Archive for February 2011

In with the light, out with the shite

26.2.11 § 3 commentarii

I am highly disappointed in myself. It’s turned out to be an absolutely beautiful day here in Moriconium, and I am plagued by a nagging guilt that I am not out there making the most of it. A perfect day to hop on the bus and go somewhere wild (well, as close to wild as Dorset gets): to feel the salt breeze upon my face, to wander pensively along the banks of a stream, perhaps even to hug a tree. Instead I’ve sat on the sofa in my underpants all afternoon, eating crisps and watching Wales play a crap game against Italy.

This moring was slightly more productive, albeit only in a manner of speaking. I started writing a short piece on pagan views of sexuality, in response to something that Brochfael wrote on CF. Unfortunately, however, it swiftly got out of control and veered widely off-topic into a rambling denunciation of What I Think is Wrong in Paganism Today. I was vaguely tempted to post it anyway, knowing that it would probably get a few giggles, but on re-reading I noted that some of the things I wrote bordered uncomfortably on the sociopathic even by my own (admittedly rather low) standards.

Discretion being the better part of valour, then (and sensing that I really need to do more work on my anger issues), I have instead condensed it down into a rather more temperate List of Things I Don’t Get about Paganism. It’s far from comprehensive, obviously. I’ve missed off some of the more obvious things, like a cavalier disregard for historical and linguistic facts, as they’re not things I “don’t get”: I’m fully aware that they’re due to the unfortunate truth that people are stupid.

Things I Don’t Get about Paganism
  1. Nudity outside ritual. No, seriously, what’s that all about? Obviously we can lay the blame squarely at Dion Byngham’s door, but it just seems rather incongruous and lacking any actual theological justification. Am I right in suspecting that it’s simply an excuse for the more exhibitionist to wave their tackle about? When you get right down to it, are so many pagan gatherings “clothing-optional” solely so that the more self-aggrandising (there is indeed a pun here) PE teacher types can strut about like the cock of the walk?
  2. “Magickal” names. Just why?
  3. Bad prose. I know it’s not a specifically pagan thing, of course, but so much pagan writing is dire. Take the website of my local band of megalith-botherers: it’s barely literate. At the other end of the spectrum, we have the hideously over-wrought prose of Emma Restall Orr, whose persistent verbal tics render her work utterly unreadable for me. While we’re at it, can we please place a moratorium on the use of the verb “to craft” when we actually mean “to make” or “to create”?
  4. The propensity to schism. Actually, I think I do get why the pagan community is so Balkanised in the UK at least: everybody wants to be an archdruid.
  5. “Ritual” wear. We are, I believe, the only religion in the world where congregants are expected to dress up in homemade robes in order to worship. I know Christians have their Sunday Best, but it’s hardly comparable.
  6. The sheer aesthetic poverty. Bo’s already covered this one amply and I see no reason to add to his discussion.
  7. Tie-dye. When is paganism going to realise that the 1960s ended forty fucking years ago? This is not Height-Ashbury in the Summer of Love. It’s a British field in the middle of a damp August.
  8. Relativism. Sooner or later, paganism is going to have to decide once and for all: is it a religion (or, better, a group of religions) or a pick and mix approach to self-actualisation? When are we going to stop sitting around nodding gnomically and accepting everybody’s “truth” as equally valid. It is the mark of a mature religion to be able to turn to someone and tell them they’re talking bollocks.

I could go on, but those are the main things that are a source of genuine puzzlement to me. Why do these things occur at all? Answers on a postcard, please!

How do you plead?

24.2.11 § 5 commentarii

Q: What do you call a Welshman in a suit?

A: The defendant.

I had an interview today, at a lovely little pub near the quay over in Vetus Moriconium. It went swimmingly, even if I do say so myself: I can be remarkably charming when I want to be (alas that this does not translate into a facility with customer service!), and have been invited to do a trial shift this Sunday. The pay on offer's good, and I've got a good feeling about the place. Should I not make a complete arse of myself over Sunday lunch, I'll hear by Wednesday whether I've got the job or not. Wish me luck!

No Irish Need Apply

21.2.11 § 0 commentarii

I have just discovered that entirely coincidentally the word for “barbarian” in one of my constructed languages is homophonous with a Celtic word meaning “Irishman”. As you might remember, I don’t simply make the words in my constructed languages up, instead I attempt to model naturalistic sound-change through several millenia in order to gain a measure of verisimilitude. So it’s not through any unconscious antigoidelism on my part, but a pure case of happy homophony.

For a while now, the name given to a branch of the Kalpo-Lacaran family has been bugging me. That is the name of the Thærskan branch, which is roughly equivalent to Indo-European’s Germanic family. I came up with the name before actually devising the soundchanges which give the branch its shape, with the vague intention of deriving the name from the established Kalpo-Lacaran root √tʰeres-, meaning “tribe”, from something like an adjectival derivative *tʰeres-ka- “tribal, common to us”- which is basically a calque on the etymology of Deutsch and Dutch. Unfortunately, however, the reflex of *tʰereska- in Proto-Thærskan would be *terska-, which I don’t particularly like.

So, unwilling to tweak the soundchanges so that *þǣrskaz- would be an acceptable outcome, I thought about what proto-form could produce the form þǣrsk-. It turns out to be *dēreska-, which looks like an adjectival derivative of a stem √deres-, which in turn could be an extension of a more “basic” root *der-. On checking my lexicon of Kalpo-Lacaran, I see that there’s no existing roots of that shape. However, there is the already well-established root *del- “to speak”. Kalpo-Lacaran roots occur in two types: biconsonantal roots and triconsonantal roots, the latter often being derivatives or modifications of the former. For example, there’s √bʰar- “to shape, mould” and the extension √bʰaragʰ “to knead dough”. (There also exists a large number of triconsonantal roots with no such correspondence: √dur- “circular” and √durutʰ- “strong”, for example.) A plausible semantic extension of “to speak” would be “to speak intelligibly”: thus we have *þǣlskaz “understandable”, which is a good way of referring to your own language in contrast to a foreigner’s. So the Thærskan languages have become the Thælskan languages.

Satisfied with resolving that little niggle, I started playing around with this new root, tracing its development in the other branches of the family. Adding the pejorative prefix *wai- to a nominalisation of the root gives *waidelso- “someone who cannot be understood”, which is a good term for a barbarian. In Classical Tailancan, this becomes aidelsos by regular sound-change. In the most significant of Tailancan’s daughter languages, Carastan (whose soundchanges are broadly modelled after those of Breton), this becomes gouezel “savage, barbarian”.

And the actual Breton term for “Gael, Goidel” is also gouezel.

A failed experiment

12.2.11 § 2 commentarii

Bugger. That didn’t go well.

I’m unemployed again. It turns out that my unease at taking a job at the Bakery was justified: it turns out that I’m actually not all that successful at maintaining a façade of normality outside the trade, just as I feared. Going by the look of horror on my team’s faces, apparently threatening people with knives and telling them to fuck off isn’t considered to be “normal” behaviour out in the Real World. Some people just can’t take a joke. I mean, it was a bloody bread knife, for gods’ sakes. It might not have helped that I have been known to refer to a certain individual whom I particularly dislike from another shop as a junior tampon (viz. they are both stuck up little cunts.)

This, of course, is not the reason I got fired (rather a pair of illustrative anecdotes demonstrating the dissonance between my standards of workplace normality and theirs)- in fact I didn’t get fired at all. Not technically. Nor did I resign. It was all really very amicable. My employment, as is normal, was subject to a probationary period of twelve weeks, which in my case was extended to sixteen weeks as a due to having been interrupted by the insanity of the Christmas period. I had my final review on Wednesday with my area manager, and we agreed that not only was I not the right person for the job, but also that it wasn’t the right job for me either.

Since early January, I’d been having serious doubts. I just stopped enjoying it and started to be irritated by it. The company’s insane internal bureaucracy was becoming a source of major frustration: as well as the bracelet issue that some of you are aware of, there were a number of less personal but equally frustrating episodes. For example, one day we ran out of milk. Now, the simple and obvious solution to this is to pop over the road to the newsagent and buy some more. No. Instead, we had to phone head office, speak to the Health and Safety Manager and get her permission to buy milk. On the fourth attempt, she answered and told us firmly that we needed to go to a reputable supplier, so we had to go to the Co-Op ten minutes away. The serial numbers of the milk had to be recorded in the due diligence book, along with a reason why they had been bought and a case number from head office. The receipt had to be sent off to the HS manager, and we had to inform her when the milk had been used up so the non-compliance notice could be removed from our file. Now, to me, this is insane. It reflects two things which I grew to hate about the company[1]: micro-management from above and a near-pathological obsession with food safety. Food safety is important, don’t get me wrong, but were the Bakery a person rather than a company it would be in intensive therapy for OCD and mysophobia. I suspect that within recent history they’ve had a serious food poisoning scandal and the current levels of vigilance are an case of locking the stable door after the horse has bolted.

So the company annoyed me. Suck it up and carry on. Which I could easily have done: after all, the job itself is not difficult, nor is it something in which I am completely inexperienced. From 2006 to 2009 I was a restaurant manager, my kitchen duties only occurring in the off-season. I know management, I can look after cash and paperwork, and I can successfully lead a team. Indeed, I started at the Apiary not as a chef but a restaurant supervisor. What I can’t do anymore, however, is customers. I’m too old and too unwilling to fake that smile these days. I’ve lost the ability to smile and apologise if somebody’s rude to me. I simply don’t have the patience for the general public: prolonged exposure makes me misanthropic and depressed. If I’m honest, I’ve realised this for a while. What got me back into the kitchen when I worked at the Apiary was a realisation that I was suffering from a particularly bad case of burnout. My manager there was good enough not to tell me to pack up and find a new job, but to shift me sideways into a kitchen role. I was a fool to think that I’d gotten over it, that I could deal with customers again.

The weirdest thing, though? I realised that I missed being a chef. Having read over some of my previous posts about how much I hated my job, I have to wonder now if it was just the place that needed changing, not the career. O’Murphys was a shithole, sure, but I’m actually a pretty good chef, and mucking about with food something I’ve always enjoyed doing. As I’ve got a couple of years of making money and saving before me until I can afford to apply for a master’s (and let’s face it, the current economic climate in academia isn’t particularly reassuring for the humanities), why not spend it doing something I enjoy? Besides, I’m too old to go on the game now. The discerning queen isn’t going to pay for a scruffy bloke in his late twenties suffering from incipient bearism.

So ultimately, it’s a bit of a relief, really. The Bakery is basically paying me a month’s wages, so I’m not up Excrement Estuary yet. And, as this is the first time I’ve not resigned or been fired, I can actually claim JSA this time around. Having shown my face in the appropriate places and reestablished the appropriate contacts, there’s a couple of jobs I’ve got my eye on. There’s a nice pub in Vetus Moriconium, where I’ve drunk a few times before, and they’re looking for a sous chef. And there’s also a nice French restaurant on the Quay needs a chef de partie, and I kinda-sorta know the chef there.

I’m actually feeling more positive than I have in ages.


1) The third thing which really got on my Hampton was how they referred to disciplinary action as “counselling”. That kind of faux-inclusive corporate buzzword arse-drool really enrages me.


§ 1 commentarius

A sword guides justice,
hilt in a silver hand.
Not miserly that king.