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Showing posts from March, 2009

A City Within a City, Little Chester, Derby

This is a great book to know Derby local history, by Joan D'Arcy.

Little Chester is now a part of the City of Derby by the River Derwent. It is a Conservation Area and a buffer zone of the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site. It has Roman beginnings, a Saxon cemetery, a Domesday entry, a manor and prebendal estate. It grew, through railway and other industrial development, into a Victorian community with church, chapel, school and rows of terraced houses set around a Green or Recreation Ground.

About Roman Beginnings:
It was in the year AD 43 that Roman Emperor Claudius launched the invasion of the British Isles.

Three legions crossed the Channel and landed on the south coast. They were soon advancing north in a march of conquest and occupation. As they advanced, they fortified strategic and defensive sites.

The Ninth Legion (Hispana) was given the task of subduing the Midlands and its people, a tribal group called Corieltauvi (otherwise Coritani).

About AD 50 it reached the D…

Overweight British Kings and Queens

King Henry VIII hate greens, seemed never to eat vegetables and fruits. He was tall and  handsomen with a bright red-gold cap of hair and beard in his youth,  and he was very athletic, he loved hunting and party.  But he became grossly overweight and ill in his later years,  The fat, balding and unhealthy man has been often remembered.

William the Bastard, the Duke of Normandy, known as William the Conqueror was crowned on Christmas Day 1066 as the King of England.  He had become very overweight in his later life and when they tried to get his body into  his stone tomb at Caen, it burst. A foul stench leaked out into the church and into the nostrils of those who had come to pay their respects.

George the Fourth  was infamous for being overweight, overdressed, and oversexed and one of the most controversial an outrageous monarchs in British.  He wore horrible greasy make-up on his face and was so fat it was said that his stomach hung down to his knees.  He stay in bed all day where he …

Domesday Book

When I readDerbyshire Villages, I noticed that in many chapters the author mentioned a book Domesday Book, sounds like "doomsday book". I just wondered what the book looks like, was that a book which recorded church building (domes of churches) by Christian monks?

Of course not, the Domesday Book is a great land survey from 1086, commissioned by William the Conqueror to assess the extent of the land and resources being owned in England at the time.

Well, I was not totally wrong about the book name. An observer of the survey wrote, "there was no single hide nor a yard of land, nor indeed one ox nor one cow nor one pig which was left out", the grand and comprehensive scale of the survey and the irriversible nature of the information collected led people to compare it to the Last Judgement, or 'Doomsday', described in the Bible.

This book also showed the dvastation caused by the war led by William the Conqueror as village after village appears with the word wa…

Three bad omens for three greatest warriors

After the English King Edward the confessor died, Harold was crowned king. No sooner did Harold fought Harald Hardrada in Stamford Bridge and killed the Viking leader, he rushed to the south to the battle in Hastings with William the Duke of Normandy.

There were three bad omens for these three great warriors. Their attitude toward the bad omen is quite interesting, we can see how a man can change a disadvantage to advantage, and nuisance to encouragement.

At the end of April, a couple of nights after Easter, there was a terrifying sign that disaster might be about to strike die English. A weird "long-haired star" appeared in the night sky; a star that seemed to have a tail of glowing white fire. We know it now as Halley's Cormet and it was making its usual 76-year appearance, but to the superstitious people of 1066 it was a supernatural omen; its fiery "tail was a warning of the actual fires that would follow below it, in its wake. Harold stood with members of the wit…

The fyrd had begun under Alfred the Great

The fyrd had begun under Alfred the Great as a way of trying to deal with the invading Danish army. It was a kind of millitia requiring landowners to provide armed men for military service in defence of the realm; a kind of conscription of all able-bodied men between the age of 15 and 54.

This was a sophisticated call-up system for the army, where the raising of men was based on how much land was held and worked because of the rule of loyalty and duty, which ran all the way from the lowest peasant to the king - and back again.

Ceorls (churls) were free peasants who worked the land. A ceorl did not own much land, and the land he held, he had been granted by a thegn (thane). A thegn would hold much more land than a ceorl and with this extra wealth came extra responsibility. It was a minimum requirement of a thegn that he provide one armed man and the money to keep him for two months. The more land he owned, the more men he would have to supply, and the men of the wealthy thegn would pro…

Easter feast in 1066

Easter was one of the biggest feast days of the year, coming after the fast of Lent.

Meat would have been roasting on spits over glowing fires. There would have been no roast popatoes with all this meat, though; they would not be brought back to England for hundreds of years. The same goes for tomatoes, chocolate, tea, coffee and sugar. Honey was the only sweetener in 1066. There would have been bread - but unleavened; more like Indian nan bread or Greek pitta.

This is quite interesting, just think about it, how could they live without potatoes, tomatoes, chocolate, tea, and coffee and sugar?

William Bastard, the Duke of Normandy

Normandy had been created in 911 when French King - Charlse the Simple - had given lands to a Viking called Rollo, or rolf, in the hope that he would act as a guard dog against other Viking raiders.

In 1027 or 1028, William was born, the illegitimate son of the ill-tempered Robert I, Duke of Normandy who was called the Robert the Devil, and Herleve, the daughter of a tanner, so this William was called William the Bastard. There is a very famous English surname Bastard, that was exactly originated from this 11th century Viking-French descendant, William the Conqueror, the former Duke of Normandy. 

William was very brave and also very cruel. During a siege of the town of Alencon, the inhabitants made the mistake of banging on sheets of leather and shouting, "Hides! Hides for the tanner!" in a goading reference to William's mother who was a tanner's daughter. Whether William was sensitive about his illegitimacy or his mother's low birth, the Alencons certainly lived t…

The Witanagemot

The word 'Witangemot' is an old anglo-saxon word, meaning "the meeting of wise men" ,  which was a kind of committee made up of the most important people in the country.

It is also spelled as "Witanagemot" in this website, sounds like "wit and age mot", "mot" means meet, that's exactly the meaning of "A meeting of  wise and old men".

When there was witanagemot, England was a long way from having an elected government as we have today, but the witangemot was more than most countries had at this time.

Each village in England had a village meeting or "moot" to discuss village matters and anything they could not deal with could be taken up through other, higher-level, meetings until it might just end up being discussed by the witangemot, which then advised the king.

Oscar Wilde was a gay

I am reading a book about Victorian time, listed in the book, one of the top ten Victorians was Oscar Wilde. He was a huge Irish dandy who was very funny and had a way with words. He wrote entertaining plays and other stuff which tried to get Victorians to be less serious and enjoy themselves more. Fore example, when Victorian do-gooders went round saying, "Drink is the curse of the working classes", Wilde turned it around and said: "Work is the curse of the drinking classes". Perhaps he is the wittest man ever.

As a writer, he refused to acknowledge that books could be moral or immoral. To him a book was either well written or poorly written. Well-written pornography was preferable to bad literature, regardless of the social merit of either.

via All about Oscar Wilde by Mark Gribben.

Wilde was gay ( shocking thing at the time, and still is in most countries around the world). He was sent to jail and died in exile.

Here you may find his most famous trials, which contin…

Philanthropist Dr Barnado (1845 -1905)

According to Wikipedia, philanthropy derives from Ancient Greek, meaning "to love people". Philanthropy is the act of donating money, goods, services, time and/or effort to support a socially beneficial cause, with a defined objective and with no financial or material reward to the donor.

via Philanthropy - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

A person who  does good is sometimes called philanthropist. Dr Barnado is one of the most famous philanthropist during Victorian time. Dr Thomas Barnardo set up the famous charity homes bearing his name which have given millions of orphans a better start in life, and took millions of children off the street.

But Barnado's homes started off pretty strict by modern standards.

The Indian Mutiny

British rulers were shaken to the core by the Indian Mutiny of 1857. The spark which lit the fuse of the rebellion was when cartridges were given to Indian troops which were coated in grease, made from cow or pig fat. These cartridges had to be prepared for firing by being bitten at one end. The cow is a sacred animal to the Hindus and the pig is regarded as unclean by Muslims, so no one was happy.

Indian troops refused to bite the cartridges. Their British officers hanged a few. The troops rioted. They killed their officers, ransacked Delhi, and massacred British men, women and children. For a long time it looked as if the British might be defeated.

The rebellion was about more than just biting cartridges. It was a revolt against taxation and the laws of the East India Company, which ruled India for Britain. After the mutiny, the British were a lot more careful about how they governed India.

When the news of the mutiny reached England, crowds bayed for blood and Victoria was horrifi…

Musical bustles

Bustles were padding which women wore beneath their skirts to make their bottoms look bigger.

During Victorian Golden and Diamond Jubilee, musical bustles were made to play 'God Save the Queen' when the wearer sat down.

Nightsoil men

In Victorian time, building were often put up before water and sewage pipes were laid down so a single tap or pump might have to serve hundreds of people. Toilet waste was carried away by 'nightsoil men'. 

Some seeped into the water supply and rivers became polluted by factory and human waste. In 1858, the Thames in London became so smelly that the year was known as 'the year of the Great Stink'!

Penny Hang

In Victorian times, many people flocked into the city, the cheap houses were badly built, cold and damp. In London, as many as forty people could have been found living in a tiny terraced house, with ten, or more, people in a single room.

Unable to find rooms, many lived in cellars, under bridges, or even in sewers. Homeless people or drunks out on the street could hire a 'penny hang'. This was a space on a thick rope. Two hooks fixed in the walls,  ropes strung in parallel from one side to another at about shoulder height. You would enter the penny hang, after paying a penny. There was no room to lie down. You hung across it. In the morning, the proprietor could come down and untie one end of the ropes, so that the clientele who had not managed to wake up and stagger out already would collapse together in a heap on the floor.

Mercedes-Benz History

In 1885, the Germans Karl Benz and Gottlieb Daimler invented the first workabale petrol-driven motorcar. Meanwhile an Austrian diplomat called Emil Jellinek had secured the selling rights on a large number of Daimler cars which he sold under the name Mercedes, after his ten-year-old daughter Mercedes Jellinek.

Ironically, history says Daimler, generally considered to be the father of modern automobiles never liked to drive, if, indeed he ever learned to drive.

In 1925 Emil Jellink joined forces with Karl Benz, and the cars made by the new company were called Mercedes-Benz cars.

via Mercedes-Benz History.

The Railways in 19 Century

The 1840s was a time of railway madness. Railway companies sprang up like mushrooms.

Railways were built by navvies (or navigators).  With pick, shovel, wheelbarrow and dynamite, they blasted tunnels and built embankments and bridges. They wore fancy waistcoats and moleskin trousers and had names like 'Fighting Joe' and 'Gypsy Jack'. they had a terrible reputation for boozing and brawling.

Traveller's handbooks advised men to guard their wallets in tunnels. They even suggested that women put pins in their mouths to avoid being kissed in the dark!

The first Railway accident happened in 1830. Many important people were invited to go on the first journey of the new Liverpool to Manchester railway, including actress Fanny Kemble and Member of Parliament, Charles Huskisson. There were about eight hundred people aboard. This is Huskisson's story, as told by Fanny Kemble:

"The engine had stopped to take on a supply of water and several of the gentlemen in the dir…

Queen Victorian loved to travel in disguise

Queen Victorian loved to travel in disguise and to be mistaken for somebody else. Once when she was in disguise, Old Lord Portarlinton once greeted her with the words, "I know your face quite well, but dammit I cannot put a name to it."

One moonlit night, Victoria was looking out of the window at Windsor when she was chatted-up by the sentry below, who mistook her for a housemaid. This made the Queen laugh so much she felt sick.

Victorian Toys

During Victorian times, children might have these toys to play with.

Dolls

Slate and chalks

Hoop and stick

Spinning top

Hoby horse

Rocking horse

Ice skates

Wooden sailing boat

Lead soldiers

Soap (for blowing bubbles)

Cricket bat

Hopscotch

and marbles

Anecdotes of the British Monarchs

The Crusader Shortly after being crowned, King Richard (1189 - 1199) decided to become a crusader.  Not much good came out of the Crusades except the English learnt about luxury goods such as silks, spices and rice and how to build bigger boats in which to carry them.  On his way home from Palestine, King Richard was captured by the Duke of Austria and thrown into prison. No one in England knew where he was. A legend says that a close friend of Richard’s, a minstrel called Blondel, toured round the castles of Europe looking for him. One day, high up in his prison tower, the king heard Blondel below singing a song the minstrel had once written for him. Richard bawled out the chorus, and Blondel knew he'd found the right place. He rushed home to tell the English nobles, who happily paid a huge ransom to get their king back.
The Magna Carta King John (ruled 1199 - 1216) was Richard the Lionheart's youngest brother. He was cruel, greedy monarch, and his barons got so fed up with …

The Dynasties of Britain

Here is the brief summary of the various dynasties that have ruled England since 1066, William the Conqueror. But the dynasties of Britain could start much earlier, up to 871, King Alfred the Great. And we may use totally different method to divide the dynasties such as that in  Chinese history.

Saxon Dynasty

Alfred's father, Athelwulf, king of Wessex, died, and so did his four older brothers, and Alfred inherited West Saxon kingdom.  Then Alfred made himself king of England. After he died, his son Edward the Elder inherited the crown, until the last king of Saxon dynasty, edmund Ironside. Saxon Dynasty lasted about 150 years.

Danish Dynasty

Cnut was the son of a viking king. The Vikings defeated Edmund Ironside, and force him to share his kingodm with Cnut, but a month later Edmund died, and the Danish king, Cnut, was made  to be king of England. This start the Danish dynasty, untill William the Conqueror, which lasted only 50 years.

Normandy Dynasty

Having beaten Harold at the Batt…

About Christmas Decorations and Food

This is my notes, and would like to share with you. You may not come from a Christian country, and don't celebrate Christmas, but you might want to know some Christmas typical decorations and traditional British Christmas food.

From Charles Dickens' novel A Christmas Carol, we learn that the typical Christmas decoration plants are holly, mistletoe and ivy:
The walls and ceiling were so hung with living green, that it looked a perfect grove; from every part of which, bright gleaming berries glistened. The crisp leaves of holly, mistletoe, and ivy reflected back the light, as if so many little mirrors had been scattered there. Holly, mistletoe, pine and fir trees were quite logically celebrated in the winter because they bring color to a colorless landscape. Use these plants to decorate their home during winter festival might have been a Celtic tradition, which practiced by the Druidist.
Mistletoe is actually a parasitic plant, found high in the trees. It doesn't take root i…

Indian Tandoor and Tandoori Cuisine

Tandoori Chicken, Tandoori Kebabs, Tandoori Roti, Naan's and more...

The Tandoor, an outdoor cooking oven is the equivalent of the Western Barbecue/ Barbeque. Most people seem to think that 'Tandoori' is a recipe. Like many of the world’s great dishes this is actually a cooking method that has become synonymous with the food that is prepared. Marinated meats, vegetables, seafood on skewers and Indian breads along the walls are cooked in tandoors only to come out as the most delicious and mouthwatering Tandoori dishes and Kebabs!

Heating

In Charles Dickens' novel A Christmas Carol, Scrooge is a miser, see how he kept the smallest coal fire to save heating bills:
Scrooge had a very small fire, but the clerk's fire was very much smaller that it looked like one coal. but he couldn't replenish it, for Scrooge kept the coal-box in his own room; and so surely as the clerk came in with the shovel, the master predicted that it would be necessary for them to part. Wherefore the clerk put on his white comforter, and tried to warm himself at the candle; in which effort, not being a man of as strong imagination, he failed. Eunice says, her colleague stays two hours longer in office instead of going home after working. Even at weekend, he goes to his office to save energy bill for heating. He share a house with other three house mates, I wonder how they divide their cost.

Eunice seems to carry on a Guerrilla warfare with me on gas heating, or a tug of war, or a seesaw of war whatever. She always turns down the gas hea…

Dragon Rider

Once upon a time, a boy lived in a seaside village. Every night when the moon was full, he sat on the beach and watched the dragons come down from the mountains to bathe in the moonlight.

Then one night the boy jumped into the sea, swam out to the dragons and climbed on to the back of one of them. The dragon didn't mind, and the boy sat there until it rose from the water and flew away with him. His family were very sad at first, but whenever the dragons came back so did the boy, year after year until he was a grown man, and he lived to be so old that his hair turned white.

Only then did he come back to visit his brothers and sisters in the village, and see their children and grandchildren. But no sooner was he back than he fell ill - so ill that no one could help him. On a night when the dragon rider's fever was particularly bad, a solitary dragon came down from the mountains, even though there was no moon. He settled outside the dragon rider's hut and breathed gentle blu…

Fabulous Creatures

Should all fabulous creatures described in the old tales exist?

Professor Greenbloom said: "I've discussed rare minerals with dwarves,the flavour of tree bark with trolls, immortality with fairies, and enchantment with a fiery salamander. Dragons, the winged horse Pagasus. "

Trolls have beige-skin, wear a variety of clothing styles and have super big hair!

Smurfs have blue-skin and wear white hats and pants.

One fabulous creature attracts another. They sense each other's presence. Sometimes their scalps prickle, sometimes their scales itch. When the silver dragon rested on the mountain, four dwarves felt their scalps itching, and they found Firedrake.

The basilisk said, the dragon disturbed its dark dreams and woke up.

Dragons live entirely on moonlight, their strength waxes and wanes with the moon itself.

To get rid of elves by alphabetical order spell:
"Away, abominable airy apparitions! Begone, beastly blighted banshees! Cease chasing, colorful creatures! Dod…

To Kill Basilisks by a Mirror

In the book of Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke,  the silver dragon hid in the basilisk cavern, he was nearly killed by the basilisk, but the professor Barnabas Greenbloom saved him.

Acording to the legend, Basilisk was the most terrible monster, the mere sound of their voices or one glance from their terrible eyes is usually enough to kill. But a basilisk can't survive the sight of its own reflection, so Professor Greenbloom killed it by a mirror.

The ancient Egyptians knew about those monsters, they thought the basilisk hatched from a poisoned ibis egg. However, another theory claims that a basilisk is born when a five-year-old cockerel lays an egg, which fortunately doesn't happen every often.

In Chinese traditional culture, there was a type of magic mirror called Monster-reveal Mirror, that shows a monster for what it really is.  

Chinese people may fit a mirror on the middle of the front wall of a new house to keep monsters away from their house.

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Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair!

Rapunzel was first written down by two brothers, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm. They lived in Germany in the early 1800s and together they retold hundreds of fairy tales.

The story is about a long-haired girl, Rapunzel who was named after a vegetable, was kidnapped at birth by a wicked witch, then locked up in a tower in a deep, dark forest.

A handsome Prince who was called Hans came to  save her, but he tricked by the wicked witch, he fell down from the castle and became blind. Rapunzel was casted into the desert by a spell .

But Prince Hans found her and they married. Rapunzel reunited with her parents in the wedding. Rapunzel and Prince Hans

had three children named after three three vegetables - Pumpkin, Lettuce and Sprout - and lived happily ever after.

In Chinese translation, Rapunzel is called Long-haired Princess. Actually Rapunzel was not a princess, but she married a Prince, Can a normal girl be called a princess after she married a Prince?

The forbidden garden

Mr. and Mrs. Rose l…

Dragon rider

This is a book of  a warm-hearted dream, written by Cornelia Funke. Cornelia Funke was born in 1958, in Hamburg, northern Germany, and grew up in Dorsten, a little town in the middle of Germany. She is a writer and Illustrator, when she couldn't get good stires to illustrate, she started to write them herself.

Firedrake, a brave young dragon, his loyal brownie friend sorrel and a lonely boy called Ben are on a magical journey to find the legendary place where silver dragons can live in peace for ever. With the help of a map and the whispered memories of an old dragon, they fly across moonlit lands and sea to reach the highest mountains in the world. Along the way, they made new friends ahead and fought old heartless monster behind, who was from the past and has been waiting for a very long time to destroy the last dragons on earth.

From the map we learned that Firedrake's journey started from The Valley of the Dragon in Scotland, they crossed the Mediterranean sea, and Middle …