The Trouble with Textbooks

As I continue with my language studies, I have bit of an on-going battle with the textbooks. I realise that this is my problem, rather than the authors’ and is mainly due to my rather poor formal-English education. I was educated in an age when English lessons were about expression and creativity, with not much grammar mentioned. This wasn’t necessarily wrong–I now write novels, and the marketplace is overwhelmed by people my age who are putting that creativity into action. But when it comes to learning a language, it is fairly useless.

My latest novel

My problem is understanding what exactly the textbook is trying to say (the English bits). For example, I am faced with a chapter that begins:

Pronominal suffixes attached to nouns function as genitives, much like absolute nouns in construct relationships.

Introducing Biblical Hebrew by Allen Ross

I stare at the words. I can read the words. I can say the words. But understand them? Not at first glance. My brain has to unwind the language and remind myself that a ‘pronominal suffix‘ is simply ‘random-people-related letters added to the word’ and a ‘genitive’ is simply the word that owns/possesses the other word, and so on. I can get there, but by the time I have decoded the English, I am ready for a break.

I have also discovered that when faced with sentences I don’t understand, my mind sort of goes into shock, and I absorb absolutely nothing. People need to be relaxed in order to learn, and lots of poncy language makes me stressed.

There are of course, textbooks that are more friendly, but they have their own problems. For our Greek lectures, we use a book by Macnair, and he writes in a very folksy manner, describing verbs as ‘slimming-club verbs’ because they lose letters, for example. This was lovely when I started learning, as the information was very accessible. However, when I came to revise it was a nightmare, as I wanted to skim the chapter on ‘liquid-verbs’ and I couldn’t extract the information from the storybook style of writing.

A selection of textbooks.

I think the only answer is for me to have a selection of textbooks. I do need the very formal one, because the exam is written in formal language, and I am expected to behave like a linguist. But when I am learning new grammar points, when understanding is the main aim, then I need a friendly book. For Hebrew, I have found a book by Dobson, which explains the grammar gradually amidst a jumble of reading and this suits the way I learn. I need to use the language in order to learn it, I find learning grammar in isolation to be almost impossible. The formal textbook by Ross will teach something, and then give lists of words (paradigms) to be learnt, but without saying what the words in the paradigm actually mean. (I have scribbled the meanings next to the lists of symbols–otherwise that is all they are–lists of meaningless symbols.) In contrast, the book by Dobson will give an extract of Hebrew text to read, and then points out a few minor grammar points. The order is jumbled, but the information is easily assimilated.

My other problem at the moment is trying to learn lists of Hebrew words (because unlike the Greek exam, we are not allowed to use a dictionary). My memory is pretty rubbish, so every list of new vocab represents many hours of work: writing, reciting, lists on the fridge, letters on my fingers, chants when we jog. Not sure whether I will get there, but I am determined to give it my best shot.

I hope you have something interesting to work on this week. It seems to me, that the most rewarding things usually require an uncomfortable amount of effort–but it’s worth it.

Thanks for reading. Take care.

Love, Anne x

Anne E. Thompson
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Looking at Greek and the Church Evolving

Hello, and how was your weekend?

Last week, the second part of my Greek course started. The tutor gave us an overview of Biblical Greek, and how the culture and church seem to reflect the language.

A Greek Temple

Greek was an enthusiastic language, a sort of bubble of words that flowed like the thoughts in your head. It reminds me of when a 7-year-old writes a story, with lots of “and…and…and…and then…and…” This might be because some of the books in the New Testament were dictated—and that’s how people talk, but it also seems to be a feature of the language. It’s a wonderfully expressive language. In English, a verb basically can tell you what’s happening, and the time period (‘I went’ or ‘I go’) but not much more. In Greek, time is a tiny element, and verbs have aspects that convey whether the action happened once or was on-going, whether the action was passive or active, who did it. There is a lot of mood and feeling in the ancient Greek language.

Sentences in Greek are often very long. When they’re translated into English, the translators usually add punctuation, so a single sentence in Greek might be split into many sentences in English. (Originally, there was no punctuation, and people paused wherever they felt it was right.) The order of the words is not important, with ideas and expressions spurted onto the page in an order that appears to be random.

At the time that Greek was being spoken, the church was meeting in homes. The groups would have been fairly small, and homes automatically convey something intimate, expressive. When someone is sitting in your home, you notice if they are sad or worried, sharing emotions would be natural. Like the language, the church would have been enthusiastically conveying ideas and feelings, passing on the themes that Jesus spoke about—a lot of love and acceptance, looking to God rather than rules, learning how to change.

(Image: Blendspace) A home in New Testament times

As the church grew, people needed somewhere bigger to meet. A suitable building was the hall used as a law court. Instead of all sitting in a home, people now would have faced in the same direction, with a speaker at the front. The speaker would have been sitting where during the rest of the week the judge presiding over the court would have sat. The language gradually changed from Greek to Latin, which I understand is a language with strict rules.

The emphasis of the church also seemed to change, moving from expressions of love and freedom towards deciding rules. Who, exactly, was a Christian? Did they need to be circumcised? What were the rules of this new religion? What were the essentials that a person needed to believe in so they could be ‘classified’ as a Christian?

Today, we might like to think our churches are like the friendly church that met in homes, but we do seem to spend a lot of time talking about ‘non-Christians’ and the points they need to believe so that they can ‘become a Christian.’

Churches are currently seeing another huge change, as around the world they are unable to meet in person and services are all virtual. People miss being in the same space, being able to chat with their friends, touch each other, share a smile. But there are good elements too. People who are house-bound are able to be part of the fellowship again. Those who work unsociable hours can watch the service when they have time. People who want to be anonymous can watch a service unseen, they can listen to the Bible truths without having to defend their privacy, without the ‘danger’ of having to join something they are not yet sure about. I know that some churches have many more people ‘logging-on’ to their services than used to attend in person. I know of young people who would never have attended a service, but who will watch an online service, because they feel comfortable with that, it’s easy, more like the interactions they are used to.

Personally, I am enjoying Sundays in a way I never have before. As I wrote in a previous blog, it has become a special day, rather than one of duty. I can enjoy a service without being asked to do a job the minute I walk into the building. I have a loud tuneless singing voice and I’m not expected to sing or to keep standing up. When I take communion I am not wondering how many people have coughed on the bread before I eat it or if the server has washed their hands, and when I drink the ‘wine’ I don’t brace ready for an unknown acidic juice of dubious origin. Instead, I can listen to the words, and think about God, and take communion thinking only about what it means and why I am doing it. (Yes, I am bit of a grumpy unsociable person.)

I hope that when (if) the world opens up again and things start to return to normal, the church won’t rush to return to exactly the same model as before. I hope the leaders will keep some of the good things that have arisen this year.

Languages evolve, and people change. The church is simply a group of people trying to follow God together, and it’s interesting to look back and see the changes reflected there too.

Thanks for reading. Hope any changes in your life this week are good ones.

Take care.

Love, Anne x

Anne E. Thompson
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A Greek Temple

The Greek Exam

Greek update

So, a few weeks ago I took my Greek exam. This was very scary, and the source of many sleepless nights. I knew that there would be two passages to translate: one would be from the book of John, and one would be from a random non-Bible-but-same-time-period extract.

During one of our lessons in the autumn, our tutor had casually mentioned he was planning the exam, and there was a certain word, which means pathway, that he was thinking of including. It’s an interesting word because Greek words have a gender (like French words: masculine, feminine, or neuter) however this word is feminine but has a masculine ending (a sort of non-binary word). I took note of this information.

Now, the book of John does not have many places where the word ‘pathway/way’ is used. The most obvious one is the famous passage in John 14, when Jesus declares, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” I decided that this must be the passage that would appear in the exam, and I focussed my revision accordingly. I learnt that passage, and all the Greek words used in it thoroughly. I could parse (take apart and explain each bit) every word, I knew the different forms of the verbs, I could recite it in my sleep.

The morning of the exam arrived. I had not slept the night before, which was partly nerves, and partly due to some particularly noisy roadworks that had started on the road near us and involved noisily scrapping off the road surface all night, for many nights (they are in fact still doing it). I got up feeling sleepy but full of adrenaline and I reminded myself of all the things I used to tell my daughter when she walked into exams exhausted from not sleeping. I had done the work, put in the hours, a cup of coffee and a wallop of adrenaline would compensate for any lack of sleep. At least, I hoped so.

I did my usual coffee and Bible routine—and here we have bit of a miracle. I decided, bizarrely, that instead of reading my Bible at the place I was up to, I would open it randomly and read that passage instead. No idea why I did that. It was a strange passage, about Jesus arguing with the Pharisees about the law and needing two witnesses.

When it was time, I went to my computer for the exam. It was an ‘open book’ exam due to the Covid restrictions (in other words, they realised we couldn’t all assemble in an exam hall, so the exam was written assuming we would use our Greek Bible with lexicon attached). The exam paper appeared at the set time, and I began to read.

The exam lasted for 2 hours, so I had prepared a glass of water and a cold coffee (to top-up the caffeine when necessary). I didn’t touch them. I don’t think I actually took a breath the whole two hours. Or blinked.

At the bottom of each page was a button saying ‘next page.’ On the last page was a button which said ‘ready to end the exam?’ (or something similar). Did that mean when I clicked it, the exam would be whisked away, or that the final few questions were on the next/last page? I was too scared to click it, in case it was the ‘whisked away’ option, so I will never know.

The unseen translation was fairly impossible, and I guessed some of it, trying to use words that I knew were similar to the ones written. At one point I wrote something about, “Why has your face collapsed?” which I knew wasn’t right, but something definitely collapsed and the word looked very similar to ‘face’. I decided I would return to it at the end.

When I clicked onto the translation from John, it was not from Chapter 14 at all. It was however, the passage that I had randomly read that morning. Wow! I felt it was a miracle, and that God was saying “Don’t worry Anne, we’re in this together – you did the preliminary work, I’ll help with the exam.” It was quite a moment.

 I worked my way through the translation, using the Greek I knew, and although I could have done okay anyway, having read it so recently certainly helped. I then returned to the random passage, and was tackling something which I could see I had translated wrongly, when without warning, the paper was whisked away and the two hours had ended.

I took a big breath (two hours is a long time to not breathe for) and drank some cold coffee. Felt like I’d been through a mangle, and did very little for the rest of the day.

One of my fellow students managed to find the unseen passage online, and there was a section about ‘his countenance fell’ which I guess is the part I translated as his face collapsing. Not sure if my tutor laughed or despaired when he read my answers.

You might think I would sleep better after the exam, but I didn’t. The roadworks continued, and I kept thinking of all the mistakes that I realised I had made, all the transliterations where I wrote a ‘v’ instead of an ‘n’ and all the words which I had learnt but simply couldn’t remember. I also, in one terrible moment, realised that at no point had I actually written my name or student number. Could that information have been on the last page which I never dared to look at? Would my efforts be invalidated due to being unidentifiable?

But no, all was fine. A very nice administrator sent through my mark, and I had done better than I had hoped, and am all set for Greek 2. I will hopefully have recovered from the exam in time to take the next one.

Thanks for reading. Hope things go well for you this week too.

Love, Anne

Anne E. Thompson
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Drinking Wine and Learning Greek Verbs…

As you know, I am studying Greek at Spurgeon’s College–which also trains Baptist ministers. I’m not sure if I’m a very good fit with the college, though I am absolutely loving the course.  On Tuesdays, there is a chapel service (all on zoom) which usually has an interesting speaker and music that’s not too terrible (I am not a great lover of most churchy music). Last week we were told there would be a communion service, and we should arrive at our computers suitably prepared.

The day arrived and started in a rush, as all my days tend to. I had my coffee and Bible time, went for a run, fed the ducks and cleaned out the chickens, then realised that I had forgotten to prepare for the communion service. We usually have half-finished wine hanging round the kitchen (because I don’t drink much, and unless it’s drunk with guests it’s left in the fridge for ages—Husband drinks beer). We had half a bottle of red wine lurking next to the microwave, I sloshed some into a big wine glass, grabbed some pitta bread left over from a curry, and hurried to my computer.

The chapel service was nice, and there was some liturgy for everyone to join in with. I left my mic off (it tends to boom nastily) but other people turned theirs on, and as I had set my zoom to ‘speaker view’ I had a lovely parade of faces, all different ages and colours, as people read the words. Then there was a prayer about the communion, and we ate and drank what we had brought. I had my eyes shut, and was mid-prayer when I had a horrible thought—as Spurgeon’s College is primarily a Baptist Minister’s training college, do they frown on alcohol? My eyes were shut, so I have no idea what other people were drinking, but as I lifted my large glass of red wine, I wondered—too late—if perhaps I should have disguised it in an egg cup or mug. I told myself that God wouldn’t care what I was drinking, it was my thoughts that mattered. But I didn’t take a second sip.

My glass of red wine sat on my desk for the rest of the morning. I had poured a generous glassful, and the service was in the morning, so probably not the best time to drink wine and have a productive day. However, after lunch, I thought perhaps I would finish it. I set up the ironing board, and went to collect my wine. Returned to find visiting son about to start a work zoom meeting. He told me that mothers ironing in the background did not look suitably professional, and mothers ironing while drinking wine was even worse. I moved to the kitchen.

The main problem with learning Greek is that my memory is less reliable than hoped. I am faced with lists of words, and I am supposed to remember the endings, but this seems impossible. I know how to remember things—you might recall I wrote a blog about how the brain stores data:

However, this does not seem to apply to Greek words. I read them through at night, hoping desperately that my brain will absorb them, only to wake having completely forgotten them. It seems my brain only remembers all the things I wish it would forget, like the embarrassing time I said completely the wrong thing…or drank red wine with a group of teetotal trainee ministers…

To be honest, at times I feel real panic over my lack of memory. I have to remind myself that I am learning Greek so I can read the New Testament in a new way and the result of the exam doesn’t matter, not really, not compared with real life stuff. I have to stop the panic, because it spoils the fun, and learning Greek is fun, it’s exactly what I had hoped.

Yesterday, I was reading some of one of the books, and I came to a verb I recognised. Now, verb-endings are one of the things I have managed to learn, and I know that if the verb is linked to ‘we’ (we talk, we look, we eat) then the ending is ‘omen’ (but in Greek letters, obviously). I came to the part of the story which introduces Simon, and it said: “Simon, who we call Peter.” I must have read those words a thousand times in English, but reading the phrase in Greek, seeing the end of that verb, made the whole phrase seem very real, very personal, as if the writer was telling me about someone who he knew well—which of course he was! This is why I am learning Greek.

Thank you for reading. Have a good week, and take care.

Love, Anne x

Anne E. Thompson
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Trying to Learn the Greek Alphabet and other interesting stuff

Interesting Greek Facts

A Greek Temple

As I write this, I have managed to survive the introductory ‘Orientation Week’ at Spurgeon’s College and am about to embark on a term of Greek lectures. So far, it has been fine, as the main thing that would terrify me is the logistics—the whole ‘what if the traffic is bad,’ ‘where will I park?’ ‘how do I know where to go/sit/eat,’ ‘what if my brain runs out of energy before the end of a session?’ You can imagine the type of thing. Therefore a term (at least) of all lectures being online, is perfect for me.

Learning Greek

Greek Text Book

I haven’t had any proper lectures yet, but I have enthusiastically started reading the book they sent, and searched the resources they sent for interesting YouTube clips. I have to say, it has proven to be a very interesting week. I hadn’t realised how much of the English I speak has its roots in ancient Greek. Here are some fascinating facts:

The New Testament part of the Bible is written in Koine Greek. ‘Koine’ simply means ‘common’ because it was the common language for about 600 years. Obviously languages evolve—so if I wanted to read Chaucer, I would need to understand the language spoken in that period, whereas Henry VIII spoke a slightly different English. “Ah,” you might say, “but if it’s an ancient language, how do you know how to pronounce it?” Well, I thought the same thing, and the answer is brilliant. Historians study as many sources of the writing as possible—on tombs, and carved onto monuments, and written on manuscripts. They then compare them, and the spelling mistakes give clues about how the words were spoken. Isn’t that great? If you take an English example: “I read the book yesterday,” and find that in 200 instances, the word “read” had been misspelt as “red” then you could conclude that “ea” can be pronounced as the “e” in “red.”

When you learn the Greek alphabet, there are some letters which are very weird, and listed as sounds that we don’t say in English, like Psi. However, the Greek words have evolved into the words that we use today, we simply ignore the bits that we don’t pronounce. So the letter Psi gave us the words for psychology and psychopath and pseudo. (Now you know why they have odd spelling.)

There is a symbol in Greek called a breathing which looks like a tiny ‘c’ and floats above some vowels: αͨ εͨ ιͨ οͨ. When it’s backwards, it’s not pronounced (I don’t yet know what purpose it serves, that will have to be a later blog). But when it’s the correct way round (c) and it’s over a vowel at the start of a word, it adds an ‘h’ sound to the start of the word. In Greek, the letter P is called ‘rho’ and it is apparently a vowel (but only sometimes—again, I can’t yet explain this). This is interesting though, because when it has the breathing over it, an ‘h’ is added to the pronunciation. In English, we don’t say the ‘h’ but it is hidden in words like rheumatism and rhesus and rhetoric.

νόμος (sounds like nom-us) is the Greek word for law. If you add alpha (which looks like a fishy ‘a’ letter) to the front, it means the opposite. So νόμος = law and ανόμος = lawless. We still do this today with some words: symmetrical vs asymmetrical.

The word οͨ means ‘the’ when the word is masculine (I guess like ‘le’ in French, when ‘la’ is feminine) it’s pronounced ‘ho’ because the little ‘c’ adds an ‘h’. The word for God is θεος (‘Theos’) and in the places I’ve found it, it is preceded by the masculine ‘the’—so although I think God is genderless, certainly the Greek word was always masculine. The word θεος appears 1300 times in the New Testament, so I haven’t yet checked them all.

Learning the Greek alphabet in order is, I have decided, impossible. I have managed to learn the letter names (which gives a clue to how they sound) and the symbols for the lower-case letters. Everything I have read so far says not to bother learning capital letters at this stage as they are rarely used, so I have taken this to heart and ignored them completely. What is impossible though is learning the alphabet in order.

α alpha (sounds like ‘a’)

β beta (sounds like ‘b’)

γ gamma (g)

δ delta (d)

ε epsilon (e)

ζ zeta (z)

η eta (a long ‘e’ sound like in ‘air’) this one always confuses me!

θ theta (th)

ι iota (i)

κ kappa (k)

λ lamda (l)

μ mu (m)

ν nu (n) this is a tricky one too

ξ xi (x) easy to remember if you notice it looks like a pair of boobs so is ‘sexy’!

ο omicron (o) I always forget this one. Always.

π pi (p) brings back horrible memories of school mathematics

ρ rho (r) another tricky one because it pretends to be a ‘p’ and really it’s an ‘r’

ς σ sigma (s) this has two symbols, depending on whether it comes in the middle or at the end of a word. It is very hard to remember that σ is ‘s’!

τ tau (t)

υ upsilon (u,y)

φ phi (ph)

χ chi (ch)

ψ psi (ps)

ω omega (o, but a long one like in ‘bone’)

To be honest, I struggle over the order of letters in the English alphabet, and it’s only ever useful when I’m filing (which is never) or looking in a dictionary (which is rare) so why bother? I have tried making useful rhymes to help with the tricky bits: ‘epileptic zebras eat thick ice kittens’ and ‘lovely male nurses x-ray other people’ but I find I start to muddle up the rhymes too. I am shelving it for now and hoping that by the time I do an exam, the lecturer will have moved onto more complicated things and won’t bother to test us for the alphabet.

I sent one of my children a few words written in Greek, wanting to show-off a little. He was able to name all the letters, which was very disappointing (I long for the day I will know something my children don’t know—something beyond what temperature to use on the washing machine or how to hatch an egg). Apparently the Greek alphabet is used a lot in Physics, so he learnt all the letter names and symbols at uni. I think learning to read the language is much more interesting than Physics though, so I have decided that doesn’t count.

I hope you have something interesting too this week.

Thanks for reading. Take care.

Love, Anne x

Anne E. Thompson

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A Greek Temple

Learning Greek

Returning to Education When I am Really Rather Old:

Starting to Learn Greek

You might remember that a couple of weeks ago, I mentioned that I plan to learn the languages that the Bible was originally written in—ancient Hebrew and Greek. I enrolled in a course at Spurgeon’s College, was accepted, and the term is now about to begin. It is a long time since I attended a college. It has all been very scary! These are the most terrifying points to date:

I received an email, saying we need to rearrange the timetable as one member of the class works on Thursdays. Wednesday was suggested, but I have my Mandarin lesson on Wednesdays—should I admit that I am learning another language or will that be seen as a conflict? I decided to say I was busy that day but not give a reason.

After much pondering, when a form arrived asking if I have any special needs, I indicated that I do (one of the diffy students, as my family put it). Since my brain surgery, there are a few things I cannot manage—like concentrating for more than about two hours without a break. But how to communicate that in a way that showed I was still an intelligent human, I simply need a ‘brain break’ to recharge? I therefore ticked the ‘special needs’ box, explained that this simply meant I might need to go and sit in my car for 20 minutes to recharge (I sounded like a synth in Humans!) and waited to see what would happen. A very nice email came back, saying they had made a note of my potential need, and I should let them know if I need anything. Very kind.

The college have their own website thing: Moodle and I was told how to log-on. This was extremely scary, as it is full of acronyms which I didn’t understand, and a complex array of colours and links. I looked at it, then shut it down again quickly.

The following day, I forced myself to log-on again and try to make sense of some of it. I managed to find the timetable for my course and printed it off (it is comforting to have something written on paper when you’re my age). This then directed me to some pre-course preparation that I was meant to complete.

I went back to Moodle, and watched the Principle giving a short speech. Logged off.

Returned when I had recovered, and found a short test that I needed to complete. It is a long, long time since I have done an exam. It was all done online, and it had to be completed within an hour, so there was a little clock ticking away in the corner of the screen to add a further element of stress. I didn’t know whether I could return to pages once they were complete, or if it would wipe my answers, so I tried to completely finish and proof-read each question before going to the next page. The time whizzed past. Husband was especially noisy, so I yelled at him to shut his door. A telephone rang. My pulse was racing, I forgot to breathe. But the questions were fine. Some were very quick (put the correct word into the space) and some took longer (add punctuation to an essay). It was all very churchy, but I guess that’s to be expected at a Bible college, even though it was an English test. I finished, within the hour, and sent it off. Went for a cup of tea.

Learning Greek

Greek Text Book

The next excitement was a parcel. I have been sent a ‘Teach Yourself New Testament Greek’ book (doesn’t show much faith in the tutor, but maybe they’re covering their backs!) It looks fabulous, and I am dying to dive in. The first chapter is called Read This First so of course I ignored that and flicked straight to the alphabet page. What fun! I am chanting every time I go upstairs now, it’s like teaching the children the alphabet when they were small, but without the annoying tune: Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, Epsilon, Zeta…

When I did go back and read the first chapter, it was brilliant. As you know, when I was too ill to be able to do anything else, I learnt Mandarin. I was never able to learn languages at school, so I tried to teach myself differently, surrounding myself with the language and not worrying too much about making progress or understanding everything as I went. I now speak very bad, but pretty fluent, Mandarin (it’s good enough for me to have coffee with a friend who speaks no English and we manage pretty well to discuss our children and mothers-in-law). Anyway, this book suggested all the things I had discovered as a way to learn a language—like not trying to completely understand everything before moving on to the next thing (the opposite of how you would learn maths) and attempting to read things that are ‘too difficult’ so your brain can work them out, and not studying for too long because the brain assimilates information when you are ‘resting’ rather than studying. I was very excited! I went and bubbled about it to Husband. He has now set a time limit on how long I am allowed to tell him about my Greek lessons. But that doesn’t matter, because I can tell you instead.

I will let you know in a future blog how my Orientation Week and first lectures go. It’s all being done virtually this semester, so I’m planning to wear my killer heels and a pink wig.

Hope you have some excitement this week too. Thanks for reading.

Take care.

Love, Anne x

Anne E. Thompson

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Happy New Year!

Happy New Year! I hope you have enjoyed the whole Christmas period and 2017 is a good one for you. I always think the new year is like an unopened gift, none of us know what it will bring, but it makes us look ahead, to think about things we might like to change or try harder with.

One thing I would like to change is a Christmas gift husband bought for our sons. We had a ‘Men in Black’ party, so he thought it would be a good idea to give them alien guns. It wasn’t. The gun lit up when fired and made a noise. A very loud, irritating noise. Like those toys which people who have never had children buy for your toddlers (and you remove the batteries as soon as they leave.) Except, my sons are not toddlers. They are 20 and 22.

Did you like my story? It was bit of an experiment. Modern European literature has everything in a story build towards the end, where the climax is. However, I have been reading about ancient Greek literature, where the climax, the most important part, is in the middle. It acts like a sort of hinge, with the elements on either side balancing each other. I found this a very interesting idea, so would like to try and write my next book, Clara Oakes, in this style. Not in a way that the reader especially notices, it will read like a normal novel, but just for my own amusement, to see if I can. So “One of those days…” was a practise for me. It was more difficult than I thought, though quite fun to write, bit of a challenge.
If you missed it, the link is:

We saw a lot of the extended family over the holiday, which was nice. I’m very fortunate, as our family all gets on very well, the cousins enjoy being with each other and we share the same sense of humour. One tradition is a games evening at my sister-in-law’s. Each family takes a game, and we eat bacon sandwiches, and sit around on chairs and the floor, chatting and playing games.

One game was a memory game, which involved lots of changing seats and remembering names that changed every turn. I was completely confused the entire time.

Another game was a word game. We worked in pairs, and were given a word or picture. We then, independently, wrote a prescribed number of other words, which related to what we were given. This list was compared with our partner, and we got points for all those which were the same. So for example, one word was ‘Airport’. I wrote: Heathrow, Gatwick, Newark, JFK, Manchester, Luton, Stansted. My husband wrote all the same, except he wrote ‘City’ instead of Manchester, so we got 6 points.

My brother was with my mother. Trying to guess what my mother thinks is quite a challenge, so he had a very difficult job. For ‘Airport’, Mum wrote: planes, Ruth leaves, Ruth arrives, noise. He didn’t manage to match any of those (can’t think why!) My personal favourite was the word ‘Compass’. Mum wrote: come, pass, useful, Ben Tucker. Again, none of my brother’s words matched, though Mum was able to explain exactly how her choices were completely logical. It was very funny.

Of course, the couple who scored the highest were my sons. I sometimes think they’re the same person shared between two different bodies. Ever since son 2 was born, they have basically been a unit. Even now, when the second son returns home, his brother greets him in the hall and they start talking and they talk, or play computer games, or watch telly, until one of them leaves. They are in ‘boy world’ and the rest of us are outside. Which is nice. Unless they have alien guns. Then they’re just annoying.

Have a lovely 2017.
Take care,
Anne x