I’m in love with…

 

 

…Sir Richard Burton, no not that one –

richard burton

This one –

Richard_Francis_Burton_by_Rischgitz,_1864

 

Born in 1821, Richard Francis Burton was something of a celebrity in his own time. Think of the typical idea of the Victorian male:

  • Manliness was a virtue, a form of control over maleness, which was considered brutish.
  • The Victorian man liked to form secret societies, such as the Masons.
  • He was not only the head of the household; his duty was not only to rule, but also to protect his wife and children.
  • Working was manly; whether working-class males in heavy industry, or middle-class males, upper class males could become involved in philanthropic works or other enterprising actions.
  • Sport! They watched it, read about it, did it. Sports and cold showers; to keep the ‘little man’s’ desires in check and to prove his worth – to be ready for attack.  E. M. Forster, apparently said that this “then led to “well-developed bodies, fairly developed minds, and undeveloped hearts”.
  • And most of all, Victorian man was British. And proud of it! The expansion of the Empire became entangled in what it meant to be a man, and so he served the Queen, he hunted creatures to near extinction; he pioneered and subordinated non British peoples. He was top man, the dog’s bollocks, king of the world (with little k.)

RFB

Burton fits some of this characterisation; however, his views on the rest of the world and in particular Islam and women were light years ahead of his fellows. He  was ‘sent down’ from Oxford (meaning he was kicked out), after a series of mischievous events. He took it well, bid his tutors farewell and headed cheerily off to become more than they could ever imagine.

RFB was not only an explorer, he was a geographer, translator, writer, soldier, orientalist, cartographer, ethnologist, spy, linguist, poet, fencer, and diplomat. He seemed to excel at everything he did. I cannot think of anyone else alive or historical who was so accomplished. He was extraordinarily open-minded for a man of his time:

Letchford, Albert, 1866-1905; Captain Sir Richard Francis Burton (1821-1890), KCMG, FRGS, Maitre d'Armes, France

Burton did not think of women as inferior to men.  He was very much interested in sexuality and erotic literature – his accurate translation of ‘The Book of a Thousand and One Nights’, is full of steamy sex scenes. He translated the ‘Kama Sutra’, the most famous book in the world on sexual techniques to this day.

kama sutra

He slept with woman of all race, colour and creed (males too some reports say), he smoked opium, drank cannabis drinks with holy men, he hung about with prostitutes with no particular judgement on their profession. He took a spear to the face, when his and Speke’s encampment was attacked one night in Africa, and survived. He was spy in India. An Afghan pilgrim in the Middle East; he had himself circumcised so he could pass as native, one of the few white men to have entered Mecca in disguise. He spoke a fair number of languages too – fluent in 29!!! I can barely speak my native one right. And on and on his adventures go.

220px-Richard_Francis_Burton_in_Africa

I first heard about RFB in my teens I think. Then later on a friend who was interested in him lent me a book, ‘Sir Richard Burton’s Travels in Arabia and Africa.’ I read and studied it, sort of. But what really enticed me to discover more about the great man was a work of literary fiction.

The Secret of Abdu El Yezdi’, by Mark Hodder. The first of four books in Hodder’s Burton and Swinburne Adventures. In this alternative 19th century, Hodder really brought Burton to life for me – the outrageous behaviour, that British stoicism partnered with emotional passion, a huge, physical, Brainiac of a fist-fighter paired with the slight, red-headed, waif-like Algernon Swinburne; poet.

hodder

Two real persons from history partnered up for some beautifully written and roistering, boisterous adventures. And so I began my love affair with Ruffian Dick; I even wrote him into one of my own short, Steampunk stories, in which my protagonist, Lucy Lockhart encounters more of Ruffian Dick than the average English woman did!

Burton was adventurous of mind as well as body. He seemed to fear nothing. He did not judge other cultures as his fellow Victorians did (and some of us still do today), he was bold, brave, liked a laugh and a drink, and he was devoted to the love of his life, his wife; Isabel. His energy, enthusiasm, his curiosity for the people and world around him should be held as an ideal to work for today I think.

Sir Richard Francis Burton died, 20 October 1890.

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This August, I hope to make my own mini pilgrimage from the North, to London to visit his tomb at Saint Mary Magdalen Church, Mortlake.

sir-richard-burton-thomb-001

 

 

The same superficial view of holding woman to be lesser (and very inferior) man is taken generally by the classics; and Euripides distinguished himself by misogyny, although he drew the beautiful character of Alcestis.’ RFB. On Arab womanhood in 1001 Nights.

Women, all the world over, are what men make them; and the main charm of Amazonian fiction is to see how they live and move and have their being without any masculine guidance.’ RFB. On Arab womanhood in 1001 Nights.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Wonder Women – thank you Patty Jenkins

 

Spoilers *** Spoilers*** Spoilers

 

If you have not yet seen this film, you may want to give this whole article a miss.

 

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“Wonder Woman” is yet another origin story, but so what? I’ve had to sit through decades of testosterone to get to this point.

I enjoyed that the movie took it’s time to introduce the warriors of Themyscira; a lush city-state and island nation (Somewhere hidden in the Aegean according to some sources). Where we learn that Diana is not unique in her abilities; we get a real sense of where she is from, that although she is semi-divine, Diana is very much an Amazonian, and those women ALL kick ass. For me, that was one of the wonderful things about the Wonder Woman movie, they were all wonder women.

I felt that the story contained a good balance of action and drama. There is nothing worse than sitting for an hour or two, being bombarded with scene after scene of fast-paced-look-we-got-multiple-cameras scenario and bellowing sound – this, I think, is the film-makers version of an extended guitar solo played by an unaware man-child. ‘Wanking off’, a muso friend of mine used to say. I think there are loads of directors who have become over excited by the CGI and ‘exciting’ bits.

Maybe it has something to do with the director of this Wonder Woman being female? Maybe she just enjoys a good story? Maybe she is just a little more grown-up in the emotional department? Whatever the reason, it works.

I have to admit, I was also rather apprehensive about going to see this film. I love the comic book/super hero genre (see my earlier post on Female Super Heroes) But I grew up with that garish 1970’s WW, and have seen  very few women lead in an action film. (Yes, I know you’re going to name a couple. People always do, but balance it out against ALL the films you’ve ever seen – then go away)

I think directors and producers have become lazy when making this genre, after all they have a ready and willing audience who will go and view it whether its shite or not. Now, thousands of women, like me, of my age, must have been waiting for this film. Where ARE all the female comic/superheroes??? So again, a ready and willing – if cautious and cynical-by-now audience was waiting for this film. Thought’s that passed through my mind in the build-up and trailer overload included – ‘I bet it’ll be overly moralistic’. ‘If she’s showing her cleavage…’. ‘It’ll be something for the boys really’. And finally, ‘I bet it’s shit.’

I went with my 19 year old daughter – so a broad age range to cater to – I’m 52. We both enjoyed it (apart from the sound of crisp/sweetie/nacho crunching dolts that surrounded us) It was not shit. It was not ‘for the boys’ and I almost wept to see women, actual women not youngsters, playing seriously physical roles. The fight scene on the beach is truly astonishing and deeply sad. For no matter how fast you run, or strong you are – bullet beats bow every time.

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Let’s just take a look at those women –

Ages and Nationality

Robin Wright, plays Antiope – or should I say General Antiope! She trains and leads what could be termed, the militia of the Amazonian. She is hard as nails, can fight with fists, sword, and bow (in fact, she doesn’t even need a bow!!!)  And get this, best of all, Robin Wright is 51 years of age – I am just gonna have to say that again – FIFTY ONE people.

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Gal Gadot, plays Diana, Princess of Themyscira, Daughter of Hippolyta. Diana wants to be a warrior from very early childhood. She does not know, and we the audience learn as she does, that she is not quite like every other Amazonian (in fact, at the end of the film, Diana still does not know the full extent of her origins and abilities) Diana works hard; she strives for perfection and to impress the General; her Aunt. Gal Gadot is 32 years of age, not a ‘slip of a girl’. And best of all, she is NOT American!! Gadot is Israeli and I thank director, Patty Jenkins for making this decision.

stop looking at me,
Not distracted by a pretty face, Diana that is.

 

Connie Nielson, plays Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons and Diana’s mother. She is regal, cool with a restrained passion. She is engaging as a loving mother and ruler, and you can feel her anger and pain as her only child makes the decision to leave their island home to head off with a man, to save the world of men.  Can you imagine the homecoming?! (I think I’m gonna cry) Two best of all’s; Connie Nielson is also 51 years old!  And she also is NOT American, she is Danish.

 

And some of the others –

Elena Anaya, plays Doctor Poison. She is Spanish and aged 41 years.

Lucy Davis, plays Etta Candy.  English and aged 44 years.

Lisa Loven Kongsli, plays Menalippe. Norwegian and is aged 37 years.

 

For me, a fantastic multi-cultural selection of women who are not girls.

 

That costume –

Some of you might remember that awful, hideous outfit that poor Linda Carter had to wear in the 1970s TV series of Wonder Woman.

Wonder Woman Linda Carter
EW! No, really, ew!

But take a look at what Queen Hippolyta originally gave her daughter to wear in the earliest comics –

Gal Gadot’s costume seems to have had the current trend for ‘dark costumes’ applied to it. The semiotics are not lost on film buffs and media students – still the red, white and blue are evident for all to see.

2017_The_Wonder_Woman_Gal_Gadot_wide

I have to be honest; I have an issue with American and how it perceives itself as the ‘policeman of the world’. It feels as though it foists its ideals on the rest of us.  Most of the superhero costumes bear the colours or imagery, or both, of the ‘good ‘ole US of A’. Except Batman (huh, never realised before, maybe THAT’S why he is my favourite) I balk at the way many costumes imply an association with a country and it’s values/governmental policies.  Captain America being most guilty of this – however, he is called Captain America.

And yes, I know other countries use red, white and blue as their flag colours – but we all know, don’t we, that ‘they’ mean America.

Another thing.  Superhero females, at least in comic art, are invariably ‘sexy’. They have the tightest fitting clothes in the history of clothes manufacturing. They have more curves than an Italian mountain road. Their breasts could act as twin dirigibles. Women have railed against this for so long, we’re hoarse.                                                                        In Wonder Woman 2017, Gadot’s costume has had the colours toned down,  and although we still see bare legs, arms and shoulder, it is not sexy (I guess some men would argue against that, but it isn’t out-and-out-here-it -is –for- the –male- viewers sexy)But that’s it. No cleavage in sight. Curves are mostly concealed. The Amazon ‘uniform’ is more reminiscent of the Spartans. Look at Hellenic period armour; the bare arms and legs, the leather ‘flaps’, the moulded breastplate. It is practical and believable, whilst remaining true to the original design.

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The physicality of this new Wonder Woman made evident in this lasso scene.

 

Sex –

There isn’t any. HALLELUJAH!

99.9999% of films have a romance. Dull, dull, dull. Men and women can and do have relationships without becoming sexually or romantically entangled. And yes, there is a suggestion of Diana and Steve being ‘interested’, but this is clearly more him fancying her. Diana is here to do a job, she is focused and love isn’t getting in the way. She may have grown up in a glorious paradise inhabited only by females, but she is not ignorant of how sex works, and even suggests that men have become irrelevant and unnecessary except for procreation.  Steve’s mental squirming is soon forgotten when they get to the nub of who is doing what in the war. Thank goodness.

 

The Men –

I suppose I should say something; I wasn’t going to write anything about the male stars at all. There’s enough information about ‘the great white male’ (as Grayson Perry puts it) without me adding.

So a quick nod to Chris Pine, Danny Huston and David Thewlis – the ‘good guy’, the ‘bad guy’ and the ‘badder guy’ in that order. Pine was great, Huston good, but, as much as I love Thewlis, he simply seemed wrong for the role of Ares.

 

Was it a great film? No, it was good; possibly in the Top 3 of this genre of films. Again down to lazy directors relying on a ready and willing audience, most of whom have become so desperate that there discerning monitor seems to have broken.

The storyline was simple, but that works as it is almost an ‘intro’ to Wonder Woman and her world. However, I did guess who was who quite easily.

It’s beautifully shot with the holiday brochure scenes of Themyscira; where you can almost smell the aroma of blossoms on the warm breeze, contrasting with the misery of brown and grey of London and the battlefront.

But I do believe this film will be talked about for years to come. When Sigourney Weaver first appeared as Ripley in Alien, a generation of women cheered and said ‘At last!”

Now I believe we are doing it again.

It is 2017 people.

50% of the world population is female.

Wonder Woman is the first female-led superhero film since 2005, when Jennifer Garner played the lead role in Elektra.

And finally. Thank you Patty Jenkins.

Coming of Age

When I turned 18 (oh so long ago), I got extraordinarily drunk whilst at college. I spewed copious amounts of vomit around the girl’s toilets and had to be taken home by a member of staff and a student. My mother was confused – she did not recognise drunkenness when she saw it, my father thought it quite funny. I was ill for about three days. When I turned 21, my parents turned up at my university digs with a cake, my two main childhood toys (Tiny Tears and Teddy) and a bottle of champagne.

Fairly typical for Many UK young people on the cusp of adulthood; most people I know of my age, also got ridiculously drunk on their eighteenth birthdays. It seems to be the norm here. Celebrations dropped down to 16 after a while, so massive parties and lots of alcohol consumed, usually in the celebrants family home, but more and more people are hiring halls, or restaurants or clubs these days.

So when do we become an adult? What do we do to celebrate and mark the transition from childhood to adulthood? And why are the laws and customs regarding what a teen can and cannot do not unequal throughout England? It seems like other cultures have a handle on this, traditions which continue over the generations and are acknowledged by the whole community. You can have a tooth filled in Bali, do a land-dive in Pacific island of Vanuatu, or be beaten and scarred with the Fulani of Western Africa. But what do we do in England and when do we do it?

For those of you who are not English, let me fill you in –

  • The legal age of consent (to have sexual intercourse), is 16 years.
  • You can drink a beer, wine, or cider with a meal in a pub or restaurant if you are with an adult, at 16 years.
  • You can get married with parental consent, at 16 years.
  • You can smoke, (but you cannot buy cigarettes or tobacco) at 16 years.
  • You can drive a vehicle ,at 17 years.
  • You can vote in Elections, at 18 years.
  • Now you can buy your own cigarettes, at 18 years.
  • The legal age to purchase and drink alcohol, 18 years.
  • The minimum age for enlisting in the UK armed forces is 16. Those who sign on when 16 or 17 must serve until they are 22.
  • Join the Royal Navy at 16 years; although that may vary for certain roles across the different branches. If you’re under the age of 18, you will need the consent of a parent or guardian.
  • Legally – in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales – a minor is a person under 18 years of age.
  • In London, under 11’s travel free on most public transport.
  • On most public transport across the UK, adult fares begin at 16 years.
  • Blackpool Pleasure Beach, you’re paying for adult tickets from the age of, 12 years.
  • Kids go free at Legoland, up to and including the age of 15 years.
  • In England, you must stay in full-time education, for example at a college, start an apprenticeship or traineeship, or spend 20 hours or more a week working or volunteering, while in part-time education or training, until you are 18 years.

 

So let’s have a quick re-cap. At 16 years of age you have to pay adult fares for theme parks and the like, you can smoke cigarettes, but NOT buy them. You can marry with parental consent (so presumably have children), you can join the military, which presumably involves in weapon training. BUT, you have to be with an adult to have a drink with a meal. You must remain in education and you cannot vote. Not forgetting, that legally, YOU ARE STILL REGARDED AS A MINOR. YOU ARE A CHILD! There is little, or no consistency.

Does this picture look skew-whiff to anyone else?! I have been boggled by the age issue since I was 13 years old and I was charged adult price for a ticket for Madame Tussauds Waxworks Museum. I argued for ages with the guy on the counter:

“I’m not an adult”

“It’s adult for 13 and over.”

“I’m a school kid!”

“It’s adult.”

“But I’m not responsible enough to be an adult!”

I paid anyway – wanted to see the wax heads on sticks.

Tussauds
Well it was scary then! Especially as I was alone, sans parents…

Can we not all agree on what age is the one true age of reaching adulthood? The complications are sometimes related to money. In the consumer age, corporations and conglomerates want your money, regardless of whether you earn any or not. This is a ludicrous situation. Not only can we not agree on set ages for ‘coming of age’, but we don’t now know when to celebrate. So, 16 years old’s celebrate that they have turned ‘Sweet 16’ (So What?! I cry), then 18 year old’s celebrate their ‘coming of age’ – as we have seen already, usually by getting very, very drunk.

Then along comes 21 years. This used to be the age recognised throughout the UK, when a child became an adult. This changed in 1970, in England (1969 in Wales and Scotland). It was a huge moment marked by celebrations, party, gifts and, a once well-known song.

Now we are being told that, mentally and emotionally, we are reaching adulthood around 25 years. So isn’t it about time to have parity across the board? If we are saying that people are minors/children until the age of 18, shouldn’t all laws and charges reflect this?

21today

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wx1D2asFSig

 

Having something definite to mark this passage provides us with a ‘mental landmark’, we all know where we stand. Make it a real celebration, something that is recognised by all, a ceremony of sorts. A Tradition.

queen elizabeth 21st
Princess Elizabeth on her 21st Birthday, choosing ‘one’s totty to take to the ball.

 

Jewish Coming of Age Tradition: Bar and Bat Mitzvah

Mazal Tov! Around the world, young Jewish boys and girls celebrate their Bar and Bat Mitzvahs at age 13 and 12 in order to demonstrate their commitment to their faith and recognize that they are now responsible for following Jewish law. After the religious ceremony, a reception  to celebrate the young person’s hard work and accomplishment takes place; as they have often spent weeks learning and preparing for this day.

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Health and safety not an issue, as youngster is jiggled up and down in the air.

Amish Coming of Age Tradition: Rumspringa

In Amish tradition, Rumspringa marks the time when youth turn 16 and are finally able to enjoy unsupervised weekends away from family. During this time, they are encouraged to enjoy whatever pleasures they like, be that modern clothing or alcohol. The purpose of this period is to allow Amish youth the opportunity to see and experience the world beyond their culture and upbringing. It also recognises that youthful exuberance exists and needs to be allowed to happen. In this way, returning to their community and way of life thus is entirely their choice. Those who return are then baptized and become committed members of the Amish church and community, marking the end of Rumspringa (but they must do so before turning 26).

rumspringa-party-via-Fark
And you thought they were dull !

 

 Inuit Coming of Age Tradition: North Baffin Island

In North Baffin Island, Inuit boys have traditionally gone out to the wilderness with their fathers between the ages of 11 and 12 to test their hunting skills and acclimatise to the harsh arctic weather. As part of the tradition, a shaman would be called to open the lines of communication between men and animals. Nowadays, this tradition has been extended to young girls as well, as “out-camps” are established away from the community in order for traditional skills to be passed down and practiced by the young men and women.

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 Khatam Al Koran Coming of Age Tradition: Malaysia

In Malaysia, 11 is a special birthday for some Muslim girls, as it marks the time when they can celebrate Khatam Al Koran, a prestigious ritual that demonstrates their growing maturity at their local mosque. Girls spend years preparing for this day, reviewing the Koran so they can recite the final chapter before friends and family at the ceremony.

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Maasai Coming of Age TraditionTanzania and Kenya

The Maasai of Kenya and Tanzania have several rites of passage that carry boys into manhood. Boys between the ages of 10-20 come together to be initiated as the new “warrior class” of the tribe, placed in dozens of houses built for the occasion. The night before the ceremony the boys sleep outside in the forest, and at dawn they return for a day of singing and dancing. They drink a mixture of alcohol, cow’s blood, and milk, while also consuming large portions of meat. After these festivities they are ready to be circumcised, making the official transformation into a man, warrior, and protector. Similar to other rites of passage the boys cannot flinch, because doing so would shame their families and discount their bravery.

Rituals-of-the-Massai-Tribe-
Jumping for joy – literally!

 

Japanese Coming of Age Tradition: Seijin-no-Hi

In Japan, the second Monday of January marks a special day- the day in which 20 year olds get to dress up in their finest traditional attire, attend a ceremony in local city offices, receive gifts, and party to their hearts’ content amongst friends and family. It’s their Coming of Age Festival, otherwise known as Seijin-no-Hi. The tradition started nearly 1200 years ago and recognizes the age when the Japanese believe youth become mature, contributing members of society (it’s also the time when they get to vote and drink).

Japan

 

It is interesting to note, that whilst I was searching for images to represent each culture’s way of celebrating this rite of passage – I could not find anything to represent the UK. There were very mixed images of different types of parties, the odd one of teens drinking or smoking, but no consistency – because we have no recognisable, traditional way to share and enjoy. This will have to suffice…

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EXAMS!!!!

Exams!

It’s that time of year again.

Exams!

The word can bring the usually stout of heart and joyous of personalities to a stuttering, heart-in-the-mouth, stomach-churning (occasionally pants-filling), halt.

exam Will

Thousands of young people across the UK will have sat, or be currently sitting these horrendous GCSE/A level/End of Year papers. My thoughts are with you guys.

But why do we do exams? For years I have gone along with the mentality that exams are there to assess how much we have learnt, to grade us for the next level of education, to see where our skills lie (academically) and so direct our employment options.

Imagine our ancient ancestors – ploughing the fields, milking the cows, thatching roofs, building homes, smithing your horse’s hooves, sewing your clothes, brewing ale, grinding corn and so on and so forth. Did they sit written exams? No. They didn’t, but managed to make, create, produce and thrive in a continuously moving environment.

SONY DSC
Er, obviously NOT going to be a bricklayer!

The problem lies with numbers; not those hated calculations involving equations and formulas – or that might just be me. I mean numbers of students. In the past, authentic assessment was the norm; we had apprenticeships; an expert would take on an apprentice, provide individualised training and constant feedback. Apprentices were evaluated on how well they applied the skills, not how well they answered a multiple-choice question. The tradition continues today; the construction industry being a point in question.

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Chinese students had to sit outside – is this what we are heading towards???!!!

But as the population grew, we needed a way to assess huge numbers of potentials. And now we have a kind of production-line mentality to education and exams. We go in one end, age 5 years (3 ½ if you go to pre-school), and come out the other aged 18 years, having sat numerous tests along the way: IQ tests, 11Plus, Aptitude, End of Year, SAT’s (thanks America!) Mocks, GCSE’s (O Levels if your over 40 years), A Levels. THEN, you can go to Further or Higher Education where you do further exams – or retake those English and Maths GCSE’s you failed at school.

exam stress
And we start them so young!

And this in an age where we talk about the individual; about how we’re each different, how we have differing needs, how we learn at different rates. So why the rigid, one-size-fits-all attitude?

And what do exams do anyway, besides stress us out? So you happen to be able to remember a bunch of information that someone spewed out for 10 months, so what? Just because you can pass a written exam, does not mean you will be successful in life, as a person – you know, the REAL important stuff?!

Should we be looking at a new way to educate people? What should we be educated in?

We’re so busy stuffing our heads with dates and measurements and names and so forth, that we do not stop to think what we should be learning about.

Education, after all means – the process of receiving or giving systematic instruction, especially at a school or university, “a course of education” (OED) Origin – Word Root of educate

The Latin word ducere, meaning “to lead,” and its form ductus give us the roots duc and duct. Words from the Latin ducere have something to do with leading. A duct is a tube that leads from one place or organ to another. To educate, or teach, is to lead to knowledge. To induce is to lead into a particular state. (Merriam-Webster)

 

So, instead of stuffing words, dates and formulae in, we should be spending half the time, drawing out from the pupil.

And anyway, who decided that if you don’t get the grades then you’ll never ‘make it’ in life. Let’s have a look at how some well-known people fared in their school exams and ask ourselves, Do we really need exams in the form they currently are anymore?

Imagine if every student across the land – every single one – refused to do their exams. On the same day, at the same time, they all agreed to down pens and refuse to take part in this pointless ritual that measures nothing but an individuals ability to regurgitate information in a given time frame…I wonder what would happen?!

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Failed his pasty eating exam…

 

Simon Cowell –Music Entrepreneur – left school with just 1 O Level.

Jon Snow– journalist/News Presenter – Grade C in English.

Lord Alan Sugar – Business Entrepreneur – 1 GCSE.

Sarah Millican – Comedian – D and E in her A Levels.

Jeremy Clarkson – TV Host – “If your A-level results aren’t joyous, take comfort from the fact I got a C and two Us. And I have a Mercedes Benz.”

 

…and extracts from some school reports of the good and the average:

 

“This boy will never get anywhere in life.”  Eric Morecombe, Comedian.

“Judi would be a very good pupil if she lived in this world.” Judi Dench, Actor.

“Certainly on the road to failure…hopeless…rather a clown in class…wasting other pupils’ time.” John Lennon, Musician.

“Inclined to dream. Could do better if he tried.” Nick Park, Animator.

“Jilly has set herself an extremely low standard which she has failed to maintain.” Jilly Cooper, Author.

“Constantly late for school, losing his books and papers….regular in his irregularity….” Sir Winston Churchill, Prime Minister 1940-1945/1951-1955

So you see, if at first you don’t succeed; become an entrepreneur, a comedian or a politician, can’t go wrong!

 

Oh, And

Good Luck! 

Feast of Words

In the light of recent cultural divisions, that have been happening across the world by various means, I decided to write of something that we all have in common – FOOD.

We all consume food, we even share similar palettes to people’s and cultures we may know little about, or think we have in common. Lemons, for example, are thought to originate in India and yet are eaten all over the world today. The pomegranate started out in Iran, and yet I can get them from my local supermarket. And oranges; one of my favourite fruits and bits of knowledge – Did you know – oranges come from South East Asia, they were first cultivated in China. The colour orange come from the fruit not the other way around. And why do we say, “Can I have an orange?” ? Because the fruit was originally called narange, a Sanskrit word for “orange tree” (नारङ्ग nāraṅga). As with many words, it became Anglicized, so from “Can I have a nāraṅge?” it morphed into ‘an orange’. How cool is that?!

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N.B: Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit. (See what I did there?!)

 

How are we divided? Tonnes has been said on that – let’s focus on what we ALL have in common; the need to consume, the joy of eating, the love of specific treats and delicacies. And what a culture does not/may not eat due to spiritual concerns can also show our similarities – Tim Minchin, comedian, wrote a song (He’s written quite a number of songs actually), about the similarity, rather than differences amongst the Muslim and Jewish folks called ‘Peace Anthem For Palestine’ – about how they both do not eat pork!

Sure, it’s a light-hearted, comedic foray into international politics (!!) BUT, essentially, he is talking about commonality through food.

Food really can bring people together. Hear the one about the Palestinian and the Israeli who used Hummus to aid refugees?                                   https://munchies.vice.com/en_us/article/how-hummus-brought-a-palestinian-and-an-israeli-together-to-help-refugees-in-berlin

I thought then;  writers have used food and drink in their stories over and over, to help develop plots, bring characters to life and give a sense of place. What is sense of place? Wiki tells us – Cultural geographers, anthropologists, sociologists and urban planners study why certain places hold special meaning to particular people or animals. Places said to have a strong “sense of place” have a strong identity and character that is deeply felt by local inhabitants and by many visitors.

We all have used the phrase at some time or another. However, if a fresh, tall glass of orange juice conjures up images of Californian sunshine and groves of fruiting trees sparkling in the morning dew – what of the origins of the orange? Doesn’t consuming food from across the globe begin to distort our idea of sense of place?! And maybe, rightly so.

I say embrace the commonalities. Drink French wine, whilst eating American raisins and roasting English lamb, followed by Iranian pomegranates and Italian ice-cream. Cue the extracts, oh, first let me say, ***SPOILER ALERT – after the Shakespeare quote, the passage selected from Patrick Suskind’s Perfume is the ending of the novel. So avoid if you have not read it. And if you have not read it – please do – a hideously delightful story, redolent with humans. Enjoy:-

 

  • “Soon it got dusk, a grapy dusk, a purple dusk over tangerine groves and long melon fields; the sun the color of pressed grapes, slashed with burgundy red, the fields the color of love and Spanish mysteries.”
  • “I went to sit in the bus station and think this over. I ate another apple pie and ice cream; that’s practically all I ate all the way across the country, I knew it was nutritious.”

― Jack Kerouac, On the Road

feastofwords

 

  • “Happiness. Simple as a glass of chocolate or tortuous as the heart. Bitter. Sweet. Alive.”
  • “I sell dreams, small comforts, sweet harmless temptations to bring down a multitude of saints crashing among the hazels and nougatines.”
  • “The air is hot and rich with the scent of chocolate. Quite unlike the white powdery chocolate I knew as a boy, this has a throaty richness like the perfumed beans from the coffee stall on the market, a redolence of amaretto and tiramisù, a smoky, burned flavor that enters my mouth somehow and makes it water. There is a silver jug of the stuff on the counter, from which a vapor rises. I recall that I have not breakfasted this morning.”

              ― Joanne Harris, Chocolat

feast of words 2

 

  • “Waiter: Would you like to hear today’s specials?

Patrick Bateman: Not if you want to keep your spleen.”

  • Our pasta this evening… is squid ravioli in a lemon grass broth… with goat cheese profiteroles, and I also have an arugula Caesar salad. For entrees this evening, I have swordfish meatloaf with onion marmalade, rare roasted partridge breast in raspberry coulis with a sorrel timbale…and grilled free-range rabbit with herbed french fries. Our pasta tonight is a squid ravioli in a lemon grass broth.

God, I hate this place. It’s a chick’s restaurant. Why aren’t we at Dorsia ?”

― Bret Easton Ellis, American Psycho

feast of words 3

 

  • “I saw her in the back-kitchen which opened on to the courtyard, in process of killing a chicken; by its desperate and quite natural resistance . . . it made the saintly kindness and unction of our servant rather less prominent than it would do, next day at dinner, when it made its appearance in a skin gold-embroidered like a chasuble, and its precious juice was poured out drop by drop as from a pyx.”

― Marcel Proust, Swann’s Way

feast of words 4

 

  • The meal consists of limpid turtle soup laced with Madeira, blinis Demidoff with caviar, quails en sarcophage (stuffed with foie gras and truffles in puff-pastry cases), a salad, cheeses, tropical fruits and a glistening baba au rhum, all accompanied by Champagne and fine wines.

― Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen), Babette’s Feast

feast of words 5

 

  • ‘Once upon a time there were three little sisters,’ the Dormouse began in a great hurry; ‘and their names were Elsie, Lacie, and Tillie; and they lived at the bottom of a well — ‘

‘What did they live on?’ said Alice, who always took a great interest in questions of eating and drinking.

‘They lived on treacle,’ said the Dormouse, after thinking a minute or two.

‘They couldn’t have done that, you know,’ Alice gently remarked; ‘they’d have been ill.’

‘So they were,’ said the Dormouse; very ill.’

Alice tried to fancy to herself what such an extraordinary ways of living would be like, but it puzzled her too much, so she went on: ‘But why did they live at the bottom of a well?’

‘Take some more tea,’ the March Hare said to Alice, very earnestly.

‘I’ve had nothing yet,’ Alice replied in an offended tone, ‘so I can’t take more.’

― Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

feast of words 6

 

  • “The moment Scrooge’s hand was on the lock, a strange voice called him by his name, and bade him enter. He obeyed. It was his own room. There was no doubt about that. But it had undergone a surprising transformation… Heaped up on the floor, to form a kind of throne, were turkeys, geese, game, poultry, brawn, great joints of meat, sucking-pigs, long wreaths of sausages, mince-pies, plum-puddings, barrels of oysters, red-hot chestnuts, cherry-cheeked apples, juicy oranges, luscious pears, immense twelfth-cakes, and seething bowls of punch, that made the chamber dim with their delicious steam…”

― Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

 feast of words 7

 

  • “Miss Maudie Atkinson baked a Lane cake so loaded with shinny it made me tight.” (shinny, is booze.)

―Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

feast of words 8

 

  • ” “Queequeg,” said I, “do you think that we can make a supper for us both on one clam?” However, a warm savory steam from the kitchen served to belie the apparently cheerless prospect before us. But when that smoking chowder came in, the mystery was delightfully explained. Oh! sweet friends, hearken to me. It was made of small juicy clams, scarcely bigger than hazel nuts, mixed with pounded ship biscuits, and salted pork cut up into little flakes! the whole enriched with butter, and plentifully seasoned with pepper and salt. Our appetites being sharpened by the frosty voyage, and in particular, Queequeg seeing his favourite fishing food before him, and the chowder being surpassingly excellent, we despatched it with great expedition: when leaning back a moment and bethinking me of Mrs. Hussey’s clam and cod announcement, I thought I would try a little experiment. Stepping to the kitchen door, I uttered the word “cod” with great emphasis, and resumed my seat. In a few moments the savoury steam came forth again, but with a different flavor, and in good time a fine cod-chowder was placed before us.”

―Herman Melville, Moby Dick

feast of words 9

 

  • “He is a heavy eater of beef. Me thinks it doth harm to his wit.”

―William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night

 feats of words 10

 

***

  • * “But to eat a human being? They would never, so they thought, have been capable of anything that horrible. And they were amazed that it had been so very easy for them and that, embarrassed as they were, they did not feel the tiniest bite of conscience. On the contrary! Though the meal lay rather heavy on their stomachs, their hearts were definitely light. All of a sudden there were delightful, bright flutterings in their dark souls. And on their faces was a delicate, virginal glow of happiness. Perhaps that was why they were shy about looking up and gazing into one another’s eyes. When they finally did dare it, at first with stolen glances and then candid ones, they had to smile. They were uncommonly proud. For the first time they had done something out of love.”
  • Patrick Süskind, Perfume