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The Scrivener: The Pregnant Pig

"That's the trouble with elderly people — if we aren't talking about our knees and hips and aches and pains, we're probably comparing notes on what we're not supposed to eat but we eat it anyway,'' writes Brian Barratt.

One day, if you are very lucky, you will bump into Brian in some shop and enjoy a memorable conversation.

A company at Maffra, down in Gippsland, make a nice range of cheeses — Cheshire, real Cheddar, Red Leicester, Sage Derby, the lot. It rather looks as if British cheeses aren't protected by any sort of Appellation Controlée, like French wines. In the deli area of a supermarket in the Melbourne suburb where I live, I had my eye on the Wensleydale. And a pretty good Wensleydale it is, too.

Standing next to me was a short elderly man with a jar of Branston Pickle in his left hand. With his right hand, he picked out a small shrink-wrapped portion of Red Leicester. He had a friendly face, so I spoke to him.

'Good gracious, Branston and Leicester! You must have English ancestry?'

He beamed, and answered in an honestly broad Aussie accent, 'My parents were English'.

And so the conversation started, moving from cheeses to the British sense of humour. How did that happen? Well, I made a comment about being sad at the news of the death of Sir Patrick Moore at the age of 89. He was a great astronomer, and musician, and lots of other things — a true Renaissance Man. He wrote about 70 books on the typewriter he bought in 1908. He also had a quirky sense of humour and could talk at 300 words per minute. Years ago, I heard him doing that on the whimsical radio show 'Just a Minute'.

Ah, yes, my new friend remembered that programme, and also Frank Muir and Dennis Norden in 'My Word'. We reminisced about the wonderful shaggy dog stories they came up with when asked to explain a common phrase or saying. You remember the sort of thing — the one about the bird from the beach which drank its milk directly from the local cows, because 'One good tern deserves an udder'. And the African king who was somewhat surprised and upset when his throne, which he had stored upstairs, came crashing down: 'People who live in grass houses shouldn't stow thrones'.

The best way to get elderly people to tell you how old they are is to mention your own age. It works with men, but not with women of course. So when I mentioned that I am 76, he told me he's 83, and I told him how fit and healthy he looked (which is true). Mind you, he'd had both knees replaced. Before then, his legs were so bandy 'a pregnant pig could run between them'.

And off he went, declaring that he would probably eat the whole of his portion of Red Leicester that evening, along with a plentiful dollop of the Branston Pickle.

I left the Wensleydale and bought a piece of Red Leicester instead. There's already some Branston Pickle in the fridge. One jar lasts a long time. Perhaps there's too much fat in that cheese, at 32%. The figure for low fat cheese is very much lower than that. But there is only a small amount of sugar in the pickle, 3%. Perhaps that is a compromise.

That's the trouble with elderly people — if we aren't talking about our knees and hips and aches and pains, we're probably comparing notes on what we're not supposed to eat but we eat it anyway. However, this was the first time someone has told me about his bandy legs and a pregnant pig. Metaphorically, of course.

© Copyright Brian Barratt 2012


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