Ancient gods at these Olympics

I suppose we are about half way through the London Olympics of 2012 – sad for some, radiant news for others. I suppose I will be accused of being a dry old stick (if not something much worse) but I used to enjoy the Olympic Games when in order to take part you had to be amateur. The moment the Committee plumped for professionals the Games gained a little glamour but lost all interest; for me anyway, and a few more like me. 

   And now the British Royal Mint makes gold coins to celebrate the Games. The coins’ designer explains that his inspiration was the first Games held ‘in ancient Greece, where athletes pledged their allegiance to the gods of Olympia’. Oh dear me no! There weren’t any ‘gods of Olympia’. 


The Blogger Kite

I have been forced to reach the conclusion that this planet is full of persons whose self-appointed task it is to find errors, large or small, in the writing of history or science blogsites. These individuals crouch before their screen all day, and possibly all night, watching for some unintentioned mistake to appear, like a titmouse for the circling kite’s breakfast. (more…)

By | 2012-07-19T17:23:49+00:00 July 19th, 2012|English Language, Humour, Philosophy, Today|0 Comments

Evelyn Waugh’s ear-trumpet

Evelyn Waugh with ear trumpet and rare moustache /

Evelyn Waugh with ear trumpet and rare moustache /

I am sure there are Waugh-fans, or, better, Waugh-wolves who can answer a simple question: In their respective biographies of Evelyn Waugh, Christopher Sykes (Evelyn Waugh: a biography) and Selina Hastings (same title) tell the story of the ageing master of English prose appearing at an Ann Fleming dinner party with a huge, old-fashioned ear-trumpet. He claimed to be deaf, but was actually using the trumpet as a weapon in conversations. Sykes and Hastings have Ann Fleming giving the instrument a sound thwack with a table implement when Waugh turned it toward her. We are also told that Lady Diana Cooper poured champagne down it. (more…)

The Spanish Road Tax (Rodaje)

I would need to be told what other EU countries do about charging road tax to vehicle owners. In Britain it is simply called Road Tax, and you pay according to type of vehicle. The annual sum is set by the government of the day, and the quite enormous income generated by the Tax is supposedly used in the maintenance of roads and everything to do with them. It does not matter if you live in North Yorkshire or South Devon, you will pay the same road tax according to what vehicle you use. It is well known that ‘Spain in Different’, and in the case of the Rodaje the difference is stupefying. (more…)

By | 2012-07-09T17:41:35+00:00 July 9th, 2012|English Language, EU History, Humour, Spanish History, Today|0 Comments

A teacher’s definition of Socialism

Everyone who bothered about such things was delighted that a new young teacher, female, distinguished at the university, liberal in outlook, and an active member of the local Socialist Party would start the new term at the State school as a member of the teaching staff.

   She was perfectly able (and qualified) to teach a number of subjects. The Head Teacher gave her a notoriously difficult class, 5b, to launch her into the mine-strewn fields of elementary school teaching. The subject was History. After subduing the customary row that greeted a new teacher, by the simple method of talking in a gradually decreasing tone to the pupils until they stopped gassing altogether – so that they could hear her voice – she asked for questions. (more…)

By | 2012-06-04T06:41:08+00:00 June 4th, 2012|English Language, Humour, Philosophy, Today, World History|2 Comments

The origin of legends

‘Legend has it . . .’ and most of Man’s legends are thousands of years old. The Dragon, for instance, has been around for centuries, in art and tales told by men. Dragons do not exist, that we know for certain, and yet the fable of St. George and his Dragon gave us a patron saint of England who was not actually English, and the dragons appearing in heraldry for more than a thousand years. Did the idea of dragons, as huge lizards with wings and breathing fire come from Neanderthal (and imaginative) man finding fossils of the pterodactyl – which certainly existed – but hundred of millions of years ago. Perhaps the legendary Monster of Loch Ness is a subaqueous dragon. (more…)

History of the Cinema: ‘The Wild Geese’

A scene with a crossbow from The Wild Geese / gamand

A scene with a crossbow from The Wild Geese / gamand

In 1978 ‘the last gentleman producer’ Euan Lloyd made one of the funniest films on record. It was not meant to be funny. The theme was well-tried; a group of retired ex-mercenaries (convicts, special servicemen, cops, gangsters etc.) are rounded up by the star and persuaded to stage one more robbery (war, racetrack heist, bank hold-up etc.). The Dirty Dozen, The Sting, The Wild Bunch are good examples of this style of film.

The Wild Geese was special because Mr Lloyd had gathered to his bosom a group of popular ancients of British Cinema. They were supposed to be old buddies from some kind of SAS-type special force. The problem is that the word ‘old’ is too appropriate. The audience in the cinema in which I had chosen to watch this masterpiece howled with laughter as the methusalehs donned military uniform plus ill-fitting berets and started with a training session in the countryside that would have killed the lot of them in one morning. Starting with the stars, here is the casting list: (more…)

The Cabinet System

Many students are accustomed to using the terms Prime Minister and The Cabinet and even The Cabinet Rooms in their studies and essays, but do not know much more about what these words represent. The term prime minister was first used when it was invented for the first of them, Sir Robert Walpole. He became PM in 1762.

The phrase did not start as much more than a term of abuse. Cartoonists in the eighteenth century loved it, and got a lot of cynical humour out of it. The position was officially called First Lord of the Treasury, and the British had to wait until 1905 for the term ‘prime minister’ to be used on a Royal Warrant. Funnily enough, it was first employed in the Chequers Estate Act, by which a rich man donated his mansion and its park to the nation, with the nice idea that prime ministers could relax in the country during weekends, not at all a bad idea when you realise that Number 10, Downing Street is little more than a small town house with just enough room to swing a cat. It is quite likely that Chequers has seen more important politicking than Downing Street, as many PMs have preferred to do their world-shaking manoevering in the comfortable and more private atmosphere of an English country house. (more…)

General-History’s Sunday Humour

The bright young couple were proud of their beautiful Siamese cat, sitting observing the world at their feet one afternoon. The usual chorus of dogs in neighbours’ houses had just started, as it did twice or even three times a day, when sensible cats slithered or jumped into other people’s gardens, to kill a song bird here, lay a turd there, or moan in that particular way male cats have when another alpha draws near. Just then the Siamese said, rather surprisingly, “Miauw, miauw, wuff, wuff.” The couple looked at each other. “What did he say?” asked the wife. “Oh that,” replied the husband, “he’s practising; he’s going to be an instantaneous interpreter at peace conferences!” (more…)

By | 2012-04-29T08:06:19+00:00 April 29th, 2012|Humour|0 Comments
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