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.

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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.

The Mind Unravelling

This weeks Rarasaur has prompted us to post about Saudade.

Saudade is a Portuguese word that describes a deep emotional state of nostalgic longing for an absent something/someone that one loves. Moreover, it often carries a repressed knowledge that the object of longing will never return.

It has been a trying couple of weeks and somehow picking up Rara’s latest prompt for the Promptless felt only too right. Some of my difficulties lately have been dealing with my mother.  I have mentioned before that she has dementia – vascular dementia in fact. Of course, she is getting worse. That is the inevitable reality. My feelings about this are mixed, because while it means trying to care for an irritating, demanding, sometimes slightly smelly and always confused old lady, at the same time I look at her and remember the mother-that-was.

My mother was not the greatest in the world. She made quite a hash of mothering in fact. However, she’s not a bad person and she deserves some respect, the same as anyone.

This week I had a Big Meeting with the managers from the carers’ company that looks after her and gets her up in the morning. They get her washed and dressed, and give her breakfast and drugs. Later they come and give her lunch and more drugs. They are patient and well-meaning, but they also get things wrong sometimes. We have now agreed some new rules for my mother’s care, which I hope will get over those last few glitches. One of the things I said I would do is write down a mini-biography of my mother to help the carers know more about her and try to prompt her to reminisce.

These are some of the better memories that I have left for the carers to use as prompts.

  1. She is a genuine Cockney and proud of it. She was born within the sound of Bow Bells, although the family moved away when she was quite little.
  2. She was a miracle baby, who was born weighing only a couple of pounds. They wrapped her in cotton wool, quite literally, and she was fed milk from the ink dropper of a fountain pen. Her Dad held her in the palm of his hand, she was so tiny.
  3. She is also very proud of her Dad, who was an Inspector in the Metropolitan Police. He had a white horse she used to pet in the stables.
  4. DON’T MENTION THE WAR. She finds it a frightening memory. If she talks about the sanitised version it’s fine but don’t ask about the Blitz. She got very upset when we went to the War Weekend at Pickering and we had to bring her home.
  5. On the other hand, Forties music and fashion are popular. She likes Glenn Miller and The Andrews Sisters (but never Vera Lynn – see (3) above). She used to like to jitterbug with American soldiers in dance halls. She got thrown out once for it.
  6. Other music she likes include: Perry Como, Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, James Last. Easy listening kind of music.
  7. She was a star pupil at the Pitman’s Secretarial College with advanced qualifications in typing and shorthand. She was very good at it.
  8. She married Bert in 1957 and he died in 1992, very suddenly. She only has one child.
  9. She worked as a PA at Petters where they built Hawker Siddeley aircraft engines, then at Siemans.
  10. She has been to Canada to visit relatives near Montreal a few times. They are dead now, sadly, but the trips were happy memories.
  11. After retiring she worked at the chemist near home for Mr Patel. She really enjoyed working there and meeting people. Particularly she liked teasing the young men who came to buy condoms.
  12. Her hobbies were knitting, embroidery and reading. She has some knitting with her now but I am not sure she would be quite safe with embroidery kit. Obviously she also gets books from the library. She likes family sagas best – Maeve Binchy, Catherine Cookson, that kind of thing.

There were sadder memories I didn’t leave for the carers as there is no point in trying to remind my mother about them.

  1. She was sent to a convent school where the nuns told her she was stupid and put her in a corner with a dunce’s hat.
  2. Her parents rowed and separated.
  3. Her mother died in her arms a few days before her 16th birthday.
  4. Her father remarried and she had a step-mother she disliked immensely and a step-brother she didn’t get on with.
  5. Her cousin, whom she was very close to, was shot down over the Med in 1942 and never found.
  6. Just as she was about to be married Dad was involved in a massive accident which left him disabled. Their entire future was rewritten. The wedding was delayed by years while he recovered.
  7. I am named after her best friend, who died of cancer at the age of 21.
  8. She had a miscarriage and lost her second baby; I am an only child.

My mother is not coming back.

The thing is, now that she is mentally absent, I have no family to share these memories with. Sigoth has a large and lovely family and they are the ones my children have known the best. I have happy memories of my family when I was young but no one else remembers those things now. I miss our own traditions – London working class traditions – singing the songs performed later by Chas ‘n’ Dave, doing the hokey cokey, mincing up the Sunday roast on Monday for Shepherd’s Pie, making jam, shelling peas, helping out in Dad’s shop….

I have many happy memories and I am nostalgic for my childhood, but I can’t share it with my mother any more. Neither can she talk about her childhood because she has forgotten it too. I know more about her childhood than she does now because she has unwound too far.

“You can’t go back home to your family, back home to your childhood, back home to romantic love, back home to a young man’s dreams of glory and of fame, back home to exile, to escape to Europe and some foreign land, back home to lyricism, to singing just for singing’s sake, back home to aestheticism, to one’s youthful idea of ‘the artist’ and the all-sufficiency of ‘art’ and ‘beauty’ and ‘love,’ back home to the ivory tower, back home to places in the country, to the cottage in Bermude, away from all the strife and conflict of the world, back home to the father you have lost and have been looking for, back home to someone who can help you, save you, ease the burden for you, back home to the old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting but which are changing all the time–back home to the escapes of Time and Memory.”
Thomas Wolfe: You Can’t Go Home Again

The memories, happy or sad, are only mine now, for just a little while longer.

Namaste.

The cost of painting a hallway

Time for the next edition of Prompts for the Promptless courtesy of Rarasaur.

True Cost is a term for the often-overlooked, comprehensive expense of something, including the time-related and emotional costs.

Example:  You can purchase a cat for money.  Let’s say $100.  That’s the basic cost.  The True Cost of the cat, though, is in the litter box, food bowl, cat carrier, food, vet bills, litter, the time spent on the cat, shirts that are torn by tiny kitten claws, the worry you experience when the cat is ill, and the grieving if the cat passes away before you.

Back in the closing decade of the last century, when running their campaign for an election, the Labour party accused Margaret Thatcher of knowing “the cost of everything and value of nothing”. The quote originated with Oscar Wilde as his definition of a cynic.  It was unsuccessful as a campaign but it is often still quoted when old fogies such as myself gather around the fire to reminisce about the Eighties and how terrible they were.

They were hard times, and we felt like we were living in a Dickens novel. Indeed, Victorian values were being explicitly quoted as superior to modern ones, to which those of us somewhat to the left of fascism retorted sniffily “What? Like children up chimneys and syphilis?”

I can tell you now, my dears, there is not much forgiveness for that woman and her policies in my shrivelled heart. They hurt me directly and painfully, and now “Dave” is trying to rehabilitate the party and appear cuddly, while underneath we see the sharks circling as the media campaigns rabidly against skivers and scroungers and people who don’t fit a mythical norm.

You will have gathered my tendency is to the left wing. I am a vegetarian, pacifist, feminist, non-profit-employed, hippy wannabee. What do you expect? It’s in the person spec.

So, moving on…

I am intrigued as to whether, for the purposes of this post, we can equate “true cost” with “value”. I think I know about true cost. I deal with it daily for my job. “It looks like the development of that functionality costs X,” I tell my bemused colleagues, “but in fact the true cost is Y once you factor in the implementation team, the support, maintenance, and staffing costs.”

At first I thought cost and value were the same. Then that old demon, the other hand, stirred, twitched and finally said, through mixed metaphorese, “Wait a minute, isn’t true cost just cost with everything included – gross, not nett? Quantitative. Value is all the touchy-feely stuff you tree-huggers go on about – the so-called qualitative stuff that’s a waste of time!” (My other hand is very much on the right.)

I hate to admit it, but on this occasion my right hand may have a point.

I am aware that given my busy life-style and fortunate financial position, I will sometimes pay someone else to do a job I could do myself but don’t choose to do because my time is more valuably spent eg blogging or writing village quizzes or visiting with friends or family. I might pay a decorator to paint the hallway so I am free to spend the weekend with a friend. Somewhere in my head I have calculated that (a) the cost (true and / or quoted) is acceptable and (b) the value is favourably weighted. To my right hand, I would say something like “The cost of paying someone to do this is less than the cost of paying me to do this because, while paint is paint, my time is more expensive.”

Well, how very dare I? As if I could paint the hall as well as someone who decorates for a living! Perhaps I also recognise, but do not admit (least of all to that snarky right hand!) that he paints better than I do so I get a higher quality result.

How do I put a cost to the pleasure I feel in a well=painted hall against the pride in a hall painted with blood, sweat, emulsion and tears? That’s where value, and personal priorities, both enter the equation. I might paint badly but feel the integrity of a self-painted hallway is higher. Or I might decide that if a job is worth doing, it is worth doing well, and so get a professional in to do it.

Yes, the cost of my hallway went up with paying Gary to do it. My satisfaction with the end product is the value, and for me that was greater by getting Gary in.

Thanks, Gary. It looks great!

Namaste.

Counterintuitive can be Counterproductive

Fiction is a mirror of the collective soul, and so the narratives we choose to tell and to read present an agreed version of reality we decide to share. Our shared version of reality becomes actuality, and we find it uncomfortable and inconvenient when other versions intrude. Sometimes those versions, underpinned by science, become submerged in the groundswell of opinion holding to our selected consensus.

In this week’s Prompt for the Promptless, Rarasaur suggests writing about counterintuition.

Counterintutition is a seemingly simple concept– it represents a truth that is contrary to common sense or the expectations of intuition.

Some examples of counterintuitive situations: You burn calories when you’re sleeping, flailing around is exactly the wrong thing to do when drowning, and beautifully speckled dart frogs can be poisonous to the touch.

On the same day, I read a guest post by Elizabeth Bear on Charlie Stross’s blog about how we think we know certain things, but it turns out we don’t. It was a prime example of how we have rewritten reality and made it counterintuitive as a result.

You probably think you know what a nuclear explosion sounds like.

You’re probably wrong.

The first footage released of hydrogen bomb tests was silent. A foley was dubbed in, using a standard explosion or cannon sound effect repeated to form the familiar continuous, ominous rumble. (If you think about this, it’s pretty obvious that the footage most of us are used to is dubbed, because audio and visual are simultaneous–and these films are shot from miles away from the blast site.)

Collectively we have made the world of known scientific learning one of mystery and furious, opinionated debate. It irritates my Inner Pedant that space battles on TV are chock-full of explosions. They claim in space no one can hear you scream, and they are right. They just don’t demonstrate it so everyone carries on thinking space and vacuums transmit noise just like air.

Equally it’s a guilty pleasure to watch a space battle where not all the ships are oriented the same way up.

More importantly though, if we make scientific discovery a matter of opinion instead of an accepted best description of reality (until we get a better theory – because that is how science works), then we end up with creationism and climate change deniers and all kinds of crazy.

Fiction is a fantastic escape. It’s a means of exploring other possibilities, of examining the human condition and sharing emotional connections. It is not a text book for how the world works. Demarcation, people!

So while certain truths may be counterintuitive, that may be nothing more than a failure of current understanding, When it is caused by conscious manipulation of known facts about the  ‘verse then I call it out as fabrication and mythologizing, and demand quality of imagination.

The universe is amazing enough, and has mystery enough, without us compounding our ignorance on purpose.

<Steps down from soap box and shuffles aside>

It’s a beautiful Reality. Enjoy it as it is, without the face paint.

Namaste.

Eleven Questions

Fish of Gold recently posted eleven questions, should you choose to answer them. Well, they were kind of fun questions, so I thought I would give them a pop. The alternative was to rant about Beeching, seeing as yesterday was the 50th anniversary of his report’s publication and the devastating effects are still crippling people in rural communities today. Ut it wouldn’t have been as much fun.

So take a deep breath, and here we go with something more convivial. Brew up some tea and relax for a while with me while I ramble.

  1. Do you remember what it was like to be short? I don’t mean adult short, but kid short, like 2 feet tall. (I don’t that’s why I’m asking.)

This is probably why I decided to take these questions. I have a freakish memory, and my earliest is hanging onto the fireguard because I am wobbly on my feet still. I know that might apply to any age where alcohol or drugs are accessible, but in this case I was also quite tiny and not at all like Alice down the rabbit hole. I remember gazing up at the giant furniture and letting go of the fireguard, and then my mother whooshing in and grabbing me and I flew up into the air and all the furniture was below me. It was a bit like the feeling on a swing when you go really high and your tummy gets butterflies. My mother says I learned to walk when I was 14 months old.

  1. How tall are you?

I am only a few inches tall when lying down.

  1. What is your favorite genre of movies?

I am old fashioned enough to enjoy plot, character and good scripts. However, exploding helicopters can make all difference. I would often take “The Princess Bride” as one of my top films, but also “Casablanca” and “Die Hard”.

  1. Do you drive to work or take public transportation? How long does it take you?

I work at home (smug face). Otherwise I use public transport to get to Head Office which takes about 2 or more hours. Until the last few months I have not been able to see well enough to learn to drive. If things go well maybe I will.

  1. What is your favorite moment of an average work day? For example, mine is getting home to see my dog.

I like it when either I finish a thing or get given a new thing. I like to feel the satisfaction of completing something, or the excitement of a new project I can start planning out. I do actually enjoy my job! It has its moments which are a pain, but on the whole, it’s scary-fun, like going high on a swing.

  1. What was your favorite candy as a kid? Is it different now that you’re an adult?

There were horrible sweets when I was little. People get nostalgic about Fruit Salads and Bootlaces and Black Jacks and Flying Saucers, but I shudder now. At the time I knew no better and the sugar rush was fab. Now I like little pieces of fancy chocolate – just one small piece a day is fine, although I might take a second in extremis.

  1. If you could pick one food item to eat as much as you want without any health consequences for the rest of your life, what would you pick?

Fancy chocolate is a contender, for sure, but I do love cheese. There are so many types and tastes! When I was little a delicatessen opened in town, and my Dad would buy a new cheese every Wednesday for him and me to try out. It was fun, although some of them were disgusting!

  1. What actor or actress would play you in the story of your life?

I’d like Meryl Streep but suspect I would be best with Jennifer Saunders.

  1. How far do you live from where you were born?

About 242 miles, according to Google. However, the hospital was 9 miles from where my parents lived, and their house is 241 miles from my house now. Do I need to triangulate? I only did Geography O-Level, and that was mostly colouring in. I thought these were going to be fun and now I’m orienteering!

  1. I’m going to write a check to your favorite charity. To whom should I make it out?

Well, I should think so after all that geography! Thank you kindly. Make it out to Mind, please.

  1. Do you like your first name or do you wonder what the H your parents were thinking?

I absolutely hate my name. With. A. Passion. My mother was going to call me a sensible name, until she had a dream about her dead friend and I was named after her. She had a freak name. So I got a freak name, which meant I was teased at school, and I was named after a woman who died aged 21 from cancer. Way to go.

Well, that ended badly. Apologies for that; perhaps I should have stuck with Beeching. If you are thinking of naming a child, I recommend a plain and common name, and then they can find their own unique soubriquet themselves, if they want one.

EBL – educating the nation’s parents since 1962…

Thanks to FOG for a great set of questions!

Thanks to everyone for reading.

Namaste.

 

Love in stitches

Rarasaur’s latest Prompt for the Promptless is:

Meraki [may-rah-kee]  This is a word that modern Greeks often use to describe doing something with soul, creativity, or love — when you put “something of yourself” into what you’re doing, whatever it may be.

When we first moved into our current house, just over 10 years ago, we inherited an Aga with it. The poor old thing needed some love itself, but was still giving it out. Agas cook love into food, did you know? The first meal we cooked on the Aga for the Offspringses was sausages and mash. That is a meal of love right there. Interestingly, one of the Offspring opined that they liked the sausages because they “taste just like Grandma’s.” Grandma, you will have guessed, also has an Aga so whatever she cooks tastes better by default.

So we said it was because they were made with love.

TDalek_jumperhose of you who have read a few other posts from me will know I occasionally take up the needles. Knitting is a way of weaving love into the world .

The picture jumpers I made for the Offspringses when they were small, and even ones when larger, were warmer than shop jumpers because they were made with love.

It’s a well-known fact that home-made jumpers, even (or especially) of the Mrs Weasley variety, are snugglier.

weasley_jumpers

The Offspringses used to ask how we could give them all our love in their Christmas cards, when we gave all our love to each of them. They were logical and mathematically sound Offspringses. I fear. We did our best, but rationality kept breaking through. I blame the schools.

“Because love is infinite,” we told them, “and the more you give the more you have to give, to everyone.”

And so it was and is. No matter how long the arms.

Namaste.