Friday, January 09, 2015


My friend Sophie's family always seemed properly English-flavoured. Her grandfather was English, and many, many years later we would exchange whispers about the mythological straitness of his laces. His daughter -- Sophie's mother -- had a mane of glossy black hair and the kind of expression that got her cast as the romantic interest in our seaside musical productions. My mother played the bombshell. Not just because she looked the part, for lo, did she ever, but for a certain glinting side-eye entirely absent from Sophie's dear mater.

Sophie and her brother and sister had breakfast at a set table, with milk in a jug. And they went to Sunday school.

We ate raisin bran standing up in the kitchen. My parents were known for saying fuck and being naked. And boy howdy was there no religion. Except in our sedately Anglican schools, tame little Thursday eucharists and all. But that's another story.

Sophie's father was a rheumatologist and they spent a year in England when she and her sister were little. My mother would tell the story of their return. Oh! she would exclaim, clasping her musician's hands to her chest, they had such sweet accents, you couldn't believe it. Hello Miranda! she would lisp plummily, apostrophising the tiny ones in their little blue garbardines. Sigh, said my mother. You wouldn't believe how quickly that disappeared. A few weeks and then ... oh well.

The tragic relapse to our sad, vulgar tongue. Oh well.

I wondered about this place where everyone talked in this way that made my mother clasp her hands to her chest. Fantastic Mr Fox talks like that, I thought. And Ratty and Moley! Perhaps everyone in books talks like that. Well, except the Muddle-headed Wombat. He's a wombat.

Well, that's something, I thought. That's something.

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