Dreams

 

Sit back. My dears, EBL is going to get all reminiscent.

Once upon a time, when the world was young, finding out information was difficult. There was no Google, if toy can believe such a thing and no Ask Jeeves, nor Lycos, nor even Excite. Not so much as a pixel of search engine goodness at the fingertips of even the most advanced computer scientist.

In those days EBL was a keen young thing at school and one day she had a lesson in English where the supply teacher was interesting. This in itself was shocking, with all due respect to Mrs P who was the usual teacher. Mrs P did her best but she was worn down by years of service to the cause of drumming Dickens and Hardy and Shakespeare into adolescent heads more interested in pop music and fashion and dancing. No one could sustain interest in the face of such barbarity.

The young supply teacher was fresh meat though and still had the dewy optimism of the newly qualified, all ready to change the world. So she talked to us about Old English poetry. I suspect my classmates do not recall this at all, but it struck a chord with EBL.  The chord was, however somewhat limited.

I remembered a fragment of verse because it sounded cool. I liked languages, even then, and it sounded interesting – English but not English. I knew it involved a battle. Well of course it did – it was Anglo Saxon poetry after all.

While I was nosing around my local library one day (those were places you could go to find books and borrow them, another feature of life now much reduced) I decided to see if I could find it again. There were no books on Anglo Saxon poetry in our little local library so I moved on and found one on Schiller which was pretty good, along with a copy of Candide by Voltaire. Ah, A-Levels.

So I left it alone.

When I got to university I asked friends who were studying English if they knew what it was. They blinked at me and muttered about The Faerie Queen and drank a few more pints.

So I left it alone.

One day while the Offspringses were older and studying and the Internet had been invented I searched on-line. But there was little to see and most of it was on UseNet which was a wild place not suited to discussing Anglo Saxon poetry.

So I left it alone.

When I was older I spent some time in another library, in a bigger town, while the Offspringses were in the children’s section, looking for Anglo Saxon poetry. But there wasn’t any still.

So I left it alone.

One day a friend mentioned the same poem and asked if I knew what it was, and I had to say I knew of it but not its name or date or even really its subject – beyond a battle, which wasn’t much help.

So I left it alone.

One day much later, when it was a new millennium and I was a little bored and Google had been invented I thought I would try again. The incredible thing is that even after all the years (probably around 35 years had passed by now) I still remembered the phrases and almost the spelling. And the other incredible thing is Google.

Google worked out I meant “hige sceal the heardre, heorte the cenre” when I typed in “hige sceal heorte” – that is one fine algorithm.

Google found the poem.

So I didn’t leave it alone.

I was able to read about it and to read the text in modern and Old English. I fell in love.

I found a study group of like-minded souls and have discovered more about this period of history and had incredible joy from sharing it and learning more about both the history and the language, the culture and the literature. I have met lovely people and been to brilliant events and read amazing books.

Yesterday I went to a course at the University of York on Icelandic and Norse sagas, which inter-relate to the Anglo Saxon period very tightly (Vikings, duh!), and learned how Skaldic Poetry is composed and fell in love again.

This little shoot of happiness has been growing and growing after long years fallow.

Sometimes we have to wait until the time is right.

Never forget your dreams. May the time be right for yours soon.

Namaste.

 

 

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Old knickers and new friends

Bus

A bus in summer

At this time of year, waiting for the early morning bus at 0645, every day I notice the changing light.

This morning, for example, I had enough light to make out the dim, grey footpath and so avoid the drifts of last year’s old leaves and follow the dips and falls of the tarmac without stumbling.

Waiting for my bus I listened to a cacophony of birds; mostly their calls are a mystery to me, but I am able to pick out the owl from a nearby farm and the cockerel from another. They hoot and crow in some kind of avian version of duelling banjos, while their cousins of hedge and field whistle and warble freestyle feathery jazz.

On the bus I watch the palette of the sky build from charcoal through pastels to acrylic blues. The pink and lilac and lemon drain away as the day begins, leaving only a passing memory. Most of the other passengers are in thrall to small screens of worldwide information and miss the world unfolding.

The cars parked by the roadside are coated in crispy shells of frost this morning, which looks very pretty until you need to clear the windscreen and persuade the door to open. Early drivers scrape unenthusiastically, vandalising the intricate lace-work as their breath and the car’s exhaust steam in unison.

I wish the driver would turn the heating up, or at least not leave the door open while we wait at the bus station. She is warm in her cabin and forgets we are exposed. My feet are unresponsive blocks of ice, although once in the office I will regret my winter layers.

Off the bus at last, fumbling with ticket and lanyard and lunchbox and phone, walking briskly to thaw my feet and warm my body, thinking ahead to tea and logging in and emails, meetings, databases thinking ahead to people around me and cake shared and stories told.

A P Green Knickers front 300

“I can’t believe I’m almost twenty one!” said in the horrified tone of the young, gazing upon the serried ranks of aged oblivion before her, not saying but thinking “Will I end up like them?”

“Twenty one? I’ve got knickers at home older than that!” exclaims the crone to my right.

We three crones exchange glances of misty-eyed remembrance of being horrified at twenty-one.

All three of us roar and cackle, then I answer the phone on script.

“Crone Team, EBL speaking, How can I help?” while beside me the other two rock in silent appreciation of our wit and wisdom.

Rounds of tea mark out the day, then back on the bus, rewinding the morning journey, light fading backwards and more smudges of coloured sky, richer red and purple and apricot before the light fails altogether. Yet still there is enough light this evening to avoid the drifts of last year’s leaves and follow the dips and falls of the tarmac without stumbling.

At home, kicking off shoes, pulling on pyjamas, catching up on all the adventures of the day. A letter from the tax office claims I owe them money. My payslip includes a tax rebate of money they owe me. The two amounts are similar and will take time to sort out for no gain to either of us, but it could be worse.

I sit with hair washed, snuggled in my dressing gown and am thankful for a day of many small pleasures, of old knickers and new friends.

May your days be full of the small joys that keep us sane.

Namaste.

 

DPNs

I recently changed my working hours so that I now work four long days and have Mondays off. It’s marvellous – although my workday evenings are now compressed into the following: stretch – eat – speak briefly to Sigoth – sleep. Usually I take the Monday to do jobs that need attention, which may be anything from sorting out a bill to (more commonly) catching up on jobs I have agreed to do for my local Quaker meeting. Sigoth also uses Monday for his Quaker jobs and so the days formerly known as “Monday” are now called “Quakerday” in EBL Towers. However, this weekend we spent much of Saturday and Sunday being Quakerly, so this Monday I am taking time out officially to do Leisure.

As a result I can proudly announce that today I shall be mostly knitting with toothpicks.

Well, that’s what it feels like. Youngest Offspring has requested a jumper and so that is what he will receive if it kills me. The one he wants is this one:

The thing is it requires 3mm double pointed needles for the rib.

Now, I love circular knitting. No seams to sew up. But I am not happy using double pointed needles (DPNs). It’s like wrestling with half an octopus that has porcupine in its family tree, an octopine as it were. It’s scratchy and jabby and catches in my own sleeves and requires my fingers to bend in inhuman directions. Doing such digital gymnastics with the slender 3mm variety feels like a nightmare involving a speed-eating competition at the kind of Chinese restaurant where they won’t give you knives and forks even when you ask nicely and admit you are an inadequate human.

This is what I am working with.

I swear - toothpicks!

Half an octopine (or possibly a porcupus)

See what I mean?

Now I know that some of you out there will be massively competent at DPN-whispering. I admit I am slightly less likely to twist the first row and produce a Mobius Strip using them instead of a circular needle. I admit they look cool and entitle the user to claim a minimum of + 3 Knitting Ability at a Knitting Master’s Convention. Yet with all that admittedness, it’s still enough to drive a body to crochet, where only one needle is involved; although somehow that’s almost as bad. As George Orwell said, two needles good, four needles (or, alternatively, one) bad.

Suffice it to say I am most keenly anticipating finishing the rib of the second sleeve and bidding the toothpicks farewell.

Do you have this kind of love-hate relationship with your hobbies? After all I am supposed to be doing this for fun, but there are parts of the process (and I find this is true of most of my other hobbies as well) which really make my heart sink.

Namaste.

Knitting mojo

While I am away in York, through the miracle of technology, and scheduling software, I thought I would keep you company by telling you about my knitting. Let the good times roll.

It has been a while since I did much knitting, as my head has been in a different plane of existence form my hands, and I haven’t been able to concentrate on anything as tricksy as counting or remembering whether to knit or purl a stitch. I am pleased that the msits seem to be clearing at last, and I have now achieved two important goals.

The first was to finish my Killing jumper. For those unfamiliar with the garment in question (I believe there may be some people left in this unfortunate position), I am referring to a particular jumper which was the star of a Danish crime drama a few years ago. Naturally I set out to create my own copy, being a fan and all. It’s a pretty basic pattern but it was first time I knitted anything entirely in the round (no seams, just tubes) and I had a bit of a job sorting out how to keep roughly to the pattern while increasing and decreasing. I hope I got away with it – at least I now feel happy about a) making another next year in reversed colours, and b) wearing the article in public.

Look out if you are a Danish criminal - EBL is now fully equipped to bring you to justice

Look out if you are a Danish criminal – EBL is now fully equipped to bring you to justice

The second important thing was finally learning to crochet. This means I can now crochet about as well as the average crochet-enabled 5 year old, which is more than I have ever managed before. I went on a course in November, but understood even less than I thought I knew. My poor saintly aunt had tried to teach me as a child but it never worked. Somehow my brain didn’t bend that way. It’s like trying to write with the wrong hand; I’m just not ambidextrous.

But then something switched on in the grey matter and suddenly it made sense and I managed a circular object. It was untidy and uneven and ungood, but it was a real thing and I was very happy to have got that far.

crochet by EBL

A trumpet against the nay-sayers! This old EBL got there in the end

So this EBL learned a new trick against all the odds and almost 50 years of evidence to the contrary. Who says miracles can’t happen?

Have you ever had a sudden epiphany like that? Do tell!

Namaste.

Snow family

While other things are going on, here is something I made earlier.

snow family

The Offspringses were colour-coded as children so they all knew whose was which flannel, toothbrush, sunhat etc. Here we all are as snowpersons. Sigoth is a huge Dr Who fan so he got the cool scarf because I didn’t knit a fez and bow-tie this time around. Maybe next year…because bow-ties are cool. As are fezzes.

Happy holidays!

Yule greetings

My dears, the season of mid-winter is upon us (in the Northern hemisphere at least) and so my heart turns to blessings and for the new year. You may celebrate it on 1st January or on 22 December, whichever you prefer. You can go the full Wicca if you like, and remind me that new year was on 1st November. It takes all sorts, and thank goodness for it.

This year Sigoth and I will be celebrating more pagan roots by burning a traditional yule log at mid-winter before welcoming the Offspringses back for Christmas festivities. We’ll have any celebration going at the dark of the year.

So it’s time for the Wassail Cup, my dears. The traditional Wassail is derived from the Old English phrase “wes hal” meaning “be you hale/well.” It’s like “farewell”; they tended to say it as a goodbye.

With that in mind I wondered if you might care for a little traditional reading, taken from the Anglo-Saxon Bible? It turns out that Luke vs 1-20, the traditional Christmas story, sounds rather lovely in the old tongue, and I discovered I could mangle it onto a recording for sharing with you.

I apologise now to scholars for my terrible pronunciation. Let’s call it dialect, shall we? Yes, let’s.

So now for a little journey back in time to a 10th century church in the English countryside, and a well-known story.

Happy New Year  to you all. Peace on earth and goodwill to all beings.

Namaste

Funny old world

confusedIt’s a funny old world

What I mean to say, my dears, is that I am somewhat bemused by the world and its quirky little challenges.

Of course the teacher at the weekly Buddhist meditation class I attend would remind me that it is not the world, of course, but my mind interpreting it. I obviously choose to live in a state of confusion. I’m not sure what that tells you about me, but there it is. Buddhists have been around a long time so I’m sure they know what they are talking about.

The particular bemusement of the moment relates to the fact that as my life improves I seem to be getting more and more stressed. Funny indeed, EBL! You funny old girl.

It goes like this.

I am not currently depressed. Of itself, this is highly unusual and represents a much-desired goal.  Who would want to be depressed? But in a way I am not sure what is left of me when you take that old black dog away.

Over the busy summer the family has celebrated a number of achievements. All of the Offspringses now have permanent jobs – at least, as permanent as any job can be. They all have found places to live, which makes us all happy as we generally are of the opinion that living at home with one’s parents is not the way to go. We all need to live our own lives. And we enjoy time together as a treat.

My mother has deteriorated, it is true, but she moved into residential care. And once over the shock has been enjoying herself immensely. Recently she has had to go into hospital to have her toe amputated due to diabetes-related lack of circulation. This is not good news, of course, but she is in that happy state of mind where it is not distressing her, because she doesn’t know what is going on. She does like the fact that she is fussed and coddled and made many cups of tea. The NHS runs on tea, naturally, and it is what makes the system the best in the world: tea, free at the point of delivery.

I am struggling to cope with all the changes. A house to myself and Sigoth, no need to be home to feed other people; space for a study after years of balancing paperwork on laps and coffee tables and the floor; space for my burgeoning stash of wool; free time to go out to see friends or get involved in new activities; a lie in on Saturday morning. All good of course, but all change. And as we know, all change is loss, even change for the better.

I am also facing the loss of my mother. While she is doing quite well, any operation is risky and she is really quite frail nowadays. She may not be the mother I knew as a child, but nevertheless she is my mother, for better or worse, in sickness or in health.

So I am stressed.

I am a funny old thing. So much wealth can cause me so much confusion.

If all change is loss, as I think it is, what are the changes that cause you the most bepuzzlement? How do you make sense of it all? Really, it would help me to know!

Meanwhile I’ll carry on meditating and perhaps if the Buddhist teacher says it often enough, I might finally understand how my mind deludes me.

Namaste.