A visit to The Lost Words exhibition

As the date for The Lost Words exhibition to close was approaching I realised that it would be possible to visit it in a single day travelling by train and bus. The internet is a wonderful tool for discovering and planning. I booked advance tickets including plusbus, collected them from a machine, set my alarm for an early start and off we went.

My research fell down a little over the location of bus stops, but we still managed to arrive at the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh in the morning. There were other people travelling on the same bus to the gardens. Fortunately one of them knew the way!

Inverleith House

Inverleith House

Entry to the gardens is free, as for The Lost Words exhibition. We found Inverleith House with the help of maps in the gardens and arrived there at the same time as a group of primary school children. (The summer holidays start and end earlier in Scotland than in England for reasons connected with the Scottish potato harvest in earlier times.)

We followed the youngsters in and were impressed by their enthusiasm. However we chose a different route around the exhibition so that we could enjoy it more quietly! In fact we went round some of it twice.

The rooms were empty apart from the exhibition on the walls. Jackie Morris’s beautiful artwork was displayed alongside Robert Macfarlane’s acrostic poems. There were other items of interest, such as an enclosed nature table a bird’s nest and egg, another representing the artist’s workspace and yet another with the writer’s notebook showing his work in progress. Relevant items from the Royal Botanic Garden’s archive were also on display.

There were families and individuals visiting the exhibition. The artwork was presumably the originals from which the book was made. The paintings of the absences did not have the scattered letters across them, which are in the book. I didn’t realise the difference until the following day, when I was describing the exhibition to someone, who hadn’t heard about it. (Yes, there still are people, who have not heard of The Lost Words!)

The book is beautiful, but some of the paintings are interrupted by the fold between facing pages. It was lovely to see them as complete pictures in frames and to be able to admire them from a distance or have a closer look.

I am amazed that many of my friends and acquaintances do not seem to have heard of The Lost Words.

One who has, alerted me to other spin-offs from the dictionary, which replaced nature words with technical ones. Malcolm Guite wrote a sonnet. He also has a list of all the old words omitted from the dictionary in order to make room for modern ones.

Many but not all of the missing words are included in The Lost Words. My post about the book may be found here.


Travelling by train

One of the people I follow on Twitter travels by train and tweets about his fellow passengers, sometimes quoting their seemingly bizarre comments.  He is well-known in the UK as the broadcaster, Ian McMillan (@IMcMillan).  Some of his tweets make me cringe, but he is very popular.

When I travel by train I probably observe as much as he does, but I do not go online from the train.  Instead I allow my observations to settle.  I might tell members of my family or friends about the strange fashions I have noticed or the conversations I have overheard.  I may even blog about them: View from the train, An outing by train, Life, luck and Lent and Another train journey.

I have recently made a series of journeys to visit relatives and attend a writers’ day.  Travel broadens the mind.

I learned about a game some people play on the internet.  They open a random page on Wikipedia and see how many clicks it takes them to reach the page about Hitler.

Why Hitler?

Why not Queen Elizabeth II?  Or one of the saints? Or the pope? Or even Jesus Christ?

I heard a proposal to resell used Kindle books in the way printed books are sold in charity shops.  This raises all kinds of questions.  Charity shops do much good, but authors do not gain anything from their books being resold.  There is a scheme in place for them to receive some payments from library loans.  It would not be practical to have a scheme for the resale of books to be monitored and authors rewarded.  Only the initial purchase of the book is of value to the author (and publisher).  No-one would want to prevent books from being sold to raise money for charities, but perhaps those of us, who sometimes buy books second-hand might help authors by reviewing books on Amazon.

In a way it is a good thing that digital books are not resold.  The issue that gave rise to the idea that they should be, was that digital books have a single owner, who may have built up a sizeable library.  This investment allegedly cannot be passed on to their heirs.

On Saturday at the first station I entered, I was handed a leaflet by a policeman – presumably British Transport Police.  It was about reporting hate crime on the London Transport network. It did not occur to me that later that day, I would see one of their officers at work on a train.

I was impressed by the way that this officer engaged with the people he was trying to keep in order.  It was not particularly late at night, but in rural areas transport is limited, so people, who go out on the town do it earlier in the day.

He was helping keep all the passengers safe on the train.  This is important.  There should not be any no-go areas or services on the transport network.  As a writer I was interested to observe my fellow-passengers.  I even told the officer I was collecting material!

The Writers’ Day will have to wait for a later post.


My head is full of spaghetti

Last weekend I did something I had been hoping to do for about a year.  I went away for a long weekend to meet with a large group of writers.  Many of them are members of the Association of Christian Writers.  The speakers for the weekend were Adrian Plass, Bridget Plass (his wife) and Tony Collins, a publisher of fiction and the author of a non-fiction book, Taking my God for a Walk.

I have come back so full of stories, ideas and experiences that it feels as if my head is full of threads of spaghetti, which need time to settle down and become untangled.

It would be worse if I had remained indoors for Saturday afternoon and attended more sessions of information.  Instead I went for a two hour walk in the hills with five other people – not all writers.  After that I did some singing with six other women of various ages.  It was very enjoyable and relaxing.

I travelled on five trains and was a passenger in three different cars.  The journey took me from one county into two others and back again by a different scenic route.  Almost the entire journey was through beautiful countryside in Northern England.  Part of it was along the coast.

View from the train

View from the train

At one point in Yorkshire looking at the small stations I recalled a memorable day in November 2010, when I was in a party of four people travelling on four trains each way to reach Gruyère.  “Look at that castle!” I said.

“That’s where we are going,” replied my daughter.

I was amused by the contrast in size of a station (in Yorkshire) named Clapham with another station I travelled through twice over a month ago, which has a two-word name.

How can I unravel the spaghetti?

Unless my readers have any better ideas, I intend to let it simmer for a while.  I shall continue with my usual routine, trying to do all the important things, being flexible enough to cope with any unexpected events and letting strands of spaghetti out in the form of blog posts and other literary endeavours.

Hopefully nothing will boil over, burn or explode.  Perhaps some of the strands may even be nourishing.