Category Archives: Words

A question for the ages

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A small stack of post-it notes emerged from a heap of random paperwork.

The first said:

 

The second said:

The third said:

The set must have meant something once.

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Seasonal

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36 hours, and being Dickens there is a lot of redundancy, so it doesn’t matter if your attention wanders for a minute or two.  This came in handy for a number of very dull jobs, and in fact is well read.  I find Boz quite annoying, but every now and then I can’t help bursting into laughter,

One of the dull jobs:  skipped it last year, but now it’s back to stirring and reconstituting neglected glazes, dried to solid discs at the bottom of pots.  Also hunting for a low temperature glaze recipe which – and this is the key thing – uses up those bags of ingredients already sitting dustily on the shelf.  Gerstley borate?  No.  Lead bisilicate? No.  EPK? No.  Ummm…

Another stonking pantechnicon

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I’m showing my age again:  the primary association of “consumption” for me is the coughing, haemorrhaging and fading millions leaving this worldly scene, led by Keats, Brontë and so forth.  And I’m sure that unwritten History of Consumption would be fascinating, if distressing.

This is the other kind of consumption.  I was made happy by the information in Chapter 2 about lupin seed stalls in classical Athens; unfortunately it is not one of the chapters I am supposed to be reading.  A hasty route march through a chunk of 600+ pages is required.

Around to it

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In the back of my mind for a long time, and fortuitously spotted on a library shelf.

Diaries are so moreish, especially when the author is a writer of any talent.  The more personal sections of these diaries have been pruned, largely in consideration for persons still living at the time of this publication, but Channon was the man who knew “everybody”, knew the gossip, knew the workings of politics, was the ultimate worldling of his small world of society and parliament in the 1930s and 40s, so his insider view is of considerable interest.

At the same time, the sheer variety and humour keep the format refreshed:  Channon’s misadventures with royal chamber pots are irresistible (p 21), as is the tendency of Queen Mary to look like the Jungfrau (p 133).  My favourite absurdity, however, occurs in November 1940, during the Blitz, when Channon’s house received a direct hit while he was holding a dinner party:  ... there was an immense crash and a flash like lightning. … we all rushed into the hall, and were at once half-blinded by dust and smoke … out of the darkness sprang an ARP warden, whom I recognised as, of all people, the Archduke Robert [of Austria] …  I led them into the morning room, gave them drinks, and rang the bell  (p 274).

I ought to be feeling five years younger

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and possibly five pounds lighter, but at present it’s more a case of inward niggles, wondering which typo or howler has made it through the proof-reading.  There has to be at least one. Also worrying slightly about the jokes.

Always risky, jokes.  But once I had had the eating weasels rule pointed out to me, the Epistle of Barnabas just had to go in.  And once the Epistle of Barnabas was in, one might as well have Warwick the Kingmaker as well (“Are you Edmund Mortimer?  If not, have you got him?”)  And then somehow The Sorrows of Werther crept into the general stirabout.

It may have been injudicious.  I carefully remind myself:  who cares what THEY think?

Not all Judith

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From the dear old days when upon marriage you lost not only your surname, but first name as well:

Round about 1902 Mrs Aeneas Gunn went, with Mr Aeneas Gunn, to a cattle station in the Northern Territory of Australia.  This was not a destination for wimps.

Her two books have been condensed for a more modern audience, probably a good thing as even in this form the narrative is diffuse.  Mrs Gunn’s authorial voice is both permanently arch and continually patronising – towards the indigenous people, naturally, but also to the Chinese, the rustic stockmen and pretty much anyone else she happened to meet (except Mr Aeneas Gunn).  It has to be said that they all seem to have patronised her first (including Mr Gunn), for being a townie, and, of course, for being a woman, so perhaps one should not be too indignant about her attitude on this occasion.

That might not sound promising, but I read every page with attention.  Here we have a voice from a tiny, transient foundational community that has disappeared from all knowledge.  And the story, beneath the archness, is one of great pathos.

In another corner of the nest:

Having all the pieces is a surprising and gratifying outcome.