Monthly Archives: December 2015

Excerpt from “I Before E (Except after C)” by Judy Parkinson ~~Pronunciation~~

picture-IBeforeE-ParkinsonThe Vagaries of English Spelling
The English language is full of complexities and contradictions, which can make spelling and pronunciation of certain words quite difficult to predict. Here is an anonymous poem that cleverly highlights a number of problem words that all learners of English, young and old, should watch out for in particular.

I take it you already know
Of tough and bough and cough and dough?
Others may stumble, but not you,
On hiccough, thorough, lough and through?
Well done! And now you wish, perhaps,
To learn of less familiar traps?
Beware of heard, a dreadful word
That looks like beard and sounds like bird,
And dead: it’s said like bed, not bead
For goodness’ sake, don’t call it deed!
Watch out for meat and great and threat
(They rhyme with suite and straight and debt).
A moth is not a moth in mother,
Nor both in bother, broth in brother,
And here is not a match for there,
Nor dear and fear for bear and pear.
And then there’s dose and rose and lose
Just look them up – and goose and choose,
And cork and work, and card and ward,
And font and front, and word and sword,
And do and go, and thwart and cart
Come, come, I’ve hardly made a start!
A dreadful language? Man alive!
I’d mastered it when I was five!

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Excerpt from “Unbroken” by Laura Hillenbrand ~~Strafed~~

picture-Unbroken-HillenbrandAs the bomber flew toward them, they lay down. Phil pulled his knees to his chest and covered his head in his hands. Mac balled himself beside him. Louie took a last glance at them, then dropped into the water and swam back under the rafts.
The bullets showered the ocean in a glittering downpour. Looking up, Louie saw them popping through the canvas, shooting beams of intensely bright tropical sunlight through the raft’s shadow. But after a few feet, the bullets spent their force and fluttered down, fizzing. Louie straightened his arms over his head and pushed against the bottom of one of the rafts, trying to get far enough down to be outside the bullets’ lethal range. Above him, he could see the depressions formed by Mac and Phil’s bodies. Neither man was moving.
As the bullets raked overhead, Louie struggled to stay under the rafts. The current clutched at him, rotating his body horizontally and dragging him away. He kicked against it, but it was no use. He was being sucked way, and he knew that if he lost touch with the rafts, he wouldn’t be able to swim hard enough against the current to get back. As he was pulled loose, he saw the long cord that strayed off the end of one of the rafts. He grabbed it and tied it around his waist.
As he lay underwater, his legs tugged in front of him by the current, Louie looked down at his feet. His left sock was pulled up on his shin; his right had slipped halfway off. He watched it flap in the current. Then, in the murky blur beyond it, he saw the huge, gaping mouth of a shark emerge out of the darkness and rush straight at his legs.
Louie recoiled, pulling his legs toward his body. The current was too strong for him to get his legs beneath him, but he was able to swim them to the side, away from the shark’s mouth. The shark kept coming, directly at Louie’s head. Louie remembered the advice of the old man in Honolulu: Make a threatening expression, then stiff-arm the shark’s snout. As the shark lunged for his head, Louie bared his teeth, widened his eyes, and rammed his palm into the tip of the shark’s nose. The shark flinched, circled away, then swam back for a second pass. Louie waited until the shark was inches from him, then struck it in the nose again. Again, the shark peeled away.
Above, the bullets had stopped coming. As quickly as he could, Louie pulled himself along the cord until he reached the raft. He grabbed its wall and lifted himself clear of the shark.
Mac and Phil were lying together in the fetal position. They were absolutely still, and bullet holes dappled the raft around them. Louie shook Mac. Mac made a sound. Louie asked if he’d been hit. Mac said no. Louie spoke to Phil. Phil said he was okay.
The bomber circled back for another go. Phil and Mac played dead, and Louie tipped back into the ocean. As bullets knifed the water around him, the shark came at him, and again Louie bumped its snout and repelled it. Then a second shark charged at him. Louie hung there, gyrating in the water and flailing his arms and legs, as the sharks snapped at him and bullets came down. The moment the bomber sped out of firing range, he clambered onto the raft again. Phil and Mac were still unhit.

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“Summer Breeze” released by Seals & Crofts

See the curtains hangin’ in the window
In the evening on a Friday night
A little light-a-shinin’ through the window
Lets me know everything’s all right

Summer breeze makes me feel fine
Blowin’ through the jasmine in my mind
Summer breeze makes me feel fine
Blowin’ though the jasmine in my mind

See the paper layin’ on the sidewalk
A little music from the house next door
So I walk on up to the doorstep
Through the screen and across the floor

Summer breeze makes me feel fine
Blowin’ through the jasmine in my mind
Summer breeze makes me feel fine
Blowin’ through the jasmine in my mind

Sweet days of summer — the jasmine’s in bloom
July is dressed up and playing her tune
And I come home from a hard day’s work
And you’re waitin’ there, not a care in the world

See the smile awaitin’ in the kitchen
Food’s cookin’ and the plates for two
Feel the arms that reach out to hold me
In the evening when the day is through

Summer breeze makes me feel fine
Blowing through the jasmine in my mind
Summer breeze makes me feel fine
Blowing through the jasmine in my mind

 

picture-SummerBreeze-SealsCrofts

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Excerpt from “The Birds” by Frank Baker ~~Swimming~~

picture-Birds-BakerI went nearer to the edge of the bath, but not too near. I did not like to. Lined along one side were little cubicles, each with a cracked mirror advertising some disinfectant. Here, the modest swimmer, could disrobe. Few people, however, except one or two old priests, ever used them. On the other side were sun-scarred benches and pegs where most people undressed. At the deep end was a long spring diving-board covered by coarse matting. There were steps down to the water at various stages along the sides of the bath.
But I did not see any water that morning. From end to end of the bath, the surface of the water was thickly obscured by the birds. They barely moved except to dip their heads and drink. A few chattered and croaked. About half-way along a number of them appeared to be quarrelling over one stray bird who hovered above, attempting to penetrate into the solid thicket of wet feathers below him, and find a place in the water. Some of them seemed to want to make room for this outcast; some seemed to resent him. Suddenly he swooped down angrily, pouncing on the softly swaying shapes and forcing a way through with his beak. There was a frenzied screaming and a fluttering of wet feathers.
‘That’s a proper lady,’ said somebody.
‘You’d better put up a notice, Joe,’ remarked another, ‘saying as how this is bird’s day and no men won’t be admitted.’
There followed a loud guffaw of laughter, since the word ‘bird’ was also colloquially applied to an attractive young woman of easy approach. I did not listen much or join in the conversation. The birds held my attention. I drew nearer to them.
Someone called me. ‘Hey sonny, don’t you fall in! No one’ll ever be able to drag you out of that mess.’
‘Can’t we make them go?’ I asked stupidly. ‘Throw something into the middle of them. . . .’
There was a life-belt hanging on the fence.
‘What about this?’ I suggested.
‘Well, throw it if you like,’ said Joe rather dubiously.
‘Oh no, you don’t!’ A small pale fellow with a waxy moustache came up and pulled the belt from my hand. ‘Suppose you make those birds wild? Have you ever thought what they could do?’
I had often thought what they could do. Yet I wanted to tempt them.
One or two birds rose from the water and flew on to the diving-board where already a long row was assembled. The sudden movement scared me. The little pale man had turned to the door; the others, whistling casually, were drifting slowly in the same direction. Only Joe remained and seemed unmoved.
‘You won’t disturb that old crowd with a life-belt,’ he declared. ‘It’d take a gun to get through that lot, then you’d have the whole bloody bath blown to bits. Throw your belt, sonny; let’s see what they do. It’s my mind they won’t stir, not a bloody inch.’
‘I think you’re right, Joe,’ I said. ‘Not really much use in throwing it, is there?’
More birds had assembled in the sky. I saw indeed that there were a great many flying about which I had not before noticed. Those above cried as though to attract the attention of those below; but they would not move. The birds in the air seemed to want to entice the others away so that they could enter the water themselves. But the birds already in the water dipped their heads and drank almost without ceasing, bringing their heads up again and shaking them with prim regularity. They were big birds, nearly as large as rooks, gleaming green and blue, their feathers glittering with drops of water. The same pretty expression was in their sharp faces; the same bright little eyes. But something more; something mean and cunning.
I drew away from the edge as one or two fluttered out on to the concrete path a yard or so from my foot. I suddenly realized how I dreaded that one of them might touch me. There was a thick, sour smell in the air.
I turned to the door.

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Excerpt from “Throwim Way Leg” by Tim Flannery ~~Araucaria Grove~~

picture-ThrowimWayLeg-FlanneryA small cluster of huts lies near the place where the turn-off to Telefolip leaves the main track. I inquired after Dan at one of these, and an old man led me down the side path through long kunai grass. Soon, we dropped off the plateau into a steep gully, and the environment suddenly changed. We were walking through a grove of magnificent Araucaria trees. Around the edge of the grove they were saplings but, further in, the pines were soaring giants, mist swirling through their crowns. Their straight, clean boles carried patches of bright green moss, which contrasted with their walnut-coloured bark. At one point the path dipped under the trunk of a fallen giant, giving me chance to measure myself against the diameter of one of these magnificent trees. It was about a metre thick.
The most striking thing about the grove was the quality of the sound. It seemed as if, in an instant, we had left the noisy, muddy world of drizzle and people and entered a large, open-air cathedral. The villages with their slippery paths and clamour of pigs and children were left behind. Even the sound of the rain had vanished – high above the drizzle was caught in the canopy. One could not feel or hear it below. The path itself had also become more pleasant, for it now passed over a soft carpet of leaves and moss, muffling our footfalls.
Suddenly, a bird flitted between the lower branches of one of the Araucarias. I held my breath as I recognised it as a male Splendid Astrapia (Astrapia splendidissima). With their long tails and curved beaks, these magnificent birds of paradise are imposing creatures. From a distance they appear to be all black, but when viewed more closely you can see the iridescent patches on their chest and head, which are beautiful beyond description. Their glorious tail plumes are highly valued everywhere. As a result, they are avidly hunted and are usually shy. I looked at my companion for signs of interest in the bird. I was astounded that he took almost no notice of it as it flitted about in the branches just above his head. He simply trudged by, head down, along the path.
Too soon light showed through the trees ahead of us, signalling the end of the Araucaria grove. We came to a fence, and before us stood the wall of a building the likes of which I had never seen before in New Guinea. It was a barn-like structure about as tall as a two-storey house, and as we walked around to the front of it I could see that the only egress lay via a tiny oval door halfway up its front wall.
Stretched out before this remarkable structure lay the village of Telefolip. It consisted of a dozen or so houses, arranged in two rows facing a path leading to the barn-like building. The houses all stood on pedestals of soil about a metre high. The pedestals had been created, apparently, by the soil between and around them being worn away by countless generations of feet. This never happens in most of New Guinea because the village site changes regularly.
What struck me most about Telefolip was that everything was traditional. Not a nail or iron tool, not a plastic bag or piece of nylon rope gave any hint that this village belonged to the end of the twentieth century.
Dan Jorgensen was sitting in one of the huts, surrounded by senior Telefol men. He was in deep discussion with them, but he welcomed me warmly. I was breathless with the excitement of seeing a bird of paradise at such close range, and blurted out my tale of the sighting.
But that particular bird, it seemed, had been displaying for several weeks now in the sacred grove.
The grove of Araucaria trees, Dan explained, belongs to Afek, the ancestress of the Telefol. The large building at the end of the sacred grove was her cult house, where young Telefol men are taken so that the secrets of the ancestress can be passed onto them. No woman is ever allowed to enter it. Indeed, no woman is allowed even to enter the sacred grove of Araucaria trees through which I had just passed. Instead, they had to take a steep, muddy path that passed into the village via another route.
Dan explained that literally everything about the grove was sacred. Not a single leaf, not even an annoying mosquito, could be disturbed in it. Over generations the birds had learned about this, and even normally shy creatures such as the birds of paradise sometimes display fearlessly within easy reach of an arrow. Open displays by valuable birds such as the Splendid Astrapia chagrin the Telefol – which explained the glum look on the face of my guide. It must be a bit like seeing a jewel on the ground, but not being allowed to pick it up.

 

Araucaria

Araucaria

Splendid Astrapia

Splendid Astrapia

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