The English Language: Its Use, Abuse and Ultimate Fate

Like everything else, language also changes. It is a constant process. Nevertheless it performs a utilitarian purpose in allowing one to communicate succinctly and comprehensibly with another person. This fact is even more crucial when one or both of the parties to a conversation are conversing in English as a second language. Why should we be concerned? What is the future of English?  Continue reading

Do your pets also hate the Vet?

The McCleland household has the anomalous situation where my huge German Shepherd Dog terrorises the smaller pets in the house? In fact she derives considerable pleasure in having them cower in terror as she tramps them underfoot and pins them to the floor. But going to the vet is a different story. It brings into sharp focus her cowardly dispossession. Without even mentioning the word “Vet” just in case Layla’s English lessons are bearing fruit, she senses that the reason why she is being ushered into my BMW is because she is visiting her nemesis – the Vet. At that point she will disappear, tarnishing her image as a tough-as-nails take-it-in-her-stride guard dog.

Layla’s ruthless streak dissolves into a whimper.

Continue reading

Life is all about Priorities

This maxim is also a truism. Some objectives might be possible to achieve  whereas others are merely a figment of somebody’s overactive imagination. Whatever it is, once one becomes fixated on that goal, life has a way of opening doors. In reality, one becomes “lucky” not in the sense that opportunities are presented to one but rather those that one seizes what to the average person is not an opportunity.

Firstly I will deal with some examples from my personal life; then I will present some more extreme examples which take the notion of an alternative lifestyle to a whole new level.

Main picture: Is this how you would like to spend the rest of your life? Either earn pots of money or, failing that, become a ski instructor

Continue reading

Is it Worthwhile Counting Calories?

Maybe it’s a “female thing”, but I can positively confirm that none of my male friends would ever count calories whilst on diet. Partly this female fixation with calorie counting is a consequence of their doing the Weight Watchers diet whereas males would rather adopt a less stringent “wing it” approach. Normally that is the well-known Starvation Method. Which approach is preferable or is it neither?

Imagine measuring and weighing every morsel of food that passes one’s lips. I could not imagine Nigella Lawson measuring anything as she takes cooking to the other extreme: a dab of this, a glob of that. No two meals can possibly be the same.

Main picture: Why are the verboten foods so tempting while the good foods are so bland

Continue reading

The Da Vinci Code: Fantasies and Conspiracy Theories

Before turning to writing, Dan Brown was an unsuccessful painter. His second novel was the sensational Da Vinci Code. Like a candle for a moth, Dan Brown lured the readers by implying that his book was based upon fact. Instead it comprised various implausible fantasies and conspiracy theories which were barely credible. Yet they had the effect of fixating the masses. Why are the theories propounded in the novel even more preposterous than believed with not a shred of evidence to substantiate any of them?

The Da Vinci Code is an amalgam of a raft of conspiracy theories in one novel. Apart from one, the cryptex, which is a pure figment of Dan Brown overactive imagination, the rest of the conspiracies have been peddled in various books and forums over the years. The only one of this genre which attained acceptable publication figures was one which is even in my personal library entitled Holy Blood Holy Grail on which Dan Brown’s book is based.

Main picture: The authors of the book Holy Blood Holy Grail claim that it must have been Mary Magdalene on Jesus’ right as their relative positions form an M for Mary.

Continue reading

James Frey: A Remarkable Tale in Overcoming Addiction

When Janine commanded me to read A Million Little Pieces about a recovering crack head, the remarkable story of James Frey’s battle against addiction, it was never on the short list of books that I would ever read. Never! Not even on the extended list. Firstly I mainly read history but mostly because who wants to read about the travails of a recovering addict. Being an instruction and not a request, to keep the peace in the McCleland household I reluctantly demurred to do as I was instructed. The fact that the book was classified as non-fiction and had been highly recommended by Oprah Winfrey in 2003 as the best book on the subject swayed me slightly as well as the fact that I would be reading my first book on a Kindle.

For the English purists like me, it was quite a revelation. The earthy raw language often without punctuation and with arcane repetition of words is child-like and puerile but it is precisely this debased language by James Frey which brings the story to life. The depravity and the lengths to which an addict will sink in order to obtain their next fix, is evocatively expressed in this cacophony and kaleidoscope of sounds and words all intermingled.

Continue reading

Noakes Vindicated: BMJ Endorses LCHF Diets

Change to deeply ingrained ideas is never like a switch. It meanders through the societal consciousness igniting controversy at it proceeds and gathers momentum. The Banting or LCHF diet is no different. From the mid-1970s when the eminent Dr Ancel Keyes convinced the US Department of Health that fats were injurious to one’s health, as fat correlated with cholesterol, the received wisdom has been that fats except in extreme moderation were to be avoided. Now scientific evidence is inexorably negating this flawed thinking.

The case of the elusive cure for ulcers is illustrative of all the prevailing forces that hobble the forces of change: these are the existing dogma, entrenched industries and supposed scientific evidence buttressing the existing ingrained ideas. This requires the abandonment of a set of well entrenched beliefs that conflict with the new ideas.

Main picture: The British Medical Journal now condones the consumption of fatty food except that the sales assistant must be sternly informed to hold the chips and the bun but to put a few dollops of cream on it.

Continue reading

What will Shopping of the Future be Like?

There are two types of shopping. To differentiate them I will classify them as consumables such as groceries, cleaning materials and toiletries and personal and luxury items such as clothing and appliances. To date internet shopping has not superseded personally shopping for one major reason; the cost of the delivery. Secondly should internet shopping become the norm what will the role of physical shops become?

I have been a keen follower of the internet shopping from its exuberant birth in the 1990s. The prognosis was that within 10 years, the demise of physical stores would become a reality. Reality TV shows showcased celebrities attempting to survive without ever entering a shop. Doomsday predictions abounded. Even within the steel industry where I was working at the time, the death of the steel merchant was predicted.
Main picture: A worker is seen in the warehouse in Milton Keynes, north of London

Continue reading

Meeting the Neighbours or How the Other Half Lives

Road Running certainly exposes one to how the other half of South Africa lives. To be more mathematically correct: how most South Africans live. Last Saturday, the Solomon Mahlangu half marathon ran through Mamelodi and today’s race – on Youth Day – was held in Kagiso in the far West Rand.

When I first started running about 31 years ago, running through the black townships was considered life threatening for whites in light of the “antipathy” with which whites were regarded in the townships. Most whites would boycott such races but by participating in the 1000 Km Challenge as well as the Around the World Challenge, certain of us had no option but to participate in all races including those running through these supposed death traps.

Main picture: The township of Kagiso is surprisingly clean. Very few corrugated iron shacks are to be seen. In fact, the township has uplifted itself over the the past two decades to represent a lower middle class black stratum with mainly well-maintained livable houses maybe not with the opulence of Sandton or Steyn City but certainly comfortable.

Continue reading

Signs that prove that South Africa is different

The ubiquitous sign in bold lettering PENIS ENLARGEMENT is plastered on almost every stop sign, wall and bus shelter especially in the decrepit ramshackle areas. What image does this conjure up in the minds of foreigners about South African males? In less bold lettering beneath the prominent words will be a whole plethora of ailments and desires which this magic potion or muti, in the local Zulu parlance, can remedy.

The list will include items such as finding a job, retrieving a lover from the arms of another man to finding another wife. Of course the whities or mulungus sneer and roll their eyes at such quackery but in certain segments of black society, these concoctions clearly have credence and an allure otherwise these flyers would not be as prolific.

Main picture: Perhaps in the case the muti will be effective because all it is “designed” to do is to enlarge and not to find a girlfriend

Continue reading