Triologisms

Further lively imagery in concentrated capsules.  Having coined the term ‘triologism’, I am proud to be the sole global platform for these boundlessly varied phrases.  Just run your eye and mind over them and see how many ideas they yield.

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Tissue-thin vulnerability

Among other things, Sea Room is a study of human strategies for survival over millennia, of the fragility and tenacity of a culture built in a climate-pounded place of meagre resources.  These islands were inhabited from the Bronze Age until the population declined...

Barnacle-encrusted boulders

The clingon power of the barnacle is astonishing, as anyone who ever tried to prise them off the rocks in childhood acts of discovery will know.  My memory of summer holidays by the English sea, or day trips to the seaside, includes endless coasts of weed-slithered...

Weed-slithered rocks

This evokes a few childhood seaside holidays in England, hopping over seaweed-slippery rocks, to play and paddle in rock pools.  One such holiday was in a caravan near Hunstanton with our grandparents.  I don't remember seeing much of the sun, but I was happy to be on...

Crossing the long-haired sea

This poem by the seventh century Irish poet-monk Beccán mac Luigdech captures the ruggedness and exhilaration of crossing rampant seas in small boats to create new settlements or monasteries.  I love the 'long-haired sea' and its portrayal as 'wild country' followed...

Wind-besieged islands

The North Sea is full of such islands and Nicolson finds in a place of 'sun-trap warmth', sheltered from the wind-siege, a possible site for the church of the seventh century Irish poet-monk Beccan. 'So is this, in its sun-trap warmth on these wind-besieged islands,...

All-power meeting

I had no idea how awful but interesting this bird is, even its name lacks euphony.  I'm in no hurry to take one on in an 'all-power meeting' I'd be sure to lose. 'Nothing can really prepare you for the reality of the shag experience.  It is an all-power meeting with...

Sea-battered island

A perfect spot for a hermit, even more so in the seventh century. '... a hermit living on a sea-battered island in the Hebrides in the seventh century.'   Source: Adam Nicolson, Sea Room: An Island Life (London: Harper Collins, 2013 (2002)), p....

Dredger-bucket mouth

You can see this gaping maw hoovering up all in its path. 'Its dredger-bucket mouth agape for the food-rich water streaming through it...'   Source: Adam Nicolson, Sea Room: An Island Life (London: Harper Collins, 2013 (2002)), p. 278

Spring-time welcome

My heart also expands at the spring-time welcome of where I live and where I visit.  Here, the detail of Nicolson's account roots the welcome in the Shiants, and I particularly revel in the 'big, luscious chamomile' and the 'flowering cushions of newness'. May you...

Black-letter hortations

Leigh Fermor's descriptions of pre-war beer halls encompass the quaint, the sinister, the laughable and the grotesque, with first hints of Nazi cheerfulness invading medieval slovenliness, and with near biblical accounts of the sin of gluttony. '… pace-forcing...

Bruise-coloured clouds

A striking colour name, and particularly as I am now looking out onto ... '... bruise-coloured and quicksilver clouds...'   Source: Patrick Leigh Fermor, A Time of Gifts (London: Penguin Books, 1977), p. 243

Demon-king entrance

This sounded like something out of a classical Chinese opera until I realized it was describing my forebears. Don't worry, a dozen centuries of settled living, and I've been entirely pacified and partially civilized. 'The Magyars, at the end of their journey from...

Shrivel-cheeked hermits

May you be spared all shrivelling. Why do words of similar sound have something mean-spirited in them: shrivelling, snivelling, grovelling, scrivening, slovenly? 'On the walls inside the Palace, meanwhile, Duccio's sombre Jeremiah and the shrivel-cheeked hermits and...

Russet-scaled labyrinth

Thinking about roof tiles described like russet scales, I look up, out of the window and see them not three yards away, overlooking the 'russet-scaled labyrinth' of roofs in the old town of Geneva. 'A russet-scaled labyrinth of late medieval roofs embeds the baroque...

Strip-cartoon dreams

Yes, you can picture a cartoon tramp dreaming of a spit-roasted chicken.  And those six-on-a-spit rotating rotisseries of plump, golden roasted chickens?  The Brazilians call them "dogs' TV". 'A delicious roast chicken, of the classical sort that sizzles enclouded in...

Rain-glazed grass

This makes me think of the freshness after a downpour, the drops glistening on the pointed leaves of the lawn. Source: Adam Nicolson, Sea Room: An Island Life (London: Harper Collins, 2013 (2002)), p. 287

Rock-hole glory

A memorable image of a glorious, dreadful creature hanging out in weather-gouged holes in rocks. 'Nothing can really prepare you for the reality of the shag experience.  It is an all-power meeting with an extraordinary, ancient, corrupt, imperial, angry, dirty,...

Sun-trap warmth

A haven of calm and enveloping warmth in places blasted by wind and cold.  A place where a monk arriving over rough seas from Ireland in the seventh century might choose to build a church. 'So is this, in its sun-trap warmth on these wind-besieged islands, where the...

Food-rich water

Here's to hoping the future will see the ocean still full of food-rich water. 'Its dredger-bucket mouth agape for the food-rich water streaming through it...'   Source: Adam Nicolson, Sea Room: An Island Life (London: Harper Collins, 2013 (2002)), p....

Battle-haunted fens

Having spent many teenage summer holidays in the fens of England, this struck me, though I never heard or saw the battle hauntings there.  Perhaps too engrossed in high kaleidoscopic skies. '... the battle-haunted fens came to an end on the other side of the river.'...

Tree reflecting banks

A river lined on both sides with tree-covered banks, reflected in the water and in each other.   As you follow Leigh Ferro's pre-war crossing of Europe, knowing what came after in destruction and mayhem, you keep asking how much of what he describes survived and how...

Weather-fretted Abbots

Assuming these are carved in stone, though my first reading had me picturing a human 'weather-fretted' abbot. Wishing you more blessings than admonishments. 'Meditating, admonishing and blessing, a team of sainted and weather-fretted Abbots postured with operatic...

Many-legended island

Are those legends still alive or did they die with the war, or with the people who told them?  And what if we made our own mental 'many-legended island' to retire to? 'I slept in the village of Grein that night, just upstream from a wooded and many-legended island.'...

Dun-coloured flax

I eat flaxseed and have seen blonde hair described as 'flaxen', but in reading this I realize I have never seen flax grow.  And what a refreshing image of a river plaiting a long green strand of clear water through the flax fields. 'The river Enns ... came winding out...

Hard-favoured rage

The rage of feeling hard done by, is how I read this.  I like 'disguise fair nature with...', meaning you have to overcome your happy nature to drum up some fake fury.   That final 'etc' gives it away as a feint. 'But when the blast of war blew in their ears, they...

Light-hearted colours

What a delightful way to describe a palette of colours: light-hearted.  What hues would it include?  Sky blue, dancing fuchsia, apple green? And something charming in those untutored and marveling eyes.  They may be untutored but at least they are marveling and that...

Cloud-born apotheoses

The triologism caught my eye, but I like even more the play of light bouncing from a Venetian canal up through a partly shuttered window to flicker across ceiling scenes. 'The reflected flicker that canals, during Venetian siestas, send up across the cloud-born...

Holly-patterned ribbon

This quotation, and its festive triologism, haunts me for the closing sentence which yields the book's loving title: The time of gifts.  I liked the simple gifts these girls gave Leigh Fermor, and his regret at not having anything suitable with which to reciprocate....

Good-humoured Syrinx

These two fine young girls manage to protect themselves from the depredations of a sleazy, tasteless monster.  I remember Leigh Fermor's descriptions of the booziest blur of a party held in a place bursting with the latest and ugliest 1930s nouveau-Nazi tat. '......

Traffic-straddling gateway

Having just spent Easter in Aosta where there is an Augustan traffic-straddling gateway in the central roundabout, this image brought a happy moment to mind. 'A monument where a Bavarian king was riding on a metal horse in front of another colossal and...

Basket-hilted sabres

Seems an odd juxtaposition, woven hilts for metal sabres, but I have a vague notion of having seen them in some museum or castle or other. 'Their gauntlets grasped basket-hilted sabres.^   Source: Patrick Leigh Fermor, A Time of Gifts (London: Penguin Books,...

Saint-encrusted towers

How many masons chipped away for how many centuries to create 'saint-encrusted towers', which would have to withstand the vibrating rivalries of the bells above them. 'As each quarter struck, the saint-encrusted towers challenged each other through the snow and the...

Siegfried-haunted Drachenfels

An image from a Caspar David Friedrich painting. 'The country sped downstream at a great pace and the Siebengebirge and the Siegfried-haunted Drachenfels began to climb into the sparkling morning.'   Source: Patrick Leigh Fermor, A Time of Gifts (London: Penguin...

Reed-fringed spinney

Many years since I heard the word 'spinney'.  I remember it as a secret, hidden spot in the local park when we were growing up, known simply as The Spinney.  It had a man-made waterfall, channelled through a wall built of cement sacks, stacked and allowed to settle in...

Tree-tufted islands

Trees as tufts - trying to imagine how they would look.  I imagine wind-blown short trees, dwarfed and compacted by a harsh climate. 'We sailed between tree-tufted islands.'   Source: Patrick Leigh Fermor, A Time of Gifts (London: Penguin Books, 1977), p....

Lemon-coloured light

A warming, bright but not dazzling light, and streaming through gaps in snow-clouds too. 'The sky was loosening and lemon-coloured light was dropping through the gaps in the snow-clouds ... '   Source: Patrick Leigh Fermor, A Time of Gifts (London: Penguin Books,...

Lily-bearing angels

We could do with a few of those now and then.  May a lily-bearing angel flutter to earth whenever you need one. 'But this scenery is a backcloth, merely, for lily-bearing angels who flutter to earth or play violins and lutes at Nativities.'   Source: Patrick...

Sonnet-begetting beauty

One of Leigh Fermor's teenage crushes, a girl who ran the local grocery shop, whom he spotted on an escapade from school. 'She was twenty-four, a ravishing and sonnet-begetting beauty and I can see her now and still hear that melting and deep Kent accent.'  ...

Wolf-harbouring Carpathians

It seems Leigh Fermor's first great journey, from the Hook of Holland to Constantinople on foot, was conjured from a mix of schoolboy geography and a florid fiction-induced impression of Europe, including 'wolf-harbouring Carpathian watersheds'. 'Even before I looked...

Dragon-green Byzantium

This magnificent walk across Europe in the early 1930s, a Europe which would be ripped apart by war in under a decade, ended in Constantinople, which Leigh Fermor knew from fictino to be 'dragon-green', 'serpent-haunted' and 'gong-tormented'. 'These certainties sprang...

Wide-skied and many-belfried

A lovely description of Suffolk, which I have seen echoed in the wide-skied landscapes of Norfolk.  This was one of the many schools to which Patrick Leigh Fermor was sent, after a train of expulsions from the more respectable boarding schools.  The 'engaging manor...

Handsomely-bound journal

The first entry of a journal which provided the material for some of the best travel writing of the 20th century.  While I am enjoying other Leigh Fermor books on his later travels, I don't think they match the sweep or freshness of those recounting his walk across...

Wind-borne portent

May you be spared all but the most benign of wind-borne portents.  Here a northern image of skaters scattered as a gust of icy wind sweeps through the canals, diverting their blade-carved trajectories. 'For soon the skaters on the canals, veiled hitherto by the...

Gem-like brightness

A sudden burst of light after dullness, startling and enlivening the spirit. 'It was a sullen coldish Evening, no sunshine, but after we had parted from Leslie a light came out suddenly that repaid us for all. It fell only upon one hill, & the island, but it...

Fresh-ploughed field

Another line of poetry-in-prose in Dorothy's journal.  I was struck by the sea described as a basin full to the margin, and turnips being laid alongside the fields and the sea, of equal importance. 'The sea, like a basin full to the margin; the fresh-ploughed field...

Slow-travelling Clouds

Dorothy Wordsworth is masterful and joyful in her description of detailed beauty, and it seems many of her journal entries informed her brother's poems. Her journals are a delight to read, compellingly fresh and immediate, and full of love of life. 'There were high...

New-dropped lamb

You can see the wobbly gait of these fragile newborns. 'Young lambs in a green pasture in the Coombe, thick legs, large heads, black staring eyes, gaunt as a new-dropped lamb.'  2 February 1798. Source: Dorothy Wordsworth, The Grasmere and Alfoxden Journals, ed. and...

Many-coloured sea

This simple line from a journal, a near haiku of beauty. 'The moon, a many-coloured sea and sky.'   27 April 1798. Source: Dorothy Wordsworth, The Grasmere and Alfoxden Journals, ed. and introduction by Pamela Woof (Oxford: Oxford World’s Classics, 2008 (2002)), p....

Sea-like sound

I like the description of a sound in the trees resembling the sea; land and water confounded. 'There was a sweet sea-like sound in the trees above our heads.'  Tuesday 23rd February 1802. Source: Dorothy Wordsworth, The Grasmere and Alfoxden Journals, ed. and...

Hollowed-out pineapples

Having had refreshing cool drinks out of hollowed-out coconuts, I like hearing of the equivalent in pineapples, and of course, the glorious idea of swimming in water so clear you can see your own shadow on the sea bed. 'I remember rum and coconut drinks from...

Snow-blind sands

Eye dazzling whiteness of sand - I remember such a place in Brazil, where you could hardly gaze at the beach it was so bright. 'A few steps from the beach and its almost snow-blind sands, and one entered another world and season...' Source: Laurie Lee, I Can’t Stay...

Straw-bonneted mothers

A warm, lively image of a Sunday morning family stroll to church. 'Dandy fathers and brothers, and straw-bonneted mothers, shepherd the dazzling children to church, which in a while breaks forth with such beats of song you might think the occasion a wedding.' Source:...

Deep-wooded creeks

An evocative image of deep-wooded creeks, especially when you imagine people bound for America, often forced to leave, looking upon them as their last sight of home. 'The deep-wooded creeks round Cobh and Kinsale are whitened by yachts and herons, and the green hills...

Grape-blue skins

The second time Laurie Lee uses this original idea of 'grape-blue' to describe a colour. '... the slow talk of the Jamaicans and their grape-blue skins, the supreme grace of their walking...' Source: Laurie Lee, I Can’t Stay Long (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1977...

Sheet-smooth beaches

Yes, brown hours spent in a place of rippling reefs and sheet-smooth beaches, the sea washing the shore and cleaning your soul of stress. 'Barbados is rich in ... the sheet-smooth beaches and their rippling reefs and the brown hours spent beside them.' Source: Laurie...

Storm-driven sea

Odysseus grappled with Poseidon's fury and his storm-driven seas.  Its unrelenting onslaught is one of the most terrifying aspects Homer conveyed graphically. 'A storm-driven sea appears to acquire a vitality and viciousness, a desire to do damage, which has nothing...

Monstrous-beautiful Sirens

The prelude to the monstrous-destructive obstacles Odysseus has to overcome, or bypass, to reach home. 'After the monstrous-beautiful Sirens, Odysseus comes to the limb-consuming Scylla and her friend the body-gulping Charybdis.  Scylla is a six-headed, rock-bound,...

Limb-consuming Scylla

I appreciated Nicolson's summing up the twin terrors as two aspects of the female threat. 'After the monstrous-beautiful Sirens, Odysseus comes to the limb-consuming Scylla and her friend the body-gulping Charybdis.  Scylla is a six-headed, rock-bound, man-eating...

Flat-footed view

Nicolson's writing helped cure me of any 'flat-footed view' I may have had of the Bronze Age, spinning its warriors from text-book two-dimensionality to full-blooded 3-D. 'It is what comes next that re-orientates any flat-footed view of Bronze Age warrior heroism....

City-ravaging Odysseus

The dark side of Odysseus, the luminous hero. Capable of such delicacy, sincerity, loyalty, he is also often merciless and brutal. 'They don't like him much, nor he them.  Even here, as he is accepting their hospitality, Homer gives him the traditional epithet he...

Body-gulping Charybdis

If ever there was an argument for steering a middle course, it is the horrific pair of sailor slayers, Scylla and Charybdis. Nicolson contrasts them perfectly. 'After the monstrous-beautiful Sirens, Odysseus comes to the limb-consuming Scylla and her friend the...

Silver-antlered deer

A striking metaphor for bicycle handlebars ranged alongside each other against a wall, like the interlocking of deers' antlers. '... piling their bicycles against the university buildings like herds of silver-antlered deer.' Source: Laurie Lee, I Can’t Stay Long...

Rich-painted caves

One sentence and tens of thousands of years of habitation and decoration. 'This is an old stretch of land whose signs of occupation go back to the beginnings of man, with rich-painted caves scattered throughout the area - and some of them still inhabited.' Source:...

Wing-pointed leaves

Laurie Lee depicts a magical, medieval aspect, with creeper leaves reminding him of pointy eared devils. ''s-Hertogenbosch is no tourist town, but has mysterious beauties of its own, where motionless canals, full of silver light, lap the houses like baths of mercury,...

Quick-growing harvests

A picture of fecundity and plenitude. 'The earth is rich with quick-growing harvests, with sugar and wheat and olives.' Source: Laurie Lee, I Can’t Stay Long (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1977 ((1975)), p. 116

Over-wrought fretwork

A damning description of Victorian writing, contrasted with the delicious sizzle and flavour of 'fat-bacon language'. 'After the fat-bacon language of my earlier reading I hated (Sir Walter) Scott's dry, latinized prose, finding its false medievalism and over-wrought...

Heavy-headed chrysanthemums

I love heavy-headed flowers, hand-span broad and beautiful.  And yes, I also love daises, small, compact and resilient. 'Beneath the long rows of crosses, the mounds of red Welsh earth are deeply quilted in flowers, heavy-headed chrysanthemums, roses, daisies that are...

Milk-blue sky

I hope you find time, now and then, to lie in the long grass while birds fly above you, and may you, in such moments, enjoy the delerium that deletes the gap between you and the place. '... and I have lain down in the long grass while the ravens honked and flicked...

Tide-rippled sea

Nicolson's book is as much about the sea as the land, and the tidal pull it exerted for centuries on the explorers who risked its dangers. '... only to see the flock which had been grazing happily there for an hour since I had last disturbed them, lift with that...

Spring-time clothes

A thrilling image of glittering northern waters in a moment of calm and gentleness. 'Crossing from Scalpay in May, the Minch was sparkling in her spring-time clothes.' Source: Adam Nicolson, Sea Room: An Island Life (London: Harper Collins, 2013 (2002)), p....

Million-fingered responsiveness

Nicolson captures the single signal transmitted through a vast flock of geese, yielding a 'million-fingered responsiveness'. 'They are as innocent and flightly as deer. The flock moves in its grazing like a shoal, a turn of a few degrees communicated somehow at the...

Tweed-coloured coast

An aptly named colour for a Scottish coast, and why wouldn't the tweed-weavers take their palettes from the landscapes around them? '... perhaps because from here there are such wonderful views across the Stream of the Blue Men to the long, tweed-coloured coast of...

Wind-coiffed heads

I liked this description of the sea in front of the boat looking like a crowd viewed from behind with their hair 'arranged' by the wind.  You can imagine scurf and foam looking like grey-haired bobbing heads. 'Some of the swells were just breaking under their own...

Ice-scraped gneiss

Adam Nicolson's 'love letter' to some small, remote, uninhabited Scottish islands inherited from his father, illuminates the depth and richness of natural and human history that can accrete in even such a barren place.  'Ice-scraped gneiss' conveys millennia of...

Easy-limbed stirring

I liked this description of a boat responding like a limber-limbed youth to the movement of the sea. 'Easy-limbed stirring' also makes me think of those first moments of stretching on a bright morning when you have slept well and a lovely day awaits you. 'The Minch is...

Brick-coloured sunsets

Something warming in this, until you see the context. I recall 'brick-coloured sunsets' tinted by a haze of pollution in Shanghai. And note the additional surprising triologism: water-melon emptiness. 'Nowhere, never, have I felt with such force Russia's...

Toast-warm brick

A reference to Dublin, and another angle on the colour of bricks. 'Largely built by the English as a place of privilege and grace, it is a city of elegant squares and terraces, houses of toast-warm brick, set with exquisite doors and balconies, recalling the Georgian...

Well-heeled pain

Three words and somehow you have a sense of a quietly marred and even agonizing life. 'My last memory of St George was that of the single table nearby, its occupant clearly identifiable by her voice and style - one of the modern world's wanderers, desolate in her...

Whiz-kid’s attic

I love this image of a tech-clever kid's attic. Could be computers, train sets, microscopes, anything. May every whiz-kid have an attic full of wires and switches, though preferably minus the explosives.  A shed will do nicely too. ‘From the outside, the Concorde is...

Stunt-hoop tambourines

The timbre and beat of martial music as the Greek states gather behind Agamemnon for an almighty war.   ‘Immediately Wide-ruling Agamemnon’s voices called Greece to its feet, and set it on the move. And as they moved, To stunt-hoop tambourines and trumpet drums…’...

Clear-voiced heralds

Logue’s vivid rendition of several episodes in the Iliad pulsates with fresh phrasing and is a trove of triologisms. Here, the Greeks are summoned to war. ‘No more talk. The King will arm. You lords will join the host, Answering our clear-voiced heralds as they call –...

Tassel-ankled feet

As the Greeks gather for war, the goddess Athena rallies them.   ‘The Daughter Prince, ash-eyed Athena, flew Her father’s awning, called the Aegis, blue, Broad as an upright sky, a second sky Over their shoulders rippling estuary, And turned the pad Of...

Three-tailed bashaw

In this story, the stepmother isn’t wicked, she’s just stupid and pretentious. And calculating. She has a daughter and a step-daughter and is constantly working out who would be the best (financial and social) match for the two eligible young women. At this point,...

Eagerly-tended refreshments

You can see the gushing, fawning manner of shopkeepers keen to please the Chief Procurement Officers of the nearby grand home. ‘The housekeeper and steward from the Towers might also be seen coming in to give orders at the various shops; and stopping here and there at...

Kind-hearted termagant

Great word ‘termagant’, sadly underused and, referring as it does to bad-tempered women, no doubt politically unacceptable. Here it describes Betty, the servant of the Gibson household.  I like the juxtaposition of 'termagant', with all the sour-temper that implies,...

Blossom-carpeted meadows

Flowers are key to this slim, barely known book.  I found a second-hand copy with lovely black and white illustrations, and enjoyed the simple tale of a poor boy in Italy whose donkey is ill.  He’s told if he can get her into the church, a miracle will happen.  But...

Wind-slabbed snow

Crunching home through snow after a winter walk, we found ourselves on such wind-slabs, albeit more modest in scale, Swiss not Arctic. They held your weight up to a point, though you could suddenly find your foot sink into a slab, and the slabs had fissures between...

Flea-bitten hermits

'On the island of Sevan, which is conspicuous for two most dignified architectural monuments that date back to the seventh century, as well as for the mud huts of flea-bitten hermits only recently passed away...' Source: Osip Mandelstam, Journey to Armenia (London:...

Water-polished shells

Lopez uses this to describe the bright whiteness of snow geese in flight. ‘Once airborne, they are dazzling on the wing. Flying against broken sunlight, the opaque whiteness of their bodies, a whiteness of water- polished shells, contrasts with grayer whites in their...

Taupe-coloured muzzle

Taupe is a browny-grey, though I see it as having a tinge of mauve, like the fur of the mole. This is the muzzle of the gentle donkey who is Pepino’s only solace and support until she falls ill.  The story turns on his efforts to have her cured by entering the church,...

Soft-eyed cattle

If you have ever stopped to commune with cows in a field, you’ll have noted their softness of their gaze, big-eyed pools of curiosity. If you have never stopped to commune with cows, please consider doing so. It's worth it. ‘He saw again the snow-capped mountains of...

Rain-washed sky

There’s a clarity and endlessness to a sky that’s been cleansed by rain.  And ‘bruised by the light’, what a phrase! ‘Spinning between the towns one is constantly bruised by the light, as though everything had been torn from a rain-washed sky.’ Source: Laurie Lee, I...

Sun-festering lilies

A heady perfume and saffron orange pollen comes to mind. ‘There were smells in the air of wine and pine, scorched leaves and sun-festering lilies. For a long, slow instant this minor Babylon hung up gardens of seven wonders.’ Source: Laurie Lee, I Can’t Stay Long...

Clay-furrowed faces

This conveys the inscribed grime and time of years of oppressively hard labour. I noticed recently that recurrent harsh weather can also wear people out, stripping away their bloom. ‘I particularly remember one of his (Van Gogh’s) earliest studies, that of a family of...

Cloth-capped gents

Having just spent a few days in the north of England, I can see them, the cloth-capped gents, in a black-and-white grainy-photograph long gone world.  They often give the camera a piercing gaze. ‘Cloth-capped gents in the plane were reading the racing pages...

Wind-washed air

Elsewhere I have commented on a 'rain-washed sky', and here, wind-washed air, both yielding clarity. ‘The wealth of biological detail on the tundra dispels any feeling that the land is empty; and its likeness to a stage suggests impending events. On a summer walk, the...

Cool-scrubbed tavern

And where else to flee from the sun that makes lilies fester, than a cool-scrubbed tavern?  I imagine a bright but cool white-wash combined with hyacinth blue paintwork that you see in traditional Greek buildings, though here the heat is in Madrid. ‘About noon (or at...

Glassy-blue shoreline

Glassy blue suggests bright blue eyes, and you can imagine the sea washing up azurely. ‘The islands are spread over a vast warm sea, but the air makes them stepping-stones. Bottled within them, behind their glassy-blue shores, you will find an eccentric brew...

Pink of old roses

Musty pink makes me think of an old breed of faded rose, or a soft-worn damask, or one of the thatched houses I saw in a village near Liverpool earlier this week. Source: Osip Mandelstam, Journey to Armenia (London: Notting Hill Editions, 2011), p....

New-peeled light

Like a fresh, dazzling morning after a long night, a new lease of life, an awakening … I like this use of light to describe time, in an eternal present tense. ‘Well mine would be a First Day Paradise, for a very solid reason. In it one would have no past, nor future,...

Raspberry-grey boulevards

Trying to imagine a raspberry-grey boulevard, and can only think of the grey of the road itself combined with a pink wash from a shaft of setting sun. Other colour related triologisms to follow. 'Pissarro's raspberry-grey boulevards, flowing like the wheels of an...

Tin-blue haze

Tin-blue – I’d be hard-pressed to describe this, a kind of dark-grey-blue with some mauve in it? 'In the bay there were barques and banana boats, sloops and cutters and dugout canoes, all riding at ease in a tin-blue haze under the shadow of a great Cunarder.' Source:...

Grape-blue landscape

A darkly overcast day with louring purple-stained clouds, and a storm brewing, until you read the context in which Lee coined this one. ‘This is an old stretch of land whose signs of occupation go back to the beginnings of man, with rich-painted caves scattered...

Variations on a theme of chaos and confusion

Luan, which can signify a rich spectrum of chaos, confusion, mess and hubbub, is wonderfully combined with several double characters. The main one featured is luanfenfen, meaning ‘disorderly, confused, chaotic, tumultuous’.   By extension, we have luanhonghong: in an...

Dark and sparkling

Wu means ‘black’ or ‘dark’ and, not surprisingly, also refers to a crow, as well as being a surname. Combined with liuliu it describes eyes which are dark and sparkling. The dots you see in liuliu refer to water, suggesting these sparkling eyes are like dark...

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