Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Mary was that mother mild

“The English language is a flippin’ curious mistress,” was Sweary Mary’s opening gambit as she rustled, laden with shopping bags, into the Patisserie, and ordered a chocolate and almond croissant. I’m not being paid for this recommendation (though for future reference, I am open to bribery), but  the Patisserie’s c-and-a croissant is stunning, and only about 75 calories. Or 750. One or the other.

“Go on, then,” I said, not that Mary was ever not going to go on.

“I’ve been doing some Christmas shopping…”

“It’s TOO SOON.”

“There are only 28 blinking days to go. It’s futile to stick your head in the tinsel.”

“I don’t think that is an actual expression.”

She let rip a hearty rendition of the first few bars of the rude version of ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman.’ I gave a subtle gesture of appreciation that anyone watching might have mistaken for the ‘wanker’ hand signal.

“So anyway,” Mary said, seguing seamlessly from ‘to save us all from Satan’s power,’ back to shopping, “while buying presents, I noticed the way stores use clever blimming language to entice us. The obvious one is that very Lewes thing of calling string ‘twine’. Twine sounds much nicer. You say, crikey, £6 for a ball of string? Are you ‘aving a larf?” (Mary gave it the full Dick van Dyke.) “But the shopkeeper says, why no madam, that’s finest quality twine.” She gave an awkward little cough. “And before you know it, you’ve damn well bought it, in three different colours.”

Poor Mary. I said, “I’m really looking forward to opening my twine on Christmas Day.” 

She smiled gratefully. “The lilac’s surprisingly nice.”

“What else did you fall for, I mean, what other language tricks did you notice?”

“Local. Bung local in front of something and it’s instantly more worthy. It’s not till you’re half-way through the first glass that you think, son of a gun, maybe local wine isn’t ever going to be as fablis as Chablis.” She warmed to her theme. “Actually, all adjectives should be banned. ‘Elegant.’ ‘Finest.’ ‘Cosy.’ ‘Stylish.’ ‘Innovative.’ ‘Stunning.’”

“But you love a good adjective, Mary.”

“Only the sweary sort, darn it. Not the ones that are just there to shake me down.”

“Then there’s all the Christmas words,” I said. “Like festive. That’s used on everything. Festive carrots, for serving alongside the other delicious trimmings as you and your happy loved ones sit down to a groaning table, and save one for the snowman’s nose that you and your happy loved ones will make together later with lots of laughter and no arguments about whether the stones you’ve used for the eyes are two different sizes.”

“Cripes, are you all right?” Mary asked.

“Yes thanks,” I said, wiping my eyes. “I’m feeling stunningly festive, seasonal, magical, lavish and wintry.” 

Then I put the rest of my croissant in my mouth to form a kind of plug.

Beth Miller