Shopper’s Knee – a chronic condition predominantly affecting men when on shopping expeditions with female partners. Often mistaken for an attack of selfishness, the only known remedy is immediate rest and a swift intake of alcohol in a nearby bar.  The condition is indiscriminate: it can suddenly strike down men of all ages, during the weekly purchase of household sundries or, more commonly, the seasonal extended search for clothing.  (See also Chronic Family Gathering Fatigue [CFGF])


Wild Strawberries (a small tribute to Marilynne Robinson’s Housekeeping)

I’ve just finished reading Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson.  I don’t know if my view of the book will settle down to something a little less extreme but as I type this I feel this is one of the greatest books I’ve ever read.  I usually mark books I own – deface them some might complain – with vertical lines in the margins; small reminders to help me navigate back to passages I have found especially compelling.  This technique was largely redundant with Housekeeping.  The whole of chapter eight, for example, would have required a vertical line along its margin.  I’m no book reviewer so I’ll finish with one small passage to exemplify, I hope, the precision and powerful elegance of the writing.

  “For need can blossom into all the compensations it requires.  To crave and to have are as like a thing and its shadow.  For when does a berry break upon the tongue as sweetly as when one longs to taste it, and when is the taste refracted into so many hues and savors of ripeness and earth, and when do our senses know any thing so utterly as when we lack it?  And here again is a foreshadowing-the world will be made whole.  For to wish for a hand on one’s hair is all but to feel it.  So whatever we may lose, very craving gives it back to us again.  Though we dream and hardly know it, longing, like an angel, fosters us, smooths our hair, and brings us wild strawberries.”


The Joy of Taking Offence


A man who lies to himself is more easily offended than anyone else.  For it is sometimes very pleasant to take offence, isn’t it?

And yet he knows that no one has offended him and that he has invented the offence himself, that he has lied just for the beauty of it, that he has exaggerated to make himself look big and important, that he has fastened on a phrase and made a mountain out of a molehill – he knows it all and yet is the first to take offence, he finds pleasure in it and feels mightily satisfied with himself, and so reaches the point of enmity….

Dostoyevsky – Father Zossima in The Brothers Karamazov

(Just seemed apt in these troubled and troubling times……)

The Inspirational Importance of Not Knowing


Wisława Szymborska

“There is, has been, and will always be a certain group of people whom inspiration visits. It’s made up of all those who’ve consciously chosen their calling and do their job with love and imagination. It may include doctors, teachers, gardeners – and I could list a hundred more professions. Their work becomes one continuous adventure as long as they manage to keep discovering new challenges in it. Difficulties and setbacks never quell their curiosity. A swarm of new questions emerges from every problem they solve. Whatever inspiration is, it’s born from a continuous “I don’t know.””

(an extract from Wisława Szymborska’s Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech 1996)