Hi, my name is Smoky. I’ll be with you in a Jiffy.

A package of books arrived early this afternoon: our Christmas present (well, one of them, anyway) to ourselves. For Shana, ‘Granny Square Crochet’ by Catherine Hirst. Beautifully photographed and, apparently, rather nicely written too. I have only Shana’s word on this, as I don’t know one end of a crochet stick from another. Anyway, it looks like a real gem of a book.

For me, a four-pack boxed set of Daily Telegraph cryptic crosswords. Over 300 puzzles. If I can’t solve the clues, at least I can colour in the white squares.

And for Smoky? Well, he doesn’t usually read much more than the flavours on his food packets. But he will hop into just about any box that used to contain a parcel for us. His most recent acquisition is a good-sized brown box from Amazon. He likes to sit in it and use it as a scratching board.

Unfortunaltely, our books were not boxed. They came in a white Jiffy bag, about 12 by 18 inches, and padded with a bubblewrap lining.

Ten minutes later, catching up on an old (almost prehistoric) episode of Time Team, I heard a rustling by my feet. I looked down to find Smoky settling himself on top of the Jiffy bag, as if it was a cushion made especially for him. ‘If he loses a bit of weight,’ I said, ‘we could put him inside the Jiffy bag, seal it up quick, pop lots of postage stamps on it, and send him on a round-the-world trip.’ I wouldn’t really though. I’d miss him. Besides, who else would eat all those pouches of shrimp and prawns that are piled up in the cupboard?

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I love to go a Wanda-ing

‘No question about it. You just have to buy that book,’ I said, listening to Shana describe something she’d found on eBay.

‘But you don’t even do crochet, so what possible use is it to you?’

‘Who cares!’ I insisted. ‘That is just such a fantastic name for an author. You couldn’t make it up. I…we…simply must have it.’

And that is how we came to have a British first edition copy of ‘Stitches, Patterns & Projects for Crochet’ by (wait for it, wait for it…) none other than Wanda Bonando. What a marvelous moniker.

Translated by Sylvia Mulcahy from the original Italian, Shana found some of it that seemed to have been rendered into gibberish instead: some of the great Wanda’s patterns were not working out well. Two days after receiving the book, Shana finally realised that the patterns were written using UK terminology, as opposed to the US style, which is virtually standard in the world of crochet, no matter what country you are in. If you don’t know about this kind of thing, it’s quite simple really: anything you crochet using US-style instructions will turn out at least 50% larger than the equivalent British instructions. The reason for this is obvious: Americans need to crochet bigger woolly hats…because they have bigger woolly heads 🙂

Before all of the above dawned on Shana, she wasn’t sure who to blame. Wanda Bonando herself, Sylvia Mulcahy’s translation, or Barbara Clarkson’s charts. (‘They might as well have been written by Jeremy Clarkson for all the use they are,’ she complained.)

All has turned out ok at last, however. As for the author herself though, the Internet reveals little info. I suggested that translator Sylv and chart writer Barbs may in fact be aliases of Wanda Bonando, who, I suspect, may actually be a Sicilian lorry driver with creative leanings. But don’t quote me on any of that, because…

…I could be wrong.

Oxford comma saves Beatles from tribble hell

Until tonight, I was always in two minds about the Oxford comma. Sometimes, I realised, it could be useful to clarify matters. But that didn’t mean you had to be fanatical about using it all the time. Then I picked up ‘Turn Off Your Mind’, Gary Valentine Lachman’s excellent, absorbing history of occultism in the 1960s. And found this in the preface:

As a kid in the States in that turbulent decade, ‘the sixties’ for me meant Marvel Comics, Conan the Barbarian, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., James Bond films, the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show and Star Trek – in a word, great pop culture.

“I never knew the Beatles had appeared on Star Trek,” I said. Shana agreed that the lack of an Oxford comma in the appropriate place did indeed make the passage ambiguous. Maybe, though, the Fab Four’s moptop haircuts were used as extras in episodes featuring the dreaded tribbles. How come we missed that one!

By the way, bonus points to anyone who spotted that ‘great pop culture’ is in fact three words, not one. But I have to say, you are being a bit harsh, because the book is a first class read. Anyone who has yet to read it, go get a copy pronto.