Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Morning Stars Together, The Great, Glad Tidings Tell...

I have written a story:

There had been a Fall - of that I am certain, though I have no memory of how, or of hurt to go with this knowledge. There was no mark on me that I could see. No bruise, no break, no seam of blood. There was only the certainty of a Fall, of myself, fallen, and all the world fallen with me. I had a sense of my own wrongness, of exile and enmity. But there is nothing before that, no moment in which I can see my un-fallen self, no recollection of the crime that cast me out. I stand beneath a star-domed, cloud-webbed sky, solitary and afraid. I am addled and memory-stricken; a wanderer, chartless, guideless, a stranger within a country which - for all that I could tell - might be my own. My feet will not stay firm beneath me. The Earth cannot anchor me. The sky above me will not stand still in its course. I am lost, unmoored, nameless and alone, in a world whose shape and colour is strange to me.

Memory, I have none, but I know this bit of Earth upon which I stand. It is dun-coloured, scrub-brushed and olive-treed; hard-baked and dusty. This, like my Fall, I am certain of. But something has happened to it. It has changed, grown white-feathered as a dove; gone soft underfoot, and smells of wet, and of chill, like the Sea upon the first cold morning of the dawning of the world. Star-motes fall from the sky, silver-shot and faintly glittering, to rest upon the rolling white hills of an altered world. One streaks my hand as it falls, burns cold, and warms to water. I lift hand to mouth, taste the sky and look up.

There, low upon the sky, and westward, a single Star kindles to life before me. No star had been there a moment before. Nothing had lived in that blank space, in that black patch of empty sky. Yet now and suddenly, there was a Star, flickering and dancing. I turned left, and right, looking to share this wonder with another of my kind, but I am alone. Alone. Only I, nobody, nameless, am there to see it spark, to catch and flare, like a flame amid its sister stars - only I, to witness the birth of an impossible Star.

Impossible? Aye, for it was a pilgrim Star, unfixed, even at the moment of its birthing. A living light that would not be still, but sported about the sky like a lambkin, in its new-born joy. And so I say again: impossible, for a Star to dance as this one danced. Impossible for it to slip the bounds that set it in Heaven, break free of compass points, and star-charts, and slide down the edges of the sky. Yet, this one did, and my heart, my fearful, flinching, fallen heart, leapt and cowered in equal measure. 

I could not bear the brilliance of it, the bright, boundless, leaping joy of it - “Hope!” it sings to the star-bright, cloud-webbed sky. “Hope!” to the inexplicable world, robbed if colour, glittering, white. Such terrible joy in a single word. Hope - to a fallen, broken world! I cannot bear the glory of it, the exultation. It must not see me as I am. And so, I flee the Star, run in such fear as I have never known. Put my back to its light, and flee, until the air is gone out of me, until my feet are tangled in the white-feathered hills and I fall down, down, down.

The fierce, bright glow of a shepherd’s fire pricks my eyes - hot and red, and blessedly human. It spears at the indistinct sky, smoke wreathing round it. The shepherds themselves are black flickers against the flame. Their sheep drift like clouds through the remote silver light, beyond the circle of its warmth. I am drawn to that warmth, to the bone-cheering, sweet-smelling power of it. Like a mouse, I creep towards it, afraid of notice, but the shepherds allow me that comfort, asking no questions, speaking not a word. From the shadows, a hand forms, passing me a steaming cup. I see a straight profile, haloed in firelight, a beard giving back red for red. I drink heat, forgetting the strange, white world, and dancing, pilgrim star. Here, there are no mysteries, no impossible Hope singing in the heavens, no Fall to bother me. The world is at is has always been – tangible and material. And me, a mere temporary thing upon it, concerned with cold and now, unmoved by the great, unknown things, coming to life around the edge of it  The ground stays still. The stars hide behind a screen of smoke. The air smells of burning olive wood, of sheep’s wool, and men accustomed to hard labour. 

The fire shifts, and sparks fly upwards. A constellation of stars, glowing red for a moment against the smoke and clouds. But they are earth-born things, and they cannot live long upon the air. They wink out of existence almost before they live, and when they are gone, the sky clears. Smoke thins, and ghosts out of being. The last threads of cloud break and part, and there are sudden stars in that space. Brighter, even that relentless Pilgrim - great, winged stars, their light spreading like eagles against the cold sky. Their numbers grow, moment, by moment, until there is no sky left, for the star that throng it.

They are singing - "Glory" - resounding from pole to pole, and all the world answer, "Glory, and Hope!" And though my soul leaps to hear it, the Fallen, broken heart within in cowers and quivers and breaks anew. 

The shepherds are all around me, black against the mingling of red light and gold, tall as trees, their arms branching toward the sky. The starlight make hallowed their work-weary winter faces. I alone in this company of stars and night-watchers, am in the dark. I bow my head to the earth, my face to the cold, feathered whiteness of a world running mad around me. The shepherds have gone, singing, after wingéd stars. The red glow of earth-fire is gone. I am left with only the heavenly light of the fiercely joyful Pilgrim Star. 

We look at each other, that Star and me. "Hope." it insists, and "Come." But I know my wrongness and brokeness, my own and all the world's with me. This is not a place of hope. It is a place of do and die, of here and now. I do not trust in miracles. I do not speak these words, but the Star hears, and it laughs at me. "Come." insists, and though I do not answer it, the birds do.

The cold, glittering star motes are still falling, still burn cold upon skin. Hands ache at the cold, feet turn to iron, weighing one to the ground. It is not a night for delicate things to be winging. Yet the birds come, a mighty squardron of them, pouring across the sky. Starlight silver-gilds each fluttering feather-point, gleams along beaks ad streaming tail-plumes. Larks, there are, and herons, doves and owls, eagles and hawks, redbirds, robins and wrens. The air is alive with the beating of their wings, the air liquid with the sound of a thousand birdsongs. They soar above me in a veritable storm, the wind of their passing is in my hair. 

For an eternal moment, the world is birds, and spring in winter. For an eternal moment, I forget that the world and I are broken. But at last that mighty stream of caroling birds had utterly poured itself out, and I am left, wonder-stuck, between joy and fear, standing before a laughing star. Only a gentle swirl of wind-plucked feathers assures me that I have not gone mad. A last faint echo speaks of their passing - a mere thread of sound upon the air. "Hope...."

Hope? In a world where stars roam freely, and dance and sing? Where a single star-word calls forth birds from the uttermost ends of the world? Where the world has changed its shape and colour, and men and birds run mad with joy? A single red feather gleams at my feet. I pluck it, and it is like fire in my hand, red and gold, lit from within. A firebird's feather, perhaps - a burning creature, that dies, so it might live. 

The Pilgrim Star beckons, and the feather flies to it. I am suddenly afraid. Hope is too terrible a thing for a broken world, and the broken heart within it. The Star goes still for a moment, banking the fire of its jubilation. There is just here and now, and in this now, the Star touches me with a single, ordinary fall of starlight. A single word, breathed out into the aching world - "come." Golden glory trembles in a halo around the star. For a moment more it is a star simply, but the strain is too great. In a riot of joy it spins out across the sky, and looks at me no longer.

So I followed it. What else was left for me to do? Full of doubt, and fallen wrongness, I walked through star motes, over white-feathered hills. The light of the impossible Star upon my face, and a shadow that stretched to the edge of the world, trailing behind me.

How long I followed it I could not say. Having committed myself to the sharing of its pilgrimage, I simply did as it did, nor gave thought of why or how long. Perhaps there were other pilgrims whom it led in a more direct route. Often and often in my journeying through endless black night, with only the Star-guide for lantern, I heard the sound of singing in the distance, of men and women laughing. Sometimes there was the march-music of a shepherd-drummer - once the wild music of a Italian soldier's piping, and I blessed it for the fire it set in my faltering heart. Yet the path the Star led me along was long and music-less. "Hope" still it whispered, when I grew weary, and softer still, "trust", when I was near despair at my hopelessness. I was memory-less, a star-addled pilgrim, until the aching need of hope, was greater in me than any sense of doubt, or despair. 

Then did the Star release my from my discipleship. I stood knee-deep in snow-feathers, at the mouth of a cave. The air was winter cold, and star motes had turned to snow in earnest, but the cave, with its fire-glow, smelled of flowers, and fresh mown hay. I recognised the star-song that had lured the shepherds and the sheep. Softer now, it hummed through the stone and the earth, but glory it still proclaimed. The dancing, impossible star winked once at me. I took my courage in my hands, and plunged into the earth. 

All was a confusion of lights and colour in there. My sight grew misty, and I would have faltered, but compassionate hands clasped at my own, drawing me further in. Great, winged beings, with light-starred hair, thronged the air. I knew them from the shepherd's hill. They were singing, even still, softer than snow, and as warm as love. Birds roosted on every edge and foothold; a congregation of people in the flickering shadows, silent, awe-held. A home-like fire was kindled in the center of the cave, and within its light, a soldierly man, and a woman with a wise young face. She smiled at me as I was pulled, hesitatingly into the circle of firelight - a smile that warmed and purified. She nodded once, and bade me come. Closer I crept, and paused, and peered into the manger-bed before her. 

It was a night of stars, and at first, all I could see was the light. I thought it a star, buried deep within the earth - the brightest and best of all stars. But somehow, at the sight of it, I knew me - knew my name, my wordsmith trade, knew the taste of forbidden fruit in my mouth; knew my wrongness fully. Fallen I was in very truth, but here was Goodness itself, and here was all made right. The broken bits within me righted themselves. They would never be unbroken, but a star that foresook heaven for earth might make a good thing out of me anyway. Salt water splashed on my hand, and my vision cleared. There was a face in the midst of the starlight. Two solemn brown eyes looked up at me, and a tiny, tiny hand reached for mine. A Child was there, nutbrown, and rosy-cheeked, a child whose firm little grasp of my finger anchored me to earth even as my human heart leaped heavenward. A firebird child, all aflame, but unburned. Man I saw in the hollow of the earth - Man and God. God, whose hands had shaped angels and stars and birds, took my hand into His own, held me with all His infant strength; and at the warmly human touch of God, He was mine, and I was His.

"Glory" softly, from the star-haired angels, and from my healed and hopeful heart, I answered - and all the world answered with me: "Glory." 

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

In Those Twelve Days Let Us Be Glad!

On the fifth day of Christmas, my true love sent to me,  fiiiive GOOOOOLDEEEN  rings!

Today is the fifth day of Christmas, and I take this opportunity to wish you all a very merry, blessed, wonderful Christmas season. I shall offer two explanations as to why I am so late into the season with these sentiments of good will. The first is that I have been making rather merry myself. We have had an exceedingly splendid Christmas so far. We have enjoyed good food, good company and particularly good times. I have not felt like pulling myself away in order to poke about on the computer. The second - and probably the greater reason - is that a persistent chest cold has decided that it is tired of being a chest cold, and is flirting with the idea of turning into a sinus infection. It is remarkably difficult to think of writing about anything when one is afflicted with nasty pestilences, So I have not written, I have solaced myself by making merry instead. 

Still, it seems ill to allow the blessed season pass unmarked on a blog that has previously made so big a deal of it. So, I shall share with you some Christmas trivia, taken mostly from the very excellent book, A Christmas Chronicle.

1.) The Fullness of Time

      St. Paul wrote to the Galatians: "But when the fullness of time came, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption of sons." In His own wonderful way, God prepared the world for the coming of the "Expected of Nation" As the fullness of time  approached, there was a common belief that a new age was dawning over the world. In the Autumn of the year 40 BC, the poet Virgil wrote his Eclogue in honour of his friend and patron, Asinius Pollio. In this poem we find the line: "Now the babe descends on his mission from on high." During the Middle Ages, this was generally accepted as a prophecy concerning the coming of Christ.

2.) Augustus ad the Tiburtine Sibyl

      About the year 7 BC, Augustus, who was childless, began to worry about the future of his great empire. At least an ancient legend would have it so. He therefore took himself to the Capitoline Hill to consult the Tiburtine Sibyl. "Who after me shall rule the world?" he asked. The Sibyl meditated for several days; then, recalling Augustus into her presence, she prophesied, "A Jewish babe, descending for the heaven of the blessed by the will of God Himself will soon come in to the world. He will be born of a virgin, and he will be one who is now an absolute stranger to our altars." The legend even relates that the Emperor beheld in a vision a beautiful virgin holding the infant in her arms.

3.)  An Altar to the Son of God.

      After this divination, Augustus erected an altar on the highest part of the Capitoline Hill, and thereon inscribed the words, Haec Ara Filii Dei Est -  this is the Altar of the Son of God. Over this spot was later erected the church which to our day is called Santa Maria in Araceoli. What is supposed to be the original altar is preserved in this church and it bears and inscription wish translated tells us, "Octavian built this altar when the Offspring of heaven appeared to him".

4.)  Ancient Legends and Traditions of Christmas
   Records of Christmas events in the first few centuries are few and far between. It was only later that day took on the universally festive aspect we now know. But there is an ancient tradition of a happening in Rome that takes us back to the very day of the Nativity. According to "The History of Rome" written by the celebrated Greek historian, Dion Cassisu, who went to Rome about the year 180 AD, a fountain of oil broke forth on the site of the Taberna Meritoria, a home for old soldiers in Rome, at the very time of our Saviour's birth. The stream of oil flowed away to the river Tiber in one day. A little oratory was constructed there by early Christians, and to it was given the name Fons Olei (Fountain of Oil). On this site was later built the Church of Santa Maria in Trastevere. An inscription on the marble slab before the main altar of the church mentions this happening.

     The ancient "Calendar of Saints" from Cologne offers, for the year 54 AD, the following interesting account of the Magi who visited the Infant Jesus in Bethlehem: "After they had undergone many trials and fatigues for the Gospel, the Three Wisemen met as Sewa in the year of Our Lord 54, whereupon, they celebrated the Feast of Christmas in common, whereupon, after the celebration of the Mass, they died".

I have other things in mind to post during this Long Christmas time, but for now, I bid ye a good evening and a blessed Christmastime.

PS. You will notice that the Advent playlist has been replaced by a Christmas one. Please check back on it, as I am updating it daily :-)

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Christmas Is Coming, the Goose is Getting Fat...

Christmas is coming.... It's practically here! I am excited! And I am freaking out, as I have done my usually overly-ambitious trick of deciding to make Christmas gifts, AND cards. I had four handmade gifts on my list: I have completed one, am halfway through two, and have one I have not even started on yet. The cards, at present, exist merely in my own imagination, nor has a single rough sketch appeared on paper. Now would be a good time to panic!

No, no. No panicking. I am Mahri! I work well under pressure!

(And who needs sleep anyway?)

But I am taking time out of my busy, busy life to say hello to all of you, my faithful readers, because I am just that nice. Or possibly, I am avoiding working on things I am supposed to be working on. Or maybe the scanty sleep I have been getting (a result of late night craftiness, and a tenacious cough that disturbs what sleep I do manage) has given me an effervescence that cannot be expressed in yarn and stitchery. Or possibly, it is because we've finally had real snow for the first time in years, and I an gleeful and restless, and need someone else to be giddy with me. There is a foot of snow outside right now, which is modest for our area, but more than we have seen in at least two years. It is cold. It is winter. And I - child of winter that I am - am in a state of mild euphoria over the glory of snow.

But clearly I must have some legitimate reason for coming on here and being chatty when I ought to be crafty. And I do, I really do! I have noticed with some disapprobation, that there is a shocking dearth of songs for Advent, and I am setting out to remedy the lamentable state of things. If you will glance at the sidebar in this space, you will observer an addition; a fancy new addition: a playlist entitled "Christmas is Coming: Songs for Advent" and it is the partial result of the authors trawling about youtube looking for things I want to listen to. 

And as I am in a bountiful mood, thanks to lack of sleep and abundance of snow, I thought it only right an fair that I share this list with you, sir.... 

And on that note, I can no longer stay, sir. For my tasks are glaring there are me, in a most unpleasant way, sir. (A chocolate cookie to whosoever knows the songs from which I paraphrase :-)

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Gracious and Good Lord, We Bless You On This Feast of St. Nicholas....

Today is St. Nicholas Day, everyone! Happy feast day!


I've mentioned my fondness for St. Nicholas in this space before, and I shall not go into all that again today. Suffice it to say, St. Nicholas is a really great saint - a far more interesting character than the distant relative, Santa Claus - and one who deserves to be far better known than he is. 

My family has been celebrating St. Nicholas Day for years now. We leave out shoes, as per the custom, and St. Nicholas obliging fills them with candy and things. I usually light a candle in front of my very fine statue of the good saint (depicted in this very poor picture):

We are a very food oriented family. When a celebration is in the offing, we always start by planning what we're going to eat... and drink too, for that matter. There is always a nice dinner on St. Nicholas day. (There is a pot roast cooking at present, fragrant in a broth of rosemary and ale) We will often brew up a very hearty batch of bisschopswhijn which is perfect for the cold winter nights. It is all very festive, very fun, and thoroughly seasoned in tradition. What is not to love about it?

In celebration of the Day, here is a hymn in honour of the saint. 

This is a particularly interesting song, from a linguistic and historical point of view, being one of the earliest English language songs to be preserved with its lyrics

The words are as follows:

Sainte Nicholas, Godes druth
Timbray us faire scone hus
At thee burthe, at thee hare,
Sainte Nicholas, bring us well thare. 

With the translation:

Saint Nicholas, God's beloved,
Build for us a fine dwelling place
At time of birth, at time of death,
St. Nicholas, bring us safely there.

And on that note, may St. Nicholas bless and guide you all.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Fine and Dandy

As readers of this blog know - and, for that matter, anyone with whom I have had a conversation of any length - I have a rather quirky vocabulary. One I am not shy of using to its full potential. There are several factors to account for this. The first is that I have a Californian father, and a Midwest mother. The idiom of my speech reflects this, as I am as likely to say "okie dokie" and "alrighty then" as I am to say "cool". The second is my penchant for picking up words from books - and the books I read often contain a rather antiquated vocabulary. The last is the Irish/Scots influence. My go-to music is Irish/Scots. I watch a fair amount of British film and TV. I have a Scottish friend. The result is that, in addition to an unplaceable (and vaguely Newfie) accent, I have acquired a deal of non-American slang and idiom. And I am like to use words from any of these influences within a single conversation, and frequently within a single sentence.

At this point, the people who are around me on a daily basis take my singular manner of speaking in their stride. No one even blinked, for example when I used "felicitous" this morning to describe the happy outcome of a rather vexing situation. I forget that I don't exactly talk like everyone else. So when someone sees fit to comment upon my choice of words, I am a little surprised by the notice.

In a recent email exchange at work, my correspondent remarked, "I delight in your adjectives, as of late." I paused, and looked back at the last email I had sent. There was this sentence, the only one employing an adjective: "That's dandy." I stared at it for a while, suddenly and acutely aware of the fact that "dandy" is one of those words that I take for granted, and that take others by surprise. The longer I looked at it, the odder that word seemed. Where did "dandy" come from anyway?

As it turns out, no one knows. As far as anyone can tell, "dandy" in the sense I had used it - and in the phrase "fine and dandy" is a slang word of Scottish origin. Beyond that, it is an philological orphan, albeit, tentatively related to a number of other "-dand-" words throughout various European languages. And to make it even more difficult, all of those "-dand-" have indeterminate origins.

Curiouser and curiouser! Furthermore, there is apparently a sub-level of etymology of which I had hitherto been in ignorance: extinct slang, which (apparently) dies out, leaving only unexplainable words (hello, dandy!) to show that it had ever existed. Why the idea of secretive etymology should delight me so much, is a mystery, but I am hugely intrigued by this.

And, if you have made it through all my mandering to this point, I take it for granted that you have had your curiosity piqued as well. In which case, by all means, read this dandy article. It is fascinating and fun. 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Rambling From a Distracted Blogger

It is that time of year - almost fall, with an edge to the wind, a smell in the air, a gilding of yellow showing through the the foliage.... Autumn, the time of adventure, the time when I feel that I must take to the hills, fight trolls, slay dragons, bring home pots of gold to donate anonymously to good causes. I love autumn, but it makes me hugely restless. 

So I attempt to placate this restlessness by walks, in which I collect feathers, and bits of glass, and pretty rocks. Sometimes, I get all creative and draw things:

Le Steller's Jay Feather

Sometimes, I get all introspective, and attempt poetry. Mostly, I have not been having much luck with that, though occasionally, I manage to finish something before the wind sends wanderlust rushing through my veins, and I decided that all is straw:

When they, ravening, gather round me
With keen-edged words that cut me sore;
When I, in anger, and alone, 
Hold the the heart they broke in two - 
May I remember Calvary:
The wounds and words which once Thou bore;
Forgive - as Thou, Who died alone - 
Those, who know not what they do.

Mostly, through, I just read. Sometimes, I even find a book that makes me so happy, that for a time I forget all about going adventuring, and just enjoy my book,

The Moving Toyshop is one such book - and idiotic, farcical romp of a mystery. The detective: one Gervase Fen, an Oxford don, who exclaims, "Oh, my fur and whiskers!" when he is deeply stirred. Who freely, and without warning quotes from various works of literature and the Classics, Who drives at breakneck speed, a horrific vehicle, which he calls Lily Christine III. He is slightly mad, hugely well-read, impulsive, and totally unconcerned about the opinions of the world at large. 

The book itself just bowls along from one ridiculous situation to another. It is a very light work, but it contains a huge amount of literary illusion in it. I don't always get the references, but when I do, I snicker, for they are generally very witty. Even if one is not well-read enough to catch all the illusions, there is plenty of humour to be found. Take, for example, this scene, in which our intrepid investigator, hot on the trail of a Person of Interest, has crashed a choir practice, and is attempting to blend in:

Fen's voice, though penetrating, was neither tuneful nor accurate.

"We STAAAAY not," he came in suddenly, "but WAAAANDER." Several of the basses in the front turned round as if someone had struck them in the back. "We grief-laden," Fen pursued unconcernedly, "grieee-EEEF-laden mortals!"

Or this scene, in which Fen felt the need of an alias, whilst laying low at a public house, close to Oxford, and filled to the gills with literary folk, and is summon the the phone my a porter:

“Telephone call for Mr. T. S. Eliot!” he piped. “Mr. T. S. Eliot?”

To everyone’s surprise, Fen said “That’s me,” got up, and went out, pursued by the interested gaze of the other persons in the bar

Or the mad chase scene towards the end, where everyone even remotely connected with the case, joins in pursuit of a suspect - a pursuit on foot, as they have all be drinking rather freely, and the suspect was the only person to come equipped with a wheeled conveyance:

In any event, just as Fen was wasting his breath in chanting (rather inappropriately) "but with unhurried chase and unperturbed pace, deliberate speed, majestic instancy..."  he ran down the lane that leads to Parson's Pleasure, abandoned his bicycle, flung sixpence and the gate-keeper and disappeared inside.

There is even a passing reference during that chase, of the throng passing The Bird and Baby - a reference that made me wildly delighted. The Bird and the Baby is a public house, properly named The Eagle and Child, which was the gathering spot of the Inklings, back in the day. The Moving Toyshop was published in the 40s, which was when Tolkien was labouring over his first drafts of The Lotd of the Rings (Strider was still a hobbit named Trotters at the time.) In my mind, Tolkien and the Lewises were forgathered in the pub while Fen and his cohorts rushed past, but were so busy making the sort of scenes that they always made in public, that they did not notice the ruckus going on outside.

The Moving Toyshop is probably one of the most satisfactory things I have had the pleasure of reading in a long time. I would heartily recommend it to anyone who is in need of a good laugh, and a darned good read

And on that note, I sink back into the ether. Good night, all!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

We Haven't Done A Library Post In A While

If I had to choose one picture - and one picture only - to summarise the last week or two or three..... or five.... or maybe, the last few months at the library, this one would be it. It ias been crazy...... craaaaazy.... And if coconuts truly are the epitome of craziness, I would have to say that the library is full to the roof of crazy-as-a-coconut people. 

There are all the usual suspects, of course: shady and somewhat mentally diminutive elderly fellows, who suddenly feel obliged to say weird things your's truly, in such a tone and with such a look, that I cannot tell if they have mistaken me for someone else - someone with whom they have an intimate relationship, or if they are attempting to be sexy and pick up a cute young thing, or if there is a bit of genuine 'interest in you as a person' going on. There are the year-round, semi-indigents, who have been such regular customers, that there are times when we (the legitimate library staff) must remind them that they are guests, not branch managers.There are the poor folk whose mental state is shaky at best, who hang about all day long, for days on days, and with whom one has a motherly relationship. ("Have you taken your medication today? No? Well maybe you shouldn't drink any more of that 16 litre Coco-Cola until you've done that. You're going home to do that now?  Splendid!") 

And then, there are people who tell you stories like this:

"Hey... I got a sea story  to tell you!"

Boss and self, finding that we are cornered, assume looks of polite interest. "Oh, yes?" we say.

"Yeah! It was is a story about the Atlantic! I was in Louisiana, near the coast... "

(Self becomes distracted, trying to come up with anyway for Louisiana to be on the Atlantic Ocean.)

".... You know, the coast around New Jersey..."

(Self begins to feel unequal to the task of maintaining a politely interested expression. Self also biting tongue, so as not to correct a lunatic's geography.)

"Yeah, so I am sitting there on a beach, you know, watching the waves and the sand. Livin' the moment, you know...."

An expectant pause... Boss and self nod in complete understanding.

"And then, you know, there's this hole. Just like that. Right in front of me. A hole. And as I'm sitting there, livin' the moment, I start to notice that it's spurting water out. And then it goes all quiet again and I forget about about... and then there is water spurting out again."

"Tide coming in?" Self inquires, in an effort to speed this story along. (If Pippin, from the movie version of The Two Towers had heard me, he would have told me, "Don't talk tae it, Mahri, don't encourage it!")

"So then, this totally hot babe goes by. Dressed in high heels... Fur coat. Classy babe. And I say, 'Hey! Look at that hole! There's water shooting out! Do you have a watch? I want to time how often it happens.' And so she sits next to me, and holds out her diamond encrusted Rolex, and we time it together... and... and it is five minutes apart....."

A prolonged silence. Storyteller's face convulses. Boss and self remain polite for a few more moments. Denouement not forthcoming, boss says, "Yes?"

"And that's all I got." He turned on his heels and left without another word.

Well, the library being the library, and the sort of clientèle we serve, being what it is, we were soon up to our ears with other curious incidents, nor overly bothered at being left in suspense as to the nature of the water-spouting hole, in Louisiana... or New Jersey, as the case may be. The next couple days were spent in waking up people who had fallen asleep at the computer and drooled all over the keyboard. Or in telling the human snail with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder that he cannot store the entirety of his possession in our meeting room. Or listening to stories about the increase in fairy abductions. Also, there is the fielding of inappropriate inquiries -  "do you know what I am thinking now?" with a leer. "I choose not to delve too deep into a strangers' mind", self says, cleverly extricating herself... And let us not forget the woman who had scribbled tattoos all over both arms with a Sharpie, who came charging up to unsuspecting people, placed her face uncomfortably close to their, and demanded that they sell her a cigarette. When they, fearing for their lives, back up, averring that they had no cigarettes, she answered, mysteriously, "Well, then, you're not him." Then she stalk away muttering, "Did you see that? Something's wrong.... People are getting annihilated all over the place here. She was, quite frankly, rather terrifying, and as none of the Mental Health services were available, we called the cops on her. She obligingly lunged at the officer and was taken away in handcuffs...

Indeed, so much drama occurred in the time between the cliffhanger, and the return of the storyteller, that he had quite nearly been forgotten.... He was not the forgetting type, however. A couple days later, he marched in and without preamble announced: "One word: think sand crabs" before walking back out again.... and that was the end of that story.

At present, I am rather tired of people. All people. Crazy people in particular. I feel that if I have to be around them much longer, I too will be crazy as a coconut.

At least my car still runs.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

A Harvest of Days

Well, for all of you who find my calamity stories so funny: I am sorry. Today, you do not get a funny story. My car, I am happy to report is still running. The jury is still out as to whether it will truly "run forever" as the English mechanic avers, but it has run for a whole week without the need of boiling water or jiggling wires. And I have taken it off the hill thrice. So perhaps, it shall whinny with us for some months longer.

At present, I am sleepy, so if there are any glaring errors is spelling, grammar, or punctuation in this post, you will know it is because I have scarcely been to bed in 2 days. It is not because I am ailing - oh no, not at all! Quite the contrary. I have not had so splendid a set of days in some time. The dratted White Dog of Life has been distracted for the time being, and I find that I can stand up in the puddle of my existence without being bowled over. The World Pipe Band Championships took place on Friday and Saturday, and as usually, there was a live stream of the proceedings, for those who wanted to observe the event in real time. I, obviously, was amongst that number, so I dragged myself out of bed at 2 ack emma, so that I might have the pleasure of gluing myself to a computer screen for the next 7 hours, and listening to band after band play the most astonishing music. 

Here is quite a low-quality picture of the blogger, taken
with my pathetic wee phone camera. It is about 3 am,
and I am drinking coffee from an appropriate vessels, whilst
wearing my Inverary and District Pipe Band shirt.

Last year's competitions were quite exceptional, and there were a few sets that were mile-markers. This year... Oh, this year! The piping was transcendent. By the time a mere handful of bands had played, the bar had been set so high that you began to feel as if this could not possibly be mortal men, standing there in a circle on Glasgow Green. Perhaps the Fair Folk had come out of the Hollow Hills and were enchanting us all with fairy music.... Do not mock. At 3 in the morning it seemed a very real explanation for the quality of music we were being treated too. I have no idea how the judges were able to produce a winner, the puir men, nor did I envy them the task. Suffice it to say, the title of Champion, after dwelling with Field Marshall Montgomery these last three years, has gone back to Scotland, With Shotts and Dykehead taking the honours, and my two favourite bands, St. Lawrence O'Toole and Inverary and District, coming in 2nd and 3rd, with only a point between them. I have had as near to my fill of piping as I have ever had, and the world is Good.

Here the blogger, having been out of her bed for 5 hours,
is treating herself to a pre-breakfast glass of Laphroaig,
whilst cheering on her favourite bands

Add to that, the unexpected treat of having Mass on the Feast of Our Lady in Harvest (otherwise know as the feast of the Assumption) and a splendid dinner of barbecued corned beef, with potatoes and carrots (also prepared on the grill as we DO NOT turn on the indoor cooking equipment in this weather) not to mention the luxury of two extra days off from work, and you have yourself one well contented blogger. If only every weekend could be like this!

I have also been attempting to apply myself to my arts lately. (My, aren't we preening!) I have produced a few passible little miniatures over the last month or so:

There us this beehive:

And this curious little medieval dragon and border:

There is this painting. There is a marshy bit of meadow, a couple miles from my home, where a little river comes out to the lake. We've been in a drought for long enough, that the grass comes down nearly to the lake in a wide swath of marsh grass and wild flowers. I like to walk down there if it is cool enough in the evening, and watch the sunset. I came home from one such jaunt and made a paint sketch of it - free hand. No preliminary drawing, just wet washes laid down quickly on top of each other, and a bit of drier painting on top for detail:

And lastly, there is this ladybird beetle - otherwise known as a ladybug in the US - painted up yesterday, for the feast of the Assumption, this particular insect being named for Our Lady:

And lastly, I have been trying to write poetry. I am not entirely sure why I am struggling so much with it. I have attempted four poems in the last month, and none of them have made it through the creative process. I still think the ideas behind them are quite good. I just can't get them out on to paper. This one came to me a couple days ago. The weather has been a bit warm of late, and the summer sun here at nearly 6,500 feet, is piercing, but the nights are getting the least bit cooler, and there is a bit of autumn in the wind. So I wrote this:

Turning From the Sun

The air lies heavy still, with heat
And still too fiercely burns the sun -
Too bright the blue, unclouded sky,
Too hard the earth, for want of rain.

But winds have come now, edged and sweet,
And copper needles, slanting down,
A chill curls where deep shadows lie,
And clouds give hope of green again.

Maybe we will finally have a proper winter here on the West Coast, and the drought will ease, if not leave entirely. I miss snow in winter, and green growing things in summer. 

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Semper Gumby

See this thing:

Clean Battery Terminals Step 3.jpg
From Wikihow

That is a car battery terminal. That is where you clamp the red or black wires to the car's battery. Everyone who has ever had cause to open the hood of a car and glimpse the battery, knows what a terminal is, even if they don't know they know it. 

Here's the thing about battery terminals - they are subject to corrosion. And corroded terminals are a bloody nuisance. They cause your car - which has had its alternator replaced twice in one week - to lose its charge as it sits in your driveway overnight with the engine off, so that when you go out a bit early, intending to run an errand before heading off to work...You find yourself subjected to that increasingly familiar experience of sitting in a car that is so dead, even the dashboard lights quit on you when you attempt to start it. 

And Your mechanic is then subjected to the weekly wail of a stranded and very fed-up female.

"What's your car doing?" the laconic and unflappable English voice demands.

"Its not doing anything. Its just sitting there, and won't start."

"All right, Lovely, I'll tell you what you do. Just pop up under the hood, and look for the black wire on the battery terminal and give it a bit of a jiggle."

"Battery terminal" you repeat dutifully, walking out, phone in hand to the car.

"Right. It will be the one on the right - right up there under the fender. Just give it a bit of a jiggle."

You obediently pop up under the hood and jiggle the black wire on the terminal - which you already knew how to find - it being, after all, the only jiggleable black thing on the battery. Then you try it again - upon which the car gives you a wheezy cough before lapsing back into a coma.

"It didn't start." you say.

"Riiiight. Ok, then. Here's what I want you to do. Boil up some water, right? It needs to be boiling...."


"And then you pour it all over the terminal. Got that? Boiling water. All over. Give it a jiggle. And it will start right up and run forever."


"And be really, really careful not to get any of the water that will come pouring off on to your clothes. Because anywhere it splashes.... it will leave a little hole."

"O... K....."

"Right. Give me a call back if it doesn't start. That's all it needs - well a new terminal really, but I can't do that from here. My arms aren't long enough. So just pour boiling water all over it and that will be you."

So, after vowing to replace the terminal as soon as possible, you take yourself off to boil water and fetch it back. You pour boiling water all over the terminal, taking care to avoid splashing little holes on to your clothing. You gingerly give the black terminal wire another bit of a jiggle and sit behind the wheel, feeling something like a mad scientist, about to test his newest theory. To your relief, the car does start right up, as though its brush with death never happened. Whether it will run forever remains to be seen, but so far, it has carried through the day. You might not have to hit it with a hammer after all.

And you know a new trick. Fancy that.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

Yes, yes. It has been too long. And I should be ashamed and make it up with a long witty post, Alas and alack, that is not going to happen. Nor am I going to explain why. I shall merely leave you with this gif, and allow you to draw your own conclusions:

my week in a gif

Monday, June 8, 2015

Sumer Is Acumen In...

Lhude Sing..... oh blast.

I think I gave myself a mild case of sunstroke yesterday. Or it could just be that this, the first truly hot day we've had thus far, triggered the heat headaches I generally get during this time of the year, when the rest of the world is lhude singing "cucu" and I am considering moving to Antarctica. Or it could be that I had a restless sleep last night. I remember waking at least once to strange dreams. Though I remembered nothing of the dreams when I crawled out of my bed in the pale grey of early morning... I hope all of you Sun Worshippers are pleased. 

But that was a digression. I did not come to lament the passing of clement weather. Not to complain about heat headaches. No! I Came Burdened With Glorious Purpose. I came with a plan. I came to review books! 

I have been making more of an effort lately to read things. I know that such a statement, coming from the mouth of a legitimate book person, must smack of irony. But I am in earnest. I have not been reading nearly as much as I like, and this grieves me. The trouble is twofold: One, that my own predilections in literature are rather quirky, and run very counter to popular trends in books these days. And two, that I have a remarkably low toleration for the style of writing in most popular fiction, coupled with an intense dislike of the obligatory tough female romantic interest (and all the paragraph-skipping nonsense that goes with it) which current storytelling finds impossible to dispense with. The result of this is a discouragement that quite puts me off reading for a while - a state of existence which my teenage and young adult selves would have found inconceivable. It is most unpleasant, as I miss the singular satisfaction that come with immersing oneself in a good book. So I have been making more of an effort to find things to read. The results have been mixed:

The Short Reign of Pippin IV by John Steinbeck

I did not have very high hopes for this one. I dislike Steinbeck, mostly on principle, and doubt I shall every read another one of his books again. However, once or twice a year I try to read something nominally 'classic' that falls outside of my comfort zone, and had stumbled upon a review of this particular work that made me think it worth a shot. I was pleasantly surprised.

The action takes place some time after the close of WWII, and France's dozens of political parties are so at each other's throats, that they are unable to elect - much less keep - a government in power. Once they have all argued themselves hoarse, they decide on a most unexpected course of action. They decide to re-instate the monarchy. What they are looking for is a patsy. What they get is Pippin Héristal, legitimate heir to Charlemagne and amateur astronomer, whose sole ambition is to gaze upon the heavens in peace… and who astonishes the nation (and himself) by taking the job of monarch seriously.

It is a very light work, and the satire is merely farcical, not mean-spirited. Pippin is a rather endearing. Like many good kings of myth and story, he goes out to meet his people, incognito. In Pippin’s case, this means dressing in his oldest clothes, and dashing about on his little motorbike. He talks to the people and he listens to what they have to say. The story bubbles along, cheerfully pitting the unworldly Pippin against the self-interested modern world he has been dragged in to. There is a chapter near the end that gets a bit bogged down with the sort of political ideology that makes me so leery of Steinbeck, but it is brief, and gentle, slightly bittersweet ending makes up for it.

Would I recommend it? Well I wouldn't exactly go around shouting its praises. The Napoleon of Notting Hill takes the idea more seriously. The Mouse That Roared is more fun. Still it is quite charming, and Pippin is such an altogether nice man that I quite enjoyed my time with him. So, yes. If you are looking for some pleasant reading for an evening or two, give Pippin IV a try.

Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz

This might be the one and only time in my life that I have completed a book by a popular author. I was going to say that it is the first bestseller that I ever got all the way through, but due to the vagaries of human nature, both Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society were on the bestseller list. So let it be noted that I am capable of enjoying popular fiction. But Dean Koontz falls into a category of author I avoid with almost snobbish superiority. To a man, these authors churn out books with impossible frequency, and write with a curiously voiceless prose that serves merely to tell the story. There is nothing special about it, nothing to give pleasure to the inner ear of the reader. It is a vehicle, nothing more.

Why, then, you might well ask, would I bother with such a book at all? Well, in part so that I could say that I had actually read one of those authors that everyone else seems to love, and that, having tried, I can be honest in my dislike. And in part, because I had read a review about the Odd Thomas series, extolling its orthodox Catholic underpinnings, and I believe that much good can be accomplished by weaving traditional philosophy and theology into a popular story in a modern setting. So I took the plunge and read the thing.

I shall be honest right off the start and admit that the protagonist, the premise, and the way the story plays out, reminds me a bit of Matt Murdock and Neflix's Daredevil. It is possible that I would have enjoyed Odd Thomas more, had I not already seen Daredevil - and had Daredevil not done it better. It did have some good things going for it. The story itself was not bad at all, though a bit too much like a popcorn film. There was enough conscious morality to save it from banality. The titular hero is a 20 year old fry cook, whose first name really is Odd. (Odd is actually quite a popular name in Norway. It comes from an old Norse word meaning a sharp edge.) Our Odd can see dead people, as well as a creepy sort of spirit which he terms bodachs, which are heralds of coming death. They bear only the slightest resemblance to the bodachs of folklore - it is simply the word Odd uses for them. Because of his ability, he is about to assist in the solving of old crimes, and in preventing new ones. Odd himself is a very good character, old for his age, wise and wry - given to an entirely understandable discouragement at times, but retaining a sturdy hopefulness. He tries to be virtuous and is honest about his weaknesses. He doesn't bother with whether his ability is a blessing or a curse. It is merely a responsibility, and it makes him selfless. Odd regularly goes out in to dangerous situations, in an attempt to use his gifts for good, and often comes home quite the worse for wear. I really like Odd a lot, and if I ever read another book in this series, it will be solely on account of himself. It was refreshing to come across such a wholesome and principled character.

The writing is what killed this one for me. For the most part, it was merely bland. It disappeared into the landscape, and so long as it stayed that way, it was bideable. However, it occasionally lapsed into a hard boiled attempt at something vaguely poetic. Every time it did that, I was pulled violently out of the story, recasting the phrase in my mind, trying to twist it into something that wasn't trying so hard. The short, taut chapters made it easy to keep turning the page and reading "just one more" before getting on with the rest of the day, but I think the momentum fell off a bit about halfway through. By the end, I was just frustrated with the pat way the story covered all the points. There was nothing superfluous in the writing. It was very economic, which is not a bad thing, but... well, for me, at any rate, there was no joy in the telling. The story was just there. 

Would I recommend it? You actually get a caveated answer. I would not recommend it to my friends, as their taste runs similar to mine, and they would probably all be as frustrated with it as I was. However, it was an entirely decent book - a good deal is made about the chastity of an important couple's relationship - and I can see what the author was doing with it. I wanted to like it. It just didn't suit me. But, I would have no qualms whatsoever in recommending Dean Koontz to librarian patrons, who are fond of that sort of thing. Indeed, it is rather nice to know that I have that option now.

Vango by Timothee de Fombelle

I have been trying to read more books for adult, and get away from YA stuff - mostly because I like a certain amount of maturity and thoughtfulness in my reading - even when I am reading for fun. That is not to say that I don't read a fluff. I do. I have, indeed, been reading far too much fluff and I am a bit tired of it. Vango, however, sounded intriguing  "....In a world between wars, a young man on the cusp of taking priestly vows, is suddenly made a fugitive..." The first chapter opens with Vango, laying on the ground with other young men, at the beginning of the ordination ceremony, and ends with him climbing the Gothic carving of the cathedral face, to escape a gunman who is inexplicably shooting at him... and catching a ride on the zeppelin which miraculously appeared at that very moment. From that point on, we get an understated, old-fashioned story, full of chases and shadowy men, mystery, intrigue, and adventure. The book is set between the wars, and the tone of the book matches the time period. It is impossible to give any sort of a summary without spoilers, so I shan't try. The downside of it, to get that out of the way, is that this book is apparently the first in the series, and ended without any real resolution, which disappointed me. But the book itself.... Well, for all the familiar feeling of an old-fashioned yarn it had about it, I can't remember the last time I read anything quite like this - certainly nothing that has been recently published, and definitely no other YA book that I can bring to mind. There is a hidden monastery on an island, that figures largely into the plot, and I doubt that anyone else has ever come up with such a swashbuckling reason for a monastery to be hidden. I want to live there. Vango is believable as a young man who wants to be a priest, but he is not annoyingly pious or faultless - quite the opposite. He is sweet, quiet, meek, obliging - and also stubborn, reckless and impetuous. I really want him to be a priest... but there is a dashing young woman in the book too, who is not a love interest yet, but shows every indication of turning into one in the next book. I didn't want to like her for that reason, but she is so spunky and fun, that I do like her. Quite a lot. I just would rather she remains Vango's sisterly friend. 

Would I recommend it? Oh, come on. There is a zeppelin. And a hidden monastery. And Italian islands. And a hidden treasure. And a young man on the run. Of course I recommend it.... I should however, in fairness, point out that Vango tells its story on its own terms. It is not a fast paced book, for all the drama and suspense it generates. The author has an easy affection for the story, and easy affection for his characters, and a delight in the landscape and time period he has set the story in. I keep using the phrase "old fashioned" to describe it - and it is. But sometimes, old fashioned hits the spot, and on that level Vango delivers. I am looking forward to reading the next book in the series. 

Tuesday, June 2, 2015


The grackle’s voice is less than mellow,
His heart is black, his eye is yellow,
He bullies more attractive birds
With hoodlum deeds and vulgar words,
And should a human interfere,
Attacks that human in the rear.
I cannot help but deem the grackle
An ornithological debacle.
                                                                  Ogden Nash

Warm weather being upon us, and self somewhat paltry in stamina due to my own laziness, I have begun to take longish sort of walks in the not-quite summer weather. I walk briskly. I stride vigourously along the shoreline of the lake, watching the gulls and terns at the fishing, the sandpipers, dancing at the very edge of the water. And I encountered The Grackle.

See this thing:

From Wikipedia

That is a grackle, a not uncommon creature in these parts... They have their points.Their plumage, sooty from a distance, upon close observation, turns out to be iridescent - deep blue and green and purple gleam out from the black depths. So beauty we might grant them. That is one point. They are also fierce - brawly fierce. I have, myself, seen a mere handful of them drive away a raven, and it was a mighty satisfying sight indeed. But neither iridescent plumage nor ferocity can change the fact that I like the grackle very little. They are Not Nice Birds.

They have terrifying yellow eyes:

From Hilton Pond

And they used these horrible orbs to give the innocent passer-by the malocchio. And if said passer-by is not intimidated by it, the grackle follows, golden eyes fixed maniacally upon him:

A black bird with yellow eyes sitting on a railing.
From National Park Service

From eBird Seed


Still, I am not one to be intimidated by a small, iridescent blackbird, however evilly he might stare. I've got a fairly decent stare myself, if we come right down to it. But grackles, you see, have another trick hidden up their feathers: for the sheer hell of it they dive-bombing things.....

From ABC Local

Being dive-bombed by a grackle is exciting. I know, One did that to me this morning - cawed ill-humouredly first, then hurled itself down on my from upon high. It wasn't out for blood. Its claws merely scraped against my scalp as it snagged a great lock of my hair and attempted to fly off with it. It was alarming and startling, but I can't say it really hurt. I thought I must be near the thing's nest, but a glance upwards, revealed a nest around which a whole squadron of swallows was wheeling, so I could not even find a good excuse for the wretched beast. It was just a mean-hearted bird that had probably had a bunch if indignant swallows chasing it off all morning, and figured it just needed to put the fear of God into some unsuspecting, flightless beast... and I was handy.


Sunday, May 17, 2015

One Doodle and Two

Yesterday was the feast day of St. Brendan the Navigator. St. Brendan was an Irish explorer monk, the patron saint of sailors, who is credited with the discovery of America in the 6th century. (I've written about it before.) Tolkien wrote a poem called The Death of St. Brendan - or, alternately, Imram, about St. Brendan's adventures. You can read the whole thing here and you really should do so. It is lovely. Many years back, I started a project involving writing the whole thing out on pale blue paper, in Tengwar, with watercolour illustrations and silver gilding all over the place. I didn't get so far, though I still have the pages I wrote out, and would like to start fresh, as I never did entirely abandon the idea. However, I have been thinking about it a good deal more than usual the last few months, because St. Brendan figures into the myth-building part of the story I am working on, and that line of Tolkien's "a cloud, a tree, a star..." has been going about my head while I struggle to write what I want to write. I ended up doing a small illustration for the poem yesterday. It started on a cheap bit of scrap paper while I was at work, and though it was meant for a draft, the sketch was better than anything I was likely to follow it up with, so it turned into the illustration. Cheap scrap paper does not lie flat once you splash watercolour on it, even if you are restrained in the splashing, so it did not photograph as well as it ought. But I was rather pleased with it. So here you are, a day late: St. Brendan the Navigator:

This other picture takes a bit of explaining. Several of my co-workers were discussing small children the other day and how small children generally want to grow up to be famous. They both agreed that they had wanted to be famous when they were little, and that seemed to clinch the matter. That is, until one of them looked at me sitting there, and amended it to, "Except Mahri. Mahri never wanted to be famous." Which was true. I wanted to be good at thing, I just didn't care who knew about it, and I said as much, aloud, to the amusement of the audience. "You just wanted to be Daredevil." one of them remarked, and I, after a stunned moment, agreed whole-heartily. The timing of this conversation was rather uncanny. My sisters and I were in the middle of watching Daredevil at the time, though I hadn't mentioned it to anyone at work, and the idea of being a sweet anonymous person during the day, and a skilled avenger at night (thus maintaining my anonymity) appealed to me strongly. So I came home a doodled a Daredevil librarian, which was gradually embellished (ha, what a word for so slight a work) with a tiny bit if watercolour and some green and brown ink. The result isn't nearly so impressive as the image in my mind, but I rather liked it when it was finished. 

And that is that. Doodles, as usual. I think I must make an effort to work at this art stuff a little more seriously than I have been. I enjoy it. It's just not my strongest suit.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Hi There!

Well, golly. It has been nearly two weeks since my last post. How time flies. Not that you are missing much by my silence. There is no news. Life is life. I am taking a bit of a break from poetry after that furious spate of it last month - though I do intend to go back and read it over and clean up the best ones to keep.... or maybe even do something with them. Don't ask me what yet. Meanwhile, I am doing a bit of regular writing, and some doodling, and some reading, and watching telly... You know. Ordinary life things. 

But since I really don't want to let things languish around here, and since I have a line of tags waiting to be done, I thought I would drop in and be hilarious.

There are two Leibster Blog tags - one from Amy and one from Bella. We shall dispense with the requisite 11 random facts about myself. Either you know me well enough not to be surprised by my randomness, or you are really much happier remaining in ignorance of my eccentricity. So, straight on to the questions:

Amy has earnestly inquired:

1.) How do you feel about pool noodles?
    I don't know. I don't use pools. I swim - when I swim at all - in a lake, and use fallen trees as floatation devices.

2.) Forest or Ocean?

3.) On a scale of 1-10, how adorable do you think Camels are?
     Zero. A big egg. They are hideous and smelly and rude.

4.) Would you ride a camel? Keeping in mind that they spit.
      Does this camel come equipped with a zamburak? If a zamurak is involved, I might overcome my loathing of the beast for a chance at the thing. Otherwise, the only thing that would induce me to mount up would be if the fate of the world depended upon it. 

5.) Batman or Captain America?(Don't worry, I don't judge... Okay, I do, but I'll be kind.)
     Captain America. He is a good, old-fashioned gentleman. I find him refreshing.

6.) Bananas or Pineapples?
     I love pineapples excessively. Do you know if you eat too much pineapple, you can give yourself raw sores around your mouth? I know this from bitter experience. Therefore, I am going to stick with bananas. Bananas are good. All that potassium. 

7.) How well can you chop an onion?
     *sniff*. *sniff*...  My eyes..... my eyeeeeeees!

8.) Given a choice between jogging 5 miles or doing boxing for 20 minutes, what would you do?
     I frequently feel like punching people in the face, so boxing, hands down. Furthermore, I  question why anyone would run unless they were being chased... or expecting to be chased, in which case, I would suggest that they question their life choices.

9.) What was your favorite picture book as a very young child. 
      I truly do not recall. My earliest book memories are of my mother, reading aloud from  Laura Ingalls and The Outlaws of Ravenhurst.

10.) On a scale of 1-10, just how good are your reflexes?
       Um... throw something at me and we'll find out. 
11.) Are you a morning person or should others be afraid for their lives if they bother you before you've had your coffee?

So there's Amy's questions out of the way. Bella, on the other hand, has demanded answers to the following:

1.) Do you like Mint?
     Are you referring to money?

2.) Have you ever been on a motor boat?
     Once. There was a depth finder on it, and you could tell when we hit the drop-off, because it maxed out at 1,000 ft. and stopped working. I found it hugely unnerving.

3.) Do you like Cinnamon in your Cocoa?

4.) Have you seen The Court Jester?
     The pellet with the poison's in the flagon with the dragon. The vessel with the pestle has the brew that is true.

5.) Do you write?
      I wouldn't say so myself, but my friends all tell me I can.

6.) Firefox, Chrome, or the Big e?
     I used to prefer Internet Explorer. My old computer ran it faster than Firefox, and it did not insist on being part of every facet of my life, the way Chrome does. However, the new computer does not like Internet explorer. Firefox is constantly suspicious of very activity I use it for, so I am putting up with Chrome. And telling it no very firmly when it gets too invasive.

7.) Do you read comic books?
    If, by this, you mean have I gone through the entire Calvin and Hobbes collection, or if I have been known to read the occasional Tintin book, then yes. If you mean things like Marvel and DC, then no. The fact that I am something of a Marvel movie fan right now, comes a surprise to me. I think it is the casting and the dialogue. I have absolutely no desire to go back to the source.  

8.) Do you like Ice skating?
     I did, Once...... I don't want to talk about it.

9.) Do you like strawberries and scones?
     Och, aye. Its braw, halesome food, scones.

10.) Fantasy or Action Adventure?
      I watch what I want, and I don't care about genre. I prefer things without obligatory love interests. I find love tedious.

11.) Movies or TV shows?
       See above. 

There, don't you feel like you know me so much better now? 

And lastly....... Melody's Lord of the Rings tag. We haven't talked about Lord of the Rings in a while, have we? Ehehehe. My favourite topic :-)

1.) How were you first introduced to LotR/TH? Was it love at first sight/read?
     I don't actually remember a time when I did not know about Tolkien. My parents owned paperback copies of The HobbitThe Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion. I remember staring at the trees on the cover of The Hobbit, trying to decide if I liked them - I was used to pine trees and not sure what to make of the things Tolkien had placed on either side of river. I did like the little Barrel-Rider, though. The Hobbit was one of the first books I read on my own, and I loved it from the very first chapter.

2.) If you could meet the actors who portray the characters in the movies, would you?
     Probably not. I sort of have them all fixed in my mind as the characters they play, and I'm content to leave it at that. However, I will say that Billy Boyd is good fun to watch in interviews. He tends to be rather thoughtful on subjects like poetry, Tolkien's world-building, and music. 

3.) What is your favourite credit song from LotR/TH?
     Credit song only? Drat. My favourite thing to come out of all the films is probably the dwarves singing about the Misty Mountains. I have a very soft spot for Into the West, especially the bit when the French horns come in an play that little fall that also plays behind the scene where Gandalf is telling Pippin about a far green country under a swift sunrise. 

4.) The Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit?
     Well, I am going to take this as a question about the books rather than they movies. I have a small, leather-bound copy of The Hobbit in my purse - a gift from a sister, and my emergency reading for whenever I need such a thing. The Hobbit has the delightful quality that allows you to open it at random, and start reading with complete enjoyment from wherever your eye happens to light. It is a comforting sort of book - the chocolate brownie of Tolkien's Middle Earth. For all that, The Lord of the Rings is a better book, and I always come away from it feeling deeply moved, and determined to be a better person. 

5.) Who is your all around favourite character?
     It is always a toss-up between Pippin and Boromir for me. I identify with both of them to a certain degree, I like the way Pippin starts out as a foolish and rather soft character, who has trouble seeing the big picture, and turns into a great hero in his own right. On the other hand, I like the way Boromir starts out heroically, but falls, and so completely redeems to become more heroic than before, Both characters give me hope for my own self. And there are times when I understand Eowyn better than I ought.

6.) What is your opinion of Boromir?
     I was very young when I read The Lord of the Rings the first time - 11 or 12, I think. That first time through, I tended to agree with Sam's opinion of everyone and everything, and since Sam mistrusted Boromir, I did too. However, his death caught me hard, and I surprised myself by crying over him. I didn't read it again for a couple years, by which time, I had grown up enough to appreciate Boromir on his own terms. He wasn't my favourite character - that was Pippin at the time - but I thought that he had too much responsibility on him and pitied him. By that time, The Lord of the Rings had entered a special category of book - the book you always feel like reading, and which you have to consciously resist reading, so that you do not make yourself sick of it. I tried to wait a couple years between each reading, and the result was that as I grew and matured, the book seemed to grow and mature with me - every time I read it, there was something fresh and astonishing about it. By the time I was a young adult, I found myself liking characters I hadn't paid attention to before... and meeting all my old favourites again for the first time. And Boromir went from being the guy I was sorry for, to something astonishing - a man who was tested beyond his limits, who fell, and whose repentance was so complete that he transcended mere goodness and achieved greatness - heroic sanctity, if you will. As a result, although I am well aware that there are better characters - Faramir, for example - Boromir is the character that never fails to inspire me.

7.) How many times have you watched the movies/read the books?
     A huge number of times. Honestly, I can't even give you an estimate. (except the Hobbit movies. I've seen the first two once, and not gotten around to the last one. I love the hobbit parts. I just don't like everything else.)

8.) What book is your favourite?
     *Smirk*. Maria the smarty replies: The Lord of Rings because it is technically one book.

9.) Who is your favourite female character?
      I think I actually like Galadriel better, but the older I get, the more I tend to identify with Eowyn.

10.) Favourite male character (not mentioned in #5)?
    Beregond. He's the Tower Guard in the book, who fought off Denathor's guard's and saved Faramir's life.

11.) Which if the movies, in your opinion, has the best ending?
      The Return of the King, obviously :-)

Ta Da! Never let it be said that I scorn a tag. Or two. Or three. And now, the hour is late and the road is long. I bid you all a very fond farewell.