Monday, November 09, 2009

Never Go In A Straight Line When A Circuitous Route Is Available


At the very start of my fourth year of blogging I thought it would be useful to reiterate the basic principles of my blogs. My Mission Statement, my Guiding Philosophy, my House Style. It is this : never say in a sentence what can be said in a paragraph. Never be concise when you can be loquacious. Never go in a straight line when a circuitous route is available. To illustrate the point let me explain that when I started putting this post together ten minutes ago I had two important pieces of information to convey. The first is that I can announce that I have achieved my two stone weight loss target a good few weeks in advance of our January holiday. The second is that I am once again launching the "Holiday Book Bag Awards" (sponsored by the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company) which will help to choose the six books I take with me on holiday in January. So, those are the two vital bits of information. If you are particularly busy at the moment or if you have trees to prune, you can go away now. All the rest of this post is gild paint applied to a lonely lilly. All the rest is just fluff.

So how should I illustrate this little post? I turned to my collection of modern postcards and found a suitable illustration which is, in fact, a reproduction of a Pacific Line poster advertising an "ideal sunshine tour round South America, Robinson Crusoe's Island and the West Indies". The ship you can see in the distance is the RMMV Reina Del Pacifico which had a gross registered tonnage of 17,702 tons. So I thought I could make some suitable little joke about it being a couple of tons lighter by the time that our little company of six embark on its modern cousin in nine weeks time. But first I needed to know a bit about the Reina Del Pacifico, so I did a little digging.



She was, in fact, built in 1931 in the same Belfast shipyard which built the Titanic some thirty years earlier (Rookie, please note how this totally unnecessary sentence works in my weekly reference to the Titanic). She was built specifically for the Pacific Steam Navigation Company which, somewhat confusingly, concentrated on transporting people across the Atlantic and between various ports in South and Central America. As traffic began to contract in the 1930s and 40s, the line turned more and more to cruising and holiday work ; its usual range of destinations suiting the market well. Indeed it was on the 9th November 1937 that the former British Prime Minister, Ramsey MacDonald, dropped dead of a heart attack just after dinner whilst crossing the Atlantic on the Reina (and there goes my weekly reference to some long-dead dusty British politician).

But going back to the original postcard I was slightly intrigued by the inclusion of a visit to "Robinson Crusoe's Island". Of course, I knew all about Robinson Crusoe and how he was a castaway on a desert island, but how could a fictional character give rise to a real island. A paltry bit of research revealed that the story, by the early eighteenth century writer Daniel Defoe, was based on the real story of the Scottish sailor Alexander Selkirk, or was, for four years, marooned on the uninhabited island of Más a Tierra. Más a Tierr - which somewhat paradoxically means "closer to land" - was one of the three islands in the Juan Fernández archipelago, situated 674 kilometres west of South America in the South Pacific Ocean. In 1966 its Chilean owners rather sweetly renamed it Robinson Crusoe Island.



But before I leave Defoe and his famous book I need to mention a little-known fact. It appears Defoe started writing the story in 1712 whilst he was living in a pub - The Rose and Crown - in Halifax (a double-whammy this, mention of Halifax and pubs in the same sentence). At the time he was hiding out from the law - a little matter of an accusation of treason - and although he didn't complete the book until a good few years later, it could just possibly have been started over a pint of Websters Best Bitter in Back Lane (brewing historians will understand that there is an element of dramatic licence in this sentence as Samuel Webster was still a gleam in his great-grandfathers eye at the time). 

Come to think of it, I don't think I've ever read Robinson Crusoe. That can be the first candidate for my Holiday Book Bag short-list, all I need now is a few more nominations from you. So, you see, I got where I wanted to go. Eventually.

18 comments:

  1. Alan, you see? It's not just me, is it... Book recommendation for your holiday: The Power of Kabbalah, by Yehuda Berg - LOL
    Congratulations on the weight loss. I expect that is due to walking halfway down the coastline of America with Fat Dog...

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  2. To understand K.R's comment you will need to read her post to her blog (http://lifeintheonepercent.blogspot.com/) which - I absolutely assure you - was written independently of mine and which I read AFTER I had posted my own piece!

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  3. I have the problem choosing cameras for holiday, rather than books. Books I always take a good half dozen, a mix, but they fall to hand easily.
    A recent read was the relatively new "Junior Officers' Reading Club" written by an officer recently returned from Afghanistan and now studying law. When you start you think "who is this guy, bent on joining a war, but as you go through the book and see him mature on the ground it ends up being a really powerful narrative of what it must be like to be a young man today, going off to a modern war. I enjoyed it

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  4. "...never say in a sentence what can be said in a paragraph."

    I love meandering through your fluff. No trees to prune in my neck of the woods.

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  5. Hello Alan...

    I actually come here for inspiration. I get inspired by lots of things and sometimes I can act on it but sometimes I can't. Does that make sense. I like this blog and have it bookmarked but I am supposed to be in hibernation till spring bypassing the holidays and all that; plus the snows and ice storms and car wrecks. But I find myself still blogging almost every day.

    The only real difference is I don't leave home much or go looking much. But now and then I go out and about and leave a comment.

    I Like Your Blog.

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  6. My personal philosophy is why use one word when ten will do. I'm often accused of being inebriated by the exuberance of my own personal verbosity. Nay, nay, thrice nay I cry!

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  7. nice job on the weight loss! keep meandering...you may lose a few more. smiles.

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  8. I wondered when you would work in some mention of a pub!!!

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  9. I love these circuitous routes! By the way, I highly recommend Robinson Crusoe, & pretty much anything by Defoe.

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  10. There's nothing wrong with taking the 'scenic' route, when there are points of interest along the way.

    Nice post. I enjoyed it.

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  11. I love your meanderings, too. Congratulations on your new incredible lightness of being...

    I did two circuits around a park on Saturday (about 2 miles) in my chair...alas, I am no lighter today for the effort, although I did enjoy the beautiful day.

    Wishing you a wonderful week!

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  12. You did indeed! And although I'm not an avid reader, I have read Robinson Crusoe. As for the weight loss, perhaps you should post tips. Then again, I'm the best dieter in the world as in I've tried them all . . .how does beer work in with yours?

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  13. Congratulations on your weight loss- woo hoo! Now for my book recommendations... you know what I'm going to say. Anything by Alexander McCall Smith! Since you weren't too fond of No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency... what about 44 Scotland Street?

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  14. You do well, my friend. Whenever I go to the circuitous route people look at me as if I was the ancient mariner and about to hold their attention for something they really didn't want to hear about.

    Why, I wonder, was I supposed to appreciate that poem at school?

    Ah well. What I really minded was that we were fed expurgated versions of books. So for the one the people had completely removed the main motivations! Ah DEAR with hindsight it was outrageous, this famous novel they'd completely wiped the whole motivation for the conclusion.

    I'm curious, Can anybody tell me which novel that is? I know!

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  15. You do well, my friend. Whenever I go to the circuitous route people look at me as if I was the ancient mariner and about to hold their attention for something they really didn't want to hear about.

    Why, I wonder, was I supposed to appreciate that poem at school?

    Ah well. What I really minded was that we were fed expurgated versions of books. So for the one the people had completely removed the main motivations! Ah DEAR with hindsight it was outrageous, this famous novel they'd completely wiped the whole motivation for the conclusion.

    I'm curious, Can anybody tell me which novel that is? I know!

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  16. I'm becoming increasingly jealous of this upcoming holiday of yours! :)

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  17. Thanks for all the book nominations. I will keep the list open for a few more weeks so feel free to still nominate. I will then produce the shortlist of six I will take with me. Reviews and results when I get back.

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  18. I think you have use up all the words and there are none left for me. You do, do it so well, meander I mean, when I finally get there I think he's taken me on a ride again.
    I haven't read Robinson Caruso, I have just heard reference to it so many times. Read it and let us know, if it really is overrated. Holiday, sounds good. I hope it will be restful and luxurious. Take care.

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