I went to Doncaster yesterday and of course the first thing I did afterwards was to see if it’s mentioned in The Meaning of Liff.  It isn’t, but in the process I discovered that there’s a Yorkshire Meaning of Liff inspired by the great Douglas Adams/John Lloyd volumes, and I have to say it looks like a belter.  But I was there for a much more serious purpose, to visit Daughter and Bump and to see their new house.

She warned me the place looked like a bomb site and it wasn’t much of an exaggeration: the roof has been done but practically everything else is stripped out and remains to be filled in with better components.  Rewiring needs doing, the kitchen and bathroom require fitting, fireplaces filling and replacing and – oh, gosh, just about everything.  And they need to move in before August.

Anyway, it’s a good solid house, built like me in 1957 (an excellent year.)

Doncaster as a place is a little ramshackle.  I was trying to get some sense of when it dates from but the feeling I get is that it’s like Leicester and only really took off in the 19th century, reaching its peak in the mid-20th when lots of industries were thriving.  They’ve now all gone of course, and this was one of the main reasons Doncaster as a whole voted for Brexit; because there are no proper jobs, only crappy ones in the catering and service sector.

I remarked to Daughter as we walked around that the place seems full of Brexit bulldogs; macho men with mean faces and houses sporting flags.  She agreed.  But this video gives another perspective on the Brexit debate, offering what is generally called the Lexit perspective.  I realise Corbyn has annoyed many by sticking to his position on Brexit, which is that the vote must be honoured, but I can’t honestly blame him: after all, he’s doing what most people admire him for; sticking to his principles.

But back to Doncaster, and one of the things I noticed was what turned out to be the Minster; a huge imposing building which sadly I didn’t get a chance to visit.  Next time I hope to rectify that – but we did see the old Wool Market, now a covered marketplace with small shops inside, and the centre of the old town which again reminded me of Leicester.  Yorkshire was of course a centre of the wool trade: an uncle of mine worked in that trade and did business with mills in Bradford and other towns.

I’m now going to look up the history of Doncaster and see how much I got right.  Well!  Turns out comparisons with Leicester were spot-on because there was a Roman camp (should have guessed that from the name) and a medieval town (mostly burned down in a fire) and it grew in the 19th and 20th centuries to roughly the same size as Leicester.  The Minster, originally medieval, burned down in 1853 and was replaced later in the 19th century by the present building, though it only got Minster status in 2004.  I’m not sure of the difference between a Cathedral and a Minster – I’ll have to look that up some time.  In the 14th century Doncaster was the wealthiest town in South Yorkshire, which gives added irony to its current situation.

Anyway I look forward to seeing more of the place (and the Daughter, of course: I met the in-laws while I was there who were lovely people.)

Kirk out

Mornington Crescent

image removed on request

Reading this post from the other day put me in mind of Mornington Crescent, one of the silly games people play on ‘I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue.’  I like ‘Clue’, as it’s generally known, as well as the next person, but lately it’s been somewhat spoiled for me by the utter mania of the audience.  Where do they find these people, and what are they on?  How can they summon up such whooping enthusiasm for Hamish and Dougal having had their tea yet again???  How can one song to the tune of another bring on such incontinent ecstasy?  I enjoy these games too and I like Jack Dee’s deadpan put-downs as much as the next person, but the manic audience strips the programme of all subtlety.

I digress.  My favourite game in this welter of silliness is Mornington Crescent, a test of ingenuity and knowledge of the London Underground where the goal is to reach Mornington Crescent station before the other players.  It sounds complex and intricate: in fact it’s a hoax; there are no rules and the fun is to make it sound as though there are by seeming to think very hard about your next move and by bringing in certain technical-sounding phrases (‘ah, I see you’re using the Kings’ Cross switchback there,’ and so on.)  But, as OH has so shrewdly pointed out, there are in fact meta-rules because the game wouldn’t work if the first player simply said ‘Mornington Crescent’ straight away.  You have to leave it long enough to be plausible, yet not too long as to become boring; plus you have to bring in unusual stations which seem to be connected to ones already mentioned.  And it has to be funny.

Are the British alone in finding our place names amusing?  Americans don’t seem to do this at all; they pronounce the most bizarre of names with nary a smirk, but we Brits chortle at the mere mention of Bognor or Chipping Sodbury.  Douglas Adams took this tendency and went global with his Meaning of Liff, taking place names around the world and inventing definitions to go with them: our favourites are Grimbister, a group of cars all travelling at the same speed because one of them is a police car, and Berepper, a subtle but audible fart.  And it seems to me that a similar amusement is at work in MC because there are certain combinations of names which are inherently funnier than others.  Like Mordern, say, or East Cheam or – well, Mornington Crescent.

Yay!  I win!

Clue must be due back on air for its 731st series soon… and in case you can’t find it, Mornington Crescent is on the Northern Line (the black one) just North of Euston.

Kirk out

Return to Didcot

Didcot ( is one of those names that’s funny in itself, like Bognor, Cleethorpes, Chipping Sodbury and of course Cockfosters.  A Didcot (OH has just sneezed on me.  When I thanked him for that he said, ‘but we’re always exchanging mucus.’)  Anyway, a Didcot is a small circle of paper which springs out of a hole-puncher such as guards on trains used to have when they clipped your ticket.  According to where they punched it you could have a nice neat hole near the edge or else a semicircular bite taken raggedly from the edge as if a tiny and very hungry dinosaur had been at it (why a dinosaur?  Don’t ask me, I just write the stuff…)

But Didcot has a particular resonance for OH and me, because of a weekend away.  I don’t remember where we went but we were rowing (rowing in a boat, not having an argument).  At least, I was rowing and OH was trailing one hand languidly in the water, since I learned to row as a child and OH is absolutely hopeless: left in charge of the oars he would go round in circles before letting in water and slowly sinking.  Anyway, I quite enjoy rowing so there we were and it was lovely and languid and peaceful until… (cue sinister music) The Guides.

If you want to read the full grizzly story, it’s here:

I’m off now to paint the Forth Bridge… at least, that’s what it feels like

Kirk out

Life on the i-player

The Meaning of Liff

Douglas Adams’ fans will recognise this instantly as an eccentric dictionary of his: rather like a more successful version of my ‘eccentrictionary’ it featured odd-sounding place names and put them to definitions for things that have not yet been named but should be.  Such as, Boscastle: the pyramid of tins they used to place inside the entrance to a supermarket – or Kettering: the cross-hatching on your bum after you’ve sat naked on a wicker chair.  One we use regularly – or did, when we had a car – was Grimbister: a group of cars all going at exactly the same speed because one of them is a police car.

All of these featured in yesterday’s excellent programme introduced by Adams’ co-author, John Lloyd (he of comedy producer fame) and featuring interesting people such as Matt Lucas and Terry Jones as well as the utterly nauseating Helen Fielding.  Some local (to us) names came up, such as Scraptoft (now sadly obsolete as we have the alternative, combover) and my particular favourite, Frisby-on-the-Wreake, a warning cry in a nudist camp.  The guests were also asked to invent their own entries, of which my favourite was Tildonk, the triangular thing placed on the supermarket conveyor belt to separate people’s shopping.

Go listen:

and here you can find some of my eccentrictionary words:

Hell is Other Dimensions

The other excellent item I discovered on the iplayer yesterday was a Horizon programme about string theory.  I don’t know where it’s gone now as I can’t find it, but if you come across it give the programme a look.  I almost understood what they were saying about other dimensions; it had helpful rather than merely whizzy graphics, and all in all it’s a proper science programme with serious scientists rather than grinning telegenic presenters.  It’s such a relief to watch a programme that takes you, the viewer, seriously.  It went into the area of dimensions beyond the fourth and concluded that they may be rolled up and hidden: like old scrolls in an attic, perhaps.  I can understand this as a concept, though i can’t relate it to what I know of the physical world… still, it set me wondering whether one of them might be so cramped and confined that it is actually hell.

So there you go: hell is other dimensions.  Incidentally, one of the people featured in the programme spoke fluent French (he was at CERN) even though he was from Devon.  Serious programme, folks!  Go watch – they’re an endangered species.

Here’s a link – though not, sadly, to that edition:

Kirk out

Expecto Patronum!

As everyone knows, the Patronus charm is the antidote to a Dementor attack; and my Patronus yesterday was made possible by the collaboration of Mark, the Positive Mental Attitude people from Facebook, members of the Martyrs prayer chain – and a really hot bath.  After a truly horrible day I began to feel better and today I feel a new woman.

Incidentally, I’m thinking of coming up with a new name to replace ‘woman’; the word is bulky and not nearly as punchy as the monosyllabic ‘man’; not only that but its derivation is a complete lie: ‘wo-man’ = ‘taken from man.’  This may seem a tad obsessive to some but it’s been bugging me for a long while; attempts to replace it have in the past not been successful; viz. the 1980’s spelling ‘womyn’ which centred around Greenham Common.  I’m not sure where that spelling originated but it was an attempt to separate ‘women who are politically active on the left’ from other females and, as such, was very divisive.  I never felt comfortable with it.  So, what we want is a monosyllabic name which expresses woman – but I’m not coming up with anything.  ‘Wan’ already means ‘pale and interesting’ and I don’t think we need to go there; ‘wen’ sounds like it’s short for Wendy (incidentally I’ve got a character in ‘Knots’ who’s known as ‘Wen’ but it’s short for ‘Wainright’; she’s a bit of a blue-stocking.  But only a bit.)  So I’m a bit stumped.  Still, maybe something will occur.

Inventing words can be a tricky business: they not only have to fulfil a need; they have to strike a chord with people in general.  I suspect that one or two terms from Harry Potter may make their way into the language – then again, maybe they won’t.  In our household some of Douglas Adams’ inventions are in regular use, though few of our visitors understand them – for example, grimbister, meaning ‘a group of cars all travelling at the same speed because one of them is a police car’, and scraptoft, more generally known as a comb-over.  One I particularly like, though we don’t use it, is didcot, meaning the small circle clipped out of a railway ticket, but my personal favourite is skoonspruit, which indicates that ‘garden sprinkler’ thing your mouth sometimes does for no apparent reason.

So: I’m feeling much more positive today and with any luck the laptop will soon be among us and early bloggings resumed, for which relief much thanks will be offered.

Kirk out

Mighty, mighty Didcot

When I woke up I thought it was Sensible o’clock but found it was Somewhat Silly o’clock ie just before six.

this morning I was remembering a time when Mark and I were on a break.  Not in the Friends sense – just having a weekend away.

Actually I have some sympathy for Ross in this scenario, because – let’s face it, they were on a break.

Oh!  Yes – anyway… I can’t remember where we were but there was a lake and we decided to get a boat out and have a romantic row on the lake (at least, is it still romantic if the woman is rowing because she learned how when she was a kid on Mewsbrook park lake and he never did?  Hell, yes – why not?)  So we pulled away from the quayside and out into the still water.  Unfortunately we were sharing said water with other boats, one of which proved to be full of Girl Guides on a Jamboree pack holiday or whatever it is they call it, who were singing.  It became impossible for us to escape these Guides, who followed us, singing this song indefatigably for at least half an hour.

Wherever we go

(wherever we go!)

people always ask us

(people always ask us!)

Where do you come from?

(Where do you come from?)

and we always tell them

(and we always tell them!)

We’re from Didcot

(we’re from Didcot!)

Mighty mighty Didcot

(mighty, mighty Didcot!)

mighty mighty Didcot

(mighty mighty Didcot!)

It did give us a laugh – not only the idea of openly singing about coming from Didcot, but the idea of Didcot being “mighty.”

The fact that I still know it by heart after all these years should give you some idea of what it was like.

This week and next I shall be finishing off my stories and sending off as many as possible.  Then I will be going up to the chalet to work on the novel.

Kirk out.

PS in “The Meaning of Liff” by Douglas Adams, a didcot is a little circle of paper cut out from a hole puncher.

So now you know!