Saturday, November 29, 2008

Malcolm's Baubles

The lovely Annie Rhiannon commented on Mr BC's blog that life at Casa Blue Cat must be 'a laugh a minute', with the pair of us being so side-splittingly hilarious and everything.


Of course she's not wrong - what with Mr BC being a comedy professional and me being, er, a professional, the standard of conversational wit at our house is always extremely high, as this exchange from last night should demonstrate:

ME (looking at laptop): Oh look, there's a glass-blowing evening at Malcolm Sutcliffe's art gallery next weekend. There will be free mince pies, and you can blow your own baubles.

MR BC: Pfft. I can blow my own baubles at home whenever I like.

ME: No you can't. You've got too many ribs.

MR BC: Oh, now, there was no need to turn it into smut.

ME: Oh wait, apparently you can't blow your own baubles at all. Apparently Malcolm does all the blowing.

MR BC: What do we do?

ME: We watch.

MR BC: I'm not going all the way to West Street to watch Malcolm blow his own baubles.

ME: He wouldn't be blowing his own baubles. He'd be blowing your baubles. For a fiver each.

MR BC: I don't want Malcolm to blow my baubles.

ME: There are free mince pies.

MR BC: All right then.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Accidents Will Happen

I've recently joined an email discussion list for business laydeez in Cornwall.

As well as confirming my suspicions that the Cornish economy - or at least the female portion of it - is built entirely on the manufacture and sale of sea-glass jewellery and hand-made organic soap, the list is quite heartwarming in its community feel, with members frequently recommending people and services to each other.

Some recommendations, however, may have the opposite effect to the one intended. This one from earlier today being a case in point:

"I visited ultimate beauty in penryn last week and had an amazing facial with Tabatha...everyone was really friendly, offered some sound advice,i felt so relaxed afterwards i could hardly drive."

Readers are advised to avoid the B3292 in Penryn between the hours of 9 and 5, due to a heightened risk of collision with immaculately exfoliated motorists.

Monday, November 24, 2008

I Never Was Very Good At Physics


PATROCLUS, MR BC and the BLUE KITTEN are disembarking from Easyjet flight EZ393 from Bristol.

ME: Well, that went well. I'm glad Sylvia advised me to feed the Kitten on the ascent and descent, she didn't seem to get earache at all.

MR BC: No. And you coped with the breastfeeding in public thing very well.

ME: Only because I was sitting by the window, and you could hide me with the Guardian.

MR BC: Yes.


ME: Of course if we do the same on the way back, we'll have to sit on the other side of the aisle.

MR BC: Why's that?

ME: Because we'll be travelling the other way.

There is a moment's silence, during which I reflect on what I've just said, and the Nobel committee hastily revise the shortlist for this year's Prize for Stupidity.


MR BC: I think you'll find it doesn't actually matter what side of the plane we sit on.

ME: No.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

For We Have No Help But Thee

In these difficult economic times, there's only one person who can lead us o'er the tempestuous sea of negative equity, soaring unemployment, collapsing banks, failing pension funds, rising food prices and all-round financial misery.

It's not who you think, though. It's not Robert Peston or Faisal Islam. It's not Evan Davis, or Tony Levene, or Margaret Dibben. It isn't even LC's alter ego, the Economonkey.

No, forsooth, for there is one who is wiser still than they.

It is, of course, our old friend Michelle Ogundehin, editor of Elle Decoration, whose sage pronouncements on the economy we have had occasion to heed before.

In this month's issue, Michelle takes time out from informing us that 'chocolate brown is hot for winter - even for Christmas decorations!' to impart some more of her wisdom on the current financial crisis.

And you know what, we can all relax, because Michelle says that money isn't actually all that important in the grand scheme of things. 'When times get tough, [is] being visibly surrounded by things that provoke an emotional reaction the true meaning of wealth?', she enquires, rhetorically. And before you can jump in with a quick 'well not really', she continues, in the manner of Madeline Bassett opining that the stars are God's daisy chain, 'I'd like to think so.'

Well that's all right then.

And in these tough times, what emotion-provoking things should we be visibly surrounding ourselves with? According to Michelle, an original Picasso would fit the bill nicely. But before you all fuck off to Sothebys with the housekeeping, Michelle wants to be sure you're buying your original Picasso for the right reasons. You aren't buying it to flaunt your wealth. You're buying it as an aesthetic comfort blanket to soothe you through the economic downturn. After all, there's nothing like a picture of a bint with a wonky face to take your mind off the gas bill.

And for those of us who can't afford an original Picasso? I suppose we'll just have to make do with brown Christmas decorations. Great.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Wrongest Plural Ever

As spotted hanging above the seating area outside Caffè Ritazza, Bristol International Airport, on Friday:

There are at least three things wrong with this plural. Can we name them, fellow language pedants?

A Long Post About The Picts, With Pictures

Those of you who have been following this blog from the bitter beginning may remember that I used to bang on quite a lot about the Picts (an enigmatic race of Celtic people who apparently populated the north and east of Scotland during the Dark Ages, and then mysteriously disappeared almost overnight).

More specifically, I used to go on about how I was going to resurrect the lost Pictish language by being the first to decipher the mysterious inscriptions carved on the monumental stones that the Picts erected in various places for purposes now unknown.

(You can read the full list of mysterious inscriptions in this post.)

In doing so, I would follow in the illustrious footsteps of Jean-François Champollion, who deciphered the Egyptian hieroglyphs, and Michael Ventris, who deciphered the Linear B inscriptions in his time off from being a Modernist architect. I would probably get my picture on the front cover of Archaeology Today and the National Geographic and I would never have to write brochures about human resources management software ever again.

But then along came a chap called Dr Richard Cox, who ruined the whole endeavour by suggesting - fairly convincingly - that the Pictish stones were not in fact set up by Picts but by the descendants of Viking settlers, and that the inscriptions weren't in some lost Pictish language but in Old Norse, and that what's more the Picts most likely never even existed, and neither did their language. Oh, and the stones weren't put up in the Dark Ages at all, but in the 13th century.


But all is not totally lost, because Dr Richard Cox's thesis has some bloody great holes in it. For a start, he only looks at the 'easy' inscriptions, and ignores the ones that don't make any sense whatsoever. He also takes some enormous liberties in some of his supposed 'decipherments', occasionally reading inscriptions from back to front in order to make them make more sense, and randomly filling in 'missing' letters in some of the very short inscriptions.

One of the inscribed stones that Dr Cox includes in his study is the Rodney Stone at Brodie, in the county of Moray. It so happened that I was in the vicinity of this stone at the weekend, and made a special trip to photograph it:

You probably can't see an inscription on this stone, because it's almost worn away. It *was* there, carved in Ogham script around the edge of the stone, but the harsh Scottish weather has had away with it. (I'm sure there used to be a little wooden roof to protect the stone from the worst of the elements, but that's now gone.)

All that's left of the inscription now is the word (or words) EDDARRNON. Dr Cox takes this word to be derived from Old Norse ettermun, meaning 'memory', or possibly etter, meaning 'in memory of'. He could be right, he could be wrong. Too bad we'll never know now what the rest of it said.

What you *can* still see on this stone is a couple of the mysterious symbols that appear over and over again on the Pictish stones. This one has a sort of dolphin figure (in the middle) and a double-disc and Z-rod (at the bottom). No one knows what these symbols mean, and no one has yet put forward any kind of convincing theory. A certain W. A. Cummins once tried to suggest that they symbolise names of Pictish kings and aristocrats, but that's really just speculation.

Here's the full lexicon of Pictish symbols for anyone who's interested:

(Image courtesy of Aberdeen City Council)

As far as I know, no one has ever made a proper study comparing the Ogham inscriptions on each stone with the symbols that appear on it. Maybe I'll make that my new project.

Monday, November 10, 2008


I think this might be The End.

Until someone invents an all-in-one nappy-changing, baby-feeding, baby-comforting, washing-up, mini-apple-pie-making, corporate copywriting machine, at least.

(Now I've said that, I'll probably be back next week. But it seems unlikely.)