30 October 2008

Eunoia

For this post, like Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross, I am largely indebted to the BBC -
Eunoia is the shortest word in English containing all five vowels - and it means "beautiful thinking". It is also the title of Canadian poet Christian Bok's book of fiction in which each chapter uses only one vowel.
Mr Bok believes his book proves that each vowel has its own personality, and demonstrates the flexibility of the English language. The book took seven years to research and write. Below there's an extract from one of Bok's chapters:-
from CHAPTER O - FOR YOKO ONO
Loops on bold fonts now form lots of words for books. Books form cocoons of comfort - tombs to hold bookworms. Profs from Oxford show frosh who do post-docs how to gloss works of Wordsworth. Dons who work for proctors or provosts do not fob off school to work on crosswords, nor do dons go off to dorm rooms to loll on cots. Dons go crosstown to look for bookshops known to stock lots of top-notch goods: cookbooks, workbooks - room on room of how-to-books for jocks (how to jog, how to box), books on pro sports: golf or polo. Old colophons on schoolbooks from schoolrooms sport two sorts of logo: oblong whorls, rococo scrolls - both on worn morocco.
BBC Website readers were asked to devise their own little pieces using only one vowel. Here's just a small selection:-
I think this is gimmicky! Katherine, Arizona, USA
A Lancs man asks "Can that mad, bad, Yank MacCain catch Barack?" Lancs Man says Yanks want Barack? Fab!
Mike W, Lancashire
Every sheep relent ! Seven enter where'er three entrench. Ten express envy. Better repent eh ? Very deep.... James Upton, London

Dull. Dull, ugly, uck:Tumult upturns, hurls, bursts, Curbs plush hush, Dull murmur gusts -Humdrum duck clucks thus. Laura Redfern, Conwy, Wales
John won't borrow Bok's book - too bloody wordy! Only O's? Noooooo! John W, Sheffield

CHALLENGE! Can any readers of this blog create their own bits of language using only one vowel? Here's my, admittedly, rather pathetic example:-

Even the defenceless yet excellent Exeter eels "eek" endlessly whenever they bend. Y.Pudding, Sheffield

I heard Christian Bok on Radio 4 today, talking about how the exercise of writing his odd little book had caused him to shelve normal creative channels and instead focus on the whims of language. An unusual notion drawn from his favourite word - eunoia - beautiful thinking. I had never even encountered this word until today.

28 October 2008

Cities

Prepare to be bored as Yorkshire Pudding again dips his toes into one of his passions - namely, geography - specifically cities. This weekend Mrs Lincolnshire Pudding and I will be travelling to one of the world's great cities. New York? Rome? Sydney? Kuala Lumpur? No, none of these. We are off to Ripon in North Yorkshire. Ripon you say? Yes Ripon which, with an eye on wavering tourists, proudly boasts that it is England's fourth smallest city. So what's the smallest? Why, of course, it is Wells in Somerset, though the city of St David's in Wales is much smaller - with a population of just over two thousand at the last census.

I began some research into English cities and please don't yawn at the back as I share some of my fascinating findings with you.

The Romans arrived in Britain in 43BC and not long afterwards established significant "camps" at London, Colchester and St Albans. When they "left" three centuries later they had developed a whole network of significant and influential townships including Wroxeter and Eboracum - later to become York. By the time of the Norman Conquest, London was believed to have a population of around 10,000 and the other major "city" was Winchester, the old Anglo-Saxon capital with a population of about 6000.

By 1334, the influence of large settlements was growing and in that year eleven of the top thirty places in the country were all in East Anglia - testament to the economic impact of the wool trade - Norwich, King's Lynn, Boston, Great Yarmouth, Thetford etc. . In that list of thirty there was of course no Manchester, no Birmingham, no Sheffield, no Liverpool. These places were then pretty much just little agricultural villages of negligible significance. This remained so in 1523 when after London, the two biggest "cities" were Norwich and Bristol.

In 1662, London had an estimated poulation of 350,000 and by 1750, we see the real emergence of the great industrial centres on the population hit list - Birmingham, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester and Sheffield - then with a population of some 12,000 souls.

In 1861 London's population had grown to over three million while the second city in the land was now Liverpool with 443,000 residents - half of them pickpockets, horse and cart joyriders and vagabonds (I made the last bit up!). Forty years later in 1901, London's population had shot up to 6.3 million, Liverpool was now up to 702,000 and Hull was also in the charts with 240,000 Hullensians though Hull had clearly been a significant trading place since the middle ages. Below see the cartographer John Speed's map of Hull in 1611:-

Well, moving on with Professor Pudding's lecture, let's finish... you at the back - WAKE UP! .... let's finish with reference to the biggest cities in each continent. I think Paris simply makes the list because of its metropolitan area - including suburbs and satellite towns - but even so - EUROPE = Paris (9.6 million frog eaters), NORTH AMERICA = Mexico City (18 million - that's a hell of a lot of Corona beer to recycle), SOUTH AMERICA = Sao Paulo (17.7 million and they all play beach volleyball), AFRICA = Lagos, Nigeria (13.5 million but I think they missed a few), AUSTRALASIA = Sydney (3.6 million whingeing Aussies) and last but not least ASIA = Tokyo (28 million sushi-eating, pod-hotel-dwelling, karaoke-screeching Japanese).

But when all is said and done do we like cities or do we prefer the countryside or is that a silly question? Of the cities I have visited - here's my personal top ten in terms of their likeability for different reasons:-

1. Hull
2. Sheffield
3. San Francisco
4. Venice
5. London
6. New York
7. Berlin
8. Amsterdam
9. Rome
10. Lisbon

And just missing out by a whisker - Marrakesh, Durban, Boston USA , Birmingham UK, Galway, Oslo, Gdansk - oh what the hell sometimes these favourite lists are a dumb waste of time... It's like asking someone what their favourite drink is. Sometimes you want a nice cup of tea, sometimes a glass of fine wine. Sometimes you want to dip your head in a mountain stream and gulp the crystal water. It's the same with cities. How can you compare the medieval din of the main square in Marrakesh with a stroll through Central Park or Guinness supped in a tiny Galway bar with a walk through The Brandenburg Gate?

24 October 2008

WeeMe

Above. That is "Weeme". I constructed him myself - a sort of mini "avatar". Now in England the word "wee" is not only a synonym for small, it is also an alternative term for urine! Hence small children or "wee" children will often say to their mummies, "Mummy I need a wee!". They wee in their pants and wee in their beds. Small boys wee all over the floor or have weeing competitions with each other as they wee up walls like wee firefighters.
I wish to reassure you that my "WeeMe" has absolutely nothing to do with urine. It's just a cartoon mini version of me. I am playing my guitar in my old supermarket brand blue jeans and my old work suit jacket. I am so good on the guitar that - as you can see from the picture - I don't even need to use my hands! The only thing missing is my Hull City lapel badge.
Look at us flying high in The Premiership! Played eight, won five, drawn two, lost one! However, I rather think that this will be the pinnacle of our season. I am predicting three defeats in a row now - West Bromwich*, Chelsea and Manchester United. Even so the start to this season has been so fantastic that WeeMe could be in danger of weeing himself!
Why not make your own "WeeMe"? Then our little "WeeMes" could have a cyber-party together in WeeWorld! Click on my WeeMe to begin making your own!
*LATER - Hell! I shouldn't have been so pessimistic. We beat West Brom 3-0! And now we sit joint top of The Premiership with Chelsea and Liverpool. Absolutely amazing!

23 October 2008

Boron

"Boron is in Kern County, California. The population was 2,025 at the 2000 census. In 1990 the population was 2,904.Boron is a community on the western edge of the Mojave Desert. A unique asset of the location is that within a half day drive you can view the highest and lowest points in the contiguous 48 states of the United States (Mount Whitney and Death Valley), the world's oldest tree (the Bristlecone Pine), and the cities of both Los Angeles and the Las Vegas metropolitan area. Boron is home to California's largest open-pit mine, which is also the largest Borax mine in the world."
We drove into Boron at Eastertime 2005 on our way from Las Vegas to Bakersfield. It was a godforsaken place of boarded up homes, a handful of stores and a fantastic diner where we ate a hearty all-American lunch by the empty Twenty Mule Road. On the edge of the Mojave desert and almost treeless you sensed just how hot this place would become in the summertime. It was miles from anywhere - beyond Barstow and far from the fertile central Californian plain which gave Bakersfield its wealth.

I often think of that place. Another America. Not the America of "Baywatch" and "Miami Vice" but the America of open spaces and hard work and anonymity. It only exists because of the mineral Borax which is used in fire retardants, soap, putty and metal processing. I would rather spend a day in Boron than a month in Disneyland or Hollywood... "All gone to look for America" - it was there in Boron.

Above - Boron High School and the excellent K&L Corral Diner. Eat your heart out Gordon Ramsey!

20 October 2008

Thrall*

The Last Lesson of The Afternoon
When will the bell ring, and end this weariness?
How long have they tugged the leash, and strained apart
My pack of unruly hounds: I cannot start
Them again on a quarry of knowledge they hate to hunt,
I can haul them and urge them no more.
No more can I endure to bear the brunt
Of the books that lie out on the desks: a full three score
Of several insults of blotted pages and scrawl
Of slovenly work that they have offered me.
I am sick, and tired more than any thrall
Upon the woodstacks working weariedly.

And shall I take the last dear fuel and heap it on my soul
Till I rouse my will like a fire to consume
Their dross of indifference, and burn the scroll
Of their insults in punishment? - I will not!
I will not waste myself to embers for them,
Not all for them shall the fires of my life be hot,
For myself a heap of ashes of weariness, till sleep
Shall have raked the embers clear: I will keep
Some of my strength for myself, for if I should sell
It all for them, I should hate them -
- I will sit and wait for the bell.

by D. H. Lawrence (1885 -1930)

I guess I first read this poem when I was seventeen or eighteen. I "used" it today with a class of eleven/twelve year olds after more years in the classroom than I care to remember. Suddenly, it starts to really mean something to me... "I will keep some of my strength for myself". In this most thankless of jobs, you sometimes really do feel that your life force is burning away instead of being conserved for the future. Working in a council estate school with government and local council targets to meet, A4 ringbinders full of the usual governmentally driven bumf and lots of kids with "issues" caused by poverty, marital breakdown, television and negative role modelling at home - it's virtually impossible to keep going till you're sixty. As I have often remarked, it's like being in a "shit sandwich". Who was it who sang, "I gotta get out of this place if it's the last thing I ever do". Well surely I can't go on much longer. I owe it to myself to get out. As the Hull City returnee, Nick Barmby announced after leaving Leeds United - "Money Isn't Everything!"

*Thrall = slave

17 October 2008

Family

This is an old photo taken, probably in 1961. Before? Before The Beatles. Before computers. Before colour televison and pizzas, punk rock and video recorders. Long, long ago in a time of innocence.

There's Dad at the back. Born in 1914, he trained to be a primaryschool teacher between the wars and then afterwards with Mum - the woman he fell in love with and married in India - he came back to England to be a primary school headmaster from 1951 right through to his retirement in 1978. He died a year later.

And there's mum next to him. Product of a broken home. She grew up in poverty in South Yorkshire but loved to dance and to sing and finally she danced and sang her way into the Women's Royal Air Force, ending up in India as a military secretary and drum major in the airforce marching band. Never in her wildest dreams would she have imagined becoming the wife of a country headmaster in rural East Yorkshire. She died just over a year ago.

The tall boy is Paul - born in 1947. Paul the violinist. Paul the rock climber and choirboy, the biologist and German scholar. Paul who rode through two major relationships and ended up three miles down a lonesome track in western Ireland under an array of stars with Josephine and their two boys.

The big boy at the front is Robin - he of the dyslexia, the tractors, the motorbikes and the cars. He achieved jack all educationally but made up for it by using his native wit and ruthlessness to become successful in business. Export deals took him to Saudi on a regular basis and South America and Egypt. He is the one who lives up a lonesome track with Suzy in southern France, looking out on the Pyrenees.

The little one is Simon who never left East Yorkshire and still lives alone in our mother's house in the village where I was born. His life has not been easy and he currently works as the trusty maintenance man in a Beverley hotel.

And the other one? The one at the front. That's me. In the bosom of my family. Hair just combed. Not realising, even for one moment, that this simple safe loveliness would not last forever. And 1961 would give way to 62 and 62 to 1963 and almost everything would change in the end.

14 October 2008

Mexicans

Mexican frying an egg
Mexican sheep farmer

Mexican on a bike
Good Mexican

Corona Brewery, Mexico

With apologies to any Mexicans who might be reading this blog.

11 October 2008

Praise

READ ALL ABOUT IT! I have been honoured in faraway New Zealand for producing this "acerbic, silly, clever, interesting... and sometimes cute" blog. The honour has been bestowed upon me by Lady Katherine of Bayofplentyshire. I now eagerly await my return plane ticket for the official honours ceremony to to be held in a Maori longhouse with hopefully "plenty" of freshly squeezed orange juice available. In the meantime, I will tackle the meme she has just passed on...

Outside my window... are apples hanging plentifully from the branches of our mini-orchard and the limp washing that Shirley pegged on the line this morning.
I am thinking... wonder how William's wedding has gone this afternoon and why weren't we invited - he's our next door neighbours' oldest son and we went to the other two family wedings and I know him best of all of them.
I am thankful for... my wife and my children and for being born within the ancient boundaries of Yorkshire.
From the kitchen... I can hear and smell absolutely nothing.
I am wearing... a "Fat Face" sweatshirt with a strange modern collar. Shirley bought me it as a birthday present and I opened this gift early on Wednesday morning.
I am creating... a lesson for my official observation on Tuesday. It's based on Robert Cormier's "Heroes" - a GCSE examination text.
I am hearing... the gentle humming of the computer fan and the stillness of this early autumn afternoon.
I am reading... "A Year in Marrakesh" by Peter Mayne - written in the 1950's.
I am hoping... that England whup Kazakhstan in this evening's World Cup group match.
Around the house... I want to get rid of the old NHS desk that we brought down from Frances's room following its recent redecoration. It's blocking up our little hallway.
One of my favorite things... is the word favourite with an English spelling!
A few plans for the rest of the week... 1. Finish the damned lesson plan. 2. Write computerised reports for around eighty older pupils - all in my own time - not in work time as other workers might expect. 3. Go to Ian's house to take down the wall cupboards pending his kitchen refurbishment. 4. Watch the England/Kazakhstan game later on today.

Here is a picture thought I am sharing... I took this photograph in The Pergamon Museum in Berlin. Who is it?

If you fancy Katherine's meme, please run with it yourself - no copyright royalties required! Click on girl guides logo on the right >>>>

9 October 2008

Hero

Arthur Scargill is seventy years old. Leader of the British coal miners' union in the late seventies and early eighties, this right-thinking and honourable Yorkshireman was turned into a figure of national hatred and ridicule by the gutter press and its Tory paymasters. He wasn't trying to hold the country to ransom. He was standing up for his members and he was fighting for the very future of British coal. Little did he know that Thatcher would do whatever it took to crush the miners' strike of 1984-1985 and the men and women who wore that simple yellow badge - "Coal Not Dole".
How strange to think that this all happened almost a quarter of a century back in time. Britain still sits on massive coal deposits while we import ship loads of the stuff from Poland and beyond. And even today the horrid legacy of Thatcher's extremism still blights the former pit villages of South Yorkshire and South Wales.

Arthur Scargill said:-

"All too often miners, and indeed other trade unionists, underestimate the economic strength they have."

"Yet what you need is not marches, demonstrations, rallies or wide associations, all of them are important. What you need is direct action. The sooner people understand that, the sooner we'll begin to change things."

4 October 2008

Me


Where is the boy
With the hand-me-down jumper
He of the scuffed knees
And the curled up collar
Hiding his hands in his pockets
Like a TV cowboy at his holsters -
Ready.
Ready for what?

The sit-me-down world
Of the old school room.
Copperplate copying
And chanted tables
At old school tables
That witnessed
So many country childhoods
Passing by...

I see me now
In those photographs
Of long ago
Snapped by my father
Long deceased
He'd be pleased to see
With a happy face that
I made it this far at least

3 October 2008

7:52

They answered and said unto him, Art thou also of Galilee? Search, and see that out of Galilee ariseth no prophet. - John 7:52

7:52. No. Not seven days a week fifty two weeks of the year but 7:52 am. 7:52 in the morning. It's like Groundhog Day for me. This is nearly always the time I see on the dashboard of our Vauxhall Astra as I head off for work. I never get up early enough. It's always a mad rush for I was born a night owl. The morning will always look after itself.

I wait till the last possible minute to launch myself out of bed. Into the shower. Speed shower with all-in-one shampoo/conditioner to save time. Shaving gel applied in shower. Swift shave. Out. Brush teeth. Shit. Towel dry hair. Comb it. Race back to bedroom.

Underpants. Socks. Clean shirt. Tie. Trousers. Shoes on. Remember to tie them. Race downstairs. Shirley's made me a mug of tea and there's a slice of toast in the toaster. Dip bowl in sack of birdseed. Out up the garden to the bird table. Back in. Butter toast. Gulp tea.

Jacket on. Grab sandwiches and keys. Kiss goodbye while Terry Wogan jests idly with his listeners in the background. Out to the car. Yes! 7:52. I can make it.

Now the race is on to make Shore Lane by the eight o'clock pips on the radio. Shore Lane is a rat run - a little lane that sweeps past the Masonic Hall and up over Crookes, crossing Manchester Road. Yes! 8:00. I can make it!

The Masonic Hall, Tapton.
...One day, I will wake with the dawn. Shower leisurely, dress and amble downstairs to make bacon and eggs. Sipping my third cup of tea, I will peruse interesting news stories in "The Guardian" before loitering out to the car, arriving at work at what time? Why - perhaps 7:52!

1 October 2008

Crisis

Don't know about you but this world financial crisis is an absolute mystery to me and that's in spite of recently reading "Cityboy" by Geraint Anderson which exposes the excesses of greedy stockbrokers guzzling at the money trough in London's famous square mile - claiming huge and thoroughly undeserved bonuses while ordinary people slog their guts out to make a crust and feed their families. So hideously wrong.

But during this miserable "credit crunch" as we northern hemisphereans sink into winter's dark abyss, we surely need to laugh. I adapted this from a discovery I made when googling "credit crunch":-

How to survive the credit crunch

Millions of people are worrying about how they are going to survive the credit crunch. The answer is simple: become a hippy.

1. Smoke Pot - unlike alcohol there is no VAT on illegal drugs so you save money straight away. As cannabis is far safer than alcohol you also save on the cost of liver transplants in the future, so smoking pot is a sound investment for your old age. You could also consider becoming a weed dealer and/or grower which will help rebuild your nation's shattered economy.

2. Don't cut your hair, cut your costs - having long hair saves money and is warmer in winter. People with long hair save fuel costs, cut national dependence on foreign fuel, and cut CO2 emissions which could save humanity from extinction.

3. Don't shave - razor blades, shaving cream and other fetish body hair removers such as leg waxing kits etc are all products of the decadent 'throw away' consumer society which is destroying the rain forest and your credit rating. Nature gave us hair for a reason. Don't help Boots survive the credit crunch, help yourself and become a hairy hippie.

4. Squat now while stocks last - if you have a mortgage you can't pay don't worry about foreclosure. In fact the more foreclosures the better as this increases the housing stock available for squatting - now you can live mortgage free and rent free!

5. Become a pseudo 'veggie' or 'virtual vegan' - don't worry, most veggies cheat so you can eat fish and meat when ever you want, but eating veggie can dramatically cut your food costs. For example Tescos are doing a can of red kidney beans for 18 pence, while a pack of King Prawns costs at least £3.00. One meat meal requires 10 meals worth of grain to produce. Meat production creates 18% of world Co2 emissions while air travel contributes just 3%. This means 'veggie' hippies can still fly Ryan Air and save the planet! It is Plain Obvious.

6. Dress down (and out) - even if you have a family trust fund, looking poor is the safest option in these dangerous knife crime times, plus it will save you a fortune. Even Madonna shops at Oxfam, thats why she is so rich. If you are really broke raid the clothing recycling bins; don't feel guilty - just remember that we are all Africans now. Alternatively you could become a nudist and cut your clothing bill completely.

7. Start or join a commune - council tax is chargeable per household so if you have twenty people in your commune the cost saving per person or couple is dramatic. With communal meals, shared sleeping areas and a washing up rota you can save even more and might only have to do the washing up once every two weeks!

8. Love is all you need - the new economy should not be based on shares but on sharing. For those with high sexual drives there is also the increased chance of attending more orgies, especially if you are bisexual.

9. Give Peace a chance - it is totally unrealistic of course, but supporting hippie pacifist defence policies could save billions for national economies. If the whole world went hippie the only defence we would need to think about would be against violent anti hippie skinheads, Tory counter revolutionaries, or a 'UFO' invasion from outer space.

10. Go to India - you might be able to get a job in a call centre.