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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Sweet-talking #sweets #spangles #retro #adverts #British #taste #tradition #RobertOpie #America

This photo shows the Magazine Advertisement for ‘Spangles’ – part of ‘The Robert Opie Occasion Series Collection of British Nostalgia and Advertising Memorabilia’ (bit of a mouthful). It celebrates the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II and the final lifting of sweet rationing in 1953.
Spangles were a brand of fruit-flavoured, translucent, boiled sweets of a rounded square shape with a circular imprint (sounds delicious) and made by Mars Ltd in the UK, from 1950 to 1984.

Their arrival on the confectionary scene came at a time of sweet rationing. Sweets were bought using tokens or points from a ration book. The humble Spangle required 1 point while other sweets and chocolate were 2 points. Naturally the popularity of Spangles soared, alongside smart and effective advertising – using American cowboy actor, William Boyd to front the eating-sweets-campaign.

At first the sweets were not individually wrapped, later they were covered in wax paper. Each packet held a traditional assortment: strawberry, pineapple, blackcurrant, orange etc to single varieties such as, Barley sugar, liquorice and tangerine. Grown-up English single varieties appeared too: mint humbug, pear-drop and aniseed. A mouthwatering delight to serve generations of sweet-lovers for over a 30 years.

Spangles are, as I write, the only sweet known to feature in a national anthem, ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ of the United States of America. Of the course the two are unrelated, ‘The Star-Spangled Banner‘ poem was written in 1814, but America, like many other countries, does have a bit of a sugary-sweet problem. They sing about it all the time…


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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 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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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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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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Turning into Autumn #autumn #poetry #Keats #quotes

Autumn cannot be officially heralded in as a new season until we have quoted poet, John Keats’ magical dedication to our temperate climate’s tertiary quarter of the year.
In September 1819 he took himself on a 16 mile walk across a Devon landscape, describing the scene in a letter:
“How beautiful the season is now – how fine the air… I never loved stubble fields so much as now – better than the chilly green of Spring. Somehow a stubble field looks warm – in the same way that some pictures look warm…”

With a pool pot of thoughts stirring and the atmospheric turn, from a harsh, relenting summer into a delicate, delighting autumn, Keats composed the poem ‘To Autumn.’

Let’s take a large, leafy leap into Autumn with him –

‘Seasons of mist and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun…’

‘To bend with apples the mossed cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core…’

‘While barred clouds bloom the soft dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue…’

This detailed, sumptuous poem is tasty to read, melting keenly from the mouth as you pass over each wordy sentence.
Poets love words, why use just one word when you can enjoy a plethora (over abundance) of words?!

Autumn is here now…tumbling, crispy leaves; soft sun-bleached apples with tart, blushing skins; damp, dewy cobwebs and burnt, breathy bursts of sweet smokey air.

Waking with words and Walking the world #words #poetry #coast #quotes

‘Sometimes, leaving the road, I would walk into the sea and pull it voluptuously over my head, and stand momentarily drowned in the cool blind silence, in a salt-stung neutral nowhere.’

This beautiful quote was written by Laurie Lee in his book, ‘As I walked Out One Midsummer Morning.’
Laurie Lee (26th June 1914-13th May 1997) was both a poet and a writer and in this case the two art forms have merged into one and created an incredibly atmospheric sentence. This is just one line, but it is how he presents his world to us...poetically.

How many ways can you be a poet in life?

1. A poet is someone who writes poetry and is defined as being a person with great imagination and creativity.
From 13th century Latin ‘poeta‘, from Greek ‘poietes‘ meaning maker and poet, from ‘poein’ to make.
2. Poetic, poetical, poetise…characteristic or befitting of poetry; to be elevated or sublime; to put into poetry.
3. Poetry…the art or craft of writing verse with qualities of spirit and feeling, rhythm and beauty.
4. Poetics…the study of the principles and forms of poetry.
5. Poetic licence...a justifiable departure from the conventional rules of form, fact, and logic…just as you find in gloriously creative poetry.
The world not as it is first seen, plainly and simply, but observed, described and presented in countless extraordinary and beautiful ways…which brings us back to Laurie Lee.
To criticise a poet is to deny their feelings, their interpretations and their imagination.
It is poetry that allows all these elements freedom…so set yourself free, walk differently and enjoy the wave of the world and the wonder of words. Wow!

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!)…

Letter-writing – what’s that? #JohnKeats #poetry #letters

John Keats (1795-1821) a man of many words, poetical of course, but also a keen, enthusiastic letter-writer. An honest letter or postcard holds more personality and truth of my mind than a practised or rehearsed verse or set of lyrics; it speaks spontaneously from the heart and remains forever a private, intimate, immediate gift from one to another.
However many texts, Facebook friends, likes or comments, tweets or followers – a unique and original offering and an everlasting token remains: the old-fashioned handwritten note…it says more than it reads…it says ‘I’ve been thinking of YOU, and now you’re not with me, I hold a little something of you and until I see you again, I send this as a little something of me.’

‘poetry should be a great and unobtrusive, a thing which enters into one’s soul.’
From a letter by John Keats

‘My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains My sense.’
John Keats Poetry (it must be love, love, love)