I’m off to the Isle of Dogs




Or rather, the Isles of Dogs. Yup, it’s a very nice place, you could well have been there yourself.

Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote etc etc.


Maybe you thought they were named after little yellow birds? The Canary Islands, or Islas Canarias are actually called that because of dogs, or so the story goes. Yet there is no evidence that when the first Europeans arrived there they were full of such animals. In fact it seems there were no canine inhabitants at all. Weird? Well I’m off there in a couple of days, so ‘Hasta luego’, and in the meantime feel free to decide for yourself why these glorious little pieces of paradise were given their name.



PS La Gomera has a very interesting linguistic feature, and although I don’t think I’ll be able to get there during my holiday I am hoping to investigate further……..watch this space.



Pizza or Sausages on your Hair, Madam?


A few days ago, I took the almost unheard-of step of allowing a hairdresser access to my apology for a hairstyle. She asked me when I’d last had it done – I thought it could have been August but wasn’t too sure if it was so recently or not. Ho hum. I’ve always been what you could call ‘low-maintenance’ but even I had realised I did need something doing about the jungle growing from my scalp.

After a rather fruitless discussion about where my parting is [‘I haven’t a clue.’], what I would like doing to my hair [‘I haven’t a clue.’] and other similar questions I couldn’t answer, I was asked the killer one…..’Do you use any product on it?’

I stuttered, pondered and then asked ‘What do you mean by product?’ To me, a ‘product’ is something that has been produced and, therefore, covers an almost infinite amount of possibilities. I was told that, to a hairdresser, it meant stuff like mousse, styling gels, hairspray and other such-like items. After recovering from my semi-hysterical laughter I did venture that I thought I might have a can of hairspray ‘somewhere’. When my poor hairdresser had done her best to educate me on the virtues of ‘product’ [and also done a rather splendid job of taming my locks] I decided to see what the definition of the word is.

A search for images produced the one above, which does, admittedly include some hairstyling goods. However there are also sausages, pizza, breakfast cereals, fish portions, ice cream and mouthwash in the line-up. One of the definitions I came across was:

A substance produced during a natural, chemical, or manufacturing process: ‘waste products’

Hmmm, so I was quite correct in asking for a clearer definition of what was meant by ‘product’ in the context of my hair…because ‘No’ I do not want fish portions, mouthwash or chemical waste rubbing in, thank you very much!

Please Stop Writing


An hour to pass in Chorley, a walk in Astley Park. Peace. We are so blessed to live in peace when we look at the world around us – so many conflicts, so much death and destruction. As I was leavng I paused, as I love to do, by the war memorial and was saddened – no, heartbroken. I remember a while back when I was there, being struck by the empty panels on the wall which records the names of the fallen. I remember praying that they might always remain empty, that no more lost lives would have to be marked in this way. Today I noticed ‘Addendum’16763514_10154919240494566_450142057_o

It took me back to 4th August 2014 when Preston turned the lights out* to remember the onset of WW1. I wrote this piece to record my emotions after the ceremony:

Please, Stop The Candles

A beautiful August evening; pale blue sky with pink-tinged clouds as it approached dusk.  In the distance, St Walburge’s spire was silhouetted against the fading light.

People were gathering, old and young, waiting to honour the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War. While we waited, a recording of some songs of the time was playing; Daisy, Daisy and others of that ilk. We were told how 1,956 candles would be laid by the cenotaph during the ceremony, one for each name on the Harris Roll of Honour.

The dignitaries from churches and council arrived, flanked by flag-bearers who provided a poignant backdrop to the proceedings. As the lights went out and the candles started to be placed a solitary bell tolled in the distance. People read war poems and letters out, the candles still came. Time and time again the volunteers went back to bring out yet more candles – one for each soldier who gave his life. More and more candles – each one a brother, son, husband, father. Each one leaving grieving friends and families. The candles seemed endless. I wanted them to stop. I wanted to cry out ‘No, no more dead, please’. Yet they still came.

During the ceremony I gazed up to the sky and saw four Chinese lanterns floating in the distance. I was reminded that we could stand in Preston in peace and safety thanks to the soldiers of the Great War. In too many places, Libya, Gaza, Ukraine, Syria to name a few, those distant lights could herald missiles or other arms heading towards us bringing destruction.

A solemn hush had fallen over Preston, but I pray the candles will, one day, stop coming.

Again I say, please stop the writing…..

*The lights went down all around the Flag Market in the centre of Preston, apart from Nando’s, which continued to blaze its neon sign in an utter insult to the memorial. Shame on you Nando’s. I never particularly liked the food, but now I also detest the whole brand.

Twinkle On

Twinkle, twinkle, Nando’s light

How I wish you were less bright.

Blaze your business, loudly shout,

As we turn the town lights out.

Twinkle, Nando’s, shine your blight

On this fourth of August night.

© I Flack 4.8.2014

Oh the Joys of Charity Bookshops


One of the services my business offers is English tuition, and I am, therefore, always on the lookout for educational resources. The other day I was in Chorley and decided to walk past the St Catherine’s Hospice bookshop, ‘just to glance in the window’. Yeah, right – as if I could walk past a shop like that!

There was, as always, a wonderful window display and, right in the corner, some Ladybird Read With Me books. Having brought my own two up on tales from Puddle Lane, and eagerly devoured just about every Ladybird book my own school library had, I knew I had to go in and take a closer look. I decided to buy two different picture dictionaries to help a child understand the concept of ‘words begnning with…’ Yes, that was all I would buy…..

On the table right between myself and the cash till, however, some cunning person had artfully placed…to my absolute delight…..three Monsieur Pamplemousse books. These books, to anybody who might never have heard of them, are written by Michael Bond [yes, he of Paddington Bear fame] but are most definitely not for small children. They are about the adventures of a French detective, who is a gastronome par excellence, and his faithful dog Pommes Frites. Basically, Mr Grapefruit and his dog, Chips.

The mystery-solving detective and his hound manage to solve the crimes in the way of all good sleuths, but never letting a meal-time pass by uncelebrated. They also get into some rather funny scrapes of the ‘Ooooh Matron!’ type, making for a jolly good romp all in all.

I first came across these at a [now sadly closed] library but had given up all hope of ever finding any more [though I bet a quick scour of t’internet would have found me plenty]. So, my quick ‘glance’ resulted in 2 Ladybird books and three wonderful novels for myself, all for the princely sum of £4. If you’ve never ‘glanced’ in a charity bookshop window, you haven’t lived.


Do I need a Shipping Dress?

I had to ask myself this question when an advert popped up at the side of my Facebook page. It was actually offering me a free shipping dress – wow, free clothes. I considered sending for half a dozen then putting them on EBay at £15 each. Could be the start of my new fashion empire.

But, no….there was a catch. Or rather, it was a very badly worded offer. free-shipping-dress

It seems there is no such thing as a shipping dress [even though there are cargo pants and boarding pants apparently]. So, the offer isn’t a free dress, but free postage and packing [I DO prefer the British terminology] on dresses which have to be paid for. There goes my business idea. Dragons’ Den must wait a while longer.

Ambiguity rears its head in all sorts of ways every day. summarise-the-book

Verbally, it is easy to misunderstand words such as wax  and whacks which are linguistically called homophones. Imagine you are reclining in a beauty salon, the owner tells the assistant you are ready for your wax…and they thump you as hard as they can several times! You would certainly have had some whacks then. Context can be everything in certain situations.

Ambiguity, though, is more a case of bad syntax. The advert ‘Nothing acts faster than Anadin’ – is it informing you that your headache will go faster if you take nothing, rather than buying their product?

A hasty search of Google brought up these two examples:-

Sarah gave a bath to her dog wearing a pink t-shirt. Who is wearing the t-shirt here?

You should bring wine or beer and dessert. If you don’t bring wine, do you have to bring beer AND a dessert, or do you have to bring dessert no matter which drink you also provide?

So, maybe I should demand my free shipping dress after all? If they can’t figure out how to word their offer, shouldn’t I take it at face value? Dragons’ Den…I’m on my way after all 🙂