Friday, 23 January 2015


You may have noticed that, one way or another, I do rather keep on about language and the use of it. I do see it as reflective of our way of being in the world. There are rules and permissions and grammar and syntax. I see these as  clearly reflecting boundaries, patterns, containment in every area of life. The other take on this is the one that sees language as a moveable feast with no need for rules or formalised structure so long as one is understood. I read, recently, of an idea to teach children to write as they hear. The mind boggles. It reminded me of my first registered lesson in correct speech. I remembered my Mother teaching me the difference between 'can' and 'may'. "You can have another chocolate; you may not".It is  not only structure wh. should cradle us. What about the rhymes and reasons which pepper our careful language, learnt from the laps of the up-bringers

Looking back, I wish I had better understood the extraordinary power and scope of the parent in educating the young. However, on the positive side, it can be fun. Think of all those old wives' sayings. 'A stitch in time saves nine'.Fair enough: stitch up the inch of dropped hem before it turns in to six. 'Look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves'. Rather a long-term prospect, that, I suspect. 'The  sleep you have before midnight is better in quality than sleep that comes after'. I am still working on that one. I must have been a nightmare to bring up. Face value was not my stance of first response. "Because I say so" was 'a red rag to a bull'. There must be some of you old enough to remember being told you couldn't wear your favourite jumper until it was aired. Indeed, I cannot be alone in being brought up in dire fear of the damp. or was that unique to the Welsh? In theory, I suppose, it would be possible to teach a child that black was white or that day was night, such is the power of the parent as the source of all experience. How big a step would that be to arrive at Hitler Youth? Oh dear, Liz appears to have mislaid her sense of the comic and the ironic. Ultimately, calling a spade a spade, the happiest of pithy sayings would have to be' do as you would be done by'. Bore da.
   Ps I forgot to tell you that an example of an 'how to' letter for a writer to send to a publisher - as opposed to an 'how not to' letter - contained a grammatical error in the first sentence. Not only accuracholic but pedantic, too - me, not them, or I not they.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Small Things

Yesterday's crossword had the clue "a quiet small portion" to which the answer was "particle". I know, I know: you have to have a particular mindset to work out this kind of conundra. Sometimes I wish my mindset was more of the "sometimes a cigar is just a cigar" ilk. It is quite tiring always to be seeing the complexity of the straightforward. However, the small things I have in mind are not of the simple cigar type. I was thinking more of the way in which age has changed my perspective so that I am measurably more aware of the small pleasures lying about now I am sufficiently freer of crowding  obligations to recognise them.

Indeed, settling down with that very crossword, lying on my bed with nothing expected of me is treasurable in itself. I would have said that the presence of a feline friend would provide the cherry on the proverbial, but the current - no aural pun intended - incumbant is still young enough to remember snuggling up to Mum and would use my hair as surrogate fur if I didn't find that an inch or so too close. It is hard to believe that, for most of my life, there wasn't time to notice the way two birds will 'chat' to one another while sitting on the same branch. There is  a snowdrop in my garden. It feels a bit early but there it is. I stood and started at it until I was reminded this old back would prefer motion to immobility. Every time I answer a query at the Enquiry Desk in the local hospital I have to 'click and tick': that is, press on a little counting machine and tick in a category box. At the end of the shift, when the clicks add up to the same number as the ticks I have a little warm flutter of delicious satisfaction. I am happy when I drink the brown water  that passes for coffee at breakfast and I have got the proportions of grain, water and milk right. ( I no longer have the palate for strong flavours so no longer appreciate the real thing). Endlessly, I watch the little ones as they stagger about trying to make sense of their world. Sometimes they smile back at this funny old lady smiling at them. There is regurgitated pleasure in remembering one of my own little ones, barely verbal, searching for a way to mollify a carer, coming out with "'ello'" as the nearest tool in her tiny lexicon to do the trick.

The other day a Consultant who had cared for me during my near fatal illness walked passed me as I worked in the hospital. "You shouldn't be here" said he, not meaning at the Enquiry Desk but in the Universe at all. That gave me pleasure but \I can't measure the size of it. Bore da

Monday, 29 December 2014

Past snows

Have you ever had the experience of preparing for bed so late you feel, in the morning, you don't need to clean your teeth again? This happened very often in my fortieth decade but I had rather got out of the habit by my ninth .Over the period of two weeks of Sundays, in the middle of which we currently find ourselves, this phenomenon occured twice. It brings with it any number of contingencies. Taxis are in to their highest fare bracket, but there is much less traffic so the journey is quicker. Were I better at Maths, I could tell you if the latter redresses the former. Perhaps one of you will tell me by pressing 'comments' at the end of the post. Personally, I find it harder to sleep if I go to bed passed my bedtime. One should never let the children get overtired on the premise that over-tired children make for an over-tired - for which read 'irritable' and unreasonable' - parent. This year it was not the case of over-tired little ones: I was irritable and unreasonable off my own bat.

I have forgotten who asked the invaluable question about the whereabouts of the snows of yesteryear. The words come so often to mind that I feel rather guilty that I can't attribute them. It feels rather like keeping a library book passed its original return date without renewing it. I use the words without paying my dues to their author. This year I broke a tradition that has served my circle for thirty seven years: I failed to give a party marking the winter solstice and the start of days that don't turn in to night at 3.30 pm. There was such a feeling of daunt that my spirit crumbled. However, to my great joy, the young turned out to have inherited a sense of tradition, had saved the date and arranged to have dinner en entire family instead. Save the date next year, please, because, on the back of the pull of tradition/habit, the young will do it for me in 2015 - if I'm spared, of course.

 The wrench of giving things up is inevitable at my age. Tights for instance,(pantyhose over the pond): my wonky hands can't pull them on, so it's socks and long-johns. This precludes wearing a skirt or dress because the glamour of on top is seriously let down by the bag-lady of below.  Bathing is also part of the past. I can't be sure of getting out of it once I have clambered in. (Please don't worry. I do shower so am properly pristine). First courses have had to go. I wouldn't have room for the main course. Puddings have gone. I have a love/hate relationship with sugar. I remember a time when I used to eat cubes of the jelly - jello - befire it was joined by the hot water which made it the centre piece of trifles and the incarnation of  baby rabbits at the table of the very young. But there are gains, by George there are gains. A peaceful inner world, a tank of tolerance where there had been a tea-cup and,  probably best of all, I no longer have to eat my greens. Bore da, and Blwyddyn Newydd Dda

Wednesday, 24 December 2014


Let me start by saying that I make only one resolution: not to make any resolutions. I have spent too many years with the guilt of failure that sets in on January 2nd and lasts until the next January 1st. I should make one very significant one, though. I should resolve to give up sugar. Rather than giving up sugar, however, I find it easier to give up resolving to give it up. The guilt of eating it is more bearable than the guilt of renegging on my word to myself. With me so far?

 One of the excuses I give myself is that there are two new years and it wouldn't seem fair to resolve on one and not the other. In my experience the more signifant new year occurs in September. It is the academic new year and a restart of routine life after the non-month of August. When I was involved in Academia, or, rather, its exigencies, there were new school uniforms to think about, new teachers to admire or commiserate over, new timetables to stretch the ingenuity, finding ways in which to be at two sporting matches at the same time, for instance.( It may interest you to know that Liz is one year older every September, and that's been going on for a very long time, now). There are practical advantages, too. Shops and offices begin to operate as usual and, for the first week, anyway, the big city is a joy to move round because August holidays have dribbled over and there are still fewer cars and people crowding one's progress. But scarcely has one allowed oneself to enjoy the freedom of a less crowded world, as it was when I was a gal, so to speak, than it is the second week in September. This is one definition of Hell on Earth, I suspect. Everyone is back, in their cars, on the Underground and the supermarket flaunting their tans and annoying those of us who have not deserted the Metropolis in favour of idleness and warmth but have made it our own for the preceding umpteen weeks. There is one resolution I might have to keep, though I don't know whether to call it a resolution or a duty and/or a task:. I must confront the clutter I call home and make it as nearly young-people-friendly to deal with as I can before I leave it too late. Were you to see the borderline chaos of cupboards, in particular, you would be sending flowers not of condolence but of encouragement to those who will have the job of sorting it out. I refer you to the oft quoted mots justes of someone close to me:" If they hire two skips (dumpers) they won't need to call an undertaker (mortician)" - translation included for Mountain View California. Bore da

Saturday, 13 December 2014


In response to the second 'comment' writer on 'Addiction' I will, indeed, expand on 'accuratology', at the obvious risk of boring the rest of you. (There you are, I have already fallen in to the addictive trap: should 'accuratology', as written above, have one or two inverted commas? Believe me. It is not a  condition to identify as a laughing matter). I do see that it may well be confused with pedantry - see 'comment' number 1.   My inner voice knows they are different but the rest of me  continues to thrash it out. Perhaps, a few more examples will help clarifification. Spelling is rife with them. Why has 'mediaeval' to be 'medieval'?  I wince every time I come across the latter rendition. Why say 'intervention' when what has been received is an enquiry? The play ended at 10.15pm. No it didn't: it was 10.16.We last met in August 2010. No we didn't. It was September. It's only about 100 yards away. No it's not. It's 99.9 yards away. Can you imagine how an accuratologist feels when the setting of a play or an opera is up-dated from its intrinsic period to, for instance, the present day? Have you ever seen an astronaut draw a sword?

You can see how one's circle could be driven mad by the manifestation of this condition. Someone close to me insists that none of it - grammar, syntax, spelling - matters as long as one is understood. I, on the contrary, see language serving, among other things, as a  boundary. The confines of correctness represent order and reliability. When we ignore it chaos may well ensue. What this old lady sees as the collapse of manners and consideration is a perilous indication of such chaos. I am not used to seeing fit young men in the seats on a 'bus supposedly reserved for the less able. Likewise, I am not a happy bunny when I have been waiting for the nice disabled loo, on the level, no stairs and a very able-bodied young person comes out having taken long enough to complete a whole toilette.

 I am not sure how helpful accuratology is when practised at the hospital enquiry desk. My colleague may say - " Down that corridor, on the right." Yours truly will say - " Along that corridor, second clinic on the right". Who knows: the expansion may make the patient late for her/his appointment. But I can't sit easy on my chair when 'down' means 'below' so the patient could expect to be dropped though the floor. However, and it's a big however, while my forty-year old self may be jumping up and down with anger and frustration, the presenting present day self is calm and acceptance incarnate. Prynhawn da.

Sunday, 7 December 2014


My name is Liz: I'm an accuracolic. I haven't been able to decide if this is a fault or a blessing or simply a fact. I have had a very long time, indeed, to live with the condition and have only just got round to looking at it and its effect on my way of being in the world. As a child one of my most frequent complaints was "But you said.....", an extremely irritating whinge to the adults responsible for me. Now, it takes many and various forms. I am annoyingly punctual. I used to think this was due to my profession where my working day was divided in to fixed slots and the significance of being ready on time became part of what we were doing. A colleague has recently pointed out that we may well have been drawn to the job because of a need to be where we said we would be when we said we would be there; the mirror image  of my own assumption.

The phenomenon makes other unexpected inroads in to every day life. I can't be doing without apostrophes - apostrophes in the right place, that is. I also watch word order and grammar and syntax with the eagle eye of the possessed. Alphabetical order: now there's a thing for an accuracolic who works in an uncomputerised library as, once a week at the local hospital, I do. My day starts with going through the books -out card index. Inevitably, in the seven days since I last looked, the cards have been shuffled in to total disorder. Correcting this, I have started to check on the whereabouts of books which should have been returned during 2013. This involves getting up to look on the shelves and to check on the trolleys which go round the wards. Standing at the shelves I am compelled to put the books that are there in to alphabetical order, both of author and of title. I am thoroughly discomforted by 'white' lies - when I recognise them, of course. I get another rush of' but-you-saids. I can't settle for pretend friendliness or warmth. I am uneasy in its presence and believe I would be more at ease with the truth of hostility. I have to put down a book wherein the characters are not behaving as I expect them, from experience of how we humans operate, to behave. It makes amateur dramatics impossible for me because I need to agree with the Director's interpretation of the character. (I am already having difficulty with the relevance of this post to 75 going on 40, but what the Hell...
 On balance, though, it is probably time-keeping which pre-occupies my addiction most. However, I do understand : punctuality can be both a bore and a perceived reprimand by those who are more relaxed about the clock. In due course, I shall have to have a headstone which says  "The late Liz, who was never late". Bore da

Friday, 21 November 2014


Much to my rue I have to acknowledge that the difference between me made up and me bare-skinned is such, with reference to the latter, as to frighten the children and drive away the horses. In days of yore I could rush in to the sea, naked - as to face, not as to birthday suit - and rush out again simply glowing. The pity is that, having registered this, I am wondering whether I would have the cheek to take the scarlet swimsuit and the Guru to the seaside ever again. My advice to all you half-my-agers is to enjoy it while you may and to look away when the elderly, needs must, expose those of their bits a swimsuit cannot reach.

In a rare drawer tidying exercise, I came across some belts, . Being an habitual hoarder and not too keen on the sort-out sessions my Mother, with relish, did regularly, I hadn't seen these items since six inches ago. What to do with such a collection when there is no realistic chance of them ever going round my middle again. Postpone the decision is the only possible decision. Likewise, glorious evening clothes from the era of another life: even if I were to shrink in to them anew, this Cinderella is 98% sure not to be going to the ball ever again.  There are shoes in the cupboard with heels that make me feel giddy just to look at them. I remember keeping a pair of slip-on shoes permanently in the car because there was no question of pedalling in my out and about footwear. The females close to me have lives so busy there is no possibility of  trapping them in to a ruthless three pile day. (You do know what I mean: one pile 'keep, one pile 'charity', one pile 'throw out'). I don't feel inclined to ask a male. I suspect I am secretly looking for help from someone as sentimental about possessions as I am. Somehow, I can't think the men I know would choose compassion over ruthlessness. Mind you, I happen to know that the Guru had shirts and 'T' shirts from the time he was twelve years old in his wardrobe. I suspect we equate our clothes/possessions with security and continuity. Perhaps we feel as if we were sacrificing crumbs of our sense of who we are when we drop a faded scarf on to the charity pile, or even worse, on to the throw away pile. Is it that a sense of a whole self depends on continuing to own every item that has ever meant anything to us, as if the outer container of the inner self depended on outgrown belts and too tight evening dresses - or suits, of course; I am nothing if not politically correct. (That's not true as you very well know. But I do do my best). Well there you are: I  just typed the two 'do's' without a space. That's the answer: only the dodo survives in my lexicon of what was then and what is now. You can't have one without the other. You can't have now without then. Bore da