Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Vanity, all is vanity

If you're a true pedant you'll just have to forgive - or ignore - my Biblical misquote.  The whole phrase just doesn't cut the mustard as far as today's blether is concerned.

[Cut the mustard:  According to the Urban Dictionary,
This phrase originates from the Old English craft of Mustard making.

The chief mustard maker or Mustardeer would make their mustard in large oaken barrels, allowing each barrel to mature for a number of months. This maturing of the mustard produced a thick, leathery crust at the top of the barrel which would need to be removed before the contents could be tested.

The consistency of the crust would be such that a specialised cutting implement was required to remove it. Initially a modified scythe was used but this often lead to the crust being 'dragged' at certain points and falling into the rest of the mustard causing it to lose some of its distinctive flavour.

Over many years a specialised blade was developed that had an extremely thin leading edge which widened towards the centre and then tapered at the trailing edge although not to a sharp point. This allowed the blade to skim the majority of the topcrust off, leaving a very thin slice which would be left on to protect the mustard.

Due to the coarse, leathery nature of the topcrust the blade, over time, would develop dull spots along it's length and thus required constant monitoring.

When it was time to remove the topcrust the senior Mustardeer would instruct his apprentice to pass him the blade and would attempt to slice thorough the top leathery layer. The Mustardeer would know immediately if the blade was not sufficiently keen enough to complete the task and he would pass the blade back to the apprentice and say to him "I'm sorry, but That Doesn't Cut the Mustard"

The phrase has since passed into common usage describing anything that does not meet a certain standard.
Now, where was I?  Oh yes.  I had my hair cut this week.  Apart from the barber being extremely rude about the long time since my previous haircut and the likely time before the next,  it was not too unpleasant an experience.  The major snag was that the nearly-bald spot is a bit nearer bald and has spread, rather like a contagious disease, and that the front line of my hair is retreating to join the nearly bald spot.  Now I don't think I am a particularly vain person.  Indeed, I don't think of myself as being at all vain.  All the same, I had, when younger, hoped that I would have hair like my maternal grandfather's.  I had read somewhere that sons usually inherit their hair genes from their mothers and it had crossed my mind that she might have inherited her father's hair genes and passed them on to me.  If so, I would have a full head of silvery-white hair until the day I died.

But it was not to be.  It seems I have instead my paternal grandfather's hair - or lack of it.  As my granddaughter informed me last year, "Grandad, I can see your head through your hair!"


There is a river - the Wellesbourne - that flows underground, possibly only intermittently, from Patcham to the sea at Pool Valley.  Occasionally, after really heavy rain, the water level rises and flooding has occurred in basements of shops in the London Road.  The groundwater level has now risen to the level where flooding of houses in part of Patcham is a distinct possibility.  Residents have been advised to make arrangements to evacuate their homes and sandbags have been issued.  Patrons of the Elizabethan Cottage tandoori restaurant have to negotiate quite a pile at the door.


joeh said...

Never knew the "Cut the mustard" Thanks.

What about "Cut the cheese?"

Suldog said...

I learned something by coming here. That's not something a lot of people can brag about having accomplished with me, so you should be proud.

As for hair, I was going bald by the time I was 23. I've been entirely shiny on top for about fifteen years now. It has advantages. I haven't bought shampoo in two decades; soap is enough for my body and head. I know when it's raining before anyone else does. And, if I ever get cancer? I won't as traumatized as someone whose hair falls out.

Brighton Pensioner said...

I say, chaps, thanks a bunch.

Sorry, Joe, "cut the cheese" is a phrase I have never heard before.

And Jim, when I read your first words I thought it was one of those spam comments we all get from time to time!