Monday 29 April 2013

Art Shows in London, Chichester and Paris

Wellcome Collection, London
Souzou: Outsider Art from Japan
To 30 June

The 46 artists are residents and attendees of social welfare institutions across the main island of Honshu, and their work includes ceramics, textiles, paintings, sculpture and drawings.

Musée d'Orsay, ParisThe Angel of the Odd (L’Ange du Bizarre). Dark Romanticism from Goya to Max Ernst
To 9 June
Art inspired by 18th century English Gothic novels featuring haunted castles, bleeding apparitions, golems and vampires. Goya and Géricault gazed on atrocities; Fuseli's sleep was broken; Böcklin took an other-worldly boat trip; Caspar David Friedrich’s perfectly tailored poets brood on mountain peaks; Edgar Allan Poe wrote tales of sable felines and the unquiet dead. Dreams, magic, the occult, mesmerism, spiritualism all flourished. The exhibition stretches to the 1920s; the Manichean gods of Romanticism and the Enlightenment fight to this day.

Pallant House, Chichester

RB Kitaj: Obsessions to 16 June

Kitaj was a figurative modernist in the same ball park as David Hockney and Max Beckmann.

Barbara Hepworth: The Hospital Drawings to 2 June
During World War II, the abstract sculptor made beautiful drawings of surgeons at work.

Paul Nash: The Clare Neilson Collection to 30 June

Wood engravings and etchings by the English surrealist and artist in two world wars.

Fashion and Textile Museum, London
Kaffe Fassett: A Life in Colour to 29 June

The knitting and textile designer’s first show in London since 1988. Will we all be creating his colourful designs again? Or stitching tapestries based on cabbages and Victorian pottery? His works are like glowing, earthy versions of Bridget Riley's geometrical progressions – all knitted and sewn.

Inspirational Quotes No. 35

You still have to be quite brave not to do the stuff that everyone else does. (Jenny Éclair March 2013 Does she think that's ever going to change?)

A large majority of respondents (83%) of the 2013 Guardian Adventures Happiness Survey said travel is very important to their happiness. In fact, in terms of making people happy travel was deemed more important than marriage and having a baby. (Survey commissioned by a travel company)

Meet, greet, press flesh, push yourself... take risks and sooner or later an addled world takes notice.
(‏@philipmould on how to make it as a portrait artist.)

Provoked woman upturned a bowl of spaghetti on her child’s head. “Over the years the story has become more and more exaggerated… this small act of aggression eclipses everything kind, loving and maternal I’ve ever done. Maybe it’s a lesson in life… if you put one foot wrong that’s probably what you’ll be remembered for.” (Guardian, March 2013)

Grammatical standards are tacit conventions. No one legislates them. Many supposed rules are folklore. (Language expert Steven Pinker, Times 23 March 2013)

Recent research shows that 36% of people met their spouse through work/school; 26% through a friend or family member; 17% through an online dating site; 11% through bars/clubs or other social events; 7% “other”; and 4% through a church or place or worship. (

After all, if there is one activity at which the Church of England excels it is euphemism; its spokespersons are known to use language in a frustratingly vague manner, frequently leaving audiences with no clear impression of what they were trying to communicate. (Indy March 2013)

The difference between a lady and a girl is not how she behaves but how she is treated. (Audrey Hepburn)

Gender equality is when women and men have equal rights, not when women have some of the rights enjoyed by men. (Feminist Aspie)

"Aspiration nation" reminds me of "American Dream" wrongly making the poor the believe they were "temporarily embarrassed millionaires". (@woodo79)

So wickedly devilishly false is that common objection "They are poor only because they are idle". (John Wesley, 1753)

You know someone is religious when they think 'truth' is complicated. No it's not; it's simply what is, was or will be the case in fact. (@LDNSI)

More here, and links to the rest.

Wednesday 24 April 2013

Guys! It's 2013!

So the future must have arrived. Do we become modern just because time passes? Is there a deadline for legalising equal marriage, ending racial abuse and learning grammar? If by “become modern” people mean “fulfill the liberal agenda”, it doesn’t just happen by itself – we have to do something about it. Guys! It’ll be 2014 soon! And we expect nothing less than gender equality – and hoverboards.

I think we live in modern times. (Dawn O’Porter on why she tweaked her name and didn’t take her husband’s – he’s Chris O’Dowd. 2013-04-24)

Hungarian Jews are fleeing the country due to anti-Semitism. In 2013? (Feargus O'Sullivan/ ‏@FeargusOSull)

No need for any more tweets like this, thanks. "Women! there are also 365 other days in the year you can ask him to marry you. It's 2012!" (Graham Linehan‏/@Glinner)

We live in the 21st century and must move on. (John Major on equal marriage Dec 2012)

BTW, please please know the difference between "gender" and "sex." It's almost 2013. (@Crutch4)

Kevin Prince Boatang (AC Milan) after refusing to play after racial abuse in a friendly in Italy. No one deserves that ish. It's 2013 FFS (Tyrant/‏@patricktyrant)

There, They're & Their. Your & You're. To & Too. Are & Or. Know the difference between those homonyms my good ones! It's #2013 (Franny Pacquiao/‏@DJ_FRANZEN)

It's 2013, and I'm still over here wishing that people knew the difference between your and you're. (Madeline Caywood/‏@madcay_20)

Come on, it’s 2013! A new start, a new you!
(Gok Wan advertising Activia yoghourt, 2013-01-02)

"Even ATHEISTS should have their beliefs respected" splutters the Daily Mail. In 2013. Atheists! Whatever next! (Dave Jones/‏@welsh_gas_doc)

I’m sad that it’s 2013 and there are still firsts for women. (Conductor Marin Allsop)

A high school teacher is fired after her partner's name appears in an obituary. It's 2013. Unreal.  (GOP FIB Network/‏@GOPFIB)

Muslims can't sneeze without being branded terrorists. It's 2013, enough with the racism already. (Just keep swimming./‏@iKidrauhlAlways 15 Apr)

It's 2013, if you still think calling someone gay is an insult... You just look ignorant and plain dumb. (Danny. cx ‏/@dannytheteen 10 Apr)

Hard to believe it's 2013 and women still earn just 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. #Congress: pass the #PaycheckFairness Act! (Planned Parenthood/‏@PPact 9 Apr)

Some days you think it's 2013. Then you read something like this, and your jaw drops, and you wonder (Neil Gaiman/‏@neilhimself 4 Apr It’s the story of Wilcox County’s first integrated prom.)

Georgia Teens Fight for Racially Integrated Prom Because It's 2013, for Chrissakes  (Jezebel/‏@Jezebel 4 Apr)

It's 2013, if you still use the word gay as an adjective to define something as stupid. You are the stupid one. (Richard Ayala/‏@LilRich93 3 Apr)

Seems really silly that it's 2013 and we're fighting for equal rights. #MarriageEquality #WayOverdue (‏@oliviamunn 28 Mar)

See you next year.

Tuesday 23 April 2013

Inspirational Quotes Number 34

Make space in your life and someone will fill it, when you're ready you'll give out the right vibes, you'll find someone when you're not looking - how long do you run the programme for? And can we see earlier results?

She was in her early forties, so well within the bracket of maybe a bad "starter marriage", or a long relationship with a guy who wouldn't commit. (

Myy facebook newsfeed if printed out would be pretty much a wedding-baby-wedding-baby montage for about 14 feet. (

"What you wear is how you present yourself to the world... Fashion is instant language" - Miuccia Prada.

Social change can take longer than expected. (Philanthropist Dame Stephanie Shirley)

A UK psychologist said people based their feelings about themselves on real evidence from their lives... Simon Gelsthorpe, a psychologist with Bradford District Care Trust and spokesman for the British Psychological Society, said self-esteem was based on a range of real life factors, and that counselling to build confidence - rather than telling yourself things are better than they are - was the solution. "These are things like, do you have close family relationships, a wide network of friends, employment and [a good] appearance. "If you're not close to your parents, don't have many friends, are unemployed and are unhappy with your appearance, it might be hard to have high self-esteem.” (BBC in piece on how self-help doesn’t work)

I always follow up with a thank-you note afterwards explaining that I would love to hang out again. Then I wait about a week before inviting the gal to do something else. If she's into it, cool. If not, that's fine – the ball is in her court for inviting me to do something. If I really dig her I may send her two invitations before I cede date-making responsibility to her. ( explains the etiquette of friendating)

Most people pair off with their aesthetic equals. (

I thought at first that Hugh, because he was not a very attractive person, got more enjoyment out of parties than people whose private lives are more satisfying. (Arthur Calder-Marshall, The Magic of My Youth He later concludes that Hugh’s assiduous networking might be quite useful for a future career.)

This is a difficult concept for many people to accept, that behaviour patterns can be so radically affected by circumstance, even to the transformation of moral perspective. (Margaret Cook on being the wife of an ambitious politician, Guardian March 9 2013)

I was very shy at primary school and she was a talker so I needed her as my wingman. (Contestant on Bargain Hunt 2013)

He isn’t a big fan of counselling. “One of the flaws is it doesn’t teach people how to do it better. Men need solutions. If you want to sort it out but haven’t the faintest idea how, you need people to give you answers rather than talk about your feelings all day. Research shows that the ‘skills-based’ relationship courses have better outcomes than the ‘insight and awareness’ ones.” (Times, March 16 2013)

Inspirational Quotes No. 33
Inspirational Quotes 32, and links to the rest

Howlers Part 8

An evil dilator

mantle for mantel: In the name of curiosity, family heirlooms were dug out of closets and taken off the mantle for a night of discovery of the monetary value of antique items. (A mantle is a cloak; a mantel is a shelf above a fireplace.)

marred for dogged: Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a debilitating illness that affects many people. It has been marred by controversy… (Nature, Aug 2011)

maunder for meander: maunder through significant wreckage (Guardian, Aug 25 11 To maunder is to witter on; a meandering river wanders through the landscape.)

metered out for meted out: You mete out a metered dose.

mille feuilles for millefiori – “It means little flowers.” (Flog It! A mille-feuilles is layers of pastry, jam and cream; millefiori glass looks like a thousand flowers.)

misnomer for misapprehension, myth, misunderstanding, error (If you call something by the wrong name, that’s a misnomer.)

mop cap for mob cap (Mimi Spencer, Times Aug 2011)

nebbish used as an adjective: It’s a noun, the adjective is nebbishy (The revelations about [Woody Allen’s] behaviour exposed his lovable, nebbish persona as a sham. (Toby Young) As has been the custom in many Woody Allen films, many of the actors deliver their lines in very nebbish, Allen-like fashion...

Nobody’s quite sure what quixotic means: The Archbishop of York, who had chaired the day in a jovial and quixotic fashion. (Ann Treneman at the Synod, Times, Nov 2012 Relaxed?)//She seems to have had a quixotic need for solitude and sometimes hung up on friends who telephoned. (Guardian Dec 2012 Eccentric?) “…is pulled aside for what is quixotically known as ‘random screening’” (Pico Iyer, Guardian, August 29 2011 Euphemistically?)

nonplussed for nonchalant (New Scientist: They were quite nonplussed about it.”)

nostrum for dictum: Nasa has had to fall back on “gauzy nostrums” about inspiring people (Joshua Green, The Atlantic July 10 A nostrum is a quack remedy, a dictum is a platitude.)

overarching priority: top priority (You’d use “overarching” where you might use “umbrella”.)

pack for pact: Tories offering a pack to UKIP.

patissière for patisserie: A patissière makes pastries.

pawn myself off as for palm off or pass off

peruse for examine: peruse the expensive tat by the exit (It means “read”.)

pilfer for pick: Thieves must look elsewhere to pilfer pockets. (Miami Herald, May 2010 Thieves must look elsewhere to pick pockets; pickpockets must look elsewhere for stuff to pilfer.)

pilloried for pillared: With great pilloried mansions next to old farm shacks. (Simon Hoggart, Sept 2012 Grand mansions have pillars; criminals used to be put in pillories and pelted with rotten vegetables.)

pointillist for pointed: The stories on the Occupy movement’s website provide a “stark pointillist portrayal of the grinding misery” of the recession, said Rich Lowry in (The Pointillists painted pictures made up of dots.)

Principal arbiter for prime mover (Times June 10 An arbiter is a judge.)

r.e. for re: It doesn’t stand for anything, it’s Latin for “about”.

rackety for rickety: Le Carré makes up in atmosphere for what he hasn’t got in suspense, and creates a whole rackety secret world, a place where English public school boys gang up with con men and racketeers around the world to keep Britain safe. (London Review of Books, Sept 2011 A triple divorcee who drinks like a fish has had a rackety life; her broken-down furniture is merely rickety.)

ramifications for implications: Ramifications branch out – they’re complications.

repartee for rapport: build a repartee (Marie O’Riordan, Times Feb 2012)

replete for complete: [The boys] attached the plastic figurine replete with maple leaf flag to a helium balloon. (Guardian, 2012 He’d only be replete or stuffed with a maple-leaf flag if he’d eaten it.)

reticent for diffident: People brought up in difficult circumstances tend to be reticent about parenthood. (Times, Sept 17 2011 Reticent people are good at keeping secrets.)

seeped in for steeped in: Water seeps slowly through walls into your cellar; you steep fruit in water by leaving it to soak for days.

Self-styled doesn’t mean you designed your own clothes, or that you like to call yourself a socialist/gourmet/connoisseur (but nobody else does). Your “style” is your handle – Mr, Miss, Mrs, Lord, Rev.

She looked up at him, staring dough-eyed at her as he sheepishly sipped on his Singha. ( That’s “doe-eyed” as in female deer.)

slither for sliver: To slither means to wriggle along the ground like a snake; a sliver is a small slice of cake.)

slow-eyed for sloe-eyed: Andrew Billen describes Eddie Redmayne as “slow-eyed”. ER’s eyes are green.

solve for alleviate: You solve a puzzle, you alleviate a situation.

stable for staple: It was a stable of Saturday-morning film shows. (A horse lives in a stable; if it doesn’t fall down it’s a stable stable. Rice is a staple food in Asian countries.)

succour for support: He found succour for his views. (Observer, July 31 11)
surfeit for lack or absence: There is a complete surfeit of story, the film feels more like a handful of sketches (imdb commenter A surfeit is a glut.)

tamper for temper: She ought to tamper her views with reality. (Guardian commenter 2012 If you tamper with something you interfere with it; when you temper something you moderate it.)

tempura paint for tempera (Fortean Times, Aug 2011 Tempura is batter, tempera is paint.)

tenant for tenet: Eating guacamole is a core tenant of my personal beliefs. (Sir Thomas Browne wrote it tenent.)

tenuous: The authors make tenuous leaps from biological norms to dubious social explanations and historical reconstructions, consciously avoiding more direct conclusions, in order to confirm their pre-existing biases. (They make tenuous connections. A tenuous connection can be easily snapped.)

the Treens, under their evil dilator, the Mekon… (probably spellchecker)

torchpaper for touchpaper: “Light the blue touchpaper and retire” used to be printed on fireworks for home use.

tromphe d’oeil for trompe l’oeil (estate agent)

trussed up for done up: If you marched into work with your hair all trussed up like Dusty Springield… (Guardian, August 13 11 Trussed up means tied up. Dusty wore her hair in a back-combed beehive.)

tumultuous for rocky: “The road to Wall Street has been tumultuous.” (A tumultuous road would be crowded with people.)

Turin Test for Turing Test: A test for sentience called after scientist Alan Turing, not the Italian city.
US tries to ease tensions on Korean peninsular (peninsula) as Kerry appeals to China (Times)

We’ve got to mould with the times! (Farmer on BBC)

wile for while: So to pass the time demonstrators outside St Paul's Cathedral have acquired a giant Monopoly board to help them wile away the hours. (Daily Mail, October 28, 2011 Wiles are stratagems used by Wile E. Coyote; you while away time.)

willful for willing: Would someone on £30,000 wilfully give up some of their salary? (Sathnam Sanghera, DT Oct 2011 Wilful means impulsive, not deliberate.)

wode for woad: It’s not all wode and pickled onions in the north (Times pullquote)

Workers are standing up to arrogant authorities: What do people think “arrogant” means? Adamant?

Part 7 here
More howlers here. And here, here, here, here and here.

Howlers Part 7

I like Noah’s Arc and Occam’s laser (that’s ark and razor.) And some howlers are improvements:
ballontine: galantine (menu)
bazaar claims: bizarre
bombfire: bonfire

defiantly: definitely
dimaontee: diamanté (has many spellings, like cummerbund)

feamle: female
flureoscence for fluorescence (Daily Mail Sept 2011)
fravorite: This is my persinal fravorite. (Amazon review of The Simpsons Sing the Blues)

genre bias: gender bias
gimic: gimmick

ions: aeons This sort of thing has been happening for ions of time! ( Ions are electrified atoms; aeons are long ages.)

marionette for maisonette: Hunters are delighted to offer to the market this two bedroom split level marionette. (April 2012)

naticual stripes and some statement heels (@chictopia)
perpurtartors for perpetrators
phorein for foreign
photophatanic panels: photovoltaic (Homes under the Hammer)
prededuce for prejudice (may be a typo, or folk etymology)
pro-magnum man for Cro-Magnon man

scrowl down to find more: scroll
sheik for chic: a sheik supper club (imdb)
You, sir, are an imbossile!

a down heel area (Hackney Hive It’s “down-at-heel” – the heels of your shoes have worn down and you can’t afford replacements.)

A stone’s through from the market is… (It’s a stone’s throw – the distance you can throw a stone.)

abrogate for arrogate: The State abrogated to itself the right to define and redefine the word (marriage). (Matthew Parris March 8, 2012 abrogate means the opposite. If the state abrogated a right it would give it up.)

adorning for donning: “Tupou relished nothing more than wearing Western clothes, adorning elaborate military uniforms” (Indy obit of King of Tonga, March 2012)

ahoy for aloft: Nun singing at a bus stop and holding a red bible ahoy like Osborne wielding the budget. (@HeardinLondon)

ambivalent for indifferent: Nature is utterly ambivalent to our suffering. (Dan Snow)

artesian for artisan

at a rate of knocks for knots: Knots are a measurement of speed at sea.

banquet for banquette (Must be the same word.)

bear witness to for witness (Lemmings can only bear witness to the Chicxulub collision if they give an interview afterwards – or if something in their fossils gives a clue.)

beholden for dedicated: But in retrospect, Ms. Brown’s work seems strikingly apolitical, beholden mostly to the politics of personal advancement. (NYT on Helen Gurley Brown, Aug 2012)

beholden to for prone to or subject to (It means “in debt to”.)

behoven for beholden (There’s no such word.)

belying for exemplifying (belying means contradicting): Contemporary design drawings showed the building festooned with colourful banners, lighting, tents, screens and temporary activities, belying the 1960s passions for freedom and indeterminacy. (Guardian, 2013-03-08)

Bitter is used to mean rancorous, quarrelsome, disputatious (it has picked up meaning from “bitter quarrel”). But I’m not bitter (resentful).

brutal: By loving Jessica Ennis so much we have put her in a brutal position (Times headline Aug 4 2012 They meant “difficult”. Save brutal for violent husbands.)

Even when Kay discovers that her birth mother has Alzheimer’s and is close to forgetting her very existence, or that her father has gone out of his way to avoid her on her second trip to Nigeria, Kay does not allow their callow behaviour to dent her robust sense of her own identity. (Daisy Goodwin, Sunday Times July 16 2010 It means youthfully crude or naive.)

canon for cannon: An 18th century criminal was “tied to a canon” as punishment. (A canon is a functionary of the Church of England, a cannon is a large gun.)

cast for carved: On top of the burial hill, Glasgow's necropolis, overlooking St Mungo's Cathedral, sits Charles Tennant cast in stone. (Daily Mail, July 2010 You cast statues in bronze, you carve them out of stone. Unless the statue is cast in some clever Victorian stone-substitute.)

cause for course: Let the disease run its cause.

chimp’s change for chump change: It’s a small amount of money, nothing to do with apes.

convey for purvey: Rodgers and Hammerstein aren’t just “conveyors of schmaltz”. (Charles Spencer, DT Aug 2011)

cornpone for ???? Amarillo Slim, the pencil-slender, cornpone-spouting Texan (NYT May 2 2012 Spouter of cornball philosophy?)

corundum for conundrum: I strongly suspect your's is a corundum faced by many. (@CharlesMunn1)

coruscating for scathing: [If they] fell short of accepted standards, he could be coruscating. (Times, June 16 2010 Coruscating wit is sparkling, not cruel.)

coursing for corpsing: To “corpse” as an actor means to be unable to stop yourself laughing when playing a corpse (or other inappropriate situation).

cowardly: Any murder is described as cowardly, especially if the victims are children or old ladies.

crapulous for crapey or crappy: Crapulous, cod-Vonnegut cutesiness being Foer's weakness. (Guardian, Feb 17 2012 It means drunk.)

Craven (cowardly) is now used to mean something like cringeing or crawling. “It is able to provide a partial antidote to the craven coverage of the corporate-owned media in the US.” ( on The Guardian)

croquet for crochet (and it was actually knitting)

dancing the Black Betty (Caitlin Moran on Blandings, 2013-01-19 It’s the Black Bottom.)

dangle for dandle: peasants in headscarves dangling babies on their knees (Harry Mount)

decorum for deference: If you’re popping in for a hot chocolate or a Welsh rarebit or lashing out on a three course dinner – “you’ll be treated with equal decorum”. (Time Out)

denizen for hangout, haunt, stamping ground, habitat: Indeed, the Upper East Side—long a denizen of society matrons and recent college graduates—has seen an influx of trendy establishments… (WSJ, July 2012 The society matrons etc are the denizens of the Upper East Side.)

domain for demeanour

doth for doff: I’d doth my cap…

elicit for illicit: He took an elicit photo.

eschewing for exuding: Edward G Robinson is steadfastly reliable as the War Commissions investigator, eschewing a mixture of wisdom and downtrodden-ness. (imdb commenter)

farrago for virago: a role as a morally loose and basically wicked farrago. (imdb comment on Of Human Bondage)

fetlock: My lovely horse, running through the field/Where are you going, with your fetlocks blowing in the wind? (Song by Divine Comedy A fetlock is a projection on the lower part of the leg of a horse or related animal, above and behind the hoof, says the Free Dictionary.)

full-pledged for fully fledged: A bird that has all its adult feathers is fully fledged.

glad for clad: scantily glad models are not very well clothed

go a long way to improving the situation: go a long way towards etc

harbouring for holding: It means sheltering.

He’s got a manacle face. (maniacal)

hew and cry for hue and cry

hold court for court: The males hold court in a unique way. (Life on Earth) They’re trying to attract mates, not hold a meeting of courtiers and petitioners.)

Homo sapien for member of the species Homo sapiens: Homo-Sapien killed Neanderthol... According to History Channel's Ape to Man, early Humans are likely the cause of the extinction of Neanderthols, who are the cousins of Humans, not the ancestors. In order for Neanderthols to be our ancestors, they had to have no more than 8 DNA differences. They happened to have over 13 differences.  Starting with Lucy, dating back some 3.4 million years ago, they have created a timeline for humans. Homo Sapien's stayed in Africa, while Neanderthols spread out to other regions. Since Homo Sapiens stayed, they had fish for thier diet, which they said to have been the main reason why we evolved the way we did. Also, the hot climate elvoving less hair. It took 150,000 years for Homo Sapiens to migrate to Europe, where they achieved lighter skin. Humans also had developed better tool thans the Neanderthols, so we won in hunting as well. Scientists assume that our cousins, the Neanderthols, were a threat to us, since they looked so different, so we killed them until we were the supreme life form. What do you think? ( (E for spelling, but B for biology. Homo sapiens is Latin for “wise man”.)

I find it an oxymoron that Mr Cameron has argued that he wants to protect London’s financial institutions, and at the same time that he wants to take the UK back to a manufacturing base. (Letter to Indy, Jan 12 I think he means “paradox”.)

I’m at my wick’s end! (It’s your wits that have run out, not your wick.)

imperious: What families mostly come for, however, is les plages, and they’re imperious. (Vincent Crump, Sunday Times Jan 2012 The beaches were probably impeccable or faultless rather than acting like an emperor.)

Juliet bathroom for Jack and Jill bathroom (To Buy or Not to Buy, April 4 2012 Juliet gave her name to a balcony.)

just desserts: But while the idea of revenge is no doubt delectable — the very phrase “just desserts” promises a treat — much of its sugar is confined to the coating. (, Nov 2011 It’s “deserts”, ie what you’ve deserved. Nothing to do with pudding.)

lesser-spotted for rarely seen: “I was stocking up on flu supplies in Boots when something about the lad behind the till startled me. It took me a few seconds to figure it out. He was speaking English. Not only was he speaking English, but he was a recognisably English kid… Here was a rare sighting of that endangered species, the Lesser-Spotted British Youth in a Service Position. So unusual has it become it to find a British youth working in a café or shop that I actually did a double-take. (Allison Pearson, Daily Telegraph, Nov 2011 The lesser spotted woodpecker is smaller than the greater spotted woodpecker. They are both covered with dots.)

lionise for big up: I’d be wary of lionising anything just because it was a helpful addition to a helpful, loving working-class upbringing. (Deborah Orr, Guardian, Aug 25 11 It means "fawn on celebrities".)

llama for lama: The Dalai Lama is a religious leader, not a camelid.

lustrous for illustrious: from an even more lustrous background (Guardian, 2000)

More howlers here. And here, here, here, here and here.

Overheards III

Look, Oscar, musical instruments! (Stoke Newington)

On the 73: Kieran, you’re crying off your pirate makeup! (Actually I think it was “messing up”. )

What do you want for lunch, Phoenix?
(Stoke Newington. Or it might have been "Felix".)

In Stoke Newington, mother to child: We're going to have avocado, tomato and honey on toast for lunch! Child: Ooooooh! (Not absolutely sure about the honey.)

Middle-class mother in auction house explaining fig leaves to her children: "It’s a figleaf to cover up the genitals, his willy and balls".

“You don’t need another Thomas [the Tank Engine] book; we don’t think they’re very well written.” Father to child, overheard yesterday. (alastair horne ‏/@pressfuturist) (Middle-class parents used to ban Enid Blyton books because they were “badly written”.)

Overheard tonight at dinner - Waiter: Do you have any questions about the menu? Response: Yes, what font is this? (@erinmorgenstern)

On the 236: They’ll only do graffiti on the muriel.

Interesting dietary advice OH on london bus: "Basically, as long as your waist size doesn't exceed your age, you're OK." (Sathnam Sanghera/‏@Sathnam)

OH in the [New Scientist] office: "It's the industrial revolution, only with spiders!" (sumit paul-choudhury/‏@sumit)

Man in John Lewis fitting room: "I don't mind if it's not in the sale. I'm a lawyer. And bring me a belt." (@DrMatthewSweet )

Carluccio's comes to Dorset: "And I'd like a chocolate fon-dantay," overheard at next table. (Friend BG.)

OH: "Zebra print is not classy. Cheetah is classy." (Sarah Fidelibus/@verbalcupcake)

"Do you know, there are whole swathes of Kentish Town I just wouldn't consider anymore..." (@mwhitfield80 )

People are still making them up:
"I know Alalia can't be invited to every birthday party, but I'm going to phone them and point out she's top of the Mandarin class."
"Can you do a kid's meal with halloumi?" OH in West Didsbury. (@oisinshare)
Walter asked for the walnuts to be taken out of his tabouleh the other day. He's two. (@ChrisMorrish)
"Darling, would you ask the housekeeper to take the celeriac out of the fridge?" #overheardineastdulwich (@PatLongTweets)

Sometimes train staff have a sense of humour:

Guard on train just announced "If you see anything suspicious, anyone smiling, report it to me". Biggest laugh I've heard on commuter train.  (@DirkMaggs)

As the Tube train pulled into Ealing Broadway this evening the driver wished up all a Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year, then... said "And if you're a Buddhist, and I am, don't come back as a turkey!" (Albertina McNeill/‏@AlbertsCrochet)

Would a Mr Tutankhamen please come to the buffet car where his mummy is waiting for him. (Classic.)

More here.
Overheards Part II

Friday 19 April 2013

Junk Statistics? Part 2

More common than Tories in Scotland

These are not made up, unlike 81% of statistics. (Old joke.)

#TUC poll 2012: on average people think 41% of Welfare budget goes to unemployed (truth - 3%) and fraud rate is 27% (truth 0. 7%) Tell all! (@GlenysKinnock, 7 Apr 2013 )

The differences between what people think about the welfare state and its reality are very striking. They believe that 41 per cent of the welfare budget is spent on the unemployed: the figure is actually 3 per cent. They believe that 27 per cent of the welfare budget is claimed fraudulently: the government estimates it is 0.7 per cent. Immigrants are actually big net contributors to the country’s finances and are less likely to claim housing or unemployment benefit. What characterises the welfare state, in fact, is the increasing dependence of working households on child and housing benefit. In December 2011, for instance, a quarter of in-work households in rented accommodation were dependent on housing benefit... The great bulk of welfare payment goes to those in work, not to the scroungers and the feckless. (London Review of Books, April 2013)

What many people don't know is that approx 75% of the population are net beneficiaries of the system - i.e. their benefits, NHS care, state education, defence, rubbish collection etc cost more than they put in in tax and NI. Only 25% of the population actually pay money IN to the system! (BBC Radio 4, More or Less)

Multiple pieces of research consistently suggest fewer than 15% of women aged 15-44 have more than one sexual partner in any given year (the figure for men is similar). (Guardian 2013. More stats here.)

"It remains a fact that only 16% of ethnic minority voters supported the Conservatives at the last election." (Musa Okwonga/‏@Okwonga) He's quoting from this poll conducted by Lord Ashcroft.

Having a #gun in the house ups risk of someone in home being murdered by 41%, but for women, risk spikes to 272%, acc to @amnesty.  (Lauren Wolfe/‏@Wolfe321 agrees)

Wow. Those reporting "Christian" down to 59% from 72% and no religion up from 15% to 25% #census #census2011 (@andrewcopson, 11 Dec 2012 Full stats here.)

A 2009 study found that over 30% of new couples in America met online. (Time magazine)

In the UK, 34% of households have one person living in them and in the US it's 27%. (Euromonitor They may not all be single, though.)

A child was sexually attacked every 20 minutes last year, according to new figures the NSPCC has obtained from the police. The statistics also reveal that more than a third of all sex crimes are committed against children but fewer than 10% of reported child sex offences ended in someone being sentenced. (The Week, April 4, 2012)

In the UK, six children and two adults have been killed by dogs since 2006.

10,000 Brits a year return from Australia with their emigration dreams in ruins, says TV programme Wanted Down Under.

Marriage increases happiness by 10%, but every child reduces it by 0.24%. Stats from MIT January 3, 2012

In every country, people vastly overestimate the immigrant share of the population. (@plegrain/Philippe Legrain)

Being single costs an extra £250,000 over a lifetime. (BBC)

1 in 5 US women victims of sexual assault. (BBC)


There are a lot of stats about ebooks and reading:

Ebooks have taken 14% of the book market. (A new BookStats joint report from the Association of American Publishers and the Book Industry Study Group says ebooks exploded in the adult fiction category last year, accounting for 30 percent of net publisher sales in 2011 – up from 13 percent the year before.)

Did you know that almost 30% of the adult population in North America didn’t read a single book last year? And 60% of Americans admitted to not reading a novel last year, while 40% of college grads claim they never crack another book after graduating. (Women tend to read more – 25% of them did not read a book last year versus 35% of men. The non-readers tend to be older and have lower income and education level. An average reader, on the other side, claims to read 4 books a year.

74.8 million people read an English-language romance novel in 2008… In the UK, over 20% of all fiction books sold each year are romance novels… In 2004, sales of romance novels in Australia increased 28% over the year before. Between 1999 and 2004 there was an increase of 40–50% in the number of new titles released. Harlequin received 20,000 unsolicited manuscripts each year. (Wikipedia)

According to a 1978 study, 45% of Americans do not read books at all.

Lots of factlets at language.log. Of course, Americans spend all their time on the Internet, instead of watching TV like they oughta.

At 16, there is an 80% chance you have already met the person you are going to marry. (Seems to be a dubious Twitter meme.)

One million UK households don’t speak English. (Jackie Ashley, quoted Dec 2012) ONS estimates one million households don't speak English "as a main language" (but may well be fluent) (Daniel Trilling/@trillingual)

Over 150 million cans of Spam are sold annually. (says manufacturer Hormel Foods)

70% of Twitter users have boyfriends or girlfriends. (Twitter meme)

12,000 people a year are hospitalised by their pets. (Times, May 2 2012 Fall injuries serious enough for treatment in emergency rooms averaged nearly 87,000 per year in the U.S. from 2001 to 2006, almost 88% of them caused by dogs.

Few adults lived beyond the age of about 40 in the Middle Ages. (Der Spiegel, April 2012 Probably average life expectancy. If you survived to 21, you might expect to live to 64. It's all explained here.)

Approximately 100 people die each year when they are stepped on by cows, says composer Murray Gold. (Health and Safety Executive figures show that over 481 people have been injured by cows in the past eight years.

25 pubs close every week. (More like 14, and falling, says

I read recently that Britain is the third-largest importer of human hair in the world. China and America take the first two places on that strange podium. ( Reuters confirms.)

76% white and male? That's today's UK professoriate. (@Mary_Churchill From The Times Higher Education Supplement)

Scotland now has more pandas than Tory MPs. And there are fewer Sealyham terriers in existence than there are tigers. (Both probably true.)

Men think about sex three times a second. (Latest figures say 19 times a day.)

Species are disappearing at the rate of 40,000 a year. (In 1998, Greenpeace’s official biodiversity report said that half the world’s species ‘are likely to disappear within the next 75 years... In Norman Myers' book The Sinking Ark of 1979, he argued that 40,000 species were being lost every year - 109 a day... but references are as rare as the dodo.

The average Briton is caught on CCTV camera 300 times a day. (No, says The Guardian, Mar 3 11

How many people were burned as witches during the persecutions of the 1500s? How many are cured by Alcoholics Anonymous or find love through Internet dating? If you know, do tell.

More here.

Thursday 18 April 2013

Why Gay Marriage Is Wrong

People come out with many arguments against gay marriage. It will lead to violence, it will weaken the social order, it will be divisive, it will upset people, it attacks religious freedom, it undermines the cornerstone of society, it threatens world peace. It "erodes" a lot of things, such as the rights of parents and churchgoers, our culture, morality, marital norms, the traditional purpose of marriage. It was so simple in the old days, when you could just tell people they'd go to Hell.

France's top Catholic bishop warned the government that legalization of same-sex marriage risked inciting violence at a time the country had more pressing economic and social problems to tackle. Cardinal André Vingt-Trois told a meeting of French bishops the planned marriage reform... was a sign that society had lost its capacity to integrate different views. "This is the way a violent society develops," he told the spring meeting of the French bishops' conference. (Reuters, April 16 2013)

“Efforts to alter society’s long-standing definition of marriage ... infringe upon the religious liberties of individuals and institutions that acknowledge heterosexual marriage not only as a fact of nature but also as an article of faith.” (Maryland bishops in 2011)

Bishop Simeon Hall of the Bahamas says: "Same sex marriage clearly violates the divine intent, but will also cause greater deterioration of the social order as we know it today." (25 Feb 2013)

The Archbishop of Birmingham says plans for gay marriage are "undemocratic and Orwellian", and also "a shambles". (December 2012)

Gay marriage bill will be divisive. Impact on religious groups & faith schools. Bad idea. (David Davies/‏@davidtcdavies)

Gay marriage will upset people in "normal marriages". Conservative MP Bob Stewart, December 2012

"I want our legislators to stick to their guns and not legalise what will be eroding our culture and make us godless people." (Nigerian actor Emeka Ike, March 20 2013)

"…although the introduction of same-sex marriage will not make heterosexual marriage 'disappear', it may make 'the path to fulfilment, in marriage and in other relationships, more difficult to find," says the report Men and Women in Marriage, published April 2013 by the Church of England's Faith and Order Commission.

"We shouldn't allow gay marriage when we should be fixing the economy" (quoted by @PrimlyStable)

The UK Independence Party has many in its ranks who are gay men or women who have, without fuss or ostentation, taken advantage of the new arrangements. As a libertarian party, we are entirely at ease with their choice and wish all of them well. Gay marriage is an entirely different thing altogether. (The site goes on to explain that if gay marriage is legal, it's inevitable that the European Court of Human Rights will one day force UK religions to marry gay couples.) (

Gay marriage "ultimately, we believe, demeans gay people by forcing them to conform to the straight world." (Timothy Radcliffe, Dec 2012, The Guardian)

US Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan is charging President Barack Obama with undermining the “very cornerstone of society” by supporting “gay marriage.” May 2012

In March 2013, the Heritage Foundation in the US put out a report titled The Consequences of Redefining Marriage: Eroding Marital Norms. ("Redefining Marriage Ignores Children’s Needs and Renders Marital Norms Arbitrary... Government recognizes marriage because it benefits society in a way that no other relationship or institution does.")

The Catholic Church in Scotland has branded gay marriage a "dangerous social experiment". July 2012

Gay marriages “threaten human dignity and the future of humanity itself.” Pope Benedict Jan 2012
Gay marriages “penalise” straight marriages. (Pope Benedict, Jan 2011)
In his Christmas speech, the Pope says gay marriage threatens world peace. (Dec 2012)

Gay marriage opens the door to bigamy and child marriage. (quoted in huffpost April 2012)

The Church calls marriage holy or sacramental because the covenant relationship of committed, faithful love between the couple reflects the covenanted love and commitment between God and his Church. (Senior bishops and clergy of the Church of England in favour of equal civil marriage.)

Conservatives (GOP leaders) discuss gay marriage on TV Jan 2011

Michael Steele: It’s foundational to who we are as a nation, how we define ourselves as people…not to the exclusion of others, not to diminish anyone’s individuality, but to say in a very supportive way that the family unit, the family concept, is an ideal that we aspire to.

Reince Priebus: It’s foundational in our lives… I don’t believe anybody should be denied dignity in this discussion, everyone should be loved. But at the end of the day, I believe that marriage — through the sanctity of marriage — should be between one man and one woman.

Ann Wagner: It is the true fabric of our society.

Saul Anuzis: I think very straightforwardly, marriage is both a religious and a cultural institution that has existed for over 2,000 years…I think that our both belief in our kind of activity to promote marriage and promote the nuclear family is an important distinction that we have in America versus almost every other country in the world.


Monday 15 April 2013

Whatever Happened To...? 22


alphabetti spaghetti
beaded car-seat covers (80s)
Body Mist
(Weak scent that you sprayed all over your body. People thought it would do instead of deodorant.)
books that told you what your doodles meant

combinations (became onesies)
couch-arm ashtrays in the shape of a saddle (with stirrups)
crinoline lady doll to cover your spare loo roll (laughed off the stage)
crinoline lady doll to cover your telephone, and calling it “the instrument”

earth energies
(an 80s colour), and ecru tights

#FFFrench mustard (moutarde de Dijon, not French’s)
Gibbs SR
toothpaste, Signal stripy toothpaste
Glymiel Jelly

hassocks (for your living room)
home automation (featuring in April's PC Pro)


kirsch and maraschino (cherry liqueurs)

meaningful relationships
novels of manners

people who invited you round for the evening and showed you slides of their holiday
sheepskin car-seat covers (70s)
slingbacks (60s)
social clubs
teak television cabinets

These composers have little in common, but they all know that opera must be theatrical. Too many of their 20th century predecessors saw opera as a bourgeois affectation, too superficial for their aesthetic philosophy. They soon disappeared up their own French horns. Their world is long gone. (Neil Fisher, Times 2013 March 16)

throwing old shoes after the bride and groom, showering them with rice, the bride and groom “going away”

More here and links to the rest.

Saturday 13 April 2013

Hyperbole, Overstatement and Catastrophising 3

Obscene earrings

Catastrophising - predicting dire consequences and generally screaming before you're hurt.

All women hate their bodies:
Some women think they’re a bit overweight.

We’re living in a police state: I’m afraid that if the government keeps chipping away at our civil liberties we’ll end up in a police state.

All you need is confidence: It's a good idea to have some confidence. It's also a good idea to have foresight, plans, training, experience...

There are two holy and beautiful things which modern life destroys. They are Privacy and Leisure. (As somebody said in 1888.)

Toddler on the train, both ears pierced. How obscene.
An obscene amount of water is lost through leaking pipes.
I've just read that Thatcher saved football in this country. Everyone's entitled to their opinion but that's an obscene claim. (Tony Barrett/‏@TonyBarretTimes, April 2013)

Gone are the virtues of plain speaking, common sense and being a responsible decent human being. (Commenter on Middle Class Handbook complaining about phrases like “big up” and “broad brush”.)

If you say "pacific" instead of "specific", I hope you drown in the specific ocean. (@kaydazz )

Woman on telly just said 'less' when she meant 'fewer'. That's my whole day ruined already. (@williamstafford)

When people confuse your/you're, where/were, they're/their/there and which/witch, I want to smash a dictionary around their face. (jessica grinsted @grinstyyy)

The recent emergence of 'yourself' as the pseudo-formal form of "you" makes me want to set myself on fire. (Dan Snow)

English has died because people write “alot” for “a lot” or can’t tell the difference between younger and youngest. (Gene Weinstein)


Courier New makes me crazed. It should be banned from fonts everywhere. (@kaitnolan)

I'd go as far to say that anyone using Comic Sans for any purpose whatsoever should be shot. (Twitter)

Join the campaign to ban Comic Sans! (

Comic Sans does have a use: rather like Dan Brown books or baseball hats with beercans attached, it marks the user out as someone to be avoided. (Tim Footman, Bangkok/London, via the BBC)

Why must the BBC continue to give this font the oxygen of publicity? Can't we just let it wither away? (Mark Scott, Basingstoke, via the BBC)

Parisians campaign for the removal of a subway sign - because it's in Comic Sans. (@pietercolpaert)

More overstatement here.

Friday 12 April 2013

More Confusibles

Do you get confused between amaranth, nenuphar, asphodel and nephilim? I know I do. And even poets are bewildered.

Amaranth is the flower that never fades, also known as love-lies-bleeding. (The leaves and seeds can be eaten.)

A nenuphar is a waterlily.

Asphodel is a flower found in the fields of Elysium, a paradise for the righteous dead according to Greek mythology.

Ambrosia, according to the Greeks, is the food of the gods. According to the British, it is tinned rice pudding.

Nephilim: in the Bible, they are the offspring of the sons of God and the daughters of men.

"There are no fields of Amaranth this side of the grave. There are no voices, oh Rhodope, that are not soon mute, however tuneful: there is no name ... of which the echo is not faint at last." Walter Savage Landor (Perhaps he meant "asphodel".)

You crush rock, quench a fire (or your thirst), squelch something wet, squash something soft, quash an ugly rumour.

formerly/formally: previously/officially

passive/impassive: not proactive/expressionless, calm

roll/role: small loaf of bread or flourish on a drum/part in a play

cordon/corden (police corden): police line/actor

cycads/circadian/Cycladic/cicadaCycads are plants. Circadian rhythms are from the Latin "circa dies", around the day. Cycladic sculpture was made in the Cyclades islands. A cicada is a cheeping insect.

credible/creditable: believable/praiseworthy

mammoth/monolith/behemoth Foreign words ending in th that mean something big (extinct elephant/single block of stone/mythical Biblical monster)

disburse/disperse: It's annoying that they sound the same. You disburse money by handing it out; you disperse a crowd by politely persuading it to go home (or charging it on horseback).

savaged/ravaged: bitten and clawed by wild beast/devastated by flood, war etc

ridden by/riddled with/riven by You can be ridden by guilt, an obsession or a nightmare (you're the horse); riddled with holes like a Gruyère cheese; riven by dissent, quarrels and factions (it means "split"). If something is riven, it has a rift in it, whether it's a lute or a political party.

bounds/bonds: bounds (boundaries) of human knowledge/surly bonds (fetters) of earth

venial/venery/venal: minor and forgiveable/to do with Venus/commercial

ascetic/aseptic/antiseptic/septic/acetic/aestheticMonks in ascetic orders are self-denying; septic wounds are poisonous, so you apply an antiseptic; aseptic environments are bug-free; acetic acid is vinegar; aesthetic judgements relate to beauty and taste.

torque/torc: degree of twist/rigid semicircular neck ornament

More confusibles here.

More Twitter Haiku

Friend AG writes: I suspect the syllable count doesn't work as well in English as in Japanese; and its restriction distracts from the real point of haiku, which is about the content and style as well as the form.

find increase in rain
falling from Saturn's rings
@astrojenny/Jenny Winder

A grasshopper on a grass stalk
emerges from its old skin,
leaving a replica of itself behind.
Bek Hobbes/‏@Greebobek

Catford Tesco toilets,
where hope
goes to die.


I'm staring at a garden
in which the trees
look irritated.

Hamish Thompson/‏@Suburbman

Maybe I've slept through it
or wasn't paying attention –
but the snow seems to have
quietly sublimed away.

@ajbaker/Andrew Baker

Five-year plan.
Be here now.
Can’t do both.


Sleet, rain, snow, hail.
That face-contorting wind
is a little less intense.

Weatherman Alex Deakin

The saddest end-of-winter umbrellas
are up again,
broken and flapping
in the breeze.

John Grindrod/@Grindrod

Saw an albino pheasant on the way to work.
And shortly after, a ghost.


Before dusk the birds
flying overhead in arrowhead formation
fold back upon themselves
then sweep east away from the sunset.

Sam Meekings/@SMeekings

Waiting in the heel-dragging grey cold of February
to cut another tree.
Praise the lord, we've been spared
from heat exhaustion once again.

Alan McGinn/@Chainsaw_McGinn

A concept known as vacuum instability
could result, billions of years from now,
in a new universe opening up in the present one
and replacing it.


Not a joke
is how many people are in Brighton,
shivering on a pebbly beach,
eating ice cream.

Rivulets of rain jag across the window.
The sky's a grubby luminous grey.
Just remembered I've got
some mixed nuts in my bag.


Bright lines of light
that dance on the bottom of a swimming pool
are being harnessed
to change the world.

New Scientist 2013

Fading light. Bracing air.
Naked trees. Catskills.
Where are those birds going?
Jeff Chu

Birds swimming on partly frozen lake,
and standing on the ice.
Dogs in coats.

John Grindrod

Auld Reekie to King's X.
Blue skies.
Snow, sun, and sea: a Lighthouse.

Solar energy
bathing Torness powerstation
with a golden glow.

Leaden skies past Berwick.
White horses on the water.
“The cafe bar will close in 10 minutes:
teas, coffee... sandwiches”

Off-white against white against grey.
Mist. Black fencing and distant trees for texture.
Steve Reich
Different Trains for company.
Dallas Campbell

More haiku here, with links to more.

Monday 8 April 2013

Even More Movie and TV Clichés

It's snowing occasional flakes that only ever happen in films just before he comes back to her. And they realise they've run out of budget.

I think it is only fair to assume someone who begins by saying "Greetings..." is a Martian.
(Mat Ranson ‏/@matr77)

Why are fictional basements so dirty and mysterious? Can't they clean? Can't they tidy up?

That thing in drama when a woman's angry with a bloke, but he hugs her; she thumps him a bit, then collapses into his arms.
(Lee Jackson/‏@VictorianLondon )

I've worked out what US audiences want from Brit films: posh people, funny posh people, funny old posh people, posh people in frocks. There.

Seems to me that past = utopian, present = dystopian, future = apocalypse is the cultural norm in most film/TV currently being discussed. (Suzanne Hardy/@glittrgirl)

How to be a politician on telly: Walk rapidly down corridors flanked by a male aide and a female aide who are saying things like “I’ve checked with the Justice Minister”. Always be in a hurry. If an aide, always be cross.

‏The morning after a battle where the good guys are hugely outnumbered, but win, a small weedy enemy is found in a circle of good guys who are taunting him and slapping him as he runs from side to side trying to get out. Meanwhile two older good guys walk slowly among piles of bodies looking grim and wounded men are carried off the battlefield. They turn over a dead body and find it is a character who yesterday was keen to fight his first battle. They continue until they find Mordred, run through by an ancient elvish blade, with a faint smile on his face.

How to expose a fake priest: quote Thoreau and attribute it to Thomas Aquinas. (Murder She Wrote “You attacked reason – it’s bad theology.” Father Brown)

Sue Perkins'... terrible sitcom, Heading Out (BBC2) was nosing toward disaster, but could have pulled back from the brink until the arrival this week of protagonist Sara's French ex-girlfriend. Some of her exes are walking cliches, and some are exercises in surrealism, and the unlucky ones are both, but at least the only one some schmuck has to bring alive is the French one, who is angry for no reason, stays for no reason and shouts for no reason, unless "we want to remake 'Allo 'Allo with lesbians" is the underlying reason, in which case, I will grudgingly remove my hat. The jokes are stale, the punchlines are awkwardly delivered, as if the actors are deservedly ashamed, the tropes are two decades old (a therapist with made-up qualifications and a drum? Why stop there? Where's the critical mother who wants to be a grandmother, what about a nice lady vicar who likes a drink, we could use a spoilt Sloane Ranger here, if anyone's got a moment, SOMEONE CALL FRENCH AND SAUNDERS. Ask them if they've got any ideas left over from 1987). ( Zoe Williams, Guardian 2013)

If there's a clock with life-sized automata wielding axes or spears... you can fill in the rest.

Films of the 40s and 50s often feature a lodging house furnished in the 1900s with a landlady living in the basement surrounded by Victoriana. (London Belongs to Me, Seven Days to Noon)

If Hollywood has taught me anything, it's that working for a multinational corporation (or investigating one as a journalist) carries the risk you'll uncover damning information revealing a vast criminal conspiracy, which will lead to your attempted murder (if you're the main character) or your successful murder (if you're the main character's source/best friend/avuncular mentor). (Writer-in to

If you're Bette Davis, instead of telling your husband your terrible secret, you pack a suitcase for him while making arch, brittle conversation. (The Letter, Dark Victory)

Mini e-book here.

More clichés here, and links to others.

More Implausible Outdoor Sports

To entice people to your Scottish island, offer: nude otter dancing, cliff horse diving, scree ski-ing, alp zorbing, eagle-assisted islet hopping...

free Italian levitation
Tuvan reindeer racing
(may be real)
competitive wolf sledging
unicycle water polo
nude sequinned boa wrestling
urban downhill skiing (probably illegal)

"I was reading through the kindle version of my favourite extreme sports magazine looking for an exciting new pastime to take up (because honestly, naked dodge ball and ninja star golf are getting a little boring) when i came across a listing for the little-understood sport of yak skiing."

also known as dirtboarding, offroad boarding, grass boarding and all-terrain boarding (ATB), is a well established if little-known action sport, derived from snowboarding. A mountainboard is made up of components including a deck, bindings to secure the rider to the deck, four wheels with pneumatic tires, and two steering mechanisms known as trucks. Mountainboarders, also known as riders, ride specifically designed boardercross tracks, slopestyle parks, grass hills, woodlands, gravel tracks, streets, skateparks, ski resorts, BMX courses and mountain bike trails.

downhill skating
night mountain biking
Nordic pole walking
(a bit like waterskiing on snow but being pulled by a horse)
snow cave diving

(you're helicoptered in - and out)
ghyll scrambling
(going down waterfalls headfirst)
(indoor skydiving)
ultra running
mountain scrambling
street luge
slalom canoeing
equestrian vaulting
(It’s in the Olympics and consists of gymnastics and dance on horseback.)
ice motorcycle racing
horse surfing/horse boarding
sport climbing
(fixed bolts)
roller sports
(artistic skating, slalom, hockey…)
dragon boating
chess boxing
(Alternate rounds. Really.)
aerial yoga
adventure racing
(running, biking, climbing up waterfalls while orienteering)

(An aquatic sport where the participant is towed on a buoyant, convex, and hydrodynamically shaped board at a planing speed, most often behind a motorboat. Wikipedia)

green gorge walking
slalom canoeing
underwater boxing (in the 50s)
motor hoop racing
(20s, 30s – you sit in a motorised wheel)

deep water soloing
(climbing a cliff without ropes but with deep water in case you fall off - Countryfile)
river buggying (sliding down waterfalls in rubber ring/dinghy)
(sliding down river in inflatable “bug”, wearing flippers and froghand gloves)

mounted wrestling
backwards running, retro-running
(BBC Breakfast)
sand racing
(motorbikes on beaches)
(riding over snow in an inflated tube)
flyboarding/water jetpacking
Nordic walking with dogs

polar bear plunge
(a group of people jump into the icy sea)
extreme pogo
night rowing
airboarding with blow-up sledge
snow sphere
(low-level flying)
go-karting on ice

More implausible sports here.

Tuesday 2 April 2013

Inspirational Quotes 33

Looks don’t matter. Personality is more important. It’s what’s on the inside that counts. And you'll find someone when you're not looking. We all know that.

A couple of doors away was the Northgate Café, with the pretty waitresses who were going to marry undergraduates by hook or if necessary by crookHusband-hunting among undergraduates had always been an arduous sport. (Arthur Calder-Marshall, The Magic of My Youth, writing about the 1900s)

These days, single, urban, educated women in China are called "sheng nu" or "leftover women". BBC Feb 2013 (The one-child policy creates a surplus of men, but Chinese men “marry down”, so those left over are A quality women and D quality men. Thank goodness we live in the West – where exactly the same thing happens.)

We become to an extent what we appear to be. (Arthur Calder-Marshall, The Magic of My Youth)

I’d let [my hair] go grey, but in my business that’s like signing your own death warrant. (Joanna Lumley, Guardian 2013-02-23)

Kids, when given the opportunity, will always "hang out with kids who are similar" to them. ( (Be a unique snowflake.)

[He] defines emotional labour as "the management of feeling to create a publicly observable facial and bodily display." (

Many people find their career options are limited because they are shy. (

The crowning ambition in my life is to be able to be with another person. That’s what we all want. We say we want world peace… (Sue Perkins, Times Feb 2013)

Their children, wives, bosses, families are frightened of them, and they scare everyone away… They have no friends. Their family has left. All they do is work or act out with a whole variety of addictions. (Mark Fisher, anger management expert, NS Feb 2013, on people who experience constant angry outbursts)

Is she walking fast? Is she not making eye contact with anyone? Is she focused on the sidewalk or her phone? ( tells you how not to look approachable)

Opening the 1966 debate on legalizing homosexuality the late Leo Abse said: “It would be as well, perhaps, to remind the House of other occasions on which legislation which impinges upon human relationships has come before the House. There was ... the Deceased Wife’s Sister’s Marriage Act, which finally became law in 1907, which ... ended the prohibition on a man marrying the sister of his dead wife . . . “No one reading the debates ... can but wonder [at reaction in] those days of yesteryear ... the passions that were aroused seem almost droll, and the threats to family stability and the institution of marriage... now seem historical curiosities.” (Quoted by Matthew Parris, Times, Feb 2 2013 re equal marriage)

Like everyone else, you’ll have expected and will have been expected to be straight, to marry, to have kids and do everything mainstream life entails. (Matthew Todd in the Guardian, 2013-02-02)

We value long-term relationships highly, but how often do we do this out of status anxiety rather than a desire for happiness? (@bipolarbear)

Inspirational Quotes 32, and links to the rest