Archiv für März 2012

Where There’s Smoke, There’s Fire!


Smoking and alcohol! Often seen, as the two most deadly sins of modern society. Having discussed alcohol in a previous blog, why not take a look at it. I thought, it was time to deal with smoking.

In the last few years, we have experienced some very Dragonian restrictions on smoking – especially in public buildings. In Britain, the latest laws ban having tobacco products on view in shops, bars, etc. They must be concealed under the counter. And all brands of cigarettes must be identically labelled.

In the meantime, (just two weeks ago) another considerable tax increase on tobacco became law. Smoking has become a very expensive habit. The politicians seem to think that this will reduce smoking considerably  – I doubt it. Certainly, fewer people now smoke than, say, fifty years ago, but I have the impression, that today many more teenage girls smoke, than previously. It’s a very difficult habit to break.

As you know, there are various so-called, habit-breaker products on the market. But do they really work efficiently? I think, the most effective way is to eliminate the inner desire to smoke. I know of some instances, where hypnotism has been completely successful. In my own case,

I stopped smoking some years ago. How? I made a list of all the disadvantages of smoking. I think, that there must have been, at least, 8 – 10 items on my list. Then, every time I took out a cigarette to smoke, I mentally went through each item, giving it my full concentration. After two or three weeks, I found myself hating the whole concept of smoking. Nevertheless, I continued smoking, disliking each cigarette more than the one before. My target was, to stop smoking, on the 24th of December of that year. So, on the evening of the 24th I stopped, so happy, that I didn’t have to smoke another cigarette.

Today, it would be impossible for me, to put any form of tobacco between my lips. Perhaps, you could call it ‘self-hypnotism’. Anyway, I’m sure I won’t die of lung cancer!


considerable    – big

Draconian -   hard laws

concealed - out of sight

Streets Ahead?


My regular readers will probably know, that I live in Oxford. Well, one day, quite recently, I was in Oxford city centre, thinking of nothing in particular. I suddenly realised how many buses there were. By contrast, there were no cars. Just buses. Red buses. Blue buses. Green buses. White buses. Nothing but buses! Some were double deckers; most of them were single deckers. Some were full of passengers. some were empty. Some were half full, and some with just a few passengers. Each bus had the name of its destination.

I have been living in Oxford for six years, but am still baffled by the multiple names of small towns and villages, around Oxford, which are serviced by these buses. I suppose, that the city council’s original planning was designed to keep cars out of Oxford. Good! But now, instead of streets being crowded by cars, they are crowded by buses. How ridiculous! Where is the advantage? Cars simply replaced by buses.Who could have thought up this crazy idea? At the same time, car park-house parking fees, were increased enormously.

Then the silly thought occurred to me – if all the streets were suddenly cleared of buses, they would be empty, and if I then shouted, would my shout be echoed? Ah well! You may ask what I was doing while thinking these thoughts – I was sitting in a bus, on the way home, feeling how nice it was – no driving in dense traffic, no exorbitant parking fees. Wonderful buses!


Streets ahead – a saying, meaning, better/more advanced than others

destination – objective, or end of a journey

baffled – confused

crowd/ed -  full, usually of people, but can be of objects

dense -   full, solid, thick , e.g. dense fog

exorbitant -   highly our of proportion

The Perfect Passport


In common with many animals, we humans have a sometimes very strong, herding instinct. That is to say, we identify ourselves as members of a group, like a herd of cattle,, or sheep. We have our family, our village or town, our country, our skin colour, etc., etc.

Historically, this herding, was essential to our existence. It afforded the individual  protection from outside dangers. Still today, we live with wars, sealed frontiers, even trade wars. Our national flags can be seen as trade marks, or group identity symbols. What other use have they? O.K. I doubt if the future will bring us much change.

But stop! For me, there is a gleam of hope shining through all this. Music! Often, when listening to classical music, I realise that the composer is Chinese, or Russian, Jewish, West Indian,  African, etc. That old herding instinct is then completely absent. How wonderful! I don’t need a passport, or visa, or any kind of permit.

Wouldn’t it be exciting if international life  could be conducted through music in place of politics? Impractical? Yes, I suppose it is. But please, don’t shatter my dreams.


afforded  – allowed

gleam -   faint light

conducted – carried / taken / organised



In last week’s blog, I mentioned that I generally prefer listening to the radio rather than watching TV. I also said, that radio used a wider language vocabulary than TV. As a result of this, I become more aware of changes in the use of words. Added to which, I suppose that I notice these changes, more than many people, because of my language training background.

The following is a small sample of my observations. Take  the word ‘absolutely ‘.Both, Brits and American use the word equally,. Here is a typical, simple word exchange: ‘The Olympic Games will bring thousands of people to London, won’t they.’ ‘Oh, absolutely’. Instead of ‘absolutely’, the answer could just as easily have been: ‘Yes’, ‘Yes, indeed’, ‘Certainly’,  ‘I agree’, ‘Exactly’, ‘Surely’, etc.  But no! Absolutely, seems to be the only word, people can think of.

Another word is ‘basically’. Frequently used, meaning: ‘Usually’, ‘Generally’, ‘Normally’, ‘Regularly’, ‘Often’, ‘As a general rule,’ etc., etc.

Then, the word ‘do’ is being used more and more, instead of the appropriate verb. Example: ‘I don’t do football anymore’, instead of ‘I don’t play football anymore’. ‘We do Christmas in South Africa’, in place of,‘We spend Christmas in South Africa’.

Grammar is also changing. Take for example a sign over a supermarket check-out: ‘Less than 10 items here’. We all know, that ‘less’ should be used with the uncountable, or singular case. The correct word for the plural case being ‘fewer’.

Are these sorts of variations taking place in your own native language? If so, it would be interesting to hear about them. I sometimes ask myself, whether I should be irritated by such inconsistencies of English, or simply accept that it is just another evolutionary process, which has always existed in modern languages. Why not do a chat about it? What an absolutely good idea!


appropriate – suitable, apt, proper

inconsistent not constant, irregular

Hear! Hear!


At the moment, while writing this blog, I have a background of classical music on the radio. It’s a very pleasant sound, which requires little, or no concentration on my part. It seems to lubricate my thought process.

When I don’t need to concentrate on something specific, I often listen to BBC Radio 4. This is a radio station which is composed mostly of the spoken word, rather than music. It contains topics of the most varied and interesting sort.

Recently, I realised how much more time I spend listening to the radio than watching television. So I asked myself, why this is. And here, I must add, that my opinions are strictly applicable, only to myself. Other people may have other opinions. Anyway, I realised how very different the two media are. TV has the advantage of having vision as a strong aid, to express a given situation. Radio, of course, does not have this option, and must depend solely on the spoken word.

In my view, this often requires a much more descriptive form of language, in turn involving a far greater use of vocabulary, than TV does. The latest ‘Oscar’ winning film, is a silent film, i.e. no spoken words. I agree that such a film requires a very high standard of artistry. But, if you take your eyes off the screen, you are lost. With radio, there is no such restriction. You can look out of your window, drive your car, bake a cake, etc., etc., and not lose any of the programme content. In my opinion, TV can often almost replace quality, by simply putting colour and movement on the screen. Language plays a secondary role. Yes, of course, I realise, that some TV programmes have high standards of both, vision and sound, but for me, they are strictly in the minority.

I’m sure my views will provoke a lot of criticism. Well, if so, let’s hear from you.


applicable -   relevant

rely on -   rest on / subject to

descriptive -   expressive

involving -   requiring / including