Friday, June 13, 2014
“What’s wrong with it?” I asked. “Or should that be ‘them’?” I was hoping to distract Grangey from my outfit, into a discussion about one of her pet peeves: misuse of the English language. Specifically, the tendency of fashion types to use the singular for plurals (eg ‘team this with a flat shoe’ and ‘a cropped trouser’). She didn’t bite.
“Go and change,” she said firmly.
“But dungarees have come round again.”
“I, however, have not come round to them.” She flapped her hands at me. “Shoo.”
I took a closer look at my bossy chum. She was wearing a knee-length floral skirt and a long cardigan, teamed, as Vogue might say, with a brogue and a blue stocking. “That,” I said, pointing to her neck, and failing to keep a raised eyebrow off my face, “is a floaty scarf.”
“You could do worse than don a scarf yourself, Greenham woman.”
Muttering rebelliously – since when did one have to dress up to visit a garden? – I returned to my boudoir and put on a skirt. I don’t own any floaty scarves, so I accessorised with my woolly Lewes FC scarf. When she saw my new outfit Grange Girl did so dramatic an eyeroll, her eyeballs got stuck behind her lids. I took advantage of her temporary disability to push her in the car and drive us off on our outing.
“How can you have not been to Charleston?” Grangey asked, when her vision had returned to normal. “It’s almost wilful.”
“I don’t know. I’ve been to Monks House,” I offered, as a sop, but Grangey was not mollified. She directed me along the A27, and we were soon wandering, floatily, through the Bloomsbury blooms. I trailed a few paces behind Grange Girl, who was now wearing a large blue hat, not wanting people to think I was out with my mother. We took a tour round the house, where it was Grange Girl’s turn to disown me as I interrogated the tour guide with prurient questions about the household’s shenanigans back in the day. The guide unembarrassedly supplied many fascinating details, which I relayed to Grange Girl when I caught up with her in the bedroom used by John Maynard Keynes.
“Quite a narrow bed,” I pointed out, “to fit both him and Duncan Grant. Plurals in a singular.”
“For heaven’s sake,” Grangey said, fanning herself with her scarf. “Do you have nothing better to think about?”
“Well, they didn’t seem to, did they? If they weren’t painting on the furniture they were panting on it, if I remember correctly from that odd film about Dora Carrington starring Emma Thompson.”
“They were writers, and artists,” Grange Girl said sniffily.
“I bet Vanessa wore a dungaree to paint in,” I said.
Beth Miller. Published in Viva Lewes June 2014, and in vivalewes.com. Illustration by Michael Munday