Saturday, 31 October 2015

Brussen tha galuses

My beautiful mama grew up on a farm in a small Yorkshire village. Her father left it to her brother, and my childhood school holidays often included a journey up to Yorkshire to stay with my Grandma in her bungalow – the last house in the village, beside a field of red wheat – and visits to my uncle and auntie and cousins in the old farm. I remember it so vividly; the bullocks by the field gate, their breath steaming in the winter cold, the grain pouring down the hopper into sacks in the barn, dust rising in the slanting sunbeams.

It was a busy household when my beautiful mama was a child. Her mother did the books for the farm and kept the poultry; the care of the children and the household chores were undertaken by Suzy, a kindly, round person whom I never saw out of an apron, her hair combed back into a bun. Her face was like an Albanian’s. Her husband George did the hedges and ditches.

Besides Suzy and George, there were the horsemen. They lived in the outbuildings, and my grandfather went every year to the fair to hire the horsemen for the year. As well as them, prisoners of war worked on the land. And of course there were other men – shepherds and various merchants, who came to the farm. And there were the animals – dogs, cows, hens, sheep; but no pigs that I remember.

In my beautiful mama’s childhood, the people spoke broad Yorkshire; and still today the accent is pronounced in the Yorkshire branch of our family – and I love it. My grandfather, my father’s father, knew the words of broad Yorkshire.

But many of the old phrases have gone. There’s a word, brussen, which can mean ‘very full’ – like ‘bursting’. But my beautifl mama remembers it as they word they used for doing up, or fastening, braces (US suspenders). ‘Brussen tha galuses’ meant ‘fasten your braces’, she tells me.

Nowhere else have I come across that phrase, until recently when I was reading a book by a young man who left his Amish family for life in the mainstream. He commented that the Amish word for braces/suspenders was ‘galuses’.

I wonder how it travelled? The Amish broke away from the Mennonites, who originated in Switzerland. Switzerland has both French and German. Some of the tribes populating Old England were Germanic. So I wonder if the word is very old and started from Germany, infiltrating German Swiss and Old English?

I thought perhaps it originated from England and crossed the Atlantic with the Pilgrim Fathers, finding its was into American Amish in due course. Except that the Amish are so closed and separate a society that there may not be much cross-fertilisation with the language of mainstream culture. I’m not sure.

The roots and drifts and wind-borne seeds of language intrigue and delight me. And Yorkshire, even after all these years in the alien south, still feels like home. I grew up in the south-east, but all my family were Yorkshire people. I still miss it. The northern outlook, mannerisms and attitudes are very different from those of the south.

*        *        *

Afterthought. I’m just wondering – if ‘brussen’ generally means ‘burst out of’ or ‘very full’ or ‘burst’ – perhaps my beautiful mama misunderstood what she heard. She thought it meant ‘fasten your braces’, which would imply the braces were, or had come, undone. Yorkshire humour being what it is, and given the laconic dropping of unnecessary words, maybe ‘brussen tha galuses’ impied ‘tha’s brussen tha galuses’ – ie, ‘you’ve burst out of your braces’, ie ‘they’ve come undone,’ ergo, ‘do ‘em up’?

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Cart before the horse

In England we have been thinking hard about tax credit cuts in the last week or two. Our chancellor’s position (put simply and ignoring glaring anomalies like Trident and wanting to go ahead with a nuclear power station that will be the most expensive building on the planet) is that national economic security is achieved by austerity – which in practice means cutting benefits to people on low incomes who have been relying on them.

Meanwhile over in America, Obama has initiated a long overdue return to teacher-inspired, child-centred, holistic education. What other kind is there, one might ask, assuming the word ‘education’ to be correctly used.

Under the present administration in England, we are still going full steam ahead on the numbers game in education – it’s all about tests and results.

Well, there’s outcome, isn’t there; but there’s also process. As they say, the end doesn’t justify the means. The road you travel is as important as the destination – arguably more so.

The economic argument of austerity-descending-into-misery for the poor, as a means of stabilizing the economy, doesn’t hold up for a minute in any real world, but there is a definite parity between the chancellor’s drive to achieve prosperity by cutting income, and the education minister’s drive to achieve academic excellence by focusing on test results.

Such an approach is doomed to failure for the simple reason that it’s the wrong way round. Bottom line: you won’t get a harvest if you don’t sow any seeds.

It all made me think about the words of Jesus in Mark’s gospel (16:17), ‘signs shall follow them that believe’.

The order there is crucial.

There is a temptation, in Signs and Wonders circles, to drift into them that believe pursuing signs; and that doesn’t work. Once you get results-fixated disciples, you end up with neither disciples nor signs. Just anxiety and disappointment, power games, disillusionment and ultimately loss of faith.

You have to walk the path you believe and not look back, not look over your shoulder. Then the signs will follow you.

The same with the economy. If you look after the wellbeing of the people, then it will prosper all by itself.

Same with education. If you tend the wellbeing of the child, then education will happened naturally; children love to learn, they just can’t help it. When my kids were little I never checked their homework, never asked about their test results, never insisted they revise for exams. I told them it didn’t matter if they failed their exams, that passing an exam in a subject you hated could be a terrible mistake because you could end up in an occupation you didn’t like as a result. When my smallest child had trouble learning to read, I went to the school and insisted they take off all pressure and concentrate on seeing to it that she was happy and had a nice time. I said if that was impossible for them, I’d understand – I’d take her out of school.

I didn’t do this because I didn’t care if my children failed but because I wanted them to succeed. They did. They all did amazingly well. It has to be the right way round – signs following disciples, not disciples following signs. In health, in education, in economics, in the practice of our faith. Love, generosity, confidence, trust, kindness, integrity, understanding – let these lead the way and all the rest will follow.

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Standing On The Promises Of God

Just because a good song is always a happy thing  :0)



Today I have gone into vests.

Not, that is, gilets/jackets/waistcoats or jerkins.


The leaves underfoot are the colour of flames. The fire in the woodstove is welcome of an evening.

Tuesday, 20 October 2015


It’s lovely. The sun is shining, everything is mellow and warm – the most beautiful day, here on the south coast of England.

This is what’s known as St Luke’s Little Summer – around four days of warmth following October 18th, which is St Luke’s day.

But we should not let it lull us into a false sense of security. Oh, no. Sou’-westers at the ready.

Because October 28th is St Jude’s day, bringing the wildness an weather of the St Jude’s day storms.

So, if you have any essential outdoors work to do, see to it quick. The window is closing. St Jude’s day heralds the beginning of the winter.