangey? That sounds as if you’re planning just ONE purchase with your mighty win.”
Grange Girl sighed. “I’ve won the Lewes Lottery,” she said.
I narrowed my eyes. “And how much, exactly, is your win?”
“Must I assume that £52 is not being used as a shorthand here for, say, £52,000?”
She nodded. “It’s better than a slap in the face with a soggy biscuit! I was really pleased!”
“Yes please.”
“Pour it yourself.”
“Oh, don’t be like that. It’s a really nice thing. Half the pot goes to local good causes, and half to a winner. You could tell Viva Lewes readers that the more people who play, the bigger the prize I can win next time.”
“I’ll do that. Cos frankly, this win’s a bit pitiful.”
“It’s like the song says,” and Grangey broke into tunelessness once more, “Tell me that you want the kind of thing that money just can’t buy.”
“I’ll tell you that,” I said, putting the biscuit tin on the high shelf, and opening the Rich Teas instead, “when you tell me you’re just as happy with these cheap biccies.”
“Course I am.” Grange Girl took one and dipped it triumphantly into her tea. “These are miles better for dunking.”

Read about the Lewes Lottery here

Beth Miller, 16th November 2011

Thursday, November 3, 2011

And one more for the road

'A buttery one, please,’ I said.
The sommelier smiled. ‘Certainly, let me fetch something you might like.’
Malling Lass turned to me, respect and suspicion battling it out across her face. ‘Buttery, eh?’
I nodded and nibbled a bread stick.
‘It’s cold, isn’t it?’ Lass said, stalling. ‘The nights are drawing in.’
‘They are indeed. We’ve put the heating on.’
‘Ah, no need up in Malling. Heat rises, you see.’
‘Our house is warm as an Athens sauna in August. Uncle Adultery’s laid up on the sofa in front of the fire, demanding non-stop Bath Olivers and Darjeeling. It’s good to get out.’
‘Glad to oblige.’
There was a pause.
‘So,’ she said. ‘What’s this buttery business all about?’
The sommelier returned with a large glass containing a swirl of golden liquid. ‘I think you’ll find this extremely creamy,’ he said.
I sipped it, channelling the Jilly Goolden of my youth. ‘Mmm. I’m getting the full dairy here. Butter, stilton… and is there just a hint of macrobiotic yoghurt?’
The sommelier’s smile shifted into a lower gear.
‘Let me try,’ Malling Lass said, snatching my glass. I don’t know what they teach ‘em up that end of town. She swilled my wine from cheek to cheek like a hamster, then swallowed it with a cartoon gulp.
‘How exactly is that buttery?’ she demanded. ‘It just tastes like wine.’
I gave up my pseudo-oenophilia. ‘Look, I once had a scrummy wine which was described as buttery. So now I always ask for something buttery because I know I’ll like it. When I was fifteen I used to ask for the one with the blue nun picture because I knew I liked that.’
‘Ooh you had me fooled, I thought you were an expert.’
We clinked glasses - ‘Cheers!’ ‘Sláinte!’ ‘L’chaim!’ ‘Mud in yer eye!’ - and she chugged down her own wine, a vibrant red full of raspberries and apple blossom (it said on the label).
‘Something else I know nothing about, other than one useful fact,’ I said, ‘is Ancient Greek.’
Malling Lass indicated to the sommelier, by means of an oddly emotional mime, that she needed replenishing.
‘I’ll want a shedload more alcohol if you’re going to start muttering about Greek,’ she said, and ordered ‘something with a kick of Tabasco.’
‘I was going to say that the only Greek I know, is the meaning of the word symposium.’
‘And this came to your mind because…?’
‘…because we’re in a wine bar called Symposium.’
‘So we are. Go on then, cleverclogs.’
‘It means “a drinking party.” Which would have enlivened most of the decidedly sober symposiums I have attended.’
‘Symposia, surely?’ Lass said, sipping from her fresh glass. ‘Mmm. More Aromat than Tabasco, but in the right arena. Or arenum as you doubtless prefer.’
‘Actually, symposia and symposiums are both correct.’
‘Here’s a plan,’ Lass said. ‘Let’s stay here until we see this Symposium in plural.’
And we drank to that.

Beth Miller, 27th October 2011. Published in Photo by Alex Leith