Wednesday, 12 September 2007

Suddenly in Focus

"A rose-red city half as old as time."

JW Burgon, "Petra", 1845

A carelessly Romantic line? No, by Archbishop Ussher's calculation, Creation happened and Time started in 4004 BC. So ancient Petra was understood (by Burgon) to be about half as old as time.


"Golden lads and girls all must,
As chimney-sweepers, come to dust."

Shakespeare, "Cymbeline" IV 2, 1609?

Death the Leveller, vaguely expressed... until a scholar (I forget who or when... late-Victorian?) noted in his travels around Stratford-upon-Avon that "golden lad" was the local slang for a dandelion in flower,

and "chimney-sweeper" for a dandelion clock.

Adding an extra and precise dimension to the lines.

(Incidentally, you blow on a dandelion clock and the remaining seeds tell you the hour of the day. This works, but be sure you know the actual time by your watch, and blow carefully. Not like birthday cake candles and wishes: we are talking science here.)


I can remember my life clearly back to the age of two. My brother claims he only has memories going back to the age of ten.

My first memories relate, directly or obscurely, to my mother being pregnant with my younger brother.

Then for years my bro and I shared the same house, friends and gangs, schools. I had the duty of taking him to school and getting him back safely every day, whether by bus when we were both teeny (kindly Bus Ladies helped us along here) or by bicycle as we got older.

When he was ten I moved on to a different school and he got his independence.

Sibling rivalry and memory. Me, two-and-something, sharpening up my pencils to prepare for the arriving rival. He, free at last aged ten.


Many more hares than the above were started by Authorblog's question for the week, "which toy was your childhood favourite?". I'm just showing you some examples.

Out of the fog of memory, suddenly in focus - an axe handle was my favourite toy. Martini-Henry, Lee-Metford, Lee-Enfield, it could become any type of rifle. And the back garden and the plantation beyond, in turn, would then become the scree of the North-West Frontier, the Veldt, the jungle canopy of Malaya, the fields of France... (I am only just post-Imperial).

But in recovering from a blur to sharp focus the axe handle, I have also realised that I have forgotten how to do subtraction (((1845 + 4004) / 2) - 1845). You may drop me a note to crow that I have forgotten even the Common Dog of maths, if you like.

Oh the cardboard pennies, shillings and threepenny bits, that were always kept in the teacher's husband's empty tobacco tins, and so had their own distinct smell.

Is any of this true? I am not sure, which is why the question is a real poser.


Chertiozhnik said...

Before you crow, I add numbers to one number until I get to the second number, then add up all the numbers I added.

I can do this real fast, it isn't wrong, but damme there was another method.

OHara said...

Incidentally, you blow on a dandelion clock and the remaining seeds tell you the hour of the day
It is the number of blows it takes to get rid of all the seeds that will tell you the time of day!
Some people.

Chertiozhnik said...

Well, that's interesting - it's not how I learned to do it.

OHara said...

Hmm. So what happened when you got a seedhead that wasn't quite ripe and you had 32 seeds left then?
Mind you, whenever I tried to tell the time with a dandelion, it was always 1, 2, or 4 O Clock.

Chertiozhnik said...

When I was very little I just kept blowing until there were a few seeds left, and that was the Time... somewhere. And that's Magic.

And when I'd learned to count, I suppose I'd have said 24 + 8 = 32 so it is eight o'clock tomorrow morning. But by then I'd learned to tell the time by my pride and joy, my watch.

I think your method is technically superior, I must find some dandelions and try it out.

OHara said...

Blowing seeds in peoples hair is much more fun.

My first memories relate, directly or obscurely, to my mother being pregnant with my younger brother.
Strangely my second earliest memory was my mother coming out of hospital carrying my baby brother. I pledged to look after him for ever. I then went on to be very cruel to him.

Mad Dog said...

"An axe handle was my favourite toy. Martini-Henry, Lee-Metford, Lee-Enfield, it could become any type of rifle".

Ah, a kindred spirit...I actually did progress to a Webley air rifle.

Mad Dog said...

Oh and on the subject of maths, I was trying to remember how to solve a quadratic equation the other day. Then I realised I couldn't even remember what a quadratic equation was. It's dandelions for me from now on.

Chertiozhnik said...

MadDog, did you join the Corps and get to blaze away with Browning .45s, Sterling submachineguns, FN rifles?

Maybe a dumb question as in America you are free to shoot what you will. Me, nothing since around 1975. The world is a better place for that.

Chertiozhnik said...

I was cruel to my baby brother until he got strong enough to belt me in the nose and draw blood.

After that, I only did my duty - to and from school safely.

Which for some reason brings to mind all the "perverts" who haunted my childhood - bless you all, I didn't understand or mind.

Chertiozhnik said...

Quadratic equations?

We here at Nobody's Friend are determined to solve at least one. Just to prove we can, and maybe even to find out what they were for.

Mad Dog said...

Nothing so macho as any Brigade or Corps. My deep resentment of authority figures was evident back then and over rode my desire to shoot a sten gun.

Chertiozhnik said...

Then you are made of sterner stuff than I am. I got to wear a beret'n'stripe, be punished for desertion, and such.

Slacker or rebel? Me, slacker.

Mad Dog said...

However a good friend has a a very fine SMLE dating from 1918 that I've had the privilege of fondling on quite a few occasions. OK, that's enough or we'll get into some dangerous hoplophilia.

david mcmahon said...

G'day Chertmeister,

Thanks so much for taking part. I enjoyed reading that.

I too thought it was the number of puffs that told thetime on the dandelion clock!



Mad Dog said...

" was the number of puffs..."

Rule 1: No Puff-ters
(sorry that was bad but I couldn't resist)

Here's a priceless gem from c1972 -does anybody remember it?

Chertiozhnik said...

Hi David, I seem to be outvoted on this dandelion clock thing! Three to one says I always had it wrong. Waaaah.

Chertiozhnik said...

Hoplophilia, MadDog - new to me and an utterly useful word!

And thank you for the Barry McKenzie link, awesome.

Mad Dog said...

Once in awhile I may get lucky with a word but on this site I feel truly outgunned (geddit?).

...runs to airport avoiding kick...