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Cultural Concubine Blog

Neither here nor there…

Stroop - Dutch Treacle

There is something sticky in the state of Britain…

It is hard to put my finger on what it is exactly, but since I started working in Education for the British government I have had to learn a lot about the ways of getting things done around here.

Where in Holland people in general give their opinions first and make decisions later, here in the UK there has to be a gentle kind of banter first followed by an unpermeable process that leads to some kind of progress…
(if this method had been adopted in Holland, Utrecht would be by the sea and the rest would be paddling water…)

Treacle Management they call it.

Funnily enough Treacle originally was said to be an antidote to poison (something sweet usually appears to be),  also known as Theriac.
“Henry of Grosmont, 1st Duke of Lancaster
wrote that “the treacle is made of poison so that it can destroy other poisons”. Thinking by analogy, Henry Grosmont also thought of theriac as a moral curative, the medicine “to make a man reject the poisonous sin which has entered into his soul.”
But from my experience in government I can’t say it improves the soul…
Fight Fire with Fire I say…

So I am not holding my breath to find out what will come of all the new bills that Lizzie read out yesterday as Treacle runs in this country’s veins.
Please let me demonstrate management by Treacle by the short clip from Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Chapter 7…
it will all become clear in the end:

St Margaret's (Treacle) Well in Binsey...

” ‘Once upon a time there were three little sisters,’ the Dormouse began in a great hurry; ‘and their names were Elsie, Lacie, and Tillie; and they lived at the bottom of a well—’
‘What did they live on?’ said Alice, who always took a great interest in questions of eating and drinking.
‘They lived on treacle,’ said the Dormouse, after thinking a minute or two. ‘They couldn’t have done that, you know,’ Alice gently remarked; ‘they’d have been ill.’ ‘So they were,’ said the Dormouse; ‘very ill.’

Alice tried to fancy to herself what such an extraordinary ways of living would be like, but it puzzled her too much, so she went on: ‘But why did they live at the bottom of a well?’

‘Take some more tea,’ the March Hare said to Alice, very earnestly.
‘I’ve had nothing yet,’ Alice replied in an offended tone, ‘so I can’t take more.’
‘You mean you can’t take less,’ said the Hatter: ‘it’s very easy to take morethan nothing.’
‘Nobody asked your opinion,’ said Alice.’ At any rate I’ll never go there again!’ said Alice as she picked her way through the wood. ‘It’s the stupidest tea-party I ever was at in all my life!’
‘Who’s making personal remarks now?’ the Hatter asked triumphantly.
Alice did not quite know what to say to this: so she helped herself to some tea and bread-and-butter, and then turned to the Dormouse, and repeated her question. ‘Why did they live at the bottom of a well?’

The Dormouse again took a minute or two to think about it, and then said, ‘It was a treacle-well.’
‘There’s no such thing!’ Alice was beginning very angrily, but the Hatter and the March Hare went ‘Sh! sh!’ and the Dormouse sulkily remarked, ‘If you can’t be civil, you’d better finish the story for yourself. ”No, please go on!’ Alice said very humbly; ‘I won’t interrupt again. I dare say there may be one.”One, indeed!’ said the Dormouse indignantly.

However, he consented to go on. ‘And so these three little sisters—they were learning to draw, you know—’
‘What did they draw?’ said Alice, quite forgetting her promise.
‘Treacle,’ said the Dormouse, without considering at all this time.

‘I want a clean cup,’ interrupted the Hatter: ‘let’s all move one place on.’
He moved on as he spoke, and the Dormouse followed him: the March Hare moved into the Dormouse’s place, and Alice rather unwillingly took the place of the March Hare. The Hatter was the only one who got any advantage from the change: and Alice was a good deal worse off than before, as the March Hare had just upset the milk-jug into his plate.

Better be civil than clear...

Alice did not wish to offend the Dormouse again, so she began very cautiously: ‘But I don’t understand. Where did they draw the treacle from?’
‘You can draw water out of a water-well,’ said the Hatter; ‘so I should think you could draw treacle out of a treacle-well—eh, stupid?’
‘But they were in the well,’ Alice said to the Dormouse, not choosing to notice this last remark.
‘Of course they were’, said the Dormouse; ‘—well in.’
This answer so confused poor Alice, that she let the Dormouse go on for some time without interrupting it.

‘They were learning to draw,’ the Dormouse went on, yawning and rubbing its eyes, for it was getting very sleepy; ‘and they drew all manner of things—everything that begins with an M—’
‘Why with an M?’ said Alice.’Why not?’ said the March Hare.
Alice was silent.

The Dormouse had closed its eyes by this time, and was going off into a doze; but, on being pinched by the Hatter, it woke up again with a little shriek, and went on: ‘—that begins with an M, such as mouse-traps, and the moon, and memory, and muchness— you know you say things are “much of a muchness”—did you ever see such a thing as a drawing of a muchness?’ ‘Really, now you ask me,’ said Alice, very much confused, ‘I don’t think—’
‘Then you shouldn’t talk,’ said the Hatter.

This piece of rudeness was more than Alice could bear: she got up in great disgust, and walked off; the Dormouse fell asleep instantly, and neither of the others took the least notice of her going, though she looked back once or twice, half hoping that they would call after her: the last time she saw them, they were trying to put the Dormouse into the teapot.”

You see?
It all makes sense now…

So in case the country is paddling in a deficit if Treacle Muchness, may be we should all change places again…
At least everyone is Civil (does this explain why Civil Servants are called Civil?!) and unpersonal throughout.

More Tea anyone?


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