Chapter Five: Sophistication
Don’t you think it’s so cool to be sophisticated? I’m not sophisticated, but I’d like to be. Looking around my class today, there is not one person whose even wannabe Sophisticated. They are all hard, or brainy, or cool. And the ones who think they’re cool always say Kewl, like cool isn’t cool anymore.
Some of the girls have perfected Christina Aguilera slutty, and even Brittney Spears wacko can be cool, if you know how to wear it. But not one of them is sophisticated. Can a kid even be sophisticated? Is it possible? I don’t know.
Miss Court, that’s our French teacher. She is a little bit, I suppose. Especially when she says, ‘Où est la station de policie? Quelqu' una vole mon sác à main.’ That means, ‘Where is the police station? Somebody has stolen my purse.’ I wish that purse wasn’t so ugly in French. I mean, who wants to carry a sác around? Purse in Spanish is, Mondero, which is a little bit better but it still doesn’t sound as elegant as purse, does it?
Miss court is kind of sophisticated, I suppose, if you look at her with your artist’s eye. Mr Blades, the art teacher, says that if you want to see something properly, you should look at it with your artist’s eye. Danny Peterson got smart and said, ‘Is that the one you use when you’re eyeing up birds, Sir?’
And Sir said, ‘Only when indulging in ornithology, Danny.’
And Danny said, ‘You dirty old man, Sir.
And Sir said, ‘You’re pushing it now, Peterson. You need to learn when a joke is just enough and when to rein it in.’ Mr Blades is quite sophisticated. Maybe him and Miss Court should get married. If two sophisticated people get married and have a baby, then that baby would be sophisticated, wouldn’t it? It would have sophistication right down in its genes.
Miss Court’s about forty, so she’s really old, but she hasn’t let herself go. She doesn’t have varicose veins, or anything. She’s slim and she has really long light brown hair that she puts up in a loose bun so that wisps of it all come down, but not in a scruffy way. She’s got a long thin nose, but it doesn’t make her ugly and she wears floaty skirts and high wooden sandals. I’ve never seen her in trousers; she’s still got good legs. She’s very feminine and she’s also (I looked this word up) bohemian, and cultured. And would you believe it, guess what comes up when you look up synonyms for cultured? Sophisticated. See, I was right. Miss Court is sophisticated. I wonder what her first name is? Maybe it would be a good name for the baby. Mum says we are definitely not calling it Tulisa. She wouldn’t even discuss it.
When I got home I asked Mum who is the most sophisticated person that she knows.
‘That would definitely be your grandma.’
‘Grandma Vera or Grandama Cathy?’
‘Grandma Cathy, of course, my mum.’
‘Yes, I suppose, but she’s just Grandma. I mean someone famous.’
‘Let me think now,’ she put the last plate away and dried her hands on the tea towel. Then she picked up the pie that was ready for baking and put it in the oven. ‘Probably, Elizabeth Taylor.’
‘Elizabeth Taylor. Some people think that she’s the most glamorous woman, ever.’
I had to see this woman for myself. I went to the computer and looked her up. ‘Mother,’ I screamed and she came running up the stairs as though the house was on fire. ‘Are you serious? Look at her. She’s disgusting.’ I don’t mean to be awful about anyone, but that woman was fat with a capital flipping heck. I mean a real cake muncher.
‘Oh you found that Elizabeth Taylor.’
Let me tell you I was relieved. I know my mum’s been a bit loopy lately but if that’s her idea of glam, I’m stuffed. ‘Oh, is there another one?’
‘No, it’s the same person, but that’s her when she got older. Trust me, young Liz and old Liz are two entirely different people. Here let me in and I’ll adopt your tactics of exploration and see what we can come up with.’ She shuffled me aside and clicked on Google typing in, Young Liz Taylor.
‘Wow. She’s beautiful.’ And she was. You really wouldn’t think that she was the same person. ‘So is she like, your favourite actress of all time?’
She thought about it again. That’s the thing with my mum, she never just blurts out an answer. If you ask her a question she really thinks about it before replying. ‘No. If we’re talking classic actresses rather than modern ones, I think it’s got to be Bette Davis.’
I typed in Bette Davis. And it happened again. Oh my god, she was hideous. Made the old Liz Taylor look like Kylie. I’m telling you this old woman was a munter. She only had one eye for freak’s sake, the other one was covered with a black patch. And she was Ugly. Not just old and not very good looking. I mean cover-her-up-with-a-sack ugly. Mum was laughing.
I think we need to do a search for young Bette Davis.
I have to admit that was much better. She was kind of beautiful. Mum said that she was a sex symbol back in the day and that she was an icon. She had these really big eyes that apparently men went mad about. I thought they were a bit froggy, but she was sort of pretty when she was young.
I learned something really important today. If that’s what it does to you, I never, ever want to be an actress, not even if I die before I’m thirty.
The pie was in and the potatoes and veg were simmering so mum stayed to chat for a bit. She was lying on my bed and I was in front of the mirror holding my hair up.
‘Can I have my hair cut?’
‘Because you’ve got gorgeous long hair.’
‘But I want it short and like they had it in the fifties—and pink.’
‘And not in this lifetime, lady.’
‘And you are so unreasonable.’
‘And do you know that you shouldn’t begin a sentence with And?’
‘But I don’t know why.’
‘But you can hardly tell me off about my grammar if you don’t know it yourself.’
‘But you’ve got a smart mouth, daughter.’ We were both giggling now.
‘But I inherited it from you.’
‘But I would never have back-chatted my mum the way you do.’
‘But-ter wouldn’t melt in your mouth, Mother.’ She raised her eyebrow. I could see that she was impressed with that one. I was rather proud of it myself. We were laughing now and getting really silly.
‘Cause I’m perfect,’ She bounced back, taking her turn.
‘Cause you had me.’
‘Cause your simply wonderful.’
‘Don’t I know it?’
‘Don’t be vain.’
‘Don’t you think we’re going to struggle when we get to X.’
‘Don’t be silly we can start every one with kisses.’
‘Don’t forget that would be cheating.’
It was Mum’s turn but she went quiet. After a minute she started doing letters on her fingers. ‘A,B,C,D. A,B,C,D. A,B,C,D.’ Every time she got to D, she stopped and began again. ‘Do you know, I can’t for the life of me remember what comes after D.’
I was really impressed. I thought she was pretending to go onto E but really she was still doing a D word. That was clever, ‘Hah, you got me,’ I said. Somehow I knew that the game was over, even though neither of us said anything. She looked a bit sad for a second then she patted me on my knee and told me that dinner would be ready soon. I think she was serious, she forgot what came after D.
A few minutes later I heard the front door slam and then I heard her car driving away. I ran down to see what was going on and my dad said that she’d nipped to the shop. She was ages and the potatoes had stuck to the pan when she got back. Dad said that she was loopy. What was she doing waltzing off when she was in the middle of cooking dinner? She was annoyed and told dad that she’s not the only person in the house capable of turning a pan down. But it was okay, she put some mustard in the mash and it tasted good then.
After dinner she said that she had a surprise for me. When she went out she’d been to the DVD shop and got a copy of Who Killed Baby Jane. We went up to my room because Dad said that he wasn’t interested in watching that rubbish. Mum and me lay on the bed together and had some M&M’s. The film was really good and I totally get it about that Bette Davis, even when she’s ugly Bette. It was a bit scary and Mum said that she had debated with herself about getting it because of that. It was probably the scariest thing that I’ve ever seen. Then she said something really cool. She said, ‘It’s called, delicious terror.’ Isn’t that just the best thing you’ve ever heard? Delicious Terror. Mum said, that it’s knowing that you’re completely safe and getting a buzz out of being terrified.
She’s going to introduce me to Alfred Hitchcock. I thought she meant a real person meeting, but she said that he’s the best film director, ever. But she doesn’t think that I’m not ready for his best ones yet because they are really scary.’
I think Alfred Hitchcock is synonymous (big word, be impressed) with delicious terror.