Clothes Maketh The Man

Son: What’s a costume?

Dad: An outfit we wear when we pretend to be somebody else.

Son: Like at Halloween?

Dad: Yes.

Son: Like Superman?

Dad: Yes.

Son: Which is his costume? The cape clothes or the ordinary clothes?

Dad: The cape clothes. He only wears that when he needs to rescue somebody. The rest of the time he’s in ordinary clothes, like us.

Son: But doesn’t he wear cape clothes all the time? Cos when he changes, he doesn’t have a bag. So they must be under the ordinary clothes.

Dad: Okaa-aay. You have a point.

Son: So his ordinary clothes are his costume, right? To hide the fact he’s Superman? He’s pretending to be ordinary?

Dad: Well, yes. He probably doesn’t want everyone to know who he really is.

Son: Why? He’s a good guy, right? Why does a Superhero want to pretend to be ordinary?

Dad: So that he can do his job better. And be among the people he can help.

Son: So when you go to work in your suit, are you pretending to be somebody else? Cos you said you like your shorts.

Dad: That’s my office attire. It’s like your school uniform – you need to wear a certain set of clothes at a certain time so people know who you are. That’s not pretending.

Son: Huh. So what about a birthday suit? Is that a costume too?

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DAILY PROMPT ~ COSTUME

The Umbrella ~ Act of Kindness #9

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We moved into the neighbourhood about ten years ago.

For some reason, I never really got to know the neighbours. We would nod awkwardly when our paths crossed or we would politely return misdirected mail but that was it. Perhaps it was my work schedule. Perhaps it was theirs. Or, as The Munchkin suggested, perhaps it was my face, which looks even worse when I smile.

Anyway, sometime in 2016, The Munchkin and I went shopping in the neighbourhood mall. As we prepared to leave, we were confronted with relentless rain. At the edge of the covered walkway stood Mr K. He was clutching his phone and we heard him say, “I can’t come right now because it’s raining,” as we drew nearer.

I handed him my umbrella. “Take it.”

I’ve never seen greater flabbergasted relief. “I … yes … no … yes … yourself?”

The Munchkin brandished our second umbrella (nobody remembers why we had two), and I assured Mr K that we would be fine. He grabbed the umbrella like a life vest and shot off across the street. We continued home.

We had barely put away our shopping when the doorbell rang. There was Mr K, Junior K, and my umbrella. There were thanks and pleasantries all round and that was that.

But it wasn’t. Thereafter, Mr K and his family never failed to say hi or stop to chat. Then the other neighbours started saying hi. And now we pretty much know everybody, and it feels like we’re a community.

Thanks, of all things, to an umbrella.

Johnny Depp and the Five Stars

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FANBOYS, ROY B GIV, MICE … No matter what the subject, mnemonics have served learners all over the world well.

My country’s flag has five stars and a crescent moon. At school, most kids have no problems explaining what the moon represents. But the five stars? We’ve heard everything from lights to twinkles.

About a decade ago, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End reached our shores. Somewhere in the movie is a scene where Captain Sao Feng (Chow Yun Fatt), the Pirate Lord of Singapore, says, “Welcome to Singapore,” to the merry band of sailors here to rescue Jack Sparrow.

Historically, that wasn’t even what our country was called in the 1700s. But that’s not the point. My friends and I had an epiphany: Sparrow – Johnny Depp – star – Singapore! That was it!

Justice, Democracy, Equality, Peace, Progress. Those are the ideals as depicted by the five stars on the state flag.

And thanks to J Depp, I haven’t forgotten them yet.

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DAILY PROMPT ~ MNEMONIC

Helping Hands ~ Act of Kindness #8

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photo credit: bady qb

Yesterday, I took a crowded bus home. Three stops later, it stopped for a Young Lady with a backpack and a tote bag on her shoulders, a stroller in which was a sleeping little one, and she was verbally managing a three (maybe four) year old.

Her accoutrements couldn’t quite fit past the support pole at the boarding point, so she moved to the rear where there was supposed to be a retractable ramp. Naturally, this was the bus with a driver who couldn’t or wouldn’t get the ramp out.

Young Lady ordered the three year old to precede her up the bus. Middle-Aged Uncle vacated his seat for the child, who took one look at him and shrieked for reasons only he knew. The startled Young Lady, who was still on the pavement, panicked.

Unfortunately, the gap between the pavement and the edge of the step was too wide for her to safely tilt the stroller’s front wheels up and into the bus – if you’ve ever pushed a stroller, you’ll know what I mean. In any case, there was another step at that doorway to conquer before getting all the way in.

Three of us had moved forward at this point to help. The three year old shrieked louder, the little one was now awake and displeased, Young Woman was frazzled and the bus driver was glaring in the rear view mirror. (Seriously, you couldn’t do something more useful? Like lower the ramp?)

An Elderly Uncle appeared. He gestured for us to move back, told Young Lady to tend to the three year old and physically lugged the stroller up the bus. Middle Aged Uncle had taken Young Lady’s bags and placed them on the seat. While we were all relieved that the little group was now safely inside the bus, we were concerned that the driver would move off before Elderly Uncle alighted. Fortunately, the driver apparently had enough sense to wait. Also, an Auntie up front had started raising her voice at him. (Good!)

There was a chorus of thanks all round. Elderly Uncle waved at us all and went on his way. We moved on. Sadly, I can’t tell you what fate befell the driver because I alighted at the next stop.

Thank you all, especially Elderly Uncle, for extending helping hands where they were needed.

Purls Of Wisdom, Learnt By A Knitwit

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CAST ON 37 STITCHES

I was taught to knit when I was eight. This had nothing to do with my dexterity or artistic tendencies. It had everything to do with how The Powers That Be decided I had to learn about Patience, Persistence, Precision, and Pride In My Work. From two sticks and a ball of something that the cat played with that was once taken from a sheep? Right.

ROW 1: KNIT

My first project was meant to be a potholder. Cast on 37 stitches and knit for 50 rows. Repetition, I was told, would develop even tension and create perfectly formed stitches. My hands would develop dexterity and muscle memory, and the knit stitch would become second nature.

Naturally, the potholder was a disaster. It wasn’t even a square. It was a blob, a shapeless rag that even the cat sniffed at.

“So what do you think you should do?” asked The Powers That Be.

I had plenty of wonderful ideas: climb the tree so I could escape into the neighbour’s garden, get Dad to take me to the beach, bathe the cat … But I dutifully replied that I should try again. Correct answer. And The Powers That Be were pleased.

ROW 2: PURL

The blob became a polygon, then a trapezium, then a rectangle and eventually a square. Sort of. There followed a mysterious process of wetting it and blocking it on a mat to dry, and behold! a proper square that would live life as a potholder.

“See? You practised and persisted and succeeded. That was the garter stitch. Now learn to purl and use the stockinette stitch.”

What?

CONTINUE IN PATTERN TO ROW 50

Years later, there are numerous potholders (the victims of learning different stitches), wash cloths, table mats, rugs and towels. Then there are blankets made up of squares, and scarves, sweaters and shawls.

There is also an ever growing stash of yarns and a collection of needles. And boxes of patterns. And bookmarked YouTube videos.

BIND OFF

Did I actually learn any of the lessons as intended?

Patience? Check. Boatloads of it.

Persistence? Check. There are no shortcuts in knitting. To reach Row 142, you knit loop by loop till you get there.

Precision? Check. If a stitch looks odd or gets dropped, or the tension’s wrong, there may be nothing for it except to tink or frog.

Pride In My Work? Check. I’ll admit there’s a certain satisfaction in having handmade odds and ends scattered around the home. Or wound round a neck in winter.

There you have it: purls of wisdom, as learnt by a knitwit.

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DAILY PROMPT ~ KNIT

Thank you, Tara R at Thin spiral notebook, for the inspiration.

The Many Faceted Egg

Egg. Perfectly formed, self-contained, nutritious, a cradle of life … is there anything more perfect than this?

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photo credit: michal grosicki

‘Egg’ – the noun – has survived centuries of use but remains relatively unchanged from the Middle English ‘egg’ and its ancestor, the Old Norse ‘egg’. A simple word, it has contributed to a range of expressions over time: good egg, rotten eggΒ (reportedly 1848),Β egg on your face (reportedly 1936), nest egg. It is part of relevant advice today: don’t put all your eggs in one basket (Cervantes in Don Quixote, 1605) and it is also an insult: go suck an egg (1930s).

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photo credit: rebekah howell

‘Egg’ – the verb – represents encouragement, e.g., egg someone on. The thing is, the Old Norse etymology of ‘egg’ is the same as ‘edge’. So to egg someone on, back in the day, was to edge someone on, i.e., to provoke or drive to the edge. Technically, therefore, you could egg an egg to the egg. But I digress.

‘Egg’ – the food – is even more, well, egg-citing. Its cooking methods are diverse: hard-boiled, coddled, poached, fried, scrambled. It is integral in souffles, custards, soups and drinks. And let’s not forget caviar.

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photo credit: john baker

‘Egg’ is a poster child of cultural diversity: Huevos Rancheros, tamagoyaki, century egg, omelette, frittata. If you’re interested, see here for international breakfast egg recipes! By the way, while a London firm claims to have invented the Scotch Egg in the 1700s, it was apparently already being served during the Mughal Empire, founded in 1526!

‘Egg’ has synonyms. Kind of. I’m thinking of ovum, roe, spawn.

‘Egg’ becomes a tool for vandalism when it is thrown at someone’s house, i.e., egging. I know of a much-hated teacher whose students once cracked raw eggs on his car; it was parked in the sun.

‘Egg’ is part of folklore and tradition. It is said to cure illnesses, hangovers and foretell the future. It symbolises new life, birth and resurrection. The Chinese, for instance, distribute hard-boiled eggs dyed red to friends and family to celebrate a baby’s first month or first year.

‘Egg’ is a decorative item – who can ignore the beauty of an ostrich egg lamp? Or a Faberge egg?

‘Egg’ has cult followings – an egg yolk called Gudetama has spawned restaurants, merchandise and a near rock star status. And who has never heard of Humpty Dumpty?

I’d love to hear how the egg features in your culture. Please do share by leaving a comment!

[references: english.stackexchange.com and www.etymonline.com]

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DAILY PROMPT ~ EGG

Oy, Auntie! ~ Act of Kindness #6

I was early for my lunch with my BFF today. While waiting, I ordered a coffee and sat down to read at a nearby coffeeshop. 30 minutes later, she arrived and off we went to our lunch venue.

We took the downward escalator; I was in front, my BFF a step behind me. Mid-way down, we heard a loud male voice bellow, “Oy, Auntie! Aun-tie!”

There followed the thump of a foot that caused the escalator to vibrate. I turned, as did my BFF. As did the middle-aged man behind her. As did everybody else within hearing distance.

A young man stood at the head of the escalator waving a book. “Oy, Auntie, your book!”

Yep, I’d left my book in the coffeeshop. I had a choice: head back upwards on that escalator or reach the bottom and take the other one up.

The young man solved the dilemma. He took two steps down, handed the book to the middle-aged man and pointed at me. Then he bounded back up what was now five steps.

The least I could do was bellow back my thanks. He waved cheerily back. My highly mortified book was passed from the middle-aged man to my BFF to me. (It has since buried itself inside my tote and refused to reappear.)

I am deeply grateful to the young man who bothered to track down a forgetful reader. My thanks also to the man and BFF who helped to reunite a book and its owner.