Tuesday 19 September 2023

Chronically iconic

Three times in 36 seconds!

Quite a feat.  According to my recent evidence, Vernon Kay currently holds the record for this particular accomplishment.  Some might even call it an iconic achievement.  But please don't, as I may be tempted to scream...    I nearly screamed at the car radio when he did it too.  It was a couple of weeks or so ago when it actually happened, during his morning slot on Radio 2 (not my choice of station): Vernon Kay used the word 'iconic' three times in 36 seconds.  (I know, such a nerd, I timed it!)

In the short segment I heard he used it to describe Jeremy Vine as the "iconic broadcaster and journalist", a few seconds later he announced Cathy Dennis as "the iconic singer songwriter" and then, just as I was drawing breath ready to emit a shriek of despair at this lack of verbal originality (my "iconic" detector now on full alert), in the very next sentence we were treated to his description of Cathy's big hits as "iconic, anthemic tunes".   And who knows how many other times it may have turned up when I wasn't listening?

Of course, once you tune into it you find yourself playing 'Iconic Bingo'.  For example, in their current TV ad, Lynx invite you to "smell iconic".  Maybelline cosmetics want to sell you "iconic foundation".  Magazine articles tell you all about a city's "iconic eats".  A quick look through some recent song lyrics and I find lines such as, "lately I've been feeling iconic", "I'm living so iconic" and "iconic brings us together"...   Arghh!

Every artist, every book, every film, musician and landmark - they're all deemed "iconic" now.  Some of them surely are; I've no issue with that - the adjective was once brought out only to describe something really special, something rare perhaps, undeniably symbolic or memorable, thus it made its point perfectly, we knew what it meant and it had gravitas.  So I can't help but find it irritating and a little sad really when terms which were once used sparingly and pertinently like this lose their value - it all seems rather lazy, dull and predictable.  We've such a rich and evocative vocabulary, full of choice and nuance; words are such brilliant tools and (last time I looked, anyway) they're free!  Instead of "iconic", mightn't it be more interesting to hear a few other descriptions in the mix, such as totemic / eminent / acclaimed / unforgettable / renowned / seminal / emblematic / esteemed / famous (or infamous) / distinctive... etc.?

I know language evolves naturally, meanings change and always have done, but some grate more than others.   When the same word is used to describe both the Eiffel Tower and your local bakery's doughnut recipe, you know it's had its day.

(Just as I type this post, a promotional email has popped into my inbox from M&S entitled 'Meet our icons'.  Who/what are these icons?  A checked suit, a roll-neck sweater, loafers and a top-handle bag.)

Siouxsie & the Banshees: Icon

Thursday 14 September 2023

Still here

Red kite

Hello, how are you?!  Several weeks have gone by and the cobwebs in the corners of this blog are gathering cobwebs of their own, but I'm still here...

A bout of Covid (my first) knocked me back last month, but the leaden-legged fatigue and peculiar effect on the tastebuds (I couldn't have distinguished between a rice pudding and a vegetable jalfrezi in a blind taste test) thankfully passed.  Now I'm "in-between" work projects and, aside from many overdue jobs to do around the house, it's a pleasure to take a breather and get immersed in nature outside for a while.  So, screen time isn't a big draw at the mo.

Ah, but outside is, I'm addicted.  By day I've been spotting the biggest, fattest garden spiders I've ever seen, and have been exhilarated by my first ever sighting of a live grass snake in the leaf litter.   I can hear the mewing of buzzards (we've never heard so many round here before) and watch the beautiful aerobatic displays of red kites over the rooftops and fields (still relatively new to these parts and they thrill me every time.  Did you know they have a wingspan of around 5ft?!)  By evening, it's the occasional, surprising close encounter with a bat as it flits with beating wings in somewhat manic fashion past the honeysuckle - and my head.  There's evidence of a hedgehog's wanderings too (those animal faeces recognition skills come in handy) and I can't help but have a fondness for Mrs Brown Rat as she lifts her nose, ears twitching independently, to sniff me from a safe distance (although had to stop feeding the birds for now in an effort to persuade her to move on).  Still, a chiffchaff skims the buddleiah, delaying its return to Africa while the weather's so warm here.  A stunning hornet (the native European species) wows me with its size and tiger colours, and the Red Admiral and Peacock butterflies bask on the kitchen window frame. With surprising speed, Cabbage White caterpillars rhythmically munch through toadflax (love that name) pausing only to drop off neat little parcels from their opposite ends... who knew you could even see a caterpillar take a crap?! - all part of the cycle...

I could watch, and listen, and smell all this for hours; it's my salve... I recommend it to everyone, even if only for a few minutes a day. Even if it's just what I used to do when I lived in a top floor flat looking out at the orbweb spiders in the corners of the windows and the magpies bouncing on the opposite rooftops.  Just get whatever you can.  I'd recommend it to Putin et al.  Honestly, mate, I'd like to say to him/them in my Utopian dream world, just sit back and watch the bees and the birds for a while and wonder at the simple pleasures of nature, how marvellous and precious it all is, how it deserves our protection, and you might just feel a little bit happier inside and appreciate the value of peace and harmony.  Oh, if only...

Bumming about in nature doesn't leave a lot of time or motive for blogging but I really don't want to lose the blogging either- it's very important to me too, the source of some lovely friendships and also something of a salve.   So I will be back!  Just maybe when I've finished watching that wasp drinking from the bird bath and the convoy of ants on a mysterious mission running along the path....  See you soon.

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