Wednesday, March 23, 2011

An example of Meronymy

With a title like this, this should be over on my EFL blog, and I may well copy it over: However, it can start here.
Meronymy: in linguistics, referring to part-whole relations, and where the part of something may be used to refer to the whole.
On my desk, right now, is a knife. I have no idea how old it is, but old it is. Its handle is some kind of white plastic, imitation bone or ivory: its blade, only 6-7 cm long, is serrated, and on the left side is printed, in fake cursive script, 'Stainless Steel', and under it, more bluntly pushed into the metal, the words 'SHEFFIELD. ENGLAND'. I would guess that it was produced in the 1950s or 1960s, and that it has lain a long time in several different cutlery drawers.
I am, however, interested in only one, because it is the one place that I am interested in. Let's begin to rebuild it.
This knife nestles against other knives and forks and spoons in a drawer. The drawer is the second one in as you enter from the dining room of the house into the kitchen: it's there, on your left, see? It's not a big kitchen. on your right, there's the sink, beneath the window, which looks out onto a large, well-tended garden. This kitcen is one that's always alive - there's always someone in it, something cooking, something being done. We'll come back to that later. For now, let us say that it is a room full of light, maybe the brightest room of the whole house. Anyway, from the knife to the drawer to the kitchen and you're facing the kitchen door right now. Take a step out - watch the jolt down, it gets everyone by surprise the first time. You're in what used to be outside: Nowadays, though, it's been made a fabric of the house by the simple, but effective, expedient of some good joinery, plastic corrugated roofing and a bit of masonry and plasterwork. On rainy days, the roof drums loudly - you can't hear yourself talk in this hinterland between indoors and outdoors, but it's an oddly calm place. Anyway, take another step forward - do you see the room in front of you? Gloomy, isn't it? Turn on the light - that's right, it's a toilet! Can you imagine what it must have been like when it was an outside loo? There'e the cistern above, with a long, rusting chain, on the end of which is a large yellow rubber ball, pocked and notched by years of being bounced against the wall; And take a look at the toilet roll holder. I love the phrase on it, cheesy though it is: 'You won't get rich, sitting around here all day!', in jaunty red letters, some of which are scratched.
Well, let's not sit - let's wander out into the garden for a bit. Do you like the shed there, on your left? It's really interesting how its gloom contrasts so strongly with the light of the greenhouse to which it's attached, isn't it? And look at te greenhouse - sturdy, well-built, and full, at this time of year, of seedlings, impatient to grow. Anyway, do you like the pond there, on your left? It's said to be bottomless, you know. The cupid statue in the middle? Yes, cute, isn't it? No, I don't know if the pump works any more, don't know if it still smiles under an umbrella of water. Do you see all that duckweed? Always the case, that. And the rest of the garden: Well you probably can't see much, thanks to the big rigid-sided swimming pool blocking the view, the pool we all jump into in summer despite how cold it is.
  Anyway, let's get back indoors, through the kitchen door, back to the dining room. Do you know, the table seems to have shrunk since I last saw it: I could have sworn it was huge, but then again, I used to think this house was enormous. There's the bookcase with the secret drawer, all dark wood stain: Above it is the coat of arms for the Pantlin family. On the far wall is a copy of Gainsborough's 'The Blue Boy' in a gold frame, staring over the whole room, and a corner display unit with trinkets. Turn left now, and go through the double doors- what do you think of this room? It's the living room; immediately on your right is the electric fire with real imitation logs. The TV's in the corner, next to the door, then, on your left, is one comfortable couch, then another corner display case, and another sofa under the window, next to a large wooden bureau with glass doors protecting bookshelves, which are lined with books. Most of the books are either reference or to do with carpentry.
Let's go on a bit: through the living room door, you come into the hall way, where the half-grandfather clock ticks solemnly. It's quite dark in here, even whne the chandelier light, all twinkling glass lozenges, is on. What's that, you like the picture? It's quite charming, that one, a young toddler smiling on a carpet, or some kind of coverlet - I'll tell you who that is later. Upstairs? OK, then....tread softly, even though the stairs don't creak much. Right in front of you is the bathroom, and that thing above the mirror is a big halogen heater, which makes the room hot quick. And THAT - it's a polystyrene head. Yes, I know, I find it a bit creepy, too. Turn to your right: there's a bedroom in front of you, then another, and a small bedroom at the end of the landing. And do you notice how cold it is up here? It's freezing, even in summer! Let's go back down, down the stairs, and out through the front door. Do you see that - the Leylandii that's grown so big by the porch? The hedge? And here's the house number.
123, Blandford Road, Whitley, Reading.

And now, do you smell that? Hot, homely food: Sunday dinners roasting, usually beef, inevitably with carrots and cabbage, and the sweet tang of a steamed pudding; suddenly, there's the aroma of a gorgeous Christmas lunch, all turkey and trimmings; and now, there's condensation running down the windows of the living room, but it's still womb-warm, and now there's sunday Tea of crab paste sandwiches and tuna sanwiches and toast and cakes, and then, can you hear it? There's the susurrus of the TV - saturday afternoons, World of Sport, or Sunday with Antiques Roadshow - hold on, that's Mandela being freed from prison! - but someone's just run past the telly and brushed past me holed up in  my corner with one of the books, and now someone's just laughed, and now, there's Reg and Glad, up from Southampton, sat on the couch, looking like a Hampshire version of the couple from that painting American Gothic, and all of a sudden they've got incongruous christmas hats on, and Uncle Reg is pressing a 50 p coin into my hand.
 And now it's a glorious chaos of children, my sister, my cousins, all playing, and I can't tell if it's Christmas, or Easter, or Summer or whenever, and there are my mum and dad and Penny, Peter, Sue, Jim, Julie, all of the family, in a whirl of life and colour and sound. In the middle, there's Grandad, laughing, but behind him, always working, patient,  kind, unceasing, uncomplaining, ever talking kind words, ever in the kitchen, ever helping, ever caring, is Nan.

I asked for one thing from Blandford Road to serve as a memory of a place and a time and of a group of people for whom I have nothing but love.This knife is my memento mori, and the springboard from which I can recreate whole days, months, years of time spent .Just a knife, but it holds a whole world from the past, and it will always remind me of you.

Safe Journey, Nan.
Vera Florence Gallantry, nee Pantlin, died on the Ides of March, 2011.


Anonymous said...

Something so simple can hold something so beautiful, memories and love will be in our hearts forever. A truly lovely piece of writing.... L x

paul said...

Thank you!