Tomorrow I am off to the deepest wilds of Somerset to attend a party for ‘Hogswatch’ – the Discworld equivalent of Christmas. The Discworld, of course, having been created by the inspirational and downright hilarious man in the video below. This week Terry Pratchett gave his first lecture as a professor at Dublin’s Trinity College, a feat which makes his other achievements (such as the Carnegie medal and the knighthood) pale into insignificance.
Since I’ve been asked this question a couple of times, I thought it a good idea to explain what a ‘lonnen’ is, and what it’s doing in the title of my blog.
Simply put, the word ‘lonnen’ is contemporary local dialect for ‘lane’. Though you will rarely hear this word actually spoken, it is still a feature in local place names around the north-east.
“So, traveller! Welcome to Rothbury. Thinking of crossing the treacherous Simonside hills? I’d advise you not to try it in the dark. As any shepherd worth his wool would tell you, and I am he, the area is full of sharp crags and ravines in which one false step could mean serious injury… or even death.
Few people know that this hospitable part of the country is the home of a peculiar race of dwarves known as the Duergar. No one knows why they chose to live here, of all places. Maybe there’s gold hidden among those cliffs? Or maybe they just like to carry off my sheep. One thing’s true, though. They are malicious little buggers. Hairless, no higher than your knee. Would kill you as soon as look at you; and look they will, for no one ever heard them speak a word.
Today, rather than opinions or politics I would like to share a song.
The song, ‘Pi Dul Gi Ya, Nop I Nar A Ra’ (비둘기야 높이 날아라) or ‘White Dove, Fly High’ was written in North Korea in the 1990s by native songwriter Sin Un Ho (신운호) and composer Ri Jong Oh (리종오). It was chosen for the American band Casting Crowns to sing when they were invited to North Korea in 2007 to perform in the annual Spring Friendship Art Festival in the capital city of Pyongyang. They returned two years later to perform again, this time recording the song for their upcoming album (listen above).
There has been a lot of media coverage recently over prime minister David Cameron’s trip to China, through which he is seeking to forge stronger commercial links with the country. While there are billions of pounds at stake, it’s easy to understand why Cameron is eager to make Britain appear a good choice of partner to the Chinese government. However, given the increasing concerns over human rights and political freedom on the mainland, he is being questioned for his priorities; and rightly so.
I’m not a political expert. I’m just an ordinary person, and not Chinese at that. I haven’t seen what is happening first hand in the country. But what I have seen is enough to make me worry about the message Cameron is sending. This, for example, is not enough. “Deeply held concerns” is not strong enough a phrase to do justice to how the British people feel, or should feel, about the situation of human rights in China.
Hands up – coming clean – I am a Christian. The chances are, you wouldn’t know this about me unless you really know me. I have never been the type to stand on a soapbox to proclaim my beliefs for all to see. I don’t even share them with other Christians (unless asked) because in my 26 years of being a follower of Christ I have encountered more hate, rejection and derision inside a church than out of it.
That being said, I am still a Christian. I call myself an unconventional one, and this is why.
Have you ever read Neil Gaiman’s short story of the twelve months? The idea of personifying the months of the year is by no means one that Gaiman invented, or even a particularly new idea. It’s one that has long existed in folklore. Personally, I like to think of the months in terms of colours, flavours and textures. For me, a month is personified in things I can touch, hear, see, taste and smell.
November is the time of year which is the most sensory to me. November smells of damp earth and clean air, it sounds like fallen leaves crunched underfoot. It tastes like homemade broth. It feels like cold rain; and its colour is particularly significant. November is the only month of the year which is dyed red.