Monday, December 31, 2012
Since childhood, after being taught to read by my elder sister when I was four, I've enjoyed the work of many authors. Because I was reading well above the level of my contemporaries at my first school, I was privileged to read aloud The Water Babies, by Charles Kingsley, to the Head Mistress in her study. (I didn't really like the story!) At home, having graduated from Beatrix Potter, I really loved the animal stories of the Canadian writer, Thornton W. Burgess, and the series of books by Arthur Ransome, beginning with Swallows & Amazons. (These stories have also been enjoyed by one of my sons and his daughters.) I was lucky enough to move to a (British-style) boarding prep school at the age of 8, and it featured a well-stocked library. I enjoyed the adventure tales of Percy F. Westerman; The Saint stories by Leslie Charteris; and the novels of John Buchan, to whom we were introduced by Harold Elbourne, our wonderful Math teacher. (At the end of one term in 1938, he read The Thirty-Nine Steps aloud to us.) I also enjoyed C.S Forester's Horatio Hornblower Naval novels. I'm a bit ashamed to report that I haven't read most of Dickens, preferring Jane Austen, Trollope, and Thackeray. I keep a record of the books I read, and I am hooked on anything by my fellow Lincoln College alum (David Cornwell), who uses the pen name of John Le Carré. Also Laurie R. King, Patrick O'Brian, and Patricia Cornwell.
Monday, December 24, 2012
This week I am yielding this space for my weekly blog to my wife, Barbara Renton. Here is a letter she sent to a local paper, which is unlikely to publish it: In the late 1950s, I was living with my children in Ann Arbor, Michigan. One day I walked out of the front of our house and was greeted by our next door neighbor. She said “Barbara, I feel so much safer now that Harold has gotten me a gun for when he is gone.” My immediate reply, aware of my young children and her baby and two year old daughter was “Marge, don’t have a gun around the house!” She became angry and went into her home. I was sorry that I had spoken so forcefully. Six months later, Marge, her nine month old baby and her two and a half year old daughter were shot by her husband. Harold then phoned the police, and told them what he had done. Two and a half months later, he committed suicide in prison. Previously, I had learned when I lived briefly in Texas that a police officer’s teenage son was killed because he had shown his friend his father’s gun, and his friend had shot him accidentally. At that time, I made the decision never to have a gun around the house. There have been a couple of times in our long marriage when I’ve gotten angry with my husband that I’ve wondered, if I kept a gun in the house would I use it? We’re both very thankful that I don’t own a gun. The Sandy Hook tragedy brings to light how imperative is the need for gun control. These tragedies happen every day. We cannot let more time pass. The time is now.
Tuesday, December 18, 2012
Son-in-law Chuck takes the N Y Times, and daughter Kristin subscribes to the New Yorker. The latter brought seven recent issues of the latter magazine to us during our last visit to the house in Colorado that she designed for us some twenty years ago. It was an embarrassment of riches. Most of those issues will have to await our return early in 2013. Barbara loves the Science pages in the N. Y. Times, and a dear friend clips them for her. She skims, and I devour, the San Francisco Chronicle or the Boulder Daily Camera every day of the year. She also reads a Norwegian English language weekly newspaper. Yes, we are all committed readers of magazines. Barbara and I almost fight over the Saturday arrival of The Week, our current favorite. Last week, she hid it, I found it, and then I re-hid it, waiting for the inevitable cries of frustration. Perhaps I gave in too easily, but she skims it rapidly, while I read it from cover to cover. I start the crossword, which emphasizes current affairs. (When I become stuck, usually on something like a sitcom or other commercial TV program which we never watch, I "cheat", by using Google to finish the puzzle. I didn't need to do that on the latest isue) Barbara began a subscription to Newsweek some years ago, and earlier this year I began reading it, from cover to cover. Alas, economics are forcing it to go digital-only, and we have decided to pass on that. I read the U.C. Monthly (California), four seminary magazines, the Commonwealth Club magazine, Oxford English, the Lincoln College Record and IMPrint, the CLU (California Lutheran University) magazine, The Living Church, and the Royal Overseas league quarterly. I proofread our parish monthly, and I read much more that comes in the mail. I know: I'm an unrepentant, omnivorous, "print junkie". Some notes about books in a future blog.
Monday, December 10, 2012
Fifty years ago, Pidgin English had a bad reputation. Nowadays, the value of any pidgin--essentially a simplified language to permit two or more folk without a common language to communicate--is widely recognized . I shall never forget becoming aware of this, when my ship (H.M.S. Black Swan) first visited Shanghai in 1947. I was accustomed to the cooks, stewards, and "supernumerary" laundrymen chattering away in Cantonese, but that's not the Mandarin dialect spoken in Shanghai. I watched, fascinated, as the Chief Steward used pidgin English when negotiating for fresh vegetables with the occupants of the various sampans that swarmed alongside.. So I am not embarrassed to use pidgin to write the aphorism that heads this blog, just as I learned it. It is useful in a benign, not hostile, sense, with no thought of trapping and caging an animal. I consider it good advice: that sometimes patience, perhaps with a streak of guile, is often the wisest way to accomplish an objective. .
Monday, December 3, 2012
The flood of political solicitations - thankfully, primarily by email, has come to a welcome end. In its place, we receive a lot of charitable solicitations at this time of year. We take advantage of the system to prevent commercial solicitations by email or voice. Whenever I hear the call from a stranger which begins "How are you today?", I know it's another pitch. I have recently learned a polite brush-off, so that I do not have to listen to this unwelcome interruption. I guess that telephone solicitors are taught to begin their pitch with this question, which virtually demands a response, unless one is willing to respond politely but firmly to end the conversation. I have my own list of charities that I choose to support. I am slightly more likely to respond positively to an email "pitch". If this is a telephone "pitch", the caller should identify herself or himself, and explain briefly the reason for the call. If I hear "How are you today?", I try to "bite my tongue" and not give one of several possible dusty answers.