Thursday, February 09, 2006

Bowling with Melvyn Bragg’s Mother

Geoffrey Chaucer was a proto-blogger and early tele-worker I concluded from this morning’s In Our Time on BBC Radio Four. The first few minutes of the programme gave listeners a comprehensive overview of the man’s background, career and hobbies.

I’d never thought about him as a person before - scrubbing about like the rest of us to make a living and a name for himself. He did jolly well in both regards. His writing was a hobby (hence proto-blogger) and, once established, he managed to arrange his work so that he could do some of it from home. I bet he’d have appreciated the Internet.

In Our Time, which Melvyn Bragg (or his lordship to you and me) hosts, is a remarkable programme which is why I keep going on about it. You can listen to this week’s and hundreds of previous weeks’ programmes from the web site. Go on, you’ve clearly got nothing better to do. I’ve been busy with practical things for most of my life, for example learning to become an engineer and then finding out how to escape by becoming a Telecommunications and then IT manger, so a lot of the world’s knowledge and wisdom has passed me by.

Now, with three eminent guests each week, this lad from Cumbria helps me to fill in some of the gaps. The range of subjects is huge and the time span covered is immense. Time being a theme of this blog (don’t tell me you hadn’t noticed) that’s good. And today they spoke about another of my minor obsessions viz language. In particular the rise of English and the demise of French at the English court. I’m glad they resisted calling the French English (or English French) franglais which is quite a different thing. But they never really got to the bottom of why Mr C wrote in it rather than in French.

I must get back to producing my own translation into English of the opening paragraph of A la Recherche du Temps Perdu and capture the very essence of this great work which until now has eluded all translators. With my GCE (failed twice), a few evening classes and a free CD from the Independent I shouldn’t have too much problem. I hope it won’t be imperfect (linguistic joke (feeble)).

My mother-in-law used to play bowls against Lord Bragg’s mother. Fearsome things those Cumbrian Lady Bowlers…..


At 11:42, Anonymous Jenni said...

I am reading A la recherche du temps perdu (in English, natch) at the moment and I would quite like to hit the narrator in the face with a wet fish. I feel this is not entirely a correct response to a Great Work of Literature.

Have you read Bill Bryson's Mother Tongue? David Crystal also writes good books on language, I have a couple if you want to borrow them. Very interesting to find out quite how long French hung around for...

At 15:45, Blogger Hughes Views said...

Were you thinking fresh or salt water variety?

I haven't read that particular oevre of Mr Bryson's (but I did mention him in a comment on Someone Else's blog today)..

At 21:22, Anonymous Jess said...

Yes, Mother Tongue is a very good book.

No, Jenni, I don't think the correct response is fish-related violence, but the sentences are notoriously fiendish.. And i get the impression he goes on a bit, which might explain your frustration!

I quite liked it. I have only read the first book - du cote de chez swann - but i have read it in French! So I'm happy to help with translation, though it might be cheating a bit... I just looked up the first paragraph, and it's a very nice bit, quite representative of the whole work.

Good luck!

At 12:12, Blogger Aunty Marianne said...

I think you have to translate that work whilst on a perpetual sugar high from constant consumption of madeleines.

At 12:44, Anonymous Jenni said...


I'm not bothered what sort of fish as long as it makes a good noise.

(btw, the Bill Bryson book is on my shelf under "B" if you want to borrow it.)

At 12:51, Anonymous Jenni said...

Geoffrey Chaucer Hath A Blog.


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