Saturday, 16 March 2013

Apostrophic punctuation.

If Hamlet's trusty Marcellus were here now, he might conclude there is something rotten in the state of Devonshire. The apostrophe is being murdered, as it lies sleeping in the garden.

Mid Devon District Council is intent on marrying the street signs seemingly for their own good and yet will lead to ruination and chaos. Their declaration of abandoning the use of the apostrophe in street signs is only for the good of the local people, they say. How much confusion will be avoided if only the apostrophe were not blemishing those signs! they cry. And, indeed, who could blame their most honourable stance against the apostrophe when Blundell's Avenue causes panic to all those who do not avert their eyes from the hideous mark between the l and the s, denoting possession. Perhaps they are far Left Grammaticals: no more possessives! their slogan. Give the people back their letters! Down with the dictatorial presence of apostrophes!

I must confess, I had no idea apostrophes in street signs were so baffling, or so tyrannical. Who are they, those who melt into quivering wrecks at a mere glance of Beck's Square yet are perfectly capable of sauntering past Bakers View? What manner of person is it who is so affronted by a correctly placed apostrophe? When asked this reasonable question Mid Devon District Council declined to comment. Perhaps it is they themselves who suffer from apostrophobia, not the townsfolk. Take them away immediately and replace them with people who can use punctuation properly without developing a rash.

How long before the full stop is persecuted? How long before the question mark the comma the semicolon are wiped from all written existence and the written word becomes something like a talkative sixyearold who cannot possibly draw breath or stop and is forced forever more to use conjunctions lest it come to the end of a sentence and have no way of knowing how to terminate it

Ghoulish, n'est-ce pas? I once signed a contract for a flat; a contract that warned me of the dire consequences should "any breeches of the conditions stipulated in this contract...[etc etc]" occur. A spelling error it may be, and no grammatical mistake, but even so. My breeches are no one's business but my own. Except maybe Hamlet's. Possessive.

Let us not march towards irrevocable entropy. Let us not have the misery of dredging the river for a drowned Semi-colon. Let us not face a stage-produced Comma wringing its non-existent hands reciting:
"To be, or not to be; that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The Tip-ex and erasers of outrageous council policy,
Or to take arms against a board of apostrophobes,
And, by opposing, end them..."

Let us have a world in which punctuation may freely roam, if correctly used, and add to the coherence of our written language. Let us keep our scriptorial demonstration of possession.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Fifty Hades of Bibliocide

Can you imagine a town without a bookshop? Try it. Hideous, isn't it? Bleak, barren, a Ray Bradbury dystopian purgatory. Now type 'Workington, Cumbria' into Google, and imagine no more. Welcome and bienvenue to Fifty Hades of Bibliocide.

Once, we had a bookshop... The Derwent Bookshop... jingly bell as you shouldered open the magnificent ivory and golden doorway (metaphorically speaking - council funds were strictly limited) to a haloed cornucopia of narrative dynamite. I found it as soothing as I did exciting. But then, anathemous infamy: it closed down. Nobody was reading. Either because technology swept through like a horde of rats scampering through intellectually stifled terrain and feasting on the incertitude or suspicion of all matter papyrical were it not for wrapping one's Friday piscine supper, or nobody actually read in the first place and it was a doomed enterprise from the start. I'm praying it's not the latter. Rather, books have been killed with Kindleness...

Puns aside, it is depressing. The only place one might purchase a book in Workington now is WHSmith and charity shops. The problem with charity shops is that it is highly improbable they stock the precise title for which one was searching (unless you really were looking high and low for a battered and suspiciously stained copy of E.L.James); and WHSmith is a pre-vendor of books: somewhere to browse whilst stocking up on biros and fluorescent sticky notelets, then finding the nearest true bookshop, parting with your tender there.

Thus in shameful want of an adequate biblionic market, Workington folk must hoof their way to nearby Cockermouth (no jokes, please; we've heard them all) or Whitehaven.

Cockermouth must be given a short paragraph of its own to gently, reverently, place victory laurels upon its Wordsworthian brow after a monumentally successful re-opening of their bookshop after the 2009 floods. The inundation of biblical magnitude gutted the property and left residents unable to order copies of Her Fearful Symmetry and whatnot. Now, after three and a half years, The New Bookshop has shown that God will have to send more than a Flood to dampen their reading habits.

Now to arguably the the best bookshop in the world, ever: Michael Moon's bookshop in Whitehaven. Lunatic in name and nature, it gives one the opportunity to navigate somewhat creatively (i.e. become lost) but it is also a bibliophile's Elysium of old, leathery tomes enshrined in bookcases; where there remains no more space on the bookshelves, on the top they go, spiralling towards the ceiling in precarious, yet precious arrangements. Drapes semi-conceal corridors beckoning with coquettish 'come-hither' glimpses of the treasures behind the bridal veil. Room upon room appear, each with its own alcoved jumble of subjects exhaling aromas of decades-old, centuries-old, tales, perfuming the air with their heady promises of ageless wonders. Stairs, chambers, steps, darkened passages stuffed with books, positively bloated with opera... I was completely enamoured from the moment I first set foot in this Arcadia. I was also in a state of pecuniary deficiency. It's rather like turning up to a school sports day without your trainers or going on a substantial car journey without a David Bowie CD - woefully underequipped and plain silly.

Had the cathedral-esque demand for tranquillity in such distinguished companies as Donne, Shakespeare, and Churchill not instilled in me the veneration they merit, I would have indulged in squeals of unmitigated joy. As it was, I contented myself by mentally staging a coup de librairie in a despotic attempt to rule the Moon. Hell hath no fury like a frustrated bibliophile...