Because the English have written so much about themselves, like a nation of compulsive memoirists or bloggers, everyone, everywhere feels they “know” them.
I certainly do. Feel I know them I mean.
But come one, I’ve only lived here for 13 years (with 17 years in the US in the middle of them), so it should not be surprising that I continually learn new things.
I was talking to the wife of a former vicar of Ealing at dinner the other day, and she told us about a funeral her husband had conducted for a barrow boy. I was apparently the only person around the table who did not know what a barrow boy was.
Barrow boys, apparently, are costermongers who traditionally sell or sold stuff off barrows in the East End. They have a fairly unsavoury reputation for their “low habits, general improvidence, love of gambling, total want of education, disregard for lawful marriage ceremonies, and their use of a peculiar slang language” according to Wikipedia.
Anyway, this particular barrow boy had been in jail, and died soon after his release. The vicar conducted the funeral at the request of the funeral parlour.
And such a funeral had never been seen. Horse drawn carriages, fancy plumed hats, a large number of Gypsies and fellow barrow boys. The church was packed.
And the good parishioners of Ealing wrote to the papers to say, How dare the vicar conduct the funeral of scum like that, a criminal!!
I asked about David. “Oh, he plays Aunt Sally on evenings,” Juliet said. Aunt Sally?
A game traditionally played in Oxfordshire pubs. An Aunt Sally is a figurine head of an old woman with a clay pipe in her mouth. The object was for players to throw balls at the head in order to break the pipe. England’s rural country origins survive persistently, everywhere, and that is part of her charm!