What I Learned This Week 30.01 – 05.02.2017

I have enjoyed very much dipping in and out of Mark Forsyth’s (of The Inky Fool) excellent book “The Horologicon” if you have an interest in obscure and dead terms I advise you to pick up a copy. Over the course of this week it has taught me many new and I must say fascinating words, which although I may not drop into normal conversations it is a pleasure to learn something new. I also have one class of students who like it when I give them three unusual words each week, this book has been kind enough to furnish me with several of them.

As I was cooking a nice piece of salmon this week it massively splattered oil over my trousers as I turned it over, leaving a rather unsightly grease stain just above the knee, which in spite of several washing attempts it stubbornly refused to be removed, it just wouldn’t wash away. It was unwashawayable or to take a term from page 26 of this book, it was illutible. It is really surprising that more words exist to cover situations than perhaps we even knew existed.

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“Be careful when walking with or near a lady, not to put your foot upon her dress.”

Whilst rummaging around the free books on offer online I happened upon what I think is a real gem of a bygone age. The book in question is “The Gentlemen’s Book of Etiquette and Manual of Politeness” which is available for free download on Project Gutenberg. The book is written by American Florence Hartley under the pseudonym Cecil B Hartley. It would be considered terribly political incorrect but it was a different time for better or worse and I think that if we can appreciate what would be considered wrong today we should be able to chuckle a little at the ‘ignorance’ of our forebears.

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There re several exerts from this book that are worthy of a mention perhaps I will add some more in a later post but for today I have chosen the passage below from chapter four, Etiquette in the Street. It definitely highlights the attitudes of its time however, I think there is some effort being made towards more tolerant society which sadly even today we are some way off achieving especially with the latest setbacks in the US and the UK.

“A true gentleman never stops to consider what may be the position of any woman whom it is in his power to aid in the street. He will assist an Irish washerwoman with her large basket or bundle over a crossing, or carry over the little charges of a distressed negro nurse, with the same gentle courtesy which he would extend toward the lady who was stepping from her private carriage. The true spirit of chivalry makes the courtesy due to the sex, not to the position of the individual.”

An Endless Inspiration

I spend a lot of my life looking for inspiration, things of interest or general mental escape from the day to day. Perhaps this is not the right attitude to have but I feel when I find this escapism however short it is a small window into the beauty of life, whether it is the visual in the form of art of auditory in the form of music or other things like literature or inspiring true stories or just the immense and dazzling kaleidoscope of nature.

It is easy to let things get you down, but we are surrounded by boundless beauty which we should focus on and not on the ugliness which unfortunately is also present. I sometimes wonder if negativity is just the easier option, sadly that could be true. One of the purposes of me starting this blog is to seek out and search for beauty, inspirational, funny and generally positive things that I come across in the course of my life. It is essentially a release for me but if in some way, no matter how small it also gives some joy to others then it will feel even more worthwhile.

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from Smithsonian Magazine

Years ago I read “Cosmos” and “The Pale Blue Dot” by Carl Sagan. You may or may not have read them yourself. Whenever I begin to question what I can only describe as ‘everything’ I think back to the words Sagan wrote in “The Pale Blue Dot” as I find they put ‘everything’ in perspective for me and I once more feel inspired and at ease with it all. In 2017 we find ourselves facing even more uncertain times than at almost any other time during the course of my life. I can not help but feel the world would be a better place if we had more Carl Sagans in it and sadly the one we did have is no longer with us.

I’ll leave you with a YouTube video in which the great man himself speaks, which for me are some of the most inspiring prose ever put to paper.

“Frankly I Had Enjoyed The War.”

The other day I was doing a bit of tidying up at home and came across a book I read last year. The book in question was “Happy Odyssey” by Lieutenant General Sir Adrian Carton de Wiart . I am not sure whether or not Carton de Wiart can be considered inspiring but certainly he is interesting. The title of this post is a direct quotation from the man himself with regards to his service in the First World War. I doubt very much his view was shared by many others who took part in this horrendous conflict, this is even more surprising given how many times Carton de Wiart was wounded.

I will not recount here the story of this interesting man’s life for that you can read his autobiography or if you can not be troubled by that you can look at his Wikipedia entry, which surely must rate among the top most interesting entries for any human being:

“He served in the Boer War, First World War, and Second World War; was shot in the face, head, stomach, ankle, leg, hip, and ear; survived two plane crashes; tunnelled out of a prisoner-of-war camp; and tore off his own fingers when a doctor refused to amputate them.” (Wikipedia)

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 The book itself is a good read and very fast paced, there is not much to challenge the reader and at times Carton de Wiart glosses over or even fails to mention some points that perhaps he should have done. For example, he was a recipient of the Victoria Cross yet at no stage during his book does he mention this or describe how he got it. Instead this was left up to Winston Churchill to mention during the foreword. It is not on the same literary level as other memoirs about the period for example “Goodbye To All That” by Robert Graves and at no point does it have any anti war element. If all you want is a bit of escapism and some Boy’s Own style swashbuckling adventure combined with the very non-pc views of a man from a bygone era then you could do worse than pick up a copy of this book.