Monday, March 03, 2008

curious book,speaking French, leylandii plus

In Hall's book shop I find a curious book. It is a collection of pieces of advice, proverbs, recipes and other odds ends made into a book with the title How to do it for sale in aid of the English Church in Stockhom in 1898. It is mostly in English but there are entries in French, German and Swedish. King Oscar II of Sweden and Norway is the first contributer with some trite advice on getting things done properly. Most other contributors seem to be connected with the British legation and other legations in Stockholm. Queen Sophie comes next with Do all in the glory of God! The contents are an astonishing mixture. "How to catch a Rabbit: Get behind a hedge and make a noise like a turnip" is closely followed by this: "An accomplished woman of the world should above all things, possess the secret of never allowing her sentiments to be read in her face. Anger, gaiety, all that which is exagerated can rage in her inner being, but must never be allowed to be perceived. She should welcome her dearest enemies with the same gracious smile, which serves for those of her preference ...." That from Madame Cherif, née Princess Eminée d'Egypt, Legation de Turqie a Stockhom. A recipe for crab omelet from Mrs Wilton Allhusen is brief and one would have thought unhelpful to the novice cook: Boil three large crabs and pick them; beat them up with six eggs, and season with pepper, salt, parsley and thyme: mix together with a little stock and fry in butter.

I do not often have the chance to speak French and doubt that when I do, I do it at all well. I often forget and wonder if I ever knew, when I first learnt French at school, that it is usual to put the emphasis on the last syllable of a French word. I'm not sure that many English people are used to this feature of the language either. The other day I happened to mention Emile Zola to a German professor who pulled me up. "Who"? he asked. "Zola," I said. "You mean Zola, " he said placing the emphasis on the "a". He wasn't being pedantic. He genuinely didn't understand me. Yesterday on the telephone I mentioned Zola to an old friend, an extremely well read and accomplished English woman. I took care to place due emphasis on the last syllable. "Who?" she said.

Through a dense leylandii hedge weave a few golden flowers of forsythia.

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