January 18: a word or turn of phrase

Sometimes it can happen that you see a video from a few years ago – maybe at somebody’s house – and someone – maybe somebody you don’t like – uses a word or turn of phrase on the film and you know he or she picked that up from you because it was your way of referring to something, and moreover, you still use that word or turn of phrase, and you feel oh I’m going to stop using that word or turn of phrase now. That someone has contaminated that word or turn of phrase, stolen it from you.

Alternatively, sometimes you have a word or turn of phrase and a few years later it’s everywhere in the press or on the telly. Has it slipped through from person to person and ended up being used by a powerful person or powerful organisation and now become common currency, all originating from you? Or are you just a conventional mind and others have thought of that word or turn of phrase, many people, and the mass of tide has ended by making that word into a common one? I mean, there are only so many words or turns of phrase that can be invented. Yes, it’s probably the latter.

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January 11: sprouts and literature

I used to dislike sprouts. Many people dislike sprouts, especially when they are young. Now I like sprouts. The taste is the same but the taste needs to be interpreted by the brain, which has lots of other information concerning sprouts, like the fact that they are nostalgic to me now because my feelings about them as a child were so strong and, maybe, the fact that I know they are doing me good. The nostalgia thing is what plays with me most, I think. I enjoy getting up in the winter on a  cold and frosty morning when it’s still dark outside. Again, nostalgia. A route back to the mysterious land of the past.

The brain fiddles with you. The same happens with colour and language, I read this week that it is not necessarily that the Ancient Greeks (Homer, the wine-dark sea) did not see the colour blue through their eyes. They had no specific word for it, so the brain placed the colour elsewhere. Brain scans have apparently seen activity in the brain which imply the viewing of a black and white drawing of a banana as to some extent yellow because we know its usually yellow.

The implications of this go far in things like Neuro Linguistic Processing and sports psychology, but have always done in literature. The sprout is a touchstone of our surprising, wayward sensibility. The sprout makes literature possible.

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January 2: the Joe and Peg car moment

Uncle Joe and Auntie Peggy had a three-wheeler car when I was little. To me at the time this was the most glamorous of cars, because it was cute and because it was owned by Joe and Peg. Joe and Peg possessed a kind of Punch and Judy glamour. They went away on foreign holidays to Spain and Yugoslavia and visited Capri where Joe had an in-depth conversation with Gracie Fields. I didn’t know who Gracie Fields was but it was one of the names you heard grown-ups bandying about. They did home movies. They took us to Hyde Wakes once a year, picking us up from my mums and dads thrillingly without warning. They gave us money for ice cream, Joe using the verb ‘wack’ (the only time I have ever heard this before or since) as in ‘Wack this out between you’ as he cascaded a stream of coppers and silver into our expectant palms. There is a photo of them somewhere in their heyday. They are walking smiling hand in hand down some promenade somewhere and you can see the white three-wheeler in the background, like Noddy’s car. I remember my mum saying how silly they were to be holding hands like that at their age. Sometimes they let me sit in the drivers seat and pretend I was driving. In a sense I was destined to love cars. But then it didn’t happened. We didn’t get a family car until I was about fourteen and by then the deep palimpsest of bus routes was sunk within me. I never saw the car need. What happened was that I outgrew the Joe and Peg car moment, and the dad car moment came too late.

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