Thursday, 24 March 2011

Name Me A Name

I love some of the names that are given to vegetables. I don't mean 'bean' or 'carrot' or even 'salsify' which sounds more like something you would do to your kitchen floor to give it an extra-deep clean. I mean the variety names that define these vegetables even more closely. Like radishes called 'Amethyst' and 'Cherry Belle', peppers called 'Britney' and cucumbers called 'Burpless Tasty Green' and, most excitingly, 'Bimbostar.' (How great is that???!!!)

I was even more thrilled to discover an aubergine named after my star sign - 'Scorpio.'

And then I got to thinking about how flowers get their names. Bluebells, for example, are thusly called (I would imagine) because they are blue and in the shape of a bell. Buttercups, because they are cup-shaped and the colour of freshly churned butter.

'What about 'cowslip?' says Mrs Slocombe.
'I wondered when you'd make an appearance,' I say.
'At around the point where you need some comedy inspiration?' suggests Mrs S.
'Uhuh,' I say (and I should like to point out this is not an Elvis impersonation. I have neither the hips nor the quiff to carry that one off effectively. And don't get me started on the white jump-suit with silver stud-work.)
'Well, come on then,' says Mrs Slocombe. 'How did the cowslip get its name?'

I imagine Mrs S is picking on cowslips because I purchased two pots of them at the beginning of the week to go in the garden, them being good bee fodder and all, but they are so pretty I can't bear to put them outside just yet, so they are temporarily resident on the living room window where I can gaze at them and go 'aaaahhhhh.'

'I think it's because they make cows slip over,' I say. This is a wild guess, but Mrs Slocombe makes me feel wild, and a little anxious, too, especially when she is in such close proximity to my knees and Mrs Pumphrey isn't around to defuse any arguments/ act as referee/ break up a fight.

'Where is Mrs Pumphrey, by the way?' says I.
'In the back garden shifting breeze blocks,' says Mrs Slocombe.
'Ah yes,' I say, because I remember now, that we've dismantled the asparagus bed which has come to naught (mostly because an asparagus bed + 2 hens a-scratching = an unholy mess) and the breeze blocks which made up one side are being relocated to the allotment and Mrs P offered to shift them to the back gate as she was still wearing her pottery apron and was, therefore, in pre-shower messy mode.

Pottery is Mrs Pumphrey's latest 'thing.' She has decided that country-style ceramics is the way to go. I have ordered from her a large gazunder. You know - a po. Potty. Porta-loo. For the allotment, in case the Shewee doesn't work out.

'A what?' said Mrs P, when I put in my request.
'A gazunder,' I repeated. 'You know, a potty. That 'goes under' the bed.'
'Aaaah,' said Mrs Pumphrey, who doesn't have to worry about such niceties because she just poops on the ground. That's chickens for you.

'And what design would you like on it?' she continued. 'Bearing in mind I can only do dahlias.'
'Oh,' I said. 'I was rather hoping for sweet peas. Ahahahahahahahaha!!'

Mrs Pumphrey gives me a bit of a look. A look learned from Mrs Miggins (God rest her chicken soul).
'Okay,' she says, 'as long as you don't mind them looking like dahlias.'

Anyway, back to cowslips which, according to Mrs Slocombe, are not called so because cows slip on them.
'Go on, then,' I say. 'Tell me why they are called cowslips.'

Mrs Slocombe takes a deep breath.

'Well,' she says. 'Back in the old days, when cows were less strumpety and more modest...'
'Are cows strumpety?' I ask.
'In my experience, yes,' says Mrs S.
'Right,' I say.
'...the farmers would dress them in long petticoats, to cover their thingies...'
'Thingies?'
'You know, dingle dangles...'
'I thought it was only boy cows who had dingle dangles?' I say.
'That's bull,' says Mrs S.
'I was only saying,' I say.
'Sometimes you labour a point a tad too much,' says Mrs S, which is rich coming from someone who has set up a Facebook page called 'Bring Bamber Back to University Challenge Immediately, At Once, The Sooner the Better, Because Jeremy Paxman Really Gets On My Chicken Nuggets the Way He Schmoozes Up To The Laydeeez and Favours Oxford and Cambridge.'
'So you are telling me that 'cowslip' is merely another term for a cow petticoat?' I say.
'Yes,' says Mrs Slocombe. 'On the life of St Augustine, Patron Saint of Brewers.'

At this point, Mrs Pumphrey appears from a cloud of brick dust.
'I've shifted the breeze blocks,' she says.
'Thank you muchly,' I say. 'Mrs S has been telling me how cowslips got their name.'
Mrs Pumphrey rolls her eyes. 'Not the one about the cow petticoats?' she says.
'The very same,' I say.
'It's a load of rubbbish,' says Mrs Pumphrey. 'Cowslips get their name because cows slip over on them.'

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