Once upon a time in a land long ago I used to read Viz, before the news made it indistinguishable from the laughable guff we’re daily told is really really true.
One of the characters in Viz was Mrs Brady Old Lady, whose conversation, alarmingly like mine, veered towards the past when she could hear at all, something that bothers me occasionally too. Mine isn’t just advanced age but what used to be called ‘Cocktail Party Deafness.’ Which means the little hairs inside my ear vibrate in such a way that although I can hear a phone ring three rooms away if there is no other sound, if more than one person is talking then I can’t make out their voice from all the other sounds. It’s very isolating and it varies, so people assume it’s selective. Mrs Brady however, used to talk about bananas a lot. Or rather, the lack of them. Thanks to U-boats, and the need to import things a little more central to the war effort than prickly fruit.
Scarce though bananas once were, 200 years before that pineapples were even more scarce. If you go to Cambridge and look up at the roof of Clare College, to Bath and look up at the roofs at The Circus, to Stow-On-The-Wold and walk down the hill to the west, to where there was once, even longer ago than when I lived there, an abortive attempt to build a spa town in the middle of the fields, the only remains now being one not-very-big stone house, you’ll see they’ve all got something in common. Pineapples on the roof.
That’s how scarce they were in the 1700s. Pineapple bling was the kind of thing the Beckhams would have gone in for, if Posh Spice could have born to wear an Empire line frock and Becks sported a tricorn hat. Pineapples said something about a person; chiefly ‘Loadsamoney!!’
That’s all it was about. ‘We have so much money that we can afford pineapples and we’re not afraid who knows it. We’ve actually got so much money we can put gold pineapples on the roof.’ Ok, everyone probably knew that it was only gold leaf on the rooftop pineapples, but still, they got the message.