27 January, 2008

What'm I Reading?

A review for you, of a recently read book: Arthur; the Seeing Stone.

We went to a meet-the-author event at the Arts Centre late last year to see Kevin Crossley-Holland, and were surprised that JAG was the only person under twenty there, and even more surprised to discover that the author enjoyed in this household for his Arthur books was actually better known for being a poet and Anglo-Saxon scholar. The upshot was that we all enjoyed it ~ including Crossley-Holland, who had the, possibly unexpected, task of making it interesting for a group of adults and one child with varied expectations ~ and it was, for me, a learning experience.

I now know that i enjoy some of Crossley-Holland's poetry; i would like to get his translation of Beowulf and compare it with that of Heaney which Chen and i read and liked; and i was, eventually, stimulated to read this book, the first of the Arthur trilogy, and therefore the rest which will follow for me. I found this a much quicker read than i had expected ~ probably i'd have read it before if i'd realised ~ which was partly facilitated by the style of having a lot of very short (less than two pages, most) chapters, and jumping the action quite quickly (though not usually within the chapter) between the past and the present so that neither ever grows tedious. Arthur-the-narrator, as opposed to Arthur-in-the-stone, is a lovely character; sufficiently precocious to be able to be writing and holding my interest at age thirteen, yet na├»ve enough to be worried about a “devil part” his body is growing, he tells us everything, but he doesn't know everything, so we are both left partly in the dark, as the book progresses. Lovely; it only remains to be seen if Crossley-Holland can keep it up for another three books ~ yes, another “trilogy” with more than the requisite number of books!

21 January, 2008

I go to...?

There is a youngster who works with me at GPHQ whom it is so easy to tease that really it's no challenge at all. As well as our mutual employment, she also is taking a course at the local 6th form college. Her goal is to complete this course, then apply to and attend a university, and emerge with some form of employable degree. The teasing ~ and my interest in it today ~ comes from the fact that, as in so many other areas, our language use is slightly different.

Here, apparently, it is an insult to call all places of education schools, the word being reserved solely for use with those institutions which actually have the word in their name ~ Penglais Secondary School, or Rhydypennau Primary School, for example ~ and not for other places. Thus, since although my friend is still involved in her secondary education she is attending a college, not a school, all i have to do is to ask her when i see her how school is going for her to be annoyed.

This is, to me, a funny distinction to make, as in the usage i am used to (Canadian?, American?, i don't know) school is used to all levels ~ primary, secondary, and tertiary ~ with no derogatory implication. Thus, i have talked about doing this or that “at school” referring to the post-grad university course i'm taking. In fact, my friend usually tries to tease me back when i ask her about school by saying something along the same lines to me, but it has no effect ~ to her further annoyance.

The reason that i find this interesting is that it seems to me to run ~ in both parts of it ~ counter to the stereotype. One expects, according to type, North Americans to be quite concerned with status, especially their own, and thus if they were attending a university to be sure all know that fact, rather than allowing it to be called school or, as is also often the case, college. The British, however, have a reputation for understatement, for allowing the wrong impression to gained by people they meet. How curious it is, then, that my British friend is so concerned (apparently as a cultural influence) that her college be recognised as such.

Goes to prove, i suppose, that stereotypes are merely a guide to what can be expected, not graven in stone guarantees of what people will be like. Maybe that's what makes them dangerous.