It seems,quite suddenly, that Macaulay the dog has grown accustomed to the small feline face of secret agent Clive Bond.
He has had a great deal of practice. Bond has made himself available in an ongoing program of ambush-based familiarisation.
Jumping out has become Clive’s Favourite Thing. Boing, from the shadows. I wonder if his namesake was doing that as a toddler? Do spies start out jumping out at the familiar from under the stairs?
Macaulay the long-suffering target has no peace. He has run the gamut of emotions, from feeling displaced by this unexpected whirlwind of assertiveness, through outrage that Clive gets the sofa when he must take the floor cushion, to a growing dismay that customary journeys about the house will never be quite the same fustian tweedy potters they used to be. Not ever again.
But latterly, life has settled down to a rhythm.
“I have learnt something from your idiotic notions,” Professor Henry Higgins tells Eliza as George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion draws to a close, “I confess that humbly and gratefully. And I have become accustomed to your voice and appearance. I like them, rather.”
Now, they brawl together, the dog and the cat. It is the only word to describe the good-natured fighting that goes on. Macaulay is as gentle as a nanny and his tail wags as he acquiesces, chancing his great moustachio’d nose with those fearsome claws. Bond just flies at him from all directions, a crazed Gilliamesque cartoon creature bent on play-destruction. Cato, if you will.
They are comfortable together.
I think George Bernard Shaw discovered the perfect expression of British affection, there in those few words. Sentiment never did well here in the upper echelons of British society.
It was clever of Alan Jay Lerner to home in on those words to use as Rex Harrison’s number in My Fair Lady.
I’ve grown accustomed to her face was written especially for Rex Harrison. Not a great vocalist but the perfect fustian professor, he had a limited vocal range.
Lerner had to create lyrics from Shaw’s prose: and it presented a challenge. In a 1979 interview on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered he admitted that he had to torture English grammar to achieve the stage play’s song: Henry Higgins sings, “Look at her, a prisoner of the gutter, condemned by every sentence she utters. By right she should be taken out and hung…”
It has to rhyme with “…so for the cold-blooded murder of the English tongue.”
Lerner knew what he was doing: he thought about it, and he said to himself: oh, well, maybe no-one will notice it.
But this is England. Two nights later, who should he run into in a restaurant but Noel Coward.
He told the interviewer: “[Noel] walked over and he said, ‘Dear boy, it is hanged, not hung.’ I said, Oh, Noel, I know it, I know it! You know, shut up! ”
We have lived with Lerner’s lyrics for more than half a century. And dodgy grammar or no, we have become accustomed to them so that every time we hear those words, we hear Rex Harrison rasping out an approximation to a sort of love song.
And somewhere in the wilds of Berkshire, a small smelly terrier is wagging his tail. He has become accustomed to the kitten’s mew and appearance.
He likes them rather.
Thanks to yourdictionary.com for the biography of Alan Jay Lerner