A funny thing happened on the way to the office

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Well my dears, here’s a strange to-do! The eagle-eyed among you will have noticed that in my last post I included a photo of my legendary toothpick knitting challenge. To be fair I didn’t think many of you would look at it closely, but that just teaches me a lesson, good and proper.

It happened like this.

The day after I posted my whinge abut DPNs, I had to go across to Head Office for a Very Important Meeting. Naturally I sprang from my bed in the grey and chilly dawn, as eager as a squirrel after acorns, bright eyed and bushy tailed. I bustled in and out of hallways and showers and kitchens configuring breakfast, clothing and toiletries (not necessarily in that order). Within the hour I was booted, suited and ready to go, and so I went. Most importantly I took with me my briefcase  containing my knitting, along with some papers, tickets for the train and my phone.

The morning train to Leeds is a proper caution, packed with giggling schoolchildren from the kinds of families that can afford to send their children miles away to schools where the teachers may or may not have chins. Apparently commuting form the age of 11 makes a man of you; a very tired man, it must be said, but such is life. Then there are the grey-haired 30-somethings who toil in the industrial heartlands of York, wrangling whippets and wrestling puddings for a fiver a go. In addition the keen observer may note bespectacled academics heading for Leeds and the one and only EBL.

I found my seat and started to knit. There’s no mobile signal so emails and phone calls are out of the question. Knittingis the only answer, as in so many scenarios. The lack of signal doesn’t stop the kiddies trying, and we all enjoy being lulled by the endless rounds of “Benedict? Benedict? Can you hear me?” which punctuate the carriage air in tones of constant amazement, as if the Howardian Hills only arrived last night and the phones have always worked before.

The other thing punctuating the air that morning, or perhaps I should say glutinating (as in making it glutinous), was a perfume. Somebody, probably a female, was wearing a year’s supply of Rose Garden Extreme, and generously sharing it with the rest of us. I can only assume she, or possibly he, let us not make gendered assumptions, had had an unfortunate incident before leaving home and not had time to rectify the damage.

Anyway, I was breathing through my mouth and trying to think of fresh air and open skies, when a voice enquired hesitantly:

“Do you write that blog?”

I ignored it, obviously, because who would respond to that kind of a question at 7.32 in the morning? A nutter. That’s who.

The voice repeated its interrogation, adding “I saw your knitting. I recognised the wool marker and stitch counter.”

Well, that made it alright then.

I looked up to meet the eyes of a mousy individual in a dark wool coat and carrying a rather bedraggled back-pack. She leaned across the table and added “I really liked your post.”

Obviously an individual of sophistication and distinction was concealed by an outwardly anodyne appearance, and not the murderous serial killer I had initially assumed.

Apparently she lived not too far from me, and worked at one of the hotels just outside Leeds as a catering manager. I vaguely recognised her form other commuting days; the crowd is pretty much the same year in, year out. We had a very pleasant time swapping tales of stitches, websites and TV shows we both enjoyed, although I struggled to forgive her for “Call the Midwife” and I suspect she was confounded by my passion for “Waking the Dead”. We both agreed on the wonderful “Wolf Hall” though, as does anyone sane. It’s fiction, get over it.

It was rather strange meeting someone who effectively knew more about me than I did about them. I admit I felt a little vulnerable. I mean, I don’t use my birth-certified name here, in case you wondered, but I suppose it wouldn’t be hard to work it out if you wanted. Some of you do in fact know me in the human world anyway. Nevertheless I felt a ambushed, bamboozled, embarrassed and quite stressed.

In short my fanfollowerstalker and I chatted until we got to Garforth, when inexplicably my new found friend had to depart. Does anyone get off at Garforth when heading west? Really? Why?

That was when I knew I had fallen asleep and it was time to wake up and face the day. It was like that moment in “Dallas” – which I never watched, but even I have heard about.

It turned out I had no fanfollwerstalker after all. I felt some relief but also a little piece of my heart broke. How contrary!

Suppose you were suddenly famous (or else, remember the time just before you became famous). How would you cope when the first person come sup and asks for an autograph, metaphorically or literally?

Namaste.

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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.

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.

 

Excuses

Did you miss me? I know, but I’m back now.

I’ll try and put up some posts soon-ish, but here’s a list of excuses for not posting recently:

  • Too. Many. Birthdays.
  • dealing with demented parent stuff
  • moving an Offspring to new house
  • working away from home
  • holiday in Amsterdam (with some Brussels on the side)!
  • knitting
  • not being able to think of anything to write
  • thinking of too many things to write
  • reading
  • watching too much Netflix
  • watching Eurovision
  • visiting friends in London

As you can see, much of it involved having a good time.

That about covers it for now.

What favourite excuses do you have?

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.

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

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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