The other night, between dashing from this thing to the next, I stopped to listen to the wireless. Well, it was Radio 4, and being so means it was definitely the wireless, and not the radio, despite the confusion of nomenclature. The programme was “Just a Minute”, hosted by the eternal Nicholas Parsons, wherein panellists speak for 60 seconds on a given topic without repetition, hesitation or deviation. Hilarity, as they say, generally ensues, and occasionally awe. I grew up listening to the likes of Clement Freud, Kenneth Williams and Willie Rushton being witty and erudite; today we have the joys of Paul Merton, Josie Lawrence and Sheila Hancock.
Well my dears, I would be terrible at the game in question. I repeat and fade on an endless loop, like a 60’s pop idol, or an indecisive pilot circling forever above my linguistic destination and never quite arriving. I go into some kind of verbal holding pattern above my target topic and fail to land on the runway until the airwave traffic controllers have died from frustration or boredom, and occasionally both.
This week one of the topics was “Your family’s motto” and it was most certainly amusing. It also sparked a question in my little grey cells as to what the motto above EBL Towers, when it is finally emplaced, should be. For many years we have lived by “All you need is gloves” and, in extremis, “Never give up, never surrender!” Yet for all their many merits, these do not quite encapsulate the spirit and verve that is EBL en famille.
What are the crucial signs of one of the Bagladian clan, also known as Gentes Bagladii? Well you might ask, dear friends, but until now I would honestly have struggled to respond. It’s hard to think of a single uniting force beyond customs – most of us who are members of said clan of clans like history and science fiction and games and films and rock music and technology and art and stand-up comedy and good coffee, curry and chocolate (not necessarily all at once). But these are ephemera. They are trivial in terms of what makes a family. They are simply things we can enjoy together.
“What this family needs,” I decided, “is a motto, to be our mission statement to the world.”
It will, of course, let the rest of you, the non-Bagladians, know what you are missing by being non-Bagladian in the first place, and serve you right. It will help you understand how to get the best from us and how to avoid the worst.
Yet the more I thunk and the harder I thunk the further away I found myself from an answer. After all, if you prick us do we not bleed? The answer to that is yes, fyi. Just don’t try it, because we have big, strong teeth, and you know what they are all the better for. But if so, in what way are we different, unique, special; because we all want to feel special, don’t we, and isn’t a motto a way of making that happen?
I briefly considered “By the grace of God and a toothbrush” which stood me in good stead for some years as a younger EBL learning her way about yon mortal coil. But not all of us believe in the big G so that wouldn’t do.
My grandmother had many favourite quips and sayings, some of which will haunt me to my dying day, such as “You’ve got to eat a peck of dirt before you die,” “Cheer up for Chatham – Dover’s in sight” and “Don’t-Care was made to care and locked in a box until he did.” I think her intention was to boost morale, but her confidence may have been misplaced. In any case they are hardly mottoes.
A motto is intended to express a higher principle or ideal to which one cleaves., and generally they seem to revolve around the virtues: chastity, temperance, charity, diligence, patience, kindness, and humility. You can see why I am struggling here. EBL is pretty short in the virtuous arena. Pretty damn short.
To the world of whimsy! I am currently torn between “When the going gets tough, the tough keep calm and eat chocolate” and “Let’s always take whatever comes, and never try to hide, face everything and anyone, together side by side.”
Until I decide we will stick with our old favourite, “All you need is gloves” because, indeed, gloves are all you need.
What would be your motto?