Friday, January 27, 2006

Bert update

Anna pointed out to me last night that Bert knew how to say soup too.

I told Anna how I taught Bert to say cheese, how long it took me and how many pieces of cheese I ate whilst saying the word.

I told her how I smiled when he pointed at the wardrobe and said 'cheese' and how puzzled he was when on subsequent performances of the same manoeuvre I shook my head and said 'no Bert thats not cheese, I can't keep my school uniform and my P.E kit and my jeans and t-shirts in cheese, they would smell awful'.

Every day for months he would swivel his head, look at the wardrobe, point and say cheese. Every day he would look crestfallen in his teddy way when I shook my head. I tried everything. I got my parents to bring back a really pungent cheese from France so he could compare the smell to the veneer of my walnut wardrobe. Nothing worked.

Next time they crossed the channel I got them to bring back a poster of the 360 cheeses of France. I stuck it on the wardrobe. Bert pointed, said cheese, I smiled, he smiled.

Then I started to teach him about Yoghurt.

Thursday, January 26, 2006


I told Anna about Bert last night, the teddy I had when I was small that only knew seven words. Each of the seven words was the name of a fruit or other type of foodstuff.

I told her how he would slowly swivel his head, then lift his arm and point to an object in my room.

Once he pointed to my wardrobe and said 'cheese'. Anna asked whether he could say 'Baby Bell' and I had to admit that he couldn't distinguish between types of cheese.

Another time he pointed at the window when my next door neighbour was walking past and said 'bannana'.

He didn't seem to have much facility for learning, but he was very entertaining: I wonder which child has him now.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Will there ever be a world flapjack day?

I've hit an obstacle: Belinda tells me that in Australia the word flapjack has nothing to do with oats: it is merely a synonym for 'pancake'.

I didn't realise how strong my cultural prejudices are. I thought the concept of oats baked with butter and syrup was so simple as to be universal (as I write this I realise that without Columbus we in England would not been missing a rather crucial ingredient).

What is the nearest French/Russian/Hungarian/Ghanaian equivelant to a flapjack? I find it hard enough to find a freshly baked flapjack in London, what chance would I have in Adelaide or Lagos?

A further blow to my preconceptions has been dealt by Martin on my left here: apparently the original application of the word flapjack is from the New England states of America, and does indeed refer to a pancakefried on a griddle. Jack was then a common workd for 'thing' and flapjack meant a thing that was flipped. Our present biscuity use of the term originated in England in the 1930s.