Monday, 30 April 2012

Z is for ... Zorbing

Wikipedia defines zorbing as 'the recreation or sport of rolling downhill in an orb, generally made of transparent plastic.'

I would define it simply as 'bloody terrifying.'

Back in my final year at university one of my house-mates bought a joint zorbing experience for myself and another house-mate whose birthday was (and still is: it hasn't moved) close to mine.
So our birthdays were in February. In August, after six months of stalling (I won't lie: I was pretty nervous about it all), we eventually got round to Zorbing Day.
When we arrived at the field the weather was pretty good: cloudy but dry. (Curses, no rain - we were actually going to have to go ahead with it.) We made ourselves known to the people in charge and were quickly given a harness each.

So we're now waddling around in our harnesses and next up is the small task of actually getting into the zorb. For anyone who doesn't know, this involves taking a run up and hurling yourself (superman stylie) through a little hole on the side of the zorb. I wasn't very good at this: I got stuck halfway with my legs waggling around outside. I'm sure it looked hilarious but I don't think anyone has a picture of this moment, so here is an artist's interpretation.

Once we're both inside (a combination of shoving and tipping ensured that I got in) someone comes along and attaches our harnesses to hooks inside the zorb. We're now in a sort of star-jump position facing each other and all that's left to do is to be pushed down the hill.

I distinctly remember thinking a few things on our way down:
1. Wow, we really do scream pretty loudly.
2. Gee, this hill didn't look as steep as it now feels.
3. If my harness undoes itself I'm going to fall on her and squish her.
4. I might actually die in this thing. Has anyone ever died zorbing?
5. The hill didn't look this long. Clearly we have veered off course.
6. If one of us vomits now, the car journey home will be really awkward.
7. Seriously how have we not stopped yet?

Despite being a completely terrifying experience, zorbing was an excellent birthday present. I would probably never do it again, but I'm weirdly proud of myself for doing it once. Plus, my friend's face as we hurled down the hill was utterly priceless (as I'm sure mine was too).

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Y is for ... You

Yesterday's bloglet was a bit like a teenager: kind of sulky and rubbish, and to be honest I'm not sure I'm making up for it with today's offering. Sorry about that.

I really liked the idea I had for my 'q' topic (here) where it wasn't really about what I'd written, but more about the comments that you left (feel free to go and answer the most recent question if you like - I'm hoping it'll be visited from time to time). So, with that in mind, today I'm asking ...

What is one interesting thing about you that people might not know?

Maybe it's something people wouldn't know by just visiting your blog/twitter feed/facebook page etc. but that you're really proud of, or slightly embarrassed about (but can laugh about now), or just something which might surprise people.

Mine is that I used to be afraid of Father Christmas and would insist that he leave presents outside my bedroom. And while we're on the topic of scary Christmas-related things, I was also afraid of the film The Snowman.

Friday, 27 April 2012

X is for ... X

Ugh. X.

Let's just get this over and done with, shall we? Because X in Roman numerals means 10, I found 10 'x' words which I didn't already know. Blah blah blah. Is it time for Y yet?

I. Xenopus - an African clawed frog.
II. Xeric - of, pertaining to, or adapted to a dry environment.
III. Xyloid - resembling wood (derived from the same Greek word as xylophone - xylos, meaning 'wood').
IV. Xiphoid - sword shaped (again from Greek - xyphos, meaning 'sword').

Did I promise that I wouldn't have any more Classics-related bloglets in this challenge? I have a feeling I did.

V. Xylocarp - a fruit, such as a coconut, having a hard woody pericarp.

Incidentally, I then had to look up pericarp - the walls of a ripened ovary or fruit, sometimes consisting of three layers, the epicarp, the mesocarp, and endocarp.

VI. Xyster - a surgical instrument for scraping bones.
VII. Xanthous - yellow or yellowish.
VIII. Xenogamy - pollination of the stigma of a flower by pollen from a flower on another plant.
IX. Xerus - an African ground squirrel, having spiny fur, very short ears and a long tail.
X. Xebec - a small, three-masted vessel of the Mediterranean.

I'm sorry. Tomorrow's bloglet will be better. And possibly not rainbow-coloured.

(All definitions pinched from

Thursday, 26 April 2012

W is for ... Why?

I like to think of myself as a fairly intelligent person, but there are some things which I just don't understand. I'm hoping you can help. (By the way, if you don't know the answers either, feel free to make up something amusing.)

1. Why is the sky blue?
2. Why does 'u' disappear from words (e.g. 'colour') halfway across the Atlantic? 
3. Why are yawns contagious?
4. Why do we get morning breath?
5. Why is a courgette called a zucchini in some parts of the world?
6. Why do we dream?
7. Why does the UK drive on the left when most countries drive on the right?

(I heart rainbow colours.)

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

V is for ... Vlogs

Vlogging (or video blogging) is something I've got into recently. Well, not me personally - I'm far too boring. In choosing vlogging as my topic today I'm really just being selfish. I will be sharing some of my favourite vloggers in the hope that some of you may return the gesture. Cunning hey?

So let's get going ...

Charlie McDonnell: English guy who vlogs about daily life, science and all kinds of things. Sometimes invites people to suggest challenges for his 'Challenge Charlie' videos. Has almost 1.5 million subscribers.

Alex Day: Lives with Charlie. Quite sarcastic. Think he started by reading (and taking the piss out of) Twilight. Sometimes makes music.

The Vlog Brothers: Thirty-something year old American brothers (John and Hank) who share a YouTube channel. Started vlogging a few years ago when they challenged themselves to begin 'textless communication' between each other for a whole year.

Crash Course: Probably not strictly counted as vlogging, but it's run by the vlog brothers, so I'm including it here. John and Hank teach the world about history (John) and biology (Hank). Really enjoyable to watch because they're both so obviously interested in what they're teaching.

Rhett and Link: Only recently subscribed to these guys, so I haven't seen a lot of their videos. From what I've gathered so far, they've been friends since high school and now make vlogs together. They talk about things in the news which interest them. They also have a spinning wheel which decides how they'll end each video.

Ok, your turn. Any vloggers I've missed out which I should take a look at?

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

U is for ... Universe

I recently thought to myself that I don't read enough non-fiction, so decided to rectify this by spending my hard-earned Waterstones points on something factual. I chose Stephen Hawking's 'A Brief History of Time'.

Yes, it became very obvious very quickly that I had aimed a little high.

I persevered, though, and I'm now about 75% of the way through the book, and although I have probably only understood around 50% of what I've read, I'm enjoying it. Why? Because it makes any problems or worries I might have seem completely, utterly and entirely insignificant.

Take, for example, the big bang. It happened around ten or twenty thousand million years ago. Just think about that for a minute. Actually stop, read the words, think about them and try to get your head around them.

Ten or twenty thousand million years ago. 

If you're anything like me you'll be struggling even to comprehend a number so humongously huge. It's just so astronomically big that it's difficult to understand. 'A Brief History of Time' is full of that: numbers and speeds and distances so ridiculously big that they're guaranteed to make your tiny little blip of an existence seem like just that: a tiny little blip.

Now, I'm not saying that your tiny little blip of an existence is pointless (that'd be pretty rude). No, I can guarantee you that you mean more than the world to at least one other person on this planet (and I can't think of anything less pointless than that), but what I am trying to say is that sometimes it's good to think about those stupidly big numbers and speeds and distances. In comparison, any concerns or problems seem kind of piddly. 

Good old Douglas Adams said it best in 'The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy'.

'Space is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly hugely mindbogglingly big it is. I mean you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist, but that's just peanuts to space.'

Monday, 23 April 2012

T is for ... Thank You

A piece of advice I read before the start of the A to Z challenge was to keep your posts (bloglets) short. I didn't stick to that last time, so today I'm trying to restore the balance by keeping this quick.

Thank you for giving up some of your time to read my silly little musings - I really appreciate it.

Thank you for giving feedback in comments - I do try to return the gesture.

Thank you if you have decided to follow my blog - I will try not to clutter your reading lists with too much nonsense.


Saturday, 21 April 2012

S is for ... Sarah

I'm using today's letter to write about someone I think the world of.

I have one sister. She is exactly 1 year, 10 months, 2 weeks and 9.5 hours younger than me. Her name is Sarah. Sarah is awesome.

Since Sarah is now 22 years old, I thought I would share 22 memories of growing up with her (this is still an ongoing process: neither one of us is a 'grown up' yet).

My first memory is having my photo taken with Sarah. I had to have my arm around her shoulder and I remember being able to feel the elastic pattern across the front of her dress. I must have been about 3 or 4, so Sarah was plenty old enough to be able to sit up on her own, but she kept leaning forward and being a general nuisance.
When Sarah was 2 years old she had to go into hospital and have a tooth taken out. Apparently afterwards, the first person she asked for was me (I don't remember: I was too busy showing off my Polly Pocket rings to the nurses). You know what I did to return this hugely flattering and ridiculously adorable gesture? I turned to our mum and announced that I thought Sarah looked like a monster.
For my fifth birthday my parents gave me a book called We're Going On A Bear Hunt (I hope you know it, I think it should be read to every child). Sarah, who was 4 at the time, knew that I was going to get this book and got so excited about it that she told me very matter-of-factly on the way to school one day that I was going to get it for my birthday. Maybe it spoilt the surprise a bit, but that book is the only thing I remember about that birthday.
Sarah and I used to share a bedroom and, when it was being decorated, we had to sleep in the spare room for a while. One night we decided to have a midnight feast. I don't think we really understood the concept of a midnight feast: ours neither happened at midnight, nor was it a feast. At about 9pm (too tired to stay awake any longer) we tucked into our two Dairylea triangles that we'd managed to sneak from lunch.
When my dad mowed the lawn, Sarah and I used to pretend we were fairies and that the lawn mower was an evil creature that would kill and/or eat us. We never told dad what we were doing and I don't think he ever guessed. Probably just thought his weird children were being weird again.
If I ever couldn't get to sleep at bedtime, Sarah would make up a story for me. The stories always involved a girl called Katy going on various adventures, but Sarah would always let me choose things, places or people that I wanted to be in the story too.
On holidays/vacations I wanted to make friends with other children staying at the same place as us, but was either too nervous or too lazy to do it, so I'd ask Sarah to go and introduce herself first. She sometimes grumbled about it but she never refused to do it.
Up until the ages of 11 and 9 we lived in a semi-detached house. The last panel of fencing at the bottom of the garden fell down at some point and was never fixed. This meant that we could easily go and play with our neighbour, Tom, who was in the same school year as me. One of our favourite games was 'mechanics', which would involve one of us 'falling' off our bike and the other two coming to help. Basically it was an excuse to touch the chain on the bike and get messy. Poor Sarah, being the little one, was always the one who had to fall off her bike melodramatically and then sit around while Tom and I 'fixed' it. Again, she complained but she would always play along.
Sarah and I used to call ourselves 'The Super Sisters' (you have to say it in a loud voice). I suppose we were a kind of super hero tag team (although the only heroic thing we did was 'save' each other from Dad The Tickle Monster from time to time). We even designed matching costumes with a logo across the front which we tried to persuade our mum to make. I think it was purple and yellow.
When we shared a bedroom (some of my most memorable memories seem to come from that time) we also shared a bunk-bed. I had the top bunk first (mum said Sarah was too little - I didn't just call dibs) but after a while we swapped and Sarah got to sleep up top. This suited me just fine, since it meant that I could lie on the bottom bunk and shove my feet between the slats of the top bunk, pushing the mattress up and down, creating a 'roller coaster' for Sarah.
For my tenth birthday I got a Gymnast Barbie. She was amazing because she had joints in her knees and elbows which allowed her to bend (it was revolutionary stuff at the time). When Sarah had a look she accidentally pulled one of Barbie's arms out of its socket and felt so guilty that she nearly cried. We fixed it - the arm went straight back in and it wasn't your fault, Sarah!

We're halfway there, folks. Tea break, anyone?

Speaking of tea, Sarah LOVES the stuff, but she is very particular about which brands and types she likes. When we went on holiday a few years ago, she had a cup of tea at the hotel we were staying at and was so disappointed with it (it tasted like the smell of elephants - I tried some and agreed) that we now take a little Tupperware box of tea bags in case our holiday destination can't be trusted to provide good tea.
Did you ever have a talkboy growing up? The different speed settings meant that you could record yourself talking on the 'slow' setting and then listen back to the recording at 'normal' speed. The result being that you suddenly sounded like Alvin the chipmunk. Sarah and I loved this marvellous discovery and used it to make short radio broadcasts from 'Radio Chipmunk'. Fortunately for us I think all the tapes have been lost or recorded over.
Around the back of the house we used to live in there was a small concrete area between the garage and the garden shed. There was a manhole cover right next to a small step which led down into the concrete area. Sarah and I used to sit on the step and make concoctions (I think we pretended we were cooking) in a dent in the manhole cover. Watery, leaf soup anyone?
In our teens Sarah and I invented a very simple game to wind our dad up (we still play it on occasions). When dad was driving, one of us would suddenly announce that any left turns he took meant that he loved one of us, and any right turns meant that the loved the other one. Instead of dismissing the game as silly and saying that he loved us both equally, dad would panic and try to equal out the number of turns he took, much to the hilarity of Sarah and myself. I know, we're evil.
Sarah and I were allowed to get our ears pierced between primary and secondary school (aged 11 for anyone outside the UK). When Sarah got hers done, she'd already seen me getting mine done and she knew that when the person doing the ear-piercing said they'd do it "On 3", they'd actually do it when they got to 2.  Dad mentioned this out of earshot of Sarah, so they changed it and actually pierced on 1, catching Sarah off-guard. The look on her face was priceless.
My Grandma has loads of card games and our favourite was Woodland Happy Families, which we would insist on playing every time we visited. Each card had a picture and name of a woodland animal on it. Sarah's favourite was Miss Owl. If she got this card she'd celebrate, and if anyone else took it off her throughout the game, they would 'officially' have it, but they'd give it back to Sarah 'to look after'. After a while, mum drew a picture of Miss Owl so that Sarah would always have her.
One summer Sarah went to an activity week which I didn't go to. I was pretty bored without her, so I made up dance routines with a string puppet to an entire cassette's worth of Smurf songs (I've always been one of the cool kids). At the end of the week I performed them ALL to Sarah, who sat and watched the whole thing without complaining. 
Back when we shared bunk beds, and I was on top, I used to wake up before Sarah (probably because I'd made her tell me Katy stories) and I used to lean over the edge, see that Sarah was asleep, and then whisper, "Are you awake?" repeatedly until she woke up. I'm surprised she didn't ever punch me in the face.
At the end of my first term at university I surprised Sarah by picking her up from school (I think she'd been led to believe I was arriving home later in the evening or the next day). I saw her a few seconds before she saw me, but when she did, the most humongous smile spread across her face that I nearly cried from the cuteness.
Twenty One.
Recently Sarah and I played Hide and Seek (told you we haven't grown up yet). We decided that it would be fun if the seeker filmed themselves trying to find the hider. It turned out that Sarah was pretty good at hiding: my film was 15 minutes long.
Twenty Two.
When we lived in Bristol, our favourite thing to do was to go to the zoo (which is where we are in the picture below). There was an aquarium which had a big tank in the middle, and if two people stood in the right place, they could just about see each other through it. We loved this, and one of us would always dash off to the further place as soon as we got into the aquarium. We'd then swap places and check that it still worked (funnily enough it always did).

Me and Sarah

Friday, 20 April 2012

R is for ... Rabbit

We have a rabbit called Jake. He's about 4 years old (we don't know for certain because we're not his first owners). Jake is a complete nutter. Today I thought I would share with you the rules of life according to him.

  1. Anything on the floor is food.
  2. Curtains are fun to hide behind. Humans especially like it when you poke your head out from underneath them.
  3. Climbing the stairs is the Ultimate Goal in life. Must be done stealthily - humans don't approve.
  4. Getting into the lounge is the second Ultimate Goal. Attempts to scratch through the door have so far been unsuccessful. 
  5. All boxes must be thoroughly investigated (e.g. climbed on, hopped through, nibbled and shoved). Caution: Box investigation will sometimes result in getting your head stuck inside one. Humans find this hilarious.
  6. Human's job is to feed, clean and pamper you. Rabbit's job is to eat, be cleaned and be pampered.
  7. Fresh air and/or Nature are bad for you. If either enters the house, take cover.
  8. Sitting under chairs (instead of running around) is viewed as a sign that you are unwell and must be taken to the V.E.T.
  9. Cleaning oneself is optional. (Note: Humans find it adorable when you wash your face. Use this to your advantage when you have tried to sneak upstairs.)
  10. Poos must be as stinky as possible. Humans love it when you sit on them and squish them into the floor of your cage.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Q is for ... Questions

'Q' eh?

Hands up if you were looking forward to writing your 'q' post?

I suspect not many hands were raised. I was certainly not the most eager of beavers.

So, as I was in the shower this morning, angrily mumbling possible 'q' topics to myself (queen, quintessential, quotations, quinoa etc.) and being thoroughly dissatisfied with all of them, I suddenly had one of those rare genius moments (they're brilliant aren't they?) and knew exactly what I was going to write about.

Now, when I say 'I knew exactly what I was going to write about' what I actually mean is 'I realised that I could get away with writing very little and letting others do all the work'. Genius.

Let me explain.

Over the last two and a half weeks I've really enjoyed visiting as many different blogs as possible. I like that I'm starting to recognise some of your names and be able to associate them with your blogs. I feel like I'm kind of making new friends through this challenge (albeit friends who are far more talented writers than myself, who I've never met before and who all seem to live on the other side of the pond). Anyway, I'm enjoying this sense of community so much that I wanted to incorporate it into a bloglet somehow.

Basically I thought I would kick things off by asking a question. Your job (if you would like to take part) is to answer that question in a comment and leave a new question of your own. Simples.

Bearing in mind that the most comments I've ever had on a single bloglet is 6, this whole endeavour may fall flat on its face, but I'm optimistic. Feel free to come back and answer more than once!

(Also, quick note, if anyone is reading this who isn't taking part in the A to Z challenge, please don't feel like you can't join in: the more the merrier!)

Q: What is your earliest memory?

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

P is for ... Pom Poms

A little while ago (right here in fact) I mentioned that I like collecting buttons. Hopefully you remember, but if not we can wait until you catch up. Promise nothing interesting will happen while you're gone. The rest of you can talk amongst yourselves.

*twiddles thumbs*

Okay, sorted? Excellent.

Well, as you saw, things ended rather enigmatically when I said that I now make use of my button collection by attaching them to bags, cushions and other things beginning with 'p'.

Now that it's 'p' day I can reveal (although anyone with half a brain cell will probably have worked out, having read the title of this bloglet) that the other thing I use my buttons for is pom poms. Not the tinsely cheerleading ones, no sir. The ones you make out of wool.

This is a pretty good website which explains how to make a pom pom if you've never had a go yourself and are wondering what the chickens I'm talking about.

So anyway, let me introduce some of my creations. I should quickly mention, though, that I was given this book for my birthday, which has greatly influenced my designs - I can't take the credit for all of them being my idea.


First up is Moby, the biggest of the pom poms creatures, whom I made for my sister (since she clearly needed a woollen toy whale). He's pretty cool. He has a pipe cleaner spout of water spouting out his head.


This is Cyclops. Obviously. One eye, kinda scary, looks the type who would eat grown men as if they were puppies (Classics joke - The Odyssey, book 9 if you're interested).

Mr Kissy Lips

Mr Kissy Lips. I'm not sure whether I like him or not. He freaks me out a bit.


Yep it's another one with only one eye. Nope, he's not also called Cyclops. That would be silly. This is Mike, so named because I think he looks like Mike Wazowski from Monsters Inc.
Mike isn't actually finished yet. He needs feet.

(No Name)

Apologies the photo is blurry, I was trying to multi-task (the beak makes him overbalance so I had to hold him up and take the photo at the same time).
This little dude needs a name. Suggestions on a post card, please.


Paolo was raised on the tough streets of Detroit and has seen some things in his time ... hence the slightly mad/vaccant expression on his face.


Tyger also isn't finished yet. He needs a mouth but the one I made for him made him look like a bat, so he rejected it.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

O is for ... Olympics

Yes, yes we're hosting the Olympics this year and we're all very excited, but you don't want to read about THAT, do you?

(In case you were wondering, you want to read about the ancient Olympic Games)

Aha, the ancient Olympics, you say? How funny you should mention them, I was just about to write a bloglet on that very subject. Spooky.

So, as far as we're aware, things all kicked off rather humbly in 776BC/BCE when a cook named Coroebus won the only event in the Olympic Games: the 190m sprint (random distance, I know, but they hadn't quite got round to inventing the metric system). From then on, popularity for the games spread rapidly with more events being added and more competitors taking part each time.

The games, which were held every four years - just like the modern version, became so popular that any wars going on (and this was ancient Greece - they loved a good war) would be temporarily stopped so that athletes and their families could travel safely.

Women weren't allowed to compete in the games (but before we start flinging the 'bloody misogynistic gits' phrase around, neither were slaves or foreigners. Those charming Greeks were just as xenophobic and ... doulophobic - yes I've made that second one up - as they were misogynistic).

So basically no girls allowed. Married women weren't even allowed to watch the games (presumably because they should be cooking or cleaning or generally keeping out of the way) and anyone caught doing so could be put to death. Nice.

It wasn't all doom and gloom for women, though. They had their own games which they could take part in, called the Heraia (in honour of the goddess Hera). The Heraean Games consisted only of foot races. How nice.

Back at the Olympic Games, some new and, quite frankly, insane events were being introduced.

Pentathlon - just as the modern event, comprised five different sports. Long jump, javelin, discus, a sprint and wrestling. Was considered the toughest event and was used by the military to prepare young soldiers for the battlefield.

Running - exactly what it says on the tin; various different distances.

Hoplitodromos - running, but while wearing full hoplite armour (because that sounds like an entirely sensible idea). Armour probably weighed over 50lbs/23kg.

Long jump - yeah, so what? We have long jump today. Yes, we do, but athletes today aren't allowed to use halteres (lead weights) which are held in each hand and give extra momentum. Those crazy Greeks.

Discus - Similar to today's event, except athletes could choose the size and weight of their discus. There was also none of that spinning around malarky; athletes were permitted to take a single step before flinging the discus. (I'm pretty sure one 'flings' a discus).

Javelin - Again, similar to today's version. As well as the competition for distance, there was also one for accuracy, in which athletes would throw the javelin at a target WHILE RIDING A HORSE.

Boxing - No weight limits and categories. A fight only stopped when one of the competitors was unable to carry on.

Wrestling - Men were separated from boys, but apart from that there were no weight divisions.

Pankration - The most insane of the ancient Olympic events. A combination of boxing and wrestling which banned only biting and eye-gouging. Serious injury and death were common.

I don't really know how to finish this bloglet. How does one follow a sport which only banned biting and eye-gouging?

The tunnel to the ancient Olympic stadium

Monday, 16 April 2012

N is for ... Never

Did you ever see that BBC show called 'I've Never Seen Star Wars'?

No, neither did I, but I believe the idea was to have celebrities on the show who had never done/read/tried/seen something really popular, or at least that the majority of people have done/read/tried/seen. Hence the title.

I got thinking about what I would choose if I was going on the show and discovered that there are quite a few things which I've never done (does that make me boring?)

So, I have never ...
- Seen Titanic
- Owned an iPhone
- Vomited because of excessive drinking
- Properly dyed my hair
- Got a tattoo
- Broken a bone
- Read The Hobbit (or any other Tolkien books)
- Seen Lord of the Rings
- Watched Star Trek
- Owned a Beatles album
- Had a nose bleed
- Tried smoking

How about you? 
What things have you never done which might surprise people?

Saturday, 14 April 2012

M is for ... Mum

Mums are the best, aren't they? Mine is particularly excellent.

You want reasons? Okely dokely.

- She taught me how to tie shoe laces by making a 'practice shoe' out of a cereal box.
- She keeps stuff (like our first pair of shoes, our Brownie uniforms, cards we've made for her etc.)
- She likes Lego as much as, if not more than, I do.
- She gave me my sister.
- She uses twitter.
- She likes the same TV shows as I do and will put up with me ranting and/or raving about them.
- She got our rabbit because he 'looked at her' in the shop.
- She reads my blog.
- She teaches me how to cook.
- She accepts new nicknames my sister and I come up with for her (the latest is Meema)
- She hugs me everyday.
- She tells me she loves me everyday.
- She calms me down when I'm a stressy poo pants.
- She didn't get angry when I painted my sister's face blue (at the age of 3); she just took a picture.
- She let me build a fort in the lounge, even though I'm 24.

Friday, 13 April 2012

L is for ... Latin

Okay, last Classics-related bloglet of the challenge, I promise.

No, that's a lie. There'll be another one next week unless I change my mind.

Oh well, NEARLY the last Classics-related bloglet of the challenge.

So 'L' is for Latin, and so that I don't actually bore anyone to actual death (actually), I'll try to keep things short.

Anyone who tells you that Latin is a dead language clearly hasn't stopped for a minute to think about the utter ridiculousness of that statement. Of course Latin isn't dead: we read and use it all the time. Some of us just don't realise it. I've rounded up some particularly popular little abbreviations to show just how alive and kicking Latin is.

e.g. = exempli gratia (for the sake of an example)
i.e. = id est (that is)
N.B. = nota bene (note well)
P.S. = post scriptum (written after)
am = ante meridiem (before midday)
pm = post meridiem (after midday)
etc = et cetera (and the rest)
lb = libra (pound)
MO = modus operandi (method of operating)
R.I.P = requiescat in pace (may he rest in peace)

See? We use it all the time! If it's such a dead language, someone forgot to tell Latin.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

K is for ... Kaleidoscope

Did you ever have a kaleidoscope when you were little?

I did. It was red.

I also had a telescope. That was red too.

Because the two 'scopes' were a similar size, shape and colour, I thought they must be somehow related (which, I suppose, wasn't an entirely ridiculous assumption to make).

To me, the telescope was always the sensible one, the reliable one; the one that showed you things exactly how they were. I knew that when I put the telescope to my eye, I would be able to see that bird sitting in the tree at the bottom of the garden in much greater detail than I would have been able to if I had looked with the naked eye.

The kaleidoscope, on the other hand, was the fun one, the unpredictable one. I never knew exactly what the kaleidoscope would show me, but I could guarantee that it would be colourful and pretty and far more interesting than the scene through the telescope, and for that reason, the kaleidoscope was always my favourite.

As I grew up, though, my opinion changed.

Both 'telescope' and 'kaleidoscope' are made up of Greek words.
'Telescope' literally means 'seeing from far away'.
'Kaleidoscope' literally means 'seeing something beautiful'.

A kaleidoscope will always show you something beautiful, but it will never allow you to see something which is truly there; using it to look at that bird in the tree would have been pointless.

A telescope, however, will help you see something more clearly. A powerful one will let you see the moon and planets in great detail. Some can even show us whole galaxies. Kind of beautiful, no?

So, it is with that in mind that I leave you with the thought that ...

 No kaleidoscope is a telescope, but any telescope can be a kaleidoscope.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

J is for ... Jokes

I like jokes.

Except those jokes that you don't get and you seem to be the only one not getting it, but you laugh along with everyone else because they're laughing so hard they're practically wetting themselves and clearly it's hilarious but you're just too thick to get it. Those jokes I don't enjoy so much.

Of course, being a supremely intelligent human, I don't often find myself in such situations.

I do have a favourite kind of joke, though.

For some inexplicable reason, I love cheese jokes. Can't get enough of them. And actually, since writing that sentence five seconds ago, I've decided that liking cheese jokes is the complete opposite of being inexplicable because they are bloody hilarious.

Unfortunately I have a mere five cheese jokes in my repertoire. This will not do. I'm hoping that some of you reading this will be able to expand my collection. These are the five I have already.

1. What do you call cheese that doesn't belong to you?
- Nacho cheese!

2. What cheese can be used to coax a bear out of a tree?
- Camembert

3. What cheese can you hide a small horse in?
- Mascarpone

4. What happened when there was an explosion at the cheese factory?
- Debris went everywhere!

5. What cheese is made backwards?
- Edam

If you have any unwanted cheese jokes in your care, please consider leaving them in the comment box below. They will be going to a very good home.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

I is for ... Indoors

Here in the UK we have been enjoying some unseasonably glorious weather for the past week or two. Being the UK, it couldn't last any longer than that (we Britons actually begin to go slightly mad if we are exposed to lengthy periods of sunshine), so yesterday the heavens opened and, as Her Majesty would say, it began "pissing with rain."

Not to worry though, there are plenty of things to do indoors while the weather outside is frightful. These are some of my favourites from childhood (which are still fun for big kids too!)

1. Playing sardines
For anyone unfamiliar with this brilliant game, it's basically hide and seek but only one person hides; everyone else tries to find him/her and when they do, they hide with him/her. Everyone ends up having to snuggle up together in the same hiding place, like sardines. The best thing about it, though, is that you're never too old to play it. Fact.

2. Baking
My sister is really the baker in the family but she lets me supervise. Recently we made a banana cake and filmed the process, which meant we ended up with yummy cake AND a rather hilarious video. (The final edit is around 28 minutes long though, so I'll spare you that today).

3. Building a fort
Okay, so it's been YEARS since I've done this, but my sister's been ill for about the last week and I'm starting to eye up the pillows, sleeping bags and blankets all over the place and think they would make an excellent fort if we drapped them from the back of the sofa.

4. Making something
Remember when you were a child and you just made things for the hell of it? A humble cereal box could be transformed into virtually anything! I remember feeling particularly pleased with myself when I once made a grandfather clock (out of a cereal box, naturally), which included a rubber band/scrunched up piece of foil pendulum. Genius.

5. Pretending the floor is made of lava
Pretty self-explanatory. The floor isn't carpet; it's lava. You're not allowed to step on it. Insane amounts of fun ensue.

What did you like doing when you were little?

Monday, 9 April 2012

H is for ... Hats

Did you see that video on YouTube about Debbie, who just loves cats? Take a quick look here if you didn't.

Yep. Well that's how I feel about hats. Kind of.

I like hats. I often wear one for funsies while writing these little bloglets, or for protection while playing scary video games (totally accurate and not made-up studies have shown that if you wear a hat you are 36% less likely to be killed by the bad guys).

Right at this second as I type (although probably not as you read), I am wearing this one, which is a personal favourite of mine for a number of reasons.
1. It was a birthday present, so I didn't have to pay for it.
2. It was from a very good friend.
3. It was from Poland, which is a whole different country! (Yes, I'm glossing over the 'Made in China' label inside.)
4. It has lots of clips and buttons and is therefore very versatile in terms of how it can be worn.

For someone who likes hats so much, I own surprisingly few of them. This is because I'm extremely picky about them. Take, for example this hat:

Clearly an excellent hat which was destined to sit on my head, but I took three days to choose it, because the dozens of other hats I'd tried previously just didn't feel right.

That's the thing about hats: it takes time to choose the right one. You can't just rush into these things, it's a serious business. Sometimes, though, just sometimes, a hat comes along which is so perfect in every way that it can be worn by anyone, and the world rejoices.

One hat to rule them all, one hat to find them, one hat to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.

Saturday, 7 April 2012

G is for ... Greek Gods/Goddesses

You're just going to have to believe me when I say that I tried really hard to resist the temptation to choose Greek/Greece for the topic of this bloglet. I just couldn't do it: Classics seems to be my default setting.

Some good news which you can at least take comfort in, is the fact that I won't be harping on about the Greek language today and there won't be an alpha or omega in sight.

Anyone who knows anything about the ancient Greeks will no doubt have noticed that they liked their gods and goddesses. They liked them a lot. There were loads of them. Far too many to write about in one little bloglet. So for the purpose of keeping things as concise as possible, I will be focusing on the big guns; the twelve Olympians who you've probably heard of but possibly don't know what they did.

By the way, if anyone loved the Greek gods more than the Greeks, it was the Romans, who just slapped a Latin name on them and worshipped them as their own. Lazy gits. In the brackets are the Roman names for each god.

Zeus (Jupiter)
King of the gods, married to his sister, had sex with anything that moved.
Parents: Cronus and Rhea.
God of: Sky and storms.
Symbols: Eagle, thunderbolt.

Hera (Juno)
Queen of the gods, married to her brother, often punished Zeus' many mistresses.
Parents: Cronus and Rhea.
Goddess of: Marriage (I'm sure the irony of being married to the world's most serial of serial cheaters wasn't lost on her) and the heavens.
Symbols: Peacock, cow, crow.

Demeter (Ceres)
Responsible for the wellbeing of crops. Her Latin name gives us the word 'cereal'.
Parents: Cronus and Rhea.
Goddess of: Harvest and fertility.
Symbols: Sheaf of wheat, torch.

Poseidon (Neptune)
Thought to be a bad-tempered old man. Probably because of deep-seated jealousy of his younger brother being king of the gods. I'd be pissed off if I were him.
Parents: Cronus and Rhea.
God of: Sea and earthquakes.
Symbols: Dolphin, horse, trident.

Athena (Minerva)
Competed against her uncle, Poseidon for patronage of the then unnamed city of Athens. Each god offered a gift to the people of the city, who then chose their preferred gift. They chose Athena's olive tree over Poseidon's spring.
Parents: Zeus and Metis.
Goddess of: Wisdom, crafts and war.
Symbols: Owl.

Artemis (Diana)
Virgin goddess, twin sister of Apollo.
Parents: Zeus and Leto.
Goddess of: Hunting.
Symbols: Deer, hunting dog.

Apollo (Apollo/Phoebus)
Twin brother of Artemis, drove a golden chariot which pulled the sun across the sky each day.
Parents: Zeus and Leto.
God of: Healing, music and poetry.
Symbols: Laurel tree, bow, raven, lyre.

Dionysus (Bacchus)
Party dude.
Parents: Zeus and Semele.
God of: Wine, agriculture and celebrations (aka 'Party Dude').
Symbols: Vines, ivy.

Hermes (Mercury)
Messenger of the gods, liked to travel by winged sandals.
Parents: Zeus and Maia.
God of: Travel and trade.
Symbols: Caduceus (staff twined with snakes), wings.

Ares (Mars)
Despised by most gods except Aphrodite.
Parents: Zeus and Hera.
God of: War and violence.
Symbols: Vulture, dog.

Aphrodite (Venus)
Born from the sea foam after Uranus' blood dripped onto the earth and into the sea. Nice.
Parents: Uranus.
Goddess of: Love and beauty.
Symbols: Dove, apple, seashell.

Hephaestus (Vulcan)
An ugly, lame old man (without meaning to get too personal).
Parents: Zeus and Hera.
God of: Fire, metalwork and building.
Symbols: Donkey, hammer, anvil.

By the way, this is a great little book if you have or know a child interested in Greek mythology.

Friday, 6 April 2012

F is for ... Favourites

Anyone who regularly reads my inane offerings to the blogging community will probably have noticed that I like lists. I like lists a lot. It should therefore come as no surprise that today's bloglet comes to you in the form of a list, specifically a list of favourites.

So I've selected (and answered) some of my favourite 'what is your favourite ...' questions. In doing this exercise, I discovered that I find it quite difficult to choose just one favourite; apparently I like lots of stuff a lot. So these are my favourite whatevers as of Friday 6th April 2012. They may well change in the future.

Favourite film: Tangled. (Give it a go - it's excellent)
Favourite TV show: Sanctuary. (Which returns to the UK tonight! Happy, clappy, flappy dance.)
Favourite musical instrument: Ukulele because I play it. (Saxophone is an extremely close second.)
Favourite author: Daphne du Maurier.
Favourite book: Rebecca.
Favourite holiday destination: Canada.
Favourite colour: Green.
Favourite drink: Tea.
Favourite animal: Dolphin. (How can you not love an animal which always looks like it's smiling?)
Favourite meal: Chicken korma.
Favourite fruit: Pineapple.
Favourite ice cream: Mint choc chip
Favourite flower: Lillies.
Favourite Greek letter: xi
Favourite Disney character: Wall-e.
Favourite toast topping: Strawberry jam.
Favourite comedian: French and Saunders. (They count as one.)
Favourite video game: Sims 3.
Favourite shoes: The yellow converse I bought last week.
Favourite singing competition: Eurovision.
Favourite YouTube channel: vlogbrothers.
Favourite boy's name: Henry.
Favourite girl's name: Phoebe.

Are there any favourites which I've missed?
What are your favourites?

Thursday, 5 April 2012

E is for ... Etymology

One of my Year 6 pupils last week asked why I was teaching them Latin since it was a "dead language". After pretending to have been physically wounded by the question - as you would - I calmly explained that Latin has influenced many modern languages, including our own, and that learning it helps us to understand the structure of ours, and lots of other languages that are still spoken today. She didn't seem convinced so we moved swiftly on.

The truth is (and it pains me to say it) that Latin is not essential to a child's education; some of my best friends are non-Latin-learners who function just fine in society. What it did for me, though, was to ignite a curiosity about language which has continued beyond my days in full-time education.

Etymology is basically the study of the origins of words and, although I'm no etymologist (I'm a Classicist), I bloody love learning about where our words come from. I also delight in telling other people about the origins of words as and when I discover them. People don't always delight in hearing about this ...

Now, because I've already written a bloglet about etymology (specifically words with origins in Ancient Greek), I'll try to avoid repeating myself. If you like what you see here, though, you might like to try this one.


Have you ever wondered why the English word for a female offspring looks so odd?


I mean, look at it. Ask a young child who has never seen the word written down to spell it and you might end up with 'dorter' or 'dauta' or any number of variations, but I doubt you'd get 'daughter' because the word just can't be spelt phonetically. So why the Dickens is it spelt like that? Well, we can thank the ancient Greeks. Their word for daughter was 'thugater'. Unlike us, they pronounced the 'g', but on looks alone, doesn't their word look spookily familiar to ours?

Don't you think that's amazing? That a word we use today so closely resembles one which people were using over 2000 years ago?

THAT, my friends, is why I like etymology so much. Words and languages are changing all the time but there's something rather exciting, and somewhat comforting, about knowing that humans were using words which sometimes looked and sounded like ones we're still using now.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

D is for ... Dos and Don'ts

Some dos and don'ts of life which I've discovered during my 24 years on this planet.

- Try things, even if you're not sure where they'll lead. My PGCE course last year probably put me off
  full time teaching for life, or at least a few years, but I got friends out of it, and now I know one thing
  which I don't want to do with my life, so I'm closer to working out what I WILL do with it.
- Learn and use grammar/punctuation properly. Life's short, but not too short to take a moment to
  consider whether you actually need that apostrophe or not.
- Learn Latin: it's awesome.
- Wear hats. As many different ones as possible.
- Fart in public. Just the once to see if you can get away with it.

- Be afraid to like what you like, no matter how old you are. I play with Lego because it's fun, I
  watch Spongebob because it makes me laugh and I'm learning to knit because I think it's cool.
- Worry too much about what people think of you. I reckon the degree to which you worry about what
  someone thinks of you should be directly proportional to how much you respect and like them.
- Live like everyday was your last: you'd make yourself sick.
- Use washing up liquid as a substitute for washing machine tablets. Doesn't work: floods the kitchen.

And if you take just one thing from this bloglet, I hope it's this:

Don't, whatever you do, ever grow up.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

C is for ... Cake

Before I start, I should make it clear that THIS IS NOT MY RECIPE. It belongs to those lovely people at the Hummingbird Bakery. If you try and like this recipe, then I would highly recommend you buy their book.

So, as I mentioned, 'c' is for cake. Specifically my favourite cake, Chocolate Guiness Cake. You need to have a go at making this cake. You can thank me later.

For the sponge
- 250ml (9fl oz) Guinness
- 250g (9 oz) unsalted butter
- 80g (3 oz) cocoa powder
- 400g (14 oz) caster sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla essence
- 140ml (5fl oz) buttermilk
- 280g (10 oz) plain flour
- 2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 1/2 tsp baking powder

For the frosting
- 50g (1 3/4 oz) unsalted butter, softened
- 300g (10 1/2 oz) icing sugar
- 125g (4 1/2 oz) full-fat cream cheese
- Cocoa powder for dusting

You will also need a 23cm (9 in) diameter spring-form cake tin.

1. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees celsius (325 farenheit), then line the base of the tin with baking 

2. Pour the Guinness into a saucepan, add the butter and gently heat until it has melted. Remove the
    pan from the heat and stir the cocoa powder and sugar into the warm liquid. Mix together the eggs,
    vanilla essence and buttermilk by hand in a jug or bowl, and then add this to the mixture in the 

3. Sift together the remaining sponge ingredients into a large bowl or into the bowl of a freestanding
    electric mixer. Using the mixer with the paddle attachment or a hand-held electric whisk, set on a
    low speed, pour in the contents of the pan. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and continue to mix
    thoroughly until all the ingredients are incorporated.

4. Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin and bake for approximately 45 minutes (when I've made
    this cake it's taken much longer, if not double the amount of time) or until the sponge bounces
    back when lightly pressed and a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Set
    aside to cool, and then remove from the tine on to a wire rack, making sure the cake is cold to the
    touch before you frost it.

5. Using an electric whisk, mix the butter and icing sugar together until there are no large lumps of
    butter and it is fully combined with the sugar in a sandy mixture (sometimes it's a good idea to add
    some of the cream cheese to stop the icing sugar flying everywhere). Add the cream cheese and
    mix in a low speed, then increase the speed to medium and beat until the frosting is light and

6. Place the cooled cake onto a plate and top generously with the cream cheese frosting. The cake can
    be decorated with a light dusting of cocoa powder.

7. Get milk to drink with cake. Eat cake.

Monday, 2 April 2012

B is for ... Buttons

It's not an obsession or anything ... but I kind of collect buttons.

Does it count as 'collecting' when you secretly pocket them from the pavement when no one is watching?

I gather that a button can be a different thing depending on which side of the Atlantic you live on. As far as I'm concerned, I'm talking about these little guys.

Don't ask me why I started collecting buttons: I can't remember there ever being a logical reason behind it, but like all collections (and Pringles) once you pop you just can't stop. You know what I mean.

I think (and I'm really not entirely sure), that I graduated from 'having a few extra buttons' to 'owning a button collection' at some point during university. This was mostly due to the fact that awareness of my fondness for buttons grew among friends and family, so that I would regularly (probably two or three times a week at my most buttony-affluent of times) hear,

"Oh Becky, I found some buttons for you."

Which would duly be followed by a "thank you" and an inspection of the newest recruitment to the collection.

Like most collections, my button hoard, is pretty useless. I don't do anything with the little blighters apart from keep them in a jar and look at them from time to time. Recently I've realised that this is a horribly pathetic life for my poor buttons and so have decided to endeavour to put them to good use by sewing them onto bags and cushions and other things beginning with 'p'.

But that's a whole different bloglet.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

A is for ... Anagrams

For those of you who may have stumbled across my humble little blog and not know what's going on, I'm currently taking part in a challenge to post a new blog entry (I refer to them lovingly as 'bloglets') on every day of April, where each entry will be about topics beginning with a different letter of the alphabet. Today is day one.

So, as the title suggests, 'A' is for anagrams.

Mr. Google defines an anagram as 'a word, phrase or name formed by arranging the letters of another'. I like this definition but I would also add that it's better when the anagram is somehow amusing. Pretty much everything in life is better if it's amusing.
So, for the remainder of this short but sweet bloglet, please enjoy some of my favourite anagrams:

Astronomer = Moon starer

Desperation = A rope ends it

Margaret Thatcher = That great charmer

The eyes = They see

Nurse Florence Nightingale = Heroine curing fallen gents

Eleven plus two = Twelve plus one

To be or not to be, that is the question, whether it's nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. = In one of the Bard's best-thought-of tragedies, our insistent hero, Hamlet, queries on two fronts about how life turns rotten.

President Clinton of the USA = To copulate, he finds interns

Note: I didn't think of all these anagrams: I'm not that patient. Here are the websites I pinched them from.
One, Two, Three