Sunday, October 16, 2011

Mrs Grice

I was into phatic communion long before I knew the name for it. Phatic communion describes those verbal interactions which have no intrinsic value, but are used as a kind of social lubricant between passing strangers or slight acquaintances. In Britain, the utterances are typically about the weather:
"Turned out nice again", "Nasty nip in the air this morning", "Lovely day isn't it?". "Looks like rain ", etc. I leave you to supply the equally pointless responses.
Which brings me to Mrs Grice, one of the dotty ladies of my natal village. Whenever she saw me, she would exclaim, and I mean EXCLAIM, in a shrill north country accent: "Ee, Jackie, 'e 'as grown!". lingering on the last word to squeeze the last drop of drama from it. It irritated me, not because she was making a statement of the bleeding obvious - I turned into a beanpole as I approached puberty - but because she called me "Jackie". Jackie was no name for a toughie like me, who was on his way to fight Redskins or root out Nazi spies or save the world from the evil things that came out of the graveyard at night. So, as a defence, I decided to be the first to speak, and I deliberately mangled my phatic utterances, eg, "Good morning, Mrs Grice, lovely day of the weather for the week of the year, isn't it?" And the old bat would smile and agree with me!
And then she'd add "Ee, Jackie, 'e 'as grooooooooooown!"
Sometimes you just can't win.

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