Saturday, 5 January 2013

Mr Hemingway, I presume!

"Mr Hemingway, I presume!" is, in fact, a quote I just made up, based on the famous quote "Dr Livingstone, I presume?" which is quite the correct way for an Englishman to greet another Englishman, even if the latter has been missing for seven years on the "Dark Continent."

In short, it appears we English are remarkably unwilling to demonstrate any emotion at all save politeness and a willingness to journey halfway across the world to ask about another chap's wellbeing.

This may explain why even though I had tickets for the Moulin Rouge tonight, on my birthday, where whispered suggestions implied that chaps who go on their birthday meet the cast for photos - although, of course, such photos could never end up here because (for a start) my mother reads it - I gave them away.

I say gave, but that's quite untrue. A very eager American couple bought them off me for twice their face value. I was not touting - the aforementioned suggestions had me clinging tightly to the tickets - but they made a compelling case on the basis that tonight was their last night in the city, and they were so keen, and they didn't realise you had to book, and before long I had agreed to let them have the tickets for face value.

Karma, who is normally the sort of lady who hangs about for quite some time before dishing out rewards, turned up with the sort of speed with which this chap clearly approached the dinner table and before I knew it he had pushed a wad of notes into my hand, babbling that since it was his last night he had no more need of it.

I was on the point of reminding him that one can find an exchange service on the corner of almost every street in the world when my companion gently took my arm and led me away. It is pleasant to have friends who lean toward the vice of avarice. For a start, it has made me a modicum wealthier. In any case, we have rebooked for tomorrow, with a half-bottle of champagne each, and I am rather excited about how exactly I'm going to get home. Meanderingly, I suspect.

Before giving - and promptly receiving - we had a drink in the Hemingway Bar. Well, sort of. The Hemingway is closed, as is the Ritz, until 2014, so we had a drink in the Vendome, which was exceedingly pleasant and eye-poppingly expensive. Have you ever seen a cartoon where the character goes from being louche and debonair to the over the top, eyes shooting out of the eye sockets and whole body in a sort of complete spasm?

I do not recommend doing that, especially not in the Bar Vendome. One must maintain the casual and debonair air, even as one wonders how much one's kidneys are worth, and if the wonderful barman would mind taking it himself. I should make it clear that the service was incredible. The waiters have perfected the art of waiting. They are essentially invisible until some desire for a top-up or an extra pastry enters the mind, and then they are there, as if they are gliding on castors or skateboards. They are the opposite of, for example, my keys, which are obstinately in the way of everything I try to do until I leave the flat; at which point they disappear completely and can only be found by muttering the prayer to the god of lost things. This is accomplished by repeatedly patting down one's pockets while muttering the name of the lost object. Extra points are awarded if you utterly empty your pockets and then pat them down again, in the vain hope that what you seek is hidden somewhere in the lining.

They never are.

Instead one finds them on the desk, or in a pocket one has already checked ten times or - only once, but memorably - in the fridge. I've no idea what they were doing there.

Probably just chilling.

I'll depart on that, but I'm happy to give the answer to yesterday's riddle and today's.

Victorious people (feminine) young goatherd.

victorious - you could have Victoria, the Roman goddess, or Nike, the Greek. You might also have picked Andraste, the Celtic equivalent, but if you had you'd be wrong, although that Celtic knowledge may come in handy with the next question. 

People - Latin populus, which doesn't appear in many names, or Greek laos. We may be getting somewhere.

Victoria-populus is not a name, but Nike-laos could be squidged a bit (and, indeed, was) to form the anglicized Nicholas. The feminine of this has several versions: Nichole, Nicola, perhaps even Nikki.

Young goatherd was a bit cheeky; it might have been easier as young goat herder. A young goat is a kid, (a word still used in English to describe a child in a casual manner) and the person who looks after them would usually be a man.

Nichole Kidman!

That was a tricky one to start off with, so let's try something easier.

The riddle is Black pool. It's a European capital.

Good luck.