Friday, 3 April 2020

Scrabble's weird and wonderful words

Words are amazing. We use them in so many ways.

Talking - my friends say it's non-stop in my case.

Reading - but am I the only one who sniffs a books before reading it?

Writing - I certainly do lots of that.

Playing games - do children still play hangman?

TV programmes - how many years has Countdown been running?

Crosswords - especially cryptic ones.

But this blog isn't about any of the above.  It's about SCRABBLE.

I play friendly Scrabble. No way would I want the stress of championship tournament Scrabble. I'm not good enough anyway. These championship players know all manner of unusual words that are included in the UK Scrabble lexicon.

Did you know that:

FALAJ is a water channel

QANAT is an underground channel

CEZVE is a small metal coffee pot

VUGH is a small rock cavity

DOHL is a drum

AROHA is a Maori word for love

If you've too many vowels then how about:

EOAN relating to the dawn
ZOEA crab larva

If you've no vowels how about:

PFFT to suddenly disappear
TYG a two-handled mug

If you have any satisfyingly obscure Scrabble words to add to this list then do please share...

Sunday, 29 March 2020

Bird Watching

There are so many thoughts, opinions, reports and updates out there that no one needs to read my thoughts on our current situation so I will look out of the window instead. 

We've been feeding the birds a new mix that contains fat pellets this year and the extra cost has paid off. We now have a far wider variety of bird visitors. Watching them reminds me a bit of the children I used to teach, endearing but unruly and I have to keep my eyes peeled or I would miss some of their more outlandish antics.

Here are some of my favourites:

The blackbird, male with a stunningly orange beak, who waits for us to appear every morning and runs across the path to be first at the 'breakfast' bird table. Why he runs I really can't say. It would surely be quicker to fly and I have to say it would be more elegant. His bottom certainly has an ungainly gait when running!

The long tailed tits with their delicate pink stomachs flit to the hanging feeder and flit back into the nearby Rowan tree. They move so quickly that my binoculars can hardly pick them out but when they do linger their elegant tails and pink feathers are a treat to see.

The robin, a regular and a pretty little bird, but he hangs around the bird table in a sinister way and he is somewhat lacking in table manners chasing off the poor dunnocks.

A pair of adorable goldfinches who spend just long enough at the feeder for me to study their amazing markings through the binoculars.

A greater spotted woodpecker who visits occasionally, boots the others off the feeder and angles his large body sideways so as not to fall off. When he's finished he flies to the Rowan and gives its trunk a couple of taps. He's a real character.

The bully-boy wood pigeons who are not really my favourites but I have to include them. They crowd round the bird table and our little blackbird is forced to move aside or he would be trampled upon for sure.

Yes, I know, I've missed out loads of them, like the countless tits who come and go so quickly that I can hardly make them out and the magpies with their raucous calls plus an occasional Jay, and I've no photos to post up because they won't let me get near enough but watching them all certainly helps to pass the time during this strange period in our lives.

Stay safe everyone. 

Sunday, 8 March 2020

Even though I'm a woman

I mix with people who treat me as an equal... 
even though I'm a woman. 

My peer group would possibly object to that phrase - the title of this blog post - but it bears looking at. I offer a small example, one which doesn't affect my life or threaten me in any way but it represents an underlying assumption. On many occasions I have been complimented on how well I park my car. Would that happen if I was a male driver?

I mix with people who think they treat all women as equals... 
even though they occasionally don't.

Yet again, this is a small point but a telling one - in a subtle kind of way. Last week a friend commented that there had been a female referee on a recently televised football match - Chelsea v. Liverpool I believe it was. He said how good it was that none of the TV presenters had felt the need to mention the fact that she was a woman.
"You have just negated that positive act," I said.
"How do you mean?" he asked.
"By mentioning it," I told him.
He pointed out that he was merely complimenting them on their equality. I said that there should be no need to compliment anyone on equality because equality should be taken for granted in today's world.
"Oh yes," he said. "I see what you mean."
But I can't help thinking that next time there's a woman referee at a men's football match he, and many men like him, will be thinking thoughts of inequality.

As I say, the above are minor points, irritating but by no means life threatening. I sometimes forget how profoundly unequal some women still are and how much they still suffer for that inequality. In 1995 Hillary Clinton created a mantra that still rings out today:
"Human rights are women's rights and women's rights are human rights." 

She said, "It is a violation of human rights when a leading cause of death worldwide among women ages 14 to 44 is the violence they are subjected to in their own homes by their own relatives." Has anything improved in this regard since 1995? I suspect not.

Malala Yousafzai said, "We realise the importance of our voices only when we are silenced."

Maya Angelou said, "Each time a woman stands up for herself... she stands up for all women."

I could go on with quote after quote, but the mere fact that there are so many quotes out there aimed at empowering women, illustrates that women are neither empowered, nor are they equal. If they were we wouldn't need the quotes.

I can't begin to try and heal the transgressions of mankind in this blog post but maybe I can suggest a starting point. I aim this at those men who still think it's ok to compliment a woman on her looks and a man on his achievements. When you understand how wrong that is then, and only then, will you begin to accept women as equals.

Friday, 6 March 2020

To rewrite or not to rewrite...

It has been well over a year since I completed my MA and yet I still haven't managed to get myself to revisit my dissertation. It's a play and, although I got a distinction for it, it's the only play I've ever written and so I'm not sure what to do with it next. It still has the constraints of the MA examiner's rules, for example, word count and footnoting, but I could work on that. I could extend it to add all those extras that were systematically stripped away when I realised I was thousands of words over the allowed limit. Alternatively I could convert it into a novel, return to a more familiar genre. I've yet to decide.

I have a number of concerns about keeping it as a play. Firstly, I wouldn't know where to send it. Yes, I could Google but that's unknown territory for me.

Secondly, and more importantly for my sanity, is the fear that it might just be accepted. I can't imagine how unsettling it would be to know that my script was being learned and rehearsed by actors who didn't know me and who were probably criticising its every line.

As for the actual performances, I would be every bit as scared as I used to be when I was a teenage member of an amateur dramatic group - possibly even more scared because teenagers often think they can conquer the world, whereas you and me... well, we know we never will.

So it's decision time. First I have to gird my proverbial loins and reread the thing. I hope I'll be pleasantly entertained. I hope I don't do too much cringing at awkward phrases and lumpy plot devices. One thing is for sure, if I do proceed with a rewrite then you will be among the first to know. So watch this space...

Saturday, 22 February 2020

Suffering for Fashion - a poem

I have childhood memories of 50s fashion
when skirts billowed above sugared net
when nylons clung to gravity-fighting suspenders
and boned corsets squeezed waists and ribs,
when hair was rollered, backcombed, sprayed solid
and tethered at night by hairnet and curlers.

I grew into 60s psychedelia,
tottering on metal stilettoes
that crushed my toes into improbable points
while my Carnaby Street miniskirt froze my legs
although it did turn heads, attracted attention,
but not always of the right kind.

These days I’m surrounded by loose swing dresses,
ripped jeans, leggings, free-flying hair,
plimsolls with skirts
and not a corset in sight.
Where’s the grit? Where’s the pain?
Where’s the suffering for fashion?

Saturday, 15 February 2020

Five Fun Ferret Facts

Several years ago, in 2011 to be precise, I posted a blog called Three Free Frog Facts. I think it was the tongue-twisting element of the title that amused me the most but frogs did feature quite regularly in my life in those days. Charlie the cat was the frog catcher. Sadly she has died and her sister, Mabel, has no interest in chasing anything. Why would she when a bowl of perfectly acceptable food is provided for her whenever she deigns to wake up from her serial napping? And so these days I have become less involved with frogs and more involved with ferrets.  If you want to know why then continue reading.

Here are my Five Fun Ferret Facts:

Ferret Fact 1: Males are called hobs, females are jills, babies are kits and a group of ferrets are a business - and what's more they never mind their own business. In fact, they are so nosy that I have on occasions found them in my handbag, my boots and even my coat pocket. Here is Woody climbing innocently out of the sock drawer:


Ferret Fact 2:  Queen Elizabeth I is said to have had a white ferret as a pet. I wonder if it ever delved into her regal handbag. This is Lilah lounging in a handbag as if it had 'ferret bed' written on the front:


Ferret Fact 3: Ferrets make a chuckling sound when they play which is called dooking. It's a lovely noise guaranteed to make you want to dook along with them. Here are the two youngsters, Timmy and Jemima, playing and dooking together:

Timmy and Jemima

Ferret Fact 4:  They are very affectionate animals - most of them anyway - and they will happily sleep on laps or cradled in arms like a baby. They can fall into such a deep sleep, known as 'ferret dead sleep', that many a ferret Mum's heart will race until the crafty little thing opens one eye and wonders what the fuss is about. Here are Willow, Lilah and Dee Dee demonstrating just that:

Willow, Lilah and Dee Dee

Ferret Fact 5:  They are highly entertaining pets, especially when they leap in the air, chase each other through ferret tubes - often backwards - and bounce sideways like cartoon coyotes. Here is Charlie emerging from his ferret tube and Woody and Isaac investigating a mixing bowl:

Woody and Isaac
How do I know all this?

Well, thanks to Daughter, I am the proud grandma of 10 grandferrets!!

(Apologies and fur-baby sized kisses to Leo and Ozzy who have not been included in this little rogues gallery and to Isaac who has an adorable face but is only showing off his rear here!)

If you'd like to see what I had to say about frogs the blog link is:  Three Free Frog Facts

Sunday, 2 February 2020

Link to my poem

A big thank you to the Ekphrastic Review for publishing my poem Tempus Fugit. Before I give you the link, here is the story behind it.

Templecombe Station is on the line from Exeter to Waterloo, the route I take when visiting my sister. The train was not scheduled to stop at Templecombe but stop it did. The rhythm of the Station's name reminded me of Adlestrop and I jotted down some ideas in my note book while we waited. As we slowly departed from the Station I noticed a statue. The train gathered speed. The statue disappeared from view but Google was at hand to tell me all about it when I got home.

Tempus Fugit is the title of the statue which was sculpted by Sioban Coppinger and Fiona Peever. It was fascinating talking with them and the Friends of Templecombe Station group (FoTS) when I sought their permission. A FoTS member gave me information about the statue and a photograph to send off with my submission.

It learnt that Tempus fugit (Time flies) was designed to be both a sculpture and sundial. The bronze statue is of a railwayman consulting the British Rail timetable, some of the pages of which have blown away and landed on the grass marking the hours of the sundial. The statue is the gnomon (the shadow cast on the sundial).

And here is the link to my poem: Tempus fugit