Yes! We have gone bananas

Just checking in, since I know my 3.6 Loyal Readers are wondering where I’ve been, or else worrying about really important things like how to set Granddad’s 1974-vintage digital watch which they found in the attic still inexplicably working after all these years but even more inexplicably keeping the correct time for Meiganga, Cameroon; in which case, hearing from me will help them get their minds off their own perplexities.

In a nutshell, I have been unwell. My ‘Twelve Days of Christmas’ posts saw me through the worst of my flu, but that was succeeded by a general compound of malaise, ennui, Weltschmerz, Angst, and other ghastly feelings imported at great expense from Europe. Any fool can be sick, but it takes a rich fool to have Krankheit.

Since I have reached a sort of impasse with my old family physician, I sallied forth when I was able, and went to see a new doctor. He gave me the standard diagnostic questionnaire for depression, and gravely informed me that if I am not suffering from depression, ‘no one on this earth is’. (I scored nine out of nine.) He put me on Effexor, and Effexor put me promptly to sleep. I lost more than a week; the time is simply a blank in my calendar. I could have told people I was in training to be Rip Van Winkle.

Drowsiness, as Dr. Hussain warned me, is a known side-effect of Effexor, but it doesn’t usually hit people as hard as all that. However, I have been knocked out cold for 36 hours by a mild sedative, so I should perhaps have expected this. The good doctor then put me on a reduced dose, not intended to be therapeutic, but merely to allow my metabolism to acclimatize itself to the drug. After a few days, my foggy and logy feeling went away, and so (blessed relief!) did the nightmares that had been hag-riding me for months, robbing me of all rest and turning my hair grey. Apparently my drowsiness is now confined to the time I actually spend sleeping, which is, in my humble but infallible opinion, a good place to put it.

I had a series of misadventures last week; the heat in my flat stopped working, just as we had a cold snap with temperatures down to –25 °C, which (for those of you who still use Fahrenheit) translates to ‘much too bloody damn cold’. My car died in rush-hour traffic, after dark, in the fast lane, going uphill, and had to be expensively towed and more expensively resuscitated. (The alternator belt had snapped, taking out other parts along with it, and so the car stopped running the moment the battery ran down.) This is the same car, Admiral Halsey by name, that got stuck on the ice in my back alley in January and had to be winched out by a tow truck, and needed a new battery because the old one would not hold a charge. None of this work is worth doing, since the car is technically scrap metal, but at the moment I can’t afford either to do without it or to replace it. I have a kind of frail, perishing hope that it will last me the rest of the winter, which in this sunny clime runs until May or thereabouts.

Through all this, The Worx (a program of Prospect Human Services) was faithfully badgering me to come in and get my resume furbished up so that I can look for part-time work. I would, I maintain, have been unable to do any work that I did find, so nothing was lost except time; but today, at long last, I struggled over to their offices (the Admiral won’t idle anymore; he wants to stall at every stoplight) and worked on that for a spell. On my return journey, my attention was diverted by something that I hope may divert you as well.

Prospect H.S. have their offices in an industrial park, not far from a specialist greengrocer’s which has (I believe) found the true and permanent cure for the dreaded Grocer’s Apostrophe. Every grocer thinks that the plural of BANANA is BANANA’S; this is an ineradicable part of the human condition, at least until either the English language or the apostrophe dies out. Some plucky lad or lass at this establishment, however, got rid of the whole problem by getting rid of the plural entirely. But the cure may have been worse than the disease:


‘What!’ I thought. ‘They have only one banana, and they sell it by the pound? That must be some banana!’ And I was irresistibly reminded of an old song, the lyrics of which I jot down here from memory, for those of you who may not be blessed (as I am) with more than perfect recall:

Yes! We have one banana,
We have one banana today!
It’s tasty and mellow
And curvy and yellow
And too big and heavy to weigh.
By itself,
It made a whole shipload;
Each end
Has its own zip code;
But yes! We have one banana,
We have one banana today!

This peerless feat of memory shows, I believe, that my mental faculties are just about as good as they ever were and better than I deserve; for which the thanks or the blame should go to Dr. S. Hussain and the inventors of venlafaxine, a.k.a. Effexor.

You’re welcome.

Sir Ernest Gowers on adjectives and adverbs

Unwary writers are often advised to strip all the adverbs out of their prose, and sometimes all the adjectives as well. There is a name for the kind of people who give this advice: blockheads. Here, by contrast, is some good advice on the subject:

Cultivate the habit of reserving adjectives and adverbs to make your meaning more precise, and suspect those that you find yourself using to make it more emphatic. Use adjectives to denote kind rather than degree. By all means say an economic crisis or a military disaster, but think well before saying an acute crisis or a terrible disaster. Say if you like ‘The proposal met with noisy opposition and is in obvious danger of defeat’. But do not say ‘The proposal met with considerable opposition and is in real danger of defeat’. If that is all you want to say it is better to leave out the adjectives and say ‘The proposal met with opposition and is in danger of defeat’.

—Sir Ernest Gowers, The Complete Plain Words

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