It’s Not Just Me

Googling your birth date throws up some interesting bits of trivia.

I share a birthday with the Queen, Charlotte Bronte, Iggy Pop, and Robert Smith from The Cure, among others.

April 21 is Book Day in Vietnam and National Tree Planting Day in Kenya. It’s also the day on which Rome was founded by Romulus.

Nina Simone, one of my very favourite musicians died on April 21, 2003. And the Tiananmen Square protests started on 21 April 1989.

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It’s My Birthday, Gonna Party Like It’s My Birthday…

It’s official – I’m old as fuck. Or definitely, unavoidably middle-aged anyway.

I’ve had a lovely day. Petra and Travis put a lot of thought and effort into it for me. I got to sleep in and then they delivered breakfast in bed. Once I’d eaten my crumpets and downed a bit of tea, I did a combined Easter egg and birthday present hunt. They’d stashed the eggs all round the lounge and each egg came with a cryptic clue for me to untangle. They even managed to get the clues to rhyme. Very clever.

I found my presents last of all. Petra’s been working on them since just after Christmas. She and Travis went shopping in Kirkcaldie & Stains and came up with a pretty blue tin full to the brim with fragrant Earl Grey tea, and a beautiful necklace by my favourite jewellery maker. Petra chose me a Disney princess card that came complete with a lip gloss on a necklace, which she claimed for herself, and Tinkerbell wrapping paper.

I spent a lot of time this morning on the phone to various and sundry of my Dunedin relatives. They sang in my ear and chatted. The untuneful singing of happy birthday is a family tradition – it just wouldn’t feel like a birthday without it.

And the finishing touch was the chocolate cake slathered with lashings of whipped cream that we had for pudding tonight.

I’m feeling full of food and very well-loved, which is always a good way to finish the day and start the next year.

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Cryptic Blog Post Titles

Coming up with titles for blog posts is the hardest part of the writing process, I find. I use bits of song lyric, hazily-remembered quotations from books and poems, and, if all else fails, simple descriptions of the contents of the post. If you can come up with a short description, that last approach is the best one – at least people know what they’re getting then. But it’s not easy.

Looking at my dashboard just now, I find a draft post titled ‘Amongst the Wreckage’. I saved the title but left the body of the post tantalisingly blank. And now, a couple of weeks later, I have no idea what the intended subject was.

Was I planning a rant about the terrible clutter in my lounge? A description of the state of the street when it’s windy on rubbish day? An existential lament about mid-life? A moaning and groaning about the loss of most of my library which has left me with only the rump of my book collection? A complaint about the chaos Petra leaves in her wake when she’s been painting or drawing or designing? Something else entirely?

I do not know. Let that be a lesson to me to come up with more informative titles.

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On Sharing and Rain

Miss Petra’s an affectionate lass. She’s keen for cuddles and kisses, and if you’re not careful, licking. She likes you to taste the particularly good bits of her food. And she gets right in your face for conversation and hanging out. This is all very very lovely. I delight in her enthusiasm and her snuggliness.

There’s a downside though. If she gets a cold, we get it too. And colds from children are particularly virulent for some reason. She’s kindly shared her latest one with me and I’m thoroughly miserable. It’s been nothing more than a mild inconvenience for Petra. She’s had a couple of days off school but she’s stayed pretty perky. I, on the other hand, feel as if I’ve been run over by a whole rush hour of buses.

So that’s my self-pity for the day.

On the plus side, we’ve sneaked in a mild sunny day in the teeth of forecasts predicting rain and wind and general unpleasantness. I did several loads of washing. And Petra and I made haste to walk the dog. The weather’s so chancy here that you have to seize upon any niceness that turns up. It’s a bit like Vancouver that way. When I first moved to Vancouver I was amused by the way the locals poured into the streets if the rain even looked like easing up. After living there for a few months, I realised what a sound strategy that was. And after I’d been there for several years, I was as unthinkingly expert at taking advantage of any stray gleam of sun as the locals I’d laughed at before. Those skills have stood me in good stead now that I’m a Wellingtonian.

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A Monday Night Quotation…

I stumbled across this in my travels this evening.

We can’t hate ourselves into a version of ourselves we can love.

Lori Deschene (she writes for the tinybuddha.com website)

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A Bit of Language Geekery: Mark Forsyth’s The Elements of Eloquence

A friend recently pointed me in the direction of Mark Forsyth’s work, and I’m very glad he did. Forsyth is a language wonk and has written about obsolete words (The Horologican) and the often bizarre connections between words (The Etymologican). His latest book (The Elements of Eloquence) is about rhetorical devices. I swallowed it up in one, enjoyable afternoon.

Forsyth’s gift is to wear his erudition and effort very lightly indeed. He condenses hundreds of years of scholarship and literature into a couple of hundred pages of easy-to-read text. He takes examples from Shakespeare and the King James Bible and Austen and Dickens and various poets, but also from Pulp Fiction, Lady Gaga, and the Beatles. The reader is educated and amused at the same time, and that is a very very difficult trick to carry off.

I particularly enjoyed the way he uses the devices he discusses in his own descriptions of them. So, in the chapter about hypotaxis (syntactically complex sentence construction with lots of subordinate clauses and phrases), he produces the following fabulous paragraph:

Absolutely anything sounds civilised and well-thought-out, providing that it’s expressed in the most syntactically complicated, hyper-hypotactic manner. And so from 1650 to 1850 everybody sounded civilised and wise. Even pornography had an air of considered calm to it, now lost forever to the discerning pervert. Fanny Hill (1748) is generally thought the greatest mucky novel in English literature. It’s content is, of course, much like the content of any dirty story, human nature being what it is, and the human body having only so many viable entrances and exits; but when such coarsely eternal eternal activities are laced into a mad grammarian’s fantasy, the result is superb. (The Elements of Eloquence, p. 56)

I just love that last clause – “mad grammarian’s fantasy,” is wonderful.

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That was the day that was…

I have had a day. One of those days that starts innocently enough but goes pear-shaped as it progresses.

I drove over to Petra’s school early because I’d been out and about and figured I’d just sit and read my book there for half an hour rather than rush home and back. It’s been very foggy, rainy, and windy here today (a nice Wellington welcome for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince George who arrived at lunch time) so I had my headlights on. And I forgot to turn them off. Which meant that when Petra and I loaded ourselves into the car, it wouldn’t even think about starting.

Petra was inclined to panic so I went into mummy management mode and phoned Travis, who phoned the AA. $189 and 40 minutes later, a nice chatty man turned up in his yellow car to rescue me. I haven’t had to call for flat battery help for many years and things are very different now. No jumper leads, no waiting and waiting while the battery charges, just a moment or two with a wee electronic gadget and I was off. I still had to drive round for 30 minutes before stopping the engine. But on the whole, it’s a much less fiddly process than it used to be.

While we waited, Petra and I got to wave to all the mums and children we know and I told a story about playing in the snow. Petra lasted fairly well, but she was starving and sad by the time we made it home.

I shovelled food into her to keep her happy while I cooked dinner. But that didn’t go entirely to plan either. Half way through, I discovered that I didn’t have any tinned tomatoes. Cue a hurried trip to the supermarket.

I’m in need of something yummy to eat or drink and a few minutes of sitting around doing nothing in particular to recover…

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