Friday, October 13, 2006

Do-oo-by ... do-oo-by ... do ... and more news from my friend Glenda

from Jacqueline

As you all know, I’ve had a more than my fair share of opportunity to listen closely to the language of US airlines in recent months – yes, it’s going on months now, this book tour. I’ve observed, between fighting with seat-backs that won’t stay up, and broken tray-tables, a locution employed by the airlines that is creeping into broadcast news and into our everyday speech, and it’s beginning to annoy me. The annoyance could be due to a general crabbiness with the whole phenomenon of airline travel, however, pay attention next time you’re on a ‘plane and you’ll hear what I mean. Let’s take the word “do.” This is the word most mis-used, followed by “did.”

Sample announcement while taxi-ing: “We do ask that you read the instructions carefully, so that if you do have any reason not to be seated in an exit row, please do inform the flight attendant ... (etc).” What’s the point of adding “do?” Why can’t they simply say: “We ask that you read the instructions carefully, so that if you have any reason ... (etc.).

Another sample from this morning’s news: “We did ask the senator for a statement, however, he did decline at this time.”

What a whopper! No wonder the bloke declined. Wouldn’t the sentence have been more elegant without the added “dids?” (“We asked the senator for a statement, however, he declined.”) And you can leave out the super-annoying “at this time” while you’re about it.

Another over-used word is “that.” You can go through any magazine article and remove about 80% of the “thats” and not only will it still make sense, it will have some grace and rhythm.

I’m so glad I’ve removed that weight from my chest, now on to more important things. First, my friend Glenda, who is back in Darjeeling after a brief sojourn in Europe. I’ve had emails from visitors to, asking for an update from me, so here it is. When Glenda left Darjeeling, she was in the midst of rehearsals and costume-making for a production of The Wizard of Oz, and had been working fiercely to create new gardens for the children. Here’s her most recent update:

“I have been in the same place for so long, it seems, that the extraordinary has become ordinary. I am sure many of you can relate to near death experiences in the Himalayas when driven by a drunk/drugged driver at night with the headlights glaring, around hairpin curves and precipices with no guard rails, the streets filled with people, rickshaws, lorries and worst of all cows--it seems they are let out at night to wander.

How mundane is the tale about the tilers throwing cement everywhere including on my newly sodded garden and mixing the same cement in a patch meant for flowers while displacing all the rocks so laboriously placed by size? Frescos made by the children with holes poked in them have become one of many daily trials as I prepare for the Art exhibit by the children and complete the other tasks I have before the 25th.

Father has given me many lectures on patience but I still stress out as the time to complete becomes shorter – 14 days to be exact. Our first dress rehearsal with an audience is this Sunday and the rush to finish costumes and perfect the scenery is on. Now if the kids would just remember all their lines, I would be a happy woman.

I am so enjoying the last minute rituals that I used to practice when I was working – you know that we all work better under stress. I just wish I would stop dreaming up new things to do while I am supposed to be asleep.

Penny , the Irish (ex)ambassador's wife to India, is trying to get a sculpture project done before the big opening and I don't have the heart to tell her that it takes 7 days for a pair of jeans to dry – how long for clay?

All the buildings in town are being spruced up with paint and flowers, people are buying new clothes or having them made and the tailors are working day and night. At Woodcot the same work is being conducted and the kids are so excited by all the activity. This is the Christmas and New Years all rolled into one, with a few birthdays added just for the gifts and good stuff. Food and dry goods are flying out of shops and bazaars for the holiday feasting and that was what we were doing on the day of the drive from hell - shopping. We are all working from 5am until we drop into bed with hoarse voices. The tailors (I use that term loosely) at Woodcot are making new dance costumes for the girls' dance program – it is going to be a fabulous celebration.

Unfortunately, I will only get the tip of it as I have to be in Mumbai on the 30th. But the timing is really great, as we would all be heartbroken if I had to leave during a lull – this way all the kids will be partying for a week after I leave and then school's out for the next two months. TOO COLD.

I guess that's about it – I have 16 hanging baskets to put together (made out of stacked vegetable racks and dog chains) before the weekend, and tomorrow I go to see if any more damage has been done, this time by the painters.”

Glenda will be back in California on December 15th – and I cannot wait to see her. But how long will she bear to be away from the children in Darjeeling?

In the meantime, last weekend I was fortunate to have dinner with a virtual exultation of independent booksellers at the NCIBA (Northern California Independent Booksellers Association) conference in Oakland. Whenever I am with a group of such dedicated booksellers, I am struck by the knowledge, the curiosity and the energy for the business that is represented by our independent booksellers. They are the (often unsung) keepers of our First Amendment, ensuring that a broad spectrum of books are available, and that readers know about them – and fortunately, their encyclopedia knowledge goes way beyond the big names or the “most likely to” authors. I couldn’t say “thank you” often enough.

This time from Seattle on a perfect fall day, here’s wishing you a great weekend.

PS: And thank you to Patty, the techno-hero of, who is posting this for me because I’m traveling. I haven’t been able to read posts from my fellow bloggers all week – oh, the inadequacies of hotel dial-up internet service for the non-wi-fied.


  1. So glad to get an update on Glenda. I'm sure you'll have much to talk about when you see her again.

    Stay well...

  2. from Jacqueline

    She's just a powerhouse of energy, and so dedicated to the school in Darjeeling. I remember when she first wrote to say that she was on her way to the school, because she'd heard that the priest who ran it "needed a bit of help." Now you can't drag her away!

  3. At this time I do want to thank you for lambasting the increasing use of superfluous words, which i do suspect may have originated with the talking heads trying for more soundbytes at this time. I do hope at this time time we can obliterate "all throughout" from their vocabulary as well.

    Your books get better and better, and your insights to the period are quite interesting. I do wish at this time you someday put together a pamphlet, sketchbook, or some such work filled with observations about the increased responsibilities of women during and after WWI--the sorts of things you talk about at your signings (and in your books).
    I do at this time thank you for all the great reading you provide, and do promise no more do-do.

    Tom, 1000 Oaks *<]:-)}}}