Archive for October 2010

Un relooking

31.10.10 § 4 commentarii

That's French for makeover. I have a terrible weakness for French "English" words, such as le shampooing for "shampoo" or le footing for "jogging". Generally they're comprised of an English word (not neccessarily a verb) with the suffix -ing. Given that the majority of the words so formed do not have an actual English counterpart, this is a fairly remarkable phenomenon: French speakers have created a productive derivational affix from a piece of bound morphology in another language. Most French people are genuinely surprised to learn that we simply don't form words in this way in English, and can be somewhat hurt when confronted with the gales of laughter which ensue when they try to use these formations in English[1]. The suffix is highly marked, of course, and is still perceived to be the marker of an "English" word: this is probably why it is applied with such freedom to loanwords which lack it in English. This kind of hyper-foreignisation is actually quite common in languages: most English speakers pronounce the j's in "Beijing" and "Azerbaijan" as a fricative /ʒ/, the sound found in pleasure, in spite of the fact that the native pronunciations of both have the j's sounding a lot more like the affricate /dʒ/, as found in English judge. We just perceive /ʒ/ as being a more "foreign" sound, and ipso facto, that's the one we use with foreign words.

Le relooking is particularly interesting, as it represents a logical progression of word-formation. The English word look was borrowed into French meaning "image" or "style", a meaning it continues to have. The process of changing one's look, then, would obviously be un relooking: formed with the prefix re-, which has the same meaning in English, and the "look! this is a cool English word"-suffix -ing. And, to return to my point, that's what this blog has had (as you can no doubt see).

For a reason which is as yet unknown to me, I've translated the titles of all the widgets and so on into Latin. This is entirely pointless (and rather pretentious), given that in spite of the latinate title of the blog, I don't actually post in Latin. I did consider Greek, but feared losing readers. Besides, I don't like the way οἱ ἑπέται looks. Additionally, for maximum viewing pleasure, can I suggest that the gentle reader gently download the blog's default font, Gentium. It's very pretty, I promise you, and it will make reading the strange characters I'm given to using when writing Gallo-Brittonic (as in tou ambaχtos etic u̯ossos īsselos emmi) far easier and more aesthetically pleasing.

Also, to avoid confusion, the comments link is now at the top of each post, just after the signum sectionis §.


1) Personally, I find it cute when French people calque expressions and idioms directly into English. I remember a girl who worked for me at Harry's: as a favour to one of the waiters, we'd taken her on as a cleaner, in spite of the fact that she spoke no English at all. However, it turned out that she worked with indefatigable energy and became rapidly popular among the managers because she was the ideal worker: she never complained and just got on with the job. Actually, she did complain- near-constantly, in fact- but as I was the only manager who understood this it went unnoticed. Her English began to slowly improve, and it got to the point where she could communicate with the other managers without needing me as an interpreter. However, I recall one incident where I burst out laughing when, having carefully explained to the General Manager that she "did not arrive to find the key", with genuine consternation he asked her why she had turned up then.

Sed pistor bene defessus est...

23.10.10 § 0 commentarii

Back when I decided to get out of the hospitality industry for good, no honestly mister, I really mean it this time; I'll confess that I was somewhat intimidated by the prospect of adjustment to life outside the trade. I was under the impression that learning entirely new sets of skills and procedures would be the most difficult aspect of any new job. Different expectations, different skills, different rules. The accumulated knowledge and experience of eleven years in the trade, from dishwasher to chef, from waiter to restaurant manager, would all suddenly become of little use in a new career.

How wrong I was. Working for this baker-cum-retailer is essentially retail for hospitality refugees (retail therapy, if you like). Pretty much every skill I've learnt in the trade has been used over the past week. For example: instead of spending the requisite two weeks of training on the company food safety course, I pointed out that as a chef I already held a CIEH-approved level 3 food safety qualification and proceeded to move straight to the final assessments. I've also taken to the financial side of things like a cynical and world-weary duck to water: a legacy of having spent three years running one of Moriconium's busiest restaurants.

In fact, the most difficult adjustment has been getting used to the working hours. The length of the shifts isn't a problem: I'm used to ten-hour straight shifts in busy kitchens with no sit-down breaks: eight hours shuffling sausage rolls with an hour gap to wander the streets of Vetus Moriconium (including a pleasant picnic on the quay feeding seagulls and chucking fag-butts at tourists) is a veritable holiday in comparison. No, what's most difficult to get used to is working from 0700 to 1600 most days. After eleven years, my body-clock has reprogrammed itself to consider ten o'clock at night an appropriate time to start thinking about cleaning down, not going to bed. Half past five in the morning isn't the early morning to me, but a late night. In the past five or so years, I've only ever been out of the house at that time when I'm walking home after a night out on the lash. So getting up at half five every morning to go to work has been a struggle. I've risen, washed, cut myself shaving and got dressed in what is essentially a state of somnambulance. Yesterday I tried to get away without shaving, but the days when I could do that and not look like a tramp are alas long since gone.

It should come as no surprise then that I've been utterly knackered over the past ten days, sleeping for only four hours a night for a few days and then crashing into a twelve-hour exhaustion-induced coma afterwards. On Sunday, I slept for almost twenty hours in total. I've been too tired to write, read, cook or eat. The last is probably ultimately a good thing, as I swear to god that just walking through the shop provides me with some 70% of my recommended daily intake of calories. I've eaten more pastry over the past few days than I had in the previous year, and pastry was something of a speciality of mine. This excessive consumption is purely in the spirit of academic enquiry, you understand. As a manager, it behooves me to know what the entire product range tastes like (although perhaps this knowledge does not need to be gained in the course of one lunchtime, I admit.)

In fact, were I not to enjoy work, this severe sleep deprivation combined with junk-food temptation would probably qualify as a Cruel and Unusual Punishment. Nevertheless, enjoy it I do, and I'm sure that I'll adjust to a new circadian rhythm soon enough. There are a few things which irritate me, of course: as a chef I am hugely annoyed by the company's insistence on sanitising the whole prep area between making different types of sandwich (to prevent cross-contamination). Between making a prawn baguette and a cheese and tomato on brown, I can see the point; but given that most of the sandwiches are variations on tuna mayo, chicken mayo and various cheese concoctions, I find it a little paranoid to sanitise everything between (say) a chicken and sweetcorn sandwich and a chicken and mango sandwich. On the other hand, not all of their employees are former chefs, so it's probably better to be safe than sorry.

Food poisoning would cut into my sleep schedule, after all.

Coquus mortuus est, vivat pistor

15.10.10 § 1 commentarius

I started my new job at the beginning of the week. Great holy gods in the sky, I am fucking knackered.

To those who have contacted me over the last week or so: I promise I'm not ignoring you. My life is currently rich in excitement (hah), but poor in spare time. I promise I'll get back to you on Sunday (my first day off).

Like a tiger in a cage

5.10.10 § 3 commentarii

Not working is not agreeing with me. It's left me feeling incredibly restless, keen to do something creative or enjoyable, but with too short an attention span to actually do much that takes more than an hour or so. For example, I've got some ideas that I'd like to play with for a short story, as well as a couple of lengthier essays on the back burner. The kitchen needs cleaning again: the result of a few days of agitated post-resignation breadmaking. There's a distressing smell coming from a bowl of neglected sourdough starter, which is beginning to steal out of the kitchen to permeate the entire flat.

Of course, it is more than likely that this feeling of restless anxiety is a result of me enjoying the "manic" portion of "manic depression", rather than there being any particular causative link between this and my sudden unemployment. As such, I've tried to do things that I know calm me: today I've been tarting up an old bookcase and my hands are still stained with wood oil. However, the damn thing is now drying out and waiting for a final coat of varnish, placing me right back at square one with nothing to fill my time adequately. Much more of this and I'll turn rabid and start throwing things at people in the street below.

Happily, therefore, I am actually no longer technically unemployed. One of my many job application was successful: I am to be the assistant manager of a bakery (well, a Greggs). So that's it. I've got out of the trade entirely: eleven years have come to an end. I'll confess to having something of a tear in my eye when I folded up my whites and put them at the back of the wardrobe. But I'm sure the exciting fact of being paid more than I ever have been before will salve my grief pretty damn quickly.