Wow have things ever changed! It’s been a little while since I sat down to write one of these little letters for our faithful online redress, and it’s hard to know where to start.
Well, I could go on and on about how ‘the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry’, but I won’t! Instead, I’ll just talk a little bit about that phrase, and how it relates to life in general, especially mine the last little while.
First off, the phrase ‘the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry’ is actually a translation from a completely different language. For fun, here it is:
The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men, / Gang aft agley – Robert Burns
Pretty incomprehensible eh!
The translation I used above is from the original language of Scots. You can see how it’s roughly similar in the beginning. But, the second part of the quote is pretty much incomprehensible! It’s not just the writing system either: it’s pretty hard to hear any similarity between the English form ‘often go awry’ and the Scots form ‘Gang aft agley’.
This common phrase was written by the Scottish poet Robert Burns in his poem “To a Mouse, on Turning Her Up in Her Nest With the Plough”. From the title, you might be able to understand the meaning and context of the quote above.
The poem describes a simple situation: a farmer ploughing their field in preparation for planting, and in the process, destroying the home of some mice living in the same field. This simple situation has been the inspiration for the phrase above, and it’s often a perfect description of modern life, rather than the simple life of a mouse.
In the poem, it’s implied that the mouse could never know where it built its house, and never be aware of the situation. While this applies to mice and simple creatures, it’s equally poignant for people! Case in point, everyone’s favourite topic of discussion lately, the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic caused by SARS-CoV-2.
At the beginning of the year, I was eagerly anticipating several months of travelling through Central America, a region close to my hometown of Canada, but had somehow missed until then. However, midway through I was summoned back to Japan to have an English Boot Camp in Akita, the inspiration for which was my own English Boot Camp on Tanegashima the year before. So, I rushed back from Mexico to Canada to prepare for a trip to Japan. But, the beginnings of the pandemic were already making themselves felt, which lead to the cancellation of our hotly-anticipated event in Tohoku. I was understandably devastated, but I remembered the words of Robert Burns, “the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry”. You cannot prepare for anything. So, I returned to Central America… which began an adventure too long to write about here!
Long story short, less than 2 weeks after leaving Canada, I was taking a rescue flight organised by the Canadian government back home, to wait out this unprecedented global crisis on familiar soil!
Once more, despite having clear plans for the future, I never saw the true scale of the pandemic coming. Like countless others around the world, I was blindsided, but I was able to recover.
Now, we’ve been running online seminars through Zoom all through May, and have just another 2 weeks of seminars for the end of the month. I can’t wait to share my knowledge in English on a variety of fun topics, like English music and pop culture, grammar topics like gerunds and punctuation, and also more general topics like a discussion of the coronavirus in English and technology. That reminds me, I have to go prepare for my Fruitful English seminars on Zoom! See you online!
座右の名”The grand essentials to happiness in this life are something to do, something to love and something to hope for.”
You must have had a tough time during your adventure in Central America,but you were so lucky to be rescued and go home safely and we are lucky to have you teaching us in FE. Please stay safe and healthy.