The first rose of summer

One of the roses is flowering and half a dozen of the others have burgeoning buds that will soon open and release their exquisite fragrance; sadly, if this strong north-easterly wind does not stop blowing, nobody will be able to smell it although the residents of the neighbouring village might just catch a whiff as it hurtles past.

Many people who are avid readers of whodunits but not particularly keen gardeners will still know about the thornless climbing rose “Zephirine Drouhin” which appears in Agatha Christie’s story “Sad Cypress.” The photograph I took today shows a sport of that variety, also thornless, called “Kathleen Harrop” but this one is much less well known. It grows against a wall of our house and I have used it in my manuscript as a clue for Ellie.

Kathleen Harrop

Kathleen Harrop

Is angst-free writing ever any good?

Earlier this year, whilst sitting in a waiting room after arriving much too early for a hospital appointment, I had just begun to read my newly purchased issue of a writing magazine when details of a mini-poetry competition caught my eye.  I have never entered a poetry competition, in fact I have not entered any kind of creative writing competition since I left school, but  writing “8 lines incorporating foreign words and phrases”  seemed within my capabilities so I pulled out a pen and the appointment letter from my bag and  less than five minutes later I had written the following lines on the back of the envelope.

Une Visite To The Café

This café looks familiar, I’m getting déjà vu

I think I came here with mon père or was it avec tu

Mon Dieu, it’s that rude garçon who fondled my cheveux

Well if he touches it again I’ll poke him in les yeux

I don’t know what to order, perhaps some fruits de mer

Followed by du canard with lots of pommes de terre

I’ll nibble on some fromage, swig champagne with my brie

Then, when I’m feeling très joyeux, I’ll try that Maître d’

I couldn’t bring myself to the point of actually submitting the mini-poem for the competition and it has taken me weeks to understand why. I was not concerned about rejection of my writing; hundreds of people must enter these competitions every month and only one can win. I was not fearing humiliation as they would be most unlikely to print “the standard of this month’s entries was very high except for the appalling rubbish submitted by Lynne Revette Butler” next to the winning poem; only those involved with judging the competition would  know if I had somehow embarrassingly  misinterpreted the instructions. Eventually I worked out the cause of my reluctance;  insufficient angst during the creative process was to blame. In fact no angst about the content of these lines, not even the slightest trace of it, had disturbed my mind during those few minutes sat in the waiting-room chair or subsequently. I was happy with it from day one. My anxiety  over submitting my poem was due to my lack of anxiety while writing it.

Is this a common feeling if you have not sat up into the early hours with your red pen?  Yes, I know I’m only talking about eight lines of  nonsense, but I cannot get past the feeling that I simply did not suffer enough when I wrote them.

Differences; my discarded “D” post

This is a post I  wrote  for  “D” in the A to Z challenge but I thought the link was rather tenuous and used the piece about writing a Diary instead.  

Whilst editing my manuscript  I noticed that I have unknowingly fallen into the bad habit of using the same word for slightly different meanings rather than using one of the alternatives.  Was I surprised or amazed? According to my dictionaries these words are interchangeable but apparently this was not always the case.

An old anecdote about Dr. Samuel Johnson is a good illustration of this point.  When his wife found him kissing one of the female domestic staff she said “I am surprised.” In response the Doctor said “No, I am surprised, you are amazed.”  Presumably he meant that he had been “caught unawares,”  been “taken by surprise,”  whilst his wife was “taken aback,”  felt “bowled over and flabbergasted.”

Nuances between words in the English language (as taught during my schooldays) are being lost and increasingly one word covers all situations; does this matter when new words to describe our possessions, emotions and actions are entering our vocabulary at a rapid rate? If my grandchildren ever want to experience the full  joy of reading classic literature from past centuries I think it does matter for, rather than just having to look up an occasional unknown word, they may struggle to comprehend the author’s meaning at all.

I know the difference between saying “that’s old-fashioned”  and “that’s so not modern, grandma.” The difference is about 50 years.

A to Z Challenge – U is for Unfinished

 I fall asleep at night thinking about my unfinished projects.

There is a very simple reason why I have so many unfinished projects;  I start too many.  I love planning projects.  Sometimes I start by measuring and drawing up plans, maybe for work in my home involving choosing paint colours and fabrics, maybe for alterations to the garden needing earth-moving  and extensive plant lists.  I like having several projects running at once,  there is always something to suit my mood or the weather.

There is however, one unfinished piece of work that is now waking me up in a state of anxiety.  I need to finish the  first re-draft of my manuscript and send it off to an editor but I cannot be satisfied with it.  It is like an iced cake;  I had no trouble deciding on the ingredients and the cake looked nicely done when I lifted it out of the oven. I let it cool off for a while then put on a thin layer of  marzipan to  smooth over the tiny cracks.  All fine thus far, but then came the icing, the perfect glossy finish to present to the outside world. It has lumps in it,  it slides to one side and loses its gloss, it will not set firm and let me write “The End”  on it in a confident, flowing hand.  It sits there, unfinished, mocking me but I will not become unnerved or unhinged,  my  resolve is unswerving,  unsurmountable.  I must regain the upper-hand, it cannot remain unpublished.

“This recently discovered unfinished work had all the makings of being her greatest novel”  sounds fine for an obit.  “This unfinished work  finished her”  less appealing.

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 – H is for homonyms, homophones and homographs

I  confuse the definitions of  homonym, homophone and homograph and judging by the websites I have read on the subject this is not unusual.

According to the OED  the definitions are as follows:

Homonym means each of two or more words that are spelled and pronounced in the same way but have different meanings and origins.

Homophone means each of two or more words that are pronounced in the same way but have different meanings, origins or spelling.

Homograph means each of two or more words spelled  in the same way but with different meanings and origins and often different pronunciations.

It doesn’t really matter that I cannot remember which is which  as I am  happy just reading books proofread by people who understand that new and knew (homophones) are not interchangeable. Reviewers like to moan about the grammatical errors and spelling mistakes of new Indie authors and sadly their criticism is sometimes justified;  however,  recently I have downloaded  several classic novels and been presented with here instead of hear,  there instead of their etc. in spite of the earlier hardback versions, produced by mainstream publishers, using the right spellings. Presumably reviewers do not read these ebooks as the stories are well known and will continue to reserve their diatribes for the Indie author community.