Tuesday, 7 June 2011

The Dangers of Archiving, Suspense, And Ignorance of Cockney Rhyming Slang.

Thank God Recess is over again, if only for the next six weeks. Greg and I are planning to celebrate by ceremonially burning all the draft letters that The Boss wrote to "help us out", but then Vicky throws this plan off course.

She's in a very chatty mood when she finally turns up for work. I much prefer it when she isn't.

"Molly," she says. "Look at the state of your nails. Why on earth don't you grow them - or at least get falsies?"

"Because I like to be able to pick things up properly," I say. "And I can't see the point in long nails, anyway."

Vicky looks down at hers, and wiggles her fingers to show those weird squared-off ends to their full cringe-making effect.

"There's always a point to being well-groomed," she says. "Men appreciate it, even if you don't."

I can't believe this is true of The Boss, whose own grooming habits make me look obsessed with my appearance, but I am trying not to rise to provocation, so I don't say so. Never let people like Vicky see they've got you rattled.

It's far better to be cool yet polite, and to change the subject to something more neutral. In theory, of course.

In practice, as soon as I open my mouth, Freud sneaks in and takes control:

"So, Vicky," I say. "How much longer are you staying with us as an intern? You've been here for months, so isn't the novelty wearing off by now?"

"Yes," says Greg, rather too heartily, even from the depths of the archive cupboard. "When are you leaving? Is it soon?"

I do wish he wouldn't listen in to other people's conversations; and he really should try to sound less keen for Vicky to go. If there's one thing she enjoys - other than inspecting her nails, and other people's - it's frustrating the desires of others. As far as I can tell. The Boss may have a different opinion, of course.

"Well," says Vicky. "I am a bit disappointed to still be waiting for the paid job that Andy offered me, but I spoke to him last night, and he's persuaded me to wait a teensy bit longer."

"Oh," I say. "And did he say where the budget for more staff was coming from, however long you wait? Seeing as no-one's still intending to leave, as far as I'm aware."

"Yes, Vicky," says Greg, sticking his head out of the cupboard, but almost at ceiling height, which is most unnerving. "Do tell all."

She might have done as he asked - if his bloody foot hadn't chosen that moment to slip off the shelf that it was balancing on, causing him to drop like a stone. It serves him right, but I do wish he hadn't let go of the boxes containing Adams - Edmonds in the process.

By the time I've finished putting all the files back together, and Greg has found an old ice pop in the freezer compartment and applied it to his head, Vicky's had a change of heart.

"Thinking about it, it's probably not my place to tell you what Andy has planned," she says. "I'm sure it was meant to be a private chat between the two of us."

That's as maybe, but I'm pretty sure Greg would kill her if he wasn't still feeling dizzy. He can't stand suspense.

I'm going off it myself, too - especially when it's Johnny who's keeping me guessing. He phones mid-morning, because he wants to hear my voice for a change, or so he says.

"Guess who I heard from last night?" he asks.

"President Putin?"

I am in the middle of reading about another of Miss Harpenden's extremely hypothetical calamities, so I'm not taking the guessing business as seriously as Johnny might like.

"Jemima," he says.

Now he has my full attention.

"Jemima Fuck?" I say, before I recall that that wasn't her real name. "I mean, Jemima Tuck?"

"Yes," says Johnny. "It was such a nice surprise."

"I bet," I say, though it certainly isn't for me. Jemima's the one who "went all the way" with Johnny, when some of us never would.

"And guess what she's doing now?" he says.

For once, I'm quite happy to be asked this about an ex-schoolmate. Given that there was a rumour that Jemima traded sexual favours in return for a Wagon Wheel and a Bay City Rollers single, she's bound to have become even less successful than me, which will make a very nice change indeed.

"I don't know," I say. "What?"

I can't wait to hear the answer. I've never forgiven Jemima for stealing my shoes after every netball lesson, so I do hope it's something much worse than working for an MP.

"You give up easily," says Johnny. "Merchant banker."

I laugh, which doesn't seem to be what he was expecting, presumably because it turns out that his answer wasn't intended to be funny.

Josh tells me that I got my Cockney rhyming slang muddled up. Apparently Swiss banker was what I was thinking of.


  1. Take it from an old London geezer, merchant banker is the correct term, as in "What a right merchant!" who could be sloping off for a "J. Arthur (Rank)."

  2. Ha - so you mean I had the last laugh for once?!

  3. From now on I'm carrying a stash of Wagon Wheels.

  4. contra Dr Benjamin Spock, baby does NOT always know best!

  5. Alfred, I wish I'd known that when my kids were babies. Though I'm not sure about Maria's idea to carry a stash of Wagon Wheels - they might only work to entice Jemima ;-)