Not yet the flaky roses…

(Sofa In Multiple Occupation)

(Shadow: Sunday Morning Chillin’)

I just typed into Google Is ADHD the same as flaky? (should it have an ‘e’? why does it sometimes have an ‘e’ and sometimes not? distracting…) and Google reckons it is, sort of.

To be exact, Google opines that flaky seemingness (to one’s friends, employers etc) is in fact but one symptom of high-functioning ADHD. So whilst one is not technically or actually flaky (or flakey) everybody will always be convinced that one is. Furthermore, flaky-seemingness is but the visible tip of a very large iceberg when it comes to the daily struggle for survival in a world where 99 out of 100 brains are wired the opposite way to your own.

This is depressing, and the thing is, since I retired – or rather, since the world decided it could no longer be bothered to pay me for being bad at various kinds of work I really didn’t want to do – the ADHD, or whatever it is, has got distinctly worse. I used to be able to read, for instance. Spent hours engrossed, rapt, with my nose in some novel or some abstruse metaphysical text, trying to figure out how exactly I seemed to have missed Birmingham and been taken on to Crewe.

Oh Mr Porter, what shall I do?
I wanted to go to Birmingham but they’ve taken me on to Crewe.
Take me back to London as quickly as you can –
Oh Mr Porter what a silly girl I am!

Now I can read for twenty minutes, as long as it’s something lightly-ish and historical and I’m immersed in hot soapy water. My current in-the-bath read, by the way, is The Posy Ring by Catherine Czerkawska. It’s good, even in damp, twenty minute instalments. About antiques seller Daisy Graham who inherits an ancient house on a Hebridean island. She put a little publicity card in with Blanket.

Because, believe it or not, this is the same lady who, under a different name, sold me Blanket the rickety wartime blanket bear (or just possibly sheep) via eBay, and posted him to me in a shoebox from Scotland. I have now knitted Blanket a warming yellowy-browny scarf, by the way, and fastened it with a big yellow kilt pin. I would have posted a photo (as requested when he last appeared) but it is too dark indoors to take one at the moment. I will put it on my To Do list, which I very occasionally manage To Do something from. (Done)

(This is because it’s dark outdoors too, which seems to happen at intervals.)

The trouble is, you spend your life trying to appear not-flaky. Today, for instance, I agonised for several hours before texting a friend to say that I would not be able to come on a coach trip to Southend because I wasn’t feeling too well. The thing is, I am not feeling too well, so it’s a perfectly genuine excuse, this time. But I know she does not believe me. And if I were her I would not believe me either. But what do you do? The constant battle against flaky-seemingness results in a lifetime of ghastly events sat through with gritted teeth or perspiring brow. Boredom or pain, and no escape in either case because to flake out would be viewed as… flaky. Or flakey.

I think I reached some sort tipping point today. I realised I have to stop trying to explain myself, otherwise I am in for an Old Age as dire and dull as my Youth and Middle Age have been. Well, Bog It, I think, I just want to do what I want. Or at least not continually have to be doing what I don’t want.

And finally… another quote, this time from author Claudia Carroll, writing in an old Woman’s Weekly Godmother passed on to me on Friday:

When you’re in your 20s and 30s, life gives you things, if you’re very lucky. Love, a partner, maybe even kids. But you hit good old middle age, and that’s pretty much when life starts taking things away from you…

A cheering thought there, from Claudia.

It set me thinking, what Life did actually give me in my 20s and 30s. Certainly not children. It took away my husband and gave me a lover who was nice while he lasted, though he didn’t last very long. It gave me wrinkles round my eyes… and violent toothache… or was that in my forties?

But I suppose it did give me a few things. A giant(ish) healthy body inherited from my father, which has served me faithfully till recently. Now not quite so faithfully, but it’s doing it’s best, poor thing. Nineteen cats. I do believe the nineteen cats are my equivalent of the nine lives cats are supposed to have. Every time I lose a cat I lose one of my lives. Conversely, of course, every time I gain a cat I gain a life, but that can’t go on. Moggie Gathering Must Stop. And it’s given me a sister who, if not quite as flaky-seeming as me, is getting there. Or maybe equally as flaky-seeming, but a kind of variant. Same reason (backwards brain wiring) but different manifestation. However, it means that she understands me, and I understand her, and so we can love each other, which is a blessing indeed.

flaky1

Did you just call me fustylugs?

Words are a life form and, just like flesh-and-blood life forms, they change over time. They spring into life; their meanings undergo a long, subtle process of mutation and usually, eventually, they either go extinct or exist only in fusty, dust-gathering dictionaries on library shelves; in fusty, dust-gathering corners of the internet and in the little grey cells of a few fusty, dust-gathering academics.

I was thinking about ‘flaky’ recently. This is not a word I grew up with, but one that seems to have blossomed in the last five to ten years. I got a general sense of what flaky (or flakey) meant from the context of the various TV programmes and websites it cropped up in, but also spotted a contradiction. To some people it seemed to mean bizarre, outlandish, freakish, eccentric or off-the-wall in one’s behaviour. To others it meant unreliable, careless, lazy, dishonest – somebody who was all things to all people, liable to ditch their friends or not turn up to appointments. There obviously is a link here – if you are eccentric you may also be – thought not necessarily – unpredictable, and from unpredictable it’s a short(ish) hop to unreliable – but nonetheless these are two different meanings. This is the process of mutation.

Looking even further back to the origin of the ‘flaky’ you get something different again. Somewhere around the 1050s, apparently, the drug coke was referred to as flake. Flakey became baseball slang for the bizarre or unpredictable way in which a coke addict might act. Every word has its day. Some – like flaky – will have their fifteen minutes/days/years of fame and sink into obscurity, but others will be here for ever, or almost.

‘Forever’ words tend to be words for the most basic things that have relevance to human beings – love, hate, food, sex, hope, fear. In English we would refer to these as Anglo-Saxon words. Even in a language polluted – or enriched, depending on how you look at it – by Latin and Norman French – the old words remain, in parallel use with their Latin or French equivalents, but with ultra-subtle differences of meaning. It is this richness, these subtleties, that makes English a difficult language to master (even for the English) but a great one for writing poetry.

But, insults are fun; they are wild and colourful in a way that other words are not and this more than makes up for their ephemerality. So let us celebrate the insult:

New(ish)

Oinker – a fat person.

Stumblebum – blundering and inept.

Dweeb – a person regarded as socially inept or foolish, often on account of being overly studious.

Still in use, to a greater or lesser degree

Snake in the grass – a treacherous or deceitful person.

Machiavellian – a scheming, devious, political-type person.

Vulgar – conspicuously and tastelessly indecent; also the sort of thing someone of a lower social class than yourself might be expected to say, do or be.

Shiftless – vintage version of (some aspects of) flaky.

Archaic

Bespawler – someone who spits and slobbers when he talks.

Dew-Beater – a clumsy person (someone with particularly large shoes)

Fustylugs – a gross, corpulent woman (fusty = something that’s gone off or gone stale).

Gnashgab – someone who only ever seems to complain.

Klazomaniac – someone who only seems to be able to speak by shouting.

Quisby – a shirker, someone who just lazes around.

Saddle-Goose – to saddle a goose is pointless, so a Saddle-Goose is someone who wastes their time doing something pointless. A bit like rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic.

Smell-Feast – someone who gatecrashes a meal or a party in the hope of being fed.

Whiffle-Whaffle – similar to Shilly-Shallyer – someone who can’t make up their mind and dithers about.

Microphallus – self-explanatory if you think about it.

Ninnyhammer – a stupid person. Similar to Dummkopf in Geman.

Cacafuego (“shit fire” in Spanish) – a braggart and a boaster.