Friday, 22 October 2010

In which I admit weakness

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

As some of you may have noticed by now, I have a fatal tendency to fall into pedantry. On and on I bang about people saying infer when they mean imply, or less when they mean fewer, or disinterested when they mean uninterested. Since it seems to be a law of the universe that all shall be hoist with their own petard, my own pedantry has snuck round and bitten me on the bottom.

Yesterday, I spelled Gandhi wrong. Put the h in the wrong place. A kind reader gently pointed this out, so I could rush to correct it. But really. One of the most important men in world history, and I got his name wrong. I am an IDIOT.

Today, I came upon the word synecdoche. It is a beautiful word; it looks so pretty on the page, and sounds so evocative and mysterious. I realised that, despite my ridiculous education, and the fact that words are my very business, I did not know what it meant. I thought about it for a while. Even in the context of the sentence it was in, I could not quite make a good guess at it. Something about a group? My mind shuttled about uselessly, like an ancient tram on a line no one uses any more.

Well, my darlings, it turns out it has about eight meanings. It can be a figure of speech where a single part is used to refer to the whole, i.e. greybeard for an old gentleman, or blue-stocking for a clever woman. Conversely, it can be where the whole is used to refer to a part: the law for a policeman. It can be the use of a specific name for a general class of thing: bug for all kinds of insect, even those which are not, in fact, bugs. Or the other way round, where the general is used for the specific: thief to refer to anything from a pickpocket to a Ponzi scheme perpetrator. It can also mean referring to a thing by the material of which it is made: steel for sword, irons for stirrups, silver for anything made of silver, from forks to candlesticks.

It is almost physical pain for me to admit that there are things like this which I do not know. But what do I think will happen, if occasionally I profess ignorance? Shall the world stop turning on its axis? Will the stars fall from the sky? Will people snigger behind their hands? Does it mean that all the things I do know are suddenly rendered moot?

One of the other things about which I bang on is the vital importance of embracing all our flaws. Sarah and I wrote almost the entire text of Backwards based on that premise. We hated the insane drive to perfection under which so many woman labour. Wouldn't it be rather lovely if I could extend this courtesy to myself? Theory and practice, I suppose, that old chestnut.

Luckily, there are some things in life which can be almost perfect, with only a little care and contemplation. I promised you pea soup, and a delightful, verdant pea soup you shall have.

Finely chop a leek; cover in chicken stock if you have it, or water with a couple of teaspoons of Marigold bouillon if you do not. Simmer for five minutes or until just soft. Add one sliced clove of garlic, a pinch of dried chilli, and two handfuls of defrosted baby peas. (I think the frozen ones are best; fresh peas do not give quite the right texture for some reason.) You may need to put in a little more liquid at this stage. Simmer again for two minutes, no more. I think the very quick cooking time is the key to this, as it keeps the flavours and the colours vivid.

Put into a liquidiser, with a gloop of olive oil, and the real secret of the whole thing: a teaspoon of sugar. I know it sounds mad, because peas are naturally sweet, but it makes all the difference. You do not taste the sugar, but it seems to bring out the full flavour of the peas. Occasionally at this stage I add a few watercress leaves, on a whim, but this is optional. Whizz up until smooth. If it is too thick, you may want to add a little more water. I like this soup quite thick, but I leave it to your discretion. You might need a pinch of sea salt. And there you are: glorious green delightfulness, in under ten minutes.


As always, when I embrace the idea of flaws, I like to do it properly (of course), so here, in the special Friday spirit of uninhibited imperfection are some rotten photographs. I present to you -





Of course, they are so beautiful that even when out of focus they still contrive to look ravishing. Perhaps there are some things that can never be traduced.

Have a very happy Friday.


  1. Oh Christ i though synecdoche was a place as in synecdoche new york i never did understand that damn film now i know why, i'm going away to eat biscuits..........

  2. yes, but how does one pronounce it!

  3. Oh, I feel really embarrassed about pointing out the Gandhi mistake now! But I'm so glad you took it in the spririt in which it was intended. I promise I don't normally point out mistakes on blogs, I think it's naff and of course I make them too, but you're right, I just thought you could quickly fix it.
    Anyway, I think you're great and I love your blog.
    Kate (accidentally anon yesterday)

  4. Anon - biscuits always an excellent idea.

    Jo - NO IDEA.

    Kate - no, please, you saved me from absolute horror. I am indebted to you. Please always tell me when I make a mistake. I do not have nearly enough time to proof the blogs as I would like, and have a terrible tendency to believe Wikipedia (idiotic), and so errors will creep in.

  5. I once read that the moles on the face are called beauty spots because it was these flaws which distinguished beautiful mortals from gods.

    I also love the concept of the Persian Flaw in the woven carpet - a remembrance that only God is perfect.

    Don't be pained that you don't know things. Be excited that there's always still things to learn, even when our formal education is over.

  6. There is a long but lovely film starring Philip Seymour Hoffman entitled "Synecdoche, New York" which is, if you haven't already, entirely worth watching. I would hesitate to say that it was my favorite film of 2009.

    Miss W

    ps Well done on the share button.


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