Thursday, April 22, 2010

DP 4/22 - Back to the Cold Climate

This week I shall open with a quotation that, in context, sometimes breaks my heart. I have been meditating upon how some people in the public eye age considerably better than others, which turned out to be quite apt for the first letter this week. Because I suspect this one might even merit Final Jeopardy, I shall provide pertinent details after the weekend.

"I fell in love with a man who was twice my age and half my size."

On to the letters and a return to Miss Mitford.

L1: I have seen one or two posters speculate that LW1 might be male. The theory, which has some ingenuity to it, is that LW1 made an advance or two of some sort to the kitty in question only to discover her to be a cougar. I shall not quite side with that assessment. LW1 comes across as very nearly an A-Gay Wannabe, which would explain the tone of desperation in L1 to make a mountain out of a little pile of grass as well as the excessive concern about age as a number. But I'll agree with the theory that a male LW1 would have only written that letter out of thwarted passion, so that, unless LW1 is Mr Carvey's character Lyle the Effeminate Heterosexual (not a pleasant thought), that leaves LW1 as a Fag Hag. The cross-examination of this witness would be highly entertaining for the general public, and would deal with exact details of precisely how people should act at various ages. My guess is that she might respond to questioning rather like Stacy London on steroids.

As to what LW1 should actually do, I think she should show enthusiasm for the birthday lunch in question, but, in the spirit of the Fake Prom, do a bit of rearranging. She should divert the invited (young) guests to a different location, and invite a group of what she would call Old Frumps and the rest of us would call respectable 40-year-olds to join the Cougar at the appointed rendezvous, armed with the gag gifts. When word of her cleverness gets back to those in charge of the radio station, she should reap her richly deserved reward.

Love in a Cold Climate contains a number of people passing for younger or mingling with a younger set. At the end we have Fanny's mother, the Bolter, thinking that it might have been as well for Linda to have died young, life being unkind for women like Linda and herself when they aged (even if the Bolter had brought a young and devoted Spaniard to escort her on her return to England). There is Boy Dugdale of indeterminate age, who chooses marriage and bolting partners from the younger generation. And there is Lady Montdore, whom I shall choose for my comparison.

As portrayed by Sheila Gish, Lady Montdore appears as if she could be practically any age between 40 and 60. Her meeting life with an air of command and her regal indifference to fashion are great age blurrers. But she meets her match after she sees to it that Polly is disinherited. Our last view of the old Lady Montdore is when she suddenly appears at Fanny's home and invites Fanny to Hampton to meet Montdore's new heir, a Canadian distant cousin whom she expects to behave like a lumberjack. Then Cedric swishes in and takes her over in the first ten minutes. Lady Montdore's last typical pronouncement is how she has never been very fond of France and finds the French frivolousl she prefers Germans. Cedric's extreme reaction ("The frivolity of the Germans terrifies even one!") overwhelms and seems to hypnotize her. He charms Fanny and Montdore as well, but "Aunt Sonia's" iron will crumbles before him. Invited originally for two weeks, Cedric is clearly there to stay, and he immediately sets about transforming Lady Montdore into one of those ageless-looking women with perfectly smooth makeup and a gay smile for every occasion. At the first public appearance of Cedric and Aunt Sonia with her new look, she's summed up by her friend Veronica, Mrs Chadley Corbett, as being so wonderful and so young. "I hope I look like that when *I'm* a hundred."

Moral: Only look into mirrors before turning into Lucrezia Borgia.

L2: I rather feel for LW2, who seems to be a blameless version of LW4 from last week. Last week it was just someone pressured into agreeing to an excessive expense as a bridesmaid through the expedient of almost crying. This week's LW2 more seriously has saddled herself with guilt simply because of someone else's thoughtless comment that she was driving too slowly. It is interesting that she describes herself as witnessing the accident, but I would only want to undertake this cross-examination if I were being paid for it. There's a lot more there than just the accident, though. This LW falls into my least favourite category, that of those who do not deserve severe treatment but who need it because it's the only thing to do them any good.

Looking in LIACC for inappropriate remarks, there's a runaway winner. After Polly and Boy marry and she is disinherited, they cannot afford to live in England and only come back when he's invited to write or research a family history. Polly is pregnant, but it is already clear that the marriage is not a success. The baby dies, leaving Fanny and Polly distraught. But Polly has rallied enough to be curious about how Cedric has transformed her mother when Lady Montdore comes to see her for the first time since the wedding. Lady Montdore sails in with her blue hair and her perfect makeup and her fixed smile which is completely unsuitable for the occasion, and instead of her formerly typical heavy remarks comes out airly with a remark about the poor baby dying and her supposing it was all for the best as if a rainy day had forced the cancellation of a tennis party. It is enough to leave one speechless, quite speechless (and, as Sophie Thompson's Miss Bates adds in Gwyneth Paltrow's *Emma* - "and we have not stopped taking of it since").

Moral: Scapegoats never go out of fashion.

L3: Now this letter confuses me. LW3 handled an awkward situation with somewhat less grace than she might have done. Okay, that happens. But now here she is and she has come up with a proposed solution that makes no sense. LW3 wonders whether she should send a message to the brother of the woman in question in order to shame her into better behaviour. What on earth does she expect such a course of action to accomplish? (Apparently LW3 posted in the comments that she intended sending a private message, not making a public post.) Does the brother in question control his sister's every move? What on earth would he do?

Singularly missing from the letter is an account of the boyfriend's reaction. Naturally one wonders why he has not taken any part in the proceedings. After all, the male in question wasthe friend of his friend. He is much closer to the situation than LW3.

A fairly large number of posters and DP herself advance the opinion that the correct response to hearing the sounds of Hanky Panky is to ignore them and let the couple in question get on with it. That is enough to drive me to bad language again. Why the SB1 should the SB1 hostess just have to ignore the SB1 highjinks of SB1 guests SB1ing each other on her SB1 sofa? Perhaps I have a bit too much of a case of Ama Clutch, but I feel for the poor furniture. I think anyone in LW3's situation well within her rights at least to offer the couple a sheet or two to protect the sofa.

The LIACC comparison is clear and obvious again, and it is a priceless moment. Anthony Andrews, playing Boy Dugdale, is seated next to Rosamund Pike's Fanny at dinner during Lady Montdore's house party (designed to try to match Polly up with the Duc de Sauterre), gives the most marvelously nauseating leer and then proceeds to grope her under the table. It is the sort of image that burns itself onto one's eyeballs.

I shall now bring up a point of order that I have not seen raised by anyone else at this point. A few people seem to be skimming lightly over the written evidence, just as Phyllida Erskine Brown did when she thought Claude was advertising for extramarital companionship and missed the [F] in the description that pointed to his pupil Mrs Whitaker as the lonely heart. It may be one thing when hosting a party of friends that includes one or more couples or potential couples to accept that sometimes Nature will take its course. However little one likes LW3, though, it is quite another thing in the case here. The male in question, while her guest, was not personally known to either herself or her boyfriend. Indeed, only one member of the house party was a friend of her boyfriend. The guests (one can establish with a quick question whether the boyfriend accompanied them or not) went out to a party which LW3 did not attend, and one of them brought a pickup back to her home. Again, where was the boyfriend in all this? Did he go to the party? Did he know of the hookup? Did he accede to the impromptu addition of an extra guest? If so, there are various other issues in play that noone has raised. But my initial assumption, as LW3 seems the sort who would enumerate all her complaints about her boyfriend if he'd taken some part in the goings-on, was that there was no reason for either host to expect to hear Loud Sex on the living room sofa. This does detract considerably from whatever blame LW3 may merit.

One of the few Logistical Advantages of Heterosexuality is that one can have a house party and invite more than two guests, perhaps a good many more than two, and have a reasonable expectation that the weekend will be Hanky Panky Free.

Moral: There is no way on earth that one should ever allow both a Submariner and a Mermaid within five miles of one's Victorian Fainting Sofa at the same time, however trustworthy either might be when alone.

L4: Perhaps LW4's resentment is the result, as some posters deduce through their own experiences, of her husband trying to push her too deeply into his life and take her over. Perhaps they are really equally matched. Perhaps he thinks they have too little in common. Which is the case will emerge at the end of questioning if one can muster the interest for it. At the moment, I feel too little inclined to take the requisite interest in the exercise.

LIACC has couples with a range of divergent interests. Fanny and Alfred are well suited. The Montdores, Polly's parents, don't seem to do much together, but are sustained by their great estate. Linda's parents, the Radletts, are clearly in a relationship in which he Expresses Himself and she Manages Him, but it works well. When Linda marries Tony Kroezig, she soon finds that they have far too little by way of common interests (she already knew their families were incompatible). Moved by Christian's Communism, Linda never really can take it up properly, which she eventually realizes when she sees how well he gets on with Lavender, and she bolts again. But I think Polly and Boy make the couple with the most divergent interests.

The previous moral seems uncappable; I shall not attempt it.


  1. hrumpole, this is brilliant stuff--it always is--but, this line, "The cross-examination of this witness would be highly entertaining for the general public, and would deal with exact details of precisely how people should act at various ages" is the cat's meow. I would gladly shine your shoes, wash your car and clean your gutters this very instant for your gracing of us with that line. It may not seem like a big deal. In fact, it may seem second nature to an experienced and highly capable attorney (which, I assume that you were/are, along with now also teaching?), but, every time I see a brilliant line of questioning like that, I seriously get wide-eyed with admiration. When growing up, I wanted to be an attorney more than anything. I'm sure that it's rather nothing like the movies or television make it out to be, but, I LOVED watching Perry Mason, or, sigh of sighs, "Inherit the Wind". Catching someone in a lie or a logical fallacy. To me, it's high art. Perhaps one day I'll share why I chose not to be an attorney. At least so far in my life. there is still time... ;-)

    Regarding the moral for letter #3, as for having a mermaid and a submariner as guests in your home, the Victorian Fainting Sofa should be the least of your worries, hrumpole! Not nearly sturdy enough! ;-)

    But, I will admit to coming around (somewhat) to your way of thinking regarding the LW. Especially as she claims to have meant only a private message on Facebook. It just seems to me that sex is clearly not the most offensive nor dirtiest thing two people can do on someone's sofa, or in their house, but, in the end, yes, I'm starting to see your side of the argument as more reasonable than my own. And I may have to acquiesce completely before the week is done. Maybe. :-)

    Good cheer to you, hrumpole! :-)

  2. Thank you, SB1, but I must admit that the full extent of my legal training consists of being able to quote lengthy passages from the works of Mr Mortimer.

    I'm not sure whether I want to inquire into what outrages you see being perpetrated upon innocent furniture on a regular basis.

    I think the best way L3 could have played at the time would have been for LW3 to wake her boyfriend and, assuming he'd consented to the arrangement, make him go out to the living room and ask the couple to tone it down "so as not to wake her up". It would have made him look a bit of a wally, which he'd have deserved. However, I am not going to blame an innocent householder wakened at 3:00 a.m. by the sounds of intimate conduct including a woman when no women were in the house party and therefore she ought to be the only woman in the house for making her presence known. The nearly universal view among DP and all the posters that the worst offense was LW3 interrupting made me think that it would be a clever way to go about robbing houses when there were known to be guests - go as a pair, and, if you think anyone has heard you, start making noises associated with intimacy rather than burglary. It reminds me of the story "Rumpole Redeemed" in which Rumpole meets Chirpy Molloy, who is known for robbing empty houses when the owners are away on holiday and for taking time while he's there to take a lengthy bath and make full use of all the toiletries in the place.