Wednesday Update

My morning run felt good in a muscular sort of way, but I didn’t push my ‘not break stride’ mark any farther, and I was slowed by my laboured breathing (gasping); on the other hand, when I got back to our front door, my time was 11:13, which is a new low for me. I still strongly dislike the experience of running, but I gather that once you get in the habit of doing it, it becomes less unpleasant — and I’ll certainly feel much better about myself when I can run a mile without breaking stride to stumble and pant.

Some Things Are Important

The other day, Toots and the Maytals’ classic ‘Pomp and Pride’ (that image on the video doesn’t look like Toots Hibbert to me — hmmm, someone needs to learn that not all Black men look alike) popped into my memory-worm register, and I’ve been thinking about it and singing along since then. Nothing so surprising about that — par for the course, that a geriatric rocker should recall fondly the music of his twenties. And also not surprising, the non-Reverend Dr Adam rolled her eyes at this, particularly since I didn’t know all the words and was making up gibberish to fill the gaps.

So to satisfy my curiosity and to give Margaret something different to roll her eyes about, I decided quickly to look up the lyrics. Google Play covered all the relatively intelligible (to my time and volume-abraded ears) lyrics, and provided for one of the trickier lines

Is it an opulin, Iceland, calm down

Now, you have to admire Toots’s poetical ingenuity, working Iceland into a song about popular discontent with luminance (‘when they see it, they see it’s not bright’; cf. also ‘Tropical Iceland’ by the Fiery Furnaces). But ‘opulin’? Sorry, that — in the words of another line of the song — that can’t be right.

No worries — a quick look at another database provides

Ease it and happily, nicely calm down

which works well and seems plausible in context. I should also note that yet another source suggests ‘Isolyn, Jacqueline, Everton, come down’ — but mixing football teams with women’s names seems unlikely to me.

This all points to the problems of bridging Jamaican pronunciation and patois with [British] standard English, the classic article on which being Steve Cotler’s ‘Draw Your Brakes — A Jamaican Creole Shout,’ which explains the otherwise opaque

Forward and fiaca
Menacle and den gosaca

(‘Opaque,’ that is, to foreign ears.) Not only are the words themselves puzzling (if indeed those are the words in question), but Scotty intones them with an ominous, prophetic intensity. If we don’t know what ‘Forward and fiaca / Menacle and den go sa-ahkah’ means, how are we to respond to its urgency?

Cotler consulted experts (imagine that! In your eye, Michael Gove!) Peter L. Patrick of Essex, and Kenneth Bilby of the Smithsonian, who explained that

“Forward and payaaka, manhangle (manhandle) and den go saaka.”

In the “youth man slang” of the time, “payaaka” was a verb, meaning “to take away another man’s woman/girlfriend.” In this “slang,” “saaka” meant “to fuck.” So the song’s intro meant, “go and take away a next man’s girl, grab her and then go have sex with her.”

So if this be prophecy, I guess I will fall far short of its mandates (and will not proclaim it so ardently when The Harder They Come comes round on my playlist). Good to know, right?

And while we’re on the topic of difficult-to-parse accent-and-patois expressions, what (you will probably ask) (actually, you won’t have thought of this, but I’m putting my thoughts in your mouth since it’s my blog, so there) ‘But what about the beginning of ‘007 (Shanty Town)’ by the giant Desmond Dekker?’ I applaud your good taste — I too am a great admirer to Desmond Dekker — and I too have had difficulty figuring out what’s going on in the song.

As it turns out once one investigates the lyrics, the song concerns rude boys who have been released from custody (‘them out of jail’ — Dekker pronounces the noun with more of an ‘ee’ sound, as happens in some Scottish patterens of pronunciation), who are obliged to behave themselves as part of the conditions for their release (‘them must get bail’, likewise leaning toward ‘ee’). This also clarifies the ‘weel’ sound at the end of the first line — it’s ‘wail’ — and the line ‘Dem rude boys deh pon probation.’ ‘At ocean eleven’? Well, not all mysteries are easily explained.

Sheaffer Balance, Roseglow

Between 1936 and 1938, Sheaffer manufactured its Balance pens in this dusty-rose striated design. The roseglow — so-called — is relatively uncommon, and somewhat more valuable than your run-of-the-mill green, brown, or grey striated.

It’s their plunger-filler design, and has a slightly stubbed nib.

Its first owner seems to have been Dick Wynn. If it were a more unusual name, or combination of names, I’d spend hours online trying to track Dick down, but I haven’t given it a try to this point.

Sheaffer Roseglow, engraved Dick Wynn

Early Extra Go

This morning I took my Sunday morning run early, since tomorrow I’m leaving early for Ripon, where the Rt Revd Helen-Ann Hartley will be installed as Bishop. Helen-Ann took a class or two with me back at Princeton Seminary lo these many years ago; I was pleased to attend her being made an Honorary Fellow of Worcester College a couple of years ago, and now I’ll go — proudly — to see her installed as Bishop of Ripon.

But today, this morning, I took my weekend run. I pushed my ‘not break stride’ point till the spot I was reaching before the Christmas holiday, which felt good cognitively (though not so good in the running). I didn’t feel really limber till about half way, but by then I was so winded that the limber-ness didn’t really matter.

Anyway, I shaved my time down to 11:29, so that’s good.

Surprise Steps

I ran my Wednesday mile in 11:39 today, which came as a surprise since my knees felt rusty and my steps seemed shorter than in the last few runs. And I didn’t extend my ‘before I broke stride’ distance, either. Still, when I hit the ‘Stop’ button at the doorway, I had shaved almost thirty seconds off Sunday’s time.

I should add that I’ve been doing pretty well at sleeping eight hours at night, up from my ‘seven or whatever comes before I automatically wake up at 6:00’ norm. It requires me to go to bed earlier than I used to, and I miss some of that expanse of time before sleep — but the experts seem to think eight hours is a lot better for me than seven, and at my age I should do as many ‘better’ things as I can induce myself to do. I want to spend more time with Margaret and our family.


I forgot to note yesterday’s time, which was 12:12 for the mile — still not caught up to where it had been before the Christmas holidays, but I’m expecting to get back to form as I recuperate from (successively) jet lag, the flu, and now general poor conditioning.

And for my medical records, something odd is going on with my eyes, as of fifteen or so minutes ago — as if I had looked into a powerful light (but I haven’t, as far as I can recall).

[Checking back: Seems to have passed. I don’t know what that was.]

Health Check

Just to note that I’m feeling pretty well, though all the walking I did Thursday has my legs in stiff, sore condition. I’ve been skipping rope mornings, and I should be able to try a run tomorrow (though if the weather is bad, I may give it a miss and gear up to run Wednesday).

Back On Air

I had a digital hiatus here for a week or so, as a problem at the server knocked the blog offline. Since I last wrote anything, I (a) pretty much got over the flu, (b) got a tiny bit of work done and had waves of anxiety over how little time is left to complete my remaining tasks, (c) have resumed light exercising, feeling very stiff and sore, (d) went to St Albans yesterday to do what I can to advance the cause of religious education among our nation’s young scholars.

I have remaining: (a) about 160 pages of translating, (b) revisions to an article under consideration, (c) a chapter-essay to write, (d) marking. This will not all be done by the end of my term’s leave, which is daunting and frustrating. Strong advice to colleagues: Avoid the flu when on leave!

Not Exactly

Alas, yesterday went so well that I fell for the illusion that I was mostly better. I was up all day — no naps — and even stayed up later than I ordinarily do, without feeling tired. But I had some trouble falling asleep, and my phone dinged about an hour after I (at length) fell asleep with FB messages from several friends in the USA. It took some time to fall asleep again, then I woke a little after 3:00, took awhile to return to sleep, and woke up alert and ready to go at 6:30. The blustery winds may have made sleep more of a challenge. I will take some time to nap today.

On the positive side, yesterday was almost normal, I ate well, didn’t have sweats or deep chills — and during the night I had some hot spells but not full-on sweating, and some uncomfortably chilly intervals, but not the ‘how can I still be cold in a cocoon of hoodies, track suit, bathrobe, duvet, socks, and so on?’ deep chills.

21:00 to 7:30

One of my longest nights of sleep, ever, last night. I can’t say it was a good night’s sleep — I had several interval of sweating like a horse, some congestion and occasional coughing — but I did genuinely sleep for roughly nine and a half hours, and I feel much more nearly alive today. Yesterday I ate only a little, and half-heartedly; I spent almost all day in bed; I couldn’t imagine trying to read, or write, or think very hard. Today I’ve been sitting up since I got up at 7:30; I cooked eggs and [faux] bacon for breakfast, and enjoyed eating it; and although I haven’t undertaken anything very ambitious, I don’t feel as though it would be pointless to try.

It’s not that I feel great — but I feel weak, and ill, rather than comprehensively miserable.

Not On The Plan For My Leave

I’m certainly glad I ran Sunday morning, because there is no way on earth that I will be able to bestir myself out of bed and onto the streets to run a mile tomorrow morning. In fact (checking) I haven’t even walked a half mile in the last forty-eight hours, when the flu hit me.

I do mean ‘hit’. At about five o’clock Sunday I made a joke on Facebook about my achey shoulders and my weariness, and within a few minutes I felt as though I had insulted The Incredible Hulk’s mother. (With him there, obviously.) I think I went to bed about about 8:30, woke at 3:15 and went downstairs to avoid disrupting Margaret’s sleep, tossed and turned till Margaret was up and away to her class, then napped intermittently for the rest of the day. Last night I spent the whole night downstairs for Margaret’s sake, and have been stationed here on the couch in the lounge or upstairs in bed the whole time.

I must confess: Over the past few years, I have sometimes noticed a friend’s observations about being bed-ridden, and I have thought, ‘Man, I could use a few days of mandatory bed rest. Get some reading done, maybe watch a film, catch up on much-needed rest.’

I don’t get the flu or colds as often as some other folks; I had entirely forgotten that, when you have the flu and are obligated to stay in bed, it’s because you don’t have enough energy even to… watch en episode of Castle*, much less an interesting film. I don’t have enough appetite to enjoy a casual treat. I can’t sleep steadily enough to get better rested. I can’t read more than a few sentences at a time.

In the second day of this flu, I’ve felt mostly seriously chilled (one hot spell at midday), achey and tired, some congestion, tossing and turning, aching ribs from coughing, and generally as miserable as they say that people with the flu feel. It’s not a relaxing vacation.

I apologise to all whose infirmities I have carelessly discounted. I yearn for the energy and stability to step back into something more like everyday life.

* I say Castle because I have to admit that I have been watching Seinfeld.

Another Day, Another Mile

This morning my legs played me false, heavy as wet cement, holding me back from making any time progress over Wednesday’s 12:00 (came in at exactly the same time today). On the other hand, I stretched my not-break-stride distance to the crosswalk after Aston St (just beyond the sign that points down Chester St to the Seventh Day Adventists and the playground) (by the way, if you’re visiting Oxford with a view to exploring the exotically-named ‘Adventure Playground’, you may want to prepare yourself and your friends for the possibility that although the ‘Playground’ part of the name is undeniably apt, it is not necessarily a more ‘Adventure’-ous playground than many you could visit). Step by step, pushing forward to Stanley Road!