Thursday, 28 May 2009

Abstract for graduate discussion evening at Keble

'Sheer high-spirited fun': The Flyting of Dunbar and Kennedy

In this talk I will give a general introduction to the Scottish tradition of 'flyting': invectives in verse as practised by some of Scotland’s most well known poets – and consider whether they constitute 'sins of the tongue.'

The main focus of my paper will be on The Flying of Dunbar and Kennedy – one of the earliest printed texts in Scotland (and the first f-word to roll off a press), featuring choice episodes of scatological humour, and a selection of my favourite Older Scots terms of abuse ('wanffukit funling' is only the beginning). No previously knowledge of Older Scots necessary (many epithets don't require translation anyway).


I'm actually slightly nervous about this talk because it is being chaired by Dr. Marc Brodie, the Senior Tutor - and the invitation is open to the Senior Common Room (read 'important people who know a lot of stuff'). Hopefully will get a good showing of MCR friends to give some moral support!

p.s. on the day of the presentation I changed my title to 'How to curse in Older Scots and get away with it: The Flyting of Dunbar and Kennedy.'

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Pick me up

Sometimes when I know I am going to settle down to a couple of hours of work I need to see something that picks me up. It could be a funny comic, a beautiful dress, or a good video - anything that makes me feel inspired about what the rest of the world is doing while I read about medieval literature.

Today I failed to find anything so I went back to my favourites list on Youtube. Here's to share with you.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

The Sowtar Inveyand aganis the telyeor Sayis

Quhen I come by yone telyeoris stall
I saw an Lowiss creipand vp his wall
snop q the telyeor snap q the scheiris
Cokkis bownis q the lowiss I haif lost myne Eiris

Ane vder

Betuix twa foxis / a crawing cok
Betuix twa freiris / A maid in hir smok
Betuix twa cattis / A Mowiss
Betuix twa telyeoris / A Lowiss
scahw me gud ser not as a stranger
quhilk of thais four is grittest in denger


ffoxis ar fell At crawing cokkis
ffreiris ar ferss At maidis in thair smokkis
Cattis ar cawtelus in taking of Myiss
Telyeoris ar tyrranis in kelling of Lyiss.

Monday, 4 May 2009

Best dressed: Miss Behave

A few years back I worked in a vintage clothing shop in Edinburgh. We had a store front on the Grassmarket and rails of beautiful things. During August Edinburgh turns into a general freak-show when the performers all come to the town for the festival. Those times me think of George Mackay Brown's 'The Poet,'

'Ah, how our sober islands
are gay again, since this blind lyrical tramp
invaded the Fair!'

Because, if you've never been to Edinburgh before, there really is a big difference between August and the rest of the year. In August everything has a new lick of paint and colourful people pepper the streets. The rest of the year there's drink.

So anyway I was minding the shop one day, sitting behind the sewing machine when a woman walked in. She was wearing dark sunglasses that obscured most of her face, and had short, dark curly hair. She was wearing a vintage dress and we got talking in the normal shop-minder/customer way and I gave her some 40s tops to try on (one orange and one green from what I recall. Silk - with lovely glass buttons). She came back out and stood next to where I sat and said she'd take the green one. I noticed that the colourful silk striped dress she was wearing is so well-worn that one side of it (under a wide black belt) has literally tattered. Those are exactly the words I would use too, 'well-worn' - not worn out.

There was something about her which made what she wore lovely. Sometimes I think there are extra-ordinary people who wear their clothes - really truly wear their clothes - as opposed to letting their clothes wear them, or just throwing things on without thought. Because the amount of though which goes into dressing oneself, I think, makes a great deal of difference. There was nothing about her clothes that spelled indifference - she was well turned out in the way that a careful and meticulous individual arranges themselves. But also unorthodox, almost uncaring, about the dress's imperfections. There was nothing about her that was not comfortably a part of herself - the old dress and all seemed to compliment her perfectly - her sense of individuality surrouned her like a confident, yet unassuming aura.

Am I getting to airy-fairy for you?

What I'm trying to say is that she wore her clothes like it was second skin. Maybe my recollections of the event had put a spin on the events so that she and her dress stick out in my mind more than they should. In any case, I asked her whether she's a performer and she said she's a swordswallower. Then I realized that she must be Miss Behave, who was performing with La Clique during the festival. A very awesome woman, by all accounts.

Sunday, 3 May 2009


Sometimes you just have to jump right in.

Friday, 1 May 2009

Happy May Day

[The Radcliff Camera & The Skydome]

So May Day has turned out to be absolutely gorgeous and I am sitting (once again) in the Bodleian Library. On days like this I wish that the Bodleian was more like Skydome - with a roof that can be opened to let in the fine weather.

What do you think?

This is what you are missing...

if you have not seen Orkestra del Sol.