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I live in Bedford, England. Having retired from teaching; I am now a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Threshold Concepts in the context of A-level Physics. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. I have also recently become a keen playgoer to London Fringe Theatre. I enjoy mostly classics and I read the playscripts and add those to the blog. I am a member of Bedford Writers' Circle. See their website here: http://bedford-writers.co.uk/ Follow me on twitter: @daja57

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

"The Horologicon" by Mark Forsyth

A 'book of hours' in which every hour is illustrated with weird words from the farthest shores of the English language. But what makes this book special is intimate scrutiny of everyday life and the number of words for things you didn't know you needed a word for. Thus he lies awake before dawn and worries (uhtceare); dawn can be low (the sun on the horizon) or high (when it first appears later, above clouds) and the first sun is the dayening, lightmans, day-peep, or early bright.


There are far too many interesting words to list them all in a blog entry. Even keeping track of all of Forsyth's little jokes would be exhaustive. For he is an extremely witty man. Therefore I disagree with the critic  who suggests he was tempted to read this book in a single go. On the contrary, I found it extraordinarily putdownable. And then pickupable. This is a book that demands that you read a few pages every day until, the end. It is brilliant, eccentric, hilarious and wonderful, but like a damn good meal you need to take your time to allow your digestion to work. Otherwise you would feel stuffed instead of satisfied.


Below are just a few of the many moments of brilliance:
  • "The world is, I am told, speeding up. Everybody dashes around at a frightening pace, teleconferencing and speed-dating ... like so many coked-up pin-balls." (p 2) 
  • "Any slipper than can double up as a weapon with which to spank godlings has to be a good idea." (p 20)
  • The word 'bumf' meaning paperwork is a short version of 'bumfodder' meaning toilet paper! (pp 24 - 25)
  • "Of the seven deadly sins only three are enjoyable: gluttony, sloth and lust balance their lethality with fun." (p 96) 
  • "Sinhala ... means 'blood of a lion', which is odd as there are no lions in Sri Lanka." (p 131) 
  • "In the ancient Near East ... if you sat down to have a nice supper with a sinner, that made you a sinner too. It is this ... that makes Jesus' sitting down with the wine-bibbers and tax collectors such a prickly point in the gospels. A man could be judged by the company he kept at table." (p 149) 
  • "If you drink alone it is much harder to avoid buying your round." (p 176) 
  • "The tongue is often merely the thin end of the wedge." (p 210)
  • And a wonderful story about philosopher A J Ayer, heavyweight chanmpion Mike Tyson and supermodel Naomi Campbell

Wonderful. February 2017; 238 pages


What is it with my mate Fred? Doesn't he read any books which are bad or even average? This is the latest in a strong of fantastic recommendations which have included:
  • A Time of Gifts: a wonderful travel book about a man walking through Europe between the wars; beautifully written 
  • The Mighty Dead: a superb analysis of the Iliad but an authro who writes like a dream 
  • Dynasty: the story of the first Roman emperors by the wonderful historian Tom Holland 
  • The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller 
  • Defying Hitler, a superb memoir written by a German about the period between the first and second world war

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