Friday, 9 August 2013

Tips and Travel Lines

Perhaps if I was Japanese I'd have had palm surgery some months back and discovered then that booking a trip to Central America this August wouldn't be the best move financially. Maybe I'd have had the surgery even earlier and been able to look into the future to tell The Boy he'd need a doctor's check-up sooner in order to have the op in time. As I'm not Japanese, have only recently discovered palm surgery even exists and seriously question its point, I'm now about to go on our annual adventure on my own.

Having finally had confirmation from the specialist on Wednesday that The Boy is indeed not fit for travel or coverage on our insurance, I've been doing some last minute organisation. In the process, I've discovered a few useful tips for fellow travellers I thought I'd share before my departure. If, like me, you are venturing to foreign and occasionally somewhat remote climes with some time still before the off, the following may help:

1) Despite what doctors tell you, antibiotics are indeed accessible for emergency situations. Last summer's Morocco trip left me feeling pretty jealous when I suffered from some form of impenetrable stomach upset. My walking pharmacy was no armour against my ailment and while I visited a pricey Moroccan hospital, fellow trip chums easily recovered, having taken their supply of home-brought antibiotics. I, on the other hand, felt somewhat off for several days longer and had to take an alarmingly large number of strangely labelled drugs I'd been prescribed, including one called “Spasfon”.

Keen to avoid a repeat occurrence, I visited the doctor who after trying to put me off, gave me a private prescription, warning me I'd have to shop around chemists as additional dispensing costs would probably be a minimum of £20 for my antibiotics. Fear not – this information seems to have been yet another attempt by the doctor to deter me. The very pharmacy that partners my doctor's surgery and is indeed right next door, sold me said antibiotics for less than the normal prescription charge at a mere £4.

2) Never trust your bank to give you the best exchange rate. Having always banked with Natwest, I went to get some dollars and came out with rather a raw deal. Two hundred US cost me £181 of your English pounds. Returning home, I checked the exchange rate and as suspected found I had been cheated and given a rate of around 1.1 to the pound, instead of 1.5.

Annoyed, I returned to the bank the next day and to my relief found it was a mistake and a new cashier had accidentally given me the Euro rate. One refund later and I was disappointed to discover Natwest's rate was merely 1.3 when I'd seen much higher elsewhere. The answer? Take recommendations, forsake your bank and go British. Good old M & S offered the best rate of 1.54! Certainly a new favourite for buying currency.

Wisdom imparted, I'm going to continue packing my life up and prepare for lone travel. I'll be absent for the next three weeks so if anyone reading is due to depart soon, enjoy.

Friday, 2 August 2013

The Elusive Etymology


As a teacher seeing sulky pouting students is part of the job but a sight much less common these days than you might expect as the sound of teeth sucking seems to have taken over. Not so long ago, I actually witnessed a student formulating what I've always called a “fletcher lip” and commented on it to a colleague who'd never heard of the expression, instead referring to it as “making a moue”.

I recall many a scene as a child where I was accused of “making a fletcher lip” and as a result, laughed at. As I've been on an exceedingly gluttonous Herefordshire trip with my family, I thought I'd ask them where the term came from. Old Dear had no idea but Big G was quick to explain its etymology lies in archery: apparently back in the day when strategically-placed archers were a primary form of defence, having the bow's anchor point placed near to the lips when ready to draw resulted in a similar lower lip pout-like expression.

Having just returned from my mini-break, I thought I'd put my mum's explanation to the test and did indeed discover that “fletching” are the stabilising fins or vanes of an arrow (each individual fin being a “fletch”) and that a “fletcher” is the craftsman who makes/attaches “fletching” for the arrows. While there's nothing explaining the exact etymology of the term or explicitly linking a “fletcher lip” to archery, there is obviously a semantic connection.

Both to “make a moue” and “fletcher” have origins in French with the first use of “moue” recorded from Middle French in 1850 and “fletcher” coming from the Old French “fl├Ęche”, meaning "arrow” and the Frankish “fliukka” from between the fourth and eighth centuries. As there seems to be little evidence of similar uses of the term on the Internet, I can only conclude “a fletcher lip” is an original Owenism and wonder what pet names other families have for the expression?