Ska + Lollipops = Jamaican Music Taking Over

Right, first thing's first.  I heard this song the night before last for the first time since I was little, and having done so, proceeded to listen to it 7 or 8 more times.  I just couldn't stop!  I kid you not; this cheesy little pop song did something to me:

But, before you go thinking that this is just a nice combination of high-pitched vocals and cutesy sentiment, remember that great oaks from little acorns grow …

Millie Small was 16 when she was brought from Jamaica to London to make that record.  She was the first international Jamaican pop star, and it sold 6 million copies worldwide.  Before her, Jamaican music only lived in Jamaica - no one had heard of ska or rocksteady or reggae.

It was a 25 year old called Chris Blackwell who brought her over to Britain.  He'd been brought up in Jamaica and wanted to showcase its culture to the world.  After Millie, Blackwell discovered Jimmy Cliff – one of the greatest of the greats.  Then, when Cliff walked out him, Blackwell signed Bob Marley & the Wailers, and the rest is history: Jamaican music now belongs to the world.

But Millie was the first.

The Liffs I Have Lived

Back in the good old days – the 80s – the mighty Douglas Adams (and another guy whose name everyone always forgets but who was called John Lloyd) wrote a dictionary, The Meaning of Liff, highlighting all manner of common experiences/feelings/situations/objects which everyone knows and recognises, but for which no words exist.  In the book, the necessary words were provided; the nomenclature for the task being the place names of Great Britain.  For example:


One who washes up everything except the frying pan, the cheese
grater and the saucepan which the chocolate sauce has been made

[Abinger is a village in Surrey]

Employing Mr Adams' (and the other guy's) creative and comic talents (and some cutting and pasting), I can now present to you, the abridged story of my life, in definitions.

To relate an amusing story to someone without remembering that
it was they who told it to you in the first place.

(Skiing term.) To ski with 'zeal monachorum' is to descend
the top three quarters of the mountain in a quivering blue funk,
but on arriving at the gentle bit just in front of the restaurant
to whizz to a stop like a victorious slalom-champion.

The tiny snippets of beard which coat the inside of a washbasin
after shaving in it.

The coda to a phone conversion, consisting of about eight
exchanges, by which people try gracefully to get off the line.

An 'injured' footballer's limb back into the game which draws
applause but doesn't fool anybody.

LUTON (n.)
The horseshoe-shaped rug which goes around a lavatory seat.

The man behind you in church who sings with terrific gusto almost
tree quarters of a tone off the note.

All light household and electrical goods contain a number of vital
components plus at least one exeter. If you've just mended a fuse,
changed a bulb or fixed a blender, the exeter is the small, flat
or round plastic or bakelite piece left over which means you have
to undo everything and start all over again.

Someone who just cannot do anything quietly.

A crackpot theorist who believes that he will overturn science and the laws of physics as we know them. Since the rise of the Internet, Newton Popplefords have received more public attention than real scientists.

A very short peremptory service held in monasteries prior to teatime
to offer thanks for the benediction of digestive biscuits.

What the police in Leith require you to say in order to prove
that you are not drunk.


[Devon (parents), Sheffieldish (born), Herts (brought up), Devon (moved), Edinburgh (latest)]

Scathing River of Viscosity & Bile (intended to dissuade International Students from coming to Edinburgh University)

I have had to endure 3 years of the most important person in my life enduring the unending frustration of being an international student at Edinburgh University.  The other week, she wrote a bit of feedback on the experience and I thought, for the good of the world, that I would make them public.  Here are some excerpts:


While some of the teaching staff were very good, others were appalling and left me with the feeling that undergraduates are not really valued by the department.  Additionally, my needs as an international student were constantly ignored (eg. making December exam dates so close to Christmas, thus making flights home ludicrously expensive).

I would like to mention the flexibility (or lack thereof) of the department.  The staff repeatedly clung to the rules of the system rather than treating me as an individual with genuine needs.  I felt like one of a herd of cattle rather than a valued member (especially one who, as fee-paying international student, is necessary for the economic viability of the university).  The staff also displayed an appalling deficiency in communicating important information to me.

I would discourage English-speaking international students from applying because they can 'fall through the cracks' as it were from the student support networks.

I would discourage people from applying partly because of the mono-culture of private school-educated students.

But the main reason I would discourage people from applying is that the University gives every impression of being run by accountants and by blank-faced bureaucrats, more concerned with following The System and maintaining Edinburgh's 'prestigious reputation', rather than fostering an environment of personal growth and academic achievement.

I'm glad she had the chance to get that off her chest.  And now, she's free!

The Peasants are Fricking Annoyed

The Englishman is a patient creature,

but at present his temper is a little inflamed,
and it would be as well not to try him to far.
[Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle, His Last Bow]

Right.  So, I don't know if you're into politics like me, but some things are just worth noticing.  As a nation, we are long-suffering and slow to reach boiling point, but once there (as my flatmate Anna just observed), we manage to retain a rolling boil for quite a long while, spitting with vitriol and pent-up rage.

So when Ed Balls (not my favourite minister; probably not anyone's favourite minister) wrote an article for the Guardian today, the comments section immediately turned an astounding shade of violent purple.  As a reflection of 'the national mood', it's a terrifyingly enthralling snapshot.

I really recommend you read it for a few minutes – the comments that is, not the article – here.  This is in the Guardian, remember; Mr Balls might have expected to be on home turf.  Here are some of the shorter ones:

Ladies and Gentlemen, herein lies the unsupported word of the extremely wealthy, taxpayer-salaried, and soon-to-be taxpayer pensioned Edward Balls.


I don't trust or like the tories, but I'll vote for them just to get rid of your shambolic joyless cabal of hypocritical authoritarian sleazy puritans. I actually HATE the labour party with a passion now – and I used to vote for you.

We have no reason to believe anything you say, or any of your promises.

Give it up, Balls, really. Nothing on this planet could save you from obliteration.

Not getting much support for your views are you Mr. Balls – cant think why!

None here either!

I am curious as to why discredited ministers are lining up on CIF, to be told how useless, incompetent and distrusted they are.

Mr Balls – read these posts – they sum up when the nation thinks of you.

In the name of God go.

mah baby jus’ done gone up an left

This morning, Maria officially moved on from Edinburgh; heading back to South Carolina for a summer with her parents.  Now begins an interesting phase, since I won't be seeing her until October, when she will be asked to say "I do" to a number of significant questions 🙂

I think it's fitting that we'll both be living with our families for the few months leading up to the wedding – it seems right and good, but not easy.  I'll be having a go at using the time well, doing different things, blah-de-blah-de-blah.  But the truth is that I have a huge hole in my life.

Not sure what else to add.  Tonight I made salsa!  Tomorrow I'm going to walk from Balerno to Penicuik!  I have a job for the summer!

All slightly hollow, isn't it?  Yes – there is a hole.