Meeting and greeting

© C A Lovegrove

You should know me by now, you’ll know I don’t usually like book tagging, in fact I don’t usually do tags. Specifically, I don’t do the kind of tags which pose all kinds of impertinent questions, almost up to but not quite asking “What is your PIN number?” (Don’t get me started on the tautology involved in that last phrase.)

But when, under the tag Good to Meetcha, Bookforager posted some quirky questions which I found strangely pertinent I was, dear Reader, extremely tempted. In fact I went further and swallowed the hook, the line and the veritable sinker.

I hate the usual “what do you do?” and “where are you from?” questions that normally get fired out upon making a new acquaintance. The answers invariably fail to give me any sense of the person I’m talking to, and feel … judge-y. So this tag is about the things I actually want to know when I first meet a new person (specifically, the ones I want to be friends with).

Bookforager, ‘Fun for Monday

How could I resist? More to the point, how can anyone resist such an inviting preamble?

© C A Lovegrove

1. What’s that in your bag / pockets?
I shall resist the urge to hiss Preciousss, along with the expected litany listing keys, phone, wallet, cards etc, and instead note the more unexpected items in the bagging area, er, I mean man-bag — a trusty black backpack. Item: one bland letter from our Tory MP in reply to an earlier howl of anger and disappointment, to which I mentally draft suitable and unsuitable responses. Items: pens, pencils, sellotape and other small stationery objects, a tie-over from my previous incarnation as a teacher. Item: a packet of anti-fogging cleaning wipes for my glasses when I’m wearing a mask, and a sign o’ the times.

Scribbled notes on genealogies and chronologies for Midwinter Nightingale

2. Do you keep a notebook, and what do you keep in it?
Yes, in fact I keep several, the majority with notes on books I’m reading, along with one pocket book in which I jot down memories of childhood incidents in preparation for the memoir I’m currently writing for our children and grandchildren.

Fantasy prison design by Piranesi

3. What’s one book you recommend remorselessly to anyone who’ll listen?
Currently that will, without a shadow of a doubt, be Susanna Clarke’s captivating novel Piranesi, the worth of which has been confirmed by it recently receiving the Women’s Prize for Fiction. Have you read it yet? If not, why not?

Image credit: Brightside

4. Tell a funny story about yourself and books.
Like many a prolific young bookworm I got mercilessly and, it felt at the time, cruelly teased by my parents for mispronouncing words I’d read, such as ‘causial’ for ‘casual’. I got the last laugh though from the meme shown above now going the rounds. (It still hurts though, that laughter.)

5. Do you have any favourite words?
Verisimilitude. Synchronicity. Facsimile. Serendipity. Veracity. Indubitably. Synecdoche. Paradigm. Eucatastrophe. Et cetera. Sic. (I learned all these, and more, from reading voraciously … even if, when I should have written There was dissention in the ranks for a History essay, I substituted the word dysentery — “this is a nasty disease,” as my teacher wrote in red.) I’m currently reading The Liar’s Dictionary by Eley Williams which may well furnish me with a few more favourite words…

MAP of the various LANDS visited by Tom at by the OTHER END OF NOWHERE © C A Lovegrove

6. What’s a favourite book from childhood?
Charles Kingsley’s The Water-Babies: a Fairy Tale for Land Babies, first in a condensed version, then with all the Rabelaisian lists and unexpected digressions when the author got onto his favourite hobbyhorses. A curious and haunting work about Tom the water-baby which has obsessed me ever since.

7. Do you like the smell of books?
Well, duh. If the implication is, Do you like the sensual aspect of physical books? then the answer is a less sarcastic and more wholehearted Yes!

Dragon by Jenny Williams

8. What’s the weirdest book you’ve ever read?
In many years of studying many aspects of King Arthur, the Grail and related areas, I’ve come across several books that have involved the needless destruction of woodland tracts and the unwilling suspension of disbelief through the promulgation of ‘alternative facts’, faulty logic and messianic pretensions. I’ll mention just one example: The Holy Kingdom, a blistering review of which I entitled ‘Unreadable Nonsense’. This is a post which continues to regularly receive daily views (over 1500 in total) since I published it a year ago; it occasionally even attracts illiterate, often abusive, responses. That such farragos of fakery are published by mainstream publishers is what I find especially weird, followed by the cohorts of rabid supporters who think “there must be something in it.” No, there ain’t.

9. How do you feel about dragons?
When I’m not channelling a unicorn I’m rather partial to a dragon or two; in fact I’ve been gradually putting together a post or two about dragons in general and literary dragons in particular. But I confess to being a bit pernicketty about their nature and appearance. Shown above, Jenny Williams’s pop art dragon for Margaret Mahy’s The Lion in the Meadow, for example, is magnificently imaginative — even imaginatively magnificent! — but it bothers me that like many of its fictional relations it has six limbs. Six! Let that sink in. I much prefer the winged bipedal dragon known as the wyvern, in Welsh gwiber, both ultimately derived from the Latin vipera meaning of course a poisonous snake; the wyvern has wings for forelimbs but the usual number of back legs: two, perambulating, for the purpose of. Expect more guff on this and other composite beasties in those future posts!

Edward Topsell’s lopsided biped dragon

10. What are you looking forward to right now?
Such a big question! Here’s a provisional list.

  • The end of fake news and the return of rational discourse, compassion for others and care for nature, environment, the planet and everything, the realisation that extreme politicians are playing us for fools and… Oh, is this not what you meant?
  • For time to stop or at least slow down so I can read the humungous piles of unread novels, write the books I want to write, see relatives and friends with… Oh, again, not quite this?
  • Okay, let’s keep it simple: I’m looking forward to live classical concerts, live performing — things are opening up in Wales steadily (if people are sensible) — and I’ve really missed singing, accompanying on the piano, playing orchestral piano for Cardiff Philharmonic, and so on. Music, as much as are books, is my spiritual life blood and the last eighteen months have been a kind of limbo for me, and for far too many of us. Thankfully I’ve already had a couple of gigs, and that’s a start.
  • Finally I’m most looking forward to other bloggers’ takes — yours perhaps as well? — on Bookforager’s questions, possibly revelatory but hopefully fun. As Bookforager says, it’d be good to meetcha!

Today is a special day, the autumn equinox in the northern hemisphere and the spring equivalent in the southern. The equinoxes and the solstices have been celebrated in many cultures as times of transition and change, with celebrations of one sort or another to mark them.

In medieval Europe the nearest big religious feast was Michaelmas on 29th September, marking the last opportunity to harvest crops; it was also a ‘quarter day’ when workers were paid off, new workers were hired and university terms began. So my greeting to you is Happy Equinox!

© C A Lovegrove

35 thoughts on “Meeting and greeting

  1. This made me smile, Chris. It does indeed paint a very accurate picture of the you I know through your posts 😊 Especially when the favourite words came up! I look forward to more on dragons. I’m also looking forward to reading Piranesi though it may be a while before I get to it. Your endorsement will nudge it up the list a bit. Or maybe a lot!

    I’m very glad that we ‘met’ in the blogosphere 😊 Happy equinox to you also and although I can’t say that in Cornish, I can offer ‘Kynnyav yw hag yma an howl an splanna!’ (It’s autumn and the sun is shining!) 🍁

    Liked by 2 people

    1. From “Kynnyav yw hag yma an howl an splanna” I recognised “yma” and “howl” because they’re the same or similar to Welsh yma (here) and haul (sun) in Welsh. In Welsh your phrase might be “Mae’n hydref (yma) ac mae’r haul yn tywynnu” — and, after the early morning mists, that’s true of the Usk valley!

      I can’t say more about Piranesi other than it’s so short that I had to ration myself to a few pages at a time to prolong the enjoyment. And I’ve scheduled a repost of a review of a curious book on dragons for Friday to whet the appetite for more dragon lore.

      And finally, thank you, I’m pleased this reflected the ‘me’ I try to get across in my posts!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. jjlothin

    Wonderful list of questions and answers! I will just dip my toe in the waters by thanking you very much indeed for introducing me to ‘eucatastrophe’, which from now on I will be using at every opportunity …

    … and adding that my mind conflated Qs 6 and 8 in a flash and came up with the answer, Flatland ( I read my mother’s old copy in my early teens and have never forgotten it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, JJ! ‘Eucatastrophe’ is actually a word of Tolkien’s own coining, and he also offers its opposite, dyscatastrophe: the first tends to be found in ancient Greek comedies (as well as fairytales and the odd fantasy), the second in tragedies of many periods. Being fundamentally a pessimistic realist, I hope for the former but expect the latter, meaning it’s win-win for me either way!

      I came across Flatland in A Dictionary of Imaginary Places quite a few years ago, and though the description there made it sound dry as dust maybe I ought to give it a go—unless it’s too weird to contemplate?! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. jjlothin

        I think of myself as a realist too – which in my (possibly biased) view is neither an optimist nor a pessimist but a person of good sense.

        As for Flatland, I wouldn’t like to vouch for it as it’s a long, long time since I read it. It could well be that I was influenced by the enthusiasm of my mother, who taught maths!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh I really enjoyed this! What questions would I like to ask. . . something to think about. One of my favourite words is rhythm – writing it, spelling it and saying it. Is Michaelmas also the traditional time for farms to change hands? I might have the wrong date but it feels familiar. Happy Equinox to you and I will read Piranesi!


    1. I have to be honest, Jane, these were Bookforager’s questions and not my own, but they were what encouraged me to use this meme in the first place. I agree, ‘rhythm’ is a great words to spell and say. By the way, did you know that ‘rhyme’ should really be ‘rime’, as in ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’? At some stage it was decided the ‘rime’ should look more distinguished by making it similar to the word ‘rhythm’ (from the Greek ῥυθμός). I’m sure millions of pupils have since cursed the idiosyncratic spelling of rhythm and rhyme!

      I think you’re correct about the hiring of farm hands at Michaelmas: it used to happen at all the quarter days — Christmas, Lady Day, Midsummer and Michaelmas — these being the religious equivalents of the solstices and equinoxes.

      When the calendar changed from the Julian (Old Style) to the Gregorian (New Style) reckoning in September 1752, ‘Give us back our eleven days!’ was the cry from workers who’d felt they’d been short-changed by the eleven days they’d worked — which had then summarily been removed from the month after the government changed calendars to align Britain with most of Europe; most of the continent had been using New Style dates for the best part of two centuries. When Michaelmas 1752 came along they would’ve felt they wouldn’t be paid for all the days they’d worked that quarter, and so they rioted.


  4. I love eucatastrophe – a new one to me, which I shall hopefully find a use for in the not too distant future (though all these crime novels in my reading rarely end eucatastrophically). Happy equinox!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. If, in a crime novel, the guilty party gets caught and punished, then that’s a eucatastrophe for everyone and the reader too, I guess; but from the criminal’s point of view such a denouement would be a dyscatastrophe!

      The ‘strophe’ Greek root is about turning, and another favourite word of mine (though I rarely have occasion to use it) is ‘boustrophedon’, literally an ‘ox-turn’. This refers to writing where successive lines change direction much as an ox pulling a plough would change direction at the end of a furrow. On the day of the equinox that sense of starting a turn as daylight hours lessen and hours of darkness increase is a great time to contemplate the strophic impulse!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Loved reading this Chris, your sense of humour comes through strongly. Your man bag contains far more interesting items than my various handbags. Biscuit crumbs and sweet wrappers can’t compete with literary notebooks

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, my man bag has a few biscuit crumbs in it as well, Karen! But, just to clarify, my literary notebooks either reside on my bedside table or on a designated shelf (when they haven’t sidled off into another room) — I daren’t pop them in my backpack for fear of them getting, ahem, full of crumbs…


    1. Thanks, Anne, glad we share views on humanity’s ideal future. Perhaps it’ll include a particular circle of hell for our current cohort of corrupt, lying politicians. Dante identified it as Malebolge, the eighth circle, meaning ‘evil ditches’, and anywhere from the sixth to the tenth ditch would be suitable for them and their ilk.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you so much for doing this tag! ❤

    I love your favourite words – particularly ‘serendipity’ – and have to agree with you on those first two in your list of things you’re looking forward to. 😃

    I was nodding my head so hard reading your comments on learning words through reading, but not pronunciation. Not something that should be laughed at, but so often it is. I can’t think of the word that still gives me trouble even now, but this is an ongoing issue! 😊

    (Feel a bit stupid that I’ve only just realised ‘do you like the smell of books?’ is a closed question and really kind of redundant. I’m hanging my head and begging pardon). ❤


    1. I have to say I really enjoyed doing it, absolutely down to your stimulating questions! And I thank my stars that the bloggers I follow aren’t the sort to demur from what I said about my hopes for the future.

      I still misdoubt myself over pronunciation. TV makeover programmes have been recently following the antipodean / American way of pronouncing pergola with the stress on the second syllable, and here was stupid me saying it the Italian way with the stress on the first! (And don’t let me blather on about the proper pronunciation of ‘harass’ and ‘harassing’…)

      No apology needed: a simple yes or no answer was required but I chose to waffle a bit, as is my wont!


  7. OK, so my take on BookForager’s questions…

    1. What’s that in your bag / pockets?
    Pencil, pen knife, eraser, mini sketchbook, purse, phone, rescue meds and ear plugs

    2. Do you keep a notebook, and what do you keep in it?
    I keep a “Learning Journal”. I was first told to do this for a counselling course I did 25 years ago! I found it so useful that I have kept one ever since. I focus on understanding my life, the world and other people.

    3. What’s one book you recommend remorselessly to anyone who’ll listen?
    Well “one” is just impossible so I’ll go for “Wyrd Sisters” by Terry Pratchett, “All Tomorrow’s Parties” by William Gibson, “Darth Plagueis” by James Luceno

    4. Tell a funny story about yourself and books.
    I used to keep the books I was currently reading on my bed at night to stop my sister (with whom I shared a bedroom) hiding them to annoy me. I once had so many books on my bed that I fell out and got into trouble for waking everyone up.

    5. Do you have any favourite words?
    Not as such, I think I prefer the meanings behind some words and phrases, like “roast dinner”, “May the force be with you”, “oak tree” and, a firm favourite, “apple-pie and custard”.

    6. What’s a favourite book from childhood?
    “Foundation’s Edge” by Asimov

    7. Do you like the smell of books?
    Yes – its intoxicating!

    8. What’s the weirdest book you’ve ever read?
    I don’t know. The thing I love most about books is that you get to see the world through someone elses eyes and, once you see what they are seeing, it no longer seems weird. I think the only books which seem weird to me are ones I can’t understand. I read “Jules et Jim” by Henri-Pierre Roché (in English Translation) when I was about 14 and felt that it was weird (and wonderful) at the time but I think that was mostly because I didn’t understand it properly and didn’t have the experience or maturity to see it in context. It seemed to me to describe an approach to life which was really free and deep. But when I read it as an adult it had somehow lost its magic and its weirdness.

    9. How do you feel about dragons?
    I really dislike the trope of evil western greedy dragons and (like you) I can’t stand winged, four-legged dragons. That anatomy is just wrong and so stupid. I’m find with fourlegged dragons if they have no wings (especially asian style dragons) and I’m fine with Wyverns too (although I feel that the legs should be at the back). Most of all I love Ursula Le Guin’s ideas about dragons being somehow tied up the wild nature. (More on this next week, since I have a post on this already scheduled!)

    10. What are you looking forward to right now?
    Mostly an end to tooth-ache and the new Dune film coming out in October.


  8. Great post! You didn’t tell me in my post you were a professional pianist 🙂 The Water-Babies sounds fascinating. I think I spotted the title for the first time in a book titled 1000 books to read before you die, or 500, I can’t remember, and wondered about it. The concept of water babies sounds so unusual and fantastical. Looking back I feel like my enjoyment of Piranesi wasn’t up to that required level because of my love for Clarke’s Jonathan Strange, but then when an author produces a literary masterpiece everything else will necessarily pale in comparison. And then what happened with that twist and the second half of Piranesi? Not so sure, but what I am almost sure is that we would get Piranesi 2 in some distant future.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No, I didn’t, but I’m in awe of anyone who embarks on the piano as an adult! But if you mean by “professional pianist” that I sometimes get paid for playing but just as often not, then I’m a professional! Sadly, with lockdown and the the subsequent lack of motivation to practise, my technique (which was never outstanding) has slipped to — just about adequate. But I do expect to be playing with Cardiff Philharmonic for their annual movie music concerts, and maybe a couple of classical gigs in 2022 where orchestral piano is required, but that’s just for the love of it, no money changes hands!

      The Kingsley book is a tricky book to read now—some then common contemporary prejudices about stereotypes are evident, for example—but there is still much to admire, not least the nature writing. Piranesi, on the other hand, is so different from JS&MN that I have no trouble admiring it for its own sake, and yes, that twist, that totally puts the first half into perspective.

      Liked by 1 person

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  10. “I shall resist the urge to hiss Preciousss” — LOLOLOLOL

    Also LOL-ing at the bit about the letter from the Tory MP. “in reply to an earlier howl of anger and disappointment, to which I mentally draft suitable and unsuitable responses”

    “a packet of anti-fogging cleaning wipes for my glasses when I’m wearing a mask,” — ahhh brilliant!!! I was standing in a restaurant, waiting for my to-go order, trying not to breathe because every time I did my glasses fogged up thanks to my mask. I need to add those wipes to my shopping list!

    Love the picture of your Scribbled notes on genealogies and chronologies for Midwinter Nightingale!!!! I just got done jotting down 39 pages of notes (yes excessive, no this is not normal or routine for me) trying to keep track of what was going on in Sylvia Townsend Warner’s The Corner That Held Them. Many, many Priests, Prioresses, and Nuns.

    No, I have not read Piranesi yet, but I’m taking a leap of faith and just borrowed an ebook from the library! I’ll let you know if it was my cup of tea or not.

    Ugh, I’m so sorry you were laughed at for mispronouncing words, I’m SO glad that I didn’t laugh at our little neighbor girl the other day when she proudly showed me her library book about a giraffe and mispronounced the giraffe’s name, Mimi. I think she said “Mymy”. All I did was take the book from her and read the first page out loud, with the correct pronunciation, and she said “Oh, ok MeeMee” . I, myself, was recently laughed at by a (male) Manager at work because I pronounced Alerus wrong. Why do people have to be so mean about stuff???

    Also loling at your list of things you’re looking forward to. “Oh, again, not quite this?” Hee hee!

    Ok thanks for telling us about the original post at Bookforager and your great answers and pictures. Now I’m going to look for other bloggers who participated.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. 39 pages for a STW novel! I shall never match that — though I haven’t read The Corner That Held Them I do have a collection of her Elfin and Cat’s Cradle short stories to read. But do read Piranesi, I’m sure you won’t regret it.

      ‘MyMy’ sounds an excellent t attempt at Mimi, and entirely logical. And now I’m wondering how I should pronounce Little My from the Moomin books…

      Are you also thinking of doing this tag? I’d be grateful to know if and when you do! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I read and loved Piranesi!!! Especially the parts involving his journals/diaries and his entire system of labeling and numbering them. Thanks for telling us about that book!


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