This and that - and four letter words
1. Chooks are growing; and beginning to get over their battery farm reluctance to go outside. They are also ceasing to sound like chicks, peep peep peep, such a funny sound coming out of largish birds. Now their chicken voices have broken - is that what it is? - when Granny ventures inside their house she hears that most comforting and lovely of sounds - it takes her right back to childhood - soft clucks and whoops, and gentle purrings, an ongoing serenade that's like a gentler version of a northern beck over stones; another of the most heavenly sounds in the world. (Not one to be found here. She has to make do with the sea, so don't feel sorry for her.)
2. A new one on Granny. She is wearing an old pair of stretch jeans, a bit too tight for her these days; the zip therefore is inclined to slip. Mr Handsome from Blackburn was sitting in the kitchen when she went in. 'You've got egg on your chin,' he said. Turns out this is the polite northern way of telling someone their fly is open. They are very polite in the north, it seems. Granny who has no problem with four letter Anglo-Saxon for describing physiological functions (she inherited spade calling spade from her mother) finds herself continually shocking him. 'I'd never expect to hear words like that coming out of someone like you,' he says (for 'someone like you' read a) ageing b) posh (in his view, Granny can't help the accent, sorry) c) female.
3. Here's a query arising from a comment she made added to comments yesterday; as to why sex - or rather chastity was such a religious issue - so central to her parents. Deirdre came up with a terrible story about a great aunt sent away when she got pregnant outside wedlock - her parents feeling obliged to move town. And we all know the havoc wrought on young women not so long ago, forced to give up their babies to adoption and never quite getting over it; of those further back confined to lunatic asylums for sexual activity. Granny herself, from those days before the pill and legal abortion, remembers the constant terror of getting pregnant. What walk into the Birth Control clinic without engagement ring and a fairly immediate wedding date? A waste of time. Nor were the likes of Vera Drake inviting. As for breaking the news of an (un) happy event to your parents.. Worse and worse.
It isn't/wasn't sex itself she concludes. It was literally to do with honour - family honour - especially in patrilineal families where legitimacy comes from the male not the female ..If your daughter was unchaste, your wife unfaithful... well.. Though things have slipped a bit when it's the adulterous male makes the fuss about paternity not the rightful husband - look recently at David Blunkett and what turned out to be not 'his little lad.' It hasn't slipped elsewhere, unfortunately. Honour killings make that clear. It's the woman always bears the brunt of it, the worst of the cruelty - even when the cruelty is mainly mockery. (Camilla?) All this may be cliche but not alas anachronism. How she wishes it was.
(But it makes and made good fictional material. There's a novel by Trollope, she remembers, called KEPT IN THE DARK - about a woman who failed to tell her fiance that she'd been engaged to a man before; then jilted him. Something shameful apparently at the time. The force of the verb 'jilted' shows it. No such easy dramas now - except in romance fiction set before the 20th century. As dear Bob, reminded Granny. Actually the Trollope novel was not a good one. She is glad to say.)
Her dad felt some of this loss of honour she is sure, vis a vis his less than virtuous daughters. Her mother may have suffered more from the religious failing but he felt it socially; the rather milk and water version, certainly, if presented with the worst he was unlikely to move towns let alone gather up Granny's brother and advance on his daughter with an axe. But Granny remembers vividly watching him talk to another boyfriend - the one she didn't marry - to their relief - he used to drape himself round their sitting-room reading what were to them red rags, like Tribune. They didn't talk face to face. They were pacing up and down, one in front of the other, amid the rather intricate collection of rosebushes, set out a bit like a sundial, with little grass walkways between and around them, that stood in front of the french window of the 30's house. Both had their hands clasped behind their backs. Both had heads down - they had to watch their step on the narrow paths, to avoid landing in the roses.
Granny couldn't hear what was said; but she knew the subject matter. Boyfriend and Granny were proposing to go on a camping holiday in France - by themselves. This according to her Dad was not to be thought of. 'Suppose you met one of our neighbours?' seems to have been his chief worry, rather than argument - you can see what she means about the milk and water version.
Anyway the upshot of it all was that they went away on holiday in a foursome; with a friend whose boyfriend was studying for the priesthood. Well that was chaperonage enough or so Granny's parents thought. Unfortunately for them - and some more of their illusions - the curate's bride came back pregnant and had to get married in a hurry. The would be curate left Theological College and became an industrial relationships expert.
That holiday was also the end of the relationship. Granny returned to her first love and subsequent not so much later husband who'd started playing hard to get until she went off with someone else (Granny then and now does not believe in unrequited love.) The boyfriend had even less sense of humour than her Dad. When Granny wrote to congratulate him on his engagement a year or two later, a letter came back describing the fiancee in very dispassionate terms. 'I think I can mould her,' it ended. Granny realised she'd had a lucky escape. And that socialism and sexism could be - were - bedfellows.
Granny is off online now to tell more of her family story. Don't wait up. She may be a long time.
Labels: family stories