I was invited to dinner the other day by some folks not long moved up from Buckinghamshire. It’s happened before. A neatly turned out Sasha or Duncan meets my wife alone, presumably decides she sounds quite jodhpurs, ponies and private schools and is charmed by a false sense of shared values. Sight unseen they extend a bony finger of social largesse to include me, which is where things start to unravel.
Even as we crossed their threshold, bottle of Sainsbury’s Cava and Costco mints in hand, I detected disappointment that my vowels fell into the NQWWW category – Not Quite What We Want. I’m hardened to this. My own speech has never fitted in, from Secondary Modern in the North West which I endured whilst being ‘rite posh’, to nine years in London as a token ‘northern git’.
Hanging up coats, we took seats in the lounge. It transpired the Sashcans still had their house in High Wycombe, hinting to me at expatriate impermanence, as though they’d be ready on the tarmac with bags packed ready to board the last flight out when the inevitable UN evacuation was ordered.
Over an array of nibbles we discussed public transport in Northumberland, or rather the lack of it. I cited recent homework asking my daughter to describe a journey to St James’ Park by bus and train. Being ‘in travel’ I’d decided to assist, discovering that the twenty mile odyssey took 15 and a half hours, comprising a three and a half mile walk to the bus stop and in a cruel twist an occasional obligatory overnight next to the Metro at Callerton Parkway’s Premier Inn. I mentioned little old ladies, isolated and lonely, too doddery to drive even if they could afford to, marooned in villages where they’d lived for decades. Perhaps rashly I made the case for public transport providing a service rather than earning a profit, a suggestion obviously akin to wearing a flat cap, eating a chip butty and lighting up a ‘tab’ whilst clog dancing The Internationale. ‘Why should we pay for your transport?’, came the astonished response from Duncan’s visiting sister. The pros and cons could have been argued but the subtext was plain – Why should we who are comfortably enclosed in the fat of the Home Counties care a jot for anyone else, particularly those for whom bath, path and laugh are a bridge too far?
I felt suddenly tired. My glass was refilled but even meltingly-ripe Camembert and five types of cream cracker couldn’t resuscitate the evening. Time to head home, after all, the whippet would need a walk before bed.
This week’s links…
Kelvin McKenzie’s piece in The Telegraph in which he bemoans subsidising folk from the rest of the country… http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/9717537/Kelvin-MacKenzie-overtaxed-South-needs-its-own-party.html#
It occurs to me that you have to be of a certain age to appreciate this Goodies clip – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TJxGi8bizEg
A fascinating TED talk by Susan Cain that seems to suggest that sales, PR and mob-think may have gone too far… http://www.ted.com/talks/susan_cain_the_power_of_introverts.html
Tony Hawks on Radio 4’s I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue attempts to keep up with Psy’s Gangnam Style – http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p011txtf
Carole Cadwalladr suggests a new name for the world’s least favourite airline in this Guardian piece – http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/dec/02/ryanair-needs-a-new-rude-name