bored of excitement – the griefjunkie blog 

Adventures With The Aspirational Poor

Dear Rachel

Until this Christmas Day, I had assumed that the word ’scrage’ – pronounced to rhyme with ‘rage’, and used to describe a minor skin abrasion – was the sole linguistic property of my old dear and, by association, myself.   It turns out to be Bristol slang, according to a book on the subject being bandied about the Christmas dining table along with an inventive and eyewateringly potent butter collection which consisted of brandy, cherry brandy, and amarula cream variants.   I dislike alcoholic butter, and instead familiarised myself with sundry other Bristolian phrases, which enabled me to safely arrive at the conclusion that I was in no danger of being stung by a macky buzzer if I was of a mind to go outside and see if the snow was pitchen yet.  

Where my old dear picked up ’scrage’ from is anyone’s guess, but as she is the kind of woman who claims to have ‘alumillion saucepans’ and constructs sentences like ‘I told him, Paul, I said as Gawd is my witness. I said ‘I told you’, I said to him, so help me Gawd’, I’d always assumed she had invented it herself.   While ‘alumillion’, along with ‘ramnifications’, ‘obstensively’, things not making ‘one Toyota’ of difference and references to the now-defunct DIY chain Em Fie Eye are, I think, unique to her lexicon, ’scrage’ would not be the first time she has invented words that have already been invented.   During a baffling phone chat on Christmas morning which partly concerned a conversation she’d had with a friend, she said ‘I left a tiny gap before answering – what I’ve always liked to call a ‘pause’ – and then I told him alright, oh yes believe you me’. Having a special word for something which is the same ordinary word as everyone else uses is another hallmark of a conversation with my old dear, and it occurred to me that anyone enjoying a large and lavishly varied meal to celebrate the birth of Christ this season might also like to ask Him to have a bit of a rummage around in her brain and let the rest of us know, just once, what on earth she is on about.

‘Forty Years Of Sunny Days’ is the tagline on a Sesame Street boxset I happened across over Christmas, and this is a milestone I myself will be reaching in April. Feeling perhaps a strange sense of kinship, I spent enjoyable time counting to twelve, and marvelling at the solo adventures of each individual number involved as they found themselves variously fired around pinball machines, sailing across oceans, and landing on the moon. I was, however, slightly confused when returning from the kitchen with more merlot to find that the emphasis had shifted from a discussion of words which rhyme with ‘cat’ conducted by Kermit the Frog and the Cookie Monster to a discussion of neurological transmission within the cerebral cortex which, despite no experience in the field whatsoever, I thought was too steep a learning curve for Sesame Street’s target audience. This was because, in my brief absence, the Royal Institute Christmas Lectures had started. If you are unfamiliar, these consist of a series of talks given annually, by a nervous scientist to a audience largely consisting of highly scrubbed and henna’d adolescent girls, and are hugely fascinating. To illustrate how the brain forms associations, the audience was played Greensleeves and, when questioned, admitted to thinking about ice cream, due to the fact that Greensleeves is routinely played by ice cream vans. This was somewhat lost on myself, as I have reached the point where I have read so much history that when I hear Greensleeves – which is widely accepted to have been written by Henry VIII – I immediately think of the dissolution of the monstries, the break from Rome, and having my girlfriend beheaded.

Be that as it may, it’s been a long year in commercial enterprise. I remain as grateful and humbled as ever by the interest in and continued if modest prosperity of our gallant little business. We never take anything for granted: perhaps as a result of this the London markets, especially Greenwich, have been very good to us. This time next year, however, Greenwich Market will be a pile of rubble, and the pile of rubble with be on its way to becoming a hotel, and there will be no Greenwich Market any more. Where this will leave us I have as yet no idea, although we have a couple of tricks up our sleeve and have been trying to – and I love phrases like this – diversify our revenue portfolio all year, with some notable and pleasing successes. While the party isn’t quite over, the first parents are crunching up the driveway to retrieve offspring full of cake and ice cream. Already bundled into the back of the metaphoric Ford Mondeo is our long term friend, ally and drinking buddy Chris, with his lovely floppy blonde hair, soft skin like a baby dear and thin indie legs. Chris is so middle class that he considers the Strokes to have had a bigger cultural impact than the Sex Pistols, and the fact that he reads the Guardian and does a bit of work for the public sector probably qualifies him to actually forgive sins if he wasn’t, oddly enough, an atheist.

While Chris will be fine, if disoriented, as he emerges blinking into the post-market trading world, for us next year will have to be the year in which we stop mucking about behind market stalls and start being a real business. Or rather, continue to muck about behind market stalls but not have to rely upon doing so for the vast majority of our income. I am prepared for the queasily exciting but very necessary changes this may entail. For now, though, I shall be retreating to my sofa with a Cadburys Occasions selection box and Jeff Chang’s History of the Hip Hop Generation and seeing how much of both I can devour before dozing off. Myself as a person and ourselves as a business continue to count ourselves lucky indeed to be submerged in the resourceful world of the aspirational poor; an associate of mine is contemplating listing himself as an Ornamental Hermit on eBay in order to raise funds while another is applying for a grant to turn his Morris Minor into a ‘Mobile Cabinet of Curiosities’, with room for guest exhibitions in the glove box. On a slightly different note, livestock-owning friends keep donkeys which children ride up and down an unfashionable, but splendid, English beach in the summer months. Throughout December – a quiet month for coastal resorts – they attached antlers to the thankfully patient and good natured animals, and attempted to pass them off as reindeer in an optimistic display of entrepreneurship that I am told would not have fooled a three year old. Surrounded as we are by commercial audacity of this calibre, I’m sure we’ll be alright, one way and another.

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