words

It Bothers Me

Bother is a good word. It is the word I will force myself to have habitually at hand in those moments when I want to express how something bothers me when it ought not to. Ought not to because it is trivial, irrelevant and of little consequence to my life.

It bothered me that I had often been struggling to come up with an adequate word to describe the emotional state when things appear wrong but a convincing, lucid argument isn’t forthcoming. Then I heard Richard Feynman say it and it clicked. Things bothered him – honours and awards, in his case – and things bother me too.

It bothers me to see men pedalling bikes with their arches instead of the balls of their feet.

It bothers me to read “noone” when they mean no one.

Noone is Peter Noone, the cherubic faced man who sang with Herman’s Hermits, the 60’s band whose hits included the romantically ebullient, Something Tells Me I’m Into Something Good and its heartbreaking inevitability, No Milk Today. You can still hear these on Youtube if you have paracetamol handy.

I saw the noone crime committed today in a national newspaper. The article was celebrating the joy of reading which makes the crime worse than it is normally. Hopefully I will get over it with counselling or some downward-facing dog.

Picture the sweet, little face of Peter Noone opposite, commit it to memory and never ever write his name again when you mean to say “no one”.

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Rooted #writephoto

a cut-&-paste piece from the series, “Uncommon Trees” by Thackeray Hornbeam MD.

The deciduous tree, Acer Claustrophobia, does not like confinement in dark places. Its roots are so affected that they do not grow below ground, clinging instead to the very surface for dear life and fearful of stiff breezes. Neither will they thrive in deep forests or woods, preferring isolation or, at the very least, in small copses of no more than five companion trees.

The wood is highly sought after for making picnic tables and other outdoor furniture but is found unsuitable for sideboards, bookcases and beds, and certainly no risk ought to be taken in fashioning internal shelving for airing cupboards etc.: many a householder has been woken by strange night noises soon after employing a novice joiner in commissioning such a cupboard, only to open the door and discover their clean clothes strewn upon the floor.

Tapping the trunk produces a sweet syrup. It only requires the slightest tap to flow freely. Further tapping is completely unnecessary; the tree doesn’t need to be asked twice. The danger is getting it to stop coming out once it’s been invited. Also, it is a devil’s job to get the syrup into a screw top jar. It is best not to tap it at all. Just buy your syrup from the supermarket.

Similarly, the fruits are abundant. Perfectly spherical in form, they drop and roll great distances from the tree, roots permitting. Some have been DNA tested and found to be from parent trees in a neighbouring county. Some are still believed to be rolling. One such fruit has been rolling since around 1064 and is recorded diligently upon the Bayeux Tapestry, almost being trodden on by the King’s horse.

(279 words)


written for Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo #writephoto prompt – “Rooted”.

The Bleeding Edge

a flash-fiction piece

Around the conference hall, 500 people sat taking in the identical image on each of 500 tablets: a circular red button upon a plain white field.

“This, ladies and gentlemen,” said the white coated speaker from the stage, “is the Bleeding Edge! It is so out there that no one, not even the developers, know what will happen when anyone hits that button!”

Pausing for effect, he allowed the audience’s murmur to build and subside before continuing in softer tones,

“It may be something good, or something… not so good.”

There followed a haunting silence as they considered the meaning, then a figure from about the middle, and slightly to the right, stood up brandishing their tablet and stabbed dramatically at the red button with an outstretched digit. There was a gasp! But then nothing seemed to happen.

“Ha!” exclaimed the individual and, throwing down the tablet, added, “Bleeding waste of time and money.”

At that precise quantum moment, the star of a distant solar system exploded, casting its planets far and wide, and setting one of its smaller satellites on a direct trajectory for Earth. It would take 3,000 millennia to reach its tragic destination, though by then, no one will remember the event in the hall, much less the name of the one responsible for pressing the button.

Even so, questions will be asked.


written for Reena’s Exploration Challenge #86 – “Bleeding Edge”.

The term, The Bleeding Edge, is a new one to me. It means the very forefront of technological development, even ahead of the “cutting edge”. It is thought to be so far ahead that its consequences are uncertain.

The image above is for illustration purposes only. Please, on no account press it.

Is Life Ever Long Enough To Peel A Beetroot?

When I was in regular work, I was in the habit of packing a small container with a handful of assorted nuts and dried fruits. This would be my mid-day meal along with a banana and a muesli bar. I say “mid-day meal” but it was easily convenient to pop open the container at any time of the day and graze, though the banana and bar I always kept for lunchtime.

As soon as I stopped work, I hit the bread. It’s one of my foodie weaknesses, especially as it comes in so many tasty varieties. As does my other food weakness – cheese – so I lazily hit the cheese roll/cheese sandwich habit.

Sorry to be crass but the trouble with habitual bread eating is it bungs up the old system and I find few things spoil my day more than a sluggish constitution. In an effort to regain my previous health, I substituted bread for a mixed veggie bake down. This comprises half a butternut squash, two or three bell peppers, three banana shallots and whatever else I find or fancy. Often there’s half a fennel bulb going or maybe some spare root vegetables.

Once baked, I peel the skins off the shallots and peppers, but not the squash – it doesn’t need it – cut it all into bite-sized pieces, mix in a little dressing, and pop it into a container for the fridge. That’s my lunches for every other day of the week, alternating with the nuts and fruit as I did before.

Yesterday, I fancied some baked beetroot and put four in the oven as well. They bake a treat and their flavour is sweeter and more intense, but this means ending up with beetroot juice stained fingertips which no amount of scrubbing seems to remove.

It looks as if I’ve been out and multiple-voted in an Afghanistan general election!

My wife says I should have left the skins on but I think the burnt skins can taste a little too gritty. Now I’m wondering if she isn’t right.


And here’s one I pre-prepared earlier.

Would you say what I’ve done is “pre-prepared” my lunches? I’ve seen this term used before and recently in a Food, Health and Wellbeing article advising against so-called “ready meals”, or as they called them “pre-prepared meals”. For me, the term not only looks tautological but it doesn’t roll cleverly off the old tongue either.

What do you reckon? According to the OED, the pre- in prepared stands for before or beforehand, so pre-pre- logically stands for before before. Isn’t that just one too many befores in the process? What do I know, English is crazy.

Going on a Safari, almost

Today’s google safari begins with the word,

Caudle

I discovered this word from an online article about historical birth rituals and customs for our queens and nobility. The article went through some rum goings on. Unbelievably, royal births were not considered private affairs. This apparent tradition lasted until our present Queen Elizabeth II gave birth to Charles. The Home Office minister’s presence was usually required but she put a stop to that nonsense. Earlier years saw a free-for-all when ‘The obstetrician yelled out,

‘The Queen is going to give birth!’ – at which point hundreds of courtiers poured into the room”.

Jaw dropping! However, Caudle, a spiced and alcoholic oatmeal gruel, was once prescribed post partum to queens as a restorative. The word caught my attention specifically because there is a village near here called Caudle Green, and I wonder if there’s a connection (could it be like Soylent Green or possibly drinking it made one feel queasy? But seriously, there may be a reasonable connection).

Royal Birth Traditions: from drinking caudle to audiences of 200

image: detail of a portrait by Franz Winterhalter of Victoria holding Arthur, and probably not being offered caudle, and probably not by the Home Secretary.


Miserden to Caudle Green and Brimpsfield round

Unfortunately, I didn’t get very far with finding the origin of the naming of Caudle Green and became fed up flicking through all the property sales and airbnb adverts in the village. Incidentally, there’s a quaint little Tudor cottage in the village, if you like that kind of thing, but it’s not for sale; I noticed it while out walking some years back.

So, I’m distracted by a google result which happens to be for a detailed 9.6 mile walk taking in Caudle Green. The website turns out to be a true labour of dedication to long walks around the British countryside; there appears to be hundreds of them, from Scotland to Cornwall. Each of the ones I viewed are accompanied by an informative and well-written introduction, then a detailed description of the walk itself, a little map and some useful information on OS maps, parking, refreshment stops etc. What more could you need?

Well, it goes further. Not only are the photos exceptionally well produced but some of the walks have associated videos (via youtube). I suppose if I were to be unnecessarily picky, I might suggest some link to GPS navigation but maybe the authors are old school, like me.

It’s called Walking with the Taxi Driver which I think is intentionally funny-ironic. It looks a great site and I’ll be back.


Walk to Caudle Green

Look at this painting by artist, Janet James, which came up in the search under “images”. It makes me want to put my boots on and walk. I love James’ style with paint: uncomplicated yet evocative. I feel as if I know the subject.

There are many more wonderful paintings at Janet James.co.uk

Google safaris don’t usually end after three items but blog posts do. Well, mine do anyway. Maybe more safari another day.

50 Word Thursday #13 – Descending

a flash-fiction piece.

There was something wrong with performing The Lark Ascending in the smoke. The bird took on a melancholy attitude not in keeping with Vaughan-Williams’ intent. Not the joyful, high-flyer, chirruping in the early light, over remote fields of tall grass. Then here’s me, stuck amongst the second violins.

“How could anyone be tired of London?”, asked a principal cornetist. The majority of the brass section seemed to concur. You’d think they’d prefer their air fresher, wouldn’t you, what with all that puffing? I mean, the percussionist I could understand, what with the clatter and thump in the streets.

I am a country girl. I had the opportunity to play fiddle in a small folk group; the mandolin player, I recall, had a beautiful voice and looked like an Adonis; we could have played sweet music together, beneath the starlit skies. Instead of the obscuring haze of city lights.

A tutor convinced my parents that my talent was too good to fritter away in rural pubs and village halls, to literally scrape a living on a secondhand, mass-produced instrument. So I was packed off to an exclusive conservatoire in Paris and, five years later, here I am.

I live in London, though mostly it’s living from a suitcase. If I’m not performing, I teach kids of aspirational parents in Kensington. Sometimes I’m asked to play behind some famous pop artist, but don’t ask, who? One is like any other to me. Like every day, living in this city.

(5 x 50 words)


written for 50 Word Thursday #13 – a weekly challenge.

This week’s prompt phrase from “Bizarre London”, by David Long,

“How could anyone be tired of London?”

This week’s photo prompt,

The rules (copied from the host)

  1. The completed piece must be in multiples of 50 words – a maximum of 250 words. Anything is acceptable – poetry, story, anecdote.
  2. There will be a photo and a random phrase that I will take from the current book I am reading – you can use either or both.
  3. Please pingback and tag 50WordThurs so I can do a summary.

The Scarecrow’s Reasoning

“That proves you are unusual,” returned the Scarecrow; “and I am convinced that the only people worthy of consideration in this world are the unusual ones. For the common folks are like the leaves of a tree, and live and die unnoticed.” 
― L. Frank Baum, The Land of Oz


Who doesn’t notice the leaves of a tree?!

Leaves are an identifier, the best, probably. We tell a type of tree from the look of its leaves more than anything else about it. But greater than this is their reminder of the seasons and, come Autumn, who isn’t impressed by the leaves show of colour?

For me, it’s a marvellous thing to see the leaves in their true colours, the golds, the ochres, the russets, the coppers and even the purples. The green was a mask they all hid beneath, for good reason. It’s the effect of chlorophyll: the green substance they produce which allows them to convert abundant sunlight into growth.

This is how a carelessly chosen simile casts doubt on the writer’s ability. Are they not writing within the scope of their knowledge? Write only what you know, is the advice often given; the first lesson. Of course, the Scarecrow is in want of a brain, so I’ll let him off this once.


If we only ever consider the unusual, then the unusual will become the usual, and the hitherto usual will then become the unusual. And so things would go around and around in an ever decreasing circle.

Give that straw man a brain before his intellect ruins us all.


written for Reena’s Exploration Challenge #78 – “on a paragraph from The Land of Oz, by L. Frank Baum”

I’ve not read The Land of Oz and I didn’t know what this excerpt is really about. I know the scarecrow only from the movie, The Wizard of Oz. In the film, he asks the Wizard for a brain and is given a certificate of diploma. Brilliant! That says a lot about the world we live in.

The Battered Hat #writephoto

a flash-fiction story.

The tradition dates back to yore, when a common man had no eye for words as written on a page, nor either a hand to make them. A symbol, an object he would recognise, was more helpful to him and so, in towns and cities, and any village large enough to accommodate them in number, the inns put up a sign by which they might be differentiated from another.

And so it was that Egfred Wattles, a person of nefarious means, instructed his companion, Gwent, to meet him in a certain named public house, three evenings following the second Sabbath of a month.

“I shall be at The Heart in Hand, Gwent”, he might say. To which Gwent might respond,

“The Heart in Hand. Oh. Right, right you are, Sir.”

Or,

“Gwent, we will try The Leaping Cow next.” To which Gwent would say,

“The Leaping Cow. Oh. Right, right you are, Sir.”

Or,

“It’s The Cat and The Custard Pot this time. Remember that if you will.”

“The Cat and The Custard Pot. Oh. Right, right you are, Sir.”

And so it was on a chill Wednesday night that Gwent found himself in an unfamiliar village, at The Battered Hat Tavern, cradling the sorry remains of half a pint of best ale and doing his utmost to avoid the suspicious glances of its overlarge landlord.

Every time the inn door opened and closed, Gwent would start and lurch across the table in hope of seeing his comrade. All too often it was just a local man, a stranger, and more times than he thought he could bear any more, just the wind rattling its timbers in the frame. In time he grew more afraid to cast his eyes down again, to take in the dwindling remnants of his drink, the tan brew slowly coming to resemble nothing more than a stain across its bottom.

“Can I restore that jug, matey?”

Gwent looked up and swallowed in surprise at the towering figure beside him. He had no coin for another, nor any sweet words of persuasion as was his associate’s trade, so he remained silent. It was the landlord who spoke again,

“I see you looking intently upon our door. Would you be waiting on someone?”

“Aye. If this be The Battered Hat for sure, then I am expecting to find my fellow traveller soon”, said Gwent.

“And who be this fellow traveller?”, asked the landlord with curiosity.

“A goodly gentleman, finely suited, and by the name of Mr. Egfred Wattles, esquire.” said Gwent with a sounding of pride.

The landlord crouched low so as to rest his knuckles firmly on the table, his great head coming close to one side of Gwent’s face.

“We hang that swindler on the morning of six days past”, he said in a low tone.

Gwent’s blood ran to ice and he felt the need to put down his empty pot for fear his trembling hands would betray his condition.

“Last week. Oh. Right you are”, he said at length. “Pray, how many weeks has this month seen?”

The landlord, rather confused, rose up at this apparent diversion, but he answered all the same,

“Well, almost four now, I reckon”, he said.

Gwent eased himself up from his seat. Smiling wanly, he offered the empty pot to the landlord who took it, but did not reciprocate the smile. Gwent left through the door he had entered three hours before and which he had watched keenly in all that time. Out in the cold night, the wind rocked the battered hat on its gibbet, to and fro, and the full moon, peeking out from the cloud, glinted off its many imperfections. The right place, the wrong time, he thought, and, turning up the collar of his coat, he set his feet for home.

(636 words)


inspired and written for Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo #writephoto prompt – “Sign”

Rude Talk Now

Sapio-sexual (n). a person who is sexually aroused by, or sexually attracted to, intelligence.

Humanity is so kinky on the fringes, I could easily see living amongst us a subset of folk who get off on pure intelligence. They probably consult each other on The Times Crossword as foreplay. I’m trying myself to be conscious of whether I ever find intelligence arousing, in a sexual context, and I’m afraid I’m not getting the glow.

Sapiosexual is a new word (I always look these words up, even if I’m sure I know the meaning already. Sometimes it surprises me that I don’t, but it’s an education). I also find, from the same search, the word, Pragmasexual, and I feel that may be more my line.

To be honest, when it comes to sexual arousal, I find that sexual potential is all it requires. It’s like when you’re hungry, or just peckish, you’re probably not thinking about Raymond Blanc, Gordon Ramsey, and three michelin star restaurants inside five star hotels; you’re really thinking about Mum’s shepherds pie or Nan’s beef rendang. Of course, the analogy ends there for legal and ethical reasons, but yeah, nothing arouses sexuality more than the thought of sex itself. And for that you don’t need too much intelligence.


written for Reena’s Exploration Challenge #75 – “Sapio-sexual”

It’s Back!

We have reconnected. Yesterday, while the rain poured, two guys dug a slit trench and laid UltraSuperFast fibre optic broadband right into the house. None of this fibre optic up to the street cabinet and wet string from there onwards (cough British Telecom) – it is 2019, don’t you know?

It’s been a funny week of low tech retro entertainment. I finished some downloaded episodes from Walter Presents, played the iPad at Scrabble and watched a bit of ordinary telly.

The Scrabble was interesting. The iPad has the advantage of an immense dictionary at its disposal – some ridiculously dubious words were played earning at least 35 points a piece – but then it would often play a guileless move, opening up a potential triple word score. It was all lexicon and no tactic.

Qi was one of its favourites. (Noun. the circulating life force whose existence and properties are the basis of much Chinese philosophy and medicine). Yet, oddly, it rejected my use of the word Zen. There’s no level playing field when your competitor is also the referee.

Qi was a good example of words it played gaining 10 points for the Q tile without needing a companion U tile. They were all dubious looking to this average native English speaker but it had me thinking about the peculiarity of marrying Qs with Us. Wouldn’t just a Q do?