And the Nuns Wore Lipstick

“I have never started a poem yet whose end I knew. Writing a poem is discovering.”
Robert Frost

“When I write, oddly I don’t think, I just feel.”
Denise O’Hagan

1. Mr B opened his meeting by explaining how he lost his virginity (years ago, not last week) and gained a dose of the clap in the process. Just what the crowd wanted to hear. (Though I suppose it did settle one perennial question: had he actually lost it?)

2. Mr B then thrust a pamphlet at the audience: ‘Islam on Poverty – A brief introduction to the Islamic viewpoint on poverty’. He explained how he could understand why disaffected youths, after reading such a pamphlet, might start to think that organisations (like ISIS) had good intentions, and be inspired to look deeper into it.

It was evident Mr B could only give a cursory and stumbling view of the subject, but a knowledgeable grasshopper accepted an invitation to get up onto The Ladder of Knowledge and speak. He did a good job. In a mild-mannered way he answered questions about Islam, and deftly parried questions unrelated to the subject. (Speakers’ Corner is thick with those.)

His website suggests he is not too keen on Islam.

3. Ray, our Christian speaker, enthralled the weary tourists trying to enjoy a cold drink at the kiosk. He presumably talked about the benefits of giving one’s heart to Jesus. That’s fairly self-explanatory in a religious context. In organ-donor context is makes less sense.

This scribe has no idea what Steve Maxwell talked about because he didn’t get to listen to Steve talking, and Steve never bothers to let this scribe know what he talks about. The cad.

This weekly newsletter might sometimes appear to be a touch Mr Bashful-centric. The reasons for this are unclear, although it might have something to do with this scribe being unable to listen to all three speakers at the same time.

4. Mr B informs us that by popular demand (???) a new segment begins. Each week, Mr B will examine one of his fifteen assertiveness tips from his online book, ‘The Umpteen Ways to Satisfy Our Deep Need to Belong.

This week he began with an introductory explanation of what assertiveness is, and its benefits.

The introduction was like a taste of honey to the hungry and adoring crowd. With their excitement at fever-pitch they could not contain themselves, and with sky-high expectations interrupted his explanation crying, “Give us the tip! Give us the tip!”

It was heartening to see Mr B’s grasshoppers so fired up, so keen. He tantalised them by giving a gentle recap of the tip he explained last week, ‘You are not obliged to give a reason’. That worked the crowd into an even deeper frenzy, and he was barely half-way through when their excitement got the better of them. “Give us the tip!” they implored again. “Give us the tip!”

With their interest so high, so strong, they looked almost threatening.

It was a prime example of superb oratory. It reminded this scribe of how Hitler and Mussolini, and the Beatles, drove their crowds wild with excitement.

However, when a few started foaming at the mouth he wisely chose to cut the segment short, managing to placate the crowd by promising to give the tip next week instead. That placated them pretty quickly, in fact.

The frenzy had been too much for one grasshopper. It had fried his brain. After Mr B had taken great pains to recap last week’s tip, at great length and with much repetition, he was asked by the grasshopper, ‘So, what’s the tip?’


5. Denise O’Hagan’s poem,And the Nuns Wore Lipstick‘ was discussed for nearly an hour by the thoughtful grasshoppers, and a few different interpretations were put forth.

Next week’s poem is by the English poet, Gerald Manly Hopkins, who wrote it in 1880.

Spring and Fall

(to a young child)

Margaret, are you gríeving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leaves like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! As the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you will weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sorrow’s springs are the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It is the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.

6. Next week we will also have a special poetry reading – by everyone! Bring along your favourite poem (or two) and step up onto The Ladder of Sensitivity to present it. You won’t need to discuss your poem like Mr B discusses poems, so relax. (Though if you want to discuss a poem in the same manner, have a word with him and it can be arranged.)

Practise reading your poem(s) at home, taking care to read it like it’s meant to be said. Practise reading it in an ‘over-the-top’ way. You’ll be surprised how much better that can be. It won’t sound ‘over-the-top’ at all.

What type of poem? Any, provided you think we’ll understand it. Make us laugh, make us cry.

Here is one to whet your appetite:

The Cow on the Hill (Author unknown)
On a hill there was a cow.
It walked away, it’s not there now.

There! Can you do better than that?

7. A false belief rectified:
Q. How many mathematicians does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
A. 0.9999999999999999 (recurring).

That’s because 0.99999999999999 (recurring) actually equals 1.

The idea that 0.9999999999 (recurring) only approaches 1, but never quite gets there, is a fallacy. It is actually 1.

The proof?
x = 0.999 . . .
10x = 9.999 . . .
10x = 9 + 0.999 . . .
10x = 9 + x
9x = 9
x = 1

Thank you, Uncle Pete!

8. Why would someone waste their time recording an almost dead language?
That was the question Mr B asked of his grasshoppers, claiming that a language is not like a plant or creature or artefact which the public, and researchers, can appreciate with little fuss. However, only a linguist can appreciate a dead language, and they would have to spend years of painstaking study to do so. Even then, the appreciation gained could not be passed onto the general public or even to close associates. It perhaps could be passed onto another linguist boffin to appreciate, but that’s just another dead end.

In short, let’s not fund anyone hoping to record a dying language. Instead, let’s give them a clip in the ear and tell them to wake up to themselves.

9. The number 42 is mistakenly believed by some people to be the meaning of life. Had they read Douglas Adams’ book properly they would know that it’s merely the answer to the Ultimate Question. But no one knows what the Ultimate Question is.

Until now. It has been discovered. It is as follows:

‘How many subscribers does the Speakers’ Corner Facebook page have?’

Coincidentally, how many posts does the Archives site have? Yes, the same number: 42! And more, even!