You can tell I’m manic this morning; no sooner have I finished one post than I want to write another. I’ve started listening to the Greek conversation practice and it’s so hilarious I just had to tell you about it. They start with things you do in the morning and it begins normally enough; I get out of bed, I make some coffee, I brush my teeth etc but then it goes on to I argue with the children and I avoid the neighbours before proceeding to I get on the bus followed by I have a nap. Well I guess after all that arguing and avoiding people you’d need a nap. The phrases are much too fast; having taught both French and English I know you need to go a lot slower, but listening is good. The trouble I’ve had with learning Ancient Greek is that it’s totally book-based, whereas I learn best if I can hear the language spoken. I might get the Italian one as well, which I’ll find a lot easier because (a) they have the same alphabet so I can visualise the words and (b) I already know some Italian. It’s slightly disconcerting though because it begins with a phone conversation;
Woman: Hello. How are you?
Man: I’m fine. What are you doing?
Woman: I’m washing the dishes. What are you doing?
Man: I’m watching TV.
Hmm. Language-learning does tend to be more stereotyped because stereotypes are easier to recognise. I once had a Punjabi teacher who had a fund of sayings in that language, most of which were horrendously sexist. Know your audience, guys! A propos of which I once, as an English teacher in Spain, showed my class an episode of Fawlty Towers and was struck by how insulting the character of Manuel must seem to them.
Two more books have flooded in: the Greek New Testament guide and the Funky Gibbon, so that’s only the atheist one to come, which I shall have to chase up. It is good to know that books can arrive; I was beginning to wonder if they’d got lost in some weird Covid-related sub-ether – not that I know what a sub-ether is, it’s just a phrase knocking about in my subconscious. As I write the hedge man is attacking our hedge with ferocious clippers. He has hay fever so his whirring and shearing is punctuated by loud and irritated sneezes.
We are quite concerned here about Leicester being newly locked down; not that it affects us particularly apart from my mother-in-law living in that catchment area, but because it’s an indication that lockdown is being eased far too soon and that we are in for another spike. I’ve generally always liked and respected the Mayor of Leicester, Sir Peter Soulsby, but he has blotted his copybook somewhat by breaking lockdown to visit his partner and has now claimed that the number of cases in Leicester has been exaggerated. This seems irresponsible to me and his assertion that the numbers are higher because they’re testing more people is worthy of Johnson himself. Do better, Soulsby!
The hedge man being here makes me think of hedge-priests who were a sort of wandering Quaker before Quakers were invented (were Quakers invented? Or were we discovered?) because I guess George Fox was a sort of hedge-priest, travelling from place to place, sleeping rough and insisting on giving his testimony in the churches. I think he must have been something of a pain in the arse, but then lots of these people are – like St Paul, for example – because in order to start something new you probably have to be a grade A PITA. It’s hard to imagine nowadays the sort of bull-headed commitment to a cause which would lead you to sleep in the hedgerows and make yourself universally unpopular, but whatever it is, I certainly don’t have it.
I was reading this morning a testimony about living more simply, having fewer possessions, less clutter and so on. This is something I generally aspire to and fail at dismally: last night I kept waking up and worrying about the dishwasher which I thought might be blocked (it wasn’t.) I often think of this photo of Gandhi’s possessions when he die
and look around me at everything I own. I imagine Gandhi, for all his virtues, must also have been another great pain in the arse; however committed to non-violence, his wife must have found him a great trial. These great men, important though they were, rarely adopt a consensual approach to anything.But going back to possessions, I think it’s not so much about what you own as your relationship to it. Do you fear losing everything or can you contemplate this with equanimity? It’s an odd thing but I can imagine losing everything we’ve got in storage without being too upset – but take away my dishwasher and I’d be devastated. The thought of all that bloody washing up every day… ugh.