Friday, 18 January 2008

"Three Little Words" - Paul Whiteman's Original Rhythm Boys/Duke Ellington & His Orchestra, 1930

Since my last post, John continues to recover from his surgery. He's a little discouraged at the amount of pain he still has sometimes (and I am too, to tell you the truth), but I think he's doing well given that the op was only two weeks ago. And I was in London from Sunday afternoon until early Wednesday evening, running three days of training courses for a major oil company. I must admit that I would preferred to have stayed home to look after John during the evenings. But he was fine without me -- and a big thanks to John's brother Paul for coming down from the Birmingham area to have dinner with him Tuesday night!

Why today's title, though? Because of a news report I heard on BBC Radio 5 Live Breakfast this morning, as I commuted to work in Oxford.

Most of you will likely have heard about the British Airways 777 that landed short of one of London Heathrow's runways yesterday. Here's the latest on the story, from BBC News.

Well, one of the features on Five Live Breakfast this morning was a discussion with an airline pilot about what might have happened...particularly as the passengers had no idea that there was a problem until the oxygen masks dropped during what apparently just felt like an especially bumpy landing. The pilot being interviewed said that in flight training, pilots are taught the phrase "Aviate Navigate Communicate". So it's more important to keep the plane from crashing and to guide its direction rather than tell the passengers what's going on, if there's a sudden emergency with little reaction time.

Aviate. Navigate. Communicate. Interesting three words. Makes logical sense. And given that I fly so much, I suspect they'll now be stuck in my brain forever.

That led me to think about other combinations of three words that I've encountered since moving to Britain.

The first two sets have to do with one of the training courses I run for my employer here in Oxford. It's an introductory course in oil refining processes, designed for students who aren't engineers. As I was first learning how to teach the course, I would constantly drill two sets of three words: Separation Conversion Treatment (for the three stages of an oil refinery) and Decomposition Unification Alteration (for the three main categories of conversion units). I think I probably say those in my sleep.

And then there were my driving lessons to prepare me for taking the very complex UK driving test, in order to get a British driving licence. Before pulling out into any sort of moving traffic, I was told to remember "Mirror Signal Maneuver"....check your mirrors, signal which way you intend to go, and then pull out onto the roadway. I can't help but recite those three words every single time I start my car. But then that was the intention of the training, wasn't it?

Finally, there were the three words that I had to memorize last autumn when I was studying for my "Life in the UK" test, which was the one I had to take and pass before I could apply for residency last month. That set of words had to do with the Queen's role vis-a-vis the British government. They are "Advice Warn Encourage". John suggested I remember the word "awe" as a memory prompt, and it still works!

Three little words.



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