Category Archives: articles

Should we just get over ourselves?

Donald Trump possesses the vocabulary of a six-year old. There. I’ve said it. His soundbite reaction to the recent terror attack in Manchester, England, could well have come from a first-grader. Occasionally he’ll blurt out a big word he’s heard from a grown-up, but mostly he spouts a limited range of one- and two-syllable favorites: ‘loser’, ‘big’, ‘bigly’ (who’d have thought that was a thing?), ‘huge’, ‘very’. To us Europeans, and to most literate Americans he is an object of ridicule, but in a country where 87% of adults have a reading level of ‘less than proficient’*, Lord Dampnut is speaking a language the majority can understand. No rhetoric here, just plain, old-timey comic-book lingo that the average baseball-cap wearing, gun-toting good ole boy can understand without phoning a friend. Perhaps that’s not such a bad thing; maybe it’s time for those of us who have actually read a book or two to climb down from our high horses and, well, get over ourselves.

Don’t get me wrong, I love words. I live for literature. I eat novels for breakfast. I write for a living. As a librarian for some twenty-five years I fought against the snobbery shown by some of my colleagues when the craze for graphic novels and manga began. Reluctant readers, especially young boys, suddenly found something in books they could relate to. Kids who had never been to a library suddenly clamored for the next Pokemon adventure. It was OK for 8-12 year olds to read books with colored pictures. It was cool to be caught reading! There was palpable relief on the faces of parents who had previously been tearing their hair out trying to encourage their offspring to read. And although I would still see grandparents and well-meaning great-aunts wistfully eyeing the Beatrix Potters and untouched editions of Little Women, I would explain to them that it really didn’t matter what children read, so long as they read something. Even the back of a cereal box over breakfast was better than nothing; and from there to a non-threatening, short book, with bright, engaging pictures and not-too-many words on each page is but a short step.

I experienced a similar effect with the ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ phenomenon. Women (mostly) who wouldn’t voluntarily be seen dead in a library (a sort of inverse snobbery popular in my part of the UK), were now actually joining the library and bringing their friends along too. Not only that, but once they’d worked their way through the trilogy, they asked for more! M’Lud, I rest my case. Senior librarians threw their hands up in horror that I would encourage such liberated nonsense. There was a general feeling from the powers-that-be that they preferred falling visitor numbers and failing libraries to the radical concept of giving people what they wanted. They should be reading Dostoevsky or nothing!

So, let’s circle back to 45 and his down-to-earth, no-nonsense approach to the English language. And I use the terms ‘nonsense’ and ‘English language’ advisedly in his case. As I’ve said in previous articles, America is a kindergarten nation, ruled over by toddlers. If Great Britain was the same age, we’d be living in the 1450s. So perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised when America’s petulant president finds big words baffling, concepts confusing and manners mystifying. Perhaps we should exercise some patience and follow the ‘gold medal’ example set by the Saudis during Trump’s presidential visit; placate the baby with something shiny and distracting. The diplomatic equivalent of a gold star sticker for literacy progress. Is it time for us to dumb down, or for the leader of the free world to wise up?

 

* National Institute of Literacy, August 2016.

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Great British icons: six of the best

Which one do you miss? I expect every ex-pat has their own list of goodies they would take to their desert island (or, in my case, northern Arizona). Here are a few of mine:

 

PG Tips

pg_tipsOh how I miss a decent cuppa! OK, you can get them in the USA – if you’re willing to pay $13 for a small box, which I’m not. I shall certainly be stocking up on these next time I visit the UK…

 

Marmite

Marmite

Love it or hate it, it’s been a British breakfast staple for several generations. Dr Nick and I were both raised on Marmite-on-toast and Marmite sandwiches for tea…

 

Bird’s custard

InstantCustardI admit to cheating on the custard front – I much prefer instant. But whether you make it the old-fashioned way or like me prefer to boil a kettle, it’s still the ultimate in comfort food.

 

Bisto

BistoFavorites

Gravy as we know it. Order gravy in the USA and you’ll get something white and glutinous, triggering one of those ‘spit or swallow’ conversations…

 

Fray Bentos steak & kidney pie

Fray

Dr Nick’s favourite. Don’t ask me why, but there are some things a man just can’t go without.

 

Walkers cheese & onion crisps

WalkersNo other crisp even comes close. Why does the cheese and onion crisp not exist in America? Discuss.

 

Which Great British Icon do you miss? Which food items would you miss if you lived away from your home country? I’d love to know!

 

Oil-spill clean-up

Over 200 affected guillemots and razorbills were rescued from the south coast of England and brought to RSPCA West Hatch for cleaning following the spillage of a contaminant in early February 2013.

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Birds were treated by experienced staff using a pre-wash application of margarine and liquid vegetable oil.

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This was followed by careful washing with Fairy Liquid

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A steady period of monitored feeding and rehabilitation follows…

bold guillies P1030186

Clean, happy guillies!!!

All images copyright Marnie Doble 2013.

Seal Jumping

West Hatch wildlife rescue induction: it is, on occasion, OK to jump on a seal. But NOT to try to kiss a cormorant. I feel a book coming on…”

Wildlife

Yay! Best day ever at RSPCA West Hatch. Marzipan (favourite cat) will soon be off to a new home. She spent the morning climbing up my arms, across my back and down the other side. My first afternoon in Wildlife and I hand-fed baby herring gulls, stroked baby hedgehogs, saw a buzzard, three woodpeckers and a great crested grebe at close quarters! Oh, and cleaned up a lot of poo. Next week: chopping up day-old chicks…

A cure for ear mites…

My latest RSPCA Capers posting has been delayed this week due to the trauma it has caused. Imagine, if you will, holding a cat while gloopy, white, ear mite cream is liberally applied. Imagine then, dear reader, said cat vigourously shaking its head, thereby covering cattery volunteer’s face and mouth in gloopy, grey, ear mite debris…