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.

Telephone Nostalgia

It suddenly occurs to me that it's been months since anybody called our landline.  Except for my mother, of course.  Day after day, when I check the phone after coming back home, the display is always the same.  0 Calls.  0 Messages.  Come to think of it, hardly anybody ever phones at all.  I do get the occasional call on my mobile but even then, they have become an increasingly rare event in my life.  So much so that when the landline or the mobile ring, I jump, wary, assuming it's either a wrong number or someone demanding that I do something.  I no longer consider the possibility of  hearing  "Hi, Katia.  How are you? I just wanted to hear your voice and catch up".   

I often call a dear friend who lives in London – so we don't get to meet very often –  and a precious friend who resides at the opposite end of the country, and I haven't seen for over ten years.  But I call them.  Although when they pick up the phone, they sound pleased to hear my voice (either that or it's wishful thinking on my part), the fact that I am always the one to initiate telephone contact makes me wonder if they simply put up with my quirk because they're fond of me, but that among the rest of Western humanity, it's a custom that has gone the way of letter writing and non-digital cameras.  

One London friend sometimes calls me on my mobile, and there's my American aunt who sometimes rings me on the landline.  Other than that, it's text messages and e-mails.  Maybe it's the kind of friends and acquaintances I keep.  I can't remember the last time anybody called and actually spoke to me when inviting us over for lunch, dinner or to suggest coffee in town.  It's either a text message or an e-mail.  No tone of voice suggesting the person's mood or state of health, no opportunity for a brief moment of warmth with words exchanged a viva voce.  Just emoticons.  I, too, used to include emoticons in my messages, but I do so less and less now.  I actually dislike emoticons.  Intensely.  Centuries of languages, poetry, the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, the Sturm und Drang, millennia of words in all shapes, colours, sounds and subtle nuances and I get a lazy, bland 😀🤣👍👏🏻or 😘.  A fellow blogger I've become friendly with, recently removed the Likeoption from his blog.  As I understand it, his point is that if we enjoyed what he's written, then he would like us to express it in our own words.  And not resort to a lazy "Like".  I must admit, I often find the lengthy process of leaving a fully-worded comment a little trying but then, once I have made the effort, I feel like saying, "Thank you, my friend, for forcing me to use my imagination and my brain."  

I don't particularly like social calls on my mobile.  The reception quality is often capricious, there is the background noise to contend with if I am in the street, and my ear gets hot after a while.  Moreover, I am never able to concentrate fully when on my mobile.  At home, on the landline, on the other hand, I can sit down and give him or her my undivided attention.  

I get frustrated with the ping-pong of social text messaging or WhatsApp-ing.  I wish I could just continue the exchange in good old-fashioned human speech.

Text messages are very convenient for brief messages, or if you don't know if it's a suitable moment to call someone.  But then what's wrong with phoning and saying, "Is it a good time to talk now or shall I ring you back?" Text messages have their place.  But sometimes I would like to hear the person's voice, assess their tone, detect their mood or their humour – without a standard computerised emoji sign posting it.  Also, I like to hear a friend say, at the end of a telephone conversation, "OK, big hug" or "Love you" or "Mwah" instead of the obligatory "x" at the end of a text message or e-mail.  

I prefer face to face contact to talking over the phone.  But, when meeting is not possible, a telephone call provides a personal touch a text message or e-mail simply haven't.  And, for all its convenient brevity, I find it much quicker to call someone and get an answer straight away, than using my large, clumsy finger pads on the screen of my smartphone – and waiting for the other person to respond.  

After I have cooked a meal and entertained guests, I would far rather receive a thank you call the next day, than a text message.

Yes, I too, am guilty of overusing texts and e-mails. I guess because people don't use the phone to make a voice call, I am often reluctant to ring them for fear of disturbing them.

As they say in Russian, when you live with wolves, you start howling like a wolf.

Well, I don't want to howl anymore.  I want to talk to people.  I want to hear their voices, in all their nuances.

Scribe Doll

 

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New Year Resolutions?

I've binned my 2018 New Year's resolutions. Unopened.  They were past their use-by date.  Somehow, they ended up being kicked under the bed or falling behind bookcases, where dust grows in tumbleweed form, buried under dictionaries on my desk, or accidentally stepped on and crushed. 

 

No matter.  They've served their purpose.  They've made me aware of my true intentions.  Of where my focus truly lay and of where it was lacking.  

 

As I threw them all into the recycling bin, I wondered if I should form new resolutions for 2019.  Where would I put them, so they wouldn't get lost again? On top of the tower of books I hope to read, ever-growing and neglected in favour of all the books I feel I have to read for my work? This novel won a prize.  I'd better read it in case I can pitch a translation proposal to a publisher.  Next to the address book with the contact details of all the friends I've lost touch with? I must call or write to them.  I haven't seen them for ages.  But first I must finish this translation.  And then I have this other book deadline.  I haven't got time to see them right now, anyway.  I can only take one day off this month and I have to go and see my mother.  That reminds me, I promised to buy her those Italian biscuits.  Or in my writing folder? I must definitely write tomorrow.  Or possibly over the weekend.  My own stuff.  I'm too tired now.  I can't think straight.  It's past 9 o'clock and I've been translating since early morning.  But I really must write.  I know I've been saying this for months.  Oh, and I must remember to buy some more potatoes.  And do we have any yoghurt left? I'd better check the fridge...  When did I start writing this book...? Oh, I had no idea it's been this long.  How about sticking a list of resolutions to the mirror?  When did I last look at myself in the mirror? I mean really look at myself? I look so haggard, so tired, so grey.  Or perhaps I can add it to my list of travel plans?  Yes, I'd love to go there but not this weekend.  This weekend I really need to work.  I'm so behind already.  Besides, can I afford to spend the money? What if publishers don't offer me another translation project after this? 

I once saw a cartoon on Twitter.  A woman approaching an aged writer sitting at a café table.  "I'm a huge fan of your intentions," she says, shaking hands with him.  I've printed it and stuck it on my wall, where I can see it.

 

For 2019, no New Year's resolutions.  No more living in the future.  As Mame sings in Jerry Hermann's fabulous musical, "It's Today!" The time is now.  

 

No more planning.  But doing.  

 

Take a deep breath.  Focus on my intention.  Direct it... Now.

 

I wish all my readers a happy, healthy, prosperous, creative and fulfilling 2019!

Scribe Doll

 

Recent Comments
Nicholas Mackey
Happy New Year, Katya and thank you for articulating so well the thoughts of every struggling writer - myself included. You're abs... Read More
Sunday, 06 January 2019 21:21
Katherine Gregor
Go for it!. A very happy New Year to you and your family! (Katia with an "i", please)
Monday, 07 January 2019 09:14
Rosy Cole
Modern life. Exactly this! These days I feel grateful for a long wait at the level crossing so that I can have a good 'think' with... Read More
Tuesday, 08 January 2019 13:47
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Needling

For some, it's a massage or a facial. For me, it's acupuncture. As soon as I'm overwhelmed by stress, run down or simply in need of TLC (not to mention if ever I have a health concern), I book in for some needling.  Many an issue has been resolved with a few well-placed needles.

 

My favourite thing about acupuncture is that it thinks outside the box and joins unthinkably distant dots.  When one part of your body sounds an alarm bell or even just starts whimpering, the acupuncturist will consult all your other organs and functions – like a kind of body world summit – to find out who's really responsible. 

 

A few years ago, a strange-looking discoloured patch appeared on my body.  I went to the doctor.  She poked me, squeezed me and kneaded me.  "It's probably nothing," she declared sapiently.  "It'll probably go away."

 

I don't care for the word probably where my health is concerned.  The discoloured patch grew in size.  I went to see an acupuncturist.  She said the patch was located along my liver meridian (who said the body doesn't give you signs?).  She examined my tongue.  Liver issues.  Let's treat your liver and see.  

 

The discolouration disappeared within a couple of weeks.

 

It never ceases to fascinate me how my tongue seems to be the spokesperson for the rest of my body, how a Traditional Chinese Medicine-trained practitioner is able to diagnose a condition by studying a person's tongue.  I have vague memories of Western doctors telling me to "say 'Aaah'" when I was a small child.  Did they also use the same method of overview? Is it another skill the West has lost?

 

Chinese diagnosis, of course, uses a way of thinking that can feel very alien to a Western mind, at least at first.  It's just a matter of switching your brain to a different narrative.  You might be told that you have yin or yang deficiency, excessive damp, too much fire, for example.  As I gradually learn to get my head around these concepts, I find that they are extremely accurate as far as I am concerned.  And extremely wise.  Moreover, they convey a panoramic view of health and the body that allows one to see how everything is actually connected.  A method which Western medicine, in its increasingly localised specialisation, would certainly benefit from, in my opinion.

 

I first discovered acupuncture about twenty years ago.  I lifted something heavy awkwardly and my back froze, in excruciating pain.  I couldn't move.  The doctor was called (it was back in the golden days when it was easy to get a GP to visit you at home).  "It's a slipped disc," she said, prescribing pain killers – to be taken at four-hour intervals – and telling me to rest my back.

 

Within fifteen minutes of swallowing the tablets, the pain would plummet at supersonic speed, only to soar back up like a rocket during the fifteen minutes that followed, which left me in pain for the ensuing three and a half hours while I waited to be allowed another dose.  My life degenerated into a yo-yo of pain, mood swings, tears and depression.  "My life is going down the toilet!" I sobbed, a week later, when a friend rang to ask if I was better.  

    

She recommended a Traditional Chinese doctor.  The thought of needles pushed into my skin horrified me, but I was ready to try anything to get my life back.  I somehow made it to the front door and into a taxi.  I cried out at every speed bump.  By the time I reached the doctor, I was a wreck of tears, curses and despair.  The pain wouldn't even allow me to sit down.  The Chinese doctor examined me.  "It's not a slipped disc, it's a muscular spasm," she said.  

 

This was my introduction to the unsuspected connection acupuncture makes between seemingly unrelated dots.  It wasn't into my back the doctor put the needles, as I had expected – it was between my eyebrows.  "Sit down," she said calmly.

"I can't – it hurts... Oh? How did this happen?" 

I moved my hips gingerly, sat down, wriggled some more.  

 

No more pain.  No pain!

 

A few minutes later, I took the rush-hour, crowded bus home, stopped on the way to buy food from the supermarket and cooked my first proper meal in a week.

I look forward to my regular acupuncture sessions.  The practitioner examines my tongue, takes my pulses (yes, in Traditional Chinese Medicine this is a plural) and listens to my concerns or needs.  I lie down.  I generally don't feel any pain when the needles are pushed in.  Sometimes, I can't even feel them.  And then, more often than not, something wonderful and extraordinary happens to me.  I feel as though whirlwinds start to form around the points where the needles are inserted, and spread throughout my body like a warm, invigorating wave.  On occasions, I'll feel a pain or a twinge which will travel across my body, as though flying through a channel, then it disappears.  It feels as though my body becomes a hub of conversations, questions and answers and negotiations.  More often than not, I fall into a deep sleep.  I wake up feeling reborn.  Feeling taller.   Feeling truly, truly wonderful. 

 

I guess there's something to be said for a form of medicine that has been practised and perfected for a couple of thousand years longer than our Western medicine. Old is not always passé.

Scribe Doll

 

With huge thanks to, among others, Rebecca Geanty (https://www.treatnorwich.co.uk)

 

15 November is World Acupuncture Day

 

Recent Comments
Stephen Evans
Fascinating! I will have to look into this. I have heard there are lots of studies that show the efficacy of acupuncture.
Friday, 16 November 2018 23:27
Katherine Gregor
Make sure you choose a fully accredited practitioner.
Monday, 19 November 2018 10:28
Nicholas Mackey
I've heard so much about this subject and now your article has pricked my interest (pun unintended) so I'm going to learn more abo... Read More
Saturday, 17 November 2018 00:16
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Early Autumn Wedding

"Are you having any readings?"

"No."

"Have you brought some music?"

"No."

"Do you have rings?"

"Yes."

The elderly registrar smiles with a hint of relief.  At least one traditional feature.  She tells those present that photos are not permitted during the actual signing of the register but they can be posed for afterwards.

"Does anyone have any questions?"

"No."

"In that case, shall we begin?"

We all stand in our appointed positions. Just the couple and two witnesses.  "We asked you  because you're the first people we met after we moved here," the bride and groom said. "Also, this way, none of our other friends can possibly be offended at not being asked."

Given these circumstances, H. and I feel deeply privileged to be here.

There are no other guests.  They felt disloyal about inviting friends and leaving out family.  She doesn't want her family's aloofness to sabotage her special day.  He knows his family aren't ready to hear the news.  Too much pain to come to terms with yet, too much forgiveness to be granted.  This marriage is a right built on wrongs.  Inevitable wrongs that had to be righted and could not be righted without some wrongs.  We're only human.  

He wears grey chinos and a blue shirt that brings out the colour of his eyes and the silver of his hair.  She bought a terracotta top for the occasion, as well as a blue-grey skirt.  Something new.  Nothing old or borrowed.  No flowers.  This is a second marriage for both.  A couple of decades ago, both had a day of white lace, speeches, three-tier cakes and pink champagne.  A day to please her husband's family and his wife's tradition.  Today is for them alone. 

The ceremony takes about twenty minutes. The registrar speaks the vows and they repeat after her slowly, meaning every word.   Plain, matching gold bands are slipped on fingers.  A tender kiss exchanged. This is a second wedding.  The youthful trust has grown into firm intention.  The candy-coloured spring blossoms have been replaced with the deeper, earthier hues of early autumn.  Passion with compassion.  

Scribe Doll

Recent Comments
Rosy Cole
"Today is for them alone." Absolutely. And it is so apt that they invited members of the local community to share the experience, ... Read More
Monday, 24 September 2018 16:14
Katherine Gregor
Thank you for your comment. To be honest, this is one of the very few weddings I've enjoyed. Mostly, I find them overlong and du... Read More
Monday, 24 September 2018 20:57
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Latest Comments

Katherine Gregor A Few Thoughts About Lent
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Now I didn't know that! Thank you!
Stephen Evans A Few Thoughts About Lent
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The word itself as I understand it comes from the Middle English term for Spring - which fits right ...
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Well, that's Europe for you (while it lasts for the UK!) – everything small and close together. Mor...
Katherine Gregor The Hour of the Book
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You're very kind, Rosy. Thank you.
Stephen Evans The Hour of the Book
07 March 2019
How wonderful to have a bookstore you can walk to! They are few and far between in my area. The clos...

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