He told me that I had to get into shooting, as all the social life in Perthshire revolves around shooting.
-Was that Perthsheer or Perthshyre?
-Oh, can’t remember. Perthsha, perhaps. Which is posher depends on the county.
-You know how the Russians change the Θ into Φ, so Theodore becomes Fyodor? You hear that in English occasionally. Instead of “This thing”, someone would say “Vis fing”. You’ve heard that, haven’t you?
He agrees that you hear that occasionally. He would associate it with rougher London accents.
-So would I. Not posh people- not that I speak to a lot of posh people. Anyway, Alastair took me along on a shoot, once. I did not have a gun, as it was £200 per gun. I remember that a grouse went into a tree, and stayed there. They would not shoot it in the tree, as it was not flying, so it would not be “sporting”; so they shouted and shook the tree to try to dislodge it, but it would not go.
-Or lucky. There was this lonely young woman, and I flirted with her a bit. I did not find shooting impossible or revolting at the time. I hope it would only have taken one bird, if I had had a gun- one bird becoming limp rags, to revolt me. I can’t be sure, though.
But Alastair. After working with him for months, suddenly I noticed he was mispronouncing “th”s. Vis Fing. After I left that job, it all became clear. He had stolen £700,000 from clients to maintain the gentry lifestyle which he had wanted; but at the time, I thought he had inherited it or earned it. So rather than being one of the shooting party set, he was aspiring to it.
I am not sure of this, but I cannot think of any other explanation. They convinced him that it was common in the upper classes to change th to f- researching for this, I have just found that it is called “Th-fronting”. When Alastair was about, vey all fronted, so he started fronting too. Odd, it sounded.
Long after I left, he was struck off, then imprisoned. The thefts, including £150,000 from a woman in a nursing home, disgust me; yet if he really had been fooled into speaking like a pleb, it is still pitiable. He is not a monster (though he deserved the eleven year sentence) but a poor, sad fool. He showed his weakness, and they exploited it.
More from that conversation: Richard has to believe in the afterlife, because otherwise the suffering of Earth is too great. I wonder if we suffer because we could not learn lessons otherwise. So the Prime Minister read out the names of each British soldier killed in Afghanistan- not showing sufficient respect for Afghan lives, but still- because we fought the Somme and Passchendaele as we did. Or only the Final Solution would convince humanity of the wrongness of concepts of übermensch and untermensch. At one, the woman on the next table says she has been earwigging: it has been the most delightful conversation she has heard for a long time.