All posts by wheatypetesworld

Lockdown Diaries Redux: Infamy! Infamy! They’ve All Got It Infamy!

If Kenneth Williams were still with us, I think I’d like him as our Prime Minister. At least when he said ridiculous things, he expected us to laugh at him. One of the things I have clocked during this lockdown is how it is influencing our use of language in rather a ridiculous or bizarre way.   Some words, like “lockdown” itself even, or “quarantine“, or “pandemic” have stepped to the forefront of everyday language when they were formerly rarely used.  In other cases, words have been put together in a new way to name the actions or situations new to us.  “Self-isolate”, “shielding”, “social distancing” or “support bubble” come to mind.

Meanwhile, while I mused on this, the Prime Minister, as it turned out, was not “shielding“; instead he was partying in Downing Street and certainly not “social distancing“.  Several times. Even the day before the Queen sat alone in Westminster Abbey, mourning the death of Prince Philip, following the prescriptions of our leaders, our leaders were ignoring their messages for us all to “self-isolate“, “shield” and practise “social distancing“.  And then Boris lied about it to the House of Commons.  This is something completely new to me in politics.  How can he get away with it? A Prime Minister given a police conviction while in office who stays in post? That really is a new one to me, especially when you consider that in most civil service professions, like teaching for example, it would be termination of contract and instant dismissal if you had even the slightest little misdemeanor coming up on your enhanced annual criminal records’ check.

And I have learnt some new words too: “furlough” is an example.  This word has been around since the early seventeenth century and comes from the Dutch word vorloffe, meaning permission literally, or “leave of absence,” especially in military use.  It was also applied to conditional temporary releases of prisoners for the purpose of going to jobs (work-release).  But with Covid, it acquired a new nuance with the government’s “furlough” scheme.

But actually, here’s another nuance from the times we live in: Brexit is making us suffer now and, along with the crisis in Ukraine, has seen us all taking leave of absence from being able to pay our bills and struggle with the cost of fuel, petrol and food.  And thinking how the meaning of “furlough” morphed from military to pandemic, let’s consider how some words are now morphing their meanings to the levels that “Carry On” films made their name on.

Now, in the House of Commons, Tory MP Chris Pincher was doing his best to support our love of double meanings, or new meanings of words. Start with his name: who is he pinching?  He was the Deputy Chief Whip: who was he whipping? He was caught in the Private Members Bar (let’s not go into privates and members – those double-entendres would be going too far) trying to grope other men.  And after an unacceptable length of time, he resigned from his “position“, saying he had just had too much to drink. He hoped that he had prescribed his own punishment. But Boris withdrew his whip. Oo er, missus.  Suspended him (oh please, not suspenders on the Deputy Chief Whip now).  But only after leaving it long enough to make us all think that he would just accept this as acceptable behaviour from his Deputy Chief Whip.  Words and phrases from the good old linguistic past make me want to go back to those un-pc good old days.  The former MP Neil Parish recently resigned when he was caught watching pornography when he was meant to be sitting in the House of Commons taking part in debates.  Interestingly, he was one of the first to condemn the Deputy Chief Whip.  I mean, how many of us really would expect to get away with watching porn in a work meeting?  Come to that, how many of us would actually do it?  This is a radically new way of seeing our elected leaders.  How many of us would expect him to have become an arbiter in condemning sleaze?  This really is a new way of seeing things.

In some cases, words and phrases seem today reflect the new way of seeing things that Covid has brought about.   I am thinking of the terms “non-essential retail and “keyworker“.  In the first case, it seems like a slap in the face of the excessive materialism that is part of our everyday lives and media.  And what about those people whose career is now defined as pointlessly needless?  What must this do to their self-esteem when someone asks them what they do for a living and they must reply: “I am a non-essential retailer”? Compare these unfortunates to those whose vocations are not simply essential, they are the very key to our existence.  Perhaps this is a new leveler of social inequality?  It doesn’t matter how high class you may be as a purveyor of the finest quality luxury merchandise; you are still unnecessary now.  So this means that Bertram Burnley, jewelers by royal appointment since 1825, is now completely superfluous, whereas Chelsea Noakes, who works down the Co-op at weekends, is pivotal to the very survival of our species. 

I’d say that was Chelsea one, Burnley nil.  Meanwhile, we are being led by sleaze-balls and liars.  Interesting “positions“. Doubly so. Oo err, Missus.

Putting You in the Picture

This Weekend, Iona challenged us to make a PowerPoint to show to each other. Fun game. So this was mine. I know hers will be about Harry Styles and extoll both of his qualities – he is rich and he is famous. But no doubt she will find a few more that I hadn’t thought of. I stayed closer to home with mine. The walls of our house to be precise. Wherever we have spent time, we always tried to pick up an original artwork from that location. This is mine from Jordan…

By the Loch

If I were talented enough, I would write and play a piece of music that would give listeners the feeling of sitting by a loch, watching the colours slowly change, listening to soft lapping waters and catching the cries of birds on the wind.

But I don’t need to do that. It’s already been done.

I was lucky enough to come across a Scottish duo, who do this with such feeling, incredible musicianship and a soul that transports you away to such a place.

Listen to the Cosmic Hippos, who recorded this in their house, enjoy the slideshow below and come and sit awhile beside me on the shores of a loch in one of the most beautiful corners of the world.

“By the Loch” – The Cosmic Hippos

If you want more then head to Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/search?q=cosmic%20hippos

Football Is Life

Let me tell you why I love the FA Cup Final. Cup Final day, at the end or the middle of May, always seems to be a sunny, sunny day, heralding the start of summer (through my rose-tinted spectacles). It was the FA Cup Final this weekend, and it made me realise how much football is a barometer of life.  It was also a gloriously sunny late-spring day. Just like favourite songs can take you back to a certain time in your life, the FA Cup Final does this for me too.  It all started with the first final I can remember: 1970, Arsenal v Liverpool, where Liverpool scored first, but Arsenal came back to win 2-1 after extra time.  I can still see Charlie George throwing himself onto his back, arms aloft, waiting to be jumped upon by his jubilant team mates after scoring the winning goal. He now runs tours around the Emirates Stadium for Arsenal. But he was a man of the times and truly looked like the hero of the early 1970s that he unquestionably was.

Charlie George – a man of his time and a brilliant footballer

Every year, myself and my friend, Stewart Sutherland, over the road, would take turns to host FA Cup Final.  It would start at lunch time with the build up and appearances from such greats as Eric Morcombe to lighten the mood.  And snacks. We’d watch the whole three-hour build-up before the game.  And eat snacks. Happy times.

And then there was the Wimbledon-Liverpool final in 1988.  Having won the league already, Liverpool would have become the first club ever to win the League/FA Cup double twice if they had won.  This takes me back to Zimbabwe, where I was in a small village/mining settlement deep in the bush near Masvingo.  Wimbledon (known as the “Crazy Gang”) were an amazingly dirty outfit and much worse than their opponents.  I could tell tales of the club I support, who are always underdogs, but on the rare occasions when they are the opposite (i.e. “hot favourites” – although I would prefer “overdogs”) always seem to fuck up big-time. I guess Gazza would be the man to ask about Wimbledon’s tactics and how they dealt with being the underdogs:

Vinnie Jones displays The Crazy Gang’s approach to being the underdogs

I don’t know why, perhaps it was because my brother’s friend, Jim, said it would be a walk over (as it should have been), but I took on a $Z20 bet supporting the underdogs.  Jim was so confident that he gave me odds of 20:1, so it could have lost me one zimbo dollar. And we were able to sit in the middle of the bush in Africa and watch the match live on TV.  The Dons went one nil up and Liverpool were awarded a penalty.  The Wimbledon keeper, Dave Beasant, saved it. 

Dave Beasant’s penalty save won me $Z20

And that is when Jim threw twenty zimbo dollars through the air my way.

Now to this year, where I was able to find a lovely spot in our garden to sit and watch the FA Cup Final.  This one will go down as a football-is-life-experience, enjoying the terrace we had worked so hard to dig out and build. 

Not a bad place to watch the Cup Final

And at half-time, going for a walk with the dog-hound and appreciating the fact that we live on the edge of town; although I can walk into town in ten minutes, if I walk in the other direction, I am in the countryside surrounding Totnes.

Life on the edge of town

I can not tell you where I was for every Cup Final, but I do remember certain ones as benchmarks in life, just like certain songs.  This is one of the reasons why I love the FA Cup Final.

What is a Sonnet?

I got to thinking about studying Shakespeare at school and how/why sonnets existed.  What were they and what is their place in expressing your ideas?  The answer is partly poems with strict rules.  It was quite interesting for me: can you express your ideas in a strictly prescribed form and still express your thoughts/emotions?  So I had a go… First of all THE RULES!

These are the rules of a sonnets: sonnets are broken into 4 sections, called quatrains.

They maintain a strict rhyme scheme:

ABAB  //  CDCD  //  EFEF  //  GG

The sonnet must have 14 lines.

Each line has 10 syllables.

Each line usually rhymes using the following syllable pattern:

soft-LOUD-soft-LOUD-soft-LOUD-soft-LOUD-soft-LOUD

Sonnets often describe a problem and solution, or question and answer.

The transition from problem to solution (or question to answer) is called the volta (turn).

Oh well… here goes…

Someone just twisted truth; good luck to them.

Maybe we’re all doing the best we can.

Truth twisters, self-seekers, women or men,

In the twists and turns, it’s just yin and yang.

How impossible for one little thing

To be negative from all points of view.

How impossible would it be to sing

Love songs to those who would climb over you?

Climb up or fall down but turn – look around.

It’s all the same when the push comes to shove:

You meet them on up and later on down,

Nod like two strangers, but both seeking love.

Understand: you’re my sister or brother,

Doing your best – forgive one another.

We Just Don’t Talk Like This Anymore Part 2

We Just Don’t Talk Like This Anymore

I had just dropped a clanger – again.  I called the thing in the corner of the kitchen the “washing-up machine” (I always do) and now the others are dissing me because I am such a linguistic dinosaur.  I thought everything was tickety-boo on this front, having recently mastered the use of the word “fam” to address my family.  This, it seems, was just a flash in the pan.

It is as cold as a witch’s tit outside, so I just wanted a lazy day and to stay warm inside – the only fly in the ointment being that the curtain-twitcher over the road was watching me intently through the window, so I was of a mind to pull down the blind and do an aimless bit of web surfing.  I found an article online originating from the Daily Mirror in which they discovered that 78% of 18 to 50-year-olds were not aware of/never used some of the (to my mind) most exquisite idioms that our rich language is blessed with.  What a crying shame to lose some of these gems of English due to… I don’t know what?  A language without idioms is as dead as a doornail for those of us who are lovers of descriptive phrases.  You may think that it’s a load of old codswallop, but I have to nail my colours to the mast and state openly that I am fighting for their cause and am as keen as mustard to stick up for what would seem to be an endangered species.  I sort of knew this was the case, just by interacting with others, and a nod’s as good as a wink, as they say.

So, here is my challenge to you: do you know your onions when it comes to our language?  Read this through carefully, spot twenty of the top most-endangered idioms in this piece of writing and Bob’s your uncle.  Do you know what they mean or where they came from?  I don’t think that any of them are ready for the knacker’s yard and will post the answers and a bit of information in part two of this post…  If you want to save a stich in time, just head straight there.  But there really is no need to get your knickers in a twist if you struggle – the majority of the people in this age group are the same; it is not a case of putting pearls before swine. 

Pip pip for now,

Pete

Drop a clanger – meaning to make a very bad or embarrassing mistake. This phrase seems to have originated in British Army slang during, or immediately after, the Second World War.  The word clanger is simply British slang for a blunder and refers to a mistake whose effects seem to “clang,” or ring out.

Tickety boo – meaning in good order, fine. British slang. Possibly from an Indo-Aryan language: compare Hindi ठीक है, बाबू (ṭhīk hai, bābū, “it’s all right, sir”). The phrase could have been picked up by British personnel in India before independence and spread in modified form to the United Kingdom and elsewhere in the Commonwealth.

A flash in the pan – meaning a thing or person whose sudden but brief success is not repeated or repeatable. The term ‘flash in the pan’ originated sometime during the late 17th century, when flintlock muskets were used. An attempt to fire a musket that resulted in gunpowder flaring up, but no ball firing was referred to as a flash in the pan.

Colder than a witch’s tit – an expressive way of saying ‘very cold’ – usually in reference to the weather. Back in Salem during the 1600’s, witch’s were portrayed as old hags with wrinkly skin and icy blood. So the phrase “… colder than a witch’s tit…” was used during very cold weather because of the reference to their cold blood and skin.

A fly in the ointment  meaning a trifling annoyance that spoils one’s enjoyment. This term comes from the Bible (Ecclesiastes 10:1): “Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savour; so doth a little folly him that is in reputation for wisdom and honour.” It has been so used ever since.

A curtain twitcher – meaning a person who typically watches neighbours through the window, hiding behind a curtain.  Stemming from a fine old British tradition dating from the early Victorian era, of creating homes with features like bay windows with large sashes that let in a lot of light and which often included fitted window seats… then hanging some variation on net curtains to hide behind and hide behind whilst peeking out.

Of a mind – meaning inclined or likely to do something. 

Crying shame – meaning an unfortunate situation. This term may well come from the now obsolete to cry shame upon, meaning “express vigorous disapproval or censure,” current from about 1600 to the mid-1800s.

Dead as a doornail an expressive way of saying dead.  The term dead as a doornail was used in the 1500s by William Shakespeare, and in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol in 1843. It is thought that the phrase dead as a doornail comes from the manner of securing doornails that were hammered into a door by clenching them. 

Load of old codswallop – meaning words or ideas that are foolish or untrue.  A frequently given etymology, although widely rejected as a folk etymology, derives it from Hiram Codd, British soft drink maker of the 1870s, known for the eponymous Codd-neck bottle, with the suggestion that codswallop is a derisive term for soft drinks by beer drinkers, from Codd’s + wallop (a slang term for beer).

Nail your colours to the mast – meaning declare one’s beliefs or intentions openly. In 17th century nautical battles colours (flags) were struck (lowered) as a mark of submission. It was also the custom in naval warfare to direct one’s cannon fire at the opponent’s ship’s mast, thus disabling it. If all of a ship’s masts were broken the captain usually had no alternative but to surrender. If the captain decided to fight on this was marked by hoisting the colours on the remnants of the ship’s rigging, that is, by ‘nailing his colours to the mast’.

As keen as mustard – meaning extremely keen.  The long-standing enthusiasm for the Sunday roast was real, as reflected in the words of Richard Leveridge’s 1735 song Roast beef of Old England:

When mighty Roast Beef

Was the Englishman’s food,

It ennobled our brains

And enriched our blood...

Mustard was an essential accompaniment to the traditional meal including beef. It became associated with vigour and enthusiasm because it added zest and flavour.

A nod’s as good as a wink – meaning that it is not necessary to explain something further, because you understand what someone has already told you indirectly. The earlier form of the phrase is a nod is as good as a wink to a blind horse. Because of the word blind, it has been said that the original sense of the longer form was the opposite, that whatever sort of hint one may give, whether a nod or a wink, some people are unable to understand it. But its meaning was in fact the same as that of the abbreviated form.

Know your onions – meaning to be very knowledgeable about something. The expression isn’t British but American, first recorded in the magazine Harper’s Bazaar in March 1922. It was one of a set of such phrases, all with the sense of knowing one’s stuff, or being highly knowledgeable in a particular field, that circulated in the 1920s.

Bob’s your uncle – Usually used to conclude a set of instructions, much like the French ‘et voilà!’. No-one’s quite sure of its origin. One theory suggests it refers to the supposed nepotism of the 20th British Prime Minister, Lord Salisbury (whose first name was Robert), who appointed his nephew to several political posts in the 1880s. Another credits it to the slang ‘all is bob’, meaning ‘all is well’.

Ready for the knackers yardmeaning in a state of ruin or failure due to having become useless or obsolete. The knacker’s yard is a slaughterhouse for horses, which is what this phrase refers to, and so meaning destruction because of being beyond all usefulness.

A stitch in time saves ninemeaning if you sort out a problem immediately it may save a lot of extra work later. “A stitch in time saves nine” is a French proverb, dating back to the early 1700’s. It was a sailing term that had a specific meaning.  When burying someone at sea, nine pounds of shot was used to weigh the body sack. Then, when the sack was stitched closed, the last stitch was passed through a body part. This kept the shroud and body together. Otherwise the nine pounds of shot would be wasted.

Get your knickers in a twist – meaning to become unduly agitated or angry. It goes back in print at least to 1969 and refers to women’s (or girl’s) underwear becoming twisted and therefore uncomfortable and objectionable.

Pearls before swine – meaning do not waste good things on people who will not appreciate them. This proverb is adapted from a saying of Jesus from the Gospels, “Cast not pearls before swine.” Jesus appears to be warning his disciples to preach only before receptive audiences.

Pip pip – meaning goodbye. The Oxford English Dictionary believes it originates with an imitation of the sound of a car horn, or sometimes a bicycle horn.

We Just Don’t Talk Like This Anymore

I had just dropped a clanger – again.  I called the thing in the corner of the kitchen the “washing-up machine” (I always do) and now the others are dissing me because I am such a linguistic dinosaur.  I thought everything was tickety-boo on this front, having recently mastered the use of the word “fam” to address my family.  This, it seems, was just a flash in the pan.

It is as cold as a witch’s tit outside, so I just wanted a lazy day and to stay warm inside – the only fly in the ointment being that the curtain-twitcher over the road was watching me intently through the window, so I was of a mind to pull down the blind and do an aimless bit of web surfing.  I found an article online originating from the Daily Mirror in which they discovered that 78% of 18 to 50-year-olds were not aware of/never used some of the (to my mind) most exquisite idioms that our rich language is blessed with.  What a crying shame to lose some of these gems of English due to… I don’t know what?  A language without idioms is as dead as a doornail for those of us who are lovers of descriptive phrases.  You may think that it’s a load of old codswallop, but I have to nail my colours to the mast and state openly that I am fighting for their cause and am as keen as mustard to stick up for what would seem to be an endangered species.  I sort of knew this was the case, just by interacting with others, and a nod’s as good as a wink, as they say.

So, here is my challenge to you: do you know your onions when it comes to our language?  Read this through carefully, spot twenty of the top most-endangered idioms in this piece of writing and Bob’s your uncle.  Do you know what they mean or where they came from?  I don’t think that any of them are ready for the knacker’s yard and will post the answers and a bit of information in part two of this post…  If you want to save a stich in time, just head straight there.  But there really is no need to get your knickers in a twist if you struggle – the majority of the people in this age group are the same; it is not a case of putting pearls before swine. 

Pip pip for now,

Pete

Flower of Scotland

It had taken Saima the best part of ten weeks to walk the entire north coast.  Now she was close to her home on the Isle of Skye.  Home.  Somehow, a small part of her, despite her aching muscles, did not want the journey to end.  Since setting out in July, these ancient mountains had been her guide, her friends, her mother, enveloping her in warmth and love, protecting but usually silent, never judging, but always wise.  She loved the evening views of the sea lochs and those isolated spots where you could look out across the waves through a foreground of soft, delicate purple and bright yellow: gorse and thistle.

Saima loved the thistle flower that was the emblem of the country.  Set amongst the majesty of the jade mountains, dotted with yellow gorse, the palette was unthinkable.  What genius artist would think of putting its soothing lilac against a backdrop of more shades of green than you would think possible and the vibrant lemon splashes of gorse?  In harder times, people used to eat the yellow buds.  It was a food that was available all year round.  She mused on the idea of consuming something so beautiful.  Only the flowers could be eaten and gave off a faint aroma which put her in mind of coconut, or maybe it was almond.  She could never decide. 

Not many people knew the secret of the thistle either.   It provided a juicy, mild-flavoured treat to the initiated.  Saima had foraged for such food along the way.  She learned to strip the thistle down to the stem enjoying its watery, bitter crunch, sometimes dipping it in sugar.  In summer, they could grow to the height of a human.

Saima had nearly walked the entire length of the North Coast 500 route. And she felt good about it. She lay in the entrance to her tent as a gentle breeze set the thistles dancing slowly, sensuously.  As one, they bowed gracefully towards the setting sun, like a curtain being drawn back to reveal the waters of the loch against a sky of pink and orange, and whatever colour you get when the two are mixed.  The only sounds were the distant lapping of waves down on the shoreline or the occasional cry of gulls or guillemots, muted and lulled into splashes of silence by the changing wind direction. 

As daylight faded, the silver moonlight took custody of the now perfectly calm loch. 

Saima felt cocooned by the familiar rugged, yet warm cloak of the north coast landscape once more and was happy.

Journey’s end.  Home.