The miracle of the monarch butterfly by Angela Caldin

I’m in Pacific Grove, California, for a few days where I’ve witnessed a part of what has been called one of the greatest natural events on Earth. In a large grove of eucalyptus trees called The Sanctuary, clusters of monarch butterflies cling like glowing autumn leaves to the branches. They arrive in late October to overwinter in the mild climate here, escaping the harsher winters in the north. They travel vast distances to reach the California coast in the west and the mountains of Michoacan in Mexico in the east. Hardy butterflies… Read More

Angela’s ABCs: meretricious and meritorious by Angela Caldin

There are various words in the English language whose meanings I only half understand, like paradigm or leverage or egregious. There’s also a word whose meaning I thought I understood, but having looked it up, I discover I had misunderstood it completely. That word is meretricious. I had vaguely thought it had something to do with merit and that it described something good, but in fact if you describe something as meretricious, you disapprove of it because although it appears attractive it actually has little value or integrity.  It’s used to suggest… Read More

Prorogation: a word for our times by Angela Caldin

There’s a kind of hush over our house now and we are no longer drawn to watching the news at all hours. This is because on Monday 9 September, our prime minister prorogued parliament. This means he’s shut it down so that for the next few weeks we’ll be spared the sight of Boris Johnson making sexist remarks from the despatch box, of Jacob Rees-Mogg lounging arrogantly on the front bench and of the House of Commons flailing around in the mess that is Brexit. Prorogation is a new word for a… Read More

The joys of grammar by Angela Caldin

At school, in English lessons in the middle of the last century, we were taught something called parsing which involved analysing a sentence in terms of its grammar, identifying the parts of speech, and understanding its syntax. I loved parsing and I think this way of looking at language can be helpful in learning foreign languages and in writing in general. One of the main rules of grammar is that the subject of a sentence must always agree with the verb. In other words, they both must be singular or they both… Read More

Confusion – the mess we’re in by Angela Caldin

There is confusion worse than death, Trouble on trouble, pain on pain. This quotation from The Lotos-Eaters by Alfred Lord Tennyson sprang to mind as we started here in the UK on the new prime minister’s first week in power. He’d already promised that we would leave the EU on 31 October come what may, do or die, but he’d also assured us that the chances of leaving without a deal were a million to one. Impasse Then on Monday, Michael Gove, the new Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, who has… Read More