Thursday, 25 February 2016

There and Back Again*

Flann O’Brien tells, in The Third Policeman, how a road differs depending on whether you are coming or going.  When you are coming along it, the road can be inviting, enticingly undulating, gently pulling you towards your destination.  When you are going down the same road, it can be dreary, achingly hilly, frowningly forbidding.  In O’Brien’s novel, it is the road itself that changes, not the traveller, but we don’t need to stretch the metaphor quite that far.

I was, however, planning to stretch it in another direction.  My yesterday was a ‘going’ day.  Today has been a ‘coming’ one. 

The metaphor has, of course, just nearly snapped, because days don’t run in opposite directions.   Only nearly, though, not completely.   My whole life recently has been a-coming, not a-going.

*Quiz question: locate this fictional unfinished tale.

Friday, 19 February 2016

A Study Suggests

There are a lot of academic Studies out there, aren’t there?  Or putting it another way, there is a lot of academic Studies out there, isn’t there?  I’m sure someone has published a learned Study on the subject of The Collective Singular in Modern English. 

In fact I’d be amazed if they/he/she haven’t/hasn’t.  My own Study suggests that the academic study industry, in its broadest encompassment, is set to outweigh all other industries put together.  Nary a day goes by without at least two catching the media’s attention.  And they (the reported ones, that is) seem, mostly, to fall into one of two categories: statements of the bleeding obvious, and pure gibberish. 

The latest to catch my eye is the one suggesting that, in various life choices, we tend to favour the option located on our dominant side.  That is to say, right for right-handed people, left for lefties.  As an instance of this, the authors state that we’re more likely to vote for a candidate on the right-hand side of the ballot paper if we are right-handed, and vice versa.

Now, this is an American study, and America is a democracy (let’s assume) in which the right not to vote is constitutionally, albeit not explicitly, enshrined.  So it’s possible that these authors have never seen an actual ballot paper.  To be fair, I’m not particularly familiar with the details of the American electoral system, except that it involves things called chads, which may be hanging; but I reckon it’s safe to assume that candidates are, as here in Britain, listed from top to bottom rather than left to right.  Er, was this the best example they could think up?

No.  They also suggest that, at an interview, you should sit to the interviewer's right, or left, in order to make the best impression.  Now again, have they ever attended an interview at which they were given the choice of where to sit?  And at which they knew in advance whether the interviewer was right- or left-handed?  And have they considered that, whilst this technique might just improve your chances of getting the job, it might also put you off it?

Gubbish.  Gobbledegook.  Anyone got any other examples of this sort of pseudo-scientific codswallop?

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Country Ways

Not strictly true: Z doesn’t really live in the country in the extreme rural sense, it just feels like it, as those of you who’ve visited her will vouchsafe (and be able to confirm at her next blogfest on 16 July).

But I had a small initiation.  As you know, one qualifying feature of ‘country’ is lack of mains drainage.  Modern septic tanks take care of this with minimal maintenance and, when it all runs (ha!) according to design, rare problems.  It just so happened that my visit coincided with not one but two.  (I firmly deny any complicity…)

Roses, who lives next door, had noticed a bit of a pong, which she’d very easily traced to the feed to her tank.  Well, two of the five senses were quite enough.  So Z’s trusty BMWF (as she calls him) was summoned to the rescue.   BMWF has, I learned, been an energetic tower of strength (if you can have one of those) around the Zedary for more years than there are.  He rapidly ascertained that R’s tank flowed into Z’s, so the latter had to be investigated as the fount (?) of the effluence.  This proved to be untrue, but fortuitous.

Because it turns out there were in fact two separate, quite unconnected, blockages, one for each (entirely unconnected) tank.  This proves how easy it is to build a course of action on a false assumption – as Kingsley Amis memorably epitomised it, the ‘inverted pyramid of piss’.
Of course, once this had been established, the rest was easy.  Just scoop the water and sludge out of Z’s pit, so as to find the outlet pipe; dispose of the sludge; rod the outlet once found; all will then be well.

Except that it wasn’t.  I’m tired now, so I can’t go into the details of how BMWF eventually discovered that R’s problem was easily solved whereas Z’s requires a whole new run of outlet pipe to be laid.  I’m dwelling on my small country life initiation, which consisted of disposing of many gallons of sludge, in a wheelbarrow, down a couple of rabbit holes across the field.  Right, that’s enough dwelling on that.

The sole reason for this post, actually, is to report that, when told this story, Z’s friend apparently remarked “sort of Watershit Down, then?”