Sometimes a Great Sentence

There are times when I read a phrase or sentence and think “I wish I had written something as inspired as that.”

Today was one of those moments.

This is NOT in any way politically motivated on my part, but simply a tribute to sublime penmanship.

A friend sent me a link to Harper’s Weekly Review, where among many other pithy comments by Sharon J Riley, the following perfectly crafted gem appears:

“I won the popular vote,‚ÄĚ said the president-elect, who did not win the popular vote.

Chapeau, Sharon. ūüôā

The alphabet of death

I don’t know who to attribute this to, but whoever it is, nice one!

If anybody does know, please tell me so I can give credit where it’s due.

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Many thanks to Michael Gage – the alphabet is the wonderful work “The Gashlycrumb Tinies‚ÄĚ by Edward Gorey.

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Why I’ve been so angry

As an Arian, I am predisposed to anger. However, I have worked hard over the years to control the tendency, because it is mentally and physically wearing and somewhat pointless. I’ve actively practised becoming¬†more tolerant¬†and¬†less critical of others, adopting a ‘live and let live’ attitude, and recognising that everybody has a point of view and it doesn’t have to match¬†mine to be valid. Yes, I sometimes fail, because it’s hard to fight your inherent¬†personality traits, but I keep trying.

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I like to begin my day generally with a leisurely hypothyroid-friendly breakfast of orange juice with salt, toast and butter, and a cup of coffee, while digitally reading the news, anticipating that this will promote a gentle awakening and preparation for a productive and happy day.

But it doesn’t, and it was a remark I made in a recent¬†blog post that made me realise¬†why. I wrote how bad news attracts more attention¬†than good news,¬†which explained my particular choice of breakfast reading matter, which is what makes me angry.

I suspect that anybody who reads it will recognise what I am talking about. I’ll just say that almost everything it publishes makes me angry, and that is not because of the glaring errors, grammatical and factual. It highlights every negative word¬†with LARGE BOLD LETTERS that leap out of the page and MAKE ME ANGRY.¬†It is a daily¬†source and blend of everything that is depressing and fatuous, from corruption, racial hatred and social injustice, contrasting with the glorification of¬†people who have achieved fame and wealth for¬†having outsize¬†buttocks¬†or spending their lives having cosmetic surgery, to¬†how the shape of your fingernails¬†defines your¬†personality (or similar inanity).

Now, remember that I am tolerant and respect¬†the¬†right of those big-buttocked and cosmetically-altered people to their¬†modi vivendi if it makes them happy, as well as¬†the publication’s right to publish any articles they choose.¬†But after spending my allocated 15 minutes reading this stuff¬†do¬†I ever experience¬†that¬†gentle awakening into a productive and happy day?

No. Never. I AM ALWAYS ANGRY. Most of all I am angry with myself, that day after day I have been clicking for my fill of bad news, like picking at a scab to prevent a wound from healing, and wasting my time on something that actively puts me into a negative frame of mind. That is as stupid as stupid gets.

Today, it¬†has stopped. I have not clicked. It isn’t a resolution, it’s solemn¬†oath¬†that henceforth, instead¬†of clicking on that source of anger,¬†I will allocate my 15 minutes¬†to the Guardian Crossword (Quick on weekdays, Speedy on Sundays. No way could I hope to accomplish a Cryptic, Quiptic or Prize in such a short time – if ever.) While that can¬†occasionally¬†lead to mild frustration, more often than not it’s cause for¬†celebration when a seemingly impossible clue suddenly becomes obvious¬†because you’ve managed to fill in one letter that reveals the solution. Not only does it give the little grey cells a mild jolt into action, it MAKES¬†ME HAPPY! ūüôā

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Dominique Godbout/Flickr Creative Commons

 

What helps you to get your day off to a good start?

Can you tell a sitting dog from a guitar?

If not, then may I suggest you visit Rosemary Kneipp’s blog¬†and head to the ‘Friday’s French’ page, where you may become enlightened (there’s a pun hidden there! Let me know if you find it after you’ve visited the page.)

You can also find recommendations for good places to eat in Paris and Bosnia Herzegovina if you happen to be going there.

And a great deal more besides.¬†Rosemary is an Aussie who has lived in France since 1975, and is a woman of many talents and interests, with an excellent taste in hats. Seems¬†like something¬†of a wine enthusiast too. ūüėČ

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Junk junkies and a naughty little bit

When my step-mother said that we would¬†replace my outgrown jodhpurs with a pair from The Thrift Shop in Nairobi, I was aghast. I’d never been to The Thrift Shop, but I knew it was about second-hand clothes! Other people’s cast-offs. Tatty old rags with tears and stains.¬†We were very comfortably-off, but my step-mother was ever one to count every cent. How humiliating! What if somebody we knew saw us in there?

The first person we knew who saw us was my school English teacher, and the next person one of my school friends with her mother. The teacher was buying a flowery and floaty chiffon dress, and my school friend’s mother was buying her a school uniform to replace the one she’d outgrown. None of them seemed to be the least embarrassed at being seen there. They had no need to be. The clothes were all immaculate, hanging neatly on rails, and finding a pristine pair of jodhpurs that cost a few shillings and were a perfect fit was a pivotal moment in my life. I was hooked.

When we lived in England virtually all my clothes came from charity shops. That’s how I could afford to wear designer suits and evening dresses, bought at a fraction of their original price and still in new condition.

We don’t have that many charity or second-hand clothing shops here, but what we do have is what the French call “Chez Dior”, and the more down-to-earth English call “The Rag and Louse”.¬†It’s a gigantic hangar behind a cement works, and it’s my favourite haunt when my wardrobe needs restocking.

If you can try to visualise¬†the world’s biggest jumble sale after an earthquake, it will¬†give some idea of the chaos that is the Rag and Louse. There are no hangers, no tables. The clothes lie in mountainous heaps on the floor, vaguely sectioned apart. There are men’s shirts, jeans, sports clothing, frocks, ladies coats, bedding, children’s clothing, lingerie, men’s jumpers, ladies’ jumpers, ski wear, scuba wear, swimwear, hats, shoes, blouses, wedding dresses, fabrics, handbags, work clothes, leather and fur coats. There is an unpleasant smell from the fumigation process¬†which causes people to sneeze and cough. Vast trolleys of new stock are constantly arriving.

Photography is not allowed, but this might give some idea of the scene.

There is no easy way to find what you want. You just have to do what everybody else does, and dive into or onto a pile and start rummaging. See a flash of a colour you like, and pull. Pull! Eventually it will emerge from the pile so you can see if it’s what you hoped for. Hardened shoppers sit on top of piles and methodically work their way through them, often in pairs. There’s a primitive changing room behind¬†a curtain.¬†Don’t think that everything is worn out, stained or torn. Some of it is, but there are also plenty of new clothes still with their price tags on them. Like panning for gold, you just have to sift through a lot of mud to find a nugget.

Are you horrified? It’s no place for the precious or the snob. But for bargain hunters it can be a gold mine. One of my French friends, a senior fonctionnaire and¬†the chicest lady you’ll ever see,¬†buys most of her clothes there and always looks as if she’s stepped out of the pages of Vogue.

It’s a popular¬†haunt for¬†traders who snap up leather and denim by the van load for resale.

When a trolley load has been treated with whatever it is they treat it with, the trolley is wheeled to the centre of the hangar, where one of the staff sorts the contents rapidly, tossing¬†them into wooden bins surrounded by shoppers keen to have first dibs. This is the hub of the place, and the ladies (it’s not really a man thing, here) chatter and laugh while grabbing at flying garments.

I don’t know how the conversation started yesterday, as I had only just managed to squeeze between two ladies guarding the bins, but the lady sorting the stuff from¬†the trolley said loud and clear, in English: “A little bit.”

There was uproar, the ladies laughing as tears ran down their cheeks, clutching at each other, and temporarily forgetting the clothes flying past them.

If you don’t speak French, this will mean nothing to you, but if you do, you’ll know why a little bit (pronounced with a French accent) caused such mirth amongst the ladies. ūüėÄ

I came home with a gorgeous skirt, beautiful two-piece outfit, blinding white fancy top, chic black top and soft cashmere sweater.

Oh, did I mention the price? You pay by weight. My purchases cost¬†‚ā¨6.90. ūüôā

This post is linked to

Lou Messugo

How often do you use algebra?

A friend sent me this today, reminding me that so much of enforced education is pointless.

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Our history syllabus was “The Spanish Conquest of the Americas.”

Geography concentrated around the Orinoco Basin and deltas somewhere or other. We traced maps.

Nothing actually happened in chemistry lessons. Nothing went ‘bang’ or lit up in colours. Lessons consisted of trying to learn the chemical¬†symbols for elements.

I was never able to understand what physics did.

I couldn’t sing.

I couldn’t draw, paint, sculpt or embroider.

I wasn’t any good at gym.

Maths, geometry, algebra, trigonometry were all double-Dutch.

I didn’t believe in religion.

Week after week, term after term, for 11 years I sat, with my classmates, glassy-eyed, bored, bewildered, and I was not alone. Many of us read comics on our laps while glancing at our watches every two minutes to see whether it was time for the bell that would signal¬†escape from one set of metaphorical handcuffs so we could¬†trundle down a corridor into another punishment block classroom.¬†The whole thing seemed designed around control rather than personal growth and development. No talking in the dining room; no walking on the grass; no running; no hands in pockets; no taking your hat off in the street. Why? Why wasn’t it fun instead?

There were two classes that inspired me. English and French. I was good at both and would have happily studied languages all day, every day, in preference to any other subjects.

I have never since used algebra¬†or geometry,¬†nor have I ever needed or wanted to know about the Orinoco basin, what causes light refraction, why the Spanish needed to conquer the South American natives. I’ve never needed to balance on a narrow bar two feet off the ground, vault over a wooden horse, dangle by my heels from terrifyingly high wall bars or play a recorder. Nevertheless, all those things were compulsory.

In short, apart from English and French, the whole thing was a wicked¬†waste of time, for which I point the finger¬†firstly at the system, and secondly at¬†teachers who were blatantly¬†as disinterested as their pupils, reading in a monotone from books clearly written for the treatment¬†of insomnia. I’ve often wondered why the system isn’t geared to let children channel their energies at an early age into those subjects that do¬†appeal to them, in order¬†that their education can be tailored to inspiring them so that lessons become a pleasure rather than a chore, and when they leave school, they will be equipped and motivated to follow a career.

No offence intended to those teachers I¬†know face¬†a difficult and often thankless task into which they¬†put their hearts, souls, passion¬†and many unpaid hours.¬†¬†At least two of my friends are teachers¬†and I know they love their work and imagine that a class with them is a treat for their pupils. If only they’d been around when I needed them.

I will never use algebra.

Infectious laughter IS the best medicine

Yesterday afternoon we went shopping as we have guests arriving. Guess what Рthe automated banking system went down THROUGHOUT THE TOWN, so nobody could make any purchase anywhere by bank card, nor withdraw cash from any machine. Which, when you have a heaped trolley of shopping and no cash or chequebook with you is rather inconvenient at the supermarket checkout.

Being a handbag-hater I had not taken mine with me, which meant that after driving around fruitlessly for half-an-hour trying to extract cash from machines around the town, TOH finally had to drive all the way home – about 8 miles – to find my handbag which contained the¬†chequebook, while I stood beside the check-out for over¬†an hour, watching more and more customers frustrated and thwarted by the failure of the system. The poor cashier became increasingly frazzled at¬†having to explain to customers that they’d have to find an alternative method of payment. Although she asked the somewhat apathetic manager to either put up a notice or make an announcement so that customers were forewarned, he declined to do so.

So what should have been a 40-minute trip to town turned out to be over two hours.

When we arrived home I emptied the washing machine of the white wash I had put on earlier, only to find that somebody who uses a fine-tip ball ¬†pen (i.e. not me) had thoughtfully left it in a¬†pocket, creating a hideous¬†black-grey tie-dye effect on my best sheets and towels which I don’t think is going to come out. Grrrrrrr.

Then I went to take down the coloured wash from the line, and stood in fresh wet dog poo. Could things get any worse?

In fact, no, because when I checked  my email there was one from the talented and very lovely Anne Day-Jones who has so beautifully narrated the audio version of Best Foot Forward, now available from Audible.

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Anne Day-Jones

During the time we have been working on the recording, Anne has complained that she sometimes laughed so much it took her an unreasonably long time to record¬†some passages. Her email attached¬†an audio file of one of those occasions. It gives meaning to “laugh and the whole world laughs with you,” because listening to this instantly erased all the irritations and exasperations of the afternoon.¬†Thanks, Anne! ūüėÄ

Anne Day-Jones loses the plot