Sunday, 26 June 2005

Calling me names

I have had many appellations over the years, and it would be pleasant to recall here some of the more complimentary titles that were granted me: for example, the one I was given during the year I spent in Egypt, which, roughly translated from the Arabic, meant The Great White Lord Who Speaks With Tongue of Silver, or the one by which I used to be known on the Left Bank: Celui Qui Chante Comme Un Ange.

However, the sad truth is that no-one ever actually gave me either of those titles, or indeed any others which I care to remember, except for one.

When I was very young an old woman with a terrifying hat called Mrs Fairman (the old woman, not the hat) used to visit us every few months. I suppose she was what we would now call a traveller. Anyway, she used to give my mother a few coppers for old clothes; she must have known some really desperate people who would want to buy the sort of clothes that were no more use to us.

Her name for me was My-Pigeon-Lor’-Love-‘im-Gaw’-Bless-‘im. I was not impressed by the pious wish, but felt proud to be called by a lovely long name like that: it must surely have meant I was a very important person, though it later occurred to me that she probably applied it to all the little boys she met on her rounds.

She didn’t use it merely to refer to me in the third person, but also to address me by, and her enthusiastic greeting was always the same: ‘Allo, My-Pigeon-Lor’-Love-‘im-Gaw’-Bless-‘im, and ‘ow’s My-Pigeon-Lor’-Love-‘im-Gaw’-Bless-‘im? Say this rhythmically in a Cockney whine with the pitch rising to the second ‘im and then falling away to the fourth, and you will see why it made me feel warm all over. And sometimes I got a rather grubby toffee too.


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