Saturday, 23 April 2016


“On it like a sonnet” as Shakespeare used to say. Or maybe not, who knows? Ah, that brilliant writer of the great and beautiful English language, now 400 years departed, and in commemoration I have found a sonnet with which I can associate, working at an outdoor centre.

Full many a glorious morning have I seen
Flatter the mountain tops with sovereign eye,
Kissing with golden face the meadows green,
Gilding pale streams with heavenly alchemy;
Anon permit the basest clouds to ride
With ugly rack on his celestial face,
And from the forlorn world his visage hide,
Stealing unseen to west with this disgrace:
Even so my sun one early morn did shine,
With all triumphant splendour on my brow;
But out! Alack! He was but one hour mine,
The region cloud hath mask’d him from me now.
     Yet him for this my love no whit disdaineth;
     Suns of the world may stain when heaven’s sun staineth.

Saturday, 16 April 2016

The Adventure of English

English is a language that has spread further than any other and is now spoken as a first language by vast numbers of people all over the globe, and by even more people as a second or third language. It has always been a greatly adaptable language pulling in words from other tongues and simply adding them to the ever growing list of words that fill the English dictionary. What started as a humble language spoken by small tribes has been shaken by invasions, and by invasion has shaken the world.

So often described as a Germanic language yet it is filled with Latinate words, mainly thanks to the French who almost wiped out English, and phrases that stretch back through time so that we have forgotten their original meaning. It has been moulded and stretched by great writers such as Chaucer and Shakespeare and Dickens, while others, like Samuel Johnson, have tried to contain it in dictionaries and have people speak it correctly. Yet today accents and dialects are stronger than ever, within England and without. Words can be altered, grammar can be changed (or ignored – again both overseas and in Essex, I mean, England) and yet still we can understand each other (just).

This is the adventure of English, as described by Melvyn Bragg in his novel by that name. A fascinating story of how a language has changed and how it has changed the world. It is a gripping, twisting narrative with times of trouble, great victories and a cast of colourful characters who have all impacted the way we speak today and indeed the way I write this post now. So if you’re looking for something to read, something that will surprise you, amaze you, make you laugh and teach you more than you can possibly imagine about a language you probably thought you knew well, look up The Adventure of English!

Monday, 11 April 2016

When a family member gets married

I have now had the joy of attending the wedding of an immediate family member (my sister) and while I have been to many weddings over the years, I found this one at little different. The closest comparison I can make is to Christmas. There was the big build up, the preparations and excitement, which came to a head in the final week as my family gathered together. Then there was the day itself, full of fun, a trip to Church, handing over of cards and presents (although the happy couple won't open theirs for a while) a large meal and seeing old friends and family. Following the wedding, we had a quiet(er) day, going for a walk in the afternoon before ending up in front of the TV (to see an Englishman win the Masters) and the weekend crossword in the Times.

For the wedding I had the privilege of being an Usher, which seems to me to involve about 50% sitting around, 40% being told to do a wide variety of tasks by other members of the wedding party and guests and 10% actually doing things - such taking certain import items like these to the church: