you can lead a horticulture…

Thus Peter Cook explains the difference between a proud carrier of culture (Kulturträger) and a humble consumer thereof:

(Plymouth Theatre, New York, 1973)

DUDLEY: Good evening. I am talking this evening to Sir Arthur Greeb-Streebling…
PETER: Oh no you’re not — not at all. You’re talking to Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling. You’re confusing me with Sir Arthur Greeb-Streebling. The T is silent, as in Fox.
DUDLEY: I’d like to ask Sir Arthur, actually, about his rather unique restaurant — The Frog & Peach.
PETER: This seems like the ideal opportunity, what with me being here and you being there. The ideal opportunity — seize it!
DUDLEY: If you would tell us something about the Frog & Peach, Sir Arthur? How did the idea come to you?
PETER: Yes, well, the idea for the Frog & Peach came to me in the bath. A great number of things come to me in the bath — mainly mosquitoes, various forms of water snakes — but on this occasion, a rather stunning and unique idea. I suddenly thought, where can a young couple go, with not too much money, feeling a bit hungry, a bit peckish, want something to eat — where can they go? Where can they go and get a really big frog and a damn fine peach? Where can they go? And the answer came there none. And it was on this premise that I founded the Frog & Peach.
DUDLEY: On these premises?
PETER: On these precise premises, yes.
DUDLEY: How long ago did you start this venture?
PETER: Tricky to say — certainly within living memory. It was shortly after World War Two. Do you remember that? Absolutely ghastly business — I was against the whole thing.
DUDLEY: I think we all were.
PETER: Yes, well, I wrote a letter.
DUDLEY: Getting back to the Frog & Peach, how has business been?
PETER: Let me answer that in two parts. Business hasn’t been and there hasn’t been any business. These last thirty-five years have been a rather lean time for us here at the old F & P.
DUDLEY: But don’t you feel that you’re at a slight disadvantage, being stuck out here in the middle of a bog in the heart of the Yorkshire Moors?
PETER: I think the word disadvantage is awfully well chosen here. Yes, that is what we’re at. We’re at a disadvantage, stuck out here in the middle of a bog in the heart of the Yorkshire Moors. But I thought, rightly or wrongly — possibly both — that the people of this country were crying out for a restaurant without a parking problem. And here in the middle of a bog in the heart of the Yorkshire Moors, there is no problem parking the car. A little difficulty extricating it — but parking is sheer joy.
DUDLEY: Don’t you also feel that you’re at a disadvantage with regard to your menu?
PETER: Yes, this has been a terrible disadvantage to us. Have you seen it?
DUDLEY: Very briefly.
PETER: That’s the only way to see it. I mean, the choice is so limited. You only have two dishes to choose from. Now what are they? Blast! I should know this by heart after thirty-five years. Oh, yes, first there is Frog à la Pêche. Frog à la Pêche is basically a large frog, brought to your table, covered in boiling Cointreau, with a peach stuck in its mouth. It is one of the most disgusting sights I have ever seen. The only alternative to Frog à la Pêche is even worse — Pêche à la Frog. In this case, peach is brought to your table by the waiter, again covered in boiling Cointreau.
DUDLEY: The waiter?
PETER: Very often. Very often the waiter is covered in boiling Cointreau, but the policy here is to aim the Cointreau at the peach. The peach is then sliced down the middle to reveal — Oh, God! — about 300 squiggling, black tadpoles. It is the most disgusting sight I have ever seen in my life! It’s enough to put you off your food — which is a damn good thing, considering what the food is like.
DUDLEY: Who does the cooking?
PETER: My wife. My wife does all the cooking, and luckily, she does all the eating as well. She’s not a well woman.
DUDLEY: She’s not a well woman?
PETER: She is not a well woman, and she very much resents having to go down the well every morning to feed the frogs. She dislikes it intensely. We have to lower her screaming on a rope. Frogs don’t like it either.

DUDLEY: How did you meet your wife?
PETER: I met Morag under somewhat unusual circumstances. It was during World War Two — you remember that thing I tried to stop? She blew in through the window on a piece of shrapnel, became embedded in the sofa. One thing led to her mother, and we were married in the hour. Her mother is a very powerful woman. She can break a swan’s wing with a blow of her nose. Kids love it at parties.
DUDLEY: Getting back to the Frog and Peach…
PETER: By all means.
DUDLEY: The whole venture of the Frog and Peach sounds a bit disastrous.
PETER: I don’t think I’d use the word disastrous here. I think the word catastrophe is closer to the mark. The whole venture of the Frog and Peach has been a total failure and huge catastrophe.
DUDLEY: Do you think you’ve learned from your mistakes?
PETER: Oh, yes, I’ve learned from my mistakes and I’m sure I could repeat them exactly.
DUDLEY: Thank you, Sir Arthur Greeb-Streebling.
PETER: Streeb-Greebling.

— Peter Cook, Tragically I Was an Only Twin: The Complete Peter Cook, St. Martin’s Press, 2002, pp. 194-197

18 thoughts on “you can lead a horticulture…”

    1. Before you read any further, try the audio and video recordings of Pete and Dud, Derek and Clive, and last but not least, Beyond the Fringe:

      Peter Cook had a solo quickie in which he endlessly sang the words “I’m dancing about in the nude” — to which someone else remarked, “What absolute rubbish. You are fully clothed and you’re standing stock still.” Cook answered, “I am essentially a radio performer.” But the best quickie of all, which survived into the London version of the show, was “Real Class,” in which Cook pointed out to the audience that “Jonathan Miller and myself come from good families and have had the benefits of a public-school education,” whereas the other two “have worked their way up from working-class origins.” To which [Alan] Bennett replied, “I wonder how many of these people have realized that Jonathan Miller’s a Jew… I’d rather be working class than be a Jew.” Miller responded, “I’m not really a Jew. Just Jew-ish. Not the whole hog, you know.” John Fortune was shocked by this, “because when I went up to Cambridge I thought Jews were only in the Bible — though there was a don at my college, King’s, who was Jewish, and I heard he’d been refused membership of a golf club because of it.”
      — Humphrey Carpenter, A Great, Silly Grin: The British Satire Boom of the 1960s, Da Capo Press, 2002, p. 112

      1. Not the whole hog, you know!!

        I shall pursue your advice.

        Interesting coincidence. Only yesterday I laughed at the clips from Fry and Laurie show for the first time – I knew Stephen Fry only as a writer.
        And today you introduce me to another name in British satire!

        I wonder if it has a deeper meaning? :-))

        1. Re: Not the whole hog, you know!!

          Speaking of deeper meanings, I always wished that Jonathan Miller had prefaced his Jew-ish self-deprecation by retorting to Alan Bennett: “I wonder how many of these people have realized that you’re a homosexual… I’d rather be a Jew than be a working class homosexual.” Then they could segue into an Otto Weininger riff, anticipating his second coming as Stephen Fry: das eine Mal als Tragödie, das andere Mal als Farce.

    2. offtopic

      sorry to interrupt – but I wanted to say nice userpic! Today I stood for a long time in front of that very statue admiring it’s…whatever it is. bunniness.

      1. it’s… whatever it is

        Oh, for fuck’s sake. And from a teacher, too.

        HENRY: See Simon, there are three kinds of there. There’s ‘there’. T-H-E-R-E. There are the donuts. Then there’s ‘their,’ T-H-E-I-R; which is the possessive. It is their donut. Then finally, there’s ‘they’re’. T-H-E-Y-’-R-E. A contraction, meaning they’re. They’re the donut people. Got it?
        SIMON: Uh-huh.
        — Hal Hartley, Henry Fool

        1. Re: it’s… whatever it is

          oh, screw you.
          english is my second landuage.
          and I am not that kind of teacher.
          I am a special people teacher.
          as well you know.

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