WRITING THE PROSE

I wrote 33 blogs last year. I intend to write one per week but clearly I don’t always manage that.

The subjects were:

History 1

Clothes 3

English 1

Health 2

Sewing 2

Family 8

Weather 2

Holidays 2

Flora and Fauna 2

Politics 5

Interior Décor 1

I enjoy writing them, and I enjoy your comments.

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ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE.

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LOVE IS ALL YOU NEED

I’ve been reflecting on the famous verses about love in St Paul’s Letters to the Corinthians, (First); Chapter 13. I’m quoting from the King James bible.

Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself; is not puffed up. Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth. Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth. And now abideth faith, hope and charity, these three: but the greatest of these is charity.

I find it difficult to believe in the creed of any religion but the above statement on charity (or love) I support in its entirety.

Love is not portrayed as a simpering sentimentality, nor as an adoring admirer. Love, he says, puts up with things for a long time; it’s kind; it isn’t envious; it doesn’t promote itself and isn’t arrogant. It doesn’t behave improperly; isn’t self interested; is not easily angered. It does not contemplate wickedness. It is not glad when grievous things happen to others and seeks the truth. Love tolerates all things, believes all things; hopes for good outcomes and endures. Love never fails. When all is said and done, faith, hope and love still survive. But the greatest of these is love.

So love is demanding and difficult in subtle ways. It calls for high standards of behaviour. It has to be modest and not self seeking. It has to believe in the power of good and act accordingly. It has to hope for a good outcome and go on having faith in this possibility and behaving lovingly long past the point when lesser values would have given up. Love never despairs.

This is by no means easy.

When I was in a French hospital last year,I received for 5 days double the dose of a dangerous drug, as a result of which I suffered from episodes of extremely violent uncontrollable jerking movements. Eventually I passed out during one of these fits (I had never previously fainted in my whole life) and woke up extremely distressed and disoriented in a chaotic recovery ward. On this day I also discovered about the double dose and declined to take it any further (at that level) and as a result had only a couple more much milder episodes. One of these however was on the day before I was due to be discharged, and I did not wish to prejudice my departure, so I endured this one on my own. It was comparatively mild and did not last long. But again afterwards I was slightly disoriented. The hospital was strangely quiet and apparently empty of people (or so it appeared to me.) In addition the sun was setting and my room was flooded with an extraordinary golden light. I felt like Reepicheep at the end of the world. I began to wonder if this was the end and whether the Angel of Death would arrive. My practical self, a down to earth, logical, practical girl who never loses the place and never panics (very unlike my emotional self) suggested that we should not be so melodramatic and that this scenario was extremely unlikely, but agreed that we should say our prayers and then wait quietly ad see what happened. So we prayed for all our people, finishing with the children and John. Then we sat, peacefully really, still bathed in this glorious light, and waited. We were somewhat taken aback when a firm tread sounded outside and the door was opened to admit a tall, golden haired and handsome man whom we had not previously met. He was not however the Angel of Death but a male nurse. He spoke only French. I was at a very low ebb and complained, weeping, that I had had only a very few twitching episodes in over 20 years and I was afraid I would never recover. He asked me if I was married, had I children and grandchildren. I said, yes, I did. Did they love me. I said yes, they did. Then he said I was extremely fortunate, and ‘calmez-vous, Madame’; that I should remember those who loved me, that I would recover to my ‘comme d’habitude’ and all would be well. Then (presumably he came from somewhere near the northern border) he gave me that salutation where the man bows his head and almost but not quite clicks his heels, and so he departed from me. I never learnt his name, but I will never forget him. He upheld all the principles of love, and he commended me to do the same. I did, and I have survived.

I commend to you, gentle reader, the principles of love, for all that they are not easy to follow. As we venture, hesitantly, into 2019, I think we have great need of them.

PRESENTS

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Whenever anyone asks me what I’d like for a Christmas or birthday present I’m always quite useless at suggesting anything. This is not to say that there aren’t things that could be mentioned; only they don’t quite fall into the category that you would feel comfortable requesting. If they are affordable, and I want it, I will have bought it.

If they are not affordable… I’d like a necklace of aquamarines and pearls. I’d like a cashmere dressing-gown. I’d like a silk dressing-gown and matching pyjamas. I’d like a small clutch bag of emerald green snakeskin like the one I had that the dog ate. I’d like a teaset in fine china, teapot, milk jug, sugar bowl, six cups, saucers and plates. Probably I’d never use it, but I would still like it.

I’d like a large black leather- bound notebook, with my initials in gold lettering and thick creamy paper pristine and without lines or margins, edged in gold, and I’d like to have beautiful writing to go in it. I’d like a set of six small perfume bottles, glassy and original, filled with different exquisite perfumes, every one of which I loved and which made me acquire some of them in larger sizes (or I could have that as a gift also.) However at the moment I can just about tolerate other people’s perfumes if they refrain from wallowing in a bucketful of it. I would like a pair of little finches in a cage whom I would release into our garden where they would eat what I fed them and stay clear of the cat. I’d like an Egyptian type kitten, all black with green eyes and a long tail, tres belle, and we’d call her Nefertiti. I’d like a section of a wood, on a slight slope mainly made up of beech trees, but with a few oaks, maples, elms and geans of the white blossom, with a stream running through it. I’d like a bay on the sea (the one between Banff and Macduff would do nicely) with a river running into it, wooded hills on either side of it where dolphins would occasionally visit.    No people would ever visit apart from people I loved.

I’d be embarrassed if I actually received any of that. It’s all a lovely fantasy.

It’s a bit like asking what weather we’d like. We would all like perpetual summer, where the days are warm and fragrant, full of light and birdsong but the oppressive heat of summer is not yet upon us. But we must take the rough with the smooth because if we monopolise all the good weather someone else is drowning in mud.

But some things are modest but nice and can reasonably be requested. Some embroidered handkerchiefs, or perhaps edged with lace. A silk scarf of colours that suit one. A pair of leather gloves, lined with silk. A large box of very good chocolates. A bottle of champagne. A new magazine or a novel you haven’t read by a favourite author…

Now you’re talking…

HANDBAGS AT DAWN (OR WHENEVE R YOU LIKE. )

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I need a new handbag. Today is my birthday and my husband, asking me what I would like for a present, nodded when I told him this and I knew he did not foresee the difficulties which would arise in obtaining one. For him it was a simple matter: a handbag, what colour, any other requirements? Left to his own devices he would have gone out and bought one and presented it to me, nicely wrapped, this morning. There would benothing wrong with his choice either. He has good taste. It would have been a nice handbag. I tell him that I must see it for myself and we should expect it to take some time to find what I am looking for.

Because I am unbelievably picky about handbags. Although I own 5 or 6 of different colours, in practice I very rarely wear anything other than my black leather basic. I cannot be bothered shuffling my possessions from one bag to another. Having found one, I keep it close to me. The one I’m reluctantly replacing has been repaired twice. I bought it in a village nearWinchester, whose name I cannot now remember which has a beautiful chalk trout river with outstandingly clear water.

I’m not looking for a cheap bag but Iwould be unwilling to pay more than say a couple of hundred pounds for it. I have no desire at all for a fashionable bag and paying £3,000 for a handbag seems to me a disgraceful extravagance.

What I would like visually – a small, square, boxy handbag, black leather and with its metal trim silverand a fastener that slotted into place with a click does not hold my requirements these days. For many years I bought my bags in France or Belgium and I wore a European man’s handbag.

But now the list of requirements is rather long. It has to be leather and black with silver trims. It must come within my budget. It must have a long and a short strap. It must be light enough for me to carry myself and it must not be ultra feminine as John will carry it when we are together.

It must have room for: a tin containing my drugs; a small bottle of water; a small plastic cup in case I need to take an effervescent drug; a small purse; a small bag containing the key to disabled toilets; a small pack of paper tissues; a small bag containing mirror, comb and lipstick; a handkerchief; my mobile phone and a notebook and pen and house keys.

The quest may take some time!

PS I had imagined a 6 month’s leisurely perusal of leather shops and websites but I had forgotten my partner’s legendary drive to complete what he has started. Facedwith hundreds of handbags on the internet, a dozen of which met my requirements, I thought, resistance is futile.

The bag arrives tomorrow.

Welcome to the Gutenberg Editor

Of Mountains & Printing Presses

The goal of this new editor is to make adding rich content to WordPress simple and enjoyable. This whole post is composed of pieces of content—somewhat similar to LEGO bricks—that you can move around and interact with. Move your cursor around and you’ll notice the different blocks light up with outlines and arrows. Press the arrows to reposition blocks quickly, without fearing about losing things in the process of copying and pasting.

What you are reading now is a text block the most basic block of all. The text block has its own controls to be moved freely around the post…

… like this one, which is right aligned.

Headings are separate blocks as well, which helps with the outline and organization of your content.

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

Handling images and media with the utmost care is a primary focus of the new editor. Hopefully, you’ll find aspects of adding captions or going full-width with your pictures much easier and robust than before.

Beautiful landscape
If your theme supports it, you’ll see the “wide” button on the image toolbar. Give it a try.

Try selecting and removing or editing the caption, now you don’t have to be careful about selecting the image or other text by mistake and ruining the presentation.

The Inserter Tool

Imagine everything that WordPress can do is available to you quickly and in the same place on the interface. No need to figure out HTML tags, classes, or remember complicated shortcode syntax. That’s the spirit behind the inserter—the (+) button you’ll see around the editor—which allows you to browse all available content blocks and add them into your post. Plugins and themes are able to register their own, opening up all sort of possibilities for rich editing and publishing.

Go give it a try, you may discover things WordPress can already add into your posts that you didn’t know about. Here’s a short list of what you can currently find there:

  • Text & Headings
  • Images & Videos
  • Galleries
  • Embeds, like YouTube, Tweets, or other WordPress posts.
  • Layout blocks, like Buttons, Hero Images, Separators, etc.
  • And Lists like this one of course 🙂

Visual Editing

A huge benefit of blocks is that you can edit them in place and manipulate your content directly. Instead of having fields for editing things like the source of a quote, or the text of a button, you can directly change the content. Try editing the following quote:

The editor will endeavor to create a new page and post building experience that makes writing rich posts effortless, and has “blocks” to make it easy what today might take shortcodes, custom HTML, or “mystery meat” embed discovery.

Matt Mullenweg, 2017

The information corresponding to the source of the quote is a separate text field, similar to captions under images, so the structure of the quote is protected even if you select, modify, or remove the source. It’s always easy to add it back.

Blocks can be anything you need. For instance, you may want to add a subdued quote as part of the composition of your text, or you may prefer to display a giant stylized one. All of these options are available in the inserter.

You can change the amount of columns in your galleries by dragging a slider in the block inspector in the sidebar.

Media Rich

If you combine the new wide and full-wide alignments with galleries, you can create a very media rich layout, very quickly:

Accessibility is important — don’t forget image alt attribute

Sure, the full-wide image can be pretty big. But sometimes the image is worth it.

The above is a gallery with just two images. It’s an easier way to create visually appealing layouts, without having to deal with floats. You can also easily convert the gallery back to individual images again, by using the block switcher.

Any block can opt into these alignments. The embed block has them also, and is responsive out of the box:

You can build any block you like, static or dynamic, decorative or plain. Here’s a pullquote block:

Code is Poetry

The WordPress community

If you want to learn more about how to build additional blocks, or if you are interested in helping with the project, head over to the GitHub repository.


Thanks for testing Gutenberg!

👋

IN THE DEAD OF NIGHT

IN THE DEAD OF NIGHT.

I read in some newspaper article that insomnia was not associated with early or premature death. Apparently, often people who can’t sleep lie awake fretting about their sleeplessness and worrying about whether this will result in their death. As a lifelong insomniac (on and off) I am happy to report that this has never been something I’ve worried about. Some ‘experts’ recommend that you get up and do things, but I think this is a very bad idea. It’s OK to get up briefly to go to the loo, or make yourself a hot drink or do anything which makes you more comfortable; but you should in my experience remain in bed, where you are at least resting.

I enjoy the night-time. I remember glorious and memorable sights, glimpsed in the night. An owl that flew past me as I visited the outside toilet in Kingsmuir, coming so close that his feathers disturbed the air on my face and hair and who looked at me with great disapproving eyes. Or the magnificent Milky Way, blazing its trail among the stars. The white heads of barley swaying like ocean waves in the lovely Angus valley and me wishing I could be in one of these fields skimming across the grain. Ducks and geese at the appropriate time used to descend noisily on our fields to feed quickly and then fly on for Iceland. Later I myself visited Iceland a mysterious and beautiful place that appears to hover between this life and the place of the spirits. It was magical. I was never afraid of the darkness (I could see in the dark better than most people).

I like how in the night, there is plenty of time and some left over. It’s good for writing blogs. Writing it in your head it remains flexible and plastic (or so I hope) and can be readily disposed of, or re-written with slight changes made which nuance it. But once you have committed it to paper, it has a life of its own. It’s like the baby. Once born, he’s his own man, no longer part of you. If you lose a piece of writing once you have written it, you will never be able to reproduce it with the wit and style you achieved the first time. You can let your ideas soar and carry you along. You can take a problem to bed with you, and there are enough hours to examine it at your leisure. There’s an intellectual pleasure in stripping a problem down to its component parts, and then laying these out in order of importance. Then you can decide on the best and quickest way of taking action, and if it’s someone else’s problem, how you will advise the person whose problem it is.

It can be tiring and very boring lying awake for long hours. You have to be happy in your own company to survive. But if you just endure it; enjoy the good aspects of it; pray for the people you love (and if you are lion-hearted enough for those you do not love,) then the night will

Eventually the time will come when Sleep slips once again into your chamber, wondering what on earth all the fuss is about where he’s been. But you can’t stay annoyed with him for long and so you can at last switch brain off and drift away into the land of dreams.

Returning to our medical experts. They did not know if there were risks from the state of insomnia. They did not know if it contributed to illnesses which might have a material influence on the subject’s longevity. In fact, when you consider it, all they really discovered was that insomnia can affect people of all ages. How many tens of thousands of pounds of research funding did it take, I wonder, for them to make this ground-breaking discovery?

FORSAKING THE HABITS OF A LIFETIME

I’ve been reading A Time of Love and Tartan by Alexander McCall Smith. I read and enjoyed his series of novels about that generously proportioned Lady Detective Precious Ramotswe, but this series is set in Edinburgh, and it is – well, it’s very Edinburgh. If you were to compare Edinburgh to an American city, it would be Boston (and how Edinburgh would disapprove of the very thought

of comparing any other city to itself). You can’t very well complain that Edinburgh has ideas above its station when it is acknowledged to be one of the most beautiful cities in Europe and the capital of Scotland as well. But Edinburgh is a presbyterian stronghold, and is certainly neither friendly nor welcoming. The glad rags it puts on for the weeks of the Festival are not at all typical of its garb for the rest of the year. But we who love it are faithful in spite of its failings and it’s good to see it so precisely captured by so distinguished an author as Alexander McCall Smith.

In this novel there is a boy who attracts the reader’s sympathy who suffers with an absolutely ghastly mother. She’s a bully; a ‘feminist’; a ‘suffragette’; (she brings these honourable estates into severe disrepute.) She hates men and disparages her husband and son, whom she makes wear pink dungarees. She insists that he attends psychotherapy to avoid any problems arising, and he makes up dreams which he hopes will satisfy the therapist. The latter is very excited because he thinks writing about this unusual case will bring him fame and fortune. The woman is so awful that the cunning and experienced Mr McCall Smith took the opportunity to give her one or two fine qualities and so render her credible. Very few people are completely lacking in finer feelings.

I have to admit now to being wrong in my judgement of Theresa May. (An admission of error is not common with me. I leave it to you to decide whether this is because I am rarely wrong, or just because I’m too pig-headed to admit to mistakes!) I sneered at Mrs May with her goody two (leopard-skin) shoes; her girl guide freshness; no doubt she’d been head girl somewhere or other. Yet I find myself – in spite of my best efforts not to – admiring the lady – and she is a lady which that other so-called one never was. You have to admire her courage and fortitude. Even when looking a little fatigued, after days of overwork and not enough sleep she still stands there for hour after hour, giving clear, comprehensible and concise replies to questions. She answers the questions too. When she says she has put the national interest before party or personal ambition then I (God help me) believe her (while feeling my pulse to see if I’m feverish). Doubtless if she hung around long enough we’d come to the point where we had had enough of her. But that doesn’t seem very likely.

But if her cabinet colleagues turn on her like the pack of rabid dogs they are, and she, fleeing from their uncalled for viciousness, appeals to us over their heads (can she do this?) then though I can’t believe I’m saying this, I’m going to forsake the habits of a lifetime and vote for whatever Theresa May asks for our support over, despite the fact that I was a remainer and Theresa May is a Tory who wears leopard skin shoes!