Mattock

Mattock

An agricultural tool shaped like a pickaxe, with an adze and chisel edge as the ends of the head. I remember reading the word ‘adze’ when I was a child, and looking at a black and white drawing of a man wielding one.  The spelling of the word dazed me....
Hauberk

Hauberk

A piece of armour covering originally only neck and shoulders but later consisting of a full length coat of mail or military tunic. Middle English from Old French hauberc, originally referring to protection of the neck, of Germanic origin. ‘A hauberk of steel...
Glede

Glede

A live coal, an ember; any of several birds of prey, especially a kite.  Most dictionaries only give the bird of prey definition, but the ‘live coal or ember’ explains Tolkien’s use of it in ‘as hot as a glede’ and also in this other Tolkien quotation. ‘His last...
Gammer

Gammer

(Archaic) an old countrywoman; orig. late 16th century, probably a contraction of godmother, says the dictionary, but why not ‘grandmother’?  Seems related to ‘gaffer’. ‘… laughed at the greybeards and gammers who said that they had seen him...
Long ago and still to come

Long ago and still to come

This sweetly evocative opening refers to a quieter world ‘long ago’.  But it also evokes, for me at least, a better world with less stress and pollution and hardship. A single sentence that captures something of the spirit of the ambitious aims laid out in...
Wisdom for a merrier world

Wisdom for a merrier world

Not a bad outline of what it would take to make the world merrier: the simple enjoyment of food, cheer and song. “There is more in you of good than you know, child of the kindly West. Some courage and some wisdom, blended in measure. If more of us valued food and...
For use in a mouthwash advert

For use in a mouthwash advert

How did they miss this, those toothpaste and mouthwash marketing executives? Smaug the Dragon’s own glorious description of himself (my capitals): “Then I was but young and tender.  Now I am old and strong, strong, strong, Thief in the Shadows!” he gloated.  “My...
Revisiting The Hobbit

Revisiting The Hobbit

The Hobbit is the first major book of which I have a conscious memory.   Probably four or five years old, I remember being with my mother visiting a friend’s house; a vague recollection, perhaps garbled, of sharing a guestroom with Wedgwood blue walls and high...

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