Tuesday, 31 July 2007

Seriously Good Milkfloat

A busy, multi-tasking sort of day, working on three different books, two journals and a looseleaf. Thankfully, the weather has been glorious once again today, so the tent and the big new paddling pool are both up and have been much used (though not by me, I must confess). I can't say this resulted in a 'quiet' day, exactly, but at least all the noise was outside, and not indoors.

Race for Life contributions are still trickling in, so I'm edging ever closer to my £600 target. Thanks again, everyone - pics on the blog below this one. My sister Catherine started chemo today and we're all hoping that that will be that until after the wedding, so she has a chance for the inevitable side-effects to wear off and to regain some strength. She's facing it all with good humour and courage, which are entirely characteristic, but still never fail to amaze me, given the circumstances

Saw a photograph today which reminded me very much of the Parisian scenes of my photographic hero, Eugene Atget www.tunickart.com/atget.html . I first discovered him when I was in my teens, and was enchanted at first sight. I've seen the work of hundreds if not thousands of photographers in the many intervening years, but Atget was my first true love and I am always drawn back to his elegiac images of forlorn lichen-clad statues and crumbling balustrades, mist-enveloped gardens and ancient organ grinders.

Here's someone who's creating a similar kind of photographic record of a great city - in this case Edinburgh - for our own times http://www.henniker.org.uk/ . He's probably not the only person doing it (it would be good to find someone working at it in black and white), but he's certainly amassed an impressive collection of images here. One of the best things about the site is that the pics blow up to fill the screen, so you get to see a huge amount of detail. There are plenty of fascinating links, too - it's one of those sites you land on and become so absorbed that you completely lose track of time.

Received a couple of emails today from Scott Russell of Paddy and Scott's Seriously Good Coffee www.paddyandscotts.co.uk/index.html . 'Pride, Passion and commitment to perfection' , they declare on their website, and I can certainly endorse the 'perfection' bit - their ground coffee is simply superb. As if the flavour weren't enough to recommend it, I love the fact that the beans are hand-roasted in the Suffolk village of Earl Soham, not too far from the Muddy Island. It comes in four blends plus water-processed decaf. Best of all is the fact that Paddy and Scott are committed to working only with small-plantation coffee producers who offer a sustainable and fair environment for all those involved. As part of their ‘Fairer Trade’ ethos, they are in the process of setting up an educational trust to fund schools within coffee growing areas - see http://www.fairertrade.info/ .

'Coast' tonight www.bbc.co.uk/coast was East Anglian - King's Lyn to Felixstowe - so quite close to home, really. Reminded me that a day-trip to Southwold and Walberswick is long overdue, and something to make time for in the next week or two. And Neil Oliver . . . sigh, what a voice . . .

And finally, beside my keyboard (the trendy black one with the worn-down keys, remember? - see Half of what I say is meaningless: A word in my ear ) sits an old, old friend, whom I haven't seen for absolutely years. Discovered in a box of miscellaneous junk in the recently reorganised garage . . . my beloved Matchbox Commer Milk Float (Model No 21) circa 1963 (at least). It is that wonderful shade of pistachio green which disappeared from the colour chart in the 1970s but is now quite popular in a retro, shabby chic kind of a way. The best thing about it was (and remains) the pointy plastic milk bottles stacked inside. I used to press my fingers onto them so hard that it hurt and then inspect the neat matrix of indentations in the skin, which took a surprisingly long time to disappear. I can still do this. It still hurts. I love it and it's going to stay right beside me on my desk forever. Goodnight.

Monday, 30 July 2007

Race for Life - Essex University 29 July 2007

A massive THANKS to everyone who sponsored me for RACE FOR LIFE on Sunday - your generosity has been heart-warming, and those of you who know me will appreciate why I am now more determined than ever to raise as much as I possibly can to support the absolutely vital, life-saving work of Cancer Research UK. I upped my target to £400 last week but a huge influx of goodwill brought the total to £550. With promises of more to come, I should clear £600. If you haven't sponsored me yet, do please consider throwing a few £££ my way, via online sponsorship, cheques payable to Cancer Research UK, or used fivers in an envelope . . . whatever - every little helps. Thanks. http://www.raceforlifesponsorme.org/jedoyle

Following lots of rain overnight, it was, thankfully, dry on the morning, pleasantly overcast and not too warm.

Had a small 'lost running number' crisis on arrival. Not having done the race before I didn't realised I should have received a number through the post. Which I didn't. Probably a casualty of the recent postal strikes. Caused a brief panic - 'arrghh, suppose they don't let me run without one! '

I needn't have worried - I was given a nice emergency marker-pen job. Celebrated with a bottle of water before realising the length of the queues for the Portaloos. (But here's a point worth noting - and who will be surprised? 2,500 women, 15 loos in constant use. By the end of the day they were as clean, hygienic and pleasant to use as they were at the outset. Low percentage of men. No beer tent. QED.)

Following the Man with the Blue Flag to the starting point. The easy bit.

Some of yer actual running. Sun starting to emerge from behind clouds.

Still running . . .
. . . but not used to all this hot sunshine, and completely forgot to sprint over finishing line, but at least I was still doing a passable impression of running, albeit not terrifically fast.

Thankfully no shortage of free bottled water from those nice Tesco chaps. (Nivea, another sponsor, supplied a goodie-bag containing . . . deodorant! Hmmm, thanks!)
Got a shiny medal, though - yeah!

Despite a lot of fairly soggy grass and some bumpy woodland sections, I couldn’t believe how easy it all felt, buoyed up by the goodwill and emotion of it all.
The ‘women only’ thing gave it a fabulous, non-competitive, celebratory atmosphere – all shapes and sizes and ages and conditions. In answer to Every Woman’s Most Urgent Question, yes, my bum DID look big in those lycra leggings, but . . . who cares?

It was great and I’ve decided I’ll do it again next year - although having done such a big, bullying sponsorship push this year, I think they’ll just be getting my entrance fee next time. I suspect a lot of people sponsored me out of sheer surprise and disbelief this year!

Thursday, 26 July 2007

Miscellaneous Thursday things

One of those ‘chained to the desk’ days yesterday. So much going on here, and a deluge of enquiries from potential new clients - the extremely gratifying result of a fairly modest advertising push on my part only last week. Weather very changeable, though mainly windy and dull, so didn’t miss a huge amount by going little further than the Trading Post for baked beans and a lottery ticket.

Sent off for some more wonderful, ethically produced 100% pure organic virgin Sri Lankan coconut oil from http://www.coconoil.co.uk/ . Forget expensive body oils and moisturisers – this is ALL you need! Smells wonderful (but only very lightly scented), suitable for the most sensitive and irritable skin, children and babies, eczema, stretchmarks, hands, feet, nails, hair, eyelashes, all over. Melts on contact, makes everything and everywhere silky smooth and delicious - and you can cook with it too. No, I don’t have shares in the company, I’m just a devoted convert to Coconoil and I am determined to spread the word any way I can.

My Race for Life event is coming up this Sunday. I can’t truthfully say that I’m as fit as a fiddle and will whiz round the course in double-quick time, as my so-called ‘training programme’ has been erratic to say the least (weather, knee, back, I’ll find any excuse!) but luckily it’s NOT a competition – it’s a fun way of helping Cancer Research UK raise £60 million this year for their vital work. I do feel a lot fitter than I was when I started training, though, and am determined to keep pounding the streets (can't have all that new lycra-wear going to waste, after all). Someone has kindly promised to sponsor me if I post a pic of me in my running gear on my websites, so . . . watch this space if you fancy a good laugh! Better still, sponsor me to compensate for my public humiliation on the internet: www.raceforlifesponsorme.org/jedoyle

Oh, and here’s something which I’ve already linked to on http://www.julietdoyle.com/, but I’m putting it here so it reaches a different readership: www.bl.uk/onlinegallery/ttp/ttpbooks.html . This is just SO fabulous - some of the most treasured volumes in the British Library are now available to view online, using Turning the Pages™ (you need the Shockwave plug-in, which can be downloaded from the Adobe website) to simulate the action of turning the pages of a real book. You can enlarge any bits you'd like to see in greater detail.

The link takes you to a complete list of what's currently available - the Lindisfarne Gospels are third down in the left-hand column. There's also a to-die-for William Blake notebook, the Luttrell Psalter, with its myriad engaging glimpses of medieval life, and a Mozart notebook complete with musical excerpts . . . . amongst many other treasures.

It's easy to spend hours and hours completely absorbed in there, so be careful not to start looking if you're supposed to be at work! (NB The volumes may not open if you block popups on your computer.)

Better get on with the mounds and mounds of work. Thankfully the children are remarkably subdued, having had a spate of late nights and sleepovers with friends. It won’t last . . .

Tuesday, 24 July 2007

Mersea Wildlife

Here's a must-see blog for the most wonderful photos of Mersea and its wildlife http://merseawildlife.blogspot.com/ , and daily updates from Cudmore Grove Country Park ranger Dougal Urquhart. In fact it's so good, I've just added it to my links, and accolades don't come much higher than that.

Yesterday I was lost for words. I still am, somewhat, but I expect I'll get over it and normal prolixity will be resumed. Sometimes there is nothing to say. Sometimes there is too much, but no words with which to say it. Och well . . . (as we say here in Essex).

Monday, 23 July 2007

Sometimes . . .

. . . I find myself not knowing what to say.

So it's probably best to say nothing at all.

Thursday, 19 July 2007

. . . by any other name . . .

I've never considered my name particularly unusual but I've recently realised that, actually, it is. There are not many Juliet Doyles around, as a Google search will reveal. I find this quite surprising. There seem to be even fewer Juliet Holmeses, which is what I used to be. (For a while I was both, but it became a bit complicated.) Which leads me to wonder - should prospective parents be urged to Google selected names before deciding what to call their newborn infant? We have been told that names can affect life-chances in terms of education and career. Perhaps we should all be checking that our kids come top on a Google search too! My elder daughter's name is ubiquitous in this regard (sorry!), but my son and younger daughter have (thankfully?) few rivals, as yet. Will this matter to them? Will they thank me for the ease with which the world can find them, or is it better to be able to hide away in cyberspace undetected. I guess it depends on whether they will, in years to come, have something to say or something to sell.

The school holidays are upon me. Every time I pick up the telephone a green light flashes in two young heads and the message 'Make Noise! Now! Maximum Volume!' is instantly obeyed. The kitchen floor is covered with blobs of suncream. The patio is littered with plastic soldiers and tanks and chinooks. The bath is filled with naked Barbies (and one or two lucky naked Action Men for good measure). I can't find the paddling pool. I think I'm going to have to buy another one smartish.

Oh, I still haven't taken a photo of that piece of twisted seaglass, have I ? I will.

Tuesday, 17 July 2007

yophoto, brainy quotes and crime fiction

Here's a wonderful thing: http://www.yophoto.com/ . In less than a week (if experience here is anything to go by) these people can take your uploaded layout pages and turn them into a high-quality printed, bound and delivered photobook. To find out how David Lavington and his fab team helped to produce a special leaving gift for the much-loved headteacher of my daughter's school, and all in double-quick time, visit www.julietdoyle.com/gallery.php?cat=6701&pg . To find out how it can work for you, visit http://www.yophoto.com/ . And the icing on the cake chez moi is that our book has already been noticed by people in the print industry and nominated for two awards!

Following on from my earlier musing, here's another excellent place to find small slices of wisdom and inspiration: www.brainyquote.com/

Finally, I just received a late-night email from novelist Martin Edwards http://www.martinedwardsbooks.co.uk/ , just back from Oxford, where he spent some time with a party of his American fans. Later this week he'll be off to the Harrogate Festival www.harrogate-festival.org.uk/crime/ . Not sure how he finds time to fit in his day-job as Employment Law Partner at http://www.maceandjones.co.uk/, but somehow he seems to manage very well. I can highly recommend Martin's Lake District series and also his Harry Devlin books set in Liverpool, and I speak as someone relatively new to (and, yes, OK, I confess it, previously somewhat dismissive of) the whole 'crime fiction' genre. If you're looking for a good, atmospheric, page-turning read for the holiday season, then look no further. You can find the Lake District books here http://www.allisonandbusby.ltd.uk/authors/authorDetails.asp?aID=104


One of the best things about the internet, in my view, is the opportunity it affords, each morning, to start the day by seeing a new picture, hearing new music, finding in the words of others a pertinent ‘thought for the day’. I rarely begin work before having browsed, for example, http://quotes.prolix.nu/ or http://www.glaced.digitalspace.net/ and had a look at the photos and paintings people have uploaded on http://www.artistbank.com/ or http://www.myartspace.com/ or http://www.artwanted.com/ . To squint at the world, briefly, through someone else’s eyes before getting down to the mundane stuff of one’s own daily toil . . . Does this merely illustrate a sad lack of self-sufficiency on my part, or do we all need a little daily inspiration?

I was looking wistfully at some photos of Inversnaid on http://www.artwanted.com/ , which perfectly evoked the wonderful poem of that name by Gerard Manley Hopkins. I learned his 'Pied Beauty' by heart at school when I was about eight.

Glory be to God for dappled things—
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches' wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;
And áll trades, their gear and tackle and trim.
All things counter, original, spáre, strange;
Whatever is fickle, frecklèd (who knows how?)
With swíft, slów; sweet, sóur; adázzle, dím;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is pást change:
Práise hím.

It was illustrated in the schools anthology by a woodcut of a pied wagtail, and it still springs to mind unbidden whenever I see one of those delightful little birds http://www.rspb.org.uk/wildlife/birdguide/name/p/piedwagtail/

Here's a good source of quotes: poets on poetry, from Blake to Bob Dylan: http://www.poetsgraves.co.uk/poets_on_poetry.htm

And today's quote of the day: ‘Music is the silence between the notes.’ Claude Debussy

Sunday, 15 July 2007

And . . .

Thanks to Pauline Rowson for posting some photos of Hayling Island on her blog http://www.paulinerowsonmarinemysteries.blogspot.com/ - here are some of Mersea in return. It's been a beautiful evening, here on the Muddy Island. Low tide, so it was noisy with oystercatchers, curlew and hundreds of little plovers and sandpipers. Dozens of peacock butterflies at the top of the beach, too - were they attracted by the warmth of the sand, or by something else? I've never noticed them there before.

Sheds and music

Ah, a shed of one’s own – what bliss that would be! And here I don’t mean the sort that’s filled with tools and woodshavings and garden canes and smells of creosote (though I spent many happy hours in my grandfather’s of that ilk). No, I mean the variety which includes a desk, a chair, a PC and a kettle for tea and smells of creative endeavour. I used to be lucky enough to work in a stable at the end of the garden. Which sounds considerably more romantic than it actually was. It wasn’t particularly rustic – no straw on the floor, or animals, or anything like that - although the occasional pheasant would wander in and out when the door was left open. It was the space – mental as well as physical – which appealed. And the fact that it was away from domestic distractions and far enough from neighbours to allow the playing of rather loud music in the small hours when I was doing an all-nighter on some urgent book or other.

The flip-side of moving to the Muddy Island – or one of several flip-sides in this multi-faceted venture – is that my physical and mental workspace and soundworld must now be shared with others. Which, clearly, on the scale of human hardship, barely registers the merest flicker. But, having landed accidentally on http://www.shedworking.co.uk/ earlier today, I am feeling both inspired and deprived in equal measure. One cannot sing along at high volume to Bach’s B Minor Mass in a room in which someone else is working. Or even one in which someone else is, full stop. Just can’t be done. Nor listen to the Radio 4 Afternoon Play. The shedworking site is bursting with wonderful ideas, though, so well worth a look. Through the many useful and interesting links thereon, I happened upon these: http://www.londongraphics.co.uk/acatalog/Pantone_Mugs.html - which are simply gorgeous, but absolutely demand a plain white studio/loft/shed background to do them justice, not the myriad toppling piles of books and paper which constitute my own ‘working environment’.

The site also links to http://www.musicovery.com/ , which is a kind of family tree of different genres of music, including rock and blues, soul, classical, soundtracks and jazz. You pick a genre and then decide whether you want something dark or positive, energetic or calm, and it picks a selection for you, accompanied by a graphic illustration of ways in which you can, literally, ‘branch out’ into other kinds of music with a similar ambiance. The permutations are endless and it will be virtually impossible NOT to stumble upon music you’ve never heard before or to find yourself listening appreciatively to music you might not previously have ventured into exploring. The only potential problem with using it as ‘music to work to’ is that . . . you could well find yourself NOT working at all, as you follow the visual pathways to new auditory experiences.

Thursday, 12 July 2007


Woah, busy day. Younger daughter’s prize day; then ditto sports day (she came second in two races and I came third in mums’ egg & spoon but since those in first and second place held their eggs onto their spoons with their thumbs and I did not, in my view that makes me the winner, actually, thankyou – not that I’m in any way competitive or anything); then son’s prize day and mini-concert; then tea and cakes at The Minories; then more tea and cakes at The Minories; then Oddbins for teachers’ presents (in my day we used to take in a wilty bunch of flowers from the garden on the last day of term – now there is strenuous Competitive Teacher Present Giving amongst all the YummyMummies, so out I forked for a case of NZ Sauv. Blanc but at least I got 20% off and get to keep the extras); then back to the Island and down to the sea for long-promised Penultimate Day of Term Fish & Chips On Beach, and a jolly fine evening it was, too. Some friends showed up for after-dinner rugby and the Loch Ness Monster put in a brief appearance (see pic). Answer to today’s burning question: yes it does, I’ve decided. Thank you.

Wednesday, 11 July 2007


http://www.rubbersole.co.uk/products.aspx?categoryid=909 Please, oh please, won't someone just make them all GO AWAY????

A word in my ear

Why do we remember some voices and not others? I mean really hear them – their special timbre and volume and intonation? I realised today that I can hear, in an intensely realised way, the voices of some people I have known, while others have simply disappeared. It is not necessarily anything to do with the closeness of the relationship with the voice concerned, either. I tested this by trying to remember the voices of my late grandmothers. One is still very much there, inside me – I can hear her so clearly that sometimes I hear her voice quite unbidden. The other – and strangely, the grandmother of whom I was most fond - I can ‘remember’, in the sense that I can piece her voice together, recreate it from the things she used to say, from my knowledge of her accent and the pitch of her voice, its similarities to my mother’s voice, but it’s still essentially an external thing. A description, rather than an experience. I thought about school friends with whom I have not spoken for over a quarter of a century. Again, some voices came from inside my head, while others were the auditory equivalent of looking at an old school photo – an assembling exercise from information provided. Not the same at all. Perhaps some voices tune into a unique receptor in the mind’s ear, or set up a special kind of resonance in a particular pinpoint in one’s brain. It has nothing to do with the length of time one knew the voice. Nor the intimacy with which one was involved with the person concerned. It is something else entirely. Perhaps it goes back to the very first moment one heard a particular voice – to the effect that it had, to where, precisely, it first lodged itself in one’s mind. And that is why, while some voices are lost, faded away and gone, other voices – including those I know I will never, ever hear again - seem to exist autonomously, their every nuance so clearly embedded that it’s possible to have a whole conversation with that voice and it will always sound exactly right and true. As if it really has become an intrinsic part of oneself. By such means are some of us rendered, temporarily, immortal. (Gosh, I wonder if anyone can remember my voice - have I got inside anyone's head, or not? - I'll never know.) Is there a religion somewhere that's based on the premise that we live on, briefly, in another person’s ear?? Maybe we have a Jungian 'collective ear' - so that people who 'hear voices', hear real voices - someone else's ancestors, borrowed from some central human pool of remembered sounds. Definitely time for a spot of Googling . . .

Today’s big question: if you drop a large blob of guacamole on your computer keyboard, will the keyboard still work? Answer: yes it will if you remove the guacamole in a particular way. Should you ever find yourself in this position, do please drop me a line and I will explain in easy-to-follow steps. Today’s supplementary question: if, while removing a large blob of guacamole from your keyboard in such as way that the keyboard will subsequently operate perfectly, a small portion accidentally transfers itself to your brand new crinkly silk skirt, will that skirt ever look the same again? Answer: no it will not. Just as well, therefore, that the meeting with daughter’s new head-teacher which had prompted the wearing of said skirt had already taken place a couple of hours earlier.

Whilst attending to my keyboard, I realised that, over the course of the last 18 months or so, I have managed, by my constant toiling thereon, to erase entirely the white letters on the most frequently used keys (it is a black keyboard. I am dead trendy, clearly). What particularly struck me, however, was that I couldn’t for the life of me work out, just by looking at the keyboard, precisely which of the letters had rubbed away. Which letter sits between B and M in the bottom row? No idea at all. I had to type something in order to discover that it was N. This must either be because I have been touch-typing for 25 years and therefore never actually look at the keyboard, or else it is simply that a tough, impenetrable wall (or possibly hedge) has grown up between the two halves of my brain, so that it is no longer possible for the left and right hemispheres to communicate with each other. Is this an age-related phenomenon, I wonder? Or just a personal failing? The latter, I suspect, now I come to think about it. I’ve never been able to play the piano without music. The moment I look down at the keys, I wobble and fall off. I always blamed the way I was taught but now I think it’s just me. And not unconnected with the facts that I am a non-starter at mental arithmetic and can never remember which way to turn the steering wheel when I am parking a car.

So there we have it – from tortilla chip malfunction at lunchtime to a perfect explanation for dented rear wing, in two easy steps. 'There is something wrong with my brain, your honour, I don’t know what comes between K and ; . ' (I just checked and it’s L). Oh and that’s another thing – E, L and N are the rubbed-away letters. Are these the most frequently used in the English language? I shall have to do a bit of research to find out. If not, then it will be something to do with the middle finger of my left hand and the index and ring fingers of my right hand. Perhaps they are stronger and more vigorous and decisive than their digital chums. But, if so, why? The right hand side of the space-bar is worn to a shine (it's a MATT black keyboard - I am THAT trendy), but that is because, when teaching myself to type, I omitted to teach myself to alternate left and right thumbs on the space-bar and therefore only ever use my right thumb for spaces. (My left thumb has been regally held aloft this past quarter century. I really should start thinking of giving it some gainful employment or it might simply fall off, which would be a nuisance.)

All the above is entirely unconnected to the fact that I live on a Muddy Island, so I will end by observing that at 9.30 this evening, the sky was a vibrant turquoise, and it merged, almost imperceptibly (but for the tiniest change of hue if you stared long and hard but not so long and hard that everything went a bit fuzzy) into the dark aquamarine sea. The clouds were a childish, candyfloss pink, their reflection on the wave-tips dramatic shades of lilac. The air hummed with colour and salt and seaweed. The dog swam after an abandoned flip-flop.The tide was up, so the wading birds were silent and the only sound was the tug of the incoming waves on the dried shingle. By 10 o’clock the sky, enchanted by its own reflection, had matched the myriad mauves and purples of the sea. I didn’t take a camera. Seaglass count: 2. Too busy gazing at the sky.

Friday, 6 July 2007

One of those days

Have you ever spent six hours working on a large Word document which has then crashed and when you try to re-open the file . . . you can't? This is the sort of day I've been having. It was the sort of day I had yesterday, too, and the day before that was the day I woke at 6 to hear that Alan Johnston had been released and I had sincerely meant to record here exactly how I felt about that, and what it told us about the immense value and importance of 'real' journalism in this world. Above all, my awed admiration for this gaunt, pale, blinking man, as he emerged into the maelstrom surrounding his release - his dignity, the almost effortless way in which he straight away began to offer a balanced, articulate, self-effacing account of his captivity, his good humour, his touching insistence on an immediate haircut (he was right - he looked gorgeous afterwards!). What a guy. The phrase 'consummate professionalism' has been ubiquitously applied, but, really, it can't be bettered. And now, at his insistence, attention is being drawn to the other 'forgotten' western hostages in the middle-east. May he enjoy a long, well-deserved and peaceful period of unwinding in Lochgoilhead. With cups of tea whenever he likes.

Oh, anyway, I finally managed to open the file in some notepad-y application or other, so I recovered the data and will only have to spend an hour re-formatting everything, rather than six hours re-writing it. Phew. No thanks whatever to Microsoft's impenetrably badly indexed online 'help' pages - worse than useless.

Just been listening to some of my favourite guitar music, played by my very favourite guitarist in all the world. And looking at some fabulous photographs by one of my favourite photographers. With a very large mug of tea.

[Rant of the day: it is extremely dangerous to take photographs while driving. Even on the inside lane. You know who you are. (But you won't for much longer if you carry on like that.)]

Tuesday, 3 July 2007

Coups d'etat

. . . heavens! Have just this minute emerged, gasping with incredulity, from an innocent foray into some English Language websites. I lifted my head from a journal article on Enforced Consociationalism and Deeply Divided Societies [sic] in order reassure myself that I was (obviously) correct in altering the author's 'coup d'etats' to 'coups d'etat' - after a mere nanosecond of Googling, I found myself clinging desperately to the corroding rim of a seething vat of venom and vitriol, wherein pseudonymous combatants slugged it out to the bitter death in an excess of abusiveness. The Wikepedia archive on this thorny question is a good illustration: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Categories_for_deletion/Category:Coup_d .

And there was little old me with my quaint, outmoded reliance on etymology, thinking, 'well, it's a French expression and in French it would surely be coups d'etat, so let's go for that'. But nothing is so simple in the the world of Correct English Usage. Because we have Correct American English Usage to consider, and of course Correct International English Usage (and that term itself will, if you're not very careful, prise open another catering-sized can of turbulent worms - because nobody agrees on how, if at all, International English is to be defined: cue more anger and abuse).

Real people spend real time in their real lives working themselves into what seems to be the most genuinely stressed and hypertensive states about such issues. And I had always thought I cared about the English language rather more than a lot people. Clearly not as much as some. Thank goodness. It's almost enough to make one shout 'Oi! Get a Life!'.

Actually, it's more than enough, so I will. 'Oi! Get a Life!'

For a restrained, calmly elegant and authoritative reference on the derivation of words in common English use, it would be hard to find anything to better http://www.etymonline.com/index. (Not that it sheds any light on coup d'etats, however, but, luckily that doesn't matter, because I know I'm right. It should be coups d'etat.)

Sunday, 1 July 2007

All ironed out

Sunday - and time to tackle a pile of ironing almost as high as the house. Started just after lunch - finished around eight this evening. The Diana concert was on all afternoon and evening - though only eldest daughter watched it all the way through. I suspect that, for most people not actually at Wembley, sitting through the whole lot would have necessitated a degree of coercion - possibly involving handcuffs. Didn't ever actually get as far as the coast today, what with one thing and another, so had to make do with a private viewing of the joyous and exhilarating 'Coast' on BBC 2 http://www.bbc.co.uk/coast/ - today exploring one of my favourite bits of the eastern coastline, starting at Berwick-on-Tweed and thence northwards. And that Neil Oliver, eh? Hmmm. What a voice. The Bass Rock, Edinburgh, Arbroath Smokies (http://arbroath-smokie.co.uk/catalog/smokie.php) . . . heaven on telly in a single hour.

And talking of fish, here's a rather scary (in the 'oh no - I buy some of these!' sense) list from the Marine Conservation Society, of fish to avoid buying, for fear of further depleting already endangered stocks http://www.fishonline.org/advice/avoid/ . Luckily, an adjoining list shows fish which are in plentiful supply and which we can eat until we're sick with a completely clear conscience. Hooray!

Not content with having had me uncharacteristically glued to the telly for a solid hour, the good old BBC then excelled themselves by chaining me quite willingly - eagerly, even - to 'The Thick of It', part one (which I missed first time around) of the two-part 'special' http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbcfour/thickofit/ . Quite difficult to think of many actors more thrillingly, dangerously watchable than Peter Capaldi. It really doesn't get better than this. I laughed so much I accidentally drank a couple of glasses of wine without thinking. Oops, so no run for me tonight, then. Ah, well, it's Sunday . . .

Oh, PS, didn't take pic of the twisted glass, but will do. And PPS, thinking of twisted glass brings to mind some twisted metal and actually somebody else did notice it, thankyouverymuch.