Saturday, 2 April 2005
Hans Christian Anderson and International Children's Book Day
Topic: Special Days
Hans Christian Anderson, the famous Danish author of fairy tales, was born exactly two hundred years ago today in Odense on 2nd April 1805. The picture is of my book, "Favourite Fairy Tales from Andersen", published by Raphael Tuck & Sons Ltd - Fine Art Publishers to Their Majesties the King and Queen and to Her Majesty Queen Mary (shows how old it is!). Stories included are Thumbelina
, The Real Princess
(the one who couldn?t sleep because of a pea placed under 20 mattresses), The Nightingale
, The Emperor?s New Clothes
, The Tinder Box
, Hans Clodhopper
and The Flying Trunk
. How I loved those stories!
Sadly, Andersen had a very deprived childhood and ran away to Copenhagen when he was just fourteen. A very talented and complex man - he was also a marvellous singer - he wrote many things besides fairy tales. The list includes novels, travelogues, autobiographies, poems and numerous articles. He died on 4th August 1875 from cancer of the liver. A film called "Hans Christian Anderson" was made by Danny Kaye
, that wonderfully funny and talented actor, in 1952. The film was more about the fairy tales than the life of the author but I remember songs like "The Ugly Duckling", "Thumbelina", "Wonderful Copenhagen" and Danny's Kaye's marvellous tongue twisting humour.
Since 1967, to commemorate Hans Christian Anderson's birthday, the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY) celebrate each year International Children?s Book Day
. The aim is to inspire in the young a love of reading, to promote children?s books through schools and libraries and to raise international awareness of other cultures through children?s books.
Now a selection of twenty British footballers
, one for each club in the Premier League, are revealing their favourite books to encourage children to read more. The list is surprisingly varied ranging from "The Twits
" by Roald Dahl to "A Long Walk To Freedom
" by Nelson Mandela. Personally, I don?t approve of Paul McVeigh?s choice of "The Da Vinci Code
" by Dan Brown which, although a very popular best seller, is not one I would promote to children. However, the scheme, launched to coincide with International Children's Book Day, is supported by the Government. Tessa Jowell, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, said: "Our public libraries are a great asset to communities throughout the country which are sometimes overlooked. These footballers are opening the door to family reading and improved literacy by showing that books of all different types are fun and accessible."
Friday, 1 April 2005
Were you caught out this morning? Have you played a joke on anyone? Too late now as it is after midday! I wonder how many newspapers or television stations have run April Fool's stories today? I haven't spotted any, as yet.
I still remember my mother and myself having absolute hysterics over the spoof documentary on "The Spaghetti Harvest
", broadcast by the BBC's Panorama team in 1957. I could never understand how people were taken in by that one. However, another 'spoof' in 1984 about soviet scientists using DNA material from a frozen mammoth to impregnate an elephant did take me in at the time. I actually still think this could happen and I think I saw a programme two or three years ago about a Japanese scientist who was hoping to recover frozen sperm from a mammoth. Perhaps that was a fantasy also?
I also remember a week-long spoof by Esther Rantzin
's, "That's Life!
" programme, about a new animal called a Lirpa Loof
at London Zoo. I am sure it was presented by Dr. David Bellamy
who reported on its habit of mimicry and the fact that it produced purple droppings! Apparently, many people turned up at the zoo to watch this creature (a man in a costume) performing its antics!
Do you remember a spoof television documentary about Adolf Hitler? It was shown as 'postponed from 1st April' (I don't remember how long ago) and described Hitler visiting England during World War Two. He was shown looking out of a window watching a march by the British Blackshirts
, whose leader was Oswald Mosley. Sir Oswald Mosley was married to one of the Mitford sisters and in this documentary, Hitler stayed at the Mitford family home. It all started off as very believable but got increasingly bizarre. It ended with a 'home movie' showing the only film available of Adolf Hitler picking his nose!
Thursday, 31 March 2005
Elections in Zimbabwe
Topic: In the News
So, Zimbabweans are going to the polls today to vote. My dictionary defines 'vote' as "a formal expression of will, wish or choice in some matter". What wish? What choice? None, it seems, under Robert Mugabe. Voters have been intimidated and threatened with violence, and even denied food supplies unless they vote for his Zanu-PF Party. Now, it seems that even a candidate for the MDC
, the main opposition party, (the Movement for Democratic Change), has been attacked and has 'disappeared'. Will he resurface or is his fate to be 'eaten by a lion'?
This will not be a democratic election, nor will it be a legitimate election. The rumours are that the voters' roll lists up to 1 million dead people, more than 300,000 duplicate names and 1 million people who no longer live at their registered addresses. Everyone agrees that there is intimidation and violence. Everyone knows that there is cheating and rigging. The West "condemns
" this election but will anyone do anything about it? Will anyone help the people of Zimbabwe to escape the mad cruel tyranny which is slowly choking the life out of their land? I doubt it.
Wednesday, 30 March 2005
Vincent van Gogh
Do you use Google
(UK version) to search for information on the Internet? It is my favourite Search Engine and I set it as my home page a long time ago. They are very good at 'decorating' the letters of Google at special times of the year - like the Mars rover image which appeared in January 2004.
Nevertheless, I was surprised to find this image this morning. When I hovered my cursor over the picture, up popped 'Vincent Van Gogh'. It didn't take long to discover that the famous Dutch artist was born on this day, 30th March 1853, at Groot-Zundert. He was the son of the village vicar, Theodorus van Gogh, and his wife, Anne Cornelia Carbentus. A still-born child had been born exactly one year earlier and their new son received his name, Vincent Willen van Gogh.
Strangely enough, 30th March is also the date that a painting by Van Gogh, "Still Life: Vase with Fifteen Sunflowers", was sold at Christie's
in 1987 for the small sum of #24.75 million (some $39,921,750!). This painting now hangs in the Seiji Togo Memorial Yasuda Kasai Museum in Tokyo. It has been the subject of much controversy (is it a fake?). Vincent van Gogh loved sunflowers
and painted a lot of them in different arrangements - some ten or eleven different paintings! Sometimes, he even copied some of his original paintings as presents for friends. He did one of his Sunflowers as a gift for Paul Gauguin, another famous artist.Van Gogh
is famous for cutting off his ear. He suffered from manic depression and schizophrenia and possibly epilepsy. He finally shot himself and died two days later on 29th July 1890. I find it very sad that the penniless Vincent van Gogh often had to give away some of his paintings in exchange for food or a new canvas - paintings which now sell for millions. Apparently, he only sold one painting in his lifetime. It is a strange world.
Airey Neave DSO OBE MC MP (1916-1976)
I can remember hearing the news on the 30th March 1976 and feeling so shocked that a Member of Parliament had been killed by a car bomb as he was driving out of the House of Commons car park. At the time, I only knew that Airey Neave was the Conservative Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary and the Member of Parliament for Abingdon. Apparently, he had been assassinated by the Irish National Liberation Party, probably because of his policy on Northern Ireland and the IRA. He was also a close adviser of Margaret Thatcher, the then Conservative Party leader.
His murderers have never been brought to justice and there are rumours that a 'sympathiser', even an 'insider' had helped the INLP. [See The Day I met Airey Neave's Killers
an article by Paul Routledge of the Mail on Sunday, originally published in 2002.]
Airey Neave was a distinguished Barrister as well as a politician. But did you know that he was also a War Hero? At the start of the Second World War, he joined the Army as a Lieutenant in the Royal Artillery and was sent to France. Wounded at Calais in May 1940, he was captured by the Germans and sent to a prisoner of war camp, Oflag IX near Spangenberg. In February 1941, he was moved to Stalag XXA Thorn in Poland. Shortly afterward, he escaped with Flight Lieut. Norman Forbes RAF, but they were both soon recaptured and were sent to the maximum security prison at Colditz Castle
In January 1942, Airey Neave became the first British Officer to escape from Colditz (his second attempt). He escaped with a Dutch officer and they reached Switzerland having travelled on foot and by train through Leipzig, Ulm and Singen. He then evaded through France, Spain and Gibraltar using the escape and evasion route which later became known as the Pat O'Leary Line
. On his return to England, Airey Neave helped to train aircrews in the means of escape in occupied territory. He was also recruited as an intelligence agent for MI9
, a branch of MI6 responsible for the support of the French Resistance. As a result of his war service, the French awarded him the Croix de Guerre.
In 1946, Airey Neave was also a member of the Nuremberg war crimes team. He wrote several books about his war experiences.
Monday, 28 March 2005
Many Happy Returns
Topic: Family Days Out
We have had a lovely Easter weekend! It was my husband's birthday on Easter Saturday and we were all invited up to my son's for the day to celebrate. The morning was sunny and warm and we had a very good drive up to London. Andrew was asleep when we arrived but soon woke up from his nap. He is growing fast and really tucks into and enjoys his food! I don't think his parents will have any faddy eating problems with him! We gave him a noisy farm animal book and some Lego Duplo for Easter plus a little outfit which was a little too big! No chocolate, of course. Andrew's mum, Shelley, thinks it can cause hyper-activity so she had prepared an 'egg case' full of fruit for Andrew for his Easter Sunday treat.
After lunch, we went down the road and up the hill to the Horniman Museum
Park. It was a delightful little park with a small farm animal corner and beautiful flower borders. You can see how warm it was - my son in his tee-shirt.
Hubby was spoilt! Lots of presents, including a double DVD with four films on it (yes, four!) to play on his portable DVD player. And two very scrumptious looking special bars of chocolate from Stephanie and Elliot.
Friday, 25 March 2005
Have a Goog God Friday!
Received an email from my son in which he wished me a 'Goog God Friday'! I think it was a typo but it made me laugh anyway.
Do you use a spell checker when you write emails? It is an extrememly helpful little tool but, if you are a really bad speller and can't tell the difference between words like 'write' and 'rite', it is probably of little use! Take this silly example found on the Internet:
Eye halve a spelling checker
It came with my pea sea
It plainly marks four my revue
Miss steaks eye kin knot sea.
Eye strike a key and type a word
And weight four it two say
Weather eye am wrong oar write
It shows me strait a weigh.
As soon as a mist ache is maid
It nose bee fore two long
And eye can put the error rite
It's rare lea ever wrong.
Eye Have run this poem threw it
I am shore your pleased two no
Its letter perfect awl the weigh
My checker tolled me sew.
You Can Count Me Out!
Funny what you stumble on weaving your way around the Internet. I was reading a news item and clicked on a 'Google Ad'....
So, you can still send an old-fashioned telegram
and order it online. For the princely price of #3.50, you can even send the Royal couple your own special Congratulations Telegram! This will be delivered to Buckingham Palace in London, within 1 hour (during office hours, of course) of you placing your order....
Wonder how many they will receive?
Thursday, 24 March 2005
British Ceremonies and Pageantry
Now Playing: God Save The Queen
Every Maundy Thursday, the British Sovereign, Queen Elizabeth II, distributes Maundy Money at the Ceremony of the Royal Maundy
. This ancient custom dates back to the 13th century when the Sovereign gave gifts of food and clothing to the poor. As an act of humility, the Monarch would even wash the feet pf the recipients - as Christ washed the feet of his disciples before the Last Supper - although the last King to actually do this was James II
, who died in 1701. Maundy Money
consists of sets of small silver coins which are specially minted for the occasion. The Queen presents them to local deserving pensioners who are chosen because of their outstanding services to their church and community. During her reign, the ceremony has taken place each year in a different cathedral or abbey around the country. In 1986, it took place at Chichester Cathedral
and I seem to remember that we were all let out of our offices to line the route and wave to the Queen!
At the ceremony, each person receives two purses from the Queen, one red and one white. The white purse contains one silver Maundy coin for each year of the monarch's reign. The red purse contains ordinary money in place of the other gifts which used to be given to the poor. The silver Maundy coins originally consisted of a penny and a groat (4 pence). In 1551, a threepence was added and in 1667, a twopence.
It was Henry IV
(ruled 1399-1413) who instigated the practice of relating the number of people receiving maundy money to the sovereign's age and sex. This custom was revised under Queen Elizabeth II and now equal numbers of sets are presented to both male and female recipients. As the Queen is 79 this year, this means that 79 men and 79 women will be presented with Maundy sets at today's ceremony in Wakefield Cathedral
. [For a chuckle, also view this news item
Victorian maundy money is fairly common as the general public could order sets from a bank. This changed, from 1908, when King Edward VII
instructed that only recipients involved in the ceremony were entitled to receive the sets. So after this date, Maundy coin sets became one of the most collectible and sought after numismatic items.
Tuesday, 22 March 2005
Topic: In the News
It was on the BBC News at Ten last night, it was on the Radio Two News this morning, there is an article in today's Times Online
and probably lots of other newspapers are running the story as well. What is it about? Well, apparently we have had such a dry winter in the South of England that the Environment Agency is predicting a water shortage and warning householders of impending hosepipe and sprinkler bans. "Save water", we are told - don't buy plants!
So, what did it do last night? It poured and poured and poured with rain - all night and well into the morning. So heavy was the rain that there was a constant thundering waterfall from next door's faulty guttering at the back of their house. Good job we sleep at the front of our house.
Apparently, the average rainfall for the last four months is down by about 140mm, which means that a lot of reservoirs are down to 57% full instead of 85-90%. Well, they told us that last year and we still got the normal amount of average rain - it just came later than usual! April Showers will probably turn into April Floods - we will wait and see.
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