I like to think of myself as a broadminded, liberal media type. But even I sometimes find myself so stunned by human nature that I barely know how to react to it.
Case Study 1: An old friend of my dad’s, The German, was over from Europe for a few days, and invited my mother to meet him for dinner. She promptly instructed me to attend too. I don’t really remember The German much; when I was about four years old he bought me a giant cuddly frog, all wrapped in shiny pink wrapping paper, and I thought it was the best present ever. Dad always spoke of him as a wealthy, chain smoking business man with a penchant for fine wine and fast cars (and, as it turned out, my food. I think he helped himself to pretty much everything on my plate, tsk). I vaguely remember him being at dad’s funeral and thinking that he reminded me of Mr Burns from The Simpsons.
Anyway, we arranged to meet for a curry. Mum told me that day that he would be bringing his partner, who I assumed would be some glamorous fraulein dripping in diamonds. The German and dad were vaguely contemporaries in years – he must be around 60.
True to form, he was exactly as dad described (with just a hint of Mr Burnsage about him). I was however completely bowled over by the current Mrs German who, it turns out, is a twentysomething glamour model from Eastern Europe. She arrived wearing a teeny tiny denim miniskirt and a vest top cleverly angled to display maximum cleavage. She’s a non drinking, non smoking vegan with long blonde hair who speaks very little English. This is how I found out about her um, profession:
Z: So, Mrs German, do you work?
MG: oh… yes…
The German: yes, she does. You know newspapers like the Sunday Times?
Z: yes….. ah, you’re a journalist!
TG: not quite, you know they have supplements? And some of them have pictures?
Z: yes…. You’re a photographer?
TG: no… Mrs German is kind of more in front of the camera
Z: (loud crash of dropping penny): ahhhhhhhh. You’re a model
MG (huge beatific smile): oh, yes! (this is clearly the extent of her English vocabulary)
I was temporarily gobsmacked. It was all I could do to avoid asking what she saw in the aging millionaire who quite demonstrably had his hand between her modelesque thighs at that point. Mum and I laughed long and hard once we got home. And downed an extra bottle of medicinal rose to get over it all.
Case Study 2: I went to the toilet at lunchtime today for a fairly routine evacuation. Only to be followed in by an infuriating Canadian temp we seem to have acquired, who proceeded to stand by the mirror plucking out grey hairs and rather loudly making a dinner reservation while I aurally accompanied her from the stalls. Why the fuck did she have to go to the toilets to do that? At the same time as me? If I’d been her I would at least have had the decency to leave before I’d emerged to wash my hands. Ah well. I hope I put her off whatever she was planning to order.
Case Study 3: this weekend MC and I found ourselves at a fete in the Midlands village of Goadsby Marwood – a name which is surely more reminiscent of a gin-soaked member of the Victorian aristocracy than somewhere to buy homemade jam. We were alarmed to pass, on the way there, a little church in which lifesized superhero figures were tied to headstones. For no apparent reason,
The ‘fete’ itself consisted of walking into people’s random garage sales in the pouring rain. Perhaps the highlight was watching my friend’s dog resolutely refuse to wag his tail, thus losing out on the prestigious accolade ‘Dog With The Waggiest Tail’ in the village dog competition, the contestants of which appeared to be almost entirely plucked from judge’s own harem of pets. I found myself getting sharp pangs of longing for my London home in the comfortingly anonymous smog infested concrete jungle. That was a rural retreat too far.