A challenge for you

So folks, a challenge, a task for you: please give me a one-word topic to blog about.

Have a challenging day, won’t you!


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!



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!

Literary Retail Therapy

Today’s retail therapy involved a trip to Oxford city centre to visit Waterstones and Blackwells bookshops. Bliss. I lovvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvve the smell of napalm books in the morning!

Today’s purchases:

  • The Nose, by Nikolai Gogol’ (translated into English)
    • Penguin classic – bargain at 80p
    • Once I’ve finished with it, I’ll probably give my copy to Düsseldorf International English Library, just like I did with my copy of The Bible for Dummies and Look Who’s Back.  Share the joy.
  • The Writer’s Block, full of ideas for creative writing types.  It’s given me ideas for blog articles.  Watch this space.  Not a bad price at £7.99.
  • Masterclass: Writing Comedy, which, even if I don’t ever become the English Henning Wehn, should prove an interesting read and might even help me with writing blog articles, business analysis documents, postcards home, Facebook posts, etc.   £12.99.  I wasn’t laughing at the price, I can tell you.

Have a bookworming day, won’t you!

Taking up a new/old hobby

So, Reading. A city/town in England, not just something you do with a book. A stroll round the town one Saturday. I see the Oxfam bookshop.  I love my books and my bargains, having in my time bought a copy of Gulag Archipelago, Cancer Ward and some other Russian/Soviet paperbacks… oh, and a biography of Frankie Howerd.  Titter ye not…

Then I saw a packet of stamps for sale, intended for stamp collectors, philatelists.  I decided on impulse to buy the packet.  It was only three pounds, anyway.  Next thing is to buy a book for keeping the stamps in.  They only cost about €2 from Amazon.

All this stamp collecting took me me back to when I was 12 years old and popped into a philately shop in Dorchester, Dorset, and bought my first set of stamps, including a Nauru stamp, which then cost a pound, about a week’s pocket money in those days.  I got a fair old collection after about three years.  Where did my stamp books go?  I’ve no idea.

Then I think of the South Georgia first day covers and British Antarctic Territory stamps that I ordered as a wedding present for an ex-colleague two years ago.

All that exotica, without evening having to leave my flat.

Have an exotic day, won’t you!

Will someone ever forge my diaries?

Fame.  Or notoriety.  Will I ever achieve either?

Probably not.  I’ll probably only ever be a legend in my own bathtime.  (I have been on TV three times, but that’s another story.  Andy Warhol and his Fifteen Minutes of Fame.)

Whenever I think of diaries, I play the word association game and think of:

  • Samuel Pepys (“And so to bed.”  He also wrote on Friday 9 October 1663, “I could neither have a natural stool nor break wind…”)
  • Adrian Mole (“Swedish leather exports.”)
  • Anne Frank (I visited her house in Amsterdam.  Well worth a visit.)
  • The forged Hitler diaries.

Now, this is all terribly, absolutely, typical British toilet humour, but whenever I think of the Hitler diaries, I recall Alexei Sayle on TV, saying in a stage German accent:

Ze teplets I heff bin taking for heartburn have been givink me sahch terrible flatulence.

(“The tablets I have been taking for heartburn have been giving me such terrible flatulence.”)

It’s been a quiet evening on the TV, so I decided to google the original German text.


“Die ständigen Anstrengungen der letzten Wochen verursachen mir Blähungen, und Eva sagt, ich habe Mundgeruch.”

A slight variant, probably adapted for TV.





Have a flatulence-free day, won’t you!

A short review of A Short History of the Tractor in Ukrainian

So, pretty much the quickest I’ve ever read a novel.  From cover to cover in just over a week, mostly down the English Library in Düsseldorf Altstadt, but also:

  • On the 701 heading into the city centre
  • Starbucks and platform 14 at the Hauptbahnhof
  • The S6 to Essen

So, my thoughts are thus.

An excellent book, and very original story.  I “got” the book, because I remember the “passport-hunter” ex-Soviet and post-Soviet women from my year abroad in Voronezh 1991-1992.  I also know a reasonable amount of East European history.  What I loved were:

  • Laughing out loud during the first two chapters and the ridiculous situation
  • Having damp eyes as the dark humour just became dark, no humour
  • The realism of the materialist passport-hunter
  • The question of who is the baddie, who is the goodie?  It became less clear-cut as I read each chapter
    • Passport-hunter just wanted a decent life for herself and her son
    • Father was desperate for someone to keep him warm in bed, bring him a cup of tea in the winter of his life.  Why should his two daughters get his inheritance?
  • The courtroom dramas… “under duress”
  • The happy ending.  Not quite, “They all lived happily ever after,” but on the whole a pretty win-win situation.

I am sorely tempted to read more by this author.