Sunday, 6 April 2014

Facts, facts and more facts

Was it Mr Gradgrind in Hard Times who sang the praises of facts?
I'm not a Dickens fan but I seem to remember something along those lines from the days when I had to study him whether I liked it or not.

Well, my head takes in such a lot of facts.   On nights when sleep evades me, I get up, make a Horlicks and sit in the warm kitchen.   By my chair is my special bookshelf, filled with cookery books and books to dib into; books by Ronald Blythe, Roger Deakin, John Lister-Kaye, Robert Macfarlane; books I can pick up, open at random, read a page or two and then put away.

I read so many fascinating things, think, 'I'll remember that,' and promptly forget it.   So here, while they are fresh in my mind are several facts I read a couple of nights ago when I couldn't sleep -

Did you know that James Joyce, arguably Ireland's best writer of all time, had so many rejection slips before he had any work accepted, that he papered the loo walls with them?

The Mayor of Naples. a city notorious for appallingly bad driving, was once asked what exactly did the traffic lights mean.   He said that if the light was at red you had to be a bit careful with how you proceeded, if it was at green it was fine to go along as you were.   What about the yellow, somebody asked?    That is just for gaiety was his answer.

The third fact concerns the composer, John Ireland, who died in 1962.   He was asked out to lunch by Geoffrey Shaw.   Shaw had in his pocket a poem written in 1664 by the poet, Samuel Crossman.
He passed it across to Ireland and asked whether the poem would be suitable for setting to music.   Ireland read it and then, turning over the menu in the restaurant, wrote a tune there and then.   It was what is now one of the favourite hymns - 'My song is love unknown.'

I expect, like me, you will forget all of this in a short while.   But it makes interesting reading, doesn't it?


Willow said...

Ha "yellow is for gaiety" in our town it seems too !

Barbara said...

I have a stack of books used for a similar purpose. The facts are fascinating, and occasionally I'll remember them...however, only at the oddest times.

I love the fact you posted about James Joyce. What an appropriate use for rejection slips!

Midlife Roadtripper said...

Most things I say I will remember, I don't. When I come up with a writing idea, I have to get it down on any slip of paper available - as I just don't remember.

Rejection letters - I have more than a few of those!

Sue in Suffolk said...

This is a good way to spend sleepless spells, if you do this often we might all learn something........IF we can remember!
My favourite Ronald Blythe is The Bookmans tale.

Dartford Warbler said...

Funnily enough, I was recently reading about James Joyce and his rejection slips. It took the Woolf`s forward thinking Hogarth Press to publish him eventually.

I have just found Robert MacFarlane`s The Old Ways in a local bookshop and it is beside my bed, waiting for a sleepless night!

Heather said...

I have no trouble sleeping but a great deal of trouble remembering facts. Sometimes, having read a blog post, by the time I have scrolled down to the comment box I have forgotten half the things I want to comment about.
I love the Mayor's understanding of traffic lights.

Robin Mac said...

Like Heather, I often have trouble remembering what I wanted to comment on by the time I have scrolled down to the comments! I loved your post, especially the fact about the hymn. By the way, I haven't said yet how much I like your latest header. Cheers

JoAnn ( Scene Through My Eyes) said...

I like interesting tidbits - some I forget and some I remember - usually I remember the ones with absolutely no value - that seems to be how my head works. Or they pop up at the strangest times. Love the one about the rejection letters - being an author I'm sure I'll remember that one.

Cro Magnon said...

I have a small exercise book in which I write down all the interesting 'facts' that come my way.

I once saw a TV documentary about Bill Tidy visiting his Italian wife's family in Milan (?). The driving there is appalling too, and I remember him saying that the traffic lights were simply viewed as a 'suggestion'.