Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Diciness of English

Surmising, from the indiscreet utterance of one of her bridesmaids, that the band isn’t going to turn up, the bride herself gets on one of the bridesmaids’ iPhones to say WTF. It isn’t that one of her bridesmaids has multiple iPhones — imagine how expensive that would be! — but rather that several of the bridesmaids have them, and one, Tamsyn, has offered the bride the use of hers. English can be dicey in such matters, and simply isn’t very good on pronouns. Two sentences ago, for instance, we had Tamsyn, the bridesmaid, offering the bride the use of her iPhone, but it’s impossible to ascertain from that whether the phone is the bridesmaid’s or the bride’s.

The bridesmaid’s, and the bride, who should be primping and getting increasingly nervous, uses it to phone the leader of the band, at whom she howls indignantly. How can he even consider ruining what should be the most wonderful day of her life? To what does he expect her family and friends, and her handsome groom’s, to dance? A boombox? When was the last time anyone even saw a bloody boombox?

It isn’t half-one yet, but the bandleader has already downed nearly as much alcohol as the National Health Service recommends for an adult male to consume over a week. (Predictably, it recommends that children consume rather less.) He is, as usual, trying to placate his demons, to render unintelligible the cruel voice in his head that demands to know if he isn’t fatally embarrassed or even ashamed playing weddings and bar mitzvahs and what-have-you to keep himself in lager, fags, and ready-meals (Iceland’s chicken tikka lasagne being a particular favourite) when only nine years ago he had a deal with Sony.

Yes, of course, he is mortified, as who could fail to be? The A&R person (talent scout) who signed him predicted he would be The New George Michael, though neither gay nor a native Cypriot), and here he is not a decade later not singing his own songs at Wembley Arena, but Elton fucking John’s at weddings. Occasionally, the over-perfumed divorced 46-year-old aunt of the bride or groom will notice the charisma that attracted the Sony talent scout in the first place, and spend the rest of the afternoon making his life a misery, leering at him as he sings, chatting him up when the band takes its hourly ten-minute break, but mostly everyone’s too busy dancing and being joyous for the happy couple even to notice him. He might as well be a bloody CD!

“Why don’t you just hire a bloody DJ?” he asks today’s irate bride. “Google or something. I’ll return your deposit on Monday.” In fact, he’ll do no such thing, as he’s already drunk and smoked her deposit. And she’s not having the idea anyway. She doesn’t get shrill in her increased indignation, but actually lowers her voice. She says, “Actually, with only 42 minutes before I’m to exchange bloody vows, I’m not going to go on the bloody Internet. What’s going to happen is you and your band are going to get out here now.”

The bandleader loses the ash of his Marlboro — he’ll revert to rolling his own when he’s spent the last of her deposit — down the front of his Adele T-shirt and plays the alcoholism card. Does she really want him to drive out to the wedding site in view of his being well over the limit, and thus constituting a threat to other motorists and especially pedestrians? Would she really want an innocent’s death or dismemberment on her conscience?

“Listen, mate,” she says, in a register beneath that of the chainsmoking actress they brought in to voice the demon inhabiting Linda Blair, “you’ll honour our bloody contract or I’ll hire unemployed Albanians to come break your bloody arms and legs.” One of her bridesmaids, Prim (as in Primrose) bursts into frightened tears at this. Tamsyn and another of the bridesmaid, older, better acquainted with the bride, and thus more familiar with her (the bride’s, not Prim’s) penchant for threats, go all maternal, consoling her, stroking her lustrous strawberry blonde head and murmuring, “It’s just rhetoric, love. There, there.” English to the core, poor Prim finds all the attention upsetting, and is sick.

There are lots of unemployed Albanians in the UK these days, but of course there are lots of unemployed everything everywhere.


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