Tuesday 29 April 2014

History - Lady Godiva

It is perhaps unfair that Lady Godiva is best remembered for one act which historians dispute whether it actually happened or not. But that's the way of the world isn't it? You do just one thing and everyone is talking about it for ever on end. But more of that later.

Lady Godiva, was an 11th-century Anglo-Saxon noblewoman who lived in Britain all that time ago. She was the wife of Leofric, Earl of Mercia and they had a son called Aelfgar. (I suppose when you're rich and famous you can name your children what you want. Personally, I prefer "Hey You" as a name; but I digress).

Both Lady Godiva and her husband Leofric were very generous benefactors to religious houses. (Can you imagine being called Leofric? O Leofric, Leofric! Wherefore art thou Leofric? Doesn't sound right does it? But I digress once again. OK ... let's concentrate now and get on with the story).

As I was saying, they were both very generous and in 1043 Leofric founded and endowed a Benedictine Monastry in Coventry, England. Apparently Godiva was the persuasive force behind this generosity and she moaned and moaned "Leofric, build me a monastery. Leofric, build me a monastry ..." until he gave up and built her a monastry.

You know how persuasive women can be when they want something?

They go on and on and on ... clear the footpath of snow, don't forget to mow the lawn, the house needs re-painting, have you taken the trash bins out? Ehm ... sorry ... my mind was wandering a bit there ... thinking aloud what?

Well, at least I've never been asked to build a monastry. I suppose clearing the footpath is better and cheaper than having to build a monastry. Although I must admit, if it was a choice between visiting the mother-in-law and building a monastry, I would build a monastry any day. It is less stressful with much less moaning on and on in stereo !!!

But I digress yet again. Stop interrupting me!

In 1050 the couple also gave land for the St Mary's Monastry in Worcester and for the minster in Stow St Mary in Lincolnshire.They are also benefactors of other monasteries in Leominster, Chester, Much Wenlock and Evesham.

Lady Godiva also gave a lot of jewellery and precious metals to various causes over her lifetime.

So all in all, she was an all round good egg as we normally say; and the sort of person you would like to meet and befriend. Especially if you're short of a penny or two.

Until we come to the legend of what she once did, (or did not do, depending on who you believe). 

It seems that Lady Godiva took pity on the people of Coventry who were paying too much taxes imposed by her husband on the town. She appealed to her husband to lower the taxes and moaned and moaned for days on end "Please lower the taxes ... Please lower the taxes ... Please ... Pretty Please ..." You know how women go on and on when they want something? Have I mentioned that to you?  

Well this time Leofric would not listen. But she went on and on about lowering the taxes. Eventually, to shut her up, (he must have had a terrible headache poor soul), he said "I'll lower the taxes if you strip naked and ride a horse through the streets of Coventry!"

To his surprise she agreed. Now that's dedication for you. Would any of us go to such lengths for our fellow man? (Don't answer that).

Lady Godiva issued a proclamation that on a certain day everyone should remain indoors and shut all their windows because she was going to ride naked on a horse throughout town. (I wonder how many horses volunteered for the job).

Now how naive is that? Did she really expect everyone to stay indoors after such an announcement? Would you?

Are you really telling me that NO ONE was tempted to take a photo with their cell-phones and post it on Facebook?

On the day in question Lady Godiva rode naked on a horse and paraded throughout town.

But a tailor called Tom succumbed to temptation. He made a small hole in his window shutters and had a good look at what he should not have been looking at. And that's where the name Peeping Tom originates from.

Apparently he was struck blind after the event.

His friend Ivan Eyeful was wiser and more cautious because he chanced one eye through his peep hole.

Anyway, believe it or not, her husband kept his word and abolished the taxes.

Now why can't the wives of our politicians do the same thing and lower our taxes?

As I said, the veracity of this story is hotly disputed amongst historians.

But it raises an important question:

Assuming that Lady Godiva did as it is said in order to help the poor people of Coventry; is it OK to strip naked for a good cause? To help one's fellow man?

There are many instances of men and women being photographed nude for calendars which are then sold to raise a lot of money for a charitable cause.

Is this a good (fun) thing to do to help others; or is it wrong? Especially when we consider the amount of money that can, and has, been raised this way for causes like medical research, helping the elderly, ease starvation and so on.

If the cause is one that is very dear to your heart; would you go nude for charity?

Thursday 24 April 2014

History - The Three Musketeers

Now as many people know The Three Musketeers is a novel by the French writer Alexandre Dumas first published in 1844. The story is set in the 17th Century and tells the adventures of d'Artagnan who goes to Paris to join the Musketeer Guards. The three Musketeers were Athos, Porthos and Aramis and their motto was "all for one and one for all".

What not many people know however is that the story is based on real people who guarded King Louis XIV of France, a King who enjoyed good style furniture which to this day bear his name. If you find a Louis XIV chair you are sure to pay a good price for it because the chances are that at some time or other he may have sat on it.

Anyway, the names of the REAL three musketeers were Pathos (not Athos) because he was always sad and melancholy (face like a melon and body like a collie). Shortos (because he was very short. He had also trained as a doctor but because of his small stature he had qualified as a knee specialist). And Monami, (which in French means my friend. He was always friendly with the ladies and got into a lot of trouble).

The real young man who travelled to Paris to join the musketeers was named Tarte Onion (not d'Artagnan, because he was a baker and every one liked his onion pies).

OK ... preliminaries over. Now on with the real story.

Tarte Onion goes to Paris and stays in a small inn. The owner puts him up in a tiny room up in the attic. Right up in the loft of the house. Tarte Onion asks the hotelier if he has anything to drink. The hotel-keeper says there's some milk in the kitchen cupboard, "take it up with you to the loft".

For the next half-hour Tarte Onion struggles trying to take the cupboard up to the loft.

The next morning he struggles again getting the cupboard down three floors to the kitchen.

After paying the hotelier for his night's stay the hotel-keeper gives him directions to the Palace of King Louis XIV and bids him farewell.

"Pull the door behind you as you leave!" says the hotelier and Tarte Onion duly obliges by pulling the door off its hinges and taking it with him to the Palace.

At the Palace, the Guards at the Gates, (also Musketeers called Left and Right because of the positions they occupied at the Gates), see Tarte Onion coming towards them with a door on his back. They stop him thinking he is a door-to-door salesman selling doors door-to-door.

"Do you have a gate?" they ask.

"No, I always walk this way" replies Tarte Onion.

(Pause a little for some people to catch up and understand this joke).

After a short pause by which time the two Guards understood the joke they ask Tarte Onion for some form of identification.

He pulls out a mirror from his pocket, looks at it and says "Yes, that's me all right!"

So they let him into the great hall of the King's Palace. As he's waiting there a beautiful lady comes in and walks towards him. Tarte Onion also moves forward a little and trips over the carpet hitting the beautiful lady in the face. That's when their eyes met, although their noses took most of the impact.

Tarte Onion explains that his main quest is to find the spy working for the evil Cardinal Richelieu who wants to kill the King and become King himself.

Now the young would-be musketeer has been told that the spy is a woman with a tattoo somewhere personal on her body spelling the word "LOLA".

"Could this woman be the spy LOLA?" Tarte Onion asks himself, "if only I could search if she has a tattoo!".

Before he could answer his own question, the lady rubs her face to ease the pain from her nose-to-nose close encounter of the painful kind and introduces herself by giving her name "Isadora Kitten".

"No ... a door is a door, and a kitten is a small cat!" replies the hapless Tarte Onion. 

Isadora smiles and marvels at his level of ignorance.  It is then that Tarte Onion notices for the first time that, although she was very beautiful, sadly, she had one ear much much bigger than the other. One ear was normal size and the other much larger and sticking out a little ... quite a lot.

It was as if she was a car with a side door left wide open.

But as cars had not yet been invented no one had made the connection and compared her to a car with a door wide open. Although some had noted that she looked like a horse-drawn carriage with a door wide open.

Everytime there was a slight breeze the poor lady would pirouette round as the draught caught her ear like a big sail.

(Did you notice I used the French word "pirouette" rather than say spin? It is after all a French story. Many years from now, when people study my writings, like they do William Shakespeare's, they'll marvel at my grasp of a wide and international vocabulary. But I digress as I often do to my great annoyance.)

Anyway, Isadora spins round like a revolving hotel door, (that's where the idea of those doors originated), and as she spins a few turns she gets dizzy and falls flat on her back. That's when Tarte Onion notices that she has a tattoo on her leg spelling the word "LOL".

He does not know whether she is laughing out loud at him, or whether the tattoist ran out of ink before finishing her name.

At this point into the big hall enter the three Musketeers Pathos, Shortos and Monami, accompanied by a servant called Pantaloon; but they called him Pants for short!

The Musketeers befriend Tarte Onion and they fight many battles together against the evil Cardinal Richelieu; and in defence of their King, Louis XIV, who is always busy buying Louis XIV furniture, thus creating a shortage and an increase in prices..

Tarte Onion also fights many duels against his greatest enemy Roquefort. A cheesy character who has two accomplices, an Italian called Gorgonzola and an Englishman named Stilton.

Tarte Onion is often cut up into slices in such duels with Roquefort who crumbles at every "Touché" of his opponent's sword. Meanwhile Gorgonzola and Stilton melt in the heat of battle with pathetic Pathos, shortie Shortos and the ever so friendly, (with the ladies), Monami. 

With feeble puns such as these and such a selection of names you can imagine why the books by Alexandre Dumas became very famous for ever more. LOL indeed.

En guarde !!!

Sunday 13 April 2014


We have a tradition in the UK where the Catholic Church gives out these posters for people to put on their windows at home for all to see.

It's our way of witnessing to others about our Christian Faith.

Thursday 10 April 2014

History - Famous Britons

Today's History Lesson is all about Famous Britons so please pay attention and you'll probably learn a thing or two about the people of these islands.

Now unfortunately, Famous Britons don't come in alphabetical or chronological order in as much as they are haphazard and arrive on the scene every now and then in no particular order or rhyme or reason. This has a lot to do with the weather in Britain which is likewise haphazard and in no particular order or rhyme or reason. We often have the four seasons in one day and in random order to confuse people as to whether to go out with their umbrellas or swimsuits. Hence you often see businessmen in London going to work in a bowler hat, umbrella, pin striped shirt and jacket and swimming trunks. Tourists often think that these businessmen have forgotten to put on their trousers. But they are quite mistaken. It is a deliberate attire to be ready for all circumstances; and as the sun comes out all they need do is take off their shirt and jacket and jump into the nearest pool, or lake, or river, or indeed the sea if you happen to work in a seaside town. I remember when I worked in London we had many a meeting in the swimming pool with the Board of Directors. It was quite distracting when the pretty secretary came in her swimsuit to bring us tea and biscuits. 

But I digress.

Ok ... the first Famous Briton I want to talk about is a woman. Her name is Boadicea and she lived around AD 43. The Roman Emperor Claudius sent his troops to conquer Britain.His soldiers were faced by this wild woman from Norwich, who came at them on a horse-drawn cart with swords sticking out of the wheels. Apparently she got the idea from the famous chariot race in the film Ben Hur which she had seen on TV the previous night. She killed over 70,000 Romans in her many battles; but eventually poisoned herself when the Romans started winning again. Some historians believe that she just fell ill and died.

Roll time forward to 1066 when King Harold fought a battle in Hastings against William the Conqueror; known for his love of the game of conkers. This game is still played by children in England today and consists of two people threading a horse chestnut (conker) with a string and use it to smash the opponent's conker. They take turn at hitting the opponent's conker and sometimes the conker (horse chestnut) breaks and can cause injury if bits catch you in the eye. However, at the Battle of Hastings, it is believed, that King Harold caught an arrow in the eye. His soldiers advised him to blink a few times and it will work its way out.

Let's move on a bit forward to 1509 when King Henry VIII was King. He wanted a son as an heir and married six times to make sure his wife got him a son.

His first wife Catherine of Aragon brought him five daughters, (four dead), so he divorced her.

He married Anne Boleyn who also gave him a daughter. She was also friendly with a number of people in the palace so Henry VIII cut off her head and also that of all her lovers too. It is said that Anne Boleyn had an extra finger on one hand and three breasts! Henry accused her of being a witch because of her deformities.

Henry then married Jane Seymour who gave him a son in 1537 but unfortunately she died whilst giving birth.

In 1540 Henry married Anne of Cleves who is said to have been very ugly. The marriage was not consummated, (something to do with Consommé soup), so he divorced her.

In the same year he married Catherine Howard and shortly afterwards chopped her head off too.

In 1543 he married Katherine Parr. Now I ask you ... would you have married a man with such a track record? Anyway, by this time Henry VIII was very sick with diseases one gets when they are too friendly ... He died in 1547.

Queen Elizabeth the First was the daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn and became Queen in 1558 at the age of 25. She was skinny and plain with red hair like her dad. She used lead-based white make-up on her face, which although fashionable at the time, ate into her face. 

In those days people didn't wash as often as we do today because power showers had not been invented. So in time you could smell their arrival a mile off before they actually arrived. People with big noses suffered the most because they inhaled more of the bad smells. Having a cold was a wonderful relief. To hide their bad smell some people carried apples with cloves in it. Hmmm ... I wonder what smelled worse. A rotten apple in your armpits or the "naturelle smelle" of said body parts. 

From 1568 onwards the Spanish fought against the English sending their Armadas over. At this time a man called Francis Drake led the English ships against the Spanish and won many battles. It is said that before a battle Drake was playing bowls in Plymouth and he was told of the approach of the Spanish fleet. He replied there was enough time to finish the game and beat the Spaniards.

Two more people who lived at the time of Elizabeth I were William Shakespeare and Sir Walter Raleigh.

Shakespeare was a play writer who made it his mission to be a pain in the side of every pupil from then on and succeeded to the point that even now students have to learn and memorise his plays for no apparent reason whatsoever.

Sir Walter Raleigh on the other hand is said to have introduced potatoes to Britain. Apparently he travelled abroad and bought a packet of French Fries as a present to the Queen. She said: "What? No beef burger and milk shake?" 

Apparently, also when abroad he decided as a joke to put some leaves in his mouth and light them up. His friends enjoyed the joke and asked him to repeat it when he got back to England. The joke soon caught on and that's how he introduced tobacco to England.

In 1591, Sir Walter secretly married Elizabeth Throckmorton, one of the Queen's ladies-in-waiting, (what were they waiting for?), without the Queen's permission. The Queen got angry and imprisoned both of them in the Tower of London. What a honeymoon? She later released him and he became quite famous.

The Queen died in 1603. Raleigh was arrested and tried for an alleged plot against King James. 

Sir Walter Raleigh was beheaded on 29 October 1618.

His head was embalmed and presented to his wife, and his body was buried in a church in Surrey near Lady Raleigh's home. She kept his head in a velvet bag and carried it wherever she went. I bet it was embarrassing when she went to parties and dinner dates carrying the bag with her. I mean ... there she was invited to a party and she brings a guest, (or part of a guest), in her hand bag. I wonder if Raleigh's head winked at the pretty ladies at the party! And did she ever take his head with her in the bag when she went ten pin bowling?

When Raleigh's wife died 29 years later, both Raleigh's head and body were buried in St Margaret's Church in Westminster.

Tuesday 8 April 2014

Shopping in style

I needed some new clothes for work so I visited this large Department Store in town and started looking around. Pretty soon I found the perfect pair of trousers in varying colors. What would suit me best do you think? Dark blue? Black? Gray?

I took all three and proceeded to one of those cubicles where you can try your clothes on before you buy them.

The man in charge led me to a cubicle and asked me to press a little button if I needed any help.

I got in and tried the first pair of trousers … too tight. The second pair was too long in the legs. And the third was too tight and too short.

Why can’t they make trousers that fit exactly as the size it says on the label? Admittedly the three pairs of trousers were made by different manufacturers but the labels clearly said the same size on all three. And that is my size. The size I measured myself at home and the size of my current trousers which fit me perfectly well.

I proceeded to take off the last pair of trousers and pressed the little button as instructed.

Immediately, almost instantaneously, the male attendant turned up and I explained the situation to him. He took the items away and promised to get me bigger sizes.

I turned round to get dressed and … disaster!

The silly man had taken away the trousers I was wearing when I came into the shop as well as the other three.

So there I was. Trouser-less in a cubicle, and also minus my wallet and car keys which were in my trouser pockets.

I pressed the little button frantically again. Nothing happened. I pressed and pressed and still nothing happened.

Eventually the man returned empty handed.

“I’m sorry Sir; we don’t have any other sizes!”

I explained what had happened and he went away trying to retrieve my own trousers which he had put away with the other trousers to be sold in the store.

I waited for what must have been an eternity. Trapped in a store with no trousers to my name.

Eventually a female voice was heard to say, “Try these and we’ll see if they’re OK!” and a hand came in through the thick curtain and handed me two dresses. One pink and one light blue!

Almost instinctively, I don’t know why, I took the dresses and for a few seconds stared at them. It then occurred to me to look out of the cubicle and call the female attendant back.

Too late! She too had vanished in the store never to be seen again.

“Dear God … what do I do now?” I muttered under my breath.

Well, I suppose the Good Lord must have been listening because there, standing beside the socks rack, was our Parish priest.

In desperation, I tried to attract his attention without making a scene.

“Pssst … Pssst …” I uttered nervously as if calling a cat.

At this point I should tell you that Father Frederic is somewhat old and hard of hearing. He didn’t move one inch and continued looking at different pairs of socks.

“Psst … Psst …” I went again. No response.

“Father Frederic!!!” I said quietly yet forcefully enough that he might hear.

He stopped what he was doing. Looked around and saw no one calling him. Then he looked up to Heaven and made the Sign of the Cross.

“Over here … Father!” I said more forcefully.

He saw me hiding behind the curtain of my cubicle and approached me tentatively.

“I thought the Good Lord was calling me!” he exclaimed.

“No … it was me,” I replied still holding the two dresses, “I’m in an embarrassing situation Father!”

“Oh dear …” said my priest, “it is embarrassing. I didn’t know you liked to wear women’s clothes!”

“Hein? I DON’T!!!”

“No need to be shy about it my son. You really must resist the temptation … and you must come to Confession too.”

“Father … you don’t understand … These are not my clothes!”

“No of course not,” he interrupted, “they’re women’s clothes and you can rest assured that your secret is safe with me. It’s as if you told me about it in Confession. Come to think of it, this curtain is lovely and thick … we need to change the curtains in our confessionals!”

“Father let me explain … I need a pair of trousers!” I said as calmly yet as firmly as possible.

“What? You came here without trousers? You didn’t wear a dress in public did you? That’s rather foolhardy you know. What if a parishioner saw you … you’d bring the whole congregation into disrepute you know!”

At that point I think Saint Anthony must have stepped in and come to my rescue; even though I’d forgotten to pray to him.

The male attendant returned with my original pair of trousers, and my wallet, and car keys.

A week later at Confession Father Frederic whispered to me through the brand new confessional curtains “Are you sure you have nothing else to confess? Something pink and something blue … and worn by pretty ladies!”

Sunday 6 April 2014

What do we learn from the Lazarus episode?

The story of the death of Lazarus and his bringing back to life by Jesus is strange indeed. It is not like any other story of Christ's miracles. There are at least two important lessons for us to learn here.

Let's recap quickly (John Chapter 11).

Jesus was in a town not far from Bethany when He receives a message from Martha and Mary that their brother Lazarus is ill. Jesus does not hurry to heal Lazarus but He stays put. He tells His disciples that this illness will not result in Lazarus' death. The disciples, as ever, do not understand. They think that Lazarus has fallen asleep because of his illness. Jesus spells it out "Lazarus is dead!" and then decides to go to him.

When He arrives at Bethany, followed by His disciples, Jesus is met by Martha.

She is full of grief at her brother's death. She sent a message to Jesus two days earlier and now He comes. When it's too late. She says to Jesus "If you had been here, Lord, my brother would not have died!"

She reprimands Jesus. In her grief, she does not know what to say.

Then she adds, "But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask him for". She still believes that God can do anything through Jesus.


When we are in great grief, or despair, we sometimes lash out at God. We blame Him for what has happened. This is only natural. It is our human nature speaking.

God knows that and He can take our anger. After all, He took all our anger and hatred when He hung there from the Cross.

Like in Martha's case, God forgives. We should in return hold on to our Faith and believe that everything is possible to God.

Mary joins her sister to meet Jesus and she too says "If you had been here Lazarus would not have died". The crowd murmur that Jesus healed many sick people why did He not come earlier to save Lazarus.

Jesus asks for the tomb to be opened. Martha tells Him that there will be a bad smell. Lazarus has been buried for four days. In a hot climate the body would have began to smell badly.

The tomb is opened and Jesus raises Lazarus.


Why did Jesus take so long to visit Lazarus? Why wait four days after his death and burial to turn up?

In the past, Jesus raised many people from the dead. So why did He wait so long this time?

In previous miracles, many sceptics and cynics would have said that the individual was probably not dead. He may have been in a deep sleep, or in a coma. Not much of a miracle.

This time Jesus waited for four days after death and burial to turn up and raise Lazarus. He wanted there to be no doubt that Lazarus is dead and that he has been raised back to life. No doubt that God's glory, through Him, will be seen by everyone.

He predicted from the very start, when He heard that Lazarus was ill, that he would not end up dead. The disciples did not understand, but Jesus explained that Lazarus was indeed dead; but will not end up dead.

His words "The final result of this illness will not be the death of Lazarus; this has happened in order to bring glory to God, and it will be the means by which the son of God will receive glory."

Our lesson is to learn that when things go wrong ... very ... very wrong; we need only believe that the end result will be that God is glorified, as is His will.

Saturday 5 April 2014

Why no one asked Jesus?

Father Ignatius tried something new with his congregation. He suggested they held an “Any Questions” meeting whereby members of the audience would ask him and Father Donald any question, totally unprepared and unscripted, and they would try to answer it.

It was the first such event held at the church center and that evening in question was well attended. About fifty people turned up, which by all standards was a good attendance on a cold winter evening. Some volunteers had prepared hot chocolate and tea and plenty of cakes had been brought in and enjoyed before the meeting started.

At first the questions were somewhat tentative and easily dealt with by either priest, mainly relating to the running of the church, Mass times in winter, and the diminishing amount received in Sunday collections.

But then a young lady stood up and asked the top table: “May I read something before I ask my question?

“While Jesus was eating, a woman came in with an ababaster jar full of very expensive perfume made from pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on Jesus’ head. Some of the people there became angry and said to one another, ‘What was the use of wasting the perfume? It could have been sold for more than three hundred silver coins and the money given to the poor!’ And they criticized her harshly.

But Jesus said, ‘Leave her alone! Why are you bothering her? She has done a fine and beautiful thing for me. You will always have poor people with you, and any time you want to, you can help them. But you will not always have me.’

“This is from Mark 14 3-7,” she concluded.

“My question to you Fathers is ‘Why?’” she then asked hesitantly.

“Why what?” asked Father Donald in his broad Glaswegian accent.

“Why did Jesus say ‘You will always have poor people with you?’”

Before either priest could answer a man at the front said; “Good point … Is Jesus saying poverty will be with us always? Is He saying that all our efforts to help the poor are in vain?”

“Might as well not bother,” mumbled another man sitting beside him.

The two priests looked at each other. Father Ignatius cleaned his glasses slowly and said nothing at first.

“Of course we should bother …” declared Father Donald, “it is our duty to help the poor. Jesus was making the point that He would soon be Crucified and gone from the people, whereas the poor will always be with us. Don’t you agree Ignatius?”

“Well …” replied Father Ignatius slowly, “two thousand years later and we still have poverty in this world. So Christ was not far wrong with what He said.

“But let us look at what Jesus said in a wider context.

“Could He perhaps be talking about something more than just material poverty?

“Is He maybe reminding us that there will always be someone worse off than us? Someone who is poor in material things, someone poor in spirit, poor in health, poor in education or even poor in Faith. This may be miss-interpreting Him perhaps but still worth considering.

“We all have a responsibility towards those in poverty in one way or another. No matter how their poverty manifests itself.

“We should always readily recognize our blessings and share them with those less well off than us.

“If we are fortunate to be financially rich, we should give to those who have not.

“If we are in good health, we should help those who are sick. Visit them at home or in hospital, and give a hand when needed.

“If we are clever or intelligent we should be more tolerant towards those not as bright as us and help educate them where we can.

“And if our Faith is strong, we should help and pray for those who falter and fail in their walk with the Lord.”

“Wow … I never saw it this way …” commented the original questioner.

“We’ve all been given some talent or other” added Father Donald, “and we should use them for the benefit of others.”

“So I suppose Jesus could be referring to poverty in the wider sense, as well as physical poverty of course,” continued Father Ignatius, “and such poverty, whatever it may be, will continue with us as a permanent reminder of our responsibilities towards others as well as towards God Himself.

“Our talents are to be used for His glory to help others”

“Talking of talents,” interjected Father Donald, “may I remind you that if any of you has a talent for singing do not confine it to singing in the bath. The choir is always looking for new singers so come along to rehearsals.”

“As long as you don’t bring your bath with you,” chuckled Father Ignatius.

Thursday 3 April 2014

History - The Tudors

A long time ago there was a Royal family in England called the Tudors. They ruled from 1485 to 1603.

In those 118 years there were five kings and the most famous was Henry VIII.

He was famous for wanting a son and married many times to achieve this. His first wife Catherine of Aragon was a Catholic and she gave him a daughter. So Henry VIII divorced her which upset the Pope. Henry created the Church of England with him as head. He got rid of Catholic monasteries but he still worshipped as a Catholic ... and executed those who didn't.

Living in Tudor times was not much fun. TV had still not been invented so people could not watch soaps for hours on end.

It was not a healthy time either. They had open sewers in the streets and toilets were a hole in the ground in the back garden. They often emptied chamber pots out of the window onto the people in the streets down below. Hence the phrase "Gardyloo !!!" which roughly translated meant "watch out for the water" (and what's in it) !!!

Umbrellas had yet to be invented; but I bet the Laundry Business was quite successful.

People had very odd cures for illnesses, like swallowing live spiders, covered in butter to make them go down quicker. And swallowing powdered human skulls, or eating bone-marrow mixed with sweat. They also believed in blood-letting. You'd go to the barber and he'd cut you up and let the blood out.

A man went to the barber's once for a haircut. As the barber was working on him the man looked down and saw a human ear on the ground. "Whose ear is that?" he asked.

The barber replied, "Hold it. If it's still warm it's yours!"

Hence the phrase "Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears!" which is a famous line in the play Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare (1564 - 1616).  

It was at this time that barbers also started a side-line of piercing people's ears whilst they wait. It was very convenient not having to come back for your pierced ear the next day. Other piercings however took a little longer.

Of course in Tudor times life was not as sophisticated as it is today. People had to use quills to write with.

These were feathers of various birds which had to be sharpened daily with knives - hence the word pen-knife. Once they sharpened the quill they used it to tap the keys on their computer keyboards.

Crime was also rife in Tudor times because people were generally poor. The same people appeared in front of the same judge again and again because of their repeated crimes.

The judge eyed a man carefully once and asked him "Have you ever been up before me?"

The man replied "It depends on what time you get up!"

On another occasion the same judge had two thieves before him. He asked the first where he lived and he replied "No fixed abode!"

He asked the second man where he lived and he replied "In the appartment above him".

Life for women was terrible in Tudor times. If a woman did not marry she often stayed at home with her parents and spent her time spinning - hence the word "spinster". She could not become a nun since Henry VIII had closed all convents.

Women could be punished by law for nagging and scolding. Women were warned in church to stop nagging and if they continued they were punished by ducking. They were tied to a chair and lowered in the river a few times.

If a woman continued nagging and scolding she was made to wear a metal mask which clamped on the head with a metal bar in her mouth holding her tongue down. She was then paraded in town as a warning to other women.

Football was a favorite passtime played between two villages. The ball was a pig's bladder and they started the game at a mid-point between two villages several miles apart. The idea was to get the ball into your village. The whole village population would play and there were no rules or referee. Anything goes. Just fight everyone else and get the ball to your village. Many people got injured and hurt. Great fun!

In 1540 Henry VIII banned the game because he needed soldiers for his army and too many people were getting injured and maimed playing football.

As mentioned earlier, around this time, lived a man called William Shakespeare (1564 - 1616) who wrote many plays to make a living. Actors were all men who dressed like women to play women's parts. His plays were performed in various theaters for people to enjoy.

But some clever dick at some point or other decided to make life miserable for countless of generations by insisting that they learn Shakespeare at school. 

There's as much point in that as making people learn the scripts of their favorite cartoon videos.

That's ... That's ... That's ... That's all folks !!!!