A Busyness of Bloggers

marksinthemargin.blogspot.com
marksinthemargin.blogspot.com

Adullamite, whose blog gives me a great deal of pleasure, said in a recent post

‘I looked through the usual blogs, commented on one or two and will do on one or two others once I have read all the words. The blogs are so good, taking me all over the world, into lives I would never know otherwise. People in different worlds than mine with very different lifestyles….and differing views educate, inform and entertain better than the so called professionals do. They of necessity are limited to what pays, blogs reveal the heart! That is why they are good. At least the ones I choose to look at are.’

Thus he sums up what I enjoy about the blogging world – people talking about what they observe, what interests them, what moves them, what is important to them, what they ferret out – and the blogs I follow, return to time after time, are those with heart.

But they are as rare as hens’ teeth.

I look at the WordPress ‘Freshly Pressed’ section from time to time in the hope of finding a new blog to read…but less and less often.

I need a translation to know what LBGT might be…but I suspect it has nothing to do with gin and tonic…..

I couldn’t give a hoot about people moaning on about their ancestors’ slavery – it’s a rare family that hasn’t known oppression in its past and I’d be a damn sight more interested if these bods would look at current slavery practices with the same anal attention they give to their families’ pasts. Get involved…do something….stop grizzling.

Parenting blogs…yuck!
‘How I refused to believe that my little girl was a pain in the backside and interpreted her last minute refusal to take part in the Nativity play which had taken so much work to stage as an example of an independence that would one day enable her to say ‘no’ to drugs’…Double yuck!
There are some brilliant blogs on being a parent – take a look at some of the family posts on Mark Charlton’s Views from the Bikeshed or Stephen Herrick-Blake’s Bloggertropolis where the love just shines through in both cases…but parenting….no.

Exhibitionists pretending to dally with racism to give an unholy thrill to their audience…not that either.

Expats whose posts seem to consist of saying ‘Wow!’…..

The self promoters – oh look I have five thousand followers….

People who can’t use their own language…..

But enough of ‘Freshly Pressed’ as the blogs I see there , with honorable exceptions, show more attention to technique – to tricks – rather than content.

And content is what counts.

I’ve logged in to blogs about France and found myself enjoying music I’d never heard of….The Diary of Amy Rigby….
Films and how to view them from the blog which ceased to be written with the death of its eponymous owner – Boris in Ayrshire.

Discovering the difference between English and Australian thunderboxes thanks to Days on the Claise

Romanesque architecture illustrated by marvellous photography on the Via Lucis blog…

Recipes with a context on Cheffiles

It’s the sheer vitality of it all that counts…and I haven’t told the half of it.

And how many blogs lack just that….vitality.

Pedants who tell you what each French word means – without the faintest idea of what is happening in their own French backyard….

The well connected – to each other – who receive your comment on their post with a pale ‘thank you for your contribution’ and return to the contemplation of their well connected friends’ navels, minds closed to anything outside their own world…

Photographic blogs….which leave me asking whether the technique of taking a pic has taken over from communicating something through that pic….

Oh, stop grizzling, woman!

A blog with heart, with vitality, doesn’t need to be a literary master piece, nor does it have to be about the extraordinary….but it does need a blogger who tells you how it is – lets you see their world as they see it – and who enjoys the relationship with readers through the comments section, which is, in my view, the best part of my blog!

Just doing a swift trawl through the blogs I enjoy I can visit Scotland, England, Wales, France, Spain, Gibraltar, Belgium, Turkey, the Gulf states, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand, Costa Rica, Canada and the U.S.A……

I can learn about knitting, crochet, ceramics; cooking and preserving; riding and walking; animal rescue and architecture; religion and politics; wildlife and town life; I can see the sights and discover their history…..

And it’s all thanks to those special bloggers – those with heart.

Mind your Language

caedmonIt was my husband’s birthday this weekend and we had the best of all celebrations.
Time to ourselves.

We closed the gates to the drive and settled down to undisturbed peace.

Yes, of course we had to collect eggs, let out the chickens and ducks, change their water, put in fresh feed and then bang them up again in the evening.

Yes, we had to chop banana stems and fodder grass for the sheep and cattle and not get knocked over in the stampede for the bananas as we shut them in for the night.

Yes, we had to give the dogs their wash and deflea session.

But we did not have to speak to anyone else.
We did not have to put ourselves into the mindset of another language or culture.
We could think and speak entirely as we pleased.
All the time.

And what did we find?

For the most part we spoke to each other in English….but when we were talking about local stuff it was surprising how much Spanish we used…I can only imagine because the source of our information, whether oral or written, had been expressed in Spanish which had come, in its turn, to define the mode of discussion.

It would not have ocurred to us that the lunacy of a situation in which the leader of H.M.’s government is a foul mouthed coke head could be discussed in any language other than English, but it was interesting to find that the same process led to discussion of the character of the ex Mayor of San Jose and Presidential candidate using any number of Spanish phrases.

I would not say that it was perfect Spanish, either in use of grammar or pronunciation, but it was the Spanish that came to us spontaneously.

I enjoy the proper use of language, but not to the point of pedantry.
Language lives, evolves; it has to do so to be able to reflect the experience of its users.
I do not understand texting ….but it is an offshoot which has developed to enable those with more time than sense to communicate with each other and as such is no less legitimate than any professional jargon – which is double dutch to anyone outside the charmed circle.

I would never make a translator.
I see languages in their own compartments: products of their own cultures and dependent on those cultures for their meaning.
I can enter those compartments; enjoy the contents, but I can’t bridge the compartments to translate – it is too easy to be clumsy and swift yet takes forever to translate one context to another.

I would be quite capable of the translation classic..the English phrase ‘out of sight, out of mind’ translated into Russian and then retranslated to English as……. ‘absent idiot’.
But on the positive side, as a translator I could block the work of the European Union for years…..
Any offers?

Expat blogs can be a sort of translation…..illustrating one culture in the light of another in the person of the blogger…and there are many fine ones in the blogosphere.
There are also the others….

Those on Costa Rica which would lead the unwary to believe that the country is populated solely by wild birds and monkeys…like the tropical house at Kew Gardens with the lid off.
Or those which seek to persuade others that Costa Ricans are simple, happy folk, whose only concern is to help the gringo – reminiscent of slide shows of missionary activity in darkest Africa.
Or those that want to sell you overpriced property. ‘Trust me, I’m a gringo!’

There aren’t so many of the rose tinted blogs about life in France these days – if you discount the American girls in Paris rotting their teeth on macaroons – as reality in the shape of taxes eats into the dream world of pink wine and baguettes.
But, by golly, there are still a few blind mouths about….

Those who have a holiday home there and spend their time visiting other expats with holiday homes and eating in restaurants: any criticism of France, any comment on the realities admitted to by anyone French, and they fly up like a fighting cock.
‘Touche pas au grisbi!’ Don’t go for their bundle of golden dreams.

And then there are the pedants: wedded to a certain idea of France (pretty damn far from that of de Gaulle) based on its literature, architecture and gastronomy as they have learned to appreciate them in their home countries. So far gone are they that some of them would even eat an andouillette.
They ‘know’ France…but they don’t know their neighbours.

I was reading of the death of a film director, Georges Lautner, and one of his films came immediately to mind.
Les Tontons Flinguers. A take off of gangster films.
Not so much for his direction, but for the dialogue written by Michel Audiard – a man who had an ear for France.

One of his characters says
‘Les cons, ça ose tout! C’est même à ça qu’on les reconnaît.’
Pratwits…they are capable of anything. That’s how you know them for what they are.

The pedant would soon tell you that is not French…not proper French. ‘Les cons’ is plural and ‘ca’ is singular…
What the pedant can’t tell you is why audiences – French audiences – rolled about.
If you want to connect with old France…find a Youtube download with subtitles to make things easier…and enjoy.
The scene where the assembled crooks sample the products of the illicit still is a classic.

Audiard was also responsible for the dialogue in another of my favourites…but I don’t think that it is subtitled…
‘Les Vieux de la Vieille’ where a trio of First World War veterans decide they are better off in an old peoples’ home than in their own – until they meet matron.
I saw the last of the world that that film depicted….in all its hardship and obstinacy…when I was first in France.
But then…I knew my neighbours.

I’ll let the pedants tell you how to pronounce ‘crapule’ while I leave you with a classic from Georges Brassens

‘Quand on est con, on est con.’
You can be an old ‘con’ you can be a young ‘con’…but you’re still a ‘con’.

A Winter’s Tale from Costa Rica

insidecostarica.com
insidecostarica.com
No Florizel or Perdita, no statues coming to life…just a quiet winter’s evening in the country.

It has been raining since mid afternoon….cloudbursts to start with, filling the streams with the roaring dangerous waters…then thunderstorms…and now steady rain which will end sometime after we have gone to bed.

The sheep don’t go out when it rains…..the cattle have come up to the corral to eat the cameroon – fodder grass – that Danilo has put through the cutter…the horses are with them.

In the house all is peaceful after the dramas of the morning when the PC wouldn’t work and we had to contact Hewlett Packard’s helpline in Mexico to go through the troubleshooting process and finally to relaunch the Windows programme.
I was helped by a delightful man who realised very rapidly that he didn’t have to go through the script – and who did the whole thing in English for which I was most grateful as I find computerese bad enough in my own language and impossible in anyone else’s.

Luzmilla has cleaned the house from top to bottom – dogs fleeing to the chicken houses and men making themselves scarce….
Danilo has gone home.

The last batch of the Christmas puddings are steaming…

The straight-from-the-cow milk, full of cream, has been scalded and is cooling before adding the yoghurt starter…

I made a pizza for supper…but the red wine we tried with it was a disaster. Tannic wasn’t the word for it….

We checked the front label. Three years old.
Then we checked the back label…..where the wine’s ‘sweet tannins’ were vaunted…’nuff said!

So tomorrow I’ll be making a stew….a recipe from one of Leo’s aunts.
We haven’t eaten this for a while…but a bottle of sweetly tannic wine makes a good excuse….

Caramelise sliced onions…set aside.
Brown beef. Return onions to the pan with garlic, thyme and bay leaves.
Cover the meat with a half and half mix of wine and beef stock.
Add juniper berries.
Dollop in equal amounts of jam and mustard.
Cook until beef is tender and thicken the sauce with cornflour.

To be served with ‘stumf’…
Onions caramelised, thinly sliced potato laid on the top…water to barely cover and cooked gently until the potatoes are cooked and the water has evaporated.
Mash.

It’s a potato dish Leo loves…you can substitute carrot or cabbage for the onion…and ideal for a rainy night with a hefty stew.

Shortly I must take the dogs out before bed….they would normally take themselves but we have recently been given a new addition – the Pernicious Poodle Puppy – who doesn’t yet know her way around and so needs to be accompanied…and then I’m off to bed myself.

But over a cup of mate tea I have time to realise how tranquil things are…how much I have unwound….and how, if I am ever to write the book about my life and times in France, I will have to gird up the loins and put time aside to do it.

I have had two attempts…one, to use old blog posts and the other to write from scratch.
Now Perpetua has suggested an essay format and that seems a good idea.

So today I looked out my notes…and tried to start up Scrivener. Of that, least said the better. Back to the notes.

But I would be grateful if anyone has any suggestions for a format….something which would confine my soapboxing to reasonable limits but which is not yet another of the ‘how I hung up my high heels and tamed the septic tank’ sagas.

I listened to a last song before venturing out into the rain…and blessed my good fortune that the winter here is mild.
No cold winter howling o’er moorland and mountain as in ‘The Road and the Miles to Dundee’.

Old Friends…..

I am shutting down my other blog…but would like to preserve some of the posts, so apologies to those who have read this before – although in terms of the Eurozone it still seems decidedly relevant!

all mARCH 13 235 July 23, 2012
Sunday morning in Costa Rica.

A warm hazy morning with a slight breeze lifting the humidity as I sit on my balcony listening t0 the Test Match Special team describing the annihilation of the England cricket team at the hands of the South Africans.

As Jacques Kallis thumps a ball from Ravi Bopari to the boundary yet again, I see on the laptop that Bradley Wiggins has won the Tour de France and led his compatriot Mark Cavendish into a fourth sprint victory on the final stage in the heart of Paris…..and turning to the French newspapers see with no surprise that while the journalists are fair, the comments on the victory articles are sour and jealous.

The voice of France.

But not the only one as, turning to the politics reporting I find with delight that old friends have made their reappearance.

Sarkozy? Chirac? Mitterand?

No! Much more interesting….

pumping_shadoks2
The Shadoks. Birds with vestigial wings, long legs and big clumsy feet. Heroes (?) of a television series.

They were a cult in the years in which I first stayed in one place in France long enough to watch television….and even then those series were repeats of the early stuff which I think came out in the 1970s.

They lived on a two dimensional planet from which it was easy to slip off into the void and their aim was to colonise the more stable Terra, inhabited only by retired dinosaurs and an obnoxious insect…but their plans went always awry.

Harmless enough you might think…sort of a French version of The Clangers….but it roused passions, even on second and third repeats, because it was felt that the Shadoks were being used to represent the French people by their creator, Jacques Rouxel.

And the image presented was not to the taste of all.

The Shadocks were ruthless….and stupid.

So stupid that all of which they were capable was blind obedience to orders: whereas the other group in the series, also seeking to move from an unstable planet, the Gibis, were presented as intelligent and cooperative, capable, efficient and peace loving.

They even got along with the obnoxious insect.

thumbnailgibis
Rumour had it that these Gibis – whose collective brain was housed in their hats – were meant to represent the British!

Outrage!

The delight in the Shadoks rested in their perversion of those qualities on which French culture prided itself….logic and mathematics.

What was the nature of a colander?

Anything could be a colander which had an exterior, an interior and some holes.

The holes were not very important.

It didn’t matter how many holes there were, or if you reduced the number of holes by a half, or even if there were no holes at all.

QED…. that the notion of a colander was independent of the notion of a hole and vice versa.

In the same vein, there were three types of colander…

One which let through neither noodles nor water.

One which let through both.

One which sometimes let through one or the other and sometimes did not.

A colander which did not let through water or noodles was a saucepan.

A saucepan without a handle was a bus,

A bus which did not move was a saucepan (slang term for an old banger).

The use of language too was subversive with its twisting of common phrases and proverbs….

Everything which is not clearly authorised is strictly prohibited….

If it is hurting, it’s good for you….

Why do something the easy way if you can make it difficult…

If you don’t know where you’re going you have to get there as soon as possible….

The only way the poor Shadoks could escape to the stability of Terra was by building a rocket…..but the fuel was a substance floating in the air and their leaders told them that the only way to succeed in trapping the fuel was by pumping…..and so the Shadoks pumped.

shadock4_s

And pumped.

And were told that it was only by pumping that they would get somewhere….and if they didn’t get anywhere at least they hadn’t done any harm….after all, better to pump even if nothing happened than that something worse happened if you did not pump.

So why have the Shadoks…under the radar for so long…emerged in the political columns of Le Figaro?

Because the German ambassador must be a fan…he was expounding on the problems of the eurozone recently and delivered himself of the well known Shadokism…

If there is not a solution, it is because there is not a problem…..

shadock3_s
Which led the author of the article, Jean-Pierre Robin, to consider the attempts to control and master the crisis in terms of the two dimensional world of the Shadoks.

In which context the phrases cited above may take on a new resonance.

As may these…..

shadock1_s
In a parody of probablility theory, if something has only a million to one chance of succeeding the sooner you try the 999,999 attempts doomed to failure the better….

While remembering that to finance the said attempts, there are less malcontents if you always hit the same targets…

shadok2_s

And that our self proclaimed leaders have a similar capability to the leaders of the Shadoks….

shaddock hollande
Who speak so intelligently that they fail to understand what they are saying.

Acknowledgements.

Le Figaro July 22nd 2012. Article by Jean-Pierre Robin ‘Quand les Shadocks eclairent les paradoxes de la zone euro.’

The first illustration comes from this article.

Wikipedia on the Shadoks…the French version.

http://www.archimedes-lab.org/shadoks/shadoks.html for the other illustrations.

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It’s not all doom and gloom…..

versatileblogger111djmatticus of the matticuskingdom has been kind enough to give me the ‘Versatile Blogger’ award…..and following the Perpetua rules I shall be fairly relaxed about the dos and don’ts……

Not only do I thank the giver of the award – I urge you to go over to the kingdom and take a look for yourself….you don’t even need a visa.

 

 

Now…fifteen blogs:

Sandysviews is a must, and not only because he was kind enough to give me the same award elsewhere!
He writes about whatever strikes him…and writes about it jolly well…a real pleasure when a new post pops up.

roughseasinthemed blogs about life in Gibraltar, travels in Spain, politics, history, food…and geocaching which I hope I have spelled correctly. Oh…and Falklands memories too….

And while geocaching is in my mind don’t miss Ken Brownon ‘where the fatdog walks’…not just for geocaching – his secret vice – but for dogs and walking the hills (mostly soggy) of Scotland.
And when you take a look, gee him up for another post…even for a Scot his Hogmanay break is over extended and I want to see more photographs of Mabel.

Frightened of going into hospital and catching something worse than that with which you went in? Read Carrie Rubin’s novel ‘The Seneca Scourge’ and you’ll have the habdabs…..but her blog will have you laughing.

Pooch has one careful owner – status viatoris – now based in Italy, but who is currently writing about her early experiences…in every sense of the word…in Spain.
Unmissable. So’s Pooch.

And a word in your ear about Sue Llewellyn’s ‘A Word in Your Ear’. I’m not normally a fan of photography – probably jealous – but this is a beauty. A recent post on Flinders Street station has me going back continually.

Back to Bodrum gives a varied look at life in and around Bodrum in Turkey….with the bonus of archeology! How often a post will make me wish i’d spent longer there and done more looking around.

Croixblanches will introduce you not only to ‘Nowhere-on-Thames’ but also to a village in the French countryside featuring cannabis growers, German occupiers and elaborate roundabouts….

Before you grumble at your other half for losing things nip over to ‘Where’s My Effing Pony?’ and catch the work of an master of the art…The Artistic One…and his not at all suffering wife. They go to some lovely places…with or without his passport.

But don’t bother reporting the loss of your passport to the police in England: Inspector Gadget will tell you why…the inside story of policing.

And the inside story on the life of a magistrate ‘The Magistrates’ Blog’ may enlighten you as to the harm being done to a system of justice which used to be marked by independence…..

Something more cheerful? Then you need ‘Linda’s Lair’ where a great lady battles her depression by lifting ours with her videos and photographs…there’s some interesting architecture in there when the weather is fine enough for her to go out, as well as shrubs, flowers and – my favourite – ducks.

Emerging from his cave to chronicle his life and times is Adullamite who has a lot of stuff I like going on….troopships, steam trains…and a wonderful post on the difference if you marry a Scottish girl!

Brilliant photographs…even better text from Susie Kelly on ‘No damn blog’. Animals, travels, daily life…all seen from her own angle. And she writes super books, too!

And whatever else you do…please visit The Slog. 3-D bollocks deconstruction, to get a not-as-pubished-in-the-media view of what’s going on in the financial and political world.

We’re all doomed……so have a good read before you go!