Don't Eat With Your Mouth Full

Where can we live but days?

Beggar's Fair
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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
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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
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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
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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?
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Wifi-less in Gower
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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
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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
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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?

Moles Taste Fine Tonight
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Let me take you by the hand and lead you unsteadily, blindfolded as you are, down into the snouting velvet dingles of the St Werburgh's City Farm Cafe (this review has some nice photos of its amazing hobbity interior), a five minute walk from my home via the footpath through the allotments. That's where I was last night, taking part in a Super Sense event, in which (in company with a random selection of other blindfolded diners, mysterious to each other and to themselves) we were treated to numerous tastes and textures over the course of 3 hours - or so I discovered when we eventually took off the blindfolds at 10.30, a sense of time being one of the first things to go.

If you haven't done a dining in the dark event, I certainly recommend it. We began with cocktail sticks, on which were impaled what turned out to be a piece of goat's cheese, a leaf of apple mint, and a pickled strawberry. Our table did guess all those, but were quite bamboozled by the goat's cheese when it came back a couple of sticks later, this time wrapped in a rose petal: such is the power of juxtaposition. Other notable ingredients (not all on cocktail sticks) included a nasturtium leaf, courgette spaghetti, brown garlic, dessicated coconut, and a lime and chilli chocolate ganache dusted with ground coffee beans, amongst much else. The evening was led by a partially sighted man who more usually sets up outdoor events (even as I write this he is herding a party of blindfolded people through tick-infested Leigh Woods on the far side of the Suspension Bridge - I hope they're wearing trousers), but this was the first time he'd done anything involving food. Apart from the way in which it changed one's perception of the food itself, it also affected social interaction: the patterns of starting a conversation, addressing someone in particular (in a table of six strangers), interrupting, etc., were all quite different. Using a knife and fork was also interesting - though reassuringly possible. At one point we were made to switch tables - and I almost fell over a guide dog.

When we finally took the blindfolds off I was surprised at the appearance of my fellow diners: I'd not had much sense of their various ages at all. We drank some wine, then - somewhat randomly - were given long balloons to make into animal shapes (I abstained), before at length our party dispersed and I started home through the warm night, past the revellers in the Farm Pub next door (also worth looking at: since that picture was taken the conifer has acquired a pair of giant googly eyes) and back up the footpath through the allotments, guided in part (the night being dark by now, even on this solstice eve) by the solar cat's eyes that twinkle so prettily for nightwalkers, but as much by the scent of vergeside nettle and mock orange.

Too Late to be a Proper D-Day Post
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Something else I discovered rummaging through my mother's drawers [pulls Frankie Howerd face] the other night was this:

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It's a message of thanks from the queen to Mrs Bowman (my grandmother), in appreciation of her taking in evacuees during the Second World War. There must have been millions of these things printed, and I'm sure many families carefully preserved them, but I'd never seen or heard of them before - so this is for interest.

What I'd actually been looking for, for the benefit of Captain Lewis's great-granddaughter, were the pictures of my grandfather at his first wedding, some time in the 1910s, which is as near as I can get to his 1908 self. I failed to find them, which is a bit of a mystery, but I did come across these WWII pics, one in full-on Captain mode, and one in shirt-sleeves, taken in Caen a few days after D-Day. I find the contrast between them quite telling.

More for my interest than anyone else's, probablyCollapse )

An Old Firm Match
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So, I thought to myself, why rant here for nothing when I could be ranting in a national newspaper for money? Thus was born this contribution to the debate over the current constitutional crisis, in which I propose moving the capital of the UK from London to Glasgow in the event of a No vote in September.

Unfortunately, it was published on the Guardian site just as I was leaving to catch a coach to (ironically) London, where I spent yesterday evening at a fabulous concert given by my brother and the folksinger Chris Wood. It was a great evening, but one devoid of internet (bar 15 minutes at a cafe) so I wasn't able to keep up with the comments, of which there are now around 500. They divide between those that think I'm being serious (which I am) and those that think I'm joking (which I also am) - so, just what I would have hoped for, really. One thing that did surprise me was that some commenters appear to believe that the English don't habitually conflate the UK and England. I was glad to have it Engsplained that the innumerable occasions on which I'd observed this happening were all in my imagination, and if I were on Twitter I might be considering a #notallsassenachs tag.

It's not just Science Fiction (or Children's Books, or Romance, or Detective Fiction, or....)
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In this recently discovered fragment of a late interview, Publius Vergilius Maro talks frankly about his struggle to break free from being seen as a “genre” poet.

[...]

Vergil: You know what really ticks me off? Lazy critics trying to stick me with the “epic poet” label. Man, that really bugs me. I’ve only just stopped being “that pastoral guy” and now everyone’s, like, epic this and epic that. I like to think that with the Aeneid I’ve done something fundamentally new. This is above all a literary poem.

Interviewer: But it has demigods, battles, grandeur, dactylic hexameter – it ticks all those epic boxes.

Vergil: Sure those things are there – but then I’m using them in a much more aware way, you know? Yes you get these elements in genre poetry, but the difference is, I’m controlling them, not the other way around. I’m using them to say something real about life and the world, not just to take people for a white-knuckle chariot ride.

Interviewer: You do tell a strong story, though. That descent to the underworld, it really gave me the shivers. And the Dido romance? I don’t mind telling you, manly tears were shed.

Vergil: Thanks. I actually take that as a compliment. Look, I don’t despise those things – I just don’t want people to get fixated on them. Look at the way I’m telling it, what I’m doing with language. I suppose what I’m saying is, sure, you can read the Aeneid as an epic poem if you want, but you’ll miss so much. That’d be like reading Oedipus Rex as if it was a tragedy!

Interviewer: Er, right… That’d be dumb, I guess…

Vergil: Right, right? Am I right? You know I’m right!

Desunt Caetera
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An Emblem of Themselves, in Plum or Pear
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A while ago I wrote about my first cousins (twice removed) Jane and Ellen Butler, and the strange visit made to them by Llewelyn and Theodore Powys at their father's rectory in Broadmayne, Dorset on Christmas Eve, 1911. I wrote in that entry:

Of the two daughters, Ellen died first. Her wits did indeed turn, and I am told that she was carried to the asylum crying "Hurrah! Hurrah! Three cheers for the Holy Trinity!”, much as might have been expected. Jane, however, lived to a good age. My mother remembers visiting her in the mid-1950s, and finding her a quaintly old-fashioned woman. What struck her most forcibly was that, in conversation, Jane referred to someone in the village as “a lady”, and then corrected herself – “or I should say, a person”. It wasn’t a slight, my mother decided: she was simply following what she had learned as correct usage, which reserved “lady” for a certain social rank. (I always think of this exchange when I read about Coleridge and his “person from Porlock”.) To my mother, university educated, London based and then in her early thirties, this niceness seemed faintly ridiculous. The sixties hadn’t happened yet, but they were on their way.


Searching for something else entirely at my mother's house yesterday evening I came across a tiny set of photographs from Boots, recording this later visit. The cover of the photo pouch in itself gives an insight into an earlier age. On the recto a small child dismantles a camera on a sandy beach, while his verso brother feeds a seagull by hand. What could be more idyllic?

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In those days my father was a keen cyclist (sometimes to the point of foolhardiness) and my mother went along for the ride. This being pre-Lycra they cycled down to Dorset in tennis gear, something that accentuates the half-century gap between Jane's generation and my mother's. I must admit, this juxtaposition appeals to me greatly:

Isobel and Miss Jane Butler


By way of contrast (or perhaps continuity), here is my mother this very morning, a mere 58 years later, at a fruit stall in Romsey market (a town she first saw when she and my father passed through while cycling to Dorset in 1956):

Ripeness is all


As somebody once remarked, ripeness is all.

In June the red rose blooms, that's not the flower for me
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P140614_16.51


Meet my new assistant. When he turned up he said something about being able to help me with contracts (my Japanese isn't brilliant, as you know) so I put him straight to work.

It's been a rather tiring week, with too many trips into deep Devon - a lovely county, but not when most of what's on view is the M5. Yesterday it was a 6.30am sunshiny start to Barnstaple, where I was taking part in a programme review, but never saw the sea. On Monday it was to Exeter for medical stuff, plus lunch with the great-granddaughter of Captain John Lewis (master of the St Cuthbert), who had contacted me after reading my grandfather's account of the disaster in this blog. I wonder what the stern Captain and his Fourth Officer would have thought if they could have seen us - she with a selection of Iceland lollies, I with my trusty cheese and watercress sandwich - picnicking on the dry slopes of the old castle moat? Ah, mutabilitie!

What else happened this week? Ah yes, a very interesting seminar paper on Wednesday by a lawyer colleague on the application of international law to child soldiers - including, of course, those who serve in the British army.

Japanese Diary 23: From Land's End to Finisterre by way of Kyoto
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Learning to tell my "on" readings from my "kun" readings has got me thinking again about the Chinese influence on the Japanese language, and about the Japan-Britain analogies which I've noticed from the start of this Japanese-learning endeavour - and which indeed largely enticed me into it.

One thing that's struck me for some time is the name of Japan itself - Nihon/Nippon (日本). Everyone knows that Japan is the Land of the Rising Sun, but that name involves a curious act of displacement and self-othering. Because in order to see Japan as the land from which the sun originates you naturally need to be to the west of it - that is, in China. So, the Japanese name for Japan is not only linguistically Chinese but it assumes a Chinese perspective. (There is an older, native name - Wa: I wonder whether there's ever been a movement to reclaim it? [ETA: As has been pointed out on the Dreamwidth version of this post, "Wa" is also originally a Chinese word.]) Similarly, the Japanese word for China - Chuugoku (中国) - literally means "central country", which again puts Japan on the periphery.

What's less clear to me is how deeply buried this etymology is in the minds of those who use the language on a daily basis. A Japanese person looking at the English language might make similar observations regarding, say, the Mediterranean Sea, after all. Most British people today don't think twice about its etymology, I imagine: its use certainly doesn't imply that they consider the world to be centred in that tideless puddle between Spain and Egypt. But that wasn't always the case. Not just during the Roman Empire but for a millennium or so afterwards the countries with a Mediterranean coast must have seemed to the British to be at the centre of civilization: the Holy Land, Rome, Spain, Byzantium, Ottoman Turkey - all were far more "central" than the British Isles. That was still very much the case in, say, 1600 - by 1850 far less so, largely of course due to the rise of the British Empire. Japan's history, however, was very different, and the sense of its "peripherality" maybe survived longer, and/or differently. There are pleasures to being edgy, mysterious, non plus ultra. I wouldn't be surprised if there were a certain relish in the claiming of that identity.

"Britain" meanwhile is no less a Mediterranean name than "Nihon" is a Chinese one - a Romanized version of a Greek word, possibly involving a transcription error (the "B" ought to be a "P", I seem to recall). I wonder what the British "Wa" might be? I rather like the Mabinogion's "Island of the Mighty", but I don't suppose it can be made to stick at this late date.

Smells like Teen Smokers
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This thought has been worming its way through my mind over the last few days, so now I'm letting it erupt through the skin of my typing fingers. Better out than in. I don't hold any particular brief for it, but I'd be interested in reactions.

The catalyst is yet another article telling adults who enjoy YA literature that they should be ashamed of themselves. This is a particularly lightweight instance of the genre, but I was struck (as I often have been by similar statements in the past) by the writer's confession that "I remember, when I was a young adult, being desperate to earn my way into the adult stacks." (The word "earn" is significant in itself, implying as it does that getting older is some kind of meritorious deed rather than the inevitable consequence of failing to die.)

I do remember thinking as a child that grown-ups had all kinds of enviable privileges (going to bed when they wanted, and the like), but don't ever remember wanting to be grown up for its own sake. However, I've heard many people over the years say that they couldn't wait to do so - and my impression (possibly wrong) was that they saw grown-upness as a more desirable existential state, rather than (or as well as) the chronological key to a set of legal rights and privileges.

The pet theory (really a hypothesis) that's been doggy-paddling through my thoughts is that there's likely to be a strong correlation between people's attraction to grown-upness and the taking up of smoking during adolescence. After all, what attractions could smoking have to a non-smoker? Anyone of my generation or younger will have known from childhood that it's expensive, addictive, smelly, unhealthy and all too frequently fatal in the long term. The main reason I can see for wanting to take it up at 15 or so is that you imagine it makes you look sophisticated and cool in a specifically grown-up way. There are other possibilities - it's no doubt an act of rebellion, for some, for example - but I suspect that that looking grown up is a big driver.

But how to test the hypothesis? A random appeal to the experience of my LJ friends may not be the most scientific approach, but then it's not the most scientific theory in the first place...

St Matthias
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Today I finished clearing out my office, where I've been accumulating bits of paper for the last 24 years or so. It's all part of the closing down of the St Matthias site, prior to our move to Frenchay - which in my case happens a week from now. It was, as anticipated, a somewhat sobering experience, and also quite a physically exhausting one. If I weren't already given to morbid reflections on the vanity of human endeavour, trashing all those memos and forgotten essays and grand schemes might have sparked some thoughts on that theme, but as it was it all seemed perfectly normal, with even a slight bias towards catharsis.

St Matthias Leaving Party


I have made some mention of foxes in recent days. The St Matthias site is four miles from my house, and lies in the opposite direction from Clifton. Nevertheless, let it be recorded that, as I was leaving the grounds, perhaps for the last time, a fox (the fox?) ran lazily across my path, ten yards ahead of me. If it wants something, I wish it would come straight out and say so.

Japanese Diary 22
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Every day I get sent a random Japanese word to learn by About.com, but lately they've been a bit frustrating. Yesterday's word, for example, was "osameru" ("to rule; to govern"). Easy enough, until you get to the helpful example sentence...

Example
Sensei wa bokutachi no kenka o odayakani osameta.

Translation
The teacher solved our quarrel peacefully.


... which doesn't appear to involve ruling or governing, but something else entirely (arbitration? resolution?). Gah.

Today's word was "oshii", which apparently means any or all of: "regrettable; disappointing; precious; wasteful; too good for". Of course, I know English has words that means their opposite as well, but without more information how do I know whether my "oshii" will be heard as "precious" or "disappointing"?

Other such words may or may not have some deep cultural significance. "Chigai" means both "different" and "wrong": does this indicate some fundamental predisposition to conflate conformity with correctness? I don't know, but it makes me wary of using the word, for fear of misunderstanding.

Meanwhile, I've been trying to find an anime that I can watch with enjoyment after the soul-wrenching of Madoka Magica - watching which was the kind of experience that has a very lingering aftertaste. I tried a bit of ROD the TV, but although I think I would like it a lot in a different mood it wasn't for me right now. Then I sampled Code Geass - but it seems only five minutes since I watched another teenaged smartypants with superpowers try to take over the world in Death Note, and the addition of robot technology didn't add significantly to its allure. Again, I'll return to it later. I also have Summer Wars waiting on the shelf: it's from the maker of The Girl Who Leapt through Time, and I'm waiting for a moment when I might want to watch that again to try the new one.

Just in the last two days, though, I've found some much-needed genkiness with The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. It's clever, and has made me laugh out loud a couple of times, and is just what I need at the moment.

Fox News - plus, Japanese Diary 22
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I'm beginning to think that the fox from a few nights ago is stalking me - whether literally or metaphorically I'm not certain. At midnight last night it was outside my window screaming loudly and repeatedly. (For those who may not be familiar with the sound, you listen here. I can't stress enough how well it carries on the midnight air.). I wondered if it was in pain, but when I peered out it was just sitting calmly beside my car, screaming. God knows I can relate to that. At length a disgruntled looking man in socks emerged from a nearby house and walked up and down, slapping his thigh, presumably in an attempt to intimidate it, but the fox (who wasn't in socks) watched this performance with disdain, and only when the man had retreated to his doorway did it slink away.

Then this evening I was in my Japanese class a couple of miles away in Clifton, when someone sitting opposite me cried "Are wa kitsune desu!" (or words to that effect). Turning, I saw my fox - or possibly one of its close associates - sitting a couple of yards behind me on the flat roof just outside the window. It sat so long that I decided to take a picture, but (as is the way of animals) it moved away just before I pressed the button.

Meanwhile, I learn that the Japanese word for "ring finger" is "kusuriyubi" - which is to say, "medicine finger". I wonder why?

Hard-to-Google Lit. Crit. Queries...
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Is there a general term for novels (or other fictions) that contain/mention themselves? I mean, the novel is called The Book of Glum, and it's about someone who turns out to be writing or reading a book called The Book of Glum, or we're at least given to know that this is a world where The Book of Glum already exists?

Also, is there decent existing discussion (in journals or elsewhere) of this phenomenon?
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Renard the Recycler
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steepholm
I was woken at 2am this morning by the sound of someone moving the bins at the front of my house, followed by a stealthy hissing sound, not unlike a spray can being deployed. Hesitantly I peered from my bedroom window (directly above my front door), to see a very large and healthy fox sorting through the food recycling bin, the contents of which were lavishly spread across the pavement. Clearly it had found a way to undo the bin's fox-proof handle, which I distinctly remember putting in place yesterday afternoon.

It looked up at me. "Can you be bothered to come and chase me?"

"No really," I replied in the same language. This too was recycling of a kind, after all. And clearing up the pavement this morning I was most impressed with how thorough it had been. The only things spurned were an eggshell, a squeezed lemon, and the butt end of an iceberg lettuce. The pork ribs and the rejected cat food were nowhere to be seen. Perhaps Bristol city council should employ foxes in preference to Viridor?

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