The papaya fruit is known as the queen of fruits. Why not? They are very nice and do no end of good to my digestive system. After a papaya my transit runs free. I remember years ago my Auntie Molly telling me without a hint of irony that James Michener was the king or was it the prince of novelists. I was a teenager. I nodded, as though to take at face value the objective truth of such an assertion. Is Paris the queen of cities? I think it probably is. In such a configuration Boris Johnson would be the knave or jack of all politicians or the Two of Spades of all diplomats; Theresa May would be the rook’s pawn of all communicators and Jeremy Corbyn the farthing or maybe the groat of all leaders of the Opposition.
I was in the café in Peter Jones department store queueing for a coffee and I heard the woman in front of me ordering her cappuccino, extra strong, she insisted. But I mean really strong, she said. They agreed she would have two shots of coffee in her cappuccino. Then the woman behind the counter said, would you like chocolate on that? The customer, who was probably about sixty, a smallish woman with maybe some Lebanese or middle eastern heritage somewhere, said: do I look like I want chocolate on that? This was not said aggressively, more as though to start a playful conversation, but the woman who was serving her did not answer. The customer repeated her question, as though it was a good quip that had gone unnoticed. She said it again: do I look like I want chocolate? Again the serving woman chose not to respond. The customer went to a seat with her double shot coffee. I tried to understand the exchange. At first I thought the chocolate thing was because she was dark of skin and the serving woman did not want to be a drawn on such a contentious topic. Then, as I looked at the customer across the café, I thought that she wasn’t particularly dark. Maybe it was that her desire to have a double shot coffee was a macho signal and, following the same line, she had wanted to publicly poo-poo the idea of having a sprinkle of chocolate on the top of some frothy milk. I wrestled with the correct interpretation of the exchange for the ten minutes it took me to drink my black americano (pretty macho I reckon). Then I went down to use the toilets on the first floor.
Am I alone in viewing the proposal for marriage as a strange primitive left-over from earlier times? In the days of nth wave feminism and metoo culture surely the etiquettes of this ritual could do with a make-over. Even in the most forward thinking of couples the business of a bended leg and a prize ring, sometimes hidden in a chocolate cream or strawberry blancmange, the sacred formula of the proposal itself, the high-kitsch setting (some fairy castle or secret bower) persist. The stellar confusion reveals itself most when the groom decides to enact the ritual in front of a Super Bowl crowd and the bride considers this to be romantic, or respectful, or something.
If somebody will pay me I will accept to draw up a procedure more in line with modern society and contemporary gender roles. Spoiler alert: what I might come up with for the two parties is something resembling a conversation.