Spot the grey lady
The temptation is strong to make easy, glib, giggly reference to 'Fifty Shades of Grey' but really this is no laughing matter. On reflection, a more appropriate movie parallel is 'Marathon Man' which scores low for titillating nudity and high for sheer unreasoning terror.
The relevant scene has Laurence Olivier playing the dentist from hell leaning over a petrified Dustin Hoffman with drill in hand.
'Is it safe?' Laurence wants to know as the drill edges closer and closer and closer to poor old Dustin's mouth. 'Is it safe?' And the problem is that poor old Dustin has not the beginnings of an idea as to what his crazed interrogator is on about as he lies strapped to the dentist's chair.
He naturally longs to give the correct answer and spare himself the imminent re-arrangement of his molars without the benefit of anaesthetic. Perhaps it, whatever it may be, is indeed safe. Or quite possibly it is not safe at all. He is not well placed to give a confident reply to the mad man with the drill.
Though Dustin's situation is uncomfortable, at least the odds facing his character in this awful predicament are a reasonable, toss-of-a-coin even money. Safe or not safe. Either or. Hermione only offers her victims a two to one shot…
The hallowed hall at Medders Manor is due a facelift. This fact had escaped my attention but dear, darling, sensitive Hermione has been itching to break out with the emulsion. And I should have seen the signs.
First, there were the interior décor magazines left lying around on counters and coffee tables with their impossibly glossy pictures of impossibly perfect households.
Second indicator was the way she lingered in the in paint department of the Our Town hardware shop. With lips pursed, she contemplated the wares on display, her face a study in fierce concentration.
Third, she began to come out with intensely expressed assessments of the colour scheme and style of rooms in the houses of friends.
'That green simply does not work,' she stated with utter certainty of a mediaeval Pontiff laying down theological law. This particular encyclical was delivered as we emerged into the night after what I found to be a particularly pleasant evening of supper and card play.
I attempted to lighten the mood by commenting: 'Did you see the paunch on that Freddy fellow?' or some such - but she was not to be diverted. Hermione, normally a keen watcher of waistlines, had no comment whatever to make on the welfare of the people we met over our hand of whist. Instead she focused unsmiling on the choice of matt rather than gloss by our hosts and how this might make the walls tougher to keep clean.
'She had someone in, you know.' (Indeed, I knew no such thing.) 'But I suppose I will have to do our place myself.'
And now, at last, after circling around the topic for weeks like a leopard eyeing up an unfortunate antelope, she is poised to move in for the kill. The dreaded colour chart as recommended by a consultant in home makeovers, no less, has been produced. It has already been decided that the hallowed hall will be re-incarnated in grey, replacing the muddy, beigey, yellowy hue which served previous generations.
Grey it has to be, apparently, in line with current fashion, in accordance with the advice of the consultant and in keeping with the desire to avoid the mistakes of others. Grey it is but which grey? The colour chart offers very nearly the fifty shades of erotic novel fame.
However, Hermione has winnowed the choice down to three greys, all practically indistinguishable to my eyes, and she asks me to offer my opinion. So are we to go with 'misty morning grey', 'eiderdown duck grey' or 'Grey's anatomy'? There is only one right answer, of that Hermione is absolutely convinced, while her quaking husband had not the faintest clue which of the three should be his number one preference.
Is it safe, Dustin?