Over the creek and through the Institute of Terrestrial Magnetism to grandmother's house I went.
I'm in Honolulu now, but over the Thanksgiving weekend I was in DC, where the streets are littered with organizations pulled straight from the X-Files. This gave me the opportunity to check in with my Bracknellian grandmother in person, in her charming apartment overlooking the treetops, and to tell her a little bit about some work I've been doing on the no-longer-quite-fledgling National Theatre of Scotland.
I give you the list of things my grandmother rejected fundamentally as concepts while I was talking with her that afternoon:
- Storytelling. ("What is 'storytelling'? I've never heard of such a thing," she says, disdain dripping from her scare-quotes. "It's... well... I, um, I really don't think I can give a definition much clearer than the one contained in the word itself, Nonna." She scoffs with a small incredulous noise: "We certainly never did anything like that in our family.")
- Rural locales as the sites of
culture. ("There's culture outside of Glasgow and Edinburgh? Really?" A slow patrician drawl: "You surprise me." Her raised eyebrows say that I haven't surprised her, because she doesn't believe me.)
- Sandwiches. ("I hate sandwiches. I've always hated sandwiches." "Really, Nonna? Because a solid third of all of the meals you've ever served me have been sandwiches." This merits no more than an arch look and a dismissive flick of the hand. Of course, she also claimed on this visit that she'd be faking every single interest she'd ever evinced in her 90+ years on this earth. Maybe sandwiches just got caught in the crossfire.)
- Scottish music. ("There's no such thing." "There is." "Oh? What is it then, Scottish music?" She clearly thinks she's got me there. So I pull out the most obvious example: "Have you ever heard a bagpiper?". "Yes," she says, confident in the hand she has to play, "In London." "London did not invent the bagpipes!" I cry with excessive force.)
Note that of these concepts, she only even admitted to the existence of sandwiches, and she stopped just short of calling them abominations. She's a woman of stark absolutes, my grandmother. It's for us plebians to dabble in nuance.