Language learning again

Oh the dangers I went through just to prove a linguistic point!

Well, it happened twice.  The same message.  Two different places.

I went to a little grocery shop in Hay-on-Wye (Wales).  The outside wasn’t prepossessing – a whitewashed building that once served as a 17th century pub, but entering by its ancient door I had to blink. 

A veritable treasure house of everything a Welsh householder would need for day-to-day living!  “Do you have baking paper?” I asked to the being behind a crowded counter.  She was so firmly blocked in, I could hardly see her.  Her hand flicked down the narrow aisle.  “Go to the top,” she said.  I sideways-sashayed down, and scanned all the goods on the top shelves above me.  Nope.  Everything but baking paper.  Ashamed, I squeezed back to the counter.  “The top,” she repeated, sighed, opened a trap door flap, emerged as a whole person and scurried along the aisle.  Gormeless, and slack-jawed, I stupidly followed.  There to the right, on a waist-high shelf, was the baking paper. 

Another time, I asked my friend Gil, “where is the Old Barn House [not its real name]?  “Go to the top of the lane, and…” she started.  “But I’ve walked to the hill top and there isn’t any such house. “  She eyed me pityingly. 

Later, friends drove me to said domicile for an evening meeting.  I was grateful to be offered a ride, and happily chatted as we drove, and drove, and drove through the black velvet night.  But I was still curious. Where was this sneakily hiding “top of the road”? There was nothing for it but to go on a search. Oh, poor silly innocent that I was!

I drove up the hill, yes, to its top.  Beautiful view, sheep, green hills. Not there, of course. 

But then down the hill, up another, down it, up another one, and down it, all on a single track road snuggled between ten feet high thick-clipped hedges on treacherous turnings, …..

…maliciously pot-holed roads, and me, white knuckles on steering wheel, nasal whining aloud, “please don’t let anyone come the other way, please don’t let anyone come!!!!” Horrific mental images danced leeringly as to what might happen if they did.


But then there it was! Triumph! This is it, unassuming, unnannounced, just where it had been for centuries past, when the drovers used the road to take animals to market. ( Well, maybe that gate was a bit younger.) TOP was at the BOTTOM of the hill, almost a kilometre beyond where I thought it would be,  at a T junction (dead end).  The house wasn’t there, either.  It demanded changing direction and driving on similar single-track high-hedged roads before swivelling off somewhere Out There, with growling grinding shift-changes, straight up a track. 

But at last I finally understood the meaning of this familiar-but-mysterious word: TOP meant END – the end of the grocery aisle.  And the end of the road.

Maureen’s Lacey Cheesy Thingies (aka Parmesan Crisps)

The meeting that first evening had been a delight.   It was one of the first times we’d met together as three-dimensional human beings rather 2 D zoombies.  The first thing we did was to drink a toast to husband John (in hospital) which warmed my heart.  We sat around their huge candlelit table with fresh breads, cheeses, olives and pickles and drinks and shared our thoughts on how to encourage our community to save the planet.  It was to last for two hours.  We reluctantly left 4 ½ hours later, glowed by friendship.

Among the snacks were these.  “Help yourself,” said Maureen. “My cousin gave me the recipe.” Two ingredients, one of them optional. 

Line a roasting pan with baking paper. (If you’re in Hay, I can tell you exactly where to find some.) Heat oven to moderately hot.

Finely grate Parmesan cheese into a bowl. Grind on some pepper. Mix. Put clumps of the mixture about 2 inches apart on the baking paper.

Bake for 7 minutes or so. The cheese should be bubbly and lacey, and slightly brownish along the edges. Carefully remove the paper from the pan (to prevent further cooking) and place both paper and cheesies on a wire rack to cool completely.

If you haven’t poked around at them as I did, they should peel off the paper easily. Voila! Eat as is, or be creative. How will YOU use yours? I put mine in a sandwich, for a delightful crunch.


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