The Life & Loves of Mrs. Fiver


Posted by in June's Magazine

She fluttered blue on the grey tarmac. A fiver. Crumpled but resolute. Proud of her value, a value better than that of a coin but not hoity-toity like a tenner or life-changing like a twenty pound note. She should be content, she thought, for with her could be bought the ingredients for a fine family meal but not depravities like drink or anything resulting from the labours of Simon Cowell.

And she had lived. Boy had she lived. While a crisp new-born she had been cherished as the pocket money of a young girl. Sadly, an unintended papercut saw her cast asunder and into the dinging money tray of a newsagent. There began her vagabond days. From the newsagent she went to the pub. In and out, in and out they passed her from the till to the table to the pocket to the till. At one point she was alarmed yet excited to be ‘change for a fiver’, despite having no conception of what this could mean. That week, she slept in a leather vessel and fell madly in love with a book of stamps. Both, they noticed, were wearing the same small picture of an old lady in a spiky-looking hat. It was meant to be. Fate.

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Just as they planned children (‘I’d really like a little 20p, if you would darling?’) their romance was thwarted. Stamps was torn from his sheathed comfort zone. As fiver peeped over something called a Nando’s Loyalty Card, she saw a human person apparently trying to eat her love. No more could be taken. The next time she was left alone she threw herself free.

She rode the wind and slept on the grey tarmac. That’s when I spotted her. I swapped her for five National Lottery scratchcards. On every one of them, I lost.

Buffet etiquette
What else have I not really been up to? Oh yes, there’s a note here that says ‘buffet etiquette’. This relates to a number of paper-plated appointments I’ve attended of late. Here are a few quick tips, or handy hints if you prefer, regarding this particular item I need to write about:

Don’t steam in, loiter. I know it’s tempting to get the pick of the sandwiches or snare a mini savoury before it cools and dies, but you are putting yourself under enormous pressure. Do you really want to be the person who sets the marker for how full the plates of others can be? Talking of which…

Pile it high. I know you feel greedy, and I know people still queuing are staring at your plate’s saggy beneath, but do it. This is the only way you can ensure full avoidance of conversation with colleagues or cousins, depending on the buffeted occasion. If you’re eating then you simply can’t speak. In fact, it would be rude to do so. Therefore you are just being polite.

Sauce is the devil. I know that sweet chilli jus is beckoning you with his fiery ways but avoid him. Avoid him like the plague or even like he once borrowed your Panini sticker album and wrote ‘bum’ in felt-tip pen all over your shinies. Once sauce is on your fingers, where are you going to go? You’ve already lost the one serviette that rested on your plate to an untimely sneeze, and you can’t digit-lick or you will be removed from the buffet area. Actually…

Dan invents a catchexcuse
Comedy characters have catchphrases, but what you need, my friend, is a catchexcuse. Mine is ‘administrative error’. Mrs Gems succinctly asks ‘Why haven’t you moved the broken fridge into the garden so it can sit there for a few weeks before we remember to phone for an uplift?’ ‘Sorry love. Administrative error.’ In the pub, I forget to buy one of our party a drink. ‘Administrative error.’ I forget my Mum’s birthday card. ‘Administrative error.’ I poison a neighbour’s cat. ‘Administrative error. It was very, very fat anyhow, eh?’

Plectra & Pish
Word news. Last month, I learnt that the plural of plectrum is ‘plectra’. How pleasing. Then, I enjoyed the fact that ‘altiloquent’ means ‘High-flown or pretentious language’, when most people I know call it ‘pish’. All of this was harmless enjoyment, like throwing a teaspoon at a clock.

Hearing the non-word ‘recency’ used on BBC Radio Five Live was not. It reminded me of a Geordie I used to work for (and before you write in to complain Jimmy Nail, before you tweet me, Tudor Crisps: that she was Geordie is by-the-by and only important for accent reasons). Often unable to think of the right word, she happily and obliviously improvised. ‘Danny,’ she once said. ‘Startin’ with January can ye’ put wor files in full datal order?’

Twitter: @d_gray_writer

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