Saturday, May 29, 2004

Hazelblackberry: Matte finish

Dear Nick,

Yesterday I was walking through Myer (or Myers, as we all tend to say; Myer's I suppose). It's a little like Tim Tams. Take a look at the packet sometimes: it says Tim Tam; without the word of a lie.

I was on my way to buy stockings. I had twenty minutes to spare before my dentist appointment, so I thought what better way to kill time than by purchasing some quality - or possibly mid-range - hosiery. Thank goodness I didn't attempt to buy them afterwards when my face was numbed by not-so-local anaesthetic. Although my face was generally okay, only looking a trifle post-stroke, my speech was deeply inarticulate and Joseph Carey Merrick-esque. I imagine the lady behind the stocking counter would have recoiled in distaste and horrified surprise in much the same fashion as those Victorian-era Poms at the freak show. Poor little Elephant Man. I still cry and cry and cry when I see that movie. Because he was so courageous and loving, and deserving of love. And yet who of us would love an Elephant Man in real life? Now that's a question for the ages.

So with twenty minutes to spare, and denial ever gentle on my mind, I wandered through Myer. I stopped first at the 'costume' jewellery section and I'm ever so glad I did because it was there that I heard a young woman ask someone, 'Do you have the correct time?' First of all, that really is an odd question. But second of all: I couldn't believe that one so young and dewy-fresh would ask a question in that way; in that old-time two-step way. Perhaps she was raised in a little two-bedroom cottage somewhere on a forgotten bend of the Swan - or Canning - River? Perhaps her great-grandmother was her only companion, educating the girl-child at home and dressing her in long floral-print skirts and sensible flat brown leather shoes? I know not. I do know that it gladdened my grizzled old heart to hear that turn of phrase.

A few weeks ago my friend, The Antiquer, told me he was in a bakery in South Perth admiring their range of vanilla slices and Paris buns when in walked a young apprentice-type lad. This antipodean Dickon had obviously worked up a healthy, outdoorsy appetite and ordered a meat pie. The surly, blonde chickie behind the counter asked "anything else?", to which he replied, "I'll just put my name to that beesting." Marvellous. The Antiquer was quite overcome with emotion.

I have a small though manageable addiction to journals and web-sites that devote themselves to old-style language and/or the Australian vernacular.

I think Bloody Ern must be the only person I know of who still uses the word 'cobber'. I know there is a small yet significant population out there who still use it, but Bloody Ern is the only one I know. You need a certain crustiness about you to use cobber, don't you? As the men of Australia get their crusty edges all knocked off (of) them, 'cobber' will probably die out; around the same time as the last 'legs eleven' call is made in a lonely multi-purpose bingo/CWA hall somewhere in the dusty wheat belt.

The visit to the dentist, it must be said, was not as awful as I had expected but bad enough - what with all the drilling and scraping and visions of blackboards dancing in my head. Dentists and hairdressers induce in me the most dreadful feelings of inadequacy and shame. And then, of course, you pay for the humiliation.

Until next time, Nick.


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