Um – brella – come rain or shine #rain #sun #tradition #London #history #umbrella

Let me share a quote with you that seems appropriate in the current ‘crazy’ weather climate, affecting a vast number of people across the globe.

Here it is, direct from the Edinburgh Fringe comedy festival, a sometimes quite rainy area of land inhabited by Scots: 

“I like to imagine the guy who invented the umbrella was going to call it ‘brella’ but he hesitated.” 

Um, firstly I think it’s rather presumptive to assume it was a man, but let’s think of the ‘he’ collectively.

The name umbrella evolved from the Latin umbella – a flat-topped rounded flower and the term umbra, meaning shadow or shade. In Italian, Latin’s closest modern-day language, the term for shade is ombra and for umbrella, ombrella.

While we play with names and definitions here are a few more of notable interest:

Un Parasol (French and Spanish) protects against the sun, para means stop or shield and sol is sun.

Un Parapluie (French) is an umbrella, para (shield against) pluie (rain). 

A Parachute (English, French) – para (shield from) a fall.

The oldest reference to a collapsible umbrella is 21AD in Ancient China. Then we follow the umbrella, in all its forms, through the traditions and customs of dynasties such as Ancient India, Siam, the Middle East, Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome, the Aztecs and Europe.

In The Middle Ages (of Britain) a cloak, not an  umbrella, was often the desired clothing against rainstorms.

In 1768 a Paris magazine stated:

‘Those who do not wish to be mistaken for vulgar people much prefer to take the risk of being soaked rather than be regarded as one who goes on foot; an umbrella is a sure sign of someone who does not own his own carriage.’

It would not be long before umbrellas became a fashionable item; an accessory not only to shelter from the rain but to avoid the heat of the scorching sun (the sunbeams being particularly piercing in India, for example). 

By the 1750s the British people had got over their natural shyness and promoted the umbrella’s general use.

One such character, Jonas Hanway, founder of the Magdalen Hospital, dared the reproach and ridicule – the staring, laughing, jeering, hooting, heckling and bullying – of hackney taxi-cabs, of carrying an umbrella in London, everyday for 30 years, dying, nice and dry, in 1786.

There is a small street in London’s Fitzrovia, leading from Oxford Street winding itself to Tottenham Court Road, called Hanway Street, reputed to be named after our man. His popularisation of the umbrella was more successful than his attempt to introduce stilts into London, keen to avoid the muck and grime of the 18th century streets. 

Clearly he likes the theme of ‘avoidance.’ 

Ironically Umbrellas are the most ‘left’ items in taxi-cabs. 

They are sometimes extremely annoying but desperately useful articles, not everybody wants to ‘sing in the rain’ or have ‘raindrops keep falling on their head’…
Global National Umbrella Day is 10th February.

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A pea-green boat, a runcible spoon & a lot of nonsense #EdwardLear #poetry #limericks #London #May #nonsense #morals

Poet, Edward Lear, was born in London of Danish ancestry on 12th May, 1812. 
His ‘Book of Nonsense’ was published anonymously in 1846 and holds his most famous poem ‘The Owl & The Pussy-cat’ as well as over 100 limericks.

From the age of six he suffered from epilepsy and asthma. Despite being a sufferer he was still able to write creatively with a unique humour and to decorate his rhymes with fanciful illustrations.

His favourite nonsense word which was his own ‘sweet’ (‘they took some honey and plenty of money’) creation was ‘runcible spoon’ from ‘The Owl & The Pussy-cat.’  The word runcible appeared many times in his writing, defining different objects.

runcible cat’ 

runcible hat’

runcible goose’

As I tap away, scribing this tidy little blog, my iPad already dislikes the word, runcible, stating firmly ‘No replacement found.’ 

Moral 1: don’t let computers say to you, ‘wrong word, stupid.’ How are we to produce anything new, weird and beyond the ordinary?

Moral 2: don’t let being a sufferer stop you from branching out beyond the ordinary and making something work for you.

Since the 1920s dictionaries have come to define the term ‘runcible spoon’ as a fork-like utensil with two broad prongs and one sharp curved prong. 

A grapefruit spoon? A pickles or hors d’oeuvres spoon? Whatever your social habits, Edward Lear created spectacular vernacular.

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Lyrical Writer http://www.hastingsindependentpress.co.uk

A Cup of of Camomile #quotes #Shakespeare #gardens #herbs #Spring #playwright #camomile

An English garden, or any of a temperate climate, through the seasons, holds a spell. It feeds the soul and mind in beauty, peace and rest and the body in herbs, spices, fruits and vegetables. Please note I’m mostly concerned with Spring and Summer.

Many herbs and plants have made their way into Shakespeare’s plays…their use in medicines (Romeo&Juliet), in metaphors (Hamlet, Henry IV) & in magic (A Midsummer Night’s Dream).

Shakespeare loved to garden. He would have been familiar with, and fully aware of the significance and importance of herbs. Their values, qualities and differences would have played on his imagination and are naturally and subtly woven (weaved) into his work with great effect.

“… though the camomile, the more it is trodden on the faster it grows, yet youth, the more it is wasted, the sooner it wears.” Henry IV

In herb gardens lie stories, tales and morals, and healing properties: prevention and cure.

Herbs and spices for sprinkling, wit and wisdom for thinking.


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Love is on the cards, St Valentines Day #Valentines #hearts #poetry #love #cards #february

St Valentine (died Rome, 14th February 273AD) is widely associated with romance and devotion; many legends surround this saint and martyr. 

Mid-February is also the time birds begin to pair up. Look out for their springtime busy-ness. They are the natural sign and symbol of a new season, breaking away from winter, spreading their wings and preparing for new beginnings.

For the humans amongst us how about a little love poetry to delight and soothe the senses and to remind us that everyone, somewhere, needs love in their life. To find it can be hard, to give it, well a wonderful gift.

Tobias Menzies reads ‘In Fields’ by Kate Barnwell

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Play your cards right, it’s one day, however anti-materialistic you feel: ‘show some love, you ain’t so tough…’


A celebration for every nation! #NewYear #2017 #celebration #fun #friends #resolutions

Welcome in the New Year 2017 with cheer and optimism.

Make jolly and mend.

Make resolutions and friends.

Recover and recharge.

Feel fortunate and accentuate the positives.

Wherever in the world you roam.

“Cheers! Chin, chin! Salute! Bottoms up! Sante!”

Happy-day & Good-night…

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Signs that Stick (Out) #OnThisDay #War #signs #life #death #Hastings

Speedy lives, racing around, lots to do, no time to stop, then one day or some odd day, or some particular day comes along and in it there’s a sign; you stop to read it – twice, no more than a simple 3 minutes of your time, but what it says is striking…

On this site stood

The Swan Inn

& 1,2 & 3 Swan Terrace

destroyed by enemy action 

at about mid-day on Sunday

23rd May 1943 with consider-

able loss of life.

After that, you walk away much slower, much softer and much more removed from all around you, and furthermore you contemplate a situation of absolute pain, horror and devastation precisely 83 years ago, down that same path you casually wander today.

The land on which you stand has played many a-parts.

Pass with a new eye and a different tread.

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Look Out! #photo #quotes #unique #art #painting #frames #poet #artist #London #JohnLewis

Good morning, good afternoon, good night…

I’ve just passed by these quotes, set inside picture frames, for sale in a well-known London department store:

“Every picture shows a spot with which the artist has fallen in love.” 

Alfred Sisley (French Impressionist painter of en plein air-landscapes).

Every touch of the brush, from the layering of colours to the speck of a pigment, is essential in defining and beautifying the final, individual piece.

“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see,” 

Henry David Thoreau (American author, poet and philosopher).

Everyone interprets ‘some-thing’ either similarly or differently, but first you must look and then you will see; first you will hear and then you must listen.

Each of these words is ever so slightly different from the one to which it comes close to.

Get ready for your close up and frame your Uniqueness.

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Rhymes and Reasons #nursery-rhymes #theatre #Easter #moral #happy


‘Humpty Dumpty sat on the wall

Humpty Dumpty had a great fall

All the Kings horses and all the Kings men

Couldn’t put Humpty together again…’

This sweet little nursery rhyme actually has a more sinister overtone. Often you find that when you dig a little deeper into the origins and meanings of nursery rhymes, they are not the innocent, dainty tales we enjoy humming and reciting.

Let’s look (photo below) at this Humpty – one too many glasses of wine will tip him over the edge of the wall, on which he precariously balances; in turn his ‘Easter egg’ head will crack open and no matter what help can be provided, no one will be able to mend him.  

Moral: watch your drinking.

But let’s not be sour on a day like today, Easter Monday: the sweetest and stickiest day of the year. The days are getting longer, the gardens are getting brighter, and I am seeing a play tonight called ‘Reasons To Be Happy’ at London’s Hampstead Theatre … start counting your reasons.

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March Mothers, no stress #poetry #sculpture #MothersDay #March

English poet, Elizabeth Barrett Browning was born on 6th March, 1806 (210 years ago today). She was mother of a boy called Robert and nicknamed Pen (!)

‘How I love thee? Let me count the ways…’


Italian painter, sculptor, architect and poet, Michelangelo Buonarotti was born on 6th March, 1475. Here is a poetical piece by him, in sculptural terms giving birth to a beautiful figure of Carrara marble. Listen to him explain it, my lady…

‘My lady it’s the taking 

away that gives the marble grace

and bares the figure’s face

to grow beneath the flaking.

And like the figure I’m encased:

so hard the rough excess

of carnal appetite,

which closes me from light,

that straining is no use.

But lady you can carve distress

away and sculpt me lose.’

Carve away all stresses and strains and enjoy a peaceful day of mother’s love this Mother’s Day; long wonderful hours, united under an umbrella of happiness.  

No phones at the table, focus on the here and now; the happening not the must-have need of a small piece of matter (iPad, mobile phone etc) allowing you to exist in a mammoth technological space.  

The only world you need today is the mothering one.

A bigger and greater world is made in sharing time and being together.

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No mothers were harmed or alarmed in the taking of this ‘shop window’ photo.
  

Pleasure, Pain & Poetry #Kipling #poetry #OnThisDay #January 

On the 18th January, 1891, poet Rudyard Kipling married American Carrie Balestier.
On the 18th January, 1936, 45 years later & 80 years ago today Rudyard Kipling died aged only 70.

“Kipling, though short, was lithe and slim, with beautifully balanced movements. His most arresting feature was his heavy eyebrows, which shot up and down with his talk: under them twinkled bright blue eyes.”

To learn poetry by heart (a short piece, a verse, a line) means we take a gift with us wherever we go; whether we travel alone or we share the poetry of our hearts, it can be a constant source of companionship.  

In grief, poetry can provide refuge and recovery and may be a helpful source of peace and understanding, especially when we struggle to find the words ourselves.  

Sometimes someone else, perhaps from another era or of a different gender, can speak for us.

Pull down that dusty poetry book from the shelf, or google a poem; read the lines and read between the lines and maybe you’ll realise that there’s a poet talking to you, writing for you; reach and you will find…


‘There is pleasure in the wet, wet clay,

When the artist’s hand is potting it.

There is pleasure in the wet, wet lay,

When the poet’s pad is blotting it…’

 Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936)

  

January Joy comes flowing in #January #poetry #England #NewYear #quotes

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Continued from yesterday…

Poet, Alfred Lord Tennyson, ‘I Stood on a Tower’ (1865)

‘Seas at my feet were flowing,

Waves on the shingle pouring,

Old year roaring and blowing,

And New Year blowing and roaring.’

Tennyson wrote to his lifelong friend and poetry editor, Francis Turner Palgrave:

“What a season! The wind is roaring here like thunder and all my holly trees are rolling. Indeed, we have had whole weeks of wind.” 

Here we are in January 2016, 150 years later, a new wind whips up the waves, stirs a restless sea and rustles the senses.

‘The gulls to the sky, went soaring

The waves, heavily churned, came falling

Whipped to the tip, spilt on the beach

A hundred horizons for us to seek

Today, tomorrow as the days flow

Bathe thousands of places for us to go

At home, for rest, we safely stay, until

The leaning winds send us far away

And just like birds, who leave awhile

We’ll each return to our worlds and smile.’

KB, 2015/16
Take the first week of January calmly: ‘J‘ for Jolly, for Joy, for enJoyment.
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Fancy a swim? #NewYear #Lifeboats #charity #sea

On New Year’s Day, precisely 3 weeks today, the 1st of the bright 2016 Year falling on a Friday, hearty Hastings folk like to take a New Year sea dip (this is when I show my London side and profusely refuse to remove even a sock).

All in good faith and despite the sign below, bathing takes place, money is raised, and a donation to the ‘Lifeboats’ (RNLI) charity is given.

Everyone makes a brief, but splendidly supportive effort, a swig of whisky is included, warm towels lie in wait and enthusiastic cheers abound.

I recall one member of the party covering himself in organic goose fat “to lock in the heat” … 

“Yes, but when did a goose ever swim in the sea? Incidentally does a goose cluck or quack? If the fat doesn’t work, try feathers instead!”

It will be interesting to see who turns up this year for the swim, I’ll wait for the warm Caribbean and a cold piña colada …perhaps…perhaps…perhaps…

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Things I moose do… #Christmas #OperationSmile #charity #poetry

Sometimes a list is the best way to deal with this busy time of year, primarily called Christmas, although it can take on other names such as ‘Noel’ and ‘The Holiday Season.'(yuk)

It’s never too soon to think it all through, write it all down, and then tick it all off, bit by bit!  
Expect some surprises, and last minute things too.

Selecting and highlighting TV programmes comes soon.

Shopping and preparing the meal is last of all, if it’s you…Good luck.

If you’re the guest…remember your oohs, ahhs, pleases and thank yous, always take a gift and say ‘yes‘ to everything (including charades, scrabble, a recital of some sort, jokes and clearing up) – it is Christmas! (apparently).

Make everyday a ‘good-morrow’…

‘… all pleasures fancies be.

If ever any beauty I did see,

Which I desired, and got, ’twas but a dream of thee.’

from ‘The Good-morrow’ by John Donne (1572-1631)

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Words, words, words #words #poetry #BritishLibrary

It is greatly upsetting when you pass by someone who swears loudly and profusely, using every unpleasant word you can think of in all its many variations (verb, adjective etc.).  It is, furthermore, intensely upsetting if these words are directed at you for no other reason than the liberation of one man’s angst and frustrations. Yes, this happened to me at the start of the day…so how to proceed if you are a sensitive type? 

Actually it struck me as sad and pitying to think that so many people know so many ugly words when there are so many beautiful ones. 
Poet, Samuel Taylor Coleridge maintained that “the true end of poetry is to give pleasure through the medium of beauty.”

Wonderful words to strengthen and enrich us; to be shared, enjoyed and passed on… like those in verse, prose and poetry.

“Quieten down, hear the sound

The sound of the world spinning round

Around the corners of your lip

He will plant a daring kiss

A kiss disappears like a whispering prayer

But the sound of his voice lies everywhere

Wherever I pass or travel through

His soft words shall journey too.”



It doesn’t hurt to have the last word on the matter.

This photo shows the British library in London whose vast collection holds the original, hand-written documents of Jane Austen, Winston Churchill, John Lennon, President Roosevelt…to name a few great writers; those who used words to change the world, to make our lives and enrich ourselves.

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The Importance of Being Wilde #OnThisDay #OscarWilde #quotes

“There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.” Ok Mr Oscar Wilde let’s talk about you… 

‘the virtuoso of the well-turned phrase, the master of studied insult; the timing and precision of those verbal thrusts; aphorisms (short, pithy truths), paradoxes, ironical remarks, sarcasm and needle-sharp rejoinders …delivered with delight, and repeated with vigour.’

Oscar Wilde (born 16th October 1854) lived by his wit, and on his wits, often leaving his companions at their wits end, so they had to have their wits about them

Wilde in name and wild by nature.

A gifted, outspoken and eccentric poet, critic, playwright, and children’s writer. He was the very embodiment of style, and a fashionable, de rigueur, leader of the Aesthetic Movement.

He had a dazzling, enthralling repartee and his wicked brilliance made him an exceptionally exciting man to invite to tea; to be a victim of Oscar’s sharp, spirited, witty conversation would be ultimate flattery. 

Leaning over the table for a slice of cake, he might say –

“I can resist everything but temptation.”

“What a pity that in life we only get our lessons when they are no use to us!”

“Well I’m not young enough to know everything!”

 The witticisms, criticisms, wonderisms (this one’s made up!) of genuine genius

Oscar Wilde.



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Standing up for Taking Time #quotes #poetry #leisure

“Life is what happens when you’re busy making plans.” Words of wisdom and reflection from The Beatle Mr John Lennon.

Busy people in a busy world, all staring at their computers and phones, are not watching the world go by, but letting the world pass them by.
To stand, and to stare costs nothing at all, yet the rewards are great gifts to humanity. The simple, inexpensive pastime pleasures are even better shared and smiled at with someone special.

Reading this poem by W.H.Davies,‘Leisure,’ I could not miss out a couplet of it, he says it all so perfectly…

What is this life if, full of care
We have no time to stand and stare.

No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.

No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.

No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars like skies at night.

No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they dance.

No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.

A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

Find your inner beauty…Start standing, staring and caring Today!

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Loving a Letter #love #poetry #letters #language

When did you last send …?
una lettera d’amore… Italian
una carta de amor… Spanish
liebesbrief… German
psanicko… Czech
Or my personal favourite un billet doux… French.

In translation each means a love-letter…and surprisingly some languages do not even have a word for it…yet every language has poetry and the two combined are as wonderful as bread with butter or salt on chips (so they say)!
This single letter must be hand written from One To Another, and posted in a letter box.
It is not an email or a text, with a smiley face or XXX as kisses, or a cat doing cartwheels, it must be all of your own spirit and imagination, without technicalities or artificial love representations.
These lettere d’amore are sadly becoming extinct, like dinosaurs, but if Steven Speilberg can resurrect a T-Rex then it’s up to us to bring back the worthy love letter, which might be as scary to write as a prehistoric monster is to face, but certainly a lifelong item to cherish and easier to keep in your drawer!
Pick up a pen, a pencil, you don’t need an ink pot and feathered quill!
Don’t wait till the obvious birthday/Christmas/Valentines…make it a surprise!
Trust the painted box to pass on your treasured words (a unique gift) to your happy recipient and if they are as lovely as you, they may blush this colour of red and hold you firmly in their heart forever…Good luck! The Next Collection is NOW! (NOW is a reflection of MON, sort of!)…

Give us a Smile! #WallaceCollection #painting #art #smile

‘Time to lift the corners of your lips,
Turn them into a smile just for a little while.’

This grand painting is in the permanent, never to be borrowed, home of The Wallace Collection in Manchester Square, London. It is called The Laughing Cavalier, painted by Baroque Dutch genius of the Golden Age, Frans Hals in 1624. A man who was exempt at catching the fleeting moment of his sitter, his character, his individual beauty and his unique expression. The luscious clothes, collar and hat, whatever attribute suitable, would define and distinguish each fine noblemen.
The term ‘Laughing‘ was only given when the painting was catalogued for the first display exhibition at The Bethnal Green Museum, 1872-75 and has stuck ever since.
It is considered one of those ‘enigmatic smiles‘ leaving a touch of everlasting mystery; it can be quite beguiling, given a long pensive pause, or sometimes it feels like an arrogant smirk, perhaps he possesses a ‘cavalier attitude.’
If he laughed he may disturb the fantastic wispy moustache so stylistically brushed, drawing attention to those lovely pink lips.
It is a polished, preserved and perfected portrait.

This large reproduction is on the exterior of Hertford House/ The Wallace Collection and greets me as I walk north to the district of Marylebone. It is a reminder that a little smile lightens your face, catches attention and transforms your outlook…he will always make me smile.
It is also a good reason to slow down, pace yourself, to think quietly, then brighten your day and raise all prospects with a smile.
A shapely smile is a free creation of your own: a poetical pout!

In Conversation with Churchill & Roosevelt

Facing your critics, your opposition or your enemies is never a pleasant experience. Who could have met more of those than Sir Winston Churchill or Franklin D. Roosevelt? What advice might they offer me on facing criticism or insult? How might I brush off such remarks, having exposed my work to the world? So I put these questions to them…
FDR: “Happiness lies in the joy of achievement & the thrill of creative effort.”
WC: “Success is not final, failure is not fatal, it is the courage to continue that counts.”
FDR: “The only limits to our realisation of tomorrow will be our doubts of today.”

WC: “If your going through hell, keep going…never, never, never give up.”

Thanks guys, I knew I could rely on you to make me feel better & to turn the low points into laughs instead…after all, the world will always remember you, so where are the critics now?