Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Zwieback Finale

Last day of the Alphabet Challenge: my dictionary random selection offers me a snack. Zwieback, filling the niche between toast and biscuit, is an egg rich loaf that is sliced and further baked: zwieback means 'twice baked.' Cinnamon would be a nice addition, although the recipe I looked up had nutmeg.
Today is not for baking, there is too much garden work to do, so I'm leaving this link here to get back to when the next batch of planting and repotting is done. For my finale, I have put all of my randomly selected words into one sentence, and found that there is a kind of story in it, because every sentence has a sort of implied story to it, because story underpins everything we do, because more than bones or dust, story is our existence and our legacy. No wonder we are drawn to this reading and writing lark!

April 2014 A-Z Finale Sentence:
After an abysmal banister conclusion at my domicile lead me to expostulate, dressed in a frill, with some passing gentry, we left in heavy hail, where an illustrious jaguar kiss brought a light-hearted cry of 'mayday,' and a nonagenarian smiled, though old, she said she delighted in a polonaise and would never quit: that was her reported speech, she had a lilt like a sonnet, the up and down lilt, it held you as a vice, even in wet cold weather; hazardous weather, marked xn; and so together we contemplated the reach of Yggdrasil as we crunched zwieback snacks and watched the sun re-emerge.

View from and including breakfast table: toast over done.
Should have baked  it!

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Yggdrasil And The Line In The Clavicle

The name of the tree that binds heaven, earth and hell.
In the Old Norse tongue it was spelt Yggdrasill, apparently, but the significance of this extra consonant is not explained.
No pronunciation guide in the Writer's Dictionary: perhaps there is a companion book, a Reader's Dictionary?
Significance of the tree and of the binding is apparent, though all these interpretations have a personal element. Heaven, earth and hell, as bound by Yggdrasil and regarded by myself, form a set. They represent life and consequences. They represent the present moment, potential futures; a body of knowledge and experience passed on by all the souls that have lived.
Further ruminations are interrupted by a phone call that leads to a family trip to hospital with Girl and Little Granddaughter, who has fallen from a chair in a hard-floored kitchen and broken her left clavicle. We all look at the x-ray, at a fine line in pale etched bone. Girl is blinking tears, they are ruining her Brave Face.
'Look, those are your bones,' we say to the Little One.
'It's people!' She says: she is watching the CCTV screen, drawn to colour and movement. She didn't much care for the x-ray machine, or the sling (until Teddy had one too) but she was pleased with the sticker the nurse gave her. On the way home we stopped to buy her a comic. She asked for pizza too, because apparently the wind had blown her breakfast off the table and all over the floor, leaving her hungry.
'Is that what happened?' Girl smiles. (She had turned her back to fetch a tissue to wipe a dot of spilt egg: heard the horrible thump.)
'Yes,' Little Granddaughter says, 'it was the wind. I didn't have my breakfast and the wind blew it: all over the floor. I like my sticker.'
It's all about choices, I think: too much exists to think of it all. So we choose. We set our own bindings.
Little Granddaughter has a look, when I first walk in, ready to take her to the hospital: I have not seen the look on her before. It is a hurt confusion, because she has not experienced a broken bone before. It is her look that tells me we should go to get an x-ray; that this is outside the usual brandishing of a miniscule scratch. But how quickly she employs her customary imagineering: and brings the situation back within a comfort zone: lets her mind grow over it, fix it in a known place.

Monday, 28 April 2014


On this final week of the Alphabet Challenge, I have reached for The Oxford Writer's Dictionary, which gives a writer a fast and easy aid to usage, style and spelling. X is a tricky letter but it covers some interesting stuff like xylography, the printing of wood block books. However the random choice is… x.n. I have never heard of it, unsurprisingly, as it means 'without the right to new shares.' It belongs to a tricksy financial world (Lord of the Rings reference: I'm thinking of Mordor) which is in a galaxy far far from here (Star Wars, thinking Death Star.) On a disinterested Google search, Xn shows up as a chemical hazard code, meaning harmful, before it appears in a Reuters post about steel and stock markets.

[Cue scrunched-face thinking moment.]
I do not, actually, despise money. Currency is a sort of metaphor, where an object represents being equal in value to another, and often is composed of pleasant artifacts: notes and coins hold fascination with pictures, with history. Nor do I, even, despise business, which comes (debatably) from a division of labour within a society that can be beneficial to our quality of lives. It has an element of play that has enabled me to survive those brief sales jobs, and even that seminar on how to sell mobile phone contracts (not sure how they survived me.) One needn't sell people things they won't find useful, after all. But at that time there was no bonus available to those merchants that had the happiest customers, only quantity was to be counted. 
[Concludes simply, by nodding head and typing:]
When business folk get greedy, they ruin the game, they no longer deserve any new shares.

Taiwanese dollars are perky colours

Black Belt Trials: Round Two And Always

At Bristol Academy, 163A Church Road, Redfield, Bristol:
It is crowded. While our nervous yet determined students are working up a sweat in the hall upstairs, I take a walk around St George's Park. It rains, light heavy, and snows cherry blossom. Over the pond each drop patters, sends out loops. Ducks waddle on the path. They all look as I pass: quack, contended. Nice weather for ducks. Chestnut trees have flowers that stack like wedding cakes. Spring is for beginnings. Summer to autumn for fruition, winter for the hack back to skeletal basics. Spring is for beginnings… There's something about the combination of a mass meeting of like minded people, the creative surge of nerves and knowledge (plus espresso) makes my brain splurge: before I have put a foot back to the Academy words are pinging. In the porch, simply conversing, words become attached to potential actions.Mr appears, from his hall upstairs perch. He is smiling. No results till Tuesday: but he is happy that all of our participants this weekend (twelve in total) have done their best. For us, this is what we have asked of them. We both smile. On the way home we call to see the new home of Niece Kate: vaguely dilapidated, fantastically picturesque, fire lit flat in the stable block of a fading stately home. We eat bolognaise, talk Tae kwon-Do, talk dreams.
She says: something like: you can say wouldn't have been nice if, or wasn't it nice when? In the car, on the final home leg, then, the drift of reality settles. Potential can be made real. Those that graded today: if you did your utmost, you did well. Carry it on: something like: you can say wouldn't have been nice if, or wasn't it nice when?

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Warwick Deeping: A Review

It had been one of those days where the rain had given up and allowed the sun to prevail. There was a jangle of change in my pocket and some of the coins where even the shiny important sort: I was thinking perhaps I would treat myself to a beetroot or a bulb of smoked garlic, from the greengrocer in the White Hart Market. Across the tiny market lane the secondhand bookstore had a box of tired old books, three for a pound. Three books for a pound, irresistible: that's a fact. I found a David Lodge, a Bernard Cornwell, and a 1946 cotton covered hardback titled The Impudence of Youth. The author, the eponymous Warwick, had written quite a list, I saw, and something about the whole package had a pleasant feel to it. And I had enough pennies left over to purchase a bunch of celery.
Settling outside for a read, the words were dated, and that was most of the charm of the piece. It had a mix of 'come on, there's a plot that needs to proceed' briskness and distracting details that were possibly designed to build a scene but I found quite comic. For example:
'What do they call this place?'
'Monk's Wood.'
'How utterly right. Where do we come to? Nowhere, and everywhere?'
'Yatley Heath. But it isn't quite a heath.'
Why wasn't it a proper heath? Why did the reader need to be aware of this? In the rest of the book it receives all the honours due to a heath. There were also little gems of character description; 'her garden was like her self, of a large simplicity.' And then a suicide was the grand finale! The last line: 'He had gassed himself. THE END' Distinctly odd, and that's what I liked about it most.

The plot: JJ Pope is a child genius with a small body and a big head. He is raised by his Aunt Jane. He gets a scholarship to Cambridge, is bullied but stalwart, makes a good friend, Peter, who is the heir of Pratten's Pills. He becomes a doctor although being a know-it-all and marrying Kitty the pretty milliner make it very difficult to advance his career. He is working on cures for dyspepsia and period pains. Money runs out, Aunt Jane dies, Kitty loses the baby, gets tuberculosis, it is all horrible. Cue Mr Pratten Snr offering a job making pills for these very interesting cures JJ has been slaving over. Kitty is sent to a lovely sanatorium, she recovers. Peter is killed in a car crash, JJ becomes heir to Pratten's Pills. Mr Pratten Snr also dies. JJ is now rich. He builds a house and a sanatorium in the vicinity of Yatley Heath but is unable to save the chap who used to bully him. The End!
If you want to pretend it's 1946, I recommend reading this book in a tea shop. Also, wear a hat.
"...One set out to see life and its realities, its pathos and heroism, and I have managed to find it more splendid than sordid. A negative cynicism seems to me to be a form of cowardice."
"…to get the best out of life one must begin with some sort of purpose. We must begin by wanting something that is worthwhile, and by setting ourselves passionately and stoutly to possess it."

My W word for today's A-Z challenge, by random dictionary selection is: wet. It is raining heavily over the fields today, a good thing for the crops, but I have washing to dry. It reminds of JD Salinger: and this always makes me smile:

'Poets are always taking the weather so personally.'

(Very busy, this weekend, lots of our superb Tae Kwon-Do students are bracing themselves for The Black Belt Grading and we are visiting my brother and sister-in-law, who are moving back to Taiwan next month: if you visit my blog and leave a comment and a link to your blog, I will get back to you... dreckly.)

Friday, 25 April 2014


Potentially edgy, I thought, on first reading today's random word, though Fowler's is concerned with the noun signifying a clamp (vise, in American English, this word coming from the Latin for 'vine') and the titular application, as in vice admiral (meaning next in line or in place of. This word from the Latin for 'change.') But the idea was to take the word as a starting point: was it? I forget my own purpose, here, and stare out of the window.
Daydreaming like most habits can be considered as a positive behaviour or as a vice (the naughty kind, which word stems from the Latin for 'fault.') It is a matter of perception and balance. Cake, for example, and let's make it a big creamy chocolate stack, is not packed with nutritional necessities. A lot of it will cause you harm. A little (or enormous) slice now and then, however, is a reminder to have fun in your life. If you get the balance wrong, your health suffers. It would be sensible to rethink your behaviour at this point. Wisest and most pertinent: if your behaviour detrimentally affects others, you need to change it, or them (preferably by kindly debate.)
So, the fault does not always lie with the act, it can be rooted more in lack of action. Beautiful view, from my window, here, but I had better walk my dog. And, later, perhaps I'll bake a cake.

In foreground: lime tree, needs potting.
Background: Dog, bored.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Up And Down

In Fowler's, this phrase refers mainly to geographical terms: down south, up north. Growing up in Cornwall was somewhat insular and we referred to everything that was placed northerly to us as being 'up country.' Only when you are a mere infant it is more 'Upcountry,' as though it forms a different land. 
If you go Upcountry, they'll put allsorts in, call it a pasty, 's a disgrace.
And, if there is an up and a down, who says the earth is flat?
Stuff is simple and yet puzzling when you are four.
On a tilted link, then; sliding into childhood language; here are some words I use that I rarely remember are dialect:
Addled (broken)
Cack (poop)
Cakey (feeble, from the saying 'put in with the cakes took out with the buns')
Chacks (cheeks)
Cheel (child, usually a girl)
Furze (gorse bush)
Gawky (stupid)
Heller (naughty)
Kiddlywink (unlicensed beer shop, also I love 'kiddly broth' for cheap soup)
Mind (remember)
Scat (hit)
Smeech (smoke from burning fat)
Tacker (toddler)

And ones that I do remember are dialect but are pleasingly distinctive:
Backalong (a while back)
Better way (it would be better if you did)
Crib box (lunch box, not a euphemism btw)
Cuss (curse, as in swear)
Dreckly (not immediately)
Emmet (tourist, from the word for 'ant')
Knockers (underground spirits)
Maid (girl or female friend)
Oggy (a pasty, a proper one!)
Pisky (pixie)
Proper (good, suitable)

Some of these have been scooped up into general usage, carried along: others, set down in time, ring archaic down the steep old streets.

Castle Beach, Falmouth: The childhood haunt :-) 

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

The Definite Article

The most ordinary word that my random dictionary searches have given up do far: the most frequently used word in the whole of the English language. Used to add specifics to a noun, though some explanations say it is used to restrict a noun's meaning: both views are valid. The result is the same: it points to a particular, a definite, hence the title. It is something I like to look out for whilst editing (and I self-edit so if you find numerous examples of a misplaced 'the' please be kind) because whilst attempting to type at the speed of thought one does chuck out rough words and clogged up phrases and whether a thing is any thing or that specific thing and why care about it is easily overlooked. It makes a difference though.
'The birds in the hedge' specific yet bland
'Birds in a hedge' could be any place with birds and at least one hedge, allows space for reader to relate to own experience
'Birds in this hedge' specific and more lyrical
'These birds in a hedge' specific birds and more quirky, almost the language of setting up a joke
So while I like to present sensations of immediacy in my writing, here is revealed the background scene of deliberation. And outside these walls birds, unseen, sing from trees, from hedges, from rooftops. (One use of definite article only here, 'the background' to emphasise that this is my deliberation, though doubtless other writers will relate to this process. I chose to use birds in hedges for examples because though I am working indoors I have open windows, and I eat most of my meals outside watching hedge sparrows being impossibly busy.)

Couldn't find the picture of birds in hedge I was looking for-
 opted for a Little Grandson with Dog!

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Sonnet, Later

A poem composed of 14 lines.
[Reads dictionary explanation, yawns: not fully attentive]
The English convention is 10 syllables for each of these, and a choice of styles: Petrarchan, Shakespearian or Miltonic being our main three. They differ in rhyme scheme and pacings of octaves (first eight lines) and sestets (last six lines, aka sextets.) And it should be Iambic (the rhythm that runs soft LOUD soft LOUD.)
[Nods head absentmindedly: facts are read with some recall, except:]
'Why these particular numbers?'
[Scratches head to denote thought]
They are pleasantly even
They fit musical forms (sonnet from the Italian, 'little song')
They are long enough to set up and answer a question or two, not so long the reader loses track/interest
Long enough to play with form and make different styles from one format: a sort of literary franchise?
It proved popular, so writers kept at it
The Shakespearian form breaks mostly into 3 quatrains (4 line stanzas) followed by 1 couplet (2 lines). The first 3 quatrains set up a surprise in the final two lines.
[Considers writing in this format. Pictures how the current pile of projects is stacking up]
'UnwielDY? Is that Iambic?'
[Sighs. Eats a sandwich]

Monday, 21 April 2014

Reported Speech

Posting late today- blaming those Little Grandchildren for their persistently welcome distractions. Today we went chocolate making at the Eden Project. Back home to build a bonfire, eat homemade burgers, watch Frozen (love the summer smitten snowman) eat some more chocolate and finally ease sleep in to the seriously overtired with several Dr Seuss stories.
This week's dictionary of choice is the R.W Burchfield's 1998 revised third edition of New Fowler's Modern English Usage. It gives me a phrase, but I think it counts, and it makes my late post an easy post so I accept it.
Last night:
The Little Grandchildren played tug of war. Grandad joined in.
Little Grandson (Age 4) suggested to Little Granddaughter (Age 2) that, together, they could beat Grandad. She, being in agreement, promptly dropped the rope and punched Grandad in the chest.
Quite a nice punch too, Granma noted, but mostly she was laughing.

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Quit Not

Mr, Boy and me have been building a shed. This project started October 1st 2012, when we turned up in the car park of a supermarket that was refitting its trolley bays. Mr had a vision, permission to remove the decommissioned bays and a hired van. It was excellent and perilous fun (like giant Meccano that can fall on you and squish your bones.) We took three of the old bays, I think, with some minor flesh wounds. Last summer Project Polytunnel commenced (going well, although more space is used storing the future shed flooring than for growing.) This year, Project Shed is under way. The satisfaction layers up: that we saw potential, that we worked hard, that we took a risk, that people who thought we were bizarre may still think that but they also have visible shed envy, that here is a space we made coming to fruition. Not until the light is fading and the last of the outer paneling fixed is the daily writing routine approached. I almost can't be bothered to find a random word, all I want to do is sing songs of The Legendary Project Shed. As though the dictionary feels slighted, the word is quit.
'Pah!' I said; closing the dear old book, putting it back on the table with a friendly pat. 'When the shed is finished I shall have to take you up there.'
The more you make things, it seems, the more life you sense, even in these inanimate pieces. It blooms, it roots; it beats and flows. It quits not.

Friday, 18 April 2014

Polska The Irrepressible

Polonaise, the dictionary selector dumps on me this morning. A what? I can read the definition but what to make of it in terms of producing a post that contains any kind of illumination?
Some further research is pursued.
Strong coffee is brewed.
Notes, gleaned from the Encyclopedia Brittanica:
'polonaise, Polish polonez,  dignified ceremonial dance, 17th-19th century, opened court balls. Origin- warrior’s triumphal dance? Music used 1573, coronation Henry of Anjou, King of Poland. Dancers, in couples according to social position, promenaded, gliding steps accented by bending the knees slightly on every third step. 3/4 time. Used as musical form by Beethoven, Handel, Mussorgsky, Chopin.'
I am then distracted (or am I being inspired? That's a perpetual conundrum of any writer) by something not revealed in the dictionary definition:
'robe à la polonaise, woman's garment of the later 1770s and 1780s similar revival style 1870s inspired by Polish national costume. Gown with a cutaway, draped and swagged overskirt, worn over a petticoat. Late nineteenth century, polonaise also described a fitted overdress which extended into long panels over the underskirt, but was not necessarily draped or swagged.[ Wikipedia]'
The term was revived for styles in the 19th and 20th centuries, is little used in the 21st. There is some catty fashion debate of use here that holds the potential for amusement at the expense of human habits…
Now there is so much to write of!
(The writer here exudes a confused sigh.)
All of this, perhaps, detracts from the source: Polska- known to us as Poland: most populous post-communist member of the European Union. A population which has been subject to hundreds of years of rollercoaster history: which only regained such populousity in the 1970s: after the shocking statistics of the Second World War, after Treblinka, after Aushwitz.
'90% of casualties were non-military'
 (Here the writer feels that foul cold touch: the deep horror: the dread and wrench of so much loss. All we have to do is be nice to each other: why not do that? One job, humanity, you had one simple job!)
Strong coffee pours into a simple mug. The sun is shining.
There was the Golden Age, there was Casimir the Third, full of warm acceptance and bright learning… and a penchant for bigamy.
There is over a thousand years of history, here.
One blog post cannot match that.
So, where is this journey of discovery going to rest? And what treasures will be brought back?
Music, that's how it started: return to the beginning and try not to get lost. Polish music, in particular: ah yes, most people have heard of Chopin: oh, and what's here? Disco Polo? A derivative of disco and folk music, popular in the 1990s? This can only be fun, life affirming, bursting with good-natured comedic simplicity.
'Disco polo could be heard mostly at country picnics, country depots, weddings or during political campaigns in Polish parliament and presidential elections. Disco polo is generally perceived as kitschy in its artistic value. It is often looked down upon as a provincial genre of music.'
A quick forage to youtube then, with visions of disco balls spinning from mossy boughs in ancient forests; full skirts in folk art colours, meat pies on a trestle table, wild boar snuffling in the undergrowth, promises for future prosperity, bunting and vodka…
Presenting Shazza, Queen of Disco Polo: her real name is Magdalena.  The video contains a variety of historic and cultural costume that, in some gorgeous kitschy way, stitches together a feeling of the redemptive power of eccentric jollity

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Old Ramblings

So far the random word selecting process has given a random list, this was not a surprise. But yesterday's nonagenarian and today's old seem at first too similar. The first definition of old in this week's dictionary is

'1. Having existed or lived for a relatively long time.' 

Ah, but old is a word related to a wider concept of time, I like the last one best: 

'2. Having a specified age… 
3. Dear or cherished through long association.'

The next column in the O section is taken up with associated words: old boy, olden, Old English, old-fashioned, old hat, old man's beard, Old Master, old school tie, oldster, Old Testament, old-timer, old wives' tale, Old World. It's a lovely jumble, though it occurs to me that many of these words can be used with affection or in a derogatory way. That long association can also breed contempt, I suppose. The difficult thing about hanging around for some time is to keep (and to express) a fresh view. But isn't that what I said yesterday? Hmm. There we go, all ready repeating myself!

I shall go and walk my dog, I think, for the sun is shining and the sharp breeze all warmed up. In the hedges grow sour mustard flowers and nectar rich primrose and perfumed violets. I shall reflect on the dual nature of cherishing, and how a little acerbic humour is part of life's full palette.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Ninety Each And The Nexus Of Juice

(Iris Apfel: portrait from Pinterest)

Nonagenarian is the word of today's random selection (from the Latin nonageni - ninety each.) Spoken aloud (say nonna-j'n-airian) it has a lively, almost flirtatious feel. Which is how one would wish to be, in one's tenth decade of living.
My How To Be Old Wish List includes:
I will wear mostly sequined dresses and Wellington boots
I will sunbathe nude in a fragrant garden
I will swim in wild water
I will walk and meditate and, after some kindly thought to the matter, tell the blunt truth always.
More people are living longer and staying lively, it seems; this study is fairly typical: Lively Nineties Trend: reassuring for those of us who relish the idea of being old and delightfully sparky, of concentrating eccentricities and allowing Buddha-nature full bloom.
But: uh oh: there's a but!
'While the study suggests people are living better after 90, they have to make it to their 10th decade first, Christensen said. Younger elderly people have more illnesses such as obesity and diabetes, he said.'
Poor diet, lack of exercise, a lack of social connection, a feeling of not being in control of one's self or life, the inability to choose happiness: these are the impediments to pleasant ageing. None of them make for a lively time at any age, actually. Let us not take life for granted. We can't know if we will be given ninety each: we can only press what we have for every drop of juice.

[NB: Nexus noun: connecting principle or link]