WB Yeats- the hen hypnotist…..

    The poet William Butler Yeats had a lifelong obsession with magic and for a while was a member of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. He was known to write in a trance like state he called “spirit writing” Any time he was on a bus or …

Ulysses and Trams…..

  Of all the many books inspired by Ulysses, one of the oddest is surely The Bloomsday Trams: Dublin’s Tramway Fleet of James Joyce’s Ulysses, by a David Foley. The author modestly admits in his introduction that he ‘was unprepared for how difficult this task was to become’ although he …

Broiled Fish with Reading Sauce ………..

In Jules Verne’s ‘Around the World in 80 Days’, Phileas Fogg decided to have a breakfast of …… “.. broiled fish with Reading sauce, a scarlet slice of roast beef garnished with mushrooms, a rhubarb and gooseberry tart, and a morsel of Cheshire cheese, the whole being washed down with …

Manners maketh man………

  As prosperity grew in 12th century England there was a renewed focus on etiquette and manners. This was a time of cultural renewal which was based on classical models. Along with the elaboration of monastic rules of behaviour (‘customaries’) and the development of ‘household ordinances and serving manuals’, there …

Bless you !…..A look at the Sneeze

  “Gesundheit,” say Germans; “Felicità,” say Italians; and the Welsh have to say “dduw bendithia chi” whilst the Arabs clasp hands and reverently bow. Every culture believes in a benediction following a sneeze. The custom goes back to a time when a sneeze was regarded as a sign of great …

The euphemism……

Is the euphemism dying out? Growing up in the 1960’s there was an entire sub-lexicon of phraseology to cover this. It was the Golden age of euphemisms. Nobody died of pneumonia, diphtheria or tuberculosis, they were peaky, then poorly, then passed over. Some adults had to be watched because they could turn …

A brief history of trousers..(part one)

  When Marcus Tullius Cicero, the philosopher and lawyer, was defending the former Gaul governor Fonteius from accusations of extortion, he cited the wearing of trousers as a sign of the “innate aggressiveness” of the Gauls—and an extenuating circumstance for his client: Are you then hesitating, O judges, when all …

A brief history of being a Dunce…..

The origin of the dunce cap all begins with one man, John Duns Scotus. His memorable tripartite name, signaling his Scottish heritage (Scotus), and the village where he was born (Duns), is what would eventually lead to the very concept of a “dunce.” Scotus was a Renaissance man well before …

Dr Wansbrough`s celebrated nipple shields…..

More wonderful Victorian health advice…. Nipple shields were made from a variety of materials in the 18th and 19th centuries, wood, ivory and lead(!) the most common. They were intended to protect the mothers sore nipples. They were often perforated allowing the baby to feed through them (probably with considerable difficulty).  These unperforated …