Monday, 1 October 2012

Fields of Knowledge

The time immediately after leaving university is usually
a peculiar one. Emerging into the world of jobs - or the lack of them - comes as a fairly unpleasant shock. I, after a brief and miserable stint as a graduate civil servant - from which I was rescued by my brother pointing out that there was no law stopping me leaving (not sure how I'd missed that crucial point) - chose the undemanding route of a 3-month course in typing and shorthand. My best friend meanwhile became something in the planning section at Kensington Town Hall.

My course took place in an old building on Kensington High Street, which meant I was close enough to go up to the Town Hall to meet my friend for lunch.One day when I went up to meet her for this purpose, I found her dealing with a typical Chelsea and Kensington ratepayer. He wore a camel coat like Toby Mears in Callan and, while physically resembling Wilfrid Hyde-White in My Fair Lady, he had the demeanour of Henry Higgins on a particular irritable day.

He had clearly come ready for an argument, convinced that whoever he would deal with would be an obstructive fool. When my friend was able to answer all his questions and help with everything he wanted help with, he was momentarily crestfallen.  'You seem to know your stuff,' he told her, grudgingly. He gathered his things together and got up from his chair. Then a thought struck him. He leaned across the counter and fixed  my friend with a beady gaze. 'All the same,' he said, 'I bet you know nothing about naval medals.' With that he swept from the room.

Apparently this year's winning essay in the English faculty at Cambridge University was on the subject of the pocket in the work of Henry Fielding. Walking on Mount Ainslie after being told this odd piece of information, I too had a Toby Mears/Wilfrid Hyde-White/Henry Higgins moment when I saw this creature:

'How's that for a pocket?' I thought, 'Now you see the baby - now you don't (and who knows, there might even be some specially interesting naval medals hidden down the bottom).'

'Beat that, Henry Fielding,' I continued, idiotically, 'I bet there isn't a pocket as good as that one anywhere in your entire oeuvre.'

Full of loony Antipodean patriotism, I walked on.


  1. We have somebody here who also enjoys arguing vociferously with the clerks at Town Hall. "You see, I am German", he explained to me, "and so I am happy when I am fighting!" But the grey suits seem to have had the last laugh, as it appears his Bayerischer Hof still hasn't been granted the permission it needs to officially open its doors.

    1. A carton of Kent cigarettes used to smooth almost any deal in your neck of the woods - so we were told - but I suppose all that has passed?

  2. I try and think of pockets in Fielding, but all I can remember is items falling out of them--bank notes from Tom Jones's, a clergyman's letter from Colonel James's in Amelia. In fact, if tasked to write on pockets in literature, I'd probably have to fall back on The Hobbit and J.F. Powers's Morte D'Urban.

    1. Perhaps it was 'dysfunctional pockets' in Fielding - it has also been suggested to me that there was some sexual metaphor involved. Nuff sed, I think. I shall stick with Kanga and Roo.