Thursday, 22 January 2009

A day's a day...

So, I'm 42 tomorrow. As my Mum is 84 just now I feel (almost) as middle-aged as a person can feel, I think. It's quite pleasant though...I feel old enough not to care what I look like (not that I was ever that bothered on that front...) and young enough to walk for miles and miles and miles without creaking too much or needing medical assistance. I've forgotten most of my youthful mistakes and wrong turns (well, some of them) and I feel happy within myself most of the time...well, when I'm near home at least. Now I need to work on venturing out and about a bit more again (this year's project). I'm even going to be very brave and tell you what my new year's resolution is for 2009 (brave because then I have to stick to it!). It's 'less fear' (I sounds like the kind of thing young men have painted on the side of their cars). I couldn't stretch to 'no fear' (not yet) because this is a long, slow recovery apparently. Still, it is better than no recovery at all...or just making the same mistakes over and over again.

Speaking of recovery, my brother (he of the brain surgery in New Zealand) is doing very well I'm thrilled to report and he has his birthday this week too. He will even be out of hospital in time and will be 46 on the 25th which is of course Burns Day (Scottish poet Robert Burns, was born on 25th January 1759...for those of you who have somehow missed this detail). The event is usually referred to as Burns Night – perhaps because Burns was one for, let's say, the entertainments of the later part of the day - and I've always been a little jealous of my brother sharing Burns' birthday. It might be nice to have that poetic destiny thing on your side, mightn't it? My brother, of course, couldn't care less – poetry is not exactly high on his list of interests (sensible bloke). These days I hear a lot of Burns songs (going as I do to folk clubs up here) and I really love them. I have a CD of Eddi Reader singing lots of them and here's a taste of how she does it:

I even have a poem called 'Avon kiss' (in the 'love' poems section on website) which came about when I misheard the name of 'Ae fond kiss' on the radio! On a related note Archie Fisher at the folk club here this week read out some amusing rewritten versions of Burns songs that someone has been sending to him via email. They were very good and I'll try to track down a link. As for the real thing I've read a couple of the 'lives' of Burns you can buy (and there are a couple more just out) and I have (even!) tried to read some of the poems (but I do better when I hear someone else read them properly).

Even growing up in the cultural wasteland that is England I was very aware of the significance of the 25th January and Robbie Burns. I think maybe the headmistress of my primary school was Scottish because she certainly read us a Burns poem every year on that date and I shouldn't think that happens in too many English schools. Now, of course, Small Girl is in a Scottish school so she learns a Scots poem every year for the Scottish afternoon they have in Burns' honour (poetry reciting competition, singing, dancing...). She has no Scottish accent at all as yet (in fact she doesn't even have a Northern English accent like me and her Dad...she speaks like her Grandma...and the rest of the royal family...). My Mum was born in Edinburgh to English parents (does that make me a bit Scottish...I never know...) and she lived there till she was about 21. She has very little Scottish in her voice that you would notice but that's...a subject for another time...

Apart from one year in Spain I lived in England more-or-less non-stop until I was 35. Then in 2002 Mark and Small Girl and I moved to Angus in Scotland and I have loved pretty much every minute of the last seven years in one way or another. I still sound more 'Coronation Street' than 'River City' (or any other Scottish TV programme you can think of) but I can hear little bits of Scottish phrasing creeping into my choice of expression. Now and again I find myself 'going up to my bed', for example, or 'going away down the road' or asking 'can I get..?' in shops. As a linguist (or former linguist), I love hearing languages get to work and make their presence felt. Here on the east coast of the country there's a lot of real Scots about and I've found some of its vocabulary making its way into my language too. Some of the words are just so perfect - like today I looked at a crow and thought 'you know they look and sound much more like a craw than a crow'. I also like the business of calling your husband/partner/bloke your 'man'. For those of us who aren't married it gets us out of that awkward partner/boyfriend/bloke moment and once I feel comfortable saying it it will be really useful (it still feels a bit forced if I say it just now). When I first heard people using 'man' in that way up here it very much reminded me of the German I learned at school (because in German 'mann' means 'man' and 'husband') so I wrote a poem about it using bits of German (I haven't studied it since I was 18...I did A level and spent a couple of summers in Austria working as a rubbish au-pair). It's no coincidence of course but I'll leave it to someone more qualified in the history of the Scots language to explain all that (Montrose poet Raymond Vettese who writes in Scots is fascinating on the subject, for instance – I heard him lecture on Burns and Scots a couple of years back).

My 'man' poem was printed in the Scottish arts paper 'Northwords Now' in March 2007 - which was very nice of them. I notice they are on-line now as well as in print which is good as finding a copy down this way used to be quite a labour (they are based in Inverness)! And is that Hugh McMillan I see on their home page! I believe it is. World domination can not be far away now, Shug. But anyway, here is the poem in question and even if you don't know any German it should make at least some sense. It is on the 'Scottish Interest' section of the 'Poems' section of my website too (which some of you might like to visit – only 9 poems...a friendly, easy-going poems about misery or the pointlessness of existence anywhere to be seen...). It's a love poem, a language poem, a poem...

My man

My man
They say here
Like the Germans
Mein Mann

He is great
My man
How would they say it?

He works
He is warm
Sehr warm
Like a heater

He remembers
That's a tricky one
Er erinnert sich an
Bloody hell
I can remember it
Ich kann

RF about 2005

And then finally here is a present from me to me...a little bit of Karine Polwart...possibly Scotland's finest singer/songwriter (and that's really saying something because there are heaps of great ones). You don't actually see her on this clip (heavens, she would be amazing if she was that young!) but it's a good recording (unlike some of the stuff on YouTube) and the song seems kind of right for today. Or tomorrow. Or the next day. Enjoy.


Susan said...

Happy Birthday to you and your brother! I'm 42 too; I think it's a great age to be.

Rachel Fox said...

Thanks Susan. I'll find out tomorrow!

The Weaver of Grass said...

Happy Birthday Rachel!
Interesting that you are beginning to pick up the odd phrase of Scots-speak! I find that living in North Yorkshire and being married to a Yorkshireman, I too begin to pick up local jargon - haven't quite got as far as ee by gum but am getting there.

Rachel Fox said...

I presumed you were a Yorkie, Weaver. Where are you from originally then?

I lived 13 years in West Yorkshire as an adult and a couple in North Yorks as a child so I have a fair amount of Yorkshire accent in the mix.


Sorlil said...

Happy Birthday for tomorrow! I'm amazed your little one hasn't picked up the accent, I only need to be on holiday somewhere and I start picking up the local twang, lol!

Rachel Fox said...

I can hear some Scottish sounds in her voice sometimes, Sorlil, but nothing I would call accent as yet. She is largely in her own world though which might have something to do with it (well, her own world and the magical kingdom of dogs of course). Plus she spends a lot of time with her Grandma (and takes after her in many ways!). Interesting...

By contrast I love local accents, dialects, languages...the more the voice is a right old mixture and getting more that way all the time. That Chumbawamba CD I keep mentioning has a song called 'Goodbye RP'! I'm sure you know what RP is but for anyone who doesn't it is Received Pronunciation (what used to be known as 'proper' English!). BBC R4 and its critics are still arguing about it (so I read this week...).

Poetikat said...

I hope you have a brilliant day tomorrow! I've got over 5 years on you and they've not been too bad, so never fear. I'm very glad to hear your brother is doing well.

Your poem calls the Billie Holiday song, "My Man" to my mind.

As for Burns, one of the first poems I ever remember my father reading to me was "To a Mouse". I'm pretty sure it has had some effect on my relationship with the natural world.


Rachel Fox said...

Barbara S - did you mean this to go here rather than further down?

Such a fulsom post my dear - happy birthday. I like the Ger-man poem ;) and happy birthday to your bruvva, and good to hear he's on the mend.

I'm still growing up, like Sorlil says, and have no idea what's around the corner, and that's the way I like it ;)

Rachel Fox said...

Good shout on the Holiday song, Kat. I hadn't thought about that one in connection with the poem at all. I haven't listened to BH for years...must do something about that.

And Barbara - I think you have much less need of the fear resolution than me. Must feel good.


Wishing you the happiest of birthdays tomorrow, Rachel! And to your brother later in the week. My John Mark (the second of the five)will be 21 on the 29th. When did this happen? And how old is Small Girl?

As always, I leave your blog with a smile on my face. Have the best of birthdays tomorrow!

Rachel Fox said...

Our girl is 8 and three quarters (or thereabouts).
Thanks for the wishes and smiles, Susan.

Rachel Fox said...

p.s. some of my bestest friends here have 5 children!

deemikay said...

Happy Birthday. And to your brother as well. :)

(My great-grandmother on my mother's side always claimed we were descended from Burns... I don't want to find out if it's true or not. A nice wee mystery will do me fine...)

And another link with birthdays and the German poem... it's my german friend Christina's birthday today. It's all connected. All connected.

(And I didn't know you had another website with poems on it... I'm off for a nosy!)

deemikay said...

Why one is childish rather than pretentious

Because quite enough other people
Already do
So well
And so regularly

Made me smile :)

Rachel Fox said...

Yes, it started with the website (, then the myspace, then blog fever took hold...The site needs updating now - there are poems to add (I put almost everything up on there...only a couple of unfinished or way too personal ones haven't made it on), a couple of changes to make (noticed a typo today - horror or horrors!), some details to add to the information. Must speak to my in-house webmaster!

Glad you like the 'childish' poem. It's an old one now but I still have some affection for it...and I still feel the same way, more or less.


Crafty Green Poet said...

Happy Birthday Rachel, I'm 42 too. Hogmanay is my birthday. Like you I'm English but find more and more Scotls intonation and vocabulary creeping into my speech, anyone from the south of England tends to think i have a Scottish accent but that certainly isn't true. Still Manchester really. Glad your brother is doing well

Rachel Fox said...

Thanks Juliet. 42 is looking like THE age to be this year. Just as well really.

hope said...

Happy Birthday! With the time difference, you might actually receive this greeting closer to the real day. :)

Glad to hear your brother is doing well and that his sister Rachel does not fear her real age. I'll never understand own Mom and her buddy STILL send "29 and holding" birthday cards.

Oh I too love accents and words...and you people in Blog World Across the Pond keep creeping not only into my writing, but into my speech as well. Will let the Emerald Isle take responsibility for me muttering "shite" the other day. :)

Have a extra special birthday...because you deserve it! Here, put this in your jar...x.

smith3000 said...

Happy birthday Foxy, hope you have a lovely day.


Rachel Fox said...

And good morning to you two. Thanks Hope...I don't understand women who can't face their age...they're only years!

And Smithy...being called Foxy makes me feel young anyway. Some time back years ago (when I was about 12) I was even Foxy's little sister!


Liz said...

Rachel, happy birthday! And best wishes to your brother too - great news on him doing so well - what a relief for all of your family!

We have a Burns night here - they fly the haggis in, last time, the left-over haggis was being divided at the end of the night - it was funny watching folk, a bit staggery on their feet, carrying plastic bags of haggis home! : )


Rachel Fox said...

Thanks Liz. My brother is doing well but now we have an aunt ill in hospital so are worrying about her instead!

As for the haggis...Karine Polwart has a lovely song called 'Follow the heron home' but I fear I will be singing new words to it next time...'carry the haggis home...' anyone?


shug said...

Happy Birthday Rachel, and glad your brother's doing well. I will be haggis crunching and speechifying in the Volunteeer Arms on Burns Night. Enjoy your one.

Rachel Fox said...

And will you be recording it for YouTube?

deemikay said...

Ooh, MySpace as well... I may add you.

It's only recently I decided to separate my poems from my blog. I'm glad I did it. It keeps them discrete (and discreet). :)

Hope you're enjoying your birthday.

Rachel Fox said...

Spooky...I just put a comment on your place!
And now I'm going out for lunch.

Rachel Fox said...

p.s. I don't do much with the myspace just now. I tend to concentrate on one place at a time and at the moment it is this that's getting all my pc time.

Dave King said...

I remember 42 very fondly -more fondly with each passing year. Just make sure you milk it for all it's got to give!

Rachel Fox said...

Interesting image, Dave! I'm not bad at milking..have you not noticed my shameless way of getting lots of birthday wishes!

Philippa said...

Happy birthday Rachel! Love the 'man' poem. Hope you're having a happy day! x

Jim Murdoch said...

The coo's tail as always these days. Happy Birthday. Birdy and I will give Faultline a listen while we're doing the dishes tonight in your honour.

Dominic Rivron said...

Happy Birthday!

I heard somewhere that Douglas Adams and his friends were discussing if some numbers were intrinsically funnier than others when he was considering his answer to the ultimate question about life the universe and everything. The answer, 42, was, they decided, intrinsically funny.
I was 42 eight years ago. Can't say I feel any different than I did then. When do we begin to feel older?

Rachel Fox said...

When we look in the mirror, Dominic? I don't do it that much but I saw some interesting new engravings on my face when I looked yesterday!

I'd forgotten about Douglas Adams and 42. It's the meaning of life or something isn't it?

Thanks for your wishes Jim and Philippa. Apart from some bad news on the phone and the little bit of the day when I had to clear up dog sick it was really a very nice 24 hours. I went out to lunch with a crowd of women and we did a fair bit of that roaring out loud whilst laughing thing that always makes a person feel good.


Dick said...

42 is good. So is 46, especially in the circumstances! Happy birthday, both.

And thanks for the Polwart, a current favourite.

Ken Armstrong said...

Sorry I missed your birthday. I'm pleased to read that it wasn't too bad of a one.

I have this image of Dave doing 'Frank Sinatra', "When I was 42, it was a verrrry goood year..." :)

x (rare birthday peck)

Rachel Fox said...

You didn't miss it Ken because I'm having a full weekend birthday...went to the cinema yesterday and everything! (Saw 'Slumdog millionaire' so I am even up-to-date with a movie for once!). Now for more cake.