Thursday, December 01, 2011

Madame Tussaud, Lady Astor, Sherlock Holmes and Pies


I have to confess I have never really considered the origin of the waxworks at Madame Tussaud's, I just recall being freaked out by the Chamber of Horrors.  Marie Tussaud was born on this day in 1761 in Strasbourg. She was appointed art tutor to Elisabeth, the sister of Louis XVI until the Revolution and during the Reign of Terror she was given the gruesome task of creating death masks from the guillotined heads. Right.

This day in 1887 saw the publication of Conan Doyle's Study in Scarlet - the first in the series to introduce Sherlock Holmes. Again I veer off the point but Julian Barnes' Arthur and George is one of my all time favourites and is a firm favourite on my Christmas shopping list.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

Lady Astor took her seat in the House of Commons on December the 1st 1919 having been elected on November the 28th. This by John Singer Sargent, courtesy as ever of Wikipedia:



December the 1st marks the anniversary of the signing of The Antarctic Treaty in 1959. Twelve governments agreed to make the uninhabited continent a scientific reserve. More details can be found here on the National Science Foundation Website.


Today is the feast day of Saint Eligius, the Patron Saint of goldsmiths, metal workers and coin collectors.


Food. Apparently today is National Pie Day, I have included a link to this wonderful blog I came across recently. Enjoy,

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Jonathan Swift, Monkey Closets, Churchill and The Flying Scotsman

Right. So I haven't been fully up to speed on my little blog. No kidding. I have been looking into fascinating dates but I just haven't got around to writing them up. Several things gave me the kick I needed today. Mark Twain's birthday, the origin of 'spend a penny', Churchill and completely not relevant to the actual day but some research I was doing led me to discover The Earl of Dundonald which led me to remember just how much I enjoy doing this.

Jonathan Swift was born on this day in 1667. I couldn't decide which link to include so I went for this fabulous image from the British Library.

November the 30th 1761 saw the birth of Smithson Tennant,  the English chemist who first identified the elements osmium and iridium; the first deriving its' name from the Greek word osme meaning odour, due to the pungent odour the latter from the Greek goddess Iris symnolised by a rainbow. Awfully long time ago but I like his approach.

I find myself quoting Mark Twain rather a lot. Samuel Clemens was born on November the 30th 1835. I am including this link here as I think is it just fabulous - his letter to Walt Whitman via the wonderful Letters of Note.

November the 30th 1874 is the birthday of Sir Winston Churchill. Again of course there are too many things to include here but I thought the link to his being awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1953 makes an interesting read.


Lucy Maud Montgomery  shares a birthday with Chruchill. She was born in Clifton, now New Jersey. Mark Twain said of Anne that she was  'the dearest and most loveable child since the immortal Alice.'

The steam locomotive The Flying Scotsman became the first train to officially exceed 100 mph on this day on 1934.

In 1936 The Crystal Palace, built for the Great Exhibition of 1851 was destroyed by fire. Again slightly off the axis but I love this story of the Victoria Regia lily. I love flowers. I also came across what seems to be the origin of the expression 'to spend a penny.' Crystal Palace housed the first public conveniences, also called Monkey Closets and there was a penny charge to use them. One source states that 827, 280 visitors made use of the service.




This wonderful image courtesy of Wikipedia.

November the 30th is St. Andrew's Day - the Patron Saint of Scotland. He is also the Patron Saint of Barbados, the island having gained its' independence from the UK on this day.

OK food. There was an article in  The Guardian today about odd coloured brussels sprouts. I love brussels sprouts and thought I would choose this.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Ahem, Samuel Pepys, Walt Whitman and Big Ben



Right, yes. Slight deficiency of new post details. Actually it's been rather a comedy of errors. I would say funny but it's not particularly funny to lose internet access for a fairly keen internet shopper such as me.......

So my iphone went splash into a swimming pool and in yet another not so funny comedy moment someone tipped a glass of water over my shiny sleek keyboard. Hey ho.

So excuses over, wires back where they should be I am sort of getting my mojo back with regard to my neglected blog.

So, May the 31st.

As ever a true smorgasbord of interesting things, variety being the spice and all that I went for a bite size selection to highlight.

In 1578 King Henry III laid the first stone of the Pont Neuf in Paris, now the oldest bridge over the Seine.

On this day in 1669 Samuel Pepys made his final entry into his diary, his failing eyesight bringing to an end his monumental more than nine year work.

The monumentally wonderful Big Ben first rang out over London on this day in 1859.



Image courtesy of Wikipedia, from The Illustrated News of the World, December 4th 1858.

May the 31st 1911 saw the launch of the hull of the Titanic in Belfast;  there are some amazing images here.

May the 31st is the birthday of one of my favourite favourite poets  - Walt Whitman. I faffed around thinking of a poem to add, I couldn't choose, so have a look here: A Child Said, What is the Grass.

Walter Sickert, Denholm Elliott and Terry Waite share this birthday - 1860, 1922 and 1939 respectively.


The Saint for the day is Saint Petronille, the recipe for the day involves the enormous amount of fun we have had recently picking cherries : 


Duck with sour cherry sauce followed by cherry clafoutis.


Ps. I just came across this via the wonder that is Twitter.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Hans Christian Andersen, Emile Zola & Sir Alec Guinness

These are out of sync and late as I have been in a rather nice no computer zone - full service will be resumed soon......

April the 2nd 742 is believed by some sources to be the date of birth of Charlemagne.

Hans Christian Andersen was born on April the 2nd 1805 in Odense, Denmark. Again you may have to indulge me a little here. A friend is working on a book about children's stories past and present; we were discussing Andersen just last week. When I was little girl I won my one and only life time prize  - a copy of The Little Matchstick Girl.  I assume as I associate the story with the peak of my winning things career I've always been enormously fond of it, sad as it is. I always come back to the story at Christmas or when I see snow.

This image courtesy of Wikipedia is by Andersen's first illustrator, Vilhelm Pedersen:



Andersen  visited England is 1847, on this visit he met Charles Dickens. He would come back ten years later and stay with Dickens for a period of five weeks. Again from Wikipedia :

Right, rant alert - I'll try to keep it brief. Another of my literary Titans. Emile Zola was born on April the 2nd 1840 in Paris. Again I could  go on for pages and pages but I probably won't. I personally can't recommend his work enthusiastically enough - he was enormously prolific. If you are looking for a top tip you could try L'Assommoir or Le Ventre de Paris. He was a childhood friend of Paul Cezanne, a friendship that would continue thought out their adult careers. This wonderful image courtesy of  Wikipedia :


Again here:

1889 - in April the 2nd Charles Hall patented an inexpensive means of producing aluminium.

On April the 2nd 1935 the Scottish inventor Robert Watson-Watt received the patent for radar.

Sir Alec Guinness and William Holman Hunt were also born on April the 2nd - 1914 and 1824 respectively.

Today is the Feast Day of.

Friday, April 01, 2011

William Harvey, $$$, April Fools and Apple Inc

I had a quick look around for April Fools Day stuff - it is no doubt being done to death but this made me laugh - during the 18th & 19th centuries a popular prank was to invite people to the Washing of the Lions at the Tower of London. They fell for it !

Here is further information on the the Washing of the Lions and more on the  origin of April Fools Day from the marvellously named Museum of Hoaxes. There is an online Hoaxipedia. Before I looked into this I didn't know there was a Museum of Hoaxes. 


The physician William Harvey was born on April the 1st 1578. He described the systematic circulation and properties of blood. He had a very distinguished medical career and was made Physician Extraordinary  to King James in 1618. His great work De Motu Cordis was published in Frankfurt in 1628.


This fabulous image courtesy of Wikipedia is at the National Portrait Gallery.

Oliver Pollock  is said to have created the dollar sign on this day in 1778. $$$

Two young men named Steve started up a company called Apple on April the 1st 1976. Have a look here at the report in Time Magazine. Here is a link to the Apple Museum, this fabulous image, the first Apple logo,  courtesy of Wikipedia.


Right I'll step away from my Mac, pick up my iPhone.......

Milan Kundera and Ali MacGraw have a birthday today - 1929 and 1938.

Today is the Feast Day of  Saint Macarius the Wonder-Worker.

It's tempting to come up with an April Fools barmy recipe but I can't think of any, I saw an odd image of a French flower fish so I thought of fish - I love mackerel, I love beetroot and I love them together, here.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Descartes, Haydn & The Eiffel Tower

King Henry II of France was born on March the 31st 1519  at the Chateau de Saint Germain en Laye.

The great philosopher and mathematician Rene Descartes was born in the Indre et Loire on this day in 1596. He spent two years in Paris studying mathematics during which time he met members of influential Parisian society. He began a law degree but chose instead to leave for the Netherlands and volunteer in the Dutch Army. Image courtesy of Wikipedia and on display in the Louvre:


His famous A Discourse on Method, Meditations on First Philosophy was published in 1637. Again here courtesy of Wikipedia :


John Harrison was baptised on March the 31st 1693 in Foulby Yorkshire. There is more information on Harrison here from the National Maritime Museum.

The composer Joseph Haydn was born on March the 31st 1732.

On this day in 1889 the Eiffel Tower was dedicated, as a monument to the passing of a hundred years since the French Revolution. The link I've included is slightly quirky...here the Eiffel Tower website.

The Saint with a Feast Day is Saint Benjamin.

This recipe for a Spring casserole sounds just right for today.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Goya, Anna Sewell, Van Gogh & Alaska


The American surgeon Dr Crawford Long first used diethyl either as an anaesthetic during an operation to remove a tumour on March the 30th 1842. In the United States National Doctors Day is celebrated in his honour.

Vincent van Gogh was born on this day in 1853 in Holland. He would go on to join his brother Theo,  a gallery curator in Paris, where he encountered numerous Impressionist artists, including Gaugin. He later relocated to Arles but was troubled throughout his short life by lack of confidence and mental illness. I love Van Gogh and have trouble selecting one of his paintings to illlustrate his birthday, in the end I went for this beautiful image, Starry Night courtesy of Wikipedia from The Museum of Modern Art in New York:


On March the 30th 1867 the United States signed an agreement to buy Alaska from Russia for $7,000,000. Thanks as ever to Wikipedia here is the cheque:



Anna Sewell and Paul Verlaine were both born on this day - 1820 and 1844.

Today is the Feast day of Saint Fergus.

I had the idea of making a fish soup. I was thinking of the various options - looking at The Colossus put me in a Spanish frame of mind - I found this from River Cottage.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Thomas Coram, Coca Cola & Christopher Lambert

On this day in 1461 Edward of York would defeat Queen Margaret at Towton in Yorkshire and go on to be crowned Edward IV.

I seem to be on quite a roll coming across birthdays and anniversaries of historical figures that are of huge personal significance to me. Today is another whopper, a huge one. I have actually been researching this man for some time as London's Foundling Museum, formerly the Foundling Hospital, features in my work and there is a chapter named after its' founder Thomas Coram. As it is now known The Thomas Coram Foundation for Children was the first children's charity in Britain, established by Royal Charter in 1739. You can follow the Foundation on Facebook and Twitter.

Thomas Coram, was born in Lyme Regis in 1668. The Wikipedia entry for the year states he was born on March the 29th - there may be some ambiguity however; he died on March the 29th 1751. Again I have the slight issue with where to start where to stop. He spent his early years in America and upon his return to Britain was horrified to see the conditions in which the poor were living. He lobbied peers, friends - including Handel and Hogarth and Parliament and finally a Royal Charter was granted in 1739 by George II to create the hospital. If you are in London and have a chance to visit The Foundling Museum it really is well worth it. Here a portrait by Hogarth of Coram from 1740 - courtesy of Wikipedia and on display at The Foundling Museum.


On March the 29th 1871 the Royal Albert Hall was opened by Queen Victoria in memory of her late husband.

Several sources state that on this day in 1886 John Pemberton created his 'brain tonic' Coca Cola. I found this from the Wikipedia entry on Pemberton :

With public concern about drug addiction, depression and alcoholism among veterans, and "neurasthenia" among "highly-strung" Southern women,[6] his medicinal concoction was advertised as being particularly beneficial for "ladies, and all those whose sedentary employment causes nervous prostration, irregularities of the stomach, bowels and kidneys, who require a nerve tonic and a pure, delightful diffusable stimulant."[7]

7. Extract from Mark Pendergrast : For God, Country and Coca Cola

The British pharmacologist Sir John Robert Vane was born on March 29th 1927. His research and study into prostaglandins and the inhibiting effect of aspirin on inflammation would earn him one third of the Nobel Prize in 1982.

Also with a birthday today are Edwin Lutyens - 1869, Eric Idle - 1943 and for those Highlander fans out there Christopher Lambert, 1957.

Today is the Feast Day of Saint Eustace.

I made this last night and it was fabulous : duck breasts with pomegranate.



Monday, March 28, 2011

Bartolommeo, Thomas Clarkson and Three Mile Island

The Italian Renaissance artist Fra Bartolommeo was born on March the 28th 1472 in Tuscany. Known for his paintings of religious subjects, here is a beautiful work, now in the Uffizi.


The Annunciation, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Thomas Clarkson was born on this day in 1760. During his studies at Cambridge he wrote a Latin eassy  discussing whether it was lawful to make slaves of others against their will. The essay won an award and would define his work thereafter. He met Granville Sharpe and other abolitionists and was instrumental in the creation and passing of the Bill For the Abolition of Slavery in 1807.


Image courtesy of Suffolk Record Office.

He is a central figure in this work by Benjamin Haydon in the National Portrait Gallery. William Wordsworth wrote this sonnet to Clarkson.

On March the 28th 1797 Nathaniel Briggs of New Hampshire patented the washing machine

On this day in 1979 an accident occurred at Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in Middleton, Pennsylvania, leading to a partial reactor meltdown. It is  the largest nuclear accident in US history. I have included a link to a recent BBC article.

Today is the Feast Day of Saint James Caxton, the Blessed.

So I've been in a  major major soup phase, I love making soup and it seems Spring like, to me anyway. I went for two - one favourite  - watercress; number two, slightly more unfamiliar - I've made it a few times - cucumber.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Charles I, Alfred de Vigny, X Rays & Marlon Brando

Charles I  becomes King of England, Scotland and Ireland on this day in 1625.

The educationalist and founder of the Madras System Andrew Bell was born on March the 27th 1753 in St. Andrews.

The novelist and playwright Alfred de Vigny was born on this day in 1797 to an aristocratic family in Loches, France. Here is a link to Henry Wallis's painting  of Chatterton, the inspiration for de Vigny's wonderful play.

The physicist Wilhelm Rontgen was born on March the 27th in Lennep, Germany in 1845. His research into electromagnetic radiation led to his discovery of the X Ray. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1901. This amazing image, courtesy of Wikipedia, is  one his first X-Rays - of his wife's hand, taken in 1895.



The first non-direct blood transfusion was performed on this day in 1914 in Brussels.

On March the 27th 1973 Marlon Brando declined his Best Actor Oscar, for The Godfather.

Today is the Feast Day of Saint John of Egypt.

The Tate recently sent by tweet the lovely Small Meadows in  Spring by Sisley - the daffodils are fabulous, the clocks have moved Spring it seems happily to have sprung.

I was cooking a noodle soup the other day, I couldn't find the soy sauce, anywhere. Fortunately I had happy helpers at hand, an adult one was able to whizz to Waitrose and get more. I found it a few days later, in the bathroom cupboard. Why ? How?  The soup was similar to this one.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Aesop's Fables, Robert Frost, Tennessee Williams & Dr. Spock

March the 26th 1484 saw the first print of William Caxton's translations of Aesop's Fables. I didn't know that until a couple of days ago, I found out when researching today. Bizarrely I have been reading several fables to the children recently - I bought a couple of copies to give as gifts and have sort of  rediscovered them. The more I pursue my day to day fact-finding the more coincidences I encounter. It's fascinating. I've also included a link to the British Library collection of Incunabula - you know the expression you learn something new every day - anyway - also known as 15th Century books produced with moveable type.


The physicist and inventor Benjamin Thompson was born on this day in 1753 in Massachusetts. His study and research into properties of heat would would form part of the revolution in thermodynamics, more reference details here.

On March the 26th 1780 the first Sunday newspaper was printed in the UK - the British Gazette and Sunday Monitor. I wonder what the late Sunday morning breakfast was in 1780...

OK so I've had a good run on the birthdays of people I hugely admire, today is no exception. In fact it is a biggie. On March the 26th 1874 probably my all time favourite poet Robert Frost was born in San Francisco. It's hard for me to know where to start or stop with Robert Frost; since I can remember if I am dithering on a decision these lines pop into my head from The Road Not Taken :

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages  hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I - 
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.  


A Question

A voice said, Look me in the stars
And tell me truly, men of earth, 
If all the soul-and-body scars
Were not too much to pay for birth 

This wonderful quotation from Frost:  'The best things and best people rise out of their separateness; I'm against a homogenized society because I want the cream to rise.' He read at President John F. Kennedy's Inauguration in 1961, I found this account.

This superb image courtesy of the United States Library of Congress:


From Wikipedia:

I wrote recently of my absolute appreciation for the film adaptation of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. I realised I hadn't looked at anything by him for ages so went and picked up a copy of The Glass Menagerie - another one for my Book Blub - I didn't realise at the time of writing that  Tennessee Williams was born on March the 26th 1911 in Columbus Mississippi. See what I mean about coincidence ?

Leonard Nimoy, Erica Jong and Patrick Suskind all have a birthday today - 1931, 1942 and 1949.

Today is the Feast Day of Saint Larissa.

My son loves meringue. I can't stand meringue. I said we could make them today  - what's that thing about confronting phobias....A friend emailed me with an apparently foolproof recipe. Wish me luck.

Another friend mentioned that is is National Cherry Blossom Day in Washington. Fabulous.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Venice, Robert the Bruce, David Lean and Elton John

I read an article recently mentioning the adorable things, quirks of vocabulary children say then at some stage grow out of. I remember most of them but should in truth note them. My daughter for example, when going barefoot say she is 'going in her own feet.' Love it.

Anyway. March the 25th.

The City Of Venice is said to have been founded on this day in 421. The capital of the Veneto region, it stretches across 117 small islands. The founding of the city is said to date back to the dedication of the fisrt church - San Giacomo. Here is a brief history. My thing for old maps shows no signs of abating.


On March the 25th 1306 Robert the Bruce was crowned King of the Scots at Scone near Perth. Here is an image of the Coronation Chair with the Stone of Scone underneath.



We remember a Mr Benjamin French. On March the 25th 1807 the world's first Passenger Railway had its first outing. It was a four wheeled horse drawn dandy and ran from Swansea to Oystermouth.

OK mini-rant here. David Lean was born on this day in 1908 in Croydon. His list of films is extraordinary and comprehensive but to mention a few of my absolute favourites - Lawrence of Arabia, Dr Zhivago and A Passage to India. Have a look at this fabulous article from The New Yorker. Also this from the BFI.

Gloria Steinem, Elton John and Aretha Franklin have a birthday today - 1934, 1942 and 1947.

Today is the celebration throughout the Christian Church of the Feast of the Annunciation - the celebration of the announcement by the Angel Gabriel to Mary that she would give birth to Jesus. Today is also known as Lady Day. Enjoy.

Huge thanks as ever for notes and images courtesy of the the great Wikipedia.

Oops nearly forgot - I have friends for lunch today - cooking an all time favourite La Parmigiana di Melanzane. While I think about it  here are two of my favourite Italian words : carciofi and albicocca. 

Thursday, March 24, 2011

William Morris, Robert Koch & Steve McQueen

I read a fabulous description by Thomasina Miers on Twitter the other day about a lunch she had recently enjoyed - home made salt beef, mustard, cholla bread, cabbage, salad. Yes I am on Twitter - very recently, tweeting away with Piers Morgan, Sarah Brown and Justin Bieber.....Actually it's great, I follow the National Geographic amongst many others and the images, delivered several times a day, are a joy. Anyway @thomasinamiers has got me started on the salt beef thing. I'm researching how to do it and plan to have a go this weekend. I will report back.

Where was I , oh yes, today, March the 24th.

William Morris was born on March the 24th 1834. Again I am going a little off piste with the images, sorry. I absolutely adore this painting of his wife Jane by Rossetti. I got stuck choosing images for Morris there are so many exquisite ones; here he is with Edward Burne-Jones:


These from the V & A.

The microbiologist Robert Koch announced on this day in 1882 that he had discovered the bacterium that causes tuberculosis. Working with his assistant Julius Richard Petri, he devised techniques to isolate bacteria, leading to his discovery. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1905.



Editing as we know is a sophisticated, complex skill. Self editing more so. OK I'm talking Steve McQueen. Where to start, where to stop ? He was born on March the 24th 1930. Look :


I'm going to stop there, I am of course dumduming The Great Escape music. This is Harry.



Sorry this is not strictly meant to be here - the phenomenal Elizabeth Taylor died yesterday. I  remember seeing Cat on a Hot Tin Roof; I'm not sure a film, or an actors performance in a film has ever made a greater impression on me.

Alexandre-Edmond Becquerel, Houdini - real name Erik Weisz and Dario Fo were also born on March the 24th - 1820, 1874 and 1926.

The Feast day today is Saint Aldemar, 'The Wise.'

I have Cat On a Hot Tin Roof accents in my head, Turtle Cake anyone ?

I received several emails this week from friends urging me to have a look at this terrific blog - the writer runs a weekly 'theme' encouraging others to share their photos. The theme this week is education - my children are still quite young yet old enough to enjoy these posts; however I have numerous friends with older children - some in the 'off to find their independence teenage' years - quite a few miserable and tested to the limit at school. I get daily, sometimes hourly emails or texts from them with ideas and input for March 17th, it's utterly fabulous. Also after years of moaning about how rubbish I am with a camera I start a photography course with a friend in April. Uh oh.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Captain Kidd, Patrick Henry & The Woolwich Ferry

I am really enjoying this day by day research thing. Yes other things aren't getting finished quite as quickly as they should but my children are having fun, particularly when we need to choose a mad scientist image...Anyway. Scrolling through birthdays got me thinking about books I have read, loved loved loved and want to reread. Then I got to thinking that it might be a good thing to read  stuff that I have either glanced at or not read at all. I had lunch the other day with a friend who is a book reviewer, she gave me two top tips which are now on my Book Blub reading list thing that I just started - my friend said blub /club is her default typo, mine is bron /born. Choices for far:  The Black Prince by Iris Murdoch and Childhood Roots of Adult Happiness by Dr. Ned Halllowell. I'll report in with my progress.

Right. March the 23rd.

Captain William Kidd was born on March the 23rd 1645. There is a full complement of information on him, it makes very intriguing reading ! It seems he was either a villainous pirate - he was tried and executed for precisely that, or falsely accused, spending his time at sea as a privateer. I've pulled out some of the more obscure details, if you're interested his story makes fascinating reading and has gone on to influence many writers - including Edgar Allen Poe and Robert Louis Stevenson.

Following his trial for execution, his body was gibbeted - I'll let you look that up, and placed hanging in an iron cage over the River Thames - an exercise intended to deter others from taking the course of piracy as a career option. Many years before Dickens put quill to paper, Kidd's associates on ship were amongst others Barleycorn, Loffe and Parrot and his lawyers were Dr Oldish and Mr. Lemon.

I've been to a birthday party at the Captain Kidd pub near Execution Dock, very atmospheric on a cold winter evening...Have a look here for his Trial announcement. This engraving, which is not Kidd, dates from circa 1725.


A complete digression but I was researching something on Dickens and I came across this - I have to have one, Dickens that is and perhaps the Deluxe Librarian too.

On March the 23rd 1775, addressing the Virgina Convention, Patrick Henry is reported to have delivered his memorable 'Give me Liberty, or give me Death.' Delegates included Thomas Jefferson and George Washington.



The Free Woolwich Ferry was officially opened on  this day in 1899. I include it here as it was the brainchild of one of my tip top heroes Joseph Bazalgette.

Joan Crawford, Roger Bannister and Donald Campbell share today as a birthday, 1908, 1921 and 1929 respectively.

On March the 23rd 1989 Martin Fleischmann and Stanley Pons presented their work on Cold Fusion.

Right, the Saint with a Feast Day today is among others Saint Ethelwald.

I'm not sure Captain Kidd or Patrick Henry would have gone for this, lunch today is a very simple yet superb spicy tomato and lentil soup and yes I love lentils.

Ps. Steve McQueen's birthday tomorrow....





Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Gutenberg, Van Dyck, Chlorophyll and the Lumiere Brothers

The jammy dodgers were a measured success - recipe OK, jam in the right place. They were however Halloween dodgers, we are packing to move and the only cutters I could find were a pumpkin and a bat. Anyway, March the 22nd.

I have had a good look around and various sources say that the Gutenberg Bible, the first book printed using movable type, was produced on March the 22nd 1457. It is unclear, to me anyway at this stage , if the date is absolutely correct but it makes hugely interesting reading ! Twenty-one complete copies of the Bible survive and the last public sale was in 1978.



The great Flemish artist Anthony van Dyck was born on March the 22nd 1599.

March the 22nd 1788 saw the birth, in Paris, of the pharmacist and chemist Pierre Joseph Pelletier. Working with his colleague Joseph Blenaime, his study of alkaloids led to the discovery of strychnine, quinine and along with Runge who had identified it, caffeine. They would also isolate and identify chlorophyll. Clearly as a result of having it drummed into my head along with my Latin declensions I can still remember the equation for photosynthesis. Who knows when it may come in handy.

It's dark outside and I was quite interested to read the actual effect of caffeine, in moderation of course. Experiments show that it has an adverse effect on spiders, take a look:



The American physicist Robert Millikan was born on March the 22nd 1868. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for physics in 1923 for his work on the charge of electrons, devising the oil drop experiment.

Auguste and Louis Lumiere would on March the 22nd 1895 in Paris, invite an audience to view the first public screening of a film. Great surname considering what they would go on to do. 

Also with birthdays today we have Chico ( Leonard ) Marx - 1887, Marcel Marceau - 1923 and Andrew Lloyd Webber, born in 1948. Oddly I have a mild phobia of mime, clown things and musical theatre. 

On March the 22nd 1935 Persia was formally to be renamed Iran; I found this little article interesting. Right up there with signatures I am developing a real thing for old maps:


The Feast day today is Saint Paul of Narbonne among others.

My feast for today is carrying on the Spring theme I supoose, a very easy and delicious artichoke salad. While Spring is in the air, have a look here.



Monday, March 21, 2011

Henry V, Bach, Fourier and Alcatraz

I am getting seriously very very good at my little game "How many different ways can you faff about doing other things before sitting down to write..?" I've even come up with  a new linguistic tangent - creating adjectives. I recently described a fairly gruesome dinner I was kind of obliged to go to  as 'a bit Richard Curtis.' Anyway. March the 21st.

1413. March the 21st Henry V became King of England. He is immortalised in the eponymous Shakespeare play and  remembered for the triumphant victory at the Battle of Agincourt.

Johann Sebastian Bach was born on March the 21st 1685 in Eisenach, Germany, the youngest child of a musical family. Orphaned at the age of ten he went to live with his older brother, winning a scholarship to St Michael's School in Luneberg. Isn't this fabulous:



On this day in 1713 Francis Lewis was born in Wales. He attended Westminster School before re-locating to New York. As a representative of the city he would sign the Declaration of  Independence in 1778. My odd thing for signatures is  gaining pace but in this case it's quite relevant ! Here is his :


The French mathematician and physicist Jean Baptiste Fourier was born on this day in 1768. Known for Fourier's Law - he is attributed as having discovered in the 1820s the Greenhouse Effect.

Nathaniel Woodard, an English clergyman and educationalist, was born on March the 21st 1811. He founded eleven schools and his work is promoted to this day through the Woodard Corporation. I have certainly spent time creating my own school - in my head that is. You know, they start around 9.30, no homework, learn for the pleasure of learning not to get through endless tests, stop for a really good, nutritious lunch,  anyway, I digress -  again.

Charles Lindbergh was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honour on March the 21st 1928 in recognition of his first transatlantic flight.



The United States Federal prison at Alcatraz was closed on this day in 1963. The island had been named in 1775 'La Isla de los Alcatraces' - the Island of the Pelicans.

Today is the Feast Day of St Serapion the Scholastic, among others.

I have a house full of beautifully scented hyacinths, we saw the sun this weekend, I have also bought loads of daffodils  - in other words, we are with any luck emerging into Spring ! I don't actually know why but Soupe au Pistou always seems Spring like to me and it's on my menu today.

As ever, thanks to the marvels of Wikipedia.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Ovid, Ibsen and Uncle Tom's Cabin

On this day in 43BC Publius Ovidius Naso, known as  Ovid was born to a wealthy family in the Apennine valley, east of Rome. Along with Virgil and Horace he is seen as one of the great figures of Latin literature. Ovid wrote in some detail about his life and contemporary times and his work is a comprehensive source of classical mythology - influencing Chaucer, Shakespeare and Dante. Here is a frontispiece to the wonderful Metamorphoses.



On March the 20th 1616 Sir Walter Raleigh was released from the Tower of London following a  long imprisonment for his supposed involvement in a plot against King James. He was freed so that he could embark on an expedition to Venezuela. I found this lovely portrait by Millais, titled  'The Boyhood of Raleigh' :


Indulging my newly acquired interest in historical signatures, here is Raleigh's:


The great Norwegian playwright  Henrik Ibsen, considered to be one of the founders of Modernism in the theatre was born on this day in 1828. Here is an excerpt from a letter by Ibsen to his translator Edmund Gosse :


Harriet Beecher Stowe's magnificent work Uncle Tom's Cabin was published on March the 20th 1852. I love the reported quotation from Abraham Lincoln on meeting the author : 'So this is the little lady who wrote the book that made this  great war.' 

Today is the Feast Day of Saint Cuthbert.

We were absolutely amazed to see the beautiful moon last night, even here in London. There are some amazing images on line, I won't copy one of my amateur ones !

There is absolutely no credible reason for this but my children fancy having a go at making jammy dodgers - wish us luck.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

'Dr. Livingstone, I Presume..?' and Sfinci

The missionary and explorer David Livingstone was born on  this day in 1813 in Lanarkshire.  For some six years whilst in Africa all contact with him was lost. In 1869 the New York Herald newspaper sent Henry Morton Stanley to find him; on doing so, he is reported to have announced the now infamous 'Dr. Livingstone, I presume ?' Here is an illustration from the 1872 Illustrated London News. I have also included a link to a rather lovely portrait in the National Portrait Gallery.




On March the 19th 1883 the chemist Sir Norman ( Walter ) Haworth was born in Worcestershire. He became known for his research into the properties of carbohydrates and ascorbic acid - vitamin c, and was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1937.


On this day in 1900 the chemist Frederic Joliot-Curie was born in Paris. He was married to Irene Curie, - the daughter of Pierre and Marie Curie. They would jointly be awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1935.

The Sydney Harbour Bridge was opened on March the 19th 1932.

On March the 19th 1965 Rembrandt's Titus sold for a record $7,770,000. Here is a self-portrait:


Today is the Feast Day of Saint Joseph or San Giuseppe, widely celebrated throughout Southern Italy. These marvellously named sfinci it would seem are the order of the day. I'm going to have a go.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Wilfred Owen, John Updike, Luc Besson and a Spacewalk

Mary Tudor, daughter of Henry VII, was born on March the 18th 1496. I  had several links to choose from, but was particularly taken with the Catherine Howard jewellery so went for this one. I've also included another link to the Mary Rose, said to have been named after her.

On this day in 1766 Britain repealed the enormously unpopular Stamp Act.

The poet and critic Stephane ( Etienne ) Mallarme was born on March the 18th 1842. With Paul Verlaine, Mallarme was a founder of the Symbolist movement. His work inspired musical pieces by Debussy and Ravel amongst others. In 1875 Mallarme translated Edgar Allen Poe's The Raven, the work was illustrated by Edouard Manet. Here is a beautiful portrait of Mallarme by Manet:


Neville Chamberlain, the future Prime Minister, was born on this day in 1869.

March the 18th 1891 saw the opening of the London-Paris telephone system.

The poet and soldier Wilfred Owen was born on this day in 1893. He was killed in combat one week before the end of the war on November the 4th 1918, aged 25. His mother received the news of his death on Armistice Day. I am including a link to an article by Jeremy Paxman I very much enjoyed. Also here is a link to one of his best known poems in draft, Dulce et Decorum Est, part of the British Library Collection.

Sharing a birthday today too is John Updike, he was born in 1932.

The film director Luc Besson also has a birthday today - he was born in Paris in 1959. I have lost count of the amount of times I watched Le Grand Bleu at university.

On March the 18th 1965 Aleksei Leonov, the Soviet Cosmonaut, made history with the first EVA or Spacewalk.

Today is the Feast Day of Saint Salvatore of Horta ( d. 1567 ).

There is a scene in Le Grand Bleu where they eat huge bowls of pasta on a terrace by the sea, it always makes me ravenously hungry. I had something along these lines Linguine alla Mollica in Sicily a while ago, it is just fabulous.