Wordy mojo

2 Jul

mojoClambering free from a hole lot of work, shaking off the extra-clingy stickie notes and kicking mounds of magazines, books and memos to one side, I feel happily lighter again. Phew!
This past month or two was some stretch of work activity, but at last I have room in my head for my thoughts to wander and wonder. It occurs to me that I’m getting my wordy-mojo back and I likey like it.
In 1957 Muddy Waters sang “Got my mojo working…”  a tune subsquently picked up by many great artists including Etta James and Eric Clapton. That’s good enough company for me. Hmm, but then tragic singer Jeff Buckley’s ‘Mojo Pin’ song (featuring on his 1994 album Grace) appears to be a psychedelic drug reference. Not so apt, perhaps. I’m reminded that the addition of Mr Mojo Risin to the Doors song ‘LA Woman’ transpires to be an anagram of Jim Morrison, and comes with a cheeky sexy innuendo. This is getting worse!
Diligently, I look up the dictionary definition of ‘mojo’ to find it originally meant magic, magnetic quality or charm. This works. Wait up. Now I read that seemingly ‘mojo’ has come to mean sex appeal – I’m not working so hard on that one. Ah, read on..it can also mean cool or style essence.  Yep, niiiice. I’ll aspire to this last.

Still there?

25 Apr

winnie the pooh & piglet

Still there?” boomed BIG in a loud and confident kind of way down the ‘phone earlier today. “Yep!” I whispered, small-like. “But you’re so quiet – where have you gone and what’s up?” challenged BIG. “Well… I’m doing lots of working hard,  and being reflective, and feeling kind of smallish,” I explained, a tad carefully and just a little wary. “Just checking,” said BIG, kindly. “We’re all here when you want company, no worries til then.”  Hanging up, I felt less vanished. It was nice.

Please

26 Feb

images-3Context (as much as definition, tone and volume) gives a word its resonance and poignancy. Or not.  The how and when can make the most ordinary of greetings, formalities or comments rich with significance and sentiment.
Saturday last, the timing of a simple “Please?” made me stop short as I led my sons out of Waterloo station on a freezing afternoon. We were heading towards a warm café tea – the plea-sayer was already seated, tired and grubby on the icy grey pavement. Sad eyes told me desperation and hunger were the order. Suddenly acutely sad for the beggar, I proffered more coins than usual. Touched by the moment, ashamed that it took the inclement weather to incite this generosity, in my mind I questioned whether humility is the dish best served cold?
My teenage son says “Sorry!” while rolling his eyes and sighing, revealing how very unremorseful he feels. Later, as I bend my head to say goodnight, he whispers his real apology unbidden and I hear the meaning loud and clear.
The declaration “We did it” can signal incrimination, affirmation or celebration according to the moment, while double-entendres are innocent or bawdy with either careless or careful placement. The most generic of nouns can be rendered superbly-special: Train has special meaning as the first intelligible word uttered by one of my children, parental friends cite shoe and duck with similar affection. “Bedtime” has numerous possible intentions: a statement, a question a threat… an invitation perhaps!
My Dad has Alzheimers. He lives some distance away – metaphorically and actually. He’s no longer sure who I am, and loses his words by the day. Those he does share with me don’t always enlighten. But, however muddled, I gift the words with imagined meaning drawn from the context. At the end of my latest visit I kissed him goodbye and promised I’d be back soon. “Back soon…” he repeated. I added a question mark and a requestful intonation in my head. Poignant. Back soon?  I wish he would be.

Murmuration

8 Feb

ImageSome words are wonderfully descriptive, even when you’re not sure of what! A run of four syllables is usually a surefire way to get my attention and recently I’ve picked up one gem of a quadsyllablic word that’s new to me: murmuration. Just roll it round your tongue a moment or two before I reveal – if you don’t yet know – what it means. Stare at the spelling, it looks right but wrong somehow (yes, I did spellcheck and crosscheck and the double u-sage is correct). How delightfully mischievous!
The dictionary advises that mur-mur-ation – from the Middle English or Latin murmurare – is the action of murmuring or emitting a low continuous noise, but also it is used as the name for a flock of starlings and this is what I find intriguing. The bird-word derives from the way migrating starlings collect, and try to fly as close together as possible while copying changes in speed or direction, so that the flight of one single bird gets magnified and distorted by all the birds around it and they seem to be creating one big pattern in the sky. It’s mathematical chaos, and a brilliant visual reference for the ‘murmuring noise’ as they flock and wheel and dance in the sky.
More glorious still is the discovery that a murmuration and a susurration (a whispering or rustling noise) are synonyms for each other, AND they each can be used as verbs. Personally I can’t wait for an opportunities to rebuff some child with the command to “stop that murmurating!” or “no susurrating in the cinema please, I’m trying to concentrate on the film”. This word play is seemingly endlessly fun!

Retrospection

26 Dec

twitter-bird-santa-350Retrospection is in the air.  It’s the end of December and time to indulge the pleasure and the pain of reviewing the year in snapshots; the “ouch!” moments and the “ooh remember that” ones, too. Was it a great 2012 for you, or a miserable time for the most part?  I take a poll. My friends’ responses are divided.

Yay! for the Queen’s Jubilee, Obama’s re-election, the Olympics. Personally, my family breathed a sigh of relief as mother sold her house at last and moved closer to my younger sister, and I exhaled deeply as my youngest moved to a new school moderately painlessly. Anyone within earshot couldn’t fail to feel the love as I loudly announced the loss of the 10lbs I gained at Christmas 2011… and became a nicer person again…arguably.

Yet I’m acutely aware also that some friends and colleagues have hit hard times, and the recession continues to bite down with force. The Greeks, the Spaniards, the locals in my rural home county… few escape the fallout of the banking crises (plural). Times they are a-changing, indeed. But while thanks for the sentiment Bob Dylan, what you suggest as swimming doesn’t quite do it for modern time.

So, here I lounge, stuffed with Christmas dinners (plural again) in retrospection – the memories of the past 12 months clinging to the branches of the Christmas tree, puffing up into the atmosphere as I turn the pages of the TV Times, and seeping out on the radio airwaves as Slade, Mud, the Pogues and Greg Lake continue to hold forth (not my choice of song decade after decade but the ‘chef chooses the tunes’ apparently. And I’m not cooking). This ‘looking back’ giving rise to musing, mulling and pondering. What have I learned and what is important in 2012?

Boing! My Twitter account alert sounds out. Hmm, should I have silenced it for today in deference to the family gathering? I should be paying the nearest and dearest full attention. The laptop flashes up a ‘new message’ or two notice… hard to ignore, but I do. Embarrassed, I notice my text message sound is going mad. Is there no peace for someone attempting a bit of contemplative retrospection…? The phone rings.

And there, suddenly I have it. The answer my friends, is written in the ping. This has been a year of connections, of camaraderie. Of not being alone. The joy in being available, reachable and wanted is apparent everywhere. I will embrace it. Happily. And extend my best wishes to you all – real and virtual.

Homework madness

12 Dec

Domestic mental cruelty comes in many guises and to my mind includes the supervision of children’s homework! A word that now sends chills – and pills more often than not – down me. Described as ‘parent assisted learning’ to be done in the home and an invaluable support of the schoolday? Pah! An unnecessary strain on familial relations and a prescription for parental insanity more like.

I recall how naively as a new, inexperienced parent I longed for the day that our young offspring could dress themselves, feed unaided, and climb in and out of the buggy, car, or bed without assistance. Phew, the hard labour was over. We watched beaming with pride as the little ones grew bigger, blissfully unaware that as they lurch from pre-school to infant years and on to junior then senior status, there looms a clear and present terror to be negotiated and one that will last throughout their schooling. Years, many years – sob. [Visualise this author now rocking back and forth and moaning gently at the prospect]

Carers of tender tikes still nursery-bound look away now – try and enjoy what innocence you have left before the madness begins. From reception class forward, no longer will you ferret through the school bag in search of letters of praise, party invitations, ‘playground star’ certificates. Nope. Henceforth you will learn to view with suspicion and fear bags thrown in the hallway spewing papers and exercise books, forms and charts. Oh yes, dear reader, the homework years are upon you – be afraid.

For sure this form of ritual torture for loving parents has been devised by a truly Machiavellian mind. This weekly dishing out of tasks to students of tender to teen ages – verbal, written or mathematical it matters not – is a cunning strategy for slowly but clearly eroding the sanity of any right-minded adult. The torturous process of completing the homework – and remember it is the child who should be fulfilling the paperwork and not you, tempting as it maybe – will involve cajoling, encouraging, bribing then threatening (usually in that order) your reluctant enfant terrible. How quickly the novelty passes of pleasing teacher by knowing the spellings, the times tables, the capital cities of the world… How rapidly they learn that they prefer their energies to spent in more ego-centric activities. Not more work, they cry, its soooo unfair. Let them take responsibility for their actions, or lack of? They’ll suffer their punishments and learn to work willingly at the kitchen table? It’s not that simple, quick or painless. For what your kids don’t do,  you will be charged as guilty. You will face the prospect of missives from the school, summonses perhaps, and uncomfortable parent/teacher interviews.The shame, the indignity, the frustration is awful, and that is the unfairness you wail. But still you bear the brunt. In an era where ‘middle England’ demands that every word, inkspot, calculation is measured and rated in the pursuit of tabling the academic process, homework has taken on an super-importance of its own.

Not that the little treasures themselves care. Tantrums, tears, melt-downs (yours, not theirs most often) will become the norm as you endeavor to follow the timetable. Missed instructions, forgotten books, lost papers… this is what your evenings will be reduced to. Prepare the darkened room and the soothing head compress. Me? I find I get best results when clutching a glass of the coldest white wine available… and ear-plugs so I can’t hear myself shouting!

Unknown

Gross misconduct

5 Dec

Unknown-3Since reading the phrase recently on a contract of employment, I’ve become obsessed with what actually is ‘gross misconduct’. Just what do you have to do to be guilty of such a crime? This is not a subject that comes up in daily banter across the desktop or dining table, so I’ve not hitherto given it so much thought. Rather,  more often it will arise as an occasional reference in a news report or as last week, a perceived threat of instant dismissal in a legal document. But now I’m fixated, and the more I ponder, the more intriguing I find gross misconduct to be. And perhaps a little hilarious, too.

Of course I realise the intellectual explanation is that ‘gross’ is simply borrowed from the German word gross meaning big. ie when it comes to ‘gross misconduct’, we’re talking about serious misdemeanour and not just being a little inappropriate during the office party. But, eschewing the rational, and maybe this is a parent thing, I am drawn to the more childish vision of behaviour that is just plain disgusting!  It’s because I’m used to hearing my teenage son’s expression of ‘gross’ to mean anything he finds revolting from the cat’s dinner, to the contents of the food-waste caddy, childbirth, kissing, his little brother’s farts, or even the semi-nudity of anyone over the age of 25 – and we could just be talking the innocent sight of a woman’s bare upper arms flailing in the wind here. Apply this more juvenile contemporary meaning of gross to the act of misconduct and my mind is racing. Are you with me?

I’m envisaging a naked-from-the-waist-up figure prancing around the office as the contents of the stationary cupboard are whisked into a cardboard box destined for the nearest car boot sale… someone discovered daubing graffiti on the lift walls using Kitty Kat gravy… audibly flatulence-laced expletive-ridden announcements over the rail station loudspeaker as another service is declared late… the entire office team taking ‘dress down Friday’ to it’s ultimate undressed conclusion! And so on. Serious, but comical in a Simpsons kind of way. Could make for more amusing proceedings at industrial tribunals?

No? It’s just me then….

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