Wars, Words and Testy Judges

Back in the mists of ancient history a Norman army from France crossed the English Channel and battled the Anglo kings at Hastings.

Back then the Brits lacked a BBC and a Winston Churchill to rally the troops with:
“We’ll fight them at sea and we’ll fight them on land; we’ll fight them in the fields and we’ll fight them in the ditches…etc. We will never surrender.” In those days of poor communications one doubts there was any kind of significant country-wide clarion call of “Rally the troops!

Consequently the Normans took control of England. Lacking a successful counter attack and rout by the inhabitants, they claimed everything, grabbed all the castles, fortresses and whatever other good stuff they spied— as invaders are wont to do. They settled down to enjoy the spoils and make the Anglo-Saxons work for them.

They brought with them many weapons of war — and their language. There began at this point a steady trickle of French into the Saxonized English of the day:
“Non, non, stupide anglaise chef! Quelle offence! Such ignorance. This is NOT a spitted cow. This is a roti de BOEUF. And this is NOT pig. Non, non, this is PORC. We do not have zee PIG to feed us at our table!”

The phlegmatic cook, having sprung from an old English “Farmer in the dell” lineage, hadn’t adopted the Saxon swine yet — which was just as well. She didn’t do so well with roti de boeuf, either, and slurred it to roast beef. She was pleased, though, to be elevated from cook to chef. (Wouldn’t you be?)

Fast forward almost a millennium, to where a Yank calling himself Fandango gives us the word prompt: PENDING.

Thus today we’re prompt-writing about this word, originally forced onto the French by the Roman conquerors of Gaul, then delivered via the sword and the trickle to the Brits. As Norman rule was suspendu over Britain, this word slowly wormed its way into the emerging English language. By now it’s established itself in oodles of English subdivisions — much like Norman DNA in general. And from there it’s crossed the Atlantic.

Definitions given by my Collins Canadian Dictionary, First Edition:

Pending:
– while waiting for
– not yet decided or settled
– imminent

Impending:
something (esp something bad) about to happen

Suspend:
– hang (something) from a high place
– cause something to remain floating or hanging
– cause to stop temporarily
– to remove (someone) temporarily from a job or position, usually as a punishment

Depend:
– to put trust in; rely on
– to be influenced or determined (by)
– to rely (on) for income

Expend:
– to spend or use up (something)

Real Life Uses:

Judge Smith was motoring sedately along the highway, expending serious thought on the impending decision over custody of the Watkins’ dog. Considering the vicious ongoing battle for ownership, she’d suspended all visiting rights pending a dog psychologist’s report on the dog’s behaviour in the presence of its master and its mistress.

Little did Judge Smith know that Sam Slatter had expended a lot of energy intoxicating himself on a suspension of fermented barley and hops, and was heading toward a STOP sign to her left.

The county had suspended a flashing red light above the intersection to doubly warn motorists that they MUST, MUST come to a complete stop at the white line. How well Sam perceived this sign and/or light was dependent on how clear his vision was. And it wasn’t. Sad to say, his befuddled brain’s reaction time was as impaired as the rest of him.

The impending arrival of Sam’s vehicle was not noticed by the judge, distracted as her thoughts were. She only caught a glimpse of the oncoming vehicle on her left periphery and the question flashed through her mind, “Will it stop?”

Sam made a brave attempt to brake when the Judge’s vehicle swept in front of him, but the momentum of his vehicle couldn’t be checked. There was a dull crunch as he clipped the tail lights and rear fender of the Judge’s car.

Several days later Sam’s fog had mercilessly left him to his fate. Worse, he could see clearly now that the person whose car he had damaged was sitting in the judgement seat above him. What could he say? What could he do but sniffle as his license was suspended indefinitely, pending a police report on his past behaviour behind the wheel.

The Watkins’ case came up next. Worse luck for them, Judge Smith was in no mood to be patient. The dog was awarded to the husband’s aged uncle and all visiting rights were denied.

Had He Only Known!

A Belisha beacon was an amber-coloured globe lamp atop a tall black and white pole, marking pedestrian crossings of roads in the United Kingdom, Ireland and in other countries historically influenced by Britain. The flashing light warned motorists that this was a pedestrian crossing.

It was named after Leslie Hore-Belisha, the Minister of Transport who in 1934 added beacons to pedestrian crossings, marked by large metal studs in the road surface. The first one became operational on July 4, 1935.

These crossings were later painted in black and white stripes, thus are known as zebra crossings. Legally pedestrians have priority (over wheeled traffic) on such crossings. (I believe they’ve been replaced over the years by WALK signals for pedestrians.)

This little incident apparently happened not long after Belisha beacons were set up in London. The King and his Queen were enjoying a pleasant drive through the city in the royal limousine when they passed an intersection where one of these lights had been installed.

“Pull over up ahead,” King Edward instructed their chauffeur. Then his said to his wife, “I want to try walking across at one of these crossings and see how it actually works.”

The chauffeur stopped the car and the King got out. He walked back up the street to the crossing and about five minutes later he returned.

As he climbed back into the car he was chuckling. The Queen looked at him curiously and asked, “What’s so amusing?”

He grinned at her. “One of my loyal subjects just called me a doddering old fool.”

It pays to use kind words. 🙂

This is my response to today’s Ragtag prompt: UNAWARE

Of Downfalls and Updrafts

The young woman rushed along the street in a fit of desperate emotion. Life was over for her! What dreadful future predictions played out in her mind as she headed for the Clifton bridge? Was the weather as dismal as Sarah’s spirits that day? Surely you wouldn’t start out in the bright sunshine to fling yourself off a bridge?

Yet that’s exactly what Sarah was about to do. She’d just received a letter from her fiancé breaking their engagement. She’d never hold her head up again. Back in 1885 this rejection would have seemed like the end of the world to the heart-broken young miss and she was going to end it all. Leave all the heartaches of Earth behind.

A nagging voice in her head — we all know it, that voice of “all hope lost” — drove her on. “Love is lost forever. There’s nothing ahead for you but a long and dreary spinsterhood. You can’t live without him. And the shame! Jump, by all means. Jump.”

Sarah walked onto the bridge and looked down through her tears to where the river wound through the gorge 245 feet below. Another wave of despair swept over her and she climbed over the railings and onto the parapet. One last sob and she leaped into the emptiness.

But air isn’t empty. And in this case a draft of wind, coupled with her volumnious petticoats, considerably impeded her descent. To Sarah, the fall must have felt like slow motion, as the wind caught and swelled her wide skirt and crinoline. Down she drifted, not into the water below, but onto the riverbank where she sank deep into the soft mud that prevented her serious injury.

Astounded watchers below rushed to the spot and pulled her out, shocked but unharmed.

Sarah later married and lived to be 85.

Wikki tells us:

Sarah Ann Henley was a barmaid from Easton, Bristol, who became famous in 1885 for surviving an attempted suicide by jumping from the Clifton Suspension Bridge, a fall of almost 75 metres.

And poet William E. Heasell wrote a verse about the event:

An Early Parachute Descent in Bristol

Once in Victoria’s golden age
When crinolines were all the rage
A dame in fashionable attire
Would change her life for one up higher
So up to Clifton Bridge she went
And made a parachute descent
But though, ’twas not the lady’s wish
A boatman hooked her like a fish
And thus a slave to fashion’s laws
Was snatched from out of Death’s hungry jaws
This story’s true I’d have you know
And thus it only goes to show.

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My response to today’s writing prompts:

Fandango: LEAVE
Word of the Day: DISMAL
Ragtag Daily Prompt: WALK

Baking Bread the Irish Way

It’s chilly this morning: Saskatoon thermometer at 7 am read -18̊ / 0̊ F. Pookie, the youngest of our two cats, keeps wanting to go outside and see if things have improved weather-wise, but after three minutes he’s ready to come in again.

Last night I took a notion I’d like to have cinnamon buns for breakfast this morning, so I set out the ingredients before I went to bed. When I got up I mixed the dough. As it turns out, they won’t be baking until mid-morning, but we can have them for our dessert after lunch.

I’ve half an hour before they need punching down, so maybe I can reply to this morning’s prompts and tell you about how a young prairie wife acquired the skill of bread-baking.

Ragtag daily prompt: SKILL
Fandango’s word today: DISRUPT
Word of the Day prompt: WHIFF

I’m not sure where I acquired the skill of baking with yeast, because my mom taught me almost nothing about cooking. Thankfully I had a great mother-in-law who was herself an excellent cook and taught me so much about life, love, and the pursuit of good food.

Like me, Mary hadn’t been taught how to bake before she left home and found herself needing to learn after she was married. I at least watched my dad take golden loaves of bread from the oven when I was a girl, so I knew something. When it came to bread and pies, both Dad and Mom F (I was raised by my uncle and aunt) were excellent bakers, if they had the time.

Mary grew up in Guildford, England, where a baker’s wagon would come down their stree every morning. All her mother had to do was go out to the land and pick whatever baking she wanted for the family that day. After Mary and her husband, a store clerk, immigrated to Saskatchewan she tried to learn baking skills from a recipe book her mother had given her. But her bread didn’t rise, was solid as a rock, or full of holes.

Before long her baking inability was disrupting their marital bliss as well as family finances. “We NEED bread,” her husband told her one day. “Why can’t you make the stuff? It can’t be that hard.”

“I’ve never been taught. I can’t seem to succeed just reading a recipe.”

“Ask one of the neighbour women for help. They all know how.”

Mary thought about the neighbour women she’d seen out and about. They were … well… coarse. Non one she would have ever associated with in England. In Canada things were different, she knew, but she’d listened as they talked and rudely gossiped in the store and didn’t see anything to be gained in associating with them. And then to admit she couldn’t do a simple thing like bake bread? Wouldn’t that get the gossip going!

At the time they were getting a farm paper and she took note of a column offering “Homemaker Hints by Millicent” or some name like that. Women wrote in with a question, which would be printed with the senders initials and the columnist’s response. Mary got her courage up one day and sent a letter to the column, asking Millicent’s advice on baking bread.

About three weeks later she opened this paper, found Millicent’s column — and saw her letter. Oh, but…! Here was her name…and her address…printed for all the world to see. She blushed with shame. All the women in town would be laughing at her. Mary shuddered to think what her husband would say if he ever saw this.

To add insult to injury, the recipe Millicent printed in response was the same one she’d already tried. She shut the paper and tried to forget about it.

The next morning her routine was disrupted by a few hard raps on her door. Mary opened it a crack and saw Mrs Ratigan — one of those “ill-mannered” women who lived nearby. Mary had seen her bustling around town, a large, assertive Irish woman, fussing over the children around her, wiping their drippy noses and giving them a smack when they needed one.

Mary opened the door to ask…and Mrs Ratigan marched right in. She held the incriminating page from the farm paper in her hand. “Mary Watson. Wants to make bread. I read it here.” She grabbed a chair and sat down. “Nobody ever learned to bake bread out of a book. You need a mother to teach you. Where’s your mother?”

Mary recovered from her shock enough to reply. “Back in Guildford, England.”

“Fine. Leave her there. I’‘ll be your mother this morning and we’ll make bread.”

Swallowing her pride, Mary got out her ingredients and Mrs Ratigan started giving instructions. Before the morning was done she’d showed Mary how to mix and knead, how long to let the dough rise, how to test it. Mary learned how to form loaves, eliminate air bubbles, and how to bake them.

As soon as the loaves were in the oven Mary made tea. Mrs Ratigan sat at the table and watched her pour. After a few sips, she said, “The good Lord never said a person always has to have Irish coffee. There’s Irish tea, too, you know, dear.”

Mary laughed and took the hint. She got the bottle of her husband’s brandy from the cupboard and handed it to her “mother for the day”, thinking it would likely make an acceptable substitute for Irish whiskey.

Mrs Ratigan opened the bottle, took a whiff, then poured a generous smack of it into her tea. Taking a sip, she grinned and said, “If you weren’t an Anglican, I’d say you’re one of the true faith.”

Mary laughed again. She was coming to like this cheerful, motherly neighbour.

Mary poured tea and Mrs Ratigan poured out the flavouring. By the time she left there wasn’t much left of the bottle of brandy, but Mary thought her husband would forgive the loss when he saw four lovely loaves of bread and some buns waiting for him when he came home from the store.

She’d been fearful about how the women in town would talk about her and treat her once they read her letter in Millicent’s column, but things turned out for the best after all. Sharing her need actually brought her friendly smiles and greetings from the town wives and made some satisfying friendships.

Visiting with one of these new friends sometime later, Mary discussed how embarrassed she’d been when Mrs Ratigan arrived at her door waving that paper. “Now the whole town knew! I was so ashamed and just cringed to think what you’d all be saying about me.”

“Oh, you needn’t have worried. It felt like you were one of us at last.” Her friend smiled. “Besides, Mrs Ratigan informed us all that if she ever heard anyone laughing at you, she’d conk them in the nose.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Well, by now my cinnamon buns are in the pan, rising. The faintest whiff of cinnamon lingers in my kitchen and it will soon be a delightful fragrance. Can’t you just taste it? Almost as good as chocolate. 😉

The Wearing of Beards

In my childhood I don’t think I ever saw a man with a beard, other than “Santa Claus.” Yeah, this dates me. Pre-1960. Hippies with long straggly beards and hair, worn in rebellion against the Establishment, didn’t come to Canada until I was in my teens.

Beatniks there were, but they hung out in far-off American cities, so I had very little idea about their appearance. My dad and his friends, of average Canadian farm folk background, would have considered a beard a disgrace to a man — an odd reversal of natural circumstance. Older men we’ve talked with, whose memories go back to small-town life in the 30s and 40’s, remember beards being ridiculed and young men who wore them being tormented.

When I did hear the word when I was young, it was usually associated with mumbling. If she couldn’t hear his reply, Mom might say, “Dad’s mumbling in his beard again.” I think they even accused me of mumbling into my beard a time or two. I suppose that’s a cliche now?

In my teens I did see some older men with beards, and decided that a neatly-trimmed beard or goatee looks quite distinguished.

Today, in contrast, beards seem to be everywhere. Or “shadow beards.” Look at book covers and magazines: most of the males I see have the three-day-stubble look; some might have a neatly trimmed beard. But clean-shaven men seem to be in the minority in photos. Plus, Amish romances are very popular; on those covers, beards are a given.

As an adult, starting to learn about church and religion, I discovered there’s a Bible-based reason for men wearing beards. Different religious groups (including the one we’ve joined) teach that this natural male-female distinction has been instituted by our Creator for a reason and men should maintain this natural order. This would include Orthodox and Hasidic Jews, Muslims, the Amish, several Mennonite groups, Old German Baptists and others I’m not familiar with.

Jewish and Christian groups refer back to the Mosaic law where “Ye shall not round the corners of your heads, neither shalt thou mar the corners of thy beard.” (Leviticus 19:27) Some Jewish groups take this “corners” to mean “sideburns,” so they let theirs grow into what looks like long ringlets.

The Amish take it to mean, don’t trim your beard at all. However, coming from Europe where army officers had a lot of pride in their elaborate moustaches, the Amish have rejected moustaches as vanity. So, while Amish men have beards, they don’t wear moustaches. Looking at images on Wikki, I see the Old Order German Baptists must share this thinking. Both groups do cut their hair, but more in the style of the Quakers. (When they came to America and settled in Pennsylvania the Amish adopted a lot of the Quaker styles, like the broad-brimmed hat and plain coat.)

Our church believes “the beard” is a symbol of the sexual distinction, one that should not be removed. However, we aren’t living under the Mosaic Law now, so the Church doesn’t take this “not marring” as a rigid law. Our men believe in being all-round neat, and trim their hair and beards to look tidy.

And thus ends my quick overview in response to Fandango’s word for today: BEARD

Prairie Groupings

With apologies to Linda at Linda’s Writing Blog for carrying this to ludicrity. 😉

A bevy of buffaloes made its way across the fenceless prairie, followed by a flock of aboriginal hunters dreaming of sizzling steaks. In the wings, a murder of crows settled on the buckbrush bushes that grew in the coulie. A file of coyotes trotted along the coulie as well, awaiting the aftermath of the natives’ nefarious plans.

Overhead an assassination of vultures circled, hoping the hunt would provide them with a few feasts as well. Should the hunt fail, the vultures, opportunists rather than fussy eaters, might still be left a trampled coyote or two.

Ahead of the buffalo a cluster of startled grouse flew up, propelling their plump bodies toward the coulie. Before they could recover from their sharp-tailed flight a couple of the birds met a sad fate at the paws of the wily lead coyote. Life on the prairie tended to be short for meaty birds.

Slowly the hunters advanced and the buffalo moved ever closer to the ravine ahead. Near the lip of the ravine an amazement of other natives had concealed themselves in the sagebrush. The plan was stellar. As the buffalo approached the ravine, this group would spring out at the side of the herd, making a cacophony of noise. Fenced off from flight on one side, hopefully some of the startled buffalo would dash over the lip of the ravine, where a dispatch of men with spears would finish off any survivors.

The animals, quickly attacked by a clan of carvers, would be transformed into strips of meat to be pounded and smoked by a web of women. This meat would provide the natives with food for another winter. Buffalo hides would become blankets. A scrabble of miscellaneous wild creatures would scrap over whatever remained when the natives were done.

As the moon rose over the ravine that night, a smudge of smoke rose toward the stars. Fifteen beasts from the bevy had hurtled over the precipice; buffalo meat had filled the tribal tummies and the rest was curing over the fires. The hunters, old and young, sat in a circle visiting. A herd of youngsters played “hunters and buffalo” while the mothers sang softly to dozing infants.

Writing prompts for today:
Ragtag Community :  HERD
Fandango’s challenge : FENCE
Word of the Day :  STELLAR