As you will by now have seen, the Yorkshire Viking has not been updated a while. I was firstly dispirited by the new laws in Norway that came into effect in 2014. Since then, however, many things have happened; the political world is scarcely recognizable today after the British vote to leave the EU. In terms of how that has realigned how I identify with myself, and my relationship to the place I grew up, it has ruled out reactivating a blog that proudly displayed the colours of Adwick School.
I have indeed decided to restart Yorkshire Viking. However, the whole site will be updated. As for the logo, that looks like it will stay, even though that is based upon Adwick too. The reason is that that is something which I have created to stand for me. It is a derivative work of my own. Furthermore, although I see myself as utterly estranged from a community that has (as I see it) stabbed my grandparents’ generation and my own upbringing in the back, I cannot deny that I did come from it – and I see no sense in trying to erase that which denotes my origins in the logo.
For this same reason, indeed, neither will the Yorkshire Viking Site disappear either. It will be archived – complete in its present form – and accessible from the revamped blog.
I like blogging. Language fascinates me.
It wasn’t always so. Though my blogs’ theme used to be based on my old school uniform [this post was written before the new design of Yorkshire Viking, and therefore tenses are rewritten. Editor 2017] , my schoolboy English was not something to be proud of. I consistently failed the old “O” level English examination until 1983, two years after leaving school. Indeed I also failed the examination in the Summer of that year as well!
When I decided to retake my failed examination something remarkable happened. This was at the former Doncaster Metropolitan Institute of Higher Education in that same Autumn. They held evening classes at the now demolished site in Waterdale, in the centre of town. All of us attending were there to redo in a matter of a few weeks what we had tried, and failed to do that Summer.
I wish I could remember the name of our teacher. He changed the course of my life – in more ways than I knew at the time, and not only in the English language. He shut the classroom door, and gesticulated that he had something to say to us almost as though he were afraid of saying it and might lose his job if he said it out aloud.
I can’t remember now when the course began, but he didn’t have a lot of time to change our failed examinations into passes. Therefore I can’t remember exactly how many weeks he said that we had, but what he said was truly astonishing. He said that we had only so many weeks until the examination, but he could guarantee us success if we would follow his method. There was only one catch: his method was an old fashioned one, and some did not approve of it in modern teaching.
Until these evening classes, I had used English “automatically” with my internal “autopilot”. That is to say that I wrote what I should say, and never thought about it any more than one thinks about how one walks. It is my belief that many people are now doing this very thing, and without most of these realizing it, their language does their thinking for them rather than letting them express ideas that they themselves have put together. Our teacher wanted us to analyse our language.
Obtaining so our surreptitious consent, he then introduced us to what we had thought was a very dirty word – grammar! In some respects, English is like a building that has lost one of its rooms. We started looking not just at how that building was today, but how it once used to be.
English address is a good example of this, where the plural has now to double up as a singular. Unless you know that, then it seems like the use of a plural verb, “are” for example, when one is addressing only one individual is just one of the many exceptions-to-the-rule that plague anyone who wants to use the language. Unless you have the grammatical bird’s eye view from above, then indeed it will seem like many complicated rules and exception to the rules just as in our example here.
We started writing out tables…. I am, thou art, he/she/it is, we are, ye(you) are, they are. We briefly looked at Middle English, but I have to say that most of what I now know of that came later. Nevertheless it was from the interest this evening class ignited inside me. Needless to say, I could see why verbs ended the ways they did very quickly. In Modern English, one simply cuts out the “thou” address, and replaces the “eth” verb ending with the “s” that we have today in the third person singular. Not complicated at all!
One of my major sins used to be the misplaced apostrophe. This subversive grammarian taught us that there were two types of apostrophe: the first when the apostrophe was used to show omission, and the second use to show possession. This was before I ever even heard of things like the genitive case, through my own study that followed!
Since I often pop into George Barton’s blog, and follow him on Twitter I have been introduced to the term “the apostrophe police”. This refers to those (like me) who have the audacity to pick people up on misplaced apostrophes. Nevertheless, for those of you who once and for all – guarantee! – want to learn this so you never make a mistake again, I shall give you the infallible rule.
The first use of the apostrophe is for an omission. Instead of writing the two words “it is”, you can contract these to “it’s”. The apostrophe stands for the omitted letter “i”. Instead of writing “you are”, you can contract to “you’re”, and the apostrophe is in place of the omitted letter “a”.
The second use, which I began this post with when I referred to the school uniform theme my blogs now use, is to show possession. You can very simply find out where to put the apostrophe here by rewriting the sentence using the preposition “of”. For example:
- the children’s toys – rewrite, the toys of the children (you know to put the apostrophe between “n” and “s”)
- the child’s book – rewrite, the book of the child (you know that the apostrophe is between “d” and “s”)
- the boys’ choir – rewrite, the choir of the boys (unless you really mean that one boy has started, and perhaps leads the choir, and that it is his project – then you know there are several of them, and the apostrophe comes after the “s” at the end)
- the boy’s friend – rewrite, the friend of the boy
So, whatever it is that you actually mean, write it first as an “of” sentence it you are in doubt! This always works! So if anyone thought that I had made a mistake at the beginning of this post, it should now be apparent that I was writing about the theme of my blogs (and not my blog). Yorkshire Viking Norway is twinned with a Norwegian sister blog.
I wish I could remember the name of our teacher who got me my English qualification. I should like to thank him. However I cannot, but I pay tribute here. What is more, if you follow the advice above, neither will you go wrong. Ever!
Poetical Writing from My Unemployment
In Norway we have a saying. “Ingenting er så galt at det ikke er godt for noe“. It means “Nothing is so bad that there is nothing good about it”. I thought about that last night when I found something I thought had been lost forever.
Back in 1986 I was still living at home with my parents. It was a difficult time. I was no longer in full time education, and I was unemployed. At the age of 21, this was no good situation. With the benefit of hindsight, I can now see how remaining at home so late was extremely destructive to our relationships, but because of my unemployment I simply did not have the means to do anything about this. This resulted in a dysfunctional situation that arguably re-enforced itself in a vicious circle, both with respects to life at home and my prospects for getting out of the unemployment queue.
Because of these circumstances, I went through a crisis mentally. The carefree world I had known in childhood, with its security and comfort was now gone, and I met each day with foreboding and uncertainty. Now thank God – after an influential person who has sadly left this world gave me a reference – I was ultimately successful in getting back into education, and I did leave that queue. Nevertheless it was from this time that I first started putting my thoughts to paper.
“The Enemy” is something I thought had been lost in 2010. I had a flood in the cellar of where I then was living here in Norway, and the original paper containing this got destroyed. Although I had made a copy on my harddisk, I have never been able to find it – until now.
A few weeks ago, I had a devastating harddisk crash, and my friend Jon Blamire in Finnsnes was very kind in telling me exactly how I might rescue my data. After having placed my damaged disk in an enclosure, and being successful in rescuing it, I have been applying the same technique on another yet older disk I have. And sure enough, what do I find today, if not that poetical writing from 1986 that I thought I had lost!
If there is anything that really is interesting, taken as it is from the year 1986 (when I spoke only English), it shows how sensitive I was even then to the distinction between “you” (singular) and “you” (plural). That is something that constantly bothered me, and in many respects still does when I am using English, because I actually think it and am frustrated in trying to communicate it. It is interesting because it shows how different I really must have been given that this is not a feature of the culture I was born in.
The EnemyBe as nasty as you may; you all shall fail. You shall not trouble nor defeat me. I have overcome the lot of you. Your strength is in deception, craftily planned; my strength is in the LORD, whose seal is truth. You are nothing. You are false and empty of all reason. Which of you has any truth? Yet you would dare still to trouble me – and many others too. You are children of deception, the breath of falsehood! Many lives you have laid waste. The ones you hurt are out of sight, rotting in a mental knacker’s yard. They cry aloud, but are not heard. Your crimes go unreported to the world. And so it goes for forever on: each day another joins their ranks. You are the enemy. Like raiders of long ago, you come hoard upon hoard against us, invading the peace and the tranquillity of our minds. How many of you there are! But cowards – all of you! Not to the strong, but to the weak your deadly army goes. Destruction of the self follows you; you leave nothing for our salvaging. Yes you – you are the enemy! These are the ones who have brought us to despair. We were fooled by their crafty game. Haunting us has been their play. We are humans; phantoms they. These ghosts are nothing but good trickery. They should not cause us further fear. Can you not see their emptiness yourself? Shine a light; they disappear! They are shadows in your mind! Ignore them; they can do no harm. You shall live again, and you shall give them nothing for their meal. You shall live in liberty, fearing but Almighty God. Mark my words and have no fear! Unpleasant things will still cross your path. Fear the LORD and worry not! He brings goodness out of ill. Wait for Him and for His will. That is the only thing of any great importance. He is your saviour and your Lord! And if there yet remain some bad thing within your life – then, friend, take this advice. You lead a new life, free of fear and following God; so you be a good Christian, and remember it is more blessed to give than to receive – give it to the enemy.
The above text, with few alterations, was written by me in 1986. The “enemy” was all the troubled thoughts I had at that time, which I looking back upon see as particularly critical.
During that time my thoughts became, as I recall myself thinking of them, “noisy”. However – and thanks be to God – I did not ever think of them as anything other than troublesome thoughts. That is to say, that I remained at all times conscious of what was real and what was not. This critical period lasted until the very early nineties, when I gradually became less troubled by things. I cannot remember any exact date when I realised I no longer had a problem, but I guess it must again have been at some point in the early nineties shortly after I had arrived in Norway.
Not being a psychologist, and never having been to one, I can only suggest the causes of this internal personal crisis. I believe that it was caused in part by long term unemployment, coupled with my related inability to move out of the nest, and away from my parents. Certain people spoke of me as a parasite for that reason. I would “muse” on the meaning of life, that seemed to have disappeared with the end of my school days. It is now my belief that I thought about things a little too much.
In terms of my literary output, this period was quite constructive. I wrote poems and other short pieces of writing. It is not untrue to say that I developed my own special form of English. Of particular interest as mentioned above was my concern to distinguish between “you” in the singular and “you” as the pure plural.
Now that all this lies in the past, I find it much easier to speak about. I put it out on my Site, hoping that it will serve as encouragement for others.
The choir of St. Thomas Church in Leipzig is one I definitely want to hear. I’ve almost decided now – whether or not I think my budget is where it should be – that next year I really am going to have to go there before I turn fifty.
A week or so ago I found this wonderful YouTube clip. There’s a whole concert indeed (a rarity on YouTube), and given that Google has sold out to the Performing Rights’ people, and YouTube videos will shortly be going behind paywalls and those uploading them will have to “clear” them automatically before the upload (“clear” being these people’s euphemism for “pay”) I think you had better enjoy this while you can.
The Wachet Auf Cantata by J.S Bach BWV 140 has a special significance for me. I have one of those memories that is in the “read only” section of my brain. On Monday 10th December 1979, I was transferred to the former Adwick School, just before my fifteenth birthday. My first music lesson began at 1.20 pm and lasted until school ended at 3.20 pm. I even remember that this lesson was in the school’s “periods” five, six and seven. This was the work our teacher, Mr Ketley was teaching. Every single time I now hear Wachet Auf my mind goes through a mental wormhole – and I find myself transported back in time to his class that very day!
It is an association that hasn’t just appeared this year now that our poor school has been razed to the ground. When I went to the former Polytechnic in Huddersfield, I would make references to it in my compositions. In 1989, at the end of my first year, we had to write string quartets, and the Music Department brought in professional players to have them performed. I placed my Wachet Auf reference bang in the middle of mine; or more accurately, I put my Adwick reference there, since that is what it has become for me.
This is a lovely video, but I do fear that the new rules will mean we shall get less of them. So enjoy it while you can!