St Edmund for England!

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sticker-stedmund_1

“But St George is the patron saint of the English!” you must be exclaiming, possibly with indignation.And of course that’s correct,except that St Edmund was also our patron saint, well before St George was.

The night before King Richard the Lionheart won the battle of Lydda in  1199 during the Crusades he had prayed at the tomb of St George so, after his victory, he adopted George as his  own personal patron saint. Before long, English soldiers were wearing the cross of St George into battle and by 1348 he was officially the patron saint of England.
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Making precious memories: Thomas Hardy’s poems

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violin

http://www.flickr.com/photos/_flood_/11177680916

Thomas Hardy  has always tended to be better known for his novels than for his poems, but among the hundreds of poems he wrote on a wide range of subjects, there are some very memorable ones. This has always been one of my favourites:

The Self-Unseeing

Here is the ancient floor,

Footworn and hollowed and thin,

Here was the former door

Where the dead feet walked in.

 

She sat here in her chair,

Smiling into the fire;

He who played stood there,

Bowing it higher and higher.

 

Childlike, I danced in a dream;

Blessings emblazoned that day;

Everything glowed with a gleam;

Yet we were looking away!

Hardy here is describing a scene from his childhood: it’s a family occasion with his father playing his violin as the young Thomas dances and twirls and his mother looks on smiling. The last two lines are the most poignant since they carry the message that this family time was a very precious moment  but, sadly, they had not appreciated this at the time. Continue reading

The A-Z of Buying Presents

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presents

We’re now entering a major present-buying period for many people, but of course we buy presents for all kinds of people for many different reasons. This list may provide some helpful suggestions, whatever the occasion and whoever you’re buying for.

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The Autobiography of a Supertramp

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W H DaviesI first became interested in W.H. Davies (1871-1940), the author of The Autobiography of a Supertramp, when I was writing a blog entry on his poem which begins, “What is this life if, full of care,we have no time to stand and stare?”. You can read this most relaxed of poems and the blog entry here.

While scratching around to find some information about the man behind the poem, I was interested enough by what I read of his personality and life to want to read his autobiography. Even the title of it sounds quite modern and inviting to a twenty-first century reader, despite being written in the very early years of the twentieth century. Interestingly, much of the book also reads like something written more recently.

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What is this life if, full of care, we have no time to stand and stare?

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Now the better weather’s here, there should hopefully be some time for at least most of us to take a break and relax a little. As spring is gathering momentum, it’s a good time to get outdoors and – well – do nothing. Just have a look and enjoy  the natural world around you.

Technically, this poem by  W.H. Davies may not be the greatest, but I’ve always appreciated the sentiment expressed in it and the poem is certainly eminently memorable and quotable. Over the years, the opening two lines have often popped into my head at times when I know I need to slow down and get some perspective in my busy life.

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Famous Last Words

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It would be good to think that the last words you utter in your life would be something profound. I’ve even considered writing mine in advance and carrying them round with me – just in case of emergency. The trouble is, I haven’t yet decided what my last words should be.Perhaps I’ll pinch William Hazlitt’s last words: “Well, I’ve had a happy life” or Harold Macmillan’s: “I think I’ll go to sleep now.” They’ll do if I don’t think of anything better in the meantime.

Here are some last words said by famous people. See whether you know who said them – then try them out on your friends and family:

1. “Let not poor Nelly starve.”
2. “I’ve never felt better.”
3. “How is the Empire?”
4. “Et tu, Brute?”
5. “Does nobody understand?”
6. “Kiss me, Hardy.”
7. “I am just going outside and I may be some time.”
8. “Die, my dear doctor! That’s the last thing I shall do.”
9. “I have a terrific headache.”
10. “Go away. I’m all right.” (He wasn’t….)
11. “Either that wallpaper goes, or I do.”
12. “Is it my birthday or am I dying?”

Answers can be found here

And here are a few people whose last words were really quite.. well. ordinary:

“Wait a minute.” (Pope Alexander VI)
“No.” (Alexander Graham Bell)
“Ah, that tastes nice. Thank you.” (Johannes Brahms)
“Hello.” (Graham Chapman)
“Oh wow. Oh wow. Oh wow.” (Steve Jobs.)

Do you have any other good examples of famous last words?

Developing your Creativity

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What is Creativity?

What do we envisage when we hear someone called a “very creative person”? Possibly we assume that he or she is a gifted artist or composer, or someone whose home is filled with beautifully hand-crafted objects. Maybe it sounds like this is someone we should be in awe of. Then we might compare ourselves –inevitably unfavourably , telling ourselves that we just couldn’t hope to compete , that we’re “not that creative”.

But creativity has nothing to do with competition. The etymology of the word “create” is connected with the idea of giving life – of producing something where nothing existed before. Beyond this, it has the sense of being able to transcend traditional ideas to produce something original and imaginative. In other words, to come up with something a bit different. Continue reading