Canned gossip from the inn

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OVERHEARD in the course of an evening in the pub . . .

'The way I see it, John Major is like a bloke who has discovered he's got someone living in his basement he can't get rid of, only with him it's not a sex therapist - it's Norman Lamont.'

'If you'd told me a year ago that we'd enter 1993 with Prince Edward being the one straightforward, trouble-free member of the Royal Family, well, frankly I'd have begged to differ.'

'I wonder where the expression 'beg to differ' comes from?'

'But what did John Major actually do during our presidency of the European Commission?'

'I don't see how you can call it draught if it's in a can. Draught beer has to be in a barrel. If it's in a can, it's canned. Calling it draught doesn't make it draught, does it? I mean, that just begs the question.'

'I wonder where the expression 'begging the question' comes from?'

'Go on. Tell me just one thing that John Major's done. Not counting charters.'

'Have you noticed that everyone on radio thinks 'begging the question' means 'leading on to the next topic'?'

'What do recycled bottles get recycled into? Just asking.'

'I heard a woman on the radio the other day say she had never read any Auden and had no intention of doing so, and I told this to my wife, and she said: 'Auden who?' '

'The point about Major is not what he does. It's what he doesn't do that makes him different. He'll be remembered as the man who didn't invest in the railways, didn't sack Norman Lamont, didn't know who had bugged Prince Charles, didn't let Bosnian refugees in, didn't realise that John Selwyn Gummer was a member of the Cabinet, didn't have an inkling . . .'

'I wonder what the expression 'have an inkling' means?'

'I think they turn recycled bottles into other recycled bottles. That's why bottles are getting darker and darker.'

'I mean, you couldn't produce beer from a barrel and call it Beer in a Can, could you? So how can you sell beer from a can and call it draught? Right?'

'You know during the Second World War the RAF had a dance band called the Squadronaires? Well, a man told me once that the Brits who went to America to get away from the war had their very own group, too. It was called the Audenaires. Do you think it's true?'

'Do you mean, as in vin audenaire?'

'Yes.'

'No.'

'By the year 2000 all bottles will be recycled, and they'll all be dark - black, probably.'

'Thing about John Major is, he's like the bloke who says 'I didn't know what was going on, I was only taking orders'. Which is fair enough, except that he's also the bloke in charge.'

'Remember in the old days publicans used to keep The Guinness Book of Records handy to settle arguments? I bet

it wouldn't tell you the truth about draught beer in cans.'

'It wouldn't be Audenaire. It would be Audenesque, surely?'

'I was in a pub the other day with that awful canned music on, so I asked the landlord to turn it off. Do you know what he said? 'That's not canned music, it's a new kind of draught music we're trying out.' '

'Landlord] Fetch us your best foaming dictionary]'

'You know you've arrived as a writer when people start putting -esque after your name. Kafkaesque, Betjemanesque, and so on. Do people say Larkinesque? I rather fancy they do. That's why I could never take Sylvia Plath seriously as a poet. It seemed unthinkable to say Plathesque. The day I hear someone say Plathesque, I'll rethink my position.'

'Some bottles are black already - those bottles of Spanish bubbly, for instance. Stupid colour for a bottle, if you ask me, because you can't see how much is left inside the bottle. And when you go to the bottle bank, you never know if it qualifies as clear, green or brown.'

'Here you are - 'inkling': 'A faint notion, a hint, a suspicion - origin unknown'. Hardly worth getting the dictionary out, was it?'

'That's not the point. The point of a dictionary is the words you find by accident. Go on, run your eyes down from 'inkling'.'

'Inlander . . . inmate . . . inn . . .'

'Right, tell us] What's the true definition of an inn?'

'House of entertainment for travellers.'

'Could have fooled me.'

'The thing about Mr Major, though, is that . . .'

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