Archive for December, 2013

Christmas Pot Pourri

Happy Christmas, everyone! Rambler5319 is taking over for Christmas Day. Enjoy! Have a lovely day.

 

Ok here we go, just a miscellaneous jumble of Christmas related items and questions. Make sure you’re not about to eat your meal before starting on the first item!

I got sick in the run up to Christmas (and am still sick): runny nose, cough, tiredness – usual symptoms. One day while eating my dinner my nose began to run. I grabbed my hanky and blew. I noticed some red stuff in the hanky but not blood. When I looked closer it was definitely pieces of tomato; yes part of my dinner was tomato and bits had found their way from my throat up through the sinuses and out through the nose. Weird feeling though to be looking at bits of my dinner that come out through my nose!!

Concerned friends dropped by with this packet

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FAMOUS BIRTHS/EVENTS ON CHRISTMAS EVE

1. 1167 – The English King John Lackland, son of Henry II & Eleanor of Aquitaine, brother of Henry, Geoffrey & Richard the Lionheart, better known to us as just King John who produced the Magna Carta in 1215. He got the name “Lackland” because unlike his brothers he received no continental land rights. (Obvious really, eh?). (He died in Newark and if you want further info see previous blog 17.7.13)

 2. 1809 – Kit Carson. His father died in 1818 and he then gave up his education in order to help his mother who had 10 children to care for. He became a trapper, explorer, guide, Indian agent & soldier (fighting on the Union side in the Civil War). He learned to speak Spanish, French and a number of Native American languages.

3. 1818 – The carol Silent Night  was performed for the first time in St Nikolas Church in Oberndorf, Bavaria

4. 1905 – Howard Hughes. Became one of the wealthiest people in the world and also a recluse. He was a business magnate, investor, aviator, aerospace engineer, film maker & director, philanthropist. In 2004 Leonardo di Caprio played Hughes in the film The Aviator.

5. 1914 – In WW1 the first bomb to fall on the UK fell on Dover

DEATHS ON CHRISTMAS EVE

1. 1524 – Vasco da Gama. Portuguese navigator/explorer.

2. 1994 – John Osborne, playright, screenwriter & actor. Most of you will have heard of his play Look Back in Anger (1956) & The Entertainer (1957). He was married five times: Pamela Lane 1951, Mary Ure 1957, Penelope Gilliat 1963, Jill Bennett 1968, Helen Dawson 1978.

3. 2008 – Harold Pinter. Won Nobel Prize for Literature in 2005. Best known for his plays: The Caretaker & The Homecoming. Also he worked on screenplays for the films The Go-Between (Julie Christie, Alan Bates) & The French Lieutenant’s Woman (Jeremy Irons, Meryl Streep). Married to Lady Antonia Fraser, historical biographer & detective fiction writer,  from 1980 until his death.

 FAMOUS BIRTHS/EVENTS ON CHRISTMAS DAY

1. 800AD – Charlemagne crowned Emperor of the Romans by Pope Leo III at St Peter’s in Rome

2. 1066 – William the Conqueror is crowned William I in Westminster Abbey

3. 1642 – Sir Isaac Newton – physicist & mathematician who made discoveries in optics, motion & mathematics. His Dad, also Isaac Newton, a farmer, died 3 months before he was born. His Mum remarried but left baby Isaac with his grandmother and it wasn’t until 12 years later that they were re-united; Isaac found he had 3 step siblings for his Mum’s second marriage.

4. 1771 – Dorothy Wordsworth. Yes the sister of that other Wordsworth, William although she was an accomplished writer in her own right as a poet & diarist. Her work was only published posthumously. Her childhood was spent with various relatives as Mum died when she was 6 & Dad when she was 12. In 1799 she went to live with William at Dove Cottage. In 1802 William then married her best friend Mary Hutchinson. William borrowed from Dorothy’s journal writings. Here is her description of one of their walks:

When we were in the woods beyond Gowbarrow park we saw a few daffodils close to the water side. We fancied that the lake had floated the seeds ashore and that the little colony had so sprung up. But as we went along there were more and yet more and at last under the boughs of the trees, we saw that there was a long belt of them along the shore, about the breadth of a country turnpike road. I never saw daffodils so beautiful they grew among the mossy stones about and about them, some rested their heads upon these stones as on a pillow for weariness and the rest tossed and reeled and danced and seemed as if they verily laughed with the wind that blew upon them over the lake, they looked so gay ever glancing ever changing. 

 

No prizes for guessing what William turned this into:

 

I wandered lonely as a cloud

That floats on high o’er vales and hills

When all at once I saw a crowd,

A host, of golden daffodils;

Beside the lake, beneath the trees,

Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

 

and so on…..

 

5. 1954 – Annie Lennox, Scottish singer & songwriter. Most famous as partnering Dave Stewart in the Eurythmics and as a solo singer since they disbanded. She has won 8 Brit Awards & 4 Grammy Awards.

 

6. 1957 – First televised Christmas Message by Queen Elizabeth II

 

FAMOUS DEATHS ON CHRISTMAS DAY

 

1. 1946 – W.C. Fields, US comedian, actor, juggler & writer. Real name: William Claude Dukenfield. Ran away from home at age 11.

Memorable quotes:

The best cure for insomnia is to get a lot of sleep.

Ah, the patter of little feet around the house. There’s nothing like having a midget for a butler.

I am free of all prejudices. I hate every one equally.

Don’t worry about your heart, it will last you as long as you live.

Horse sense is the thing a horse has which keeps it from betting on people.

2. 1977 – Sir Charlie Chaplin. British comic actor, filmmaker, and composer. Spent some time in the workhouse when just seven years old. When I was younger the older guys at work would describe a situation where things had gone wrong as looking like Fred Karno’s or Fred Karno’s Circus. Chaplin actually joined Fred Karno’s Comedy Company in 1906 and worked his way up to be one of the star performers in the troupe.

3. 1995 – Dean Martin. Real name: Dino Paul Crocetti. American singer, film actor, TV star & comedian. He dropped out of school (10th grade) and had various jobs: delivering bootleg liquor, speakeasy croupier, blackjack dealer, steel mill worker, welterweight boxer who, in his own words won all his bouts except for 11 (he had 12 fights!). He was father-in-law (by marriage) to Carl Wilson of Beachboys fame. His only UK no.1 was Memories Are Made Of This (1956) but most will remember him for his no.2 hit Gentle On My Mind (1969). Remember verse 1?:

It’s knowing that your door is always open and your path is free to walk
That makes me tend to leave my sleeping bag rolled up and stashed behind your couch
And it’s knowing I’m not shackled by forgotten words and bonds
And the ink stains that have dried upon some line
That keeps you in the backroads by the rivers of my mem’ry
That keeps you ever gentle on my mind

If you fancy a listen/watch here’s the link:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NO5zeK5GSos

Have a great Christmas and a Happy New Year folks.

 

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Sir Bob and his patronising nonsense: the reblog

I just have to say something which has been on my mind for a while now. That song, Feed The World, which I thought was Free The World until really recently. It’s ridiculous.

“And there won’t be snow in Africa this Christmastime.”Duuuuh! Of course there won’t. What that got to do with anything? Is that fact supposed to evoke pity in me?O no, they won’t have snow, they must be soooo gutted. I bet all that sunshine and warm weather is really bugging them and that they wish, in their hardship, that they had snow. It’s so hard living in a sunny country.It’s the worst thing ever.

If, as we are led to believe by the song, everyone in Africa is sitting around starving and poverty-stricken, do you really think SNOW, of all things, is going to help the situation? Now they’re starving, poverty-stricken and dying of pneumonia.

As an aside, there also “won’t be snow” in Australia this Christmastime but they can think again if they’re expecting a load of food parcels because of it!

The next bit, “The greatest gift they’ll get this year is life.” Talk about talking down to people! Like we’re whispering with a doctor about a cancer ridden old lady. Africa isn’t one massive country unable to do anything for itself or work out how to get food.

If you’d have told any of the people in the town in Namibia where I lived that the greatest gift they could expect was to not die, I’m pretty sure they would have found it hilarious. They were people like you or I and they were doing ok.

Of course there are places of extreme poverty in many countries in Africa but as a whole, it’s just not possible to write one song, applicable to all, about how everyone is starving. It’s really offensive.

And lastly, “Do they know it’s Christmastime at all?” To be honest, I don’t think it’s very high on the priority list. A lot of African countries aren’t Christian. It makes absolutely no sense to say, ‘O, isn’t it awful? They don’t have any celebrations at Christmas.’ It’s like a Muslim country singing a song about how awful it is for us in Britain and “Do they know it’s Ramadan time at all?” Well, no, I don’t know when Ramadan is, not because I’m terribly unfortunate and you must raise money for me. Just because it’s not something I celebrate anyway. So to say about Africa, do they know it’s Christmas – probably some of them don’t. What on earth has that got to do with how poor they are or aren’t?

And that is my rant over and done with. I’ve been needing to let that out for years over this stupid stupid song.

Thank you.

PS I’ve just remembered that there was a town further inland from Luderitz, where I lived, which did get snow! Stick that in your pipe and smoke it, Bob Geldof. Was it Bob Geldof?

Do you use collective nouns?

Today’s post is from Rambler5319 and maybe we will have all learned something by the time we finish reading it. I know I did! Enjoy…

 

I was wondering recently just how useful (or not) these special terms are. You know the kind of thing I mean: a flock of sheep, a herd of cows, a bouquet of flowers, a fleet of ships, a pack of wolves and so on. Apart from the very common ones of which these are a few I don’t think many people even bother with them. Think of some of these words for collections of various things/animals: a bench of bishops, a covey of grouse, a troop (also a pride) of lions, a shock of wheat, a cast of hawks. How many of those did you know? And if you did know them when was the last time you used them. Supposing you saw 5 or 6 hawks perched on a tree or building, would you say, “Look at that cast of hawks”? I don’t think so. I’m all for people knowing the right words to use  and using them but how many of your friends would know what you were talking about if they heard you use the expression, “a cast of hawks”; more likely you’d say, “Look at all those hawks” or “group of hawks” (providing of course you knew they were hawks!).

Before we go any further how about a quick test? Can you match the collective term in the first column with the noun (person/animal/thing) in the second? (Answers at the end)

1. Skein                Machine guns

2. Wisp                 Pheasants

3. Gang                 Silk

4. Nest                  Snipe

5. Kindle               Peacocks

6. Hand                 Bananas

7. Coffle               Kittens

8. Muster            Slaves

9. Rope                 Pearls

10. Nide               Elk

Hands up if you’ve used any recently? (Not me anyway!)

I wonder if it makes a difference which country you are in. Do those in the US, Canada or the rest of world use different terms for groups of things? What do French/German/Dutch folks use? And do they make more use of the terms than we do with our English versions. We’ll investigate a few below.

I looked up a couple that have multiple collective terms. If I said bees you’d probably say “swarm” for the collective term (or maybe “hive”). How many of you have ever heard of ‘drift’, ‘erst’ or ‘grist’ for describing a large number of bees? Again, not me.

The derivation of swarm in English does seem to come from a very old Germanic word which developed into schwarm in modern German, swerm in Dutch, svärm in Swedish, svaerm in Danish. Ultimately it may have come from as far back as Latin (sussurus meaning ‘hum’) & Sanskrit (svdrati meaning ‘it hums’).

Many cattle are normally as a ‘herd’. Once again this word comes from a Germanic root – herde (Swedish hjord). For pack of wolves the word pack yet again comes from early German form pak.

Geese have 6 terms for a collection of them but are split as to where & how you see them: 2 are for seeing them on land (flock, gaggle), 3 are for seeing them in flight (skein, team, wedge) & 1 is for when you see them in flight but they’re flying close together (plump). I wonder if anyone ever distinguishes them. For me they’re a flock of geese wherever they are and whatever they’re doing!

I really do wonder why we have 10 words for a collection of sheep. I’d say flock and wouldn’t feel it necessary to go any further. However the other nine are: down, drift, drove, herd, hurtle, meinie, mob, parcel, trip. Any the wiser? “I was walking across the valley when I saw a meinie of sheep in the next field” is not a sentence I’d use (or you I guess).

Believe it or not swans come top of the league table for the most collective terms: there are 12, look them up if you’re really interested.

Birds seem to get the more bizarre although there’s probably a reason behind them somewhere in history. Check these out and see if you know any of them (a mixture of English & US origins):

A dissimulation of birds, a bellowing of bullfinches, a wake of buzzards, a chattering of choughs, a gulp of cormorants, a murder of crows, a herd of curlews, a piteousness of doves, a fling of dunlins, a convocation of eagles, a mob of emus, a charm of finches, a flight of goshawks, a covey of grouse, a kettle of hawks, a deceit of lapwings, an exaltation of larks, a plump of moorhens, a company of parrots, a head of pheasants, an unkindness of ravens, a mustering of storks, a dole of turtle doves, a trip of wigeons, a fall of woodcocks, a descent of woodpeckers, a herd of wrens.

I reckon I could use ‘flock’ for all of them and no-one would notice anything wrong. However if I used the correct term most people would guess what I meant but would never have heard the term used that way before. Are you really going to point out to your children on a journey “an unkindness of ravens over there”? I don’t think so!

What is even worse for us in England is, because we don’t have a kind of authority which says what is the right or wrong term in any given situation, there seems to be little uniformity. I heard an item on a radio prog the other day and the expert on that said collective nouns actually only come about through common usage. What this means is that if enough people use a collective term it will be adopted but not if they don’t; so an existing word but with a made-up (by common usage) meaning. Interesting.

How about some modern ones? What would you use for a collection of say bloggers? (Could they be a gang, a posting or a cloud maybe?) Can you think of a more appropriate one? The collective term for computers could be network but that implies they’re connected together which they may not be. What about computer chips? Could you have a pan of them (haha), a board of them or a table of them? What do you reckon for a collection of hard drives?

So there we are. Collective nouns come about because people use them and we don’t seem to invent them for the modern stuff or at least we don’t hear consistent use of any particular one.

(And bizarrely up to the last full stop I’d done 1066 words and you know what happened in 1066. Well I wonder if we’ve conquered the subject or not? Guess I’ll need to ask Norman!)

And just to completely finish here are the quiz answers:

1. Skein                Silk

2. Wisp                 Snipe

3. Gang                 Elk

4. Nest                  Machine guns (what’s that all about? A nest of machine guns)

5. Kindle               Kittens

6. Hand                 Bananas

7. Coffle               Slaves

8. Muster            Peacocks

9. Rope                 Pearls

10. Nide               Pheasants

Did you spot No.6? Yep I put the right answer in the quiz section to see if you might change it.

Things I have recently been doing

My long absence is inexcusable, readers. Inexcusable! I have been ill and busying saying yes to anything that anyone asks me to do. It’s not a great combination because it makes the getting-better part quite hard. Let me give you a little insight into my recent activities.

1. Working at a wedding on a boat in Greenwich. I’m not making any judgements about anything/anyone. I’m just saying East London is a bit grey. The lack of trees made me sad. I don’t mean cool-fashionable-east-of-central, like Shoreditch or Brick Lane. I mean east east. Like, almost isn’t classed as London anymore. It is grey and brown and industrial.

2. Going to North London for Christmas dinner with my fabulous friend Bianca of lovefoodlovefashion and some other friends we went to university with. Christmas jumpers were a required part of the evening and there was food and fun aplenty.
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3. Getting an amazing reaction after posting this picture on my friend’s Twitter/Facebook/Instagram accounts.
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The social media public were loving it! It was such an amazing feeling. World domination is but a small step away.

4. Buying a new laptop. Because what happened was, it was time to watch Breaking Bad so we were switching the cables over so that we could get the computer screen up on the TV and there was a little spark and a pop and then the smell of smoke from the computer. Then the light on the front went orange and there was no turning it on. Apparently it was the motherboard, which is so expensive to replace, you might as well buy a new computer. Dammit. So a new computer it was. We were at a crucial point in Breaking Bad and we had to watch the next episode! Had to.

5. Realising all the stuff that was on the computer that is now lost forever. Both my NaNoWriMos are gone. Not that I was on the verge of publishing them or anything. But yeh. Now they’re gone.

6. Having the longest cold of my life. It is just dragging and dragging…. The sore throat has passed but it just won’t quite go away.

7. Falling over in a load of mud. I’d barely walked out of Ham House and was making my way down to the river and down I went like a sack of potatoes. Mud everywhere. Trousers, arms, hands and shoes were covered. The side of my tshirt got splattered too. So for the rest of the half hour walk, I was wet and filthy. People kept looking at me and I just kept smiling, all friendly, like there was nothing all over me.

As you can see, it’s been an eventful few days!

Winter approaching….

I still feel a bit like my head is full of cotton wool so I’m doing a winter photos post. Please forgive my lack of actual blog writing recently.

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The walk to work in the cold

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Wednesday’s mist

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He was just standing there as I walked to work!

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The river through the bus window

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Winter sky behind Ham House

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The walk home is dark and beautiful

10 people with Liverpool connections

Of course there are many more than 10 but this is just a selection. I hope you’ll find them interesting.

I suppose for many, some or all of the following would be in their list: The Beatles, Gerry and the Pacemakers (most of you will probably know his 3rd no.1 hit from 1965 – You’ll never walk alone – which has become the LFC fans’ anthem ), Liverpool Football Club, Everton Football Club (& Everton Mints), the start of the first passenger railway in the world (following the victory of Stephenson’s Rocket at the Rainhill Trials of 1829), the Liver Birds (and the Liver Building) & the Mersey Ferries (Ferry Cross the Mersey – the 8th hit by Gerry & the Pacemakers) to name but a few.

In this post I’m going to look at some of the less well known connections people, some more famous than others, have with Liverpool.

BRUNEL – You’ve probably all heard of Isambard Kingdom Brunel (1806-59) and his great feats of engineering (e.g. the Great Eastern ship); you maybe not so familiar with his father Marc Brunel (1760-1849). In 1823 they submitted plans to the council in Liverpool for the first swing bridge (in the docks) and also a floating pier so people could get on and off boats. Neither was used. Interestingly they also suggested a tunnel under the River Mersey & a ship canal to Manchester; people at the time just scoffed at such suggestions. Liverpool of course now has three tunnels under the river: the first, a railway tunnel opened in 1886, the second, a road tunnel, opened in 1934 and the third, also a road tunnel, opened in 1971. The ship canal was opened in 1894.

AUGUSTUS JOHN (1878-1961)

He was a famous painter who was born in South Wales; by the early 20th century he was living, lecturing & painting in Liverpool. He painted many famous people of his time: T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia), Thomas Hardy, Jacob Epstein, W.B. Yates, Tallulah Bankhead, George Bernard Shaw & Dylan Thomas amongst others.

LLM has mentioned, on occasion, some of the more unusual Christian names that appear in CHAT so I thought I’d include Augustus John’s children some of whom also qualify. Also check out their dates of birth and maternal origins:

By his first wife Ida Nettleship: David Anthony (1902), Casper (1903), Robin (1904), Edwin (1905), Henry (1907). Ida died later in 1907.

By his mistress Dorelia (Dorothy) McNeill: Pyramus (1905), Romilly (1906), Poppet (1912) & Vivien (1915). Poppet & Vivien were apparently never sent to school.

By Evelyn Ste Croix Fleming (widowed mother of James Bond creator, Ian Fleming): Amaryllis (1925).

Btw it is suggested that Augustus was responsible for bringing the name Romilly into the English Christian name scene. Remember the founders of Rome – the twin brothers Romulus & Remus? By anglicising the name Romulus it makes Romilly. (Bet you never knew that eh!). As a surname Romilly has been around for a while. I’ve just finished reading a book about the cotton industry in Lancashire in Victorian times. After writing this bit of the blog I came to the very page where I read that the main family in the book had a portrait of a Samuel Romilly (1757-1818) an English legal reformer hung on their wall. (Definitely cue the spooky X-Files music!)

Caspar John eventually became First Sea Lord of the Admiralty (1960-63); Poppet married a Dutch painter whose daughter Talitha married John Paul Getty.

And finally, I know what you’re thinking: if you call one child Pyramus why isn’t there a ‘Thisbe’? Yeh me too!

MATTHEW ARNOLD (1822-88)

Poet, essayist, critic & son of Thomas Arnold first headmaster of Rugby School. In 1851 he became an inspector of schools. In the 35-verse Stanzas from the Grand Chartreuse he wrote these lines in verse 15:

Wandering between two worlds, one dead,
The other powerless to be born,
With nowhere yet to rest my head,
Like these, on earth I wait forlorn.
Their faith, my tears, the world deride–
I come to shed them at their side. 

In 1886, he retired from school inspection and made another trip to America.

He died suddenly in Liverpool (in 1888) of heart failure: he was running to catch a tram to go to the Landing Stage to see his daughter who was arriving (by ship) from America. (Make a mental note folks: don’t go running for buses or trains!)

THOMAS CARLYLE (1795-1881)

Carlyle was a Scottish philosopher, writer, satirist, historian & teacher. He used to visit his wife’s uncle who lived in Maryland Street (in the Edge Hill area of Liverpool). His wife Jane Welsh Carlyle, when on a visit to a social evening at someone’s house in Liverpool, mentions meeting a man called Yates. She writes, somewhat condescendingly, to Thomas that “he owns Prince’s Park and throws it open to the poors”. Clearly she felt “poor” people shouldn’t have (or deserve?) access to a park.

Here are just a few quotes from his writings:

A man without a goal is like a ship without a rudder.

It is a vain hope to make people happy by politics.

I don’t pretend to understand the Universe – it’s a great deal bigger than I am.

No pressure, no diamonds.

I’ve got a great ambition to die of exhaustion rather than boredom.

JOHN NEWTON (1725-1807)

Probably most famous for writing the words of the hymn Amazing Grace how sweet the sound . One night (March 21st 1748) during a very severe storm, off the coast of Donegal, all on board the vessel Greyhound thought it would sink and they would die. John had become so tired that he could no longer work the pumps which were clearing the water from the ship. He was taken to helm and tied to the steering wheel while others continued pumping. He was there for 11 hours. Eventually the ship made it through and once ashore he committed his life to God and became a Christian. Although he continued as a slave trader he gave it up later and became the tide surveyor in Liverpool in 1755. However he felt called to the ministry and left Liverpool to be ordained and began preaching the Gospel.

SILAS K. HOCKING (1850-1935)

He was a novelist and Methodist preacher who was born in Cornwall, the son of a mine owner. He spent 3 years ministering in Liverpool’s Docklands area. The K of his middle name stands for Kitto: through his mother he was related John Kitto the biblical scholar & another Kitto who was a professor of Greek. In 1879 he wrote the book he is most famous for: Her Benny – a story about Liverpool’s poor children and a best seller of its day. If you’ve never read it do give it a go. He also wrote another one called Cricket, subtitled A Tale Of Humble Life, about the life of a young girl & her family who move to Liverpool so her father could earn better wages, which I also enjoyed; chapter 20 of Cricket begins with these lines by an anonymous writer:

“Holy strivings nerve and strengthen,

Long endurance wins the crown,

When evening shadows lengthen,

Thou shalt lay thy burden down.”

 

JOHN MASEFIELD (1878-1967)

 

He was Poet Laureate from 1930-1967 and in his inaugural year wrote the poem Masque of Liverpool. In it are these lines:

 

“I am the English sea-queen; I am she

Who made the English wealthy by the sea.

The street of this my city is the tide

Where the world’s ships, that bring my glory, ride”

 

His ‘Poet Laureate-ship’ continued for the next 37 years until his death. He came to Liverpool at 13 years of age to be educated on the HMS Conway, a ship which was moored in the River Mersey to train young men for a life at sea. It was here he gained his love of literature and believed he was meant to be a writer and story teller himself. He began his life at sea in 1894 but by 1895 he had absconded when a ship he was on docked in New York. His interest in poetry seems to have been started by reading a 40-verse poem by Duncan Scott Campbell called The Piper of Arll. (My own interest in poetry was stirred many moons ago by reading, as a teenager, George Herbert’s poem The Collar which begins: I struck the board and cried, “No more I will abroad….”) By the 1920s Masefield was an established and respected writer. He settled with his family near Oxford and (LLM take note) took up bee-keeping, goat herding & keeping poultry. (Btw other famous beekeepers include Aristotle, Edmund Hillary – first to climb Everest & actor Henry Fonda – father of Jane.)

His poem Sea Fever was quoted in the film Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971) although it’s a shame the words are not exactly the same as the original; if you’re going to use a quote get it right I say! Captain James T. Kirk gets it right in a Star Trek episode: he quotes line 2 of verse 1: “All I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by”. Here’s the very brief clip:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-eXB1Yj05Fw

 

Patrick Clifford has set the words to music. You can have a watch/listen at:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iVjt4G5zUs4

 

Interestingly, in a 2005 online poll, Sea Fever finished ahead of a number of other well-known poems about the sea including even Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

 

NICHOLAS MONSARRAT (1910-79)

His father Keith, originally from Kendal in the Lake District, was a surgeon in Rodney Street in Liverpool where Nicholas was born. (The 1911 Census shows Nicholas had 2 older sisters and that the house had 5 servants.) He is most well known for his book The Cruel Sea published in 1951. The book related his experiences as a wartime naval officer serving on the escort ships for the convoys across the Atlantic. In 1964 he came to an exhibition in Liverpool organised in his honour.

As a child he had summer holidays at Treaddur Bay (NW Angelsey) – I once cycled there and had a week-end break; when he started writing full time he lived first on Guernsey where I once cycled round the whole island; and then he move to Gozo (Malta) which I have visited so you can see I’m connected to Nicholas Monsarrat in many ways!

 

CHARLES DICKENS (1812-70)

Visited Liverpool a few times: once to begin a tour of North Wales, then about 4 years later to depart for America and then in succeeding years for more ‘readings’. At one of his readings in a city centre building over 3,000 people were turned away. He returned a number of times often bringing a troop of actors who performed for charity. His book, The Uncommercial Traveller, uses Liverpool’s Docklands and its residents as a backdrop. Because the docks were such a dangerous area he enrolled as a special constable so he could study the area. In 1844 he attended the opening of Blackburne House School (my Mum’s alma mater) proving he had more than just a passing interest in the city. Also, of course, proving that I’m connected to Charles Dickens in more than one way! He was something of a celebrity and would be recognised as he walked along Liverpool’s city streets.

 

EDWARD LEAR (1812-88)

 

He was an initially an artist, then illustrator, author & poet. There can’t be many who have not heard of his most famous poem – The Owl and the Pussycat: remember how they went to sea in a beautiful pea green boat and how they took with them some money and plenty of honey wrapped up in a five pound note. (Btw folks I wouldn’t recommend wrapping your honey in a five pound note – it’s going to drip out!)

And who can forget The Jumblies which begins like this. (Obviously suspension of reality required):

 

They went to sea in a Sieve, they did,

In a Sieve they went to sea:

In spite of all their friends could say,

On a winter’s morn, on a stormy day,

In a Sieve they went to sea!

And when the Sieve turned round and round,

And every one cried, “You’ll all be drowned!”

They called aloud, “Our Sieve ain’t big,

But we don’t care a button! we don’t care a fig!

In a Sieve we’ll go to sea!”

Far and few, far and few, Are the lands where the Jumblies live;

Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,

And they went to sea in a Sieve. –

 

His illustrating work included some for Tennyson’s poems. He worked at Knowsley Hall near Liverpool for the Earl of Derby from 1832-36.

 

I couldn’t finish without quoting the physician to the Liverpool Infirmary, Dr Dobson (1772). His work on diabetes was influential in bringing it under control.

(His statement was made just over 100 years after Sir Edward Moore had described the men of Liverpool as: “….the most perfidious in all England, worse than my pen can describe”).

Dobson said this:

 

“The degrees of the soil, the purity of the waters, the mildness of the air, the antiseptic effluvia of pitch and tar, the acid exhalations from the sea, the pregnant brisk gales of wind and the daily visitations of the tides render Liverpool one of the healthiest places in the Kingdom.”

 

Of course it is!

Narnia and I: the reblog

Christmas is fast approaching and it’s almost Narnia time! I’m excited! I’m also ill and it’s a Monday so I’m fobbing you off with a reblog… sorry!

” Our relationship goes way back. Anyone who knows me well, knows about my Narnia-love.

I had probably read The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe at some point as a child but then my dad got me the box set in my teens and I read all seven chronicles. It took over my existence for a while. I rejoiced when they defeated the White Witch, when Caspian beat his uncle and reigned over Narnia, when Jill and Eustace broke Prince Rilian free from his spell and when Peter triumphed in the last battle. I despaired when Aslan was killed on the ancient table, when Nikabrik tried to overthrow Caspian and when Edmund and Lucy were told they had to leave Narnia. And I wept for the second half of the last book because I knew the end was nigh.

When in the Narnia zone, it becomes a very real place to me. It is the pleasant background to my normal day. Things are just generally nicer and more storybook, even when I’m just at work.

Right before going on our gap years, my friend Joe and I had walked from his house into Reading, which had taken about four hours. We had talked about Narnia a lot. It was one of those lovely days, early in our friendship when everything we said or did became a nice memory, stored up to take away with me. He left for his gap year before me so I sent him all seven books in the post to China and, miraculously, nothing happened to them along the way. I took a copy of the books with me to Africa and we started to read them on the 16th December, countries and oceans apart, to prepare for Christmas.

In fact, one day, whilst discussing Narnia with a bit of alcohol in our systems, two friends and I jumped into the rather big wardrobe we had in our room in Namibia, and searched around in the back for some snow or trees. We found neither.

Every year since then, I’ve started reading them on the 16th so I’m usually on book 4 or 5 by Christmas Day, and I keep reading till I finish them.

When my friend, Jay, started basically living on our sofa when we were at uni, I had started reading them as usual and I would always stay in the front room with her, on the other sofa. And we used to read the books to each other, a chapter each, until she got tired and I would keep reading until she had fallen asleep.

So last night, a few days later than usual, I picked up The Magician’s Nephew and started to read. All the lovely feelings of being on familiar ground and being in for a great read were ignited and I sipped my cup of tea and smiled.

“This is a story about something that happened long ago when your grandfather was a child. It is a very important story because it shows how all the comings and goings between our world and the land of Narnia first began….”