Sunday, 30 August 2009

Some Writing Clangers

Thinking about the 'things people say' reminds me of some of the writing gaffs that students make. A lot of spelling errors occur because they learn to spell phonetically, so they write as they in 'new clear family' -- 'outer body experience' -- 'in tacked'.
Can you pick out the two mistakes in this one? '...were brought up together but who's feelings were far from plutonic for one another'. One is grammatical, the other spelling. And if you can't spot those, how about:
'Jan was emitted to the ward.'
'She had soused out that one of the nurses...'
One of the most frequent clangers I receive is '...would of...' and if you can't figure that one out, there is no hope for you.
'She had nothing to loose' is another.
Apostrophes appear all over the place, where they shouldn't be and when they are needed, they are nowhere to be found.
But the best comment yet came from a student who was criticised for his bad language: 'I used bloody and crap as I don't really consider them to be swear words.' I'm sure a lot of people don't but they'll never pass muster for Woman's Weekly. (Or maybe they will nowadays.)

The Things People Say

Comparing notes with colleagues sometimes reveals some classic sayings: Mother concerned that daughter wasn't moving forward in her piano studies, when asked 'is she doing enough practise, do you think?' replied 'Oh, do you think that will help?' Apparently, the child had been having lessons for months but didn't realise that she had to practise in between.
My own favourite is the woman who wanted to learn some 'set pieces' without having to learn any notes. I've never been able to work that one out but it was probably something similar to the woman who wanted to learn to play some hymns without having to learn how to play the piano. She had been from teacher to teacher when she approached me and 'they had all messed me about' she declared. I was quickly added to her list when I said she would have to learn the notes first. 'That could take years', she said. Well, no it doesn't actually, my pupils learn that in a couple of lessons. It's putting them in the right order, as Eric Morecambe would have said, that takes longer. It's a bit like saying you don't want to learn letters and words but you just want to read a book. No, I don't get it either!

Friday, 21 August 2009

An Audience with Deepak Chopra

This is the last day of my holiday. People keep reminding me that holidays are for having a rest but I'm consumed with guilt for not working my way through my 'to do' list of jobs I have no time for when I'm working. When are you supposed to do those things? Clean the car, weed the garden, learn to play the ukulele, change the bedlinen...I lunch at a large garden centre with my friend the Piano Teacher, who has thrown up her day job in a school to become a healer. We talk about the meaning of life and wonder what we are doing here and where we will be when we're not here but we come to no firm conclusions... I wonder why Jesus is always the Front Man in inspirational texts that claim they aren't promoting religion and all denominations will benefit from reading them. Channelled texts like A Course in Miracles or Pathwork contain many of his and similar Old Testament sayings and the rest is psychology. We know if we stand back and keep our mouths shut instead of wading in like an amphibian truck, we have a better chance of behaving rationally, so what's new? We marvel at the ducks on the lake and at the fluffy heads of the babies who swim happily without questioning what it's all about. As long as it's wet and there are enough insects to go round, who cares? When I arrive home, Deepak Chopra (or maybe the postman) has pushed a postcard through my letterbox telling me to join his Audience With...It seems like a lot of money to be inspired (£50 or £40 if you're a pensioner) and maybe it's too late for me now. I once set up a phoned interview with said visionary in America for a regional daily newspaper. The interview never took place owing to communication difficulties (that's a laugh) and perhaps it was just as well because the features editor changed her mind on the grounds that she didn't approve of such things and that 'such people' only attracted the sad and the lonely and they should go out and get a life. Nor did she pay the kill fee to which I was entitled. I think I may well join the Audience With...

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Tales from the Grave

Am I interested in writing a book on blood pressure? Can I replace an accompanist who has let a choir down? Tonight. Neville, a writing student who bombards me with frantic emails about trivial issues that consume him, knows I am on holiday. Despite that, he sends me four emails agonising over why I suggested he should make his right hand margins ragged rather than block them to the margin. It can play havoc with your editing isn't satisfactory and he has already phoned umpteen editors and agents who tell him they couldn't care less what he does. A fifth email, almost short story length, says he knows I can't advise outside the 20 assignment reports he receives but he wants to get his novel finished and it's urgent that I help him with his structure and...I avoid reading on and log off the site. It isn't my job to help him develop his novel, nor would I get paid for doing so. And no, I'm not interested in writing about blood pressure. Mine is permanently high. Neville sees to that.
Instead, I go with my cousin to the graveyard to look for my grandmother. We take our umbrellas but the sun's rays beat down upon our heads. If I'd dressed for a heatwave you can be sure the little fat man who jumps up and down with glee at my misfortunes in a corner of the ceiling, would have provided a monsoon. We trudge up and down crumbling rows of stone and rubble until we find the 1937 aisles and there she is, sleeping peacefully among the weeds. We wash the stone and weed the grave and shower it with silver angels. She wouldn't know me. I was born after her death but I would like to have met her. We can find no record of my grandfather but we suspect that he returned to their home in Austria-Hungary, (later Poland, now Ukraine) where he died in his 30s, having sired 10 children, one of whom died in infancy and the last of whom was born after his disappearance. On a whim, I search my great-grandfather's surname on Facebook and come up with one hit - a distant cousin in Buenos Aires. He's family and we're overjoyed to email and exchange photos. The internet can be a curse when it showers you with neurotic Nevilles and choirs wanting last minute accompanists and publishers thirsting for words of wisdom on topics you know nothing about but it can bring you untold joy in other ways. I don't speak Spanish but I can recommend for free translations from and into any language and in this way my distant cousin and I get to know one another.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Procrastination or A Workaholic on Holiday

Decided to create a blog because I've taken the week off work and found myself wondering what to do. I have a long list of tasks I can't do while I'm working but I don't much feel like doing any of them. I can't go away as Harry the Cat is 19, on his last legs, so the vet said two years ago, and is behaving strangely. He stands for long periods of time, as though he's forgotten why; he turns round in circles without achieving anything and he will now only eat from my hand, though he can eat perfectly well on his own. I give him chicken, he wants fish; I give him fish, he wants chicken. He won't eat the vet's supercrunchies.
I'm still spending most of my time in the office. The computer is a great draw. I surf a lot, to satisfy my curiosity about courses friends mention on channelled writing, emotional wellbeing, animal intuition and angel workshops. I plan to do them all one day. For now, the recorded music society and the piano group on a Wednesday will have to do.
Anyway, the sun is shining. Perhaps I should go for a walk to the alpine gardens nearby; it's my favourite retreat. It's nearly three o'clock though and I've just noticed a bit of filing. It won't take long.