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In Diana Wynne Jones's book "The Ogre Downstairs", there's a scene where some menacing bikers grow out of the ground like plants. Their speech is colloquial English, but written in Greek script. Some people have asked for a transcription, so here it is. I've avoided trying to represent their accent in the English text, so I've put "them" for "'em" and so on. The typesetters for some editions of the book seem not to have understood the joke; in my copy (HarperCollins, 2010) capital lambda is written as a section mark, and capital beta as a comma. I've seen editions with even stranger substitutions.

They stared at the buried man in some perplexity, wondering how he got there and whether to help him out. While they stared, the face shook its chin free of sand and stones and spoke.

“ν θε λιδαγειν ᾿ανσε υοτιωγετ!!” it said. ["...n the lid again and see what you get!" - I think some text from the MS might have been lost here?]

“What language is that?” said Johnny.

“It might be Greek,” Douglas guessed, equally mystified.

A clattering of gravel made them look up. The other mushrooms, up and down the lane between the cars, had also grown into men in crash helmets. The next nearest was now only buried from the waist downward. He had his hands on the gravel and was levering to get his legs free. Beyond him, a number had grown to full height and were stepping up onto the ground, shaking their boots. They were all identically dressed in black leather motorcycle suits and white crash helmets, and they all had most unpleasant faces.

With one accord, Douglas and Johnny looked round to see how near the car was. It was twenty yards off. Between them and it, the lane was filled with motorcyclists stepping free of the ground and moving menacingly down toward them.

“I don’t like the look of this,” said Douglas. “And don’t tell me it’s my fault. I know.”

The nearest man struggled up from the earth and shook himself. Stones clattered from his leather clothes and mud spattered the boys. Carefully he drew his boot from the last of the gravel and walked a step or so toward them.

"Θιωκ ᾿ιυ κνιτ φελλως ᾿ον Θε εδ δουιου?" he demanded of Douglas. ["Think you can hit fellas on the head, do you?"]

“I’m sorry. I don’t understand,” Douglas said.

The man looked round at the other motorcyclists.

"Θης κιζ τραιδ του θυμπ μι, φελλως!" he said angrily. ["These kids tried to thump me, fellas!"]

From the way the others reacted, it was clear that, whatever this meant, it meant no good for Johnny and Douglas. They all gave the boys most unpleasant, blank looks and strolled nearer. "'Ωκει, λετς τεικ βωθοφεμ ᾿απαρτ ᾿αβιτ" ["Okay, let's take both of them apart a bit"] said one. And one who was still only half out of the ground added "Λετμε ᾿αττεμ." ["Let me at them"] Neither of these suggestions sounded pleasant. Johnny looked despairingly round what he could see of the car-park between the advancing leather suits. He found nothing but cars, lines of them, locked, silent and deserted. There did not seem to be another soul in sight.

“Get back to back,” said Douglas. “Use the mop on them.”

Johnny at once scrambled round Douglas and leaned against his back. He held the dustbin lid as a genuine shield, and put the head of the mop under one arm, with the stick pointing outward toward what was now a circle of menacing motorcyclists. Behind him, he heard the clang of the strawberry soap rolling in the dustbin as Douglas raised that for a shield and leveled the broom. Johnny was glad that he had such a tall back as Douglas’s to stand against. If it had been Caspar’s or Malcolm’s back, he would have felt a great deal more frightened. Not that their defenses seemed to impress the motorcyclists. Some laughed jeeringly. One said, "Φυλλα σπιριτ, 'αρυντθει?" ["Full of spirit, aren't they?"] which was clearly a sarcastic remark of some kind, and all of them laughed. Then the first of them said, "Λετσγω, φελλως." ["Let's go, fellas."] And they closed in.
marnanel: (Default)
Love advice from a fishmonger, what puppies dream about, the invention of flatulence, an unusually honest job application, why King Arthur enjoys a good cuppa, and ten more short poems: Dogged Scribblings is a chapbook of my poetry newly published on Kindle. Reviews and ratings are always welcome!

Click here to buy on for $1.99

Click here to buy on for 99p

(cover image here)
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If any of you use Facebook, you might enjoy becoming a fan of my regularly updated writing page there:

If not, as you were.
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I haven't been around much, recently.

I wanted to mention that I am going to make a print-on-demand book of about a hundred of my formal poems. You can download the PDF for nothing and read it that way if you like. At some point in the near future there will be a printed version of the same thing. I always welcome comment and criticism.
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I've recreated the fan page on Facebook for my writing. If you enjoy my work and you're on Facebook, please like the page. (I need 25 fans to get a plain URL.) I'm probably going to post discount codes and previews on there, so it should be worth your while. Tell your friends, as well.
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Yesterday I went to mass first thing. Our priest had just come back from seeing his new granddaughter and was full of the news; it was very happy.

Then I went on to the dentist. They took X-rays of my teeth, but I kept gagging on the thing they put in your mouth, so they had to take a picture with the big X-ray machine. For that I had to take some of my piercings out, and some of them healed up in the time it took to put them back in again.

The dentist was very friendly and helpful. He says I have a broken wisdom tooth, and it'll have to come out. That will be next Tuesday, when the dental surgeon comes in. Until then, I have painkillers.

In the time I was waiting for the dentist, I mostly finished the last chapter but four of the current novel. I believe I might be able to get it done entirely today (Thursday) if I put my mind to it.

Later I went shopping for new trousers with Fin, since we're going to Tracy's wedding.

I cooked dinner (it was ravioli and meatballs) and while I cooked I talked to Kit on the phone: it was her birthday. So it was a pretty good day.
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some books
For the curious, they are:
  • a Vulgate
  • Bradley's Arnold Latin Prose Composition
  • Brian Jacques, Redwall
  • Milton's shorter poems and sonnets
  • Jonathan Lamb, Tough minds, tender hearts
  • Shusaku Endo, A life of Jesus
  • Thomas Merton, Contemplative prayer
  • Dorothy Sayers, Whose body?
  • Hallowell and Ratey, Delivered from distraction
  • Two copies of Not Ordinarily Borrowable
  • Mary Oliver, The leaf and the cloud
  • Timothy Ratcliffe OP, What is the point of being a Christian?
  • Donald Bisset, Time and again stories
  • Ruth Noel, The languages of Tolkien's Middle-Earth
  • The pocket Thomas Merton.
Most of these are here because I am in the process of reading them.
marnanel: (Default)
I've said this before, but I'll reiterate: anyone is welcome to a copy of Not Ordinarily Borrowable in exchange for posting a review (not necessarily a positive one!). Print publications are awesome, and blog posts are good too. Sending you PDFs is easier to manage, but I can post you a paper copy if needs be.
marnanel: (Default)
If I've seemed rather busy recently, it's because I've been working on a book for Packt. It will be a "cookbook" of ways to solve problems on MeeGo using Python and Qt. It started out as an N900-specific book, but it's grown in the telling.

How to place a phone call
(Of course, until a version of MeeGo with a GUI goes public, I'm testing everything on the N900.) I'm enjoying writing it immensely. It should be out sometime around the autumn.
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tl;dr: Borrowable didn't get into the third round because it's middle-grade fiction and this is a YA competition.

ABNA Expert Reviewer

What is the strongest aspect of this excerpt?

Has the tone of a fairy tale and should be enjoyed as such. She is very like Little Red Riding Hood who knows the wolf is waiting for her and is eager to go see if he left any bits of grandma about. Light.

What aspect needs the most work?

The excerpt reads far more like a grade school story than one for young adults. The introduction is almost embarrassingly childish in tone. If the story began with her going into the library and finding out about the dragon, it would be far better. Still - this is for children younger than 10 years old.

What is your overall opinion of this excerpt?

Not at all a YA book, this will appeal to a very young audience of precocious girls of about 7 or 8 years old. Has the ring of a Fairy Tale or Twisted Tale, thought it lacks the spark and wonder of Ella Enchanted. The description of the librarian had me chuckling.

ABNA Expert Reviewer

What is the strongest aspect of this excerpt?

It is nice to see a "scholar" who is the main character of the story, especially when that scholar is a young woman with brains and courage. The story is reminiscent of The Wizard of Oz. It is also interesting to see the melding of the real world with imaginary aspects, such as dragons and ancient people being studied.

What aspect needs the most work?

This story does not seem to be written for young adults, but rather for young children. Especially in the beginning there are a lot of definitions for words that young adults would already know. The prose is very basic and would come across as condescending to an adolescent reader. The pace is also very slow, and is not conducive to a building up of tension and conflict.

What is your overall opinion of this excerpt?

I would characterize this story as more appropriate for a younger audience. The female, young, intelligent scholar, the main protagonist, sets a good example for young girls especially. Young readers would also be interested in the fantastical elements of the story. However, the prose is somewhat dull and slow and there isn't too much that is particularly unique in this excerpt.

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That means the synopsis was one of 2,000 selected (1,000 in each category) as possible winners from about 10,000 entries. Now the editors will read the first couple of chapters and decide whether it should go into the quarterfinal 500, which will be announced on March 23rd.
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Not Ordinarily Borrowable is not ordinarily borrowable, although they say "not borrowable" instead these days, which makes it very slightly less awesome. But only very slightly.
marnanel: (Default)
  • Androcles and the Lion, Shaw Alphabet Edition (the hardback, not the paperback as in that video)
  • Knuth's Art of Computer Programming
  • Advanced CORBA programming with C++ (not sure what that's doing there)
  • The X Window System, Scheifler & Gettys
  • Elements of New Testament Greek
  • The Sidney Sussex College Annual
  • Thoughtcrime Experiments
  • The Scheme Programming Language
  • Ender's Game
I think I should sort them better.
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I made this earlier this week; it was pretty simple. I thought I'd post an image in case anyone would like to see what it looks like.

I doubt anyone would want the whole thing, but if you do, it exists.
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I didn't invent the phrase, but I don't think Google autocompleted it before I used it as a book title.

If that is because of the book, that's rather wonderful.
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One rainy day, Maria looks
To find her college Library Books.
Alas! her hopes were set to fall:
A Fiery Dragon stole them all,
And singed their keeper's beard, as well.
This incident may seem to spell
The ruin of this Ph.D.--
Or else, a switch to chemistry.
But such predictions turn out wrong:
She wasn't timid, all along.
Maria is the kind of maid
Who, even now, is not dismayed:
She cycles off to Oxenford,
For armour, courage, and a sword,
A recipe, a faithful friend,
And finds her thesis has an end.
marnanel: (Default)
So I'm currently reading The Secret Garden to Rio. In the first scene, the protagonist is rescued from her house by the army after having slept through a cholera epidemic that killed everyone she knows:
"I fell asleep when everyone had the cholera and I have only just wakened up. Why does nobody come?"

"It is the child no one ever saw!" exclaimed the man, turning to his companions. "She has actually been forgotten!"

"Why was I forgotten?" Mary said, stamping her foot. "Why does nobody come?"

The young man whose name was Barney looked at her very sadly. Mary even thought she saw him wink his eyes as if to wink tears away.

"Poor little kid!" he said. "There is nobody left to come."
At this, Rio mumbled, "Everybody's dead, Dave. Dave, everybody's dead."
marnanel: (Default)
Those of you who don't read me on Twitter may like to know that Not Ordinarily Borrowable is now available on, where you can pay US$1.99 (about £1.20) to read the whole thing in HTML or PDF right in your browser, or download it in a variety of ebook formats. Seems like a pretty good deal to me.

(And it's passed manual inspection there, which means that the book will be available on Barnes and Noble's ebooks site, in a few days.)


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