Study Session

Well, let's look at the stuff; Miss Pussyfinger assisting.

I have this on The Celts: they came originally from Eastern Europe, spreading westward during the Bronze Age into Gaul and Spain, England and Wales, Italy and Greece. Could they have reached the Canary Islands? Their European spread was essentially land-based, but the Canary Islands were reached from the sea and their original inhabitants, the Guanches, were not seafarers. Fancy, living among these millions of pine trees yet having no knowledge of ship-building! Added to which the language does not have the same root, for Guanche is a Berber-Bedouin language from West Africa, whereas Celtic is Indo-European based.

For me the use of language has always had a curious fascination. Why, for instance, is American English held to be wrong in spelling, in style, in intonation and stress? It probably isn't. For American English is the English taken there by the Pilgrim Fathers. So what on earth compelled me to bring out Clarke Hall and Morrison On Children with supplements to the ninth edition and statutory instruments appertaining thereto? Did I need reminding in Tenerife of the duty placed on local authorities in England regarding children at risk? Not morbid introspection, just a bleak reminder of a relatively useless period of my life that ended with an order to protect Margaret under the Guardianship Act of 1973 from her pig of a father whose use of language and threatening behaviour drove my women colleagues out of the interview room until it was my turn as duty officer when he threw a punch at me and I beat him savagely all the way to the lifts. Vengeance, a great way to end a social-work career!
I should not have enjoyed it. But I did.

Likewise Street On Torts shows me the labyrinthine eloquence into which language can take us, the head-banging clarifications remind me of the exasperating caution of legal minds that extend far beyond my understanding: nicely resolved in the case of non-attendance at school where the boy's father working away from home imposed the duties of 'man of the house' on his son. Every time the mother went to the shops the boy had to accompany her. The case was resolved not by imposing a supervision order on the boy and possibly wrecking the family structure, but by an injunction protecting the boy's mother from nuisance by the neighbour walking his dogs across her front garden and being abusive in manner and speech. Although the tort of nuisance was considered substantial, trespass was not, despite the dogs fouling her garden. However, once the injunction was applied nuisance ceased and the boy returned to full school attendance. I got all this from the family's solicitor. Intrigued by this gratifying escape from Children's Law I bought a second-hand copy of Street On Torts from Barnardo's book shop on Wanstead High Street to find the law on Torts to be even more voluminous than Clarke Hall and Morrison On Children.

And there's this, A Manual of Phonography - Pitman's Pocket Shorthand Dictionary, not wanted on voyage, but kept close by in case sweet Lizzie had to go back to the grot if the Tenerife enterprise failed, though I fear the practical reason shrank in favour of sentiment, for the book belonged to Great Aunt Ruby. Inside it are numerous notes on the origins of European languages; for example the Europeans left India before the invention of writing. Sanskrit sounds very similar to the European languages - but only vocalisation was brought with them when they left India. Myths and legends can last for thousands of years passed on by word of mouth. OK, so where are Guanche myths and legends? They didn't have a written language. So where did written language come from? Did it sort of descend from Olympus?

There is the remains of a language whistled and understood by the Guanche before the language of Spain arrived in these islands. Lizzie and I heard it whistled on our first trip to La Gomera in 1985. What loops of the mind could bring those few musical notes back into modern understanding? And how could one score it into the written word?

This is it with me! Too easily I get sidetracked and forget what it was I was looking for. It's too hot to have the windows closed and bad cat Mimi has gone out on the window ledge. If I chuck her out of the door she'll only make a nuisance. So I shall leave her out on the window ledge until Lizzie appears on the scene and that means more argument. Poor Mimi! She may not last a third fall.

Anyway, we have Children, Torts, and dear old Pitman, three icons to a former age: and now we have Bob Gethin's stuff to have a go at. He mentions Homo Ultimus, human development that went a step too far. I'm not sure why but I'm hesitant to start. It may be quite hairy. It's the old Potem thing.

Yes. Those old tactical tricks employed whilst seeking motivation, procrastination, warding off the inevitable, like calling on Joe Seet, his smiling wife and delightfully cheeky Chinese children in 1B1.Vic. We loaned them a cot, and are now wilfully detaining him because the next encounter will be sticky - Mrs Mouthpiece in Parke Margarita 609.

We can't possibly be unique specimens of failure. If this Potem thing doesn't happen to the saintly few I would like to hear words of success from them. They get through more work than we do - or perhaps we think they do, and that's what they want us to think!

As for Bob Gethin's stuff - I think we have bitten off more than we can chew! My pet zooologist's comparative remarks that the Guanche knew nothing about seafaring and only waded thigh deep to catch fish inshore suggest they are rather like Gorillas kept in zoos and surrounded by moats of water. Water soothes them and keeps them there.

Talking of water, it was the waterfall that drew us to the Barranco. The rest of it was simply horrendous. Another thing - never use a Potem to write poetry, it kicks time into the sidelines.


Flowing free and wont to revel
Seeking its own natural level,
Quite innocent of guile or charm
Yet charm it has, waylays to calm
Mindful tasks and hurried pace,
Just water leaping into space.
No sounds of substance save its own
Well-played harmonies with stone.
Here reality and magic meet
And vagrant eyes stern minds defeat
In compelling wonder, held in thrall
By a simple tumbling waterfall.

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