Friday, December 30, 2011

The Chester Wheel

From up here,


even a wet northern city


has enough gingerbread bricks


and dollymixture building styles
to entertain


the most exacting passenger


taking flight


over fairytale architecture.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Happy Christmas Kindle

Thanks to Hodmandods Major and Majorette my Kindle is now sporting a new festive jacket,


and now, thanks to the Kindle sale on Amazon, I have spent a happy morning sampling a few books before deciding to download them at 99 pence a shot:

The Very Thought of You by Rosie Alison,


Notes from an Exhibition by Patrick Gale,


A Long, Long Way by Sebastian Barry,


and two non-fiction books from Caroline Taggart: Classical Education


and My Grammar and I

because I start every new year with ideas of self-improvement.

New titles come up every day for the 12 days of Christmas. I resisted yesterday, but today proved too much.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Boxing Day

The Point of Ayr: the most northerly part of mainland * Wales, where the estuary of the river Dee meets the sea



and a light house once marked the spot


and shone one light west towards Wales


and another east where the silted up shore of one country meets the sand banks of the other.


Salt marches and sand dunes rise now


guarded by a tin man


as blind, mute and dim as the stars in the sea.


*= added later. Many thanks to Richard Carter (see comments).

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Tis the night before Christmas....

Friday, December 16, 2011

Robin Haiku


First snow of winter.
As if on cue, a robin
glows from my table.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Lombes and Lambing.

I went to the British Library today to try and find out more about Thomas Lombe and his silk mill. I did find something that could be useful - a document from the early eighteenth century. However, I didn't manage to see it because it had a 'malformed shelfmark' in the catalogue.

The British Library staff put every effort into finding it for me - and came to the conclusion that they would have to make a special journey to 'the second basement'and would send me an email if they managed to find anything. This sounded very interesting and made me wish I could go and take a look there.

Writing that makes me wonder if the 'second basement' is really underground, and if it is how it can be adequately protected against flooding - should the Thames break through its barriers, as I have heard it could as the climate warms. I hope it is.

The main reason I went to London, however, was to go to the Science Factory's Christmas Drinks at The Lamb, a pub in nearby Lambs Conduit Street. The Lamb in question was a man called William Lamb, and in 1577 (according to this website) he improved the conduit that brought fresh water to the area (presumably from some nearby river, maybe even the Thames). The original pub bearing his name was built in 1720 - a pleasing synchronicity and chiming of words because this is the date of the Lombe mill. However, the pub as it stands today is Victorian, and last night it was quite a battle fighting my way through to the function room upstairs. There are complaints about short measures on the website, but I have to say that my measure of Pinot Grigio was very generous indeed!

Monday, December 12, 2011

What I'm Doing 37:

What I'm listening to:


Ariodante: an opera with an Italian libretto by G.F. Handel first performed in Covent Garden in 1735.


The version I have downloaded is sung by Anne Sophie Von Otter from Archiv 457 271-2: Anne Sofie von Otter, Lynne Dawson, Veronica Cangemi, Ewa Podleś, Richard Croft, Denis Sedov, Luc Coadou; Chorus of Les Musiciens du Louvre; Les Musiciens du Louvre; Marc Minkowski, conductor (live recording, 1997). I am hoping this will help me get into the mood of the early eighteen century.

What I watched last:


Alice in Wonderland - Tim Burton's adaptation of the Lewis Carol classic. It had some good effects and ideas, and Johnny Depp and Helen Bonham Carter were as brilliant as usual, but the story (which was a derivation of the original) seemed not quite extraordinary as I was expecting.

What I'm reading (on my Kindle):


A Tale of a Tub by Jonathan Swift. Having now compiled my lexicon of 400 words (based on Gulliver's Travels), I am eager to read a little more of his satire.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

The Eighteenth Century Lexicon

I have decided to compile a dictionary. It is a dictionary with a difference: one that defines the way words have changed from the eighteenth century England of Jonathan Swift to this one of ours in the twenty-first century.

The meaning of words seems to have changed quite subtly over the last three hundred years. For instance in the eighteenth century a man might 'receive an intelligence' which in today's parlance, means that he has simply been 'told' something that interests him. The word 'intelligence' now has spying and intellectual connotations, which it didn't seem to necessarily have back then.

Then there are words that have fallen out of use altogether: such as 'wherein' (meaning 'in which') and 'beeves' (the plural of beef) and 'bigness' (size).

Another interesting thing I have discovered is that when reporting direct speech the words between the speech marks are not direct quotes from the person speaking (as in 'I would like you to come with me,' said the king.) but remains reported, as in: the king said, 'he would like me to come with him.' I keep wondering if I have that right, but I think I have.

I am also coming across words that must have been in vogue during Swift's time. This morning I came across the term 'Hapsburg Lip' which I discovered was a genetic mutation caused by inbreeding. At the time Jonathan Swift was writing his book Charles II was on the throne in Spain. He was the end of the Hapsburg line, and according to this Wikipedia article his Hapsburg Lip was only part of his problems. ....

It is a singular story, and I confess that I have been mindful of it over the entirety of this day.

Monday, December 05, 2011

The Wedding of 2011.

The big event of this year, of course, was the wedding...no, not that wedding, but this wedding - as written up by my daughter-in-law, Hodmandod Majorette.

The first two parts of the honeymoon are here (part 1), and here (part 2). I am delighted and very proud that Majorette is keeping up the family blogging tradition. It obviously runs through the female line (along with the mitochondria :-)).

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Jonathan Swift's Prodigious Imagination

I continue to read Gulliver's Travels. After the land of tiny people comes the land of giants, and having become small, Gulliver is forced to consider how he must have appeared to the people of Lilliput. The human body up close, he observes, is covered in blemishes and the smell is enough to make him swoon.

Having been rescued and come home again, Gulliver is soon lured out to sea again, and inevitably finds himself in yet another land - this time an island that floats in the air. Reading this in the eighteenth century must have been an extraordinary thing; no one had yet flown off the ground, not even in a balloon, and here was a priest in his fifties with an imagination prodigious enough to not only see it, but evince it all.

I have also come across a free audiobook on-line of one of Jonathan's Swift's shorter works: A Modest Proposal. It is courtesy of Librivox and read by John Gonzales.