WOTW: Bellman

I have suggested the occasional post about a lost word, in the hope of prompting some of you to join in the blogging goodness. Here we go again with another post  in the very occasional series of EBL’s Word of the Week.

It has to be said that the joys of sleep often elude me. I have been sleeping better lately but overall it’s not a pleasing picture, with long hours of gazing at the darkened ceiling. I have been cheered by the return of birdsong recently, emphasising the turning of the Wheel, and glad of some wakeful company while Sigoth slumbers on.

Back in the good old days – those days when the world was a better and kindlier place according to some, although I have my doubts – there was a band of men who wandered the streets at night calling out the hour and letting people know that they were safe. I can never decide whether I would appreciate that comfort, or find myself jolted awake just as I managed to nod off, heart pounding and hand reaching for the nearest defensive object.

These men were sometimes called Night Watchmen, and if like me you adore Terry Pratchett’s Discworld that will have all sorts of resonances with you. Another term for them was Bellmen.

Recently I came across a reference to them in my calendar of Forgotten English. Some of the words are not really forgotten in my opinion, just not commonly used; some probably should be forgotten; while the rest seem to have been overlooked by both Chambers and the Oxford English Dictionaries, so I remain sceptical as to their provenance. However, Bellman falls into the first category, by which I mean I have heard the term before with my very own ears, and apparently so has my computer spell-checker (although in that instance ears are not part of the equation).

What I hadn’t heard before was the rather endearing little poem by Robert Herrick (mid 17th century) which he wrote as a kind of blessing to his friends to keep them safe at night. It’s a bit like the prayer regarding long-leggity beasties I think. Anyway, it’s called “The Bellman”, and here it is.

THE BELLMAN (Robert Herrick)

From noise of scare fires rest ye free,
From murders benedicitie;
From all mischances that may fright
Your pleasing slumbers in the night;
Mercie secure ye all, and keep
The goblin from ye, while ye sleep.
Past one o’clock, and almost two,
My masters all, ‘good day to you.’

Isn’t that sweet?

Tell me what helps you sleep: nightlights, the BBC World Service, hot milk and cinnamon, a teddy bear or hot water bottle, whisky, whatever… post a link to your blog in the comments below, and/or tag with EBLWords.

Sleep well, my dears, and ream of beautiful things.

Namaste.

Quafftide

quaffing viking

Well my dears, another day and another word. This time it’s “quafftide”, from 1881, in “A supplementary English glossary” by T Lewis O Davies, and referring to a time for drinking.

Quaftyde approacheth, and showts in nighttyme doo ringe in loftye Cithaeron

So not as in a “tide of drink,” pleasing as that image may be; more like eventide or yuletide. I am particularly pleased that it therefore derives from Old English tid, meaning  period or division of time, as Bosworth-Toller , the on-line dictionary of Anglo-Saxon, explains:

tíd e; f. Tide (as in Shrove-tide, etc.), time, hour; tempus, Wrt. Voc. i. 52, 39: hora, 53, 17. I. marking time when, time at which anything happens, time or date of an event, time, hour Be ðam dæge and ðære tíde nán mann nát . . . Gé nyton hwænne seó tíd ys, Mk. Skt. 13, 32, 33.Ðá com his tíd ðæt hé sceolde of middangearde tó Drihtne féran, Bd. 4, 3; S. 567, 13: 4, 9; S

http://bosworth.ff.cuni.cz/finder/3/tid

My Chambers dictionary says that “quaff” means to drink or drain in large draughts, and that its origin is obscure. I would have liked to think of the old Saxons or even Vikings celebrating quafftide after gathering on a harvest or putting the Picts to rout, or whatever.

Nevertheless, it seemed highly appropriate for a Friday.

However, it did start me thinking, always a dangerous event, about how malleable the language is. I am quite a fan of neologisms, and anticipate the shocking revelations of new words included in the dictionary each year with keen interest. I was very taken with “omnishambles” back in 2012, for example.

What it actually made me think was that people have forever made language fit the occasion, and then reinvented terms in later generations. I need a term for having a bout of drinking so I will reconfigure two relevant words and Bob’s your aunty’s live-in lover. There are lots of terms for  this in English: pub-crawl, out on the lash, painting the town red, having a bevy, booze-up, bash, or piss-up to name a few. In fact there is a whole sub-language relating to the consumption of alcohol: getting a round in, or having one for the road, a swift jar, a tipple, nightcap or nip. It must be a minefield for foreigners. Meanwhile, my grandparents used completely different words for describing similar activities. In this sense language unites and divides us. I celebrate the notion that we are so alike in our habits, and yet confused by the strangeness of each other’s words. It’s like remembering that, for example, Iron Age people were just as clever as us but didn’t yet have the tech to live like us; the distinction matters.

Anyway, I muse enough.

Your homework is to tell me your terms for quafftiding like it’s 2015, and ideally also to relate an anecdote about such a party. It may involve Pan-Galactic Gargleblasters if you wish, and be purely hypothetical. No photocopiers should be harmed in the production of your story.

Post a link to any such tales in the comments below, and/or tag with EBLWords.

Bottoms up and Namaste!

WOTW: Baubosking

I was given a calendar of old forgotten words for Christmas, and this was the first one in it. It seemed oddly appropriate in the circumstances, as I shall explain momentarily.

Rosedale

Baubosking is an old Yorkshire dialect term for wandering about instead of staying at home, as in

“Sho war er reeight baubosker.”

“Sho’s awlus bauboskin aboot.”

https://archive.org/stream/mymoorlandpatien00bishiala/mymoorlandpatien00bishiala_djvu.txt

The reason this has resonance for me at present is that since my mother died just before Christmas, I have felt a tremendous sense of release from worry. I even went into the travel agent the other day to pick up some brochures, because I feel sufficiently free to be able to think about jetting away somewhere foreign. There are so many options: the Taj Mahal; the Northern Lights; the Icelandic volcanoes; the Rockies; the Alhambra; Casablanca….

Then I saw the prices, my dears, and thought again!

So what to do with this lovely, evocative word?

Well, how about this? Some people may remember Rarasaur’s series of Prompts for the Promptless, where she provided an unusual word or phrase to use as a prompt to write a blog. I wondered if anyone out there fancied doing some more, based on some of the words I anticipate discovering as my calendar shrivels the year away?

Assume no constraints of time, money, family, friends or phobias! Are you a baubosker, or a homebody? If you could travel anywhere, where would it be? (I may take notes here.) If you prefer to stay at home, regale me with the joys of that decision. Would you choose the blazing crater of Eyjafjallajökull or the blazing logs of an open fire in the living room? Another country, continent or world? Time and space is yours. Police boxes are optional.

Take me somewhere thrilling, my dears. It is cold, grey, January here and I yearn for something bright and shining.

And wherever you travel or rest, may it be beautiful to you.

Namaste.

Blocks

I have not been writing so much lately and I am not about to make excuses. I did that in another post recently so that’s all the excusifying you will be getting from me.

Calvin and Hobbes sum it up

Calvin and Hobbes sum it up

I wanted to write, though. I still do. But I have a Thing in the way, a Monster under the keyboard, an air bubble blocking the free flow of water through my pipes. I will be draining my radiators in due course, and will tell you how it all turns out then, but in the meantime I just need to sit in a corner for a bit and grumble through the dark reaches of the night.

It’s generational I suspect. No matter that I have worked in IT, woman and girl, a quarter century or more under the silicon. No matter that before there was a web I was using bulletin boards to send messages to people around the world, hopping from server to server. No matter that in the human realm I enjoy holding forth and listening to the sound of my own voice. No matter that at times words issue forth like the flood that floated the Ark, although hopefully without drowning unicorns.

No matter, I say, that any of those things are true, and potentially even relevant. This old lady simply does not share on-line all the potential stumbles ahead. I don’t ask you to help me figure out what to do, although I may happily bore you death once it is all done. Anyway, I know what to do; I’m just waiting for it to be done.

I’m not trying to be mysterious – but the Block Monster did make me realise that so many of you share so much by publishing your blogs. I don’t. There’s nothing I write here I wouldn’t happily read out at work or in the pub. I assume it will all end up one day in the HR department being checked for subversiveness, or in the village newsletter for people to gossip about. So I stick to the past – what has been and can be reported – not the future, despite the fact that most of my time I worry about the future and what may be. Naturally I live very little in the present, because I am poor at mindfulness, but I am working on that and trying to extend my visits.

Catherine Tate as Lauren

Of course, some days I publish very bad writing like this stream of consciousness. Am I bothered? Look at my face. Not bothered.

In addition to being elderly, I prefer to work things out in my head, not with people. I don’t do human very well. I am anti-social. My idea of a brilliant day is to spend it alone, reading, knitting, writing, practising calligraphy or music, or learning to crochet. If I want to push the boat out, I will watch a film. I have no idea why I like to write or publish to a blog, I just can’t help it.

Still, I managed to write something, so I’ll blow a raspberry at the Word-Eating Monster, and hope to resume normal service in due course. Probably about a month in fact.

Do you share or conceal or deflect? Do problems free you up to write more, or befuddle your fingers and tie up your tongue? And yes, I do realise that by definition not everyone will be able or willing to answer that.

Namaste.

 

Freshly Pressed

I am shocked to announce that I have been Freshly Pressed.

What? What just happened?

I don’t know. I don’t quite understand how posts are chosen, but chosen was one of mine and for that I am entirely unable to respond in a sensible or meaningful way. I have been babbling in a dark corner since I found out.

Anyway, thank you to WordPress, and welcome to any visitors – I am the Electronic Bag Lady (EBL for short). Please come on in and find a chair. People will shuffle up to make room. We’re a friendly bunch and very snuggly. The kettle is always on, and there are biscuits in the tin. Or fruit if that’s your poison. If it is, I’ll have a word with you later when things get quieter.

What is life like in EBL Towers? If you fancy any or all of the following you may want to come by more often:

  • I try to post at least monthly in support of Bloggers for Peace organised by Kozo over at everydaygurus.com
  • I tend to ramble meaninglessly about life as an IT Project Manager in the UK Public Sector
  • I live in God’s Own County of North Yorkshire (northern England) so that will regularly appear in posts as well. Just so you know – you never ask if someone is from Yorkshire. If they are, they soon tell you; if they are not, there is no need to humiliate them.
  • I suffer from depression so may appear a little dark and sombre at times. Be gentle. I hope one day to contribute to the Mental Health Awareness blog project but am not there yet.
  • I care for a demented mother. I may have a moan about that now and then. I need to let it out.
  • I acquired a partner (Sigoth) and Offspringses earlier in life and they have made living worthwhile.
  • I also suffer from nostalgia so keep telling stories about my younger days. Often the same one repeatedly. I am currently 51 in case you care to put that into perspective.
  • You will not then be surprised to learn that I also enjoy researching my family tree.
  • I am participating in the Quaker Alphabet Project 2014, reflecting on life as a British Quaker in (you’ll never guess) 2014! What – you did guess? Great, I like smart people. They give me hope. Please stay.
  • I knit, so the occasional knitted product is presented to my grateful audience – enjoy!
  • I am teaching myself Old English, what was spoke by the likes of Alfred the Great and the Venerable Bede. Because I can, in case you ask.

So have a look around my other posts and see if you want to be friends. It would be great if you called by more often. Say hello in the comments and tell me a bit about you too.

Namaste.

Freestyle

royalty-free-vector-of-a-writing-feather-quill-and-scroll-logo-by-patrimonio-4785

Well my dears, you may have noticed that I have been a little more prolific than usual this week.

That is because I have been on holiday, trying to rest up from my shoulder operation and trying to recover from the stresses and strains of a hectic few weeks. I am amazed how tiring swinging my arms in circles has been. It may be doing wonders for the joints, but I am positively exhausted.

I wanted to try and get back into a writing routine while I was home, so I started doing the “Just 5 Minute” exercises in Joanne Klassen’s book. Today I did some freestyle writing.

“But, EBL!” I hear you cry. “Pretty much all your writing is freestyle writing!”

That is well-observed, my clever readers, but still not quite the same thing. It is true I tend to produce a stream-of-consciousness for the blog, but it is minimally edited for sense and spelling (mostly); meanwhile the freestyle writing was a timed exercise without hesitation, deviation or repetition. Well, maybe repetition.

What I find when I do freestyle exercises is that they are quite liberating. I can write what I want and know it is completely private. As a result it is possible that I express a thought that was not otherwise immediately obvious to my conscious brain.

Today my tremendous nugget of earth shattering consequence was simply that writing is my personal path to peace. Not all my writing, you will be relieved to learn, appears on this blog. Let me tell you, there are scribbled pages in notebooks and files in folders which will never go further, and that is as it should be. However, the strength of feeling I had about the value I place on being able to write most, if not every, day was a little unexpected. Really I should know by now!

So tell me, my dears, how does writing feed your soul? Does it soothe you, or energise you, or both, or neither. Is it your addiction or friend or demon in the night? Or all of them?

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.

Leafy Shoes

Autumn treeOccasionally I like to participate in blog challenges, and sometimes I even post the result. This week I was drawn into the weekly DPChallenge because so many of the blogs I like to read seemed to be writing extraordinarily wonderful pieces for it, and I became intrigued. The challenge has been posted by Rara:

This week, we’re asking you to consider things from a different point of view — to walk a mile in someone’s shoes. 

Well, I thought, that sounds like a bit of a giggle. Let’s try it out.

In previous lives I have run a few IT Helpdesks. You know the ones: you call up and a spotty adolescent rolls his or her eyes and tells you to try switching it off and on again. Then you call back and they ask you to open the computer up and reinstall the hard drive without a safety net. I have to say this should never have happened on my watch, although I have indeed talked a customer through opening up a computer to remove a CD their colleague had pushed inside the case for some inexplicable reason. I may have used the phrase “It’s fine, it’s just like Lego” a little more than necessary but we all survived.

Naturally I planned to write something that I always try to instil in my technical support teams about getting into the customer’s shoes.

Then my sub-conscious mugged me.

I sat at the keyboard expectantly and imagined my voice droning on at the team about how no one is born knowing Command Line. God, I was boring. I have a new appreciation for the patience of technical support staff now, given they were able to put up with that and not hunt me down with pitchforks and torches; although what they get up to World of Warcraft is their business so long as it’s not on company time.

So my brain stared at me and I stared at the keyboard.

“OK, Brain,” I said. “What else then?”

And all of a sudden I saw a picture of a maple leaf fluttering to the ground. I blame it on the fact I have been watching “Due South” all week.

“On no,” I muttered. But Brain was relentless.

Back in the autumn I attended a creative writing workshop, and even wrote about the experience in this very blog. If you remember it, or read it again now (I’ll wait – OK, ready?), I was rather overwhelmed at the fact I read a piece of my imaginative writing out loud to real humans. Today the Brain has decreed I should take this further and share it with you.

So, with a deep breath, I will. Allow me caveats first – it was a 5 minute exercise, and no time to edit. If I could just ask that you keep the giggling to a minimum I would be grateful Thank you, as they say, kindly.

For the piece we were asked to write about an experience of autumn, I wrote about how I felt as a two year old when we visited my aunt and uncle in Canada, and I saw the beautiful Canadian Fall. It blew my little English mind and is one of my happiest memories. In it I am warm and snug, with the cold air nipping my nose and my uncle holding my hand and telling me about things called Maple Trees, and my eyes are having a party with the colours.

The reason I am including it for this challenge is that in my little girl noggin I wanted to be up in the treetops too, with those brightly coloured leaves which I think I confused with fairies.

Autumn leaf

I want to be an autumn leaf, high in the trees, brightening and crinkling in the frost and sunshine. I can see for miles across the tree tops and everywhere are other leaves as bright and shining as me. We are singing in the light and cold air, just waiting to leap from the tree into the wind, and dance down to earth in our millions. We twist and shiver in the wind but the tree won’t let us go. We cover her in glory. We have to move on.

Why not have a go at this challenge yourself, if you haven’t already done so? Getting into someone else’s shoes is like an out of body experience. Have fun!

Namaste

Five minutes

This is the story of how EBL came to be blogging for your terror and delight. Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin…

You see, last weekend I attended a writing day in nearby Pickering. I have never been to a writing day before so I was properly nervous about it. I had visions of reading out my drivelling word count to sniggers, and even roars, of derision; I felt I would never be brave enough to do that, but the very nice lady running the course assured me I would not have do any such thing if I didn’t want to. So off I went, admittedly with trepidation in my heart, but also hope and a flurry of antici…

…pation.

It’s a funny thing, my dears. I can happily witter on to you all with never a care in the world. You are patient and kind and tolerant. You don’t laugh in my face or make snide remarks in the post comments. I applaud you and thank you and am humbled by you.

I started playing about with this new blogging thing some years ago, largely to amuse myself, to understand the possibilities for work related projects, and to keep in touch with family and read their blogs. I had three or four blogs including this one, which is actually the newest. This is the secret blog. I didn’t tell anyone it was here and I used it to experiment a bit more. I hoped no one would read it, and to be fair, no one did. I still wrote in notebooks as well, and in fact I still do that now. Sometimes writing by hand on paper is simply the best way.

Then last Autumn I decided to give NaNoWriMo a pop. That all came about because I responded to a prompt or meme or something, and wrote a little story. The characters came alive in my head and a couple of people picked it up through the prompt tags and said nice things to me, which was a complete surprise and very frightening. Once in NaNoWriMo I made more links to people and by blogging my progress daily I got a few more comments and even a follower or two. Everyone was very nice and friendly and supportive so I felt braver and braver.

So when I saw the workshop advertised I decided to give it a go. I knew I would technically be free as I was due to have completed the software developments I was working on. So why not? I like to write and I like to get inspiration for writing. What could possibly go wrong?

Of course, when the day arrived I was trying to make up all kinds of excuses for not going. I have mentioned a couple of times recently that I am a workaholic. One of the effects this has on me is to make me completely anti-social away from work. I feel stripped right back to the core and very vulnerable. I don’t socialise because I am always working. When I am required to meet humans I find it very difficult. I was never a sociable being in the first place, and the workload has helped me to withdraw further. I have recently recognised this pattern and I want to change it.

So there I was on Saturday, making excuses. Sigoth saw right through that. When I couldn’t find food for lunch he found me something to eat. When I didn’t know what to take he talked me through packing a bag (notebook, pen, lunch, phone in case I wanted to come home, money). When I missed the bus he gave me a lift.

In I went and helped make tea for everyone as I was a few minutes early. Tea making is a great soother. Once I had a tray set up and a pot brewing I felt better. People arrived and had drinks. Biscuits appeared and we all sat around for half an hour not being dangerously inquisitive abut each other’s writing, but just discussing the apples and plums on the trees, and recipes for chutney. I could manage that.

Then we went into the main room to start and it was very peaceful and there was soothing music and a candle and we heard the rules about how the day would go and it all felt safe. I could manage that too.

The technique we used on the day was based on the techniques used by Joanne Klassen and in particular we followed the Just 5 Minutes technique. With this, as the name suggests, you time yourself to write for just 5 minutes, then stop. It can be any nonsense but the idea is to keep writing even so. This is similar to The Artist’s Way and various other authors and guides to writing, so I was familiar with the idea and felt comfortable doing it. Everyone else also settled down pretty quickly and soon we were all scratching away merrily in our notebooks, all very privately. I could even manage that.

Our theme, unsurprisingly, was Autumn, and we used a number of prompts and triggers to do a series of five minute writing exercises, then talked about them in small groups of four. Some people read out what they had written. Others, myself included, did not. I couldn’t quite manage that bit.

In the final session of the day we had the chance to share one thing we had written or learned during the day. Most people now felt able to read out a piece, and as more and more people in the circle did so I became increasingly determined to overcome my own anxiety. I wanted to manage that!

Suddenly I seized my chance and said I would read out my imaginative piece. Everyone waited as I sorted myself out and started to read. It was very quiet afterwards. My ears became attuned to stifled amusement. I didn’t dare look at anyone. Not managing.

Then one of the others said she would like to hear it again.

I nearly died with embarrassment. Was it so garbled they hadn’t understood it? It is true I get carried away with wild flights of fancy, and friends and colleagues are often left bemused by my non sequiturs. I read it again, not at all sure I wasn’t going to cry. This was far worse than blogging. It was desperately humiliating. There were real people in the same room hearing me read.

There was another silence, then someone said they really liked it and someone else said it made them shiver. I took that to mean a good thing. One of them asked to take my book and read it out loud again. How strange the words sounded in another voice, as she stumbled over my scribbles.

I did plan to share it with you here, but won’t. It was a few short sentences written in just five minutes. It is small and insignificant on the page. You had to be there.

What I really wanted to share with you was my amazement and gratitude for the generosity of others, and my journey from secret blogger to bold, brave writer who fearlessly shared a paragraph with humans in real-space. I wanted to thank the people who helped me feel safe in a group of strangers.

Many of you are confident, shining writers who don’t need to be told you produce marvellous works (although it never hurts to say it). However, some of us are not so confident, and if you, like me, have no faith in yourself, then take heart.

Live adventurously. Be brave, and trust the kindness of strangers to shine a light on your path to help you find your way.

Namaste

 

Bloggers for Peace: Better to have loved and lost…

Can you have a relationship with someone you have never met? Can you have a relationship with a favourite author? Certainly in the Age of Celebrity there appear to be many people who think they have a relationship with characters from TV programmes or films, or with actors, whom they never can meet.

I am fairly confident in assuming that many of you are avid readers. Certainly I believe it to be so when you are such great writers. It does not follow that if I read I can also write; however, I am certain that if you write well, you must read broadly too.  So regardless of any pretensions to writing well, I will admit I do read broadly and will further assume that this is true for you as well.

I love certain authors. I never interact with them directly – well, almost never. Recently I felt very daring and left a message on a top author’s blog expressing gratitude for his books and letting him know how much they had meant to me over the very many years I had been reading him, since the 1984 in fact.

Do you have a favourite genre? I have probably said before that I am a big science fiction fan. I may be repeating myself (I’m too lazy to check) but one of the reasons I fell into a long term relationship with a number of science fiction authors, in my devil-may-care, the-more-the-merrier, I-read-around-a-bit way, was that I read an essay/article by someone erudite. It may have been Brian Aldiss, I’m not sure, but what he said was that the reason science fiction was an interesting, even essential, genre was that it gave you space to explore really big and difficult questions in new ways without the baggage. You could look at relationships and society and history and science and politics and elitism and autocrats and racism and human rights and, when you get right down to it, what it means to be a human being, with freedom and honesty and integrity. If you wanted. He suggested that when you were writing in the real world, you were constrained by real world limitations and expectations and the status quo. Actually he might not have said any of that, but it’s what I took away from whatever it was I read.

Science fiction was exciting at an intellectual level, not just a boys’-toys (excuse me, chaps), Flash Gordon, shoot-the-aliens kind of way. It had a weight and heft that mattered. Plus I learned all my science from Star Trek (and my history from Jean Plaidy but that’s another story, quite literally).

Within the honoured throng of writers there is one to whom I was devoted, because he wrote about really positive possibilities. He confronted difficulties and he didn’t fall into some kind of dystopian nightmare, framed by Ridley Scott in rain and darkness (yes, I do mean Bladerunner – as if Philip K Dick wasn’t depressing enough in print). He saw people overcoming our current idiocies and taking science and prodding serious buttock with it until we had a society worth living in. There was also pain and despair and very dark humour, and exciting spaceship fights begging to be screened at an IMAX, and artificial intelligence that was cool and clever and actually quite human at the same time.

Obviously a humble purchaser of his books such as myself would never dream of crossing his shadow. He was too clever and cool and brilliant for the likes of me. I bought everything he published, science fiction or not, and it was all amazing (well, maybe one dud if I am truthful).

On 3rd April Iain Banks announced that he was unwell; that in fact he had been diagnosed with late stage gall bladder cancer.  I signed his message board to express my sorrow and appreciation.

On Sunday, 9th June, he died.

Can we have relationships with people we have never met. I’m not sure. Do we need reciprocity? Does his writing books and my consuming books represent more than symbiosis? And is symbiosis a relationship of a kind?

I don’t know, but I feel a loss, and am sad to think I will never read new books by him. There are fantastic new writers to meet yet, but each writer is unique and so cannot be replaced. Iain Banks’ warmth and humour and challenge will be hard to follow. He railed against stupidity and promoted compassion. He helped me think about what it means to be human. He wrote many wonderful things, but in summary they all come to this:

“Fuck every cause that ends in murder and children crying.”
Iain Banks, Against a Dark Background

Meanwhile, read other blogs participating in this month’s Bloggers for Peace Challenge:

http://everydaygurus.com/2013/05/28/monthly-peace-challenge-peace-at-home/

http://mylittlespacebook.wordpress.com/2013/06/07/what-do-duck-fights-have-to-do-with-peace/

http://cpgutierrez.wordpress.com/2013/06/11/accepting-the-challenge/#comment-2568

http://retiredruth.wordpress.com/2013/06/06/monthly-peace-challenge/

http://ponderingspawned.com/2013/06/11/sing-sweet-nightingale/

http://bloggers4peace.wordpress.com/2013/02/11/kozo-cheri-asks-that-you/

Namaste.