Don't Eat With Your Mouth Full

Where can we live but days?

That figure of 1,400 girls sexually abused in Rotherham over a 16-year period is shocking. So shocking, in fact, that I was moved to do some sums.

The girls were aged between 11 and 18. There are about 3.5 million girls in the UK in that age range, an eighteenth of the population as a whole. Assuming that Rotherham (a city of about 250,000) reflects this, there are some 13,900 girls in that age range at any time from that city. The abuse took place over a 16-year period, so we can slightly more than double that, to (say) 28,000, to get the total figure for girls who were in that age range in Rotherham during the period covered by the report.

If the report's findings have been correctly reported, this means that 1 in 20 girls in the city were abused. That's one or two for every classroom, for at least a generation. My maths and/or facts may be wrong, of course - I welcome corrections.

The head of children's services at the time, a master of the passive voice, "regrets that more wasn't done at the time."

Lots of Islands have a North
Oh, Christopher Eccleston! I quite enjoyed Richard III: the New Evidence, but how could you wind it up by describing him as "Britain's last true warrior king" because he was the last king of England to fight and die in battle? Have you forgotten Flodden Field so soon?

Okay, I realise you were just narrating and probably didn't write the script, but still, this is the kind of thing that seems likely to swing the all-important Pedant vote behind the Yes campaign.

Japanese Diary 25: Translating the Impossible
I learned this word today - 珍紛漢紛 (it's pronounced "chinbunkanbun").

Apparently it's Japanese for "double Dutch" (though that's an unfortunate equivalent, since the Dutch were in fact the Europeans whom the pre-Meiji Japanese were the mostly likely to be able to talk to in their own language, being their sole trading partners for more than two centuries prior to the arrival of Commodore Perry). The English naturally used the Dutch as the epitome of incomprehensibility because they were near neighbours and rivals. Shakespeare employed a similar idea when he had Casca coin the phrase "all Greek to me" of Cicero, while the Greeks themselves invented "barbarian" (or so I've always heard) in imitation of the babbling and incomprehensible languages of nations beyond the Greek world.

This makes me curious about "chinbunkanbun", not least because it uses the same pattern of repeated plosives as "barbarian", but also because the third kanji (漢,"kan") is typically used to refer to things of Chinese origin. It occurs in the kanji for "kanji" itself, which means "Chinese characters". It's tempting to wonder whether 珍紛漢紛 is effectively a way of saying "double Chinese".

A Day with Dr Duck
Sometimes I have ideas for picture books, but I can't draw for toffee so never bring them to fruition.

Of course I could ask someone else to do the pictures, but this feels a bit of a cheat, since in my heart I believe that illustrators have a much bigger and more difficult job on their hands: they are Elton John to the writer's Bernie Taupin. I'm well aware that picture book writers agonize over every word and all, but even so, if I took my 300-word story (no matter how well crafted) to an artist and said, "Here, illustrate that!" I'd feel a bit like one of those people who accost authors at signings, saying, "I've got a great idea for your next book! How about I tell you the plot, you write it, and then we'll split the royalties 50-50?"

I picked up an old notebook of mine today, and came across the jottings my daughter and I had made for "A Day with Dr Duck" when she was feeling poorly once, many years ago. It was just to amuse her as she lay on her bed of pain, but as we plotted Doctor Duck's routine I remember feeling that we were on to something - something big... if only I could draw. First on Dr Duck's rounds were "A slug with a bug" and "A chick feeling sick", both of whom my daughter lovingly illustrated (better even then than I could have). My scanner's on the blink, or I'd reproduce them here. ETA: They are now proudly displayed under the cut:

Slug 'n' chickCollapse )

I see the story continuing with visits to:

A beaver with a fever [Note to illustrator - please provide adorable, hilarious quirky picture]

A weasel with the measles [ditto]

A roo with the flu [ditto]

A snake with toothache [ditto]

A fox with chicken pox [ditto - and feel free to have some chickens looking in at the window and laughing.]

A whale looking pale [ditto - n.b., a snail is not an acceptable alternative]

A crow feeling low [ditto]

We never got as far as the ending. I imagine that Dr Duck, now "tired as fuck", would go home and have a stiff glass of pond water. I could probably tweak it if we looked like getting a contract: that's a writer's job, after all. But then again...

Oh. It looks like someone beat us to the punch. More than one, in fact.

"Gorilla's got a terrible case of super-stinky bottom burps!"?

I can't compete with that.

Please Ensure that you have your Copy Book at Hand
I missed this first time round, and yet I feel I spent my whole childhood watching it. If you spent your nonage in the UK in the 1970s, I do recommend Look Around You, which my daughter introduced me to yesterday. It's just pitch perfect (and there's a whole series!).


Notes from a Big Island
Okay, I realise this is beside the point, but one thing that irritates me almost more than anything else about the referendum debate is the assertion that Britain is "a small island". This is mostly heard from the No camp, with the implication that it would be ridiculous to split the island into two (but that if we did, Scotland would definitely be Haiti to the UK's Dominican Republic).

So, once and for all, Britain is a big island! Excluding continental landmasses, it's the ninth largest island in the world. That's big, right?

Steep Holm is a small island, if you like.

I'm glad I got that off my chest.

As you were. Carry on.

An Old East India Hand
I'd never been to that part of London before, east of the Tower. It's a strange mixture. In Shadwell, the very next stop from Tower Gate, there are red-brick working-class flats - just post-War, I would guess - with washing strung across their balconies (though the cars parked in the streets suggest wealth, at least for some). It doesn't take long, though, for the genres become mixed. The Docklands Light Railway runs, often some way above ground like a train from Dr Seuss, though a landscape that's part grungy post-Apocalypse, part shiny hyper-future: here's a run-down estate, there's a vanity project, here a building site, there some waste land, here Canary Wharf sticks from the mud like a set of iron filings magnetized with money. In the midst of this we find the Excel Centre, floating between the London City Airport, some cable cars, and a derelict pet food mill. The DLR station names are evocative of the past: I presume East India, location of my Travelodge, harks back to the Company of that name and its eponymous dock. Some, like Galleon's Reach, seem to have been imported from the set of Pirates of the Caribbean. The centre itself is so long that it has a DLR station at either end.

I was there for Worldcon, of course. Though I couldn't stay for the whole thing (which no doubt continues apace as I write) I had a great time on Thursday and Friday, including a couple of panels (which I didn't screw up - a win!), and lots of interesting conversation with fascinating friends, including kalypso_v, nineweaving, gillpolack, Maureen Kincaid Speller, Gili Bar-Hillel, Connie Wagner, and (more briefly) fjm, Cheryl Morgan, Ali Baker, Mike Levy, Frances Hardinge, Jessica Yates and Mark Oshiro. Also, no doubt some who have momentarily slipped my mind (apologies, if so - it's been a whirl). I saw but for one reason or another didn't get to speak to papersky, chilperic (at least, I think it was him, very fetching in a sky-blue tabard) owlfish and rozk, but didn't even catch sight of gillo, nwhyte, la_marquise_de_, sarahtales, wellinghall, jemck or adaese, though I know (think?) they were there, as were DWJ-ites Kylie Ding and Meredith MacArdle - though I hope to catch several of these at next month's conference in Newcaslte.

(I was of course pleased to see today's Howl's Moving Castle Google Doodle, which was shown in Japan as well as the UK - and an interesting selection of other countries in Europe and Asia - but especially that they based it on the book, not the film. At least, the fourth entrance leads to Wales, to judge by the rain.)

The journey back across London was a bit chaotic, due to various engineering delays - including an unfortunate disembarkation at Embankment, where I tried to get on the Bakerloo line only to find it was out of service. (The announcement on the train had, in fairness, said simply, "The next stop is Embankment. Change!" - the details of how one might change or what into being cut off in a strangulated way.) Later, worried about missing my train by this point, I was rushing up the steps between different parts of the District Line at South Kensington when I heard an announcement ask for "Inspector Lane" to make his way immediately to the Operations Room, which sounded ominous. I wasn't surprised, then, standing in the carriage ready to limp the last few stops to Paddington, to hear a very calm voice say on the loudspeaker, "Due to a reported incident, we would like to ask all passengers to leave the station." My fellow passengers and I rolled our eyes. Typical - planting a bomb when we're in a hurry! But almost immediately another voice (much less calm) announced that it had only been a test. A test, I presume, that we - or the PA system - had passed. Or perhaps the terrorists were late, due to the engineering at Embankment.

On the train to Bristol two men in their late twenties were talking about work, thusly:

A: Friday is the "bring drink to work day" at our office.
B [surprised]: They let you drink at work?
A [In a "Doesn't Everyone?" voice]: Yes, of course!
Steepholm [Nonverbally]: Please don't be an air traffic controller. Please don't be an air traffic controller.

They got off at Swindon - so my guess is he works for the National Trust. But how common is it for office workers to get pissed on a Friday afternoon these days? In the office, at least, at with the blessing of the boss?

A Weird Juxtaposition
Last night I happened to be watching this with my daughter, then went to read my mail - maybe five minutes later - and saw the news about Robin Williams. (Of whom, by the way, my daughter hadn't heard.)

Japanese Diary 24: Polysemies
Japanese, being poor in phonemes, has a particularly large number of homophones (e.g. "kami" means "paper", "god" and "hair"), but in the written language they are usually distinguished by their kanji. Hence:

Kami (hair) = 髪
Kami (god) = 神
Kami (paper)= 紙

To that extent, the kanji serve the same purpose as the weird system of English spelling, which gives us "two", "too" and "to". Both may seem arbitrary and unnecessarily complex to non-native speakers, but both help disambiguate the written language - as well, of course, as enshrining many features of historical interest.

That's not to say that a single kanji can't have many different meanings too. That would be too simple! After all, people will always use language creatively, coin metaphors, etc. And connotations will always attach themselves to words, like drifting river weed hooking itself around a rock. Indeed, I have just learned this word, which pleases me greatly with the range of its meanings: 参る (まいる) = mairu: to go; to come; to call; to be defeated; to collapse; to die; to be annoyed; to be nonplussed; to be madly in love; to visit (shrine, grave).

The opportunities for hilarious misunderstanding are legion.

ETA: I forgot to add that 人参 (ninjin) means "carrot". Go figure.

The Way is Blocked
Thomas Bowman

Thomas Bowman (1838-1912)

The mind that has not been formally educated is not trapped in linear time. Memories of named individuals are identified for about three or four generations. Then the way is blocked, usually by a patriarch, beyond whom there is nothing, and to whom accrete tales and exploits of a giant. But I suspect that they are the accretions onto an individual of generations of history; for, beyond linear oral memory, we are in mythic time, where everything is simultaneously present.

Thus Alan Garner – and I can see what he means. Indeed, I have a good linear-mythic contrast in my own head, corresponding to my paternal and maternal lines. On my father’s side are the educated and linear Butlers, with their obsessive hoarding curatorial habits, gentle birth and Forrest Gump-like habit of standing in the frame (though well off centre) of so many famous lives and events. Researching them is easy and rewarding. On my mother’s side stand the working class, underdocumented Bowmans. I’ve written a lot about my grandfather Percy, the sailor, and even arranged for his incorporation into Our National Story in Greenwich, but beyond him the way has been blocked. I knew that Percy’s mother Mary ran a pub in Wrexham and outlived several husbands. (She is in fact the second matriarchal innkeeper I’ve come across in my researches – the first being Mrs Dewberry, the mother of my great*5 grandmother Catherine (born c. 1706) – and both appear to have been formidable figures.) But my great-grandfather, Alfred, drank the profits and died at 36 in 1901. All he left behind him was 1½d, which was found under his pillow. My grandfather, 12 at the time, drilled holes through the centre of the coins and kept them on a ring – a hollow patrimony.

As for Alfred’s own father, Thomas Bowman, all I knew about him was that having been a labourer he became a quartermaster sergeant in the 23rd Royal Welch Fusiliers, and spent a peripatetic life in the military, including service in the Ashanti war. Though he and his wife Emma ended up in Wrexham, neither was Welsh (he was from Devizes, she from Yorkshire). Alfred was their only son, but a year after Emma died in 1892 Thomas married a twenty-year old local woman (he was then in his mid-‘50s, and Alfred was thirty), by whom he had seven more children.

Thomas outlived his son by 11 years. Then, one night in December 1912, at the age of 74, he slit his throat with a razor.

Here's a newspaper report:

Thomas Bowman death report

My mother knew nothing of this until a couple of weeks ago, when my cousin found it out. She had a sense that her great-grandfather wasn't to be talked about, but since no one did talk about him she didn't know why. It's very hard to know what to make of it, and I find myself snatching at scraps as I try to make some kind of empathetic connection. ("He had lower back pain? I get lower back pain!") But it's sad end to whatever kind of life he led. I wish there were someone to tell its story - but through alcoholism and an early grave in one generation, and depression and suicide in another, the way is blocked.

Let it Go
My latest anime is Neon Genesis Evangelion, which has been recommended to me on numerous occasions as a deconstruction of the "mecha" genre, much as Madoka is of the Magical Girl genre. The trouble is, I've never seen a mecha series, so have no point of reference. However, having got just over halfway through the series I'm happy to report that it has leapt well clear of the "angel monster-of-the-week" slough into which it appeared liable to sink early on, and is diving instead into unknown territory. I gulp, and follow.

As if in reproof of my project of building happy moments week by week into a handsome album called Satisfactory Life (see recent locked post), one character just suggested that "No one can justify life by linking happy moments into a rosary." Well, that told me. (I note that the series' creator, Hideaki Anno, wrote it in the wake of depression, which does not surprise me.) On the other hand, I'm not sure I need to take lessons from an anime that subtitles one section, "Those women longed for the touch of others' lips, and thus invited their kisses."

So, laughing in Anno's teeth, I shall record that this morning I visited our local branch of frozen food store Cook early in order to buy a moussaka for mine and my mother's supper tomorrow. It was already quite warm at 10.30, but as the assistant handed me back three pound coins my palm was refreshed by the sudden thrill of chilled metal.

"Why, even your change is frozen!" I exclaimed, emitting a batsqueak of jouissance.

"Now you know where we keep the money overnight," she replied enigmatically.

Novelish poets and poetic novelists
I just posted this query on FB, but on reflection maybe this is a better place....

Good/important poets who were or are also good/important (though not necessarily prolific) novelists? My small-hours list was a very short one for the adult canon: Sir Walter Scott, Emily Bronte, Thomas Hardy, D. H. Lawrence, Sylvia Plath, Philip Larkin at a pinch.

Within children's literature one could add RLS, Walter de la Mare, John Masefield, C. Day Lewis, A. A. Milne, Ted Hughes.

I'm sure I've missed out many obvious names. Whom can we add to both lists? (No peeking at reference books or Google-goggling, mind!)

ETA: Suggestions I feel foolish for not putting in the original list: Kipling, Graves, Wilde, Peake, HD, Bryer.

Oh, and Sir Philip Sidney, if Arcadia counts as a novel.

LonCon and Pullman
So, here's where you'll find me at LonCon. I've been packed into one convenient day...

Crossing Boundaries: Histories of International SF/F for Children

Thursday 11:00 - 12:00, Capital Suite 6 (ExCeL)

Is there a ‘shared’ understanding of the fantastic across cultures? How have fantasy (and science fiction) narratives for young readers evolved in different countries and storytelling traditions? What kinds of stories succeed or fail in crossing national borders and why? How are these transnational stories from ‘Other’ places received and read in their new contexts? What are some affinities and tensions between these different ‘imagined communities’? This panel will address the development of international traditions of fantasy (and science fiction) for young readers and the relationship between the local, the national and the global in the world of children’s literature. Drawing upon the range of the panelists’ national and transnational experiences, we will explore issues around the intersections between regional, national and international literatures and the representation of diversity, identity and the Other in fantastic texts for young people.

Dr. Patricia Kennon (M), Sanna Lehtonen, Michael Levy, K.V. Johansen, Catherine Butler

What's In a Name?

Thursday 16:30 - 18:00, Capital Suite 7+12 (ExCeL)

Megan Lindholm/Robin Hobb, Iain (M) Banks, Tom/Thomas Holt, James SA Corey, Mazarkis Williams: many people publish under pseudonyms, some more subtle than others. Why do writers opt for a pen-name? Why do some have more than one? How important is 'branding' to marketing genre fiction, and what role do genre and gender divides play in the decision?

Bella Pagan (M), Catherine Butler, Robin Hobb, Ben Jeapes, Seanan McGuire

Also, I gather that this is the publication day for this book of essays on Philip Pullman, which I edited with my friend (and sometime student) Tommy Halsdorf. If you haven't bought your beach book yet, why not give it a try?

Beggar's Fair
Romsey is all over Morris dancers today: I wonder if any of them is ladyofastolat? It's the annual Beggar's Fair, an ancient tradition stretching back to the early years of this millennium, when the streets shut and minstrels, saxophonists and line dancers take over. I've never been around for it before, so I'm pleased to have seen it. It felt strangely old-fashioned, for reasons I couldn't quite put my finger on at first - it reminded me more than anything of 1977 and the Silver Jubilee. Then I realised that of all the thousands of people I'd seen milling round, every one was white.

It makes a contrast with last weekend's St Paul's Carnival in Bristol, with its six stabbings (at least no one was killed this year, unlike 2011 and 2008). Before that, though, there was reggae, jerk chicken and curried goat galore, but of course being in the Gower I missed it. Shame.

I finally finished R.O.D. the TV. The most surprising things about the scenes set in London were:

a) despite the prominent place of the Westminster chimes in Japanese life and anime, when they showed the actual clock of the Westminster bell tower chiming it didn't use them! Instead it tolled out a rapid tocsin, quite unlike the real thing. I wonder if they wanted to avoid confusing people for whom the Westminster chimes mean that a lesson is about to start?

b) at one point the villain points to a few books indicative of British literary genius of the past. It consists of Shakespeare, Charles Dickens and... W. Somerset Maugham. Go figure.

Anne in Japan
In more anime news, I've picked up R.O.D. - the TV again, being more in the mood for it now and for its rather expansive way of alternating "sentimental" episodes with action-packed ones. Mostly I'm impatient to get to the scenes set in England - these are imminent, I think - but there's plenty to enjoy along the way.

This is the second anime I've seen in which two girls bond over Anne of Green Gables (the first was Dance in the Vampire Bund). Does that book have a very high profile in Japan? Or is it a case of one series alluding to (or borrowing from) another? Being a little further along with my kanji now, I noticed from its cover that in Japanese the book was entitled not "Anne of Green Gables" but "赤毛 の アン" - which translates as "Red-Haired Anne". I can see why a reference to a fairly obscure architectural term might have been discarded, but it's an interesting alteration, I think, and one that brings to mind the student who lamented to me in Taiwan last December that although she had been to Hong Kong and South Korea, she longed to go further afield, to a country where not everyone's hair was black. "We all look alike!" she cried.

On Dental Hygiene and Magical Girls
Magical girls are notoriously disorganized in the morning, meaning that they frequently have to run to school while still eating breakfast. It's charming, but what then becomes of their daily dental routine? A brief study reveals that in the very first episode of Sailor Moon Usagi does indeed brush her teeth, which is reassuring:

usagi brushes

On this occasion she is so late that she appears to skip breakfast altogether. However, by Episode 3 she has taken up the habit of running out of the house with food:

usagi leaves

Tut tut. Cardcaptor Sakura, meanwhile, brushes her teeth and then sits down to a hearty breakfast provided by her father:

sakura brushessakura breakfasts2

It's a very similar story with Madoka. First she brushes, then she breakfasts with her family:

madoka brushesmadoka breakfasts

This allows her to leave in a hurry with a tell-tale slice of toast dangling from her mouth:

madoka leaves

When the cultural context is sufficiently distant it can be hard to tell a topos from real life. Are Japanese kitchens quite as heavily populated by benign aproned fathers as one might imagine from this small sample? I don't suppose so, but still - perhaps in Japan (or at least amongst the magical girls of that nation) it really is usual to brush one's teeth before breakfast. Might this be so? It seems dubious from the point of view of dental health, and the only person I ever knew to advocate it was my old German teacher, Mr Bachmann. His argument, circa 1974, was that waiting till after breakfast before brushing was unhealthy because it meant that you swallowed all the germs that had built up in your mouth overnight - an idea that failed to convince me at the time but struck me hard enough that I've remembered it for forty years. So, perhaps in Germany, Japan and elsewhere it is normal practice.

Maybe I'm the outlier here, in fact? Do let me know.

Poll #1974494 Brushing before or after breakfast
Open to: All, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 26

What is your morning routine?

View Answers
I eat breakfast and then clean my teeth
9 (34.6%)
I clean my teeth and then eat breakfast
6 (23.1%)
I play it by ear
2 (7.7%)
I don't eat breakfast but I do clean my teeth
4 (15.4%)
I eat breakfast, but I don't clean my teeth (or have none to clean)
4 (15.4%)
I clean not, neither do I eat
1 (3.8%)

Dolce Domum
I'm now back from the Gower, where I had a lovely time, thank you. It's the kind of occasion that I'd feel a little awkward describing in any detail - what happens on the Peninsula stays on the Peninsuala - but I can at least report that last night I saw glow worms for the first time in my life, under midsummer stars - and sang my teenage setting of Blake's 'A Dream' to accompany them. Next year, fireflies!

Oh, and I made an offering of Artemisian incense to Kaname Madokami-sama, bearer of the sagitta luminis - possibly for the first time in Wales, though I certainly wouldn't bet on it.

Looking back at the last week or so, I am rather amazed at my own gregariousness. I have, it's true, been consciously trying to work on my social life, but this week in particular I've been encountering people with unheard-of frequency, and (as far as I'm aware) every encounter has been positively pleasant for all parties. At any rate, I didn't find myself engaged in bouts of small-hour self-castigation for the usual charge list of: lack of tact, bumptiousness, addiction to puns beyond reason, forgetting people's names/faces, sullen and/or awkward silences, repeating myself, shyness, etc. Here, for future reference, is my itinerary, from last weekend to this:

Sat 28: Barbara's ordination in Portsmouth. My mother's house, then Bristol.
Sun 29: Dru comes in the evening, ready for early start to Steep Holm.
Mon 30: Steep Holm all the livelong day.
Tue 1: Work meeting, halfway through which I remember that I've actually been on leave for the last four days. Retreat hastily beaten.
Wed 2: Therapy, piano lesson, and lunch with my friend (and co-editor that shall be) Alison at Bristanbul. In the evening, an end-of-term picnic in Clifton with my Japanese teacher and fellow students.
Thu 3: To the Gower, stopping in Cardiff for a cuppa with my friend (and co-editor that was) Ann.
Friday-today: All systems Gower.
Today: Jessie very happy to see me.

Is this what a normal life looks like? Or at any rate a sane one?

Wifi-less in Gower
I've now got the photographs of our Steep Holm trip from Dru. I've put some of my favourites under the cut.

Steep Holm sightsCollapse )

Ever the flibbertigibbet, I'm off again now for a few days, to revisit my friends Ronald and Ana (and others) on the Gower Peninsula, where we'll be devoting the weekend to the myth of Perseus, a subject about which I know little more now than I did at the age of 10 - but that's all about to change. I will be netless until Sunday, and until then I leave the digital world in the capable hands of you, oh friends list.

Mendip Sub Aqua
I went back to Steep Holm yesterday for the first time in two years. It is not only my namesake but an Antaean grounding place for me, and in the past I've always gone alone. Yesterday, however, I persuaded my friend Dru to accompany me - and I'm very glad she did, not only for the pleasure of her company and her superior knowledge of plants and birds (she is an artist of both in words and pictures), but because I didn't have a camera with me, my phone having bust a couple of days ago. Luckily Dru has a good one, and I'm hoping to get some pics from her in due course that I can post here. For now, I'll just mention that it was a lovely day - sunny but not too hot, and that we saw seals, hunting peregrines, and (of course) thousands of very angry seagulls, as well as views from Glastonbury Tor to the Brecon Beacons and everything between. In August apparently, the gulls will break ranks, one half flying all the way to west Africa, the other a few miles up the Severn to Gloucester landfill site. I'm fairly sure I could tell by the look in their eyes which gulls were which.

Then home for a fish-and-chip supper. A good day, all told.

In other news, I see the ECHR has upheld France's ban on Islamic face veils - or indeed, any full face covering, as the French government is quick to point out, though we'll see how many motorcyclists are arrested for wearing full-face helmets in the next year before deciding on the disingenuity of that one. The BBC report adds:

No such general ban applies in the UK, but institutions have discretion to impose their own dress codes.

I find this confusing, though. To borrow the example they used in a recent training session on equalities legislation at my place of work, a restaurant chain that insisted all its employees wear baseball caps would be guilty of indirect discrimination against people (such as Sikhs) whose religious beliefs made it impossible for them to comply. How is the ECHR's ruling not also an example of indirect discrimination of just that sort?

A Miscellany of Morning Maunderings
I love hypnagogia - my subconcious comes up with all its best lines when I'm in that state. This morning I woke to the thought, "The time for snottiness may come, but sheathe the fruit of your disdain in Patience's nostril." Isn't that just the kind of sentiment you want to work into a sampler and sell on Etsy?

Prior to that, I'd dreamt I was writing an article on Milton, looking at his use of long dashes in early editions of Paradise Lost and exploring the hypothesis that he was influenced by the Real Character of Bishop Wilkins, where God is represented by a single horizontal line, that having (in Wilkins's opinion) a simplicity and unity befitting the divine. The sad thing is, I now really want to look into the idea.

I read a couple of Kipling short stories last night, "The Mark of the Beast" and its sequel, "The Return of Imray". In fact Imray didn't appear in the first, so his "return" in the second wasn't a classic sequelish use of "the return of" as a title element, but in fact signalled something altogether more macabre. Still, it got me to wondering what the first example of that locution might be as a sequel alert. Hollywood gave it its great boost, of course, but is there any earlier example than The Return of Sherlock Holmes (1905)? I wonder whether in future years scholars reading The Return of the Native might wonder about Hardy's lost text, called simply The Native - and ask themselves whether the later book would have sold better if titled Native II: This Time it's Pastoral.

Also, if "The Return of..." is a 20th-century invention, what ways of alerting readers to a work's status as a sequel were current prior to that? Labelling something Part I and Part II was one option, of course, used by both novelists and playwrights, but were there no others? Wasn't The Spanish Tragedy a sequel, in fact, to a play now lost? Hence "Hieronymo's mad again". I like to think that had Kyd not had his unfortunate run-in with Sir Thomas Walsingham that play might have been followed by The Swiss Tragedy, The French Tragedy, The Swedish Tragedy, and so on, in a gazetteer of Senecan stychomythia spanning the whole of Europe.

Tonight is Midsummer's Eve - at least, as I was taught it. Many people identify midsummer with the solstice, of course - and I wouldn't like to say they're wrong. I am interested, though, in when Shakespeare thought it was. Any clue?

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