Katherine Gregor

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Katherine Gregor (a.k.a. Scribe Doll) is a literary translator and scribbler who has also been an EFL teacher, theatrical agent, press agent, theatre director, complementary medicine practitioner, and one or two other things. Perhaps that's why the literary characters she relates to most are Arlecchino, Truffaldino, Gianni Schicchi and Scapin, and feels empathy with crows, squirrels and cats. She lives in Norwich, Norfolk. (Photo courtesy of Rosie Goldsmith @GoldRosie )

Luxembourg Wine

In Anglo-Viking-Flemish Norwich, a Londoner and a Roman invited a Venetian for dinner at their home.  The Venetian had some Austrian, Spanish, and Moroccan blood, the Londoner originally came from a Polish-Jewish family, and the Roman was of Armenian-Welsh-Cornish descent.  All three were Europeans to the core.

 

While the meal – a Sicilian dish – was simmering in the kitchen, the hosts and their guest sat in the living room, chatting in an English interspersed with Italian words, and an Italian with the odd English expression slipped in, listening to a Bruxellois singer on CD, and sipping wine from Luxembourg.  A smooth, silky, golden, elegant Riesling with a twinkle in the eye.  It had been sent courtesy of a newly-formed acquaintance who was not only very knowledgeable about classical music but – all three agreed – clearly a connaisseur of good wine.

 

There was a strong difference of opinion regarding the absence, in English grammar, of gender for nouns.  The Venetian argued that this lack made English colourless.  The Londoner insisted that there was no logic in arbitrarily deciding that a chair was "she", a book "he", or vice-versa.  The Roman expressed outrage that animals should be referred to as "it", as though they were inanimate objects, then went all sentimental when mentioning that in Russian, белка – squirrel – was feminine. 

"Why? Don't they have any male squirrels in Russia?" the Londoner asked.

"In Italian, scoiattolo is masculine," said the Venetian.

"So are all Italian squirrels female, then?" the Londoner enquired.

 

Nobody answered his questions and, during the brief pause in the conversation, the Roman brought in a steaming bowl of pasta with Sicilian caponata, into which she had stirred some creamy French goat's cheese.  They all tucked into this dinner, the ingredients of which had been thought up by Jews, Chinese, Normans, Arabs and North Americans – in other words, a European dinner.

 

As they ate, they discussed travel.  It's only an hour's flight to Amsterdam, or Paris, or Hamburg.  You're an hour away from Dutch, French and German.  Here, we don't fly for hours and hours and still hear the same language when we land.  Because our small continent is like the colourful pattern of Harlequin's costume, with lozenges of different, contrasting colours, all sewn together.  Over the centuries, we have complemented one another, enriched one another, challenged one another's comfort zones.  Foreign winds have blown new seeds onto our lands, and sprouted into new fruits, and our winds have carried our seeds abroad.  We have destroyed any dams that threatened to turn our limpid, gurgling rivers into stagnant, smelly ponds.  We have knocked down fortresses that imprisoned people within their walls and restricted their human rights.     

 

"Oh, look, there's still some Luxembourg Riesling left," says the Roman, toying with her napkin, wondering what she's going to do with all the food left over despite everybody's triple helpings.  

The Londoner picks up the slender bottle and pours the remaining golden liquid into the three glasses in equal measures.  "What shall we drink to?" he asks.

"To this wine – from a country none of us has been to – for bringing us all together this evening," the Venetian suggests.

"To peace and unity within this dear Old Continent," the Roman adds, raising her glass.

 

 

Scribe Doll      

Recent Comments
Stephen Evans
And so began the legend of the Amazon squirrels of Italy. A charming tale.
Sunday, 22 May 2016 17:05
Katherine Gregor
Well, Montaigne did say that a mixed man was an honest man.
Sunday, 22 May 2016 17:33
Former Member
I landed to wait out a fog once in Luxembourg - does that count? Because I really wanted to be at your table!
Sunday, 22 May 2016 21:08
904 Hits
6 Comments

Future of the UK or Dystopian Nightmare?

The UK borders have closed.  There is no longer free travel in or out of the country and a tourist visa is granted only to travellers able to prove a bank account balance of 1 million pounds minimum.

London has been cordoned off by a "wealth belt" and only individuals with a proven bank balance of 5 million pounds are entitled to take up residence in the Capital.

Public transport fares have gone up by 150%. 

Service industry workers do not qualify for London residence (seeing their earnings do not allow for savings of 5 million pounds), live beyond Zone 6 and cannot afford to travel to and from their jobs. Therefore, they live on their work premises.  They receive the minimum hourly wage (£8 an hour), paid six months in arrears.  All have to sign a Zero-Hour contract which stipulates that the employer does not guarantee them a fixed number of employment hours, while they must pledge to remain available, are forbidden from taking on any other job, and must give a year's notice if they wish to leave.

The UK has left the European Union.  Foreign languages are not taught in schools.  Books translated from other languages are not available in UK bookshops. Foreign newspapers and magazines are not available at newsagents. 

There is total freedom of speech, as long as it is in accordance with the Ministry for the Political Correctness and Inclusiveness of Language.  In order to facilitate this, heavy fines are imposed on the public use of the following words and expressions:

– God

– Happy Christmas

– Happy Easter

– Stupid

– Ignorant

– Fat

– "'Bless you!" when anyone sneezes has been replaced with "Include you!" 

Legal Aid has been abolished.  So has the right to defence.  Anyone arrested is assigned a defence lawyer only as the police and magistrate/crown court consider it appropriate.

Electricity, Gas, Water and Telecommunications are owned by off-shore companies.  Users are legally obliged to take out a contract with these providers but only the said providers have a legal right to terminate these contracts.

It is illegal for anyone, including family members, to have any physical contact whatsoever with children under the age of 18.  All essential physical contact (i.e. dressing, washing, feeding, first aid, as well as "emotional bonding time") with under 18s is to be  strictly carried out by a specially programmed robot approved by the Health and Safety Department.

All newborn babies are vaccinated with a quintuple all-purpose vaccine.  Since this blanket vaccination programme, many viruses of childhood diseases have mutated into much more powerful forms that are difficult to treat.  Therefore, the quintuple vaccine has to be repeated every two years, and its potency increased every time.  Consequently, we are experiencing a new medical phenomenon: a generation born without an immune system.

All babies are microchipped and barcoded for their safety.

All telephone calls, e-mails, text messages, tweets and paper correspondence are recorded and stored under the Permanent Security Act.

All benefits have been abolished.  Homelessness now affects 6 people out of 10 and is classified as a criminal offence under the new Keep the UK Wealthy Act.  Anyone caught being homeless is arrested and tagged with an electronic device.

The UK is ruled by a mono-party system in which the Government is regularly reshuffled, thus abolishing the need and unnecessary expense of elections.

Scribe Doll

Recent Comments
Former Member
Sounds like the Republic of Barack Obama. Much of this has come to pass in the U.S. A high school football player makes a winnin... Read More
Sunday, 15 May 2016 17:26
Katherine Gregor
I think globalisation mean that many Western countries may be affected by some of the same trends. Here's hoping for peace and acc... Read More
Monday, 16 May 2016 08:01
Stephen Evans
I vote for nightmare. Though it sounds a lot like the movie V.
Monday, 16 May 2016 03:25
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10 Comments

Just a Bit of Fun at the Expense of One English Social Stereotype*

 

We went to London last week, and stayed in Fulham, where I lived for several very happy years.  For the information of non-Londoners, it's an area in the South-West of the capital, a twenty-minute Tube ride from the West End and Theatreland.  Part of Fulham covers a stretch of river between Hammersmith Bridge and Putney Bridge.  A truly idyllic mile frequented by crows, seagulls, ducks, cormorants and herons.  

 

When I first moved to Fulham, in 2000, I used to joke that the night bus 14 wasn't as threatening as other London night buses because the drunks on that line were intoxicated by champagne.  Another joke I heard from more than one person (or perhaps it wasn't a joke) was that the most frequent reason for admission at Chelsea & Westminster Hospital Accidents and Emergency was a cut to the hand caused by a large knife slipping while trying to remove the stone from an avocado.  There is a pub called The White Horse, but which the locals know as The Sloaney Pony.  That is a fair illustration of one of the social types that reside in that area.  Indeed, Fulham is filled with what, at the University of Durham, we called screaming, stonking 'Rahs.  Again, for the benefit of those who have never had contact with this sub-group of the English middle classes, 'Rahs are second and third-generation Sloanes.  In other words, the banknotes in their wallets are so new, you can still smell the ink a mile away.  'Rahs tend to speak with a plummy accent but not with the clarity of cut-glass English.  Their speech is sloppy, lazy, and their vowels half swallowed because, let's face it, oh, yeaaarrrh, it's just t'much effort like to pr'nounce th'm.  Male specimens of this social sub-group are sometimes called Sebastian, Crispin, Oliver, Tristan or Rupert.  They often wear stripy shirts and chinos or corduroys.  Lace-up shoes are mandatory.  Back in my youth, they were seen sporting V-neck cricket jumpers or stripy rugby shirts.  Nowadays, they prefer crew neck lambswool jumpers.  Their female counterparts, often Isabellas, Mirandas, Juliettes, Dorcases and Chloes, can be recognised by their trademark string of pearls no matter the outfit, or, these days, a piece of "ethnic" jewellery.  Still, whether they're wearing the green Barbour jacket of my generation or the more modern cropped tweed blazer or short mac, one characteristic remains unaltered: they still have longish blonde hair.

 

Last week, as H. and I were strolling through Bishops Park, there was a group of them standing outside an infants school, having dropped off their mini Ruperts and Mirandas in  Baby Gap and Cath Kidson outfits.  They stood there, chatting to carbon copies of themselves, jangling keys to people carriers and oversized Volvos.  "Look!" I said to H.  "I told you Fulham raises the national average for blondes by a large percentage."  He looked at them with an expression of disbelief.  There were six or seven of them, all of them blonde.

 

There were more of them in the coffee shop where we went to have breakfast.  The table next to ours was a veritable aviary, with screeching, high-pitched giggling, and shrill outbursts of excitement.  It was nearly ten o'clock, and I wondered – as I did while living in the area – why these women weren't somewhere else, engaged in money-earning employment.  Who pays for their leather designer handbags, their suede boots, their wide silver bangles, their smoothies and their pains au raisin? I guess some things don't change, whatever the efforts of the various feminist movements.

 

* Gentle, genuinely affectionate fun.  To quote Mr Bennet, "For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbours, and laugh at them in our turn?"

 

Scribe Doll

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

Recent Comments
Stephen Evans
I am excessively diverted. But it is so strange!
Tuesday, 03 May 2016 15:00
Katherine Gregor
:–)
Tuesday, 03 May 2016 21:09
Rosy Cole
Very amusing! I can see that when David Attenborough finally retires, you could be up for his job :-)
Tuesday, 03 May 2016 17:37
600 Hits
4 Comments

Books: Challenges, Traumas and Pure Pleasure

I remember a stormy night when I was about eleven.  We were living in Nice.  I don't remember what prompted me.  I stood on a chair to reach the top shelf of my mother's bookcase where she kept – along with other never-read books – The Complete Works of Shakespeare.  I sat at the kitchen table, ploughing my way through Macbeth.  I couldn't understand any of the language, so I looked up almost every other word – without much success – in the Concise Oxford.  Electrified by the flashes of lightning and thunderclaps bursting outside, I was mesmerised by this hermetic text I could not fathom, convinced that within its lines were locked up great secrets I yearned to discover.

 

About a year later, my mother authorised the local library to allow me access to the adult section.  After my first visit there, I came back home with a book about Confucianism.  Only one sentence remains anchored in my memory: I spent my entire life trying to change myself but have still failed.  The only words I remember.  The only ones I understood, probably because the paramount importance of self-improvement was much advocated at meal times.  Still, when I finally returned the book to the library, I felt a deep sense of satisfaction, as though I'd been given the key to important knowledge.  Where this knowledge was stored, or what it concerned, I had no idea, but at least having the key to it was a good start.

 

That same winter, I got the mumps.  I was kept indoors, warm, and waited on for a month.  I was allowed more television than usual, and my mother brought me books from the library.  Owing to my illness, the self-improvement programme was put on hold, and she did look disapprovingly at my reading for the sheer pleasure of it.  I asked her to borrow Joseph Bédier's rendition of Tristan et Iseut and that was the first book I remember reading which filled me with magic, and infected me with a passion for Mediaeval literature, art and music.  And words.  Beautiful words.

 

When I was fifteen, we moved to Rome.  One day, I found my mother's copy of Friedrich Nietzsche's Thus Spake Zarathustra lying on the coffee table.  She'd enthused about it over dinner, so I picked it up and began to read it.  I was bowled over by the histrionic wit of this man.  Shaken, turned inside out and zapped with new energy.  A God that danced.  It was as though my brain had just expanded so violently, it was about to break free from the constrictions of my skull.... even though I had no idea what Nietzsche actually meant.  I just felt that he was telling me that there was something out there that was so big and awesome, I wanted to access it too.

 

The summer after my sixteenth birthday was the summer I was traumatised by Dostoyevsky.  For some time now, there had been an awareness on the part of my mother and grandmother that my Russian was embarrassingly bad, given that it had been the first language I had learnt as a toddler.  Although my speaking was fluent, my spelling was atrocious and I read one syllable at a time, like a five-year-old.  What neither of them chose to be aware of was – for reasons pertaining to a twisted, dissatisfied teenage psyche I eventually grew out of – my deep dislike of the language. 

 

So, that summer, judging the French school three-month holiday period to be "too long for doing nothing", my grandmother decided to traumatise me with Crime and Punishment.  As she was also teaching me to knit, she saw the hot Roman afternoons as the perfect opportunity to combine manual and intellectual education.  So, while all sensible Roman residents would sink into a refreshing siesta, she and I would sit in the shady part of our balcony and take it in turns to read aloud and knit.  My knitting being as unenthusiastic as my Russian, when it was my turn to read, my grandmother would correct my pronunciation while undoing several rows of uneven loops.  Thinking about my schoolmates, who were probably bathing in the Sardinian sea or strolling in the Alto Adige mountains, I resented my lot, hated knitting, hated Dostoyevsky and (almost) hated my grandmother.  By the end of the summer, I was less familiar with the crime aspect of the novel than with the punishment.

 

For many years, I hardly ever read fiction, except when it was prescribed by school or university.  I found it hard to shake off the deeply-inculcated notion that you read in order to acquire information or improve yourself, and that novels, precisely because fictional in nature, were somewhat less valid forms of literature.  I envied people who said they loved to read, who described the pleasures of immersing themselves in a book.  I knew I was missing out on something but didn't know how to remedy the situation.  Once again, I felt there was a whole, wonderful world out there but, this time, it wasn't my intellectual inadequacy that prevented me from accessing it – it was something deep inside me, so intrinsically part of me that I didn't know how to root it out.

 

 

With Miss Garnet's Angel, my reading habits changed.  Reading suddenly became something I gave myself permission to do simply for the fun of it.

 

My favourite Saturday morning activity became browsing in charity shops.  The advantage of cheap, second-hand books was that it allowed me to take risks on novels and buy them on a whim.  As a result, I discovered many wonderful books.

 

Fifteen years on, I love reading.  I feel free to pick up whatever I feel I will enjoy, whether it's Booker Prize material or a thoroughly enjoyable crime novel.  I just swim among its words, let myself be carried away by the story, and form new acquaintances with the characters.

 

It's delectable.

 

 

Scribe Doll 

 

Recent Comments
Rosy Cole
Katia, this rang so many bells with me that it triggered ideas for a post in the not-too-distant future. Meantime, enough to say ... Read More
Sunday, 17 April 2016 14:13
Katherine Gregor
I've not read Nietzsche since my teens. I went through a phase, shortly after 'Zarathustra'. I particularly loved 'The Anti-Chri... Read More
Sunday, 17 April 2016 18:08
Rosy Cole
Exactly! I had a post sketched out my head for this week, Katia, but have had no opportunity to put it together and shall be tak... Read More
Thursday, 21 April 2016 14:29
636 Hits
3 Comments

Latest Comments

Stephen Evans We Don't Say Goodbye
15 June 2018
Sound advice Ken.
Ken Hartke We Don't Say Goodbye
13 June 2018
I may have posted this before -- I sometimes need to revisit it. I occasionally need to give myself ...
Katherine Gregor Rise
12 June 2018
I like it!
Katherine Gregor R. R. R.
12 June 2018
I hope you're right. Thank you for your comment.
Rosy Cole R. R. R.
12 June 2018
The real strength you gained from this, I believe, is the interior knowledge, not necessarily recogn...

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