Virginia Barton

21 September 2018: Mea culpa

21 September 2018


Was it in Ivanhoe, the 1952 film, that one of the cast said:

“What arm d’ye elect to bear?”

To which the reply was:

“I bear mace and chain this day!”

Well I ask that you, from another film (with Romans I think), say:

“Prepare to hurl boulders!”

At me that is; for they are richly deserved.


Clever, funny and usually at someone else’s expense, the words  jump out before one thinks, so keen is one to make a smart remark  or score a point. And then it’s too late — you can’t un-say what you said or take them back.

Even an: “Oh gosh, I’m really sorry I didn’t mean to say that, do forgive me!” is no use. The words are forever said. If you are lucky, the recipient may forget them after many years.

You won’t, and I haven’t.


One of our children, aged about nine I suppose, made a small clay pot with a lid, crazily painted; and gave it to us as a Christmas present. Without thinking I thanked her for it, referring to the little pot as “yet another half baked handout.”

What a thing to say to a nine-year-old! What a beastly, hurtful remark to make!

Fifty years later the creator of the pot laughs heartily when remembering (often) the incident. I blush with shame as well I might.

Now, where are those boulders?





  • Nadine says on: September 21, 2018 at 2:27 pm


    The author of these wonderful Commonplaces, aka Virginia Barton no less, has encouraged me to add my comment, so here it is. Prompted by what she wrote about things one wishes one had not said, I was reminded of Horace, who wrote:

    Semel emissum volat irrevocabile terbium

    which translates as:

    Once a word has been allowed to escape, it cannot be recalled.

    • Ginny says on: September 21, 2018 at 3:25 pm


      Thanks Nadine — spot on.

      Rather glad you put the translation since I never passed a Latin exam in my life! Ginny

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