Monday, 23 March 2009

Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

  • White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emaneul cleans out his toenails with a toothpick.
  • Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Oscar-nominated director of 'Babel', jiggles his leg up and down in meetings.
  • Atsutoshi Nishida, President of the Toshiba Corporation, keeps his wallet in the breast pocket of his jacket. 
  • Sir Nicholas Macpherson, Permanent Secretary to the Treasury, does the Everyman crossword in his bath on Sunday mornings. 
  • Carl-Henric Svanberg, CEO of Ericcson Telecommunications, absent-mindedly pulls hairs from his moustache when thinking.
  • Jaideep Bose, Editor in Chief of the Times of India, empties his pocket change each night into a clay dish his daughter made at school.
  • Admiral Vladimir Vysotsky, Commander in Chief of the Russian Navy, sleeps with the light on. 

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Is there a dialectologist in the house?

I've just read a couple of articles by P.G.Wodehouse about writing lyrics, in which he tries to explain 'why, when you see a librettist, he is generally lying on his back on the sidewalk with a crowd standing round, saying "Give him air."'

In one of these, he celebrates the rising popularity of Hawaii, 'with its admirably named beaches, shores, and musical instruments', and also its capability of being rhymed with "higher". Elsewhere, he disapproves of shoddy lyricists who 'can make "home" rhyme with "alone", and "saw" with "more", and go right off and look their innocent children in the eye without a touch of shame.' 

Now, I can easily imagine - though I never knew - that we've altered the way we pronounce 'Hawaii' in the last century, but how on earth was Plum pronouncing either 'saw' or 'more' so that they didn't rhyme? No matter how much of a strangulated 1920s voice I put on, I can't make them come out differently. Is it somehow related to a Michael Flanders joke I've never understood, in which he announces he's going to sing "an Edwardian -or 'Edwaardian'- song"? Did everyone in the first quarter of the century pronounce all their 'a's long? Does anyone know?

Monday, 9 March 2009

Oh, and do you remember bendy buses? That takes me back!

Today I opened a book of mine I haven't looked at for a few years, and out fluttered the number 38 bus ticket I had used as a bookmark. And immediately I was hit by a wave of nostalgia - Oh yes! The 38! I used to take that all the time! And just think, the last time I closed this book, I was sitting on the 38, and now here I am. Ah me, where are the snows of yesteryear, etc etc.

The thing is, I still live on the number 38 bus route. I use it all the time. The superficially poignant circumstances - book, creased old ticket, etc - had automatically tripped my nostalgia switch without me stopping to ask whether there was actually anything to be sentimental about.

This happened to me once before - some friends and I were on holiday, and one evening about half way through, one of us put the photos he'd taken so far as a slide-show on his computer. But being a bit arty, he'd turned some of them black and white, and he picked some rather slow wistful classical music to accompany it. And as we watched it, everyone went a bit quiet, and I swear we were all feeling a pang of nostalgia for the holiday we were still on. 

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

And home in time for tea.

Favourite sentence from the version of 'Jason and the Argonauts' I'm listening to at the moment: (For context, the heroes are nearing the end of a mighty quest, in which every island they've come to has presented them with a new and terrible enemy; human, beast, monster or Titan. Then:)

'They passed the cave wherin lurked Scylla, the many-headed monster- though on that day, she slept.' 

Across the millennia, I have a stab of fellow-feeling for the myth-maker. God knows I feel like that about plotting sometimes. Still, think of all the work he could have saved himself if he'd only come up with that approach earlier: 

'Next, the brave Argonauts came to the mighty clashing rocks of the Symplegades, which crushed to splinters any ship which passed through them - though on that day, they were being repaired. 

Then they arrived at the court of King Aeetes, owner of the fleece, who had sworn that none should have it who could not first yoke his ferocious fire-breathing oxen. Though on that day, he was in a good mood, and agreed to take cash. 

Finally, they arrived at the oak tree on which the golden fleece hung, guarded by a mighty dragon with claws of brass and wings of fire, who never slept, needed no repair, and was never in a good mood. Though on that day, he was out. '

Sunday, 1 March 2009

It's that slim-line colour scanner in the office, isn't it?

Today, Marianne's computer told her it had 'experienced a minor lapse in fidelity'. Which sounds to me more like a senior civil servant trying to weasel his way out of trouble with his wife: 'Listen, darling, we were both drunk, it meant nothing... but to be perfectly blunt with you, I have experienced a minor lapse in fidelity'.

 Marianne has agreed to give her computer another chance, for the sake of the printer.