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.

Follow my blogs http://www.katebarnwell.com

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Please sign here…#MagnaCarta

The 15th June was the official date for the signing of The Magna Carta, The Great Charter by King John, in 1215. It was essentially a peace treaty between the King and his Barons and the administration of justice, fairness and the rule of law.

Z O O M forward 800 years, 15th June 2015 & whilst in the process this charter of the land has seen Revival and Survival, English Liberties, Colonies and Revolutions, Radicalism and Reform, Empire and After, and The Modern Age.

After the English language it is Britain’s greatest export, inspiring the drafters of documents such as the U.S Declaration of Independence (1776) and The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948).

From Bad King John to Good Queen Liz, the legacy of Magna Carta weaves its way into upholding Law, Liberty and Justice; unfortunately for many people and nations today the fight for freedom and dignity continues to be a great struggle.

Let’s end in a staggeringly defiant mood, for the sake of all those who suffer under tyranny, by quoting from W.E.Henley’s poem ‘Invictus’ (Invincible/ Unconquered) which was written after the amputation of his leg and has emotionally inspired leaders Winston Churchill, Martin Luther King, and Nelson Mandela.

A 19th century poem, for the soul, can be as powerful as a 13th century document to the system, and accessible to all nations:-

‘Out of the night that covers me,

Black as the Pit from pole to pole,

I thank what gods may be

For my inconquerable soul…’

Hastings and battles

Here is a view that must be over 150yrs old, in the quintessentially English Old Town of Hastings, East Sussex, which in 1066 (Normans versus Anglo Saxons) became the most famous landmark in the world.  So what came next? Well over time 19 new Hastings would pop up on the global map.

Let’s list them: Hastings, Somerset, England… Hastings, Barbados…Hastings, Sierra Leone… Hastings, New Zealand…Hastings, Tasmania…Hastings River & Hastings Range, New South Wales, Australia… Hastings, Victoria, Australia… Hastings Island, Louisiade, Archipelago.

In America: Hastings, Minnesota…Hastings, Michigan…Hastings, Iowa… Hastings, Nebraska…Hastings, Oklahoma…

Hastings, Florida…Hastings, Pennsylvania…Hastings on Hudson, New York 

In Canada: Hastings, Ontario…Hastings, Nova Scotia…

Hastings, New Brunswick.

Phew what a legacy! If you ever meet someone and throw Hastings into the conversation 9 times out of 10 you will get the answer “ah Battle of Hastings, 1066!” The original is always best – and there are no battles anymore-except the town Battle, where the 1066 battle actually took place!