Pilgrimages

canterbury tales

Whan that Aprill, with his shoures soote

The droghte of March hath perced to the roote

And bathed every veyne in swich licour,

Of which vertu engendred is the flour;

Whan Zephirus eek with his sweete breeth

Inspired hath in every holt and heeth

The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne

Hath in the Ram his halfe cours yronne,

And smale foweles maken melodye,

That slepen al the nyght with open eye-

(So priketh hem Nature in hir corages);

Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages

 

Geoffrey Chaucer, Prologue to the Canterbury Tales

http://www.librarius.com/cantales.htm

The past is another country, and certainly the medieval period is a very foreign one indeed. Not only did they talk funny, a strange mix of Old English and Norman French which eventually became our beloved mother tongue, but they also seem to have had different weather. A droghte of March, I ask thee! It has not been very droghty at all, although it has been quite draughty at times. That naughty Zephirus.

It is true that I woke up this morning to hear the rain pouring steadily outside: it was proper rain, unrelenting, but not associated with Zephyrs of gales or sleet, just plain rain. So naturally my first thought was “oh, April showers” followed somewhat inevitably by “nice day for a poisson d’avril” because I’m sorry but my mind works like that – even at 5.30 in the morning.

Of course, my mind did turn next to pilgrimages. I have to pack this evening to chug away for work across the borders into West Yorkshire. It will be a pigrimage alone, but at least I will have some little chums to eat with during the evening at the The Tabard, or whatever equivalent we can find. I anticipate a jolly evening when we get the real work done, along with some long hard hours in meeting rooms during the day with less productivity. There may even be tales, and some of them may be a bit ripe, although not as ripe as old Geoffrey’s, which were very ripe indeed.

All of this is a long-winded way of saying I am unlikely to be troubling your in-boxes/reader feed over the next few days. My gift to you. Instead I shall be slogging away in project initiation hell, which is a very special kind of hell I can assure you, and trying to keep my calm. In this regard I am thankful for listening to Thich Nhat Hanh yesterday reminding me of the value of mindfulness. I even tried the telephone meditation at work today which meant I was reasonably courteous to the annoying sales rep who was client-bothering. And by “reasonably courteous” I mean I told him to ring someone else and not bother me again, but fairly politely.

If you were a-travelling, my dears, who would you travel with and what tales would you tell?

Meanwhile, may your journeys be sweet.

Namaste

 

Eventfulness, thankfulness and creativeness

OK I made that last -ness up. The Rule of Threes demanded I did so, and I can only apologise for any unintended damages caused to the English language. It’s a robust little chap though, the English language, so I am sure it will recover. It’s one of the things I like about it, that you can put words in pretty much any order, or invent new ones, and still be understood. That, and the fact that loads of people in other countries have made the effort to learn it so I can relax when I go on holiday. It’s really very considerate of them.

I suppose I am fixating on language because I have been doing some Anglo-Saxon revision today. This week I have been on holiday so that obviously meant I got to rush about doing jobs instead of sitting about sunning myself. It was just as well, because there has been precious little to see of the old currant bun. Anyway today, Thursday, was the first day I was able to spend at home, so I decided it was time to break out the inks and start practising my penwomanship for a little project I have in mind. It involved cataloguing three shelves of books and sorting out the drawer under the bed before I could begin. Isn’t it always the way? I needed to find some books and they have all got themselves rather higgledly-piggledy of late, so I had to tidy up. That meant I discovered I had two copies of a book because I had forgotten I had already bought it and bought it again. So I created a spreadsheet which I can check on my phone when I am out to try and prevent me doing that again. That also led me to discover that a particular book I was looking for had gone AWOL so I ended up searching under the bed, and tidying that up too. It was two hours before I had the items I needed on the desk.

Beowulf manuscript

First page of Beowulf, from WikiCommons

Then I spent a happy hour getting all smudgy and blotting ink all over the paper and generally providing evidence that I am not really very good at calligraphy, although I certainly enjoy playing at it.

After that I thought it was time to sit down in front of the fire with my Anglo Saxon language course and refresh my memory of how the wretched thing actually works. Naturally I also messed about on Project Gutenberg finding a copy of Beowulf and downloading it to my Kindle so I can read it on the train, or rather, stare blankly at it on the train. That reminded me to pre-order the new Tolkien translation which is due out in May. Of course then I had to check my emails and figure out how to put audio files on the Kindle as well.

All of this went fairly smoothly though because of my great good fortune yesterday, which is the thankfulness part of this post.

I had an appointment at the eye clinic at the hospital because my left eye has been getting rather blurry. Last year I had cataract surgery on both eyes which resulted in the miracle of sight for the first time in my life. To celebrate I had a special ceremony where I burnt my contact lenses in a miniature Viking dragon ship on our pond.

However, back in the Autumn I noticed that I was having a bit of trouble reading sub-titles on the television, and car number plates and so on. Eventually I went to the optician who told me I needed to go back to the clinic because the membrane in my eye was growing over places it should not grow over and obscuring my sight. Yesterday I went to the clinic.

Snellen chart

They are such nice people at the clinic. They tested my eyes and I was unable to read even the letter at the top of the chart with my left eye. It was a bit of a shock. I almost started reading the furniture by mistake and wondered if I had inadvertently slipped into a Two Ronnies sketch.

After the failure of the eye test, the consultant explained to me what was happening with the aid of a little model of the eye, and that I needed laser treatment to get rid of the membrane otherwise I would lose my sight completely. Then he said if I would wait he would try and fit me in that afternoon as they were doing laser treatments that day anyway.

Sigoth and I sat and waited. The place was packed and there weren’t enough seats and I felt a bit of a fraud for taking up everyone’s time. Then I saw the man in charge, who had also performed the operation on my eyes last year. He explained it was important to do it as soon as possible and that although risky, the alternatives were not much better. Then he clamped a special lens on my eye and within ten minutes I had my vision restored. Another miracle! I was completely wiped out by it all, both emotionally and physically.

I am being cautious for the next few days as I am at quite high risk (1 in 40) of a detached retina, but hopefully I will be OK. It’s fantastic being able to see so well again; it had really crept up on me, like the frog in the pan of water.

Today as I have worked on my Anglo-Saxon writing and reading I have been untroubled by eyesight problems. As I type this post I am able to see the screen more clearly than for a long time. I have no idea why I waited so long.

I love science and medics and the miracles that are possible. I know that often we are let down by them, or they fail to live up to our expectations, or the side-effects are worse than the symptoms. But just for once it all worked out and I feel so lucky. Sometimes it can turn out OK.

I hope you have a miracle of some kind this week too, large or small. Perhaps even sight of the old currant bun – who knows?

Share your good fortune when you do to give us all a boost.

Namaste

 

Purple on the inside

birthday cake

This is the time of year when I start to think about age. My mother’s birthday was last week, mine is next month (she remembered hers alright, unlike the names of her grandchildren or when my father died; it’s so ingrained she won’t forget that until the last), along with Sigoth’s and two of the Offspringses. It’s pretty much birthday time all the time at EBL Towers just at the moment.

Ageing is not a popular pastime in western culture. I think that’s a shame, because we all do it every day and we can’t change that, so we might as well enjoy it. For example, I am about to become 52, which sounds like fun. There was a song my mother liked when I was a child about a deck of cards. It’s mawkish and sentimental, but at least it makes 52 a magic number. I have to say, 51 is not very exciting unless prime numbers are your thing. I like proper numbers that are made up of other smaller numbers, in different patterns and combinations. I think it makes them more interesting. I am not interested in a number you can only make by multiplying it by one. It leaves no room for creativity.

Perhaps I will invite friends round to play cards and eat cake.

There are many reasons I enjoy getting older. I have mentioned before that I suffer from depression. I have done so since I was a child and there hasn’t been anything anyone has been able to do about it, myself included. It doesn’t sit well with me, because I am a fixer. The pills don’t work, no matter which ones I try. Talking therapies are too expensive, although the occasional short series of sessions I have managed to access have been partly helpful but insufficient for any long term benefit. Pulling my socks up has only made holes in the toes.

It turns out that in my case ageing seems to be part of the answer rather than part of the problem. I know many people don’t like it or see it as positive but I really enjoy it. My depression has generally been worse during times of hormonal excess – puberty, pregnancy and menopause were all especially difficult, when the demons were at their worst. Now I am past all that nonsense, things are calming down.

I don’t know how other people experience depression, if they do. In my case it has been like a veil between me and the rest of the world. At times the veil has been relatively thin and I can reach through it and make contact with people. At other times it has been so solid and unyielding that I am trapped, able to see dimly through it but disconnected, unable to be heard or seen by others. The veil is always there, but lately it is gossamer thin, at least most days. It has worn away to a cobweb over time and I for one am cheered by that. Perhaps it will turn out that I am the mightier, that I have more staying power, that I will be the one to win the race. That is not what I expected, and I am glad for it. Who’s the stronger now, eh?

And I blow a raspberry at the veil. It mutters to itself in a corner and I start to see it for what it is – a bully, not insuperable, not immortal and not intact.

Today the veil was thin, yesterday it had a burst of energy. But I think I am winning the war, if not every battle. The tide is turning.

I like ageing. As I grow older I become careless. I care less what people think or say or do. I not only quote Jenny Joseph but actually wear the purple on the inside as well as the out.

Namaste.

 

Journey

On Saturday I took the train to Leeds to see my female Offspring and spend a day together. I was pleased to do this for a number of reasons: firstly, to spend a day together; secondly, I have not had enough energy to do any such thing for a long time so it was great to be able to even think of doing it; thirdly, Leeds has some marvellous shops and I was looking forward to investigating the markets for wool and Waterstones for books. Inevitably I was mugged by literature but I resisted the overtures of the yarn, enticing and entangling though it was, by reminding myself sternly that I already have at least three bags full of wool (yes sir!) waiting to be knitted up into jumpers. I did compromise and buy a pattern though.

It was the journey itself that stayed in my mind though. I try and listen to music while I am travelling on order to relax and to drown out the wittering that goes on among the other travellers. I really don’t need to hear all about what she said to him or he said to her, or why it’s not fair that stuff happens. On Saturday there was a particularly loud and slightly creepy old bloke across the aisle from me, chatting up young women. He would start off fairly innocuously by asking them where they were going and showing a genial interest, then telling them he was off to see trams somewhere or other, thus appearing harmlessly eccentric. Everyone loves a harmless eccentric. It always ended up with him asking if they liked leather though, which amused everyone concerned. He really was pretty harmless.

So I played my music and turned it up a little and watched the scenery slide by outside. It was bright and sunny, and the stretch of track we were travelling over wound its way through the Howardian Hills and into the Vale of York, then on to Leeds through some rather attractive countryside. Really it’s one of the nicest routes there is. It’s not quite the Ribble Valley Viaduct but it’s a good second, especially around Kirkham Abbey.

The train runs past Kirkham Abbey between York and Malton

The train runs past Kirkham Abbey between York and Malton

With the music playing it felt like I was in a film, in the establishing shots at the beginning. Here was EBL living in Yorkshire, which looked rather pleasant and had a peaceful background track to make you feel calm and probably to lull you into a false sense of security. I watch too many murderous television programmes to assume we were in for a heart-warming tale of everyday folk. It amused me to work out who in the carriage were the undercover policemen (almost certainly the creepy bloke, but who else?). I thought back to the Due South episode on the train of singing Mounties (All the Queen’s Horses, S2:E14, in case you were interested) and wondered if a handsome young Canadian was about to appear with a guitar and start off a round of “Scarborough Fair”. I hoped he wouldn’t be the one that was killed. Then I hoped I wasn’t either.

Outside the scenery continued unabated. I decided to pay it a bit more attention as no Mounties were forthcoming.

Unabated scenery sans Mounties. This was taken on a sunnier day than Saturday

It was one of those days when the clouds were in layers. Do you know what I mean? There were some that were very low and dark and rather wispy. Just above them was some which were a bit more grey but substantial, then above those there were the big boys, full of rain and menace. There weren’t enough of them to imply definite rain, just enough to suggest it was a strong possibility at some point in the not-too-distant future. I regretted not bringing an umbrella then remembered it was pretty windy and revised my regrets to not bringing my hat.

The layers of cloud made me think of the Earth wearing veils, like Salome, and dancing her dance, not for the head of the Baptist, but for the sheer joy of being a living biosphere in a thinly populated universe. Around the Sun she weaves, inflaming the star to greater heat no doubt, and keeping our home warm and bright and growing. It’s a careful balance she maintains, keeping her orbit in that Goldilocks Zone of not too hot and not too cold, so I hope she finds the joy of the dance is as endless and sustaining as we find the light of the Sun.

By the time the train wheezed into Leeds it was much more dull and chilly outside, and I was already working out which was the nearest good coffee shop to the station. Female Offspring was waiting at the barriers and we set off for coffee, croissants and retail mayhem. The creepy guy was not far behind me, but we lost him in the crowds. I hope he had a good day too.

How was your weekend?

Namaste

 

 

Most people don’t realise

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Today I have five things to share with you. Buckle up, blogfriends!

  1. Most people don’t realise that I learned to play classical guitar.
  2. Most people don’t realise that I wore built-up shoes as a child due to knock-knees.
  3. Most people don’t realise that I am genuinely ambivalent about Marmite.
  4. Most people don’t realise that I don’t recognise faces easily.
  5. Most people don’t realise that I have wanted to kill myself.

We hide, intentionally or not, many facets of our lives. Sharing everything would be information overload of the most intense variety. However, depression and mental illness are too often hidden because of stigma.

This post is a contribution to the Blog for Mental Health Project 2014. You can read more about it by following these links.

http://acanvasoftheminds.com/2014/01/07/blog-for-mental-health-2014/

http://blogformentalhealth.wordpress.com/

I pledge my commitment to the Blog for Mental Health 2014 Project. I will blog about mental health topics not only for myself, but for others. By displaying this badge, I show my pride, dedication, and acceptance for mental health. I use this to promote mental health education in the struggle to erase stigma.”  

What don’t people always realise about you?

Namaste.

 

Tea for Andrew

Did you do all kinds of different holiday jobs when you were at school? Obviously I am addressing anyone elderly enough to have finished school and launched themselves upon the world. If you are in that happy state of still being at school, merely change the tense of the verbs and make them present.

A recent eruption of commentary about tea reminded me of my time at the local Bingo Hall where I worked one summer on the canteen. Happy days!

Well, I say “happy”…

They had their moments.

The ladies who worked permanently on the canteen were wonderful. They baked the cakes for the counter and any leftovers at the end of the day were shared out to take home. There were usually a couple of slices of something delicious which I took for me and my dad, and he would be waiting for me to get in so we could have a slice with a cuppa and catch up on the latest news and gossip.

Working at a Bingo Hall in the 1970s was almost like providing a social care service, albeit a very bad one. Pension Day was particularly busy because the regulars would pick up their cash and trot straight down to the afternoon session. It was an inexpensive way of spending an afternoon. For the price of a cup of tea, and maybe a shared slice of cake, they could sit in the warm with their friends. Most of them bought bingo cards as well, but it was all fairly inexpensive and probably cheaper than keeping the electric fire on at home.

It wasn’t a major career move for me, but I enjoyed the people (for the most part) and didn’t mind the work (for the most part). What I did dislike was having to bar some of the old dears. We had one or two who were, to put it frankly, doubly incontinent, and if we saw them coming we had to lock the doors so they couldn’t get in. The Bingo Hall was an old cinema that had gone bust. It was where, as I child, I contracted measles, mumps and chicken pox on three consecutive birthday treats. It’s no wonder I prefer the hygiene of Netflix.

cinematreasures.org

cinematreasures.org

The cinema doors extended in a great arc across the front of the building and were glass. When we locked them against one lady in particular she would stand on the steps with her face pressed against the door peering in and crying. It was very distressing for all of us. The manager would go out and try and persuade her to go home, and after a while she would totter away. In the harshness of youth I would feel really guilty but also relieved I wasn’t going to have to clean up after her again.

These tales of yesteryear are in fact tea-related, because while I worked there I discovered the most appalling treatment of the humble beverage that I have ever encountered. That is what I was really going to tell you about until I got distracted by memories of cake and old ladies.

We had a caller, let’s say his name was Andrew. I don’t know what his name was; we didn’t keep in touch and this all happened about 35 years ago. Andrew was a kind of rock god to the pension crowd. They loved his youth and voice and hair and the way he flirted with them. They really got good value for their pensions, let me tell you!

As a result Andrew rather thought he was some kind of rock god. He had a very high opinion of himself and liked to swagger about in front of the humble catering staff. He always had to be at the front of the queue for tea breaks so he could moisten his parched throat and prepare for his next performance. The little old ladies parted for him like the Red Sea, although they struggled to get their tea back to their seats in the 15 minute time limit. Serving tea at the Bingo Hall was like an extreme sport: a hundred or so old dears in 15 minutes with one hot tap. God help you if they wanted frothy coffee. (That’s what cappuccinos were called in the 1970s.)

So there was Andrew, lounging at the till waiting for his tea on my first day. I was allowed to sort him out, probably on the basis that the other staff were ready to throttle him and needed a break; or possibly the entertainment of watching me deal with him.

“Make sure you make it right,” he told me.

I bristled at that. I made a fine pot of tea at home, even as a young Electronic Bag Girl. My tea making skills were not be called into question. Things went downhill from there.

“I like it weak, with lots of milk,” he continued. He scooped the tea bag straight out of the water as I put it in. “That’s long enough!”

Then he poured half of it away so he could top up the milk.

It got worse.

“I take it with sugar,” he said.

“How many?” I muttered. “One or two?”

“Keep adding it until it won’t dissolve any more,” he replied. “Saturate it.”

I have a small scar on my chin where it hit the floor. It’s a memento.

I apologise if you like your tea this way. I also advise you to get help. At once.

The art of tea is a beautiful thing, The English certainly don’t make tea the way the Japanese do, but our own rituals are important to us. Our greatest literary minds have devoted care and attention to it: George Orwell famously produced guidance on making tea just after the Second World War when it was still rationed. It was a matter of national importance.

I would put to you that Andrew was not in fact drinking tea. He was a kind of Nutrimatic vending machine as described by Douglas Adams; the ones that produce a drink almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea. (That’s pretty much all vending machines I think.)

But there was no need to put an innocent tea bag through that humiliation, was there?

What horrors have you encountered in holiday jobs? They seem a rich vein for anecdote.

Cheers, my dears, and as ever, Namaste.

Lines in the sand

I was watching one of those clichéd movie moments the other night instead of doing something productive. It was the moment when the hero says something similar to “That’s a line I will not cross!”. Usually there is dramatic body language attached, including miming drawing a line, presumably in mimed sand.

nooooooo

I recently discovered within myself a steely core of resistance in another area. In retrospect it was not really surprising but I was a little taken aback at the time.

It involved tea.

There is no doubt that clichés are popular because they resonate within us, and highlight something we all recognise. In this case, we all have limits to what we are prepared to do. Milgram’s infamous experiments purported to demonstrate that people can be pushed further if someone in a white coat and with an air of authority is doing the pushing. Whatever the validity of the findings it is true that authority figures can push us along, and potentially arguable that that is how organised religion gets away with so much. Let’s not go there today though.

The reason I am musing on this cliché is that I know I have my own limits. In some cases these are reflected in the charities I choose to support; for example, I prefer to donate to mental health charities rather than donkey sanctuaries, or overseas aid rather than diabetes. All of them are important but I have to prioritise. I will still put a few quid in any of those tins if shaken at me, or if someone is jumping from a helicopter, or whatever. I am just more likely to put additional time or effort into some of them, although sometimes it’s about what skills I have to offer or location and timing. I trust that other people prioritise differently and we all balance out.

I am a signed up professional so I adhere to a code of conduct. This means there are lines at work I will not cross either, and I have had occasion a couple of times in my career to have to stand firm. It has worked. People aren’t evil or stupid on the whole.

Back to the Tea Incident then.

I recently had surgery on both shoulders and as a result when I woke up from the anaesthetic I was severely restricted in movement. The nurses bustled about me and made me feel cocooned in a warm fuzzy glow. They brought me a glass of water with a straw because I couldn’t lift anything. I sucked it gratefully.

This was an English hospital, perhaps more importantly a Yorkshire hospital, so naturally the next question was not “how are you feeling?” but “would you like a cup of tea?”.

I indicated that I would. In fact I actually croaked out “Oh God! Yes!” and hoped it didn’t sound too desperate or needy.

Yorkshire tea

The tea lady checked how I took it (strong, dark and handsome, if you must know), and returned with a mug of the beautiful brew. A mug, I repeat, because this is the home of right and proper tea drinking. God bless Yorkshire and the NHS.

There was only one small blemish on the tea horizon. She had put a straw in it.

“You can’t lift that,” she said. “So I put the straw in.”

“I’m not having tea through a straw,” I thought. I said it out loud too.

I reached forward through gritted teeth to lift the mug of hot, steaming liquid.

The tea lady sucked in her breath audibly.

The other patients all froze, eyes glued to my bed, like a group of medicalised meerkats.

Somewhere the orchestra played tense music at the rate of a rapidly beating heart.

The nurse at the next bed went into one of those slow motion dives across the room, hand outstretched, crying out “Noooooooooooooooooo!” as my arm wobbled and I winced with the pain.

Well really.

Of course I didn’t spill it. It was tea. You don’t waste tea. It tasted wonderful.

As they say round here, even my dog wears boots.

What are the lines you won’t cross, great or small? What are the risks you will take?

Namaste.

What’s in a word?

wordcloud

Do the words we use matter?

In my world they do quite often because there are a number of technical terms which have to be used correctly or else Chaos Will Ensue. A recent example was a colleague who kept asking for a “radio buttons” on a web page. What she actually meant was just a plain button you click for “Next” but she had in her head the term. I don’t expect people to know all the technical lingo but it needed correcting before the developer got hold of it otherwise instead of this:

nextbutton

 

 

she would have got this:

radiobutton

and that would not have worked at all. Oh dear me, no, it was not what she was after.

Anyway, that’s how I earn my crust. I catch those kind of misunderstandings. I need to pay my mortgage.

Jargon has a role to play. It’s a valuable shorthand for people working in the same field (by which I do not mean agricultural labourers, or “ag labs,” as genealogists call them). It is useful and it only gets a bad reputation because people use it inappropriately, often to try and seem superior, or because they have no communication skills.

I work in IT and I use jargon when I am talking to technical people. I once made the mistake, some years ago , of doing it in front of someone from HR. I was going over a server issue with an engineer and we started talking about dirty cache buffers and hot fixes until my colleague spluttered a bit. So we took our dirty caching outside. Never wash your dirty caches in public.

Jargon has a special place and should be used correctly. For the rest of the time there’s just language.

Do we need to be careful of language? What I have in mind is the kind of language which doesn’t fit the rules but nevertheless communicates its meaning quite clearly, at least to those involved.

Teenagers are best at this. They invent new language all the time and I think it’s great. I love that language is squishy. In this I am quite schizophrenic. I am a complete grammar nazi about all kinds of things including the greengrocers’ apostrophe. I also enjoy the use of a good Oxford comma, which is a little controversial in some circles. Yet I love playing with language. If you understand me then it has achieved its purpose, and it really doesn’t matter if my sentences wobble all over the place like a drunken hen party at 2 am on a Friday night in the West End.

I write long and cumbersome sentences quite frequently. My brain just rambles on and my fingers scramble over the keyboard trying to keep up. I’m not great at editing, particularly for blog posts, so you are subjected to the end result without warning or immediate access to pain relief. I suspect anyone who visits regularly keeps their painkiller of choice close to hand. Admit it, the best way to read this stuff is after a large glug or several of vino or a couple of Mother’s Little Helpers, or both.

I admire compressed communication. It’s so efficient and clever. Again, teens are the experts here. Those coded grunts that teenage boys emit are incredible. You know the conversations I mean:

“A’right?”
“Gnnh. Urgh?”
“Eh.”

The girls achieve a similar level of data exchange in a slightly different format, let’s call it Venusian Chat. It’s a little more physical than Martian Grunt.

“Yeah, like.”
“Y’know?”
“Totes.”
“Eek.”
* eye roll *
* elbows *

If we could capture that level of data compression for IT we would be able to stream HD video over 14.4k modems. It’s absolutely awesome.

The Offspring process information so differently from me and Sigoth that it makes our brains ache. They work in multiple streams simultaneously with little attention to detail but an overall grasp of the whole that is utterly impressive. The problem is that I am culturally unprepared for this, so often it appears they are being rude because they split their attention across the streams. Well, EBL, what an old fogey you are and no mistake. Lawks.

Our means of communication across generations is unpredictable. Blogging can seem like a way of imprinting ourselves upon eternity, or at least upon the lifespan of collective human intelligence. Hello, future, lok at me! Yet we only have to read Shakespeare or Chaucer, or even Dickens or Hardy, to know that words and meanings are as fluid as the dunes of the Sahara, ceaselessly shifting in the winds of change. What then is the point of worrying about Oxford commas or misplaced apostrophes? I can only catch glimpses of meaning in Anglo-Saxon poetry, and even less in cave paintings. Broad concepts are possibly understood, but usually imposed by my own cultural and time-bound perspectives.

I am therefore determined to enjoy being present at the birth of new languages, celebrating new words (“Selfie,” anyone? Omnishambles? Simples?).
While language lives and evolves and flows into new meanings, we are also alive and evolving which gives me hope. The alternative: Orwell’s MiniTruth and the shrinking dictionary.

Words matter, more than I can say.

Namaste.

Today I was a Rainbow

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAToday I had to go into town. It’s not a simple job, as I rely on the bus and they only come once an hour, except for some which only come once every two hours. It’s a ticklish matter to get appointments lined up so you can make the round journey in less than half a day.

I had to go to the nurses’ to have a blood test and I had a half hour window to get the jab then back to the bus station, otherwise it was a two and a bit hour’s wait.

It is fair to say I was a little tense about timings. Being a little tense about catching buses is my only excuse. It’s not much but it’s all I’ve got and I’m sticking to it.

Because I went out dressed like a clown whose clothes have melted in the hot wash.

I hadn’t quite realised when I got dressed this morning what I was putting on. This is not unusual, and in fact may be indicative of my suitability for working in IT. In fact, let’s say it is, and not worry about stereo-typing. It is certainly why I like to wear a suit. No worrying about what to put with what. I just find a shirt to go with it, and as my suits are pretty much either black or grey I am rarely challenged.

I may also have mentioned before that I am a little poor at identifying colour. I only recently found out that orange is in fact red. God knows what this thing called “orange” is. It may be yellow, but that still leaves me with a problem.

Anyway…

Indoors was fine as I had my jade jeans with a purple t-shirt and pink jumper. It kind of works. Sigoth tells me so, and he is good at colour what with being artistic and all that. He can draw things people recognise, and make art and paint.

But then to go out I put on my purple DMs with yellow laces, my scarlet coat and orange scarf and hat. In such elegant attire I sauntered to the bus stop.

On the bus I noticed that I appeared to wearing every colour in the rainbow. Oh, right, except blue.

But it was OK because my socks had blue heels.

So today I was a rainbow, albeit in disguise because no one saw my socks.

And the best thing about being EBL is that I don’t actually care whether I clashed or was cool. (I suspect the former.)

I can assure you I am not a little ray of sunshine at the best of times, but at least I can make the world a brighter place in my own, slightly warped, way.

There was some offensive fund-raising campaign recently where women were sponsored not to wear make-up for a whole day It was supposed to be really daring. Obviously I couldn’t take part as I never wear the damn stuff. And in any case – how rude! There’s far too much concern about how women look and dress.

So I think I’ll be a rainbow more often, and if anyone says anything to me, I’ll explain to them about the glories of creation and the miracle of rods and cones. And they will back away slowly while keeping eye contact so as not to provoke the crazy Bag Lady.

Indeed.

Namaste.

 

When I was young, I had just begun…

Just lately EBL has been feeling her age. Obviously I am extremely venerable and wise, just like Bede who lived and died not that far from here. Bede achieved rather a lot of important things during his life, and is a hero of mine in many ways. He wrote the definitive History of the English People, checking his facts as far as he could through references to manuscripts from across the known world. He also invented the modern calendar, for it was he who came up with the idea of numbering years form the birth of Jesus, rather than the Roman model of “in the 3rd year of Emperor Whosit, when Jeremy and Tristan were consuls” kind of thing. He was extraordinary, and what gives me the literal shivers is that I can go and visit his tomb, where his remains are laid, to give my respects. They have been at Durham Cathedral since 1022 (Bede dies in 735 and was originally laid to rest in Jarrow).

Personal heroes can ask you difficult questions about yourself, and today I have been feeling my years but not my worth. Now before we get all sentimental about how we are all precious gifts etc etc, let me stop you right there. I have no illusions that I have achieved some successes of which I am proud, for example four shining Offspringses who are lighting up the world. Hopefully I have been a meaningful and positive force in Sigoth’s life, and I have contributed both at work and as a volunteer, where at least I hope I have done no lasting harm and am sure I have sometimes done some good. In other words I have lived a life, and it has been fairly ordinary and not too bad.

When I was sixteen I had infinity before me, and now infinity seems smaller.

I was reading a book about Buddhism the other day and there was rather a fierce concentration on the message that we should be clear that we may die today. I have no problem with this; it makes sense to me that it is better to live as if today was my last day, not to let the sun set on an argument, and so on.

Knowing I will die is not depressing, but it was an idea far from my youthful mind. Young folks are immortal of course, which is why they so often die in car crashes. Nevertheless I had before me a life to live and things to achieve, although what those were was never a clear idea in my mind. I thought only that I was capable of achieving things of great importance. If not World Peace, then at least a good step towards it.

Now I find it less likely I will manage it. Time has slipped by. Every day I tell myself I would have written more but there was not time. Nor was there time to finish my knitting, practise my music, read up on my Eald Englisc, phone friends to see how they are, meditate, practise calligraphy, go for a good walk, take photos, bake a cake, do yoga or whatever I fancied having a bash at. There is never enough time to do everything.

Of course, I do seem to find time to watch television with Sigoth, which I also consider important because we enjoy the deconstruction afterwards and it is a relaxing thing we can do together. We seem to need more time to relax as we get older too. We also find time to write the quiz and to play the occasional board game. Sometimes I do write something, and sometimes I post a blog post. Sometimes I call a friend. Sometimes I do achieve these small goals. All is not lost!

But I do not feel consistent about these pursuits, nor confident that I will improve. So I have decided not to worry about it any more. Last year I made a list of personal goals I wanted to achieve in order to balance my work and life more equitably. I have managed more than I expected. I have now adjusted my goals a little and hope to carry on in 2014. That will have to be enough.

Bede was outstanding. I am unexceptional. I have done what I have done, and whether I could have done more is too late to worry about. I shall simply carry on as best I can and my main goal will be to accept what I do is what I do.

Once I have improved my equilibrium a little further following my recent operation, I shall be in a position to impose a little seldf-discipline. It is something I am capable of doing so it is entirely possible that one day I will finish the novel, will learn to write beautiful calligraphy and with luck, achieve World Peace.

In the meantime, I am practising being kinder to myself.

I know many of us are more demanding of ourselves than of other people. If you are one of the many, how do you manage to keep sense of perspective?

Meanwhile, my dears, as always –

Namaste