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