Some Types of Folly

The Ragtag Daily Prompt this morning was FOLLY

Merriam-Webster defines folly as a lack of good sense or normal prudence and foresight, a foolish act or idea, or an excessively costly or unprofitable undertaking.

Some acts of folly bring a chuckle to those who hear of it. Like the young man who thought he’d rob a local pharmacy and get away with drugs — and hopefully some cash. He attempted to gain entrance to the building after the store closed Saturday evening by crawling in through an air vent — but he got stuck. A unique way to spend the weekend! When employees opened the store Monday morning they heard him calling for help, and called the police.

There’s bureaucratic folly. I considered it a bit of folly on my government’s part when they sent me not just one, but TWO letters telling me they’d overpaid me (in my pension) by $1.40 and that I should pay it back by cheque ASAP or they would “deduct the entire sum from your next pension cheque.”

I guess the notice was computer-generated; no human looked at it and said, “You know, it’s going to cost $1 for the stamp to send her this. And logically, is she going to spend $1 for a stamp and whatever for the cheque fee to pay us back? Will she suffer that much hardship if she gets $1.40 less on next month’s cheque? Should we just file this?”

Which is what I did with it. Common sense should prevail, don’t you think?

Today my thinking went to a different kind of folly. We each have one of our own, perhaps? I’m a pack rat. Would you call that a type of folly?

When we moved my mother-in-law in with us over twenty years ago, I inherited a lot of her smaller things, like the handcrafted item she’d made over the years. Mom crocheted and embroidered card table cloths, made doilies, etc., and I’ve kept these stored away, wanting to keep them nice. Thinking someday to pass them on to the grand-daughters.

But what happens to things stored away? They may fade, the fabric threads weaken along fold lines, creases form that never can be ironed out. Fabrics get musty; elastic may disintegrate as soon as it’s stretched, after being stored for years. So many stored things get damaged by smoke, storm, or insects. And then, when you go to pass them on, you realize that the younger generation has no memory of the great-grands who made those things. Mom’s things are precious to me because I knew and loved Mom.

Some things are worth storing and passing on as antiques, but I’ve realized it’s folly for me to store these things for years, seldom using and enjoying them myself for fear of stains or wear. Our children have more than enough things of their own to store.

Image by Annie Spratt — Unsplash

The Elusive Wren

The Ragtag Daily Prompt today was STALK

THE WREN

I stalk him in the lilacs
and round the poplar tree,
that elusive little wren
who sings so cheerfully.

House sparrows, on the other hand,
I toss them out some seed
and they're my friends forever.
They greet me eagerly.

The little wren is patient;
he waits the morn's first light
to harvest on my doorstep
the insects fried last night.

Many’s the time I’ve tried to get a look at the wrens in our yard and only saw a fluttering and movement in the leaves. But first thing in the morning, sure enough, here’s the wren cleaning off our deck, feasting on bugs that got too close to our porch light.

Image by Naturelady from Pixabay.

Things that Crepitate in the Night

The Ragtag Daily Prompt today was CREPITATE.

Never heard of it? Well, perhaps you’ve encountered some of its relatives:
CREPITANT – making a crackling or rustling sound
CREPUSCULE – Twilight
CREPUSCULAR – relating to or resembling twilight; active during twilight

DECREPIT – worn out or ruined by age or neglect
DECREPITUDE – the state of being decrepit
DECREPITATE – roast a substance such as salt to cause crackling, disintegrate audibly when heated – rather the opposite of popcorn. 🙂

CREPITATE and its cousins originated from the Latin verb crepitare: to crackle or rustle.

And now to use these crinkly words. Last night I read a short memoir from the winter of 1919-1920, one of the most severe on record here in western Canada. The writer told of how a family spent it in a log cabin near Olds, in the southern Alberta foothills. Ill use some of her memories as seed for my story.

Winter hit us early that year; snow came in October and stayed. Hit us hard, too; when it got cold, it stayed cold. Worse yet, we as a family had to move to an abandoned shack twenty miles away after a chimney fire damaged our home. We arrived on our wagon with our smoke-smelly belongings just before sundown and looked at the decrepit cabin that was to be our home this winter.

“Doesn’t look the best right now,” Mother said, “but hopefully it’ll be snug. It was home to another family just two years ago.”

Dad put his arm around her. “We’ll get a fire going and warm up the place. And we’ll do what we can to make it livable.”

My seven-year-old brother Willy and I eyed the steep hill not far from the house, thinking with delight about the sledding days we’d have.

The Rockies loomed in the crepuscule as we moved in, crunching through the deep snow with our stuff. While the last things were being unloaded, Mother began shifting the kindling wood beside the cook stove with the thought of making a fire. Crepitant sounds came from one corner and Father had to evict the first of our tiny tenants.

“We’re apt to see a few crepuscular critters come out tonight,” he said. “Skunks and raccoons move into an abandoned place pretty quick.”

Our problem didn’t come from skunks, thankfully. But once the house was warm we did hear smaller creatures crepitating under the floor boards and wondered what they were. A couple of days later as we were finishing our supper Willy dropped his spoon on the floor and forgot to pick it up. The next morning as I helped Mother set the table I noticed we were short a spoon. “Hey Willy, didn’t you pick up that spoon last night?”

He groaned and scrambled under the table to retrieve it. A moment later he held up something small and dark between his fingers. “Look! The spoon’s gone, but see this. An arrowhead. Wow!” He was thrilled with his find.

“Pack rats,” Mother pronounced. “Likely that’s the rustling we’ve been hearing. We need to be careful not to leave anything shiny laying around.”

A lesson we learned the hard way. Buttons, bottle caps, and other small objects left lying would disappear overnight and we’d find small, pretty stone in its place. We’d nod and say, “Our pack rats are trading again.”

Dad worked at making the shack as cozy as possible and Mother made it as homey as she could. Willy and I had great fun on that hill. It proved perfect for our sled and we the abundance of snow softened our tumbles when we rolled down. Near the top of the hill a poplar sapling stuck out of the snow and Willy decided one day to carve a big W in the white bark.

In spring we moved back to our house that had been “in the fixing” all winter. While we were happy to be home, we thought about the old cabin and one day in June we all got on our wagon and went to have a picnic on the hill there.

When we got to the cabin we were amazed to find there was no hill. Rather, there was a big slough full of cattails where the hill had stood. There were smaller trees around the slough, but the poplar we thought was a sapling turned out to be tree twelve inches around the base of the trunk. We knew that must be our tree, because Willy finally spotted his W – 25 feet up the trunk.

We spent all that winter playing on a huge hill of snow!

Shires and Such

Hello again. Here I am, sitting at my desk and working on my newly updated and fully functioning PC. Tra la la! But it wasn’t cheap. Anyway, I can access both my G-mail accounts now and the hard drive has had an upgrade that speeds it up a lot. So I’ve decided to give it a real test by posting tonight, something for my readers who love words and their etymology. I’ve been learning a few new ones myself.

I’ve been working my way through this book about the old Scottish and border kingdoms, from the earliest traceable Celtic people to the invading Roman legions, marauding Britons, Saxons, Jutes, Angles. There’s a lot of military history detailing all the cross-border warfare that went on amongst the kingdoms of northern England and all these invaders. I learned that Wales isn’t at all the local name; and they don’t refer to the rest of England as such. The Welsh word for England means “the lost lands.” With good reason!

He mentions well known figures like the victorious Authur — Moffat thinks he was a general rather than a king — and Merlin. He gives highlights of better-known Northumbrian rulers like Aedan, Aethelfrith, Edwin, Owen. He also details the expansion of the Catholic church in England. Thankfully the ancients weren’t illiterate and a few of them, such as the priest Bede, did set down the facts they’d seen or heard, so that a rough picture can be drawn.

The Faded Map: Lost Kingdoms of Scotland by [Alistair Moffat]
This author has done a thorough research on his subject.

As I read, I learned the origin of the word SHERIFF. This was once two words: SHIRE REEVEthe administrator of a royal shire. According to Lexico the Old English word scirgerefa. is composed of the Old English scīr ;‘care, official charge, county’, Germanic in origin, and the OE refa. In English and Welsh counties, the SHERIFF is the chief executive officer of the Crown, having various administrative and judicial functions. Some English towns still have a SHERIFF, an honorary officer elected annually. In Scotland a SHERIFF is a judge.

Another thing I learned concerns the area where my ancestors came from: Penninghame in Gallowayshire. Ham is the old English word for home, the “ing” denoting beside. So Penninghame are the homes beside the Penn. If I knew the topography of southwest Scotland I’d know what that means. 🙂 And nearby KIRKCUDBRIGHT is named after St Cuthbert, famous missionary-monk and later leader of the early Northumbrian Church. Kirk is church, so, Saint Cuthbert’s Church. You need to hear a local pronounce the district name, Kirkcudbrightshire — I’ve been told it doesn’t sound anything like it’s spelled. 🙂

And that’s enough meandering in the murk of word origins. It’s great to be back at my old desk, though. Take care everyone.

This Week Chez Nous

Hello everyone! I hope you’ve been having a good week? The past couple of days haven’t been so great at our house, what with a pain in the arm as well as severe pain in the wallet and chaos in the office. Hopefully we’ll recover; my arm injected with the Covid booster (Moderna) on Monday, is already improved, but it was very sore yesterday. I felt light headed, listless, and had several long naps; hopefully the effects have worn off and I can resume normal life now.

I wasn’t hearing the latest news, but Bob was telling me that the Premier of Quebec just announced there will be a tax levied on residents who have declined to be immunized, since these folks are giving half the cases straining provincial hospitals now. “Desperate times call for desperate measures,” I guess?

I cooked dinner for the residents at the Villa on Sunday, inviting two couples to join us and the residents. (For those of you who know folks here, they were Wendel & Heather and their four sons — Heather brought dessert & corn — and Ben & Lucille.) Usually when families are invited for Sunday dinner at the Villa, they bring some part of the meal, which is very helpful for the cook!

Monday we up-heaved the office some when I took my PC to the computer doctor in Outlook before going for my booster shot. Remember the old expression, “slow as molasses in January”? I’d turn it on and wait and wait! So it needs an upgrade, and the repair man is also fixing a few programs that don’t work. It will be great to have my mail G-mail account accessible again, but I may probably cry when I get his bill. I’m still whimpering over yesterday’s shell-out.

Yesterday, while I was taking life easy at home, Bob went to the city. Among other things, he got a replacement for the key I lost last week. Beware, everyone. These high-tech keys may be small things, but a replacement costs plenty — in the neighbourhood of $700 CDN!

Worth their weight in gold?

When he got home from the city a package had come in the mail: a mounting bracket for his monitor. Now he can adjust the height. However, to install this, he had to empty and remove a shelving unit that sat along the back of his desk, which means the office is in chaos this morning. (One used shelving unit for sale. What offers?) Chaos can actually be good in the long run, seeing how things never used can so easily get stored away and become part of the decor until you have to move them for some reason.

Our “severe cold spell” is past and we’re into a “severe” mild spell now, though I doubt the weatherman would ever call it that. The temp went above freezing yesterday; it’s -4 now at 10 am; the ice has melted off our windows. Out cats are acting rather squirrelly and are eager to go outside. Stepping outside now, it feels like spring — but we’re not deceived 🙂