Friday, 9 December 2016

Objects of Happiness 5: Blankie

I have a hideous cold. Not just a little sniffle, but a full-on, back-hurts, head-hurts, nose-stings cold. I may have caught it from going out in the rain to pick up a friend from the railway station. Now I am being a terrible hostess, not baking or washing dishes or cleaning or being entertaining. And naturally my thoughts are turning to Fuzzy Blanket.

Fuzzy Blanket is no more, having been worn to pieces. Originally it was a fluffy tartan rug purchased in Scotland, where for some strange reason we call blankets rugs. It was not really a security blanket--I don't remember needing one--it was more of a pal.

I probably should buy another (and identical) Fuzzy Blanket now that I actually live in Scotland, but let me see.

My natal oikos, as one says in Ancient Greek--which I will be teaching next term--abounds in afghan blankets knitted or crocheted by my mother. One of the memories of my family enduring in my memory is of several them sitting around the living-room clad in afghan-blanket togas. I think they were all engaged in reading, and I would not be surprised if at least two were drinking coffee. I had temporary run away from some less salubrious home, and thus the utter normalcy of my proper family struck me most distinctly.

My mother watches a lot of television, but her inner critic tells her this is wrong unless she is doing something with her hands. It matters not that she is now so hard of hearing that she must watch the screen. She is perfectly capable of reading subtitles and crocheting or embroidering at the same time, and she knows it. As a teenager she knitted pullovers while reading long and dull French and German books for class.Anyway, her projects are various, and over the years they have included a lot of afghan blankets.

As I sit in front of my sitting-room radiator in a green silk kimono, I could really use one of those afghans. I'm marooned in duvet country. You can see why the Scots voted against Brexit. They're not really British; they're French. That's my cold talking.

Basically I need my mother and an afghan. Not sure what my mother could do, however, other than say "There, there" and "Drink lots of fluids", wash the dishes, entertain my husband, and make a lot of cookies. Actually that is quite a lot of usefulness. Checking Air Canada fl----yikes!Checking Expedia.

No. Just impossible. Oh dear. Poor migrant me. Poor poor.


  1. Well, there is not that much to say yet. I am preparing a 6-term course for students who will write the Ancient Greek GCSEs (in the old days, they were called O-levels). The textbook is John Taylor's excellent "Greek to GCSE", which is bee-OO-ti-fully structured. It is much better than "Reading Greek" and--oh joy-- GCSE students don't have to know about the accents. Breathing, yes, of course, but accents, no.

    It has been a looooooong time since I have picked up a Greek text---well, other than a quick check of "Medea" last year for something I was writing---but I'm booming right along, and Ancient Greek is so much easier than Polish! :-D

    Interestingly, one of the current "Greek culture" components is an emphasis on Athenian women and their limited sphere in Athenian life. On the one hand, I took a whole course--and enjoyed it thoroughly--on "Women in Ancient Greece and Rome", but on the other, this is surely more about attitudes in Contemporary Britain than it is about Ancient Athens.(One seriously doubts students before 1950 took more than the most cursory interest in Athenian women.) Meanwhile, the subject of the heitarai raises its dodgy head, which is tricky because there is always a suggestion that it was much better to be one of them (with all that implies) than a quiet, respectable Athenian bride in the gynaeceum. However, we can work this all out in the classroom.

  2. Great! Is it a homeschooling group? I actually had that book for a very short lived extra-curricular Greek GCSE class. For women in the classical world, maybe try 'Goddesses, Wh---s, Wives and Slaves' by Sarah Pomeroy, I used it a lot during my A Level.

    PS. Classical subjects are almost impossible to do in state schools, and there are a couple of online/correspondence courses to fill the gap, maybe some are looking for paid teachers? Also, if you're looking for lucrative paid work, check out private tutoring agencies for latin/greek/philosophy etc.

  3. It is indeed a homeschooling group.

    For women in the classical world, I will do the exact minimum because I do not want to play into the contemporary-supremacist meme of "we are sooooo enlightened compared to the nasty forefathers of our civilisation." "Women in Athens" is a fringe interest best kept for grad students who have actually done all the grunt work of language-learning and date-memorizing. I adored my "Women in Ancient Greece and Rome" prof, but my fellow students were all dunderheaded Women's Studies majors who didn't know the different between a stylos and a stylus. My favourite moments--which were probably my classmates' least favourite--where when my desperate prof would ask, "Anyone? Anyone? Dorothy?" Back then I had the work ethic of a grapefruit, but at least my interest in the Classical World went beyond Sappho's sexual orientation.

    First I will devote myself to my current students, and only once they have passed with Top Marks I will ponder the future. Ancient Greek is truly a niche market, but the interesting thing is that students who take the GCSE tend to do very well because they are pretty brainy to start with. I must say that I wish I had done high school Greek before launching myself at first year uni Greek, for it was an almighty shock, especially on top of First Year Latin (for which I was much better prepared) and First Year Irish (which was simply insane).

    I think a good rule of thumb is "Never start a language at university" if you can help it. Clearly instead of taking Irish, I ought to have taken Italian, but did I listen to my mother? No. However, I don't regret having taken universty Greek, as tough as it was.