I have been ill in bed with a cold, whisky toddies and Radio 4.
I only drink whisky toddies when I have a cold but they are so delicious I wonder I don't drink them all the time. Hot punch, a mixture of spirits, sugar and lemon juice were popular drinks with the Victorians. I doubt if they cure your cold but they do make you feel better. They give you a warm, mellow outlook.
I do listen to Radio 4 constantly though and am listening to it this minute, as it celebrates its 40th birthday, in measured, analytical, self-congratulatory, mildly self-critical, humorous tones. Just like Radio 4 in fact.
But I have been able to catch it out by this prolonged listening. The latest edition of In Business had a thesis that good businesses should be created by craftsmen and artists rather than consultants and accountants. The craftsmen and artists would stay in touch with what the business actually did while the consultants and accountants would sell the soul of the business for a quick buck and the bottom line. WETA Workshop was given as an example. WETA Workshop made the special effects for Lord of the Rings. In passing, the presenter said that a weta is a New Zealand lizard. No it's not, it's an insect related to the cockroach, and a fairly repulsive thing to find on your bedroom wall.
However getting that one small fact wrong cast a shadow of dark inaccuracy much greater than it should have over the rest of the programme. It wasn't germane to the main thesis, which I wanted to agree with. It was just something that I happened to know and the BBC man did not. It was the fly in the beer, which doesn't take up that much room but somehow you don't really want to drink the beer when you see it there. In fact it's like the weta on the bedroom wall. It's small compared to you, it's not aggressive, it won't do you any harm,- but it does make you a little uneasy about what kind of night's sleep you are going to have.
Of course such nit-picking can turn you into someone like the middle manager I worked with who when I was talking about the computer system and said "the company" instead of "the firm" went on about it for half the meeting. It was something he knew about, and he didn't know anything about the computer system. And he had to say something to impress the senior managers.
I was once sitting on the cliffs of Aran, those extraordinary islands at Ireland's western edge. The cliffs fall hundreds of sheer feet into the sea. You look west and reflect that there are thousands of miles of Atlantic before there will be land again.
Then I heard some New Zealand voices behind me. "Thus uz the inds of the earth, usn't it?" Well, we should know.
New Zealand has five thousand miles between its eastern coast and South America. By contrast Aran seems cosily surrounded by continents.
Roe, a deer, a road kill deer Day, the bright side of the earth, Fee, is what I don't get paid, Ma, the one who gave me birth, Low, how further can I fall, Sah, was Sir once long ago, Tee, for balancing a ball That will bring us back to Ro-oh-oh-oh.
The other night someone turned up at the pub talking about having had to close his crystal shop and about star signs. Someone else started talking about her star signs and how the fact that she was Virgemini made her this and that her husband was Aquattarius made him that. (All goes with my theory that astrology is yet another way that people can talk about themselves). "You don't believe in this shite, do you?" I said, rudely. "Well, no," said the crystal man. "But I had to know about it to sell the crystals." Then started to talk about how there were powers of attraction from the sun and moon and so on. I pointed out how arbitrary clusters of stars of different light years in distance away from us could not really affect our characters and destinies. (Though human beings, incurably self-centred, like to think so. The opposers of Copernican theory were really touched in their vanity, like an older child when the new baby comes along and gets all the attention.) Meanwhile the Virgemini woman looked at me and whispered to someone next to her, "She's very aggressive, isn't she?"
K. and I went for a cycle in East Lothian, starting out on a cycle path near Dalkeith. He had a new Ordnance Survey map and we noticed that it showed an unfamiliar feature, a green dotted line (meaning a National Cycle Route) and a green dashed line (meaning a surfaced cycle route). So the good work that Sustrans has been doing over the years has hit the maps.
The cycle track was once a railway for carting coal. The pits are closed now and the slag heaps grown over with trees and grass. East Lothian is a mixture of farming and commuting. Sadly, though, there were buckets of disinfectant in the lanes for the latest outbreak of foot and mouth.
East Lothian is easy cycling, as the hills are not high so you can speed down one hill and be pushed up the next without having to make much effort. The scenery is pleasant rather than dramatic, with small woods, avenues, plenty of beech hedges, and handsome steadings in crimson or yellow stone. At one point we followed what seemed to be indicated as a narrow paved road on the map and in fact was an overgrown track. We thought we had mistaken our way but we came out at this fine place, Keith Marishcal, with arch and doocot.
Near Gifford we passed a sign warning of deer on the road. It would make more sense to have a sign in the woods warning of cars for the deer as they will come off worse in the asymmetrical conflict between wildlife and motor vehicles. We passed a roe deer which had had its guts spilt on the tarmac. "Roe a deer, a road kill deer," I sang. After that K. saw a dead rat, and I a dead rabbit, and there were other patches of unidentifiable fur.
The approach of autumn could be seen in the bleached harvested fields and the leaves on the trees drying out and crisping before they change colour. There were great flocks of rooks cawing overhead. It was a little melancholy out in this quiet countryside. The labour of human beings is evident in the buildings, the ploughed fields and the clipped hedges but you hardly see a soul about working. So it is like the financial district of a city out of office hours, the sense of a place that is lonely and deserted when it should be bustling with human purpose.
Someone stole my rhyming dictionary It's caused me so much grief Someone stole my rhyming dictionary, It's beyond any credence Someone stole my rhyming dictionary, And I am so very sad Someone stole my rhyming dictionary They were really really awful. Someone stole my rhyming dictionary Every last and final page Someone stole my rhyming dictionary It put me in such a fury Someone stole my rhyming dictionary Oh how could it be worse, Someone stole my rhyming dictionary I'm forced to write free poetry, Someone stole my rhyming dictionary, Where did they put it down? Someone stole my rhyming dictionary, I search throughout the city, It should be forbidden, it should be a crime, To half-inch that reference work, That gives you a word that sounds like another one close by...
Mark Brockway, who as a soldier hired many Iraqi staff in 2003, did an interview with the BBC the other day. Dan Hardie is on too but Mark makes the important points. II is so much less abstract when you hear a guy who is in regular contact with people actually on the run from death squads. There was a good practical discussion of the logistics of withdrawal, and some pretty sobering descriptions by Mark of what is happening to these people.
My part of the blogosphere is in a rage because a bloke who thought he had been libelled got his lawyers to send a letter to the webhost of the offender. The webhosters then pulled the plug not only on the offender but other blogs that were being hosted by the same server. Full details here.
There are certain dreadful moments - like the one in a horror film where the potential slasher victim picks up a phone and hears that the line has been cut; like putting your card into a hole in the wall and finding a huge and unaccountable hole in your funds as well; like the police car drawing up outside the house. One day - and I suppose it must happen often in places like China or Iran - you will start your computer, click on to your favourite, well-written, outspoken blogs and get this.
"For James, style makes the man, but too much style threatens to unmake him, for when the writer attends too closely to his own sentences, he tends to turn away from the horizon of real events, and it is on this horizon that James believes the wary writer must unstintingly train his eye. Edmund Burke, he remarks, "was not just a stylist. But then again, nobody with a considerable style is". While Burke wrote admirably sinuous, muscular prose, he never invested it with more energy than the ideas whose vehicle it was to be. The writer who too lovingly caresses his own phrases risks falling into the trap of narcissism, a kind of affective disorder of the text that inevitably saps the prose of its vigour."