Tuesday, June 1, 2010


Nowadays my mind wanders ever more capriciously. Yesterday it happened again, whilst looking up the definition of a Spenserian Stanza in the Concise Oxford Dictionary.

It was while pondering this definition that my eye fell upon the run of subsequent entries in my beloved dictionary. The entry for Spenserian is followed by an entry for Spent, and then, by happy happenchance, with another entry for Sperm.

So it followed that at one moment I was thinking about Spenser’s stanza in the Faerie Queene, with eight iambic pentameters and an alexandrine, and in the very next moment my mind was absorbed in Sperm.

Did you know that the word Sperm is either singular or plural? Or that sperm contains spermatozoa, which is the plural of spermatozoon? And that a spermatozoon begins its life as a spermatogonium, after which it develops into a spermatocyte before becoming the mature motile sex cell that looks and moves like a tadpole?

Gadzooks, I thought! All this extraneous information! My mind was swimming. I imagined myself as a spermatozoon, swimming like a tadpole. Suddenly, I rediscovered my erstwhile interest in genealogy, and I realised I had missed a trick. We are all descended from tadpoles, aren’t we?

But not any old ordinary tadpoles, mind you, but winning tadpoles, by which I mean those precious few; those who create the world’s population; those who succeed where countless zillions of others fail.

We should therefore be far more proud of our immediate ancestor – that special tadpole - than all the ancestors that we normally think of. And I think that the humble yet winning spermatozoon (?) should really be given a name of its own, and be known as the spermato-ZOOM.

Credit where credit is due, that is what I say.

Three cheers for the spermato-ZOOM!

Yesterday, my girlfriend’s youngest daughter announced her first pregnancy. We were the first to know, and I am due to become an honorary granddad again. And in seven months time, I hope to rediscover the extraordinary delight of cradling a new-born baby in my arms again. We'll have to travel back 2,000 miles from our winter retreat to do that, but I’ll probably be browsing my dictionary en route...

Here’s the opening verse from the Faerie Queene:

LO I the man, whose Muse whilome did maske,
As time her taught, in lowly Shepheards weeds,
Am now enforst a far vnfitter taske,
For trumpets sterne to chaunge mine Oaten reeds,
And sing of Knights and Ladies gentle deeds;
Whose prayses hauing slept in silence long,
Me, all too meane, the sacred Muse areeds
To blazon broad emongst her learned throng:
Fierce warres and faithfull loues shall moralize my song.


Jon said...

Congrats on soon-to-become Hon. Grandfather.

I love dioctionaries for this precise reason - the ability to roam wild & free through the hills and vallys of the wordscape.

Looking words up on 'tinternet just isn't the same.

Canary Islander said...

Many thanks, Jon!

Yes, indeed - and you just know there is an adventure in store every time you reach for a dictionary.

My passion for words began as a small boy, when I only spoke German and found myself in an English primary school. My teacher (bless him) gave me a tiny pocket dictionary to keep, and over the following year I devoured every single word in it.

It's the same for me now. And like Richard Brautigan, I've always wanted to write a book that ended with the word 'mayonnaise'.

Dolores Doolittle said...

Yes, CI - felicitations & great joy on expanding family.

Dictionaries are indeed a delight aren't they... Though I must say I like internet ones too because they're quick and don't disintegrate so quickly from feverish searchings.


And you can Hear the word, (here in deep growl American) which is jolly handy for students.

Do post your tale of mayonnaise...

Canary Islander said...

Thank you for the felicitations, Dolores!

And bless you for introducing me to your internet dictionary. This promises to be really useful, because when I'm typing on the computer I need my other hand free for dunking my chips (in the mayonnaise).

JW10 said...

Congratulations on yet more additions to the C.I family.

You won't believe this but it's true. Years ago while reading a football magazine, one of the player's interviewed said he loved browsing a dictionary. The player in question was none other than England's top goalkeeper, David Seaman. How's that for art imitating life...or is it life imitating art? Need to consult the book of Quotations.

Canary Islander said...

Cheers JW!

And Seaman may have looked up Semen in his dictionary, just like I did when I was a youngster. I sometimes wonder how many children - keen to learn more about the birds and the bees - use a dictionary?

My dictionary tells me that the term "play the wag" is slang for a truant, and that "WAG" is a football acronym for Wife And Girlfriend.

So I think Fabio Capelli should give each of his England football players a dictionary for night-time reading.

We don't want the team to "play the wag" the night before a big match, do we?

Expat said...

Haven't we been down this road before? I remember writing that Chambers was my dictionary of choice. I love 'em too. I received my new Chambers for Christmas (a requested gift) a couple of years ago and only recently could I bring myself to throw out the old one.

But I, too, go to Chambers on line for speed. And I love the on-line synonym sites. Great for sticky crossword clues. There's even a site where you can plug in words and get back all the possible anagrams...again a favorite for crossword solutions. Yes, I know it's cheating, but needs must.

Congrats on the coming bundle of wet-and-worse nappies, CI.

(Notice I am largely ignoring your attempts to ensnare us into talking about sex, though reference to tadpoles did remind me of having to bisect a frog in biology class.)

Dolores Doolittle said...

Please tell me, Expat, that they were dead before you started...

Mercifully we never disected anything beyond a kidney bean.

Jolly glad to free up your Dunking Hand, CI. Chips lend themselves particularly to Mayo of the Mustard variety, don't you think?

Canary Islander said...

Hi Expat,

Belated thanks for the congrats! I'm sorry to be so late in responding, but we too, have just had an unexpected health scare.

I haven't mentioned it before, but Kathy had a couple of operations here in England two years ago for a facial melanoma and has had to return for a checkup every year. Unfortunately she has just been fast-tracked through yet another biopsy and is now on standby for a further operation. We've only just got back from the hospital.

And yes, I think you are right, we have chatted about dictionaries before. I vaguely remember you were talking about some of the crazy words that Blogger.com asked you to copytype before being allowed to make a comment on one of Dolores Blogs. And I think it was then that you mentioned that you used a Chambers dictionary.

I too got my new Oxford dictionary as a Christmas present last year! But that was in Tenerife, and now I'm happily reunited with my old copy here in England. It's ragged at the edges, tatty at the seams, and full of fond memories and new wonders.

Are ladies who use Chambers called Chambermaids? (turning the pages now... hmmm....)

Canary Islander said...

Dolores - I LOVE mustardised mayo! But I see red when I have the taste of Chinese mao on tse tung.

I'm wondering if people who stalk beans are called beanstalkers? (turning the pages now... hmmm....)

Expat said...

Oh, CI, I will keep Kathy close to my heart.


Canary Islander said...

Thanks Expat! Sharing the fun and the realities is what friendship is all about. And you are a shining light in that respect.

And you are right about sex. Ladies often ignore an attempt to talk about sex, but positions can change during sex, after which the opposite is true.


Dolores Doolittle said...

CI - warmest thoughts to Kathy and to you - partners go through hell too.

Expat - you will keep us up to date on your progress, won't you...

Right - I suspect our cat is Attempting to Talk About Sex... Or is he just scratching his ear on my toe?

JW10 said...


Give my best wishes to Kathy.
And cyber hugs to Expat.

Dolores, I think I will adopt your cat's foreplay technique; wish me luck.

Expat said...

I met with the medical oncologist last week and although under State law here he is not allowed to make recommendations as to surgery type, he made it clear in my case that he favored lumpectomy rather than mastectomy. That should mean no chemo, just radiation. But we shall see. Fortunately, there is an excellent facility 10 minutes away. I have been reading about the UK where some people have to travel 100 miles round trip for radiation and therefore go for mastectomy even if it's not necessary. Unbelievable! Still, I suppose it's the same for country folk here too.

I had the usual (in the USA)scans on Friday to make sure there's nothing lurking anywhere else. It probably picked up the damned arthritis in my shoulder that gives me gyp once in a while.

Next week, I see my surgeon to schedule the procedure. It's out-patient here, so that's good.

I am keeping well. Trying to quit the dreaded tobacco before the surgery, but not a great deal of success. It's stressful waiting.

But talking about sex (did I say that?), the medical oncologist asked if I was interested in reconstruction and I said no. He asked John how long we had beem married and John told him 42 years. He laughed and said "Well, you've had enough sex already!"

And on that note, I shall go and tickle his toes with my ear...

Canary Islander said...

Crikey JW!

If it works... will you still lend me your ear?


Canary Islander said...

Hi Expat - you were online at the same time as me!

People like your oncologist who work under rules that prevent their free speech (and who can break the rules) are great!

Kathy was told yesterday that smoking can impair the skin healing process, so today she started getting a nicotine fix from an inhaler. She only used one and a half of these today, and the instructions say you can use 12!!!

Kathy has plasters on her face after the biopsy, but we visited her elder daughter today. On the way, she took a puff from the inhaler, then wound down the car window to let the (non-existant) smoke out.

It's in those little moments, like that one, when she laughed at herself, that I fall in love all over again...

Dolores Doolittle said...

Expat, bold person. I googled Lumpectomy, and it sounds a Splendid way to pass the morning! (and perhaps John will bring his ear along).

The US health system sounds hugely dynamic (it's an Outpatient procedure!), but they're not allowed to make recommendations?!!

How are you supposed to hoist yourself out of your shocked dithering trauma to make a lucid decision, Unaided? (I suspect this sentence reflects my own inevitable state in that event, rather than your Actual one).

It's good that they seem to be moving on with reasonable speed, though this Limbo-period must indeed be agonisingly stress-laden.

Hope the Usual Scans left them free to Get the hell on with the op, so you & John can rediscover Life without this weight on your shoulders.

warmest wishes

Dolores Doolittle said...

JW - jolly Good Luck of course, but Where Are You then?? (you Tease...)

Dolores Doolittle said...

CI - Braveness & Constant Laughter to you and Kathy as you go through this.
(How many cigarettes in one Inhaler Fix)? Does it come in other Flavours, or could you invent that please?

Canary Islander said...

Dolores, a "fix" is one cartridge inserted into an inhaler that looks like a cigarette-holder. This "fix" is equivalent to 2-3 cigarrettes. The big difference is that that you get 20 munutes of actual puffing time, but you can spread that out over a whole day if you like.

So Kathy's one and a half cartrides per day is equivalent to 4 or 5 cigarettes worth of nicotine, but without the other useful ingredients like tar, cyanide, etc.

How she copes without the cyanide is beyond me!

Expat said...

Dolores, I have read a lot in an effort to inform myself. CI, I expect Kathy did the same the first time around. It can be scary. One needs to differentiate between good internet sites and not so good. I am also in touch with people who have recently gone through this....sisters of friends etc. I find talking very helpful. It's a whole new language, though. I have learned words I never thought I would need to learn.

Dolores Doolittle said...

CI what a brilliant invention - hope it gives the same satisfaction.

Not so long ago we met someone trying to stop smoking (in this case, just 'cos she felt like trying), with the aid of a Pretend battery-operated cigarette that lit up at the end, and even puffed (steam).

I never got to like the taste of cigarettes, but I Really wanted one of these gadgets - much more fun than pen-chewing.

As always, warm thoughts to you both.

Expat - I imagine you giving very short shrift to the not-so-good Net utterings. Thank heavens for your friends & family who aren't afraid to Talk you through this ghastly period.
Keep Unloading, and don't forget to drive into the country and SCREEEEAM at frequent intervals...

warmest wishes to you

JW10 said...

My God, what a weekend I've had! For the first time in four days I ventured back into society and all I saw was couples very publicly tickling one another's toes with their ears before scarpering to more private areas. That Cat deserves a knighthood!

Expat- It must be difficult writing your feelings down and your courage is very humbling to the more fortunate of us. We are with you every step of the way.

I've never smoked or ran about with fast women (why fast?). My vice is the tasty McEwan's Export I keep slabbering on about. Probably cyanide in it.

Tickly toes thoughts to all of you.

Canary Islander said...

One of things I have noticed: Kathy, always a dynamic "let's do it now, rather than later" personality, is even more so now that she's under this stress. Today we whizzed around and did dentist, doctor prescriptions, chemist shop, DVD rental shop, garden centre, electrical stores, solicitors office, caught up with nine months of correspondence, rejigged our car insurance, paid all outstanding bills, planted hanging baskets and tubs, tied back a huge overgrowing shrub, replaced all batteries in clocks, smoke alarms,and telephones, updated Windows on two laptops, and cooked a great dinner.

There was a black comedy moment during all this activity. I answered a telephone call from the hospital which was an urgent call for Kathy. I passed the phone over to her and she listened intently. Time stood still...

The news was this: the nurse who had put stitches into Kathy's face after her biopsy had just gone down with chickenpox.

SCREEEEAM !!! (acknowledgement to you, Dolores!).


Canary Islander said...

Hi JW!
This is the second time one of us merry souls has been on-line at the same time! Maybe we are becoming telepathetic (how do you spell that word?).

Your news is encouraging; from now on I'll keep my ear close to the ground.

Expat said...

Isn't it strange. You do not know what I look like. I do not know what you look like, yet I feel viscerally connected to you all. JW, my name is Chris.

Are any of you on Facebook? We can connect that way also and you can see me.

Canary Islander said...

Hi Expat - this reminds me of the film "You've got Mail" starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. Being something of a complete mushpot, I confess that my favorite films are love stories with happy endings.

Yes, I would love to share photographs. I've always wanted to do that because I too, feel a special kinship here.

But I guess it would be a miracle if all of us here had the same views. Jon is hugely open about his life and his family - much more so than I've ever been.

I tried Facebook ages ago, despite my initial misgivings about security, after my kids put me under enormous pressure to sign up. But all those "friend requests" started to drive me crazy, and the security worries didn't go away, so I stopped using it after only a few weeks. And I thought it was better if I didn't know some of the things my kids got up to !!!!

But, maybe you can convince me otherwise - I've heard that Facebook has introduced tougher security procedures, although I don't know the details.

As an alternative to Facebook, we could each set up a new email account and swop photos by emailing each other from one account to the other.

It would be a very timid (and relatively secure) first step that wouldn't compromise us in any way that I can see. I once did something similar with Dolores ages ago as a one-off. (Crikey! That sounds like a one-night stand!). Dolores saw some photos of mine, and that was as far as it went, and that was OK.

What say you?

Dolores Doolittle said...

Expat, it's really tempting to see you on Facebook, but I think one has to join the club to see anyone else, and I can't help having misgivings.

I've always thought it was for my adolescent students & their ado mates - it's interesting to find that you're on it, (when you've confessed the appalling truth of Not being an ado)!

What happens on there? Do you get in retouch with old friends, have jolly chats with Unknowns too, join fierce Debates...?

Yes, CI, how can one forget your gleaming torso, shinlength shorts & merry hat with ostrich plume?
(wasn't that you)?

Again, Very Tempting to see if we match each other's imaginings, but my avatar was chosen for its uncanny similarity anyway...

Expat said...

OK. It was a bad idea. I was feeling a bit low.

Dolores, with family scattered all over (England, Australia, Trinindad, Canada), FB is useful to keep in touch easily at no cost.

My brother in Oz is also on FB. He doesn't quite get it, though. He doesn't quite get e-mail either. If he sends an e-mail or posts on FB, he immediately calls me on the phone..."Did you get my e-mail?...Did you see my post?"

Canary Islander said...

Hey! Wait a minute! Wots this? No photos?

After all these hours and hours of me using advanced photo-editing technical stuff to enhance and body-graft young hugely muscular bicepts, tricepts, lats, and six-packs onto my image? Not to mention the face lifts?

Well, that's two years of patient grooming gone down the pan....

Here's a thought, tho...

Betcha we do do it in style one day.

When we are that much older and crinklier, lets wander with our partners, on a magical journey from Paris, through the Loire valley, and turn gently South, to meet up at a Gite in the Vendee.

What could possibly be more perfect than that?

Canary Islander said...

Do we have a future , unspecified, future date?

expat said...

Oh,CI! What a lovely thought! I will hold on to that through the next couple of months.

I can't express what the friendship of all of you means to me.

Love to Kathy. I know this: even though one is surrounded by loving family and friends, some journeys one must inevitably make alone. Cancer is, in the end, a solitary path. She is in my heart.

JW10 said...

Apart from the lots of new friends I’ve made in the Queen community websites you three are the guys (!) I most interact with cyberspaceilly. I’m not on face book or anything like that as my social network of friends can easily be found in the local pubs and football grounds. We don’t need a computer, the Glasgow grapevine keeps us up to date.

Expat or may I this once call you Chris (you can, of course, be addressed as Expat in the future and I will respect your decision), my second name is Wilson. The first one has yet to be revealed to the wider world. It’s good to appear mysterious.

I wouldn’t like to publish my pretty face on the internet as no doubt some trick photography joker would superimpose my ‘ead on a c*#^~c top. However if you like I would send you a photo of my ugly face on an E-mail. Be prepared for disappointment.
As ever, stay strong. I know there’s not a lot we can do but we’ll try to raise your spirit somewhat with our harmless blogs.

C.I, your good humour in trying times for you also is a credit to you. I wish Kathy well.

Dolores Doolittle said...

CI - that journey does indeed sound Magical. The more we talk about photos and dates & whatnot, the more appealing it sounds...

Being permitted to share some of the ghastly aspects of your lives as well as jollities goes beyond cyber-anonymity in a big huggy manner, I feel. (Although I dread to think, JW, what exactly that is they're going to 'superimpose your 'ead' on)!

So Publish & be damned? (you all first)!

Expat, I now see the benefit of Facebook, and I'm in love with your brother!

As ever, warm glows to you, Expat & Kathy, and to your beloveds going through it all with you.

love & kisses to all

Expat Chris said...

I am really not that brave, I have deep depression "why me?' days. Yes, I bounce back, but it's thanks to the love and support of people like you.

I love you all. And we WILL make it to a gite in France. Will Jon give us insider discount, I wonder?

Dolores Doolittle said...

Expat Chris - surely you need Deep Depression days for a bit of a respite from the Gung Ho ones. They must do you good - as the Trendy expression seems to be: Embrace them!

and Take Care

Canary Islander said...

Terrific! I've always wanted to finish my season in Tenerife with a ferry from Santa Cruz to Cadiz, then have a lazy drive up through Spain to the western coast of France, and meander our way up to the Channel via the Vendee, the Loire, and Paris. Or to start my season in reverse mode!

Hmmm, maybe next year, or the year after?

Thanks everybody! I'll dream of it tonight!

Andy said...

I used your "sperm" image in a sample Google presentation for my adult English as a Second Language students. I gave credit to your blog as the source for the photo. Do you mind if I use it? It is here: https://docs.google.com/present/edit?id=0AbH0k9UENVV2ZGY1Yjg2N2tfMTgzY2ZxejI2ZDk&hl=en&authkey=CKyY78AP

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