Friday, January 24, 2020

Gordon Bennett! It's an ICE SPIKE!

Hello, my friends! Look at what Richard and I found in our birdbath this week...

Is our birdbath thinking it is a unicorn?  We had no idea what it was. I typed "icicle growing up" into a search engine and you will now REAP the benefits of my new-found knowledge!

An ice spike is formed when the water freezes on the surface of the water, which traps the water below. When the water beneath begins to freeze, it expands which pushes the water out and forms a kind of bubble on the surface. Gradually, more and more is added onto the bubble and it creates a narrow tube, freezing and building up into a spike. "Ice spikes have been reported for many decades, although their occurrence is quite rare".  That last sentence is a quote from Wikipedia! Richard and I have had these little bird baths out for our birds for over 30 winters and we have never observed an ice spike before. Chuffed to see one! (How is that for another British expression? 

Now, did you notice that I said "Gordon Bennett" in the post of my title? Someone else for you to look up! His name is used in the United Kingdom. "Gordon Bennett" to express surprise, puzzlement, incredulity, annoyance, etc.". (Gotta love that etc.!)  Some believe that it is a euphemism for GOR BLIMEY which means "God blind me or God blame me, no one seems to know for sure.  So, who is Gordon Bennett? You may learn more about him just here.

A very wealthy man, he sponsored explorers. He financed Stanley's trip to Africa to find Dr. Livingstone and put up the money for the USS Jeannette's journey to the North Pole.  Now, if you want to know more about the USS Jeannette, I suggest a book by Hampton Sides, "In The Kingdom of Ice.".  It is an incredible, heartbreaking story.

What song for you on this post? It has to be "Cold As Ice" by Foreigner from 1977.  Enjoy!

Saturday, January 18, 2020

"Bespoke" and "What Is It When It's Home?"

Having been married to a Brit since 1983, I am still amazed at how many words or expressions that I come across that Richard will know but that I have never heard in my life! When we were in London a few years back, we came across a sign that said, "Bespoke Tailoring".  Now, we don't use that word in the USA so I looked it up.  It simply means "custom made". Funny how there are certain words in the English language that simply didn't make it across the pond! Another funny thing for us, you can listen to a Brit pronounce it (male voice) and then, an American woman pronounce it, and they sound very much like Richard and myself! You may listen just  here.  Okay, I listened again and the woman sounds a bit like me but the man's voice made us both laugh since it sounds very much like Richard!  (Wait, Richard are you making extra money with your voice and not telling me?)

And it is not just words but expressions that I will not know! We were watching a TV show from Britain, "Vera" with Brenda Blethyn.  One of the characters stated to Vera that he was trying to get into the IOAS, and she said back to him, "What is that when it's home?".  It made me laugh and I asked Richard if he had ever heard that expression before and HE said, "Of course." (In his very polite English voice, don't you know!) You can get the meaning from the context quite easily but if you look it up, it states this: "British English spoken used humorously to ask what a long or unusual word means". Of course, in the example I gave you above, it was a long string of letters...which by the way, have any of you come across that lately? People will automatically think you know every single initialism and acronym on Earth! I am in a state of bewilderment at any time of the day.
NOTE:  I used IOAS above but I can't remember what the exact letters were used! So before anybody tells me there is no such thing as IOAS, I had to give you some kind of letters so I could tell you about the expression. As always, I can never remember details, I am a look-at-the-big-picture kind of gal!

Okay then, you now know that I am in a state of confusion on most days. How have you all been? I was thinking of asking y'all "How are you? and "Have you been alright?" and you know it brought a song right into my head! There really is a song that comes to me almost every single minute. My brain is full of tunes and song lyrics.  (No room for passwords or appointment dates.)

Jeff Lynne! There, isn't it nice to hear his voice? You know it is for me! "Lovely, thank you very much".  I hope you will listen until the very end! This video is just Jeff Lynne singing as he plays the guitar along with someone playing the piano. Incredible! It is from 2012! And you must remember that Jeff Lynne is also the SONGWRITER! How much do I love good songwriting? You know I do! Now, Jeff Lynn released a new album in November 2019, it is "From Out of Nowhere". (Jeff Lynne ELO, I should say and I hope you all know that ELO stands for Electric Light Orchestra. You know I know THAT one!) Grateful for the voice of Jeff Lynne and thankful that he is still writing music and performing. (I am also quite bewildered by the mumbling of most singers these days. Honestly I am.)

Richard and I took a late afternoon walk at the Monastery last week and that is where he took the first two photos.  The last photo of the sunrise, that is from our front driveway just yesterday morning. What is Richard when he's at home?  TALENTED! 

Sunday, January 12, 2020

"To The Marvelous Energy" - Albrecht Durer "Art Lies In Nature"

When Richard and I visited England in October, we went to the Towner Art Gallery in Eastbourne. They have a collection of books there and like a small library, you are welcomed into a room with tables and lamps and there you may read those books to your heart's content. (Ah, "to your heart's content"...that is an old fashioned phrase that I have not heard in years but it fits here, so I shall use it!)  What marvelous books! Many of them were quite old.  One that I took from the shelf was "Albrecht Durer" by LJA ie Allen. (That is what it said!)  It was published in 1903 by William Brendon and Sons LTD, Plymouth.   Here is the quote that I wrote down, I loved it so...."To the marvelous energy, untiring hand and virile mind that whether working amongst his familiar friends...or seeking new ideas in strange lands, ever sought to carry out his favorite axiom, that 'art lies in nature'."

Albrecht Durer (1471-1528) was one of the greatest German Renaissance artists. Here is something that I found written about him..."He created altarpieces and religious works, numerous portraits and self portraits, copper engravings and woodcuts but also about nature."
That is my emphasis on the last three words there because nature was so casually mentioned but it seems to me that nature meant a great deal to the artist.  He believed that nature which is God's creation was the very source of art.  Here is a quote from the man himself, "Never imagine that you can or should attempt to make something better than God has allowed his created nature to be. For your ability is impotent compared to God's creativity."

"The Great Piece of Turf" is a water color painting that he completed in 1503.   The detail is amazing. It looks as if he looked at each blade of grass with a microscope which would have been impossible of course, microscopes not being invented yet.  I know you want to see the painting! The best I can give you is a video...

There is also a very famous painting that he did of a hare...
And of the hands clasped in prayer...

To the marvelous energy that produced such works of art, I am grateful.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

R-E-S-P-E-C-T and Robert Louis Stevenson

The song "Respect" is very well known with  Aretha Franklin as the singer and very rightly so but I hope you know that the song was written by Otis Redding! We lost Otis Redding very early, in 1967 in a plane crash when he was only 26 years old. (The smash hit, "Sitting On The Dock of the Bay" was released just days after his death.) Besides being an incredible songwriter, he was an amazing singer. We lost Aretha Franklin in 2018. Both are gone now but we still have their songs to enjoy. 

By now, you must be thinking how does Robert Louis Stevenson somehow work into this topic on respect? Here is what sparked this connection:  Several months ago, on an episode of "Jeopardy" all three contestants could not answer the final Jeopardy, which was this: "When he died in Samoa in 1894, his obituary said, 'He loved Samoa better than any other place, except Scotland.'  Of course, the answer is Robert Louis Stevenson! (Except on Jeopardy, all answers are in the form of a question, so I was saying, "Who is Robert Louis Stevenson!" to the TV!)  Now, these contestants had hardly missed a single clue on this show and yet, not one of them could answer that correctly!  I would be interested to know if this is true in other countries but in the USA, teachers did not encourage students to read any of the books by Robert Louis Stevenson.  His books, "Treasure Island" and "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" are the most well known. So, in America his books were relegated to the children's books section and the horror section. (And yes, he also wrote the very popular, "A Child's Garden of Verses" but we should not think that is all that he wrote! And even if that were so, I very much respect authors who write for children!)  In the Norton Anthology of English Literature, he was completely excluded from 1968 to 2000. What does someone have to do to get respect, for Pete's sake? Not only was he an outstanding writer but I think he was a fascinating person as well.  I have read that in the last part of the 20th century, his writings received more attention and praise.
If you want to see a list of all his writings, you may go to this website just here.  
While there, make sure you read about the letter that he wrote defending Father Damian in Hawaii. And his friendship with King Kalakaua of Hawaii and the king's daughter, Princess Kaiulani.  I think this says quite a bit about the character of Robert Louis Stevenson.  (Once again, the life of Princess fascinating! You may read more just here!)

Born in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1850, Robert Louis Stevenson suffered from poor health for much of his life and he only lived to be 44 years of age. He traveled to many countries and wrote stories from each place he visited. He married an American woman named Fanny Osbourne. I think she was fascinating in her own right! You may read her story just here.  On a personal note, I was thrilled to read the book "Sailing Alone Around The World" and Joshua Slocum stopped in Samoa on his journey and visited with Fanny Stevenson! What a charming host she was to him! (His voyage was from 1894 until 1898, so the visit would have been after Robert Louis Stevenson's death.)  I am not sure how long she stayed after his death, because she did go to California to live and...well, read about her! I think her life would make a great film and to combine her story with the writer, Robert Louis Stevenson...well, another movie that needs to be made!)

Here are a few quotes from Robert Louis Stevenson that I like:

"Keep your fears to yourself but share your courage with others."

"Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant."

"Our business in this world is not to succeed, but to continue to fail, in good spirits."

Continue to fail, in good spirits...I don't know about you, but that is the kind of person that makes you smile and gently gives you inspiration.  And I think someone like that deserves our respect.

      I might have shown you this photo before, it is the pier from Eastbourne, completed in 1872!
                                                   Love it!

AND I am happy to tell you that when we were putting away our Christmas decorations, we found the blue Christmas tree! It is only a little tree, very inexpensive but Richard enjoyed taking photos of the lights on the wall with the afternoon sun. So, we will have it next year! "It's not a bad little tree, it just needs a little love."  And respect! (And someone who won't forget where it is stored.)