Myths and Mysteries

Right. What shall we talk about today..?

I’m thinking this should probably be a part 1 kind of thing.

Actually, now might be a pretty good time for a bit of a recap. If you’re new to all this, it’ll save you time and if you’ve been with me since the beginning, then you know my tendency to repeat myself. Well, at least this time, it’ll be on purpose.

And if you want to be thorough, I’ll link in previous posts… ’cause I’m pedantic like that.

First off, let’s get the biggie out of the way.

Yes, vampires do exist. Obviously. Or I wouldn’t be here, talking to you.

Okay, so I’m technically not here. Well, not your ‘here’. I mean my ‘here’. And technically, I’m not talking. Unless you’ve got one of those cool apps that reads the text off a screen. Actually, I saw this really neat gadget the other day that you attach to glasses that’ll do exactly that – but I’m distracting myself. Terrible problem.

And I just love the dictate function on tablets and phones etc. Seek and ye shall find? Well, this is speak, and it shall type. So handy. Especially as sometimes my brain works faster than my fingers. My mouth doesn’t work as fast as my brain either, but it does go a darn sight faster than my stubby little digits.

And there I go again. I go off track more often than a dirt bike.

There are so many myths surrounding vampires. Some are spot on. Some… well, let’s just say that some people got the wrong end of the stick. I can’t believe I just said that. And some are partly true – but not for the reason you’d think.

So here are a few FAQs…

  • reflections – yes, I have one. So does pretty much anything. Including the wall opposite the mirror. But I do hate mirrors, although you can chalk that one up to childhood trauma (as can about 90% of human experience).

 

  • sunlight – no sizzling, fizzling or spontaneous combustion. Just a tendency to walk into things because I can’t flipping see in normal to bright sunlight. And there’s the sunburn.

Don’t forget the sunburn. I know I don’t.

 

  • bites and turning – I have to admit, I’m not sure. Not really much research. I know the Monies Powers That Be will fund some glaringly obvious studies (e.g. sword-swallowing can be dangerous – who knew?!), somehow rocking up to a finance committee asking for £300,000 to go ’round biting people wouldn’t go down too well. Or it could be the best ever episode of Dragon’s Den. Not that I watch it but, you know, you hear things…

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  • reincarnation/one true love – faces, like history, keep repeating themselves. but I’ve only recently talked about that one, so…

 

  • immortality – well, I’m still here, into my 2nd glorious century! But then, so is anyone over the age of 20…

 

  • the drinking blood thing – vampires are usually portrayed as avoiding all human food… well, there’s allergies – food allergies abound. Traditionally, vampires stick to blood because trying to find food that won’t have us impersonating the Trevi Fountain is just too much of a faff.

 

  • turning into animals –  have you ever noticed that the animals that vampires are supposed to turn into tend to be ones that get used as insults? Daft old bat, hound, what a dog etc. You can just imagine it, can’t you? The postman has just delivered post to the Dracula household. It’s bad enough that he’s had to traipse up a particularly precarious slope to reach the manky, gloomy old castle teetering on top of an especially treacherous precipice (someone should really call the Council). but then he knocks and for once, waits for an answer. None of this tickling the doorbell then leaving a “Sorry We Missed You” card.

And, because it’s about ten-to-sunrise o’clock, the door gets opened by the grumpy resident, who’s more interested in getting some kip than receiving all the latest offers from the local pizza parlour. He grabs his mail (including the blackout curtains he ordered from eBay), growls at the hapless postie and beats a hasty exit to avoid the oncoming daylight.

And the postman gets back to the office, exhausted from the climb (and no doubt the stumbling back down – remember precarious?), cheesed off because it’s only the start of the shift and he’s already been barked at (see where I’m going with this?). A colleague asks what’s wrong (because the postie’s colleagues are a caring lot).

“What’s wrong?” he says. “I’ll tell you what’s wrong. I nearly got killed delivering a parcel to that castle on top of the hill. And when I get there, some grumpy old bat answers the door, growls at me then disappears like a puff of smoke!”

“He’s a bat?!” yelps the colleague, “Then he turns into a dog and vanishes into a puff of smoke?”

And that, folks, is how rumours start.

And then the rumours become legend.

 

  • sleeping in a coffin – no, but it’d be about the only way I’d ever sleep on my back. I just prefer sleeping on my side. Coffin with a stretchy lid, perhaps? Otherwise – shoulder problems. Those things aren’t very deep, and I’ve got broad shoulders. Plus I’m an awful fidget – especially when asleep. Ever seen a jumping bean? That’d be me, trying to sleep in a coffin. Plus – claustrophobia!

 

  • Being invited in? It’s just manners. Picture this: someone knocks on your door. You open it. They barge in. How would you feel? Threatened? Uncomfortable?  Most people with manners will wait to be invited in. I say most… I mean the ones who have retained any sense of decorum and etiquette.  I suppose vampires just take things a step further.  There’s the tendency to extrapolate. Or, as I like to call it – overthink. So if you let a vampire in, you’re giving them carte blanche to do… well, what vampires do. Me, it’s mostly sit quietly and eat biscuits. Those nice pink wafers if you’ve got them. I like pink wafers. You see, we are asking permission not just to have that carte blanche, but to keep it handy whenever we need it. I say we

Oops, I’ve been rambling again, haven’t I? Thanks for the patience. You’re definitely one of the better humans. This is definitely going to be a two-parter, I think.

Got a burning question? 

Then just leave it in the comments!

Ask, and I will answer. Or at least, I’ll have every intention of answering, but I might get distracted. No, I will answer. Honest. But I do get distracted… I’ll absolutely do my best. Ooh, what was tha-

 


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The Old New Year

No, I’m not going to wish you a Happy New Year. Again. Been there. Done that. Besides, it’s waaaay past Calan Hên now.

Oh, not sure what that is?

I have already spoken about it, but it was a while ago (5 years ago, in fact), so maybe I should just refresh your memory.

I’ll just get straight to the point and not bother with the previous pre-amble.

In my home village, on the 12th January (the ‘original’ New Year), the New Year loses its newness so you can’t really say ‘Happy New Year’ after that. Of course, I’d been brought up to think it was actually the 6th… But, check out my previous ramblings if you want to know more.

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But there are some other odd traditions out there that I’ve come across over the decades… Noise seems to feature quite prominently in many cultures. Scaring off demons et cetera.

And vampires.

It might not be intentional, but trust me, it works well on vampires too.

And then January tends to drift on in a kind of regretful bleh. But I like it… the dark nights. Staying in. Watching films. I’m always up for horror or silly comedy. I don’t know why the hubster even bothers asking anymore.

But I do have a terrible tendency to rewatch films. Just like on the very rare occasions when I eat out, I tend to stick with what I know. There are far too many annoying trailers out there that promise a comedy and deliver depressing melodrama.

I miss the old-style trailers.

Is it just me or did trailers use to be a good indication of the film? The number of times I’ve been fooled lately by trailers!

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Yes, I think that was back in the days when you had that gravelly voiced man doing a voice-over basically telling you the plot!
(*Puts on a 60 – a – day growl*)
“It was a day like any other. Until Bob opened the door to a house of horrors. Would he survive the day? Did anyone care?”
(*Coughs like crazy, reaches for throat lozenges*)

Yeah, what did happen to Voice-over Man? And it’s funny how it was always horr-or never horr-uh like normal people say – always horr-or!

And his voice always put the emphasis in the weirdest place on all of the words.
Oh boy.
I really got off the point there, didn’t I?
Better stop there before I end up who-knows-where.
But I’ll be interested to see who comments first with their favourite horror-comedy. Then I’ll tell you mine!
Mwah-ha-ha!
Till next time….

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You know it makes sense.

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

Now, although this is being posted on New Year’s Day, I severely doubt whether anyone will see it for a few days.

So – are you the first one to read this?

Ooh! A challenge!

As soon as you read this, why not leave a ‘hello’ in the comments and see who’s the first, and how long it takes!

I know how much you lovely humans love your challenges… Stoptober, Movember, Dry-whatsit. So let’s start as you mean to go on – Beganuary. ‘Cause once you begin the New Year with a challenge, why not carry on?

Cue quotes about always doing what you’ve always done; anecdotes about comfort zones, etc.

Resolutions or revolutions?

As I think I probably said before, New Years Resolutions were traditionally made on the Winter Solstice. Perhaps they lasted longer that way. Perhaps they should call this month Janu-wary, because we’re all a bit sceptical about anyone who announces a resolution and says ‘but this year, I’m sticking to it!’

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So how did this month get its name?

Well, blame it – not on the boogie – but on a Roman god called Janus. He was a two-faced god, with one face er, facing the past, and the other, the future. So in terms of reflecting on what’s gone before and looking ahead to new possibilities, he’s the perfect guy for the job. Well, perfect something. Essentially, a two-faced god of transitioning.

So be very Janu-wary if you catch anyone calling themselves a ‘god/goddess-in-training’ – they might be fashioning themselves after Janus!

What does the new year hold for you?

For me, it’s actually putting together everything I was half-heartedly doing last year. Getting more organised, planning stuff like fitness, and so on and so forth.

But looking on the bright side… I’ve always said that I have the hearing of a bat and the eyesight to match… this is the year that I get 2020 vision.

I’ll get my coat.

Bonfire Night – a season for treason?

Are we sitting comfortably?

No?

Good. Then I’ll begin.

Let’s start today with a little bit of etymology. No, not the online study of people called Tim. That’s called cyberstalking. Quite a different thing.

Etymology = study of words

You see, yesterday, in the UK, we celebrated Guy Fawkes Night, aka Bonfire Night.

And here we go.

Bonfire.

bon=good. Did they think this through?

I guess if you’re throwing a few baked spuds on, or toasting marshmallows, or what are they called in America – s’mores?

But… people?

So, this is a whistle-stop bit of background to Bonfire Night/Guy Fawkes Night. Basically, this is what I was taught about it. Apologies for the inevitable oversimplification and probable inaccuracies. For a more accurate description, click here or here.

Remember, remember, the Fifth of November
Gunpowder treason and plot.
I see no reason why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot.

Back in the 1600s, England was predominantly religion A. Then the place was under new management and became predominantly religion B. So much so, that you became pretty much a second-class citizen if you were an A-ist.

The B-ists dominated government. Like the popular kids at school nicking all the best tables in the lunch hall. The A-ists felt they were not represented fairly in government and in the end, drastic action was decided upon. Something big. Something really big. Something that would shake everything up.

Blowing up the Houses of Parliament.

But they needed someone to help. Enter one Guy Fawkes. Long story short, he got caught. Whether he got ratted out or whether it was just plain bad luck, I’m not sure. Anyway, he got caught and the plan to blow up Parliament has passed into legend as the Gunpowder Plot.

Cutting to the last page – he ended up being burned on a bonfire. These days, we’d call that a wood-fired artisan barbecue. Apparently, he was hung, drawn and quartered first. And no, that’s got nothing to do with those four-panel Andy Warhol portraits.

So there you go. Capital punishment as national holiday. Although I’m not sure how many people actually know the full story behind it…

As I’ve said before, I don’t do Guy Fawkes Night. And neither does the furball. But that’s another story. It’s the fireworks. Did you know you can actually get quiet fireworks? Worth a look.

Stay safe.

 


 

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Return of the Grocklewuff

Grab your leashes, folks – they’re back.
The born-to-be-wild, barky-larky turd machines are in town once more. Dung beetles everywhere are celebrating in anticipation of an abundance of new riches.
It’s tourist season again.
Happy holidays, muddychuckers!
But I promise I won’t bang on about them, tempting though it is…
So what is a grocklewuff? So glad you asked. They’re those fuzzy bundles of fun that are just so excited to be on holiday. You haven’t lived till you’ve seen a usually house-and-garden bound dog see the sea for the first time.
On the whole, the owners are great. It’s just the odd one here or there that… Gahhh…
But I said I wouldn’t rant. Must… not… get… distracted…
So, a grocklewuff isn’t a mythical beast, or some hybrid legend. It’s a dog on holiday.
But while we’re on the subject, I’m reminded of what I was actually intending to talk about. It’s like when you go into a shop for a carton of (almond) milk and come out with biscuits, toilet paper, a selection pack of crisps, three (dairy-free) chocolate bars and a toothbrush – but no milk.
And why do people get upset when it’s called milk? Who cares? Let’s face it, it’s only because nobody can ask for a ‘carton of nut juice’ with a straight face.
Easter.
Back on track.
Why a bunny?
What’s the connection with eggs?
Well, it seems there was a pagan goddess who was in a bit of bother and in a moment that must have inspired generations of House-Of-Mouse animators, she was rescued by a host of woodland animals. Well, one. A bird.
To show her gratitude, she promoted the bird to the next level of lifedom. To whit – a bunny. But she allowed it to retain its egg-laying abilities (insert your own chocolate egg jokes right about here).
And the goddess’s name? Eostre.
Do the math, as they say.
Happy Easter!

Summer’s here! No it isn’t… Well…

People always joke that you can tell it’s Christmas because Easter eggs are in the shop. Well, we’ve just done with Easter (there are still loads of eggs in the shop, mind you) so, one could be forgiven for thinking that it must be summer now. Is it just me that gets confused by this, or do you humans have a problem with it too?

True, it rains all the time here, so it could very well be summer and nobody has told me. But the rain slamming down on the conservatory roof feels at odds wth the flip flops and picnic paraphernalia I saw half an hour ago in the shops.

The clocks have gone back. The body clock however is having slightly more difficulty adjusting. I’d hate to wake up late one morning and realise that I’d missed summer. It is, after all, the best day of the year. Yes, I know. I don’t like sunshine. It hates me back. But a summer’s day is delightful, if confusing in the wardrobe department.

Sunhat and wellies?

Scarf and sandals?

Waders and sunglasses?

Oh, the combinations are endless.

The furball continues to take me on long walks (she’s currently mapping the local area in her little doggy brain, and enjoys knitting places together in the oddest combinations). She also continues to try to drag me into the sea after her. And all the while, she still refuses to stick her nose out of the door if it’s raining. Consequently, she’s in the conservatory, surveying her kingdom from the warm, dry safety of her sofa. And while she’s out there doing her ‘Mistress-of-all-she-surveys’ routine, it’ll hopefully give me the opportunity to squeeze in some yoga without her

a) giving me an impromptu face wash

b) mistaking my ‘downward dog’ for me wanting to play with her (that often ends up with a rope toy swung into my face)

c) showing me up with how weirdly bendy she is

Our earlier walk was, surprise surprise, on the beach, which this past week has been increasingly populated by tourists with their free-range mutts. Next week, she’s got a shock in store. I’m starting running again. And she’s coming with me.

Ah! I know what the giveaway thing is. I’ve remembered why I keep thinking summer might be on its way.

Endless holiday adverts and people bashing on about being “beach body ready”

Huh?

The beach is ten minutes down the road.

I have a body.

Boom.

Job done.

Oh! You mean the body has got to be perfect?

And by that, you mean so skinny that I could snap in half if caught in a high wind?

Well, that’s going to take a bit longer.

Because I refuse to be told what to look like.

Because even if I did, the vox populi (which thanks heavens, is not vox dei) would still find something to binch about.

Because I prefer to be strong than skinny.

And because, in order to fulfil this impossible and fake ideal, I’d probably have to give up chocolate.

And I’m no quitter.

 

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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