Once Works Well was pure technology. Now it seeks merely to divert.
Pansy subjects - Verse! Opera! Domestic trivia! - are now commonplace.
The 300-word limit for posts is retained. The ego is enlarged

Saturday, 19 February 2011


Another funeral. Dear Ivy, quick-witted wife of quick-witted Dennis, both born in London, in their eighties, running conversational rings round lumbering Herefordians. And for that matter West Riding Tykes.

As I remove my funeral shirt, a button pops off. Mrs BB offers to sew it on but I stay her hand. She uses single thread whereas I use double, a practice adopted in the RAF where security was the watchword. We differ in other ways.

SEQUENCE Since 1966 (ie, in the USA) Saturday dinner has nearly always consisted of a hamburger with a baked potato. An unspoken celebration of a different era though toast has now replaced the bun. Mrs BB eats the burger first then spoons out the spud’s guts. I knife-and-fork the potato, skin and all, then treatfully eat the burger.

THIRST A sandy “guzzard” (courtesy Elder Daughter) at 3 am? Mrs BB slakes it from a glass on the bedside table. I stumble downstairs and swig from chilled fizz in the fridge.

MUSSELS Done marinière Mrs BB could eat a stone (ie, 14 lb). I like them but six is enough. The ratio’s the same for rollmops.

RED/WHITE Unaccompanied, Mrs BB would default to red wine all the time. I’m more AC/DC. Stealthy opening of expensive white Burgundy by me is turning the tide.

IN FRANCE I rush into impromptu conversation with natives. Mrs BB would rather open her veins.

SOCIAL PESTS Mrs BB simply lies. I lurch into embarrassingly constructed half-truths and am punished afterwards by Mrs BB.

LIBRARY The fiction shelves are her oyster as, once, they were mine. Now it’s non-fiction if at all; I prefer to buy.

DENTIST Mrs BB’s ante-chamber to hell. I chat.

TRANSPORT Given her “druthers” (Courtesy Pittsburgh mates) she prefers the bus. The car for me.


Plutarch said...

Chatting comes easily to some, myself included. But I do know that it can be hell for others. My weakness is that I would rather chat than be chatted to.

Rouchswalwe said...

Well, it wouldn't be half the fun if you didn't differ ... but the rollmops? Ach!

Julia said...

Does the hamburger include pickles, and if so - sweet or sour?

(I like your list of differences; they are stories in miniature.)

Barrett Bonden said...

Plutarch: It has taken me some decades to recognise this but I initiate chat. It's a sort of compulsion. Explicable in a social environment when I - humanely - try to ensure there are no awkward silences, less so at the supermarket check-out or with taxi-drivers. It's a qualified form of gregariousness which I would always have disavowed in my youth but which probably existed unrecognised. This is the first time I have ever committed this admission into readable words and I'm wondering whether my life will change in some way as a result.

RW (sZ): You are too concise. Would you have me eat more or fewer rollmops? I'm quite prepared to change (see previous comment) to ensure acceptability in your eyes.

But I do like "Ach!" and it's not the first time you've used it. As if you find it necessary to prove your non-deracination. I hear your never-heard voice, RW (zS).

Julia: That question is unerring as I will shortly explain. But then I have to tell myself that Mrs BB and I have of course been under your scrutiny and acute powers of observation are to be expected in a polymath.

The garnishing of our hamburgers shows us again to be polar opposites. Mine is deliberately austere: simply onion and rather a lot of salt. Mrs BB spreads a mix of mustard and ketchup on the toast slices (There is a historical precedent for toast at a famous but disappeared NY diner) and also adds onion. However, when I talked about this as we walked to Tesco this morning she admitted she would add slices of gherkin(Which I take to be sour pickle) "if we had any in stock". Which for some reason we rarely have. So bull's eye.

I agree, these differences (in some cases fairly subtle) could be springboards to short stories. However, I'm otherwise engaged.

Plutarch said...

But when I first knew you, your ability as a chat initiator was noted and discussed. Only in those days we called it interviewing.

Lucy said...

Only six mussels? Absurdly short measure. Six rollmops on the other hand is probably an ample sufficiency, if not excessive, though I too am interested to know how many R would consider to be optimum, my guess is rather more...

As to walking all the way downstairs to the fridge for a slurp, that seems almost like self-mortification. Can you not have some form of proprietary wine cooler with a small bottle of fizz beside the bed?

Toast with a burger... is it crisp on both sides? Sounds palate-scratching, especially combined with pickles or ketchup. In my efforts to overcome my aversion to things in vinegar, I have discovered cornichons aigres-doux, (please imagine the italics), which are much less acetic.

Barrett Bonden said...

Plutarch: I suppose it's a variant of the swords-into-ploughshares conversion. Until you mentioned it I hadn't noticed the connection. Interviewing was a mechanistic process whereas initiating a social conversation paid some lip service to etiquette.

Lucy: There are some foodstuffs where the transition from piquancy to overkill can be measured in micrograms. Rollmops are even more extreme than mussels and I was citing a ratio rather than an absolute figure (ie, Mrs BB could eat six and I a half.)

My water foraging is dangerous as well as mortifying - the staircase is steep and multi-staired. I would defend the practice in these dubious terms: I seek a sensation rather than a slaking - the impact of chilled fizzy water on a palate dulled by sleep is painful and it is a pain I require at that time of the night. At other times my masochism is in abeyance.

In a perfect hamburger the bun fulfils the role of an edible table-napkin. Buns like that are hard to find: they're either too sweet, soft, crisp or big. As I mentioned, the evolution of the hamburger includes toast as a precedent and although it may be abrasive it stays in one piece during the eating. In no sense was I proselytising.

Cornichon aigre-doux (Please feel free to borrow my itals.) are an excellent find. I shall comb the Languedoc for them.