For weeks now, due to some obscure malgorithm, I’ve been pursued by this advertisement:
I begin to feel haunted – just like that fellow in Dr Seuss’ Pale Green pants…
I was walking in the night
And I saw nothing scary.
For I have never been afraid
Of anything. Not very.
Then I was deep within the woods
When, suddenly, I spied them.
I saw a pair of pale green pants
With nobody inside them!
I wasn’t scared. But, yet, I stopped
What could those pants be there for?
What could a pair of pants at night
Be standing in the air for?
And then they moved? Those empty pants!
They kind of started jumping.
And then my heart, I must admit,
It kind of started thumping.
So I got out. I got out fast
As fast as I could go, sir.
I wasn’t scared. But pants like that
I did not care for. No, sir.
I’m looking for a Bickle Bush as I write…
You can see the whole book on YouTube here
One of my favourite bloggers A Clerk of Oxford tweeted that today – September 14 – was once called ‘Devil’s Nutting Day’.
The Devil has an affinity with nutting apparently.
Nutting on any Sunday was risky – you might meet Old Nick as a tall, gentlemanly figure kind enough to offer to pull down high branches for you. Otherwise it was today – Holy Rood day – that was especially favoured. This, from a letter John Clare sent to his friend William Hone:
(quoted in The English Year by Steve Roud)
Once you start looking, there’s a lot of information about. Renne Reynolds on her blog (Obstinate Headstrong Girl) writes that:
The tradition of a Nutting Day dates back to 1560 Eton, when boys were given a half-holiday to gather nuts, creating the phrase “gone a-nutting.” Consequently, as one might suspect from a tradition associated with young boys, going “a-nutting” soon became a euphemism for sex and seduction, giving rise to its own saying, “a good year for nuts, a good year for babies.”
I suspect the link between nutting, bad behaviour and old Nick stretches much further back myself.
On another site (German this time, intended for people learning English, although an earnest student would be certainly be met with incomprehension if he used the reference with the average Englisher) the story begins with :
The Devil’s Nightcap (there are several hills with this name) near Alcester, in Warwickshire…formed when the devil was out nutting on September 21st (known as the Devil’s Nutting Day) and met the Virgin Mary. He was so surprised and shocked that he dropped his bag of nuts, which became the hill.
There is an old Sussex saying ‘as black as the Devil’s nutting bag’, which is associated with the superstition that it is extremely unwise to gather nuts in autumn on a Sunday because that is when Old Nick is himself out nutting. Generally people do not go nutting on any Sunday in autumn because you might meet the devil gathering nuts.
It is mentioned in the play, John Endicott, by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow –
ACT I: SCENE II –
Angels in broad-brimmed hats and russet cloaks,
The colour of the Devil’s nutting-bag. They came
Into the Meeting-house this afternoon
More in the shape of devils than of angels.
The women screamed and fainted; and the boys
Made such an uproar in the gallery
I could not keep them quiet.”
My sister, a while ago, was telling me about the unreal demands her managers were making – insisting on ‘quality’ systems that only hindered an overworked and under resourced group of staff.
I came across this today and thought it might be a small comfort to know the Duke of Wellington suffered similarly.
I think bureaucracy could join death and taxes as one of the few certainties of life:
Whilst marching from Portugal to a position which commands the approach to Madrid and the French forces, my officers have been diligently complying with your requests which have been sent by H.M. ship from London to Lisbon and thence by dispatch to our headquarters.
We have enumerated our saddles, bridles, tents and tent poles, and all manner of sundry items for which His Majesty’s Government holds me accountable. I have dispatched reports on the character, wit, and spleen of every officer. Each item and every farthing has been accounted for, with two regrettable exceptions for which I beg your indulgence.
Unfortunately the sum of one shilling and ninepence remains unaccounted for in one infantry battalion’s petty cash and there has been a hideous confusion as to the number of jars of raspberry jam issued to one cavalry regiment during a sandstorm in western Spain. This reprehensible carelessness may be related to the pressure of circumstance, since we are war with France, a fact which may come as a surprise to you gentlemen in Whitehall.
This brings me to my present purpose, which is to request elucidation of my instructions from His Majesty’s Government so that I may better understand why I am dragging an army over these barren plains. I construe that perforce it must be one of two alternative duties, as given below. I shall pursue either one with the best of my ability, but I cannot do both:
1 To train an army of uniformed British clerks in Spain for the benefit of the accountants and copy-boys in London
2 To see to it that the forces of Napoleon are driven out of Spain.
Your most obedient servant,
Thanks to Memex 1.1
Quote of the day:
Flaubert wrote that trains ‘merely permit more people to move about, meet and be stupid’
What price social media?
It’s been obvious for a time that Trump’s actions in the White House are driven – in part at least – by a need to get his own back on President Obama. In this excoriating piece for The Atlantic Ta-Nehisi Coates sets his actions – as they should be – firmly in the context of unvarnished white supremacism:
Trump has made the negation of Obama’s legacy the foundation of his own. And this too is whiteness. “Race is an idea, not a fact,” the historian Nell Irvin Painter has written, and essential to the construct of a “white race” is the idea of not being a nigger. Before Barack Obama, niggers could be manufactured out of Sister Souljahs, Willie Hortons, and Dusky Sallys. But Donald Trump arrived in the wake of something more potent—an entire nigger presidency with nigger health care, nigger climate accords, and nigger justice reform, all of which could be targeted for destruction or redemption, thus reifying the idea of being white. Trump truly is something new—the first president whose entire political existence hinges on the fact of a black president. And so it will not suffice to say that Trump is a white man like all the others who rose to become president. He must be called by his rightful honorific—America’s first white president.
Read the whole piece here,
I came across this lovely thread a while ago. It began with Robert Macfarlane again, choosing as his word of the day, ‘Helm Wind’ – the UKs only named wind that blows from the North East and pours down off Cross Fell in Cumbria.
In medieval Ireland, the winds were each said to have a particular colour (see Saltair na Rann, a collection of 162 Early Middle Irish poems)
So the north wind is black and the south, white, while a wind from the SSE is greyish-green.
Fascinating enough – then @iandhig adds this from Flann O’Brien – scholar and poet that he was:
‘People in the old days had the power of perceiving these colours…a better occupation than gazing at newspapers’ (From the Third Policeman)
I feel guilty about passing on these conversations – albeit they are public ones but, as John Aubrey says:
How these curiosities would be quite forgot, did not such idle fellowes as I put them down.