We frequently absorb words and sayings without knowing where they came from or even what they really mean. Often their origins are obscure and much-debated. From my mother I am sure that I inherited many words and sayings and even snippets of songs. She was a great one for singing and when she was in a good mood, I would often hear her tuneful renditions of wartime favourites as she ironed, sewed or lugged baskets of washing into the garden:-
We'll gather lilacs in the spring again
And walk together down an English lane
Until our hearts have learned to sing again
When you come home once more.
In September 2007, at mum's funeral, I was so happy that as the wine-coloured velvet curtains closed on her coffin, her assembled friends and loved ones heard Vera Lynn's version of "The White Cliffs of Dover". It was one of her favourites and of course this song meant a great deal to her because she was in the WAAF (Women's Auxiliary Air Force) during World War II and had known a good number of young fliers who gave their lives for Great Britain and freedom.
Mum was no shrinking violet. She'd take people on directly if she felt they were in the wrong and her temper could be quite fiery. Police officers, schoolteachers, shop keepers all felt the lashing of her tongue. Demure and coquettish she was not.
One of her favourite oaths or mild curses was "blood and sand". I have often used it myself. You know - when you hit your thumb with a hammer or you hear Cameron or Clegg's weasel words on the television - "Blood and Sand!" The other day I was wondering what on earth this expression means so in a website called "The Phrase Finder" I discovered this:-