Archive for April, 2014


Another academic year was over. July and August had come quickly and we were home again while our parents worked. My sisters and I spent most of these free days doing household chores, watching re-runs of Star Trek and generally other nonsense that kept us glued to the television. Still, boredom will set in. There are only so many shows to watch and only so many books one can read before it becomes painful.

Boredom usually meant mischief. Tree climbing only diverted us for so long. We were feeling a wee bit peckish and there were no snacks so we decided to make our own. Popcorn is always an easy fix. Candied popcorn? Now that was something else. It wasn’t too difficult. I had the basic idea. The popcorn had to be prepared. Some of it burned but that was fine. We ate it anyway. All I had to do was make the sticky syrup. Sugar and a few tablespoons of water were added to the saucepan. It began to boil nicely. I had seen mum do this many times when she was making coconut tarts and sugar cake. I lowered the heat and kept checking the consistency of the syrup. Mum always said, once it starts dripping slowly off the spoon with little thread like trails then it’s ready.

We needed food colouring. The only colour we had was blue. So, in went a few drops of blue colouring. The syrup turned a nice turquoise blue. Barking orders to get out of the way, I transferred the pot of blue syrup to the sink and emptied the lot over the popcorn. There was a spoon at the ready and with that I kept turning the popcorn, bottom to top to make sure the popcorn and syrup combined properly.

Finally it was ready. With Marsh and Micky trailing behind me, barely able to contain their excitement, we settled in front of the television with our blue snack. We must have been in front of the television for about ten minutes before the electricity went with a ‘blip’. What to do? We still had half a basin of blue popcorn and no television and since my mother only worked fifteen minutes away from where we lived, that meant that she would be on her way too. No electricity – no work. With fifteen minutes to clean up the scene of the crime, we sprung into action.

Micky was tasked with filling the rest of the popcorn into a plastic bag and taking it to the ravine where she would toss it all in for the fishes. The crusted sugar in the pot and in the basin had to be melted. It would only take two minutes to boil some water and hasten the melting process. Marsh positioned herself outside at the top of the drain to wash away all the crumbs and blue colouring that was coming down the drain.

All dishes were washed and dried and replaced. Three pairs of eyes scanned the kitchen for any incriminating signs of our activities. Satisfied that we were in the clear, we headed out to the pomerac tree and continued our game of hide n’ seek and stick em’ up. Sure enough, there she was and she had a bag in her hand.

We pretended that we didn’t notice her and continued with our game. Mum came to the back and asked what we were doing and with the best poker face we could muster, we simply chimed, “playing”.

“You want to go to the cinema?”

“Yeah!!” And we all ran to get washed up and changed.

She hadn’t gone into the kitchen yet and that’s where we went next. Traipsing behind her like a trio of audacious puppies, we pretended that we were interested in what was in the bag. We already knew. There were snacks.

Mum hadn’t seen anything. She never noticed anything – except – wait a minute – the colouring wasn’t where it was before and there was a clear ring of blue on the white stove top where the bottle cover was placed. I leaned my elbow against the counter and just wiped it off. Once mum had left the kitchen, the bottle was placed where it always was, right behind the bottles of spices.

We went to see our movie and by the time we got home the electricity had come back. Mission accomplished with no casualties. I don’t think mum ever knew. I don’t think we ever told her. But she knows now. Unfortunately for her, she can’t chase us around the house anymore.

We had a pomerac tree which grew in the south-eastern corner of our yard. Its slim trunk held the full weight of abundant foliage which was concentrated at the top and to add to that, this tree bore fruit twice, sometimes three times a year and it was always laden. A pomerac is sort of heart-shaped red fruit with white flesh beneath the blood-red exterior. If it was out of season, the fruit would be sour and only fit to be eaten with salt and pepper. There was this superstition that girls were not supposed to climb trees as the fruit would become sour. That didn’t stop us. Sour fruit always made an excellent chow*.

There was one time, I believe my father wasn’t at home because he was nowhere around. The pomerac tree was laden and the ones at the top were so ripe, they looked almost purple with sweetness. They beckoned and we could not resist. Like busy ants we grabbed the heavy ladder and toted it all the way from the coconut tree which was on the opposite side of the yard, across the drain and rocks and mud all the way to the pomerac tree. Since the trunk was so slim and smooth, we required a little help. My sisters and I hadn’t graduated to scaling tree trunks yet.

My youngest sister Micky stayed at the bottom and held the ladder and the bag into which we would drop the fruit once we had picked them. I was midway up and my younger sister Marsh was almost at the top since she was lighter and smaller. Now, you have to understand that all three of us are deathly afraid of heights, but we were unwilling to sacrifice the pomeracs to the birds and so with one hand gripping the branches for dear life, the other one would be used to pick and pass or pick and drop the fruit into the bag below.

We must have only picked half a dozen or so when we heard a shout in the distance. It was our dad. Where had he come from? Dammit, he always showed up when we didn’t want him to. But he wasn’t the problem. Since Marsh was closer to the top she saw it first. Its tongue flicked in and out of its mouth and it was curled around a thin branch like a vine and it was a bright green. No wonder we hadn’t seen it. It almost matched the colour of the leaves and the very young branches and stems.

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Wordcupid.

A nice little quiz to energise your Sunday afternoon.

Interesting Literature

We came across a nice site that tests your vocabulary in a short ‘quiz’ (of sorts) that takes only a few minutes to complete. It’s an interesting little test, because it will calculate (by which we really mean ‘estimate’) your vocabulary, or total number of words which you could practically use in conversation or writing.

This got us thinking about interesting words, especially rare ones, found in literature. It is commonly said that Shakespeare had a vocabulary of 17,000-20,000 words, but most modern English speakers use many more than this. That said, there are many rare old words which are sadly underused today, but which writers of times past would have been familiar with. Here are a few of them:

Shakespeare2A bellibone is an old word for (we’re quoting Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary here) ‘a woman excelling in both beauty and goodness’; it appears in Edmund Spenser’s Shepheardes Calendar in the…

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David Gaughran

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