querious

querious

I’ve combined the two words curious and query to form an entirely new word: querious. It refers to those times when someone tells you about something new or strange that is so interesting you can’t stop asking them questions to learn more.

Please feel free to go ahead and add querious to your vocabulary 🙂

Venezuelan, Berliner, Indonesian … but what do you call someone from the Central African Republic? or La Paz? Let’s talk English demonyms

I love the English language in all its vagaries. And I love that there is a word for pretty much everything. Okay, far from everything – we’ve no word like the Danish samlermani (a mania for collecting) or the Hawaiian ho’oponopono (solving a problem by talking it out) – but so often there is a word for specific little things where you would have completely understood if there wasn’t. And I’m not talking scientific words and jargon, I’m talking the tine, for example, and the tragus (respectively, a spike on a fork and the cartilage poking out into the middle of your ear next to your jaw).

It gets even more interesting when you’re dealing with foreign places, ideas and objects. Focusing in on just place names, sometimes in English we’ll develop our own words, like Munich for München, Dolomites for Dolomiti and Parisian for Parisien / Parisienne, but anyone with a hint of linguistic knowledge knows that English is a great collaborator, far from snobby. We happily take on words from other languages, and in the world of demonyms this means someone from Réunion can stay a Réunionnais (or alternatively be called Réunionese) and someone hailing from Lesotho can still be called a Basotho.

So let’s look now at some of the more unusual demonyms, at least from my vantage point at the southern tip of Africa…

Unusual demonyms

  • Burkina Faso = Burkinabè / Burkinabé
  • Burma = Burmese or, more interestingly, Bamar
  • La Paz = Paceño
  • Oslo = Oslovian
  • Central African Republic = Central African (I feel for them – you tell someone abroad that you’re Central African and I bet 99% take that for a regional, not national, clarification)
  • Cambridge = Cantabrigian

Sometimes you get a choice

  • Azerbaijan = Azerbaijani / Azeri
  • Hong Kong = Hongkonger / Hongkongese
  • Latvia = Latvian / Lett
  • Monaco = Monégasque / Monacan
  • Western Sahara = Sahrawi / Sahraouis
  • United Arab Emirates = Emirati / Emirian / Emiri
  • Liverpool = Liverpudlian / Scouser (colloquial)

Too close for comfort

Sometimes one could wish for a little more differentiation.

  • Niger = Nigerien and Nigeria = Nigerian
  • Turkey = Turk and Turkmenistan = Turkmen (both of which are Turkic peoples)

Colloquialisms

  • West Australia = Westralian
  • Kuala Lampur = KL-ite
  • Costa Rico = Tico
  • Falkland Islands = Belonger
  • Hong Kong = Hongkie
  • Durban = Durbanite (that’s me!)

Not yet coined

Some places are yet, as far as I can tell, to be given an English demonym, or at least do not have formalised and/or widely known ones. So I suggest we have fun making them up.

  • Kigali, Rwanda = Kigal, or Kigalian (?)
  • Bloemfontein, South Africa = Bloemer (pronounced “bloomer”) (?)
  • Gabarone, Botswana = Gaborian, or Gabot (?)
  • Scarborough, England = Scarborite, Scarbor, or Scarbie (?)
  • Limpopo (province), South Africa = Limpopian, Limpopee, or Limpo (?)

Do you live somewhere small or remote with an unusual or lesser-known demonym? Please share with me – I’d love to hear it!

Favourite quote #9. “The Word of God is like a lion…”

On more than one occasion Charles Spurgeon used the following illustration in a sermon:

“The Word of God is like a lion. You don’t have to defend a lion. All you have to do is let the lion loose, and the lion will defend itself.”

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Image by Evan Animals on Flickr

I don’t know if he used those exact words, or if that quote is a summary of the point he is known to have made in two sermons; his Christ and His Co-Workers sermon he says:

“A great many learned men are defending the gospel; no doubt it is a very proper and right thing to do, yet I always notice that, when there are most books of that kind, it is because the gospel itself is not being preached. Suppose a number of persons were to take it into their heads that they had to defend a lion, a full-grown king of beasts! There he is in the cage, and here come all the soldiers of the army to fight for him. Well, I should suggest to them, if they would not object, and feel that it was humbling to them, that they should kindly stand back, and open the door, and let the lion out! I believe that would be the best way of defending him, for he would take care of himself; and the best “apology” for the gospel is to let the gospel out. Never mind about defending Deuteronomy or the whole of the Pentateuch; preach Jesus Christ and him crucified. Let the Lion out, and see who will dare to approach him. The Lion of the tribe of Judah will soon drive away all his adversaries.”

It’s a wonderful point.

I’ll also take this moment to share possibly my all-time favourite quote outside of the Bible, also from the indomitable Spurgeon, though I only know it written in reported fashion:

Spurgeon is quoted as saying that he was so sure of his salvation that he could grab on to a cornstalk and swing out over the fires of hell, look into the face of the devil, and sing, “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!”.

I’d be hard pressed to say how much I love that quote.

English is full of snuffbumble

The story of English fascinates me as few subjects do. It’s rich, quirky, and a true underdog story.

This irreverent YouTube video outlines the rise of English from its Anglo-Saxon / Old Englisc* days through the Norman Conquest, the King James Bible, the rise of science, the spread of the British Empire, up to Internet speak and abbreviations. Take a look!

And what is snuffbumble, you ask? The answer: nonsense 🙂

*The digraph ‘sc’ is the Old English version of today’s ‘sh’ sound.

The beautiful Berg

Last weekend I went to the Drakensberg (South Africa), my favourite place in the world. This is the view from our chalet at Thendele, inside Royal Natal. What you are seeing is the amazing Amphitheatre. It is 5 km along the top to give you a sense of its size.

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This is the closest you can get to it before having to strap on your hiking boots. Hiking to the top is an overnight affair, one I have yet to do!

The northern Drakensberg tends to be quieter than the rest of the range, having fewer resorts, and probably also because it’s just that little bit further of a drive. It is however a favourite among serious nature lovers, and those who like serenity.

The nearby campsite, Mahai, holds many great childhood memories for me, and is the starting point for the wonderful ‘Up the Crack and Down the Mudslide’ hike, which takes you up from the Valley into the Little Berg via chain ladders, and then leads you down a muddy route of exposed tree roots.

The Amphitheatre, of course, is the High Berg!

Let’s get creative when we vent

grumpy suckerI work in an office of about 20 people. Most of us don’t like swearing, but there are a couple of guys who really do. (They know who they are, and I dedicate this post to them!) Since we all sit in an open-plan office space, throughout any given workday our collective hearing is peppered with “F***  this” and “F*** that”, and an array of similar auditory treats.

As the company copywriter, it has occurred to me that perhaps it is up to me to suggest more elevated rantings. We all have occasion to need to vent, but I prefer more creative and wordsmithy options that get the point across but are less generally offensive.

So here are my suggestions of some more inventive insults and expletives they could try:

(Note: not all are original. Also, quick caveat: I’m NOT promoting hate-filled rantings! Just light-hearted, cheeky insults …)

  1. That lily-livered lout.
  2. You first-rate turd. (Thank you, Johnny English.)
  3. He’s a real turnip.
  4. You miserable wench. (What my mother’s biology teacher called the schoolgirls if they didn’t do their homework.)
  5. Fredumkim! (Just sounds expulsive to me.)
  6. You bag of nail clippings.
  7. Foo!
  8. You chewed up toffee. (Let’s bring it back!)
  9. The plonker.
  10. She’s a real domipootrix!
  11. He’s half a bubble off of plumb. (An old Americanism, meaning kind of crazy.)
  12. The crazy hoot owl.
  13. Like a fart in the face from a warthog. (A toned-down version of a Blackadder favourite.)
  14. He’s a bogus booger.
  15. Mary Poppins! (I’m sure that if said with enough feeling, this could be a cathartic expression of frustration … Go on, give it a try.)
  16. You smelly crone.
  17. The little lickspittle. (An C18th insult that equates to the modern-day ‘suck up’.)
  18. Twerp. (Such a goodie.)
  19. Lazy lummox.
  20. Thou animated offal.

Take it from there, boys!

Postcards and office cubicles

From the archives, but rewritten …

~

Carin stared at the wall of her office cubicle, and the pinned up postcards from Mongolia and Bhutan jeered back at her. She could have been there right now, with muddied boots and a backpack, or developing her horse-riding skills on an empty plain. But since she’d said no, Derek had said farewell to her as well as to everyone else and gone alone. Meanwhile she sat where she had sat for the past nine years, stable in salary, possessing a comprehensive insurance plan, and ready to scream.

Carin sat up straight in her chair so she could peer over the divide and see the rest of the room. Her desk was one of five and was positioned in the corner furthest from the entryway, so she had a clear view of everything. When bored, which was often, she would survey the small week-based world she shared with four female colleagues.

Tamryn, who was just 22, was at that moment rifling through papers in a cabinet drawer in an important fashion, so Carin knew she had no clue what she was doing. Janette was standing by the fax machine, wearing a blank stare and fiddling with her nose ring. Faith was not at her desk, but then Faith was never at her desk. Carin had great admiration for Faith. Finally, if she looked left, Carin could see Sonya in the opposite corner. Sonya had turned 50 yesterday but had the joie de vivre of a five year old. She was presently punching away at the keyboard with her two index fingers and humming to herself.

Carin slid back down into her chair. She put her feet up on the windowsill and considered the sky.

She had ended up staying with the company longer than anyone expected. She would have had her own office years ago if she hadn’t kept moving departments. But changing around within Sutton Ink was her way of shaking things up in life, without ever actually shaking anything up. Right now she was in logistics.

It was 11:50am and Carin had a busy schedule of nothing much to do.

She decided she may as well make her way to see Sean on the ground floor. One of the more tolerable tasks of her new position was that twice a day she had to go down to deliveries to hand over and then later collect paperwork from hairy-armed Sean. She appreciated the legitimate break from not only her desk but also her landing. If anyone whinged about having come to speak with her and not finding her at her desk, she could say, “Oh really? What time abouts was that? Ah, I was probably downstairs at that moment doing paperwork with Sean. So sorry about that.”

The logistics department was on the third and top floor at the back of the building. Carin could see out the window down onto the trucks in the loading zone directly below. There was a stairwell just twenty feet away that would lead her straight down to Sean’s office, so she could be there and back in a minute flat.

She walked towards the stairwell but at the last second swung left, having recollected that she had a question to ask Shona Hartley in marketing (a department on the second floor at the front of the building). It was an urgent question, able to make or break the company, both locally and internationally. But by the time she reached Shona’s door she’d forgotten the question. So she went in, sat down, and said, “How did Molly’s vaccinations go yesterday?”

Ten minutes later Carin meandered through the second floor back towards the stairwell leading to Sean. If you’d asked her how, she couldn’t have explained it, but her route somehow took her past Khosi, who worked in the call centre. Right then Khosi sat with the phone lodged between her ear and shoulder, hands gripping her armrests. Carin slowed down enough for them to exchange a sisters-in-arms fist bump as she passed. The air was thick with Fire and Ice, and Carin caught sight of the slender red and black canister on Khosi’s desk. She knew the deodorant was there to freshen the air after phonecalls with odious customers. The air frequently contained toxic levels of freshness.

While paper-towelling her hands in the second-floor bathroom and checking in the mirror for any wrinkles around her eyes, Carin realised she hadn’t actually brought the papers for Sean with her. She went and fetched them, then walked down to see Sean, stopping by the first floor on the way to steal milk and sugar from the bigwigs’ kitchenette.

Sean was standing outside his office. He smiled when he saw her, bumped her arm with his elbow, took the papers, and said, “All good.”

Twenty minutes after she had first stood up, Carin shambled back to logistics. She deposited her stolen edibles in the little logistics kitchenette and made herself a plain black coffee, then went and dropped into her chair. She proceeded to stare sourly at the postcards on her cubicle wall. Last she had heard he was living in some small Bhutanese village with a name nobody could pronounce. He didn’t write much on those postcards; his scrawl was hurried and loose. He was clearly doing well. He was doing very well, the handsome, saintly scumbag.

Carin turned her head to look out the window at the massive 70s-era block building that pushed down on the earth on the other side of the parking lot. She knew it was the twin of the building in which she presently sat, and had been sitting in for a third of her life. She tried to erase the thought, since counting up years and fractionalising her life only ever led to a tray of lasagne and a large bag of chocolate-covered mints while watching cheap reality shows. But that afternoon her inbox was empty, her desk was all perpendiculars, and there wasn’t any work worthy of a sentient being, so the thought of all her joyless years in that brick mausoleum wouldn’t go away.

Carin looked longer than usual at the wild open spaces portrayed on the postcards in front of her, the number 1/3 like a watermark across her vision. “First-rate baboon,” Carin said to herself. Blinking a long blink, she saw herself wearing muddied boots, a walking stick in hand, and Derek’s sun-ripened face a part of each new scene. There were no open windows in the office, but Carin could feel her fears of the unknown being tugged at by a cold and determined Himalayan wind.

It was night time, I was a woman alone, and I went to investigate the unknown noise in my aubergine flannel jumpsuit

I was drifting off, then my leg jerked upwards and I was awake. Why was I awake? I lay static, trying to figure it out. Then I heard a prolonged scrape, and I knew it was a repeat sound.

I shimmied out of bed and mashed my feet into the loose piles of thread I call slippers. I went out to the landing, put an arm across my chest, and trotted quietly down the staircase.

Rr-eei-k.

There it was again. Coming from the kitchen. A shaft of light from the front door transom bisected the central living area. I zigzagged between the closely packed furniture to reach the arch leading into the kitchen.

I flattened myself against the wall alongside the arch, then poked my head around the edge. It struck me as a Charlie’s Angels sort of move, and if I hadn’t been wearing aubergine and starting to sweat I would have rather enjoyed the moment. I saw nothing.

There it went again. Rr-eei-k.

I dropped onto all fours and crawled into the kitchen. As I passed the sink I stretched an arm upwards and felt gently for the peanut butter-smeared knife I knew to be resting on the edge. Whiffy weapon in hand, I edged forward to the far window,  my knees bruising as they pressed against the unforgiving tiles.

I reached the window. It started two feet above the ground. I looked up at the thick yellowed netting that served as a curtain. It was there when I bought the place, and I hadn’t got round to changing it. Sliding my head under the netting, which hung a few inches below the window’s lip, I inched up to peer outside. A pair of eyes stared straight back into mine and I choked on air, my eyes welling up from the reaction.

I stood up and yanked the window open. Samuel – at least that’s the name I used for him – barely blinked. There was a complete composure to him, as always, and I thought about shoving him off the ledge.

We stared at each other a moment longer, then finally I said, “If you want to live here – fine. But for this, you’re getting neutered.”

Instead of a road, a trampoline serves as highway!

Photo by Caters News Agency

Photo by Caters News Agency

Design practices around the world are getting very creative in terms of thinking up new ways to allow people to commute. There’s been a design for a network of swimming canals in London that would transmute into ice-skating lanes in winter! And in Russia, a 51-metre long trampoline was installed in a forest as part of the art exhibition Archstoyanie 2012 so that folks could bounce between destinations! I just love everything about this – it’s eco-friendly, it’s innovative, it’s FUN.

Want to read more? Here are some newspaper articles about it:

The trampoline that could help you bounce in to work

The world’s longest trampoline: Russian art exhibition hosts 170ft long bouncing runway built in the middle of a forest

 

 

The book-lover’s Christmas tree

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This Christmas tree was fun to make – finding the right size and thickness of books, varying the spine styles, and then decorating it. It’s far from an original concept – I first saw the idea here (where there are lots of other creative ideas too).

I’ve now wrapped some lights around it too, which gives it an even more festive look. What is Christmas, really, without some fun DIY?

Finally, and importantly, to all of you who visit my blog:

I wish you a very happy Christmas!

~

 

 

 

 

A rose for secrecy (design history)

This is a ceiling rose:

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It’s now just an interior design accessory, used in many homes to beautify the ceiling and often cheaply made from materials like polystyrene. But the origin and early days of the ceiling rose are more interesting than you would think.

As far back as Roman times the rose was associated with secrecy. When the Romans withdrew from Britannia, the association of the flower with secrecy remained in the minds of the people. This at least appears to be the case, as in mediaeval England a rose would be suspended above a meeting table as a symbol of free speech and confidentiality.

IMG_1823In Tudor and Jacobite Britain suspended roses were replaced by stylised roses constructed into the plaster of the ceiling above a meeting table. These were dangerous times, with charges of treason leading to execution, so confidentiality was key. The term sub rosa (literally ‘beneath the rose’) means ‘in secrecy’, so when a sub rosa meeting was called the attendees would go the house where a ceiling rose existed and have their clandestine meeting.

The practical significance of the ceiling rose was lost over time, but the decorative element remained, with elaborate and finely crafted ceiling roses becoming particularly popular in Victorian England.

What Mandela means to me

nelsonmandelaThe emotion and respect that everyone has been showing since Mandela’s death has moved me more than I expected. I think that all of us have been reminded what a truly remarkable man he was, and how much he has impacted all our lives. I think of my many friends and colleagues who wouldn’t be in my life if apartheid had continued or if a vindictive liberation leader had taken over leadership of the country. I wouldn’t be friends with them – I probably would never have even gotten to know most of them in the first place.

I’m also grateful that he made it possible to be proud to be South African. We went from feeling like pariahs to feeling special. And we felt the ‘safety’ of knowing our leader was a good man. I think it’s true that there was a special mandate on his life, and that he lived it out, as difficult and heartbreaking as one can only imagine it was for him for most of his life.

Today is Mandela’s funeral. The shops are closed. The country is in mourning. We are all feeling the loss.

But we are grateful to have lived at the same time as him. And we are so incredibly grateful and blessed that he lived the life that he did.

~

Here are some of the special friendships I have been allowed to enjoy in large part because of how Mandela lived his life:

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Sane and me hiking up Table Mountain

My old digsmate and special friend Sheetal and me in Bloemfontein.

Keri and me at Sheetal's wedding

 

 

 

25 things you may not know about me

If you read my blog, you’ll know a lot about me, not because I’ve focused on myself very much, but because a writer’s character and personality always bleed through in their writing. But since it’s nice to know some details about the person behind the blog, here are 25 random things about Megan that you couldn’t know without me telling you:

  1. Profile picsI used to think all old people lived in England (because all my relatives lived there).
  2. I famously once stole some cheese and kept it in my cupboard, snacking on it till my mother found the sweating piece and I was exposed.
  3. I’m so afraid of snakes I can’t even bear to look at pictures of them.
  4. I have no cousins.
  5. As a kid I swore I’d never colour my hair. It’s been coloured 12 of the 13 years since I left school.
  6. I sucked my thumb for so long as a child that I have memories of it.
  7. I  almost never read sci-fi, fantasy or action novels, but I can’t get enough of them on the big screen.
  8. I used to get nightmares every single night when I was little, then my grandfather told me to pray about it and for years afterwards I never had a bad dream.
  9. I  studied Latin for two years.
  10. When I was a littlie I wanted to be an artist.
  11. I love to study the world map and memorise capitals, states, mountains, etc.
  12. Wild grasses are my favourite thing about the South African landscape.
  13. My ‘deserted island’ foods are Steers chips, pizza, nectarines and Nesquik.
  14. I took ice skating lessons for four years as a kid.
  15. I used to drink so much carrot juice my hands went noticeably orange for over a year.
  16. The oldest item on my bucket list is to see (and ideally hold) a baby giant panda, because I watched The Giant Panda Adventure as a kid.
  17. I used to be an avid collector, collecting thimbles, souvenir spoons, stationery, Swarovski crystals, ornaments, postcards, gemstone trees, posters, stickers, stamps and coins. Now I enjoy throwing things out.
  18. I’ve flown business/first class six times but I’ve never once paid for the upgrade.
  19. My favourite movie ever is Emma (with Gwyneth Paltrow). My favourite series ever is Blackadder.
  20. My favourite book is The Pilgrim’s Progress.
  21. The first time I ever scrambled eggs was age 31.
  22. I’ve been to every continent except South America – but it’s very much on the list.
  23. I have an intense desire to leap really high and far, like male ballerinas do.
  24. I broke my ankle in high school and was so paranoid about losing movement in it that it’s now more flexible than the other ankle.
  25. My favourite year of school was grade 7. I kept a journal that year, making an entry every single day.

The 7 saddest days of my life

The saddest days are never the ones you expect. Here are seven terribly sad days that snuck up on me out of nowhere:

  1. smartiesThe day I was told cheese is not good for you
  2. They day I watched Jack die in Titanic (I was only 15 – too young for the trauma)
  3. The day I was introduced to calculus
  4. The day I discovered skinny jeans were the new jeans
  5. The day I realised how much tax one has to pay off a salary
  6. The day they installed eight new speed bumps along the road by my house
  7. The day they took the artificial colourants out of Smarties

Sad days indeed.

Andorra

PART 1 (the short read for those in a hurry!)

Driving up from France with my family on a blue-sky, summery day in June, I was excited to visit the tiny mountain kingdom of Andorra. Small countries in general fascinate me. And small mountain kingdoms – well, fairy tales are set in small mountain kingdoms. I was expecting a few picturesquely placed sheep on the mountainside, and a restful hamlet or two, with ancient fountains and crumbling rooftops. And maybe a few felt hats on the heads of some rural folk?

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The small country that is Andorra can be found on any map when it is held an inch from the nose: it is hiding in the Pyrenees, wedged between France and Spain. Andorra, an independent principality since 1278 (that’s uncommonly long), is the traditional home of the Catalan people. Dark-skinned and dark-haired – a generally good-looking people – they rattle on in a language one feels close to understanding, but never quite. French here will help a little, though I found locals are more likely to speak Spanish as a second language, and Portuguese is also fairly common. English got me nowhere. 

Andorra-mapDriving up the steep, zigzag road to the Andorran border post from the French side, our unassuming holiday car was waved through unchecked, yet at that very point my expectations received a check of their own. Squat, hefty buildings, painted in loud colours or made from glass, could be seen rising up out of the sloped ground. Petrol stations were positioned along the roadside every fifty metres or so and billboards stood proud and high. Ski lifts could be seen flung up and out in every direction. Big empty parking lots spoke of the countless visitors that winter brings. What I saw was up-to-the-minute modernity. Turns out fairytale-kingdom expectations are often the result of too little research.  

PART 2 (more detail for the committed reader)

So Andorra is no storybook kingdom, but it is a beautiful and fascinating country nonetheless. I doubt that the Andorra of today can really be understood without reference to its dynamic ski industry. Millions of skiers flood the country every winter, while Andorra itself has a population just short of 90,000. There is a seemingly endless choice of hotels and resorts. Just by looking out the car one can see that this is a first-world country geared towards efficiency and being a world-class ski destination. There are two main ski areas, Grand Valira and Vallnord, as well as cross-country routes further south near Sant Julia de Loria.

In summer, the country is a hotspot for adventure sports, such as quad-biking, mountain biking, trekking, via ferratas (mountain-climbing routes), canyoning, canoeing and rock-climbing. Or fishing, for the quieter soul. The country is so mountainous that any walk becomes a hike, and beautiful viewpoints are a dime a dozen. It’s little wonder the Tour de France often chooses to pass through this spectacular country.  

The town of Encamp

Our June visit found low-lying patches of pink and yellow wildflowers (reminiscent of fynbos) blanketing the mountainsides. Everywhere one looks the landscape is dramatic: conifers cling to the slopes, old snow patches cling to the peaks, and small streams and waterfalls trickle down from the heights, wetting exposed shale, before joining together to form glutted rivers further down in the valleys.

Andorra has always been, and still is, reliant upon its two neighbours for survival. Up until the end of the 17th century its population, living in a feudal system, did not exceed 3,000. That’s tiny. Non-inheriting descendants of families (i.e. the losers in primogeniture) were forced to look for livelihoods elsewhere and so emigration kept population numbers low.

Andorra has no airport nor train station of its own, owing to its extreme terrain, and so one has to drive in from either France or Spain. Roads linking it with Spain and France were only built in 1913 and 1933 respectively. Until its first Constitution in 1993, the country was ruled by two co-princes: the king or president of France, and the Spanish Bishop of Urgell. Today, native Andorrans account for just over one third of the population, while Spanish, French, Portuguese and other nationalities make up the rest.

Dad's camera June 2009 048Most of the country’s settlements run along the valley floor and the sound of rushing water permeates towns as the summer thaw replaces the white stillness of winter. While I was there the summer sun was warming, but a fresh mountain breeze was its constant companion. I kept my jersey firmly buttoned up, but I saw local women drop their shoulder straps all the better to soak up the rays while sipping their coffees in sidewalk cafes and chatting confidently among themselves.

Andorran society impressed me as being very orderly and stable. Not only did theymanage to go for 700 years with just one type of governance (think about it: no civil wars, no princes killing off rival princes, no disruptive coups), they never now make the news for anything more serious than, say, a banking policy. Brightly-clad traffic police have a steady presence on the streets and every time I so much as lifted a foot in the direction of a pedestrian crossing, all cars come to a quick standstill. This I like. Webcams throughout the country mean you can turn on the TV to check traffic and weather conditions on all the major roads and pistes before setting out.

The historic old town of Andorra La Vella does, when searched out, have cobbled streets and a couple of millennia-old churches. But very conspicuous was the building boom being experienced. The vine-covered buildings I had originally expected were instead scaffold-covered, and yellow cranes jutted into view whichever way I looked. Instead of ancient sculptures, avant-garde and abstract statues decorate public squares, turning circles and fountains. The white Pont de Paris is a fine example of the striking and strikingly modern architecture and artwork that helps to define the town.

One of the capital’s landmark buildings is the Caldea Hot Spring Resort. It is an arresting, ultramodern glass building that soars upwards to a point like the peaks that surround it. Inside, all is opulence, glass and mirrors, and on the ground floor there is a large thermal lagoon. The resort has exorbitant spa packages offering everything from a vaporisation room to a … wood’s lighting ionisation room? (Raise your hand if you know what that even means.)  With a little luck my purse could have stretched to a tonic and water in the bar, but I wandered about with the self-assured air of a dressed-down millionaire.

Picture by LynxIV, public domain

Coming away from my trip, I now know that Andorra is a high-tech playground for the wealthy. Instead of smiling at its sweet antiquity, as I had expected, I was educated in engineering and modern art. But even after my visit, the country is still something of a mystery to me. Coming from the wide open spaces of a developing and sunny South Africa, I find it hard to wrap my mind around what it must really be like to live in this ultra-modern society with its snow and cold winds, its long shadows and steep streets, and its towering mountains that constantly hem you in while at the same time impress you with their ever-present, awe-inspiring grandeur. 

Clothes with people in them don’t sell well

Here’s a random titbit I picked up in the course of some research:

Shoppers apparently like to imagine themselves in the clothes being advertised, and having those clothes showcased on a model makes the imagining act harder. This means folks are less likely to buy clothes, especially online clothes I imagine, when they’re displayed on (skinny / muscular) others. So if you want to sell clothes, photograph them laid out on a flat surface, accessorised. I’ve seen this done and I must say, it’s very appealing.

My friend’s sister has a styling business, and the image below is how she advertises on her blog. Ladies, do you see yourself in it?

The 15 little daily things that make life good!

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“Dandelion Art – Perennial Moment” by papermoth on etsy.com. 

This is my personal list, but I’m sure there are many who will find it rings true for them too!

1. Waking up to discover I still have an hour left of sleep time.

2. Driving along my usual route and seeing beautiful trees and flowers and wild grasses.

3. Listening to one of my favourite songs and having a mad sing along.

4. Having one of the little people in my life hold up their arms to me to be picked up and held.

5. Having a good cup of coffee – and it must be a really GOOD cup – when I’m flagging.

6. Writing or reading something beautiful, creative, witty.

6. Stepping outside and feeling a beautiful breeze on a hot day, or the sun on a cold one.

7. Laughing.

8. Receiving an unexpected gift, compliment or kindness.

9. Getting stuck into a chore, like cleaning a cupboard, but finding my groove in doing it.

10. Driving home and seeing the big wire angels on the verge near my brother’s house lit up (a family puts them up every Christmas).

11. Having an unhurried Pinterest session.

12. Feeling I did something for someone else that made their life better, even if just a little.

13.  Sitting down in the evening to watch one of my favourite sitcoms or reality shows.

14. Having a hot shower or bath (this has got to be one of the best luxuries ever!).

15. Closing my eyes at night, knowing the world and I have no expectations of me for the next several hours.

I could of course add more, but I suspect lists of 15 get more reads than lists of say 22!

Do YOU have a favourite daily thing you’d like to share? I’d love to hear about it 🙂

My WordPress anniversary and 100th post

I’ve been blogging with WordPress for a year now, and this just happens to coincide with my 100th post! In celebration I’ve chosen a new WordPress theme. Can I remember what it’s called? Not a chance. But thank you to WordPress for it – I’m digging it!

And thank YOU to everyone who has been reading, liking, sharing, commenting, and in any way idling around my blog – I appreciate it and you! I hope to bring you more readworthy posts in the future 🙂

I hope over the next year to sit and gaze contentedly at the sky like the girl in this sweet pic (perhaps with my cat nearby, as I have one of those), thinking new and creative things. After that it will be about uncovering the courage, skill and discipline to set them down and then share them with others.

There are 70 million books in American libraries, but the one I want to read is always out. — Tom Masson

Isn’t this old library simply wonderful?? It speaks to the romantic in me.

Nothing Gilded, Nothing Gained-Period Drama on Paper at Middlemay Farm

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A man browsing for books in Cincinnati’s cavernous old main library. The library was demolished in 1955.

allproudamericans.com

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