My mother had a niece called Freda. Freda was a good person, but ungainly and unlovely. She worked with animals, so also had a certain ripeness about her. Not surprisingly, she remained a spinster. I think she was in her early sixties when my mother told me, in suitably hushed tone: “Your cousin Freda has a gentleman caller!” Even in hushed tone, the exclamation mark was unmistakeable.
It was the first – and, as it turned out – the only time I ever heard the expression “gentleman caller”. Apparently he was relatively elderly, and used to take Freda out for tea and cakes, or walks in the country, or.... Or? It didn't really sound like a case of late-flowering lust to me, though my mother suggested that they might be “sparking”, another Edwardian term that has since been replaced by less delicate words.
Why am I telling you this? Because, anxious to know whether romance had once more visited my daughter, I asked her if she had a new “gentleman caller” in her life. I am pleased to say that she didn't tell me to mind my own business, she said yes to my question, and, best of all, had no problem with the expression that my mother had used about cousin Freda all those years ago. No doubt she and her new man are sparking, but I am much too discreet to even think about it.