In August 2005, my brother and I were staying in Sorgues, near Avignon, with our families and our parents. One evening a game of Scrabble® was proposed. Debbie and I were busy clearing up the kitchen after dinner, but the rest of the party divided into teams, and we soon heard the pot pourri of sounds associated with that game: gales of laughter, cries of indignation developing into violent argument, etc.
When we emerged into the warm French evening and examined the board, we began to understand what the fuss was about. Granted, there was no Chambers’ Dictionary to hand, but really, unopen? I gave my niece an open carton of milk, and asked her to unopen it. She closed it. Exactly my point, you can’t unopen something, except by reversing the footage. And Zil? The Russian manufacturer of military vehicles was a proper noun, a brand name, with the Z capitalised. Dammit, it was ZiL, even the L was capitalised, it stood for Zavod imeni Likhachova as all know.
At this point Rob perhaps sensed I was getting a little overwrought, and suggested, probably by way of distraction, that I might enjoy trying to incorporate the words on the board into a poem. I’m not one to back off from a pointless challenge, and fortified by another glass of Châteauneuf-du-Pape I set to work immediately. This was some years before we were inspired to embark on the Edward Lear trail, but I was a long established Lear fan, and thought that the framework of The Owl and the Pussy-cat would be handily flexible and forgiving for the task. The words from the Scrabble® game ® underlined, and the wonderful ®twork is by Debbie.