Our Mother Tongue (4)

Russia has Pushkin.

Germany has Brecht.

France has… I haven’t a clue…

England has Shakespeare.  Shakespeare invented lots of words, eg assassin, bump, even the word “elbow” (cf: German: “Elbogen”).

Take a look at these beauties!

And for a bonus, take a look at these Shakespearean insults, thou curmudgeonly apple-worm!

Have an inventive day, won’t you!



Being Old-Fashioned

I’m quite old-fashioned, and proudly so.  I believe in:

  • Saying please and thank you
  • Holding doors open for people
  • Waiting with female friends at the bus stop until they’ve boarded their bus
  • Saying “shedule”, not “skedule”
  • Using a fountain pen

I use a fountain pen.  I use it when writing my diary (Anne Frank/Samuel Pepys/Adrian Mole-style), which I often write while sitting in the local old folks waiting room local cafe. I’ve often found it to be an effective ice-breaker.

“Are you left-handed?”

(Your hearing might be going, but by Jove, your eyesight is still good, Kumpel.

“Is that a fountain pen?  It’s really stylish-looking.  What make is it?  Where can I buy one?”

Actually, they don’t bombard the questions.  That’s just a summary of what they ask.

The piece de resistance is when they see me filling my fountain pen with ink.  Even traditionalists who write with a fountain pen tend to use cartridges.  Not me.  I use a converter.



Imagine the look of amazment on the face of a nine-year-old member of the Ipod generation, watching a left-hander writing a diary entry with a fountain pen and then seeing him drawing ink from a bottle into a converter.  She must have thought she was watching an episode of How We Used To Live.

Edit: Here is a sample of my handwriting, in in English and Russian/Cyrillic.  I messed one word up on the second line.


Have an old-fashioned day, won’t you!

Happy World Book Day!

So to deal with the issue of listlessness, here is my favourite books list on World Book Day 2016.

  • 1984, by George Orwell.  The only book I’ve read cover to cover four times.
  • One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, by Solzhenitsyn.  I’ve read that book three times.
  • Gulag Archipelago, again by Solzhenitsyn.  It took me about three years to read it, mainly on the loo in my flat in Bracknell, but well worth reading.
  • Anything in the Dummies series of books.  (Well, almost anything.)
  • The Bumper Book of Government Waste, by Lee Rotherham.  Very entertaining and informative.
  • The Penguin Russian Course, by JJL Fennell.  It was *the* must-have book till the mid-90’s.
  • The Berlin Wall, by Frederick Taylor.  I bought that at Newcastle Airport while awaiting my flight to Düsseldorf.  Three hours later, I was still reading the book at the passport control queue on arrival in Germany.

Have a literary day, won’t you!

Owen Jones: The Establishment

Owen Jones is a 30-something Oxford graduate and Guardian journalist.  I quite enjoyed his book Chavs.  I didn’t agree with his argument, but the book was interesting reading.

His other book, The Establishment.  Ugggggggggggggggh.  Nauseating, self-righteous, rose-tinted rant aboutb socialism, totally unoriginal.  What?  The Establishment is full of rich people, who do naughty things and try to run the show?  Who’d have thought that?

Buy it – if you need to stop that table from wobbling.

Tomorrow I will donate the book to the English Library.

Have an established day, won’t you!

How the Brits Protest against Troublemakers and Other Extremists

Other people march on the streets to demonstrate against their opponents.  The Brits?  We just take the mick out of you, generally on the internet.  (Think:Charlie Chaplin and Noel Coward mocking Hitler in film and song.)

Shocking to see how many Nazi sleepers there are in the UK.  Even cartoon characters and Uncle Bob Holness from Blockbusters…


Have an “outing” day, won’t you!

Book Review – Revolution 89: The Fall of the Soviet Empire

Revolution 1989

The daily commute from Reading into Paddington necessitated buying a few paperbacks to make the most of the journey.  There’s only so much time you can spend listening to music or browsing Facebook on the Kindle.

So, my first Saturday in Oxford involved a visit to Blackwells bookshop in Oxford.  Thirty minutes later, purchases completed, one of them Revolution 89: The Fall of the Soviet Empire.

Overall, a real page-turner, and very well-researched, judging by the personal anecdotes and insights revealed in every chapter, as well as the lengthy bibliography at the back, the size of several chapters.

An original way of writing about the events leading up to the fall of the Berlin Wall.  A country by country examination.  The first chapter – a brief introduction by way of Ceauscescu’s execution.  (His fault.  He did tell his wife he needed a Christmas present like a hole in his head.)  Then a country by country examination, starting with Poland.

  • It seems the Soviets were satisfied with Poland as a member of the Warsaw Pact militarily, but tolerated a not purely socialist economy, and a certain amount of dissent.
  • The Soviets then realised the USSR was stagnating badly.
  • They decided to sort out their own problems, of which there were many.
  • Mother Russia also got fed-up of bankrolling her Comecon children with guarantees to loans from Western capitalist banks.
  • Mother Russia also got fed-up of selling cheap oil to the Comecon countries, who then sold the oil onwards to make plenty of dollars to pay into their leaders’ secret Swiss bank accounts.
  • “Sort your own problems out,” said Gorbachev to his comrades.
  • Solidarity in Poland.
  • Hungary opened her border with Austria.
  • And the Wall came tumbling down.
  • Then Bulgaria.
  • Then Romania.
  • Then Albania.

This book discusses a lot of the psychology and biographies of the key players, eg the devout Catholic Lech Walesa, the aristocratic Jaruzelski, the incorruptible Gorbachev and Shevardnadze, themes that have previously not been so deeply explored in one single book.

If you are a history buff, or if you have time to fill on a commute, go out an buy a copy.

Have a literary day, won’t you!