The winning prune-count

I have plenty of time before the next writer’s get-together to come up with a story. We are writing to the stimulus ‘record’, which could be a variety of different meanings depending on whether it’s a noun or a verb. Being the age I am, my first thought was a record – as in something on which music has been recorded, in the olden days a 45, 78 or a 33 i.e. 45 r.p.m. or 33 r.p.m. Then of course there is record as in Guinness Book of Records, meaning something, anything which has reached the most (or least) in a certain standard. On thinking about this there is also record as in a document etc which has an account of a certain thing, and on the other hand to record something changes the word to a verb. This first thought is very dull and uninteresting and obvious, although my writing chum has written a splendid and amusing story about a twitcher (bird watcher) using the word as a key part of her tale.

I began to wonder whether there was such a thing as cording – using a cord for something or another, and then re-cording would be to replace the cord of whatever it was. I’m struggling to find anything to write about with that thought. An occupation from the past, often used as part of a system of punishment, not only for criminals but also the poor whose crime was to be in poverty, was picking oakum.  This is what Wikipedia says about oakum:

The word oakum derives from Middle English okome, from Old English ācumba – literally ‘off-combings’. Oakum was at one time recycled from old tarry ropes and cordage, which were painstakingly unravelled and reduced to fibre, termed “picking”. The task of picking and preparation was a common occupation in prisons and where the young or the old and infirm were put to work picking oakum if they were unsuited for heavier labour. Sailors undergoing naval punishment were also frequently sentenced to pick oakum.

So to re-cord old rope would be to make it into new cord/rope, i.e. ‘picking oakum’. Is this a too fanciful, far-fetched or tortuous idea to write about? I think probably it is, I can imagine my writing friends rolling their eyes in a long-suffering, semi-amused way, as I tie myself in knots with my oakum-picking, re-cord making piece of writing. I’ll probably just stick to someone doing something extraordinary and breaking the record. Thinking about record breaking, when I was at school and had school dinners, I had a prune eating competition with my friend Maaike. We have a slight dispute over who won, obviously I think I won and Maaike thinks she did, and I think the winning prune-count was 97. And no, we had no ill or other effects from that record-making feat, we were made of strong stuff, iron constitutions!


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