Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year's Evezzzzzz...

Well, I made it through Christmas and, a couple of interminable car journeys aside, very enjoyable it was too. Now it's New Year's Eve. In years gone by, this would have been an excuse for staying up extremely late, drinking way more than is good for me, and an opportunity to kiss and embrace complete strangers. Now, with all these kids and all these car journeys, it will be an achievement for me and my wife to still be awake at midnight, though we plan on being. Last year, with a new born, I fell asleep in the armchair and woke to find the New Year had already begun. Come to think of it, it pretty much summed up the year that followed - me asleep in a chair. I hope to find a bit more energy this year.

Other than the carousing, there are a few other aspects New Year's past that I miss. First footing, for example, which I mentioned in a response to Yrsa's blog last year, which involved me leaving whichever party I was at just after midnight to be the first person to cross the threshold of my Grandmother's house in the New Year, which she believed brought her luck (and brought me a crisp five pound note for my troubles.) The practice traditionally involved opening the back door to let out the old year, then the front to let in the new, accompanied by a tall, dark male. In the mining village where my other grandparents lived, groups of men left the pubs at midnight, well refreshed, and went door-to-door, a lump of coal in their hand, first footing for everyone who wanted, in return for a nip of scotch. As you can imagine, those at the far end of the street welcomed some fairly tired and emotional travellers after umpteen whiskeys, on top of a bellyful of beer. I remember being there as a young child, allowed to stay up, amazed by the festivity and bonhomie that erupted for the hours that followed midnight. Lots of food and laughter and optimistic talk of the year ahead. Unfortunately in London, if you turned up at a strangers house worse for wear with a lump of coal, you're more likely to get a blast of mace in the face than a glass of whisky.

My grandmother was a stickler about what constituted a good first-footer. You needed to be male - females were historically regarded with dread. You had to be dark; apparently those with a light complexion were not welcome as a hangover from the Viking invasions. Tall was good, though optional. Fair was the final qualification, as in handsome, but again exceptions were (and had to be) made. Other than coal (for warmth), first footers carried salt (for wealth), a cake or some shortbread (for food) and something to drink, usually whisky.

All my grandparents are long dead, and while the mining village is still there, it exists mainly as a ghost town, the mine having long since been shut, decimating the whole area. It is hard to imagine the festivity and joy of my youth still goes on - the last time I was there the only pub had been turned into an 'activity centre,' teaching people about good diet, holding aerobics classes, with a cafe selling fruit smoothies and energy shakes - but I hope so.

All the best to you all for 2011.


Dan - Friday

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Hottest wishes for 2011

After reading the reports of snow and general disruption in Europe, and on the East Coast and in the Midwest of the USA, I felt I had to provide our readers with warmer felicitations for the New Year.
Basically I am just too hot to write anything much, let alone a profound and insightful treatise on the three scourges of Africa.  I will do that later this month.
I am sitting in a small bungalow on a private game farm called Ingwelala - sleeping leopard - (  I share the bungalow with two partners, one from South Africa and one from England.  Seventy-five percent of the bungalow walls are made from mosquito-proof gauze (obviously to keep mozzies, as we affectionately call them, from attacking us while we sleep), and chicken wire, to keep baboons from eating our food and hyenas from eating us – if the mozzies have left anything.
The farm – nothing is actually cultivated here – is 3000 hectares in extent (nearly 7000 acres) and borders the huge Kruger National Park.  Animals have approximately 30,000 unfenced square kilometres in which to roam, while we are confined to our own 3000 hectares.  The farm has a small village with approximately 200 bungalows, whose owners have rights to roam with the animals over the 3000 hectares.
I have been here for nearly two weeks with relatives and friends, including a Dutch couple, who were delayed 5 days in arriving because of the snow at Heathrow.  They are in mild shock at the temperature differential.
Anyway, after reading Yrsa’s post yesterday and remembering the many times I wandered down the Mississippi from my house in Minneapolis to watch the New Year fireworks in sub-zero weather in degrees F (approximately -20 in those pesky C degrees), I decided to wish our readers best wishes from +40 degree weather (over 100 degrees F).  And high humidity.
I would write more, but the heat is doing me in!
So, to all of you, whether hot or cold, I give you my hottest good wishes for a healthy, happy, and prosperous 2011.

Stan - Thursday

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Happy New Year

In a few days Icelanders will celebrate the end of the current used-up year and ring in the spanking new one - in the way we usually do - by shooting fireworks. The urban areas will smell of smoke and brimstone for a while, at least for the time it takes the red fog from the explosions to lift.  The wooden sticks and paper litter which constitutes as fallout will also be quite visible for some time, even making appearances all throughout the remaining winter months if engulfed by snow.

It is funny what you get used to - in my mind your own personal fireworks are an absolute must on New Years as it is what I have come to associate with the celebration throughout most of my life. We tried to introduce this love of fireworks in Canada but ended up putting fire to an old tree in the yard of a retirement home for nuns who have hopefully forgiven us our lack of tree trivia knowledge. To save you this same disgrace and police involvement please be aware that a very dry tree with no leaves is most likely dead and will catch on fire if a large burning pinwheel is nailed to it instead of to a fence as recommended. Actually the general lack of trees here is probably the reason why public fireworks are allowed and not banned as in Canada where trees outnumber the grains of sand on the coutries vast coastlines.

But if you were wondering what it looks like here on New Years, here you go - seeing is believing and if wondering when to visit this might help you make your mind up, please note that none of the fireworks seen in the clip are from the city itself or any organisation, this is all from regular citizens. I need not mention how much kids love this, in particular boys:

To one, to all - Happy New Years and may 2011 bring you good health and prosperity.

Yrsa - Wednesday

Monday, December 27, 2010

Year in review top lists and what do I have to add?

Everyone's done their top ten faves of the year - books, films, music etc
but instead of compiling a list I'd rather go to the circus.
If I were in Paris I'd take my friend's five year old daughter Zouzou, to
the Cirque d'hiver, the winter circus. Since 1852 the Cirque d'hiver at the juncture of the rue des Filles Calvaires and rue Amelot has been a prominent venue for circuses, horse shows, musical concerts and today fashion shows and Turkish wrestling. The circus is still run by the Bouglione family who took over in 1934. Last week the matriarch Rosa celebrated her 100th birthday in the ring with her three children and 54 grand and great grand children. Even the minister of culture attended. After Leighton posted about the Brazilian architect still humming at 103 I thought about Rosa. Honestly if you weren't an architect how much better could life be than to reach 100 still run a circus under the big top and employ generations of your family?
But the Cirque d'Hiver isn't an ordinary big top, the place is decked in red velvet with chandeliers and top acrobats who vie to perform on their circuit.
Off boulevard du Temple, once known as the 'boulevard du crime' for the countless theatres - now only a few remain - famous for the nightly performances of plays involving murder topped the bill in the belle epoque, the circus retains that bygone era.
The flying trapeze, clowns, jugglers, animals, incredible acrobatic acts, fun and laughter are what Parisians think of, when they think of a circus and the Cirque d'Hiver Bouglione is no exception. Acrobats and performers from all over the world perform in this traditional French circus.
The building itself is a must see - a unique piece of architecture - built in an oval polygon of 20 sides, with Corinthian columns at the angles, giving the impression of an oval building enclosing the oval ring, surrounded by steeply banked seating for spectators, very much like a miniature indoor Colosseum. A low angled roof is self-supporting like a low dome, so that there is no central pole, as under a tent, to obstruct views or interfere with the action. The building was designed by the architect Hittorff and opened as the Cirque Napoléon, a compliment to the new Emperor, the French Napoleon III. The sculptor Pradier was called upon to provide exterior bas-reliefs of Amazons, and Duret and Bosio sculpted the panels of mounted warriors.
The original guiding entrepreneur was Louis Dejean, the proprietor of the Cirque d'été the Summer Circus erected annually that flanked the Champs-Élysées. Dejean wagered that evening circus performances under the limelight, with the spectators well removed from the dust and smells of the tanbark floor, would provide a dress occasion for le tout-Paris and he was right.
After the Second Empire, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec repeatedly found inspiration for his work in rehearsals and performances at the Cirque d'hiver, Georges Seurat painted an afternoon performance, with a distinctly middle-class audience, now his unfinished canvas is at the Musée d'Orsay. Since 1934 it has been the Cirque d'hiver-Bouglione, operated by Rosa and the Bouglione family in the winter. The original configuration accommodated 4,000, which has now been reduced to 2,090 due to fire codes.
At the Cirque d'hiver in 1955, Richard Avedon took his famous photograph of the fashion model "Dovima with the Elephants" to show a floor-length evening dress by Dior, one of the most iconic fashion photographs of the century..
The movie The Trapeze with Burt Lancaster, who started his career in the circus, was filmed in the Cirque d'Hiver.
So if you want to see men in tights and Gina Lolabrigida against the backdrop of the Cirque you can't go wrong.

Meanwhile if you're in snowy Paris the best way to get to Cirque d'Hiver might be like this;

Cara - Tuesday

Age and Achievement

 Age getting you down?
Think you might be getting too old to marry?
Too old to do productive work?
Too old for creative endeavor?
Think again.
And take your inspiration from this guy:
 Oscar Niemeyer married (for the second time) when he was 99.
He turned 103 on the 15th of December.
He still works.
Every day.
And he remains creative as hell.
Oscar Niemeyer is an architect – Brazil’s greatest.
You may not have heard of him.
But you’ve seen his work.
 The UN building was a project that he did together with Le Corbusier in 1947. Niemeyer, back then, was forty years old. Le Corbusier was sixty, and very much the senior man, but most of the design is attributed to Niemeyer.
 This was Niemeyer’s first building on U.S. soil. It’s largely forgotten now, but it was a great sensation at the time. It’s the pavilion he and Lúcio Costa designed for Brazil’s participation in the 1939 World’s Fair.
The innovative nature of the project inspired New York’s mayor of the time,
Fiorello La Guardia, to award Niemeyer the keys of the city.
But was the Pampulha Project, a year later that brought Niemeyer into contact with another mayor – the man who, ultimately, had the major influence in shaping his future life.
 Juscelino Kubitschek was the mayor of Belo Horizonte, the capital of the State of Minas Gerais.
Pampulha was a suburb he wanted to build north of the city.
The work he commissioned Niemeyer to design was the Church of Saint Francis of Assisi, later to become Brazil’s first listed modern monument. The conservative Church authorities of the time refused to consecrate the church, and continued to refuse until 1959, in part because of its unorthodox form…

…and in part because of the depiction of Saint Francis, tiles painted by Candido Portinari.
 Twelve years later, Niemeyer, by now rich and famous, completed this project, 
the Canoas House, his new home in Rio de Janeiro.
And it was here, one September morning in 1956, that he got a visit from his old friend, Juscelino Kubitschek, the newly-elected President of Brazil.
“Oscar,” Kubitschek said, “I am going to build a new capital for this country, and I want you to help me.”
Niemeyer organized a competition for the lay-out of the city (the winner was Niemeyer’s collaborator on the 1939 World’s Fair project, Lúcio Costa) and immediately set to work on the design of the principal buildings now regarded as his greatest works.
Among them are
 the residence of the President, the Palácio da Alvorada,
 the National Congress,
 the Cathedral of Brasilia...
... with its stunning interior...
and the monument he designed in honor of his old friend Juscelino.
 Viewed from above, Brasilia can be seen to have elements that repeat themselves in every building, giving it a formal unity. Niemeyer and Costa used the opportunity Kubitschek had given them to test new concepts of city planning.
But the project also had a socialist ideology: 
in Brasilia all the apartments would be owned by the government and rented to its employees. The city wasn’t going to have wealthy neighborhoods, or middle-class neighborhoods, or poor neighborhoods. Top ministers and common laborers were to share the same buildings.
Of course it didn’t work out that way. In Brazil, with a long history of the great gap between rich and poor, it never could.
But that was the theory in the beginning.
Brasilia was designed, constructed, and inaugurated within four years.
 Niemeyer’s politics, though, continued to be as controversial as his designs. (He’d joined the Brazilian Communist Party in 1945.)
And those politics were to lead to a reversal in his fortunes.
During the military dictatorship, in 1964, he was forced into exile in Paris.
 He stayed away for almost twenty years, returning only in 1985.
But his politics never wavered.
He served as President of Brazil’s Communist Party from 1992 to 1996.
And, even today, remains true to his youthful convictions.
He was offered an opportunity to teach at Yale.
But, because of his leftist leanings, he was denied a visa to enter the United States.
And only three years ago, he designed a statue that he wanted to have erected in Havana.
Symbolic of the “heroic” resistance to the U.S. blockade, it showed a tiger, with its mouth open, being held at bay by a man holding the Cuban flag.
When Fidel Castro saw the design he remarked, "Niemeyer and I are the last Communists on this planet”.
Well, his politics haven’t, perhaps, kept up with the times.
But most folks would say that his work has.
Here's a museum in Curitiba...
...another in Niterói, across Guanabara Bay from Rio de Janeiro and 
his design for a monument to commemorate the achievements of the great football player, Pelé.

In closing here are a few words from Niemeyer about Niemeyer:

“I’m not attracted to hard right angles and inflexible straight lines. My attraction is to curves, the curves of my country’s mountains, of her rivers and of the bodies of her women. The universe is made of curves.”

Leighton - Monday

Sunday, December 26, 2010

X is for Xmas

When I was a kid, my brothers and I woke up on Christmas Day in darkness, usually around 4:30.  We'd huddle together, experiencing one of the least-explored aspects of relativity, which is that the speed of the passage of time is inversely proportional to how quickly you would like it to pass.  We were forbidden to go downstairs until our parents were up, so we simply seethed in the dark.  An hour or two later it would be 4:45 and we'd be on the verge of insanity.  At five, we'd be jumping up and down on their beds.

Now that I'm no longer a child, I'm amazed that more parents don't simply throttle their children.  Unbeknownst to us, my mother and father had been up all night, putting up the Christmas tree and decorating it, wrapping presents, and nipping from time to time on the bottle of brandy they put out for Santa -- just so they could show it to us to prove that he'd dropped by and had five or eight for the road.  They sometimes got so enthusiastic about proving Santa's existence that they emptied the bottle and had to mix a small amount of instant coffee with water so we wouldn't think Santa had drunk it all.

In any event, they had probably gone to sleep around 4 AM, none the worst for all the celebratory tilts of the brandy bottle.  In the best of all worlds -- for them, anyway -- there wouldn't have been three hyperactive children bouncing on their mattresses at 5:10 in the morning.

But they let all three of us live, and my father would go downstairs in the dark alone, and when he'd plugged in the tree and started some Christmas music, we were allowed to go down the stairs and see our living room transformed into Aladdin's cave.  And then came the frenzy: tearing off the wrappings, the moment of ecstasy (or disappointment), the quick check to see what the brothers were opening, the search for the next one, and repeat.  Over and over until everything was open, we were hip-deep in wrapping paper, it was 7:15 AM, and the remainder of the day yawned, gray, cold, and gift-free, in front of us.

I have to say that I'm not certain that the American Christmas is good for children.  Despite the best efforts of our parents, it was essentially a prolonged paroxysm of greed followed by a long day of letdown.  Spirit, if you don't count the brandy consumed on Christmas Eve, was conspicuously absent.  It was also a useless bit of training, because there is nothing, absolutely nothing, in adult life, that requires the skills a little kid learns on Christmas morning.

And there's also the fact that this personal little family ritual has been multiplied by millions of families and the manipulations of marketing experts into the most materialistic of all holidays, an orgy of brand names, bogus price cuts, mass-media adrenaline, and the pointless squandering of family resources.  All to celebrate the birth of a man who preached the spiritual value of poverty and chased the moneylenders from the Temple.

I'm writing this at 4 PM on Christmas Day, at dusk.  The day is drawing to a close, and although the house isn't hip-deep in wrapping paper and inhabited by sullen, over-sugared kids, I have to say that I'll be glad to see the end of it.  The day after Christmas, since I don't intend to go within a mile of any stores, seems like a bright island of normality to me.

But I hope all of you had a great time.  And it'll be months before we hear "Jingle Bells" again.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

A Greek Christmas Question

Christmas in Athens' Constitution Square (Syntagma)
“‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house not a creature was stirring not even a mouse.”  NOT TRUE!  My magic mouse, let’s call him Mac, was scurrying all over the Internet trying to come up with something appropriately Christmassy for my distinct honor of writing the Murder is Everywhere Christmas Day post.  So, take that Clement Clarke Moore or Henry Livingston—whichever of you actually wrote the poem—times change. 
A Christmas Tree and Christmas Boat

Come to think of it, Greek Christmas is a perfect example of change.  Years ago in Greece, presents were not given on Christmas Day, Christmas trees were almost unheard of—though on some islands many would decorate a boat in their homes as a tree is today—and even the longstanding tradition of village children going from home to home singing kalanda to their neighbors has changed.  Still, though, at its heart kalanda remains the tradition it always was, but instead of being rewarded with sweets or fruits, the children play their little metal triangles and carol for euros.  Yes, “carol,” for the origin of that word is the Greek dance choraulein and it evolved over time, through the French, into caroling. 

Christmas Day in Greece also means feasting.  Although almost any occasion in Greece seems justification for food, Christmas is a true feast day, second only to Easter (see below).  It’s the end of a forty-day fast period for the observant from meat, eggs, and dairy.  Christmas dinner always means large, sweet loaves of christopsomo bread, melomakarona Christmas honey cookies, and kourabiethes almond cookie treasures that invariably lose their powdered sugar coatings all over your clothes.  But here, too, there have been changes.  The main course is no longer strictly the roast lamb, pig, and goat extravaganza it once was.  Roast stuffed turkey has made big inroads.  
The tallest Christmas tree in Europe

Perhaps the signal sign of Greece’s attitudinal change toward Christmas is what happened a few years back in Athens.  The mayor decided to erect the largest Christmas tree in Europe in Constitution Square (Syntagma) directly across from Parliament.  I heard it was quite a sight, even if an artificial tree.  Not sure what’s up there this year what with the area around Parliament being rather busy these past few Christmas seasons with other sorts of goings on (see my last week’s blog).  

So, here is my question: why does virtually everyone who writes about Greece and Easter say, “Christmas is not as important to Greeks as Easter.”  I have to admit I always thought the same way, but why?  It certainly isn’t that way in the United States.  In the Greek Orthodox faith Christmas and Easter are the big holidays (along with the Assumption of the Virgin on August 15th), so why does Easter seem more important than Christmas?  Most Greeks tell me they consider the two equivalent days from a religious point of view.  And therein may lay the answer. 

Greek Easter is preceded by a week of serious religious practices and cultural traditions building up to a single climactic moment: the celebration of Christ’s resurrection at precisely midnight on the eve of Easter Sunday.  Ninety-five percent of Greece’s population is of the Greek Orthodox faith (or at least Eastern Orthodox) and that’s a lot of people firing up their enthusiasm toward sharing a single moment with the rest of their countrymen.
Kourabiethes to munch on if you're bored.

On the other hand, the only sort of buildup Christmas Day seems to share with Easter Sunday is that both end more than month-long fasts.  Yes, there are Twelve Days of Christmas, but they start on Christmas Day, and the observant days within that subsequent period, although important and filled with their own traditions, follow the day of Christmas rather than build up to it in the way Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, and Good Friday lead up to Easter. 

Greece's Santa Claus, jolly old Saint Basil
Saint Vasilis (330-379)
On the other side of Christmas the Orthodox Church celebrates the circumcision of Christ and the name day of Saint Vasilis (Basil) on January 1st.  Santa Claus may have gotten his looks from Greece’s white-bearded patron saint of sailors, Saint Nicholas, but for Greek children their gift-giving Santa comes on Saint Vasilis’ Day.  And it is also the day when family and friends sit around the table and wonder which will be the one who finds the gold coin hidden in a piece of the vasilopita cake, for the one who does will have good luck all the year.
An Athens selection of vasilopita cakes
Epiphany in Tarpon Springs, Florida

 The Twelve Days of Christmas end January 6th on Epiphany, the day of Christ’s baptism.  It is another major feast day for the Greeks, and in many parts of the world a Greek Orthodox priest performs the “Blessing of the Waters” at a river, sea, or lake, then tosses the blessed cross into the water launching many young men in after it in hopes of retrieving the cross and receiving a special blessing from the priest that will bring the successful diver good luck for the entire year.

Christmas skaters in Athens
That’s two additional, significant upbeat holidays associated with Christmastime, yet Greeks still seem to hold a greater fondness for Easter time.  But if the explanation isn’t simply one of positioning—that Easter Day is the culmination of a celebratory season, while Christmas Day is the reverse­—what is the answer?

Perhaps it’s tied into another aspect of those Twelve Days. For during that period virtually every Greek in one way or another engages in some superstitious practice—like wrapping a sprig of basil around a small wooden cross and suspending it over a bowl of water—or seeks a blessing from a priest, to ward off the kallikantzari, the half-beast, half human, bad-spirited gremlins who will slip into your house through a chimney to wreak havoc and mischief amid your home, livestock, and food.  BUT they only do so during the twelve-day period from Christmas to Epiphany.  

Could it be that those who subconsciously believe in kallikantzari also harbor an unconscious thought or two at what mischief might be lurking in wait for them beyond Christmas Day?  I wonder.  
A mischief maker

But whatever the answer—likely something very different—to each of you and my extraordinary blogmates at Murder is Everywhere I wish Kala Kristuyenna and Xronia Pola (many years). 


Jeff — Saturday

Friday, December 24, 2010

Singing Sewermen and Festive Greetings

A short festive blog to wish you all Merry Christmas. As Yrsa indicated below, the UK has almost ground to a halt because of unexpected snow and cold weather, for which it is structurally unable to cope. I'm with family in the north of England, and the usual three hour drive here took six, so I'm recuperating - the noise of bored children in a car being a particularly exquisite form of torture. Forget waterboarding - Psych Ops should involve strapping a suspect into a seat, parking him in a traffic jam miles from his destination, while a baby cries and the others ask if we're nearly there yet. Though my wife has pointed out, they should make the suspect sit with the kids in the back, because the torment is worse when the children are in stereo around you and the driver has turned up the sound of country music as loud as possible to drown out the din of his own kin.
As an early gift, I've given you a more welcome sound, that of singing sewermen exhorting us all to refrain from pouring meat fat down the drain and clogging up their sewers. They actually make a rather harmonic bunch, certainly more harmonic than anyone should sound when knee-deep in, er, stuff.

See you on the other side next week. May your turkeys not be overdone, your presents not be socks, your sprouts not be like bullets and your wine not cheap and thin.

Christmas cheers

Dan - Friday

Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Matter of Language

Stan and I are currently 'translating' our third book from US English into UK English. We actually started writing the book in UK, but decided that since Harper in the US is our primary publisher (Headline has the rest of the world English rights meaning everywhere except North America) we should revert to US. Nevertheless, our UK editor came to light before the US one so now the book needs to be converted.
‘So what?’ you ask. ‘Isn’t that what Word does?’ Well, yes and no.

Of course the spelling differences are easy. A global search and replace will convert color to colour. (Hopefully none of the action takes place in Colorado.) But there are words which are acceptable in both versions but have different meanings. Hood and bonnet. Trunk and boot. Then there are the wretched verbs of the type leaned in US and leant in UK. We have a list of them. And phrases. In UK you struggle with a problem, in the US you battle with it. In the UK you can’t see the wood for the trees while in the US it’s the forest that becomes invisible. Now we come to the units of measure. Pints and gallons go to litres (and the numbers of them have to be changed). Miles to kilometres. (Don’t forget that 12,000 square miles becomes 30,000 square kilometres.) Don’t try a global replacement from foot to metre. UK readers won’t be impressed with following metreprints in the sand!

If you are still awake, you may be asking, ‘But does it matter?’ Well, yes and no.

Readers in either country will be able to deal with either book. Perhaps it’s our problem – just being too pedantic. On the other hand, a local South African radio reviewer fulminated about flashlight occurring on the first page of A Deadly Trade. (That’s what The Second Death of Goodluck Tinubu was called in UK. Another translation issue.) 'Why can’t these two write for South African readers?' he complained. 'And what about this glossary! Everyone knows what a braai is after all.' He liked the book, but no one listening to the review would’ve noticed that. (That reminds me: I forgot to check for flashlight!)

Here’s another language issue with which we battle (or struggle for UK readers). Much of the time Kubu and his colleagues and family will be talking to each other in Setswana. Although English is the official language of Botswana, most people are first language Setswana speakers. Any foreigner applying for citizenship must be able to speak it. We think you need to be careful how you write dialogue. Kubu’s parents never use contractions. They say 'it is good to have you with us' while Kubu would say 'I’m glad to be here'. The idea is to reflect the formality of the older generation of Batswana. But no such construction exists in Setswana. On the whole we point out that our characters are speaking Setswana to each other once or twice but allow the reader not to worry about it thereafter. When Setswana speakers are talking in English – say to a foreigner – we are careful that they don’t use words like onomatopoeia. (Actually our characters never use onomatopoeia. When was the last time you used it in speech?) And they don’t make clever puns or plays on words in English...

Sorry this has been so dry. It’s what’s on my mind at the moment.  Must go and check for any flashlights.

More important, have a great Christmas (hopefully not so dry). Hard to believe my next blog will be in 2011. It’s been a wonderful year on murderiseverywhere. Writing once a fortnight is fun, but even if it were not, getting to read the great pieces from our six colleagues would make it more than worthwhile!

Happy New Year!

Michael - Thursday