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Put the kettle on | COMMENTARY

I’m offering you a little gift of prose for the holidays.

You may already be acquainted with Barbara Pym’s gentle satires of middle-class British life in the 1950s and later. (If not, you have a great deal of pleasant discovery ahead of you.) Today you might enjoy a short passage from Less Than Angels that is as British as one can get:

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“Esther Clovis had formerly been secretary of a Learned Society, which post she had recently left because of a disagreement with the President. It is often supposed that those who live and work in academic or intellectual circles are above the petty disputes that vex the rest of us, but it does sometimes seem as if the exalted nature of their work makes it necessary for them to descend occasionally and to refresh themselves, as it were, by squabbling about trivialities. The subject of Miss Clovis’s quarrel with the President was known only to a privileged few and even those knew no more than it had something to do with the making of tea. Not that the making of tea can ever really be regarded as a petty or trivial matter and Miss Clovis did seem to have been seriously at fault. Hot water from the tap had been used, the kettle had not been quite boiling, the teapot had not been warmed … whatever the details, there had been words, during which other things had come out, things of a darker nature. Voices had been raised and in the end Miss Clovis had felt bound to hand in her resignation.”

Have a cuppa and a nice sit down with a Pym book.

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