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.

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

 

Nordic knitting and inky fingers

Today I had a day off. I know, I know, I had all last week as well but that’s just the way of it. Today I used it for pottering about with creative projects. I haven’t provided a knitting update for a while either, and I know at least some of you are keen needlefolk.

Without further ado, this is the back of the jumper I am working on. The front is about a third done, and has grown much more quickly now I can see what I am doing after the laser treatment last week. Hurrah again for lasers!

nordic jumper

However, this morning I have been trying to puzzle out the script used for Old English. Newer readers may not have cottoned on to the fact that I am trying to learn Old English, that is the language of Alfred the Great and so on. It sounds beautiful and actually I think it looks rather beautiful too. You can see proper pictures on the British Library website, but this is an example from there of the poem “Beowulf”.

Beowulf manuscript

from the British Library website

Some years ago I did a calligraphy workshop and learned modern uncial. It’s the kind of script that gets used to denote Celtic, whatever that is. Certainly Celtic wasn’t a word used by the people often referred to as Celts. But that’s a rant for another day and today I am feeling too mellow to indulge. I had been practising the uncial (unciallating?) and playing with different inks and paper to see what worked best. The first ink I tried simply soaked into the paper so I got a really splotchy effect.

Blotchy Modern Uncial

Blotchy Modern Uncial

The lines are from the Battle of Maldon, a poem created to remember an actual battle which was probably the equivalent of the Spartan 300. Basically the local prince faced up to an invading Viking force with far fewer men behind him than he needed, then decided to let the foreigners have the advantage because that was more honourable and got slaughtered for his trouble. I may be being unfair to him, but if you are interested you can look it all up and decide for yourself. Meanwhile these lines were spoken as a rallying call by the prince’s aged retainer to the men after the prince was killed. They are about dying honourably in the face of overwhelming odds (which is of course what happened) and they are the lines that our teacher read to us when I was a mere sprig of a girl and they made me decide I wanted to learn Old English. Roughly translated they mean:

“Our courage shall be the greater, our hearts the stronger, our minds shall be the firmer, as our strength grows less.”

The problem I was having was that the uncial reference sheet I was given did not include the Old English characters for æ (a as in ash), þ (th as in thorn) or ð (th as in eth). Naturally I turned to the British Library to see how your actual Old English People wrote them and realised belatedly that the script was quite different. So then I spent the morning puzzling it out and by lunchtime I managed to produce the lines in something vaguely resembling the original script (with apologies to people who do know much more about this than me – it’s all a learning opportunity!).

hige_sceal

reinvented Old English script courtesy of EBL

And that’s what I did this morning.

How is your day going? If you have returned to work, as most of us must, I hope it was not too traumatic.

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

 

British-ness

The Sealed Knot

The Sealed Knot is a Civil War Re-enactment Group. When we talk about the Civil War we mean the one we had in the 17th century after which we gave up on republicanism as a bad job and set up a global empire instead. That turned out well.

I do understand that the rest of the world is not blessed with being British. In fact, I am not even sure whether I mean British or English when I say this. As a nation within a United Kingdom of other nations, I am so confused as to my national identity that I can’t even tell you where I am from. It all depends on context.

The question “Where are you from, EBL?” elicits one of the following responses:

If the question is asked by a foreigner and I am abroad, I will say British.

If the question is asked by a foreigner and we are in the UK, I will say English.

If the questioner is British and we are in England, I will say Yorkshire

If we are in South or West Yorkshire, I will say North Yorkshire

If we are in North Yorkshire, I will say “village near t’ Moors”

If we are close to my village I will say its name

If we are in my village I will say “I was born near London” and be subjected to much hilarity and ritual abuse. After that we all have a pint and take the piss out of Westies (people from West Yorkshire). It might be worth noting that the pint could comprise either tea or beer, but not usually both at the same time.

So imagine my joy at falling over a meme on Facebook about British Problems. I have to confess I am guilty of pretty much all of them, so now I know that I am in fact British.

It turns out there are lots of these on the web but I thought I would share a couple here as a warning to anyone who might be planning a visit to our sceptred isle, set in its silver sea.

I was looking forward to a nature documentary but when I sat down to watch it the narrator wasn’t David Attenborough

Honestly, if the national religion in this country is the NHS, then the national voice for all things furry, scaled, feathered or generally of the living persuasion is David Attenborough. You all know it’s true. The BBC exports enough of his stuff to the rest of you. His hushed tones allow you to share his reverence and awe for the natural world in all its quirky, stupendous glory. As a nation we are honoured to have him as one of our own.

If you visit us, however, we are not all like David. Oh no.

I live outside the UK so when I say “With all due respect” no one realises I’m insulting them

This is something visitors need to look out for. Listen for tone of voice or heavy sighs, and perhaps look for crossed arms or hands on hips. When Brits speak loudly and slowly it’s because they think you are slow of English or that you are a pain in the neck (or both).

Similarly

I phoned Netflix customer support, which is US based; they were so overly polite I thought they were being sarcastic and hung up

From this you can assume that customer service in the UK is of a different nature to that of the US. It might not be as bad as in Paris, but only because we keep apologising while stitching you up. I don’t know what your own country is like and I’m sure it varies in different parts of the world, but if you had a line representing the best and worst of US customer service, British customer service would be off the scale at the worst end. If we do it really well, you might not even know we are mocking you.

Don’t be fooled by the fact we apologise for everything either. In fact, I suspect the whole “Nation of Sorries” thing might take an entire new post, so that’s all for now. I need to go and tidy up before the cleaner gets here. I wouldn’t want her to find the house a mess.

How British are you? It’s not a matter of birth but of attitude!

Namaste

 

Christmas Story

Well my dears, Christmas looms upon us and I wish you the merriest of times. Father Christmas is already underway to the East, wise man that he is, and children off all ages are waiting with bated breath to find out if they have been judged naughty or good this year.

I wanted to share the Christmas story with you in a new format (or rather, in an old one!). I am not a Christian myself but I do like the story as a reminder of our need to give thanks for the world we live in and for the love we all receive daily, be it from family, friends or the universe herself.

Back in the period colloquially, and wrongly, known as the Dark Ages, the people living in southern Britain were converted to Christianity, and their leaders temporal and spiritual were keen to share the teachings of the Bible with them in their own language. King Alfred the Great was called Great for many reasons. He was a great warrior, who defeated the Viking invaders when all seemed lost. Never mind Leonidas and his Spartans; Alfred’s victory from the marshes of Somerset was pivotal to the evolution of our nation. But here at EBL Towers we purse our lips at stories of military derring-do and prefer to focus on other aspects of Alfred’s greatness. If you are interested and want to know more about him and his amazing daughter and grandson I can do no more than recommend Michael Wood’s recent three part series, of which at least two episodes are available on YouTube.

Episode 1 is here: http://youtu.be/0L2fYvguLL0

Episode 2 is here: http://youtu.be/huRPB10ghd8

For Alfred was also a great scholar and translated many key texts from classical authors, including parts of the Bible. I don’t think he worked on the gospels of the New Testament himself, preferring to keep to the Pentateuch and Psalms, but nevertheless others did. What I want to share with you today is the Christmas Story from Luke ch 2 v1-20 as read in many a church at this time of year. It was also read to the faithful in those days and in these words, and that very thought gives me the shivers. I can connect much more closely with Old English texts from 1000 years ago than with those from classical antiquity. The language is the root of my daily speech and it feels like home.

So here is the story, with the King James version underneath to aid reading. If I had had time I would have read it aloud for you but sadly I ran out of days.

Lucas II

Þis sceal on mydde-wintres mæsse-niht, to þære forman mæssan

To be read as the lesson on mid-winter’s night mass

1 Soþlice on þam dagum waes geworden gebod fram þam Casere Augusto, þæt eall ymb-hwyrft wære tomearcod

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.

2 Ðeos tomearcodnys waes aerest geworden fram þam deman Syrige Cirino.

(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)

3 And ealle hig eodon and syndrie ferdon on heora ceastre.

And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

4 Ða ferde losep fram Galilea of þære ceastre Nazareth, on ludeisce ceastre Dauides, seo ys genemned Bethleem ; forþam  þe he wæs of Dauides huse and hirede

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)

5 Þaet he ferde mid Marian þe him beweddod wæs, and wæs geeacnod.

To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

6 Soþlice wæs geworden, pa hig þær wæron, hyre dagas wæron gefyllede þæt heo cende.

And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.

7 And heo cende hyre frumcennedan sunu, and hyne mid cild-claþum bewand, and hyne on binne alede ; forþam þe hig næfdon rum on cumena-huse.

And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

8 And hyrdas wæron on þam ylcan rice waciende, and niht-wæccan healdende ofer heora heorda.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

9 Ða stod Dryhtnes engel wið hig, and Godes beorhtnes hym ymbe scan : and hig him myclum ege ondredon.

And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

10 And se engel him to cwæþ : Nelle ge eow ondrædan : Soþlice nu ic eow bodie mycelne gefean, se biþ eallum folce.

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

11 Forþam todæg eow ys Hælend acenned, se ys Dryhten Crist, on Dauides ceastre.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

12 And þis tacen eow byþ; Ge gemetaþ an cild hræglum bewunden, and on binne aled.

And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger

13 And þa wæs færinga geworden mid þam engle mycelnes heofenlices weredes, God heriendra, and þus cweþendra :

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

14 Gode sy wuldor on heahnysse, and on eorþan sybb, mannum godes willan.

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

15 And hit wæs geworden, þa þa englas to heofene ferdon, þa hyrdas him betwynan spræcon, and cwædon : Uton faran to Bethleem, and geseon þæt word þe geworden ys, þæt Dryhten us ætywde.

And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.

16 And hig efstende comon, and gemetton Marian, and losep, and þæt cild on binne aled.

And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

17 Ða hig þæt gesawon, þa oncneowon hig be þam worde þe him gesæd wæs be þam cilde.

And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.

18 And ealle þa þe gehyrdon, wundredon be þam þe him þa hyrdas sædon.

And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

19 Maria geheold ealle þas word on hyre heortan smeagende.

But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.

20 Ða gewendon ham þa hyrdas, God wuldriende and heriende, on eallum þam þe hig gehyrdon and gesawon, swa to him gecweden wses.

And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

Soþlice.

Amen

So now I wish to you – Glad Geol and Gesælig Niw Gear

The grown-ups speak again

I recently shared with you some of my family’s verbal peculiarities in the form of odd sayings that became part of the very fabric of life. Since then of course my brain has been bombarded by other sayings jostling for attention and asking me why I hadn’t picked them and saying it wasn’t fair and slamming doors. Some of the sayings have had to go to their rooms and think about what they did until they are ready to apologise. I explained to them they were letting the family down, they were letting me down, but worst of all, they were letting themselves down, somewhat like the inflatable child with the sharp pin. But that’s another story.

Time for more sayings I think. On the whole this batch of child-terrorising phrases probably helps to explain the damaged psyche that is EBL today. Allons-y!

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/3670504.stm

Don’t pull that face or the wind may change

Grizzly toddlers everywhere are subjected to this kind of verbal and psychological abuse. They are threatened with the prospect of a deformed and ugly face just when they most need a hug. Well, that’s the way it can sometimes seem.

I do remember that I was occasionally interested to see what kind of face I could mould, but never managed to keep it long enough to set, no matter how long I stood in the garden like a determined miniature gargoyle, chin thrust defiantly into the prevailing breeze. As a result I quickly uncovered the duplicity of this particular piece of adult intimidation, and also learned the implicit message that no one loves you if you are not pretty.

EBL is many things but you could not accuse her of prettiness.

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-image-beard-sailor-image29213076

Enough blue to make a sailor a pair of trousers

Another top saying from my grandmother, this particular phrase was utilised to acknowledge breaks in the cloud cover of England when bits of blue sky could peep through and make the end of winter seem a viable proposition. I don’t think it was intended to convey anything more than appreciation for a bit of decent weather, something of great significance in our soggy isles. At least, I never understood it to mean more. Who knows with grandmothers?

I never quite understood why sailors got the nice blue sky for garments, but it sounded pretty darn cool.

http://1hdwallpapers.com/amazing_stormy_sky-wallpaper.html

 

 

 

 

 

It’s a bit black over our Bill’s mother’s

Conversely my mother used this one when the sky was getting ominous with dark cloud and rain looked like it was on the way. And by rain I mean the proper stuff, not a puerile drizzle or heavy Scotch mist, but real, honest-to-deity-of-your-choice solid coat-soaking feet-squelching shoe-drenching hair-dripping pocket-filling neck-freezing rain.  The kind that, to coin another phrase, comes down in rods, possibly with cats and/or dogs implicated. Real English rain. It can go on for weeks like that. The phrase was employed with a certain degree of relish, as without such calamities we English have nothing to talk about and conversation while waiting at the bus stop can be terribly stilted.

Of course, I knew that one of my not-really-an-aunty Aunties had an attachment called Uncle Bill, and as our house looked out across a field to more houses I was convinced for years that his dear old mum lived in one of them. But we never visited. Probably because the wind had changed.

http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/news-opinion/brian-lee-recalls-unusual-traditions-5811698

It’s not the cough that carried him off, but the coffin they carried him off in

This one was one of my Dad’s, and he would trot it out whenever his delicate little flower was hacking her lungs out with that lovely catarrh-ridden, phlegmy liquidy noise only available to single-digit-aged children or heavy smokers; not mutually exclusive categories of course, especially in those days when as a six year old I could run an errand to the corner shop for my mother to get a pack of 20 John Player’s No. 6. You couldn’t do that now. It’s health and safety gone mad, I tell you.

So I’d cough up, my Dad would chirp up, and I’d be traumatised with thoughts of death until the cold cleared up, about three years later on average.

bedtime

Up the wooden hill to Bedfordshire and down Sheet Lane

Ah, the cosiness at the end of the day, that put right many of the preceding traumas. Bath done, teeth brushed, nightie donned, it was time to say goodnight and go to bed.

I didn’t go to sleep easily as a small child. When I was five I caught the measles and had three weeks off school because that was the quarantine period you had to go through. My grandmother was distraught as her own daughter had died at a similar age from measles and diphtheria. She sat up with me all night and every night and scared me half to death as a result, because clearly I was very ill, despite feeling quite feisty and rather bored because I wasn’t allowed to play with my friends.

After that was all over she stopped, but by then I couldn’t get to sleep on my own so my poor father had to sit with me every night until I nodded off. Usually he went first and started snoring very loudly, so I would climb over him and go downstairs to get my mother to come and wake him up again.

reading in bed

If possible I preferred to read in bed instead.

What bad stories did your parents use to try and pull the wool over your eyes?

Namaste