Archive for June, 2012

Things to remember when swimming

I have had a long think. A think about my anger. I have decided that, rather than work out where it came from, it will conclude that I was having An Off Day and move on. The following are my new things to remember whilst swimming.

– I am here to have a nice time.

– Most other people don’t think about things in such detail.

– Just keep going up and down, don’t take any notice of other people.

– If people get in my way, just move around them and keep going. It’s not a big deal. Don’t flip out.

– If it seems like people are intent on ruining my swimming session by annoying me, just remember, it’s only because they’re jealous.

– If someone hits me by accident while swimming, don’t hit back! It’s just an accident. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

– Holding people’s head under the water to ‘teach them a lesson’ is NOT an appropriate reaction to a minor irritation.

– Sighing loudly and shaking my head to let people know I’m annoyed doesn’t actually work in a swimming pool. Most people’s faces and ears are under the water.

– All the other swimmers have not formed an allegiance with the intention of annoying me. It just seems like it.

– When I win the World Championship At Swimming and they give me a massive trophy, as big as my house, then all this will mean nothing anymore. I’ll go back to that swimming pool and show them all my trophy, then they’ll know. That’ll show them…. Focus on the long term.

– If all else fails, take a couple of small piranha along and smuggle them into the pool.

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Considering anger management

I went swimming again this morning. I just got back and am feeling relatively calm again. Today’s swimming session wasn’t calm. It made me irate. It shouldn’t have. But it did.

As I approached the pool I saw that it was mostly empty, just the lap lane was full. The front crawl lane and nice and easy lanes were both empty. Also, the massive end lane which can take about four people only had one person in it. So I got in the nice and easy lane and thought I’d just have a relaxing swim today because my shoulder was aching a bit. I was about ten lengths in when it started. It all fell apart.

A lady approached the nice and easy lane so I moved from the middle of the lane to the side of it, to make space for her. She also moved to the side, the side I was on! She stood there fixing her goggles then just started swimming!

This picture shows the situation. I’m in the end lane (the top one). The next lane, for front crawl, is empty. The next lane is full and the end one is almost empty. The lady has approached the nice and easy lane, lined herself up with me exactly, leaving the other half of the lane empty and set off swimming straight at me! Doing front crawl!

DOING FRONT CRAWL! She’s come to share the nice and easy lane and is doing front crawl, when the front crawl lane is free! I quite literally went in to shock. I know it’s irrational but I was livid.

I just kept swimming straight, even though I know she must’ve expected me to move. Don’t people get it? When you’re new to the lane, you fit in with the people there, you don’t come in and shove people out of their space when they were there before you! Is it me? I’m worried about my anger, maybe I’m making up rules that are silly?

Anyway, I kept going, thinking she’d surely move. Surely. But she kept coming, doing a really clumsy version of front crawl, her hands kept splatting on the water like the noise you make when you belly flop. We eventually got so close that I had to stop and just tread water until she saw me. She did, obviously. She must’ve known I was there the whole time. She just looked at me like there was no problem.

“I guess I’ll move then,” I said, when it became clear that she hadn’t noticed anything wrong. I waited for the penny to drop and for her to go ‘O, it’s ok, I’ll move over here.’ But no. It was unbelievable. We were near the stairs so I just got out and moved to the large end section and started swimming but I was all out of sync and couldn’t concentrate.

I noticed the indoor pool was emptier so I went inside and started swimming. After about two lengths, four people came in together and squashed themselves into the lane I was in. One man was just standing at the end, holding on to the side, not moving. He was at the end of my section and didn’t move away when I approached. So I had to swim around him to get to the end then swim back around him to start my next length. He just stood there.

By this point, it was getting silly, I hated everyone in that pool and wished they’d all just bugger off and leave me to swim. It was time to take myself out of the situation…

After I got out, I tried to work out what was wrong with me. I’ve had a bit of a toothache and have a dentist appointment fast approaching. Has that made me angry? When it was quite hot yesterday, I struggled to not get grumpy with everyone, so maybe it’s the leftovers from that? I can’t work it out. People do silly things at the swimming pool all the time and are constantly stealing your space, so why was I so angry today? Maybe the Swim Gods are punishing me for missing Wednesday by stealing the Fun Factor from today’s swim? Or maybe I just shouldn’t be around people…?

I’m going to drink some herbal tea and do some yoga, I think.

Big fat swim challenge fail!

It’s my first week of Being Sporty. So I thought a good starting point was to challenge myself to do something active every day for a week. I decided to swim. I am calling it my Swim Challenge Week. No sooner have I spent hours deciding what to name my ‘challenge’ and I’ve already failed it. I am here to ask for your forgiveness.

Day 1 and 2 went well. I just went after work. On Day 3, I knew it was going to be a bit of a squeeze finding time for it as I was working early, going straight to Yaya’s 4th birthday party, then going straight to a leaving party for some work friends. But I thought I might be able to squeeze it in somewhere. Off I went to work, then off I went to the first party. There was a pirate ship cake! There was a new bike! There were fun temporary dinosaur tattoos! (I obviously got one too. A stegosaurus on my left arm. I have officially joined the Cool Gang.) There was an amazing racing car game and a shooting gun thingy with foam thingies to fire at stuff! It was all huge fun.

But it was getting a bit late. The work party wouldn’t go on forever and I would have to go straight from one to the other if I wanted to make it. But what about the challenge!? I couldn’t fail before I’d even been doing it for long! I panicked slightly. I thought about just writing a blog saying I’d done it anyway but I knew I’d be too nervous of being found out.

Then I had a brain wave. I’d go to a swimming pool nearby and have a quick swim here, then when I left later I could just go to the second party, without trying to swim in between. So I pottered off to the nearest swimming pool. It wasn’t my local and it wouldn’t be outdoor with lovely trees around it so I could pretend I was on holiday. But it would be fine for now. I walk to the main desk and say I’d just like to go swimming please.

The lady at the desk says… Are you ready for this?….

“Yeh, it’ll be open again in 45 minutes.”

Fail! I don’t know whether she realised that, with that one little sentence, she had ruined my Swim Challenge Week and, hence, my life. Life ruiner. Ruiner of lives. I couldn’t stay for 45 minutes to wait and then swim and then go back to the party! I would have missed all the fun by then!

I didn’t say anything for a while. Then I mumbled something or other about it being ok then I left. It was NOT ok. It was really annoying. There I was, ready to swim. Towel and costume in bag. Goggles at the ready (that’s right, I have invested in some goggles, this is getting serious). But no. No swimming for me.

I weighed up my options on the way back to Yaya’s party. Should I give it all up, blame others for my misfortune, start living off fast food and become house bound due to my depression over being thwarted in my efforts? Or should I swim every day for the rest of my life to make up for the guilt of having missed a day? Or should I just keep going tomorrow and not stress about the missed day? I’d like to say I chose the last option but in reality I’m leaning toward a mixture of the last two.

I swam this morning and did more than usual to satisfy the Swim Gods, who count your lengths and decide whether to punish you with a guilty conscience or not.

In other news = when I went swimming this morning, I was midway through doing a whole load of back stroke when I realised I still had my ‘cool’ stegosaurus tattoo on my arm, which I’d been lifting out of the water a lot. If anyone saw it, they must have thought I was dinosaur mad.

More news = Yaya got a bike for his birthday and had learned to ride it by the afternoon! Also, my name has become Lau-lau in babyspeak.

 

Can I have a word? Part 4

Our regular guest blogger tackles the subject of ‘Portmanteau Words’ today.

It’s back to that subject of words and, in this case, some very special words. As you’re probably aware English is a kind of “made up” or mongrel type of language. The purity of whatever language the inhabitants of our island spoke has been watered down (improved?) over the centuries in a number of ways. It’s become a mixture of so many words that have come to us from other cultures and languages around the world. Since the Romans invaded brining their Latin words, more influences have come in from a number of other conquerors: Danes, Vikings, Angles, Saxons, Normans have all been responsible for changes in our language (and place names in particular) over hundreds of years. Immigration has provided more foreign flavours to the mix. Other words have come from the days of the British Empire and the countries it traded with. Some words we’ve taken in without modification (e.g. précis & fiancée from French, apartheid & trek from Afrikaans, ashram from Sanskrit and hundreds more); others have a kind of anglicised version but betray foreign roots. It’s estimated, for example, that 30% of English words have a French origin & 60% have a Latin origin; some duplication because of the Latin origin of some French words. A recent arrival into English (late 19th cent.) is the word safari which comes directly from Swahili where it means “long journey”; more recently Wiki (as in Wikipedia) from the Hawaiian “wiki wiki” meaning fast; Baboushka (also a 1980 song by Kate Bush) from the Russian for grandmother and Gulag which is actually an acronym in Russian for Glavnoye Upravleniye Ispravitelno-trudovykh Lagerey i koloniimoped from the Swedish and short for motor and pedal. And there are, of course, hundreds more.

One of the things you might not have realised is that a word like moped is actually called a “portmanteau” word because it is made up of two other words or shortened versions of them. In fact, if you think about it, the French word porte-manteau is itself made up from two other French words: “porter” (meaning to carry) and “manteau” (meaning cloak). Apparently it was first used, in the context of joined words, by Lewis Carroll in 1871 (Alice Through the Looking Glass). Remember Freedom Literature, when I quoted, from Jabberwocky, these words “Twas brillig, and the slithy toves, Did gyre and gimble in the wabe” – I wonder did you know that “slithy” means lithe & slimy? LC was also responsible for the following portmanteaux: chortled a combination of chuckled & snort; frabjous for fair, fabulous & joyous; mimsy for flimsy & miserable. In 1964, when the country of Tanganika joined with the islands of Zanzibar the new nation was called Tanzania, a portmanteau of the two original names; similarly when Europe and Asia are combined to describe the whole land mass they become the portmanteau Eurasia. If you look back to LLM’s blog, Z is for, you will see the word zonkey – a portmanteau of zebra & donkey; also there is a zorse, a zebra/horse crossbreed and her very own, but rather difficult to conceive (think about it), catterpony. LLM’s blog, Attempting ‘sporty‘, mentioned having started NaNoWriMo which looks very “portmanteau-ish” to me. There was the interesting quidnunc from the K is for knowledge blog: that’s actually a Latin portmanteau taken directly into English. There are, of course, many others along these lines. (Btw, the French though, in their own language, don’t use the word porte-manteau this ‘joined-up words’ way).

Older residents of the UK will remember ‘O level’ exams called G.C.E.s; later came the exams for those not as academically clever – they called them C.S.E.s. Then in the rush to get everyone “on a level playing field” both exams went in the dustbin and the first portmanteau exams arrived in 1988 – the G.C.S.E.s

Probably one of the most recent – anyone heard of a turducken? (Not me!) It apparently arrived into the English language officially in 2010. It’s made by inserting a chicken into a duck, and then into a turkey. (Why would you do that?).

One of the most useless portmanteaux has to be guesstimate – it simply doesn’t help. When would you use it instead of estimate or guess both of which do the job of saying something or some figure is not exact? If you can help me out – please do.
As an aside, I suppose you could call this whole process LLW – lazylanguagewords. Why? Because it means the language (i.e. me & you) doesn’t have to come up with an original new word as such. You need a new word? Just grab a few existing ones and with a bit of welding & a few twiddles – hey presto! (You want to drive and travel – you dravel or drivel.)

The more you look into our language the more examples you can see. It got me thinking about how economical these words are: as I mentioned before, instead of saying something “is a cross between a zebra and a donkey” you just say “it’s a zonkey” – neat eh? Now I think we could use some more of these to save space and time when either speaking or writing. What next? ………Yes, you’ve guessed, I’ve been working on a few.

I was thinking of transport and how easy it would be to describe your journey with some new portmanteau words. Take this sentence for example (when you arrive at a friend’s house and they ask how you did you get here?) – “I came by bus, train and taxi.” This can be “portmanteau-ed” (see how I made a noun/adjective into a verb there?) into “I came bybutratax”. Do you see what I did there? A triple portmanteau! But it’s also very adaptable because if the journey was by train, bus & taxi it becomes trabutax. Switch it round for any combo of the words. If you wanted to include the walk to the bus stop (so walk, bus, train, taxi) you could make wabutratax (a quad portmanteau). If you’re a cyclist and you ride then travel on the train and ride again you could make bitrabi and so on. If you’re going abroad you could add the flight by plane into the mix – so taxi, plane, taxi would be taxplatax.

Now you may want to say how each leg of the journey went: good, bad, rough or whatever. I’ve had some thoughts on this too. So, for example, “I came by trabutax and the journey was gobaro. Did you get it? The journey was good, bad & rough on each of the corresponding legs by train, bus & taxi. If all three legs were good or bad you’d getgogogo or bababa.

Suppose someone serves in a café (or deli) and a customer could ask for alatchesanchoca which is a latte, cheese sandwich & chocolate cake. (Imaginary scenario: Customer to LLM – Can I have a latchesanchoca without the sandwich? LLM grits teeth & thinks: “But then it’s not a latchesanchoca!”) When four friends, each wanting a different drink, come in they could ask for an escaplatam – you got it didn’t you? An espresso, a cappuccino, a latte & an Americano. (Eseseslat = three espressos and a latte and so on.) Easy eh? Imagine the questions you’d get if those were on the menu on the wall: what’s that? Why is an escaplatam so expensive? Are they all mixed together in one cup? Are they definitely all separate? We’re definitely in LLM nightmare territory here? Where was that café again? …..Oh yes, ELM St!

Now, strictly speaking of course, the grammar-savvy among you will know that these words of mine are actually neologisms (that is words that may be in the process of entering common use) rather than actual portmanteaux (plural as per French not portmanteaus as would be in English) because they haven’t actually entered the language yet. (Therefore, to be precise, you can say that I’m making some speculative forays into the world of neologisms rather than inventing actual portmanteaux.) However just as it’s a fine line between genius and madness so it’s also a fine line between neologism and portmanteau! A definitely blurred, but possible, final frontier between invention and reality.

I wonder if you’ve thought of portmanteaux as a kind of ‘final frontier’? Out there on the edge? Are you ready to boldly go where no blogger (linguist?) has gone before? Such an ‘enterprise’ would be quite a trek wouldn’t it? Lots of stuff to Chekov the list and some old stuff to Klingon to. Also you’d need to make sure with the doctor that your “bones” are the real McCoy. Still, no space to go into all that here. (See what I did there?) Remember, as Captain Jean-Luc Picard said to his daughter, “Seize the time, Meribor. Live now; makenow always the most precious time. Now will never come again” — (from the episode calledThe Inner Light). I’m just off to scan those transport suggestions again – “beam me up, Scotty!” (To the Starship Bloggerprise – of course).

But you can see how the language could develop? It’s exciting isn’t it? (Perhaps LLM could revisit her “Things to get excited about” mood before becoming too sporty? New items on menu in café perhaps?) And it’s happening right here! And you read it first here!

Now it’s over to you – perhaps you could have a think and post some of your suggestions in the comments. It would be great to see some readers’ inventions. I’m sure you can come up with some better efforts than mine. (I can speak to Messrs Chambers, Oxford, & Collins once we’ve collected our suggestions.) Let’s get on board the E.S.S. Bloggerpriseand take our language forward to that final frontier– together! (This entry – using the most recent calculation method – is from the Captain’s Log: Stardate 2012.178)

Belle Grove Plantation Bed and Breakfast

Just imagine pulling up to our two hundred and twenty-one year old plantation home to spend two beautiful nights in one of our Master Suites overlooking the plantation and the river. Each of the Master Suites will be filled with period style furnishing matching the period that the family for whom the room is named lived at Belle Grove Plantation.  After you arrive, join us at 5pm sharp for a Wine and Cheese reception with local Virginia wines and hors d’oeuvres.

Sample a traditional Mint Julep while taking in the view of the Rappahannock River from the riverfront portico.  Afterwards, take a stroll around the property with Brett and Michelle and learn about the history of Belle Grove Plantation from its beginnings in 1670 to the birth of James Madison to the Civil War and John Wilkes Booth. Afterward return to your room with a turndown service and a night…

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The problem with swimming

I am on Day 2 of Being Active week and, since there’s an outdoor swimming pool near my house, I thought I’d try to swim every day this week. Yesterday went well. The pool opens at 6.30am so I woke up at 6am and was in the pool by 6.40am. I thought it’d be good because I might miss the rush. I’ve been a few different times in the morning and it’s always pretty full. I was trying to find a time when it was a bit emptier so I could swim without crashing into people.

Of course my plan did not work. It was still quite full ten minutes after opening. ‘O well,’ I thought. ‘I’ll just swim in that one empty lane over there that no-one else is in. I wonder why no-one else is in it.’

Off I go, to the empty lane. All to myself. Ahhh, loads of space. Very exciting. I get in and I think maybe I’ll be a bit adventurous today, I’ll do back stroke. Seeing as there’s no-one else in the lane, I can swim without worrying that I’ll hit anyone. So I do one length, it’s quite tiring for someone who’s into the whole gentle-stroll scene.

And that’s when I see it, the sign at the top of the lane, in massive letters. ‘FAST LANE. FRONT CRAWL ONLY.’

O no! I’d just committed a swimming faux-pas. I’d done back stroke in the front crawl lane! I suddenly felt very self-conscious and looked around for another space in one of the slower lanes but there weren’t any. Disaster! I checked the indoor pool but that was even busier. I looked at the lifeguard, ready to be told off, but she hadn’t noticed. There was nothing for it but to keep going. Worse still, I had decided to do back stroke on my way up and breast stroke on my way back. So there I was, plodding along like a grandma, doing breast stroke in the FAST FRONT CRAWL ONLY lane. Boy, was I nervous! I tried doing front crawl for a length but it wasn’t great. I know my limitations. At the moment, back stroke and breast stroke are my comfort zone.

Inevitably, someone wanting to use the FAST FRONT CRAWL ONLY lane to do front crawl came into the lane so I went into the one next to me as a space had freed up there and immediately I was exposed to all the minor annoyances of swimming around other people.

Why is that person swimming in a diagonal line? They’ve cut across my bit and now I’ve got to move to get around them. And now I’ve lost my space.

I’m swimming in this bit! Why are you getting in the pool and swimming in a straight line toward me? I guess I’ll move out of the way although I was here first. And again, lost my space.

If you’re going to swim in the lap lane, don’t be the slowest swimmer ever, please. People are behind you, trying to get some exercise.

If you’re going to come here and swim in public, make sure you can do it first. The big splashing nonsense that appears to be your version of ‘swimming’ is making me fear for my life. You also just kicked me on your way past.

So you see the problems of swimming in a public pool!? It’s not as straight forward as you would think. You spend a long time, carving out a little space for yourself and then people come and invade it. Or you accidentally ignore the swimming social etiquette by swimming in the wrong lane. Or you get stuck next to someone who’s all arms and legs and you have to flatten yourself against the side when they pass. There’s lots to think about. I bet you thought swimming was a fairly simple activity? Well, I must warn you, don’t bring your brain with you if you want a simple swimming session. There’s too much to think about.

Today, I’m working early so will swim after work. Fingers crossed I won’t talk myself out of it (I’m very good at talking myself out of things).

Reasons why my big brother is cool

When the older years and younger years at primary school had play time together and my friends and I were playing with a ball, whenever I got it, I’d run over to my big brother and shout ‘chuck it!’ and he’d throw it really far. I remember thinking I’d never seen anyone throw a ball that far in my entire life.

When we got sweets at the shop, he made up a cool game where he was the bin. To play, I’d press his nose and his mouth would open. I’d press his nose again and his mouth would close. Then I’d press it and he’d chew the sweet. Then I’d press again and he’d swallow it. Inevitably, my brother cleverly got all the sweets and I got none. But it was SUCH a fun game!

He listened to way cool music. I went through a phase where I decided that I’d like exactly the same music as him, to try and extract some of his coolness. I listened to Fugees and Nas and didn’t understand a word but I knew it was cool.

I used to sit and watch him play computer games while I’d write my little stories. I didn’t really know what Championship Manager was about but I’d watch him play it for ages nonetheless.

We used to get up early on weekend mornings, put our duvets on the stairs and get a sleeping bag. One person would get into the bottom of the sleeping bag and the other would sit at the top and we’d bump down the stairs. It was WAY more fun than it sounds.

He and his friends would play football on the back field and I’d sit nearby, reading or writing a little story. When the ball would roll too far, I’d run and collect it for them. Like a one-girl fan club! Just lingering around, watching them run about and not having a clue what was going on.

Sometimes we were allowed to put up the two man tent in the back garden and sleep overnight in it. We’d hang out in the tent feeling like we were on a massive adventure. That was fun.

I heard my brother tell a joke once so I told it to everyone I knew. It went like this – What do you get if you go under a cow? A pat on the back. I honestly had no idea what was funny about it! I thought it meant that you were really brave for going under the cow. People laughed when I told it and I didn’t know why. But because my big brother had said it, I said it.

My big brother was the coolest guy in his school when on the final year photos he did a cool hand gesture thing. I forget what it was. I just remember thinking he was pretty out-there and fun.

My big brother taught me how to ride a bike. I learned really late and was quite embarrassed about it and one day, he took me to the race track on the back field and taught me how to ride. Thanks for that, by the way!

When my big brother got married last year, he asked me to do a reading in the ceremony. Amazing. My cool big brother wanted ME to do a reading at his wedding. It is still the best wedding I’ve ever been to. Well, of course it was. It was MY big brother’s wedding!

Happy birthday, big brother!