Q is for Quaint:

Quaint: ‘having an old-fashioned attractiveness or charm; oddly picturesque.’

Yep, that’s what I envisage quaint to mean in a nutshell.

But I’ve always been interested in the history of words (etymology), and when I was visiting other A to Z bloggers yesterday, two were blogging about etymology. So when I fed in ‘quaint’ to google today, this entry from the online etymology dictionary caught my eye.

c.1200, cointe, “cunning, ingenious; proud,” from Old French cointe “knowledgeable, well-informed; clever; arrogant, proud; elegant, gracious,” from Latin cognitus “known, approved,” past participle of cognoscere “get or come to know well” (see cognizance). Modern spelling is from early 14c. 

Later in English, “elaborate, skillfully made” (c.1300); “strange and clever” (mid-14c.). Sense of “old-fashioned but charming” is first attested 1795, and could describe the word itself, which had become rare after c.1700 (though it soon recovered popularity in this secondary sense).

So what things do you call ‘quaint’ today? For me I suppose it would be village tea-rooms, thatched cottages, wild flower gardens with winding stone paths, wishing wells… that kind of thing.

If we were back in the 13th century, what would I use quaint for? A saddle, perhaps, or a sword. In the 14th? Perhaps The Forme of Cury, a cookbook:

The Forme of Cury is the first English text to mention olive oil, cloves, mace and gourds in relation to British food. Most of the recipes contain what were then luxurious and valuable spices: caraway, nutmeg, cardamom, ginger and pepper. There are also recipes for cooking strange and exotic animals, such as whales, cranes, curlews, herons, seals and porpoises.

Apparently one of the recipes is a kind of porpoise haggis… nice. Now that’s put me right off my cream tea in the little cottage garden, attached to the crumbling but still beautiful thatched tea-room, with roses (naturally) climbing around the door…


O is for Obstinate: A Revolution and a Coup

Obstinate: stubbornly refusing to change one’s opinion or chosen course of action, despite attempts to persuade one to do so.

Again, I’m going for randomness today (ahem… 2 days late)because it makes life interesting. You find all sorts of new and interesting snippets when you search the internet for a random word and as I’ve said before, if Dave Gorman can make TV series out of this stuff…
And it’s a lot more interesting than a post about how obstinate I am.

It’s odd how sometimes Google will offer pages and pages of dictionary definitions for a random word, and other times you struggle to find one. Today, I had to click though a few pages of definitions before I got to anything else. These are literally the first three hits, and the first two are all about troubled and bloody pasts…

The Obstinate Daughter

Sounds like a book, I thought as I clicked. Until the huge words ‘EAT WITH US’ filled my screen. The Obstinate Daughter is the name of a restaurant – sorry, ‘Food Fort – on Sullivan’s Island in South Carolina. So why, I hear you cry, is it called The Obstinate Daughter? Over to them…

Our name, The Obstinate Daughter, is an homage to the rich Revolutionary War history of Sullivan’s Island. On June 28, 1776, under the command of Colonel William Moultrie, the defenders of Fort Sullivan foiled the British fleet’s attempt to capture the city of Charleston in the Battle of Sullivan’s Island. This first American Patriots victory inspired a London political cartoon of the defiant defenders of Charleston:  “Miss Carolina Sulivan, one of the obstinate daughters of America, 1776”.  To us, The Obstinate Daughter is a beautiful reminder that the stubborn refusal to change one’s course of action can change the course of history.

The Obstinate Daughter Restaurant

‘A Southern restaurant that is influenced by French, Italian and Spanish cuisine.’

The restaurant serves pasta, pizza, and a large selection of other delicious-sounding seafood and vegetarian options. If I ever visit my cousin in North Carolina, I might just pop down there; it’s not far.

Chile, Obstinate Memory

This is a film by Patricio Guzmán, whose 1976 film The Battle of Chile documented Salvador Allende’s government, the events leading to the coup led by General Pincohet, and Allende’s death – events ‘largely barred from the collective consciousness of the Chilean people

Hearing only the official version, a generation of young Chileans has grown up with little knowledge of the historical facts surrounding the events of September 11, 1973…

Now, Guzmán has returned to show The Battle of Chile in his homeland for the first time, and to explore the terrain of the confiscated (but maybe reawakening) memories of the Chilean people.


CHILE, OBSTINATE MEMORY visits with Chileans who experienced the coup first-hand (some of whom are seen in The Battle of Chile from 25 years ago). Survivors reminisce as they watch that film, recognizing lost comrades and recalling their courage, gaiety and love of life. Those who were not killed during the coup itself were crowded into the National Stadium in Santiago, where many were tortured, disappeared, and never seen again. Survivors talk about the terror that characterized the Pinochet regime until the dictator was finally obliged to relinquish power.


Soldiers burn Marxist books

Suddenly, I don’t feel that obstinate… 😉

M is for Majestic: The Mountains and Burns of Scotland

Majestic: ‘having or showing impressive beauty or scale’.

Scotland. Nothing to do with the Queen, although I’m not denying she’s majestic in that ‘good evenin’, You Majesty’ way, and once Techy Husband and I did find ourself meandering around the back of the Balmoral estate by accident when we got lost.

DSCF2815Scotland has more majestic scenery than you can shake a stick at, and I’ve been lucky enough to see some of it.

My favourite trip was up through the Glen Shee pass  – through the Cairngorms up towards Braemar – at Easter one year, when the sun was shining and the mountains were still covered in snow. Amazing!




The other lovely area to visit on a snowy sunny day is The Lecht between Tomintoul and Cockbridge, on the Glenlivet Estate. It’s a beautiful walk and if you like a bit of history, you can walk along the valley to the old crushing  mill building that still stands there – all that remains of an old iron mine.




This picture of my lovely mum-in-law, above, was taken on a visit to The Lecht on a day when there was snow, rain, hail and hot bright sunshine all within an hour.


This picture on the left was taken in the hail phase!




It’s an easy walk alongside the burn from the Well of the Lecht car park – and even the view from the car park is amazing (this was the rain phase!). 




The walk along the burn itself is lovely and the views make it well worth the walk, but having an end point to your walk is great too – and inside the crushing mill building, which is a great place for kids (and dogs!) to – er – mill about in, there are information signs explaining the history of the mine.

File:Lecht Mine - geograph.org.uk - 180913.jpg

Whatever road route you take, the drive to The Lecht will be an experience too. It’s a beautiful area and there’s a great view of Corgarff Castle from the Lecht road.

I’ve enjoyed exploring parts of central and Eastern Scotland and seeing beautiful burns and majestic(!) mountains – this year we’re going to the Isle of Skye for our holidays, so I’m looking forward to exploring the West with its lovely locks and inspirational Isles!


K is for Kooky: Eccentric Geniuses and British Festivals

Kooky: ‘Strange or eccentric’.

Stumped for ideas once again as to what I personally find strange and eccentric, I cast my net upon the world wide web, curious as to what hits I’d get if I put in ‘strange’ and ‘eccentric’.

strange brainsOne of the first things that popped up was Strange Brains and Genius: The Secret Lives of Eccentric Scientists and Madmen by Clifford Pickover.

“In this unusual and penetrating work, Clifford Pickover… takes us on a wild ride through the bizarre lives of brilliant, but eccentric geniuses who made significant contributions to science and philosophy. Unveiling the hidden secrets,[he] delights us with unexpected stories of their obsessive personalities and strange phobias.”

Sounds like my kind of book. I’m fascinated by the inner workings of people’s minds and all their little quirks. This will be going on my birthday list.

The next thing to catch my eye was a Rough Guides article: ‘Five strange and uniquely British experiences’. I’m not sure these 5 would be what many people would pick, but I investigated.

  1. The Chap Olympics
    Participants dress up in clothing from the Victorian era to the 1940s, apparently, to take part in events like Umbrella Jousting (on bikes) and the Cucumber Sandwich Discus, held in Bedford Square, Bloomsbury. This year it’s on Saturday 12th July, noon to dusk, and you can get tickets here if it sounds like your, er, ‘bag’.
  2. The Summer Solstice at Stonehenge
    File:Rave in the Henge 2005 02.jpgAs Stonehenge is in Britain, this can’t help but be uniquely British! It seems a shame that hype and drunken revelry have been allowed on the same bill as people celebrating an important day in their religious calendar, but then it’s unsurprising; in somehow it’s become socially acceptable to mock those trying to practise Paganism, a religion with roots far older than Christianity. Ironic when you consider how many people moan about ‘Eastern’ religions ‘usurping’ English traditions – usually around five seconds before they say, ‘after all, you don’t get Christians murdering people in the name of their religion, do you!’
    Closely followed by me rocking in the corner and/or banging my head against a brick wall, mumbling ‘Crusades, Inquisition, Cathar Massacres’ over and over again…
  3. Morris Dancing in the Isle of WightFile:Mechanical Morris Dancers at Yarmouth Old Gaffers Festival 2011 2.JPG
    Why in the Isle of Wight? Morris dancing is practised throughout the UK in ye olde villages everywhere. It has to be there, the writer says, because ‘the Isle of Wight is a hotbed of morris madness, with no less than six active troupes’. I see. Although I’ve been there twice without seeing so much as an ankle bell or funny hat…
  4. The Cotswold Olimpicks
    No that’s not a spelling error. Apparently these games have been going on since the seventeenth century on a hill outside Chipping Camden. Games vary from year to year but shin-kicking is very popular… ooh, I can’t wait (? ouch!). Tickets aren’t available yet, but this year it’s on 30th May 2014 at 7 pm.
  5. Shetland’s Viking Ritual
    NOW you’re talking. Finally, a ‘unique British experience’ that I’d actually like to, er… experience. Officially called Up Helly Aa, it takes place in Lerwick, Shetland on the last Tuesday in January. More about this in W for Wacky.

Kooky enough for ya? 😉

J is for Jaunty: Goats! Coffee! Authors! Doctor Who!

JauntyHaving a buoyant or self-confident air; brisk; crisp and dapper in appearance; lively in manner or appearance; having or suggesting a lively and confident quality.

Jaunty, I pondered. This was a tough one. David Tennant and Matt Smith were both quite jaunty as Dr.Who. I don’t think Peter Capaldi’s going to be. That’s not to say I don’t think he’s going to be any good; I’m suspending judgement on that until he’s made himself at home in the Tardis. I just don’t think he’s a jaunty kind of guy. Do you?

Hmm…I thought I’d look for jaunty things in Google. That might help.Photo: Friday's Chalk Board...

Some were very boring, but I did come across The Jaunty Goat: ‘Chester’s Best Coffee’, which I may have to visit when I go to Chester again purely because of the name. And because it seems like the staff have got a sense of humour. Though surely they should serve a coffee called the Anti-Depresso that claims to cheer you up? For me, it would need to be frothy with caramel and hazelnut syrup, plus chocolate sprinkles on top. I’m not hard to please.

I also came across The Sisterhood of Jaunty Quills

Who's Jaunty?No, it isn’t a strange cult. It’s a group of ten authors blogging about ‘writing, life and love’. Jaunty Quills, I hear you ask? Pourquoi? Jaunty Quills is their blog mascot (pictured left) and you can find out more about him by visiting Who’s Jaunty? (while suspending your disbelief 😉 ). They haven’t got an About page unfortunately, or any info on their Home Page, so I struggled to find out how they know each other, why they set up the Sisterhood or why they share a blog.  I had to search their blog posts until I found a 2011 post by Shana Galen, ‘The History of the Jaunty Quills’:

The Sisterhood of the Jaunty Quills was the brainchild of Kimberly Logan. She used to write for Avon, as did all of the founding members, and asked some of the debut Avon authors if they’d be interested in starting a blog with her. This was in the days of Squawk Radio (remember that?) and everyone was looking for new ways to reach readers. I guess some things never change!

The original Jaunty Quills were Kimberly Logan, Margo Maguire, Cindy Kirk, Robyn DeHart, Anne Mallory, Shirley Karr, and me.

And that’s quite enough jauntiness from me *tips hat*.

I is for Intriguing: Shapes, History, Evolution, Letters and Jonathan Creek

Intriguing: ‘to arouse the curiosity or interest of by unusual, new, or otherwise fascinating or compelling qualities’

I’ve written about things that intrigue me before.

File:NautilusCutawayLogarithmicSpiral.jpgIn What Pleases The Human Eye, I wrote about my fascination with certain mathematical shapes, and how I find the fact that we humans find certain shapes pleasing to the eye (even when there seems no good evolutionary reason why) even more intriguing. Plus of course historical mysteries like The Shell Grotto in Margate, which I wrote about in A is for Amazing.

Then there’s this fact: no.1 of the 7 ‘Things You Never Knew About Me‘, which I wrote as part of a blog chain:

  1. I’ve no idea who one of my great-grandfathers was. His name is missing from my late grandmother’s birth certificate, whilst the man her marriage certificate names as her father has the same surname as her mother’s maiden name…This is either a)fake b)a coincidence, because the surname is very common d)suggests incest as it is the name of a fairly close family member. a) is most likely.

That’s pretty intriguing. I’ve had help from the local archivist, too. No luck. I’ll probably never know who my great-grandfather was.

What else do I find intriguing? Anthropology. Human evolution, which I even studied it at degree level for a while. Some of the earliest hominid fossils discovered look nothing like each other, yet both have features that indicate they’re possibly our ancestors. You can discover more about this here on the Smithsonian site. How can that be? So much for the missing link…

Other things that have ‘fascinating or compelling’ qualities for me are Jonathan Creek (not thTalk to us!e last mini series though; what was going on there?!) and the new Sherlock Holmes. I like a good mystery with twists and turns. And Jodi Picoult novels (oooh, she’s so good).

I love letters, postcards and diaries from the past too – I sometimes get my fix from the brilliant website Letters of Note. And finally, I’m constantly intrigued by the plethora of facts, references and articles offered to my tiny little brain via the marvellous skills of the Qi Elves (via Twitter and on the website – you can find out more about the Elves themselves here) and Maria Popova’s fabulous Brain Pickings website.

In fact, I may not be intriguing, but I’m pretty darn intrigued on a daily basis. So there.