Saturday, June 25, 2011

Blue and brown

The young man is better, I'm glad to say, and has gone off to Chinatown for his customary Saturday lunch with friends, since he hardly saw them all week.

But Paul and I are both struggling with colds of various degrees. I'm not too bad, but he and I kept each other awake last night with a barking cough.

I struggled to Italian class this morning, and made a few neighbourhood stops on the way home, so our lunch was a ball of burrata mozzarella (with gorgonzola also inside), on fresh Dench grain bread, drizzled with porcini oil. Unbelievably delicious.

I feel ok now and am doing chores on the computer. Behind me, Paul is stretched out on the couch with a pillow, a blue mohair blanket and two burmese kittens. I'd love to post a picture, but the ipod is playing and I don't want to wake him up. It's on "shuffle" so we are jumping from jazz to Leonard Cohen and girly pop songs and retro 70s and 80s pop and lots of Beethoven and Sibelius. Something rather personal about him lying sleeping/listening to my mix, which desperately needs updating, except that my laptop is too old to use the current iTunes.

The heater's on. My three brown cats (one wearing a big brown jumper) are asleep. The sky is wintry pale blue, though at mid-afternoon the shadows are already long and the sunshine weakening.

I ploughed through a huge pile of emails and chores yesterday, and just as soon as I finish these grant assessments, I'll be ready to write a talk for Thursday and finish polishing my Langland talk to send off.

Health and sickness. Winter and sun. Blue and brown.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Sick day

Lovely post from Jeffrey about (US) Father's day.

My parenting today consists of supplying my invalid son with tea, toast and vegemite as he recovers from a nasty virus (vomiting, skin rash, cough, headache). He's reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, trying to contain two Burmese kittens who think that a boy on a couch with a mohair rug is a perfect playground, and alternating with watching Miyazaki's Spirited Away. Here's the trailer (try and ignore the Disney voice-over). It is an astonishing movie, and in this household, Miyazaki is often the director of choice for a sick day.


I'm at my desk with a streaming headcold myself, about to start the ARC grant assessments that are due today.

This afternoon we will go to the doctor's. Still can't believe that we had a good half-hour's house call yesterday from two doctors. One cuddled Orlando while the other gave Joel a good interrogation, and recommended a blood test. And the whole thing was paid for by Medicare. I went to get the cheque book but all they wanted was the Medicare card. Hooray for a decent national health-care system!

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Chuntering on...

In my Middle English reading group we are reading bits of Piers Plowman. We read the Prologue and Passus I, then skipped over the whole Mede episode (I know: it's a scandal), and marvelled at the author's apologia for his life (newly introduced in the C-text).

Today we read the conclusion to this passage, where Reason and Conscience send Will off to the church. "Wepyng and waylyng," he falls asleep and has another vision. He tells us,

Of this mater Y myhte mamele ful longe...

Our intrepid editor, Derek Pearsall, glosses "mamele" as "chunter." Pearsall's glosses, in this and in other editions are mostly helpful and accurate and are often engagingly inventive. This one is simply terrific: we explain one rare and imitative verb with another equally rare and equally imitative verb, though "chunter" is coined somewhat later than "mamele". Both seem to mean to "mutter", or "murmur," while "mamele" seems to be formed on analogy with the Dutch lollen, which gives rise to the contentious noun, "lollard," in the fourteenth century, with all its freight of heresy, etc. So speaking and muttering and mumbling and rambling on, in this period, is risky business, indeed.

"Chuntering" is one of those words that blazed into the language at the end of the sixteenth century, and isn't recorded after the 1870s. In addition to the muttering, mumbling senses, OED also lists "to grumble, find fault with, complain." The OED's last example is from 1870: E. Peacock, Rolf skirl, II. 117 Th' capt'n went away chunterin'. 

Sometimes a word just comes back into the language, even by means of a slightly odd gloss. A bit like a song that gets into your head, the word "chuntering" has got into mine, and under my skin today. I keep thinking so much of our lives — reading, writing, emailing, blogging — could be described as "chuntering". Perhaps it's the buried suggestion of trains "shunting" along; perhaps it's the Led Zeppelin song, "Rambling on"? Either way, today at least, as I go about my tasks this afternoon, when I describe myself to myself, it'll be as "chuntering on."