Tuesday, 13 December 2016

The Kitty Delusion

When a large group of people go out drinking together, it is sometimes suggested that a kitty - a shared moneypot - is a sensible and fair way to pay for drinks. Prima Facie, this may seem like a good idea. Almost a socialist idea. Let's all share our money! This is what bartenders call "the kitty delusion" and outbreaks of it are pretty common at this time of year. 

Before agreeing to pay into a kitty, ask yourself these questions:

  • Who's holding the kitty?
Remember, far from being a fair pooling of resources, the kitty is essentially a way that alcoholics fund their excess and bully others into drinking at their pace.

  • Does he drink faster than me?
Those who have paid into a kitty are forced to go at the speed of the lead drinker. Slower drinkers are faced with downing or abandoning their drinks.

  • Are his drinks more expensive than mine?
Chances are that he is getting himself a double vodka and red bull for every pint of bitter you order. 

  • Does he like shots?
Shots are a terrible way to get drunk. I like watching the faces people pull after drinking them. Faces of horror and disgust at what they have just done to themselves. In particular, cheap tequila is so horrible and disgusting that the only way to hide the taste and stop your stomach from hurling the vileness back out again is to trick your taste buds with salt and lime. 18 Jaeger bombs please, barkeep. Small wonder the kitty needs topping up again.

Time to top up the kitty.

Let me give you the bartender's perspective. Remember, all a bartender wants to do is serve everybody as quickly as possible and get back to solving the cryptic crossword. The most efficient size of group to serve is about four. Large groups - twenty or more - pose a problem. The person holding the kitty won't think to ask anyone what they want before coming to the bar. He will order his own drink first, drink it while everybody else shouts over each other to get their order in, then get himself another at the end of the round. People will inexplicably wander off to play the fruit machine mid-order. The bartender will be blamed for any missing or incorrect drinks in a round that has been produced more by a miracle of inductive reasoning than response to instruction. When the bartender tells the kitty-holder the price of the round, the latter will exclaim "How much!?" in the time-honoured fashion, while his friends laugh sycophantically and secretly wish that they had thought of making the hilarious joke of pretending to be shocked at the price of a round of drinks!    

If you are going out for a drink with a big group this Christmas, don't succumb to the kitty delusion. Find two or three people in the crowd that you like and who drink at about the same pace as you and take it in turns to buy each other drinks. You might even find that you enjoy yourself. 

Feeling festive? Read previous Finnginn Xmas blogs hereherehere and here.

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Young Farmers Balls

I promised you a poem. I thought I would try something inspired by the Westcountry. I was aiming for William Barnes but it came out a bit Wurzels.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Westcountry dialect: "droi zoider" is an alcoholic drink made from apples; "on the scrump" is the act of drinking droi zoider over a period of hours or days and "zummer" is a great time of the year to go on the scrump. The Young Farmers are an unimaginatively named social society and their balls are enormous: the highlights of the social calendar in agricultural communities.

This is the story of a young Westcountry lass who longs to join her older brother and his friends on the scrump and what happens when she does. 

'Ot Zummers

When I was a young girl, my brother would go
With all the Young Farmers to the Dorchester Show
They’d sit sippin’ zoider and judgin’ the hens
An’ the cows an’ the bullocks in the sheepdoggin’ pens.
As I grew up older, I begged to take part
But he said, “You are too young, not ready sweetheart
For ‘ot zummers, droi zoider and Young Farmers’ balls.
A zummer without balls ain’t no fun at all!
When you’re ready to scrump, we will give you the call...”
‘Ot zummers, droi zoider and Young Farmers’ balls.

One night, the Young Farmers a prank went to play
They rolled in molasses, then rolled in the hay.
The rumpus awoke me, I looked out and saw:
Ten men runnin’ bare-arsed and covered in straw.
When I asked my brother to explain all the fuss
He said, “Soon you’ll be ready to come out with us
For ‘ot zummers, droi zoider and and Young Farmers’ balls.
A zummer without balls ain’t no fun at all!
When you’re ready to scrump, we will give you the call...”
‘Ot zummers, droi zoider and Young Farmers’ balls.

My brother, he taught me the ways of the farm;
I looked up to him and he kept me from harm.
But they other young farmers, I wanted to know.
Like that old zinderella: to the ball I would go
An’ sit sippin’ zoider and dance through the night.
I knew I was ready: the timin’ was right
For ‘ot zummers, droi zoider and Young Farmers’ balls.
A zummer without balls ain’t no fun at all!
I was ready to scrump, just awaiting the call...
‘Ot zummers, droi zoider and Young Farmers’ balls.

I sat for an hour on a bale made of straw
A-watchin’ the dancin’, I liked what I saw.
Just when I thought I ‘ad missed my last chance,
Young Billy approached me an’ asked me to dance.
He waltzed me around somewhat inexpertly,
An’ offered to show me, if I’d like to see,
More ‘ot zummers, droi zoider and Young Farmers’ balls.
For a zummer without balls ain’t no fun at all!
With him holdin' me close, I could feel it an’ all...
‘Ot zummers, droi zoider and Young Farmers’ balls.

The hour it grew late, and my face it grew red
Young Billy leaned closer and ‘ere’s what ‘e said:
“Meet me at midnight, t’will be just thee and me
And I have a treat you’ll be wantin’ to see.”
When I told my brother this plan in the rough
He told me: “Young lady, you ‘ave ‘ad enough
Of ‘ot zummers, droi zoider and Young Farmers’ balls.
‘Tis definitely time f‘you to ‘ead ‘ome to bed  
This ball be your first ball, what’s gone to yer ‘ead...
Is ‘ot zummers, droi zoider and Young Farmers’ Balls.”

The years they went by and the zummer’s stayed ‘ot
Young Billy ‘e taught me what my brother could not.
When the ‘eat of the zummer is getting too much
When that tankard of zoider gets too ‘ot to touch
An’ the zoider inside ‘er is too ‘ot to sup
A jump in the sheep dip will perk you right up!
‘Ot zummers, droi zoider and Young Farmers’ balls.
A zummer with no balls ain't no fun at all!
When we're out on the scrump, come and give us a call...
‘Ot zummers, droi zoider and Young Farmers' balls.

But there will come a time now in every man’s life
When he’s settled to workin’ and taken a wife.
Well the dreams of ‘is youngself, they never quite left
But the toilin’ and children has left him bereft
He’ll still sip a zoider, still sing the old songs
But you’ll see in his eyes, just how much he longs
For ‘ot zummers, droi zoider and Young Farmers’ balls
For a zummer without balls ain’t no fun at all!
When you’re ready to scrump, we will give you a call...   
‘Ot zummers, droi zoider and Young Farmers’ balls.

My brother grew old and swapped days in the fields
For spreadsheets of data revealing crop yields.
I moved to the city, got a teachin’ degree
An’ now I train kids for their GCSE.
When the work gets me down, I can still reminisce
But it hurts me to think of just how much I miss
Those ‘ot zummers, droi zoider and Young Farmers’ balls
A zummer without balls ain’t no fun at all!
If you fancy a scrump, you can give me a call...
‘Ot zummers, droi zoider and Young Farmers' balls.

Old Billy is married and works all the day
A-haulin’ the straw: no more rolls in the hay.
The zummer’s are colder, the world it ‘as changed
And from what’s replaced it we all feel estranged.
On a Zaturday night, we will drink like they fish
For we knows it’s all gone now, but we can only wish
For ‘ot zummers, droi zoider and Young Farmers balls
These zummers without balls ain't no fun at all...
‘Ot zummers, droi zoider and Young Farmers’ balls.
‘Ot zummers, droi zoider and Young Farmers’ balls.

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

The Consequences of Going Viral

Things got pretty manic at Finnginn HQ last week. 

In case you are wondering, Finnginn HQ consists of me on a sofa in my writing clothes (pyjamas) with only a duvet, a laptop and a flat white decaf for warmth.

There's no reason why you would have noticed, but our quiet corner of the internet had a lot of visitors. Over 140,000 unique pageviews. This is atypical. A typical week might see 140 unique pageviews. So, what happened?

Firstly, some people shared my post on the new anti-rationalism on their Facebook pages. This alone might have sent me heading for a record week, but because the post had a philosophical theme, I also posted it on the r/philosophy discussion forum on the social media platform Reddit.

Reddit works by a system of votes. If people are interested in a link that has been shared they can tap an 'up' arrow to upvote it. If they find the topic distasteful or irrelevant they can downvote it. My post garnered 4500 upvotes which took it to the frontpage of Reddit where the most popular topics amongst all the discussion forums are displayed. This is where the bulk of that extra traffic came from. 

Inevitably, with that amount of traffic, there were some people who disagreed with my arguments. About 90% of the 900 comments found some flaw or bias in my reasoning. Here's the archive of the comment thread if you are interested. I'm just going to quote the guy who stuck up for me: 

"I'm surprised at the contents of much of this comment section. This post doesn't do the best job articulating his point, but he's one of very few people talking about this at all. This has been my biggest concern this whole campaign. Trump's whole campaign has been based on anti-rationalism. This is not an indictment of conservatism, but of the campaign and debate style of Trump himself. He consistently lied about things he had said, lied things others had said, flip-flopped on his own positions, refused to answer straightforward questions, and insulted rather than made points. There was almost no logical argumentation or consistent policy to be found. And yet we as a country still took him seriously, and even went so far as to elect him.

You might disagree with Hillary's positions, but Hillary actually had positions. I normally advocate choosing between candidates based on logical reasoning. But this election had one candidate directly against logical reasoning."    u/dalr3th1n

One unexpected consequence of going viral is that Google are now trying to bribe me into having adverts on this page. They say I can fast track to Adsense and make £50 a month. Obviously, I told them to stuff it where the sun has never been seen to shine.  

Anyhow, seeing as how I'm popularity averse, I think I might leave the philosophy alone for the rest of the year. Maybe a poem next week? A rant about how much I dislike office Xmas pub crawls the week after that? And then BAM! hit back with my new appraisal of Karl Popper's The Open Society and Its Enemies in time for the inauguration of the new POTUS. 

What do you think? (I'm glad its just us again.)

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

The New Anti-Rationalism

Rationalism has a specific meaning in philosophy: it is the creed of the rationalists - those who believe that knowledge states cannot be derived solely from sensory input. As it happens, my tent is guy-roped firmly to a tree in the centre of the rationalist camp. However, for the purposes of today's rant, I am using the everyday meaning of rationalism - i.e. the creed of those who reject ideas that are logically inconsistent.

(If you are thinking, 'What the hell is he going on about? I only come here to read the anecdotes about the crazy people that drink in the pub," thanks for stopping by, but this isn't one of those weeks.) 

Still here? Cool. Let's begin by defining some more terms.

Why, you might do very well ask, do we need a term like 'anti-rational' at all? Surely the opposite of 'rational' is 'irrational'? 

As previously stated, a person who is rational rejects logically inconsistent ideas. A person who is irrational does not or cannot reject logically inconsistent ideas. An anti-rational person happily disseminates ideas with no regard for their consistency, logical or otherwise. The anti-rational person has no desire to establish truth (or at least eliminate falsehoods). They wilfully choose to ignore truth in favour of provoking an emotional reaction.

We are living through an age where anti-rationalist rhetoric is being used to gain political ground. In Europe, the last great age of anti-rational rhetoric was the 1930s and it culminated in events that led it to become rather unfashionable for quite some time.

George Santayana's quote is apposite here: "Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it." The generation who fought Fascism in Europe are mostly too dead to give their great-grandchildren the clip round the ear they deserve for joining the English Defence League and Le Front National.

In his essay, The Ancestry of Fascism, Bertrand Russell describes three characteristics of reason:
  1. Reason relies on persuasion not force.
  2. Reason seeks to persuade by the use of arguments that the user himself finds completely valid.
  3. Reason values observation and induction over intuition. 
You only have to look at the recent American election and the plebiscite on Britain leaving the European Union to see that the second and third characteristics have been abandoned in much political discourse. If President Donald Trump carries out his threats to the American Moslem population, then the first characteristic falls as well.

The Ancestry of Fascism is included in the collection In Praise of Idleness

The Ancestry of Fascism makes for sobering reading. It was written in 1935 and presciently predicts both the Second World War and America's decisive involvement in its termination. Russell also points out that: "Rationalism and anti-rationalism have existed side by side since the beginning of Greek civilisation, and each, when it has seemed likely to become completely dominant, has always led, by reaction, to a new outburst of its opposite."

The latest anti-rationalist discourse is extremely dangerous at a time when the world needs to address the threats posed by anthropogenic climate change.  

We are in dire need of an outbreak of rationalism.    


Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Backing the Losing Team

I should consider myself fortunate that I am not the sort of person whose temperament is dependent on their team doing well. It's not been a good year for my team. I'm not certain that my team have had a good year in my lifetime. 

Obviously, I am not talking about football: my home team, the Weymouth Terras, came a respectable seventh in the only Premiership that matters (the Southern Football League Premier Division) and everyone knows that (even though their fans are reluctant to mention it) my adopted team, the Norwich Canaries, won the Milk Cup in 1985. 

It was a simpler time: the 1980s, a time when events were sponsored by the Milk Marketing Board. Milk - the nutritious drink that we suck out of cows, heat to a high temperature to limit microbial growth, then sell in a supermarket for a price less than it costs to produce - sponsored the League Cup from 1981 to 1986. Coincidentally, this was a time when I was particularly interested in milk - I guess advertising works. 

Do you know who is sponsoring the League Cup next season? Carabao Daeng. Carabao Daeng is, of course, Thailand's second most popular energy drink. This is the world we live in.

I digress, I was talking about my team. My team are the people who yearn for a decent progressive world where people are nice to each other. Where the less able are supported by the better able. Where the quantity of light that is absorbed by your skin, the direction that your sexual organs point and the gender of the person that you want to kiss do not limit your opportunities. Where wealth is shared instead of hoarded. 

That's the team I support. The team that keeps on losing. 

The Cardigan's - My Favourite Game

On the plus side, I think I have just figured out how to insert videos into these posts. For someone who makes half of their living writing the internet, you would think I would have worked that out sooner. I'm guessing I'll never get a contract with Buzzfeed.

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Letter to America

I fell in love with America when I was seventeen. I spent the summer of 1998 working as Campboy (I know. That job title doesn't translate too well into British English) at the Cotopaxi Smokehouse in Colorado. At the time, the Smokehouse's owner Gwyn Lawrence was a great lover of America too (he fell out with America when she deported him for not having a green card a few years later). 

My first impression of America was of its great size. Flying across it took about as long as flying across the Atlantic. My connecting flight from Minneapolis/St Paul to Denver was delayed 24 hours. The airline put me up in a great skyscraper of a hotel. From my window, I could see out over the nightscape of the twin cities - lit up and stretching to the horizon. This was only a glimpse of a tangle of highways and buildings that comprised just one (oh all right, two!) of America's hundreds of cities.

I took a Greyhound bus from Denver to Colorado Springs. I sat next to a grizzled Vietnam Veteran who brought me up to date on the Monica Lewinsky scandal that had been dominating headlines that year. He railed against the political elite and then he railed against the bus driver who appeared to have taken a wrong turn. He seemed to quite like me, though.

The Vietnam Vet was the first of many characters that I met on my first trip to the States. Uh...Clem, the Texan guitar slinger; Lance Romance, the Woodstock era hippy who sold us a foosball table; Ted Rebel Horse, the full blooded Navajo Indian who called me 'Little Brother' and was always offering me marijuana at seven o'clock in the morning before we started work. There was Quiet Jean, who gave me her copy of Jack Kerouac's On The Road and Leann from the Rock Shop who is my pen pal to this day.

There is no place more beautiful to me on the whole of this planet than the Sangre de Cristo mountains at sunset. The distant snowpeaks supported by the rocky red shoulders whose colour give the mountain range its name, the aspen pine forests, the noisy Arkansas river carving through the landscape.

Me (second from left) and Gwyn (second from right) taking on the mighty Arkansas.

Where I grew up, what we called a river could be dammed by a schoolchild in half an hour. The Arkansas at peak flow runs at 12,000 cubic feet per second (per second!). Getting used to this change in scale was a constant in my trips to America. In England, when an acquaintance moves to a town thirty miles away, in all likelihood you will never see them again. In the States, I found that people thought nothing of driving thirty miles to get breakfast.

America is a great country, I love the scale and beauty of the landscapes, I love the huge cities with their numbered streets and orderly grid systems. I love the milkshakes and the burgers and the beer and the soft packs of Camel plain. I especially love the welcoming wonderful people. 

There is a shameful sneer in the air in the UK at the moment - fresh from our own string of election disasters - that the odious Trump candidate is the President those Americans deserve.

As my first American friend on that bus ride 18 years ago knew only too well: the worst thing about America is the elite moneyed class. It is this parasitic subclass of plutocrats (not the American people) that have spawned this hateful misogynist and succoured him with media coverage. The America I know won't be fooled by the likes of him.            


Tuesday, 1 November 2016

The Granary Gallery

Just like I always dreamed, for most of my adult life, I have been a philosopher, poet, bartender. However, things might not have turned out that way. For about a year, when I was eighteen/nineteen I was part of an anarchist art collective housed in a disused granary in the grounds of the village Manor House.

I've never forgotten this brief chapter of my life. The ideas, creativity and intellectual arguments fomented in that cold dusty attic studio still influence the person I am today. What I had forgotten was the artwork I actually produced during that time. That was until a recent visit to my father's house. 

Understandably fed up with storing my junk for years on end, my father politely suggested that I take home what I wanted and he would skip the rest. I found some great stuff. Charlie seemed particularly pleased when I pulled out my old Jim Harley squier standard Stratocaster copy with the Jackson pickups and vintage Wah-Wah pedal:

"Do you have an amp for it?" she asked, tentatively, obviously keen to hear me shred. 

"I lent it to someone in 2001 and never got it back," I replied.

"Oh. That's a shame!"

As if my old Jim Harley Strat wasn't prize enough, in amongst some dusty papers I found some of the canvasses from my days in the Granary. 

Alien in a Hoody

Alex Asleep.

Melting Pot

It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words. As I make part of my living writing the internet I know exactly how much a thousand words is worth. For 1000 words, I get paid £24.41. Let's open the bidding at £25.

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Forward the Foundation

There's a run of family birthdays in the middle of October, so it's a good time of year to head West and catch up with everybody at once. My sister-in-law's birthday is sandwiched between my father's 65th (large family gathering) and her eldest's 5th (22 excitable classmates to be catered for) so I wanted to make sure her gift was something really special.

I spent a pleasant afternoon browsing the Norwich Lanes and acquired a range of mustard themed products from the Mustard Museum gift shop for my father and a set of Fireman Sam playing cards for my niece. Finding the right gift for my sister-in-law was a little harder. I had one of those shopping trips where everything you eye up is too similar to something you have bought for that person before. In previous years, I have bought her a yo-yo, a book of modern poetry, a salt themed cookbook and a blue glass objet d'art. Every shop and flea market stall I browsed seemed to be chock full of glass objets d'art.  

Eventually I happened upon a stall selling vintage brass compact mirrors and chose a pretty one that didn't look like it needed too much cleaning up. Fortunately, bartenders can lay their hands on Brasso (other brands of brass cleaning product are available) pretty easily, so I was confident that I could buff the case up to make a shiny present.

Vintage Compact Mirror
I would have left it at that. Perhaps I should have left it at that. But that evening Charlie cast her practised eye over my proudly displayed purchases. She wrinkled her nose at the mustard and lemon soap from the Mustard Museum gift shop. She declined to play a quick game of 'Where's Norman?' with the Fireman Sam playing cards and when she popped open vintage brass compact mirror, she observed, "It's been used."

"I know," I said, "It's vintage. I bought it from a vintage stall selling vintage brass compact mirrors."

"You could put some foundation in it," suggested Charlie. So in a way it was her idea.

What I didn't know is that you can buy foundation refill packs. How was I supposed to know that? Like most boys, I wore a bit of eye-liner from time to time as a teenager, but foundation was a mystery to me. So I looked up the ingredients of an all-natural foundation powder and made my own.

It was really simple. I combined a base of some leftover zinc oxide I had from my crystal growing phase with some cornflour and coloured it with cocoa powder. I mixed these dry ingredients with a bit of rubbing alcohol until they formed a paste. (Actually, I didn't have any rubbing alcohol so I used a very pure vodka I brought back from my honeymoon in Russia.) As the mixture dries and the alcohol evaporates you are left with foundation.

All the ingredients you need to make your own foundation.
My sister-in-law seemed very pleased with her vintage compact mirror. However, I'm not sure I got her colour exactly right as she didn't apply any of the foundation.


Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Pool Talk

About a year ago, the pub pool team, the Temple Bar Hashtags (see blogs passim for the tale of the time they rescued me from a bottle-wielding maniac) grew large enough to spawn a 'B' team. In a process similar to binary fission in bacteria, one team became two. The Temple Bar Falcons was born. (My suggestion that the new team should be called the Temple Bar Stools was sensibly ignored).

The best name for a pub pool team I've ever come across is the Sinhalers - imaginary internet points for anybody who can tell me the name of the pub they played for...

I have an over-inflated sense of my own ability at the game, probably because I usually play after a shift, when everyone else has had a gallon and I am on my first pint. Bartenders who work pool nights are usually signed up for a team so that they can step in if the team are short-handed during a home match. On such evenings, I am essentially being paid to play pool. 

Over the course of the summer, I stood in for two games when the Falcons were short a player. Coincidentally, both of these were in the Nine-ball cup knockout competition and this qualified me to play in the Final at Rileys sports bar on Magdalene Street.

Falcon "the Dazman" eyes up a key shot. 

The best thing about Rileys sports bar on Magdalene Street is its proximity to the King's Head - one of the best pubs in the city. The perfect place for a chap to drink a refreshing pint or three of real ale and have a warm up game of barbilliards before heading over to the noisy badly lit giant-screened assault on the senses that is Rileys sports bar.

Whenever I am in a bar full of pool and snooker tables, I can never get the Johnny Cash song The Baron out of my head. I think this must have put me off my game. Or maybe it was the fact that I'd had about six pints (probably shouldn't have gone to the King's Head first) by the time my turn to play came round.

Every bartender dreads 'pool talk'. This is when a player shares his analysis of the game with you. Pool does not lend itself to audio description, but this won't stop the enthusiastic player attempting to tell the captive bartender all the ball layouts, shot angles, missed opportunities and counter-factual accounts of what would have happened with a bit more screw. With that in mind I will only say this: the other guy broke off, I missed the ball I was aiming for completely, potted the cue ball and the other guy potted the Nine on the next shot to win the game. 

The Falcons went on to win the tournament. I have a shiny trophy to show for my contribution.

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

The Future of Cash

Until the bank over the footbridge closed its doors and its cashpoint, the pub I work in didn't have a PDQ machine. If folks wanted to pay by debit card, we would send them over the footbridge to get cash. This was only five years ago. You couldn't get away with that now. The young people that venture into the pub nearly all pay exclusively by card. It wouldn't occur to them to get fifty notes out of a hole-in-the-wall before a night out. They look at me quizzically when I offer them cashback: What would I want that for?

Now that nearly everywhere, even the Temple Bar, accepts credit and debit cards; now that you can use your mobile phone to securely transfer money in an instant, it seems natural that cash will begin the slow slide into near oblivion. Because money is only really an agreement between two parties, it doesn't really matter what form that agreement takes. Cheques have basically disappeared in the last few years. Would you even know what to do if you received a Postal Order?

As if to herald the beginning of the end of cash, the British government has issued a new £5 note printed on plastic polymer.

In my other job writing the internet, one of the clients I blog for is a plastics manufacturing company based in Norfolk. Every week, I have to produce 300-400 words on something plastic-related for them to post on their website, so plastic actually being in the news is always useful. My editor won't let me write anything negative for these company blogs, but luckily I have this blog to air my true feelings about the new fiver.

5 Things to Hate About the New Fiver

  1. It can't be ripped in half, except for when idiots try really hard and then they rip in half.
  2. If you receive one that has been rolled up for some nefarious purpose in the Gents, it keeps rolling itself back up in your till.
  3. They are frequently scorched from idiots who "just wanted to see if it would melt".
  4. They stick together and then I have to be honest and hand one back.
  5. I have to endure endless conversations about serial numbers from people convinced that they will earn a fortune if they can find one marked AK47 (Currently trading on ebay for £4.24 with 6 bids and a day and a half to go).
I meant to keep hold of one of the new fivers for this photo, but I forgot.
This is all the cash I had on me.

Regular readers of these updates will remember that I chronicled my experience of a bitcoin windfall a couple of summers ago. When my investment increased by nearly half over a period of days. Fortunately, my local pub  (i.e. the one that I drink in not the one that I work in) accepts bitcoins so I was able to buy a few pints of Pegasus, before they lost their value again.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Ic eom Finnginn

It has long been an ambition of mine to read the great works of English Literature. Unfortunately, the charity shops of Mile Cross aren't overburdened with donations of the aforementioned. So I went online to buy myself a copy of Beowulf. Start at the beginning, I reasoned.

Fans of the Anglo Saxon hero aren't short of translations to read. I wound up buying three. I'd heard that Seamus Heaney's is widely regarded as being the best poetic translation. The Tolkien Estate released the fantasy writer's verse translation recently and I also went a copy of the original in Old English with a prose translation on each opposing page. It was whilst purchasing this last that I remembered that on a recent visit to Sutton Hoo - the local Anglo Saxon burial ground museum - I had purchased on a whim a book that promised to teach me the basics of Old English.

I don't know why I'm so taken by these whims. A couple of years ago I became obsessed with non-Skaldic verse poems (especially the Riddles of Heithrek). I decided I wanted to learn to read them unhindered by translation and acquired several academic books on Old Norse that lie currently unread in the languages and linguistics section of my bookshelves. Old English looks considerably more approachable. The book I am learning from is for beginners and there are accompanying online audio files.

I was just in the bedroom obeying the instruction to repeat aloud after some of these audio files when I heard Charlie coming up the stairs. Charlie is home from work ill with a cold.

"What are you doing? I feel like death and all I can hear is you making stupid sounds!"

"I am teaching myself Old English so that I can read Beowulf in the original before I read the two translations that I have just ordered."

"Why?" I think this comment was a virus-induced existential plea rather than a direct question, but I answered it anyway.

"Ic eom Finnginn!"  

Learn Old English with Leofwin by Matt Love
is available from all good Anglo-Saxon burial grounds