Chris van Schaick May 2014 column - A Pithy Problem

Puzzled by the obsession with fruit flavoured living space, Chris has come up with a compromise - but does it exude the right amounts of Gallic chic?

I was checking into a familiar hotel the other day and noticed something new - a building site next door. A steel frame was rising from a sea of mud. A swimming pool, I wondered? Or a new coffee shop?

I’m now at a life stage where I sometimes stop and read notices. This one said that under construction was the hotel’s new ‘Orangery’. ‘Book your daughter’s wedding reception now’, it said, or that was the implication, anyway.

I snorted. Nothing wrong with a hotel trying to better itself. Or the blessed union of marriage. I was snorting at the word.

Why is every glass extension to a building at home or at work now an Orangery? Especially when the nearest you’ll see to an orange in any of them is a one-litre carton of not-from-concentrate. With juicy bits if you’re lucky.

I can see what’s happened. The word conservatory has maybe become a bit passé. So the marketing men and women have had to come up with a new word for the glass-walled extensions we’ve all fallen in love with.

I have some sympathy with the marketers as they wrestle with the problem. You couldn’t have a Raspberryery. That’s already the title of a hit single by the artist formerly known as Prince. Pearery would be unpronounceable. And I can foresee the consternation in Bassett if the young couple who have just bought Number 23 applied for permission to stick a Kumquatery on their rear elevation.

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But Orangery? Unless global warming is more serious than we thought, I can’t see Segensworth rivalling Seville for the production of oranges any time soon. Yet still the Orangeries proliferate.

On the stretch where I live, Dave and Pam have been the trendsetters when it comes to fruit flavoured living space. A few years ago, a handsome oak framed construction appeared at the back of their place. The term Orangery soon passed into the language up and down our road. But the twinkle in Dave’s eye when I ask him about the exact derivation suggests a bit of conscious irony on his part and that he’s been in on the joke from the beginning.

What David and Pam have done has certainly awoken a sense of yearning in Mrs. v. S. for the extension with the pithy new name.

At home, Orangery has begun to make the running as her most Frequently Used Expression, edging out Villa With Pool and Coffee in Alresford.

Part of Mrs. v. S.’s vision also involves pronouncing the word in a French sort of way, with a very fulsome O and a soft g. I think she’s in pursuit of Gallic chic and the opportunity to wear posh sunglasses indoors.

I am prepared to negotiate. I’ve suggested that our budget may be suited to something a bit more modest. Like a Satsumery. After all, as Jeanette Winterson nearly said in the title of her 1980s novel, Orangeries Are Not The Only Fruiteries.