'Agree With Everything - Deny Nothing - Embellish All

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Saturday, April 29, 2006

English Spoken- American Understood

It's been a while since I blogged - 4 weeks or so but I've been abroad and it's been a bit hectic. We've been in South Africa for 2 weeks and I'd just started to dream in South African English when we had to come back. They (the South Africans) do have some quaint turns of phrase and a quite different view of life but even they are baffled by Americans particularly the ones 'overseas'. Louis Venster, an Afrikaans speaking farmer come guest house host, with a refreshingly simple view of life, and - a bit of a mistrust of the English pre-guest house days, said he would have liked to put a sign in the window saying 'No Americans'. He went on ..'they are loud, over-use first names and always asking for something that isn't on the menu or a variation. A lightly fried egg yolk please Louis - easy over'. I have no real first hand experience of Americans on holiday (and have never been to the US of A) except for the American calendar incident (blogged previous) but Albee Backingyou -the Banjaxed bass player - told me this little tale. He said that he was on holiday in the States and in conversation in some place in the middle of nowhere. The local to whom he was speaking said - 'and how long you been speaking American Al?' ... 'It's English ... and ... all my life' says Al 'I was born in England.. why do you ask?' ..... ' Well .. it's just that you kinda ... speak it very well'.
You would think that after 2 years now of watching CSI that I would by now be fluent. The fact is that I do not understand a single word from beginning to end I just watch the pictures. The accent, phrasing, American slang, dialect ... has me beat.
The title of this piece 'English Spoken - American Understood' was on a trinket stall outside Waverley station in Edinburgh some 40 years back - yeah the year of the 1966 World Cup (don't understand fitba (Scottish) either)). I thought it was funny at the time but now as the language progresses and English is changing to become American/Australian/Spanglish/Weblish I seem to understand less and question what language I actually do speak. Maybe it's just Ish.
Blog again just now.
PS: 'Just Now' is South African English for sometime in the short term future - not today but possibly in the next week. NOW would mean anytime later today.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Man From Maryport Is Innocent

Occasionally, I make a brief cameo appearance in another blog as 'The Man From Maryport'. This mysterious identity has clearly alarmed people, because someone decided to Google me today - or rather Google 'the man from maryport'. As chance would have it, the other blog - and this one - came top of the returns. But the rest of the Google list seems to be made up entirely of court reports and press releases from West Cumbria police, all containing variations on the immortal phrase 'man from Maryport found guilty of . . .' or else 'man from Maryport convicted of . . .'. The offences in question seem to be quite alarmingly imaginative & unlikely. Glad to see that the residents of my home town are living up to their reputation.
I'd just like to point out that the real 'Man from Maryport' has never (yet) appeared in a magistrates' court or had his collar felt by the police. I am innocent. Well, mostly.

Friday, April 21, 2006

What Sweet Contentment Doth the Patty-Man Find?

I returned home an hour ago, on a beautifully balmy Cumbrian spring evening, to find a hideously mephitic smell assaulting my senses as soon as I stepped through the door. Upstairs I found evening sunshine streaming through the windows - outside, in the background, a thunderously gorgeous sunset such as only the north-western world can provide was illuminating southern Scotland, the Solway Firth and the far-distant coast of Northern Ireland; in the foreground, a muckspreader driven by Sheep-Fighting Man sailed past my windows, churning out chickenshit au nature onto his fields right up to the cottage wall. Slowly, he turned in an arc at the bottom of the field. And drove back, ordure flying as before.
The weekend starts here.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Talking Movies

The readership may care to know that the Cineaste & I will once again be talking movies on Radio Cumbria at about 11:00am BST tomorrow (Wednesday) on Val Armstrong's excellent mid-morning show. Those of you outside Cumbria can listen by clicking on this link (RealPlayer required). This time we're branching out into DVDs too . . . .

Sweet & Beautiful Great Gable

Maunday Thursday La V & I took off to Seathwaite down the furthest reaches of Borrowdale. We walked up to Sty Head Pass from the road end, rain showers full in our faces and the high ridges still streaked with late snow. Then we turned right and began the long trudge up Aaron Slack to Windy Gap. The Gap was, well, windy, and deeper patches of snow lay across the path up to the summit of Great Gable. We paused for sandwiches and tea, looked down into Ennerdale and spotted the distant tree-garthed Black Sail Hut, then turned our faces to the hill. Great Gable's one of my favourite mountains, and even in indifferent conditions like these it's a strenuous pleasure to walk up its blunt side, rewarded by gorgeous views of Lingmell and Sca Fell in one direction, the western fells and a distant glimpse of upper Borrowdale in the other. As I've blogged before, the summit is a memorial to the members of the Fell & Rock who died in the Great War. This time someone had left a poppy wreath by the memorial plate - in memory of Wilfred Owen. Judging by the arms on the backing, it may have been placed there by his old regiment. I was disturbed and depressed to see that the wreath was inscribed with the title of what is probably Owen's best-known poem - Dulce et Decorum Est Pro Patria Mori. It Is Sweet And Beautiful To Die For Your Country. Mountain tops and wild places have no space for irony, but the baldness of this left me speechless. Whoever placed the wreath there had clearly not bothered to read, or failed to understand, the whole of the poem.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

No, I Am Not White Van Man, Nor Was Meant To Be . . .

The double is out there, somewhere . . . a couple of weeks ago I was over in Penrith with La V at a social event. A stranger accosted me, convinced that he had recently met me at an orchid-growers' convention. His embarrassment on realising his mistake was palpable. Last Tuesday at The Bitter End in Cockermouth's elegant Kirkgate, The Thoughtful Scotsman assured me he'd seen me driving a white van at speed through downtown Wigton on Sunday afternoon. I gave him my alibi (halfway round Ennerdale Water at the time, as La V will testify). These mis-sightings can mean only one thing - my doppelganger is back. He turns up infrequently: I once saw him myself when I was cycling down Madingley Road in Cambridge - and he was cycling in the opposite direction; a few days later my girlfriend arrived at a rendezvous, sat down and found herself staring at - someone who was almost but not quite me. I suppose it is just possible that I have a separated-at-birth twin somewhere in Cumbria (twins run in my mother's family), but I'm sure that my parents would have mentioned it to me at some point. If he really exists, he's presumably driving a van full of orchids around the northern counties. Have you seen this man?

My Beautiful Sports Bar

To the Red City on a Friday night to see the wonderful Tsotsi, an absolutely enthralling South African film. Wandering down Warwick Road before the show I passed by one of the city's burgeoning designer pubs. Readers with long memories may recall My Beautiful Laundrette, in which a run-down washeteria, populated by deadbeats, social inadequates and a schizophrenic arguing with a phone-box, is given a radical high-end makeover and transformed into the gorgeous, pouting, eponymous laundrette. Within two minutes of re-opening it is once again populated with the same cast of deadbeats, schizophrenics and inadequates. The designer bar in question was clearly trading under the same franchise. The jeunesse doree of the Red City seemed to constitute a score of hairy-arsed, overweight 40-somethings sporting coups sauvages Sundance moustaches and Newcastle United football shirts. Clearly the style revolution that is contemporary Carlisle has passed me by . . .

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Zen Compatibility

In the course of a search for The Renaissance Woman's birthday present yesterday, I found myself amidst the Rococo splendour of the Curry's superstore at Derwent Howe industrial park in Workington. Did they, I asked the sales assistant, stock accessories for a Creative Zen Nano MP3 player? The assistant looked baffled.
- Zen? He asked. No, we don't have any of those.
- Well, I responded cheerily, That's very Zen isn't it?
This was a mistake. He looked at me warily, the words 'piss' & 'taking' clearly jockeying for position in his mind alongside the definite article.
- We've got this, he said, pointing to a rather nifty carabiner-and-jacket combination.
-It's compatible. He paused for a moment. But it doesn't fit.
Wisely, I resisted the temptation of further Zen insights, made an excuse, and left.

Granny Takes A Trip

5 Puffs & A Capstan

Last night, in the frenzied aftermath of the Renaissance Woman's splendid birthday party, La V & I had a stunning insight - the future of the British music industry depended upon our plan to audition and manage a 5-piece gay boy band whose material would be hip-hop versions of traditional sea shanties. As with most such initatives, we thought up a really good name for the band - and then the project rather ran out of steam. So if anybody wants to take it up, we'd recommend approaching the tobacco industry for sponsorship.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Geocaching - Probably Not The New Rock'n'Roll

The Intrepid Mountaineer & I had one of our regular project meetings the other day - in the course of a walk from his house, up the lane past The Greatest Living Cumbrian's country cottage, and on to the summit of Binsey, the outlying tump of volcanic rock that dominates the canvases of Sheila Fell and from whose summit stunning views of Scotland, the Pennines and the Cumbrian Mountains may be enjoyed. It was a cold, sunny day with a fierce wind from the north-east, and traces of verglas still smeared the rocks. We'd finished the business of the meeting before we reached the top, and the Intrepid Mountaineer mentioned he'd discovered something distinctly odd thereabouts the previous week. The something odd turned out to be a geocache. A What? A geocache. Precisely, a tupperware box stuffed full of Xmas-cracker type gifts and hidden beneath a pile of stones a few yards below the summit. This, he explained to me, was geocaching. Not really a sport, more a gigantic worldwide parlour game, enabled by GPS and the internet. Put simply, someone hides a cache of odd objects, and then publishes its location on a website. Interested others visit and remove or deposit items. Sometimes the items have been committed to the cache with the purpose of a global journey. In time, they are removed from one geocache and moved on to another - with luck, bringing them closer to their intended destination.
This is, by any standards, extremely odd. Given this blog's enthusiasm for secret places, hidden patterns and clandestine networks, you'd think I'd be instantly smitten by the idea. But something's giving me pause. Partly, it's the reliance on GPS technology for the precise location of caches (I'm a firm believer in map & compasses). In theory geocaching should be the bastard offspring of Situationism and Orienteering. But I just can't get sufficiently excited about it. I have a nagging suspicion that it appeals to public schoolboys who find trainspotting dangerously edgy. Of course, I may be wrong, and it's all just a harmless new way of finding meaning in a landscape. There's a growing feeling we'll be putting this to the test in the near future by devising a Georges Perec-style aleatory circumnavigation of the globe by a cut-up image of a landscape. To what purpose is anybody's guess . . .