Posts Tagged ‘deli’

W is for…

WHERE ARE THE PEOPLE?

…my constant request whilst in Pompeii earlier this week. I had seen a programme about Pompeii a few weeks before going and the historian lady, strolling around looking at things, stopped behind some of the now-famous plaster casts of Pompeian people who were found when excavating the town. She said something like “This is the first thing that greets you when you enter Pompeii.”

Well, thought I, this will be excellent. I shall see the actual people. I will see their faces and can imagine what their lives must have been like and imagine them in these grand homes.

I find it fascinating, imagining the people going about their daily lives. It suddenly makes history a really alive subject that I can connect with because I can start to imagine myself in the past and how different my life would have been from the one I am now leading.

So we entered Pompeii, my eyes scanned for the Pompeians lying on the ground….

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Eventually, walking into the Stabian Baths, we saw a few in glass boxes…

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…and it was so strange. On the TV programme, they had talked about pyroclastic flows and ash falling and four different flows of something, which had meant that people had died almost immediately. There was no long drawn-out choking to death or disease or anything. They had been caught unawares and had barely any time to try and escape. So when I looked at the man in the top case, I imagined him seeing the ash falling and lying down and covering his face and being immortalised that way, forever. How strange, that the smallest action has defined his life forever. Of all the other things he did in his life here at Pompeii, he is forever defined by covering his face from the approaching disaster.

We kept walking but it was a long time before we saw any more people, which had become my obsession at Pompeii, a little bit.

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Danda walking across the stones set high up in the road so people could still cross the road when it was raining.

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Me ‘working’ in the Pompeian version of a deli.

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Wall paintings

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Floor mosaics

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More people! The lady on the programme said that this position with the arms is typical of someone going into rigor mortis after a shock.

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This one is strange in a totally different way. His exposed skull and two thousand year old teeth poking out from the plaster made me feel odd, like I’d accidentally seen someone undressing.

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You can even see the shape of the belt he was wearing when Vesuvius decimated the town.

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We found some more people in an area which seemed to be blocked off for archaeologists to work in, although there were none there at the time. In between all the wine jars and other artefacts, there were some more people.

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The lady on the programme talked about how this person had probably crouched down and put their hands to their face to stop the ash going on it.

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This person, it seems, dived on the floor and hid their face.

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O and here’s one we found. Just in amongst the wine jugs on the shelf. Have you spotted him yet?

After looking at loads more buildings and reading in my little guidebook about what it used to be and who used to live there, we were back near the entrance, we had been there for five hours and were both knackered.

“But I didn’t see the people from the programme…” I said sadly.

Danda insisted we go and find them, even though I was tired and said it was ok. He reminded me that we don’t know if we’ll ever come back here so we mustn’t go home disappointed. So off we went, back into Pompeii, not much time to spare before closing, the tourists almost all gone, to find “the people.”

We trekked right back to the other end, near to the vineyards which, by the way, they have replanted and turned back into working vineyards (the wine produced there is called Villa dei Misteri) and eventually we found them! The people! The people lying on the floor! Hurrah!

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And it was so interesting. I was enthralled, standing up against the glass case imagining who’s children they were, which house had been theirs, whether they had worked in the vineyards, as that is where these 13 were found during excavations or whether they had lived close by and just run there together to shelter.

Eventually, time and daylight were running out so we made our way back to the entrance, having added an hour on for “the people” and left, among the last few.

What a brilliant brilliant day. Damn planes and trains and the history of the automobile, give me some real people’s faces and clothes and lives to look at and I’m planning my future as an archaeologist/historian.

That’s inbetween my full time job as a farmer, my part time job as the world’s best baker, my hobby as an internationally renowned pianist and my ongoing project as a human rights lawyer.

I can fit it all in, don’t you worry.

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Q is for…

QUESTION & ANSWER

Readers, we are going to have a little question and answer session, you and I. Well, we’re going to improvise a little. Rather than me actually sit round and wait for you to write questions in the comments section and then only get one anyway, which is like, ‘what’s your favourite colour?’ I’m just going to ask myself some questions that I think you might have asked me.

1. What was the most interesting thing you did yesterday?
Put some paper in the recycling bin out the front of the house.

2. That doesn’t sound very interesting. Why was it interesting?
Because I was dressed in my pyjamas, no shoes on, hair resembling a lion’s mane. And the front door closed and locked me outside.

3. I see. Hasn’t this happened to you before?
Yes. I had a pan on the hob at the time, pickling some chicory. There was no spare set of keys that time so I had to break into the house. This time, however, I knew it would be fine because two of my neighbours have copies of the keys. I specifically gave them to people I know don’t go out often.

4. And did you go and get the keys from one of them?
Well, I went next door first and knocked on her door. When there was no answer, I knocked again. The possibility that she was not there had not even entered my mind. After the second knock and a long wait, it became clear that she was not in. As I went back to my front door to make a plan B, a courier van pulled up outside and a man holding a parcel got out and approached the house. I stood there, helplessly, in my pyjamas and signed where he asked me to. Embarrassed, I explained that I was locked out and took the parcel he gave me, like a right divvy.

5. But Laura, of course you were wearing lovely pyjamas, weren’t you? Think Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s and I’ve got it, right? Cute, delicate, a bit sexy?
Readers, this is where I must disappoint you for this is far from the truth. Only a blind person would think that my pyjama-ed state yesterday morning resembled Audrey. For the truth of the matter is that I do not lounge around the house luxuriously, wearing eau de parfum and serenading playboys who live upstairs. I do not wear ‘silky numbers’ or sheer satin which clings to me in all the right places. The truth is that yesterday morning I was wearing a desperately unflattering pink number. I had long dark pink shorts, of a kind of cottony material which loses its shape after a few washes. They had a silly pattern of kiss marks all over them and were saggy around the knees. The t-shirt was probably the most atrocious thing about this outfit. It had once hung nicely and not made me look awkward and ill shapen and saggy-boobed. Once. But now it is old and faded and does all of the above. It also makes me look like I weigh about fifteen stone.

6. What did you do after you got the parcel?
I dumped it outside the door and faced the truth that I would have to go to my other neighbour’s house to get the key. Off I went down the road, shoeless, wild-haired, ugly pyjama-clad, in search of a key. I knocked at the door and my heart started to sink as the pause grew longer. I looked for his car, which is always there as he never goes out. And yep, sure enough, today was the day he had gone out.

7. So what did you do next?
There was only one thing for it. I needed to be able to call Danda and ask him to let me in. But I didn’t have my phone with me. I would have to walk to the end of the road, go in the deli (where I work, by the way) and use their phone to call Danda. Off I went again. And I’ll remind you again of my attire. Wild lion hair? Check. Saggy t-shirt which makes you look obese? Check. Stretched out pyjama pants with kiss marks all over them? Check. No shoes? Check. O, and I should probably add here, a little fuzzier than I’d have liked. My little stubbly legs stuck out the bottom of my pink shorts, pale from 7 months of winter and not yet defuzzed for the approaching summer. So there I am, like the trampiest hobo you ever seen in your life ever, walking down the road to the deli. I bit the bullet and just walked in, head down, and headed through the shop, inbetween the tables of coffee drinking mothers and espresso drinking suit-wearers having business meetings and went straight to the stockroom. The staff in there turned and, inevitably, fell about laughing, probably shocked at what a tramp I clearly am at home. I used the phone and called Danda, back to back, about five hundred times. Because, obviously, the one time in the day when he’d left his phone somewhere was the time when I needed him. He was in a shop and his phone was in his cab. He eventually picked up and said he’d be ten minutes. I waited in the back then heard a beep as he pulled up outside so I ran, with what dignity I had left (none) and jumped into the cab and was sped off home to pretend this all never happened. Danda, by the way, laughed uncontrollably when he saw me.

8. Good one. I had no idea you were such a nonce.
Well, readers, there you have it. I am, in fact, a big fat nonce. And when I got home from this pyjama-related trauma, I had a text from a friend saying ‘Good look.’ It turns out he’d been in the deli and witnessed my indescribable shame first hand. Brilliant.

9. Is there a silver lining to this story?
There is. I am going to Italy tomorrow and I think, with distance, I can start to heal. I’ve unofficially diagnosed myself with Post Traumatic Pyjama Disorder. I think that’s an illness, right?

Two year anniversary

Today is two years since I got the biggest shock of my life.

Two years since being driven by a worried Danda at 2am to hospital with stomach pains.

Two years since having an unreasonable number of doctors look in places I would never have dreamed they needed to look!

Two years since I was stuck all over with needles which would live inside me for next six days, leaving me tiny scars that are still visible today.

Two years since a lovely kind doctor approached me with the terrifying news that he’d have to stick a tube down my nose and to my stomach to empty it.

Two years since being told I was next in the operating theatre and waking up hours later, literally stapled back together.

Two years since the every day functions of life were torn from me and I needed nurses to wash me, a tube to feed me and a catheter to wee.

Two years since being put on a geriatric ward and becoming a delirious TV addict with access to self medicating pain killer.

Two years since developing a fear of food and living off a spoonful of mash a day.

Two years since I became unable to stand for more than a few seconds without being exhausted.

Two years since telling Danda, “I don’t wanna go a walkies.”

And two years since I thought things were falling apart.

But they didn’t. Wonderful things happened. Friends and family were all mixed together and stuffed into a cubicle during visiting hours and it was brilliant. I would never have invited that combination of people to be together anywhere but I had no control over this and it turned out really really well.

Danda visited every day. Every single day. Every available visit. Twice a day. Him and my brother paid for vouchers so I could watch the TV or make phone calls, which I did. I made long rambling morphine-induced phone calls where I babbled and sniffled and sobbed and raged.

When I tried to understand the logic in what had happened to me and needed someone to blame or hate, everywhere there were people ready to support me and let me rage at them and at everything.

When I hobbled down the road for a cup of tea at the deli, fellow customers came to sit with me, bought me lunch, kept my spirits up when I felt low.

The doctors who repackaged my wide open scar every day were supportive and kept up constant chatter while I looked in horror at my insides on show!

And while it would be an exaggeration to say the process was a good one or that I’m glad it happened, if it had to happen, I had the best possible experience of it.

And now, right now, where I am in my life at this minute, I can’t remember ever feeling this great. Things are just lovely. I don’t have the anxiety of the teenage and early 20’s years. I don’t have the indecision of university years. I don’t have to always ask myself ‘what I’m going to do with My Life.’

And things are nice now. Very nice. I cook. I bake. I eat. I write. I read.

Two years ago, I thought I’d be angry forever over what happened to me. But I’m not. I’m just very happy and chilled out.

The bucket of fat

The other day I was in work. It was quite busy. Not rushed-off-your-feet busy. Just I-need-a-cup-of-tea-now busy. We got the food delivery in and, as usual, we started to unpack some stuff into the display fridge, put some stuff away, etc.

There was a huge bucket and when we opened it to look inside, we saw the slightly cloudy water that the poached chicken has been cooked in. Great, put that in the kitchen and I’ll unpack the chicken into tubs, when I get a chance.

Cakes went on stands, cheese went in fridges and salads went in bowls. It was all looking fab and under control. I went to the kitchen and that’s when we got loads of orders. There I was, heating, pouring, chopping, plating, and the bucket of chicken stood on the side, in my way, while I struggled to find time to deal with it. On and on it went, every time my hands went to the bucket to unpack the chicken, an order came in.

It was big and in my way but I didn’t want to move it out of the way, for fear I’d forget to deal with it.

Finally, I got the lid off. Then about four orders came in. I dealt with them and sent them out and then there I was again, alone with the bucket of chicken, finally. I was going to do this! Nothing could stop me.

Now, I don’t know how many of you are frequent poachers of chicken but it’s a fabulous way to cook it. It’s a lot more moist than roasting or frying. But as the chicken takes on the moisture from the water, so it releases some of its fat. So what you end up with is a pan of beautifully cooked chicken, floating in a sea of slightly discoloured water with fatty blobby bits on the surface. Should this water then cool down a little, the fatty blobby bits merge together to form misshapen white islands bobbing about on the top of the water. It’s not pretty, as you can imagine.

So this bucket of chicken had the inevitable floating blobby fat islands on its surface and the water itself was quite cloudy, so that I couldn’t even see the chicken in the bottom. It was a huge bucket, which was wierd because they never usually sent this much chicken. They usually sent a far smaller bucket.

Anyway, I got out two tubs to transfer the chicken into. I wrote the date on them, so we’d know when it came in.

I rolled up my sleeve… And plunged my hand into the fatty watery pit, to seek out the chicken from the depths below.

I swished my hand around. And around. I felt right to the bottom, around the edges. I swirled around in the fat-water. Around and around. And I didn’t happen upon a single peice of chicken. Not one. Puzzled, I kept swishing my hand around.

And then it dawned on me. They’d obviously made a mistake at the other deli, where they cook the food. They’d sent us this instead of chicken. They’d got mixed up, kept the chicken and sent us the bucket of water they cooked it in, clearly meant for throwing away.

So now, here I am, elbow deep in a bucket of fat, for no reason. A chickenless bucket of fat. With my sleeve up around my arm. The floating fat islands gently colliding with my forearm as I plunge around desperately, looking for poached chicken. Poached chicken which is not in this bucket. This massive bucket of fat.

It was not my finest hour.

The Plan

Ssshhh! Don’t say a word. I’m too excited to not tell you all but you mustn’t tell, ok?

I am going to work now. Until 9.30am, when I will call Danda and ask him if he wants to come for breakfast at the deli. Fingers crossed, Danda will say yes.

When he gets there, we will sit down for breakfast and I will say, ‘Oo! Something came from Amazon for you.’

He will say, ‘Really? But I didn’t order anything.’

I will say, ‘Well, here it is. I guess just open it and see what it is.’

I will get him a box which I received something from Amazon in the other day. I am very sneaky. I have taken out the book that I was sent but kept the packaging neat. I have then put a different book in there then glued it all back together so it looks like it hasn’t been opened.

So he will open it. Inside is a book with a gold cover which says ‘ROME’ in big letters across the front.

He will be confused.

‘I didn’t order this,’ he will say.

‘Are you sure,’ I will say. ‘Check inside the front cover, there should be an invoice somewhere, it will tell you who’s sent it to you. Maybe someone sent it as a present or something?’

He will flip open the front cover and inside is a message from me, which says, ‘Flight at 5pm. Pack your bags!’

He will be shocked and surprised and excited…. Hopefully. There will then be a flurry of bag packing and disbelief.

And then off we will go to Rome for four days!

Fingers crossed that:

a) all goes to plan
b) my phone works in Rome
c) my battery can cope with the photograph-taking overload

And remember, no telling!

I’ll let you know tomorrow if it went smoothly.

Sometimes I think too much

Something quite exciting happened yesterday. I was in work, doing my thing, when a customer came in. She’s been in quite a lot lately. She’s new to the area. She’s lovely.

I stopped what I was doing and we chatted for a bit, just chitchat. Another customer came in and I served her then went back to chatting to the friendly lady. She got some stuff and, while she was paying, said her and I should go for a drink sometime as she doesn’t know anyone in the area yet.

I immediately was like “That sounds great! Yeh, definitely.” She said she’ll pop in tomorrow and leave her number….

All of a sudden, I started thinking. Bad move. I felt like I’d been asked on a date. I was thinking about what we’d talk about, whether there’d be enough conversation to sustain an entire evening or whether we’d freeze under the pressure. Should I ask a friend to call half an hour in to the ‘date’ so I could pretend something had happened and I needed to leave? What should I wear? Should I just go in something super casual, like the clothes I’ve worn to work that day? Or go a bit fancier? If I go fancy, will it look like I’ve got ridiculously high expectations for the blossoming friendship? I’ve never undertaken a friendship in this way, there’s always been a longer ‘getting to know you’ period before we took the plunge and went for a drink. I’m a little nervous. If we go for a drink and we find that, while it’s pleasant, we don’t have enough in common to become best friends forever, how will we go about reverting back to our original positions as Customer and Deli Assistant? Will there be a lingering awkwardness whenever she comes into the deli, about the fact that we tried, and failed, to be best friends forever?

Clearly I think too much. But sometimes it’s best to have thought these things through first, to be prepared.

In actual fact, what will probably happen is we’ll go for a drink, have a lovely time, then do it again the next week or a few weeks later. And the friendship will continue in this manner. Maybe we’ll invite each other for dinner sometimes. It will probably be quite a nice fulfilling friendship.

But that doesn’t stop my mind working overtime, prior to our first ‘going for a drink’. Any advice on dos and don’ts of a first ‘date’ with a potential best friend?

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)