Tuesday, 26 November 2013


Firstly, let me state that I am not an English teacher, nor an expert in English grammar and the usage of vocabulary, and I am definitely not a pedant. But let's face it, there are some instances of "newspeak" which just have the teeth grinding away and the blood pressure rising. For instance, who doesn't hate that over-used term of a few years ago, "grow the company"?. All those people who had been to training sessions, done their MBAs, standing in front of white boards and telling us how we all had to "work smarter, not harder" so that together we could "grow the company". That is, of course, provided the "dynamics" were correct.

Recently I find myself having to suppress the urge to scream every time I hear - or, even worse, read in job vacancy ads - the term "bored of", such as "Are you bored of your current job". Bored of? Where the hell did that come from? Listen clearly: it's "bored with" or "tired of"; it is not "bored of". Not only is it wrong, it just sounds wrong. When I first started hearing it I assumed it had popped up in an SMS and had somehow floated out into the ether to be used by everybody under a certain age. But, no, before long I actually saw that term used in an advertisement by a very large, quite prestigious employment agency.

There are so many instances of word usage which really annoy, but with the lead-up to that most beautiful time of year, Christmas, one of our main department store chains is in the running to win my Most Annoying Use of the English Language Award. Now, I can only assume that the advertising agency which the company employed to come up with the slogan for encouraging the population of Australia to boost the economy by handing over millions of dollars for Christmas gifts is staffed by people for whom English is not their first language. Okay, I will keep you in suspense no longer. Here it is, the slogan which is printed on brochures, displayed on signage everywhere you look in the store, and which is sadly now imprinted upon my brain: 


You did get that, didn't you? It's "The Power of Give". It's not "The Power of Giving" or "The Joy of Giving"; it's "The Power of Give". That's like saying "The fun of ski" or "The thrill of drive" or "The pleasure of read" or "The benefit of walk". Who on earth came up with such an incredibly stupid slogan? What is even more puzzling is who on earth - no doubt while pocketing a large salary - decided it was a good one to run with? Honestly, if it wasn't for those loyalty points, I would take my Christmas shopping elsewhere.

Hey, large department store that I love - and you know who you are - I have one thing to say to you: give the give the flick if you want to grow the company.

Attribution: images courtesy of Microsoft Clipart

Friday, 22 November 2013

Driving Nostalgia

Nostalgia is the most wonderful emotion, isn’t it? Of course, we are never nostalgic for the bad stuff, only for happy memories, or what we convince ourselves were happy memories. Our noses pick up the smell of Johnson’s® Baby Shampoo or Cashmere Bouquet soap and we are instantly transported back to being a small child, bundled up in a soft, thick towel, chuckling as our Mum tickles us under the arms while drying us off after a lovely bubble bath complete with little boats and rubber duckies. That our mothers may never have used that particular shampoo or that particular soap is irrelevant; it is the scent of them which we associate with childhood, particularly a happy childhood, and so that is the memory our nostalgia button triggers in us. And isn’t it delightful? For some the past is a lovely place to visit; for others they have never left it.

Today I was driving home from the library when I saw in the next lane, and slightly ahead of me, a brown Volkswagen Beetle. This was not the sleek, beautifully engineered 21st century model. No, this was an old, old Beetle, and not one which offered up gleaming testimony to weekly buffing and polishing by somebody intent on presenting an old vehicle in pristine, showroom condition. This was nostalgia on wheels, and it was the accoutrements, the little extras, the accessorising of an old girl which were so incredibly captivating. Mounted on the roof of the vehicle was a roof-rack, one which looked itself to be pretty ancient. On the roof-rack was a child’s tricycle, a very old, quite rusty tricycle, complete with dodgy looking handlebars and perhaps a wheel which was not quite round. It was a real, honest-to-God kid’s tricycle such as is not seen in these times of plonking two-year-olds on mini-bikes with trainers and sending them off on the road; it was the sort of trike which I craved as a child and I almost cried with repressed envy. Nestling next to the trike was something perhaps even older – a Coca-Cola crate. It was wooden, with red paint slightly faded, as is so appropriate, and it fitted beautifully with the trike. Now, if that is not enough, what was on the back of the vehicle just had me laughing with delight. Growing out from the bonnet (remember, it’s a Beetle and so the bonnet is at the back and the boot is at the front) was a luggage rack, and strapped onto the rack were two small brown leather cases which looked as though they came straight off a movie set.

Yes, I saw the driver, and, yes, I noted the registration of the vehicle (a great personalised plate, I have to tell you), but those are private details which I won’t share here. What was so wonderful, what made me chuckle and beep my car horn, was that there are still people in the world who, without becoming feral tree-dwellers or balaclava-clad anti-globalisation protestors, reject the modern, the neat, the streamlined and proudly say, “Here, this is the stuff I like, and I like it because I like it, not because it’s trendy to like it.” This wasn’t a 27 year old waif in a Mad Men dress; this was a guy walking the walk, living his own personal nostalgia. It was marvellous.


Thursday, 21 November 2013

Bear With, Bear With

Have to love that expression which was used so frequently by one of the characters in that fabulous English comedy "Miranda". When is it coming back, by the way? 

Anyway, when I ask here for your patience what I am referring to is the time that it is taking me to go back over my various blogs and reinsert all those lovely photos and graphics which Blogger so "nicely" removed some time back. I think that's a contributor to my lengthy absence - the thought of having to undertake such a huge task. Phew, forget Miranda; I need Samantha here to wiggle her nose and put them all back again.

Later friends ...

The Trouble with Book Groups

Firstly, hands up everybody who every time they see those words “The trouble with” immediately thinks of “The trouble with tribbles”. Yes, I see you out there – fellow baby boomers who remember the cutest problem that Captain Kirk and his intrepid crew ever faced on Star Trek. Ah, now my mind is filled with images of those troublesome invaders. They really were cute, those tribbles, weren’t they? I wonder if the guys who made Gremlins were a little inspired by those snuggly little critters.
Image courtesy of Microsoft Clipart
But this post is not about tribbles but about those troublesome book groups which we (mainly women) gravitate to. A few years ago a good friend wanted to set up an internet book group under the umbrella of a huge reading-related site and she asked if I would join her in establishing and moderating the group. While I had a few reservations, I did think it would be fun and so I agreed. And it was fun, really great fun. She was already pretty active on the net (I wasn’t) and had many friends from whom to recruit a core of members. 

We had determined that our group should be a private one and that it would be kept small and friendly. It worked beautifully. We were able to trawl through the profiles of friends of friends, or simply seek out members of the umbrella group with a similar taste in books and send out invitations for them to join our happy band. Within a short time we indeed had a lovely, lively little bunch of people – never more than 30 – who viewed the group more as a few friends getting together for a chat than an impersonal club with all the seemingly inherent nastiness and one-upmanship that seems to be the norm with so many online groups.

Over the years we have shared in the joy of births and marriages, supported each other through redundancies and financial hard times, reached out with heartfelt virtual hands of compassion over family deaths, and laughed at the silly things in life. We have indeed become so much more than a book group: we are friends. But at the core of that friendship is a love of books and reading. And at the core of that love of books and reading is a desire to share authors and titles. And at the core of sharing authors and titles is the “monthly group read”. Ah, therein lies the trouble.

Image courtesy of Microsoft Clipart
Now, I have boxes of books both read (and loved, thus kept) and unread stacked high in the garage, and I have floor to ceiling book shelves filled with titles which I bought because of a desire to read them. And I have, as do most people, limited reading time in the day. The days of reading till 3:00 am are long past, and I am not interested in spending time on books which are in my hands only out of a sense of obligation rather than personal choice. I love my Gerald Seymour’s, I love my John le CarrĂ©’s, I love my Martin Cruz Smith’s, I love my books about European or Australian history, I love my books of the life of the ex-pat in France. Those are the books I really want to devote my reading time to, but I find myself, month after month either buying or borrowing a book which I end up discarding after 30 or so pages. Wow, that’s 30 pages of enjoyable reading I’ve missed out on. That’s 30 pages of reading time lost forever.

That’s the trouble, isn’t it, with a book group, surrendering your personal choice for that of the group. Even books recommended to me by close friends and family sometimes have me scratching my head and saying, “How the hell did they think I would like this rubbish”, and so book recommendations can often scare the hell out of me. Oh, I have indeed been led to some wonderful books through the monthly read – The Elegance of the Hedgehog being an absolute stand out and taking its place in my top ten of all time – but, for me at least, there have sadly been more misses than hits. And thus I decided this week to pass the baton of moderator on to somebody more devoted to the cause and more faithful to the ideal of the group read. 

Image courtesy of Microsoft Clipart

 You see, that’s another trouble with book groups – now I feel so guilty.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013


Now, as Michael Caine would say, this is something most people do not know but that frequently bandied about (often with great drama) term was not invented by 15 year olds messaging each other on their iPhones. No, if QI is to be believed, and I happen to think that it should be, back in WWI some British naval officer sent a message to Winston Churchill, at that time Lord of the Admiralty or some such lofty post, commenting on that seemed to be a dire situation as regards enemy capabilities and in that message he actually wrote "OMG", later explaining what what the letters stood for. 

Now, having got that out of the way, I repeat OMG. Surely it can't be almost a year since I last posted anything in these parts, parts which are now almost foreign to me at least and no doubt to those few - hopefully "we happy few" - who take time out of their busy and sensible schedule to read these and my various other blog comments. I have no excuse other than to say it has been a very busy year with a couple of wonderful overseas holidays, a few more university units completed (phew, one finishing this week and two starting next week), and health issues that crept up on me with little warning but introduced me to the wonderful world of extremely strong pain killers. Hm, as a friend said post-surgery, "I begin to understand the attraction of drugs." Yes, indeedy.

So, just before I dash off to have a shower and put on my make-up (my own version of a protective outer shell) and head off to my singing group - yes, singing group - I thought I would pay a quick visit and once again pledge myself to being a more regular contributor to what is, after all, my own blog. I mean, if I don't post here, who the hell else will.  Okay, then, signing off, but not out, but with the promise to be back tomorrow ...