"Is it a quarter to nine or a quarter to ten?”

“A quarter to ten.”

“Oh s**t!”

“But we have seen a play...”

“Oh yeah.”

It struck me there was a vaguely Pinteresque quality about this exchange between two young women which I overheard as they — we — left Oxford Playhouse last Wednesday night after the fine student production of The Hothouse.

Harold Pinter’s remarkable use of language — at once demotic but oddly poetic — is a compelling feature of this early, rarely seen play.

In it, he shows a sure grasp of the value of repetition as a means for keeping the audience amused. Perhaps the most oft-heard line —“Snow’s turned to slush” — is spoken by a character called Lush, who was most effectively portrayed by Jordan Waller (above). Could it be, I wondered, that his name had been inspired by that very agreeable word ‘slush’? His evident fondness for whisky, though, meant he was possibly a lush in the North American sense, too.

The line was not new to me. I read it many years ago as a disparaging witticism from Melvyn Bragg concerning the novels of C.P. Snow. Since I have always enjoyed the works of this now unjustly neglected writer, I felt compelled to pen a riposte in this column. I pointed out that such word games were not the unique preserve of the bouffanted one. “Bragg — braggart without the art,” I offered.

Never one to show false modesty, I remain rather proud of the joke.