Why do we call Monday, Monday?……

  The ancient Greeks and Romans named the days of the week after the sun, the moon, and the planets, which they had already named for their gods The Germanic and Norse peoples adopted this practice and simply replaced the Roman gods’ names with those of similar deities. Six of …

A very short history of wedding cakes……

    The wedding cake was not always eaten by the bride; it was originally thrown at her ! It developed as one of many fertility symbols integral to the marriage ceremony.  Wheat, long a symbol of fertility and prosperity, was one of the earliest grains to ceremoniously shower new …

What exactly is a Villain?

  As ancient Rome grew in power and influence, wealthier Romans began to build country houses outside the city. In Latin, such an estate was called a villa. Caretakers, groundskeepers, and domestic help were needed to maintain the house and property, so the Roman landowner built other small dwellings around …

How to speak like a Concertgoer…..

Going to a classical music concert can be somewhat bewildering, what with all the odd terms that seem to be used. For this we must blame the Italians; they like to qualify things. Sometimes they do this with suffixes (that -issimo, for instance, means “very,” -ino and -etto both mean …

A very short history of the fork…….

  Roman patricians and plebeians ate with their fingers, as did all European peoples until the dawning of a conscious fastidiousness at the beginning of the Renaissance. Still, there was a right and a wrong, a refined and an uncouth, way to go about it. From Roman times onward, a …

A very short history of pasta……

  We enjoy many foods whose Italian names tell us something of their shape, mode of preparation, or origin: espresso (literally “pressed out”), cannelloni (“big pipes”), ravioli (“little turnips”), spaghetti (“little strings”), tutti-frutti (“every fruit”), vermicelli (“little worms”), lasagna (“baking pot”), parmesan (“from Parma”), minestrone (“dished out”), and pasta (“dough …

A short history of the Crossword…..

  The concept of the crossword puzzle is so straightforwardly simple that it is hard to believe the puzzles were not invented until the early part of last century, and that “crossword” did not enter British dictionaries as a legitimate word until 1930. The crossword puzzle was the brainchild of …

A very short history of the magazine……

  Newspapers were developed to appeal to the general public; magazines, on the other hand, were intended from the start to deliver more narrowly focused material to special-interest groups, and they experienced a difficult birth. In England, early magazines failed so quickly and frequently that the species was continually endangered, …

1 Farm Street, London……..

  Tallulah Bankhead, the famous actress lived here in 1926 when she was twenty three. She once confessed to being “as pure as the driven slush” and when being told that Shirley Temple had been photographed through gauze, she replied “Then they ought to photograph me through linoleum”. Bankhead boasted …

I want my colonies back!…….

  As a preview to my forthcoming book on Eccentrics, let me tell you the story of the wonderfully odd William North, 11th Baron North (1836–1932) Lord North was a rather strange individual. He married in September 1876 and spent his honeymoon in the Caribbean. When he returned with his …