Collective Nouns & Feminine Endings

We have had a strenuous if entertaining few days: the Professor’s charming cousins arrived a few days ago, in the middle of a tour of distilleries (the Spanish cousin, she who pruned our grapes to such good effect, is a Mistress of Wine, and is also a specialist in whisky). While the cousins went off to look at yet another onion shaped copper vat, which happened to be in the environs of Oldmeldrum, the Professor and I retreated for a drink to the posh hotel, which was until the early 70s or so, in the hands of one of Scotland’s stateliest homos, a gentleman of ancient and impeccable lineage who was ending the dynasty with a bang, so to say. Stories are legion — one of his party pieces was dancing the tango with his attached friend, similarly the end of a long line, declaring, ‘When Momma and I are in our minks, my dear, it takes a vet to tell us apart’. It’s all very decorous and respectable now, and it’s quite hard to imagine the days of mink and orchids when the garden echoed to the squeals as the Turriff GP chased Rudolf Nuryev round the lily pond, or vice versa. Not so much as a nostalgic whiff of ‘Mitsouko’ in the air. The only hangover, if I can put it like that, is the front half of a Bengal tiger snarling in a corner of the lobby, which I bet is from the old days, and used, once upon a time, to carry a red silk rose between its teeth on special occasions. The Cousins left on Friday morning, and a few hours later, the house became a temporary Temple of the Muses, with a charm — or murmuration — of Poets Laureate installed. Since both the incoming Poet Laureate of England and her Welsh counterpart are of the female sex, we were, as we pointed out to the Daughter Laureate who is learning Latin, in the unusual and gratifying position of being able to use a Latin feminine plural which had probably never been crossed anyone’s lips before, and say, ‘Ecce! Duae Poetissae Laureatae!’ It was all very lovely, and the illusion that food appeared and washing-up vanished as if by magic was successfully maintained. The weather was rather on our side. Mostly cold and rainy, so the fact that the miracle makeover of the grounds does not bear inspection at close quarters was less than obvious since the Muse community was content to admire everything from the other side of a pane of glass. In the interstices, we contrived to write our own contribution to the Litfest that had brought them here, not having had time what with one thing and another, and have just come back from delivering it. It went all right, as these things generally do if you have a bit of experience. We now look forward to a prosaic week of university stuff. Then I’m going to Oslo.

6 Responses to “Collective Nouns & Feminine Endings”

  1. Jane Says:

    I’m in Oslo for three days, giving a paper on each one. When we first sorted it out I thought I was giving yet another paper in the same week at the Tate, which has since been rescheduled to June — meanwhile of course plans had been made and tickets bought. I agree, it does seem a shame!

  2. Jill Says:

    Your dance card is full, alas. Don’t forget the cheerful linen shop. It’s an upscale chain and there are several in Oslo. God tur!

  3. William Says:

    Sod the pseudo-poofs; I thought the Prof didn’t drink.

  4. Jane Says:

    The Professor does not drink alcohol, but he is not a camel. It is acceptable in a country house hotel accessible only by car, for one of a couple to ask for tonic when the other is drinking gin and tonic. Don’t be silly. And what do you mean by pseudo-poofs? If you speak of the late laird’s circle, pseuds they may have been, but poovery was pursued with vigour.

  5. William Says:

    Incidentally, why no talk about Darrel Flan Fluffy?

  6. Jane Says:

    Because she was a guest in our house. We do not purvey gossip about people who stay with us, and we are not about to start. What do you think we are, OK Magazine? This is just rude.

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