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Tuesday, 23 May 2017



In the 16th and early 17th-centuries a pumpkin was called a 'pompon' or 'pompion'. The word 'pumpkin' was first used in 1647.

The name "pumpkin" originated from "pepon", the Greek word for "large melon."

Native Americans used pumpkin seeds for food and medicine.

When early settlers arrived in America, they discovered that Native Americans were growing and using pumpkins. They roasted strips of pumpkin over an open fire for food.

Pumpkins were once recommended for removing freckles and curing snake bites.

In early colonial times, pumpkins were used as an ingredient for the crust of pies, not the filling.

Halloween pumpkin carving stems from a Celtic tradition of turnip carving to ward off evil spirits. The "head" of turnips were used, with the belief that the head was the most powerful part of the body, containing the spirit and the knowledge. However, it wasn't until 1866 that the pumpkin became associated with Halloween - a tradition originating from North America, where pumpkins were readily available and much larger, making them easier to carve.


Illinois, California, Pennsylvania and New York are the four major pumpkin growing states, together producing 1.1 billion pounds of pumpkin in 2008.

A pumpkin patch in Winchester, Oregon

Morton, Illinois calls itself the 'Pumpkin Capital of the World' and holds an annual pumpkin festival in the second week of September.

Nestlé, operating under the brand name Libby's, produces 85% of the world's canned pumpkin at their plant in Morton, Illinois.


In the United States and Canada, pumpkin is a popular Halloween and Thanksgiving staple. Pumpkin pie was among the dishes at the first Thanksgiving.

Commercially canned pumpkin puree and pumpkin pie fillings are usually made from different kinds of winter squash than the pumpkins frequently carved as jack-o'-lanterns for decoration around Halloween.

Pumpkin flowers are edible. In the southwestern United States and Mexico they are used to garnish dishes, and they may be dredged in a batter then fried in oil.

Pumpkin leaves are a popular vegetable in the Western and central regions of Kenya; they are called seveve, and are an ingredient of mukimo respectively, whereas the pumpkin itself is usually boiled or steamed.

Raw pumpkin can be fed to poultry, as a supplement to regular feed, during the winter to help maintain egg production, which usually drops off during the cold months.

Canned pumpkin is often recommended by veterinarians as a dietary supplement for cats and dogs and cats that are experiencing certain digestive ailments such as constipation, diarrhea, or hairballs. The high fiber content helps to aid proper digestion.


Pumpkins are 90% water, which means they are a great low-calorie food.

Pumpkins contain potassium and Vitamin A.

Pumpkin seeds are a popular snack, which are a good source of protein, magnesium, copper and zinc.


According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the largest pumpkin pie ever baked weighed 1,678 kg (3,699 lb). It was made by New Bremen Giant Pumpkin Growers (USA) at New Bremen Pumpkinfest in New Bremen, Ohio (about an hour north of Dayton) on September 25, 2010. The diameter of the pie was 6 m (20 ft). The crust was made of 440 sheets of dough and the filling ingredients were canned pumpkin, evaporated milk, eggs, salt, sugar, cinnamon and pumpkin spice. It was baked in a custom pie pan before before being served up into approximately 5,000 slices for hungry community members.

The world record for pumpkin pie eating is 20lb 13oz in eight minutes, set by Matt Stonie in 2014 at the Elk Grove Giant Pumpkin Festival.

The Guinness Book of World Records states that the fastest time to carve a face into a pumpkin was achieved by David Finkle of the United Kingdom. Finkle accomplished the feat on October 7, 2010, while filming a Halloween show for the BBC in 20.1 seconds.

Mathias Willemijns of Belgium grew the heaviest ever pumpkin. It was weighed at the Giant Pumpkin European Championship was held in Ludwigsburg, located in southwestern Germany, at 1.190,5 Kg. (or around 2,623 pounds) on October 9, 2016, This huge pumpkin was then turned into thousands of pounds of delicious pumpkin pie.


Monday, 22 May 2017


A pulse (or heartbeat) is a throbbing of blood vessels as blood goes through them. You can feel someone's pulse in anybody's body where vessels are closer to the skin.

The pulse may be felt in any place that allows an artery to be compressed near the surface of the body, such as at the neck (carotid artery), on the inside of the elbow (brachial artery), at the wrist (radial artery), at the groin (femoral artery), behind the knee (popliteal artery), near the ankle joint (posterior tibial artery), and on the foot (dorsalis pedis artery).

By Pia von Lützau - Wikipedia

A normal pulse is below 100 beats per minute. Our pulse quickens when we exercise because the muscles being used need more oxygen.

Most mammals' hearts beat around one billion times in their lives. Species with shorter lifespans have faster pulse rates.

Humans and chickens are outliers in that homo sapiens get 2.21 billion and chicken gets 2.17 billion beats.

The ancient Chinese were among the first to diagnose illness by taking the pulse of an individual. By around 300 BC, Fifty-one different types of pulse beats had been developed at eleven different locations on the body. Each pulse was linked with a different health problem and the feeling of the pulse was emphasized as the most important aspect of diagnosis.

Herophilus (335–280 BC) was a Greek surgeon and anatomist who described the brain, liver and sexual organs and was the first western physician to measure the pulse, for which he used a water clock.

The Roman physician Galen had a rare understanding of psychosomatic illnesses. The wife of a Roman noble had been suffering from an organic complaint, for which her doctor had been unable to help her with. Galen was called for and while taking her pulse, he mentioned the name of an actor with whom her name was linked in the gossip of the town. Her pulse rate rapidly increased so he made an amusing comment, which made her laugh. That laugh began her cure and was an innovative example of a psychiatric treatment for a psychosomatic illness.

The first person to accurately measure the pulse rate was Santorio Santorii (March 29, 1561 – 22 February 22, 1636).  The Venetian physiologist, physician, and professor invented the pulsilogium, a form of pendulum, based on the work by Galileo Galilei.

Santorio Santorio.

The pulsilogium was probably the first machine of precision in medical history. Extensive experimentation with his new tool allowed Santorio to derive the circadian rhythm (24 hour cycle) of the cardiac frequency.

The dried leaves of the common foxglove plant, digitalis purpurea, has been used for thoudsands of years in heart medications. Digitalis slows the pulse and increases the force of heart contractions and the amount of blood pumped per heartbeat.

Sunday, 21 May 2017


The pug probably originated in China before 400 BC and was the mascot of many ancient Buddhist monasteries.

Ancient Chinese emperors kept pugs as lapdogs and treated them to all the luxuries of royal life. Sometimes they were even given their own mini palaces and guards.

The Pug is one of three ancient breeds that originated in China in the pre-Christian era. These breeds were the Lion Dog, the Pekingese, and the Lo-sze or Foo-dog. The Foo-dog was the ancient Pug.

Guardian Foo Dog China, 1622-1722 

Its name comes from the Latin word pugnus, meaning "fist," a reference to the shape of the dog's face.

The Pug breed was introduced into Holland by Dutch traders and then into England by the same route.

In 1572, the Dutch were in the midst of the Eighty Year War, a protracted struggle for independence against the political and religious hegemony of Spain. While The Prince of Orange, William the Silent, was sleeping in his tent one night, Spanish assassins were lurking just outside. Fortunately, William’s pug, Pompey, was there to warn his master by barking wildly and jumping on his face.

As a result of saving the life of the leader of the Dutch forces, the pug was made the official dog of the House of Orange. The pooches became the symbol of Orangists, people who supported the royal family.

When William III came to England to rule with his wife Mary II, he brought his pugs, who wore little orange ribbons to their master’s 1689 coronation.

King William III had a white pug called Kuntze. His pug's barking raised the alarm and saved William during a Spanish raid at Mons.

Painter and his Pug is a 1745 self-portrait created by William Hogarth. 

Napoleon Bonaparte’s wife Josephine had a pet pug named Fortuné that she loved so much that she refused to let the dog sleep anywhere but in her bed.

Before her marriage to Napoleon, Joséphine had Fortuné carry concealed messages to her family while she was confined at Les Carmes prison, as the pooch was the only one given visiting rights.

The breed was much larger then, and the English are credited with the refinement and reduction in size of the Lo-sze to the Pug we know today.

A male Pug 1802

The pug became very popular in the European courts, and reached a peak in popularity in royal circles in Victorian times when it was a popular pet for adults and children alike; indeed, it has only ever been bred as a companion.

Queen Victoria had many Pugs, which she bred herself, including Olga, Pedro, Minka, Fatima and Venus.

Queen Victoria's passion for Pugs was passed on to many other members of the Royal family, including her grandson King George V and his son King Edward VIII.

Because Pugs have short snouts, they are prone to breathing difficulties or unable to efficiently regulate their temperature through evaporation from the tongue by panting.

Their facial structure makes it difficult to take long and deep breaths, which is why you might hear a pug snuffling while running around.

Sources Europress Family Encyclopedia, Comptons Encyclopedia. Mental Floss

Saturday, 20 May 2017



The puffin's scientific name, fratercula, came from the Latin for ‘little brother’ because their plumage resembled monk’s robes.

The puffin stands only 12in tall but can dive 300ft for food and endure eight months a year out at sea.

Their short wings are adapted for swimming with a flying technique under water.

A puffin weighs about the same as a can of Coke.


Adult pairs appear to kiss, rubbing their beaks together in behaviour known as ‘billing’.

They nest in burrows in the ground. The males dig the burrow using their bill and feet to push the soil out behind them.

Puffins often use existing burrows made by rabbits.

The puffin pairs for life, returning to land in the spring and use the same burrows year after year.

Adults often dig out a separate tunnel in their burrow to use as a lavatory.

Although the puffins are vocal at their breeding colonies, they are silent at sea.


A baby Puffin is called a Puffling, and both parents take turns incubating the egg before it hatches.

The young never see their parents. They stay in the burrow for five days before leaving home in the night to avoid predators.

A young puffin spends its first three years at sea before setting foot on land.

The puffin usually lives for 25 to 30 years.


Puffin is regarded as a delicacy in Iceland. It has a rich, gamey taste similar to liver.

Puffins are known as ‘clowns of the sea’ and ‘sea parrots’.

There are at least eight islands worldwide named after the puffin.

Source Daily Mail

Friday, 19 May 2017

Puerto Rico

The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico includes the largest, main island and a number of smaller islands, including Mona, Vieques, and Culebra. Of those three smaller islands, only Culebra and Vieques are populated all year.

The history of Puerto Rico began when the Ortoiroid people started living in the island between 3000 and 2000 BC.

The Igneri tribe migrated to Puerto Rico between 120 and 400 AD from the region of the Orinoco river in northern South America and lived there between the 4th and 10th centuries co-existing with the Saladoid and Arawak Indians and later the Taino people.

By approximately 1000 AD, the Taino people had become dominant. At the time of Columbus' arrival, an estimated 30,000 to 60,000 Taíno Amerindians, led by the cacique (chief) Agüeybaná, inhabited the island. They called it Borikén (Borinquen in Spanish transliteration).

A reconstructed Taíno Village at the Tibes Ceremonial Center

Christopher Columbus first sighted the island now known as Puerto Rico on November 18, 1493 and the following day (November 19) he went ashore named it San Juan Bautista (in honor of St John the Baptist).

Juan Ponce de León, a lieutenant under Columbus, founded the first Spanish settlement, Caparra, on August 8, 1508. Caparra was abandoned in 1521, but it represents the oldest known European settlement on United States territory.

De León later served as the first governor of the island.  Eventually, traders and other maritime visitors came to refer to the entire island as Puerto Rico (meaning "rich port" in Spanish) and San Juan became the name of ITS main trading/shipping port.

Catholicism was brought by Spanish colonists and gradually became the dominant religion in Puerto Rico. The first dioceses in the Americas, including that of Puerto Rico, were authorized by Pope Julius II in 1511.

The first educational establishment in Puerto Rico was the Escuela de Gramática (Grammar School). It was established by Bishop Alonso Manso in 1513, in the area where the Cathedral of San Juan was to be constructed. The school was free of charge and the courses taught were art, history, Latin, literature, philosophy, science and theology.

Puerto Rico formed an important part of the Spanish Empire from the early years of the exploration, conquest, and colonization of the New World.

The island was a major military post during many wars between Spain and other European countries for control of the region between the 16th and 18th centuries.

Puerto Ricon nationalist Ramón Emeterio Betances led the Grito de Lares, a revolt against Spanish rule on the island. The short-lived insurrection began on September 23, 1868, in the town of Lares, for which it is named, and spread rapidly to various revolutionary cells throughout Puerto Rico.

Dr Betances

Although the revolt failed to achieve its main objective, the Spanish government granted more political autonomy to the island.. Since the Grito galvanized a burgeoning nationalist movement among Puerto Ricans, Betances is considered "El Padre de la Patria" (Father of the [Puerto Rican] Nation).

The first Protestant church, Iglesia de la Santísima Trinidad, was established in Ponce by the Anglican Diocese of Antigua in 1872. It was the first non-Roman Catholic Church in the entire Spanish Empire in the Americas.

In 1898, during the Spanish-American war, Puerto Rico was invaded by U.S. forces. The United States took possession of the island and on October 18, 1898 American troops raised their country's flag over the Caribbean nation.

General Nelson Miles and other soldiers on horseback Puerto Rico July 1898

The Spanish–American War ended with the signing of the Treaty of Paris, which was signed on December 10, 1898. Its clauses included Spain ceding Puerto Rico to the United States.

The Treaty of Paris came into effect on April 11, 1899, when the documents of ratification were exchanged. For the next 53 years, it became a felony to display the Puerto Rican Flag.

El Yunque National Forest, is located on the slopes of the Sierra de Luquillo mountains,  in northeastern Puerto Rico. Established on January 17, 1903, it is the only tropical rain forest in the United States National Forest System and is the largest block of public land in Puerto Rico.

Photo of El Yunque from the east, Puerto Rico. By Stan Shebs

President Woodrow Wilson signed the Jones Act on March 2, 1917, granting Puerto Rican people United States citizenship.

Puerto Rico became a self-governing commonwealth of the United States on July 25, 1952. This means it is an organised, self-governing territory with locally elected governors and legislatures. Puerto Rico elects a Resident Commissioner to the U.S. House of Representatives.

On May 3, 2017, Puerto Rico filed for bankruptcy after a massive debt and weak economy. It is the largest local government bankruptcy case in American history.


According to the 2010 US Census, 99% of the population consider themselves of Puerto Rican descent (regardless of race or skin color), making Puerto Rico one of the most culturally unified societies in the world.

The population of Puerto Rico was 3,474,182 on July 1, 2015, a 6.75% decrease since the 2010 United States Census.

The most populous Puerto Rico city is its capital, San Juan, with approximately 371,400 people.

Reggaeton is a musical genre which originated in Puerto Rico during the late 1990s. It blends British West reggae and dancehall with Latin American genres, as well as hip hop. Popular Puerto Rican reggaeton stars include Daddy Yankee, Nicky Jam and Wisin and Yandel.

The island's most recognizable endemic species and a symbol of Puerto Rican pride is the coquí, a small frog easily identified by the sound of its call, from which it gets its name.

Common Coquí

The Piña Colada is the national drink of Puerto Rico and National Piña Colada Day is celebrated on the islands on July 10th every year.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Giacomo Puccini

After Giuseppe Verdi, Giacomo Puccini is considered the greatest Italian opera composer. He is noted for such enduringly popular works as Madama Butterfly and La bohème

Giacomo Puccini


Giacomo Antonio Domenico Michele Secondo Maria Puccini was born on December 22, 1858, in Lucca, Tuscany, one of nine children.

Puccini's birthplace, seen in 1984. By David Wright - Wikipedia

The heads of his family for four generations had been professional musicians and Giacomo was chosen to carry on the Puccini musical tradition.  However, when his father died in 1864, Giacomo was only six years old, and thus not capable of taking on the role.

As a child, Puccini participated in the musical life of the Cattedrale di San Martino, as a member of the boys' choir and later as a substitute organist.

Young Puccini studied at the Pacini Institute of Music in Lucca. At first he was an indifferent student. Then, encouraged by a sympathetic teacher, he began to blossom as a church organist.

Puccini smoked from an early age and when he needed money to buy cigarettes he stole and sold the organ pipes from a village church in which he accompanied the services. The mischievous teenager then changed the harmonies so no one noticed the missing notes.

Puccini liked to improvise on the organ, playing popular tunes from Verdi’s operas. At about 17, inspired by a performance of the great composer's Aida, Puccini determined to specialize in composing for the operatic stage.

Puccini persuaded his family to let him study at the Milan Conservatory. Aided by a bursary and a loan from a great uncle, he attended the establishment from 1880 to 1883.


Puccini's first opera, Le Villi, was produced in 1884; his second, Edgar, in 1889.

When Puccini was composing the music for La bohème (1896), he learned that a rival composer, Leoncavallo, was working on a similar project. Puccini declared: "Let him compose. I will compose. The audience will decide." Puccini them wrote with an urgent speed, completing his opera a year before Leoncavallo's now all but forgotten work.

Tosca is an Italian opera in three acts by Giacomo Puccini based on Victorien Sardou's play La Tosca. By 1900, the premiere of a Puccini opera was a national event. Many Roman dignitaries were due to attend the premiere, including The Prime Minister of Italy, Luigi Pelloux and Queen Margherita.

Police received warnings of an anarchist bombing of the theater, and instructed the conductor Leopoldo Mugnone that in an emergency he was to strike up the royal march. The unrest caused the premiere to be postponed by one day, to January 14, 1900 when it was performed without disruption.

Front cover of the original 1899 libretto

Giacomo Puccini's Madama Butterfly premiered at La Scala in Milan on February 17, 1904, generating negative reviews that forced him to rewrite the opera.

In 1907 Puccini visited New York City to attend the first Metropolitan Opera production of Madama Butterfly. There he conceived the idea of writing an opera with an American setting. The result was The Girl of the Golden West (1910).


Puccini's wife, Elvira was well aware of her husband's countless infidelities. She planted camphor in his trouser pockets and laced his coffee with bromide to lessen his sexual appetite when attractive women came to dinner.

In 1909 Elvira Puccini accused their maid Doria Manfredi of having an affair with her husband. Doria committed suicide by taking mercury sublimate (then used as a rat poison) and died in terrible agony. It turned out Puccini was having an affair, not with Doria but with her cousin Giulia, which lasted until his death. The maid was merely the go-between. An autopsy found Doria died a virgin and Elvira was sued for slander.

Puccini photographed in 1908


Puccini died following treatment for throat cancer on November 29, 1924, in Brussels, Belgium.

The whole of Italy went into mourning at Puccini's death and Mussolini spoke at his funeral.

When he died, Puccini was the most commercially successful opera composer of all time, worth the equivalent of of $175 million (£135 million) today.

In all Puccini composed 12 operas. The final one, Turandot, was unfinished and its last two scenes were completed posthumously by Franco Alfano after Puccini's death. Turandot was first performed at La Scala in Milan on April 26, 1926.

Turandot features Puccini's best known work "Nessun Dorma," which was sung by Luciano Pavarotti for the BBC’s television coverage of the Football World Cup that was held in Italy in 1990. It reached #2 in the UK singles chart, the highest position ever for a classical song.

Comptons Encyclopaedia, Classic FM magazine

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Public toilet

Wealthy Ancient Greeks sometimes sent their slaves to sit on the public toilets (made from slabs of marble) to warm it up "in anticipation of their arrival".

The Romans used communal lavatories, with 30 or so citizens of both genders sitting round in a half-circle chatting with no partition between them.

Public toilet remnants from Ancient Roman times in Ostia Antica

In Rome instead of toilet paper, all public toilets had a sponge attached to the end of a stick that was soaked in a bucket of brine. The rich used wool and rosewater.

Constantinople had 1400 public toilets around the city when it was capital of the Ottoman Empire, at a time when the rest of Europe had none.

Britain’s first flushing gentlemen's public lavatory, opened at 95 Fleet Street in London on February 2, 1852.

The washbasins of a 19th-century facility, still in use. By Smuconlaw. - Wikipedia

Britain's first flushing public toilet for women opened near the Strand in London on February 11, 1852, but only 82 females used it in the first twelve months.

The first British public toilets charged one penny for their use and the phrase "spend a penny" came into circulation.

In 1883, A. Ashwell of Herne Hill, London, patented the Vacant/Engaged sign for public lavatories.

The magician and escapologist John Nevil Maskelyne (1839–1917) invented the coin-operated lock for public lavatories in 1892.

With well over 5,000 public toilets, Beijing claims to have more than any other capital city.

Public toilet block in the Olympic Forest Park is located north of the city center of Beijing

After the World Toilet Organisation ranked China’s public toilets the worst in the world in 2012, Beijing introduced a new rule that no more than two flies were permitted in any toilet.

Public toilets are known by many names in different varieties of English. One of the more formal circumlocutions is "public convenience". In Britain, Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore, and New Zealand, the terms in use are "public toilet" or "public lavatory. In American English, "restroom" usually denotes a toilet facility designed for use by the public. However, "bathroom" is also commonly used.  In Canadian English, public facilities are always called "washrooms".

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Pub sign

British pub signs can trace their roots to Ancient Rome where landlords hung branches of vines outside their taverns.

In 1393 King Richard II compelled landlords to erect signs outside their premises. At first all inns and taverns displayed an identical signpost showing a bush to indicate theirs was a place where travelers could quench their thirst. The bush was chosen, as in Greek mythology it was sacred to Dionysus, who was worshiped as the god of wine.

In the later Middle Ages as drinkers became choosier different colorful signs were displayed outside the drinking establishment to assist the illiterate traveler to choose a suitable tavern. These "inn" signs were a variation of a similar system practiced by churches where a statue or stained glass window identified the relevant saint after whom the church was named. Frequently the traveler was on a pilgrimage to visit the shrine of a particular saint.

Because of this and the Christian culture of the time many inn names involved religious symbolism. For instance "The Ship" was a reference to Noah's Ark and "The Bull" referred to the Latin "bulla", which was the seal of a monastery.

Later names reflected the names of the guilds and associations formed by city craftsmen, such as the Three Compasses (carpenters), the monarch of the day or a noted figure (The King's Head or The Lord Nelson), a historical event (The Royal Oak) or a coat of arms (The Red Lion.)

The most common name for a pub is 'The Red Lion' with over 5,000 in Britain. It is followed by The Crown and The Royal Oak.



A Pub or public house is an establishment that serves alcoholic drinks such as beer and ale, and usually also non-alcoholic drinks such as coca cola, lemonade, coffee or tea to be consumed within the limits of the public house.

Since the 1990s food has become a more important part of a pub's trade, and today most pubs serve lunches and dinners at the table in addition to (or instead of) snacks consumed at the bar. They may have a separate dining room. Some pubs serve meals to a higher standard, to match good restaurant standards; these are sometimes termed gastropubs.

Pubs are subject to the licensing laws of the country they are located in. They may be closed down if not properly conducted.

Pubs are found in English-speaking countries such as England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and the United States.

A thatched country pub, The Williams Arms, near Braunton, North Devon, England

In many places, especially in English, Scottish and Irish villages, pubs are the center of community life.

America generally has more of a bar scene than a pub culture. Particularly popular is the sports bar.


Pubs can be traced back to Roman taverns. In Anglo Saxon England taverns became so popular that the Archbishop of York was forced to forbid priests to eat and drink in them. Instead monks went into the brewing business themselves and set up hostelries for pilgrims.

Anglo Saxon women called alewives ran a form of tavern called an "alehouse", which was marked out by a broom being stuck out above the door when a fresh brew was ready. The ale was served in a "pail", in which the guest dipped his mug to fill it up.

These alehouses came about after the local women who made the best beer in a community started offering their brew to others. Gradually the most popular brews would attract so many customers a separate room was required to house the drinkers and the alehouse was born.

By 965 Communal places of drinking have become so commonplace in England that King Edgar decreed that there should be no more than one alehouse per village.

Ye Olde Man & Scythe is a public house on Churchgate in Bolton, England. The earliest recorded mention of its name was in a charter from 1251, making it one of the ten oldest public houses in Britain .

Ye Olde Man & Scythe, Bolton by Michael Ely Wikipedia

In 1393, King Richard II of England introduced legislation that taverns inns and alehouses had to display a sign outdoors to make them easily visible for passing ale tasters who would assess the quality of ale sold,

An act was passed in Britain in 1496 against "vacabounds and beggers", which contained a clause regulating alehouses. The different types of drinking establishments were strictly annotated. An ale house could sell only beer, while a tavern had to serve food as well as drink.

A survey in 1577 of drinking establishment in England and Wales for taxation purposes recorded 14,202 alehouses, 1,631 inns, and 329 taverns, representing one pub for every 187 people.

The Ale-House Door (painting of c. 1790 by Henry Singleton)

The English term " bar" as in "Going to a bar" was being used by the late 16th century. It refers to the "barrier" or counter across which drink is being served.

The White Horse Tavern of Newport, Rhode Island was founded in 1673 and has been serving up ale and eats ever since. It is the oldest bar in the Unites States.

The very first American Western saloon was created in Brown's Hole, Wyoming, in 1822 and served fur trappers. Some of the saloons offered dancing girls, some of them sometimes doubled as prostitutes

Some of these American saloons craftily started adding to their drink sales by offering free lunches. As most of these free lunches were overly salted, the diner was forced to buy an alcoholic drink.

In late 18th century Britain brewers were buying inns and installing tenants and managers who sold their beers. This was especially happening in the urban areas where the expanding population of the industrial towns and cities was creating a demand for beer that innkeepers who tended to make their own ale on site in tiny brewhouses couldn't meet. These "Public houses" or "pubs" were providing a friendly and hospitable place where both visitors and locals could relax and converse over a pint of beer or ale.

People drinking at Ye Olde Cock Tavern in London, England. By Fuzheado - Wikipedia

In English pubs, ale is ordered by pints and quarts... So in old England, when customers got unruly, the bartender would yell at them "Mind your pints and quarts, and settle down." It's where we get the phrase 'mind your Ps and Qs'.

By the turn of the 19th century, popular music was deemed unsuitable in proper theatres and working class folk were hearing and singing their own popular songs in pubs.

A petition signed by more than a million women and dated December 30, 1887 was addressed to Queen Victoria calling for all pubs to be closed on Sundays. The petition failed.

In Britain because of the reduction of live sports events and other activities due to the World War II, many spent their evenings drinking in pubs where they could forget about their troubles. The warmth and conviviality of the public house was proving an attraction to many lonely and worried souls whose loved ones are abroad in dangerous situations fighting for their country.


The most common name for a pub is 'The Red Lion' with over 5,000 in Britain.

The longest bar in the world is in New Bulldog in Rock Island, Illinois. It is 684-feet long.

Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) is the only U.S. president who was also a licensed bartender. He was co-owner of Berry and Lincoln, a saloon in Springfield, Illinois.

The Tan Hill Inn in Swaledale, North Yorkshire is said to be Britain's highest pub at 1,732ft above sea level.

Tan Hill Inn By Dave Dunford - Wikipedia

Britain's most remote bar. 'The Old Forge' pub is located in Inverie, which is so isolated in the Scottish Highlands that no roads connect the village to the rest of the country. Thirsty travelers need to hike 17 miles over very rough terrain, or take a 7-mile ferry ride.

Sunday, 14 May 2017


The best-known and probably the most often used book among the scriptures is the Book of Psalms. They are a collection of poetic hymns and prayers dating from various periods in the history of Israel. The collection was assembled so that it could be conveniently used at worship services.

Scroll of the Psalms. By Pete unseth - Wikipedia

The Psalms were written not merely as poems, but as songs for singing. More than a third of the psalms are addressed to the Director of Music.

The word 'psalm' literally means 'twang' or 'pluck', referring to the stringed instruments that were used to accompany the singing of psalms.

David Playing the Harp by Jan de Bray, 1670.

The book of Psalms contains 150 of the poetic hymns and songs and prayers. It is the longest book in the Bible.

King David is traditionally reckoned on having written 73 of the 150 Psalms in the Bible. These songs and prayers stand out as great poetry. They spotlight the heights and depths of human experience. "The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He lays me down in pastures green" he wrote in the famous Psalm 23.

An 1880 Baxter process illustration of Psalm 23, from the Religious Tract Society's magazine The Sunday at Home

The biblical poetry of Psalms uses parallelism as its primary poetic device. Parallelism is a kind of rhyme, in which an idea is developed by the use of repetition, synonyms, or opposites Synonymous parallelism involves two lines expressing essentially the same idea. An example of synonymous parallelism:

The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? 
The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? 
(Psalm 27:1)

The Psalms contain several prophecies that were later fulfilled in Jesus' lifetime. For instance is Psalm 22 in which David 22 16-18 gave an amazingly accurate description of the suffering the Messiah would endure hundreds of years later on the cross:

"Dogs have surrounded me. A band of evil men have encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet. I count all my bones: people stare and gloat over me. They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.”

When David wrote in verse 16 "they have pierced my hands and feet" he was prophesying the crucifixion centuries before the Romans introduced it. Two verses later he prophesies: "They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing" predicting the custom of Roman soldiers, referred to in the Gospel passage, of dividing up the clothing of executed criminals among themselves.

When Augustine of Hippo lay dying, he had the penitential psalms copied onto parchment and attached to the wall of his bedroom so he can read them during his last hours.

In 1640 Pilgrim settlers in Massachusetts published the first book in America, the Bay Psalm Book, which were metrical translations of psalms into English. Thirty learned and devout ministers translated them from the original Hebrew.

Title page of the Bay Psalm Book.

Matthew Maury (January 14, 1806 – February 1, 1873) used Psalm 8 as a guide when he discovered ocean currents in the 19th century At one time, when Maury was in bed recovering from a badly broken leg, he asked one of his daughters to fetch his Bible and read to him. She chose Psalm 8, the eighth verse of which speaks of "whatsoever walketh through the paths of the sea," he repeated "the paths of the sea, the paths of the sea, if God says the paths of the sea, they are there, and if I ever get out of this bed I will find them."

As soon as he was strong enough, Maury began his deep sea soundings and he found that two ridges extended from the New York coast to England. In 1847 he published the Wind and Current Chart of the North Atlantic, which showed sailors how to use the ocean's currents and winds to their advantage and drastically reduced the length of ocean voyages.

Charles Lindbergh's gravestone epitaph quotes Psalms 139:9, It reads: “Charles A. Lindbergh Born: Michigan, 1902. Died: Maui, 1974. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea.”

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Richard Pryor


Richard Pryor was born in Peoria, Illinois on December 1, 1940. His family ran a brothel there.

Richard’s father was a notoriously violent pimp named LeRoy Pryor. His mother was a prostitute named Gertrude.

His mother periodically dropped out of his life for long stretches, and it was Richard's grandmother Marie Carter who served as his central guardian and caretaker.


Richard Pryor began performing comedy in the early 1960s in New York City.

Pryor began as a middlebrow comic, inspired by Bill Cosby, with material far less controversial than what was to come.

In September 1967, Pryor had what he described in his autobiography Pryor Convictions (1995) as an "epiphany". He walked onto the stage at the Aladdin Hotel in Las Vegas, looked at the sold-out audience (which included Dean Martin), exclaimed over the microphone "What the **** am I doing here!?", and walked off the stage. Afterward, Pryor began including profanity int his act.

He released his first comedy album, Richard Pryor, in 1968.

Publicity photo of Pryor for one of his Mister Kelly's appearances, 1968–1969

Pryor became one of the biggest comedy stars of the 1970s, releasing an album almost every year and making numerous TV appearances.

Prior's appearance in the seventh of Saturday Night Live’s premiere season, contained one of the most memorable and edgy sketches ever to appear on the show: (the NSFW) Word Association.

He began starring in films in the early '70s and made a series of successful comedies, many of them collaborations with Gene Wilder, including Stir Crazy and Silver Streak.

Pryor also appeared as an actor occasionally in dramas, such as Paul Schrader's Blue Collar (1978), or action movies, such as Superman III (1983).

In addition to nearly 20 comedy albums, Pryor released three theatrical concert films in his career: Live in Concert (1979), Live on the Sunset Strip (1982) and Here and Now (1983).

Pryor won an Emmy Award (1973) and five Grammy Awards (1974, 1975, 1976, 1981, and 1982).

Pryor in February 1986.

Prior was married more times than Henry VIII — seven times to five women
Patricia Price (1960–1961, divorced).
Shelly Bonis (1967–1969, divorced)
Deborah McGuire (September 22, 1977 – 1979, divorced)
Jennifer Lee (August 1981 – October 1982, divorced)
Flynn Belaine (October 1986 – July 1987, divorced)
Flynn Belaine (1 April 1990 – July 1991, divorced)
Jennifer Lee (June 29, 2001 – December 10, 2005, his death)

Pryor showed up at his hotel room door just a few hours after marrying Jennifer Lee in 1981, insisting that he already wanted a divorce. The comic would get divorced from Lee the next year, only to remarry her 19 years later; the two were still together when Pryor passed away four and a half years later.

All of his wives, except Belaine, said there was domestic violence. Most of these times were connected to Pryor's drug use.

He had six children: Richard Jr., Elizabeth, Rain, Steven, Franklin and Kelsey.


Pryor had a mild heart attack in November 1977. 13 years later he had a second and more severe heart attack and needed triple heart bypass surgery.

Pryor nearly died on June 9, 1980 when he set himself on fire while freebasing cocaine, as he drunk 151-proof rum. He ran down Parthenia Street from his Northridge, California, home, fully engulfed in flames, until stopped by police and was taken to the hospital. Burns covered more than half of his body and the comedian spent six weeks in recovery at the Grossman Burn Center.

In 1986, Pryor was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. By the early 1990s, he needed to use a wheelchair because of his central nervous system disease.

Photo of Richard Pryor. 1986

Throughout the early 1990s Pryor would often show up at Los Angeles’s famous standup club The Comedy Store to take to the stage in his wheelchair.

Pryor was such an avid supporter of animal rights, that he actively spoke out against animal testing of any kind—even when that testing meant getting closer to a cure for his multiple sclerosis condition.


Pryor suffered a fatal heart attack and died in Encino, Los Angeles, California on December 10, 2005 at the age of 65.

Pryor is listed at Number 1 on Comedy Central's list of all-time greatest stand-up comedians.

Sources, Mental Floss

Friday, 12 May 2017

Marcel Proust


Marcel Proust was born in Auteuil (the south-western sector of Paris's then-rustic 16th arrondissement) at the home of his great-uncle on July 10, 1871.

Marcel's father, Adrien Proust, was a famous doctor and epidemiologist, who wrote numerous articles and books on medicine and hygiene.

His cultured and beautiful mother, Jeanne Clémence Weil was the daughter of a wealthy Jewish family from Alsace.

Adrien Proust was a Roman Catholic and Marcel was raised within a Catholic culture.

From the age of 9 he suffered from asthma and thereafter Marcel was considered a sickly child.

Marcel's studies at Lycee Condorcet were interrupted from time to time by his illness but he wrote for the school magazines and was a good student. However he was shunned and mocked by his fellow students for his effeminacy.


Proust was involved in writing and publishing from an early age. In the early 1890s he published a regular society column in the journal Le Mensuel. In 1892 he was involved in founding a literary review called Le Banquet and throughout the next several years Proust published small pieces regularly in this journal and in the prestigious La Revue Blanche.

Proust began working on a novel in the mid-1890s. Many of the themes later developed in In Search of Lost Time found their first articulation in this unfinished work, including the enigma of memory and the necessity of reflection.

When his first book was slated by critic Jean Lorrain, Proust challenged him to a duel. On February 5, 1897 they fired pistols from 120 paces but both missed.

Following the poor reception of his novel and internal troubles with resolving the plot, Proust gradually abandoned the book in 1897 and stopped work on it entirely by 1899.

Marcel Proust in 1900

The work was eventually published in 1952 and titled Jean Santeuil by his posthumous editors.

Proust was prompted to embark on his autobiographic novel À la recherche du temps perdu (Remembrance of Things Past) by the smell of a tea soaked orange teacake. He has said that fragrance is the most tenacious form of memory and the teacake evoked memories of culinary delights at Aunt Leonie's on a Sunday morning. Proust dined almost nightly at Place Vendome, Paris to observe the decadence about which he writes about Remembrance of Things Past.

On November 22, 1913 Marcel Proust published "Swann's Way", the first part of Remembrance of Things Past. An important breakthrough in the psychological novel, it was an attempt to pierce together the jigsaw of his real self through occasional illuminated perceptions that would reveal it. They included extended meditations on love and lust including his relationship with a girl called Albertine. Proust also remembers important events in his lifetime including the Dreyfus Affair and the First World War.

Proust paid for the publication of the first volume (by the Grasset publishing house) after it had been turned down by leading editors who had been offered the manuscript in longhand.

Remembrance of Things Past was subsequently published in seven parts between 1913 and 1927.

Remembrance of Things Past is more accurately translated as "In Search of Lost Time," which was the title Proust meant.

Proust's first line was "For a long time I used to go to bed early". Over 3000 pages later (it contains almost 1.5 million words) his last line was "In the dimension of time." The novelist was forever obsessed with further elaborating his writings.

In July 2000 a first galley proof of Swann's Way with handwritten revision notes by Marcel Proust was auctioned by Christie's, London for £663,750 — a world record for a French literary manuscript.

First galley proof of A la recherche du temps perdu: Du côté de chez Swann 


At the age of 9, Proust suffered his first asthma attack, which nearly killed him. From then onwards, his health started deteriorating and sometimes he was even hypersensitive to light and noise. Proust spent much of his life in bed because of his asthma and extremely sensitive skin and stomach.

The writer and journalist Leon Daudet described the young Proust as a doe-eyed young gentleman "muffled up in an enormous overcoat".

The sickly French writer showed up at his brother's wedding under three overcoats, several scarves and chest padding. He was so bulky, he was unable to sit in a pew and had to spend the entire ceremony standing in the aisle.

Proust wore a fur coat during meals. He'd eat asparagus while wearing white gloves and went to sleep wearing a shawl and bowler hat.

In his 20s, Proust was a conspicuous society figure. After the death of his mother in 1906 he shut himself away in the bedroom of his Paris flat at 102 Boulevard Haussmann, Paris, where he lived until 1919.

102 Boulevard Haussmann, Paris, where Marcel Proust lived for 12 years. By Mbzt -  Wikipedia

Proust had been left financially independent by his parents. At one time wealthy, he’d lost so much money on imprudent investments that he was plagued by financial anxiety though he could always afford to dine at the Ritz.

Marcel Proust suffered from hay fever asthma, chronic lung disease, insomnia, nervous tension and hypersensitivity. He rarely left his room where the air was thick with the smoke from the powders he burned to relieve his asthma attacks. The sickly author took so many drugs to counter his illness he could scarcely totter from his bed to the bedroom door without falling. He wrote bundled in sweaters, a hot water bottle at his feet, flat in bed.

The insomniac Proust lined his bedroom with cork to keep out the street noises and the dust that might provoke an asthma attack. As his anxiety over his health worsened he rarely left his room.

The bedridden Marcel Proust was fascinated with the music of a string quartet, particularly the viola player. So he frequently hired them to play in his room to him alone.

The music-loving Proust had installed in his cork lined room a theatrophone- a system of microphones set up at a concert such as the performance of the Pastoral Symphony and linked to a telephone.

Proust himself was homosexual, and had a long-running affair with pianist and composer Reynaldo Hahn.

Proust's devoted housekeeper Céleste Albaret faithfully attended to him from 1914 to his death after which she wrote her memoirs. After coming home from parties he often opened up to her. Proust inscribed one of his books to her "Greetings to the temporary invalid from the perpetual invalid."


In May 1922 Violet and Sydney Schiff hosted a famous dinner party at the the luxurious Hotel Majestic which was attended by Marcel Proust, Igor Stravinsky and Pablo Picasso. This was to be Proust's last proper square meal as not long afterwards he contracted viral pneumonia complicated by an abscess on his lung, which burst and caused septicaemia. From then on he subsisted on milky coffee.

Proust died early in the morning of November 18, 1922, having worked with Celéleste until 3:30 a.m., dictating revisions to the proofs of Remembrance of Things Past 's fifth volume "The Prisoner."

Marcel Proust was buried Cimetiere du Pere Lachaise, Paris.

The last three of the seven volumes of Remembrance of Things Past were published posthumously. They existed only in draft form at the death of the author; the publication of these parts was overseen by Proust's brother Robert.

Sources Food For Thought by Ed PearceThe People's Almanac Presents The Books of Lists, No. 2 by Irving Wallace