A to Z Challenge – R + S is for Ridiculous Politicians and the Schools Curriculum Proposals

I am probably tweaking the A to Z rules by posting a  partly  S topic on the R day but, for the first time since I started blogging, I am going to Rant Seriously.

I have  just learnt that our British Government is planning to take the land based courses off the list of subjects that count towards a school’s position in the  annual performance tables.  Apparently they no longer believe that Agriculture and Horticulture meet the criteria for aspirational vocational courses.  I cannot possibly write about this as competently  and eloquently as the headmaster of Brymore School, (where they have their own farm and gardens) does when appealing to people to sign the school’s petition asking the Government to rethink this proposal.  The link to the petition is below, please look at it and let me know if you think “Hair and Beauty”  is more important to a nation than growing food and caring for our environment.

Please note:  the choice of the word “Ridiculous” to describe my government’s members and proposals is entirely my own and not in any way connected to Brymore School.  The rest of the words that came to mind were inappropriate for this blog.


I will post my scheduled “S” topic on Monday but I needed to write about this now before I go out and plant food crops in my garden.

A to Z Challenge – R is for Red

I have several dictionaries of phrase origins and meanings, the oldest of which is by Ebenezer Cobham Brewer;  the edition I own was published in about 1896.

Here are a few  “Red”  definitions

Red Tincture was a preparation that alchemists thought would convert any baser metal into gold. It is sometimes called the Philosopher’s Stone, the Great Elixir or the Great Magisterium.

Red-shanks was used to describe a Highlander and came from the boots made of undressed deer hide that Highlanders once wore  with the red hair still on the outside.

Red-lattice  at the doors and windows of an English alehouse used to signify that it was properly licensed to sell alcohol;  it is probably the reason why many old public houses are called “The Chequers.”

Red-tape originates from the custom of lawyers and government officials of tying their bundles of papers together with red tape; it has been in use since the 18th Century and now generally refers to bureaucratic delay.  In David Cameron’s first speech as PM he said that he would help small firms by cutting red tape;  well,  he hasn’t helped ours and we are being strangled by it. I do not think I shall live to see any Government reducing Red Tape!

Red-breasts (or Robin redbreasts) was the slang name for The Bow Street Runners who were the first professional policemen in London and wore bright scarlet waistcoats.

Can you add any more?

A to Z Challenge – Q is for Quietly

Why are tv documentaries so loud?  Why are some shops so loud?

I have no problem with some atmospheric music playing while nobody is talking during a documentary programme but why must they play music during speech? I frequently give up after the first five minutes because I cannot follow the sometimes complex commentary or interview which is a real shame because I know the programme would interest me if I could just hear the words.

I have read that many shop owners play music specifically chosen to make people stay in their shops for longer;  if it is loud I leave regardless of the type of music.  Stores therefore lose my potential custom as I walk straight out and find somewhere quieter;  does anyone over 18 ever leave a quiet shop to go and find one with more noise?

I live in the  countryside and most people, when visiting for the first time,  stand outside and say how wonderfully peaceful it is;  occasionally someone actively dislikes it and can’t wait to get back to a noisier environment but they are usually in their teens or twenties.

Do you notice loud music being forced on you?

A to Z Challenge – P is for People

Today’s post is about some of those  people whose surname begins with the letter P  whose art, doctrines or achievements have influenced my life.  This is the serious list, about appreciation of beauty in all its forms, about constantly questioning what is going on around us and  noticing how clever use of language is a powerful weapon.  If we have A to Z  2014  I promise that I’ll lighten up!

Andrea Palladio  (1508 – 80)     –   Italian architect       for inspiring all the Palladian masterpieces I have visited in the UK and  Italy

Emmeline Pankhurst  (1858 – 1928)     –   English Suffragette   for inspiring women to fight for their right to vote

Dorothy Parker  (1893 – 1967)    –   American writer and critic   for making me laugh (a lot), and then making me think

Anna Pavlova  (1881 – 1931)   –   Russian ballet dancer     for the dying swan of course

Sir Karl Raimund Popper  (1902 – 1994)   –   Austrian-born  British philosopher   for helping me to have an independent opinion about scientific “facts”

John (Jack) Profumo  (1915 –  2006 )    –  British  Politician   for showing me that you should not judge someones character based on one mistake

Giacomo Puccini  (1858 – 1924)   –  Italian Composer   for Tosca  and  especially Vissi d’arte                   

                          The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.    Dorothy Parker

Who would you choose for your list? 

A to Z Challenge – O is for Optimism

I have always tried to start each day with what I believed was optimism regardless of how bleak things looked the evening before.

Whilst deciding on my topic for the letter O in the A to Z challenge I looked up the definition for the word optimism and this was the result of my search

                     hopefulness and confidence about the future or the successful outcome of something:

I had always associated optimism with hopefulness but not with total confidence;  quite confident or fairly confident yes but not totally confident so I looked up definitions for hopefulness

                          feeling or inspiring optimism about a future event:

and confidence

                          the feeling or belief that one can rely on someone or something; firm trust: 

Looking at the three definitions together  it appears to me that when I am hopeful I must also have confidence;  all that time I thought I had optimism  it seems that I did not so, in future, I shall just make the most of every day as it says at the top of my blog and stop trying to define my approach to life in a single word, although I must say I do  think I am objective ………………….

A to Z Challenge – N is for Nookie

Over the last fifteen months I’ve been learning the pitfalls of writing about nookie.

I have struggled to maintain my interest in many book characters when faced with cringeworthy  descriptions of their intimate sexual activity with one or more of the other characters. I have sometimes laughed out loud at the writer’s use of clichés and overly graphic descriptions phrased so badly they end up devoid of  the erotic passion they sought to convey.  I smugly thought “I could do better than that”  but now I realize how difficult it is to find the right words.   I have not written an erotic novel but the story covers almost twenty years of Ellie’s life and she has more than one intimate physical relationship. I  used  a few brief accounts of her sex-life to assist in demonstrating her changing attitude towards men as she grows older but, as I work on the 2nd draft,  I am finding it difficult not to keep re-writing them.

I would be interested to hear how other authors felt when describing sexual activity in their first novel.

A to Z Challenge – M is for Malapropisms

I learnt about malapropisms at school but I do not remember being told then that they are also referred to as dogberryisms. This use of an incorrect word instead of a word that sounds similar is generally an error on the part of the speaker but is occasionally an intentional substitution.

Malapropisms appeared in several works before Richard Sheridan created the character of Mrs. Malaprop in his 1775  comedy play The Rivals. The alternative name of Dogberryisms comes from Shakespeare’s Constable Dogberry in Much Ado About Nothing;  this character announces that his watch comprehended two auspicious persons when he should have said they had  apprehended two suspicious persons.   

The word “malapropism” comes from the French “mal à propos” meaning “inappropriate” and one of Mrs Malaprop’s best known mistakes is to use illiterate  instead of  obliterate.

The Beatles song titles  Tomorrow Never Knows and A Hard Days Night  are said to originate from Ringo Starr’s malapropisms which were referred to as “Ringoisms.” 

The former Mayor of Chicago, Richard Daley,  made the startling announcement that “The police are not here to create disorder, they’re here to preserve disorder.”

The magazine New Scientist reported an instance of someone  substituting the word malapropism itself with “Miss-Marple-ism”  and I think this is my favourite .


A to Z Challenge – L is for Limbo

I am in a state of  limbo;  nothing to do with Original Sin, Hell or Damnation I hasten to add but with the more mundane  definition of “intermediate state or condition.”  

A few days ago I read a well-written blog post expounding the case for allowing anyone who is passionate about writing to call themselves a writer regardless of whether or not any of their work is in the public domain; I remained unconvinced.  I have seen my non-fiction articles in print but I do not think that makes me a writer as I merely put down certain facts in a reader-friendly form and they were published.  If you have read my earlier A to Z blogs you will know that I am refining my novel prior to the professional editing stage;  this has to be fitted in to my already busy working and family life and most of my friends have no idea that I am also working on a book.  They do not read blogs and they do not have Twitter Accounts;  some of them use Facebook but they know that I don’t so they do not search for me.  I  chose not to involve my friends in my  fiction writing because at the moment I feel so insecure about my ability to tell a good tale; if a few strangers buy the ebook  my friends will find out but until then I am in limbo, writing but not, in my opinion, a writer.

A to Z Challenge – K is for Kitchen Garden

I live in the country with enough space in my garden for an area dedicated to the production of food;  about fifteen years ago I enclosed the vegetable patch  with hedges and fences which immediately lifted its status to “Kitchen Garden.”  

I use the raised bed system where each bed is four feet wide so that once the initial deep digging is finished  you do not need to walk on the soil again because you stand on narrow paths between the beds to carry out all the cultivations and harvesting. Now that there are only two of us living here, planting short rows of the different crops about once a fortnight means that, in theory at least, there is always something to pick for about seven months of the year.   Sadly,  theory is just that and the rabbits, deer, moles and all the other creatures who live in my garden regard this place as either their larder, playground or underground highway route;  oh how I long for a walled vegetable and fruit garden which would keep out everything that did not have wings.   Like many other passionate gardeners I visit private gardens that open under the National Gardens Scheme; I  choose places that have walled kitchen gardens where fruit and vegetables are still grown in at least part of the space and I stand in them and dream about having one of my own.   It will never happen of course because I would need to win the Lottery to pay for it and the Local Council would refuse planning permission.

The first rewrite of my novel is underway and I am at the point where the main female character Ellie struggles with her desire for a walled garden when faced with an important decision about her life.  I’m not sure I would make the same choice as her, but then I know what happens next.

If you have never visited any NGS gardens I recommend that you try one in your local area;  you can buy a copy of the “Yellow Book”  which lists all the openings or visit the website and search online for free.

A to Z challenge – J is for Jargon

I dislike people who attempt to use Professional Jargon in order to make me feel inadequate.  

About 25 years ago I was invited to become a member of a steering group for a new local scheme being considered by the National Health Service ;  several other people from outside the NHS also took part and generally we all worked well together and made good progress.   It was obvious from the start, however, that a few of the professionals did not want the outsiders to participate in the discussions; they used various strategies to keep us excluded but their  weapon of choice was Jargon (with added acronyms.)

I have also been assaulted by Jargon when talking to accountants, lawyers, builders, car mechanics, vets and those terrifying ladies at the beauty counters in department stores.  It’s not that I mind them using technical terms related to their professions,  I do that myself, it’s the way that they use them I find objectionable.

I am currently rewriting sections of my novel having completed my own rigorous first edit;  I had made a brief reference to the use of professional jargon by one of the male characters but I am expanding on it now to build sympathy for his wife’s character in the first chapter.  This is proving harder than I expected because I do not know enough about his working environment so it’s back to research mode again.