How English can you get? Jumping to conclusions. In the nineteen-sixties, Mark and his wife Elizabeth would drive to church in Sunbury every Sunday morning in their Rover. After the service he would drop Elizabeth off at home and repair swiftly to the Hare and Hounds to meet two friends for a couple of pints of London Pride and a game of darts.
He would then return home for the Sunday roast beef, followed by half an hour of laughter at “Round the Horne” on the BBC light programme. During the week, Mark would commute to the City wearing his bowler hat and clutching a brief case and an umbrella.
On the train home he would tackle the Evening Standard crossword puzzle. He supported Arsenal and occasionally watched Surrey at the Oval. All of which is fine-except that Mark was Swiss.
One of my colleagues at school was a fat boy named Tubbington. Instead of the obvious nick name, his was “GingerBoy”, on account of his red hair. And, of course, we do so often make assumptions .Masako Ogawa must be Japanese? (in fact, she’s Hawaiian). Marion Morrison was a woman? (not exactly; he was John Wayne). So it was with Leroy Washington.
In the eighties the company I worked for near London had arranged the visit of the new Director of Operations from their head office in New York. His name was Leroy Washington and I was to meet and greet him in the lobby of the Piccadilly Hotel in time for dinner.
When I arrived, among the twenty or so people milling around, I could see only one black man. I went up to him. “Hi,” I said.“I’m David Worboys.”He looked blank. Just then a tall man with blond hair and moustache tapped me on the shoulder. “It’s me you’re looking for. Leroy Washington. Everybody falls into the trap.
”French and Italian nouns are either masculine or feminine. In German there is a third option–neuter. A spoon is masculine, a fork is feminine and a knife is neuter. Perhaps transgender is moving the human race in the German direction, as so many people are not sure what sex they are. In the nineties many of the gorgeous looking Brazilian prostitutes on the streets of Milan at night were, in fact, male. The attraction felt by real men looking at them was based on the assumption they were female. To that extent it was psychological.
Taste is also psychological. A Hine VSOP cognac will not taste the same from a paper cup as from a proper brandy glass. Years ago, at a dinner party for eight, our hostess told us with conviction, halfway through the excellent chicken cacciatore, that what we were eating was, in fact, human flesh. After a short discussion of cannibalism, she assured us she was testing us. But, with that element of doubt, four of the six guests could not finish the delicious meal.
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