Medieval History’s Strange Phenomenon of Repeatedly Dying

We all know that many strange things happened in Medieval History; killer eels and disappearing princes spring to mind.

But, to me, the strangest thing was not one particular event, but the fact that so many people seem to have died more than once.

Edward_II_-_British_Library_Royal_20_A_ii_f10_(detail)
Edward II, died in 1327, came back to life Edward III by 1338

Take Philippa of Clarence, the daughter of Lionel, Duke of Clarence and granddaughter of Edward III. I was reading about her the other day. She was born once, in 1355. But when did she die? apparently, she died in 1378, 1381 and ….. 1382. Now that’s a lot of deaths for one lady – and can you imagine the funeral expenses?

And we, of course, have the famous example of Edward II, murdered in Berkeley Castle who, for almost 700 years, died in 1327. But now, he seems to have died much later – and in Italy. How can you be dead in 1327 and yet still be alive to say ‘hello’ to your son in 1338?

And it isn’t just deaths.

Several Medieval people have numerous birth dates. Prince John of Eltham was born on the 15th and 25th August 1316. Richard of Conisbrough, son of Edmund of Langley – and another grandchild of Edward III – was born in 1375, 1376 and, finally, in 1384.

Which makes him 9 when he was born?

Something strange was definitely going on….

There are even phenomenon where Medieval people took part in events before they were born.

who3
The TARDIS pictured in 1020s France

William de Warenne, who fought with William the Conqueror at Hastings, actually fought a battle the year before he was born. Can you imagine the size of his sword?

This pre-natal battle of William’s has had me in a quandary for many years. Until last Saturday night when I sat watching a programme on BBC1 and had a bit of a Eureka! moment. Yes, that had to be it! What if, Dr Who visited Mr de Warenne sometime after Hastings. they probably got on well, got to drinking and the good Doctor has this idea:

Dr W: “Hey, I have an idea. In the future there’s going to be this thing called Wiki. It will be where everyone goes for their info. It’s totally trustworthy, but I’ve got a brill idea of how to mess with people’s minds”.

Mr W, of course, bored with a sudden lack of battles, fighting and bloodthirsty killing, replies: ” I’m in! Wait! What are we doing again?”

Dr W replies: “I’m taking you back in time [cue Huey Lewis music] to before you were born. You get to fight a bloody battle, and I get to mess with 21st century minds.”

“It’ll be a right laugh” says the good Dr.

This theory, of course, doesn’t work for the multiple deaths – unless220px-Bela_Lugosi_as_Dracula,_anonymous_photograph_from_1931,_Universal_Studios Wiki editors are too freaked out. But then, maybe Bram stoker was onto something with Dracula…..?

Vampires did tend to die twice – the second time with a stake through their hearts. Although that doesn’t explain Philippa of Clarence dying three times. Mmm, maybe they used the wrong kind of steak in 1381?

But that doesn’t explain the multiple birth dates.

Wow! This is getting confusing!

Mind you, they did have a habit of giving the same name to more than one child in Medieval England. Maybe that caused confusion, so they couldn’t actually remember which year the surviving child was born, hence Richard of Conisbrough was a still squashed into a cradle in 1384!

And then there are those who have no known death date. The Princes in the Tower and Edward, Prince of Wales, son of Richard III….. maybe, just maybe, they are still walking around….somewhere…..

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Sauces: Wiki with a side order of Alison Weir

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Photos: Wiki

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Jeff R Sun has spent too much time in the sun, I think. It burns!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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1066 and all that jazz

 

hastings
This sums up the incorrect version of the battle of Hastings that we always been led to believe. Here, for the first time, the truth is revealed.

William was totally fed up. Not only did they keep being rude about his mother but they kept spelling his name wrongly. William might have been the son of the unmarried Duke Robert of Normandy and his mistress Herleva but it was cruel of everyone to call him William the Bastard and remind him at every opportunity.

In the middle of the 11th century, despite his total lack of interest in all things political, William was part of a power struggle for the throne of England, held by his relative Edward the Confessor (who had been given his name because of his habit of turning up at sheep dog trials and confessing,) who named the powerful English earl Harold Godwinson as the next king on his deathbed in January 1066.

William didn’t much care. He and Harold had long been rivals but in another, far more interesting sphere: fighting with marrons.

Marrons came in two varieties in England and in what is now called Continental Europe, edible and inedible. The edible type, sweet and nutty, could be used in many different ways in the kitchen and for many communities the marron was the sole source of carbohydrate. Aunt Bessie’s oven chips had not yet been invented and the potato was still an unknown root vegetable in an unknown part of the world. William and Harold did not fight with the edible variety – both of their mother’s had separately put a stop to the boys fighting with food many years before – but they fought with the inedible variety of the humble marron.

The game was itself was simple: two players, each with a marron threaded on a thong of rawhide, take it in turns to hit each other’s marron, until one marron is destroyed. The first player holds out their marron at arm’s length, hanging down, ready to be hit, the thong wrapped around his hand to stop it being dropped.

The opponent, the striker, also wraps his marron string round his hand, then takes his marron in the other hand and draws it back for the strike. Releasing the marron he swings it down by the string held in the other hand and tries to hit his opponent’s marron with it.

But this year, William was despondent. Harold across what he called the Sūð-sǣ (South Sea) was busy being king and wouldn’t play with him, his courtiers kept being rude about his mum and the marrons were small and hardly worth playing for.

Harold, however, was equally fed up. Marron season was here and what fine huge conkers they were and here was he stuck at the head of an army somewhere in Geordie land fighting some Danes to ensure that his kingdom did not become overrun with chubby Danish comedians called Sandi.

Sandi-Toksvig_2363071c
Here’s one I made earlier. (Serving suggestion only.)

Harold’s ministers were adamant that their new king could not have time off, so Harold hatched a plan and calling for his scribe sent a quick parchment to his old adversary William the Bastard, challenging him to a marron fight on the south coast in a couple of weeks time and upon it’s receipt William gathered the usual band of mates he took on stag parties and they set sail.

Historians have made much of William gathering an army to cross the water and Harold leading his war band to the area, but the truth was far less blood thirsty. It was just a friendly meeting between two groups of young men, intent on having a good time with old mates; the usual, wine, women and song, with marron fighting thrown in.

After carousing through the south eastern coastal villages full of good ale and mead, the two groups of men met at Senlac Hill. (Senlac later gave its name to a laxative tablet made of Senna. If you have trouble with constipation, please do not rely on laxatives for long periods as dependency can develop. senaSeek advice from your doctor about retraining your bowel. This is a public service announcement.) Anyway, as I was saying, the drunken, carousing groups of young men met at Senlac Hill and there, after more mead and ale had been consumed, the marron battle started, William against Harold.

It was Harold’s turn to aim first, but shock and horror! Live footage embroidered rapidly at the scene shows that Harold was cheating. He had two marrons!

Bayeux_Tapestry_scene57_Harold_death
This footage, embroidered by the marron championship correspondents live from the scene, clearly shows Harold cheating.

William’s men saw red. They saw other colours too, but predominantly red and furiously angry and totally tanked up on the alcohol, they broke every marron championship rule in the book and beat the shit out of Harold and his friends. In the affray Harold got a red hot poker shoved in his eye and William lost some of his clothes and damaged his ring. Then one of William’s friends took things too far, (there is always one), and skanked Harold with a broken mead jar.

Harold died.

The party broke up after that and the hung-over men slunk away to vomit behind bushes and sleep off the effects of the day.

William woke up later with the horrid, horrid memory of what had happened. Oh MERDE! What could he do? As hastily as his pounding head would allow he opened an eye and then, much later, another. Groaning he sat up. Bodies were all around him, dead, dying, sleeping, groaning, spewing Saxons, Normans. All a great jumble of stinking hungover men. It looked like a battle field.

A battlefield?

As fast as his inebriated brain would process it, he realised that was the answer. Deny it was a stag party and insist that it had been an intentional invasion. The murder of the king could then be passed off as him having been killed in rightful combat!!

He tried to smile. It didn’t work. Some hangovers are like that. Not smiling he called the embroiderers to him and with a hefty pay off he got them to tweak a few bits of their tapestry interpretation of the day showing him not as William the Conkerer, but William the Conqueror.

William became king, but forever mourned the best marron fighting partner he had ever had. Under Norman rule, Angle-land became  très Frenchified, altering the language forever although here in England we now call marrons ”conkers

Source material:

A bit of old hessian I found in the garage

A small square of calico

Linen

I read a few books too.

Conkers-Featured

© Jeff Jefferty Jeff 6th October 2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Food, memorials to the dead and c15th PTSD – unravelling a long-forgotten mystery

dh

I recently perused a discussion on social media about whether medieval soldiers suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Opinion was divided between those who felt that Medieval men were, after all, men and therefore would respond to things as men do today, and those who felt that projecting modern ideas backwards 550 years is unjustified.

It is true that the term PTSD is of modern origin. But if we assume that men reacted to combat then as they do now, the emotional and mental health problems would be familiar to our ancestors. Reading in contemporary sources about the aftermath of the battle of Towton (29 March 1461), I was struck by the way the contemporary sources referred to often to the date (one early name for the battle was “Palm Sunday Field”). And then I discovered a little-known chronicle written by a monk of French origin named Brother Paul d’Houxbois source talking about the veterans suffering from what he termed “the marche paine”: “Those menne that foughter uponne Palme Sundaye Fyeld do say they oftentymes have euill dremes and see before them agayne and agayne what terrors they sawe uponne thatte daye. This do menne call ‘the marche payne’.”

His description chimes with that given by the American Psychiatric Association, which detailed the symptomns of PTSD as including “intrusive, recurrent recollections, flashbacks, and nightmares” (American Psychiatric Association:1994).

What distinguishes d’Houxbois from other chroniclers is that he goes on to propose a remedy. In all probability, d’Houxbois had some medical training – medieval doctors and surgeons frequently recommended a regimen of diet, rest or exercise. For “the marche payne” he recommended “a paste made of almandes and sucre mixed with rose water, whyche can balance the evyl humoures and restore reste to the tortured soule”.

The idea was also taken up by the wealthier survivors or the families of the dead, and a trend began of memorialising the higher-status victims by producing ‘subtleties’ (as the decorative centrepieces of c15th banquets were called), often consisting of the coat of arms of the person being memorialised rendered in ‘marchpaine’. Within a few decades, the original therapeutic reason for ‘marchpaine’ had been forgotten, and it had become merely a sweetmeat or delicacy for the rich (the same fate that befell such therapeutic substances as brandy, opium, cocaine and truffles).

References:
American Psychiatric Association (1994). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders: DSM-IV. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.
D’Houxbois, Br. P et Sr Marie de la Baie – “Chronique de la grande concurrence de cuisson Britannique, 1457-62” (unpublished)

Jeff de Cuisine has been attempting to treat his own psychological problems with a diet consisting exclusively of truffles, marzipan, brandy, opium and cocaine, with which he has successfully transmuted his anxiety into bankruptcy and arrest.

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Will Kermit dump Miss Piggy after shock revelation?

Will Kermit dump Miss Piggy after shock revelation?

cameron with pig
#Hameron is hogging the limelight today as even the Tweeters cannot come up with anything more horrific than the reality. Phone lines are crackling and the PM is facing a roasting at Question Time. Will he be able to ham it up and stand up to the ribbing, keep his job and bring home the bacon? Will he tell porkies? Will he stay at home and claim to be poorly with Swine Fever? Will he just be piggy-in-the-middle?
I don’t want to be boarish on this, but if you don’t know what I am talking about, I seriously advise you not to find out. The image will stick in your mind and haunt your dreams.
I thought it may be a good idea to look at the back ground of all this and to trace at least one strange public school rituals.
When Edward Lear wrote ‘The Owl and the Pussy Cat’ it was innocently supposed to be a nonsense rhyme written for a small daughter of a friend. The poem was published in 1871 as part of his book Nonsense Songs, Stories, Botany and Alphabets and few people realized that it was a coded look at rituals and initiation ceremonies in English Public Schools and Universities.
A ‘Public’ school in the United Kingdom is not as its name suggests a school for everyone, but an expensive and elite school, for the richest of the rich of the privileged classes. Places at these schools are hard to get and to qualify one needs money, to know the ‘right people’ and to speak with a posh accent. Intelligence and academic qualifications are not desirable attributes to have, though a knowledge of Rugby (the game) and keeping a string of Polo ponies is generally required.
Historically Public Schools were single sex boarding schools and they have had a strong association with the ruling classes, educating the sons of the English upper and upper-middle classes. In 2010, over half of Cabinet Ministers had been educated at public schools.
The rest had just messed around and toasted bread in front of a fire whilst drinking Pimms at public school.
Edward Lear came from a very poor background, the twentieth of twenty one children and was raised by his elder sister Annie. By coincidence my Grandfather on my father’s side was also raised by his elder sister Annie. My grandfather was not Edward Lear. Neither Edward Lear nor my Grandfather went to Public School, indeed both were fortunate to get an education at all.
(Editor’s note: Shut up about your grand-daddy and get back to Lear.)
The closest Lear came to marriage was two proposals, both to the same woman, 46 years his junior, which were never accepted. His passion and most fervent and painful friendship involved Franklin Lushington, a young barrister he met in Malta in 1849. He later toured southern Greece with him. Lear developed an undoubtedly homosexual, but unreciprocated, love for him.
Lushington was a wealthy and privileged young man of American lineage, who had been educated in the English Public school system. It is thought that his school was Charterhouse, the same school as his uncle. Lear and Lushington remained friends for 40 years and upon his death, Lear left all of his paper work to him. Regrettably Lushington destroyed much of it, but it is from the archives of the remaining letters and papers that the true story behind the Owl and the Pussy Cat has now emerged and it tells the tale of Lushington’s initiation ceremony at his Public School.
This is how it is described line by line
The Owl and the Pussy cat went to sea
The owl describes the intelligent and wise student. The Pussy is anyone, most often a woman, who is willing to fornicate. It is still used as a euphemism for female genitalia.
‘Went to sea’ describes the start of their sexual adventure, the virgin student feeling rather adrift and scared
In a beautiful pea green boat, This is a euphemism for the scared nausea the student is feeling
They took some honey, and plenty of money,
Wrapped up in a five pound note.
This line describes the student’s hope that the experience will be sweet, but acknowledges that it is a financial transaction and he will have to pay the ‘pussy’
The Owl looked up to the stars above,
The student says a quick prayer that he does not catch anything
And sang to a small guitar,
Lear was an accomplished musician and often sang to his friends, but piano does not rhyme with much
O lovely Pussy! O Pussy my love,
This and the next few lines describe the student’s thought upon seeing the woman naked
What a beautiful Pussy you are,
You are,
You are!
What a beautiful Pussy you are!

Pussy said to the Owl, “You elegant fowl!
How charmingly sweet you sing!
O let us be married! too long we have tarried:
But what shall we do for a ring?”
The prostitute flatters the student and tries to persuade the student to marry her.
They sailed away, for a year and a day,
This is a euphemism for long and satisfactory sexual encounter
To the land where the Bong-Tree grows
They smoked pot (Cannabis, Marijuana, weed etc) from a hookah
And there in a wood a Piggy-wig stood
Whilst stoned they saw a pig. I can exclusivly reveal that the pig in question was Miss Piggies great great great great great great great great great grandfather, Piggie Bates, known more generally as Master Bates.
Kermit is said to be devastated and a close friend has revealed that although he cannot blame Miss Piggy for her ancestor, he fears her sausages may be tainted.
With a ring at the end of his nose,
His nose,
His nose,
With a ring at the end of his nose
Pigs sometimes had rings inserted in their noses to stop them rootling in the earth and eating all the expensive truffles, which were needed to feed Public School students,
“Dear Pig, are you willing to sell for one shilling
Your ring?”
See #Hameron #blackmirror #piggate
Said the Piggy, “I will.”
Actually the pig didn’t have a choice. He didn’t have a leg to stand on. All his legs had been roasted and served with apple sauce and gravy.
So they took it away, and were married next day
By the Turkey who lives on the hill.
This indicates a pseudo religious ceremony, Turkey or Turkey Cock being slang for an unfrocked priest, most often one who had been excommunicated for sex crimes.
They dined on mince, and slices of quince,
Expensive food from Fortnum and Mason, but probably used here to indicate expensive opium drugs
Which they ate with a runcible spoon;
This is the 19th century word for the spoon that is used to heat the drugs
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
They danced by the light of the moon,
The moon,
The moon,
They danced by the light of the moon
After all that cannabis, opium and intercourse, high as kites they partied the night away.

The exact nature of the poem has been hinted at before in a deleted scene intended for the Family Guy episode Quagmire’s Baby involving Quagmire reading the book to his daughter, but then getting aroused by the sexual nature of the story. Regrettably this did not pass the rigorous censorship needed to keep the show relatively respectable.

And that, as they say, is that.

© Jeff Jefferty Jeff  21/09/15

I hope the weather improves.  I am going to a hog roast later 😉

Sources:

Usually apple with pork, but the ma in law always served a nice mustard sauce. Ketchup with bacon. Mayonnaise with ham. HP with sausages

Dentistry in darker days

We have all been to the dentist. Sometimes it´s just a question of a swift examination andMandibularAnteriorCalculus we can happily be on our way, knowing that our teeth and economy are and will for time being stay without any larger cavity in your teeth or in your economy.

But while we may squirm and moan under the dental drill, we still can consider ourselves to be in a kind of dental heaven, we can go from cradle to grave with the appropriate amount of teeth, or lack thereof, at any given time.

It was entirely different for the people of old. You may read that they cleaned their teeth with little twigs, not rarely described not only as general twigs, but twigs that might lend a pleasant smell to the breath.

But here we do need to remember that twigs was subjected to, what should we call them, the forces of nature. And by forces of nature I mean the natural force to for example take a leak. These twigs could very well be covered with the anything from the leakage from an incontinent squirrel (if the twig had been placed high in the tree of brush) to the village alderman and his dog. One can but wonder what of those could possible lend a pleasant smell to the breath.

Cracked_toothThen, let´s contemplate that the twig did not quite do its job. The cavities would come. Imagine a time without anaesthetic, sterile instruments or for that matter, anything more than a very basic understanding for the human body, not least the mouth.

Having a cavity today can be, but isn´t necessarily a threat to life and limb. In the days of yonder it was a completely different story. A popular method to fix cavities was to fill them with stone pebbles, but this of course craved precision and perfection. You could not just shove down any kind of stone into an infected tooth but that´s just what happened in Scotland in the spring of 1652 giving rise to, even if not many people know this, the legend of the Giant Stone Eater as well as the expression “Being stoned out of one’s mind” (when you came out from whoever was in charge was of mending the tooth made you lose all the others) as the procedure was incredibly painful, not least if the pebble was not a pebble but more of a rock.

If the teeth did indeed fall out, either due to “dentists” shoving rocks into the mouth of thechattery-teeth suffering individual or for other reasons went missing, there were always the option of false teeth. Already the old Etruscans was in the habit of just like some modern day rap artist replacing their front teeth with golden fakes, maybe not for the same reasons but with much the same result. Obviously gold wouldn´t have been for everyone, not in Etruscan times and not later on in history either. So we´re back to pebbles.

(not stone teeth)

Through an extremely elaborate technique, for its time, people managed to fasten finely cut stones to leather strings which were fastened to the teeth at the far back of the mouth and then strapped against the against the palate, much the same way as braces would be attached today.  Members of mid-level society, not rich enough to afford gold but still wealthy enough to afford something more than ordinary gravel would invest in limestone which they let craftsmen shape into figures, maybe images of their children or a beloved pack of dogs.

As we all realise if we take a quick leap forward in time, past sweaty blacksmiths with aprons stained with the blood of countless victims of unbearable toothache, sedative which basically consisted of a swift punch in the face or simply a gallon of pure alcohol, we can all agree the next time when we sit there in the denstist´s chair that dentistry has evolved in the right direction.

 

Jeff Sixwhotsitdorf, dentes intacta

 

Sources:

The drunken ramblings of Alex Harvey

The dental experimentations through the ages – Dr. Dehimbje Dëmbi

The drunken ramblings of Shane MacGowan

Crafting in stone and gravel from the beginning of time – Prof. Klippies

My own drunken ramblings

The collected memories of tooth ache

The fishy history of the codpiece

I have decided to take a look at something which to the modern eye can be difficult to judge if it´s a fashion statement designed to emphasise the “manhood” so to speak, or if it´s a protection to ward off a swift kick to the groin but which in fact is neither: the codpiece.

Portrait_of_CodIt has been assumed that the word cod originates from the Middle English word for scrotum, but new findings, both in relation to the language itself and to this particular part of men´s clothing gives at hand that the explanation is far simpler than that.

“Cod” means in fact cod as in the scale clad, swimming creature that is also described as a “fish” and belonging to the family Gadidae. For those who want to show off by referring to it in Latin, the most common cod in the codpiece – once it had reached the upper classes – was the Atlantic cod, which in that case should be referred to as Gadus Morhua.

The question that surely will appear already at the beginning of this text – maybe for several reasons – is “Why?”

And the answer is a bit blurred here, as there seem to be several reason to have a cod sticking out of your groin. It seems that in the very earliest of medieval times, this was by no means a rich and wealthy as it would later come to be. Instead it was a cover up to hide the very common poach fishing. Sneaking home from ponds and rivers – where the fishermen of course would not find Atlantic cod, but I´ll return to that – there was always the obvious risk of running in to a game keeper who would have no intention of letting the poachers keep their catch.

It isn´t quite clear how this solution to the problem came about, but historians believe it started with someone simply sticking a fish in his pocket. Anyhow, some clever person came up with the idea of sewing a kind of poach to the front of the trousers and as it soon turned out, this was the perfect solution.

The larger the codpiece, the less likely the chance of a game keeper volunteering to check out the validity of the claim of a caught poacher that he was on his way home to his wife and that he for every visible reason was in a kind of hurry.

This worked quite well for a few centuries, until some nobleman whose name has not Giovanni_Battista_Moroni_009survived to posterity discovered this and realised that it could be used to either flaunt or exaggerate what you had been given.

For a few decades the upper classes decided that they wanted to keep up the tradition of keeping a cod in the pouch – and *this* is where the actual name emerge, the rich and wealthy didn´t have to go to the creek or pond to catch some scrawny looking fish, they could actually afford to buy proper cod and stuff it into their pants.

It would soon become obvious that fish did not keep well in clothing. As the male members of the upper classes didn´t have any reason to unload the contents of their pouches on the dinner table, it happened that they carried it around far too long, with a hideous stench about them as a result.

137895359462The most famous wearer of the codpiece, Henry VIII, would on occasion to continue the fish tradition, as he found that the smell of a relatively fresh fish could cover up the smell from his severely infected legs, a remedy that for a while was somewhat of a comfort to him.

In time the codpiece would be made out of other materials than cloth, and elaborate creations in metal would appear, and as it grew as a fashion statement, it´s original function was forgotten, until now. But fashion come and fashion go, and towards the end on the 16th century, the codpiece began to slowly fade out among the fashion savvy.

But fashion, as everything else, goes in cycles, and the codpiece can once again be seen in certain subcultures and among heavy metal groups. The fish seems to have permanently discarded among these groups however.

 

Jeff Sixwhotsitdorf, without codpiece. And cod.

Sources:

The story of practical clothing – Professor A. Trout, Md.A and Pd.Q

Cultural Anthropology – Grace Q. Vicary

Poaching in the early Middle Ages – Dr. Fisch Sauze

A box of fish fingers.

 

 

Castle building through the ages

I was in the middle of a meeting. We were discussing why so many mediaeval castles were in ruins, dilapidated and falling down. Did those old kings just build broken castles, were they bad builders or was there some other reason that as yet had not been contemplated?

_45603658_castle_dsrl_466

The topic turned to why castles were so often in out of the way places and so often were very hard to find.  Why oh why could those old kings not have indicated the post code of their old broken castles on their old mediaeval documents?

I was thinking of these weighty issues as I left the meeting and not thinking at all about the young person who hangs around the house. He telephoned in a panic. The freezer in the student digs had broken down and there, rapidly defrosting, were 400 plus chicken nuggets. What could he do?

Having pondered the problem during the drive home, the 6 o’clock news, the glass of G and T, the dinner, I eventually turned to Google…

Not helpful!

No hints or tips or conclusions how to use up four hundred plus of the world’s worst culinary mistakes.

Thinking, as only a satirist can, out of the box, I eventually came up with a cunning plan. ‘Baldric’ I called… (forgetting that I was not Blackadder)… ‘I have a cunning plan’.

Baldric gently explained that he was a screen character and he was the one who came up with the cunning plans, so that firmly scuppered, I went back to the drawing board.

It was hard and cold trying to sleep on that drawing board, but by morning I had a solution. I also had goose bumps.

For this you will need four hundred chicken nuggets and four hundred (plus) cocktail sticks.

Spray paint.

Authentic landscape.

Place cocktail sticks in nuggets.

Bake at 100 degrees Celsius for 7 hours until rock hard.

Remove from oven and allow to cool.

Spray paint the nuggets in a stone grey and brown paint.

Allow to dry.

Join nuggets together using the cocktail sticks.

Place on landscape of pretend grass.

Market as Ruined Mediaeval Fort for small children.

The castle I built today.

The above photo is one I built earlier.

The amazing simplicity and beauty of this interlocking system is that many other types of left over or prematurely defrosted food can be used this way, therefore creating whole villages and shires for sale on eBay.

chicken-nuggets
Care MUST be taken with assembly or the whole thing lacks the authentic Mediaeval Castle look. The builder of this example is having further training.

One could also organise day trips to the ‘place’ and target wealthy people with more money than sense (except for the potential down side: get caught and imprisoned for fraud,) but some masterpieces are now changing hands for an amazing amount of money.

Ruined castleSo by accident I had solved the problems discussed at the meeting. Castles were hard to find as they exist solely in toy boxes and appear ruined simply because the ‘builder’ ran out of chicken nuggets!

I realise now there have been clues right in front of my eyes, like the advert from a world renowned burger chain that reads ”Live like a King – 10 chicken nuggets for only £1.49”

Digest and enjoy.

Sources:

Most often tomato, usually at extra cost.

© Jeff Jefferty Jeff 04/09/15

Guido Fawkes and Nell the Fig: the Explosive Truth.

Nell

There once was a King named James

On whom history always blames

A number of quite heinous crimes

In foul and feeble semi- rhymes.

And yet perhaps the worst of all;

The one historians don’t recall,

Is a tale of something rather big,

Of Guido Fawkes and Nell the Fig.

Poor James had proved to be the worst

At following Queen Liz the first,

And Catholics hated his new foible

Of an English version of the Bible.

They met in secret, speaking treason,

Considering they had good reason

And cause enough to find the means

To blow the king to smithereens.

And one of them who talks the talk,

A gentleman named Guido Fawkes,

Became their chosen instrument

To blow up James’s Parliament.

Yet Guido’s heart was flowing over,

A-pounding in poetic clover,

For a filly in a powdered wig

Known to all as Nell the Fig.

She had him dangling on a rope,

With promises to make him hope

That in the coming days and weeks

He might slip in between her sheets.

And thus, when James’s foes conspired

They quickly saw what was required

A billet-doux from Mistress Nell

Could damn their foolish king to hell.

Poor Guido Fawkes received the note.

He donned his best beloved coat

His shiny shoes, his froth of lace

And dreamed of amorous disgrace.

For penned in Nelly’s crabby hand

A rendezvous for two was planned,

Where she would give unending pleasure

All day and night, at Guido’s leisure.

So filled with lust, the lucky fella

Set off at once to Nelly’s cellar

Which lay beneath the very boards

That housed the King and all his Lords.

“Sweet Nelly,” he cried out, “sweet Nell,”

For in the dark he could not tell

His Nelly’s face and Nelly’s end

From barrels set there by his friends.

And so he took his love’s advice;

He never needed telling twice;

To spark a light and strike a fuse

The better to embrace his muse.

And just as had been long expected

The hapless lover was detected

But not by Nelly’s beauteous face,

Instead he felt the guard’s embrace

So having sought a lovers’ bower

He found himself cast in the Tower

Protesting innocent intent

And not the harm they thought he meant.

Alas no words could save him now

And, forced to take his final bow,

He spoke his love for Nell the Fig,

Fruit seller at sign of the pig.

And as his friends were hunted down,

Accused of crimes against the crown,

Guido walked with limbs all loose

To place his head inside a noose.

Since then, historians have chosen

To paint his story all a-rosen

And claim him as a Catholic martyr

A sort of reputation barter:

They won’t admit the simple truth,

Of amorous and callow youth,

Guy cared nought for political measures,

But only hoped for Nelly’s pleasures.

Remember, remember, the fifth of November

Gunpowder, treason and plot.

I see no reason why Nelly’s true season

Should ever be forgot.

Sources:

Few

Far between.

Jeff R Vescent might be. Equally, he might not be. That is the question.

The Truth About Barbie

It is no secret that around August 22 of each year, I become pensive. Pensive at the thought of Richard III, England’s greatest and least understood king, dying miserably at the hands of his traitorous, treacherous enemies.

Mrs. Borden, I am sorry to say, does not fully understand my grief. She has been known to ask, ‘Why get so wrought up about a bloke who died 500 years ago?’ To which I can only say, ‘Would you not want people to mourn your death 500 years in the future?’

Still, in the interest of marital harmony, I have tried to direct my thoughts elsewhere. And hence, I began to contemplate Mrs. Borden’s new Barbie doll.

Owing to a fortuitous coincidence of a modest bequest from a distant relation and a rise in my salary (for I am appreciated at my office if not entirely at home), Mrs. Borden recently acquired one of the first Barbies to be produced, known to collectors (so Mrs. B tells me) as the Number One Ponytail. As I gazed upon this doll, I suddenly realised the truth.

Barbie was created as an homage to the Victorian practice of photographing the dead.

It is necessary for me to explain that since thumbing through an old family album and having a photograph of Great-Aunt Sallie in her coffin fall into my lap, I have been interested in postmortem photography.  As many sources on the Internet explain, the Victorians were avid practitioners of this art, even going so far as to prop up their dead with posing stands to make them look more lifelike, as can be seen here:

Two dead boys. Note the prominent posing stands.
Two dead boys. Note the prominent posing stands.

(Some skeptics will tell you that the subjects of these photographs were actually quite alive at the time, and that the  posing stands were used only to help living people stand still. Skeptics are everywhere, like cockroaches. I choose to ignore them. The Victorians gave us the light bulb, after all. Cannot they be credited with having sense enough to figure out how to hold a dead person upright?)

So eager were the Victorians to make their dead look presentable for what was often the only photograph of them, that they would not only use posing stands, they would also repaint their eyes in an effort to make them look more lifelike.

Which brings me back to Barbie. With her coffin-shaped box, her  exaggerated eye makeup, and–above all–her posing stand, what else could have inspired her creator, Ruth Handler, but Victorian postmortem photography?10055800_1_l

Can this be proven, skeptics (those insects) ask? Perhaps not, Ruth Handler, after all, had every reason to keep silent. Handler was an American, selling her doll to American children, who no doubt would have been ‘grossed out’, as the Americans say, to learn of Barbie’s true origins. So Ruth Handler dressed Barbie in a swimsuit and marketed her as a teenage fashion model, and let it be assumed that Barbie was in fact inspired by a German doll, Bild Lilli. And for decades, that has been the accepted story. It may always be the accepted story. Such is the power of conventional wisdom.

But I, gazing at my (I mean, Mrs. Borden’s) Barbie, know the truth. And now, thanks to the Internet, so do you.

Sources:

eBay

Etsy

My family photograph album, full of dearly departed Bordens

Jeff Borden found writing this post to be very therapeutic. Mrs. Borden says that it’s all uphill from here, until August 22 rolls round again.

 

The Black Dahlia Murder: The Truth.

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Baby New Zealand White Rabbit. (Strictly speaking this picture has not a lot to do with this blog, but you may like some light relief to go ”aw” at.)

Hollywood. Tinsel Town. A town of smoke and mirrors, the epicentre of a global entertainment industry, but along with the glitz and the glamour, Tinsel Town has a darker side – one of dirty tricks, cover-ups and even murder

Hollywood is all about deception, always.

For more than a century Hollywood’s glamour, its people, its money has captivated people from around the world. Movies have as much power today as they did when they first hit the screens. When entering a cinema we are transported by from our humdrum existence to a world, literally as well as figuratively, much, much larger then real life as we gaze past the head of the person in front to the star who we are temporarily in love with.

With so much money and power flowing through the town many believe there were – and still are – people who would do anything to advance their interests and then cover it up in a passel of lies. That may be the clue to why Hollywood is so fascinating; you cannot believe anything about it and yet you want to so you do, you suspend disbelief to soak up what can only be described as Fairy Stories.

The ‘tradition’ of not letting the truth get in the way of a good story comes from Hollywood’s golden era, the 1930s and 1940s when names and biographies were invented for the ‘big names’ to portray the squeaky clean image that Hollywood required, with agents and producers working closely with Police to keep their stars out of trouble and their reputation unsullied. Indiscretions that broke every one of the Ten Commandments and invented another ten were not so much as hinted at, unless it was in the interests of the Powers That Be to so do.

It was into this place of outward glamour and clean living, bling, colour, sparkle and glitz that twenty two year old Elizabeth Short walked in 1946 hoping for an opening in films. She was an attractive, slim but well formed girl, with clear blue eyes and deep brown hair, her looks marred only by badly decayed teeth.

Like so many hopefuls, Elizabeth failed to find work as an actress and was employed as a waitress, (a job which does actually involve a fair amount of acting as I can testify from my own experience as a student.) She claimed she had been engaged to an airman who had died and whilst there is no evidence to suggest that she was ever a prostitute, she certainly used her blue eyes and charm to persuade men to lavishly subsidize her income.

Her big break came on New Year’s day 1947 when she met Harry Blackstove Sr., a courtly, ‘old school’ magician and illusionist. In the town where deception was a way of life, mind over eye tricks such as his were elaborate and sought after. Among his especially effective illusions was one in which a girl lay on a divan, draped with a gossamer shroud and then seemed to float high in the air and then disappear as Blackstove pulled off the shroud. In another illusion, a woman stepped into a cabinet in front of many bright, clear, lights. When the magician suddenly pushed the perforated front of the cabinet backward the light bulbs protruded through the holes in the front of the box (to the accompaniment of the lady’s chilling screams). The cabinet was then rotated so that the audience seemed to see the lady impaled by splinters of filaments.

Great_Blackstone_at_the_Pantages

His ‘sawing a woman in half’ involved an electric circular saw some three or four feet round mounted on a swing-down arm. Blackstove demonstrated the efficacy of the device by sawing noisily through a thick piece of wood. Then a female assistant was placed on the saw table in full view, as wide metal restraints were clamped upon her middle section. The blade whirred and appeared to pass through her body, as ripping sounds were heard, the woman shrieked and particles of what seemed to be flesh were scattered by the whirring blade. When the blade stopped she, of course, rose completely whole and unharmed.

Goldin's_illusion_1_svg
Join the dots to get a straight line.

Harry was looking for a new assistant to tour with him, his previous lady accomplice being so ‘great with child’ that the restraint no longer did fastened and Elizabeth seemed perfect for the position. She gave a week’s notice at the diner and undertook a rigorous week of training with Harry for her new role.

She was perfect!

ElizabethShortBlackDahlia

Harry also had another assistant, a large New Zealand White rabbit that for reasons unknown he called Rampant. Rampant Rabbit was the atypical stage magician’s rabbit, adept at popping out of hats and from sleeves at the right moment.

Everything seemed good in the lives of Harry, Elizabeth and Rampant.

But on the morning of January 15, 1947, the unclothed body of Elizabeth Short was found on waste ground in Leimert Park, Los Angeles. Local mother Betty Bersinger discovered the corpse about 10:00 am. and first thought it was a discarded shop display dummy. When she realized it was a naked body she rushed to a nearby house and telephoned the police.

Short’s body was completely severed at the waist and drained entirely of blood. The body also had obviously been washed by the killer. The lower half of her body was positioned a foot away from the upper, and her intestines had been tucked neatly under her buttocks.

It did not take the coroner long to rule out suicide and a verdict of murder by person or persons unknown was recorded. Short soon acquired the nick name The Black Dahlia from newspapers in the habit of nicknaming crimes they found particularly lurid. It may have been derived from a film noir murder mystery, The Blue Dahlia released the previous year.

Black-Burgundy-Dahlia-Flower-350
What a black dahlia really looks like.

There’s never been a shortage of suspects in the Black Dahlia murder — but even after sixty eight years police have never been able to pin the crime on any of them.

Here is, however, a reason for that.

Elizabeth Short was NOT murdered!

The ‘sawing a woman in half’ illusion went badly, badly wrong. Rampant Rabbit, fed up with sitting in a top hat, decided to investigate and hopped out and spying what he thought was food, nibbled through the hemp rope that was holding the safety guard in place. The safety guard zoomed up, the circular saw buzzed down and with a whir and a shower of entrails, Elizabeth Short was no more.

The magician panicked. Had he telephoned the ambulance or the police he may have got away on a rap of accidental death, but all he could think of was the dead woman, a murder rap, the electric chair and his own death. Freezing like a rabbit in the headlights (not Rampant – some other rabbit) he was unable to think or function for hours and then suddenly had a brilliant idea. In this town of many murders and hidden crimes one more stiff on a vacant lot would not be a big deal, but a world renowned magician cutting a woman in half for real? Why, he would never get a booking again!

He carefully washed the dead girl and stripped her, not for any sexual reason of his own but to make it seem like a sexually motivated murder. Under cover of darkness he loaded his van with some large illusion ‘furniture’ and concealed the two bits of the Black Dahlia beneath the self same gossamer shroud that she had lain under for the illusion just that afternoon.

He seemed to drive for hours looking for a dark and lonely place to dump her but at saw that Leimert Park was deserted. Getting out he looked this way and that and seeing no one he dragged the legs out and carefully put her intestines under her bottom – he was a very neat and tidy man. He was just dragging the top half into position when a police car siren could be heard somewhere near, so he left it where it lay a short way away from the legs and jumping in his van fled the scene.

As for Rampant, he went on to father 14,003 babies who in their turn have populated the United States with a further 2, 749, 307 rabbits, all of whom have a passion for hemp – the rope variety of course!

rabbit-antibodies-polyclonal-antibodies
Rampant rabbit relaxing after living up to his name.

Source material

Hemp rope making for intermediates (Adult education night school course)

Hemp by B. Stoned (purchased by accident.)

Fifty years in the saddle by Major Bumsaw

Trying to get tidy by Ina Mess

Insect Bites by Amos Kito

The photograph of the Black and Burgundy Dahlia was taken from the website http://www.fiftyflowers.com

© Jeff Jefferty Jeff August 12th 2015.

(Aha! The glorious 12th, when all self respecting game birds hide. This is my sort of game bird .blend_fam2 Anyone for some Famous Old Grouse?)