blackbird on Flickr.
Blackbirds sing their heart out at dusk. With tales of cats and worms and loves lost. High in the trees they tell their tales of adventure with a passion that lives in the moment more than any other sound you will hear.
It might appear peculiar in the cold light of the written word but watching people is a pastime that gives me a great amount of pleasure. I’d like to qualify this by explaining that I don’t hide behind hedges with binoculars or peer out from shaded places with two holes cut into a newspaper. I’m talking about the active engagement of observing total strangers as they go about their business in public places. I know for a fact that I have been ‘spotted’ myself whilst doing this and I am sure that many have considered me to be rather odd. A backwards glance can sometimes be the calling card of a harsh critic.
In those unguarded moments when we are not aware of being scrutinised we all resort to our inner behaviour and reveal much more about ourselves than perhaps we realise. It would be considered rude, for example, to pick one’s nose during a conversation but in the very private sanctity of a car it’s a very different matter. Those who do that seem oblivious to the fact that the windows around them allow light to pass out as well as in.
It is in the public arena, however, that we all fall into a middle ground; a space where we are vaguely on our best behaviour but still engrossed in our private world. It is this state of affairs that fascinate me. Not so much for the specific incidents or events that may unfold but more for the way that a given individual might react, behave and respond. By observing that, I feel, I am gaining a unique character sketch which reinforces the differences between us.
We all do it, whether we are aware of it or not. It’s part of the mechanism which makes us find people attractive; It motivates us to meet new people (or avoid others). We are, as the Americans say: ‘checking each other out’ all the time. Artists have a real knack of doing this but it is not clear if they are artists because of it or in spite of it. Of course, when I say ‘artists’ I am referring to that classless group of people which includes writers, actors, painters, poets and more.
It’s an essential skill for an actor to know the subtle nuances of any given personality type - from the way they raise their eyebrows, for example, to their choice of footwear. Similarly, a writer needs to have an extremely detailed mind-view of a person to bring that character to life in words. Perhaps more so in the case of fiction writers as they are telling us about people who don’t exist and to lie effectively they have to be convincing.
The thing that I like to do most is imagine that everything around me is a tightly rehearsed theatrical production being staged just for my benefit. When I do this, in a place like a coffee bar, the choreography is exquisite as I am able to hear conversational exchanges as they occur and watch all manner of scenarios unfold. On the whole, in these locations, I have found that a lot of men talk mostly about ‘things’ - things they own, things they’d like to own or things they’re passionate about. Women, on the other hand, seem to talk about people and who did what to whom and when. This is a grossly unfair generalisation but the snippets of dialogue that filter through the hubbub do seem to support that premise, time and again.
So the next time you are out and about, take the time to absorb the people around you. Embrace them (figuratively of course) and soak in the rich diversity that is: US. We are an incredibly interesting bunch and as the saying goes: ‘If you can’t find a particular ‘type’ in any crowd, be aware that it might just be you’.
As a comedy footnote to this particular piece, I thought it might be amusing to include a description of the circumstances in which it was written. Partly as a commendation of my technology (which you will see later) but mainly to demonstrate my last point.
I had wandered into a local coffee bar which has a variety of seating. From the tall, breakfast style bar chairs with tables to smaller armchairs and finally - the most jealously guarded of all - huge, enveloping sofas. I was disappointed to find that all the premium spots were taken and was determined to have a comfortable ‘sit-down’, so you can imagine my excitement when I saw that one of the armchairs had been separated from its table and was cast aside next to the massive glass partition which overlooked the river.
Although there wasn’t a table I could use, I reasoned that I could manage by having my laptop on my knee and the coffee on the floor. Having made myself comfortable I attempted to plug in all the various electronica I had brought with me but this was a precarious task. The sides of the armchair were just about armpit height which severely restricted my movement and, as I was struggling to balance things on my lap, the wi-fi dongle that I usually carried slipped off to one side as I leaned over to reach for my coffee.
In a moment of slow motion horror, I watched it land neatly into the cup beside me and sink like the Titanic as I wrestled with wires. Desperate to save the poor thing I leaned over and accidentally emptied the contents of my bag in front of me. I dipped my hand into the hot drink, salvaged the device and shook it - spraying steaming drink onto the people next to me (who, bizarrely, didn’t notice) - and reached for a handkerchief, which came out bringing the contents of my pocket with it. Lee Evans or Norman Wisdom couldn’t have devised a routine funnier in that moment but in spite of its comedy potential, I was less than amused.
As the spectacle subsided, I was aware that whilst most of the people around me were enjoying a serene break as they sipped their mineral waters or read the newspaper, over there - in the corner by the window - was a strange chap, juggling his toys, whisper-swearing, and throwing things about. If I had been looking for a slapstick character to observe, unfortunately it was I, on this occasion and I know that my fiasco had not gone unnoticed.
Much later that same day I switched on the gadget to see if it was beyond redemption but was delighted to find that it was unscathed by its ordeal (as you can see from the photo). Testament, I think you’ll agree, to its robust design (and perhaps just a little good luck on my part).
Madeleine was blessed with sensational good listens.
English is full of colourful phrases and mysterious words that we often use everyday without ever thinking of where they came from nor what they actually mean. This is one of the things that makes the language so unique and rich with texture but when you analyse some of these ideas they quickly start to quake under the scrutiny of observation.
In writing, it is always agreed that one should avoid clichés like the proverbial plague and there are good reasons why this is prudent advice. The use of an over familiar phrase indicates that the writer has taken the safe and comfortable path of describing an event or scene in such a way that we are readily able to digest the various aspects very quickly. But by doing it through the use of pathways laid down by others they are missing the opportunity to bring new dimension and value to the idea being conveyed.
Take for example, the phrase: ‘He was as dull as dishwater’ (or often: ‘ditchwater’). Whilst we might understand the idea that a person might be as uninteresting as waste water - opaque, grey and unpleasant, by using this phrase the writer has failed to recognise that by renovating the familiar with a new and personal twist they could have illuminated the concept in the reader with a startling freshness. So, for example, a writer could have said: ‘He was as dull as a stormy day’ which suddenly has a range of connotations which can be expanded upon. It is this altering and highlighting of the ordinary which makes all art more original and inspiring.
The next example I’d like to examine is a case where an idiom has become so well used that the meaning is actually bizarre when the laws of grammar are applied to it. If someone was describing an attractive woman they might say that she was ‘Good looking’, or possessed ‘Good Looks’ however this description seems to defy rational language logic on a variety of levels. This can be demonstrated by changing one of the words. If the phrase had a rule which defined its meaning then it could be applied to a variety of other attributes. So, for example, if that woman had a beautiful voice would we say that she had ‘Good listening’? If she wore sweet perfume would we describe her as having ‘Good smells’? In actual fact - because they still make sense in a mysterious and antique way - we could, in fact, use those descriptions as they quite clearly reference the original phrase and throw fresh light on an old idea.
Finally, my attention is drawn to ancient words which become startlingly unusual when put under the spotlight. Just recently I was concerned about a splinter of wood which had become lodged in my finger and in conversation I described it as a ‘spell’. Aside from the etymology behind this particular word, it occurred to me that at some stage, somebody must have determined a series of measurements which define a ‘spell’ in terms of its size. At what size does a ‘spell’ become a ‘splinter’ or even a ‘sliver’? Is there an actual size? As big as a matchstick? (how big is one of those?) As big as a drumstick?. There seems to be a whole division of unspoken scientific understanding at work here and we seem to know instinctively the dimensions involved. But someone, somewhere, at some point must have taken time to put boundaries upon it.
English is pebble dashed with such words, phrases and ideas, many of which have fascinating origins washed ashore on the beach of our daily speech. As a writer, nothing is more powerful than researching, expanding and restoring them with a new and invigorating architecture. Conversely, a writer who is content to make the ‘ordinary’ tell their tale will remain forever; ordinary.
…where the food garnishes itself.
The great British seaside [Part 1]
On Yorkshire’s eastern seaboard lie many jewels. Nestling in a calm and sandy bay, with its history clinging like crusty barnacles to the salty bedrock of British seaside tradition, is Bridlington - that pearl of the coast. Sitting demurely between Flamborough Head to the North and Spurn Point to the South, it grins benignly out into the dark green North Sea and Holland beyond, beckoning travellers to take tea with her. She shrinks, like Scarborough’s younger sister, hiding her charms with modesty and jealously guarding her delights with wisdom and reserve. Where her elder sibling is brash - with her painted lips and awkward heels - Bridlington, on the other hand, is refined and gentile but don’t think for a minute that she can’t offer the same delights. She is vibrant with everything a pleasure seeker could wish for but without the vulgarity offered by her less restrained family member.
The seaside experience, extending deep into the British psyche like seaweed entangled firmly in our minds, is not about being beautiful - that is for the continentals. When you visit a Northern coastal resort like Brid, it’s time to let your hair down and be who are are (and sometimes who you’d rather not). Our suspension of disbelief is in full flight as we promenade along facade after facade of flashing lights, misspelt signs and indigestion inducing food emporiums whilst telling ourselves that we are having fun in spite of the rain. On the whole, we know that everything is not only skin deep and purely for our benefit but more importantly; we know that it is perhaps more that ever-so-slightly rubbish. In fact, secretly, we know it is significantly crass but we love it all the more for its paucity of depth
We embrace its honesty as it spews yet another greasy hot dog or donut stall at us and we laugh as we buy dreadful hats with rude motifs and browse hideous keepsakes and souvenirs which we will discard within the year. But most importantly, we want to engage in the whole spectacle. We have a driven desire to eat boiled sugar and seafood or fried fish and pale chips from paper as predatory birdlife swoop, because it’s bred into us. It’s traditional. Overweight and sweaty children, holding shafts of brightly coloured rock, run between the awnings and and paw their sticky fingers across the contraptions designed to extract our spending money. Mums and dads, with more flesh exposed than is decently acceptable, look on with teeth bared and cackle - confident that they are all having the commodity of fun delivered in spades. They know in their hearts that the facade is a tart but in that understanding lies the terms of engagement which brings a rush of thrill knowing that our relationship is transient.
Underneath the flashing lights and constantly chirruping arcades, however, lies an older version of self, which if searched for reveals another incarnation of now. A vintage version of itself which has layers of similarities stretching back to the hazy days of fishing fleet and shipping lanes, tobacco smuggling and piracy. In those days the air was rich with daring and adventure and you can smell the log smoked stories of ghosts and bravery in every inglenook fireplace of every stonebuilt inn.
But perhaps it was the Victorians and Edwardians who introduced the proletariat to the idea of venturing to the beach and the letting down of hair which, even then, involved a degree of equal daring to the seafarers of old. Every palace of fun looks down on the modern day with a knowing eye from the building tops which still proclaim the names of long forgotten music halls and flickery cinemas such as the Empire and Astoria. From the pavilions and solariums where the sun never comes to the flowered gardens where the benches regimentally face the watery horizon - everything is designed for escape, if only for a moment, from our ordinary and dreary lives.
In spite of the rain I’d urge you to smile when you visit such a place. She knows she is brash but if you take tea with her she can entertain you on her level. There is no need to recoil in horror if you feel above the vulgarity of it all, she knows that and always delivers all that you’d expect. When you take her at face value the rewards are bountiful so embrace the great British seaside with open arms as if she were a favourite grandma with her best party frock and a face full of make-up. She might plant you a slobbery kiss on the cheek but you know you always have the going home to look forward to.
With my daughter’s permission, I would like to showcase a piece of prose that she wrote and performed for her GCSE drama exam today. When she rehearsed it in front of me last night I was almost moved to tears, not just by the gentle Dublin accent which she spoke it in but also for the depth of maturity which it conveyed. I was convinced that she was reciting James Joyce at first and was stunned to hear that she had written it herself. The conviction of delivery and depth of feeling in the written words was astonishing. Not surprisingly, she received the top mark for writing and performing this monologue which looks set to bring her an A-star. I am very proud.
I always wanted to be an explorer. To visit England and Europe and the USA, and to voyage the sea to one day come home again and be the same woman I started out as. He will have developed a heart beat by now, fingernails and tiny, tiny closed eyes. I knew it would happen. A small lump of naive life all curled up inside of me, slowly taking away parts of my body to nurture his own and I hate it. The doctors refuse to take him out of me because they say it’s not my choice who lives or dies, that it’s not my choice which way he comes out of me.
They tell me he’s my responsibility, it’s my responsibility. Do you think I was responsible for that? Do you think if I showed them my bruises, and the cut above my left thigh they’d change their minds? They scrutinize me at the question as they pry over my sickly ever-growing stomach, they say I’ll be a fantastic mother - that my husband will be overjoyed. Who? Who are they to tell me to give myself up to another human being just because he grew inside of me? If the doctors, who claim they care can’t help me, then I’m sure the backstreet dealers with their sweaty palms and their shabby back pockets can. They lure me in with their makeshift instruments and their shallow eyes; maybe it’s something to do with the way they promise me my life back.
Above anything else, they promise me my life. I’m being pushed into a position where I have to choose between moral right or living half the life I ever lived …and that’s not right. That’s not right! Why should I have to conform to their idealistic biased male regulations to be considered a ‘real’ woman?
A woman has every right to be a woman just as every child has the right to be a child. The female population of Ireland is being condemned and deprived of their right to be their own by the Irish government, and I’m going to do whatever it takes to change that. This isn’t my only option. I’m leaving for England for the first time, and I’ll do whatever is in my power to change something. Anything. A woman isn’t defined by the way she was sculpted, a woman is defined by her state of mind. And anyway, I always wanted to explore.
Hope Slater. March 2012.
I thought they were joking when I saw the publicity for “Titanic -The Musical” but incredibly, it’s true. No disrespect is intended to the hardworking team who have put this show together as I’m sure it’s a fine production and I feel slightly foolish for not knowing about it. However, I am sure that the version which played out in my mind is nothing like the actual show. As I stood and read the poster, I imagined a whole score of fitting songs and spectacular special effects which (thankfully) will never see the light of day (or night).
FOR ONE NIGHT ONLY
The most spectacular disaster you will ever see on stage.
Featuring the never to be forgotten hit songs:
Goodbye England, Hello Atlantic
So glad I’m not in steerage
What could possibly go wrong?
There’s a shadow
Water in my whiskey
That doesn’t sound good
My pride will get us through
And the band played on
Over the edge
No room in here
Icy Fingers chilly feet
When the ball is over
Not forgetting the Grammy award winning song - Where is my passport?
Interactive scenes of deluge with special effects by Aquatronics of Nottingham.
(Warning: This production contains elements of extreme peril, replicated death by misadventure and excessive use of adult language. Audiences are advised to wear warm and waterproof clothing.)
COMING SOON: “The Hindenburg disaster”
This is not the sort of thing that I’d usually write about but as it’s the kind of activity that fills much of my ‘spare’ time I thought it worthy of some kind of documentation. I spend a lot of time trawling through boxes of clutter at carboot sales and tend to prefer either ‘house clearance’ sellers or merchants of collectables and vintage or antique nick-nackery. Occasionally, the ‘general public’ throw up the odd gem or two but as a rule it is these traders that have the sort of stuff I am looking for.
So, what is it that appeals to me so much? Ideally, it is objects that have had a ‘life’. Those forgotten possessions and treasured objects that hold within every molecule a trace of the life of their owners. As a writer, this is deeply fascinating for me and my mind races with the domestic scenes and scenarios that these things hold within them. From the ‘orphaned photographs’ to the very personal ephemera such as pipes and wallets.
My primary interest is in the area of forgotten technology and in particular radios. In an age where digital technology threatens the lifeblood of the printed word I find it extremely interesting to look back to a time when the ‘spoken word’ and music was populated around the nation by the very simple technology of electro-magnetic physics. This was a world of rapid advances - from the early days in the 1920’s, radio blossomed to become the primary source of popular entertainment and ultimately revealed to an innocent audience the onset of the horror of a world war. Today, we can hardly conceive how that must have felt, but at the time radio was the era’s Twitter. It’s all they had.
During and after the war the radio played a pivotal role in depicting the changing society which was evolving much faster that many of the war’s survivors could comprehend. From the days of the jazz bands and the dawn of rock and roll the radio and its associated living room furniture dominated the fashionable and humble homes alike. Where we now have Japanese wide screen plasma television screens, back then they had Marconi valve sets.
Just recently I was lucky enough to pick up a speaker cabinet at a boot sale in York for a mere three pounds which, given the gamble of it actually working, was a bargain. I had spotted it from a distance as I know what these things look like. It was in decent condition and had obviously had a gentle life in someone’s attic (or Grandpa’s front room) since it had been bought many, many years ago.
When I got it home, the first instinct was to wire it up and see if the diaphragm still worked and how it sounded. I hotwired my ipod to the cables and it sounded great which inspired me to embark on a restoration project, not only of the cabinet but also the internal wiring. The woodwork was badly stained with years of nicotine and the fabric grill was torn but I could see the potential and how it would make a beautiful valvepunk addition to my own home.
The wood was a combination of bird’s eye walnut, maple and cherry of different hues which made a spectacular pattern underneath the layers of aging shellac lacquer. The veneer was peeling in places but nothing that couldn’t be patched up and to one side was what I believed was a brass volume console. What follows is my account of various stages in the process of cleaning this ‘treasured item’ back up to respectability and useage.
This is how it first looked against the fresh spring grass.
Once I’d got it home the first thing I did was take the whole thing apart and strip the lacquer off [1,2] as It was badly scratched and bore the signs of a lifetime of use. The chemicals involved often cause the veneer to lift and there was already a few places where it had come off  but generally, it was in reasonable condition (given that it was more than eighty years old.)  One of the most fascinating things I discovered when I took it apart was the fact that it had a sticker on the back which told me it was made by ‘F Waterhouse Ltd of Dudley Hill Road, Bradford’ (the place of my birth) and inside there was a pencil inscription that told me it was built on the 22nd October 1938 (just a year before war broke out.)
As you can see here , there is quite a bit of microscopic damage but the wood grain promises to look as terrific now as it did when it was built. you can see some of the loss of veneer which I will probably not repair. My intention is to treat the wood with beeswax (as opposed to the original finish) and worry about replacing the missing sections later.
Having stripped and sanded the cabinet with wire wool I am now ready to work on the speaker grille, back panel and internal workings (leaving the waxing till later). The original grille (front) was made from a coarse fabric that was sprayed bronze , however the degree of nicotine (and probably coal smoke) damage was too great for it to be saved. From a local craft shop I got some hessian to wrap around the wooden panel opening (behind).
Originally, the fabric had been glued with shellac. This was sanded away, cleaned up and the new hessian was spray glued into position and fixed with a staple gun on the inside . The back panel has the original maker’s mark , so I decided not to change anything about this section other than a brief wipe down. Also on the back panel are the main input contacts. These are wonderful examples of art deco styling .
The original volume control was set in a metal dish which was black, or so I thought. I soaked it overnight in Brasso and discovered the polished brass underneath . Using brand new brass screws this was fitted back into the opening. The wiring was perished and this was all replaced and reconfigured to work with powered or non-powered input . Having refinished and repaired as much of the cabinet as possible, I waxed the exterior several times over the course of a couple of days and began to reassemble the unit . Finally, I used more new brass screws to affix the back plate after filling the void with acoustic foam .
The final result. Not only very high quality sound but a beautiful piece of furniture. The waxed wood now has a satisfying depth and lustre. Not bad for £3!
Just recently I was asked: “What literature has had the most influence on you?”
To be honest, I have to say that it was children’s books that have always had the biggest influence. As a father, I have spent nearly thirty years reading aloud to my children and though all that time have absorbed the ‘inner truths’ of simple story telling: there’s a character, they want something, they try to get it, they succeed, they feel better and then they live happily ever after.
From the classics to the modern - all the books (of any merit) that I have read follow this same, timeless path through desire, quest, achievement and solution. But, unlike ‘so called’ adult stories, they do so in ways that are clearly marked and strongly outlined. Each character’s place in the story is very easily understood (they have to be for a child’s mind) and the timeline for each of them follows a defined and logical path.
It’s not surprising then, that when people ask ‘who are your favourite authors?’, my first thoughts are always: Enid Blyton, Hans Christian Andersen, Alfred Bestall, Theodor Seuss, AA Milne, and over recent years: Roald Dahl, Jacqueline Wilson, Jo Rowling, Kate DiCamillo and many others. I’m not saying their writing represented ‘high literature’, it’s just that they are the names that come most easily to mind. But for me, it was Rupert Bear that struck the strongest chord. With his smart casual clothes, congenial friends and cozy-comfortable family, living a blameless life in rural middle England.
I was captivated by the idea that, following a hearty breakfast, Rupert could go out into the world and for no particular reason, would find himself on a Pirate’s treasure island, or a Magician’s castle by lunchtime with the peril of having to save the day for all concerned (which he always did) and still managed to get home in time for buttered crumpets at teatime. But that was the secret for me - it reassured me that magic was in the air and all you had to do was look for it. It also gave me a great sense of security, knowing that there was always hot cocoa waiting when the dragon had been slain (or given a jolly good telling off, at least).
In my view, the best literature has a little bit of Rupert in there. The only thing that is different, is that the conflicts, solutions and language are more complicated. We all want to know that, come teatime (whether metaphorical or not) things will be restored back to normal but they’ll be just that little bit better because of what our hero did.
There is nothing quite so emotionally moving and spectacular than seeing the return of geese in their annual migration. It marks the return of spring, the onset of longer days and the promise of summertime. Just recently, I was lucky enough to witness this brief spectacle and was halted in my tracks by the silent majesty of it all. I was compelled to stand and watch for many minutes as flock after flock moved slowly from one side of the sky to the other until they filled the entire panorama.
What struck me the most was the feeling that these birds carried with them some deep compulsion and purpose; to not only leave when they did but also to return when they were mature enough to desire offspring of their own. The mighty effort involved in flying such huge distances was inspiring and in the quiet of the moment I imagined how they had spent the winter dreaming of the land of their childhood and secretly passed down stories to their grown children of the place of their birth.
I wanted to write a very purple piece of prose which conveyed some of these ‘flighty’ ideas and sketched out some notes. The following is a draft of that idea and I know that it needs much more crafting to be of the architecture it deserves. I may or may not get around to this in future blogs. My reason for attempting such a task is to reinstate the daily task of writing and to get the mechanisms of ‘thoughts-to-words’ back into gear after a period of weeks where I had put it aside.
Against a sanguine and Constable sky; that chief organ of sentiment rippled with blues, gold and white, a stirring advances. The trees, with their blackened fingers gently waving in the twilight breeze, timidly display the faintest suggestion of green. The joyful soliloquy of Blackbirds, calling their news of cats and worms to the world from highest, falls into a hush of expectation as nature itself prepares for arrival. Long has been the season of darkness with its biting frosts and slippery floor. The entombed fish beneath opaque rivers have dreamt of release for long enough but now a seachange is about to occur and they leap, knowing what is about to unfold.
First, an arrow; like an archer’s shot, cuts silently through the expanse above. Gracefully ebbing ever forward; the pointing leads the others on. Then, from beyond the rooftops; another then another until a squadron, a thousand strong fills the air. The magnificence of their triumphant formation brings a calmness and in that moment all is breathless with anticipation. These Canada Geese are returning from warmer isles to their childhood; that holy ground they know of as home.
A place imagined while strutting the sun baked terraces of foreign lands as World Service voices crackle from a distant transistor speaker. Amongst trees strange and wonderful, perhaps, they dreamt of the green and pleasant valleys of their youth. Or maybe they were in the ancestral lakes of the new found lands preparing to brace their feathers against Icelandic wind like ancient mariners as the thrill of epic adventure pulled them back to the striped lawns and pleasure boat bobbing lakes of the promised land.
Since late autumn, when they fled the mist and advancing cold, each heart has held desert island memories both distant and grand. For nearly half a year they have been away in places known only to them and the news of their exodus grew with each measured advance. Each beating wing now brings thoughts of country lawns and rivers broad, by flowered dale and cricket pitch. A land where bread falls from the sky and the grass is lush with morning dew.
This place where they will choose a mate and rear their young who will grow in two seasons to depart once again when the sun retires to that ‘other place’. Some will return and some will never but therein lies the circle; the turning carousel of life which depicts the passing of time. Their arrival proclaims the start of a new page. It is the dawn of our springtime when all is fresh once more and the year lays out before us like an unpainted canvas, waiting for the wings of fate and destiny to paint the tableaux as they will.
If you have written (or intend to write) your own text and you have used a spellcheck be sure that it is set to ‘British’ English (if you are writing for a British audience) and not ‘American’ English! Unfortunately, the software can not correct the ‘right’ word used ‘wrongly’. Here are some typical examples:
Its or It’s
Its is a word – it is how you attribute ownership to a ‘thing’ (the same as saying ‘his’ or ‘hers’). For example: ‘The Organisation in its Environment’. It’s can be an abbreviation for ‘It is’. The apostrophe is sometimes there to replace the missing letter: ‘i’. For example: ‘It’s cute’.
Your or You’re
Your is a word and means something that belongs to you as in: ‘This is your chair’. You’re is an abbreviation for: ‘You are’. The apostrophe replaces the missing letter ‘a’ as in ‘You’re great’ (you are).
CDs and MOTs or CD’s and MOT’s
When something is plural an ‘s’ is added: ‘CDs‘ etc. If the CD has an attribute, feature or possession you would add the apostrophe, for example: ‘The CD’s surface’.
There, Their or They’re
These are three distinctly individual words with very different meanings. There refers to a location as in: ‘Over there‘. Their refers to something which belongs to ‘Them’ as in: ‘This is their home’. They’re is an abbreviation for ‘They are’ as in ‘They’re having dinner with us tonight’- once again, the apostrophe represents the missing letter ‘a’.
This is commonly written as ‘Should of’ which is incorrect and doesn’t actually mean anything. It is often written that way because of the way that it sounds (as in: ‘Should’ve’).
Ring, Rang and Rung
These are three different words, namely: the present, the past simple and the past participle. So, for example: ‘I ring him every day’ – ‘I rang him last week’ and ‘I have rung him (some undetermined time in the past and it is affecting us/me now)’. In the North of England, it is not uncommon to hear people say: ‘I have rang him’ which is incorrect.
Right, wrong, right, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, right. (3/8 - see me)
There are many more and from time to time I will update this page. If you have your own favourite ‘pet peeve’ - comment or get in touch and I’ll include it here.