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Thursday, 30 April 2015

Edvard Grieg

Edvard Grieg  (1843-1907) was born in Bergen, Norway, on June 15, 1843. His ancestors were Scottish people who had moved to Norway around 1770. The original family name was spelled "Greig".


Edvard's grandfather and his father, Alexander Grieg, both served as British consul at Bergen.

His mother, Gesine Hagerup, who was the daughter of the mayor of Bergen, was a concert pianist. She was Edvard's first piano teacher.

Edvard started composing when he was about 12 and he used to take his compositions to school, but the teacher did not show much interest in them.

In the summer of 1858 the great Norwegian violinist Ole Bull visited the family, (his brother was married to Grieg's aunt.) Bull noticed the 15-year-old boy's talent and persuaded his parents to send him to the Leipzig Conservatory to study music.

Grieg enrolled in the conservatory, concentrating on the piano. He worked so hard there, and for such long hours, that his health broke. Despite Pleurisy destroying his left lung., Grieg graduated with honors in 1862.

For the next three years Grieg lived chiefly in Copenhagen. There he became the close friend of Richard Nordraak, a young composer, who had composed the Norwegian national anthem.

Nordraak showed Grieg how wonderful Norwegian folk music was. The rhythms and melodies of Norwegian folk music stirred the poetic imagination of the youngster. He started to weave them into the songs and instrumental music that won him fame as Norway's greatest composer.


Grieg's First Violin Sonata in F Major, written in 1865, won a letter of praise from Franz Liszt that helped attract the attention of the Norwegian government to Grieg's genius.

When Richard Nordraak died in 1866, Grieg composed a funeral march in his honor.

Grieg's Piano Concerto in A Minor is among Grieg's earliest important works. It was written by the 24 year old composer in 1868 in Søllerød, Denmark, during one of his visits there to benefit from the climate, being warmer than that of his native Norway.

Edmund Neupert gave the Piano Concerto its first performance on April 3, 1869 in the Casino Theater in Copenhagen. Grieg himself was unable to be there because he was conducting in Oslo.

Greig met Franz Liszt in Rome in 1870 and they played the Norwegian composer's Violin Sonata No. 1 together. On a second visit, in April, Grieg brought with him the manuscript of his Piano Concerto which Liszt played by sight. Liszt gave him some advice about the orchestration.

In 1874 the Norwegian government granted Grieg a small annual pension. This enabled him to give up conducting and devote himself to composition.

Grieg in 1888, with signature, portrait published in The Leisure Hour (1889)

Grieg went to Bayreuth in 1876 to hear the first performance of Wagner’s Ring cycle. He wrote a review of the operas for a Norwegian newspaper.

In 1876, Henrik Ibsen asked Grieg to write some incidental music for the first performance of the play he had written about the Norwegian hero Peer Gynt.  Grieg wasn't particularly keen at first. Yet as he began getting ideas down on paper it became increasingly clear that this was the masterwork he had struggled for so long to achieve.. He eventually composed 90 minutes of music to accompany Ibsen’s dramatic masterpiece, including “Morning Mood.”

"In the Hall of the Mountain King" was a piece of orchestral music composed by Edvard Grieg as incidental music for the sixth scene of act 2 in Peer Gynt. Grieg hated the song. He intended it to be a parody.

Grieg made some recordings of his piano pieces, which are some of the very first gramophone recordings that were made. The sound is not very good, but they show that Grieg was an excellent pianist.


Grieg was small in stature - he stood not much over five feet and played the piano propped up on a volume of Beethoven sonatas.

Edvard Grieg (1891). portrait by Eilif Peterssen
Grieg always kept a lucky frog in his pocket.

The inspiration for many of Grieg's best songs was his cousin Nina Hagerup, whom he married on June 11, 1867. She was a concert singer and helped to make his music known throughout Europe.

The next year their only child, Alexandra, was born. In the summer of 1869, Alexandra became ill and died, at the age of 13 months.

In 1883  Grieg and wife parted for a while, although friends managed to persuade the couple to come together again and they spent four months in Rome.

Edvard en Nina Grieg 1899

Grieg built a house called Troldhaugen in Bergen, with a view of the fjord. The couple moved into their new home in 1885 and Grieg lived there for the rest of his life.

On Nina Grieg's suggestion he called it Troldhaugen ("The Hill of the Trolls")

Grieg immortalized the name of his home in one of his piano pieces, "Wedding Day at Troldhaugen", Opus 65, No.6.


Edvard Grieg died on September 4, 1907, aged 64, after a long illness. He had suffered from respiratory problems ever since his student days in Leipzig.

More than 40,000 people crowded the streets of Bergen on the day of Grieg's funeral to honor him. Following his wish, his own funeral march for Rikard Nordraak was played, as well as the funeral march by Frederic Chopin.

Edvard Grieg Museum in Troldhaugen

Both Grieg's and his wife's ashes are buried in a mountain crypt near his Troldhaugen house.

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Greyhound racing

King Henry VIII organized a couple of greyhound dog races at Eltham Palace in 1532 and lost them both.

Modern dog racing was first tested in 1909 by a promoter named Owen Patrick Smith at a track in Tucson, Arizona. By 1912, he had perfected the mechanical rabbit.

By AngMoKio - Wikipedia Commons

Smith opened in 1919 the first professional dog-racing track with stands in Emeryville, California.

Modern dog racing was introduced into Britain on July 24, 1926. The first greyhound race took place at Belle Vue Stadium in Manchester in front of 1,700 spectators.

By Sasha Taylor - Wikipedia Commons

Greyhound racing has gained a greater following in Britain than in the United States. There were attendances at around 3.2 million at over 5,750 meetings in 2007.

Greyhounds can reach a speed of 43 mph in six strides.


The greyhound was known to exist in ancient Egypt more than 5,000 years ago. The breed was well-respected and well-known throughout the ancient world and many other civilizations fostered the breeding of this dog.

Dogs are mentioned in the Bible 14 times, but the greyhound is the only breed that is mentioned by name.  It is mentioned in Proverbs 30: 29-31, as one of the four things that move with stately being. (Some versions translate the original Hebrew term 'zarzir motnaim' as 'strutting rooster.)

The greyhound was known before the ninth century in England, where it was bred by aristocrats to hunt such small game as foxes and hares and foxes.

England's King John treasured greyhounds so much that he gladly accepted them instead of money for the payment of fines or the renewal of grants.

Dr. John Caius' 1536 book Of Englishe Dogges: The Diuersities, the Names, the Natures, and the Properties, incorrectly suggested that the syllable "grey" had evolved from a word signifying "degree," as the greyhound breed was of "the highest degree." His time was the first ever to be written exclusively on the subject in England, though in Latin. It was translated into English forty years later.

Queen Elizabeth I abolished the law that only noblemen could hunt with greyhounds, Until then it had only been an upper class activity.

Peter the Great owned a small Italian Greyhound, who constantly followed the Russian Czar when he was at home. During Peter's afternoon nap, Lisette always slept at his feet.

Catherine the Great of Russia wrote to a German friend about her greyhound, Mr Thomas: 'He is madly in love with his wife and with his five children who resemble him like peas in a pod. That makes a whole pack of them, who run with me over all the gardens and then modestly return to their kennel where Papa follows-for them sacrificing kings' palaces, sofas, gold-upholstered armchairs and philoso-comical conversations."

In his later years Frederick the Great's palace resembled a vagrant's squat, ankle-deep in places in excrement provided by his pack of beloved Italian greyhounds.

Prince Albert had a beloved greyhound called Eos from whom he was inseparable . He acquired her as a puppy and brought their dog to England with him when he was six years old. The black greyhound is immortalized in the famous Landseer painting (see below), which Victoria commissioned as a birthday present for Albert. Eos lived to the age of 11, and her death plunged Albert into a period of mourning.

In 1957, the Greyhound Corporation chose a three-month-old greyhound puppy called Steverin to be the new face of the bus company. She was dubbed Lady Greyhound and wore a rhinestone collar and tiara.

The fastest dog, the greyhound, can accelerate to 45 mph within six strides.

Greyhounds have thin heads with widely spread eyes. This gives the dog 270 degree vision, meaning they can see some of the back of their head. In comparison, humans can only see 180 degrees.

They can see behind them and half a mile in front of them without turning their head.

Source Daily Mail

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Wayne Gretzky


Wayne Gretzky was born on January 26, 1961, to Phyllis and Walter Gretzky. The couple lived in an apartment in Brantford, Ontario, where Walter worked for Bell Telephone Canada.

The family moved into a house on Varadi Avenue in Brantford seven months after Wayne was born, chosen partly because its yard was flat enough to make an ice rink on every winter.

Gretzky's first pair of skates, worn when he was three years old. By Resolute - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, $3

By the age of ten, Wayne had scored an astonishing 378 goals and 139 assists in just one season with the Brantford Nadrofsky Steelers. By now his play was attracting media attention beyond his hometown of Brantford, including a profile by John Iaboni in the Toronto Telegram in October 1971.


In 1978, when he was 17, Gretzky began playing as a professional with the Indianapolis Racers of the World Hockey Association (WHA), but was sold to the Edmonton Oilers after only a few games. He was third in WHA scoring and rookie of the year.

The WHA folded in 1979, and the Oilers team joined the National Hockey League. At the age of 19, Gretzky won his first Hart Trophy as the NHL's most valuable player (MVP).

In the 39th game of his third NHL season on December 30, 1981 Wayne Gretzky scored five goals giving him 50 for the year. This set a new NHL record previously held by Maurice Richard and Mike Bossy who earlier had each scored 50 goals in 50 games.

Wayne Gretzky, set a NHL record for consecutive game scoring in 1984, as his streak ended at 51 games. The streak began on October 5, 1983, ending with the L.A. Kings defeating the Edmonton Oilers, 4-2. Gretzky collected 153 points (61 goals and 92 assists) during the run.

Wayne Gretzky scored his 802nd goal on March 23, 1984, breaking Gordie Howe’s NHL record for most goals scored in a career.

When he retired, Grekzky had 2857 career points, over 1000 more than the next highest player. He still holds the record for most career goals (894) and assists (1963).

He played 20 seasons in the NHL for four teams from 1979 to 1999. Nicknamed "The Great One", Grekzsky (photo below by Håkan Dahlström) has been called "the greatest hockey player ever" by many sportswriters, players, and the NHL itself.

Grekzky won the Lady Byng Trophy for sportsmanship and performance five times, and often spoke out against fighting in hockey.

The NHL retired Gretzky's jersey number 99 league-wide, making him the only player to receive this honour

Gretzky was named Canada's male athlete of the 20th century.

Wayne Gretzky at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy. By Kris Krüg, CC BY-SA 2.0, $3

Gretzky was named in 1984 an officer of the Order of Canada,  the country's highest honour for a civilian, for outstanding contribution to the sport of hockey. Since the Order ceremonies are always held during the hockey season, it took 13 years and 7 months—and two Governors General—before he could accept the honor.


Gretzky married American actress Janet Jones in 1988. They have five children: Paulina, Ty, Trevor, Tristan, and Emma.

Wayne Gretzky was babysitting the future singer Robin Thicke when he found out he was traded from the Edmonton Oilers to the L.A. Kings.

Monday, 27 April 2015

Pope Gregory VII

Pope Gregory VII was born Hildebrand Bonizi in Sovana, in the county of Grosseto, now southern Tuscany, central Italy in c1020.

The son of a blacksmith, Hildebrand was sent to study in Rome, where, among his masters was Johannes Gratianus, the future Pope Gregory VI.

When Pope Gregory VI was deposed by Holy Roman Emperor Henry III and exiled to Germany, Hildebrand followed him to Cologne.

Hildebrand moved to Cluny after Gregory's death, which occurred in 1048. He then accompanied Abbot Bruno of Toul to Rome. When Bruno was elected Pope, choosing the name Leo IX, he named Hildebrand as deacon and papal administrator.

An able and astute administrator, Hildebrand, was influential in transferring the election of the pope from the nobility and people of Rome to the College of Cardinals alone, without the intervention of either emperor or Diet..

Hildebrand became much admired in his role as adviser to successive popes. On the day of the death of Pope Alexander II on April 21, 1073, lay people and clergy alike went into the streets and proclaimed "Hildebrand, bishop!" The cardinals were called together by one of their number and they ratified the choice of the crowd and the following day Hildebrand became Pope Gregory VII.

Pope Gregory VII. : unknown 11th century manuscript

In 1075 Pope Gregory VII issued a decree, Dictatus Papae, forbidding the buying and selling of offices in the church and to promote clerical celibacy. Formally the Western emperor and royal princes had been able to install their own abbots and bishops.

The Holy Roman Emperor, Henry IV was annoyed at this denial of his right to confer upon prelates the symbols of their spiritual authority. In 1076 he declared the pope deposed and attempted to get some bishops to excommunicate him. Gregory retaliated by excommunicating Henry thus losing him the support of a number of his influential subjects.

By the following year Henry IV was finding that various disgruntled princes were refusing to obey him unless he was reconciled to the pope. The Emperor decided to meet Gregory in a castle at Canossa in the Apennines where the pope was taking refuge. The chastened Henry was forced to stand outside the castle barefoot in the snow for three days begging absolution, which Gregory finally gave him.

Gregory VII was beatified by Pope Gregory XIII in 1584 and canonized in 1728 by Pope Benedict XIII.

Pope Gregory I

Pope Gregory I (c. 540 – 604), commonly known as Saint Gregory the Great, was Pope from 590 to his death in 604.


Gregory's father was Gordianus, a wealthy patrician, probably of the eminent patrician family of the gens Anicia , who owned large estates in Sicily and a mansion on the Caelian Hill in Rome.

His mother Silvia appears also to have been of good family, but very little is known of her life. She is honoured as a saint, her feast being kept on November 3rd.

His great-grandfather was Pope Felix III, who reigned 483-492.

Of Gregory's early years we know very little, except how he loved to meditate on the Scriptures and to listen attentively to the conversations of his elders, so that he was "devoted to God from his youth up".

Of Gregory's education, we have few details. Gregory of Tours tells us that in grammar, rhetoric and dialectic he was so skillful as to be thought second to none in all Rome, and it seems certain also that he must have gone through a course of legal studies. Not least among the educating influences was the religious atmosphere of his home.


In 573 Gregory was elected Prefect (or Mayor) of Rome. However he preferred the solitude of a Benedictine monastic cell to worldly power and resigned the following year selling his vast property and giving the proceeds to the poor.

Gregory spent five years as an emissary to the imperial court at Constantinople between 579-584. Then he devoted himself to teaching and literary work.

On his father's death, Gregory converted his family mansion at Caelian Hill, which he had inherited as part of a large paternal fortune, into a monastery dedicated to the apostle Saint Andrew. He then utilized his entire estate for the establishment of six additional monasteries on his other holdings in Sicily.

Gregory received  permission in 587 to lead a mission to Britain. The invading Anglo Saxons there had almost completely eradicated Christianity in the eastern half even though the Celtic Church in the western half remained strong. After the group has travelled a little way a sign halted Gregory. It was a locust, which had dropped onto the Bible he was reading. "Locusta" he exclaimed meaning "Locostat" the Latin for "remain in your place."  Gregory and his team immediately returned to Rome.


On September 3, 590 Gregory was elected pope by the church leaders but he refused the office and fled from Rome. Gregory hid in the forest until he was found and was hauled back to the city where he reluctantly agreed to take the post. Gregory had no craving for the position and was so upset that he could barely speak.

Gregory was the first monk to be elected pope and his elevation to the papacy marked a triumph for the Benedictine order.

At the time of Gregory's elevation to the papacy, Rome was in the midst of a plague epidemic to which Gregory's predecessor, Pelagius had been a victim. Gregory's first act as pope was to order a sorrowful procession through the city. The plague subsided.

It was said that Pope Gregory originated the usage of the phrase "God Bless You", when someone sneezes, at a time when sneezing was a mortal symptom because of the plague.

Pope Gregory I's successful negotiation of treaties in 592 with the Lombards who had been devastating northern Italy, magnified the authority of the papacy in secular politics.

By Meister des Registrum Gregorii. - Trier, Stadtbibliothek, Hs. 171/1626, 

In 595 Pope Gregory spotted some pale skinned boys from the British Isles who who been bought to Rome. On being told they were pagan "angli" the pope exclaimed "They are not Angles but Angels".
Inspired Gregory instructed the respected abbot, Augustine, to lead a mission to convert Britain. "Certainly do not destroy the temples of the idols that the English have", he wisely recommended, "sprinkle them with holy water and let altars be constructed."

On their way to England, Augustine and his party of 40 read the terrifying stories of the cruelty and barbarity of their future hosts. By the time they reached Aix-en-Provence in France, the stories had become so frightening that  sent Augustine back to Rome to request papal permission to return.

Gregory refused and sent Augustine back with letters encouraging the missionaries to persevere.
In his capacity of pope Gregory reformed the estates of the Roman church and from their income spent large sums on the relief of sufferers from war, pestilence and famine.

Gregory's aesthetic background did influence him into preaching a Gospel of works. He taught that after baptism any sin required penance such as alms giving or 24-hour praying.

Gregory encouraged many doctrines that later became prevalent in the Roman Catholic church such as the belief in the power of saints and relics, purgatory and transubstantiation in communion.

He introduced the Catholic custom of placing ashes on the forehead as a sign of penitence from which Ash Wednesday originated.

Among Pope Gregory's legacies were Pastoral Care, a writing on the office and duties of the Bishop. Also Dialogues related the miraculous doings and visions of north Italy and instructed the spiritual leader not to neglect either the inner life of the soul, or external matters.


Gregory suffered almost continually from indigestion and, at intervals, from attacks of slow fever. His unceasing fasting and rigid asceticism played havoc with his health. Gregory was often confined to bed with gout and heart problems in his later years and towards the close of his life arthritis caused him to be almost totally lame.

Pope Gregory I died on March 12, 604 worn out by a lifestyle of praying on the mountains and ministering in the cities. He had called himself "The servant of the servants of God" and when given higher titles he said "God resisteth the poor but giveth grace to the humble."

Tomb of St. Gregory

He was declared a saint immediately after his death by popular acclamation.

Pope Gregory XVI established the Order of St. Gregory the Great on September 1, 1831 to recognize high support for the Holy See or for the Pope.

Sources Encyclopedia Britannica, Penguin Dictionary of Saints

Gregorian chant

Unaccompanied chanting of scriptures and prayers had been part of the liturgy of the Church since its early days. Pope Gregory The Great (c540-604) greatly admired the Eastern Byzantine chants he had heard and he wanted them introduced into Western church services so he asked for examples to be collected and organized.

It took around 200 years for these plainsong chorales to be formulated into what became known as plainsong or the Gregorian chant and to be unified throughout Europe, under the guidance of Charlemagne.. It was taken to France from Rome between about AD 750 and 850 and was most highly developed by Parisian masters from about 1000 to 1150.

In 1083 troops were summoned to Glastonbury Abbey in south west England to quell a rebellion over the abbot's plan to scrap Gregorian chanting. Three monks were killed and 18 wounded.

The Roman Catholic Church still uses this early form of vocal music. However, other types of chant that also developed have become extinct. These include Gallician, Mozarabic, and Ambrosian chant.

Source Compton's Interactive Encyclopedia © 1998

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Greeting Card

The custom of sending greeting cards can be traced back to the ancient Chinese, who exchanged messages of good will to celebrate the New Year, and to the early Egyptians, who conveyed their greetings on papyrus scrolls.

The term "Christmas card," first seen in 1869, predates “birthday card” by more than 30 years.

The Hall Brothers founded what would later be known as Hallmark in 1910. Their business began issuing cards that were folded down the middle and stuffed into envelopes. (Previously holiday greeting cards were of the postcard-type variety).

In 1926, Poland sent the US a birthday card with 5.5 million signatures. The good wishes came on 30,000 pages full of art, photos, poems and pressed flowers, in 111 bound volumes. The card was compiled by the people of Poland, newly independent following World War I, who wanted to express their affection for the United States. Polish citizen Leopold Kotnowski visited the White House to present the card for America’s 150th birthday.

Englishman Craig Shergold was diagnosed at the age of nine with brain cancer in 1989. His friends and relatives began a chain letter campaign requesting individuals to send greeting cards to him. The campaign was successful and Shergold has now received approximately 350 million greeting cards, earning him a place in the Guinness Book of World Records.

According to a poll, 72 per cent of Americans sign their pets' names when sending greeting cards.

A greetings card that can play 'Happy Birthday' has more computing power than existed in the whole world in 1950.

Hallmark now sells a line of "encouragement" cards you can send to people who've lost their job.

It is estimated that Queen Elizabeth II has sent more than 175,000 100th birthday cards to people across the Commonwealth during her reign.

Saturday, 25 April 2015



The inhabitants of Greenland originated from Central Asia.

Inhabited by indigenous peoples since 2500 BC (though not continuously), since the 18th century Greenland has been part of Denmark.

The Inuit and Vikings colonized Greenland multiple times, but they often missed the other and found the ruins of the other's attempt. Their first contact finally happened in the 1200s, with Inuits colonizing the Vikings.

It is said that Eric the Red gave Greenland its misleading name in an attempt to entice settlers..The Viking had been exiled to Greenland when convicted of manslaughter in Iceland.

English sea captain and privateer, Martin Frobisher, sighted Greenland in July 1576 during his third expedition voyage with 15 ships.

Greenland's capital city, Nuuk, then known as the fort of Godt-Haab, was founded on August 29, 1728.

After World War II ,in 1946, the United States offered to buy Greenland from Denmark for $100,000,000, but Denmark refused to sell.

Greenland was a Danish colony until 1953, when it became a country. It attained home rule in 1979.

In 1973, Greenland joined the European Economic Community with Denmark. However, in a referendum in 1982, a majority of the population voted for Greenland to withdraw from the EEC, which was effected three years later.

In 2008, Greenlanders voted in favor of self-rule. Under the new structure, in effect since June 21, 2009, the Danish government retains control of foreign affairs and defence and the local Greenlandic government assumed responsibility for everything else.

The Hvalsey Church, which was the first Christian church on the continent, is one of best preserved Norse ruins.


With 56,492 people, Greenland is the world's most sparsely populated country.

Of its population of just under 57,000, about 15,000 of whom live in the capital Nuuk.

The largest town in southern Greenland is Qaqortoq, which has been occupied for about 4,300 years.

The official languages of the country are Greenlandic and Danish, though English is widely understood.

One in every five people in Greenland attempts to kill themselves at some point in their lifetimes.


Greenland is the world's largest island that is not a continent. Put differently, it's the world's fifth largest land mass.

Almost 80 percent of the land mass is covered by an ice cap and glaciers. Though a minority of land, the ice-free area is nearly as large as Sweden.

The Ilulissat Icefjord, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is the biggest glacier outside of Antarctica.

The country is geographically part of North America, but politically is part of Europe.

There are a number of hot springs that attract visitors throughout the year to their balmy temperatures averaging between 98 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit.


The government is a constitutional monarchy, with a 31-member unicameral parliament called Landsting and a premier. The country sends two representatives to the Danish Folketing. The nominal head of state is the Danish monarch.

Danish krone is the currency of Greenland.


The name Greenland means "Land of People."

The names of the territories of Greenland translate to "much ice", "center", "south" and "darkness".

The country's flag has a polar bear in a blue shield - the polar bear is meant to symbolize the fauna of Greenland and the blue represents the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans.

The sun does not set from May 25th to July 25th. June 21, the longest day of the year, is a national holiday.

July is the only month when Greenland's temperature reaches above freezing.

"Kayak" and "igloo" are Greenlandic words that have been adopted directly by other languages.

Soccer is the national sport of Greenland but they’re not allowed to join FIFA. This is because Greenland cannot sustain a grass pitch due to the permafrost which envelops the country.

Sources Radio Times, Daily Express,


In ancient Rome, Roman gardeners grew cucumbers in frames covered with oiled cloth or with sheets of mica. They were the first greenhouses.

Early greenhouses were built in Italy in the 13th century to house the exotic plants that explorers brought back from the tropics. They were originally called giardini botanici (botanical gardens).

The world's first modern style greenhouse was built in 1714 to protect a single delicate coffee plant given as a gift to King Louis XIV of France. Lovingly tended, it becomes the parent stock of most of the coffee grown in Latin America today.

The great glasshouse in the National Botanical Garden of Wales, Carmarthenshire, is the largest single-span greenhouse in the world, measuring 312ft in length and 180ft in width.

Friday, 24 April 2015

Greece (Ancient)


Food and drink had a special importance for the ancient Greeks. Hospitality was a much valued virtue, when the head of the house was entertaining, female slaves ground the corn and prepared the food. The host then cooked the meal sometimes with the help of friends. Any visiting stranger was seated in the best place and it was customary to offer him, before the meal, a bath or foot wash.

Ancient Greek men liked to attend banquets called symposia, a continuation of dinner in which cheeses, fresh and dried fruit, salted cakes and yogurt in honey were served.

Breakfast for most ancient Greeks was a hot porridge made from cereal.

Lunch was bread baked in clay ovens from wheat or barley and goat cheese.

The main meal was at dinner, the poor would make do with fruit, vegetables and mushrooms gathered from the wild. The more wealthy had a two course meal, the first being vegetables with mutton, beef or pork.

Those who lived near the coast would eat fish such as squid and octopus, turbot and salted or marinated tuna. The meat or fish would either be fried in olive oil or roasted, a favorite recipe was dormice roasted in a vinegar and honey sauce.

This would be followed by items such as goat cheese, grapes, figs, honey cakes and almonds.

Those who lived near the coast would eat fish such as squid and octopus, turbot and salted or marinated tuna. The meat or fish would either be fried in olive oil or roasted, a favorite recipe was dormice roasted in a vinegar and honey sauce.

Food also had a religious significance and the Greeks often make food offerings at temples.


Spices and herbs played an important role in Greek medical science and many every day products had alternative medical uses. For instance wine and vinegar was used in wound dressings and horseradish was used as a rub for low back pain and an aphrodisiac.


The Greeks believed that mealtime offered an opportunity to nourish the spirit as well as the body. They reclined on couches while eating with poetry, lyre playing and dancing in the background.

From the very early times dancing has been popular among the Greek people. The ancients thought it promoted physical health and influenced one's education positively.

In Homer's epics, which date from the 11th to 10th century BC, dance is portrayed as a kind of social pastime, not as an activity associated with religious observances.

Generally, Greek dances were not based on the relationship between men and women. Most were performed by either one sex or the other.

In Greek plays dance was of major importance, and the three greatest dramatists of the era--Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides--were familiar with dance in both theory and practice.

In plays such as The Bacchae,  Euripedes' last great work, a dancing choir plays a role of major importance.

Choruses played an integral part in the ancient Greek dramas, sometimes singing as well as speaking.

The Chorus normally sang in unison (though its leader could take part in spoken dialogue with actors), and danced in formation as it sang.

The ancient Greeks selected and arranged the tones in scales called modes. Two of these Greek modes supplied the foundation for the music of the Western world.

The Greeks used stringed instruments such as the lyre, flutes such as the panpipe, and a wide variety of percussion instruments, including tambourines, cymbals, and castanets.

At Greek dramatic festivals the music to accompany songs was provided by the only unmasked figure, the player of the aulos, which was a double pipe with reeds.

Choruses played an integral part in the ancient Greek dramas, sometimes singing as well as speaking.

The Chorus normally sang in unison (though its leader could take part in spoken dialogue with actors), and danced in formation as it sang.

Poet-musicians competed at religious festivals. The amateur players accompanied their poems on the lyre, and virtuosos used the cithara, a similar instrument with more strings.


In ancient Greece, houses were built of stone, wood, and clay bricks. The better homes had an open court called a peristylum.

The Athenians lived in very modest houses. They used their building skills to create majestic public structures such as temples, baths, and the agora, or marketplace, in which they spent most of their time.


The ancient Greeks viewed the horse as a heroic symbol, a wonder beast ridden by great warriors and by the gods.

The Greeks hunted wild boar and mountain lion on horseback.

Sources Europress Encyclopedia,  Compton's Interactive Encyclopedia, Food For Thought by Ed Pearce



The Great Laura, the first monastery on Mount Athos, was built in 961 AD. There are now twenty monasteries on the Greek mountain. The 3,000 monks living there have forbidden all females, whether human or animal, from setting foot on the Athos peninsular.

The traditional date of the start of the Greek War of Independence is March 25, 1821, though the war actually began February 23, 1821. The date was chosen in the early years of Greek sovereignty so that it falls on the day of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, strengthening the ties between the Greek Orthodox Church and the newly-found state.

The design of the Greek flag was adopted by the First National Assembly at Epidaurus on January 13, 1822.

Greece was occupied by the Ottoman Empire for a period of 400 years. The country's sovereignty and full independence from the Ottoman Empire was confirmed in a London Protocol on February 3, 1830, as the final result of the Greek War of Independence.

The independence of Greece was recognized by the Treaty of London on May 7, 1832. Greece was made a kingdom by the United Kingdom and Russia, under the German Wittelsbach dynasty. Otto of Wittelsbach, Prince of Bavaria was chosen as the first monarch.

Eleftherios Venizelos was elected Prime Minister of Greece on October 6, 1910, a title he'd hold for six more terms.

A coup d'état by the royalist leadership of the Greek Armed Forces took place in Athens on October 10, 1935. It overthrew the government of Panagis Tsaldaris and established a regency under Georgios Kondylis, effectively ending the Second Hellenic Republic.

Kondylis staged a plebiscite the following month for the return of the monarchy. The official tally showed that 98 percent of the voters supported the return of King George II—an implausibly high total that could have only been obtained through massive fraud.

Kondylis in 1932

On October 28, 1940, the Fascist Italians, with support from Nazi Germany, approached the Greeks to join their side in World War II. The Greek Prime Minister Ioannis Metaxas Metaxas declined. Historians believe that if the Greek's had not refused, World War II could have lasted longer with dramatically different outcomes.

In the following Greco-Italian War, Greece repelled Italian forces into Albania, giving the Allies their first victory over Axis forces on land.


Greece has more than 2,000 islands, of which about 170 are populated.

Greece has the longest coastline on the Mediterranean Basin and the eleventh longest coastline in the world at 8,498 miles in length.

Eighty percent of Greece is mountainous, of which Mount Olympus is the highest peak at 2,917 m (9,570 ft)..


Greece has the longest national anthem in the world, with 158 stanzas.

St Andrew and St George, the patron saints of Scotland and England, are also patron saints of Greece.

About seven per cent of the world's marble comes from Greece.

Greece's most important industry is shipping (worth €251.1 billion in 2015). It accounts for 6.5% of the country's GDP and, employs about 290,000 people (7% of the workforce).

Greek shipping companies control the world's largest merchant fleet of over 5000 ships including, among others, one third of the world's tankers and one quarter of all bulk carriers by tonnage. The Greek flag is the first-most-used internationally for shipping.

The Greek merchant navy is the largest in the world, at 16.2% (2011 figures) of the world's total capacity.

Greece is the world's leading producer of sea sponges, especially in the sea off Kalymnos island.

The Greek national cheese is Feta, which is eaten more in Greece than any other country.

In Greece it is rude to wave with your palm facing the other person.

About 16.5 million tourists visit Greece each year, which is more than the country’s entire population (around 11 million).

Source Daily Express

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Great Wall of China

The Great Wall of China is a series of fortifications made of stone, brick, tamped earth, wood, and other materials. It was built across the historical northern borders of China to protect the Chinese states and empires against enemy attacks.

It was built over several thousands of years with several sections being built as early as the Spring and Autumn Period (770-476 BC) and the Warring States Period (475-221 BC). After the Qin Dynasty (221BC - 206BC), the construction of the Great Wall became a very large project. The building of  the wall of Northern Qi (550-557), starting from Xiakou to Hengzhou, used 1,800,000 laborers. A section of Sui's (581 - 618) wall in Inner Mongolia  required more than 1,000,000 men to build.

The Western Han Dynasty used a lottery to pay for repairs to and expansion of the Great Wall.

The Great Wall of China is the longest structure humans have ever built. It is about 13,171 mile long, 30 feet wide and 50 feet high.

3.8 billion bricks were used to build the Great Wall of China.

The mortar used to bind the Great Wall’s stones was made with sticky rice.

The men who served as guards along the Great Wall of China in the Middle Ages were often born on the wall, grew up there, married there, died there, and were buried within it. Many of these guards never left the wall in their entire lives.

Nearly two-thirds of the Great Wall of China have been damaged or ruined.

Part of the Great Wall of China is submerged in the reservoir formed by the construction of the Panjiakou Dam in Hebei Province, and sometimes it re-emerges during droughts.

Chinese scientists believe that sticky rice soup, mixed in with the limestone mortar, may be the secret ingredient that keeps the Great Wall standing.

The section of the Great Wall of China that everyone visits, and you always see on TV, is only 500 years old.

It is a myth that you can see the Great Wall of China from space. In perfect conditions  it is just possible for astronauts in low Earth orbit (90-300 miles) to spot the wall if they have extremely good eyesight.

Sources .Travelchinaguide.comBumper Book for the Loo by Mitchell Symons

The Great Pyramid of Giza

In ancient Egypt pyramidal buildings made of stone were used to enclose royal tombs.

The Great Pyramid of Giza (also known as the Pyramid of Cheops) is the oldest and largest of the three pyramids in the Giza pyramid complex bordering what is now El Giza, Egypt.

Great Pyramid of Giza By Nina - Wikipedia Commons

The pyramid was built for Khufu, the second pharaoh of the 4th dynasty.

The ancient Egyptians called the Great Pyramid “Ikhet“, meaning “Glorious Light”. It’s been calculated that the pyramid with its original limestone casing stones acted like gigantic mirrors that reflected light so powerful that it was like a shining star, visible from the moon.

Beside the great pyramid at El Giza, the Egyptians buried two 43 metre long boats in 1,224 pieces in flatpack form to carry the pharaoh Khufu to the afterlife.

It is believed that it took about 23 years to build The Great Pyramid using 100,000 skilled Egyptian workers and was completed around 2570 BC.

When it was built, The Great Pyramid was 146.5 metres (481 feet) tall.

The Great Pyramid was the largest man-made structure for 3,881 years until 1311 when the 160-metre-tall (520 ft) spire of Lincoln Cathedral was completed.

The "Great Pyramid" was constructed using approx. 2.3 million stones, each weighing about two and a half tons. In order to finish the building in 23 years, the workers would have to set a block every two and a half minutes, every day of the week for 23 years using no wheels, pulleys or work animals.

At Giza the thousands of Egyptian laborers toiling in the construction of the Great Pyramid ate garlic, radishes and onions for strength. This was because they were considered to be medicinal herbs, which would help preserve their health.

Each block in the Great Pyramid of Giza weighed about 2.5 tons on average, and the pyramid itself is estimated to weigh 6.5 million tons, which is more material than it took to build all the churches and cathedrals in England.

The Pyramid base covers 13 acres and is flat and level to within 1cm.

Great Pyramid of Giza from a 19th-century stereopticon card photo

Today, the Great Pyramid of Giza stands only about 455 feet tall—the structure has shrunk by about 25 feet after four millennia of erosion.

The Great Pyramid of Giza is the oldest of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and the only one to remain largely intact.

The Great Pyramid of Giza would cost £4.5bn ($6bn) to build today.

The Great Plague of London

Between 1664 and 1666 the Great Plague devastated London and southeast England. In the summer of 1665, alone some 75,000 of the 400,000 citizens of London died of the plague.

Flea transmitted infection bred in the ditches, rubbish tips and sewers outside the city of London's walls.

Collecting the dead for burial during the Great Plague

One treatment was to place several female chicks in sequence upon the abscess. The tail feathers of each chick were plucked thereby drawing out the venom. As each bird became infected and died, another replaced it, until a chick escaped infection. At this stage it was hoped the patient would recover.

A preventive strategy was the wearing of bay leaves. For over a thousand years many had a belief in the protective power of bay trees based on the observation by the Romans that they never seemed to get struck by lightning. The British were among those who took up this superstition and during epidemics such as the Great Plague the worried public wore bay leaves to keep the disease away or "at bay".

The English cleric Richard Baxter wrote in 1665, "At first few of the religious sort were taken away. They began to get puffed up and boast of the great differences, which God did make. But quickly after that they fell alike."

In 1665 the plague arrived at the village of Eyam in Derbyshire in a bundle of cloth that came from London, and within a month 23 people had died. The 350 locals were hysterical with fear so the local vicar, William Mompesson, called a meeting of the villagers. He explained that if they fled in an attempt to escape the plague they would take the infection with them and spread it further to the north of England. The decision was made by the villagers to cut themselves off from contact with others to prevent the epidemic from spreading further. They even held their church services in the open air as they felt it was too dangerous to meet in enclosed spaces. After 16 months of isolation during which 259 villagers died, the plague subsided and their selflessness noted.

In 1666 the Great Fire Of London helped to check the plague in London by destroying many of the rubbish tips where the disease was breeding.

Great Lakes

The first Welland Canal opened in 1829, allowing ships to travel between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario and bypass the Niagara Falls.

The Great Lakes Storm of 1913, the most destructive natural disaster ever to hit the lakes, was a blizzard with hurricane-force winds that devastated the Great Lakes Basin from November 7 through November 10, 1913. The storm was most powerful on November 9, overturning ships on four of the five Great Lakes, particularly Lake Huron. In total 19 ships were destroyed and over 270 people lost their lives.

The Detroit News storm headlines, November 13, 1913.

The passenger ship S.S. Eastland capsized on July 24, 1915 while tied to a dock in the Chicago River. A total of 844 passengers and crew were killed in the largest loss of life disaster from a single shipwreck on the Great Lakes.

Fishing is a revered pastime on the Great Lakes, one of the largest freshwater fisheries in the world. The record for biggest fish caught goes to a 63.12 lb. trout caught on Lake Ontario in 2000.

There's enough water in Lake Superior (see below) to cover all of North and South America in one foot of water.

Lake Superior is so massive it holds enough water to cover the US is four feet of water.

Lake Erie is the shallowest of the Great Lakes with an average depth of 62 feet and a deep point of 210. It would only take 2.7 years for Lake Erie to dry up if no water flowed into it.

Lake Michigan is the only Great Lake entirely in the USA.

The Great Lakes combined, with 4,530 miles of shore, have more shoreline than any of the other US coastlines. The East Coast has the most shoreline, but is just  2,165 miles long.

The Great Lakes have at least 6,000 shipwrecks with some estimates as high as 25,000.


Wednesday, 22 April 2015

The Great Gatsby

F Scott Fitzgerald began planning The Great Gatsby in 1923, inspired by the parties he had attended while visiting Long Island's north shore. Originally he was going to call it "Incident at West Egg.”

The story takes place in the summer of 1922, during the Jazz Age, in both Long Island and New York City.

During Fitzgerald's early manuscript of "Gatsby," he wrote about a Catholic boy growing up in the Midwest around 1885.

Fitzgerald was hesitant about "The Great Gatsby" as the title. Three weeks before the book was published on April 10, 1925, Fitzgerald asked for the title to be changed to "Under the Red, White, and Blue."  However, it was too late to change, and "The Great Gatsby" remained.

The Great Gatsby was a commercial failure upon its release. Thee first printing sold slightly more than 20,0000 — just enough to repay publisher Scribners. Much of its second print run of just 3,000 copies was unsold 15 years later when Fitzgerald died.

Reviews were poor and some tore "Gatsby" apart. The reviewer for the Brooklyn Eagle claimed she could not find 'one chemical trace of magic, life, irony, romance or mysticism in all of 'The Great Gatsby' and concluded that 'the boy' [Fitzgerald] was 'simply puttering around.'"

Ernest Hemingway hated the now-iconic book cover. The author described it as "the ugliest jacket he'd seen."


It's suggested that “Gatsby” gained readers after the Armed Services Editions gave away copies to the American military during World War II. By 1959, the book was selling at the rate of 50,000 copes per year.

The Great Gatsby now sells more copies per month in the USA than it did in Fitzgerald's lifetime.

The actress Sigourney Weaver was christened Susan but at the age of 14 she renamed herself Sigourney after a character in The Great Gatsby


Great Fire of London

Before 1666, the phrase 'Great Fire of London' referred to the fires of 1135 and 1212.

The Great Fire of London broke out on September 2, 1666, beginning at the house of Thomas Farynor, the king's baker in Pudding Lane.

It burned for three days and is estimated to have destroyed the homes of 70,000 of London's 80,000 inhabitants as well as 87 out of 109 churches.

Temperatures in Pudding Lane reached 1,700 degrees centigrade during the Great Fire of London. This heat cremated remains of victims leaving no recognizable remains.

The official death toll from the fire is only six people but many more unrecorded poor people must have been killed by the flames or smoke.

Samuel Pepys buried his wine and a wheel of Parmesan cheese in a pit in his garden to keep them safe from the fire.

King Charles II fought the Great Fire of London personally. He lifted buckets of water and threw money to reward people who stayed to fight the flames.

Nine days after the Great Fire of London, Christopher Wren prepared a plan for rebuilding the city which he presented King Charles II with. In it he removed the crowded alleyways which were a fire and health hazard. All new streets would have one of three widths - 90,60 or 30 feet.

Many of London's citizens were left homeless and had to live in makeshift camps through the bitter winter of 1666-67.

A monument was designed by Sir Christopher Wren and put up in 1677 as a permanent memorial to the Great Fire.

The Monument is 202 feet high, which is its exact distance from the site in Pudding Lane where the fire started.

It has been said that the Monument has killed more than the fire, as six suicides and two accidents have resulted in eight fatal falls.

The Great Fire led to the world's first insurance company, The Fire Office, being founded in 1667.

Source Daily Express

Great Britain

Great Britain was a peninsula until sea levels started to rise and, around 6,100 BC, Britain broke free of Europe for good — geographically speaking.

In AD 84, Rome declared the island of Great Britain conquered after general Agricola defeated the Caledonian tribes of what is now Scotland.

In July 12, 927 Æthelstan, King of England, secured a pledge from Constantine II of Scotland that the latter would not ally with Viking kings, beginning the process of unifying Great Britain.

The Scottish King James VI became King James I of England in 1603 because he was a Protestant and because the two nations hoped that, by uniting two great Protestant kingdoms as one, they might be able to promote the cause of Christ far better in the world. This union of crowns became a union of parliaments on May 1, 1707, and the historian Linda Colley argues that "Protestantism was the foundation that made this invention of Great Britain possible."

The world was introduced to ‘John Bull’, the personification of Great Britain, in a series of five satirical pamphlets by Dr John Arbuthnot in 1712. They showed Bull as a clothier tangled in a lawsuit against ‘Lewis Baboon’ ((i.e. Louis Bourbon, or Louis XIV of France).

John Bull in his World War I iteration.

The terms "United Kingdom" and "Great Britain" are not interchangeable—the United Kingdom includes Northern Ireland, while Great Britain does not.

Great Britain is the world's ninth-largest island.

Great Depression

The Great Depression was a severe worldwide economic depression in the 1930s. The depression originated in the United States, where it began in August 1929, when the country's economy first went into recession.

The Great Depression became worldwide news with the Wall Street Crash of October 29, 1929 (known as Black Tuesday). It was then that the effects of a declining economy were felt, and a major worldwide economic downturn ensued.

Crowd gathering at the intersection of Wall Street and Broad Street after the 1929 crash

The Dow Jones Industrial Average reached its lowest point of the Great Depression on July 8, 1932, closing at 41.22, down 89 percent from its peak in 1929.

In a State of the Union message on December 2, 1929, U.S. President Herbert Hoover proposed a $150 million public works program to help generate jobs and stimulate the economy.

Worldwide GDP fell by 15% from 1929 to 1932.

During the Great Depression, John Deere refused to repossess their farm equipment from farmers in debt.

Canada had zero bank failures in the Great Depression, compared to over 9,000 failed banks in the USA.

During the Great Depression people often made clothes out of feed sacks. Seeing this, distributors started to print their feed sacks with different colors and patterns to help people remain at least somewhat fashionable.

Because of the great economic slump, many Americans found themselves without work and had no money to buy food. Consequently kitchens distributing free soup to the needy started springing up in most large cities in the United States. For the most part it was churches and charity organisations like the Salvation Army, which  provided food for the poorest.

An impoverished American family living in a shanty, 1936

Al Capone started one of the first free soup kitchens during the Great Depression.

Popcorn at 5 or 10 cents was one of the few luxuries down-and-out families affected by the American Depression could afford. While other businesses was failing, the popcorn business thrived.

For anyone with a few dimes, depression America was a shopper's paradise. A man's suit cost about $10, a shirt less than 50 cents, and a pair of shoes about $4.

During the Great Depression, the U.S. deported around 1 million Mexicans—an estimated 60% of them were U.S. citizens.

Source Food For Thought by Ed Pearce

Great Dane

The Great Dane has been bred since the beginning of the 17th century in the courts of German nobility. The dogs were used for hunting bear, boar and deer at princely courts, with the favorites staying at night in the bedchambers of their lords.

In the 19th century, the dog was known as a "German boarhound" in English speaking lands. However, due to the increasing tensions between Germany and other countries, the dog later became referred to as a "Great Dane", after the grand danois in Buffon's Histoire naturelle, générale et particulière in 1755.

The Great Dane was given the nickname Apollo of the dogs because of its noble, statuesque appearance.

The 18th century poet Alexander Pope once said "histories are more full of the examples of the fidelity of dogs than of friends". He had a Great Dane called Bounce.

During World War II, a Great Dane named Juliana defused a bomb by weeing on it. She earned a Blue Cross Medal.

In Germany the Great Dane breed of dog is called “Deutsche Dogge” (German mastiff).

The world record holder for tallest dog was a Great Dane called Zeus, who died September 2014, aged 5. He measured 7 feet 4 inches tall on his hind legs and 44 inches from paw to withers. Zeus ate a 30 pound bag of food every day and weighed 155 pounds.


Galileo showed in the late 16th century that light objects fell more slowly because of air resistance but the gravitational effect was the same on everything. Before that everyone believed that heavy objects fall faster than lighter ones.

This led to Issac Newton in 1687 showing that the force causing an apple to drop was the same as the force keeping the Moon in orbit around the Earth.

Astronauts can't cry in space as there's no gravity.

The  escape velocity of Deimos, one of Mars's moons, is 20km/h - meaning you could easily throw something, or even ride a bicycle off a ramp, out of its gravity

Astronauts are trained to urinate every two hours because low gravity tricks the bladder—it doesn't feel the weight of its contents.

A rocket needs to travel at 7 miles a second to escape the Earth's gravity.

Due to the earth's gravity it is impossible for mountains to be higher than 49,000 feet (15,000 meters).

Humans are unable to burp in zero gravity environments.

Around 20 meters underwater gravity overtakes the buoyancy of your body and you start falling towards the center of the earth.

Large parts of Canada, particularly the Hudson Bay region, are "missing" gravity. In other words, gravity in the Hudson Bay area and surrounding regions is lower than it is in other parts of the world. The phenomenon was discovered in the 1960s and scientists are still baffled as to why.

If the force of gravity varied by more than one to the power of sixty (1 with 60 zeros after it), then stars would burn either too hot or too cold for the chemical building blocks of life too form.

Gravity has speed, and the speed of gravity appears to be the same as the speed of light.

Barophobia is the fear of gravity.

Source Daily Express


Sixty-two degrees Fahrenheit is the minimum temperature required for a grasshopper to be able to hop.

Grasshoppers have ears on their stomach. They have membranes that vibrate in response to sound waves on each side of the first abdominal segment, tucked under the wings. This simple eardrum, called a tympana, allows the grasshopper to hear the songs.

Grasshoppers have white blood.

Grasshoppers throw up when they're in danger.

A pound of grasshoppers is almost as nutritious as a pound of beef.

Candied grasshoppers, known as inago, are a popular cocktail snack in Japan.

The long-horned Grasshopper is a delicacy in Uganda, where it was traditionally harvested by women in exchange for a new dress from their husbands.

Locusts are the swarming phase of certain species of short-horned grasshoppers. In the solitary phase these grasshoppers are innocuous and their numbers are low. However, under suitable conditions of drought followed by rapid vegetation growth, serotonin in their brains triggers a dramatic set of changes: they start to breed abundantly, becoming gregarious and nomadic when their populations become dense enough They do a lot of damage to the places where they pass, by eating the crops.

The artist Salvador Dalí was terrified of grasshoppers. As a schoolboy, he threw such violent fits of hysteria that his teacher forbade them to be mentioned in class.