Friday, 24 October 2014

Words, words, words!

The French and Spanish, I believe, both have organisations that regulate, for want of a better word, the official entry of words into their language. The French one works very hard at keeping foreign words out of the language and pushes hard to promote the use of a genuine French word in place of a foreign interloper. They are, of course, fighting a losing battle. A language is like a naughty and very independent-minded child. It will insist on going its own way and you can cajole it as much as you like but it will still continue along its wayward path. 

This does not stop me railing against the over-correction that produces abominations like "for you and I", the tendency for "wonder" to be mispronounced as "wander" (in other words both pronounced with an "on" sound) and even the intrusive "r" that appears all over the place. I can accept small children talking about "drawing" as "drawring", although I strongly believe that their parents and teachers should try to prevent it. However, I really think that pundits and news reporters on TV and radio should be aware that there is no "r" in the word "law". And yet I hear a lot of talk about something called "lore and order". It all conspires to turn me into a grumpy pedant. 

The Spanish academy accepts the inevitable use of foreign words in the language and adjusts the spelling to match Spanish spelling rules. "Leader" and "meeting" long ago became "líder" and " mitín". As far as I know they have not yet put an accent on "penalty" - it needs to be "pénalty" to give it correct English style pronunciation - and consequently every Spaniard pronounces it with the stress on the "a", making it "penAlty". Some purists still prefer the use of good Spanish expressions but, like the French academicians, they are fighting a losing battle. 

I'm not sure that we have such an institution keeping an eye on the English language. Perhaps I could form one. Maybe I could get government funding. No, on reflection, in this time of austerity and government debt and cuts in all sorts of services, I think that is highly unlikely. 

What seems to happen as regards English is that words are "accepted" into dictionaries and new words are rated "word of the year" and so on. Usually these neologisms are not so much borrowings from other languages as creative combinations of already existing words. 

This year there is "photobomb", defined by Collins as “to intrude into the background of a photograph without the subject’s knowledge”. And we could consider "overshare" which apparently means "to be unacceptably forthcoming with information about one’s personal life”. This happens a lot when people reveal unnecessary details about their lives on Facebook or give you graphic detail of their latest operation, child being born or similar occurrence that you have no need to hear about in technicolor. Apparently "overshare" is used as what is described as a "genteel put-down - there's another modernism. Somebody from Chambers' dictionary said about "overshare", "It is beautifully British. It's subtle, yet devastating; a put-down few would want laid at their door". 

I have barely adjusted to people using "hashtags" all over the place and I now discover that there is also a “bashtag”, defined as “a hashtag used for critical or abusive comments”. That may be because I am not a “digital native” – “a person who has learned to use computers as a child”. 

 Some people, I am told, also agitate for words to be removed from the English language. Well, I could probably come up with a few myself. Lake Superior State University in Michigan receives nominations through the year for "words to be banished from the Queen's English for "misuse, overuse and general uselessness". Earlier this year "selfie" was found to be the word most people felt should be removed. "A self-snapped picture need not have a name all its own beyond ‘photograph’,” complained one respondent. 

And finally, words related to "sequel". Films about events preceding well-known films, for example stories about Superman's childhood, have been described as "prequels". Now someone is suggesting that there is the possibility of William Shatner playing James T Kirk once again, resurrected somehow after dying in the last one, and now starring in a third Star Trek film, thus making a "threequel". 

I remain lost for words!

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Celebrations

Our next door neighbour tells me she is organising a Hallowe'en party for her grandchildren, of which she has quite a lot. Would we like to invite our grandchildren along? I'll pass the invitation along. I must say, I think she is very brave, foolhardy(?), perhaps crazy to want to fill her small basement flat - bedroom, bathroom, living-room cum kitchen in a space which is our house is the kitchen and dining area - with a bunch of youngsters of assorted ages all getting on a sugar high from the kind of food served at such parties. Not to mention the mud that will inevitably be walked in. 

The affair is becoming something of a community matter too. I ran into - almost literally as I was on my back from my morning jog - another neighbour the other morning. He told me he was organising a garden party and was on his way to rent one of those big tent-like shelters to put up in case of rain. A garden party? In October? He explained that it would be a combined Hallowe'en and bonfire party, Hallowe'en being the 31st of October and Bonfire Night the 5th of November. So that was it; he was joining forces with the grandmother of many grandchildren. Clearly the barbecues of the summer have led him to want to continue the community social life. 

We used to organise bonfire parties in our garden up to the point when our children decided they were too old and sophisticated for such things. Friends with children of the same age came along. My brother, always a big kid, brought his wife to celebrate her birthday - November 5th. A bonfire at the bottom of the garden, everyone brought fireworks and food and there was a pan of mulled wine on the go for most of the evening. It was all good fun. But we were younger and possibly more energetic then. Surely now our neighbour's daughters should be organising the Hallowe'en party and inviting Grandma, or Nana as I believe they call her, to go along as a guest. 

We started having bonfire parties when we moved into this house which has just enough garden space to permit such activities. I was nostalgic about the bonfire parties we used to have when I was a child, big family affairs that all the cousins came along to. The ones whose parents didn't want to spoil the lawn by setting fire to a pile of stuff on it. We enjoyed the whole process: collecting wood, building dens with the stuff that was drying around the garden before we got round to building the fire itself. And then on Bonfire Night itself, one of the culinary highlights was the potatoes that my father wrapped in foil and put in the hottest part of the fire once it had got going well. These were raked out later, perfectly baked, too hot to handle but quite delicious. And that was the kind of memory I wanted to give to our children. It seems to have worked as we have had occasional requests to resurrect the tradition. Too late! The moment has passed! And besides, the bit of shared garden where the bonfire used to be lit has now been fenced off. Things change. 

However, a Hallowe'en party, with a bonfire and fireworks thrown in, seems to be on the cards. Maybe I will resurrect my mother's treacle toffee recipe as my contribution to the fun and games. You have to show willing, after all. And Mum's treacle toffee recipe works well. All good stuff. 

But then this morning in the craft shop in the village I spotted a sign advertising Hallowe'en cards. Hallowe'en cards!? Who do you send them to? People you want to scare? And the shops are full of Hallowe'en displays. Fine! But they almost all wish us "Happy Hallowe'en!" Since when do we go round wishing everyone "Happy Hallowe'en"? 

"Happy Christmas" is fine and I send loads of cards with the best will in the world. "Happy Birthday", yes, that's perfectly good. I'd wish any American friends "Happy Thanksgiving", if I had any American friends living nearby. We don't go in for "Happy Anniversary" much in our house; when you've been together as long as we have you stop celebrating the fact that you're still together. I've come to accept "Happy Easter" as a greeting you give to people even if neither you nor they are practising Christians any longer, although I draw the line at sending cards to all and sundry. The cynic in me believes that Easter cards, along with Father's Day cards, congratulations on moving house / passing your exams / passing your driving test cards are an invention of the card industry who just want our money. 

I'm rather surprised no-one has come up with a "congratulations on conceiving your baby" card. After all, you now have "baby showers" where the parents to be receive gifts before the child is born. So what do you do after the baby is born? Give another gift? Or just a card and a bunch of balloons? (Although it may be that the baby shower is meant to provide larger items of baby necessities. My taxi driver yesterday was telling me that his wife wants to spend £1400 on a pram for their as yet unborn baby!) 

I have a sneaking suspicion that baby showers are an American import, like "trick or treat". Now I know "trick or treat" has been around for a good while now. Some twenty years ago, possibly more, there was knock on our door on Hallowe'en. A small group of local kids, led by a huge 15 year old girl, chanted "trick or treat". I was tired after a long day at work and looked at the 15 year old and told her she was old enough to know better. And then I shut the door. Next morning I had to scrub rude words off my front door. But back when I was a child, that "tradition" didn't exist. On November 4th we had Mischief Night, when youngsters went round playing tricks all over the neighbourhood: knocking on the door and running away; setting off "bangers" or "rip-raps" under people's windows; if you were really bad, posting "bangers" through people's letter boxes or lighting someone else's bonfire a day early. 

Mostly it was pretty harmless stuff- well apart from posting fireworks through letter boxes - and none of it involved asking for stuff. Children went round with their "guy" on a trolley in the few weeks before Bonfire Night, asking for a "penny for the guy". The most organised went from house to house singing, " We come a cob-calling for Bonfire Night". My siblings and I were not allowed to do any of this stuff. My mother said it was tantamount to begging and no child of hers was going to be seen begging in the street. Far too "common" an activity. So that was that! 

Nowadays "bangers", silly little fireworks that just give a loud bang are banned. Mind you, the Spanish still seem able to get hold of them to throw around during fiestas. "Rip-raps", a series of five or six "bangers" tied together and going off in a series of bangs, leaping around unpredictably to frighten everyone, are similarly banned. And small boys ( for it was mostly boys who bought the "bangers" and "rip-raps") can no longer buy fireworks of any kind. The world is a safer but for small boys probably a less exciting place. 

And, in fear of what might happen to their children out and about knocking on neighbour's doors, parents accompany their small children as they go "trick or treating", usually dressed in expensively bought costumes that prettify terror. The world may not be such a safe place after all and the only danger parents will subject their children to is the sugar rush and tooth decay! 

Happy celebration season everyone!

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Serious discussion on the tram.

Yesterday I braved the weather and went into Manchester for my Italian conversation class. I am glad that we only caught the tail end of Hurricane Gonzalo. If that was the tail end, I dread to think what it must have been like earlier. At one point I stood under the shelter at the tram station in Oldham when it started to rain. The wind blew the rain so that it was horizontal. We were under the shelter but still getting wet and cold. 

As people complained of the cold, one man commented that in his country this would not be considered cold. There they had snow on the hills and mountains all the time so this bit of rain and wind was nothing. From his dress he was clearly Muslim and I wondered where he was from. And so, being a friendly sociable person (aka a nosy Parker) I asked him. Afghanistan, he revealed. At that point the tram arrived and we all got on after, unusually, being asked to show our tickets and passes. I sat down and, to my surprise, the man from Afghanistan came and sat next to me, even though there was plenty of room in the tram. 

And so began a conversation that went on all the way to Shudehill in Manchester, where I alighted. I learned that he had been in England for three years and that when he arrived he spoke no English at all. He had not been to classes but had picked up English from listening and talking to people. Maybe he makes a habit of talking to tram passengers. He said he had not learnt to read and write English. I tried, unsuccessfully, to find out what he is doing in England, although I got the impression that he had come initially for medical treatment. He showed me the scars on his leg and told me that he had been injured in both legs and had been unable to walk at all for a long time. Even now he still walked with a crutch. 

I was told at length how wrong the fighting and foreign intervention in Afghanistan is. His argument went along the lines that in England ("your country" was how he described it) people can be prosecuted for hitting children and yet it is considered all right to send soldiers from the UK, from the USA, from France, to kill families and children in his country. What happens, he told me, is that people gather to go to market, to do their shopping, to get on with the business of life and this is seen as an illegal gathering and bombs are dropped. He had lost his father and all his siblings that way. It's a powerful argument. 

What I found less palatable was when he started to talk to me about religion. Assuming that I am a Christian (well, I had already assumed he was a Muslim) he informed me that we are mistaken to call Jesus the son of God. God does not have sons. God is simply there. Jesus, a prophet, was the son of Mary, or Miriam as he called her. And like the prophet Mohammed, he is in fact not dead but has been taken up to Heaven. And then there is the Bible, which apparently is different in Birmingham, London, Oldham or wherever people live. I had to protest at this but he corrected me, assuring me that people re-write the Bible to suit their own lives. Interpretation? Is that what he meant? 

The Koran on the other hand, he told me, is pure and unique. There is only the one. He was not impressed by people who read the Koran in English translation and say they are converted to Islam either. Maybe that is the problem: his belief that the Koran should be accepted without understanding or study. It was all becoming very confusing, and his English was really not up to the argument he seemed to want to have. Besides he appeared to be a nice chap, if a little fanatical, and I really wasn't in the mood for an in depth discussion. 

So I was quite glad when Shudehill tram stop the turned up and I was able to get off, without revealing to him that his assumption of my belief in Jesus as the son of God was mistaken. He was so passionate about the whole thing that I didn't want to disillusion him. 

One of my companions in the Italian class told me I had clearly come across a fanatic, possibly dangerous. But, of course, my travelling companion may just have wanted to practise his English. It'll teach me to keep my mouth shut when I'm waiting for the tram.

Monday, 20 October 2014

The Spider Post.

On Saturday evening I caught a huge spider at my daughter's house. I had to catch it. The two youngest grandchildren refused to go upstairs to bed if they had to step over the spider, even though it was tucked into a corner of one of the stairs. So I had to get a glass, pop it over the spider and wait for someone to bring me a card to slide under the glass, thus trapping the spider. This is the time-honoured and generally humane method of catching spiders in our family. The aforementioned spider, as might be expected, woke up and kind of reared against the side of the glass, revealing how big he or she really was. So I took it outside and deposited it at the bottom of the garden. 
 
Several hours later, when I arrived home, I went down to the kitchen to make a cup of tea. There on the floor, large as life and twice as nonchalant, was another huge spider. So, employing the same method as before, I caught this spider as well and took it off to the bottom of the garden. I have been known on occasion to carry them down the road a way, trying to take them as far from the house as possible in a vain attempt to confuse them and prevent them returning. Does it work? No idea. 

A fair number of Facebook friends have been posting photos of similar arachnids. My daughter even had one use her arm as a kind of bridge, dropping down from her ceiling, walking down her arm, on his way to who knows where, when she spotted him and brushed him off in horror. She then took a photo of him on the floor by her bed. 

I was discussing this spider problem with a friend recently. We both agreed that we do not remember such huge spiders back in the 20th century. In our opinion they are a 21st century phenomenon. Scientists on the TV try to persuade us that they have always been around but I remain unconvinced. I remember invasions of harvest spiders, with their small, round bodies and looooong legs. But these ugly creatures with what look like pincers at the front of their bodies are a recent development as far as I am concerned. I have been known to theorise that they have come into the country in boxes of fruit from warmer climes and, because our winters have been milder, with the occasional exception, in the last decade or so, they have survived and adapted to a British lifestyle. Not beyond the bounds of possibility. 

And then this morning I read the story of a family in South London who had a food delivery from Waitrose. In their order was a bunch of bananas. As the father of the family put them in the fruit bowl he realised that there was a huge spider nestling In the bunch of bananas. Initially trapped by a leg under the bunch of bananas, the spider disappeared from sight. The householder phoned the RSPCA who said they did not deal with such things and suggested he dial 999. The police would have nothing to do with such a venomous creature. For by now they had discovered that it was a Brazilian Wandering Spider, one of the most poisonous in existence. Great! 

Eventually Waitrose sent a pest expert, Steve Trippett, who described the spider as “hardcore”. In amongst the bananas there was also an egg sac containing hundreds of spider eggs. Mr Trippett put the eggs in a freezer to kill them and, armed with a 3ft stick, found the spider hiding in the fruit bowl. The spider became aggressive standing on its back legs and showing its fangs, this despite having ripped at least one of its legs off trying to escape. But using his stick, Mr Trippett manoeuvred the creature into a heavy plastic box, which was placed inside two other boxes. Apparently the spider was taken later to a scientific centre abroad. So you see, big spiders do come in from abroad! This was a Wandering Spider who wandered a long way. 

The family was described as being traumatised by the whole experience. Well, yes, I can understand that. A bite from a spider of this kind can cause paralysis and even death so they were right to be scared. However, one thing that strikes me is that they were not so traumatised that they couldn't take a photo of the spider. Now, when I see a huge spider, my first instinct is to get a large glass to trap the thing, not find my phone to take a picture. I might take one later once the creature is safely under glass. Mind you, my phone is usually in my handbag in some other part of the house, not in my pocket or right next to me wherever I am. (Yes, I take a lot of photos, usually when I am out and about. Yes, I also post a lot of pictures to Facebook. But my first reaction to an emergency is not to take a picture of it.) Maybe the people who take pictures first do so before they go to find something to trap the spider in. 

Anyway, it seems to me that the moral of the story is to buy your bananas in person at the supermarket, not have them delivered to your house. That way you can at least take a look to see if there is an illegal immigrant on board.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Ways of looking at things.

Perceptions of things can be odd and at times amusing. Here's an example: 

"Perhaps they're Spanish." Walking back from Greenfield the other day we came across someone talking to her daughter who was about to leave in her car. The mother was in the middle of the pavement, taking up all the space. Now, I would have moved towards the car, allowing the people walking on the pavement, in this case us, to go past. This person just stood here. I don't think she even registered that we were there. This happens all the time in Spain but as a general rule the British are a bit more aware of other pavement users. Phil and I looked at each other and said, almost simultaneously, "perhaps she's Spanish". We did wait until we were out of earshot before commenting, I hasten to add. 

 And then there's my experience last night: 

I had been babysitting, putting our daughter's two youngest to bed and eventually leaving them in the care of their teenage sister, when she finally returned from a friend's house. I set off for home, taking with me Phil's guitar which the teenager had been borrowing. She had had the idea that she might teach herself to play but never had the persistence to get beyond the painful finger ends stage. I sympathise! You need to be very dedicated and she has other interests taking up her time, not to mention sixth form college work. So, as the guitar was not being used, Phil had asked me to pick it up next time I was at our daughter's house. There I was, on the last bus home with the guitar in its case over my shoulder. I got off the bus along with a neighbour from further up the road. "Been playing somewhere?" he asked me, jumping to quite the wrong conclusion. I didn't even get to the painful finger ends stage as I could never get my fingers to keep enough pressure on the strings to make the chords. I can just carry a guitar and give the wrong impression. 

In today's newspaper (it's Sunday so I have bought a proper paper) Alan Milburn, former Labour cabinet minister and now chairman of the government's Commission on Social Mobility, talks about the problems facing under 30s in the UK and the increasing divide between haves and have-nots in modern society. One thing he comments on is that the proportion of 16 and 17 year olds in full time education who also have a job has fallen from 37% to 18% in a decade. The "Saturday job", in reality the "whenever your college timetable lets you work job", is rapidly becoming a thing of the past. 

One reason, as I see it anyway, is that university students maintain those part time jobs all year round. When I was in sixth form I worked Saturdays and holidays in a shoe shop. When I went to university my employer held the job open for me for when I came home for holidays, on the understanding that there might or might not be a job, depending on demand and so on. But I went away from home to university and I received almost the full grant available at the time and I didn't have to pay fees. So I wasn't too concerned. I didn't need to work during my university term and if there was a job waiting for me during the holidays, that was a kind of bonus. Present day students, on the other hand, have no grants as a rule, pay fees and many of them live at home. So they keep the jobs they had in sixth form. If they go away to study, often they transfer their job from their home town to their university city within the same chain. 

And then, of course, there are those graduates who can't find a job commensurate with their new status and continue in the part time job. I know a number of ex-students of mine in that situation. Some of these left college when I retired ( not related events, just coincidental ) and graduated from university three or occasionally four years later, two or three years ago now. I have followed their progress on Facebook and I know that they have continued to work in shoe shops and restaurants until eventually finding a "proper" job. Only recently I came across one of them still working in Claire's Accessories in the Arndale Centre in Manchester. All of this means that there are fewer jobs available for the 16 and 17 year olds. This is why our granddaughter is finding it so hard to get a part time job! It's also why the percentage of 16 and 17 year old students in part time work has fallen. 

As regards the gap between the haves and have-nots, here are a few interesting quotations: 

"Last year , the top 1% of Americans took home 22%of the nation's income; the top 0.1% 11%. Ninety five percent of all income gains since 2009 have gone to the top 1%." 
Joseph Stiglitz, Columbia University. 

"A chief executive in one of Britain's biggest businesses takes home in three days more than an average employee can earn in a year." 
Deborah Hargreaves, The High Pay Centre. 

"Whereas in the past, the average CEO made about 20 to 30 times the income of the average worker, today's CEO now makes 273 time more. The basic bargain at the heart of our economy has frayed." 
Barack Obama. 

Why this suddenly increased divide? The newspaper analysis concludes that mid-skilled jobs have disappeared. Factories have become mechanised and fewer people are needed to keep conveyor belts or modern equivalents working. Secretarial staff need has shrunk as files are kept in computer data base and of spreadsheets, even top executives do a lot of their own typing - the word processing programmes make that possible. So mid-skill workers are squeezed out. Most of them find it hard to move UP into the top level and so they have to apply for jobs at a lower level. Consequently there are far more people applying for low-skill level jobs and employers are able to keep wages down. This is less the case at high-skill level where employers offer higher pay and bigger and more frequent bonuses to attract the "best". 

I think we need to take a good long look at our society and see if there isn't a way to put things right before it's too late.

Friday, 17 October 2014

Haircuts, weather and political nonsense.

For at least two weeks now Phil has been planning to go and get his hair cut. At various points each week he has said, " Must get my hair cut" and then things have got in the way, time has gone past and the hair has grown a little longer. Not that it was in ringlets on his shoulders or anything like that but he was starting to feel those scissors calling. So today, as the sun was shining this morning, he got organised and off we went, combining a haircut with a walk. 

Of course, by the time we got going the sun had been covered by drifting clouds but off we went anyway. This is a frequent weather pattern here: the day starts beautifully and then deteriorates. Friends of mine are convinced that Saddleworth is blessed with a wonderful climate as I frequently post "good morning" photos of blue sky and sun-spangled autumn leaves. It's all an illusion, like so much in the world today. And I don't even need to photoshop the pictures. 

Spurred on by Phil's example, I decided to make an appointment to get my hair done as well. Because I am a woman, my situation is more complicated, at least in this country, and you have to book in advance, not just turn up and wait. As luck, or Sod's Law, would have it, my usual stylist is on holiday and I will have to wait another week with increasingly visible roots before I can get the colour sorted again. Of course, were I in Vigo, I could do as Phil does and turn up at the hairdresser's on spec. I have never yet had them turn me away or ask me to come back another day. 

I hear from a friend of mine in Vigo that they have been having the same mix of weather as we have. Looking at the forecast on the internet I see high temperatures forecast for some days next week, as high as 25 degrees, which seems silly for October. And then yesterday the newspaper Faro de Vigo put out a video clip of a flooded Vigo street with one of those street rubbish containers being washed along by the force of the water. Strange extremes of weather. 

Before we went out, I heard a news item on the radio: another of those announcements that one or other of the major political parties was changing its policies regarding immigration, foreign workers or goodness knows what else. General elections are due in May and the parties are already in catch-votes mode and since UKIP won a seat in parliament the major parties are terrified of losing votes to them. So instead of explaining what is wrong with UKIP's policies, they adjust their own to be more in line with what they have decided the electorate wants. And so they tell us that Nigel Farage has the "right" ideas. And so Nigel Farage has won, in a way. 

What has happened to standing by your beliefs? How has knee-jerk reaction replaced properly thought out debate? We move closer and closer to all the parties spinning the same line and I, who have always argued that it is our duty to vote, find myself wondering if there is any point at all. 

Maybe it's always been like this and it's just got a little more obvious in the modern age. Like Voltaire's Candide I might end up saying simply, "il faut cultiver notre jardín".

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Ways of looking at things.

18% charged. That's what my phone told me just now. Not even half full. What a pessimistic phone. We often talk about being a glass half-full or a glass half-empty person. Nowadays it sometimes seems as if it's more important to have your phone battery more than half-full. How quickly we have all adjusted to being permanently in contact with the rest of the world. 

We have been watching, or rather re-watching, Heimat, a German series by Edgar Reitz. He calls it "eine Cronik in elf Teilen" - Chronicle in 11 episodes. And that's just series one, which takes us from around 1919 when Paul Simon manages to make his way home from the First World War to some time much later in the twentieth century. We watched it years ago on television and recently I came across it in the wonderful Fopp shop in Manchester, a shop that sells all kinds of CDs and DVDs without the in-your-face top-volume music that you get in some such shops. And usually the staff are well-informed about what you are looking for. So, as we were on the lookout for something interesting to watch, I bought the first box set. 

At the start of the series radio is just developing. We see the first radio sets appearing in people's homes, the first telegraph poles going up in the countryside of Germany. Like a kind of magic. How would those people from the 1920s react to modern day communication? 

"Heimat" - more or less homeland, I believe - was a very ambitious project, filmed over a number of years so that the same actors could be used as the characters grew progressively older. It is filmed partly in colour and partly in black and white, apparently to reflect the way we remember things in more or less detail. The episode length seems to vary from one to another. My theory is that Edgar Reitz anted each episode to be a story in its own right, not finishing partway through and leaving you with a cliff hanger. 

Consequently, last night we started watching the episode about your Hermann, the troubled youngest son of the family who scandalously has an affair with an older woman. It must have lasted for over two hours. A gripping story but causing me to go to bed later than planned. The knock-on result of that was that I didn't wake up until almost 10 o' clock this morning. Not like me at all. So I forewent my run and got the day organised so that I could go to the supermarket. 

 I finally read the paper when I came back and came across an odd article about rethinking positive thinking. Two New York psychologists have come to the conclusion that if you imagine yourself having a really productive week you are less likely to achieve much. Because you have imagined it too well, you no loner feel the urge to work at it so effectively. What you need to dogs something called "mental contrasting" involving "Woop", which stands for “wish, outcome, obstacle, plan”. 

The article in the newspaper explains: "The acronym sets out the four stages of the process. First, spend a minute or two thinking in detail about something you wish to accomplish; second, vividly imagine the best thing you associate with having achieved that outcome. (That “best thing” might be an emotion, a promotion, praise – anything, really.) Third, ask yourself what internal obstacle’s most likely to get in the way. (This isn’t about your boss, or your spouse, so much as that weakness inside you that holds you back from better pay or a better relationship.) Finally, formulate an “if-then” plan for what you’ll do when that obstacle arises. (“If I find myself feeling terrified when I stand up in front of the audience, then I’ll recall how diligently I’ve rehearsed.” “If I find myself checking Twitter, I’ll get up from my desk immediately.”)" 

It sounds rather like a reworking of the old "Swot" analysis - looking at Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats when planning a project. Here's a link to the article

Psychologists could drive you crazy if you took all they say seriously. In the meantime, it would seem that those who see the world as a glass half-empty should succeed more than those of us who see it as a glass half-full. 

But I bet the latter are happier!