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800 years and still trying to get it right…

The Greeks get a lot of credit (that’s the ancient ones, not the current crop, who couldn’t get credit off a loan shark moonlighting from Wonga.com) by which I mean that they are frequently praised for their radical ideas and enlightened attitudes, not to mention the fact they invented all sorts of cutting edge technology and pioneered everything from philosophy and medicine to sport and open sexuality.
But if there’s one thing that they really are the godfathers of, it’s democracy.

The first historical reference to proto-democracy is widely thought to be from sixth century Athens (508 BC is the generally accepted date of adopting the system) and their society seems to have been run with at least a token attempt to involve ordinary people in the decision-making process.

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Cleisthenes – “Democracy, yep, my idea.”

Which isn’t to say that other societies didn’t have the same idea.
Star of the original superhero epic, Gilgamesh, (who I have written about before) didn’t wield the same autocratic powers that many of his contemporaries bestowed upon themselves, instead preferring a more consultative form of rule, nearly 1500 years before the Greeks tried it.

Then there were the Indian republics (or “ganas”) which were active at almost the same time Cleisthenes was having his big idea in Greece. They were governed by a monarch, but in concordance with a council of free men who could speak out on issues that affected the common people.

And then of course, there were the Romans.
Their common citizens (the “plebs”, as they were collectively known) were allowed to weigh in on topics that concerned them, at least until Octavius got all full of himself and made himself emperor in 27 BC. After that, things took a bit of a dive, democracy-wise.

But it’s not just the ancients who should be getting all the plaudits for attempting to make the world a fairer place to live in.
As far back as the 9th century, the Isle of Man set up the Tynwald, which still has the honour of being considered the longest sitting continuous parliament in the world.
Not far behind are the Icelandic Allthing, set up in the tenth century, along with the fabulously named Thing of all Swedes in, you guessed it, Sweden, which ran from the early 11th century onwards.

Which brings me to us, the English.
I know, I know, we’re quite keen on taking credit for being at the leading edge of world events (winning wars, beginning industrial revolutions, enslaving millions to an empire, inventing cricket etc..) even when it’s not always strictly accurate, historically speaking. But I think we have a pretty reasonable claim for bringing fair play and democracy to the modern world.

Twice, in fact.

2015 is the eight hundredth anniversary of the “grand charter” drawn up by King John, the document that was meant to remove absolute power from the monarchy and give the common man a say in the running of the country, The Magna Carta.
All of which would have been very laudable, if it wasn’t for the fact that His Majesty was, not to put too fine a point on it, a complete bastard.
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King John – “Who are you calling a bastard, you peasant?”

I’m sure John’s historians would have us believe that the idea of a people’s charter was brought about by a beneficent monarch who wanted his subjects to take some control over their lives, largely for their own good, but sadly this wasn’t even close to being the case.

Because to say that John was a good king, with his subjects’ best interests at heart, would not only be hugely inaccurate, it would also be missing the opportunity to use words like “sadist” and “greedy megalomaniac”.
Here was a man who thought nothing of having his nephew murdered; of sexually preying on the wives and daughters of his closest allies in the nobility; of starving to death the family of a formerly close companion and, last but by no means least, using prohibitively high taxes to keep his baronial landowners in check.
These same barons, fed up with paying out massive levies to the king, finally forced him, in 1215, to draw up the Magna Carta, revoking his right to rule with absolute power.

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The Magna Carta, yesterday.

But as we know, absolute power corrupts absolutely and, barely two months later, John went to Pope Innocent III, who used a papal bull to reverse the charter, claiming it was “illegal, unjust, harmful to royal rights and shameful to the English people”.

What the “English people” thought of this move went unrecorded, although I suspect there was a fair amount of plebian grumbling about backhanders to the Vatican at the time.

The good news (for everyone but the king) was that within a year, John was dead, either from dysentery or, if you choose to believe the contemporaneous rumours, from poisoning by an unhappy nobleman. Yet it took another decade for his successor, his son Henry III, to reinstate the charter that his father had abortively introduced.

Indeed, on John’s death in 1216, a monk called Matthew Paris – in those days, monks often doubled as sort of early journalists – said of the king;
“Foul as it is, Hell itself is made fouler by the presence of John”
So it’s fair to say he was not a popular man, by any standards.

But on the other hand, he did give us the blueprint for a society that makes us (theoretically) all equal under the law, including royalty.

So when somebody tells you that we should thank Good King John for providing us with equality and enlightenment, take it with a pinch of salt and remember that many rulers had attempted to give the same thing to their subjects, often with greater tolerance and integrity, many hundreds of years previously.

 
7 Comments

Posted by on June 16, 2015 in Blogging, Humour, News, Social comment, Video

 

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The persistence of memory…

If you spend any time on the internet (which you obviously do if you’re reading this) then there’s a good chance that you’ve seen any number of slightly flippant, jokey posts about how we bemoan the minor inconveniences of our lives, ironically comparing them to the far greater ones of those far less fortunate than ourselves, often tagged as #firstworldproblems.
It isn’t a fad that I’m interested in following, as it strikes me as being a way of pretending to care about things, just so we can let other people know how terrible it is that we didn’t get our morning cappuccino exactly the way we liked it, or that we were just too late to snap up those Kate Bush tickets we so desperately wanted, all the while secretly hoping that someone will fail to see the irony and commiserate with how our comfortable, carefully insulated lives have taken a turn for the mildly irritating.

We all have problems.
Mine are currently……..well, you don’t want to know and I can’t say I blame you, I’m sure you have plenty of your own.
And I’m equally sure that to you they seem like insurmountable obstacles in the path of your existence, but at the same time you realise that, sooner or later they will work themselves out and you’ll be able to return to the relative ease of your comfy first world lives just like I will, our memory’s ability to relegate life’s little hiccups to the recycle bin of enforced amnesia once more coming to our collective rescue.

There are others who are not so lucky however, those who we do remember, and we remember because we consider it our duty to do so.
This post is about just a few of them.

You would need to be living in a box to have missed the fact that 2014 is the anniversary of the outbreak of World War One, or The Great War as it was called, before the curse of hindsight required us to number mankind’s episodes of inhuman folly, like some sort of horrific sequel in the continuing franchise of stupidity and senseless waste.
Like all good historical epics there are many small stories of huge heroism, many of them largely overlooked by history itself until a poignant reminder brings them to our attention, and this is one of those stories.

As a teenager I was lucky enough to visit the Thievpal war graves cemetery at Vallois Bayonne in France, site of vicious fighting in the battles for the Somme and resting place of many hundreds of soldiers, a deeply affecting place that has stayed with me ever since.
One of the extraordinary tales that has recently been brought to light is that of Joel Halliwell, a lance-corporal in the Lancaster Fusiliers who was awarded Britain’s greatest military honour for outstanding gallantry.

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During a blistering German attack in 1918 Halliwell took it upon himself to launch a one man rescue mission, his challenge being to recover wounded comrades who had been stranded in no-man’s-land.
Having captured a stray fallen German soldier’s horse he rode the terrified animal out onto the battlefield, criss-crossed with heavy machine gun fire, and bodily lifted a badly injured member of his battalion across it’s back, returning to the British lines, saving the man’s life in a show of incredible bravery that could very well have cost him his own.
But this wasn’t enough for Joel.
Over the course of the next few hours he made another nine sorties into the terrifying hell of mud, blood, mortar rounds, corpses and barbed wire, bringing back eight more “other ranks” and one officer, all of whom survived to return home when hostilities ceased.
Not only that, having secured the safety of his fellow soldiers – forced to abandon his efforts only when the horse collapsed from exhaustion – he walked over two miles in order to bring the wounded men water, earning himself the Victoria Cross at the age of 37.
Returning to England after the war, Joel Halliwell lived until 1956, although sadly his brother Tom, also fighting on the Somme, died of wounds he received serving his country in 1916.

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(A recent episode of the BBC’s Antiques Roadshow programme not only presented Joel’s daughter, granddaughter and great-granddaughter with a replica of the VC medal that he earned in battle, they also located Tom’s grave, finally allowing the family to lay a tribute to their lost hero, in the corner of a foreign field in which he lay down his life)

But not all of the events that have an anniversary this year are quite so honourable.
Twenty years ago, in April 1994, just 100 days of terror and unbelievably brutal violence meant that the chaotic and deeply divided country of Rwanda soon became one of the most horrifically tortured areas on the planet.

Even though the vast majority of Rwandans in the 1990’s (some 85%) were from the Hutu tribe, the dominant monarchy in the country was made up of members from the ruling Tutsis.
As far back as the late fifties the Hutus overthrew their Tutsi overlords, chasing large numbers of them over the border into Uganda. However, the Tutsis regrouped and returned to take back their kingdom by force in 1990, leading to fierce fighting which continued until an uneasy peace was agreed three years later.
The peace treaty didn’t last long though, because only a few months afterwards a plane carrying the Hutu president and his Burundi counterpart (also a Hutu) was shot down.
Even today, some believe that the deaths of the two presidents was a plot by the Hutu themselves, designed to give them an excuse to persecute the Tutsis, who they publicly blamed for the supposed treachery.
Whatever the case, the Hutu promptly began a campaign of organised violence and appalling atrocities against the returning Tutsis, eventually resulting in the deaths of a staggering 800,000 people, many of them women and children.

Someone who witnessed the tragic events that lead to those 100 days of terrifying infamy was Lindsey Hilsum, international editor of Channel 4 News and veteran of many war zone reports.
This week she told of how she was in Rwanda for the very first days of what would become one of the worst genocidal atrocities in modern times.
I first thought that I would quote from the piece she did on the programme yesterday, but I don’t think I could do her justice. So please watch this short clip of her, relating the heartbreaking story of her experiences in the war-torn hell that she lived through. For I truly believe that only by hearing first-hand how these events shaped the history of a nation on the brink of its own destruction can we hope to understand the inhumanity of which we are capable, and by doing so, making sure we can somehow prevent it happening again.

I’m aware that this isn’t an easy thing to hear, and neither should it be, because if it was then it would only show that we are already lost, along with our empathy for those who perished at the hands of their countrymen, their neighbours and in some cases, their own families.

The final thing I wish to address in this post, and one that I consider to be a stain on our own national conscience, is the decision by our government to allow the faceless murderers of hundreds of innocent civilians to go free after the years of grief and pain they caused so many families.
I am of course speaking of the odious Northern Ireland (Offences) Bill, which will let terrorists of both sides in the long running, bloody and senseless slaughter of “The Troubles” walk away from their crimes without so much as a slap on the wrist.
It seems unbelievably cowardly and callous to simply wipe the slate clean on decades of violence and pain, purely for the sake of political expedience.
I offer no solution to this, neither do I profess any great understanding of how better to handle the situation, but I cannot see that adding to the bitterness and pain of an already blighted generation can do anything other than reignite the hatred and division that brought about so much loss to begin with.

The only thing that any of us can offer is the persistence of memory, the continued pledge that we will remember, in the hope that somehow we can avoid this sort of repetition of history in our future.

 
16 Comments

Posted by on April 10, 2014 in Blogging, News, Social comment, TV

 

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Remember, remember, Guido, Carrot and the Chinese cook…

I’ve had a fishpond in our garden since we moved here fifteen years ago and despite now being down to just three fish it is still a source of great enjoyment to me, especially sitting in the sunshine with a cold glass of something refreshing and watching the fish glide sinuously about amongst the lily pads.

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So imagine my dismay when I receive a text message from Elaine at work this morning saying ominously “Ring me urgent, big trouble with fish pond”

Uh,oh…

Rewind 400 years:
It is the dawn of the 17th century.
In continental Europe, the Eighty Years War rages.
In the old low countries that would become the Netherlands, the Catholic Spanish are fighting the Protestant Dutch, aided by mercenaries and zealots from far and wide, including a man known variously as John Johnson, Guido Foukes, and Guy Fawkes.
During his time on the campaign Fawkes met Thomas Wintour, a fellow anti-royalist who introduced him to Robert Catesby, the man who would lead the conspiracy that would become known as The Gunpowder Plot

Rewind a further 700 years:
The dingy recesses of a kitchen in 10th century China;
A cook is making a spicy curing mix for half of the pig his master has acquired for winter storage.
In the gloom he reaches for black peppercorns to add to the saltpetre he has already got in his grinder, little knowing that what he has in fact added is ground charcoal, used to prime the ovens.
Not only that, he also erroneously adds sulphur in the place of yellow turmeric.

After starting to rub the mixture into the pork, he realises his mistake too late and has to dispose of the spoiled meat, already fearful of the punishment to come.

However, when he throws the carcass on the fire, thinking to tell his master a tale of a cooking accident, he notices the coating he had applied burning with strangely coloured flames and giving off loud cracking and popping noises.
Knowing a good escape route when he saw it, he hurried to his master and told him of this mysterious discovery.

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Experiments followed, packing the sulphurous black powder into hollow bamboo shoots and igniting it, the destruction achieved seemingly disproportionate to the tiny volume of mixture used.

The rest is history.
Or possibly gastronomy.

Fast forward to England in 1605;
By now Catesby had persuaded Fawkes and eleven other co- conspirators to take part in his audacious plan to assassinate King James I.
He had gained access to the undercroft of the House of Lords, where he and his cohorts stashed some two and a half thousand kilogrammes of gunpowder. Enough, by recent calculations, to cause total devastation to anything within a 500 metre radius of the blast.

Of course the plot was foiled at the last, the King’s men tipped off by an anonymous letter. But it is often forgotten, in our haste to cast a good anti-hero in our folk legends, that John/Guy/Guido only played a minor part in proceedings, merely guarding the cache of explosives and therfore being the only one caught red-handed.

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He gave the rest of them up under what would nowadays probably be called “enhanced interrogation”, but cheated the full weight of justice – he was to have been hanged, drawn and quartered – by jumping from the scaffold and breaking his neck before sentence could be carried out.

Now, back in good old 2013;
We still celebrate the burning to death of a man who actually took his own life under the very noses of his executioners.
And thanks to Henry VII choosing the new fangled fireworks (oh, if that long-dead Chinese chef knew what he’d started..) as the climax to his wedding festivities in 1486, immediately making them de rigueur with the celebrating upper classes and soon with anyone else who could mix the easily-accessible ingredients, we now fire all manner of alarmingly powerful ordinance into the night sky, never knowing quite where it will land.

Such was the case last night.

As Elaine opened the sliding patio door to let in some fresh air at about 10.30pm yesterday, a loud Whooosh noise, accompanied by a lot of sparks and smoke went past at just above head height and smashed into the fence.
The rogue rocket then proceeded to skitter about on the paving right next to the fishpond (remember the fishpond?) and then explode with the most incredible, deafening BOOM!

The box containing all the electrical connections for the pump, filter etc was reduced to this..

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… and when I returned home early from work to investigate the “big trouble” alluded to in her text, the waterfall liner, not visible in the dark last night had clearly been melted by the fiery detonation.

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This had allowed the pump to efficiently empty the pond over the patio in the night, leaving the gasping fish with only a few meagre inches of water in which to flop around.
When I got there the pond had been topped up somewhat but still looked in a sorry state.

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Nevertheless, after an hour or so of emergency restoration work on the waterfall the pump was repositioned and our two goldfish and my golden orfe, Carrot (named after Captain Carrot of the Ankh Morpork City Watch) could once again rest easy in their watery lair.

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Mind you, I can hear the fireworks starting up again already, let’s hope they follow the same never-in-the-same-place-twice rule as lightning…

 
8 Comments

Posted by on November 5, 2013 in aardvark, Blogging, Personal anecdote

 

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A day for all reasons…

I’m frequently being castigated for my cynical views on the proliferation of the various celebrations that spring from the minds of marketing executives around the world, and it seems that even the implementers of such events were equally put out by the rampant commercialism that became synonymous with their originally laudable creations.

Take today for example.
I’ve noticed on my Facebook feed that a lot of people have been celebrating Mothers’ Day around the world this Sunday.
This, I have to admit, did give me one slight moment of affiliate panic, thinking that I’d missed the first guilt-rip-off of the year. But of course, being English, we have to be bloody different to everyone else and have ours in March.

I took this as a sign that we were probably the ones who came up with the idea of honouring our family matriarchs with their own day, never really having considered that it may have originated elsewhere.

But no, it was an American invention.
I immediately thought; Well that makes sense, another import from the land of commercialism.

Although it seems as if I did a disservice to the woman who began the tradition.

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Daughter of Invention – Anna Jarvis.

Mothers’ day was initially the idea of West Virginian peace worker Anna Jarvis, who dedicated the day to her late mother in 1908, at a memorial in Grafton.
Her idea was to show appreciation for her mother, to encourage other women to do the same, and to have children write letters of tribute to their mothers. She even gave out free carnations at her mother, Ann’s memorial.

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The Mother’s Day shrine and more recent Mother and Child statue, Grafton, VA.

It seems, however, that it took only a few years for the local florists and candy makers to take commercial advantage of her good intentions.
Indeed, by 1920 Jarvis was so offended by the attempt to hijack her idea for financial gain, she was actually instrumental in trying to get the celebration banned, going so far as to get herself arrested for disturbing the peace by gatecrashing, and protesting at, a confectioners convention in 1925.

Sadly, she died penniless after having spent much of her later life campaigning against what her own innocent idea had become.

A printed card means nothing except that you are too lazy to write to the woman who has done more for you than anyone in the world. And candy! You take a box to Mother—and then eat most of it yourself. A pretty sentiment.
—Anna Jarvis.

Now I’m not saying that I disapprove of the concept of honouring the woman who brought me into the world, or the woman who, after Mum died and my Dad remarried, worked so hard to bring up someone else’s kids as well as her own.

But why should I be forced into doing so on one particular day?

I do, of course, as we are all so conditioned by the media to observe such things that it would seem unreasonably churlish not to do so.

How many more of these days of tribute are we going to get though?

I mean, the beginnings of Father’s Day were equally free from cynical financial motives.

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          Sonora Smart Dodd.

Another formidable woman, Sonora Smart Dodd, was responsible for the appearance of the paternal equivalent of Jarvis’s memorial, dedicating a day to her father, and to other Civil War veterans in Spokane, WA, in 1910.
Although the holiday was a long time catching on.

When Dodd left for a few years it died out, and it was only when she returned to the area some time later that she convinced local traders that producing male-orientated gifts such as pipes and tobacco would be in their interests – as well as reinvigorating her idea – which finally caught on locally. But it still took until 1966 before president Johnson made it a nationally recognised event.

(Ironically, it appears that the American public initially rejected the idea, as they considered it a cynical attempt by merchants to jump on the bandwagon of Jarvis’s earlier idea)

So what will be the next day that somebody thinks we need to celebrate?
We already have Christmas, Easter, Birthdays, Valentine’s Day, Halloween, April Fools Day, Groundhog Day, and now we even have National Grandparents Day.

Whatever next, International Son’s Day?

Ah, hang on, I think I might have something there…

 
16 Comments

Posted by on May 12, 2013 in aardvark, Blogging, Etymology

 

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Picture this. Historic Cornwall…

There were so many sights to see – and to photograph – on our recent trip around some of Cornwall’s many ancient sites and monuments, I thought it would be worth compiling a selection of pictures that show some other places that we visited during our stay

The countryside around Carn Euny and Boscawen, showing the first full burst of spring in the sunshine was beautiful in itself.

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Then, on our final day in the area, we took a quick drive out to St Senara’s church in Zennor.
This is the home of the Mermaid chair, a piece of furniture that has been in use for at least five hundred years, and which has a mermaid carved in the side.

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Legend has it that a chorister in the congregation had a voice so sweet, he drew a mermaid to hear him sing. She was reputed to sit in the shadows at the back of the 12th century church, and eventually lured him back to the sea with her, never to be seen again.

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I’m not a big fan of churches usually, and this one may not be especially photogenic on the outside..

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…but the simple, unfussy decorations inside gave it a lighter feel than some others I’ve seen.

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And on the road between St Just and Zennor, the derelict remains of an old tin mine.

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Wherever you turn there’s something beautiful to see, to experience, to explore.

No wonder we return again and again to the most atmospheric and historic of counties, Cornwall.

 

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These foolish things…

If you watch the opening sequence of John Frankenheimer’s 1975 movie French Connection II (second rate, fictionalised sequel to William Friedkin’s ’71 classic true crime thriller} you’ll see Gene Hackman’s Popeye Doyle lumbering around Marseilles fish market as children scamper about sticking paper fish to people’s backs, including Doyle’s.

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“Does my halibut look big in this?”

This is the French tradition of Poisson d’Avril, the equivalent of our April fools day, and refers not only to the “April’s fish” stuck to an unsuspecting fool’s back, but to any other pranks that are successfully pulled that day.

The tradition of getting one over on your mates at the start of spring has been around for hundreds, even thousands of years.
The oldest known example of a long running tradition of pranks played on a certain day is from Iran, where as far back as two and half thousand years ago, in the 6th century BC, Sizdah Be-dar was celebrated on the thirteenth day of the Persian new year (which more or less coincides with 1st April) and literally means “to be rid of thirteen”.

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13 was seen as unlucky – as in several other cultures, hence the many hotels around the world with no thirteenth floor – and so people spent the day outside, apparently thereby ridding their house of the bad luck.

Whilst out enjoying the spring sunshine, people attended picnics, frequently the scene of good natured tricks being played on family and friends, which itself became a part of the celebration.

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       A modern 13 Bedar picnic.

The picnics, sometimes huge affairs with thousands of people, continue to this day. Now sometimes referred to simply as 13 Bedar, they are held in parks and public spaces, often with people dressing in traditional costumes as part of the festival.

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It has also long had a connection with the custom of young unmarried girls singing their wishes for a husband, whilst knotting together stalks of grass, as knotted grass stems are said to be symbolic of a bond between man and woman.

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Many nations take the tradition of the April fool hoax to a whole new level of social interaction, with the media getting involved in all sorts of wind-ups.
In Sweden, for instance, the media will happily participate in this type of mass pranking – although most outlets will print or broadcast exactly one false story.
And in Denmark, in 2001, a news channel reported that a Copenhagen subway train had somehow derailed and burst up through the pavement above. They even went to the trouble of mocking-up this elaborate prop, featuring a sawn up subway car, presumably positioned overnight;

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My personal favourite vintage media April fool prank (which fooled thousands of people when first aired – the BBC of the fifties being as trusted as the Voice of God) has to be this pricelessly straight faced Panorama report from 1957, concerning the annual spaghetti harvest.

In Belgium, the day seems unfairly weighted in favour of the children, who are permitted the luxury of locking parents or teachers out of their house/classroom, only re-admitting them after receiving a promise of treats later on.

And in Poland, the tradition has been so ingrained in popular culture over hundreds of years (with the modern day media often collaborating with pranksters, broadcasting information that appears to authenticate hoaxes) that the 1683 anti-Turkish treaty with King Leopold the first, at the start of the Great Turkish War, signed on the 1st April, was backdated to March 31st, to ally public suspicion that it was a piss take.

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Leopold I – “Watch this, I put clingfilm over the toilet”

As for the UK, the earliest known example of an actual prank, as opposed to an obscure (and disputed) 14th century reference in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, was the terribly English jape of advertising the Washing of the Lions at the Tower of London in the 1850’s

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Coincidentally, bearing in mind their country’s obsession with all things April foolish, half of new Indie punk band Washing the Lions are Polish, and the other half are from California, where they hold an annual Iranian Sizdah Be-dar picnic;

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Sizdah Be-dar picnic, Los Gatos, CA.

Which just goes to show, everybody should think of April Fools day as just one more example of how we’re not so different after all.

Let’s all be fools together…

 
23 Comments

Posted by on April 1, 2013 in Etymology

 

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What came first, Easter or the Egg…?

Being an atheist, I don’t celebrate Easter.

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This doesn’t mean that I’m not interested in the root of such things, in much the same way as words and their meanings fascinate me, and I find it especially interesting when a biblical story is closely linked with something that came from a entirely different culture, and a totally different period in history, it always amuses me when religion can’t get it’s story straight.

And what about the Easter bunny?
And Easter eggs?
Where does all that come in?

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                  “Who, me?”

I don’t remember (and correct me if I’m wrong) a flock of Disney-style bunnies helping to roll away a stone shaped like a giant hot cross bun, to revive the sacred star of the show with a nice soft boiled egg and some soldiers.

So imagine my delight when I was confronted by one of those generic, captioned pictures on Facebook, claiming that Easter was in fact based on the similarly pronounced Ishtar.

This was more like it.
A festival centred on the cult of a demented courtesan – a sort of church-appointed prostitute – whose status as Sumerian goddess of fertility, sex, love, and war would have made for a much wilder Easter Sunday gathering.
The symbology of the rabbit and egg makes perfect sense, given her responsibility for rebirth and fertility, and the rabbit’s reputation for being at it like, well, rabbits all the time.

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Ishtar – Didn’t get the memo about the Easter party dress code.

Appearing to lend even more credibility to the connection is the fact that one of the targets for Ishtar’s affections was, according to ancient texts, legendary Mesopotamian superhero Gilgamesh, whose mythology runs in parallel to many of the biblical stories, including Noah’s flood.

(Interestingly, eighteen centuries before Christ, Gilgamesh was a contemporary of Enkidu –  the “Mesopotamian Adam”, created by their top god, Anu, from clay.)

But even he found Ishtar too high maintenance, rejecting the advances of the ancient world’s champion bunny-boiler, saying;

“Listen to me while I tell the tale of your lovers. There was Tammuz, the lover of your youth, for him you decreed wailing, year after year. You loved the many-coloured Lilac-breasted Roller , but still you struck and broke his wing […] You have loved the lion tremendous in strength: seven pits you dug for him, and seven. You have loved the stallion magnificent in battle, and for him you decreed the whip and spur and a thong […] You have loved the shepherd of the flock; he made meal-cake for you day after day, he killed kids for your sake. You struck and turned him into a wolf; now his own herd-boys chase him away, his own hounds worry his flanks.

Fair enough, I would steer clear of her too.

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Gilgamesh – “Leave it mate, she’s not worth it”

She wasn’t happy with this, stomping back to her dad, chief godfella, Anu, and demanding he give her the Bull of Heaven or else she’d open the gates of hell to turn the kingdom into a scene from The Walking Dead.
For the sake if a quiet life, he gave in, only for her to set the bull on Gilgamesh and Enkidu, who promptly killed it.

A woman scorned, never gonna end well.

But sadly, I had to put my Easter orgy on hold as, with the very minimum of research, I discovered that none of these connections were in fact, factual.

The Epic of Gilgamesh is real enough, and you can read it here should you so wish, and Ishtar’s part in that story isn’t in question.
It’s the connection to Easter that is nonsense.
The only non-Christian root of Easter, in English anyway, is the 8th century Saxon pagan goddess, Éostre, whose name in translation means April in old high-German.
And that’s only according to proto-journo, St (the Venerable) Bede.

             

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                      Éostre
Oi! Remember me? No? Anyone?

Nobody else seems to have noticed this quirk of language, and by the time even Bede wrote about it, the tradition of the Éostre festival had died out, replaced by the now familiar Christian resurrection myth.

All of which is a bit of a disappointment, as it would have made an interesting, informative, and educational blog post.

Oh well, never mind. I’ll think of something else to write about…

 
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Posted by on March 31, 2013 in Blogging, Etymology

 

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