Wednesday, October 27, 2010

An Old Joke. Truly.

Hidden in the depths of a late medieval anthology is proof that the minds of the early 16th century dedicated some time to the truly important questions:

How many calves tayles behoveth to reche from the erthe to the skye?

And the answer (Ready?):

No more but one if it be long ynough.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Distractions from Botany

I remembered last night that I had a book about 19th-century plant collectors which I had yet to read, and thought it was an excellent juncture at which to browse through and get an extra line or two on David Douglas. It was the browsing that proved to be a bit of a difficulty: shuffling through the pages, I was detained by the wonderfully botanical name of Richard Spruce. But I ask you, what kind of book is it, that drawing you in close to read about an Englishman with a wonderfully botanical name, casually drops the information that he played the bagpipes, and never bothers to tell you whether they were Highland or Northumbrian (or Galician, for all one can guess), or the steps he took to maintain a good reed in the mountains of South America, where he collected quinine trees? Not a very nice kind of a book, if you ask me.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

And There's More!

Back in August I posted a video of Bruce MacGregor playing a smashing strathspey and reel set. I hadn't realized, at the time, that there was another great video floating around from the same show, featuring "Lochanside", and lots of jigs, mostly pipe tunes, if I'm not mistaken. So here it is:

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


In Carmichael, down on Manzanita Avenue, there is a Goodwill branch which has a most unfortunate habit. Not to beat around the bush: they keep their books in remarkable order. Not Dewey Decimalised or anything (which would be almost creepy, or at least, given the vagaries of the stock, just about miraculous) but tidy, you know, so when you go in looking for a cookbook, you are not horrified by the sight of Yorkshire Terriers on the cookbook shelf. Of course, this is a terrible state of affairs, because if you should happen to stop by this particular store (I'm not saying I ever did) you might actually find A Man for All Seasons on the drama shelf (they have a drama shelf. . .I mean, I hear they have a drama shelf) or something by Robert Frost wonderfully dogeared (but not Yorkshire terriered) on the poetry shelf. Or a book on the Sutton Hoo treasure on the history shelf.

Okay. Fine. I was in there last week, and, yes, I bought a book on the Sutton Hoo treasure. It seemed like just the thing every well-stocked Old English library needed. (One more parentheses: I have a lifelong ambition to have a well-stocked Old English library. I have no idea what that has to do with actually reading the books.)

Now, at last, we cut to the point of this soliloquy: the effects of reading the introduction and the preface to a book on Sutton Hoo. One might read the introduction and the preface to the book on a rare occasion when one is very early to work. One might forget to take the book out of the car after work. And, faced, one afternoon, with the incalculable distance from the house to the car, one might decide to supplement one's Old English studies with that 21st century phenomenon known as the Internet. In which case, where better to turn than the British Museum?

Frankly, I think anywhere would be better than the British Museum. Because if you go there, you might be reminded of the Lewis Chessmen, or you might be apprised of the existence of the Vindolanda Tablets. Which might distract you from making the trek to the car for the book on Sutton Hoo.