Friday, 12 March 2010

Glasgow Patter and Yiddish

This morning, I enjoyed a soothing swim in a near empty lane at Greens, followed by my neck stretches and deep breathing exercises in the steam room and a quick chat with a couple of regulars in the sauna.

Since I was heading almost directly for the hairdressers afterwards for a bit of shaping, I missed out a couple of stages in my strict routine and just blow dried my hair, without first shampooing and conditioning it. Looking in the mirror at the unnaturally blonde bush the phrase, straw hingin' oot a midden', came to mind.

Being both Scottish and Jewish, I realise that I enjoy the benefit of two highly expressive forms of language - Glasgow patter and Yiddish. Admittedly, my knowledge of Yiddish is fairly limited, but it's enough to know that there's a real richness to be found in both.

For instance:

heid banger - meshugenner
eejit - shlemiel
mingin' - farshtunken
heid bummer - gantseh macher

Another advantage of being both Scottish and Jewish, is that I have no difficulty pronouncing words with 'ch' in them, unlike many English folk.

How often have you heard strangers talk about 'Lock Lomond' or 'Auckenshuggle'?

As Jews, the 'ch' sound is part of our daily lives - we say, l'chaim, celebrate Chanukah and eat our chopped fried fish balls with chrein (horseradish sauce).

All part of a nice rich blend.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Scottish Associations of Writers' Annual Conference 2010

Another year, another Conference at the Erskine Bridge Hotel for around 150 writers. It was my 8th consecutive Scottish Association of Writers' Conf,but for me it was a little different this year, as I was a 'virgin' adjudicator and also ran a workshop.

My task was to Adjudicate the Article Competition, and I recieved 40 entries varied in both length (maximum 1,500 words), subject and quality. It was great reading about the wide range of topics covered, including the Aswan Dam, truffles, ecology, an analysis of the song, 'Pretty Woman', graveyards, travel venues and the meaning of love.

It was a great deal of work, and I felt a real sense of responsibility to the writers, but it was ultimately an enjoyable and rewarding task.

The novel catergory adjudications were announced on the Friday evening, and then we heard for the keynote speaker, R J Ellory , who was highly interesting and inspiring and really showed how crucial it is to be persistent and retain self-belief as a writer.

On the Saturday morning, mine was the 2nd adjudication of the morning and I sat reasonably relaxed on the platform, with the SAW president and three fellow judges. I was less relaxed when I suddenly noticed water appearing in front of me and discoved that one of my platform colleagues had accidentally knocked over a plastic cup of water in my directions.

With much frantic dabbing, I managed to get my speech and the winning manuscript reasonably dry, but it was a somewhat hair-raising moment. The winning article I'd selected, was a lovely nostalic look back at the Glasgow tramcars. In my adjudication speech, one of the things I'd praised it for, was the way the writer had shown what the trams had meant to children. As the winner read out her article to the gathered assembly, I became aware that some of the lovely descriptive writing had been missed out. Unfortunately, the water hazard must have stuck some of the pages together.

In the afternoon, I ran a 50-minute workshop - which stretched to an hour, as much due to the enthusiasm of the participants as anything. It seemed to go reasonably well.

In the evening, all the certificates and trophies (for the 14 categories of writing included this year) were handed out and then we had a highly entertaining talk from our second keynote speaker, journalist, Alan Taylor, who told us about some of the famous writers he had interviewed and got to know.

Next up, was the drawing of the raffle. I'd bought a few extra tickets this year because, although there must have been around 100 prizes donated, there was one I really wanted the chance to select to take home. It was the bear (Bertram) I'd donated in the first place and had felt very guilty about separating from his best friend, Dudley Dog. Fortunately, my ticket was drawn fairly early in the draw and as no one else had snaffled him, I ran down to the table and grabbed him for myself. Bertram is now back home and blissfully reunited with his canine best mate.

Once the raffle was over, it was a case of dashing upstairs to change into appropriate gear for the Cowboys and Indians Disco, and then a good time was had by all.

Unfortunately, work and other committments meant that I had to leave this morning, and miss the final few hours of the Conference - which certainly seems to have been a great success.

Roll on SAW 2011!

Monday, 22 February 2010

Pool Rage

I'm generally a mild-mannered person and like to think of myself as being fairly considerate and thoughtful of others. My motto is 'politeness maketh the person', and will even apologise to inanimate objects if I happen to bump into them.

I thought my consideration extended to Greens Health & Fitness Club, Giffnock, Glasgow , where I've been a member since October, 2007. I use the pool 3 to 4 times a week and really enjoy being in the water and having some relaxation in the steamroom and sauna. There's a nice group of regulars around the time I go and apart from it taking longer to get showered, shampooed and respectable looking before I leave than actually exercising and relaxing, it's generally a pleasurable, harmonious experience.

I swim in the slow lane and am the model of courtesy, making sure I wait in between lengths to allow any faster swimmers close behind me to go ahead.

I therefore found myself initially astonished and then enraged, to be stopped at the far end of the pool by a very young life guard who asked me to try not to splash fellow swimmers.

My routine in the pool, is to kick off underwater and stage submerged, using a back kick, until I run out of breath. The rest of the length is completed swimming the breaststroke, but without using my legs, as I have back problems and the breaststroke scissors kick is no longer an option. I don't batter like mad for these first few metres, but I like to at least use my leg muscles for part of the swim. And no one has ever remarked or complained about it - until now.

I seethingly finished my swim and pool exercises and stretches and marched over to the young man, whom I'd never seen before. I think he realised he'd been guilty of an error of judgement when he saw me storming towards him.

"I hope you didn't think I was being rude," he said, in response to my, "I've never heard such nonsense in all my life - this is a swimming pool, for goodness sake - if people are worried about the occasional splash, they shouldn't be in the water or, like the rest of us, they should get goggles!"

I pointed over to the water, where there was someone in the fast lane doing the butterfly stroke and sending waves of water cascading over the edge of the pool. There were also a couple of people doing the backstroke in the middle and slow lanes using kicks that must have been equally as vigorous as mine.

He apologised, and I stormed off for a shower. As I was going round to fill my water bottle before going into the steamroom, I could see (not that easily, since I had by now removed my 90 percent vision goggles) a yellow shape walking round towards me. He'd obviously realised he'd boobed big time.

He approached me again, and apologised for being rude. I pointed out, quite accurately, that he hadn't been at all rude - just very misguided and it was perhaps due to a swimmer with a problem who had complained. Well actually, he confessed, no one had complained - it was just that he had seen a couple of people appearing wary of being splashed by me. Of course, that nearly set me off again, and he very quickly tried to placate me by saying that he thought my technique in the water was very good and he apologised again.

It took several extra minutes of deep breathing exercises in the steamroom to calm me down and it was comforting to know that my astonishment was shared by a fellow regular.

So, my advice to fellow swimming pool users - expect to be splashed a little and, if it's a problem to you, get a pair of goggles!

Saturday, 2 January 2010

It's the little things in life

It's amazing how little discoveries can help make your life less challenging.

I've always been scared of spiders - discovering one in the home and, worst of all, bedroom, has filled me with terror. When I was single and living with my parents, there was a simple solution. I'd call my father, who would get a soft cloth and very carefully gather up the terrifying creature and gently let it out in the garden.

I'm convinced that one of the monsters was actually responsible for me failing my 'O' Level Latin, first time around. I remember waking up very early on the morning of the exam to do some last minute cramming. I'd just started, when a large black object on my bedroom carpet floor caught my eye. Before I could do anything, it scuttled off somewhere in the room. I was incapable of thinking straight and the cramming session was over.

For years, whenever I came across the beasts I was initially rooted to the spot in terror, before dashing for the hoover and attachments. The only way I could attempt to tackle the invaders was by sucking them up into the hoover bag. The trouble was, by the time I was primed and ready, the buggers had often disappeared.

But, all that has changed now. I'm still terrified of spiders and discovering one in my bedroom, especially in the evening, often leads to a sleepless night. But at least I can deal with them, thanks to the Betta Bug Katcha .
As soon as I spot a spider I grab one of the devices (I've got several of them dotted around the flat) and plonk it on top of the little (or nowadays not so little) devil before it's got a chance to leg it out of sight. I'm no longer rooted to the spot, because I know exactly what to do and can take action immediately. True, I do have the occasional accident resulting in a squished spider and once in a while I don't hold the device the right way up and The Prisoner falls out, but I don't feel so terrified by the situation because I can deal with it instantly.

Another source of terror for me, is falling down - the nearest I've come to finding a phobia listing is climacophobia - the fear of falling down stairs. I suppose that must be how it started, because as a child I began having nightmares about not being able to get down the stairs without sitting on the steps and easing myself down. Another fear, was being in a lift and having to secure myself against falling out.

In recent years, the main difficulty faced has been walking on slippy surfaces - even indoors. And if I'm outside in winter, I literally freeze when confronted with an icy pavement or road. Many's a time, I've actually got stuck and not been able to move.

But, again it's one of life's little discoveries that has made a big difference to me. The Yaktrax Ice Gripper Walker , a device that fits easily over the soles of shoes and boots and keeps you on your feet on the ice.

This winter, which continues unabated, the grippers have been an absolute Godsend. When I went to my Health and Fitness Club last week, the car park was totally covered in compacted ice and snow. There's no way I would have got out of the car if it weren't for my Yaktraks. I've been able to venture out on several jaunts that would have been impossible without my faithful friends.

As you can see, life can be improved by discovering little devices that help you cope with some of it's challenges.