Bags not packed and ready to rock

Retrospective warning – grossness lies ahead!


I got to the end of typing this and thought – oops, someone out there is bound to get all snowflakey about where this post ends up…


This is it for me for now.

It’s that time of year again when I disappear until the autumn. My bags aren’t packed. To be honest, I don’t even know where the bags are…  They might be in the attic but then again…

This year, I’m only disappearing metaphorically.  But I guess with everything that’s gone on recently, most people will be only travelling metaphorically. How many people have you seen who need to be gently harrumphed into moving ahead in a queue and got the response “Sorry, I was miles away.” or “Oh, I drifted off for a moment.”?

Well, at least you don’t need a passport.

Oh! And no travel sickness. And no running around the house checking you’ve switched everything off, locked the doors, etc. No decanting all your toiletries into those teeny funky bottles. No making sure you’ve packed enough underwear (plus one spare day’s worth). No panicking about whether you should take an entire first aid cabinet with you just in case you get ill…

I was abroad once when I got a heat rash on my foot. So I went to the pharmacy for some cream. I speak the language fluently, so it shouldn’t have been a problem. I explained and got the reply “Mushrooms.”


Stop there for a moment.


I later worked out that she meant fungus – aka Athlete’s Foot.

I repeated myself. She repeated herself. I repeated myself again. She repeated herself again.

And round and round we went.

A queue started to form behind me. Their patience was almost audible. And soon the patience bubbled over into altruism. And before I knew it, I had my bare foot up on the (very high) counter with half-a-dozen complete strangers weighing in with their opinion.

A lively debate ensued and after 10 minutes, a consensus was reached. I had heat rash.


And I was allowed to take my foot off the counter and was sent away with a tiny tube of extremely expensive emollient cream that smelled of peppermint.

Turns out it was basically peppermint foot lotion. Same ingredients. And about 5 times the price of ordinary foot lotion.

Lesson learned. 

So yes, it’s me.  I am that person who has a remedy for everything packed in their bag.

I got distracted, didn’t I?

See you in the autumn!


The Wisdom Of Nostalgia


4 Things My Mother Used To Say Constantly To Me When I Was A Kid That Now Annoyingly Make Sense

Ever catch yourself saying something and think ‘oh boy, I’m turning into my mum/dad’?’ Seriously, even if you don’t have kids. There’s things I find myself saying to the dog (yes, the dog!) and I have to stop myself and think, I can’t believe I just said that. Although, in fairness, that might also be precisely because I am talking to my dog or, more perturbing, the fact that she’s answering me. In disparaging grunts. I guess that’s where the word ‘disgruntled’ come from…

Does anyone else have a dog that’s a cross between a furry toddler and a fuzzy teenager? And are they ever gruntled? Anyway, I’ll leave you to guess which one of these I’ve said to my dog!

“Eat your greens”
Apart from anything, I find now as an adult that I actually love green vegetables. I also know that there’s an actual reason why small children don’t like the taste (or even the sight) of green vegetables. Dang, if only I’d known that when I was five. The Battle Of The Broccoli could have been won before the stuff had even stopped steaming on my plate. But now? Oh, those leafy greens. Those yummy vitamins and minerals. And oh, the annoyance of knowing the mother had a point.

“Look where you’re going!”
For so long I wondered ‘what does that even mean?!’ And then the great light of ‘duhh’ shone on me and I realised it means. exactly. what. it. says. How did it take me so long to reach enlightenment? I think watching pedestrians’ obsession with their mobile phones cleared that one up nicely. As the third/fourth/fifth person slammed into a lamppost while checking their phones, a lightbulb went on over my head. Actually, it was probably the lamppost, come to think of it. Either walk and focus, or stop and look. They are not interchangeable pairings.

“Don’t make that face. If the wind blows, you’ll stay that way.”
Okay, I’ve got nothing. Nothing. I have absolutely no idea why this one was (and continues to be) so popular. But for some reason, I’ll always associate this phrase with broad beans…

“You look with your eyes, not with your hands!”
The biological ramifications of this one blew my mind as a kid. Or bio-illogical… unless… was it just possible that there was a strange kind of mutant out there that could actually see with their hands? What would they look like? Were they magical beings with eyes in their hands?

Was it some kind of telepathic divination?


The mother just wanted me to stop throwing baked beans and chocolate into the shopping trolley while she wasn’t looking. Or touching e.v.e.y.t.h.i.n.g. on the shelves after she’d taken me out of the child seat in the trolley because I was single-handedly (I was using both hands, though) doubling their grocery bill.
And this is the one I kept hearing in my head more recently. Social distancing became the new normal. Gloves and masks became mandatory. Hand-washing became obligatory. Going into a shop meant only buying things I had bought previously because I couldn’t pick them up to read the labels. I couldn’t take the chance with my own health, and I certainly wouldn’t take the chance with anyone else’s. And that’s when it hit me. You look with your eyes, not with your hands.
“Oh! That’s what that means!”, quickly followed by “Oh. Dang!”

But I’m still hopeful about the telepathy mutant thing…

Unscrambling eggs

I said before that language is a funny old thing. I stand by that. It can help us, or it can hang us. For instance, take the time I got lost in Brittany… Down the docks. Not a good place for a teenager to get lost at the best of times! The whole idea was that we were in Brittany for a whole week to practice our French (of which I am a native speaker. Oh yes. Thought I’d drop that one on you. I’m a mongrel). Of course, you know how it goes… Everyone else uses you for English target practice. But not on this occasion. I was lost. The rest of the class had disappeared. The docks were otherwise deserted. Well, apart from the odd random group of old gentlemen.

So, hiding my native accent as best I could, I asked the gentlemen, group by group for help. No-one understood me (surely my own accent wasn’t that impenetrable?). So I tried English. The blank stares became blanker. Then something prompted me to try something completely illogical – speak Welsh to them (yes, native speaker… you get the idea). The reaction was instant. Within moments we’d swapped life stories, and they put me on track to re-join my class. You see, they were of a generation that never learned to speak French. Breton was their mother tongue. And Breton just happens to be very similar to Welsh.

Despite my young years, I had realised that they weren’t initially being rude, nor were they wary of some strange youngster pestering them. Nor did they think for a moment that I was being rude. They just didn’t have a clue what I was on about. And that can happen even when you do speak the same language. Beware! How many verbal wranglings have you ended up in for a similar reason?

I know. Me too.

However, you see, another one of my little gifts is that I’m a linguist. I can understand most languages, even ones I didn’t realise I did. Apparently this can be quite startling for anyone watching a subtitled film with me…

But languages aren’t just the obvious ones, you know. Anything that can be used to describe a set of events of experiences is a language.

And this is where I get topical. Science and religion. Why do people who speak sciencese and religionese not realise that they’re talking about the same things, but simply using different languages?

For example:

Place an ovulation from Gallus gallus domesticus in a thermally resistant receptacle and apply heat while producing agitative motions. Continue heat and agitation until there is a denaturing of the protein masses resulting in sufficient coagulation.

Enjoy your scrambled egg.

Okay, so a scrambled egg isn’t exactly a religious experience (depends on the recipe, though, I suppose), but hopefully my point is clear. Both are languages used to explain the universe, our existence, and all other matters in between.

I’ve been asked on a number of occasions how I can possibly be a scientist and a person of faith. Simple. There’s a third leg on this old milking stool called Life. Linguistics. That’s what makes those lightbulb moments happen.

Plus, I’m just really, really old and I can see how all this head-butting isn’t getting anyone anywhere. Just stop it, guys! Just acknowledge there are more languages in Heaven and Earth than dreamt of in your philosophy (sorry, Mister Shakespeare) or just agree to disagree, people. Play nicely.

You can’t untangle denatured protein chains….


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Rising to the bait

Sorry I’m a bit late with this – blame the snot-fest.

I’ve been puzzling about linguistics recently…

Why do we ‘rise’ to the bait, but ‘lower ourselves’ to dignify a wind-up with a response? Where on earth is this insult pitched? No wonder we go through life seesawing between backhanded compliments and verbal confusions! Would world peace be achieved if we all spoke the same language? Never. You’d have to have a hive mind mentality set up before that happened. One mind, one meaning. To illustrate:

I hate crowds – too many thoughts rushing around. You see, another of my little  gifts is that I’m an empath. I’m not telepathic (or, as I jokingly call it – ‘telepathetic’), although I can pretty much gauge what a person is thinking based on things like facial expression and body language. No. An empath is something different. It’s not an observational thing, but the ability to know what someone else is feeling; or even to experience that feeling alongside them. The amount of times I’ve been having a great day and suddenly felt weird for no reason, before finding out that someone in the building is having the day from hell.

In fact, at one job I was at, I was warned to stay clear of the staff room because there’d been an argument in there half an hour previously…

So, anyway. Crowds equal bad news for me because I get exhausted by the maelstrom of emotions whirling around every corner.

Now a football match – that’s another thing altogether. I can happily, even peacefully sit and be perfectly relaxed. You see, there may be thousands of people there but they all share pretty much the same thought… Win. Win. Win. Generally, folks don’t go to a match to spend ninety minutes wondering if they turned the cooker off, or if the combats they’re wearing really do go with their t-shirt. And even if they did, chances are those thoughts/emotions would be swallowed up by the Win-win-winners.

Even speaking the same language causes misunderstandings… Take Mrs Malaprop, for instance – a humorous character whose verbal manglings gave rise to a whole brand of spoken shenanigans… An example:  “Illiterate him quite from your memory” (obliterate).

And yes, ok, I’ve made a few of my own, in various languages… I’ll give you a few examples, as long as you please remember that I’m not a one for bad language, it’s just the way some of them came out…

When I was about 4, I went with my sister to see one of her friends, who delighted in playing silly games with me. One day, she was playing “I’m The King Of The Castle” with me, which goes like this:

I’m The King Of The Castle

And you’re the dirty rascals.

Only, of course what came out of my mouth wasn’t ‘rascals’, and it began with ‘b’… My sister’s friend was somewhat taken aback. And no, I don’t know where I’d picked that word up from. Sometimes I don’t think I even do pick up words. I think I just mangle them until they sound like another word. Case in point… Once I was talking to Mother about a friend and called them a ‘rech mewn pot jam’ which, in Welsh means a ‘fart in a jam pot’. Only I didn’t use the word ‘rech’, I used a very similar sounding word which, unfortunately means, er… How do I put this… front bottom. Cue cranial bongo solo from Mother…

And here’s one I heard earlier.

I was in a supermarket the other day when I overheard a mother with her son and another boy who was clearly friend of son. They were choosing drinks before going into the nearby cinema. The boy got very excited at the range of drinks available and pointed one particular bottle out to his friend, asking him “Have you ever tried that drink? That ‘Knackered’ one?’ She cringed and corrected him – very promptly.

I don’t know what the mother was more embarrassed about: her son’s reading ability; whether he’d just used the word ‘knackered’, or the fact that she’d had to say ‘Naked’ very loudly in a public place!

Language is a funny old thing…

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