Tag Archives: spelling

Vicissitude, Vocabulary and Victory

Why is it that I can spell vicissitude, a word I seldom use, but I struggle with accommodation, cemetery and success? I use them all the time, so they should be second nature. They aren’t. I always have to think about them. There are others too, but I can’t call them to mind just now.

When I was 16 and coming up to a couple of years of exams (we needn’t discuss the results – the fact I ended up working on a farm rather than carving out a brilliant academic career is all you need to know) I started to read a dictionary – improving my vocabulary and my spelling. If you were to examine my vocabulary and spelling using modern forensic techniques, you would probably find that they are stronger in words beginning with A to H. There is, frankly, only so much dictionary you can read.

Similarly, at that time, I read a number of Shakespeare’s plays to increase the breadth of my knowledge. They mainly went over my head and passed into oblivion. There is only so much you can take in if you are simply reading something. I now realise that in the absence of a teacher I should have at least bought some notes to help me through the work. The only plays of Shakespeare that I know much about were the ones we studied at school and plus Henry V and Romeo and Juliet. The former is courtesy of Kenneth Branagh and the latter is from my watching of Shakespeare in Love.

When you look at my academic career from this point of view it’s hardly surprising that I ended up failing to shine.

However, now I mention academics, I am reminded that I was going to write a post on politicians and skit notes. I will start that in a minute so I don’t forget.

It’s nearly the 11th November, so the header picture is the 2021 Jersey “Masterpiece Poppy” coin 5 ounces of silver and a poppy made using metal from a Spitfire that flew operational sweeps over the Normandy beaches, army mess tins dated 1945 and a Landing Craft that actually landed tanks on D-Day.

Jersey 2020 Poppy Masterpiece Coin

This is the 2020 version – the poppy medallion is made from metal left after Spitfire PM631 had a major restoration. It was one of the last Spitfires in service (until 1957 with the Meteorological Flight)  and one of the first planes in the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight. The penny gives an idea of scale. It seems to be quite fashionable, and lucrative, to make souvenirs from bits of wartime scrap.

Apologies for the title, I was stretching a bit to obtain alliteration.

The Chimes of Midday

I’ve just heard the sound of the Council House clock striking. I always feel it’s a good day when air conditions and the wind direction carry the sound. You can, of course, get too much of a good thing, which is why the chimes stop at 10.30. This was done many years ago when hoteliers complained that the bell was keeping guests awake. In the 1970s I spent a night in Durham. The cathedral clock chimes all through the night. All through. Loudly. Never again.

Anyway, apart from that I’ve had an unremarkable day.

Dropped Julia at work. Filled the car (the fuel gauge lit up and pinged). Came home. Did some more of the OU course I started yesterday (it’s a 12 hour course on poetry, nothing heavy), did comments on WP, did a bit of editing, read a couple of internet articles, washed up and realised that it’s midday and I need to get some work done. Also realised I didn’t know how to spell midday so had to look it up.

I had the same problem last week with the plural of roof. I pronounce it rooves, but I’m sure it is correctly, though inaccurately, spelt roofs. Seems I’m wrong and rooves is still acceptable in the UK, even though Doctor Johnson declared it to be obsolete in 1755. It’s always irritated me that it’s spelt differently to way I say it, particularly when wife and calf both go to a v in the plural.

I am so glad I’m not a lexicographer or a scholar of the English language. So many details, so much tedium.

I thought I’d write a post to make sure it’s done (Final of the Great British Bake Off tonight so I won’t be writing much). Laura is my favourite contestant, though not the greatest baker. She’s very clumsy and often drops cakes in the final stages. Then, the next week, when you thing she’d slow down and use both hands she’s back at it, talking, rushing, moving cake one-handed and spilling it again.

It is finished. I’m now going to make a sandwich and move some stuff round so Julia thinks I’ve been tidying up.


Ten Things I Learnt This Week

One, ten point lists are handy things to prompt a blog post. Last week I wrote about ten point lists, but they were already in my mind when I sat down at the keyboard. This week I sat down with a completely empty head and thought ‘What shall I write?’ I then thought ‘What did I learn this week?’ and then ‘Did I learn ten things?’ I’m hoping I did, or I’ll have to change the title.

Two, five hundred words are easy if you start with enough in your head. If you don’t have much to say, they can be a real struggle. I knocked out five 500 word posts on my Wednesday marathon and actually had to cut some to keep it to an average of 500 per post.

Three,sometimes less is better. I couldn’t get a good run at the blog last night and petered out after 250 words. I came close to 500 words twice, but the post was better when it was shortened, so I cut the extras out.

Four, freedom is not always good. The USA, with a tradition of freedom, individualism and pioneering spirit is not finding the Covid situation easy. The Germans and Swiss, who are more regimented and organised, seem to have come through the virus in much better shape. The Brits, as usual, fall between the two extremes and are totally disorganised.

Five, the Americans prefer ‘learned’ to ‘learnt’ and, according to the internet article I read, are irritated by what they see as the mis-spelling ‘learnt’. Users of British English, on the other hand, favour ‘learnt’ and see learned as an acceptable alternative. This is probably not accurate as (a) it’s on the internet and (b) I’m sure there are relaxed Americans an picky Brits about.

Six, it’s fun just relaxing and reading WordPress. There is so much to learn.

Seven, the average person eats 20-30 plant foods in a year. I got that from Helen at Growing out of Chaos. For years now I’ve been trying to keep our diet varied, and if that is the benchmark I seem to be succeeding. Like Helen, we are hovering around 60. That’s without foraging, as I’ve let that slip badly.

Eight, I now know a lot more about Edward VIII, anti-semitism, fascism and royalty medallions of the 1930s than I did at the beginning of the week. You might have guessed this from the photographs. Now isn’t the time to go into all that, as I haven’t yet written it all.


Nine, on-line grocery shopping is more difficult than you think. I thought I’d got it all organised but this week I still managed to order frozen spinach instead of fresh and the packs of six cobs instead of four. The big ones that come in the packs of four are good for lunch, but the small one, which come in the packs of six) are only a few bites before they are all gone. That means you have to take four for lunch, and that looks like  you are being greedy.

Ten, saag is not, as I had thought, an Indian word for spinach, but for greens of many sorts. The word for spinach is palak. I got this from Helen too. At this point, I would like to apologise to readers from the Indian sub-continent. I know there is no such language as ‘Indian’ but I am not well up on the differences and nuances of the various languages and decided to keep things simple.

So, that’s it, ten things I learnt this week. I have an uneasy feeling that I learnt more than that but haven’t retained it. That, I’m afraid, is what happens as you get older.


Charred Red Pepper Dip

First char your pepper. I used the garden flamethrower again and it did a better job than it did on the aubergine last week.

I shoved it in the blender and added the half carton of soft cheese left over from the Smoked Mackerel Pate. It looked a bit watery as it went in. With hindsight I should have taken it as a warning. I may have said that before.

I think I’ve also said I will look at recipes instead of working from memory. I tried but I couldn’t find the one I wanted, and as I had the soft cheese ready I just blundered ahead.

Add some garlic and smoked paprika and blitz it. Mutter. Add bread. Add more bread. When it looks firmish taste and add black pepper. It needed seasoning but I didn’t want to add lime juice as it was already sloppy. Even with the bread it was not exactly firm so I drained it in a sieve and managed to produce something with a consistency like a soft humous. I note from my spellchecker that the Americans spell humous differently too. You live and learn.

Charred Red Pepper Dip

Charred Red Pepper Dip

It was just about firm enough to be  acceptable and tasted OK. It needs some work but we ate it all so it can’t have been too bad. The photograph makes it look like something from a post-mortem examination but in natural light it lacked that spongy, moist lung-like quality.

We had it with green leaves, tomatoes, crackers and falafels. I’m going to try making my own falafels. The spellchecker doesn’t like that either. Falafel, according to the Concise Oxford Dictionary, is a variation of felafel. Google prefers falafel. The spellchecker doesn’t like either.

Before I do that I’m going to make sure I have all the ingredients and a recipe.

Flowers - detail

Flowers – detail

I thought I’d have another crack at the flowers. There’s not much else to photograph when you stay inside.

A Sea of Troubles

Forest lost 3-0 last night, as several of our customers lamented today. I follow football on a casual basis and one more loss for Forest doesn’t really affect me one way or another. The big football news of the day as far as I’m concerned, is that they are discussing banning people over 70 from going to football matches. As the demographic most at risk from coronavirus it is seen as a good thing to ban the over 70s from large gatherings where they may catch the virus.

As panic and over-reaction gradually become the norm this prize piece of buffoonery comes as no surprise. I was mainly surprised that people over 70 could afford the ticket prices for football matches.

This evening we went shopping and found that the shelves were nearly empty of toilet rolls. As far as I can see coronavirus has no gastric symptoms so extra toilet rolls aren’t necessary. It just seems to be a growing 21st century reaction to any crisis (including Brexit). There seems to be no problem in the world that doesn’t trigger panic-buying toilet rolls. Julia was talking to a shop assistant in Boots (that’s a pharmacy chain, not a sort of footwear, for those of you who aren’t familiar with the world of British retailing) this morning. It seems that people are panic-buying cold cures, hand-washing gels and baby products. I can’t see that any of that is really going to help.

If I was going to panic-buy I’d buy toilet rolls (because they always come in useful and have no sell-by date), sausages (because a good breakfast always improves things) and chocolate (because there is nothing that can’t be improved by chocolate). For the purposes of this blog I’m ignoring diabetes, obesity and tooth decay, which are, I admit, all things that can’t be improved by chocolate. However, there is enough reality in the world without me adding to it. If I’m going to die from an exotic virus I don’t see any point in having a trim waistline and a gleaming smile.

And that, for the sake of posterity, is my diary relating to a world in the grip of coronavirus panic.

Incidentally, has anyone noticed that the WP spellchecker does not like coronavirus? It prefers corona virus. But when I put corona virus into Google it asks Did you mean: coronavirus?

I don’t know about you, but I’m a trifle concerned that we’ll never be able to cure something we can’t spell.

I don’t have a picture of coronavirus or chocolate so you’ll have to make do with a picture of a Cook Islands $5 gold coin depicting Captain James Cook. It’s 11 mm in diameter and weighs 0.5 g. That’s 11/25 of an inch and 1/56 of an ounce for those of you who don’t do metric. It is very small, not particularly attractive and part of a fashion for small gold coins. No, I don’t know why, but people seem to like them.