Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Giovanni Leone (1908-2001)

Former President of Italy, seen here (poor PR) making a an apotropaic gesture to ward off misfortune while visiting cholera patients in Naples. More information here.

Thursday, June 21, 2012



What's the use of wearing braces?
Spats and hats and boots with laces?
Vests and pants you buy in places
Down on Brompton Road?
What's the use of shirts of cotton?
Studs that always get forgotten?
These affairs are simply rotten,
Better far is woad.
Woad's the stuff to clothe men.
Woad to scare your foemen.
Boil it to a brilliant hue
And rub it on your back and your abdomen.
Ancient Britons never hit on
Anything as good as woad to fit on
Necks or knees or where you sit on.
Tailors you be blowed!!


Romans came across the channel
All wrapped up in tin and flannel
Half a pint of woad per man'll
Clothe us more than these.
Saxons used to waste their stitches
Building beds for bugs in britches
We have woad to clothe us which is
Not a nest for fleas.
Romans keep your armours.
Saxons your pyjamas.
Hairy coats were meant for goats,
Gorillas, yaks, retriever dogs and llamas.
Tramp up Snowdon with your woad on,
Never mind if you get rained or snowed on
Never need a button sewed on.
Go it Ancient Bs!!

If you really need it, there's more information here.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Mic check!

'See!' cried madame, pointing with her knife. 'See the old villain bound with ropes. That was well done to tie a bunch of grass upon his back. Ha, ha! That was well done. Let him eat it now!' Madame put her knife under her arm, and clapped her hands as at a play.
The people immediately behind Madame Defarge, explaining the cause of her satisfaction to those behind them, and those again explaining to others, and those to others, the neighbouring streets resounded with the clapping of hands. Similarly, during two or three hours of drawl, and the winnowing of many bushels of words, Madame Defarge's frequent expressions of impatience were taken up, with marvellous quickness, at a distance: the more readily, because certain men who had by some wonderful exercise of agility climbed up the external architecture to look in from the windows, knew Madame Defarge well, and acted as a telegraph between her and the crowd outside the building.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Madrid Book Fair

Things to remember for next year:
Better shoes. You will be standing for six and a half hours each day, eight and a half hours at weekends, and the comfortable old sneakers in which you start the day will be arch-tormenting by the end. Walking boots?
More bookmarks / catalogues. We printed 6,000 bookmarks and 2,000 catalogues, and ran out of both. Next year 5,000 catalogues and, what, 10,000 bookmarks?
Water. At least two litres each morning and afternoon.
Leave the house earlier. I spent too much money on taxis, and even then turned up about five minutes late most of the time.
Prepare a spiel, or a series of spiels. I said the same thing about each book thousands and thousands of times. ('Yes, they are comic stories by Dostoevsky; as it's Dostoevsky, it's fairly dark humour.' 'It's a marvellous novel about the childhood of a young girl in the last years of the nineteenth century.' 'Communists on Mars!') It's quicker and more efficient if you have a sales pitch worked out and don't have to spend a day or so working on it.
Work out how to say 'Literatura rusa' without stumbling or turning the 'r' of 'rusa' into a 'w'.
Be resigned to idiots and timewasters. The women who say 'Oh no, I don't read Russian literature.' (I'm sure you've read widely enough to be able to make such statements of faith, madam.) The man who tells you about a marvellous Russian female writer who publishes a self-help / diet book every three months. (I don't care who you're sleeping with, sir, it still isn't really our line.) The people who want to sell you books. The people who want second-hand books. The people who think that, just because you publish Russian literature, you publish all Russian literature, and who are annoyed when you don't have a particular book. The people who want to reminisce about a lovely time they spent in the Soviet Union as children. The people who want to speak to you in Russian. For an hour.
A float of 200 euros (mostly in units of 10, 5, 1, 0.5, 0.1) is probably enough to be going on with. Next year, of course, it will be a float of 35,000 pesetas, but that's a problem we'll have to work with when it comes.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Antiaris toxicaria

According to my sources, in China, the upas tree is known as Arrow Poison Wood and the poison is said to be so deadly that it has been described as "Seven Up Eight Down Nine No Life" meaning once poisoned a person can take no more than seven steps uphill, eight steps downhill or nine steps on level ground.

Hebrews 13.8

'If the money I have sacrificed had been all my own, Mr Rugg,' sighed Mr Clennam, 'I should have cared far less.'
'Indeed, sir?' said Mr Rugg, rubbing his hands with a cheerful air. 'You surprise me. That's singular, sir. I have generally found, in my experience, that it's their own money people are most particular about. I have seen people get rid of a good deal of other people's money, and bear it very well: very well indeed.'

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Mr Baptist - tea-pot!

They began to accommodate themselves to his level, calling him 'Mr Baptist,' but treating him like a baby, and laughing immoderately at his lively gestures and his childish English - more, because he didn't mind it, and laughed too. They spoke to him in very loud voices as if he were stone deaf. They constructed sentences, by way of teaching him the language in its purity, such as were addressed by the savages to Captain Cook, or by Friday to Robinson Crusoe. Mrs Plornish was particularly ingenious in this art; and attained so much celebrity for saying 'Me ope you leg well soon,' that it was considered in the Yard but a very short remove indeed from speaking Italian. Even Mrs Plornish herself began to think she had a natural call towards that language. As he became more popular, household objects were brought into requisition for his instruction in a copious vocabulary; and whenever he appeared in the Yard ladies would fly out at their doors crying 'Mr Baptist - tea-pot!' 'Mr Baptist - dust-pan!' 'Mr Baptist - flour-dredger!' 'Mr Baptist - coffee-biggin!' At the same time exhibiting those articles, and penetrating him with a sense of the appalling difficulties of the Anglo-Saxon tongue.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Current Favourite Sentence

With the sensation of becoming more and more light-headed every minute, Clennam saw the relict of the late Mr F. enjoying herself in the most wonderful manner, by putting herself and him in their old places, and going through all the old performances - now, when the stage was dusty, when the scenery was faded, when the youthful actors were dead, when the orchestra was empty, when the lights were out.