Click for audio: The Ruined Cottage

There are so many words I think I use correctly but when I have to define them I realize it something is lacking – that I might well understand what I mean and this might make sense to someone else, but if I have to explain myself I am very quickly exposed as ignorant. This, incidentally, seems to happen more when we watch politician speak. And we do watch them, probably more than we listen to them. We feel for them, momentarily, before we recall that they not only volunteered for this, they get paid to manage our world and if *this* is the best the democratic system can produce, then that’s all we need to know about its usefulness

 

I digress. The experience I have had teaching English to Brazilians has been hugely rewarding. I cannot list the benefits I have gained now but one of the most interesting has been the way I am often asked to explain word. It is then that I sometimes realize I am not at all sure. A great example is ‘cottage,’ not least because in Brazil there is a wood ‘edícula’ which often gets confused with ‘cottage’ and which creates its own problems, insignificant as they may be.

 

And then the word reminds me of something and all attempts at defining the word are put on hold as I drift away.

 

I remember the ruined cottage near the golf course. It really was derelict, and there can be few better things for a boy on his bike to come across in a wood. I hesitated before writing ‘wood’ and considered ‘forest’ for more dramatic effect but I’m especially aware just now of the precision of words.

 

There wasn’t single part of this cottage intact. Not a wall, not door frame, not a windowsill. It was as if a set designer from Full Metal Jacket had arranged it for a shoot- out.

 

What a strange thought. Full Metal Jacket wasn’t made by Kubrick until the late 1980s, I think, and I am here in the 2020 pandemic remembering a ruined cottage in the woods I came across in about 1974. Today is Sunday. I know because the church bells go on forever at midday on a Sunday and they just peeled. There is another word.


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