Thursday, April 29, 2010

Just Visiting


Inviting family and friends to visit your blog is like asking them to drop in for a friendly chat, even though the conversation may be a trifle one-sided! With cup of tea at elbow, I sit at my computer each day and put down what comes to mind. It gives me that happy feeling of being almost face to face with you, imagining your reactions, your smiles and occasional raised eyebrows. Actual visiting is fast becoming a lost art, as is the casual chat over a cup of tea. And the internet is the place to meet. The poem I share with you today, which dates back to 1972 (yes, from my collection), is about ‘just visiting’. The sentiments are still valid, even in a virtual world!

Just Visiting – Annie Laurie Dunaway

May I come in and say ‘Hello’

And stay for just awhile?

For in our hurry scurry world

It’s almost out of style.

But sometimes the heart feels lighter

When you’re sad or sick or blue;

And the day seems so much brighter

Because someone thinks of you.

If you are sick or shut inside

Then this visit is for you

And may you wait with patience

For your strength to gain anew.

And if you are discouraged

And feel misunderstood

Then turn your thoughts to brighter things

And follow up with good.

I hope that through this little chat

As I journey on today,

I’ve left some rays of sunshine

Scattered all along the way.

And the last four lines sum up perfectly what I would like to say!

Man and Dog


Every dog lover has a story to tell. Many stories actually, because dogs are such adorable personalities. My current reading, courtesy the British Council, is The Ark’s Anniversary by Gerald d Durrell (irresistible!!) and his hilarious sketches of animal behavior brought on a few recollections (in a lighter vein) of my own.

Whoever said a dog is a man’s best friend never said a truer word. With his man, the dog will ably goof off, demand hostess service and generally slouch about the place doing just what he pleases.

It is left to the mistress of the home to clean, groom, make the meals, tidy up the bedding and generally make sure all is well in the man/doggie world. The only time man and dog show any signs of activity is the time of ‘walkies’. Like all mutts they love to be out of the house, roaming in gay abandon, without a responsibility in the world. A pastime they can indulge in, while walking, is gazing at the female population and, boy, can they do it in style. Watch the man and his dog when on the prowl. Do you see a similarity? Tongues hanging out and drooling? Eyes a-pop and a general spring in the gait? Of course you do – it’s unmistakable!

When it comes to food they can be really finicky. What was yesterday’s gourmet is today’s trash. But they can gorge on leftovers from the fridge to snack between meals so that their stomachs are full at regular mealtimes, and they both self-righteously turn up their noses at veggies. As for blackmail, they are both postmasters in the art – they can look hangdog, beseech with melting eyes and flirt shamelessly. They can wrap you around paw or finger with just a glance. As for the ‘Guilty? Who me?’ nobody can do that better.

Man and dog share a strong and very visible bond which nobody has been able to come between. Distracting, exasperating, infuriating but very, very lovable all the same. And, who can do without them?!

(With tongue firmly in cheek, this is dedicated to my husband, the dogs that have come into and gone out of our lives and to those nephews who sometimes borrowed them!)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Showing Off!!


I love to crochet! My ‘heaven’ would be rather different from Capt. Stormfield’s or Cloud Nine. Mine would have a comfortable rocking chair, endless yarn, hooks and a pile of patterns. Bliss indeed.

I learnt to crochet from two of my sisters-in-law, perfectionists both. Meeting their approval kept me chained to the ball and hook and, since this was something I really wanted to do, there was much pleasure in the occupation. An example of loving what you do and doing what you love finding common ground!

Over the years, while expanding my repertoire, I have also expanded my circle of friends. While travelling to work – fortunately from terminus to terminus which allowed me a seat – I would work on my latest project and curious onlookers would engage me in conversation, some ultimately going on to work along with me. We learnt from each other, shared patterns and confidences. Finished projects were shown off and admired and future ‘must dos’ discussed. We crocheted everything from baby’s first matinee jacket to doll's clothes to monkey caps to torans. Other crafters joined the group, which expanded our interests and each parting was indeed sweet sorrow, with the next meeting looked forward to on the ‘morrow.

Then, there is my pen-pal from Yorkshire – a friendship that spans something like 25 years. We met through a letter that she had written in to a craft magazine, stating her aspiration to connect with crafters from every country. I am her Indian connection! What started off as an exchange of letters and photographs has now migrated to emails, and the friendship continues many projects later. ‘What are you working on now?’ has been the theme and closing sentence of all our correspondence.

Another crochet-holic connected with me through a mutual friend. She wanted to learn crochet and started off very ambitiously with a blouse, despite much dissuasion. We made it, together (pun intended). Now, we are in competition with each other and engage on back to back projects. Perhaps it is an addiction, but it is a nice one. There is something about the act of ‘creation’ that brings with it calmness and peace of mind – and a quiet joy – in this turbulent world which intrudes so very much into every life.

So, what am I working on now? Well, I have just finished the pincushion pictured here and am putting the finishing touches to a neckerchief (this was a long term project because it took forever to complete the 39 inches!) My next project is a sunhat followed by bookmarks. Thanks to all those lovely people out there who post free patterns on the Net, I am never going to run out of things to crochet. And since I love to ‘show off’ my work, you’ll be seeing photos of them by and by.

Be hooking up with you, soon!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Exams are Easy!


Exams are over, so why am I telling you this now? Because, while browsing among the shelves at the Examiner Press Bookshop, the other day, I came across this slim compilation Exams are Easy (When You Know How) by Mike Evans. I generally avoid ‘how to’ books because they usually turn out to be ‘how to make money’ for the authors. The tension generated by exams for students – and parents - prompted me to take a look, and I liked what I saw.

While the book’s target audience is the student – school, college, mature – who will have to take exams at the end of an academic year or professional course, here’s why I think the book is a must read for students, parents, teachers and for anyone who has an interest in education:

The guidelines provided are what any good teacher should tell exam-takers but often fails to in the pressure-cooker situation of today’s educational scene. The approach is common sense and practical, which means that the ideas are easy to follow. What is more, each chapter has a wrap of the important points, as a bulleted list, and the 84 pages are little enough to get through, even for the most reluctant reader.

Among the important points that the book covers is the one that the student must understand that preparation for exams starts on day one of the course and does not involve last minute cramming. Other important points that are reinforced are: rest and recreation time are essential; familiarity with the syllabus and hence confirmation of completion of the course or otherwise; study habits: understanding question papers and allocation of time for both study and tackling the question paper on the day.

For example, comprehending the question paper by ‘identifying’ the verbs in the question is dealt with by explaining the meanings of ‘account for’, ‘analyse’. ‘criticise’, ‘prove’, ‘review’, to mention a few, and the author shows which action is required by the examinee. The art of making notes (requiring external study and research) as against taking notes (jotting down important points which the teacher makes) and using these to reinforce learning and recall is an exercise that has served – and continues to serve – me well and I was very happy to find this mentioned in the book, along with the other useful tips. Harnessing drawbacks in order to make them work for you and tackling common problems, round off the advice. A quote: Exams have become a problem through myth, irrationality and as something to blame by those who have not worked and, therefore, do not deserve to pass.

The book suffers a little from want of editing – the author is rather repetitive with the phrase ‘we will be talking more about this later’. This is a standard lecturing technique to recall and reinforce important points and could have been left out in the print edition. All the same, it is a minor glitch.

Exams may be over for now, but a new academic year looms and this would be the right time to invest in some useful reading.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Words are what I have


Thanks to technology and the media, I was able to watch President Obama’s swearing-in in its entirety. One of the highlights of the occasion was the reading of Praise Song for the Day by its composer Elizabeth Alexander. For me, the words which stood out sharply were, “We encounter each other in words. Words spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed, words to consider, reconsider…”.

Communication is how we touch each other, especially over the distances that separate us. And we communicate using words. I love words – written, spoken, sung. And because I love them so, I have over the years accumulated those that hold a special appeal. My scrapbooks are a collection of quotations, poems, lyrics and extracts culled from all that I have read and encountered and are a source of solace, humour and inspiration. A precious resource worth more than silver and gold! I look forward to sharing the nuggets and gems in future posts.

And, while we are between weeks, here is a pertinent selection from my collection:

Week Daze – R.H. Grenville

Monday is a bread day

Rather than a cake day,

A back-to-work, want-to-shirk,

Slow-to-yawn-awake day.

Tuesday, Wed- and Thursdays

Are depends-on-what-occurs days.

But Friday is a fat day,

A gay day; is that day

When ready money jingles

And anticipation tingles

Towards Saturday and Sunday,

The wine-and-dine and fun days

The lazy lie-abed days,

Leading to the lead day,

The duty-must-be-done day.

I long to sleep through

Monday!

(And this was written long before the acronym TGIF made its appearance!!)

God bless your weekend and the Monday.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Further Thoughts on a Theme


Gardens are not just for flowers. They teem with ‘wildlife’ and my return to gardens of the past brought with it memories of other visitors, all of whom gave us pleasure – some by coming and others by going!

There were ladybugs, those red and black glossy beetles which are supposed to bring good luck in their wake. The preying (praying?) mantis which was ever so hard to spot. The chirpily happy crickets, unforgettably portrayed in ‘Grasshopper Green’ lisped by kindergartens and as the keeper of Pinocchio’s conscience (by Jiminy!). Butterflies of every size and hue, fluttering between petals and filling the air with colour. Bees buzzing away stickily while pollinating the next season’s crop. And who can forget the birds? There were tits, jays, mynahs, hoopoes (surely, there is humour in God’s creation) all displaying varying talent in conversation, song and dance. There was the owl who lived in the hollow of a tree and was probably the reason we saw no rats. The occasional peacock practicing his dance, feathers unfurled. The tree lizards, sleepy and lethargic, one eye open and the other closed. Every morning brought a glad reunion with the ‘denizens’ of this little world.

And so, too, the nights. Out came the glow-worms and fireflies. The frogs and toads, big and warty. They loved our verandah because the light attracted a multitude of insects and a veritable feast. Twilight resounded with call and answer and the cadence soon became a familiar pattern of evensong.

Yes, there were the not so nice visitors too. The creepy crawlies: centipedes, millipedes (locally termed blanket boochies), scorpions, snakes. All poisonous and all to be studiously avoided. They kept their distance and we kept ours, because here was space enough for each to have its own.

This was all in the time before digital cameras or even colour photography, and the ‘pictures’ are all in the mind, in riotous recall. Which is why I number among my best friends the writings of Gerald Durrell, who captures this particular world so invitingly and allows me to return, times without number, whenever I turn the printed page.

Today, a personal garden is a luxury granted to so very few. Public gardens, too, are a rarity. So, I look out eagerly for every patch of green at traffic junctions and apartment frontage. And I chat fondly with the pot on my window sill.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Cut Flowers


It used to be the fashion to have framed mottoes on the wall in the parlour. We, too, had our fair share and one that I still remember is this little verse: The kiss of the sun for pardon, the song of the birds for mirth; one is closer to God in a garden, than anywhere else on earth. The words were superimposed on a picture of a garden and the whole framed by a circle of brass butterflies.

I grew up in gardens, thanks to my Father’s military stint. And I number among remembered friends a profusion of blooms: the delicate Cosmos tossing in the breeze (think chiffon flounce), the incredibly blue Cornflowers, velvety Foxgloves, Snapdragons (a child ventriloquist’s best friend!), Helichrysums (honestly, could they be real?), spicily scented Geraniums, chubby, self-possessed Michaelmas Daisies (my all time favourites), towering Sunflowers, and overweight Dahlias. All these, in addition to the ubiquitous bougainvillaea and lantana. Roses were mandatory and sat proudly in their separate ‘rose bed’ but these were no friends – they had large and very sharp thorns!

What set off this reminiscence? A friend dropped by with a bouquet, prettily arranged and headily scented. But my heart prefers blooms that are rooted in the soil – rooted yet free. If you had a garden to look out on, would you really swop the view from the window for a vase on the table? Close your eyes and, for a moment, picture a garden in full bloom:

Did you notice?

The scent, the mien, the style?

Flowers have personalities too!

Some are wild and willful

Others fat and content.

Then there’s the stately lady:

Stiff, formal and unamused.

Royalty among the riff-raff?

They spring from the earth

And to the earth return

Their circle complete.

Giving life.

Bringing life.

Then there are those

Which feel the touch of steel.

Chopped, trimmed, lobotomized

Posing in sterile splendor

In vitreous bondage.

Flung by careless hand,

They exit vase for bin,

And thence to squalid rot.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Angels Among Us


I have a friend and colleague who always signs off with ‘God Bless your day, … your weekend …. your corrections (or whatever the current task). Her blessings are specific to the moment and the occasion and always leave me with a cozy feeling wrapped around my heart.

Then, there is the friend who painstakingly sorts through all the forwards and sends on the most inspirational, informative and entertaining. I look forward to my inbox every day without the dread of having to go delete, delete, delete.

This got me thinking about the sometimes unexpected and wholly enjoyable occurrences in our lives. A while ago, I set out to crochet for a Christmas themed fundraiser and set my heart on making angels. Holding on to a mind’s eye view of a host of crocheted angels on a festooned tree, I searched for patterns that would be quick, easy and yet out of the ordinary. Every pattern I found and liked was priced out of reach (this was in the time before free patterns on the Net!). So, I sent a letter to the editor of a craft magazine, stating my need. A couple of months later, my mailbox (the metal one nailed to wall at the entrance of our building) was stuffed to overflowing with bulging A4 Manila envelopes. As I opened each one, out spilled pattern upon pattern accompanied by letters containing friendly encouragement. Angels who sent angels!!

Over the years, I have used those patterns with joy and in gratitude.

Sometimes, the brush with an angel is so fleeting, so gentle, that you may miss the moment. So, if during your day you enjoy an unexpected encounter, accompanied by a lift in spirit, know that you have been visited by one.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

“???????”


One of the assignments that I set for my ‘students’ is the writing of a poem: anything from a limerick to blank verse. And I am amazed at the disgruntled groans that arise. An inveterate scribbler from as far back as I can remember, I loved the English Language curriculum that demanded that we state our thoughts in metered rhyme. The ability to ‘doggerel’ at the drop of a hat was much appreciated and the habit has remained to this day as a handy tool for ‘Dear Diary’ entries. There’s so much fun in exploding into verse (or worse!). So, here’s my offering for today:

Do you ever

Wonder why

Amoeba are small,

And mountains are high?

Why dogs bark,

And cats meow,

And do what they do

Never asking “how”?

Why owls can see

On the darkest night;

And the upside-down bat

Loves moonlight?

Why plants still push

Through frost and snow;

And the trees in the forest

Lofty grow?

Only humans ‘think’

And question “Why?”

Worry and fret

Over how to get by.

The moral of this verse

Is plain to see

As the nose on your face,

Or the leaves on the tree.

God is Our Father

Trust in Him.

He created for Love

And not on a whim.

So question not

Or wonder ‘why’;

With God on our side

We’ll surely get by!

And, with that lift to my spirit, I shall leave you to get on with the day.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Tramtimes Nostalgia


Thanks to the Print Media, the past is never far behind. So, it was with great delight that I browsed through a series of sepia tinted monologues under the collective title of ‘Tramtimes Nostalgia’.

I have never actually ridden on a tram. But remember those times? Yes, I certainly do! I remember the wide roads of Colaba crisscrossed by shiny tramlines and overhead tram wires. The pavements were broad and uncluttered, marked out in large squares, ideal for hopping from one to the next. And everything was so squeaky clean: no pavement hawkers, no paan stains, no honking and no exhaust fumes. The Bombay (as it was known then) taxis were dowagers , stately and capacious and they moved in a manner befitting their appearance. The drivers were uniformed and polite, especially to little girls. There couldn’t have been too many of them, because it was considered a Sunday treat to ride in a motor vehicle to any destination. The Victorias were equipages in every sense of the word and not the dilapidated apologies we see today. The carriages, harnesses and brasses were polished to a high shine and the horses pranced proudly, raising a gentle chime in unison with the clip clop of their hooves.

The houses we lived in were graciously apportioned: high ceilings, a floor you could dance on and windows that let in fresh breeze - windows big enough and without grilles so that you could lean out with feet just dangling beneath the sill. Balconies were long enough and broad enough to accommodate capacious bath chairs which one could curl up in and watch the world go by. The ‘world’ being mostly vendors of various wares.

When in Bombay, we stayed with my grandmother who lived in Jenkins House on Henry Road. Like all good stories that start with ‘once upon a time’, we even had a real life ‘ogre’ who stayed on the ground floor. He obviously believed that children should be seen and not heard. So, when our childish games grew a little too boisterous, we would be quenched with a well aimed bucket of water. Even dogs, apparently, are peculiar to the times. We didn’t see many Dobermans and Alsatians then. The dog in vogue was the ‘Sidney Silky’ and what they may have lacked in size, they sure made up in the volume of their barks.

A very special treat was a visit to the Gulmohur, opposite the Gateway, for ice cream. Imagine sitting outdoors under the spreading flame of the tree, which gave the restaurant its title, and eating hand churned ice cream out of silver cups. A gentle sea breeze blowing in from the Gateway and evening strollers on Apollo Bunder completed the scene.

The Gulmohur is long gone and so are the old folk. Sometimes, an overheard snatch of conversation, a chance encounter or maybe even a whiff on the breeze (to me, Colaba always smelt of new leather and Lifebuoy soap!) evoke memories buried a long, long time ago. The good old days? To me, at this distance in time, they certainly were.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Time Out!


Time was when you found a wristwatch among your birthday presents and you knew you had come of age. You had now joined the ranks of the responsible ‘timekeepers’ in your family. No longer were you told, “There’s no need for you to have your own wristwatch. Just ask Daddy the time.” Or, “Look at the clock!”

Oh, the bliss of having your own watch. Never mind that it was a cumbersome, large, steel enclosed model with an ugly face. If it told the time, and told it accurately, you could show it off among your contemporaries and tell any asker the time, with aplomb, after a very ostentatious glance at your wrist.

How time has changed! Today, the watch is a total fashion accessory. Not only does it sometimes tell the time but, more so, it tells the world who you are.

As for me, I have come full circle. I no longer flaunt a wristwatch, because I have reached that time in life where time belongs to me and I can do just what I like with it. And now for a ‘time out’. Catch you later.

In continuation…


Then there was the priest who coaxed me to press trembling fingers over the keyboard in order to rally a congregation to song. He even allowed me access – very limited talent notwithstanding – to the Cathedral’s precious pipe organ. If you have felt the groundswell of music under vaulted beams, you will understand the experience. Sounds of Panis Angelicus and Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring still recall to mind amateurish attempts at raising my ‘voice’ to the Lord. Joy overflowed.

Another priest introduced me to the writing, editing and proofreading that were to become a lifetime’s avocation. I graduated from Parish Bulletin and Summer School Newsletter to House Journal to technical journalism and found my life’s partner. Yet another published my teenage prattling under the pseudonym ‘Wag’, no questions asked; encouragement that positively counterbalanced parental discouragement, “Children should be seen and not heard!” Wag’s World is one result of that encouragement.

And there was the priest who leant his shoulder to youthful angst and introduced me to the wondrful works of Chesterton and Gallico, firm favourites that I return to in remembered friendship and delight.

How can I forget the priests who winkled me out of comfortable retirement to follow that bend in the road, to explore uncharted territory? To understand that talent must be exploited fully and not necessarily for personal gain? And to learn that ‘wherever women and men are open to being pulled out of themselves and their self-centred lives, there the words of St. Francis Xavier will continue to inspire and challenge.’ Challenged I was, and wholly enriched!

Priests have counseled, confessed, blessed and cherished.

Yes, every milestone in my life has been marked by encounters with priests. Why then, are they nameless? Because the list is so long and to name one and not the other would be poor recognition indeed. Of course, there were also the cantankerous, the obdurate, the irritating – no man is perfect! But each priest in his own way invests himself to become the connect between God and (wo)man. And wavering faith needs such a connect.

So, to those priests in my life who have come, gone, remained, returned to the Lord, this is my very inadequate but wholly sincere ‘Thank You!’

Friday, April 16, 2010

To the Catholic Priests I have known


…where there is injury, may my words be as balm.

They are men. And like all men, they can be infuriatingly logical, stolid and stubborn. I can remember the times without number that I have wailed, ‘But, Father…!’ And yet, they have been like signposts in my life, my inspiration and my strength.

Why the testimony? Because we are at a moment in time when the Catholic Church is besieged from within and without very publicly. Amid the furore in the Press, a quiet voice (via email) reminded me that for every one that stands accused, there are ten who are soldiering on to spread God’s word and work, hopefully, faithfully and lovingly.

This made me think about the Priests in my life – influences direct and indirect. The educators, formators, (tor)mentors and bulwarks. From the Priest who baptized me (he was Irish – therefore my gift of the gab?), to the burly Capuchin who confessed me that very first time in preparation for my First Holy Communion and Confirmation at the tender age of eight. Bear hugs, a well cushioned knee , sweets and a kitten magically produced on home visits made me feel cherished and secure. I loved that man. I also remember very clearly, a Holy Week when he was the only priest available in a remote upcountry parish: he had injured his back in a scooter accident (he used to carry out home visits on his cherished Lamby) despite which he had Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday to get through. In 1959 the rituals were formidable, yet he did his duty despite his pain-wracked body. Fifty years on, the experience is etched in memory.

Then on to school and catechism classes with Sunday School thrown in at weekends. We enjoyed the benefit of instructors both serious and humorous, each in their own way forming us for the future. I am reminded of a quote from Queen Rania of Jordan – “… a sense of values is essential because it is the shield which protects you from everything the world throws at you.” The priests who instructed us indeed provided us with the ‘armour of God’.

At this point, I realise that a great deal more of time and space is needed to do justice to the topic. So, look forward to tomorrow…

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Point and Counterpoint


This piece was written in response to an NDTV program aired years ago. The situations are unchanged though time and tide have come and gone.

We have a large landmass, but most of our people do not have a square foot to call their own.

We have legendary rivers and waterways, and yet our people struggle for a drop to drink.

We have historic and famous monuments, but people have no shelter over their heads.

We are the melting pot of the world’s religions – people come from all over the globe to study our philosophies, but we still have caste and gender intolerance.

Our citizens make a name for themselves in the fields of science and medicine, yet there are daily deaths from lack of timely and relevant care.

We have large and prosperous business houses, yet we have unemployment to a degree where people are driven to suicide.

Private (and public?) millions are poured into cricket, but we do not need to look far to find rampant poverty.

We are an agricultural nation, yet people starve to death.

People come to the big cities, leaving their wide open spaces to live cheek by jowl in unsanitary hovels. Villages are dying, cities are suffocating, but who cares?

Our first President was an eminent educationist and we honour our first Prime Minister by commemorating his birthday as Children’s Day. Yet we have child labour and the majority of our children lack basic education.

We are told India is shining, yet we step into the darkness of corruption every moment of every day.

We can choose to look at reality or turn the other way. Which will it be?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Why and Wherefore


As a sometime teacher to aspiring media students who need to brush up on language skills, it has been my wont to exhort them to write a paragraph a day. “Write on anything,” is what I advised them, “the view from your train window, an encounter with a classmate, a day on campus, window-shopping at the mall…anything. Just make it a habit to write!” A great believer that practicing and preaching go hand in hand, I set myself the same task. But when ‘have to do’ is faced with ‘distraction’, the latter offers the more delightful option. There’s always something to do which enables one to put off the evil moment. Let me illustrate. As I sat me down at the computer, I heard the crows outside my kitchen window embark on raucous conference. Intrigued, I trotted off to take a look. There were rows of crows on ledges, window sills, cables lines. In short, they were packed in feather to feather on every available perch. And as they indulged in simultaneous, tumultuous cacophony, I wondered who was listening to whom. Popping my head out of the window, I added a tentative ‘caw-aw’ of my own much to the disgust of the crows perched immediately below me. They turned a sideways beady glance in my direction and, almost without pause, continued in concert. I joined in again, more vigorously this time. My visitors few off but were immediately replaced by the next set of vocal gymnasts. This was certainly no ‘unchained’ melody.

My husband tells me that this happens prior to pairing off as the mating season begins. I was incredulous. But sure enough, a few days later there were pairs going beak to beak and females lovingly grooming their partners. Soon it will be nest building time. Crows building nests are harbingers of the monsoon. Let’s hope they get it right this time too.

Well this was one distraction that paid off. My paragraph for the day is done and dusted. Maybe there’s a moral in this somewhere?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Flakin’ Fish!


No, it’s not a new expletive, but it might soon become one in my personal lexicon. Here’s why: I had a tin of fish (Alaskan Salmon, for the curious) which I decided to flake for kedgeree – that grand old AI staple which allows all and sundry to be thrown into the pot. So there I was, delicately flaking the fish when the doorbell went ding-a-ling. I rinsed off my fingers, dabbed them dry and responded. It was a tradesperson for the neighbours. I duly directed him and returned to my flaking. Hardly a few minutes into the exercise, the phone rang. Again, rinsed the fingers, dabbed them dry and answered the call of the bell. It was a long lost friend catching up after a hiatus of a couple of years. Chatted a bit and returned to the fish. Doorbell ding-a-linged again. Courier delivering a packet. Accepted and signed for. Returned to fish. Telephone rang. Followed by doorbell. Followed by telephone. All in quick succession. Only halfway through tin. Now, don’t get me wrong. We do have our fair share of doorbells and telephone calls, but this day it was a relentless onslaught quite out of the common; must definitely have been to do with the fish and its flaking. Well the kedgeree did get made and turned out quite well – probably due to the muttered imprecations (did spells over the cauldron originate this way?). So now you know why ‘Flakin’ Fish’ makes a close second to ‘Holy smoke’!