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‘OK, this is a secret, but I think that nursery rhymes are the most relaxing and fun songs.’ Karisma Kapoor.

Last Sunday Maudie came to me and dropped her little black Sheep onto my lap.  It’s not what you’re thinking.  She has not suddenly chosen Sheep to be a replacement for her beloved (and rapidly disintegrating) Ball.  Nor did she even want to play.  It’s just that, on occasion, Maudie will appear at my side carrying one of her many (many) toys and nudge me with it until I take it from her. Once I have done so (and thanked her profusely) she will smile happily and wander away.  I am not sure why she does this. Perhaps she just thinks I look like I need a toy to play with  . . .

Anyway, on this particular occasion I decided to indulge her and play with her toy. Or at least make a quick sketch of it, which is kind of like playing.  As I sketched, I sang the old nursery rhyme ‘Baa baa black sheep . . . ‘ to Maudie (she likes me to sing to her—honest) and that set me to wondering . . . is there anyone around who doesn’t know that nursery rhyme?  I mean, it feels like it’s been around for.ev.ah.  (Well, not quite.  I looked it up.  It was first published in 1744 in what is believed to be the earliest surviving collection of nursery rhymes—’Tommy Thumbs Pretty Song Book’.  Perhaps forever’ was overstating it somewhat.  Suffice to say it’s been around a loooong time.)

I remember hearing a while back that there was talk of banning this nursery rhyme in some kindergartens because of it’s ‘racist’ overtones.  Well, I am not even going to go there (good grief) but when I researched where the rhyme originated it seems that it was actually written as a bit of a diatribe on the harsh tax on wool in feudal England—one-third would be taken for the king and nobility, and one-third for the church, which consequently left very little for the farmers . . . or the little shepherd boy ‘who lives down the lane’.

On further reading I discovered that other nursery rhymes (like many fairy tales) also had pretty gruesome origins. Take the lovely ‘Mary Mary quite contrary, How does your garden grow? With silver bells and cockle shells And pretty maids all in a row’.  Sounds like a lovely little ditty about a girl and her garden doesn’t it?  Nope.  Many believe the original Mary to be the Catholic Queen ‘Bloody Mary’ and her garden was actually a graveyard which she filled with unlucky Protestants.  The ‘silver bells and cockle shells’ were instruments of torture and the ‘. . . pretty maids (or maidens) all in a row . . .’ were guillotines!  Lovely.

And there’s ‘Ring around the Rosy, a pocketful of posies. . .’  What harm could there possibly be in that?  Well, only that you might actually be singing about the symptoms of the bubonic plague which included a rosy red rash in the shape of a ring on the skin. People often filled their pockets with sweet smelling herbs (posies) due to the belief that the disease could be spread by bad smells.  ‘Ashes, ashes, we all fall down . . . ‘  Eeerk.

After reading a few more of these origin stories I have decided I am not going to do at any more research on this subject.  Karisma Kapoor’s ‘relaxing and fun songs’ now seem a tad disturbing to say the least.  I won’t be able to sing nursery rhymes to Maudie ever again without wondering what the hell I am really singing about.  Never mind.  I’ll go back to my old standard instead.

There couldn’t possibly be any troubling undertones in ‘You are my sunshine, my only sunshine . . . ‘  Could there???

 
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Posted by on September 29, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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‘My name is Arsenio. That’s a very unique name for a black man. In Greek, it means Leroy.’ Arsenio Hall.

I have been thinking about names a lot this week.  Why?  I am not really sure.  I don’t recall thinking about people’s names all that much before—aside perhaps from the usual eye-rolling on reading the latest celebrity-baby-name revelation in the latest gossip rag . . . (Aha—I think I may have just answered my own question . . . )sally1

I have always been quite happy with my own name and never wished it to be anything else.  (‘Sally’ is a diminutive of the more traditional ‘Sarah’.)  It is a fairly ordinary name (compared to some) and you wouldn’t think it liable to upset anyone unduly—unless, possibly, you live in Morocco.  Apparently, in Morocco your child’s name must reflect ‘Moroccan identity’, so although you may legally name your baby ‘Sara’ (the Arabic version), you may not name her ‘Sarah’ (the Hebrew version).

whatnameThat’s okay.  As my birth certificate actually states my name to be ‘Sally’ rather than ‘Sarah’, this may, hopefully, be enough to keep me out of trouble should I ever decide to visit Morocco, but it also makes me wonder—if a name as simple as Sarah can be deemed illegal in a country because of the letter ‘h’, how are some of this generation’s children, many of whom have, shall we say, increasingly ‘interesting’ personal monikers, ever going to be able to go out and about travelling the world without causing some sort of major international incident?

And I am not only talking about celebrity baby name choices either.  (Admit it—you thought of a couple of those right away too didn’t you?) Well, it seems there are plenty of ordinary people out there who are ready, willing and (seemingly) able to give their children the most extraordinary and bizarre names imaginable.

icelandMost countries do have laws in place about what you may or may not call your children, and some are stricter than others.  In Germany, you must be able to tell the gender of the child by the first name, and the name chosen must not be negatively affect the well being of the child. In Iceland the name must only contain letters in the Icelandic alphabet, and must fit grammatically with the language (so no Caroline or Christine as there is no letter ‘c’ in Icelandic.)  Denmark has a list of 7,000 pre-approved baby names.  If parents want a name that is not on that list they must get special permission from their local church and then it must be reviewed by government officials.

bensonNew Zealand also requires parents to run prospective names by the government.  Its naming rules are similar to those of Australia but recent applications received by their authorities seem just a tad more ‘out there’.  Over the last few years New Zealand has repeatedly rejected applications for people to name their children Lucifer, Christ, Mafia No Fear, 4Real and Anal. (Seriously.)  However, in spite of rejecting those names, in 2008 the same authorities made international headlines when they allowed a set of twins to be named ‘Benson’ and ‘Hedges’ and also agreed to the name ‘Number 16 Bus Shelter’ . . .  (I really feel that I should comment on this, but honestly, speechless . . . )

uniqueAlthough I am not a parent (to any two legged children at least) I do understand that some parents might want their child’s name to be special or unique, and I think that is a lovely idea.  I am also not entirely averse to being a bit imaginative or creative with spelling choices (and you might have to be if you live in Morocco or Iceland), but, in all seriousness, one would hope that any parent might give at least a moment’s thought to the fact that said child will have to go through a significant portion of his life having to bear that nameat least until they are old enough to throw themselves upon the mercy of the courts to have it changed.

So, anyone out there in the position of thinking of naming a child, I have only one thing more to say.  Enjoy the process!   Have fun.  Be original . . . be innovative . . . be creative . . .  and, please . . . be kind.

And spare a thought for the eight year old girl who was removed into care because her parents refused her appeals to have her name changed from ‘Talula Does the Hula From Hawaii’.  I kid you not . . .

 
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Posted by on December 2, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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‘Every dog should have a boy.’ Mr Peabody.

boy runningWe  had a little visitor to our house last weekend (and no, unlike most of our visitors, he did not have four legs.  This little man had only two legs—although he often moved fast enough to make you believe he might have had four).  His name is Ryan.

Ryan’s nanna, Pam, is good friend of mine and her daughter Emily and grandson Ryan were in town visiting for the Easter week, so we had some fun ‘catching up’.  I was struck at how much Ryan had changed since I last saw him.  He is looking more like a proper ‘little boy’ to me now—although at 2-and-a-half years I imagine he is technically a ‘toddler’?? (Not having had children of my own, I am happy to stand corrected.)

pets welcome(For those of you who don’t know me, I thought I would just point out that not having children was a deliberate choice for me, and one I have never regretted.  I don’t want to offend anyone but, as a general rule (and with notable exceptions of course) I just really prefer dogs to children.  A copy of the ‘Pets Welcome . . .  ‘ sign, left, really is on my front door.)

Anyway, during the week of the visit we were all chatting and decided it might be fun if Pam, Em and Ryan all came over to my house so that Ryan could meet ‘my girls’.  Pam is a regular visitor but Em hadn’t been over in a long while, and Ryan never. I was curious to see how my girls would react.

As you might already have guessed, my girls are not used to children.  We see them when we are out and about on our walks of course, and because the girls are all so small and cute, children often come running up to us to ‘see the puppies’. dog paws on headThe sudden onslaught of a group of children (i.e. more than one child at a time) will often send them into ‘silly as a box of frogs’ mode and scatter them in all directions, but they will, on occasion (and if I hold on to their collars and cajole them a bit) deign to be patted . . . if the children aren’t too big or too loud . . . or on bikes . . . or scooters . . . or skateboards . . . or carrying fishing rods . . . or wearing red . . .

But even though they are often jumpy and nervous around children, I have never worried that they might bite a child.  Experience has shown me that when they get scared Maude will stand her ground bravely (directly behind me) and bark like a maniac, Mabel will try desperately to climb up my leg until she is picked up, and Molly will turn tail and run for her life.  Biting (happily) does not seem to be in their repertoire.

nobarkAnd, true to form, when Ryan appeared in their living room, Mabel begged to be picked up, Maude set off a volley of barks worthy of a dog three times her size (all the time making sure that either I or the coffee table was between her and the small scary person) . . . and Molly ran and hid under the sofa (and also barked, just in case Maudie wasn’t getting the point across).

They needn’t have worried.  As it turned out Ryan was much more interested in the house itself than he was in them, at least to start with (perhaps they have a budding designer or architect on their hands?)  While we adults chatted (and attempted to calm the dogs down) Ryan took himself off on a little inspection tour of the house and garden, pottering in and out of the rooms and making mental notes, with Maudie shadowing him (from a safe distance) the whole time.

Ryan's Notes

Ryan’s Notes

Having completed his visual inspection he then set about ‘collecting’ items from around the house—a couple of pens, a notebook, my glassesand disappeared down the hallway happily humming to himself.   We laughed, wondering was was going on in his head, until his mum got a little nervous when it all went very quiet (even I know that can be a bad sign) and went in search of him.  We found him sitting quietly on the couch in my office, still humming to himself, wearing my glasses and writing in my ‘blog’ book.  (I had a look in that book later.  He has made copious notes but I am not quite sure yet if they are notes on the state of repair of my house and garden, or new ideas for my blog.  When I decode them I will let you know.)

So, although I am not sure my girls will agree with Mr. Peabody’s statement just yet—the visit turned out to be a great success.  And I could tell that my girls, albeit reluctantly at first, were actually starting to enjoy themselves.  When Ryan had finished compiling his notes he came back out in the living room and started to interact with the dogs.  Very funnyand very loud.  My girls don’t seem to be able to ‘play’ quietly. Maudie even managed to learn to bark with her ball still in her mouth. Quite a feat I thought.

apology(And here is a good spot to put in an apology to Scott, Ryan’s dad, who rang his wife hoping to get a lovely ‘facetime’ chat with his family while he was away on his trip overseas, only to be met by a scene of absolute bedlam with Ryan running, dog’s barking, spray-bottle squirting (and that’s a whole other story) and no chance of making himself heard above the din at all. Sorry Scottie.)

snoopy kissAs the visit wound down, and in calmer moments, Ryan did manage to get sloppy kisses from both Mabel and Maude (in his eye and up his nose) which he seemed quite happy about.  Molly got pats from her favourite Auntie Pammy and I myself got to have several long chatty conversations with Ryan which I enjoyed very much. 

(Thankfully Ryan’s mum and nanna were on hand to help with the trickier translations.  I am fluent in several dialects of ‘dog’, and have a smattering of ‘cat’—but ‘toddlerspeak’—not so much.  If I were more fluent I would have asked him the next day why all my drink coasters (which I hadn’t even realised were missing) were later found arranged in a very intricate pattern around the bathroom floor. Perhaps there is something about that in his notes . . . . )

snoreAnyway, I am not sure how Ryan slept that night but the afternoon’s excitement was all too much for the girls.   The three of them were fast asleep and snoring almost before Ryan was even packed up in the car and out of the driveway.  And, as lovely as the afternoon was, I know exactly how they felt . . . .


P.S.  Sad news yesterday that Ryan’s great-grandfather, Bobby, passed away this week, aged 85.
I met Bobby several times over the years and he was a lovely, sweet and gentle man and will be missed by all his family and friends.
RIP GGPa.

 
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Posted by on April 8, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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