Wednesday, June 18, 2014


Only time today for two things, but I think they're both worth it:

1 Recommending you read Diana Holman-Hunt's My Grandmothers and I (1960), which is available in paperback from Slightly Foxed Editions. It's yet another in their series of minor English memoirs of childhood, and it's as full of entertaining oddity as any of them. Hunt's grandmothers, as Linda Leatherbarrow puts it in her introduction, were
ferociously egocentric and shockingly indifferent to their granddaughter's welfare. They come prancing off the page, every line of their dialogue ringing horribly true, every word evoking the manners and prejudices of the period between the two World Wars.
One is rigidly just-post-Victorian, one late Pre-Raphaelite Bohemian, and neither can see anything but her own needs. Yet Holman-Hunt tells the story with such winning detail, such an understanding of the inexplicable combination of sensitivity and blindness that is childhood, that we laugh over and over again.

2 Telling you about the part that's made me laugh the hardest thus far, which is one of the most absurdly Edwardian bits: when Diana's grandfather is eating--or, more properly, being fed by his servant, Arthur:
I knew I mustn't watch Arthur poking food into grandfather's mouth, but out of the corner of my eye, across the silver bowl of roses or carnations, I could see a spoonful of meat or pudding poised under his nose. He talked a great deal and when he finished a sentence, he would open his mouth like a baby bird and Arthur would be ready, like the mother bird with a worm.
Horrid, yet funny, no? It goes on, and descends into pure silliness:
If he were in a good mood, when asked if he would like another helping, he would answer in a solemn voice: "No thank you, I am not hungry, but if pressed, I might manage," and then he would burst into song:

Some mulligatawny soup, a mackerel and a sole,
A Banbury and a Bath bun and a tuppenny sausage roll,
A little drop of sherry and a little drop of cham,
Some roly-poly pudding and some jam, jam, JAM.
Magnificent, isn't it? When you read it, you can't help but put a tune to it; if you're me, you can't help but actually sing it aloud to your wife. Who, because she is kind and to some extent knew what she was signing up for, opts for a smile rather than a grimace.

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