Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Names of acclaim

What a lot of Gladyses there were born in the early part of the 20th century! They're mostly gone now, but the Nation of Gladys was once, like the Nation of the Celts, thriving, strong, proud, and indomitable, and very fond of a cup of tea and a biscuit (I'm talking about Gladys now, not the Celts) and repelling the detested Roman invaders (back to the Celts now). Everyone knows someone who knows someone who knew a Gladys, I'd wager, and how important it is to know that someone who knew someone who knew them! Well, not that important.

Gladys: the very name seems to signify a certain middle-class respectability, doesn't it? It is redolent of long summer afternoons in cottages in Camberwell or Concorde, of rose gardens, of lawns pruned with nail scissors*, while somewhere in the background the radio is on, probably playing the cricket commentary. The radio with cricket commentary is most likely intended to created a distraction; for meanwhile, Gladys is pottering about somewhere purloining the cuttings of her neighbour Doris's garden (or Doreen's or Eileen's or Iris's or Esme's or Edna's or Janet's or Sheila's) and putting them into a little brown paper bag so she can grow it out back later. But let's not focus on that. The point is, Gladys was Gladys, and the Queen was the Queen, and Mr Menzies was Prime Minister, and all were reliable elements of the community.

It seems strange to think of Gladys as a child, but a child she undoubtedly was. All 10,000 of her, running about different parts of Australia in little frocks while her parents proclaimed at regular intervals, 'Gladys, don't do that', 'Gladys, you've got your dress all dirty', 'Gladys, don't eat that', 'Gladys, don't stick your finger up that, he doesn't like it', and so on. But so it was, and so it is. The child is the father of the man, as Wordsworth said, and what a man Gladys turned out to be. I don't know why Wordsworth thought Gladys was a man, but I suppose he meant it, otherwise why would he have said that?

What happened to Gladys? Well, after she grew up and stopped putting her finger up this, and getting that dirty, and taking cuttings out of Sheila's garden, she raised a little family of her own, and Gladys gave birth to Sally, and Sally gave birth to Mary, and Mary gave birth to Crystal Honeychild Fairydew Weatherbottom, and by then we'd all reached the 70s, which gave birth to the present day. And what a lamentable circumstance that turned out to be (or will have turned out to be when it has finished being the present day, I mean).

We could do with a few more Gladyses now, I think.

*"lawns pruned with nail scissors" - I suppose to extend this we could reason that Gladys also cut her nails with lawnmowers. I don't have a Gladys on hand to verify this, but it certainly seems likely.

Aren't you glad to see Gladys's gladiolus?


lucy tartan said...

You do know don't you that Philip Adams addresses the listener of his Late Night Live show on RN as 'Gladys'? It's maddening.

TimT said...

Oh yes, that's right. It's his special joke isn't it, that the show has only one listener, called 'Gladys'.

And gladiolus usually play a part in Dame Edna's shows. Apparently. So I've heard...

Email: timhtrain - at -

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