Delight in the details

It is sometimes said that the devil is in the detail, usually when something that seems on the face of it to be simple turns out to contain some hidden complexity.

According to Wikipedia this actually derives from an earlier saying – God is in the detail – which indicates that details are important and whatever you do should be done thoroughly.

Sometimes, however, I think that it is delight that awaits in the details, especially if it’s in a work of art (in the broadest sense of the term) that you are contemplating.

This thought came to my mind this evening as I was listening to the Tweed Album by Mr. B the Gentleman Rhymer, my favourite exponent of the wonderful genre of chap hop.

This is one of his albums that I got relatively recently and I am therefore less familiar with it than with his first two albums, which I’ve had for somewhat longer. Still, I have listened to it at least half a dozen times in the last couple of years. Tonight, though, I heard (or at least noticed) for the first time a particular line in the song Summertime (nothing to do with the Gershwin classic of that name) that rather tickled my fancy:

“All the young people on their field telephones, updating their stati so they don’t feel alone”

The thing that I found delightful about this was the use of stati instead of the generally accepted statuses as the plural of status, clearly and deliberately playing on the Latin origin of the word (as stati is the nominative plural form in Latin, while in English it gets the standard plural treatment). Not, I admit, a particularly earth-shattering detail but quite amusing to me and a nice example of how you can pick up on little details of things long after you become basically familiar with them.

I wonder what other delights await me on further acquaintance with the works of Mr. B. (As a partial answer, while I was finishing this post, another delightful phrase cropped up in one of the songs on the same album: “Butter my muffin” — an expression of surprise that I think will have to adopt into my own idiolect.)

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A positive sadness

I hadn’t intended to write another Doctor-Who-related post so soon after the last one, but I came across a lovely quote in the book that I finished yesterday, which was too good to pass by.

The book was Full Circle by Andrew Smith, who also wrote the original TV story.   Any Doctor Who aficionado worthy of the name will recognise this as the first story of the classic E-Space trilogy and the one in which Adric (the companion that most fans evidently love to hate, although I always quite liked him) was introduced.

The quote appears on the first page of Chapter 1 (which isn’t the start of the book as this one has a prologue) and reads:

The [Doctor’s] face was at once immensely cheerful and yet tinged with the sadness of one who has known too many people for too short a time.

I’m nowhere near 750 years old (the Doctor’s approximate age at the time of this story), however much I may sometimes feel like it, and I’ve obviously not met anything like as many people as he had.  However, I’ve been living in or near a university town for the best part of the last 20 years (and, in case you know me and think I’ve miscounted, I’m referring to two separate universities), and these are notable for the transitory nature of large chunks of the population.  Therefore, whether or not it’s reflected in my face, I can certainly relate to the sadness of knowing many (though perhaps not too many) people for all too short a time.

It doesn’t help that my track record for keeping in touch with people when they (or I, though mostly I’m the one staying put) leave is generally pretty poor.  Of course, staying in touch is a two-way business so it would be unfair to apportion all or even most of the blame in one direction or the other.  Suffice it to say that my contact with some people I’ve known (and in some cases known very well and got on with excellently) is limited while for others it is non-existent.

Long ago, I came to the conclusion that (at least in the cases where you get on well with each other, which for me seems to be most of the time) it’s better to be able to enjoy the pleasure of someone’s company for a short while than never to have met them at all.

And if you are someone I used to know and have dropped out of touch with, please (a) accept my apologies, especially if you made attempts to stay in touch which weren’t reciprocated, and (b) feel free to drop me a line. [And if you’re one of my former English teachers, please accept my further apologies for starting two consecutive sentences with the word “and” :-)]

Salad Days

Despite indications I may sometimes give to the contrary (e.g. with jovial references to “token salad” when helping myself to a minimal bit of vegetable matter as part of a well-piled plate of food at a buffet), I actually quite enjoy eating salads.  However, it is rare for them to make up the bulk of a meal for me.

Yesterday was an exception.

I had been to the supermarket and picked up a couple of little gem lettuces and some salad tomatoes as part of a special offer on fruit and veg, along with a fresh pineapple.

My plan all along was to make them into salad as part of my dinner.  However, due to a sequence of events including an impromptu beach trip with some friends in the evening, I didn’t actually get round to eating much more than a few handfuls of Bombay Mix until I got home shortly before 11pm.  By this time I was fairly hungry and wanted something quick to prepare and not too heavy to eat before I went to bed.

A few minutes later, I had two delicious salads prepared which I then proceded to eat with a few slices of fresh bread.

I remember reading, several years ago, advice from a cookery guru (I think it was Nigella Lawson, though I’m not entirely sure) that you shouldn’t mix red and green in a salad.  Although I’ve enjoyed enough mixed salads to be firmly convinced that this advice can be safely ignored, I decided on this occasion to make two separate salads – one featuring the lettuce and the other the tomatoes.

My first salad was a version of my default salad, namely some torn-up lettuce leaves and various other ingredients tossed around in a DIY vinaigrette dressing.  On this occasion, the other ingredients were a couple of chopped spring onions, a few capers and a handful of bisected green olives.  The vinaigrette was a simple mixture of a fairly generous quantity of olive oil and a somewhat smaller amount of balsamic vinegar, seasoned with a bit of salt, pepper and rosemary and whipped up a bit with a hand whisk.

The other salad was a bit more experimental, although based fairly closely on my recollection of salads I’ve been served by other people.  I sliced up a couple of tomatoes and put them in a bowl, then sprinkled them with black pepper (freshly-milled, of course – Delia would be proud of me), dried basil, crumbled-up goat’s cheese and a dash of balsamic vinegar, garnishing the ensemble with a single basil leaf.

In total, it was probably no more than five minutes’ work to prepare both salads (and even less to eat them).  There was enough to save a bit for this evening too and, while they weren’t in quite such good condition after a day in the fridge, they were still very tasty.

In case you were wondering about the meaning of the term Salad Days (when not being misappropriated for blog titles), it is usually used to refer back to the bygone days of one’s youth.  Apparently (and I was not aware of this, despite having read the play at least once), the term comes from Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra, in which the eponymous heroine speaks of:

…My salad days,
When I was green in judgment, cold in blood…

 

Nothing Much

Over the weekend I read Much Ado About Nothing for, as far as I can recall, the first time (although I did recently watch a film version of it, which is actually what prompted me to read it when I realised that I was unfamiliar with the story.

My favourite line from the play comes early in Act 2, where it is spoken by Beatrice (one of the main protagonists):

He that hath a beard is more than a youth, and he that hath no beard is less than a man.

Incidentally, I just went to add that to my list of favourite quotes on Facebook and discovered that this section of the Facebook profile seems to have been removed, or at least well-hidden. This goes to show, I suppose, that relying on an online medium such as Facebook (or, for that matter, a blog) for long-term archiving of information is probably not a very good idea. Fortunately I can remember most of the quotes I had on my Facebook page (which were there mostly to help me remember them), so I’ll probably include a few more of them in blog posts over the next few months (I’ve already blogged a few of them over the past couple of years).

The film version of Much Ado that I referred to is one directed by Joss Whedon (the creator of my favourite TV series – Firefly – as well as other greats such as Dollhouse, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Dr Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog) that was made a couple of years ago.  I was keen to see it as I have enjoyed the aforementioned works of Whedon as well as Shakespeare.  It was somewhat adapted from the original play but stayed fairly faithful to the plot and pretty much entirely, as far as I could gather, stuck to Shakespeare’s words (although the setting was modernised).  It was filmed entirely in black & white, which worked pretty well, and featured several actors I recognised from Whedon’s other series, including Nathan Fillion and Sean Maher from Firefly and Amy Acker from Dollhouse (who was playing Beatrice – I’m not sure whether the beard quote was in the film but I think it was).

It was slightly strange hearing Shakespeare pronounced with American accents although, in fact, these are probably just as close to authentic Shakespearean English pronunciation as modern British accents are (if not closer).