Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Hey Mr Tangerine Man

The death of Glen Campbell reminded me of misheard and misunderstood words from my childhood ... I didn't follow his career but I thought the words '...I'm a lineman for the county...'were beautifully sung. He had a special singing voice but when I first heard these words I thought a 'lineman' was a cowboy-like figure who paraded up and down county borders in the States with a rifle - defending the county line. It was only as an adult that I realised a 'lineman' was to be seen up telegraph poles - fixing the phone lines. ( I was only very young in the 1960s!)

Has anyone else ever spent years pondering lyrics to songs only to find they'd misheard them from the outset?

Bob Dylan's 'Hey Mr Tambourine Man...' came - to my uncultured ears - as 'Hey Mr Tangerine Man' and I thought the great Bob was either bright orange or he was singing about a fruit seller! Again it took a little while before I realised why Bob wanted him ' play a little song for me...'

The phrase 'Gordon Bennett' was somewhat overused in our street - I felt - as I was sure it referred to Mr Bennett who lived at number one - we were number eight. Mr Bennett seemed to crop up in many conversations. Again it took me a few years before I realised ' Gordon Bennett' didn't refer to our neighbour, it couldn't have done, his name was Chris and my father taught him.

Tom Jones' 'Green, green grass of home' proved similarly difficult for my young ears. I couldn't quite understand '...her golden lips like cherries...' How so? Cherries aren't gold! Only when listening very carefully did I hear the actual words '... Hair of gold and lips like cherries...' And I never have quite got the gist of 'abhoring the virgin's womb...' in church.  How do you abhore a womb? Anyone?

Even when Dusty sang '...You don't have to stay forever, just be close at hand...' I misheard it - for years - as '... You don't have to stay forever just because of that...' I never knew what 'that' was ... and why wasn't he having to stay - or not stay - forever - just because of ...what? Perhaps I've had unresolved hearing difficulties since childhood?

Now I'm older I know I suffer from simply not hearing things properly. 'University Challenge' is becoming gobbledegook ... My scores are going down ... I'm simply not hearing the questions correctly. Well that's one reason I can't answer them.

 Must get my ears looked at.

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Top 50 American novels - discuss

As I did a BSc for my first degree I feel I've never got to grips with the Great American Novel. Somehow I haven't met enough Americans or Eng Lit graduates who majored in American Literature.
What do you think of this list? Are they the best 50 titles? (I've missed out the ones I've actually read).
1  Huckleberry Finn - Twain
2  Catcher in the Rye - Salinger
3  Scarlet Letter - Hawthorne
4  In Cold Blood - Capote
5  East of Eden- Steinbeck
6  Little Women - Alcott
7  Catch 22 - Heller
8  Death of a Salesman - Miller
9  The Stand - Stephen King
10 Leaves of Grass - Whitman
11 Outsiders - Hinton
12 Crucible - Miller
13 Absalom - Faulkner
14 Charlotte's Web - White
15 Invisible Man - Ellison* reading it now
16 Sophie's Choice - Styron
17 The Sound and The Fury - Faulkner
18 House of Mirth - Wharton
19 American Tragedy - Dreisser
20 The Sun Also Rises - Hemingway
21 The Heart is a Lonely Hunter - Carson
22 Main Street - Lewis
23 Cannery Row - Steinbeck
24 Ethan Frome - Wharton
25 The Bridge of St Luis Rey - Wilder
26 Herzog - Bellow
27 Franny and Zooey - Bellow
28 O Pioneers! - Cather
29 Their Eyes were Watching God - Hurston
30 Rabbit Run + 2 - Updike
31 Breakfast of Champions - Vonnegut
32 Accidental Tourist - Tyler
33 World According to Garp - Irving
34 Angel of Repose - Stegner
35 Beloved - Morrison
36 Crossing to Safety - Stegner
37 Confederacy of Dunces - Toole
38 Killer Angels - Shaara
39 Native Son - Wright
40 My Antonia - Cather
41 Death Comes to the Archbishop - Cather
42 The Good Earth - Buck
43 Wings of a Dove - James
44 Maltese Falcon - Hammet
45 Shipping News - Proulx
46 Naked Lunch - Burroughs
47 Tortilla Flat - Steinbeck
48 The Things They Carried - O' Brien
49 The Stand - King
50 One Thousand Acres - Smiley

I would just say I have read Faulkner's 'As I Lay Dying' and I'm not interested in reading any more Faulkner - at least not yet...
What do any of you think of this list? Anything vital that's been left off? Any other recommendations?

With thanks !

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Space Oddity

I had the oddest dream last night. For quite some time I was puzzled about the subject matter - where had I got the idea - or imaginings - for deep-space travel? And why was I so relieved it was morning and I wasn't really stuck on a space ship with people clamouring for my attention?

It struck me that maybe I had gone to bed thinking about comets - the Perseid shower is supposed to be visible in the evening sky. Here I could see very little, apart from a few stars and lots of cloud. It could explain why I had gone to sleep with notions of celestial beings but why was I appeasing crowds of folk on a space ship? Is it because I have been planning a big party for my husband? ( But that's not until 2018!)

Hey ho. Whatever the stimulus was for my extra-terrestrial reveries the joy with which I woke up, free from cares and responsibiliies for my fellow passengers, was palpable. The feeling was of liberation, of having nothing to worry about and of having nothing in particular to even think about. I woke up as if on holiday - simply relieved of everyday concerns.

Of course the images from my space travel disappeared very quickly. I do, however, remember characters in my dream were dressed in shiny white space uniforms. But many were also wearing fancy dress and I seem to remember tables full of trifle and jellies featured quite strongly. One of the oddest aspects of the dream was people asking to get off, as if we were on a bus, and groups wanting  to alight at a variety of 'bus' stops. I had to keep them calm and repeated that they must wait. Another abiding sensation I took away from the dream was that I knew I had to keep everyone safe and I had to stay on the ship until the bitter end. I was very busy telling people to take care of their belongings as well as dealing with their dietary requirements. I could almost have been running a school trip - but for whole family groups - not just for a class of twelve-year-olds!

At the end of the dream I had managed to quash everyone's worries and reassured them. I had met each request or demand and kept them safe until they were able to get off the space ship at some extra terrestrial airport lounge... When I awoke it was barely 6.30 am, far too early to wake or get up, but so enlivened was I by having discharged my duties as space hostess I couldn't get back to sleep!

I wrote down the details from my space travel, such as they were, and remembered I'd done something which, although prosaic, might explain my 'high' feelings. I'd taken paracetamol with caffeine in 2 separate doses the day before. I'd also had an Aperol Spritzer, the drink that's sweeping Europe, according to the barman at our riverside local. Is it the effect of this cocktail which had created my fantastic space trip? I don't watch Dr Who and I haven't been thinking of Bowie nor his Space Oddity. I haven't been entertaining friends or family enmasse but I have had paracetamol-with-caffeine for a trapped nerve in my back. I had cleared  the kitchen garden and made new paths, all of which had made my back pain flare up. Is it the realisation I no longer have to dig the veggie plots, nor re-stain fence panels, nor clear unwanted honeysuckle - which has been a devil to shift - nor transport garden waste to the 'green bin' that has given me the feeling, on waking, of great elation? Has doing the garden been weighing on my mind? But what has making new paths in our kitchen garden got to do with the overriding responsibilities of space travel?

Yesterday, after my gardening chores were over and I was lying down, resting my back, I did watch an excellent BBC version of Priestly's 'An Inspector Calls'. Had I, perhaps, taken the message of the play, to be responsible for everyone we meet, to heart? Could that explain my own 'space oddity'?- the notion that if you don't treat people with courtesy they might suffer as a result of your actions. Might these thoughts have affected my subconscious? Are these the thoughts I had when I closed my eyes last night? I do know this morning I have nothing to worry about. Well, nothing apart from querying why I had such an odd dream, full of an overwhelming burden that I was responsible for everyone on that space ship. Now I've written my blog and discharged my duties I can relax, have a cuppa and get on with my day.

Can't I?

Monday, 24 July 2017

Dunkirk and Paxman

It is rare that I go to see a war film at the cinema, it's not usually something I can stomach. I had to switch off 'Platoon' when it was shown on the box and I have only managed to watch part of Tom Hanks' film 'Saving Private Ryan.' This latter was important to follow as my father was in D-Day ops. A few years before he died, in Italy where he was to revisit Salerno-sadly, he never made the battle sites but died in our hotel just after breakfast one August morning, we took him to Arromanches, the landing beaches depicted in the Hanks film. At the commemorative museum there I recall another veteran saying to dad 'It was hell, wasn't it?'
                                   'Not as bad as the desert,' my father replied, referring to El Alamein.
My father didn't mention the fact that nothing, even these major offensives, could prepare him for his role in the relief of Belsen. So, for him, D-Day wasn't hell. It was just bloody awful.

Watching the Christopher Nolan film 'Dunkirk' today I was quite moved and humbled. Demoralised young men stood in lines on a vast stretch of sand, not knowing their fate. In 1940 many were my father's age, just eighteen. They were waiting, defeated, to be picked up off the beach. But, I understand from personal testimonies, the really frightening aspects of the humiliating wait were the strafings from enemy fire. There was no shelter and Nolan effectively showed the randomness of war. Heads - you keep your head down and live, tails - you're blown to bits, to be 'buried' with the words 'Known unto God' on a headstone.

My father would have suffered a similar fear, although he was in armoured cars, with a driver, but one admires these men. They recovered, in most cases. They married in the 1940s and 50s, after de-mob, and had families.

Ordinary dads. Going to work, taking their families on day trips. Playing games, feeding the cat. Others never returned and died as teenagers or twenty somethings in France, in Germany, in the desert, out at sea, in the skies or on the Burma railway.

Never once did dad mention the horrors of war when we were growing up. I first heard about his experiences when I was in my thirties, some forty years after the end of WW2. Today Nolan put the audience, us, in the position of a uniformed participant, at a remove of 77 years and the big screen. But it was like we were there. One could only feel for the poor souls. What they went through to allow us to be British-not Nazi puppets. Such acts of unselfishness; those that weren't hit were soaked through, drowned or burned alive. Such profound sacrifice. A mug of tea and bread and jam were their rewards. No self-indulgence allowed.

Which brings me to Jeremy Paxman. Again I rarely watch him but one thing he said when promoting a book he'd written, and with which I concur, is that today 'we live in trivial times.' The fuss people make about what to eat, how their wine is served, lah-dee-dah, lah-dee-dee, is indulgence and, yes, trivial. It rarely matters what wine you drink if you are happy, in good company and have a sense of perspective. With so many horrors still being perpetrated around the world today having a glass of wine, anything to drink in fact, is luxury for some poor creatures.

Nolan made me feel for the soldiers waiting on the beach in 'Dunkirk'. Poor lads, I thought. One of them could have been my father, my uncle or a friend's father. We are very lucky to be living in trivial times. Mere irritation won't kill us. Enemy fire will.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017


I sat down to watch the TV at 9 pm on Thursday 8th June, having placed my vote, hoping the Lib Dems would wipe out our Tory MP. Reading the Indy headlines the night before meant I hadn't slept well. They predicted a May (Tory) landslide.I'd hope she might only manage a working majority of 30 ( ie 326+30 seats).

I was convinced the other polls were inaccurate. Corbyn and Labour couldn't have caught up as well as they predicted in the days before the election, could they? After all we'd had the shock of the referendum - I believe even Cameron was shocked by the Brexit vote. We've seen the inauguration of Trump in place of an extremely capable candidate in the form of Hillary Clinton. Surely this just wasn't the time to hope for a left-wing upsurge.

And then a programme of support, love, helpfulness and compassion was broadcast. It made me feel we weren't a hard-nosed Tory-led island race after all. What was this programme?  In the build up to the BBC Exit Poll at 10:00 I was watching DIY SOS.

I can only rejoice at the timing of this perfect piece of television. I was weary of viewing nattering MPs - some hell bent on destroying this country's sense of compassion for the ill, disabled, unemployed or those otherwise in need - but Nick Knowles showed us another way. Seeing a splendid couple taking on - with great love - the upbringing of four adopted children - all with difficulties - restored my faith in humanity. The fact that countless builders, electricians, plasterers and others gave their time, gratis, for the worthy cause of building a specialist house for the family of six was the icing on the cake. As the programme ended and I dreaded five more years of Tory cuts, I anticipated a very different BBC-SKY-ITV exit poll to the one David Dimbleby announced. 

From 9:00 to 10:01pm that night I felt the understanding of the needs of others had been restored in the UK. DIY SOS was moving and practical. It shows what can be done.This excellent slice of humanity at its best was followed by the best exit poll ever! A hung parliament.

 May was going to have to rethink. Maybe austerity would come to an end and the support services, one-one tuition, SEN provision, NHS funding - all required by Nick Knowles' family - would be 'fashionable' again.Moreover funding might be delivered. 

I didn't sleep that night either - but for quite different reasons. I am a literacy, KS2 SATs & special needs teacher. I am bound to think disabled, ill, weak or academically challenged children need support. I believe in giving help to children who find SATs tests or reading books hard. Austerity measures have let children who need extra tuition & medical support down. A wealthy country like the UK has the resources for such a family as the one Nick Knowles and his team were helping. But where's the political will? 

This was most impressive broadcasting. The only landslide that night was shifting soil, a result of the diggers making tenches and foundations for the new build. It was a new home for the most deserving of families. 

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Emoji my friend?

I wonder, can we find an emoji for every human mood? When we scan the range of smiley faces to insert into our posts, is all life there? I must be getting the seven-year-itch – it is 7 years since I left full-time teaching – I need a change of place or face or just more sunshine! Can we sum up folk we meet by their ‘smiley face’?

🌞 Some people radiate warmth. It’s good to be in their company. It’s a bit like being at home again but you’re all grown up now and out having a drink instead.
😀 Others are happy, they smile when they see you. They laugh at life’s absurdities.
😁  A few are comedians, cracking jokes, and an entertainment. We laugh & love seeing them.
🤔 One or two are thoughtful, pensive and like a good conversation; stimulating and good to know.
🤕 One chap I know jumps off buildings, another cripples himself marathon running or seems accident prone… yet they both persist. They'll carry on till their ankles give way.
🤒 Some always seem to be ill and their lives consist of hospital, GP surgery, therapy, treatments, special diets and conversation is always the same and glum. And about them.
😩Another  wears everyone down with their misery and angst. Are they suffering anxiety disorder or  clinically depressed? It’s a cold experience and their point of view so out of line with others.
😡Then there are the complete miseries. They can’t know how bossy and negative they are, or surely they’d do something about it, wouldn’t they? But perhaps they too suffer from depression.
😵Oh and the confused. They barely know the time and appear to be in a state of complete chaos. Must be difficult but if they are blithe about it all who am I to comment…?
🤐And what about those who are inscrutable? So afraid of letting anything personal out into the open…conversation can be very difficult.
😧The stressed. A lot of these about. So busy coping they forget how to relax or laugh.
I like folk who can say ‘It doesn’t matter…’ and put things into perspective. It’s a skill.And I like people who enjoy pub quizzes - it's fun and you get to have a drink or three.
😴 And then there’s me. Half asleep, overweight and trying to cope with the mixed emotions around me. But I hope I can be 😃and🌞and good company. Perish the thought I’m one of these ☹️or🤧or👺

But do we ever see ourselves as others see us? And what if we never learn to project happiness? 😀

This week you really should ...

Learn how to make a medieval wattle-and-daub wall. Wear knee-high wellingtons or stout boots -you never know what lies underfoot when making your own ancient domicile. You will be joining an expert team of archaeologists and builders. Meet 6.30 am daily by Farrow and Ball for travel by shepherd’s hut to our nearest mystery ancient site. Bring own packed lunch and toilet paper. Mead served at noon. Chemical lavatories only. No dogs.

Haven’t you always wanted to spend £60 foraging for root vegetables on a Saturday afternoon? Well now you can. One small trowel allowed. Remember how our forefathers dug for grub? They didn’t carry Wilkinson Sword shovels with them did they? Meet outside the Holy Well at St Credo Parish Church at noon. Back 3pm.

We all know the view from Avebury Ring but HengeWalks&Builds offers you a fine panorama from atop The Ridgeway. Learn how to build your own  Stonehenge from quick-set cement blocks. All you have to do is create your team, decide upon a leader and plan your strategy. You’ll have the challenge of a stiff walk uphill to the ridge, making a raft, dragging your ‘stone’ blocks down to a clearing and recapturing Stonehenge as your team thinks it looked. Judging takes place at dusk.
All this for £100 every Thursday evening, summer time only. Meet at Avebury stone circle, near the car park, no later than 5.45pm. No mobile phones.