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We have this ongoing disagreement, my friend Milla and I. A friendly disagreement, mind – but still.

It is all about poetry, you see. Or at least, about quoting poetry – and the occasional bit of prose – at what Milla deems to be the wrongest moments. I, on the other hand, argue that not only there is no wrong moment for poetry – but, on the contrary, there is very little in this world that can’t be made at least a little better by a few well-chosen lines.

For instance, when Milla says she has to to do her ironing (a chore she doesn’t exactly enjoy), my instinctive reaction is to quote Kipling to her:

Gold is for the mistress — silver for the maid —
Copper for the craftsman cunning at his trade.”
‘Good!’ said the Baron, sitting in his hall,
‘But Iron — Cold Iron — is master of them all.’

At this point a mildly annoyed Milla usually grumbles that her iron isn’t cold at all, or some such thing, and says that no, no, no amount of Kipling will help in the least, thank you very much.

Much worse is when she vacuums the carpets, and I offer Marlowe as consolation:

Nature that framed us of four elements,
Warring within our breast for regiment,
Doth teach us all to have aspiring minds…

Which makes little sense in English, but works better when you think that the Italian verb aspirare can mean both “to aspire” and “to aspirate” and the Italian word for vacuum-cleaner is aspirapolvere – the thing that  aspirates dust. And this one – be it the pun, be it that she prefers Marlowe to Kipling, be what it may – drives Milla absolutely nuts. Why, she’s become quite adept at stopping me even as I draw breath to begin.

She says it is a cheapening of the poetry involved (I think she once actually mentioned pearls and swine…), a blatant misuse of beautiful words, and she cannot stand the notion of having Marlowe flung at her while she does something as dull, and unpleasant and mind-numbing as vacuuming the carpets.

What can I say? I heartily disagree. Perhaps it is something of an occupational hazard to believe that beauty, poetry and stories can lend better colours to almost anything, and I’ll eagerly grasp any chance to have some – all the more when I’m in boring, dull or unpleasant circumstances.

Why, in another life, when a cup of black coffee and a few pencils to sharpen where my bit of comfort at half past six in the morning, I glued a tag to my red pencil sharpener, with a small snatch of dialogue from Charlotte Brontë’s Shirley on it. It’s Robert Moore sharpening his cousin Caroline’s pencils for her.

– I suppose you like a fine one?
– Such as you always make for Hortense and me, not your own broad points!

Which sounds like a silly exchange, because if he always makes fine points for his cousin and sister, why does he need to ask? Then again, Robert and Caroline are in unacknowledged (and, for all each of them knows, rather hopeless) love with each other, so things are a tad awkward between them, and people have been known to ramble in such circumstances… In the end it is a nice bit of characterisation from a book I love*, and finding it there every cold early morning, never failed to make me smile a little.

So… well. I guess both Milla and I have some kind of point, and we’ll have to agree to disagree on this, and I’ll stop throwing quotes at her, and she’ll allow me to do it once in a while. It sounds reasonable, doesn’t it?

But I’d like to put it to you, o Readers. Are you with me on this, happily tacking shimmering bits to everyday life, or are you with Milla – and would throw heavy objects at me whenever I make puns on aspiring minds and vacuum cleaners?


* Shirley may well be my favourite Brontë – so sue me. And I doubt there are many of us – but… any other Shirley person out there, by any chance?