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I wanna make a jigsaw puzzle that’s 40,000 pieces. And when you finish it, it says ‘go outside.’ Demetri Martin.

wakefulAt 2.30am this morning I awoke with a start.  ‘Andalusian’, I thought.  That was it.  That was the answer. 14 down—’Spaniards having a change of land in USA’—Andalusian.   Good.  Great.  Now I know.  It’s a bit of a shame the old brain couldn’t have come up with that answer when I was actually working on the crossword puzzle earlier in the day but . . . that’s okay.  I got there in the end.  I can go back to sleep now . . . Hello? . . .  Brain? . . .  Can we go back to sleep now? . . .  Please? . . .  sigh . . .

crosswords2_clipboardYou know, when I joined Sketchbook Skool at the beginning of last year I distinctly remember one of the tutors saying (rather assertively I thought)—”Once you start sketching every day, you’ll never ever do another crossword puzzle.”  Well—he got that wrong!  Even though I am sketching more regularly now (if not every day at least several times a week) that has not distracted me in the least from getting my daily fix of puzzles. I definitely get a bit ‘twitchy’ if I don’t do at least one puzzle a day.  Especially crossword puzzles.  Leaving a pristine black-and-white grid empty is simply not an option for me.  I just have to fill it in . . .

mathBut if I can’t get my itchy wee hands on a crossword puzzle, a logic puzzle will do.  Or a sudoku.  Or a word-search.  Or a word-block.  I even recently attempted a mathematical crossword puzzle and, as I am and always have been, absolutely crap at maths, that really did stretch the old grey matter!  (In the interests of full disclosure I didn’t fully complete that puzzle (algebra—eeerk!) but I did manage to get  a lot of the answers to correlate—so—woohoo—Go Me!)

cart-puzzleSo why is it, do you suppose, that we (and I say we, because I know it is not only me) voluntarily spend hours of our time and energy struggling to solve problems we really don’t have to?  Don’t most of us have enough ordinary, everyday problems to solve already without making more for ourselves?  Apparently not.  Judging by the sheer volume of books, toys, websites and apps I found online devoted entirely to one form of puzzle or another, our appetite for puzzle-solving seems infinite.

puzzleI can’t speak for everyone else (no matter how I try) but there are lots of things I personally like about puzzles.  I like that they seem to relax me (well, not my brain so much—but the rest of me at least).  I like that I can do a puzzle anywhere (not a jigsaw puzzle obviously, but as they are my least favourite puzzle that is not really an issue for me).  I like that I don’t have to clear my schedule to do a puzzleI can start and stop at any time, and go back and finish it later (although preferably not at 2.30am . . . )  I like that puzzles are cheap (I would probably be bankrupt otherwise) and I like that puzzles are silent (I really like that puzzles are silent . . . )

But most of all I like puzzles because they always have a right answer.  I might not always find the right answer—but I know there always is one.

bearPerhaps, in the end, that is why we all like puzzles so much.  There are so many variables in our day-to-day lives.  So many choices.  So many possible-maybes.   Sometimes it just feels really good to deal in absolutes.  With puzzles there are no half measures, no grey areas—the answer is right . . . or it’s not.

There’s something very satisfying about that . . .

 
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Posted by on March 3, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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‘Sometimes the heart sees what is invisible to the eye.’ H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

loveI am no longer sure what I was actually looking for at the time, but I came across a site the other day which listed the ‘500 most frequently used words in the English language’. Curiosity got the better of me (as it often does where words are concerned) and I had a quick look.  Most of the Top 500 were, as you might have guessed, ordinary, everyday words. (Number One on the list‘the’—in case you were wondering . . . )  

What did surprise me though was the word ‘love’ came in at number 387.  Could that be right?   Surely not. I checked another site (Top 1000).  This time ‘love’ was number 391.  Huh.  Considering I seem to hear the word being bandied about incessantly of late (‘don’t you love that programme’  . . . ‘ I just love spaghetti’ . . .  ‘I would love to be able to do that’ . . . ‘ OMG, I love those shoes’ . . . ) I really thought it would be higher up the list (most definitely before ‘feet’ at number 275, or, at the very very least, right up there next to ‘dog’ at number 317 . . . )

question1Dictionary.com defines love as ‘a feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection, as for a parent, child, or friend; sexual passion or desire;  a person toward whom love is felt; beloved person; sweetheart’.  It doesn’t mention shoes, or pasta, or TV shows (or dogs for that matter, but that is obviously an oversight or an editing error . . . )  Although that definition is still relevant, it is also very obvious that we now use the word to cover a much broader spectrum.  Which begs the question—’Can one ever truly love a thing?’

loveshoesThere are certainly people out there in the world who would say ‘yes’ and the internet is littered with people who claim true love with (and have even married) inanimate objects. (Don’t believe me?  See here.)  Personally, although I admit to having developed very strong feelings for certain pairs of shoes over the years, I fear I am too fickle to profess undying love (new season, new shoes) but having been witness to such love myself, I don’t feel I can completely disregard it either.

img113When my first dog Harry was still a tiny boy he fell deeply in love with a small stuffed donkey called ‘Teddy’.  All his life Harry adored Teddy, even long after his constant attentions had reduced the once soft and cute toy to a smelly, patched, restuffed, balding brown blob (with ears). During the day Teddy was never far from Harry’s side and every evening he would ensure that Teddy was tenderly tucked up in bed with him before he fell asleep.

Many times over the years (especially after Teddy got really smelly and gross) I tried to tempt Harry away with lovely new toys, new games, even a new little brother (Frank), but his loyalty to Teddy never waned.  It was love.  Pure and simple.  When Harry passed away at 19 years of age I buried his beloved Teddy with him.  It seemed only right.

img116If I thought this was the last time I would witness such a love I was wrongalthough this time I fear that Maudie’s ‘Ball’ (we are not very inventive with our names, are we?) is unlikely to live as long as Teddy.  Maudie is still only six and Ball is already pitted and pocked, and nibbled and gnawed—and frankly, quite disgusting.  It’s not even actually round any more.  Maudie doesn’t care.  Maudie thinks it is the most beautiful ball in the world . . .

So by now you are probably thinking that I’ve seriously lost the plot.  A dog loving a toy and a human being professing true love for their pillow is not nearly the same thing.

Perhaps not.  But who am I to judge?   It seems to me that if everyone could find some-one . . . or some-thing . . . to love as much as Harry loved his Teddy and Maudie loves her Ball, the whole world might just be all the better off for it . . .

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Posted by on January 6, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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‘Tomorrow is the first blank page of a 365 page book. Write a good one.’ Brad Paisley.

Stories from my Sketchbook . . .

I like this idea—that every day we are all writing another page of our very own book (although we are three days into this new year already and my own book is looking pretty empty so far.  I might have to get off my bum and do something about that . . . )

What kind of book will you write for yourself this year?

A drama?  A comedy?  A romance?  An adventure?  All of the above?   . . .

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Posted by on January 3, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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‘A good speech should be like a woman’s skirt; long enough to cover the subject and short enough to create interest.’ Winston S. Churchill.

queenEarlier this week on the BBC I saw the Queen give her speech in thanks for her recent 90th birthday celebrations, and as I watched I thought how lucky Her Majesty was to have someone on staff to help her write her speeches.  (I am assuming this is the case, because if she had to write all her speeches entirely by herself where the hell would she find time to do anything else?)  

speechwriter

Anyway, assuming the Queen does have a speechwriter I have to say I am a tad jealous.  I could really have used someone like that these last few days to help me with my words.   I have had real problems stringing a coherent sentence together all week.  And not just a sentence in the Queen’s English eithera sentence in any intelligible form whatsoever.  On more than one occasion I have had to stop, take a breath, and remind myself
‘Use your words Sally . . . use your words . . . ‘

headcoldAnd then, towards the end of this week I came down with a really severe head cold—which explained a lot.  While being ever-so-slightly pissed off about this, because, well, who needs it?—I was also quite relieved, as I had been starting to think my brain must have sprung a leak somewhere.  But being under the weather, and seemingly in a perpetual brain-fog, did make me more aware of just how much I depend on my words—and how much I like words and miss them when I can’t find them.

(Well, I like most words.  I don’t like acronyms—and I am not even sure they count as real words anyway, even though they are pronounced as such.  And I don’t like initialisms either, as it turns out.  Did you know there was a difference between an acronym and an initialism?  I didn’t, and I am not really sure I needed to know that either, but there you go . . . )

wineoclockBut, aside from these, I do like to learn new words, and it seems that there are new words being invented and added to our English repertoire all the time.  An earlier update to the Oxford Dictionary (August 2015) had almost 1,000 new words and phrases (including slang) added to it.  Some of these included manspreading, nuff said and awesomesauce.

Happily, the words beer o’clock and wine o’clock also made the grade. 🙂

New words are good (the first 2016 updates are starting to appear in the dictionaries now) but what about the old words?  What about words we never see or hear used any more?  What happens to them?

groakThis week I came across the word Groak.  (I am not sure what I was looking for but ‘groak’ definitely wasn’t it.)  Groak means ‘to stare silently at someone while they are eating, in the hopes that they will give you some of their food’.  Anyone who has ever had a dog, and likes a dinner of sausages on occasion, will be intimately aware of having been ‘groaked’ . . .  So cool that I now have a word to put with that look.

Wondering what other weird and wonderful words I could find I did a bit of research and discovered that there are a huge number of archaeic or obsolete words that have now gone out of fashion.  I have noted down some of the more colourful ones for you (and this is only a tiny selection . . . ) 

bibble:  to drink often; to eat and/or drink noisily
(so Saturday night at the pub, then)

brabble:  to argue loudly about something inconsequential
(probably at the same time you are bibbling)

slubberdegullion:  a slovenly, slobbering person
(someone you know leaving the pub in complete ‘cattywampus’ (see next entry))

cattywampus: in disarray

crapulous:  to feel ill because of excessive eating/drinking
(as in ‘I’m feeling totally crapulous today.’  It seems some words haven’t changed so very much at all.)

callipygian:  Having beautifully shaped buttocks
(Okay nothing to do with the pub . . . unless the barmaid or barman is thus endowed.)

doodlesack: old English word for bagpipe
(Not at all what I thought of I when I first saw this word.)

tittynope:  a small quantity of something left over
(Again, not my first guess.)

borborygmus: sound of intestinal gas
(and we’re back to eating and drinking at the pub again . . . )

Mogigraphia:  Writer’s Cramp
(A signal to wrap this post up? ) 

bagpipeI’m thinking I should send a short note to the Queen, drawing her attention to some of her country’s long forgotten words and suggesting that it might be a good idea to have one or two of them surreptitiously slipped in to one of her next speeches

‘Members of Parliament have been meeting regularly this year, bibbling and brabbling in constant cattywampus, while one lone piper has valiantly piped forlornly on his doodlesack trying to cover the constant borborygmus . . . .’

Perhaps I shouldn’t hold out too much hope for an interview for the next speechwriter’s job opening . . .

 
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Posted by on June 17, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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