Monday, 13 September 2010

Wymondham Festival Approaching: A Week of Lists


Photobucket
My father is fourth from the left with some of his scouting friends, and their female friends.


Lists are, I am told, a boys' thing. I am, by virtue of being born one, of that persuasion, so, because this week is going to be difficult for longer, more complex posts - though who knows? - I thought I'd supply some miscellaneous lists. In tens, of course. A theme for each day.


TEN LIKES AND TEN DISLIKES
OF MY FATHER (1917-2010)


Dislikes

1. Men with pony-tails, men with ear-rings and men with tattoos (count as one, same thing, really) - All signs of disrespect. See 7.

2. Anne Diamond - She'd done the dirty on someone, or had behaved reprehensibly in some way. Frankly, who cares?! (He did.)

3. Other drivers. Te csúnya madár! - Hungarian for, literally, You ugly bird! (try You ugly git! for full force) directed at other drivers.

4. Tony Blair - Not particularly because of Iraq, just generally. Everything he hated. Case closed.

5. German industrial products - The War. Need you ask?

6. Hungary - The War. Need you ask?

7. The habit of addressing people by their first names the first time at first meeting - It was like an invasion of personal space to him, as if someone were speaking three inches from his considerable nose.

8. Self-pity - A thoroughly admirable dislike in my view too, but his distaste for it was backed up by far harder experiences than mine.

9. Dogs & cats - This was one of his pretences: Take the dirty beast away, he'd say.

10. Women's voices on TV - I can't hear them properly, he'd say, and this might have been true, on account of the higher pitch. They speak too fast, he'd add, but that isn't true.


Likes

1. Tottenham Hotspur and MTK Budapest football teams - Cultural reasons. (MTK, originally, the athletics club of the rag trade, say no more.)

2. Bread with butter and jam - The little boy in him. There was quite a lot of that along with the responsible and wary adult.

3. The pleasure of announcing that he had peeled, washed and diced the potatoes - The little boy again. Didn't cook. Very much Old Man. He also hated washing up, ie getting his hands in dirty water, and him a plumber before and after the war, I ask you!

4. The boy scouts (Jewish branch) - Long story, exciting story, surviving story, necessary story.

5. Family - I counted them out and I counted them back in again.

6. Hungary - Everything apart from the War.

7. The Hungarian language - He loved collecting old sayings, jokes, idioms. They were home to him.

8. An orderly mind - Vital for survival, to be encouraged in others, but fascinated by, and in thrall to, passions, instincts and disorderly minds (eg my mother)

9. Marzipan - The taste of childhood. We must all have something like this.

10. Playing the mouth-organ - His delight, his party piece, his memento from the work camps in the Ukraine.


It's interesting that Hungary should be on both lists but I'm sure that's right. Risk would be on both lists too. Once in England it was not for him to take risks with his family, but - unexpectedly, miraculously, heart-warmingly - he encouraged me to take risks while young.

Risk might have been on the list, of course, but the list is restricted to ten. It is in no particular order. Tomorrow a list of my ten most disliked phrases in common use.



14 comments:

Anonymous said...

Disliked phrases ? May I suggest one of my own ? "Pushing the envelope." It's used metaphorically, of course, but appears to have no literal equivalent ; I'm not aware that pushing is what most people do with envelopes.

George S said...

I always welcome suggestions. I can imagine envelopes being pushed under the door but that doesn't mean the same thing, does it?

Mark Granier said...

Two of my most disliked phrases are 'The War on Terror' (as Terry Gilliam put it: how does one make war on an abstract noun?) and 'moving forward' (or 'going forward', etc.), the latter a recent favourite with many politicians.

George S said...

Not that it's the real point, Mark, but I've never been sure about the difficulty of making war on an abstract noun. Perhaps we could tell War on Want. Or The War against Cliché (Martin Amis). Or people who 'battle against cancer', or 'fight against inequality' or 'struggle with years of depression', or those who 'overcome their fears'.

It's a metaphor, innit?

Mark Granier said...

I take your point George (whenever I talk to CW students about metaphor I make a similar point; we use them all the time). But the use of a War of Terror was pernicious (and in some instances appallingly reckless) precisely because it was not meant to be understood as a metaphor. Here's a sample (from a transcript of a 2001 speech by GWB):

'Our war on terror begins with al Qaeda, but it does not end there. It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated.

(APPLAUSE)'

And here's a 2006 article on the British government's decision to drop the phrase:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2006/dec/10/uk.terrorism

[quote]
Eliza Manningham-Buller, the head of MI5, recently stressed the threat from growing radicalisation among young British Muslims. Whitehall officials believe that militants use a sense of war and crisis and a 'clash of civilisations' to recruit supporters, and thus the use of terms such as 'war', 'war on terror' or 'battle' can be counter-productive.
[/quote]

Mark Granier said...

PS
I think Gilliam's point, that you can't make 'actual' war (with armies, etc.) on an abstract noun does not negate the possibility of metaphorical war, on poverty, cancer, etc.

Poet in Residence said...

If ever there was a prompt to memory this is it George. Once again you know our souls. I'll give you 3 of each.

My dad.
Dislikes:
1. Anthony Armstrong Jones (a neighbour) and his clan (some history there I'm almost persuaded to suspect but it was never revealed to me - my grandmother's maiden name is Jones - is she involved in the mystery that now lies beyond the grave, in fact scattered beneath a 1,000 year oak?)
2. Flat beer. Beer always had to slide in bubbles down the inside of the glass. It was a sign of a good pint.
3. Not being able to hear clearly. A welding spark burst his eardrum.

Likes:
1. Being saluted on riding his BSA by AA men stationary on mountain passes astride or standing by their black & yellow combinations. Competent men eager to deal with breakdowns.
2. Sandy. His sandy coloured greyhound dog. He loved to walk it to the pub each night on pretence of taking exercise.
3. Me. I like to think so.

Anonymous said...

my dad 1921 - 1975
Dislikes
male students wearing pastel shirts and long hair
War
-isms and extremists
talking about his experiences in war -

likes:
his pipe and sunday papers
growing tomatoes grapes and orchids
beer
sharing illicit sips of beer with his youngest daughter
poetry, verbal and visual images

A good Man

Paul Hellyer said...

George, I enjoyed this list very much. It certainly brought your Father's personality to life for me. It was an interesting mix of personal, as well as generational and historical likes and dislikes. The list also led me to reflect on the love and "not love" of Hungary, and at the same time the love of the Hungarian language. In my mind the love of country and the love of language in the Hungarian context was synonymous. Of course I now see that is a silly, unexamined notion. I can now better understand some of the older Hungarians here in New Zealand who love their language but are often less than enthusiastic about their homeland.

Seeing the photo of Father prompted me to wonder if you have seen the wonderful Fortepan collection of nearly 5000 amateur photos. sourced mainly in Budapest. The photos do really tell the history of twentieth-century Hungary through these nameless photos. There is a story behind every photo. You can see the collection at http://www.fortepan.hu This site and collection represents the very best of the Web and why the Internet can be such a wondrous place.

dana said...

Dad 1945-

Dislikes: Children's difficult behavior, his own tendency to cataplexy, being in situations that lead to cataplexy, narcolepsy

Likes: Being right, lecturing, cheap cold beer, bicycling, grandchildren

There's an exercise that told me something I already knew, but put it in a blunter perspective than I'm used to. I'm not sure it brings his personality to life.

I'd love to hear more about your dad sometime.

Ruth said...

What I liked about your father's photo was the way he isn't relying on the material of the bandstand to do the job of holding him up.- He's poised between his own sinking down and the interum space between the bandstand and the camera that he addresses with his eyes. Almost provoking a return glance through which the balance completes itself. His legs are slightly out- uncrossed- in midair and his hands tucked into his centre weight so that even in the stillness of the shot you know that he is tilting back and forth, adjusting minutely- re-grafting areas of emphasis. Something about seizing the moment. Maybe all the likes and dislikes fabricated over a life-time come from these basic dispositions even as they adapt to changing countries and changing bodies.

The Plump said...

The little boy in him

A lovely observation. I have always thought that a sign of a happy person is the preservation of a zone where they have failed to grow up - a visible area of childish delight. The miserable and the destructive are invariably, relentlessly adult.

George S said...

Will respond, but too much dashing about till later. Lovely replies. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I think the trouble with "The War on Terror" isn't that "terror" is an abstract (so what ?) but that terror comes from many sources. Not all terrorists agree with other terrorists, do they ? And when is a terrorist a terrorist and not a legitimate freedom-fighter ? etc.

In short, waging war on ALL these people who embody terror. . .well, it would take one hell of a long time. In fact, for ever, because such waging tends to recruit (un-deliberately) other terrorists.

In this case, it wasn't George Bush Jnr's use of language that made me laugh, but the extent of his hubris.