It’s Only Words

The pen is mightier than the sword, so we’re told. But the pen would be pretty ineffective without words. Words and language. We use them to encourage, to destroy, to belittle, to praise, to teach, to instruct, to entertain, to sing, to praise, to mobilise, to raise awareness. Sometimes we use them wrongly and miss the mark. Other times they just make us laugh. Let’s laugh today.

Firstly, I make myself laugh with words I use wrongly. I think of words past and present that I have got quite wrong:

  1. When I was little and living in Zambia, I used to run outside when I heard my Dad’s car rolling into our driveway at home. I was always excited to see him and tell him what I’d been doing and show him new things I’d learnt. Like how to put a record on the gramophone player, all by myself. Or how I’d learnt to read my new school book. My Dad would come inside, greet everyone and take his seat in the lounge and exhale. He’d ask me to use my new-found skill and switch on the radio. He’d tell me to look for the ivory button with SW1 written over it, and then I had to push the button down and wait for the dulcet tones of newsreaders sharing information worldwide. I remember hearing their words booming through the fabric-lined speakers on our gramophone player. Topical in those days were issues in what I thought was the Serviette Union. I always imagined a nation filled with napkins, and I couldn’t work out what they could possibly be squabbling about. Who’s laying the table?
  2. My sister and I were bathing together one night, when we were very little. My Dad came to tell us to hurry up because we were going to the pantomime that night. I don’t remember which one of us said this, but my Dad overheard one of us saying, “We have to hurry because we’re going to the pant-of-Daddy’s.”
  3. When I’d pour myself a glass of orange and water (we weren’t allowed fizzy drinks), my Mom would always caution me, as I thought, not to fill the glass “to the broom”. I used to wonder what the broom had to do with the glass and the juice, until I discovered brim was probably the correct word.
  4. My enthusiasm was sometimes tempered by my Mom’s saying, “Don’t go at it like a bulletagate.” I never knew what a bulletagate was, until I heard the expression “bull at a gate”.
  5. One of my husband’s favourite albums, when we were students, was Cher’s “I Paralyse”. The first time I heard him mention it, I thought he said it was called “Five Barrel Eyes”. He’s never allowed me to forget that!
  6. More recently, we’ve discovered a fabulous singer/songwriter here in London, called Rumer. One of her recent hits is a song called “Aretha”. Do yourself a favour and check her out here – she’s really quite special. I had heard this song on the radio for months, and I thought the opening line was, “I’ve got a reason, in the morning.” I didn’t really think beyond that. When we saw her live, I realised the line was in fact, “I’ve got Aretha, in the morning. High on my headphones and walking to school.” Go figure.

And, of course, there are things other people say that make me laugh. Here’s a smidgen of these:

  1. My husband and I travelled on the bus the other day. We sat upstairs, alongside a lone other commuter, who was engrossed in a mobile phone conversation. That meant there were just three of us upstairs. My husband and I eavesdropped her conversation so unbelievably, we were discussing it when we got off the bus. I said a few words to my husband every now and then, to stop myself from asking the woman what she had just said, or what she meant. I guess we need to get a life, yeah? This is what we overheard:  “I fort I would call ‘er and conversate wif ‘er, yeah? She’s bear shy, yeah? So I AKSED what she meant when she said that, yeah? And I don’t know much, but I know, yeah? And if the cap fits on my big head, if it’s not too big or cockeyed on my head, then I’m gonna wear it, yeah?”
  2. I spilled some salad dressing on my cardigan last night. Not being much of a domestic goddess, and not having any stain remover at hand, I Googled possible solutions and, quite honestly, I am none the wiser and my cardigan still bears a stain.  “Many people prefer things stain removal alone is not engaged in, and use the services of dry cleaners. Other mistresses, by contrast, prefer to do everything yourself, believing that it accurately to your stuff no one will treat. Whatever it was, useful tips to remove fat and oil stains may be the way, if you suddenly spot a need to withdraw immediately.”
  3. Before my husband and I were married, we were gathered together at my family home with all of my siblings. We decided to play Trivial Pursuit, which, in our family, is as much about asking the questions correctly as it is about getting the answers right. And all the chirps and banter in between. My family is merciless. (No comments, I know what you’re thinking!) It came to my husband to read out a question: “For which feature film was Duelling Banjos the theme tune?” My family, to a man, collapsed in a hysterically laughing heap. You know when you look at a word and it looks well forrin? Well, my husband had looked at the song title and pronounced it: “Dew-elling Ban-Joss”. Needless to say, he has never been allowed to forget that slip of the tongue. He needed the movie title in more ways than one: Deliverance.

I’d love to hear about your funny words, misheard and mis-pronounced. Words keep us connected in so many ways, but they also tear us apart and crack us up. I’d love to hear your examples of the latter.

“Talk in everlasting words, and dedicate them all to me. And I will give you all my life, I’m here if you should call to me. You think that I don’t even mean a single word I say, It’s only words, and words are all I have, to take your heart away.”    (Words, The Bee Gees)

Sunshine signing off for today!

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Our red box

We have a red box into which we throw any tangible memories of our adventures here in London. This morning I threw two Paolo Nutini concert tickets in there – mementoes of a surprisingly wonderful concert we saw last night.

I don’t know Paolo Nutini’s music too well, although I enjoy it and we have his CDs. When we saw he was performing in London, we thought it would be great to see him. I just didn’t realise he would blow my highlights back as much as he did last night. He is one hugely talented songwriter and singer, and his poignant lyrics and soulful delivery belie his 23 years.

I booked our tickets the very minute ticket sales opened, about a month ago. I was thrilled to get our two tickets, and I grew more and more excited as the concert date loomed on our calendar. What I didn’t realise, and I only discovered when we chatted to a couple last night who had travelled over from New Zealand for the concert, was that the tickets sold out in three minutes. I was totally oblivious to the mad scramble that ensued for tickets after I had got ours … the NZ couple paid three times more than we paid for our tickets, as they’d bought them on auction.

Paolo was the headline act for one of the Little Noise Sessions –  an annual week-long acoustic festival to raise funds for Mencap, a mental health charity. Tom Jones headlined for the festival the night before, supported by one of our other favourites, Lauren Pritchard.

The concert was at the Union Chapel in Islington, north London. (The scene of a disaster earlier this year when we saw the wrong show – check out Bad memories make good stories …)  It is a beautiful and relatively intimate venue, it seats about 850 people and it also still functions as a church. We got seats in the third row pews, and had a perfect, uninterrupted and up-close-and-personal view of the artists.

The opening acts were great: Jessie J, Michael Kiwanuka and Rumer. Check them out on youtube, they are all worth listening to. Rumer was my favourite; she is shy and self-conscious and her beautiful, soothing voice has been likened to Karen Carpenter’s. Her two big singles Slow and Aretha have had plenty of airtime on radio this year. She says she took ten years to become an overnight success!

The audience went ballistic to welcome Paolo Nutini on stage. Accompanied by a fabulous band – strings, brass, keyboard, drums, plenty of guitars and a ukelele – Paolo took the stage and kept us gripped for the next 90 minutes or so. Occasionally he would say a few words between songs, but mostly he just belted out number after number to the adoring delight of the audience, some of whom seemed to know the words to every song.

He didn’t introduce his band, although he did mention “big hairy Dave”, one of the acoustic guitarists who had co-written a song with him. As the band soulfully and passionately wove magic around Paolo’s unique voice, we enjoyed a journey through songs such as Candy, Pencil Full of Lead, Jenny Don’t be Hasty, Worried Man, Growing Up Beside You and the new and brilliant Bear With Me. My favourite of the evening was Paolo’s beautiful interpretation of Nature Boy, backed by a haunting and liltingly string-filled arrangement.

Of Italian descent, Paolo is exceedingly Scottish. Third generation Scottish, in fact. He grew up in Paisley, on the borders of Glasgow, the son of a fish and chip shop owner. Quite awkward in his song delivery, Paolo locks his knees together, stands on his tiptoes and leans to one side as he pours raw, eye-closed talent and passion through the microphone. His broad Scottish accent shines delightfully through his every song and, as well as everything else about him, that makes me smile.

Our red box is growing full.

Sunshine signing off for today!

Excerpt from Pencil Full of Lead

I’ve got a sheet for my bed
And a pillow for my head
I’ve got a pencil full of lead
And some water for my throat
I’ve got buttons for my coat
And sails on my boat
So much more than I needed before

I got money in the meter
And a two bar heater
Oh now it’s getting hotter
It’s only getting sweeter
I’ve legs on my chair
and a head full of hair
Got in a band
And shoes on my feet

I’ve got a shelf full of books
And most of my teeth
Two pairs of socks
And a door with a lock
I’ve got food in my belly
and a License for my telly
And nothin’s gonna bring me down