Older blog entries for marnanel (starting at number 1090)

Gentle Readers: an uphill journey

Gentle Readers
a newsletter made for sharing
7th July 2014:
What I’ve been up to

We may have found a house. Or rather, we have found a house, but whether we get to live there is down to the whims of the credit check fairy. Nevertheless, we live in hope. I suspect the next fortnight at least will involve a lot of motorway travel and helping the movers, but at least it means I get to put the beautiful word "pantechnicon" to more use.

Gentle reader Timothy Hunt suggests that Yantantessera the cat gains her powers of disappearing by passing through the fourth dimension, in the manner of A Wrinkle in Time, and that her name is short for Yan Tan Tesseract. I have no reason to suspect this to be false. I also note that "tesseract" is an anagram of "reset cat", which surely can't be coincidence.

I have been making a page of stories on my website; each story is both read aloud and written down. At present there are two there, both by Saki; I'll add some of my own, and other people's, later. The next to be added will be Saki's The Stalled Ox, at the request of gentle reader Louise Etheridge; other suggestions of stories unencumbered by copyright are welcome.

If you didn't hear Kathryn Rose's choral setting of my poem I walked in darkness earlier, do listen to it now. It's very beautiful.

A poem of mine

Pittsburgh is a rather hilly town. I wrote this one while standing in a small park halfway up a steep hill overlooking the city centre, as night began to fall. You can hear me reading it if you like.

(T18) PITTSBURGH
 
 
This moment, I am God upon this town.
I compass every window spread below:
each pinprick point in total looking down
a pattern only overseers know.
I feel the human flow and ebb each minute
perceiving both with every passing breath;
each lighted room has home and hoping in it,
each darkening a sleeping, or a death.
And nothing, nothing makes it wait to darken;
had I the power it should be shining still.
Some other one you have to hope will hearken,
some other on some yet more lofty hill—
whom priests and people plead to, not to be
as powerless to hold these lights as me.

A picture
 
http://thomasthurman.org/gentle/thermals.jpg
Human: "What are you doing in my underwear drawer?"
Raptor: "Looking for thermals."
Something wonderful

The ambition of Edmund Clerihew Bentley was to get a first at Oxford. When he didn't manage to do so, he devoted his energies instead to an attempt to get his middle name into the dictionary. He invented a verse form named the "clerihew", and published a collection of them,Biography for Beginners, which was enough of a success that he achieved his lexicographical aim. That book helpfully begins
 
 
The art of Biography
Is different from Geography.
Geography is about maps,
But Biography is about chaps.
 
The clerihew has four lines, rhymed aabb; it generally begins with the name of its subject, and it is in roughly conversational metre. Another of Bentley's examples which shows their usual surreality:

I do not extenuate Bunyan's
Intemperate use of onions,
But if I knew a wicked ogress
I would lend her "The Pilgrim's Progress."

Since then, many others have been written: here are some to be going on with. Feel free to send in your own compositions. And let me know: if you decided to get your name into the dictionary, what would you invent?

Something from someone else
 
 
UP-HILL
by Christina Rossetti

Does the road wind up-hill all the way?
— Yes, to the very end.
Will the day’s journey take the whole long day?
— From morn to night, my friend.

But is there for the night a resting-place?
— A roof for when the slow dark hours begin.
May not the darkness hide it from my face?
— You cannot miss that inn.

Shall I meet other wayfarers at night?
— Those who have gone before.
Then must I knock, or call when just in sight?
— They will not keep you standing at that door.

Shall I find comfort, travel-sore and weak?
— Of labour you shall find the sum.
Will there be beds for me and all who seek?
— Yea, beds for all who come.
 
In Chesterton's phrase, the decent inn of death.

Colophon

Gentle Readers is published on Mondays and Thursdays, and I want you to share it. The archives are at http://thomasthurman.org/gentle/ , and so is a form to get on the mailing list. If you have anything to say or reply, or you want to be added or removed from the mailing list, I’m at thomas@thurman.org.uk and I’d love to hear from you. The newsletter is reader-supported; please pledge something if you can afford to, and please don't if you can't. Love and peace to you all.

This entry was originally posted at http://marnanel.dreamwidth.org/303107.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Syndicated 2014-07-07 23:23:18 from Monument

Stories

I've made a new design for my site, and I've also put up a couple of Saki stories. Take a look and tell me what you think?

http://thomasthurman.org/stories/

This entry was originally posted at http://marnanel.dreamwidth.org/302956.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Syndicated 2014-07-05 18:53:01 from Monument

Gentle Readers: yan tan tethera

Gentle Readers
a newsletter made for sharing
4th July 2014: yan tan tethera
What I’ve been up to

We're still househunting. We thought we'd found one, but the estate agent said no; when we asked questions, they said that one of us needed to be in full-time employment. Of course as a contractor, I'm not in full-time employment, but Kit is-- even though she's been signed off work sick for nearly two years now. Apparently, if they meet an able-bodied man and a woman in a wheelchair, people assume the woman in a wheelchair can't be the breadwinner. I should probably have guessed. Anyway, we've sorted it now, so we're going to look at more houses this afternoon-- with a different estate agent.

Last night we drove all the way from Surrey to Manchester, where Yantantessera the cat was waiting for us: she's being looked after by Kit's folks. 'Tessera was very pleased to see us, even though it was well after midnight, but while I was unpacking the car she decided to take the opportunity to slip out of the front door and explore. I couldn't find her in the dark, and in the end I gave up and went to bed. At about half past two I was woken by 'Tessera standing outside and mewing that she was ready to come back in now. This may explain why today's Gentle Readers is late.

It was a joy yesterday to discover that Kathryn Rose, who set my poem I walked in darkness to four-part harmony earlier this year, has made it into a video so that you can enjoy it whether or not you read music. Do go and listen: it's very beautiful.

A poem of mine

(T47)
SONG AGAINST TWITTER
 
 
I tried to say: "you make my life complete,
you put my puzzle pieces into place."
But then I tried to send it as a tweet.
 
 
It didn't fit. I thought I could delete
one part, about the joys of your embrace;
I tried to say: "you make my life complete,"
 
 
but still it was too long. I thought I'd cheat
ByMergingWordsAndUsingCamelCase.
But then I tried to send it as a tweet.
 
 
It failed again. I must admit defeat.
Like Fermat's margin, Twitter lacks the space
to let me say you make my life complete.
 
 
It makes the longer forms seem obsolete.
But even Petrarch's work would meet disgrace
if cut and scaled to send it as a tweet!
 
 
And somehow public posts seem indiscreet.
I think I'd rather whisper to your face
the message that you make my life complete,
and far too full to post it as a tweet.

A picture

A few months ago, because a film called Divergent had just come out, I kept seeing the word "divergent" written down. So I pretty much had to draw a diver gent.
http://thomasthurman.org/gentle/divergent.jpg


Something wonderful

Before the English arrived in Great Britain, a Celtic language akin to modern Welsh and Cornish was spoken throughout the island south of the Forth. When the English arrived, the culture and language was pushed to the far edges (they "drove the Britons westward into Wales and compelled them to become Welsh", as Sellar and Yeatman so memorably put it), though recent genetic studies indicate that it was more that the culture moved than the people.

And Wales and Cornwall are still with us. But for a few centuries more there was a Celtic holdout north of the Humber, sandwiched between the Angles below and the Picts and Scots above. The old Welsh poems and songs call it the Hen Ogledd, the Old North. It faded away in the end, but one of its particularly interesting relics are the names of numbers used to count sheep:
 
 
Yan, tan, tethera, pethera, pimp,
sethera, lethera, hovera, covera, dik.
 
The names of the numbers are startlingly similar to modern Welsh.
 
I first encountered this counting system, long before I was aware of its interesting philology, in a book called The Tovers by Elisabeth Beresford. And this is, as you may have guessed, partly where the name of Yantantessera the cat comes from. After all, there's safety in numbers.
Something from someone else

I was delighted to receive an email from gentle reader Mongoose, following on from You are old, Father William last time, about a conversation she had had with her cat Heidi. I reproduce it below with permission.

"You are old, Fräulein Heidi," the Mongoose said,
"In human years, fivescore and ten;
Yet my shoulder you make your precarious bed -
Do you think you're a kitten again?"

"In my youth," said the cat, as she washed her small form,
"I was happy to sleep on the fence;
But it's not very soft and it's not very warm,
So I think I've developed some sense."

"You are old," said the Mongoose, "my sweet little petal,
And often throw up when you fret;
Then how have you stayed in such excellent fettle
That you're never in need of the vet?"

Miss Heidi considered, and said, "On the whole
I think it's a question of diet;
It's excellent food that you put in my bowl,
But I do like a mouse on the quiet."

"You are old," said the Mongoose, "and once on a time
From danger you'd swiftly take flight;
So why is it now, though you're well past your prime,
You're perfectly willing to fight?"

"In my youth," said the cat, "I will freely admit
That I was rather easy to scare;
But I've now turned the tables - the biter is bit.
Good grief, don't you think that that's fair?"

"You are old," mused the Mongoose, "and like any cat
I know that you're partial to heat;
But you sit on the heater, and why doesn't that
Burn your stomach, your tail or your feet?"

"I have answered three questions, and that is enough,
And only because it was you.
Do you think I can listen all day to such stuff?
Be off, or I'll pee in your shoe!"

Colophon

Gentle Readers is published on Mondays and Thursdays, and I want you to share it. The archives are at http://thomasthurman.org/gentle/ , and so is a form to get on the mailing list. If you have anything to say or reply, or you want to be added or removed from the mailing list, I’m at thomas@thurman.org.uk and I’d love to hear from you. The newsletter is reader-supported; please pledge something if you can afford to, and please don't if you can't. Love and peace to you all.

This entry was originally posted at http://marnanel.dreamwidth.org/302359.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Syndicated 2014-07-04 11:31:18 (Updated 2014-07-04 11:31:52) from Monument

Gentle Readers pilot

I've put together a pilot of the video version of Gentle Readers. It only has the introduction in, but the real thing will have the poems and cartoons too. Let me know what you think!



This entry was originally posted at http://marnanel.dreamwidth.org/302308.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Syndicated 2014-07-01 20:14:51 (Updated 2014-07-01 20:15:58) from Monument

Gentle Readers: slightly curtailed

Gentle Readers
a newsletter made for sharing
30th June 2014: slightly curtailed
What I’ve been up to

I do apologise for the brevity of today's Gentle Readers. We were almost at the point of getting a house to rent in Salford, when the landlord said that he couldn't rent to people without a full-time job. Now, I'm a Python/Django contractor when I'm not being a poet-- actually, that's untrue: I'm always a poet, even when I'm being a programmer-- but apparently that isn't good enough, so the whole arrangement fell through and we're back to square one. So, as you may imagine, the time I had planned for writing this was swallowed up by the altogether less pleasant business of attempting to fix the problem. I hope to have everything back to normal, in both ways, by Thursday.

A poem of mine

I wrote this one on top of a bus when I was first living away from home in Becontree in the mid-nineties. I can't tell you what it means, for I don't really know; I wrote it for the sound. I may set it to music one day.

(T76)
HALLELUJAH SIMPKINS
 
 
 
Hallelujah Simpkins, Syllogism Brown,
Wandered up to Barkingside to walk around the town.
Does it make you wonder, when they ring the bell,
How they press the organ keys and sing along as well?
Syllogism wondered so he climbed the tower to see;
Hallelujah, Simpkins said, I know that I am free.
 
 
 
Hallelujah Simpkins, Pendlebury Jane,
Hurried to the hospital and hurried home again.
Does it make you wonder, when they run so fast,
How they know they'll ever reach the hospital at last?
Pendlebury wondered even though she couldn't run,
Hallelujah, Simpkins said, today I have a son.
 
 
 
Hallelujah Simpkins, Academic Smith,
Never et an orange if they couldn't eat the pith.
Does it make you wonder, if oranges can float,
Why they catch the Underground and never catch a boat?
Academic wondered so he went and caught the train;
Hallelujah, Simpkins said, and said it once again.
 
 
 
Hallelujah Simpkins, Concertina Flight,
Hear the song the angels sing in Dagenham tonight!
Does it make you wonder, climbing Heaven's stair,
How you'd speak to Hallelujah Simpkins, if he's there?
Simpkins only wondered whom he followed as he soared;
Hallelujah, Simpkins said, and glory to the Lord!

A picture
 

http://thomasthurman.org/gentle/crows-ear.jpg

Fig. 1: a crow's ear

Something from someone else

This is famous already, but justly so.

YOU ARE OLD, FATHER WILLIAM
by Lewis Carroll

"You are old, Father William," the young man said,
"And your hair has become very white;
And yet you incessantly stand on your head—
Do you think, at your age, it is right?"

"In my youth," Father William replied to his son,
"I feared it might injure the brain;
But, now that I'm perfectly sure I have none,
Why, I do it again and again!"

"You are old," said the youth, "as I mentioned before,
And you have grown most uncommonly fat;
Yet you turned a back-somersault in at the door—
Pray, what is the reason for that?"

"In my youth," said the sage, as he shook his grey locks,
"I kept all my limbs very supple
By the use of this ointment— one shilling the box—
Allow me to sell you a couple?"

"You are old," said the youth, "and your jaws are too weak
For anything tougher than suet;
Yet you finished the goose, with the bones and the beak—
Pray, how did you manage to do it?"

"In my youth," said his father, "I took to the law,
And argued each case with my wife;
And the muscular strength, which it gave to my jaw,
Has lasted the rest of my life."

"You are old," said the youth, "one would hardly suppose
That your eye was as steady as ever;
Yet you balanced an eel on the end of your nose—
What made you so awfully clever?"

"I have answered three questions, and that is enough,"
said his father. "Don't give yourself airs!
Do you think I can listen all day to such stuff?
Be off, or I'll kick you downstairs!"


This is one of the most deft of Carroll's parodies, so memorable that it stuck in my head without my taking the trouble to learn it, and as with many of them it has become better known than the original. The original isn't a particularly bad poem, but awfully preachy, and executed with rather less skill than Carroll's. Nevertheless, its author was no stranger to a good joke (see To a goose in GR 2014-06-09), and I think he would have enjoyed Carroll's take on his work.

THE OLD MAN'S COMFORTS, AND HOW HE GAINED THEM
by Robert Southey

"You are old, father William," the young man cried,
"The few locks which are left you are grey;
You are hale, father William, a hearty old man;
Now tell me the reason, I pray."

"In the days of my youth," father William replied,
"I remembered that youth would fly fast,
And abused not my health and my vigour at first,
That I never might need them at last."

"You are old, father William," the young man cried,
"And pleasures with youth pass away.
And yet you lament not the days that are gone;
Now tell me the reason, I pray."

"In the days of my youth," father William replied,
"I remembered that youth could not last;
I thought of the future, whatever I did,
That I never might grieve for the past."

"You are old, father William," the young man cried,
"And life must be hastening away;
You are cheerful and love to converse upon death;
Now tell me the reason, I pray."

"I am cheerful, young man," father William replied,
"Let the cause thy attention engage;
In the days of my youth I remembered my God!
And He hath not forgotten my age."

"You are cheerful and love to converse upon death." Bet he was a riot at parties.

Colophon

Gentle Readers is published on Mondays and Thursdays, and I want you to share it. The archives are at http://thomasthurman.org/gentle/ , and so is a form to get on the mailing list. If you have anything to say or reply, or you want to be added or removed from the mailing list, I’m at thomas@thurman.org.uk and I’d love to hear from you. The newsletter is reader-supported; please pledge something if you can afford to, and please don't if you can't. Love and peace to you all.

This entry was originally posted at http://marnanel.dreamwidth.org/301969.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Syndicated 2014-06-30 23:36:39 from Monument

Today in a newsagent's

Newsagent: That'll be £2.55, please.
Marn: Oh! Shame it's not £2.56.
Newsagent: Why?
Marn: Well, it's a square of squares. Four squared is sixteen, sixteen squared is 256. It's a very pleasing number.
Newsagent (obligingly): Well, you can pay £2.56 if you LIKE.
Marn: All right, then.
Newsagent: Well then, that'll be £2.56, please.

This entry was originally posted at http://marnanel.dreamwidth.org/301754.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Syndicated 2014-06-26 14:55:20 from Monument

Gentle Readers, 2014-06-26: give a Victorian a pipe

Gentle Readers
a newsletter made for sharing
26th June 2014: give a Victorian a pipe
What I’ve been up to

I'm in the environs of Manchester, partly for Kit's mother's birthday-- which is why today's issue is slightly early-- but also because Kit and I are looking for a flat to rent in Salford. Manchester reminds me a bit of Pittsburgh: it's a lovely town with a lot going on, but everyone who doesn't live there seems to say it's a dark and smoky hole. Salford is a city just outside Manchester proper; it's the original Dirty Old Town from the song of that name, and many of L.S. Lowry's pictures show the city.

Our cat, Yantantessera, is here with us. She didn't enjoy the car journey at all: she complained most of the way that cars are dangerous to cats, cars kill cats, and here she was inside a car, driving on a road with many other cars, and did I have no sense at all? She's settled down now we've arrived, though, and not disappeared under a bed in protest. (I suppose she has every reason to disappear, since (while she's here) she's a Cheshire cat. Do you want to hear more about 'Tessera?

Gentle reader Mair reports another recipe for iced coffee: "At work (I work in a café) we keep all the leftover coffee, let it go cold, put two scoops of ice-cream into a glass and add the cold coffee, some milk optional, whipped cream and a macaroon on the top, and we call that iced coffee." I'm looking forward to trying this. Any more?

Gentle reader Carolyn Ramsay brings two cookbooks to my attention, one vegetarian and one for those on limited budgets, and both freely copyable under Creative Commons. I thought many of you would like to see them as well.

A poem of mine

(T76)
KITTEN TOES
 
A dozen years, the length of feline days:
compared to human lives it may appear
the cats lose out. To be a human pays.
I think on this, and on companions dear:
Successive cats whose whiskered lives touched mine
Have lain upon my lap... do you suppose
Their tiptoe through the years is but a sign?
I measure out my life with kitten toes.

As they and I pursue the hilly ways
that fill our lives, “Beware! The end is near!”
“Your death is nigh!” or some such friendly phrase
will tell me that it's all downhill from here.
And soon the slope more steeply will incline,
And drop away as quickly as it rose.
You trace the arc? My life is on the line:
I measure out my life with kitten toes.

Though now, my cat, we feel the sunshine's blaze...
your windowsill is warm, the skies are clear...
yet still I feel the sun's all-seeing gaze
remind me of the coming day, I fear...
the coming day I cannot feel it shine,
and on my face the smiling daisy grows.
I only have the one, where you have nine:
I measure out my life with kitten toes.

Prince, lord of cats, may endless meat be thine!
O grant that thine immortal princely doze
may evermore upon my lap recline!
I measure out my life with kitten toes.

A picture
 
http://thomasthurman.org/gentle/six-feet-rat
"And it is often said that, wherever you may go,
you are never more than six feet away from a rat"

Something wonderful

The Victorian engineers who built our railways and canals left their mark all over the landscape. But the Victorian engineers who built our sewers left their handiwork mostly underground and unappreciated. The sewers of London, as with many other cities with nineteenth-century sewers, are triumphs of careful planning and hard work, saving us daily from diarrhoea and cholera epidemics. But of course they're like the drummer in a band: nobody notices them unless they go wrong.

One of the Victorian sewer engineers who should be more famous is the wonderfully-named Sir Joseph Bazalgette (1819-1891). As chairman of the Metropolitan Board of Works, he redesigned and rebuilt London's sewers, built embankments along the Thames, and thus helped the river begin to run clean again. One of his particularly interesting habits was designing sewage plants in architecturally-interesting ways, such as the Abbey Mills "A" building, which has often been described as "the cathedral of sewage". I mean, just look at it. Several more photos are here, including pictures of the inside.
 
http://thomasthurman.org/gentle/abbey-mill
Image by Velela, copyright 2005, cc-by-sa

Thanks to people like Bazalgette, we have pretty good toilet facilities in England, and mostly we don't need to think about how life would be if we didn't. But nearly half the people in the world aren't as lucky, and people die as a result: diarrhoea kills two million children under five every year.
 
So there is an organisation called Toilet Twinning. You donate some money for building toilets in developing countries, and they twin your toilet over here with one of their toilets over there. Then they send you a photo of the toilet they've built, and you're supposed to frame it and hang it up in your loo. And (more importantly) you get to know that some kids are more likely to make it to their fifth birthday.
 
Look at me, writing this entire article about toilets but not taking the excuse to make puns. I tell you, I'm flushed with success.

Something from someone else

GIFTS
by James Thomson

Give a man a horse he can ride,
Give a man a boat he can sail;
And his rank and wealth, his strength and health,
On sea nor shore shall fail.

Give a man a pipe he can smoke,
Give a man a book he can read:
And his home is bright with a calm delight,
Though the room be poor indeed.

Give a man a girl he can love,
As I, O my love, love thee;
And his heart is great with the pulse of Fate,
At home, on land, on sea.

James Thomson was another Victorian; I assume he didn't think these gifts were confined to male people. At least, I hope not.

Colophon

Gentle Readers is published on Mondays and Thursdays, and I want you to share it. The archives are at http://thomasthurman.org/gentle/ , and so is a form to get on the mailing list. If you have anything to say or reply, or you want to be added or removed from the mailing list, I’m at thomas@thurman.org.uk and I’d love to hear from you. The newsletter is reader-supported; please pledge something if you can afford to, and please don't if you can't. Love and peace to you all.
This entry was originally posted at http://marnanel.dreamwidth.org/301472.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Syndicated 2014-06-26 00:11:17 (Updated 2014-06-26 00:42:06) from Monument

Gentle Readers feed

The LJ feed for Gentle Readers is at gentle_readers. Feel free to subscribe.

Syndicated 2014-06-24 23:08:41 from Monument

Public health and food

Someone mentioned the current panic about "how to cure the obesity epidemic" over dinner, and it led to talking about public health campaigns generally.

I have a simple suggestion, but I think it's worth saying because I haven't heard anyone mention it yet. A few years ago, people would buy unleaded petrol if they were particularly environmentally conscious, but because it cost more, most people didn't. Then the government altered the taxes so it cost less, and suddenly everyone was buying it.

So here. If you have not much money and not much time-- and these often go together, because people paid little work long hours-- the most easily-available and most filling food is not the stuff that's good for you. Why not? If we're really interested in making sure people eat food that's good for them, why aren't we subsidising takeaways and supermarkets to produce food that's cheap and needs minimal preparation?

This entry was originally posted at http://marnanel.dreamwidth.org/301290.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Syndicated 2014-06-24 20:07:01 from Monument

Gentle Readers, 2014-06-23: hot tea, cold coffee

Gentle Readers
a newsletter made for sharing
23rd June 2014: hot tea, cold coffee
What I’ve been up to

I've made a draft of a website for Gentle Readers. Do go and have a look, and tell me what you think.

I've been submitting my new novel to various publishers. This isn't the one about Erica I mentioned the other day; Unbound say they're not interested in it, but I'll be writing it anyway.

My friend Sath supplied an interesting idea for days as hot as today: make some coffee, let it go cold, pour it into an ice-cube tray and freeze it; then drop some cubes into a glass of milk and you have iced coffee.

And on a similar note, I pass this along: what's the difference between a teabag and England's football team? A teabag stays in the cup for four minutes.

A poem of mine

(T115)
NEW DITTY

The world is filled with frenzied folk
who say I'm incomplete
until I've played some game, or tried
their favourite thing to eat,
or read a certain book, or heard
some orchestra or band,
or spent a decade living rough
in such-and-such a land;
but most of all experiences,
the one that draws my praise
is walking round with nothing on,
on hot and sticky days.
 
I have been advised to remind you to look closely at the title.
A picture
http://thomasthurman.org/gentle/original-selfie.jpg

Immediately afterwards came the Original Selfie.

Something wonderful

The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis says that your thoughts are shaped by the language you use. This is a pervasive idea; I remember as a child discovering Nineteen Eighty-Four, and the idea that you can restrict people's ability to rebel by restricting their language. The hypothesis hasn't been widely believed by linguists for a long time, at least not in a way that means people's thought is necessarily restricted by the languages they speak. But there is still research going on into whether it has a more subtle influence.

So, yes, we were just talking about tea, weren't we? Yesterday I found myself at a very pleasant tea-party where I met a gentleman from Tanzania. We talked about Bantu linguistics, amongst other things, and it reminded me of a story I'd once seen in a book. Later, I found the book and scanned the page.

The book was written by an Englishman living in Swahili-speaking parts of Africa in the early twentieth century. In a chapter about the Bantu verb system he digresses to explain why he couldn't get a decent cup of tea: it turned out, he said, that because the Swahili verb "to boil" is derived from their verb "to jump", it covers all the time from when the water starts bubbling, whereas the English verb to boil covers only when it's actually becoming steam. So he would say to someone, "Could you boil me some water and make the tea?" and it would be undrinkable, until he learnt the difference in the meaning of the verbs.

http://thomasthurman.org/gentle/boiling.jpg

Something from someone else

Language note: "The blue devil" here means depression: "the blue devils" became "the blues", which we still have. "The blue bird" is the bluebird of happiness. So "that is the blue devil that once was the blue bird" means "what you once thought joy has become despair."

THE ARISTOCRAT
by G. K. Chesterton

The Devil is a gentleman, and asks you down to stay
At his little place at What'sitsname (it isn't far away).
They say the sport is splendid; there is always something new,
And fairy scenes, and fearful feats that none but he can do;
He can shoot the feathered cherubs if they fly on the estate,
Or fish for Father Neptune with the mermaids for a bait;
He scaled amid the staggering stars that precipice, the sky,
And blew his trumpet above heaven, and got by mastery
The starry crown of God Himself, and shoved it on the shelf;
But the Devil is a gentleman, and doesn't brag himself.

O blind your eyes and break your heart and hack your hand away,
And lose your love and shave your head; but do not go to stay
At the little place in What'sitsname where folks are rich and clever;
The golden and the goodly house, where things grow worse for ever;
There are things you need not know of, though you live and die in vain,
There are souls more sick of pleasure than you are sick of pain;
There is a game of April Fool that's played behind its door,
Where the fool remains for ever and the April comes no more,
Where the splendour of the daylight grows drearier than the dark,
And life droops like a vulture that once was such a lark:
And that is the Blue Devil that once was the Blue Bird;
For the Devil is a gentleman, and doesn't keep his word.

Colophon

Gentle Readers is published on Mondays and Thursdays, and I want you to share it. If you have anything to say or reply, or you want to be added or removed from the mailing list, I’m at thomas@thurman.org.uk and I’d love to hear from you. The newsletter is reader-supported; please pledge something if you can afford to, and please don't if you can't. Love and peace to you all.

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Syndicated 2014-06-24 02:33:31 from Monument

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