Friday, 23 December 2016

.. and then TWO come along at the same time

In Wednesday's Book of the Week, Love of Country, a word leapt out from Madeleine Bunting's reading and stirred a – you guessed it – memory, tinged with regret.
<autobiographical_note date_range="1981–1983">
In the early '80s I worked for Macdonald and Co. (Publishers) Ltd. When the firm was swallowed up by BPPC, owned by Robert Maxwell, we moved to a large office building (a hastily converted factory, to be honest) renamed, with sublime lack of  social awareness, Maxwell House.

One of my favourite authors was the old (nay auld) Scot Finlay J Mcdonald (no relation), and the first of the three autobiographical reminiscences of his childhood on Harris was called Crowdie & Cream. I handled the photographs used in this book, one of which was very valuable (he had borrowed it from someone who ... I'm not sure, but anyway it was important to the owner)..

When I was let go (as discussed, or at least referred to, before) I had a few minutes to clear my desk, and the converted factory had no space for storage. The photo went missing, and the people left behind, failing to find the photo, did the natural thing and blamed the absentee. Although I had visited him and his wife at Twechar (then on the outskirts of Glasgow, since no doubt englouti enGlasgowed?) and we had been on friendly terms (I remember amusing him by observing that when I telephoned the key-tones in his 10-digit number played
There was a wee cooper wha lived in Fife
) I never heard from him again. He was a fairly spry old man at the time, but is almost certainly no longer with us*. His much younger wife (a singer of Gaelic songs, [Catriona possibly]), though,  may well still be with us, and I hope she doesn't bear a grudge.
 </autobiographical_note>
The word that brought this to mind was machair, a sea-side strip of rough grass typical of the Hebrides. I had met the word in the typescript of Crowdie & Cream, and checked the spelling of course, but had never heard it spoken – /ˈmæxər/, says Collins   (though Ah hae ma doots about that first vowel).

Next on the morning's schedule was Woman's Hour, in an edition called Seven at 70. One of the seven was Liz Lochhead. Jane Garvey ( for it was she) didn't use the word, I think, in introducing the poet. but she is (or was – Wikipedia would know)  holder/occupant of the Scottish equivalent (a word that may well raise some hackles: what sort of worth are talking about?) of  the UK's Poet Laureate. This position's name is transcribed in the many ways typical of a borrowing, one transcription (a hotly disputed, hypercorrect one) is machair. I think makar is more politically correct (some would say just CORRECT), bur this coincidence, thrown up by the aleatoric whimsy of the radio schedule, tickled my fancy.


Ho hum... yuletide ballast to be collected... In the immortal words of Tom Lehrer

Deck the hall with hunks of holly
Brother  here we go again.

b
PS And here's a clue:
  • Dr Spooner's instruction to Capt. Kirk, jumper in line-out? (9)
Update: 2016.12.23.13:30 – added PPS

PPS A festive clue:
  • Drumstick? Stocking-filler? (3)

Update: 2016.12.31.14:55 – Added footnote.

* This morning, by chance, I heard on the radio a programme that incorporated an interview with Finlay,  which made me wonder whether there was yet time to make my peace in person. But I soon realized that as it was on Radio 4 Extra it might well not  have been live. I've just checked: Old Year's Night was indeed recorded some 20 years after I knew him, but still 13/14 years ago.

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