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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Famous last words – literally #famous #quotes #words #death #laughter #jokes

‘Famous last words.’  
This phrase, sometimes spoken with a rather sinister or sarcastic overtone, refers to the utterance of often wrong or inappropriate final remarks in conversation, but what about taking a look at the literal translation of ‘famous last words,’ that is to say the departing lines of famous people.
I’ve chosen three characters who, on their death-bed, managed to have the courage to give us the last laugh…

Actor Humphrey Bogart, died in L.A. 14th January 1957 aged 57, 60 years ago.

He is reported to have said, “I should never have switched from Scotch to martinis.”

American jazz drummer Buddy Rich, died after going into surgery, in L.A. 2nd April 1987 aged 69, 30 years ago. 

As Rich was being prepped for the surgery he was asked, “is there anything you can’t take?” (referring to any type of medication). 

His response, “Yeah country music.”

Writer Groucho Marx, died in L.A. 19th August 1977 aged 86, 40 years ago. 

In his final moments, the famed comic is supposed to have said, “this is no way to live!”

Couldn’t resist a few more Groucho reMarx to cheer this sorry tale’s ending…

“I intend to live forever, or die trying.”

“Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.”

“Behind every successful man is a woman, behind her is his wife.”

Amen.

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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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First Class Quotations #Shakespeare #quotes #theatre #plays #stamps #StGeorge #Passover

The 23rd April is a very busy date. 

Firstly we must commemorate Mr William Shakespeare of Stratford upon Avon who died on 23rd April 1616, 400 years ago today.  

Shakespeare was also born on the 23rd April 1564.

The 23rd April happens to be St George’s Day; St George is the patron saint of England, often depicted slaying a dragon to rescue the fair maiden.

 “Love is a smoke made with the fumes of sighs” from Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet.

This quote seems to tie the two together perfectly.

Royal Mail has issued 10 Shakespeare quotes as 1st class stamps. You could have issued a 100 stamps going by the popularity and love of a Shakespeare line:

“To thine own self be true…” A quote for this day of all days, and everyday thereafter.

‘The fair and the mighty, such characters enthral

Indulge all our senses, give rowdy applause

To rousing great speeches, the lines well rehearsed

The sonnets and quotes, perfect prose of sweet verse…’

From The Bard by K.Barnwell

Today is also The First Day of Passover (Pesach = Hebrew ‘to pass over’) – the freedom of the Israelites from Egyptian slavery by the Pharaohs (rulers over the kingdom of Egypt, considered half man, half god, but not King).  

Only unleavened bread called Matzo is eaten. The festival lasts 15 days.
A Great weekend to come…

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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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High on a Hill #Hampstead #London #signs #history

Here I stand (head in hand) high on a hill, Hampstead Heath, on the last day of August 2015. What lies before me is the misty silhouette of the best city in the world LONDON, ENGLAND!
From the Shard to the left to the BT tower on the right lies a pulsing, vibrant, demanding, high-energy city in which many men and women have made their home over the centuries. With close inspection you can see a tiny St Paul’s, a mini Big Ben clock tower (St Stephens) and the curve of the Millennium Eye wheel.

Of course it is in London that ‘the streets are paved with gold.’

Near here, Mr Richard (Dick) Whittington (1354-1423) and his black cat heard the church (Bow) bells, calling him to ‘Turn again Whittington, Lord Mayor of London.’
Indeed he did become Lord Mayor, not once but three times (as the bells predicted) during the reigns of Richard II, Henry IV and Henry V.
He also made his fortune…this is a perfect ‘rags to riches tale.’

What happy cries, chimes, signs and symbols will you be listening for…wherever you are?
Step back and look at the bigger picture…are your answers lying there?

Going hoarse for a Horse! From Car park to Cathedral. #onthisday #RichardIII #history

On the 22nd August, 1485 (530 years ago today) on Redmore Plain in Leicestershire (now known as Bosworth Field) the 32 year old King of England, Richard III (King for less than 2 years) lay slain, beaten and betrayed.
‘Pity the man who waves the white boar’

It was Shakespeare’s play, written with enormous Tudor biase, ‘Richard III’ (1592) that coined the desperately-pleading phrase: “a horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse!”
This was not officially recorded as truth but it’s a most likely understated request.
His remains were only recovered and confirmed, after a great deal of forensic analysis, in a Leicester council car park under the letter R in 2012 and he was respectfully and ceremoniously laid to rest in Leicester Cathedral in March 2015.
He was the first King to have died in battle since the Norman Conquest (1066) and the last since; he was the first to be found under a car park and the most historically misunderstood and misrepresented King. His death marked the end of The Plantagenet dynasty and the War of The Roses: the Yorkist White & the Lancastrian Red. Henry Tudor (Henry VII) united the two sides with his Tudor rose (red & white combined, NOT pink) both the House of Lancaster and the House of York were very closely related.

The life and times of King Richard III are a fascinating subject.
Today we must picture him on a valiant stead, with his banner of St George and his emblem, The White Boar flying high on a windy plain,
‘this glorious son of York.’

The joke’s on me: Robert Graves #poets #onthisday

Check out my blog of 24th July 2015: Dead or Alive? Rescued by poetry.

In brief it states that on Robert Graves‘ 21st birthday (24th July 1895) he opened The Times newspaper only to read his own obituary.  

He had been pierced through the chest and groin by shrapnel at the Somme in July 1916 and was written off by the battalion doctor has having “no chance.”

However it was on this day, 5th August 1916 (12 days later) The Times made good their mistake, announcing Graves had actually survived.

Thankfully, out of this ‘grave’ incident (pardon the pun!) he claimed, “the joke contributed greatly to my recovery. The people with whom I had been on the worst terms (with) during my life wrote the most enthusiastic condolences to my parents.”

Sometimes we may forget that previous generations also had a sense of humour as well as being both adored by some and despised by others. That’s life.

Here’s Graves’ poetry whilst in buoyant spirits…

‘Why have such scores of lovely, gifted girls

Married impossible men?

Simple self-sacrifice may be ruled out, 

And missionary endeavour, nine times out of ten.’

Has God’s supply of tolerable husbands 

Fallen, in fact, so low?

Or do I always over-value woman

At the expense of man?

Do I?

It might be so.’
from ‘A Slice of Wedding Cake’

On This DAY: 4th August… #onthisday

Sometimes, when flicking through poetry books, we may come across a line or a couplet or a verse of a poem, that was written in one time but can be respectfully and thoughtfully applied to the events of another.

Here is an example for today…

The 4th August, 1914, marks the outbreak of World War One.

On the 4th August, 1792, Percy Bysshe Shelley was born.

Combine the lines of Shelley’s ‘Prometheus Unbound’ with the knowledge of WWI

“To suffer woes which Hope thinks infinite;

To forgive wrongs darker than death or nights…”


From the horrors of WWI emerged a large group of War poets whose first hand accounts were vividly captured by their head and hearts and scribbled into descriptive, explosive poems.  

Isaac Rosenberg was one such determined soldier who said, “this war, with all its powers for devastation, shall not master my poeting…I will not leave a corner of my consciousness covered up, but saturate myself with the strange and extraordinary new condition of this life, and it will refine itself into poetry later on.”

From Returning We Hear The Larks by Issac Rosenberg

“Sombre the night is.

And though we have our lives, we know

What sinister threat lurks there.”


Conclusion… The 4th August 2015, you have Life, you have Hope and you are Free. Find the poetry in your life.

Dead or Alive? Rescued by Poetry #OnThisDay

Poet Robert Graves was born on 24th July 1895 (120 years ago today) and died on 7th December 1985 (30 years ago this year).  On his 21st birthday in 1916 he opened The Times newspaper only to read his obituary, having supposedly been killed in action at Somme, during the First World War. A nasty shock…the horror of this war would colour his autobiography ‘Goodbye to all that’.

It was not until 1963 and in his second marriage he wrote: “I have never been so happy in all my life as now…I wrote a poem…which is one of the few poems of utter happiness ever written…this is mine, and may it excuse all the dark ones.”


‘Not to sleep all night long, for pure joy,

Counting no sheep and careless of no chimes…

This is given to few but at last to me,

So that when I laugh and stretch and leap from bed

I shall glide downstairs, my feet brushing the carpet…’


He kept his life, yet lost his youth (as a result of fighting in WWI) however it resurfaced again in his late sixties with energy and passion.  

“Poets remain in love for the rest of their lives,” said Graves; he lived to a happy 90years! “..watching the world with a detachment unknown to lawyers, politicians and financiers…”  

The poet’s world is a world like no other; it has no one channel…no one path…no one destination…it is everything and everywhere.  

The poetry a poet writes is given over to everyone.

The Gesturing Jester

Shakespeare’s Jester or Fool is the witty, comedic role, led with flamboyance and flair! Guaranteed to bring laughs and to be laughed at; he is the Joker in the pack…

‘O noble Fool, a worthy Fool!’
As You Like It

‘Foolery, Sir, goes walk about the orb like the sun, shines everywhere.’
Twelfth Night

‘The Fool doth think him wise but the wise man knows himself to be a Fool.’
As You Like It

Roving Poets

‘We’ll go no more a roving…’ said Lord Byron.

I say, ‘I’ll go roving in the name of poetry!’ 

On Sunday 12th July 2015, for the Stratford upon Avon Poetry Festival 

I will be  ‘A Roving Poet’ on the streets of Shakespeare’s home town.

Along with other poet enthusiasts and an audience, it’s a chance to showcase your work and join in the wonderful world of poetry. There’ll be song, dance, and events and no doubt a jester (this is Shakespeare’s county after all). 

“The earth has music for those who listen,” Shakespeare

A Quote from Oscar

Sometimes the wit and intelligence of Oscar Wilde is perfectly fitting in today’s world. I’m sorry that occasionally his pithy and creative genius is overlooked by the illustrious and flamboyant life he led. In 2015, 115 years after his death, he would have found Britain a much freer and accepting society with plenty of material to write about, but he was born of his era and his plays and society are of another time. But here’s a quote from him that is definitely unchanged,

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

Try this (sarcastically) on the young! If they don’t understand it and you have to explain it, then chances are they need to grow up!

This Sceptered Isle

Within an hour’s drive, I was here in East Sussex at one of the most beautiful places that define England – the outline of the cliffs figure her beauty; the strength of her curving shores; the magnificence of her wide lands; the clear, wispy skies and the deep, dense divide of the English Channel. It is on this land great speeches, books, plays and poems have been dedicated…

‘This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
This other Eden, demi-paradise,
This fortress built by Nature for herself…
This precious stone set in a silver sea.
This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England.’

from Richard II by William Shakespeare

Essential Poetry 

The Polish poet Czeslaw Milosz was born 30th June 1911 (died 2004). In 1940 he escaped from Soviet-occupied Lithuania to Nazi-occupied Warsaw, neither were safe places for a creative mind to flourish or for thinkers to think. He joined the socialist resistance and was involved in clandestine publishing and reading of poetry. Life during the Second World War, (or any war for that matter) must have seemed desperate, lonely, bleak, bitter and full of pain, suffering and suppression.  
Milosz has been quoted as saying “when an entire community is struck by misfortune … poetry becomes as essential as bread.”  

Poetry, books and art can heal by taking us out of our world and into new ones, making anything possible through imagination and its freedom. It also unites people, they come together in solidarity, particularly in times of crisis and need; relying on words for ease or escapism.

Think of poetry as a soothing mint, something to chew and absorb; it leaves you feeling heaps better, re-energised, renewed, reinvigorated, refreshed, released!

Heart to Heart

Elizabeth Barrett Browning died on the 29th June 1861, in the arms of her beloved husband, Robert Browning.  This was a couple truly devoted to each other and the beautiful love poetry they individually produced is testament to their strong union.  They secretly married in 1846, defying her possessive father, and eventually settled in Florence.  She wrote to her sister “ours is a true marriage and not a conventional match.  We live heart to heart all day long, and every day the same.”

She penned one of the most romantic love sonnets ‘How do I love thee? Let me count the ways’ (which even featured in the film ‘Roger Rabbit’ with actor Bob Hoskins – a 19th century poem in a 20th century Hollywood movie, that’s quite a passage!  It is a poem with so many ‘I love thees…’

Today we shall remember (thanks to the beauty of poetry) the line that makes her and love eternal 

 ‘ – I love thee with the breath, 

Smiles, tears, of all my life! – and, if God chooses,

I shall but love thee better after death.’

It’s time we told each other, more often, how much we love them…

Late June 

Edward Thomas (1878-1917) began to write poetry aged 36 and with a sense of urgency brought on by the start of the First World War. He died at Arras in 1917, having written his 143rd poem, but before his first collection was published.  At the sound of a shell passing his ear, his heart stopped dead; his death being the very symbol of a shattered, broken Britain. 

Poet, Walter de la Mare wrote of him, “England’s roads and heaths and woods, it’s secret haunts and solitudes, it’s houses, it’s people … were to him ‘lovelier than any mysteries.'”

His poem ‘Adlestrop‘ is the epitome of a beautiful, charming England in ‘late June’… here are some snippets:

‘The express train drew up’

‘The steam hissed’

‘Willows, willow-herb, and grass’

‘Meadowsweet and haycocks dry’

‘High cloudlets in the sky’

‘A blackbird sang.’

Ride through the English countryside by road or by rail & absorb the pleasures of a late June landscape that to Thomas was pure poetry, and to which (so true of so many) he would never come back to. The willow weeps…
  

A Taste of Greatness!

Whilst living in Paris 100 years ago, the American author, Edith Wharton, took time to observe the French form and society, their ways and their means and their worldly status. Her summary is paraphrased here…

“As long as culture is superior to business efficiency, as long as poetry and imagination are higher elements of civilisation than telephones or plumbing, and wit more wholesome than dullness so long lives a great nation.”

History, Art and Ideals…Look about you and take time to taste the greatness!

 

Everyday a different day…

Where shall we go today? Books and poetry, artists and their ideas can take us anywhere in the world; everyday we can discover a new voice, whether it be in your own language or translated into it, and a new place, whether it be real or imaginary, right where we sit. We don’t have just one tongue or one world or even one time we can have hundreds more of each!

So when you’re not travelling the world in body, you can travel it in mind instead…

“Earth has not anything to show more fair” (Wordsworth) 

“Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it” (Kipling) 

“All the world’s a stage” (Shakespeare).


“Great, wide, beautiful, wonderful World,

With the wonderful water round you curled,

And the wonderful grass upon your breast

World, you are beautifully drest.”

By William Brighty Rands

I’m reading a book in English, translated from the Japanese, set in Russia, China & Japan & set over many time zones…! So where are you today?!
  

Looking for signs

Sometimes the answers are all around us, we just have to know where to look.
Sometimes a sign appears ‘out of the blue’ (that’s an old nautical phrase, the blue being the sea) & it may change our feelings for an entire day, or longer & thus influence those around us too, setting off a small chain reaction of events. Let’s stay on the positive side; I would encourage you to always see the happy not the sad, the love not the hate.

So here’s an example: strolling in a city park (part of the live longer campaign as a previous blog stated, exercise & fresh air – excuse the digression, but everything is interlinked) I came across this sign ‘Keep Smiling’ – the name of a bed of roses.

Now you may quote me Shakespeare:

“What’s in a name? that which we call a rose

By any other day name would smell as sweet.”

So true Juliet, but what a fantastic name; it certainly makes you stop, smile and shake off those daily frustrations.

As a consequence I smiled at everyone I walked past (a rarity in a busy city), I helped an old lady figure out how to use her mobile phone as a camera and photograph the park ducks; I popped into a gallery to donate some money, thereby buying a postcard to send to a friend.

The World sorted for the day.

So what will your sign be? Just look out for it and in someway it might just look after you…