Tuesday, 2 June 2015

No Fouling! David Investigates the Inns of Court

Here's London Walks' Pen & Daily Constitutional Special Correspondent David Tucker

The difference a fence can make.

And a sign.

And a word.

And a letter.

To say nothing of a green sward gardened by 3.4 gardeners.

The green is Inner Temple Garden. Off limits to the general public – as well as to non-resident dogs.  (Though if you go with Karen or Molly on their Inns of Court walk they can in fact get you in there.)

Ah, access, privileged access. Ah, the abbacadabras in the London Walks repertory. Ah, the magic carpets London Walks guides have at their beck and call.

But the sign is just so delightful. So civil. So polite. So English. So Inns of Court.

There’s something Alice in Wonderland about it. It almost presumes that “Non-Resident Dogs” can read. And will heed their read.

And, oh my, the effortless superiority of that capital R in Resident Dogs.

And if you know your Inner Temple – the way Molly and Karen do – there’s something delightful about the Resident Dogs sign being a sort of bookend to one oblique of King’s Bench Walk and the opposite bookend of that oblique being  the 1577 Alienation Office.

But, yes, the difference a letter can make.

Substitute a w and you’ve got No Fowling. A different matter, of course.

My hunch was that “fouling” was a sort of euphemism. It’s fun to see if you can run that verbal table, assuming, that is, that it is a euphemism.

Maybe start the running of the table by substituting No Surprises for No Fouling. Or, better, I think, No Insults. Or No “Nuisances.” Or No “Misbehaviour.” (The embarrassment of inverted commas to make sure everybody gets it.) Or No Regrets. Or No Writs. Or No Noticeables. Or No Calling Cards. Or No Discards. Or No Underfoot Underhandedness. Or No Oops. Or No Sorry About Thats. Or No Messages. Or No Messauges. Or No “Missives”. Or No You Know Whats. Or No Wots. Or No Circling. Or No Biscuits. Or No Marking of Territory. Or No Parking Marking. Or No Mishaps. Or No Steamings. Or No Doing What Comes Naturally. Or Don’t Even Think About Doing It In Here. Or whatever.

That run the table?

Anyway, turns out that “fouling,” isn’t a euphemism. Or if it is, it has form. It couldn’t be more vintage. Caxton used it in this sense in 1484. And the OED, glossing Caxton, pulls no punches.  Its definition: To cause filth or dirt, to drop ordure.

So there, Fido.

You have been served notice.

And that loose end? The 3.4 gardeners.

It wasn’t.

A loose end.

That’s how many gardeners Inner Temple Garden rejoices in. Three full time gardeners. And a two-days-a-week part-timer.

Heck, the Head Gardener – Miss A. B. – even has a flat overlooking her domain. Now there’s a perk.

And 3.4 – well, that’s why, in this City of Gardens, Inner Temple Garden might well be Numero Uno, the prettiest garden in town.

And that’s No Insult.

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