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

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Almond and Dried Mango Flapjacks

Yesterday's blog had a subplot involving the baking of some almond and dried mango flapjacks. Touchingly, someone of you even contacted me to ask for the recipe. I didn't follow a recipe, I just made it up. However, a cursory google reveals that nobody has ever made this combination before. I'm just planting my flag so that next time somebody googles 'almond and dried mango flapjacks', Google will direct them here. 

Almond and Dried Mango Flapjacks


Half a bag of almonds
Half a bag of dried mango
Half a pack of unsalted butter
Half a bag of porridge oats
Half a tin of Tate and Lyle's golden syrup


  1. Melt half a pack of unsalted butter in a saucepan. 
  2. Roughly chop your almonds and boil them in the melting butter. 
  3. Chop your dried mango (I only used half a bag because they were difficult to chop and I was worried the butter might start to burn). 
  4. Pour half a tin of Tate and Lyle's golden syrup into the melted butter and stir until dissolved. 
  5. Mix everything together with the oats in a big bowl. 
  6. Spread the mixture onto a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper. 
  7. Bake for twenty-forty minutes depending on whether you like them sticky or rocky. 
My invention
I guess if you are vegan, you could substitute olive oil or something for the butter?

Tuesday, 13 September 2016


I recently had occasion to buy myself a Walkman. Charlie had found a tape she wanted to listen to in one of her several memory boxes. Neither we nor anybody we know owns a cassette player, but I found a knock-off Walkman on Ebay that came with a lead for converting cassettes to MP3 format. It arrived today and I was eager to test it out. There is something reassuringly clunky about cassette players, I love that the eject button is purely mechanical.

I connected the machine to my plugged-in laptop and left it to charge while I went off to bake some almond and dried mango flapjacks. The next thing on the agenda was to find a cassette to test it on. Fortunately, I still own two cassettes: one is Supergrass's debut single Mansize Rooster (which I bought for 99p in 1995 and is currently changing hands for £8.99 on Ebay); the other is my pal Stoogie's interview with Norfolk Constabulary from 2010.  

"Wait a minute now you just can't hide away..."
Tentatively, I inserted the hallowed Supergrass cassette, closed the lid and pressed play. Nothing happened. As I removed the cassette to check that the tape was intact, I saw a hitherto unnoticed compartment labelled with a picture of a battery. Turns out the lead is just for transferring data. To run the machine requires two AA batteries.

I was pretty certain that I had seen two batteries in my man drawer. Sure enough, beneath the Basildon Bond writing paper, nestled between my watercolour paints and my sewing kit, there lay two AA batteries.

The cassette player works, but I have to say that cassettes are a shocking mechanism for storing music. The sound quality was appalling on the 22 year old Supergrass tape. I've got vinyl records that are 70 years old and sound like they were recorded yesterday.

Bonus internet points for anyone who can tell me why I called this post K7.

In case you didn't believe me about the Flapjacks.

Thursday, 8 September 2016

Planetary Polemic (part two)

I had to nip out to the White Lion yesterday and didn't quite finish what I was saying about saving the planet. A good thing, too, as I was starting to sound a bit despondent. It's easy to get despondent when thinking about such issues. Anthropogenic climate change is a huge issue affecting billions of humans and we are a small group of people with a shared interest in philosophy poetry and bartending, how are we supposed to save the world? Well, I say to you: if not us then whom? By which I mean: to win this fight, we need everyone and that includes us.

Step 1. Identifying the Enemy

As I started to say yesterday, we cannot hope to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases without identifying the major polluters. Happily, they are nearby. Take a look in the mirror. The Western lifestyle is an energy hungry lifestyle. However, it is not written in stone that energy must be created by burning fossil fuels. We can all take steps to reduce our energy consumption, but we can also insist that energy companies invest in renewable sources of energy: wind, solar, geothermal.

Step 2. Insistence is Useless (unless backed by legislation)

It is no good me writing to the head of BP or whoever and saying:
"Dear Sir, I insist that you start investing in renewable energy! Regards, Finnginn." Even if the letter was signed by all sixty of you that bother to read these polemical posts or even all 200 of you that read the funny anecdotal posts. That is not enough. To force their hand we need legislation.

I know what you are thinking: "But Finnginn, you are an anarcho-syndicalist, why are you suddenly waving the flag for state power?" And I reply: You have to fight the battles that are immediately in front of you. And you have to use the weapons that are to hand. The only institutions over which we have some minimal amount of democratic control are the institutions of government and we must use them to fight back against the unelected corporations that are poisoning our atmosphere.

Step 3. Do your Research.

Find out where your elected representatives stand on these issues. Check their voting records (They Work for You is a good resource for this in the UK) Challenge them. And if you don't like what they have done: throw them out at the next election.

As I hinted at in the rhyming triplets in yesterday's blog, these issues transcend party allegiances. 

Red flag or Blue,
All you who recycle and watch X Factor
Consider Finnginn
Who once was tired, but tried to warn you. 

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Planetary Polemic

I've been reading Naomi Klein's 'This Changes Everything'. It is quite a depressing tome and I've been making rather slow progress. In fact, I'm kind of worried that the global warming catastrophe described therein may happen before I finish it and find out what we are supposed to do to prevent it. The quote on the back from Stephanie Merritt says that "...crucially she leaves the reader with a sense of optimism." Not so far. 

I've been worrying about global warming or nuclear catastrophe since I first learned of them in the 1980s. Depending on what source you read, the nuclear threat is either fading or greater than ever. But everybody bar a few crackpot conspiracy theorists (and an American presidential candidate) is agreed that the threat from anthropogenic climate change is real and that we are already feeling its effects.

It has seemed obvious (and reading Klein's book has firmed up the statistics on this) that the interests of global capital and the interests of the planet are opposed. The 'sense of optimism' that Klein imparts to her readers is the sense that these things can change. We, the people, can take on capitalism and win. 

This is the most important battle we are facing. 

Red or Blue,
Old Labour or New,
In the EU or out of the EU.

Blue or Red,
Listen to your head,
Take up the fight or the planet is dead.

When Britain voted to leave the EU, I was concerned that we had weakened the negotiating position of both entities. When the trade deals are renegotiated do you think little Britain will be able to argue for clauses that ensure the well-being of the planet? 

It's Wednesday so I'm off to the pub, I will finish this polemic another time.

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Of Naps and Mint Tea

Waking up and getting up has never been easy for me. I think I suffer from whatever the opposite of insomnia is. Consomnia? Consomnia is distinct from narcolepsy - the condition where people involuntarily fall asleep. I very rarely fall asleep involuntarily. Occasionally, in the passenger seat on a long car journey, the gentle lull of the Radio Two traffic announcements might combine with the hypnotic sway of the windscreen wipers to cause an involuntary nodding off. But generally I am in full control of when I choose to sleep. I just choose to do it more often and for longer than most people.

A Reasonable Amount of Sleep

Everybody knows that you are supposed to have eight hours sleep a night - although there appears to be no evidence for this. I've read research correlating longevity with a six to eight hour sleeping pattern. Bad news for those of you who have less than six - you are 12% more likely to have an early death. However it is really bad news for those of us that like ten hours sleep a night (12 at weekends) - we are 30% more likely to have an early death. That's nearly shocking enough to make a chap consider setting an alarm clock.

The Coffee Culture

Obviously all these people going around driving and operating heavy machinery and being responsible for sizeable portions of the world's economy all on the back of five and a half hours sleep need something to keep them going between micronaps. As such, a coffee culture has developed. A lot of people think that it is acceptable to take a strong stimulant first thing in the morning and regularly throughout the day. I used to be one of them, but I had to give it up because I realised what a bad effect it had on my anxiety levels. I just can't handle my caffeine.

My Early Experiments with Caffeine

As a child, my parents wouldn't let me drink coca-cola. This lack of exposure must have worked because coke is not a drink to me. I literally don't see it as a drinkstuff. It smells unpotable. I have never tasted it (or pepsi, virgin, panda and other generic colas). I stopped telling people that I have never tried coca-cola because then they always want to make me try it. I did once have a cola bottle sweet, but I have been told they don't taste like coke anyway. 

I put my inability to process caffeine properly down to this lack of exposure to coca-cola in my childhood (although I have read some research indicating genetic factors).

As a teenager, I wanted to emulate my father and drink strong black coffee. I was able to do this by adding milk and two sugars. It took me years to recognise that the two main trigger factors for my anxiety were recent caffeine intake and lack of sleep. Sometime in my mid-twenties, I gave up regular coffee drinking. 

I love sleeping and I love the smell and taste of coffee. Some people are lucky and can have them both and their mental health. Not me. Time for a mint tea and a nap. 

Friday, 2 September 2016

What to Do if You Find Yourself in Profit

It's been over a year since I took up my second job of writing the internet. The extra income I've earned from blogging (not from Finnginn blogs obviously) helped pay for my wedding earlier this year. However, now that expense is more or less over, I find myself in a situation where my outgoings don't exceed my income. For the first time in my life: I know what 'profit' feels like.

When you earn more than you can spend, you are supposed to keep the difference and spend it later on something really big. I've never really understood this rationale. Probably because I'm lazy: I just think, 'I could work less!' My solution is to cut my shifts at the Temple back down to a civilised 24 hours a week.

The plan is to free up Tuesdays to pursue my personal writing projects that have been a bit sidelined with all the commercial stuff I've been doing. I've just about managed to bang out the odd one of these Finnginn posts, but I feel I'm neglecting the crossword puzzles and the longer projects. 

There is, of course, sound philosophical reasoning behind all of this. Bertrand Russell suggested in In Praise of Idleness that the great works of art would never have been produced if humans just worked all the time. 

Charlie disagrees with Bertrand Russell and thinks that taking Tuesdays off was a silly idea. It seems obvious to her that if I needed more free time then I should just get up earlier. 

I don't often link to the uncredited commercial blogs that I write from here, but I'm quite proud of this one for a local fitted wardrobe company.