In this blogposting...
* Mietek and Naomi
* Why Did The Chicken Cross The Road?

* * *
The other day I had the very great pleasure of meeting Mietek and Naomi for the first time.  And it didn’t happen a day too soon, either…

No truckshunter worth his or her salt should need to be told who Mietek is.  But just in case you haven’t been paying attention for the last few years…

I first came into contact with him when I was doing Roots of the North-East almost ten years ago.  I was seriously surprised to get emails from the man with the strange-sounding name - and from Canada, too.  I quickly learned how creative and articulate he was, and that he was a fanatical supporter of Newcastle United.

I have to admit that it all seemed very odd - and that it continued to seem odd for the next several years, as Roots changed into the Blue Bus and then into The Nightshift.  Emails continued to pass briskly across the Atlantic between us right up until I retired from the BBC.  And that, I thought, was that.

But I was wrong.  I continued to hear about Mietek through his various contacts on Facebook and then, a few months ago, was amazed to discover that he had transplanted himself and Naomi to Tyneside.

Since his move, he has been frequenting the Free Trade pub - a risky thing to do, considering that Lawrence is often there too - and many other places.  At long last, it was my turn to meet the great man and his consort, but in the more restrained surroundings of Thornton’s at the Monument.

It was a talkative encounter, to say the least.  I’ve always acknowledged my regrettable ability to talk the proverbial hind legs off an Arcturan megadonkey but I’m way outclassed by Mietek and Naomi, neither of whom appears to need to stop and take a breath.  They have the gloriously happy knack of changing the subject midstream to something even more interesting and for introducing conversational cul-de-sacs that I was more than happy to follow them up.

They almost put on a floor-show - passing topics from one to another like verbal jugglers.  I was utterly entranced - and didn’t get even the remotest opportunity to ask any of the questions I wanted to ask.

Everybody has a story to tell and I’m sure there are many people - on Facebook and elsewhere - who know what Mietek’s is.  I’m not one of them, though - even though we have finally met.  It’s going to take several more encounters to find out what he and Naomi are all about….

Isn’t Naomi a lovely name?  And wasn’t she wearing a wonderful hat?

* *
Our illustrious author Kev has sent me some putative answers that various august and noble historical figures may have given to this annoyingly persistent question…

Isaac Newton
Chickens at rest tend to stay at rest; chickens in motion tend to cross roads.

Charles Darwin
Chickens, over great periods of time, have been naturally selected in such a way that they are now genetically programmed to cross roads.

Albert Einstein
Whether the chicken crossed the road or the road moved beneath the chicken depends upon your frame of reference.

Oliver Stone
The question is not ‘Why did the chicken cross the road?’ but is rather ‘Who was crossing the road at the same time, whom we overlooked in our haste to observe the chicken crossing?’

The fact that you are at all concerned with why the chicken crossed the road reveals your underlying sexual insecurity.


Because the chicken is moving very fast, you can either observe the chicken or you can measure its speed; you cannot do both.

Jean Foucault
It didn’t. The rotation of the earth made it appear to cross.

To get a better look at the stars.

There was more resistance on this side of the road.


It was pressured to cross the road.

The other side had more potential.

Stephen Hawking
There exist numerous parallel universes in which the same chicken is in differing stages of crossing the road. Only when one of the chickens has completed crossing the road do their functions coalesce.

Your Grandad
In our day, we didn't ask why the chicken crossed the road. Someone told us that the chicken had crossed the road, and that was good enough for us.


More contributions gratefully accepted.

Two thoughts occur to me, though.

Firstly, when did this ‘standing joke’ begin, and where?  Perhaps more importantly - why?  Who was it who first decided that asking why a chicken crossed the road was a logical thing to do?  And why a chicken?  Why not (say) a duck?  Or an echidna?  Or a tapir?

Was it a particular, historical chicken?  Or is the question genuinely trying to find an explanation for the road-crossing proclivities of chickens generally?

And I wonder how my French friends would react if I asked them Pourquoi a le poulet traversé la route?  I would be utterly unable to proffer any explanation as to why this vexing question has amused and perplexed the English for so many decades and would have to be content with funny looks, shrugged shoulders and hopeless expressions of O la vache!  Les anglaises!

Secondly - who was (or is) Heisenberg?

Thanks Kev for a typically stimulating contribution.

* *
For heaven's sake, don't forget that our next AGM will take place at 1100 this upcoming Thursday 4 July at Oliver's Cafe in Grainger Market.

Be afraid.  Be very afraid.

* * *
Post comments on this blog or email me:  truckshunters@googlemail.com

The unfortunate Walle; see below

I hope you’re enjoying Wimbledon as much as I am.  As far as I am concerned, it’s one of those institutions that remains solidly constant in a too-rapidly changing world - like Thornton’s or Gardeners’ Question Time.

Gloriously and meticulously well-organised, mercifully free of sponsorship and advertising hoardings…

White-clad players bowing to the Royal Box; line judges, ballboys and ballgirls immaculately attired and entering/leaving the courts with military precision…

Cream teas, strawberries, pink champagne….

And everything is so spectacularly green; no ludicrously luminous vermilion clay or concrete or cement courts - just honest-to-goodness, totally natural, bright green grass.

I hope that Wimbledon never, ever, ever, ever succumbs to the garish, disorganised vulgarity of the other Grand Slam tournaments.  Some hope, I know.  But a man can dream.

* * *
Don’t forget that our next AGM will take place at 1100 this upcoming Thursday 4 July at Oliver’s Cafe in the Grainger Market.

Think about how unbearable I could make the rest of your life if you don’t turn up…

* * *
There are millions of mawkishly sickening and sentimentally syrupy animal photos on the Internet.  Pictures of dogs cuddling cats, tigers rearing piglets as if they were tiger-cubs, monkeys kissing pigeons, babies hugging rattlesnakes - stuff like that.  Those of you who are susceptible to such crap aren’t going to like this next item one little bit.

As a matter of fact, you may already seen this story elsewhere but I don’t care.  Its absurdity rating on the truckshunter scale ensures its inclusion here.

The competition to find the world’s ugliest dog was held a couple of weeks ago in California - where else?

The winner - a dog called Walle - is pictured above.

In my view, though, almost all of these other contenders are much uglier than Walle...
Aren't they just adorable?

* * *
Here are the answers to the Royal Oak Quiz from posting  465.

01 Toy Story 2
02 Italy
03 Edinburgh and London
04 Chicago, An American In Paris, Casablanca
05 Mullions
06 Motley Crue
07 Stockholm Syndrome
08 Emu
09 Leonardo Di Caprio
10 Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams
11 Dallas
12 Mario
13 Jaden & Will Smith
14 The Guardian
15 The Queen
16 John Lewis
17 The Koran
18 Avocado
19 Robert Vaughn
20 New York
21 Ahoy-hoy
22 Charles and Camilla
23 1509-1547
24 Trelawney
25 Sow



I got a pitiable 11.  How did you do?

Thanks again to Ross for sending me the quiz.

* *
Post comments on this blog or email me:  truckshunters@googlemail.com
For all sorts of comfortably complex reasons, yesterday was quite an auspicious day, one way or another...

For a start, it was the last day of Spring.  However delayed - and, in some cases, however half-heartedly - everything that should have burst forth with vibrant new life at this time of year has done so and is now ready to shimmer and burnish in the still, sultry heat of an English Summer, of which this is the first day.

Tonight is the shortest night of the year - a truly mystical and evocative time in the celestial calendar.  Timelessly awe-inspiring, in an ‘old religion’, Druidical kind of way.

But we Truckshunters have a much more important reason to don our stylishly sexy white sheets, place daisy-chain circlets around our heads, grasp our faggots, face the rising sun and chant incantations in Welsh.

As of yesterday, we have a published author in our midst….

As of yesterday, the awesome and wonderful Kev - he of wordplay, puzzles and mathematical wizardry - is famous.  Much more famous than all the rest of us put together, in fact.

If I seem to have been a bit too ‘jokey’ about Kev’s achievement - well, that’s only because he is a naturally modest kind of bloke who would be uncomfortable with any high-blown and fulsome acclamation or encomium I would want to write here on the blog.  (I’m fairly certain, for example, that he would find my use of words like ‘encomium’ to be particularly and gallingly embarrassing.)
Nevertheless, with the publication yesterday of Mathematics for Marine Engineers, Kev has hit both personal and professional heights for which he deserves our totally unreserved and overflowing applause.

Dammit - the man is a genius.  And if anyone can think of an appropriate way for the Honourable Company of Truckshunters to recognise this, I’d love to hear from you.

Here is what the Bloomsbury website says about him...

'Kevin Corner is Lecturer in Mathematics in the Marine School at South Tyneside College, UK. He has taught the subject for over 23 years and was commissioned in 2002 by the Norwegian company Seagull who specialize in providing educational material to the marine industry in the form of interactive discs to write commentary on HND mathematics to accompany animations.'

And this is what it says about Mathematics for Marine Engineers...

'This exciting new edition covers the core subject areas of arithmetic, algebra, mensuration in 2D and 3D, trigonometry and geometry, graphs, calculus and statistics and probability for Marine Engineering students for the Merchant Navy OOW qualification.

  Initial examples have been designed purely to practise mathematical technique and, once these skills have been mastered, further examples focus on engineering situations where the appropriate skills may be utilised.  The practical questions are primarily from a marine engineering background but questions from other disciplines, such as electrical engineering, will also be covered, and reference made to the use of advanced calculators where relevant.'

If that hasn't knocked your socks off, here is the Table Of Contents...

1  Indices and Logarithms
2  Algebra
3  Simple Equations and Transposition
4  Simultaneous Linear Equations
5  Quadratic and Cubic Equations
6  Graphs
7  Trigonometry and Geometry
8  Solution of Triangles
9  Mensuration of Areas
10  Mensuration of Volumes and Masses
11  Differential Calculus
12  Integral Calculus and Advanced Applications
13  Statistics
14  Specimen Exam Questions and Worked Solutions

And there are even Appendices, as follows…

I: the Basics
II: Complex Numbers
III: Laplace Transforms
IV: Fourier Analysis
V: Exam Standard Questions and Solutions
VI: Formulae

Pretty impressive, huh?
It all reminds me of a poem I half-remember from school.  It was called Naming of Parts, and I apologise for adapting it so freely...

Today we have Mathematics for Marine Engineers.
Not for Civil or Military or Aeronautical Engineers.
Or any other kind of Engineer, including Electrical ones, mostly.
No - today’s Mathematics is for
Marine Engineers.

Today we have Indices and Logarithms…
…Logarithms and Indices…
And tomorrow we have Equations -
 - Simple
 - Transposition
 - Simultaneous
 - Quadratic
 - Cubic
Simultaneous and Simple - like us.
Or perhaps the day after.

Today we have Mathematics for Marine Engineers.
We will learn what the Solution to Triangles is.
We will Mensurate Areas and Volumes and Masses -
 - Masses and Masses of Volumes
And tomorrow
Our Calculus will not only be Differential
But also Integral
And Advanced
And Applied.

But not today.
For today we have
Indices and Logarithms…

Well done, Kev - and congratulations from all of us.  You’re a star.

* * *
Post comments on this blog or email me:  truckshunters@googlemail.com
In this blogposting…
* The Royal Oak Quiz
* Staircases
* Prancercise

* * *
Here is last Sunday’s quiz from the Royal Oak pub in Medomsley.  As usual, a big Thankyou to Hildie’s nephew Ross, who not only sent it to me but drafted it as well.

Clever lad.

01 In 1999, Tom Hanks starred in his first ever sequel. What was it?
02 In 1924, which was the first country in the world to open a motorway?
03 Which two cities are joined by Britain’s A1?
04 Three films whose titles contain the names of cities have won the Best Picture Oscar.  Name one of them.
05 What name is given to the vertical bars dividing the panes of a window?
06 Tommy Lee, who was formerly married to Pamela Anderson, was the drummer in which successful 1980s heavy metal band?
07 What name is given to the psychological condition whereby abducted hostages bond to their captors?
08 What is the largest bird native to Australia?
09 Who plays Jay Gatsby in the recent film adaptation of The Great Gatsby?
10 The French Open concluded last week; who won the men’s singles title and the women’s singles title?
11 Which American city is home to sports teams called the Cowboys, the Stars and the Mavericks?
12 Which computer games character is at the centre of the biggest-selling video games franchise of all time, selling over 722 million worldwide?
13 Who play the father and son team in the new film After Earth?
14 The Observer is the sister paper to which weekday newspaper?
15 Whose portrait has been defaced this week in Westminster Abbey?
16 Which company owns Waitrose supermarkets?
17 What book is divided into 114 suras?
18 What is the main ingredient of guacamole?
19 Who is the only actor to appear in both The Magnificent Seven and Coronation Street?
20 This week in 1665, New Amsterdam was renamed - as what?
21 Thomas Edison is popularly credited with using the word ‘hello’ to answer the phone. But what word or phrase did Alexander Graham-Bell prefer to use?
22 Which Royals have appeared in the Beano this week?
23 Name any year in the reign of Henry VIII
24 What was the name of the squire in Treasure Island?
25 What is the name for a female bear?

In what year did Tesco, Sainsbury's, Safeway, Asda and Gateway first open on a Sunday?

As of last Saturday, how many professional tennis matches has Rafael Nadal competed in?

Answers next time…

* * *
The pictures that adorn this posting were sent to me by Eric and Jean.  They are part of a viral email and, as such, could well be photoshopped fantasies.
So I’d be grateful if someone who has nothing better to do can, firstly, determine if they really exist or not and, secondly, where in the world they are.
Fantasies or not, they’re pretty impressive.
* * *
This astonishing lady has invented a new way to help us oldies to stay fit.  She calls it prancercising.

To find out what’s involved, just click on the link below.  (If it doesn’t work, cut and paste the link into the Search box of your browser.)


Impressive, huh?  Thanks to my old friend Brian for sending me the link.

At the end of our next AGM, I think we should all prancercise down Grey Street just like this, don’t you?

Speaking of which…

* * *
Like it or not, the next AGM will take place at 1100 on Thursday 4 July.  We’ll be mustered at Oliver’s Cafe in Grainger Market.

All of us.

* * *
Post comments on this blog or email me:  truckshunters@googlemail.com
In this blogposting…
* The Lady of the North
* Washington

* * *
It’s been quite a while since I posted a blog so, now that everyone’s had plenty of time to absorb all that fascinating information about Azerbaijan, it’s time to turn our collective gaze closer to home…

My old friend Kathy made one of her rare excursions to the north-east a couple of weekends ago and, because it was a such an uncommonly fine few days, we spend almost all day, every day, outside.  I took her to Durham City (naturally), Tynemouth, Sunderland and Seaton Delaval Hall, which the National Trust have made a superb job of restoring to its former glory and enhancing its user-friendliness.

A celebration of the Queen’s coronation was in full swing, complete with cream teas, children’s games and a brass band.  It was lovely.  Maybe we should have an AGM there.

Not far inland from Seaton Delaval, we made our way to one of the area’s more bizarre sites - Northumberlandia, ‘The Lady of the North’ or, perhaps unkindly, ‘Slag Alice’.  She’s the largest human-form earth-sculpture in the world - although I’m not sure how many human-form earth-sculptures she’s in competition with.
She’s 34m high at the nose, 400m long, is made of over 1.5m tonnes of earth and is set in 19 hectares of public open parkland.  The bald statistics, though, don’t really prepare you for what you see when you get there.

She is sensational.  Not even ground-level or aerial photographs do her justice.  She reclines in her glory right next to an open-cast mine ( - hence her unkind nickname - ), whose owners (Banks) partly funded her.  The Blagdon Estate coughed up the rest.

A woodland walk brings you to her.  You see her in silhouette, bounded by lakes and laced with footpaths that wind their way up to her forehead.  Wander round the watersides and climb slowly to the top and you’re rewarded with the only view there is of her whole body laid out below you.  Nearest to you, her eyes gaze forever to the sky and the stars.
It’s breathtaking - it really is.  Her form and contours seem to be formed of the earth rather than made from it and I can easily imagine her acquiring an almost mystical significance, in much the same way as the Angel.  I’d love to be there early one morning, or perhaps at dusk, when long shadows and low light must add to her beauty and her mysterious majesty.

The Lady of the North would make a great place for a Truckshunters Summer Picnic.  Any takers?
In any case...if you haven’t been - go!

* * *
Kathy’s a keen birdwatcher, so the Wetlands Trust site near Washington was also a must-see.  And it, too, was a delight from beginning to end.  From the rare cranes, geese and ducks, via the dozens of garden and woodland birds at the feeding stations, the herons and the oystercatchers, the pink flamingos and the frolicking otters. 

It’s always the same, isn’t it?  You take for granted the wonders that lie on your doorstep and only visit them when you’re hosting a guest.  So I’ve decided to formulate a ‘mid-year resolution‘ - to visit Slag Alice, Seaton Delaval and the Wetlands Centre MUCH more often.

And yes - we now have three sites for AGMs or outings as a result of Kathy’s visit.

* * *
Speaking of which…
I think we should, as it were, resurrect our series of AGMs from oblivion.

The next one - number 41 - will take place at 1100 on Thursday 4 July.  Bearing the date in mind, I suppose a good venue would be Washington Old Hall.  Any takers?  Or am I whistling in the wind, as usual?

* *
...that today, June 13, has been Paul Wappat’s birthday.

Modesty, and several thinly-veiled threats, prevent me from telling you how old he is now.

So all I’ll say to my dear not-so-old friend  - from all of us - is…


* *
Post comments on this blog or email me:  truckshunters@googlemail.com


As with all of the unregarded little countries we’ve visited so far, Azerbaijan has a few Well I never! moments crouching in the shadows, waiting to vault out and smack you in the face.  So pay attention…

* * *
It might be wise to get the basic nuts-and-bolts of this surprising little country out of the way first - specially for those, like me, who are not entirely 100% absolutely and indubitably sure and certain as to its precise and exact whereabouts.

The name Azerbaijan is the much-corrupted descendant of Ancient Persian words that mean ‘guardians of fire’ - a singularly appropriate description for the 10 million or so people who live here, as we’ll find out later.

Its unit of currency is the manat, its web addresses end in .az and its international dialling code is +994.

Azerbaijan finished second in the 2013 Eurovision Song Contest, thus provoking a diplomatic incident with Russia, to whom it had steadfastly refused to give the maximum 12 points.

The winning song was called Hold Me and was sung by Farid Mammadov - sadly, in English.  You can watch his breathtaking performance by clicking here - http://www.eurovision.tv/page/history/year/participant-profile/?song=30343 - or by cutting and pasting that link into the Search box of your web browser.

As for Azerbaijan’s whereabouts...

It’s the largest country in the Caucasus region and is bounded by the Caspian Sea to the east, Russia to the north, Georgia to the northwest, Armenia to the west and Iran to the south.

Beyond those simple facts, Azeri life gets a bit complicated.  This is because the country has two ‘exclaves’ - detached bits.  The first is Nakhchivan, which has borders with Armenia, Iran and Turkey.

The second is Nagorno-Karabakh, which was invaded by Armenia in 1991 and remains disputed territory to this day. 

But let’s not sully our visit with that; let’s sully it with something else entirely...

* * *
The capital of Azerbaijan is Baku, unarguably the most polluted city on Earth.  The International Health Index of 2007 said it had ‘life-threatening levels of air pollution’; 10% of its population have lung diseases of one kind or another.

Interestingly, its satellite town of Sumqayit is worse - much, much worse.  The Index ranked it alongside Chernobyl as one of the world’s worst foul-air blackspots.  It has cancer rates fully 50% above the national average (which is already pretty high) and astronomical rates of birth defects and stillbirths.  One of its main ‘sights’ is the cemetery set aside for child burials.

(For the record, the other four of the world’s five most polluted cities are Dhaka, in Bangladesh (‘extreme pollution in the rivers’); Antananarivo, the capital of Madagascar (‘the city basically stinks’), Port au Prince, in Haiti (‘choking on smog and filth’) and Mexico City (‘the air contains particles of dried shit’)).

You have been warned.

* * *
Azerbaijan’s most famous son is Garry Kasparov, who was born and brought up in Baku - and managed to survive its perils to become the highest-ranked chess player who ever lived.

To illustrate this achievement, it’s worth bearing a few chess-based statistics in mind.

After only one move, there are 400 possible next moves.

After two moves, there are 72,000.

After three, there are 9,000,000.

After four, there are 318,000,000,000.

After five, there are 169,518,829,100,544,000,000,000,000,000.

So perhaps there’s something else in Baku’s air.

* * *
The national language is Azeri, which is very closely related to Turkish.  ‘Hello’ is salam (as you might expect) and ‘Goodbye’ is sağol (which you might not).
Petroglyphs in the Gobustan National Park. 
These rock carvings are thought to be over 12,000 years old 
and are a World Heritage Site of 'outstanding universal value'.

Here are the numbers from one to ten in Azeri.  Learn them by heart - the language has over 11m speakers so you never know when you might need them.

bir  iki  üç  dört  bäş  alty  yedi  sekiz  dokuyz  on

Here are some other phrases that may help you…

Could you help me?  Mene kömek ede bilersiniz? 
I would like to invite you to dinner  Mən sizi şam yeməyinə dəvət etmək istəyərdim
Are you married?  Siz evlisiniz? 
Can I have your telephone number?  Mənə telefon nömrənizi verə bilərsiniz? 
Will you marry me?  Mənimlə evlənərsiniz?
What’s this food called?  Bu yeməyin adı nədir?  
I feel sick  Ürəyim bulanır
Where is the toilet?  Tualet haradadır?
Call the police!  Polis çağırın!
My hovercraft is full of eels  Hoverkraftimin içi ilan balıǧı ilə doludur

You could be forgiven for thinking that Azeri is too distant - both geographically and linguistically - to have bequeathed any words to English.  But you’d be wrong.  The Azeri speakers of Iran, who are seasonal nomads and mostly keepers of horses, camels and cattle, are called Qāshqāy - a name mysteriously abducted by Nissan for the name of a car.
* * *
The national emblem of Azerbaijan - though not featured on its flag - is a dramatic burning shot of flame.  This is not really surprising; the country is so soaked in hydrocarbons that oil oozes from the ground and venting gas feeds natural jets of flame.

When Alexander the Great’s army passed through, local tribesmen harried it by hurling flaming pots of oil that ignited their tents.

More recently, Azerbaijan gave the world its first oil well, its first oil tanker and its first oil pipeline.  By the 1870s, over half the world’s oil supply came from little Azerbaijan.

Thirty or so miles off the country’s shoreline, in the open waters of the Caspian Sea, lies the unique township of Oil Rocks.  6,000 people live there; there are 120 miles of streets, with a school, a park, a shopping centre and several apartment blocks.  And all of it supported on an elaborate maze of rusting trestles.

Lack of maintenance is causing Oil Rocks to gradually subside into the sea - but it still produces over 50% of the country’s oil.

* * *
One final feather in Azerbaijan’s cap…

It was the first Muslim country to give women the vote.  Moreover, this was in 1917 - before women were allowed to vote in either the UK or the USA.
The 12th-century 'Maiden Tower' in Old Baku - another UNESCO World Heritage Site.
* * *
We’ve come a long way since we started our Truckshunter World Geography by stepping carefully into the troubled landscape of Afghanistan.  And, as we wave Goodbye to the oil-derricks and nomadic horsemen of Azerbaijan, our journey of a lifetime enters a new phase - countries beginning with the letter B.

So now we’re on our way to Bahamas and then, via lands as diverse as Belgium, Botswana and Brazil, we’ll end up in Burundi…

* *
Post comments on this blog or email me:  truckshunters@googlemail.com

In this blogposting…
* The Pocket Handkerchief Tree
* Clichés
* English As She Is Spoke

* * *
Mission accomplished!

As I mentioned in posting 459, I was pleased as punch when the redoubtable Brenda told us that there was a Pocket Handkerchief Tree - a Davidia involucrata - about to blossom in the University Quadrangle.  I decided there and then that I would make it my business to investigate as soon as I could.

So I went down there today and there it was - in beautiful, bright, early June sunshine, looking for all the world as if dozens of silky white handkerchiefs were dangling from the branches.  Very striking and very strange and very rare.

At last, after several decades of hunting for a specimen that was in blossom and showing off its unique flowers, I was able to sit back under a cloudless, blue Newcastle sky and admire one in all its glory to my heart’s content.

As a matter of fact, I’d almost left it too late.  Only the topmost branches were still in flower, as you can see.  But that was enough for me.  I was finally able to tick one of the those little, unimportant boxes which, once ticked, make life a little sweeter and a little more worthwhile.

‘It is in the dew of little things that the heart finds its morning and is refreshed.’
* * *
Many thanks to Ellie, Margaret and Brenda for sending me more hoary old clichés - you can see them in the Comments box of the last posting.

Here are some of the many others that have been emailed to me by Peter, Martin, Michael and Lesley…

Once and for all, when all’s said and done, all part of the service, pearls before swine (and, of course, age before beauty), you can’t tell a book by its cover, there’s many a slip, at the end of the day, getting down to brass tacks, everything has its price…

As if to put the cat among the pigeons, I’ve just re-read the first item, above, about the  Pocket Handkerchief Tree and have discovered to my horror another eight clichés.  Sometimes, it’s impossible to avoid them!  And I suppose that’s why they’re clichés…

* * *
Ellie’s comment to the last blogposting also included a rap over my deeply ungrammatical knuckles; I had said ‘My friend and me’ when it ought to have been ‘My friend and I’.

It’s a fair cop, although sometimes I think that that rule can be taken so far that it leaves ordinary ‘custom and usage’ behind.  If someone asks me ‘Who’s there?’ and I reply ‘It’s me’, I am once again in technical breach of the ‘I/me’ rule.  However, to reply ‘It is I’ would surely sound stilted and arch - to say the least.

So we’ll have to agree to disagree.

Coincidentally, the other day my friend Kathy and me had an animated discussion about some other rules of grammar that get some people hot under the collar - starting a sentence with a conjunction, splitting an infinitive, and ending a sentence with a preposition.

But to be honest, I don’t really see what the big deal is with any of them.  And I’ve just started two sentences with conjunctions, to no noticeable detriment.

And if it’s all right for Star Trek ‘to boldly go’ then it’s just as all right for me ‘to boldly split’ an infinitive.

And as for the third Victorian grammarians’ rule about not ending a sentence with a preposition... well, ‘cakes, coffee and sunshine are three things I can’t do without’ sounds infinitely preferable to ‘cakes, coffee and sunshine are three things without which I cannot do.’

The innate foolishness of this rule was famously pointed up by Winston Churchill (no less) who said that ‘telling me not to end a sentence with a preposition is something up with which I will not put’.

I discussed this with my brother this weekend and we have both been trying to remember a well-known quotation that deliberately sets out to end a sentence with as many prepositions as possible.  And we think we’ve found it…

Picture it.  A little boy is in bed but can’t sleep.  He asks his Mam to go downstairs to find a book and then read to him from it.

But she fetches a book he doesn’t like, so he asks…

‘What did you bring me that book to be read to out of up for?’

Neat, huh?

In our Barry’s version, the hated book is about Australia…

‘What did you bring me that book about down under up for?’

If you can do any better, I’d love you to bravely put finger to keyboard.  You know the address to send your messages to.

And in case you don’t, this is me...

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