Keeri who loved humans

Keeri who loved humans
Something to say?

Thursday, 27 June 2013

The English Language

There are some words, fairly recent adhesions to the English language that  really get me going. They touch a nerve and start serious discomfort.

   Girl children? Did we not have a perfectly good word for that since long ago? Are they not girls any more when Aid agencies begin talking about them in connection with inequalities in educational access or Female Genital Mutilation  (FGM is too antiseptic a word to describe this particular horror - let us call it by its real name. This is only for females and it is genital and what happens is horrendous chopping up that some times kills them and leaves them forever handicapped. Sexually. I once asked an African man, an educated one in Malawi about it , and he said, 'If they get pleasure out of sex, they will be rampant. We won't be able to control them.' But then the same man told me his wife was 'loaded, when she became pregnant. I've still to get over that, nausea included.

   And - come to think of it - why does nobody talk of boy children in this connection or any other? So boys remain boys till they become men and we girls have a holding place till we become women. Like purgatory. Ah well!

   Mind you - the boy word has its own indignities connected to it if you have ever lived in Africa as an expatriate. In South Africa all African men were boys irrespective of their age. 'Boy!' the white bwana shouted and the ageing steward actually limped in to answer that command. All over Africa, North and South, this word was copied by many expatriates. 

   And in sport, I have noticed, the men are all 'boys' even if they are at the fag end of their sporting lives, Tendulkar, Steven Gerrard, those huge forbidding Rugby players that look like mountains - all boys.

Back to my favourite language: My writing group once said to me that we should , each of us, have a writing buddy. Buddy? Thank you, no. A writing partner, yes. But buddy I can do without. As I said, it makes me itch.

Then there are the nouns that have become verbs. Now you can access something on the phone or computer. Maybe even gain access? How many of these are we letting in? Soon I shall have serious confusions if I try to 'parse' a sentence. (That's a childhood pastime that has vanished.) The nuns insisted you had to find the verb and the subject pretty quickly, or else you were lost.

   I guess that is enough of a moan for a day about things most people take no notice of. It's me from another century being cantankerous as the old are expected to be.


Saturday, 22 June 2013

Abduction? I think not.

Now, I have a grand daughter aged eight. I know all about the tug-of-war in parents' minds between the desire to give a precious child freedom to enjoy the world - the parks, the playgrounds, the roads home - and safety- safety from the stalkers, the groomers, the rapists and other predators.

This young man, the Maths teacher, who was given a five-and-a-half year jail sentence yesterday - isn't there any one else who thinks it was a bit extreme? He was silly, stupid, manipulative - all that. But the girl went with him willingly. At fourteen she was fully aware of what was going on. Abduction? I think not.

He was a moron and should not be let loose near young girls. I agree. But adding on four years  of imprisonment for sex with a willing girl?

Did the judge think that in those few days in France before they were apprehended they were teaching and learning about Matrices and Transformations? For heavens' sake!

I know this is controversial and many will jump down my throat in an instant. But where no force is applied and the sex is consensual, should we not make allowances?

Rightly, Steven broke the laws governing the teacher-student relationship. Rightly, he should never be near a school again. And rightly, he should not be in positions where he can influence young girls. So he loses his livelihood and that's quite a big punishment. I thought the fifteen months was about right. Enough to make a point.

The banks who impoverished a whole nation and a whole generation got away with no punishment, certainly no jail sentence. The BBC officer, Hall, got away with fifteen months. For abusing children for four decades. For rape, and all that goes before it and after it.

I hope there will be a few others to see how unjust this sentence is. That stupid man deserves fifteen months, no more.

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Bookless in Blantyre

When I think of dying there are two things I am sad about: all those books that will be written after, that I shall not get to read, and all the music I will never hear. Hutchens, approaching death with stoic rationalism apparently moaned the fact that he would not see his beloved England, as cancer slowly destroyed his voice, that which he considered most himself, relentlessly. Is there a part of this world I shall miss? All of it, I suppose, so in an odd way, no special part of it. 

  Before I die I would love to visit China and see whether there are any smidgens of Taoism still left there, hiding in little village huts. Are there people out there enjoying the every day physical things, like scratching an itch vigorously, that Lin Yu Tang once commended? Listening to the bull frogs' chorus during the rainy season, nicely cosy in bed; watching the rain flies descend in swarms for that brief pre-rain flurry, straining to hear the crickets at sundown while shutting out all other sounds - these are the things I must seek in the next few years. I seem to have lost that quiet place inside me to the cacophony of urban life.

   But what is there to be done about all those yet unwritten books? There are clearly journeys on which my Kindle cannot go with me.

   I found out how painfully dependent I was on the written word many years ago when I travelled from Dubai to London, forgetting to pack my reading in my carry-on case. The word-less hours were sheer torture, making me restless and irritable. Sister Benoza at our Catholic High School in India drew vivid word pictures of purgatory, the holding place between heaven and earth. Fires raged there and inmates screamed and begged God for delivery. I had nightmares about the serpents and the fires until I got the measure of Sister Benoza somewhere around standard four. But purgatory is individual, and mine is a place devoid of books.

   The newspapers on board the Emirates plane were all about Gulf news, not a word in them to interest me after the first five minutes. On that trip I learned my lesson.

   On another occasion I read too fast on a plane and finished my book for my flight half-way through the journey. After that I started packing two books for each trip. And then my son gave me a Kindle and life altered gloriously. Now I can sit on my veranda in India and download my reading. I don't have to husband the material and read slowly to save my reading.

   However, long before Kindle, I found myself in Blantyre on one occasion with two weeks of back-to-back workshops to do. I was living at Hotel Mount Soche, which manages to be comfortable and dead boring at the same time. The T V in the room was useless as the remote control could not work. The cleaning staff kept the best ones in store to hand out to guests who paid the largest bribes. I did not know that, so I did not have access to the T V.

   Again, I had left my reading material at home in Lilongwe. On Saturday I wandered around the quiet Blantyre streets looking for a book to read. I finally found a pavement vendor and bought two books from him. At last, I thought, now I can get back to the hotel, order a tray of tea and relax into a book.

   The tea came and I made myself comfortable, with the reading light placed strategically behind my lounger, and opened the book eagerly. It was porn - hard porn intent on teaching me lessons I had never got to learn about sex. I dropped the books in the waste bin and then picked them up again and hid them in a drawer. What would the cleaners think about me if they saw these books?

   I was forced to take them home to burn in my garden. Burn because I would not want my house-staff to think I'd been reading that stuff.

   Today I have solved my insecurities in the book department. I keep one by my bedside, another in the sitting room and a third in the medicine cabinet by the bed. My kindle always stays close to me and I shall never be without something to read.