View my previous blog here:

I reply to all comments except spam, no matter how old!

Please ignore any email address displayed here! My email is shamp123 AT

Thursday, 29 December 2011

The Song of Solomon

Sir William Russell-Flint's 'Song of Solomon' 1909
It is not generally realised how much the Old Testament's Song of Solomon pervades modern culture. It contains some of the most beautiful love poetry ever written:

Because of the savour of thy good ointments thy name is as ointment poured forth, therefore do the virgins love thee.
Draw me, we will run after thee: the king hath brought me into his chambers: we will be glad and rejoice in thee, we will remember thy love more than wine: the upright love thee.
Look not upon me, because I am black, because the sun hath looked upon me: my mother's children were angry with me; they made me the keeper of the vineyards; but mine own vineyard have I not kept.
Tell me, O thou whom my soul loveth, where thou feedest, where thou makest thy flock to rest at noon: for why should I be as one that turneth aside by the flocks of thy companions?
If thou know not, O thou fairest among women, go thy way forth by the footsteps of the flock, and feed thy kids beside the shepherds' tents.

It is important to know that this is just the first chapter and that the 'voice' of the poem switches from person to person. Biblical scholars argue whether or not this was written by Solomon or for him. Here are just a few of the references that have been made:

  • Stephen 'Tin Tin' Duffy's 1985 song  Kiss Me quotes directly from the Song of Solomon.
  • Toni Morrison's novel Song of Solomon was instrumental in her winning a Nobel Prize.
  • Chapter 2, verse 15 (not reproduced here) provided the title for Lillian Hellman’s 1939 play Little Foxes.
  • Also the opening line of Chapter 2 provides the name 'Rose of Sharon' used by Steinbeck in The Grapes of Wrath.
  • Countless number of (mostly obscure) rock groups have taken their names and song titles from Song of Solomon.
  • One of Kate Bush's song from The Red Shoes  is Song of Solomon
  • In his poem When I Hear You Sing, Leonard Cohen refers to the Song of Solomon.
  • Many writers and composers through history have taken inspiration from this work. They include Geoffrey Chaucer, JS Bach and up to Steeleye Span and Neil Diamond (in Holly Holy).
Finally I wish all visitors to the blog a peaceful and healthy New Year. Be inspired by this poetry and remember that love is better than hate!

Monday, 19 December 2011

Quiz Questions (18): Harder Christmas Quiz!

Christmas Cactus, Schlumbergera
(1) What story is set in Bedford Falls?

(2) Which is the only one of Santa's reindeer who is female?

(3) Which is the odd-one-out of these Christmas plants and why? I know there are often various possible answers to odd-one-out questions but in this one you need to be psychic and know which answer I have chosen! Hopefully it's the only possible answer.

  • (a) Poinsettia
  • (b) Christmas Cactus
  • (c) Mistletoe
  • (d) Holly
(4) What Christmas food is made from marsh-whorts?
Answers to be posted over the Christmas Holiday.
Q What did the English teacher call Santa's helpers?
A Subordinate clauses
(Found in very expensive Christmas crackers from Fortnum & Masons, a posh London store. Allegedly.)
Answers now in the comments

Friday, 16 December 2011

Quiz Questions (17): Bazza's Christmas Quiz
  1. In Charles Dickens' novel A Christmas Carol, who was Scrooge's dead business partner? 
  2. The song White Christmas was first performed in which 1942 film? 
  3. Who were Balthasar, Melchior and Caspar (or Gaspar)? 
  4. Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean is a territory of which country? 

Answers published here in a few days. 

And finally...
Good King Wenceslas phoned for a pizza. The salesgirl asked him, 'Do you want your usual? Deep pan, crisp and even?'!
Answers now given in the comments.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

London Monopoly (4): The Angel, Islington
My journey around the London Monopoly board has now arrived at The Angel, Islington. The Angel is a public house (pub) in the London Borough of Islington. It was founded as an inn in 1665 - the year of the great plague of London. Having been rebuilt several times it is a famous London landmark and the current building , which dates from 1889 has a domed tower on the roof.
The inn was mentioned in Charles Dickens's Oliver Twist and one of William Hogarth's famous London drawings was set in the courtyard.
It was originally built by a toll-gate on the Great North Road - the first one outside the City of London.
The Angel n the nineteenth century

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Painting of the Month (24) December 2011: John Yardley

Savannah by John Yardley. Watercolour 20" by 14"
I don't know any other USA locations painted by John Yardley although there must be some. I don't think he would have travelled all the way from his home in Surrey, England just to paint this one but I chose it because it is typical of his work and makes an effective base for discussion.
John Yardley was born in Yorkshire, England in 1933 and happily is still painting. He retired from his job as a banker in 1961 to become a full-time painter. How wonderful is that?
Although primarily a watercolourist he does also paint in oils but I much prefer the former. The typical characteristics of his style shown in this painting are:
  • The clever way he illustrates sunlight. What does he do to achieve this? Nothing. He lets the white of the paper do the work for him!
  • The limited and subdued palette (that means the range of colour that he employs.)
  • There is usually, among the restrained colour, one or two splashes of brightness to draw the eye inward. In this picture the back of the red car on the right does this although there are better examples elsewhere.
  • He often manages to convey movement of people with a few deft brush strokes and obviously believes that 'less is more'. Look at the way he has conveyed the tree, centre-top of this painting, with a few strokes of paint.
If you would like to see more follow this link: John Yardley paintings Of course, double-clicking the above image will show a much better enlarged view.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

London Monopoly (3): King's Cross Station

King's Cross Station 1893 by George Earl
Copyright: National Railway Museum
King's Cross Station is the London terminus of the East Coast Main Line, a major link between Southern England and the North and Scotland. When this picture was painted in 1893 it took seven-and-a-half hours to get to Edinburgh. Now the station is ultra-modern and super-efficient. However the age of steam was very romantic and many people are nostalgic for those times.
Where new meets old. The new concourse.
Inverness in Scotland is where the East Coast line terminates, over 500 miles from London by rail.
The area around King's Cross had a sleazy reputation for prostitution and drugs and the crime associated with those things. Thankfully that image has been eradicated and things have changed for the better but it's still at the poorer end of the Monopoly board!

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Doors & Windows (1)

Original 1930's front door and windows. Redbridge, London.
This is the first in a new series featuring architecturally interesting doors and windows - something I have been intending to start for some time. This fascinating original stained glass porch is two minutes walk from where I live in the London Borough of Redbridge.
Detail of above
The house was built around 1935 and most of the other houses in the area were completed with matching but much less complex designs. Most of them have now converted to functional double-glazed units which are clean but sterile and dull by comparison. I hope there is a conservation order on this house because it is next to the entrance to a park and it's always satisfying to look at whenever I pass by. It is rumoured that this was the builder's own house, so he naturally wanted to own the most outstanding house in the road. I think he achieved that!

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Painting of the Month (23) November 2011: Lucian Freud

Lucian Freud, Self Portrait 1985
The British artist Lucian Freud, who died in July this year at the age of 88, was a grandson of Sigmund Freud. He came to London in 1933 to escape from Nazi Germany. One of his portraits achieved the record price for a living artist in New York in 2008 of over $33 million.
He was renowned for his portrait painting and known for his impasto style. Impasto is the technique of applying paint to a surface in thick layers with a brush or palette knife so that the paint stands out from the surface.
Self Portrait 2002
He took many hours to complete a picture and usually required the model to be present in the studio all of the time - even if he was not actually working directly on their appearance. One of the reasons he took so long was that for each individual patch of colour he mixed the paint from scratch until he was satisfied.
The results were, I think, sensational. If you double-click on the picture you will get a better idea of how striking this portrait is and how honest his portrayal of himself is. He had a way of revealing some deeper psychological aspect of his subjects including himself.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

London Monopoly (2): Whitechapel Road

Whitechapel Street Market. Photo: Silk Tork
Whitechapel Road completes the first set of properties (brown) and, like the Old Kent Road, can be bought for £60. However Whitechapel Road is much more interesting.
One of it's most famous buildings is the London Hospital founded in 1740 and since it's 250th anniversary in 1990 known as The Royal London Hospital. It is now the headquarters of the Helicopter Ambulance Service which operates from it's specially adapted roof.
The Blind Beggar Pub
Whitechapel is in London's East End and famous for being the haunt of Jack the Ripper whose identity has never been discovered. More modern criminals associated with the area were the Kray twins. The Blind Beggar pub is at 337 Whitechapel Road and that's where, in 1966, Ronnie Kray shot a South London gangster who had called him a 'fat poofter' (He was gay). Apparently nobody in the pub was able to recognise him and a barmaid failed to pick him out at an identity parade!
Also worth mentioned is the still-functioning Whitechapel Bell Foundry where Big Ben was cast. Big Ben, it should be noted, is name of the bell itself, not the tower which houses it!
Lastly, the newly-refurbished Whitechapel Art gallery is a leading exhibitor of modern British Art and worth a visit if one is in London. It is partly responsible for the very high number of artists working in the East End.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Little known facts

All of these facts must be true because I got them from the Internet - except for the one that I made up! Can you spot my one?
Can you spot the made up fact?
  • Japanese research has concluded that moderate drinking can boost IQ levels.
  • The fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of the mouth is called Arachibutyrophobia.
  • Macadamia nuts are not sold in their shells because it takes 300 pounds per square inch of pressure to break the shell.
  • Florida: An elephant tied to a parking meter must pay the regular parking fee.
  • In Samoa, it is illegal to forget your wife's birthday.
  • In Alabama it is illegal to stab yourself to gain someone's pity.
  • In the UK it is illegal to die in the Houses of Parliament.
  • Peanuts are one of the ingredients of dynamite.
  • London taxis (black cabs) must carry a bale of hay and a sack of oats.
  • Descendants of Sweeney Todd, the cannibalistic barber, founded a sausage factory in Somerset, England after the First World War.
  • The word "queue" is the only word in the English language that is still pronounced the same way when the last four letters are removed.
  • Queen Elizabeth Ist regarded herself as a paragon of cleanliness. She declared that she bathed once every three months, whether she needed it or not.
  • An ostrich's eye is bigger than its brain
The answer is now in the comments; see my reply to Kelly!

Friday, 14 October 2011

London Monopoly (1): The Old Kent Road

This is the first in a new series of posts in which I will write about the properties on the playing board of the UK version of Monopoly. I am starting with the first and cheapest one; the Old Kent Road £60.

The Old Kent Road is part of the A2  formerly one of the primary routes into and out of London. It is the only property on the Monopoly board that is in south London (ie, south of the River Thames).
It once formed part of Watling Street, a Roman Road that started in Dover and led to Holyhead on the north Wales coast so you could say that the route is well established at around 2,000 years!
In The Canterbury Tales, Chaucer's pilgrims took this road on their journey from London. It was probably a bit more interesting then because I think £60 is a bit too much to pay these days! There's better to come!

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Painting of the Month (22) October 2011: Massacio

Masaccio, The Tribute Money painted circa 1420
Tommaso di Ser Giovanni di Simone, known as Masaccio lived from 1401 to 1428 so he illuminated this world for a brief moment. That means he would have been 18 or 19 years old when he painted this fresco in the Brancacci Chapel in Florence, Italy. A fresco is painted onto wet plaster so the paint soaks in and is 'locked' into the dried wall. 
To modern eyes the picture looks unremarkable but he was one of the first (possibly the first) artists to use proper perspective and a vanishing point.
If you follow the lines on the architecture on the right of the painting they all converge at a point level with the subjects eyes. In this picture all of the subjects eyes are on one horizontal. See below for an illustration of this.

Friday, 7 October 2011

My Heroes (33): Nikola Tesla

(It's months since I posted an instalment of the My Heroes series. Not because I am running out of heroes but because I am running out of time having started a new small business.)
Tesla was a Serbian born in the old Austrian Empire in1856                                                            He died in poverty in New York in 1943. There are many people  who have never heard of him or, if they have, know nothing about him. This is a great pity because in some ways he was the superior inventor to Thomas Edison.
He did not posses Edison's business acumen or ruthless streak but they were great rivals in the race to supply public electricity.  Edison favoured the Direct Current method and Tesla Alternating Current and Tesla won that battle because it's a better method although I don't want to go into detail in this post.
He patented modern radio transmission before Marconi, fluorescent lighting and the high-voltage Tesla coil. He was responsible for induction coils, three-phase electricity and, as already stated public supply of AC current.
He also patented a method of transmitting electric current using only one wire!
He took out hundreds of patents and it is thought that many of his ideas are lost to us forever.
There is a lot of information about Tesla on the web and about Tesla and his relationship with Edison, Marconi and Westinghouse. It's all very interesting if you want to learn more!

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Painting of the Month (21) September 2011: J W Waterhouse

The Lady of Shalott. Painted 1888
John William Waterhouse  (1849-1917) was an English Pre-Raphaelite painter. His favourite subjects were mythology and Arthurian legend and this picture is based on the eponymous poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. Looking at the bulk of his work in retrospect one is tempted to say that it is sentimental and extremely unfashionable in the way that much Victorian painting is thought of today. See, for example, the work of Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema.
However unfashionable, I think it's time for a re-evaluation of some of this kind of painting.
Taking The Lady of Shalott at face-value, the thing that strikes me initially is - it is beautiful and radiates calm and peacefulness.  In reality the story is nothing like that - she is about to drown herself. (See 'Ophelia' painted by Millais in 1852), a probable source of inspiration for this work.

  • The characteristics of Pre-Raphaelite painting (and literature) are a directness and attention to detail and realism in a way that was last known before Raphael at the time of the High Renaissance. There was also a strong tendency towards medievalism as typified by this painting.
  • The Lady of Shallot was depicted as one of the characters in the Arthurian legends with the Knights of The Round Table.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

'The Third Policeman' by Flann O'Brien

The Third Policeman is, quite simply, one of the most amazing books you will ever read. I have loved it for many years and in researching for this post I decided to repeat a review from that says it more eloquently than I ever could. Whatever you think it may be - it isn't! For example, how often have you come across the phenomenon of a man who is slowly exchanging molecules with his bicycle so that he and the bicycle are slowly changing into each other. No, I thought not! The book is surreal, satirical, complex, surprising, very funny and one of kind.

Article by Randy Schaub: By no means recently published, Flann O’Brien’s The Third Policeman will, nevertheless, be perpetually new. The literary equivalent of a Tesla invention, The Third Policeman is an astonishingly great book that is so intricate, so improbably effective, that one cannot tell, merely by looking, what makes it tick. The story is a strange dream-journey that at times is so substantial that the reader will find himself double-checking the thickness of the book itself, amazed that the whole thing fits in so slim a volume. If anything, the book presents a problem in that it leaves a reviewer with little 
to say, beyond a couple paragraphs of repetitive praise.
In The Third Policeman, our hero and narrator, a nameless young man with a wooden leg, assists in a money-motivated killing, and, after trying to retrieve the stashed goods some time later, passes into a strange otherness -- a place that superficially resembles the Irish countryside, but which casually disobeys the normal laws of How Things Work. He encounters a small building of impermanent and shifting geometry which turns out to be the local barracks -- it is here that he meets the policemen. The novel has that special quality -- the fantastic made believable, yet retaining its power to amaze -- that is the hallmark of authors like Borges, Kafka, or Barthelme. The events are alternately frightening, baffling, and hilarious, and are brought into three dimensions by perfect, musical prose.

Much of the book’s humor comes from references to the fictional physicist ‘de Selby’, a sort of anti-Newton whose completely absurd theories sound almost plausible in the framework of the novel’s demonic logic. De Selby, noting that light takes a portion of time, however small, to reach its target, came upon the idea that if a network of mirrors were aligned properly a viewer could actually see into the past through a series of repeated reflections:
“What he states to have seen through his glass is astonishing. He claims to have noticed a growing youthfulness in the reflections of his face according as they receded, the most distant of them -- being the face of a beardless boy of twelve, and, to use his own words, ‘a countenance of singular beauty and nobility’.”

But de Selby is merely a side story. The main of the book is devoted to the solution of our young hero’s mystery, and to the further mystery of the bizarre policemen which populate the world he has wandered into. The policemen speak in an infectious, over-wrought dialogue that you’ll have to take care not to pick up yourself. They invent devices that turn noise into electricity. They take gauge readings in a subterranean, industrial version of eternity. I don’t want to delve too far into this storyline, rather I urge you to discover it for yourself. You’ll never ride a bicycle again. 

Published by Dalkey Archive press (named after another O’Brien book), The Third Policeman, although not O’Brien’s most famous book, is one that must not be allowed to be forgotten. More images are painted in its 200 pages than in the massive Pulitzer contenders of today, more fantasy and dream than in a million pages of Tolkien or Rowling. Reading this book will actually improve your imagination, your speech, your intelligence. And you’ll lose weight (provided you don’t eat until you finish). Far fetched claims, I know, but they’ll hold true within the strange laws of The Third Policeman, as sure as the Earth is sausage-shaped.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Spotlight on a Website (5): Corrine's Kitchen

Corinne's Porridge Pancakes
My friend Corrine is a nutritionist and she has started a lovely blog giving her recipes for highly nutritional dishes that she makes herself. I can vouch for many of them- they not only taste good but are packed with low fat super foods and using some ingredients that you may not have known to exist. Most of them can be got in any good health food shop. Take a look here.

Sunday, 31 July 2011

Painting(s) of the Month (20) August 2011: London Transport Artists

This months pictures are a little different from the norm. They are all reproductions of posters commissioned for London Transport. I have chosen a selection of 'places' designed to encourage travellers to visit the countryside although, today all of these places are within Greater London. Posters were also made depicting Wimbledon for Tennis and Wembley Stadium for soccer. It was really the spreading of the Underground Railway network that helped the many London suburbs to expand from country towns and villages to become part of the 30 mile wide urban sprawl that is London. Much of it is still very attractive. For example the second poster, nearly 100 years old, depicts Hainault Forest about two miles from where I live. It's still a favourite hiking place though it now has a children's zoo and a public golf course; no membership, just turn up and play. The artists were leading professionals of the time and many of these posters can be seen and purchased from The London Transport Museum.
High Beech by Charles Sharland 1913
Hainault Forest by Fred Taylor 1914

Twickenham by Arthur Blunt 1912

Windsor Castle by Walter E Spradbery 1930

Flowers of the Riverside by Edwared McKnight Kauffer 1920
London Transport (which was formed by an amalgamation of all the various railway companies operating different 'tube' lines) is still a patron of the arts as the poster from 2007, below, shows!
The West End of London from Primrose Hill by Paul Catherall 2007

Monday, 25 July 2011

Gone Too Soon
I wrote about Amy Winehouse back in Ferbuary this year. I was staying with a friend in the north of France for a few days when the news of her death came through; this post was going to be about the good time we all had in the Pas de Calais but I can't do that now. Her death has really saddened me and all of the family for two reasons.
Firstly the devastation one feels for her family and the loss of the greatest 21st century singing talent in the UK. I think Adele and Duffy are terrific so it's not an empty thing to say. I would compare her to the all-time greats such as Etta James and Ella Fitzgerald.
Secondly, when my grandson, Sonny, was in hospital with cancer and we didn't know what the outcome would be Amy's father who sings with his own band did a charity concert to raise money for Sonny to have a holiday. He was someone who 'gave' and now his daughter has been taken from him. It breaks my heart to think of it.
Rest in peace Amy.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

'Sick' by Shel Silverstein

Shel Siverstein was famous for writing songs which tend to have unusual and humourous lyrics. He is best known for the songs he wrote for Dr Hook and The Medicine Show, such as Sylvia's Mother and The Cover of Rolling Stone. He also wrote The Ballad of Lucy Jordan. However it is less well known that he wrote children's poetry and this is a lovely example.
All the song titles link to You Tube for your listening pleasure!

'Sick' by Shel Silverstein (1930-1999)

"I cannot go to school today,"

Said little Peggy Ann McKay,

"I have the measles and the mumps,

A gash, a rash, and purple bumps.

My mouth is wet, my throat is dry,

I'm going blind in my right eye.

My tonsils are as big as rocks,

I've counted sixteen chicken pox

And there's one more--that's seventeen,

And don't you think my face looks green?

My leg is cut, my eyes are blue--

It might be instamatic flu.

I cough and sneeze and gasp and choke,

I'm sure that my left leg is broke--

My hip hurts when I move my chin,

My belly button's caving in,

My back is wrenched, my ankle's sprained,

My 'pendix pains each time it rains.

My nose is cold, my toes are numb,

I have a sliver in my thumb.

My neck is stiff, my voice is weak,

I hardly whisper when I speak.

My tongue is filling up my mouth,

I think my hair is falling out.

My elbow's bent, my spine ain't straight,

My temperature is one-o-eight.

My brain is shrunk, I cannot hear,

There is a hole inside my ear.

I have a hangnail, and my heart is--what?

What's that? What's that you say?

You say today is---Saturday?

G'bye, I'm going out to play!"

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Painting of the Month (19) July 2011: Frans Hals
This is, of course, a very famous painting. Frans Hals painted it in 1624 and but the Title 'The Laughing Cavalier" is a Victorian invention. The man is actually smiling enigmatically and is no more laughing tha the Mona Lisa. Both paintings have in common that the eyes seem to follow you around the room. The painting is in the Wallace Collection in Manchester Square, London. It's a free museum (like all public museums in Britain) and I often pop in if I'm shopping in the West End because, believe me, this one of those pictures that will always make you feel good; you can't help smiling back at him.
Look at that wonderful expression. Doesn't he just love himself and he invites the viewer to do the same! The treatment of the lace and his clothing is superb. The suprise is that the 'detail' of his clothing appears the be quite loose impressionistic brush strokes on close impression.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Cockney Rhyming Slang

As I am away again this week (explanation in a later post!), I am repeating this post of five years ago from my previous blog. Cockney rhyming slang together with US Versus UK English were always the most popular topics.
The true definition of a Cockney is someone born within the sound of Bow Bells. That specifically refers to the bells of St. Mary-le-Bow church in the East End of London, however it’s a term generally applied to indigenous working-class east enders and sometimes, loosely, to any working-class Londoner. The word itself originates from fourteenth century English meaning a cock’s egg; a term used by country folk to refer to town’s people. I imagine the implication was that town-dwellers, being unwise to country ways, would not know that hens, not cocks, lay the eggs!

Cockney Rhyming Slang (CRS) is not a language because all of the words used are clearly English, neither can it be called a dialect because those who use it are perfectly capable of not using it. Here’s how it works: Words, usually nouns, are substituted by a pair of words, the second of which rhymes with the original word – but, usually, only the first word of the pair is used. Confused? Read on.

The best way to illustrate the above is by example. The CRS for stairs is ‘apples and pears’, so the word used is ‘apples’. “I’m just going upstairs” becomes “I’m just going up the apples”!

Here are some other CRS words that are still in common use:

Arse= Khyber (Khyber Pass) so “Stick it up your khyber.”

Mate= China (China Plate) so “ How are yer, me old china?”

Phone= Dog (Dog and Bone) so “ I’ll give him a dog tonight.”

Look= Butchers (Butcher’s Hook) so “Take a butchers at Tom’s new jam jar [=car].”

Things can get really obscure sometimes when a double link is used. For example, Arse (again!) can sometimes be Aris. This is from Aris being short for Aristotle, which rhymes with bottle for which the rhyming slang is ‘Bottle and Glass’ and glass rhymes with arse! There are no rules!

If you are new to this try translating the following and I will post the answers next weekend:

1) She’s got beautiful minces.

2) She may be his skin and blister but she’s nothing like him.

3) I can’t see. Where’s me gregs?

4) I bought a new whistle for me wedding.

5) What a lovely pair of bristols she’s got!

It’s a living culture and new slang for modern words appear all of the time. Have some fun by making up your own!
Answers now posted in the comments!

Monday, 20 June 2011

Painting of the month (18) June 2011: Raoul Dufy

The Casino at Nice by Dufy 1877 - 1953
The paintings of the French artist Raoul Dufy (pronounced: doofee) may not be the most technically proficient but I find them hugely enjoyable to look at. This one is typical in style; it has been heavily 'drawn' and painted in large blocks of single colour. This makes the paintings often look like poster art as used in advertisements but I can say that these are pictures that one can live with and never tire at looking at them.
Dufy was born in 1877 and was influenced by the impressionists and, later, the Fauves (Matisse and Derain)who were strong colourists. His ever-present optimism lives on in his work.

 How gorgeous is the colour in this picture?

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Exmouth, Devon, UK (100th Post)

The unspoiled seafront at Exmouth
Exmouth is a beautiful old town situated at the mouth of the  estuary of the river Ex, on England's south coast in the county of  Devon. It's about 150 miles from the centre of London and ten miles south of Exeter.
My cousin and his wife have just celebrated a big wedding anniversary. They ran away to Gretna Green (really) to get married when he was 16 and she was 17 years old. Despite all the predictions the marriage has lasted and they have four grandchildren now. That part of the south coast is very wealthy and it would help to be quite rich if you want to live there.
Exmouth Marina (
We just got back from a wonderful long weekend of celebration there and on Thursday we are off again for another long wekend in Bournemouth further up the south coast and only a hundred miles from London. It's a tough life n'est pas?

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Brussels, Belgium

  1. I have just returned from a brief vacation to Brussels with three friends.
  2. Brussels is the capital of the European Union.
  3. Brussels is jam-packed with beer-cafes, pubs, bars, restaurants etc etc.
  4. In Belgium they make up to five-hundred different bottled beers.
  5. My friends and I have been making this pilgrimage for twenty-one straight years now.
  6. My head hurts.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

The Art Deco Movement

The ever-popular Art Deco movement succeeded Art Nouveau roughly in the period between the two World Wars. It is characterised by three main points: geometric shapes, bright colour schemes and a 'decorative' finish. It tends to be uncomplicated and influenced architecture, art, furniture and jewellery design, clothing and living style in general.
This post is mainly a sumptuous visual feast!

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Quiz Questions (16): A Pot Pourri

Uniquely this time my quiz is not about literature or art but instead, a range of new topics:
Q1: Apart from being the plural of 'utopia' what is Utopias?
Q2: Lloyds of London, the financial institution, was founded in 1688 by Edward Lloyd as..... what?
Q3: What is the strongest muscle in the human body, relative to it's size?
Q4: Which modern English word derives from the old Persian phrase. "Shah mat", which means "the King is dead"?
Answers to follow after a few guesses have been made!