Words and terms get lost in the relentless twee of modern parlance. Less dumbing down than dumbed. We can’t all know everything, we don’t all have flexible vocabularies. But my teachers used to rule against “nice “ as a description for anything. I still use it very carefully, even precisely. It’s too big a fuzzy blanket to do more than obscure. So I saw the John Lewis Christmas ad last night and went in search of lemons. Mary Poppins would never forgive them, it isn’t “a spoonful of sugar”,
more like a bag. And I think I saw the M&S which faded instantly into overloaded short term memory. We used to say that if you didn’t remember the name of the brand, the ad failed. What can it mean if I remember the brand but not the ad ? Debenhams was slight but fresher faced – it was so last year too – and as we reach six weeks and counting, everything is draped in red ribbon and it’s hard to find cards that aren’t for Christmas. Makes me growl.
“Bored of” makes me growl. It’s tired of and bored with but tired of is in narrower use, out of fashion, now usually referring to bags under your eyes, so the constructions have elided and become as you see – I so dislike it, I can feel myself turning into Lady Bracknell as I write.
Hard fruit makes me growl.
You either shop around – I have time and buy in small quantities, you wouldn’t if you were working or had a family or both – or you are in the land of Take What They Give You. I paused 48 hours ago and exchanged sympathetic glances with a small woman as we confronted “perfectly ripe “avocados. “Stones” she said clearly. “And that notice is such a lie.” We commenced to feel our way through the crate. “You buy it hard – it’s all chilled – and it doesn’t ripen – it saddens and withers …” I agreed. I buy eating apples in two different places, cooking apples in another, oranges in a third. We used to call that shopping, when one stop shopping was experimental.
I never thought I would say this but I bemoan the loss of the queue so that I go and stand and wait for a bus, and some chippy thing steps in front of me without so much as a smile or “Excuse me” – worse still, children seated or bags seated while humans stand promote a whole series of bloodcurdling noises emanating from the bottom of my diaphragm.
Noise makes me growl – like wandering into Fenwicks (I was looking for a special present) and getting caught up in its pre Christmas “shopping event” – how twee is that ? – the building shaking to formless music, screaming young women (you’d have to scream to be heard) spending somebody’s money like water, under lights where you can’t see the colours. I went round the corner to the quiet Asian owned pharmacy which has done good business for years, where it is clean and not overpriced, thus not getting a present but avoiding a headache and the dyspepsia of disapproving old age
My mother used to threaten I’d turn into Vinegar Nell and it seems she has wished it on me, though I strive for the same kind of balance as I tried to maintain between hope and experience. I used to say I was 49 per cent cynic and 51 per cent child and as long it stayed that way, I’d be all right. I count my blessings, I tell of nice moments and pleasant exchanges but sometimes something just pulls you into growling mode. And I would rather growl from time to time and admit to it, than become the sycophant of those trilling voices trying to sell us everything from a moorland view to the next winners in some ghastly game show.
There is a knowing cadence to all kinds of speech that I can screen out when it’s in something I have choice over but when it inhabits the throat of the newscaster or the weather girl, I feel the growl working up my throat to a bloodcurdling yelp. “Goddamit !” I say – and channel a grizzly.