Sunday 30 March 2014


People sometimes ask: Why pray? Will it change the will of God, or budge Him in any way?

As parents, we do sometimes change our minds and give way to our children’s demands, (eventually), especially when they go on and on about something that they want. Perhaps they make us see reason and we oblige them because we love them.

Are we to believe that our Father in Heaven loves us less than we love our own children? That He will not give us what we ask Him?

In Luke 18:2, Jesus tells the story of a widow who pestered a judge for so long that he eventually gave in and helped her. This parable teaches us not to be discouraged and always pray to God for our needs. Not what we want. But what we need.

Yet again, in the Lord's Prayer, we are taught to ask God our Father, and we will receive.

So then, how about praying to God? Will our prayers change His mind, or His will? Or are His plans for us already set out and no prayers will change them?

Over the years I have learnt that by praying, especially when praying for others, God does listen and sometimes our prayers are answered.

Whether He answers our prayers because we prayed, or He meant to answer them anyway (i.e. it was His will all along); is a debating point which can go on for ever - without us reaching a conclusion.

This is simply because we are not meant to understand Him, and to understand the reasoning behind His actions.

He is God. We are not.

We really should stop bringing Him down to our level by trying to understand Him with human minds.

However, the fact that we don’t understand how, when and why our prayers are sometimes answered and sometimes not is not a good reason for us to stop praying.

It is sufficient to learn from Christ, who prayed to God many times, and who encouraged us to do the same.

And when we pray we should do so in thanksgiving, in hope, and in the sure knowledge that He is listening.

Friday 28 March 2014

History - Knights of the Round Table

The Knights of the Round Table were characters in the leg end of King Arthur in England. It is not quite clear which leg end it was, the right or left; but it doesn't seem to matter anyway.

In those days of Olde England they had many restless knights. This is because people used to eat cheese and drink mead just before going to bed. Also, it was very difficult to get to sleep with all that metal armour on. It was like asking a sardine to go to sleep inside its tin can. It must have been somewhat cumbersome when having to get up in the night to go to the toilet. Especially since in those days of Merry Olde England toilets were outside in the garden and not part of the house.

They had many restless days too when the womenfolks the next morning told off their husbands for staying up all night drinking and wassailing. "What time did you get up to bed?" they would ask, "I heard you get up the stairs making quite a racket with your rusty armour. Why don't you put some oil on the joints? And whilst you're at it put some oil on your creaky body parts too!"

No body seems to know what wassailing is but it seems to be something to do with saying "cheers" before drinking, or it may refer to the festival itself of drinking alcoholic beverages. Anyway, they did a lot of it in the times of King Arthur and his restless Knights ... or is it nights? Either way, we've established that wassailing has nothing to do with sailing a boat since you cannot get a boat on a Round Table. Which is the subject of this lesson.

So pay attention and let's get on.

King Arthur had a lot of restless Knights each thinking he was more important than the other. They had names like Lancelot and Runalot, and Laughalot and so on, depending on what they did the most. There was a knight who ate a lot of beans ... can't remember his name!

In order to prove that none of them was more important than the other King Arthur asked a carpenter to make him a large Round Table. It had to be large enough to enable twelve knights as well as the king himself to sit around it. And it had to be made of one piece of wood so that none of them would complain they sat  where two pieces were joined together and thus mean he was less important than the other knights.

Some records say that King Arthur had as many as twenty-five knights, others say fifty or perhaps even more; as many as 150 !!!. Which leads one to wonder how big the Round Table must have been. Also, how difficult it must have been to call a meeting and have all of them attending on the same day. Believe me, I've tried at work to set up a meeting of just six or so people and there's always one person who can't attend when the others can.

Anyway, eventually a very large round table was made by a carpenter named Ivor Woodenheade. The problem was, having made the Round Table, how do we get it into the big Round Room which is at the top of the Castle in Camelot? (Presumably they had a lot of camels there!).

Remember those were the days after the wheel had been invented many years previously; so making a round table was in itself easy. Some historians believe that the wheel is the greatest invention of mankind after laxative. Being an eminent historian myself ... I disagree. I think the second wheel was the greatest invention of mankind because then we had the bicycle. But I digress once again.

So the carpenter and his crew decided to stand the Round Table upright and roll it up the hill like a wheel all the way to the castle, into the big hall, up the stairs and into the Round Room which was right at the top of the castle.

Problem !!!

Once they reached the Round Room at the top of the castle they found that the door is too low for the table to get through.

The carpenter was fired and another carpenter hired to build a new Round Table INSIDE the Round Room.

Clever, don't you think?

So the second carpenter, Ivan Idea, brought all the wood he needed and his tools and made the table inside the Round Room to save having to roll it up the hill and through the small door.

Another problem !!!

Once the table was built there was not enough room in the Round Room for 150 chairs to be put around the Round Table in the Round Room.

The second carpenter was fired.

A third carpenter, known as Aye Fearalot, was very reluctant to take on the job and be fired like his predecessors. In order to avoid such dire fate he convinced King Arthur to build a smaller Round Table, inside the Round Room, around which he put enough chairs for just thirteen people. The other Knights could stay outside the castle and listen to the goings on on the loudspeakers - reasoned the carpenter. King Arthur agreed.

Contrary to popular opinion, all these Knights did not speak in different accents depending on which part of Olde England they came from.

They all spoke in perfect English as you can see in the various films which have been made over the years about King Arthur and Camelot. Not in any of these films do you find a Knight speaking in a London cockney accent or a Liverpudlian tone.

Once Knighted a Knight had to promise not to commit murder, treason or be cruel. He had to be nice to ladies, "gentlewomen", (presumably he could be nasty to those not gentle), and widows, (not windows), and to help them cross the road whether they wanted to or not.

In those days many women spent time crossing the road for no apparent reason.

Just for the record, and to prove I do research my History Lessons, here are some names of the Knights of the Round Table:

King Arthur, Sir Galahad, Sir Lancelot du Lac, Sir Gawain, Sir Percivale, Sir Lionell, Sir Bors de Ganis, Sir Kay, Sir Tristram de Lyones, Sir Gareth, Sir Bedivere, Sir Bleoberis, La Cote Male Taile, Sir Lucan, Sir Palomedes, Sir Lamorak, Sir Safer, Sir Pelleas, Sir Ector de Maris, Sir Dagonet, Sir Degore, Sir Brunor le Noir, Le Bel Desconneu, Sir Alymere, and Sir Mordred. 
There was also one called Sir Ywain the Bastard. I bet he wasn't very happy about that !!!

Wednesday 26 March 2014

You're the best friend I ever had.

You've been here beside me and shared all my dreams through the years
We’ve shared all the laughter and sometime you dried all my tears
You stood close beside me and held me when good times turned bad
I need you to know you're the best friend that I've ever had

Together we've laughed as we walked hand in hand in the rain
All the good times we've had comes back to my memory again
Now as the years pass they're turning from silver to gold
I pray we will share them together as we're growing old

You're my best friend the one friend I know will be there come what may
You're the one I depend on the one friend I turn to each day
So if sometimes I hurt you and the things that I say makes you sad
Remember I love you and you're the best friend that I've ever had

Remember I love you and you're the best friend that I've ever had.

Saturday 22 March 2014

When Hope is totally lost

People often face despair. Some more than others, and for longer periods than others. Periods when darkness haunts our lives for days on end.

Sometimes, people suffering with incurable disease and constant pain decide they can take it no more and choose to end their lives. Others, in what they perceive to be totally unsolvable situations in total despair decide to commit suicide.

We are told that to end one's life, whatever the circumstances, is wrong. We should understand however that no one chooses to end their lives in a cool and calculated state of mind. It is fair to say that such actions are, to some extent at least, motivated by loss of hope, and the inability to see things getting better.

That’s what I wish to address today. Loss of hope. One of the most tragic and damaging experience that can befall any of us.

Whatever our circumstances may be, if we lose hope, if we cannot see the prospect of our current condition changing for the better, we are in danger of shutting down completely and accepting the inevitable outcome.

We live in difficult times. Financial crises are affecting many people. Millions are losing their jobs, their homes and their livelihood.

Those aged fifty or more would find it very difficult to find a comparable job again, if indeed they can find any job at all.

More tragically, thousands of youngsters are leaving colleges and universities with good qualifications, and little prospects of employment. They feel cheated. They did what they were advised to do. They stayed in education, they worked hard, they probably amassed large debts and loans to help sustain them whilst they studied – and now there are no jobs to go to.

There are of course other circumstances which can lead us to lose hope, besides illness, or lack of work or prospects. Broken relationships with no possibility of reconciliation, addictions, failures etc … all can lead us to the temptation to just give up.

Where’s all this leading to? – I hear you ask.

I’d like you for a moment to consider some facts.

Whatever happens in life one thing is for certain: God is still in control.

He is not hiding away behind the settee crying: “Woe woe … look at what is happening out there!”

He is in total control of the situation which He has allowed to happen, and which, in most circumstances, we have created for ourselves.

The writer of the letter to the Hebrews knew what he was saying when he wrote: To have Faith is to be sure of the things we hope for … (Hebrews 11).

And the important thing, whatever our circumstances, is to hold on to that Faith and to believe, in all certainty, that God is in control.

And to thank Him and praise Him for being in control. To re-affirm and acknowledge our belief that He is in control.

By doing so, somehow, we open a channel for God to turn our situation to the good. I’ve seen this happen several times.

Think of the alternative. By turning our back on God, by ignoring Him, blaming Him even for our situation – He will hardly feel inclined to help us. Will He? Of course, He’ll remain in control, waiting for us, with Fatherly patience, love and understanding, for the moment we return to Him like the prodigal son and be welcomed in His arms.

But what do you do if someone else has lost hope – even though you may not have yourself?

Preaching will not help. It may drive them further away.

Love, sympathy, compassion, whatever practical help you can offer may well help a little.

But most important is prayer. Silent prayer even. Without them knowing about it.

Let your Faith and your hope work for them. Even though they may have little or no Faith at all, your Faith is enough.

The best listened to and answered prayers are those we pray for other people. They show God our generosity of spirit, our love, our compassion, and most of all, our Faith in Him.

Don’t suggest solutions to God; like “Please help Him find a job”, but earnestly and in all Faith hand the situation over to Him. He knows what to do, in His time and in His own way.

Just say: “Thy will be done” and mean it.

And watch His miracles at work.

Wednesday 19 March 2014

Saint Joseph

This prayer to St. Joseph is over 1900 years old.

O St. Joseph whose protection is so great, so strong, so prompt before the Throne of God, I place in you all my interests and desires. O St. Joseph do assist me by your powerful intercession and obtain for me from your Divine Son all spiritual blessings through Jesus Christ, Our Lord; so that having engaged here below your Heavenly power I may offer my Thanksgiving and Homage to the most Loving of Fathers. O St. Joseph, I never weary contemplating you and Jesus asleep in your arms. I dare not approach while He reposes near your heart. Press him in my name and kiss His fine Head for me, and ask Him to return the Kiss when I draw my dying breath. St. Joseph, Patron of departing souls, pray for us. Amen

Say for nine consecutive mornings for anything you may desire. It has seldom been known to fail.

This prayer was found in the fiftieth year of Our Lord Jesus Christ. In 1500's it was sent by the Pope to Emperor Charles when he was going into battle.
Whoever reads this prayer or hears it or carries it, will never die a sudden death, nor be drowned, nor will poison take effect on them. They will not fall into the hands of the enemy nor be burned in any fire, nor will they be defeated in battle.

See also Joseph's Legacy HERE

Friday 14 March 2014

History - Robin Hood

Today's History Lesson is about a character in English folklore called Robin Hood and his band of Merrymen.

First of all, let me clear up a common misconception. This is not a musical band like Glenn Miller or Benny Goodman or such old style musical bands from long time ago. Albeit Robin Hood and the Merrymen are at least of that period and beyond.

Robin Hood is believed to have lived in the late-12th-century; at the time of King Richard the Lionheart of England. Now some people believe this is all a tall-tale and he never actually existed. But he really did, because I have seen a statue of him in Nottingham, England. So he must have modelled for the statue, don't you think?

Also, there have been many films made about him - so there! he must have existed all those years ago.

Robin and his Merrymen lived in Sherwood Forest and they robbed the rich to help the poor. His companions were called Will Scarlet, Much the Miller's son, Little John and a monk called Friar Tuck. His girlfriend was Maid Marion. And his enemy was the Sheriff of Nottingham.

Robin and his men always wore green. Some believe it was to camouflage themselves in the forest from the Sheriff's soldiers; but truth be known it was because washing machines had not yet been invented, and clothes do get dirty when you spend your life climbing trees like a monkey.

There have been many adventures written about Robin Hood and his Merrymen and all of them seem to have a similar theme. They lived in the forest, they stopped bad rich men travelling through the forest, took their money and gave it to the poor. Every so often the Sheriff of Nottingham works out a plot on how to capture Robin and the plot always seems to fail at the end and they all live happily ever after.

But reality was far different from what we are led to believe in the cinema or in books. The reality is that they lived in a damp and wet forest which froze them to death in winter and gave most of them rheumatism and aches and pains. One day Robin was in such back pain that Friar Tuck, who was a part-time doctor as well as a monk, suggested he stays away from all dampness. He couldn't even take a bath in the nearby river. So for weeks Robin sat in an empty tub and vacuum cleaned himself.

Many ballads and songs have been written about Robin and his Merrymen being ace swordsmen and great archers able to shoot an arrow through a castle window from a great distance. But again that's an exaggeration.

On one occasion Maid Marion was imprisoned by the Sheriff of Nottingham in a room high up in a tower with her lady-in-waiting Matilda Woodenleg. (They all had rather peculiar names in those days).

Robin Hood and his Merrymen gathered outside plotting on how to release them. The idea was that Robin would shoot an arrow with a string attached to it through the narrow window up in the castle where Maid Marion and her lady-in-waiting were there waiting. The lady-in-waiting was waiting on Maid Marion and Maid Marion was waiting for the arrow to fly in through the narrow window.

I hope you're paying attention to all this; because I'm getting rather confused.

Anyway, in those days windows were narrow vertical appertures in the big thick stone walls with no glass as we have now. The always-open windows allowed air to circulate throughout the castle and enabled soldiers to shoot arrows from the windows down on anyone attacking the castle; without themselves being seen or risking being hit by arrows aimed up at them by the attacking armies.
Robin's plan was to shoot an arrow through the window. Maid Marion would pull the string attached to it, which in turn was attached to a rope, which Maid Marion would tie one end to the bed tightly. Robin Hood would then climb up the rope to the window and rescue Maid Marion and her lady-in-waiting, Matilda Woodenleg, who would both be still waiting in their prison room.

After he explained his plan one of the Merrymen, Little John, said "You'll never make it mate! The window is too narrow and too high up. No one could shoot an arrow through that from this distance!"

"Except Robin Hood !!!" exclaimed Friar Tuck with a smile.

Robin replied "I bet you a squirrel's leg I could do it blinfolded".

He was blindfolded and he shot an arrow which hit one of his Merrymen in the backside giving him a scar to be proud of many years later when he related the story and showed his scar to anyone interested in hearing about Robin Hood and his Merrymen.

Robin took off his blindfold and shot a second arrow high up, which entered the window and hit the lady-in-waiting, Matilda Woodenleg, in her good leg making her cry out in agony and bite hard on her wooden leg to stifle her screams.

With no more waiting Maid Marion got the arrow out of Matilda's leg, and pulled up the string and the rope attached to it. She then tied the rope to the bed for Robin Hood to climb up to the window.

When he reached the top Robin found out that the window was too narrow for him to get in or for Maid Marion to get out of; which proves that being a big shot does not stop you from being stupid too.

It is believed that this experience was the precursor of modern slimming diets which we now follow even today to no avail to help us in and out of tight corners. However, since there are no more narrow vertical windows in modern houses and apartments most people prefer eating delicious fast-foods instead which were not invented at the time of Robin Hood. Given a choice any sane person will choose a good hamburger to a slimming diet. 

And so over the years many more ballads and stories got written about the various adventures of Robin Hood and his prowess as a swordsman and archer. But these were all for the benefit of the book and film industries and their authenticity is often disputed.

For example, there is no truth in the legend that Robin once shot an arrow with an apple on his head.

Nor is it true that he once threw an apple with an arrow on his head.

In fact there's no recorded incident of him having anything on his head apart from his hood when it was cold.

There is some truth however about his burial place; which authenticates the fact that he actually lived.

When Robin Hood got very old, (18 November 1247, about 87 years of age), he lay on his death bed breathing lightly and reminiscing about "olde tymes" when he could climb trees without the aid of an elevator.

His Merrymen surrounded the bed and regaled in "olde tales" about how they got the better of the Sheriff of Nottingham.

Maid Marion was there too making endless cups of coffee to keep everyone awake until Robin went finally to sleep.

Anyway, the Merrymen whispered to themselves about where they would bury Robin when he died.

Little John suggested a nice spot in Sherwood Forest.

Friar Tuck preferred a burial in Nottingham itself, to make a political point so to speak.

Others suggested a burial at sea would be more fitting ... there's no record as to why they wanted this, but then we can't assume that those people were either intelligent or logical.

Much the Miller's son suggested cryonics preservation but this was dismissed since the fridge was broken at the time.

Robin Hood tapped his hearing aid gently to hear them better and then said: "I know what you're talking about ..."

They all looked innocently at the ceiling and whistled or hummed silently.

The ceiling needs repainting, thought Maid Marion.

Robin continued: "Give me my bow and arrow. I shall shoot an arrow high in the sky. Where it lands that's where I wish to be buried!"

They gave him his bow and arrow. He put on his spectacles and weakly pulled back the string on the bow with his shaking hand. They all looked silently in anticipation. He raised his arm high, still shaking, and released the arrow.

And that's how Robin Hood came to be buried on top of the wardrobe.

Tuesday 11 March 2014

History - The beginning of numbers

We have all grown accustomed to writing numbers as 1, 2, 3 and so on, having learnt them from an early age at school.

But have we thought how these numbers and shapes came to be?

In ancient times, even before when Romans ruled the world, people used to count in a very basic way. They would point at an item; say an apple, and say "an apple". They would write that as an I or just a vertical straight line. Pure and simple.

If they wanted to count more they would say "Another apple", and write II, (two vertical lines) and another apple, III ... and another apple, and another apple ... you get the idea.

This basic system of writing vertical lines every time you added something went on for years and years up to the Roman Empire. (They must have had a lot of apples to count).

And so it came to pass that two items (apples, although it would also work for pears, or grapes), would be represented by II and three items by III, four items by IIII and so on.

For a while everyone was happy with this system.

But it soon became too cumbersome when people started counting 10 apples as IIIIIIIIII. Can you imagine having more than 10 apples? Pretty soon people started confusing big numbers such as eleven: IIIIIIIIIII and twelve: IIIIIIIIIIII and so on.

A centurion in charge of a 100 men would stand them all in a long line and write down IIIIIIIIIIIIIII and on and on and on ... until he ran out of paper; or his pencil lead would wear out and he'd have to start all over again. Sometimes the soldiers would faint in the sun and the centurion would have to start counting all over again.

When the centurion went to his captain with the attendance record, the captain had to count all the vertical lines on the paper to find out how many soldiers were present. He might as well have counted the soldiers in the first place!

If the vertical lines did not add up to 100 the centurion had to change his title to ninetyturion, or ninetysixturion, depending on how many soldiers were present.

Counting became intolerable throughout the Roman Empire.

Number plates for chariots became so wide to accommodate the big Registration Numbers that the number plate itself had to be wider than the chariot. The chariot got stuck in narrow streets. It also tripped and injured pedestrians as the chariot hurried along on the open road.

Road signs advising speed limits like 30 miles an hour were also so wide with IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII vertical lines that the road sign itself blocked the whole road.

The Roman Guards were identified by the number on their badges which also were so large and heavy that the guards fell over.

Basically the system did not work at all and the Emperor, (Numeros Uno the Third - written I III), got so angry that he called his mathematician and asked him to come up with a new way of writing numbers.

The mathematician suggested that 4 be written as IV, 5 as V, 6 as VI and so on until 7. Then he changed his mind and decided that IX would represent nine, X for ten, XI for eleven and so on.

The crazy mathematician, (who must have been on the vino at the time), also added new shapes for good measure. For example L for fifty, C for one hundred, D for five hundred and M for one thousand.

The Emperor Numeros Uno the Third, (I III), must have fallen asleep half-way through the mathematicians explanation, (more vino perhaps), that he decreed the new system be used throughout the Roman Empire, under pain of death.

For fear of their lives everyone started using IX, XII, L and so on for CCCCCCCCCs of years.

For a while all was well and the Romans were happy counting their apples and pears. They even invented cuckoo clocks with Roman numerals, (an idea they later franchised to the Swiss). They also had sundials too with Roman numerals. They even painted the sundials with florescent paint so they could tell the time at night.

The use of Roman numerals suddenly stopped when many years later another ruler, the Emperor Claudius, received a text saying – I LV CLAVDIVS – and he didn’t know whether it was an amorous message from his girlfriend or his wife’s new telephone number.
He sent a message back saying LOL and got slapped in the face by both his wife and his girlfriend.

In total fury Emperor Claudius banned the use of all cell-phones in the Roman Empire rather than just change the numerical system to the 1, 2, 3 ... which we now use.

In so doing Emperor Claudius held back civilisation by many years because people had invented other electronic devices such as tablets and laptops but were too afraid to use them in case he got angry again.

It wasn't until many centuries later that civilisation as we know it started using the familiar 1, 2, 3, style numerals which we have learnt to love.

Which goes to show that whilst time waits for no man, it certainly stands still when women are getting ready to go out.

Why do they take so long?

Thursday 6 March 2014

History - Diogenes

Diogenes is certainly an interesting character from ancient history. He was also known as Diogenes the Cynic (you'll learn why later) and was born in either 412 or 404 BC (not sure which) and died in 323 BC.

He was a controversial figure. His father was a banker who minted coins for a living, and for a while Diogenes worked with him. There was a banker's scandal and Diogenes was banished from Sinope, the city where he lived.

He moved to Athens where he proclaimed many of his theories:

He believed that virtue is better shown in action rather than in theory.

He criticised the social values and institutions and the corruption in society.

He believed in living the simple life without too many possessions and clutter. (He did not even have a TV because it was yet to be invented).

Diogenes made a virtue of poverty and begged for a living. He slept in a large ceramic jar (or tub) in the marketplace; and was notorious for his philosophical stunts - like carrying a lamp in the daytime, claiming to be looking for an honest man.

When he arrived in Athens Diogenes had a slave called Manes who ran away from him. Diogenes declared: "If Manes can live without Diogenes, why not Diogenes without Manes?" explaining that it was wrong for a master to have a servant doing things for him.

As I mentioned earlier, he lived in poverty in a tub in the market place with no possesions but a small bowl from which he drank. One day he saw a boy drinking from the hollow of his hands; so Diogenes destroyed the bowl and was much grieved that for years he had a useless possession.

In those days it was forbiden to eat in the marketplace. Remember it was the days before fast-food outlets and milkshakes - even chocolate ones, because chocolate too, like TV, had not yet been invented.

Notwithstanding the lack of a good hamburger, Diogenes would still eat in the markeplace. When he was told off he replied: "It's when I'm in the marketplace that I am hungry; not somewhere else!" A logic which today would have earned him a punch on the nose.

In those days in Athens there were other clever men like Plato, (I believe he could spin twenty plates on long sticks which he would shake every now and then to keep them spinning) and Socrates who much enjoyed the show and made 10% from ticket sales.

During one of his performances Plato described man as a "featherless biped" and the audience applauded in delight at this joke. Easily pleased I suppose!

So Diogenes plucked a chicken and declared to Plato "Behold! I've brought you a man." It is not recorded how Plato reacted; but no doubt the distraction made him loose concentration and he smashed many plates spinning on sticks.

Tuesday 4 March 2014

History - The Phoenicians

This History Lesson is about the Phoenicians who lived on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea from 1550 BC to 300 BC.

They were trading people using galleys to sail from port to port selling their wares. At first they traded mostly with the Greeks, but in time they became known from Greece to Rome. They sold wood, slaves, glass and a powder called Tyrian purple on which they had a monopoly. This precious powder was a purple dye made from sea snails and used, amongst other things, for royal clothing. The dye was greatly prized in olden days because the colour did not fade easily but became brighter with weathering and sunlight.

Which reminds me; I once put a red shirt amongst white washings in the washing machine and never heard the end of it. Some people have no sense of humour! But I digress.

The Phoenicians were the first people to make extensive use of the alphabet which are the ancestor of the alphabet we use today.

The story of how the alphabet was created is quite fascinating.

Have you ever been fascinated?

I was fascinated with a big needle when I was a baby … it’s a protection against many diseases. But I digress again.

As I was saying before I interrupted myself. The alphabet was created by a Phoenician teacher called Abacus one evening whilst he was in his garden waiting for his wife to come home from the pub. He looked up at the clear sky and admired the number of stars sparkling brightly.

He hummed in his head “Twinkle twinkle little star …” and as he was humming the song an owl flew past and dropped his load on the teacher’s head.

Abacus cried “AAAAAAH !!!!” and as he wiped his head and face with a nearby white dress hanging on the washing line the tune was still humming through his head and it developed into “A … B C … D E F … Geee!”

He quickly got out his indelible ink pen from his pocket and wrote on the dress the whole alphabet to the tune of “Twinkle twinkle little star” before he could forget it. That's also why both songs have the same tune.

When his wife got home she made him spell words like “Aaaah!!! Ouch !!! Ayeee !!! Stop … you’re hurting me!” using her rolling pin as a writing instrument.

And that’s how we got to have the alphabet as we know it today. Remember that next time a bird leaves a souvenir on your head.

Which reminds me of another song about birds ...

“Why do birds … suddenly appear … every time … you are near!!!”

It’s because you have seeds in your hair.

Saturday 1 March 2014

History - The Greeks

Today's history lesson is about the Ancient Greeks. A people who have brought civilisation many things we love and cherish today, like the Olympic Games as well as ouzo and stuffed vine leaves.

Of course the Olympics Games have changed a lot since they were first held in Ancient Greece. In those days the games consisted mostly of running round the track and throwing the discus or javelin. To be fair, they did try to throw the boomerang, a sport introduced by Australian competitors, but it did not catch on because the boomerang kept coming back and hitting the contestants on the head.

One little known fact about the Olympics is that only men competed at the games when held in Athens. And they did so totally naked which must have been somewhat disconcerting during the relay race.

Another little known fact about the Olympics is that in Athens, apart from the men, only virgins and un-married women were allowed in as spectators. Married women were forbidden to watch the Games under penalty of death; in case they got attracted to the naked athletes and put them off their stride.

By contrast in Sparta, which compared to Athens was more liberal in outlook, they allowed both men and women to compete in the Games in the nude. (I bet there was a lot of socialising afterwards).

The history of the relay race is quite interesting. Apparently, the god Pormetheus stole fire from the other gods and brought it down to earth for humans to use. The other gods got very angry, and presumably somewhat cold without a burning fire to keep them warm. So they chased the humans to get their fire back. The humans ran away with burning torches. 

The relay race in the original Olympics was run with burning torches in honor of the god Pormetheus. Also, running naked with someone behind you with a burning torch gave the athletes extra incentive to run faster!

A famous Greek was a man called Pythagoras. He was a mathematician, philosopher and founder of a movement known as Pythagoreanism.

He believed that the square on the hippopotamus is equal to the two other squares on the other side of the triangle. The triangle of course being an early musical instrument which was easy to tune since it only has one note.

This well known Pythagoras Theorem was taught to children at an early age and is still taught today for no apparent reason, since it has very little to do with getting a job as a celebrity, politician or even a cashier at the supermarket. It is still useful though if you work in a zoo and have to draw a square on the side of a hippopotamus.

Pythagoras, take my word for it, was believed to have a golden thigh. Which must have constricted his speed when he took part in the relay race. On the positive side though, he did not need to win a gold medal since he already had enough gold to weigh him down.

He believed in a strict diet and in particular had an aversion to beans. Hitherto, he noticed that his followers stood upwind from him at meetings; so he stopped eating beans and advised his followers to do the same.

This caused his eventual death when one day his enemies chased after him. He ran as quickly as he could and eventually reached a field where beans were being grown. Rather than enter the field and escape his enemies, he stood his ground and was killed.

Proving the point that it is not always wise to stand on your principles. And so it came to pass that within seconds of standing still by a field of beans, Pythagoras himself became a has-bean.

This is just a short history lesson about the Ancient Greeks. You can check the accuracy thereof in a book which I am writing on the subject. I'm hardly going to lie to myself, am I?