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My daughter suggested I get highlights, and, intrigued by the process (all those bits of foil arranged elegrantly round one's head, as if one were a fashion-conscious conspiracy theorist!) I took her advice. It made much more difference than I was expecting: at first I was pleased with the change, then doubt began to creep in, and now I'm more or less back to liking it again.

Anyway, here is me bidding a lingering au revoir to Jessie's paws, while Ganesh looks on in the background:

IMG0400A

Next time I post it should be from Tokyo!
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I was hoping for a few days, after the end of semester marking madness, in which to relax and pack, ready for Japan, but stuff keeps coming at me from unexpected directions: an external marking package here, a PhD student's latest chapter there, a journal article to proofread somewhere else, and so on. I'm afraid to open my email now, because I really don't have any more wiggle room. I definitely shouldn't be writing this post, for example, short as it will be.

But I thought I'd share a picture of the building I'll be staying at in Tokyo - the Foreign Faculty Building of Tokyo Woman's Christian University. At least, I think this is the one:

foreign teachers building

The ground floor is a Women's Study Centre, but the top floor is mine for three weeks, which is to say I'll be the only person living there. Until a few days ago I wasn't sure whether I'd just have a room and shared kitchen, etc., student-style, but it seems I get a self-contained apartment, which is very nice.

I'll give a tour when I get there. As on my previous Japanese trips, I intend to blog this one fairly assiduously: since it's not quite a such a tourist affair this time there may be a little less prettiness to show, but I'm sure that staying in a work environment will have its own points of interest...

My visit coincides exactly with the rainy season (tsuyu, 梅雨), which isn't ideal but at least offers poetic possibilities for an LJ tag.
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I'm sure this point has been made elsewhere, but since everyone from Eric Pickles to the Daily Mail (and even some Labour supporters) have taken to describing the pledge to abolish university tuition fees for English students as a "bribe", I'd just like to point out that, if you want to look at it that way, corporation tax cuts are a bribe, as are the triple lock on pensions, with free TV licences, bus passes, winter fuel payments, free prescriptions, etc etc. And the NHS, of course. Why get all hoity toity about it only when the young are beneficiaries? It smacks doubly of hypocrisy when most of the people flinging this word about were the beneficiaries of free university education themselves. (I've yet to hear of any of them offering to pay the money back.)

"Bribe" is the wrong word to use in all these cases. Free education is a recognition that we all benefit from having an educated population; the NHS is a recognition that we all benefit from having a healthy population; those who advocate tax breaks do so (in most cases) because they think it will benefit the economy generally. This isn't bribery, just enlightened self-interest.

You might even think of it as paying forward some of the benefits (bribes, if you will) that you received. Or do you think your parents were profligate fools when they bribed you for your love with food, shelter, money, toys? I've no patience with that view of the world, especially when it's so selectively applied.

Tangentially (as I noted on FB the other day), Greg Mulholland's father was on Any Answers on Saturday, arguing that students should be registered to vote in their parents' constituencies rather than the university towns where they live. That way, they won't be able to gang up on poor Tory and Lib Dem candidates like Sir Julian Brazier and, er, Greg Mulholland. Hilariously, he began by saying how much he welcomed the fact that the young had decided to vote this time. He just wants to make sure that their vote won't count.
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I mentioned on Facebook the other week that one of my pet marking peeves this year (they operate on a strict rotation basis) is the habit of saying "it could be argued that X", rather than simply "X". It always strikes me as evasive, a way of saying "I'm going to float an idea, and if you agree with it I'll take the credit, but if you don't then I wasn't advocating it, okay?"

Thanks to [profile] stormdog I just saw the perfect illustration of this tactic, although not using that exact phrase, from Nigel Farage - who I bet scattered "It could be argued that" all over his school essays. It's in this article about the reaction to the London bombings on Fox News. Were internment camps a good way to go, mused the incisive analysts of Fox? (For the benefit of those reading outside the UK, no mainstream British politician - by which for this purpose I mean a politician from a party with more MPs than zero - has suggested it.)

Who better to ask than Nigel Farage? Like one of my bet-hedging students (Farage was a professional bet-hedger when he worked in the City, trading commodities, and the instinct is still strong) Farage doesn't call for internment. He says (of people on police watch lists) "if there is not action, then the calls for internment will grow" and, "unless we see the government getting tough, you will see public calls for those 3,000 to be arrested".

Did he just call for internment? Of course not - how dare you suggest such a thing! He was merely acting as a commentator! (Unless it happens, and then he'll be able to say he was brave enough to float the idea.)

And then of course, along comes Katie Hopkins of the Daily Heil like the organ-grinder's monkey, repeating his sentiment but minus the hedge, proving Farage's words true in the process: “We do need internment camps.” What a double act!

A few people on Facebook were bemused by my dislike of "It could be argued that", implying that it was perhaps a bit over the top. This is why I try to drum into people that it's a cowardly and dishonest tactic, whether you're talking about the date of a sonnet or the best reaction to an atrocity.

Nigel Farage uses it, for heaven's sake!
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I was always fascinated by the story of Herostratus, the young man who is said to have destroyed the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, just so that his name would go down in history. Well, he got his wish.

I wonder how easy it would have been to destroy a large (110x55m) temple, without explosives or even paraffin? Weren't those things made of stone? It's actually quite an impressive feat, in its way.

The online Encyclopædia Britannica refers to Herostratus as a "madman", which seems harsh. At least, it's a very common form of madness - the last infirmity of noble mind, as Milton put it. And at least Herostratus didn't kill anyone, unlike Alexander the Great, who was born the day the temple burned and was clearly driven by similar motives, at least to judge by the number of cities he named after himself.
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While breakfasting with friends at Betty's in York a fortnight ago, I mentioned that I was wary of predicting the result of the French presidential election (which was happening that day), since I was worried that Trump's win had been precipitated by my privately expecting it to happen.

Clémentine Beauvais remarked that it was rather splendid to say something so equally composed of narcissism and paranoia, and I have to admit she had a point. But isn't that a familiar combination in our times? Anyway, taking that hint (and another from "Porphyria's Lover") this poem came to me as I was wandering back from town this afternoon, a bag of marked essays at my back.


And so, Mark Zuckerberg, we are alone.

My last four Facebook posts have gained
No likes at all – although, in point of wit,
And weight, and power to shock, they should
Have gone as viral as the Spanish flu.

How could this be, I mused? Am I perhaps
Too dangerous now? My insights honed too sharp?
Have the Illuminati moved to hide
Me from all timelines, fearing my quick tongue?

At last I understand. Mark, it was you.
You made this private room on Sugar Mountain
Just for two; built Facebook walls around us.
Speak! I am waiting! What would’st thou ask of me?
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Japanese words often have a wide range of meanings. For example, there's ataru (当たる): I've cut and pasted this from my flashcard program (Memrise - I recommend it). I could have inserted punctuation in the relevant places, but I think the effect is conveyed more feelingly without it:

ataru = to be hit
to lash out at to be affixed to apply to to be a hit to be afflicted to be selected (in a lottery, etc.) (in baseball) to be hitting well (of fruit, etc.) to be bruised to be equivalent to to lie (in the direction of) to undertake to be applicable to be assigned to face to go well to be successful to be stricken (by food poisoning, heat, etc.) to be on a hitting streak to be in contact to confront to be right on the money (of a prediction, criticism, etc.) to treat (esp. harshly) to be unnecessary to be called upon (by the teacher) to touch to spoil to win to strike to check (i.e. by comparison) to probe into (in fishing) to feel a bite to shave to feel (something) out


I especially like words where the meanings include ones that are antonyms or (better still) near antonyms of each other, such as hitting and being hit, or to be successful and to be stricken. Of course, it sends my mind back to English, which has no shortage of similar artefacts, even in this semantic area. To be touched or struck could be a good or disastrous thing, depending largely on who's doing the touching - a god, the heat, elves (as in elf-stroke), genius.

As ever, a big part of the appeal of learning Japanese (and no doubt any language) is to make oneself more aware of the peculiarities of one's own word-weathered mind, carved as it is into eccentric peaks and whorls by the constant swirl of linguistic currents.

The other day, I imagined (or remembered?) an Addams Family cartoon in which Morticia is discovered sprinkling dust over the furniture, and responds to an enquiry, "Oh, I'm just doing the dusting". "To dust" is one of my favourite auto-antonyms, perhaps because it's such a simple-looking, common word. Who cares whether "cleave" means the opposite of itself, when we don't often use it in either sense? But dust? That gets under one's skin.
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My friend Chiho told me a story today about how she'd gone with her mother recently to watch Deep Water Horizon at the cinema. During a sequence with a lot of explosions, an earthquake happened to strike Kagoshima (4 on the Richter Scale, which isn't so unusual, but certainly feelable). Afterwards she mentioned the earthquake to her mother, who was surprised, and said, "I just assumed the film was in 4DX!"

It made me laugh - and only afterwards did I realise that I hadn't even been thinking about the fact that she was speaking Japanese. I count this as progress.

This is as an aide memoire. When I visit the places in Japan that have been inspired by Britain (detailed in this recent post), as I surely will, I mustn't forget to include these two additions to my list:

a) Brockhampton Church. Brockhampton is a village in Herefordshire, with a nice Arts-and-Crafts-inspired Church. But it's also (copied at full scale) a place you can get married on the 20th floor of an Osaka hotel.

b) At least they left the original Brockhampton Church in situ. Not so with "Lockheart Castle" (formerly Lockhart House, near Edinburgh) which in the 1990s was transplanted stone by stone from Scotland to Gunma Prefecture and re-erected, much as that American bloke did with London Bridge back in the 1960s. The new Lockheart Castle has been rebranded as a paradise for lovers, although it also hosts a museum of Santa Clauses. Obviously.
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One hundred and one years ago my curate great-grandfather preached a sermon in Esperanto at the church of Holy Trinity, Goodramgate, York, on the occasion of the British Esperanto Congress being held in the city. When I lived in York in the 1980s I often visited the church, loving the old box pews (as who couldn't?), but at that time I didn't know about Thomas Robinson Butler's performance. Yesterday, however, in the wake of a conference organised by the talented and delightful Clementine Beauvais, I visited with her and Maria Nikolajeva, and photographed what was, I assume, the very pulpit:

IMG_20170506_140153

Meanwhile, here are Clementine (l) and Maria (r), as seen through the church's hagioscope:

IMG_20170506_140138

Tonight I'm staying with Farah and Edward in Stoke-on-Trent, which really ought to be the occasion to visit the Esperanto Association's Butler Library, named after Thomas's son, my grandfather and housed at nearby Barlaston. But, alas, Wolverhampton calls and I must take the morning train. Bonan nokton, ĉiuj!
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In recent months, as I've mentioned here a couple of times I think, I've taken to working at Coffee #1 on the Gloucester Rd. I like their green tea, and I've got to that stage now where they reach for it when they see me come through the door. That's good in a way, of course, but it occurred to me that I might be becoming predictable, and a while ago I said jokingly to the woman behind the counter, "I ought to have a catchphrase - like, 'Tea me up, Scotty!'"

To my surprise, she found this weak quip highly amusing, and in subsequent weeks I felt honour bound to quote it whenever she happened to be serving. After a while, though, for the sake of my sanity I thought I ought to vary it. "Greet me with green tea" worked for a short while; "The green, green tea of home" was even more ephemeral. I've been through quite a few phrases now, and it's getting desperate. I've got "A green thought in a green shade" saved up for next time, but I worry that eventually I'll run out of mildly amusing ways to order a pot of Jade Tips. Then I'll have no choice but to switch to Rooibos. The horror!

* * *


Obviously I can't help overhearing the people who sit next to me while I'm working at the cafe. It's not that I'm listening in, not at all.

So, today it was a man of about 35 and his 9- or 10-year-old daughter. I was drafting my Annual Performance Review document on a laptop a couple of feet away, but absorbing as that activity was I couldn't help but be struck by her loud claim to be able to "predict the past".

Dad, naturally, plodded out a few clichés about the unidirectionality of time, the meanings of Latin prefixes, and so on. (By this point I was trying to find a way to say how wonderful my teaching has been without sounding boastful - no easy task, as I've recently had occasion to observe.)

Finally, the father said in exasperation: "I refuse to believe that you have access to a non-linear, atemporal mode of being!" His daughter stared back mulishly across her babyccino. Relenting, he added: "Anyway, what do you want for supper? And don't say cheese and pasta!"

"Pasta and cheese," she replied.

Touché.
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I don't believe in posting just because a) you haven't for a few days and/or b) something important has happened that you feel you "ought" to comment on. Nevertheless, that's what I'm doing - partly as a data point so that I can remind my future self what I was thinking now.

So, I think this is obvious and dull, but here goes. The most striking thing about Theresa May's announcement of the election the other day wasn't the fact that it was a U-turn on all her previous promises not to hold one; nor that she rather ridiculously talked about "strong, stable government", stealing a line from David Cameron, Britain's most chaotic Prime Minister ever; nor was it even... Oh, but I think this could turn into a very long list, so I'll refer you to point-by-point analysis and cut to the chase.

The most striking thing was the way in which May evidently regards any effective Parliamentary oversight of the Government's actions as an unjustified infringement on the prerogatives of the executive. Far from opposing her at every turn, Parliament has in fact been extraordinarily accommodating, letting her Brexit bill pass with a three-line Opposition whip in support, and no amendments from the Lords. How much easier could they have made it? For May, however, even having to go to Parliament was an indignity, and she wasted a lot of taxpayer's money trying to avoid it.

I can't help wondering whether Erdogan's victory in Turkey wasn't more of a spur than the invigorating air of Snowdonia in inspiring her to go to the polls, asking for a majority that would effectively free her from democratic scrutiny. Okay, it's not quite being made President-for-life (even Trump has fought shy of that so far), but like Erdogan and Trump, May has that dangerous combination of entitlement and paranoia that makes any criticism, or even any constitutional check or balance, appear illegitimate, whether that be a federal judge daring to do his job in Hawaii, or a Parliamentary opposition doing its job in Westminster.

She's a very stiff-necked person, I think, when what we need right now is an Olympic gymnast. (I'm not saying Corbyn's that, but he can at least manage a forward roll.)

Back in the bubble, why does the Guardian think "Brenda from Bristol" requires subtitles when none of the other people in this clip do?
steepholm: (tree_face)
It's odd, isn't it? Every time LJ does something stupid (and it does), people talk about how it's the end of the platform, and they're high-tailing it off to Dreamwidth, or wherever. Sometimes they go, sometimes they stay.

By contrast, since I've been on Facebook it's been clusterfuck after clusterfuck. The arrangement of newsfeeds, privacy settings, how adverts are placed, what names people are allowed to use, all these things are regularly interfered with without warning or apparent justification, other than the whim of Zuckerberg. Imagine if LJ decided that pictures of breastfeeding mothers weren't allowed! There'd be more flouncing than in a Victorian haberdasher's. Yet FB gets away with all this and more (as well as being a vastly inferior platform in terms of threading, linking, etc.), without - well, I wouldn't say without a grumble, but certainly without a mass exodus to MySpace. Strange, n'est-ce pas?
steepholm: (tree_face)
I spent this weekend in the Gower peninsula, taking part in a magical weekend - my first in two years (last year having been taken up with other matters). Of course, it's in the nature of the beast that I shouldn't go into details about our Dreadful Rites, but I can at least share some photos (albeit taken with a very poor phone camera) from the archaeological part of the adventure.

Over Sea, Under Stone )
steepholm: (Default)
I spent this weekend in the Gower peninsula, taking part in a magical weekend - my first in two years (last year having been taken up with other matters). Of course, it's in the nature of the beast that I shouldn't go into details about our Dreadful Rites, but I can at least share a some photos (albeit taken with a very poor phone camera) from the archaeological part of the adventure.

Over Sea, Under Stone )
steepholm: (tree_face)
A recent radio programme suggested that most of us talk to ourselves (guilty as charged). Quite a few also commentate on their daily behaviour, and of those, a large majority do so in the voice of David Attenborough narrating a wildlife documentary.

I wonder if this is as common a thing in the UK as dreaming of the royal family?

Incidentally, I wonder about the history of this habit. People couldn't imitate commentaries before there were commentaries, after all. I remember in Ian McEwan's Atonement the little girl Briony swipes the heads of dandelions with a stick (or something similar) and imagines someone commentating on her as if she were at the Olympic Dandelion Beheading final. That would be in the late 1930s. By that time there was certainly radio commentary on football, and I daresay cricket and horseracing too. Live coverage of the Olympics, though? I'm not sure. And, before Marconi, were our imaginations mute?
steepholm: (Default)
A recent radio programme suggested that most of us talk to ourselves (guilty as charged). Quite a few also commentate on their daily behaviour, and of those, a large majority do so in the voice of David Attenborough narrating a wildlife documentary.

I wonder if this is as common a thing in the UK as dreaming of the royal family?


ETA: Incidentally, I wonder about the history of this habit. People couldn't imitate commentaries before there were commentaries, after all. I remember in Ian McEwan's Atonement the little girl Briony swipes the heads of dandelions with a stick (or something similar) and imagines someone commentating on her as if she were at the Olympic Dandelion Beheading final. That would be in the late 1930s. By that time there was certainly radio commentary on football, and I daresay cricket and horseracing too. Live coverage of the Olympics, though? I'm not sure. And, before Marconi, were our imaginations mute?
steepholm: (tree_face)
When did good witches start to appear in British children's literature? I don't mean wise women, good fairies, or anything of that kind, but outright, named-as-such witches.

In America there are the Oz books, of course, though they in any case seem something of an outlier: did Oz spawn other good Stateside witches in the decades immediately following? In the UK, though, mid-twentieth-century witches (e.g. in John Masefield's The Midnight Folk [1927], T. H. White's The Sword in the Stone [1938], Ursula Moray Williams' Gobbolino the Witch's Cat [1942] and Barbara Sleigh's Carbonel, Prince of Cats [1955]) are generally malignant, as per tradition, and that tends to be the case into the 1970s, too: see for example the witches in Mary Stewart's The Little Broomstick (1971) (soon to be an anime feature, by the way, under the title, Mary and the Witch's Flower) or Diana Wynne Jones's Wilkins' Tooth/Witch's Business (1973). The first good British witch I can think of is in Nina Beachcroft's Well Met by Witchlight (1972), and even she is paired off against a bad one.

In a slightly different category are the good comedy witches. Oddly, there doesn't seem to have been much influence in Britain from the magic-in-a-modern-suburban-setting style of American sitcom, as in Bewitched, The Addams Family or The Munsters (all 1964), where the comedy comes from the incongruity of the modern - unless the boarding-school setting of Jill Murphy's Worst Witch series (from 1974) counts as such. In Britain, naturally, we're all about the comic incompetence, as with Murphy's Mildred Hubble and (though to a far lesser extent) Helen Nicoll and Jan Pieńkowski's Meg and Mog (from 1972). Both Mildred and Meg count as good, I suppose?

As for New Age/Wicca-inspired good witches, I'm not really aware of anything in Britain until 1990, when we get Monica Furlong's Wise Child (if indeed Juniper really is a witch - I'm not sure she identifies as such) - although in New Zealand Margaret Mahy had begun as early as 1984, with the Carlisle witches in The Changeover.

This is pretty much a top-of-the-head list. I don't want a baptismal curse, so tell me - whom have I neglected? Can you beat Nina Beachcroft in 1971? I'm sure you can.
steepholm: (Default)
When did good witches start to appear in British children's literature? I don't mean wise women, good fairies, or anything of that kind, but outright, named-as-such witches.

In America there are the Oz books, of course, though they in any case seem something of an outlier: did Oz spawn other good Stateside witches in the decades immediately following? In the UK, though, mid-twentieth-century witches (e.g. in John Masefield's The Midnight Folk [1927], T. H. White's The Sword in the Stone [1938], Ursula Moray Williams' Gobbolino the Witch's Cat [1942] and Barbara Sleigh's Carbonel, Prince of Cats [1955]) are generally malignant, as per tradition, and that tends to be the case into the 1970s, too: see for example the witches in Mary Stewart's The Little Broomstick (1971) (soon to be an anime feature, by the way, under the title, Mary and the Witch's Flower) or Diana Wynne Jones's Wilkins' Tooth/Witch's Business (1973). The first good British witch I can think of is in Nina Beachcroft's Well Met by Witchlight (1972), and even she is paired off against a bad one.

In a slightly different category are the good comedy witches. Oddly, there doesn't seem to have been much influence in Britain from the magic-in-a-modern-suburban-setting style of American sitcom, as in Bewitched, The Addams Family or The Munsters (all 1964), where the comedy comes from the incongruity of the modern - unless the boarding-school setting of Jill Murphy's Worst Witch series (from 1974) counts as such. In Britain, naturally, we're all about the comic incompetence, as with Murphy's Mildred Hubble and (though to a far lesser extent) Helen Nicoll and Jan Pieńkowski's Meg and Mog (from 1972). Both Mildred and Meg count as good, I suppose?

As for New Age/Wicca-inspired good witches, I'm not really aware of anything in Britain until 1990, when we get Monica Furlong's Wise Child (if indeed Juniper really is a witch - I'm not sure she identifies as such) - although in New Zealand Margaret Mahy had begun as early as 1984, with the Carlisle witches in The Changeover.

This is pretty much a top-of-the-head list. I don't want a baptismal curse, so tell me - whom have I neglected? Can you beat Nina Beachcroft in 1971? I'm sure you can.
steepholm: (tree_face)
I went to Romsey this weekend so that I could visit my mother in hospital there (she was moved last week from the big hospital in Southampton to the local cottage hospital – where I was born, as a matter of fact). When I saw her on Friday afternoon she was in good spirits, and asked me to bring some clothes and smoked-salmon sandwiches the following morning, which I duly did. However, on turning into the ward I found my way blocked by a nurse, who said that there’d been a couple of cases of D&V among the ladies of the ward overnight.

I had to ask what D&V meant. The first words to pop into my head were “decay” and “vile with green and livid spot”, but apparently it’s diarrhoea and vomiting, and the standard practice is to close the ward to visitors for a day or two, for fear of spreading the infection. This was a shame, since it defeated the purpose of my driving from Bristol, but I thanked her for letting me know, handed over the care package, and went back to my mother’s house for the day.

This morning I rang to see if the ward was open for visitors yet. It wasn’t, so I asked to speak with my mother on the phone. A minute later I heard her asking why on earth I hadn’t visited yesterday? It turned out that she didn’t know about the ward being closed to visitors! The nurse who gave her my package the day before had simply told her that I couldn’t visit – which she understood to be a message from me, rather than about me. Consequently, she spent the next 24 hours wondering why I’d abandoned her.

Of course I cleared up the misunderstanding, but I was quite upset to think of her feeling bereft and abandoned like that. And I was just as upset on my own behalf to think of her believing I’d do such a thing.

“No one ever gets over the first unfairness,” wrote the sagacious Mr Barrie. I’d hazard that mine involved being unjustly accused of something, because that’s a scenario that has a peculiar power to cut to my quick – far more so than open cruelty. Stories in which it happens are upsetting to me, too, unless the misunderstanding is cleared up very quickly. If it doesn’t get cleared up at all, forget it! I can just about make it through The Winter’s Tale because of the final act, but Othello, where Desdemona dies before Othello becomes aware of her innocence, is simply upsetting, and not in a cathartic way.

Even when misunderstandings are cleared up, they leave an undeserved aftertaste – like the smell of cigarette smoke in a non-smoker’s hair (something I’m very familiar with from my Romsey visits). The scenario in which I abandoned my mother at the hospital and went off instead to – what? the races, perhaps? – is hard to dispel. It’s a bit like the episode of Friends in which Phoebe is angry with Ross because of something he did to her in a dream. I suppose that’s how it is for anyone who’s unjustly accused, even when they’re cleared of blame. In the court of the unconscious, the best verdict you can hope for is “Not Proven”.
steepholm: (Default)
I went to Romsey this weekend so that I could visit my mother in hospital there (she was moved last week from the big hospital in Southampton to the local cottage hospital – where I was born, as a matter of fact). When I saw her on Friday afternoon she was in good spirits, and asked me to bring some clothes and smoked-salmon sandwiches the following morning, which I duly did. However, on turning into the ward I found my way blocked by a nurse, who said that there’d been a couple of cases of D&V among the ladies of the ward overnight.

I had to ask what D&V meant. The first words to pop into my head were “decay” and “vile with green and livid spot”, but apparently it’s diarrhoea and vomiting, and the standard practice is to close the ward to visitors for a day or two, for fear of spreading the infection. This was a shame, since it defeated the purpose of my driving from Bristol, but I thanked her for letting me know, handed over the care package, and went back to my mother’s house for the day.

This morning I rang to see if the ward was open for visitors yet. It wasn’t, so I asked to speak with my mother on the phone. A minute later I heard her asking why on earth I hadn’t visited yesterday? It turned out that she didn’t know about the ward being closed to visitors! The nurse who gave her my package the day before had simply told her that I couldn’t visit – which she understood to be a message from me, rather than about me. Consequently, she spent the next 24 hours wondering why I’d abandoned her.

Of course I cleared up the misunderstanding, but I was quite upset to think of her feeling bereft and abandoned like that. And I was just as upset on my own behalf to think of her believing I’d do such a thing.

“No one ever gets over the first unfairness,” wrote the sagacious Mr Barrie. I’d hazard that mine involved being unjustly accused of something, because that’s a scenario that has a peculiar power to cut to my quick – far more so than open cruelty. Stories in which it happens are upsetting to me, too, unless the misunderstanding is cleared up very quickly. If it doesn’t get cleared up at all, forget it! I can just about make it through The Winter’s Tale because of the final act, but Othello, where Desdemona dies before Othello becomes aware of her innocence, is simply upsetting, and not in a cathartic way.

Even when misunderstandings are cleared up, they leave an undeserved aftertaste – like the smell of cigarette smoke in a non-smoker’s hair (something I’m very familiar with from my Romsey visits). The scenario in which I abandoned my mother at the hospital and went off instead to – what? the races, perhaps? – is hard to dispel. It’s a bit like the episode of Friends in which Phoebe is angry with Ross because of something he did to her in a dream. I suppose that’s how it is for anyone who’s unjustly accused, even when they’re cleared of blame. In the court of the unconscious, the best verdict you can hope for is “Not Proven”.

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