Take it easy. I can feel the stress in your blog. You haven’t responded to Monday’s blog, or Tuesday’s, so it’s difficult to know what to say to you today. I hope you wake up feeling fresh and relaxed, and that you have time to look very carefully at all the material I sent you on Monday and Tuesday – and today!
I woke around three o’clock in the morning. My darkened bedroom was softly tinted (I never sleep with the curtains closed). The sky was the colour of fresh mushrooms, a little pink at the edges. It was snowing. It had been snowing for some time. Everything was outlined with thick, white shadows. As I stood, looking down the road where I live, a large male fox, normally well-hidden in the dark, patrolled the garden walls, his thick, bushy tail leaving light brush-strokes in the freshly-fallen snow.
I woke Lucy (it’s not every day we get the chance to see such dramatic natural beauty right outside our house) and we stood, just looking out of the window at the untouched loveliness in front of us.
Snow does that to me. Evidently, the first snowfall of the year is supposed to be very depressing. I think if it were October or November now I’d be depressed. But it is the end of January. Spring is practically here. So I don’t mind a little snow, which will be gone by tea-time anyway. And the kids love it, too. My next door neighbours have a 3 year-old son, Alexander. I watched this morning as he and his dad, Richard, cleared the snow off their car. This was probably Alexander’s first real snow. He was wrapped up in a thick coat and scarf and a colourful woolly hat with a pom-pom on it, and he was wearing tough little boots. They were clearly having fun.
It must be the snow; I’m feeling somewhat poetic this morning. (Don’t worry, it’ll soon wear off.) I sat down to write a long poem about the snow, but a long poem didn’t seem to want to come. This haiku came, instead. I’ve dedicated it to a friend, but, Soyoung, if I hadn’t been blogging to you this week I probably wouldn’t have written it at all. So, in a very real sense, it is for you, too.
Snow came in the night,
like a secret lover, and
stayed beyond the dawn.
© Stephen Keeler
OK, enough of this nonsense. It has just occurred to me that some of our readers may not know what a haiku is. So, here’s a quick literature lesson, for anyone who needs or wants it.
Haiku [pronounced hy-koo] is a Japanese literary form. A classical haiku is supposed to present an impression of a single natural object or scene, in a particular season, and should be written in three non-rhyming lines of five, seven and five syllables.
There is a fuller definition, with a little historical background information, in The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms (ISBN 0 19 282893 2), or just type haiku into whatever search engine you use and see what comes up. Then, why not write some haikus yourself, in English, of course. It would be a great way to end our month, don’t you think? And let’s invite all our readers to write haikus and post them as comments before we go.
There are, of course, other favourite literary forms. A lot of my students used to like to write Limericks. How about this one?
Who waited for blogs to appear
On her screen every day
So that she could then say
“Phrasal verbs are remarkably queer!”
If you’re not sure about the ‘rules’ of Limericks, try the same dictionary of literary terms or, of course, the internet.
All that, Soyoung (two pages in this Microsoft Word document) is just because it snowed last night. Oh yes, and some ‘arty’ photographs at the end of the blog, too. Hope you like them. Uh-oh, I feel another Limerick coming on:
Learning English her principal goal.
Some people go jogging,
Soyoung prefers blogging
And Stephen? He plays teacher’s role.
I promise that’s it. No more. The trouble is, once you start it becomes a bit addictive. Anyway, I’ll stop now.
No! I said I’ll stop, so I will. Perhaps some of your readers would like to finish that one?
Like I said, take it easy. Try to make sure you have enough time to read my blogs from Monday, Tuesday and today. You only have two more chances to write before your month with the BBC ends. Let’s end in style, shall we?
WORDS AND EXPRESSIONS
Today, make a note of the words and expressions (in my blog) which you haven’t seen before or don’t understand. Then, try to guess the meaning of each word and expression in your list. You should be able to guess around half of them. Now, use a good (bi-lingual) dictionary to find the meanings of the rest. I will post a full list of useful words and expressions from today’s blog, tomorrow.
A NOTE ABOUT FUND-RAISING EVENTS
A couple of readers have asked about how fund-raising events, like my trip to Tanzania, work. The trip is a fund-raising event for the British charity, Scope – a charity which helps cerebral palsy sufferers. (But I have done others, such as running in the London Marathon and, once, cycling from London to Paris, for other charities.) It works like this. If you decide to take part, you agree to raise a certain sum of money through personal sponsorship. I had to agree to raise a minimum of £2,800. In addition, I had to pay around £200 to register, and there are other costs, too. For example, I have to buy all the equipment I need and I must pay for a Tanzanian visa (£38), transit taxes through Kenya (£40, I think), airport taxes (£65) and additional personal costs. My air fare, accommodation and food costs are included in the £200 registration fee and also come out of the £2,800 I raise from my sponsors.
People raise money in different ways. If you work in a school or hospital or other large institution, you can organise events such as raffles, fancy dress parties, auctions, and so on, to raise money. I work mostly alone. So I decided that £2,800 divided by 100 was £28 so I would ask one hundred people for a cheque for £28. It more or less worked (I had to put in about £300 extra).
There will be around 40 of us climbing the mountain between 15th and 24th February, and we will raise around £120,000 for Scope. Around £100,000 goes direct to the charity’s work with cerebral palsy sufferers. I may have got some of the figures wrong, but that should give you a rough idea of how it works.
PHOTOGRAPHS FROM A SNOWY LONDON
Soyoung, my photographs are not as good as yours. However, this might give you some idea of what things looked like in my back garden around eight o’clock this morning.
It’s difficult to believe we’ll be sitting here in shorts and T-shirts a few weeks from now.
Maybe I should have listened to the weather forecast before putting the washing out last night.
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