A Bear of Very Little Brain (The World According to Pooh)

The other day, in the course of an argument, somebody called me a person with a small brain.

Even while I took offence, I recalled a line from my childhood bible, Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne:

“For I am a Bear of Very Little Brain and long words Bother me.”

(Winnie-The-Pooh)

I’m all with the Bear of Very Little Brain on this one: long words bother me too. Especially when used by people who don’t know what they mean.

The World According to Pooh

Embed from Getty Images

Subsequently I went to look at the books. I had to burrow them out from the pile on the overloaded bookshelves of Young Friend of the Elephants. Passing through the hands of two children didn’t do the volumes any favours but they are still serviceable (that’s to say the sellotape still holds).

I passed a very agreeable hour leafing through Winnie-The-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner. It’s amazing what you can find when you read them with an adult mind.

For example…

Life truths:

“Rabbit’s clever,” said Pooh thoughtfully.
“Yes,” said Piglet, “Rabbit’s clever.”
“And he has Brain.”
“Yes,” said Piglet, “Rabbit has Brain.”
There was a long silence.
“I suppose,” said Pooh, “that that’s why he never understands anything.”

(The House at Pooh Corner)

Useful advice:

“You just stay here in this one corner of the Forest waiting for the others to come to you. Why don’t you go to them sometimes?”

(The House at Pooh Corner)

Sometimes you think it’s practically Zen:

“Supposing a tree fell down, Pooh, when we were underneath it?”
“Supposing it didn’t,” said Pooh after careful thought.

(The House at Pooh Corner)

And it’s always entertaining:

“What I said was, ‘Is anybody at home?'” called out Pooh very loudly.
“No!” said a voice; and then added, “You needn’t shout so loud. I heard you quite well the first time.”

(Winnie-The-Pooh)

You could live your entire life by these two books, and not regret it. (In fact, I think I will.)

Pooh’s Disclaimer

By the way, at least half the quotes you find on the internet attributed to Pooh are not from the books by A. A. Milne. Generally, the more sententious they sound, the more likely they are from a s**t script by Disney. Go back to the source; you won’t regret it.

P.S. If you combine Winnie-the-Pooh with Eastern philosophy, you get The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff. For a different take.

 

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A World View in Stone (Una visión del mundo en piedra)

Quote of the Week / La cita de la semana:

Santa María de Eunate, Navarre, Spain / Navarra, España. Photo by By Jule_Berlin [CC BY 2.0] via Wikimedia Commons

…Romanesque art is a world view expressed in stone.

(Cees Nooteboom: Roads to Santiago)


…el arte románico es una visión del mundo expresada en piedra.

(Cees Nooteboom: El desvío a Santiago)

8 Seconds Independence (8 segundos de independencia)

On Tuesday evening the Catalan president Carles Puigdemont declared unilateral independence from Spain – only to suspend said independence in the same breath, the same sentence. This has to be some sort of a record; according to Wikipedia, the next shortest lived sovereign state lasted a full 6 hours.

El martes por la tarde el presidente catalán, Carles Puidgemont declaró la independencia unilateral de Cataluña de España – sólo para suspender dicho independencia con el mismo aliento, en la misma frase. Es una especie de marca; según Wikipedia, el segundo más corto estado soberano duró un total de 6 horas.

Continue reading “8 Seconds Independence (8 segundos de independencia)”

Breakfast at Tiffany’s

Leave it to me: I’m always top banana in the shock department.

A Truman Capote novella about Holiday Golightly, a New York socialite in 1943. A girl who makes a living from being taken out by men. Not at all the kind of girl I’d have thought I had time for, not even if she only took up a hundred pages. Not at all the type of novella I’d have thought I had time for either, even it was only a hundred pages.

I found Breakfast at Tiffany’s on the bookshelf of Sophisticated Young Lady, whose bedroom I appropriated for my study while she’s at university. I’ve never read anything by Truman Capote and I was between books. I picked it up and glanced idly on the first paragraph.

I couldn’t put it down afterwards.

It made me think I might like to see New York in the rain. 
(Photo by Lei Han via Flickr. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Seville Harbour (Puerto de Sevilla)

Quote of the Week / La cita de la semana

View of Seville in the 16th century with the Fleet of the Indies / Vista de Sevilla en el siglo XVI con la Flota de Indias [public domain via Wikimedia Commons]

Seville harbour – only a few hundred yards of dock set on the banks of a slow river, fifty miles from the sea, yet once the greatest harbour in the world, and still, in the legends of man, the most important. Columbus, Pizarro and Fernando Magellan, the Santa María and the little Victoria – from here they sailed to find a new world, or to be the first in all history to encircle the globe.

(Laurie Lee: A Rose for the Winter)


El puerto de Sevilla – sólo unos pocos cientos de yardas de muelle en las orillas de un río lento, cincuenta millas del mar, sin embargo, en otro tiempo el mayor puerto del mundo, y todavía en las leyendas de la humanidad, el más importante. Colón, Pizarro y Fernando de Magallanes, el Santa María y el pequeño Victoria – zarparon de aquí para encontrar un mundo nuevo, o para ser primero en toda la historia en la circunnavegación del globo.

(Laurie Lee: Una rosa para el invierno)

Nature (Naturaleza)

Quote of the Week / La cita de la semana:

Photo by Beba [public domain via Pixabay]

I love nature, I love the landscape, because it is so sincere. It never cheats me. It never jests. It is cheerfully, musically earnest.

(Henry David Thoreau: Journals, 16 November 1850)


Amo la naturaleza, amo el paisaje, porque es tan sincero. Nunca me engaña. Nunca me burla. Es alegre, musicalmente serio.

(Henry David Thoreau: Diarios, 16 de noviembre de 1850)

“Historia narrativa de una forma cautivadora”: Entrevista a Roger Crowley

Leer esto en inglés (texto original de la entrevista)

Hoy vamos a hablar de – y con – uno de mis autores favoritos.

Empecemos con un extracto:

View from the Doge’s prison, Venice / Vista de la prisión del Doge, Venecia

…Pisani podía oír la bulla desde el calabozo ducal. Puso la cabeza contra de las barras y gritó: «¡Viva San Marcos!» La multitud le respondió con un clamor ronco. Arriba, en la sala de los senadores, seguía el debate nervioso. La multitud puso escaleras frente de las ventanas y golpeó la puerta de la sala con una llamada rítmico: ¡Vettor Pisani! ¡Vettor Pisani!

(Perdóname por los errores de traducción,
es que sólo tengo el libro en inglés.)

¿Eso te parece un extracto de una novela?

No lo es.

Es historia – en la forma que la escribió el historiador británico Roger Crowley.

El extracto arriba es de Venecia: Ciudad de Fortuna, el libro de Roger Crowley sobre el auge y la caída del poder naval veneciano. Si quieres enterar por qué el almirante Pisani (1324-1380) – obviamente muy popular – se halló en la prisión del Doge y qué le pasó después, pues ya sabes qué hacer.

(¡No, eso no significa que lo buscas en Wikipedia!)

Continue reading ““Historia narrativa de una forma cautivadora”: Entrevista a Roger Crowley”

The Silent Pain of the Species (The Mad Toy)

Leer esto en castellano

What effect has ‘the silent pain of the species’ in Silvio’s soul?

This was the question that I had to write a short essay about in a Spanish literature and conversation class a few months ago. I attended the class in the Cervantes Institute in London because I knew that my fluency in Spanish left much to be desired and because I like literature, obviously. I had imagined that in class I’d have the opportunity to speak about Hispanic authors and that I would have to read some books at home so that we could discuss them in class afterwards.

Er… no.

Continue reading “The Silent Pain of the Species (The Mad Toy)”

El silencioso dolor de la especie (El juguete rabioso)

Read this in English

¿Qué efecto tiene en el alma de Silvio «el silencioso dolor de la especie»?

Esta era la pregunta sobre la que tuve que escribir un pequeño ensayo para una clase de literatura y conversación española hace unos meses. Asistí en la clase en el Instituto Cervantes de Londres porque sabía que me falta mucho la habilidad de hablar con fluidez y porque me gusta la literature, claro. Había imaginado que en clase tendría la oportunidad de hablar de autores hispánicos, y tendría que leer unos libros en casa para que podríamos discutir sobre ellos en clase.

Que no.

Continue reading “El silencioso dolor de la especie (El juguete rabioso)”

Three Thousand Year Old Bowls

Quote of the Week:

We can travel to the moon nowadays, but the basic shape of a bowl remains unchanged. I remember similar specimens in Africa, but they were not three thousand years old. I make a supreme effort to sense how ancient these are and I succeed because I know it’s true: three thousand years of violence, of profound upheaval have left this pottery intact, ready for use. I would gladly steal a piece from the cabinet and take it home, not to sell it on for some exorbitant price but to drink from it behind locked doors just in order to prove the continuity of my species, and to reflect a little on the unknown potter who fashioned it.

(Cees Nooteboom: Roads to Santiago)

Mundane

“Narrative History at its Most Enthralling”: Interview with Roger Crowley

Leer esto en castellano

Today we’re going to talk about – and talk with – one of my favourite authors.

Let’s start with an excerpt:

View from the Doge’s prison, Venice

..Pisani could hear the cries from the ducal prison. Putting his head to the bars, he called out ‘Long live St Mark!’ The crowd responded with a throaty roar. Upstairs in the senatorial chamber a panicky debate was underway. The crowd put ladders to the windows. They hammered the chamber door with a rhythmic refrain: ‘Vettor Pisani! Vettor Pisani!’

Reads like a novel?

It isn’t.

It’s history – as written by the British historian, Roger Crowley.

The excerpt above is from City of Fortune, Roger Crowley’s book on the rise and decline of Venetian naval power. If you’d like to find out why – the clearly popular – Admiral Pisani (1324-1380) was languishing in the Doge’s prison and what happened next, you know what to do.

(No, I did not mean look it up on Wikipedia!)

Continue reading ““Narrative History at its Most Enthralling”: Interview with Roger Crowley”

Face to Face with My Ancestors (The Scythians in the British Museum)

I went to see the Scythian exhibition in the British Museum on Friday night and I came face to face with a Scythian warrior from over 2000 years ago.

Was this what my great-grandfather 50 times removed looked like?

Continue reading “Face to Face with My Ancestors (The Scythians in the British Museum)”

The Wine-Dark Sea

Quote of the Week:

“Sailing over the wine-dark sea…” (Homer: The Odyssey)
[Image public domain via Pixabay]

It was evening when we made our way back to the cove. The sun was setting fire to the headlands west of us, and the sea had become absolutely still. Not even a cat’s-paw trailed across the purple water. The sea was truly like wine to look at. The professors who had decried Homer’s adjective and invented other meanings for it, had never been sailors.

(Ernle Bradford: The Wind Off the Island)

An Evening with Matsuo Basho

Matsuo Basho by Sugiyama Sanpu [public domain via Wikimedia Commons]
I was reading haikus last night. A haiku – for those of you who don’t know – is a traditional, non-rhyming Japanese poem of 17 syllables, arranged in three lines of 5-7-5 syllables respectively.

The greatest – the first, the last and the only, some would say – haiku poet was Matsuo Basho (1644-1694) but we’re not going to enter into a thorough discussion of his qualities right now because:

a) it’s getting on for midnight and I’ve got to go to work tomorrow, and

b) nobody’s first introduction to a poet or a style of poetry should be spoiled by literary criticism.

(You’ll just have to subscribe and wait until I revisit the topic.)

I love haikus because I love my poems evocative, ephemeral and emotive. The best haikus are capable of combining those three qualities within measly seventeen syllables.

(We’ll take this step by step.)

Continue reading “An Evening with Matsuo Basho”

7 Things You’ll Regret Not Doing in Lisbon

Having taken a somewhat negative view last week with 7 Things You’ll Regret Doing in Lisbon, I think it’s time to look on the bright side!

Good Enough for Byron

We’ll take our cue from Byron:

On, on the vessel flies, the land is gone,
And winds are rude in Biscay’s sleepless bay.
Four days are sped, but with the fifth, anon,
New shores descried make every bosom gay;
And Cintra’s mountain greets them on their way,
And Tagus dashing onward to the deep,
His fabled golden tribute bent to pay;
And soon on board the Lusian pilots leap,
And steer ‘twixt fertile shores where yet few rustics reap.

(Lord Byron: Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, Canto I, XIV)

(Welcome to Lisbon.)

If it was good enough for Byron, it should be good enough for you: Byron had a real talent in picking the most memorable places in Europe to visit (and then writing them up in his poetry).

Continue reading “7 Things You’ll Regret Not Doing in Lisbon”

Lao Tzu on Knowing Yourself (Lao-Tse sobre conocerte a ti mismo)

Quote of the Week / La cita de la semana:

Lao Tzu (6th century BC) [public domain via Wikipedia]

Knowing others is intelligence;
knowing yourself is true wisdom.
Mastering others is strength;
mastering yourself is true power.

If you realise that you have enough,
you are truly rich.

Lao Tzu: Tao Te Ching, 33
(Transl. by Stephen Mitchell)


El que conoce a los demás es inteligente.
El que se conoce a sí mismo es iluminado.
El que vence a los demás es fuerte.
El que se vence a sí mismo es la fuerza.
El que se contenta es rico.

Lao-Tse: Tao te king, XXXIII

 

Palabra mágica (Magic Word)

The library of Pannonhalma Archabbey, Hungary. Photo by Thaler Tamás via Wikimedia Commons [CC BY-SA 4.0]
En septiembre 1931, el poeta Federico García Lorca hizo un discurso por la ocasión de la inauguración de la biblioteca pública en su pueblo natal, Fuente Vaqueros en Granada.

In September 1931, the poet Federico García Lorca made a speech on occasion of the inauguration of the public library in his hometown, Fuente Vaqueros in Granada.

La cita de la semana / Quote of the Week

¡Libros! ¡Libros! He aquí una palabra mágica que equivale a decir amor, amor, y que debían los pueblos pedir como piden pan o como anhelan la lluvia para sus sementeras.

(Federico García Lorca: Medio pan y un libro)


Books! Books! Here is a magic word that is equivalent to saying love, love, and what people should ask for like they ask for bread or yearn for rain for their crops.

(Federico García Lorca; Half a Bread and a Book)