Book day!

Yesterday, the tenth of October was  Literature Day in Finland – how brilliant! This is something I wrote last year:

Finns  don’t have to fly the national flag on Literature Day, but they are encouraged to do so, and it struck me that it would be a great idea to have something similar over here. I don’t mean anything like national Book Day where children dress up as  characters from books – although I guess that could be an aspect of it, but I mean a day to celebrate the wonderful achievement of writers from Britain.

In Finland, the date was chosen because it was the birthday of Alexis Kivi, who is recognised as one of the greatest Finnish writers of all times. His real name was Alexis Stenvell and he was born in 1834; he wrote plays, but is perhaps best remembered for a novel called ‘Seven Brothers’ which was published in 1870, two years before his death at the early age of thirty-eight.

Kivi was born in 1834 and while at university became involved with the theatre; his first play was  Kullervo and was inspired by the national epic, Kalevala. He went on to write twelve plays altogether, and he was a poet, but he is most remembered for his one novel, ‘Seitsemän Veljestä’, ‘Seven Brothers’ which took him nearly ten years to write. One of the significant things about the novel is that it was written in Finnish; up until then most writers used Swedish.

If we had a National Literature day, when would it be held? There are so many dates in contention:

  • January 25th is already celebrated in Scotland and by Scots people everywhere as the birth date of Robbie Burns in 1759, he died July 21st 1796
  • February 7th when Dickens was born in 1812 or when he died in 1870, June 9th
  • April 17th, Henry Vaughan was born in 1621 in Wales
  • April 23rd to commemorate Shakespeare, 1564-1616 – but he is already commemorated on this day – and it’s St George’s Day, and it’s the anniversary of the death of Henry Vaughan in 1695
  • May 22nd 1859, Arthur Conan Doyle was born in Edinburgh – he died in England in 1930 on July 7th
  • August 15th – Sir Walter Scott was born in Edinburgh in 1771; he died in Melrose on September 21st 1832
  • October 25 – the great 14th century English poet Geoffrey Chaucer died 1400 in London, (no-one knows exactly when he was born)
  • October 27, 1914 Dylan Thomas was born; he died  November 9, 1953
  • November 9th when John Milton was born in 1608 – or December 8th when he dies, in 1674
  • November 13th one of my favourite story-tellers, Robert Louis Stephenson was born, also in Edinburgh, and died in Samoa December 3rd 1894

So quite a selection of dates – and I’m sure other people would think of more! So here is the section, bear in mind time of year, other festivities about the same time and clashes with other special days:

  • January 25th birth of Robbie Burns
  • February 7th birth of Dickens
  • April 17th birth Henry Vaughan
  • April 23rd Shakespeare’s birth and death, death of Henry Vaughan
  • May 22nd birth of Arthur Conan Doyle
  •  June 9th death of Dickens
  • July 7th death of Arthur Conan Doyle
  • July 21st  death of Robbie Burns
  • August 15th birth of Sir Walter Scott
  •  September 21st death of Arthur Conan Doyle
  • October 25 death of Geoffrey Chaucer
  • October 27 birth of Dylan Thomas
  • November 9th birth of John Milton, death of Dylan Thomas
  • November 13th birth of Robert Louis Stephenson
  • December 3rd death of Robert Louis Stephenson
  • December 8th death of John Milton

 

Literature Day

Today, October 10th is Literature Day in Finland; Finns  don’t have to fly the national flag, but they are encouraged to do so, and it struck me that it would be a great idea to have something similar over here. I don’t mean anything like national Book Day where children dress up as  characters from books – although I guess that could be an aspect of it, but I mean a day to celebrate the wonderful achievement of writers from Britain.

In Finland, the date was chosen because it was the birthday of Alexis Kivi, who is recognised as one of the greatest Finnish writers of all times. His real name was Alexis Stenvell and he was born in 1834; he wrote plays, but is perhaps best remembered for a novel called ‘Seven Brothers’ which was published in 1870, two years before his death at the early age of thirty-eight.

Kivi was born in 1834 and while at university became involved with the theatre; his first play was  Kullervo and was inspired by the national epic, Kalevala. He went on to write twelve plays altogether, and he was a poet, but he is most remembered for his one novel, ‘Seitsemän Veljestä’, ‘Seven Brothers’ which took took him nearly ten years to write. One of the significant things about the novel is that it was written in Finnish; up until then most writers used Swedish.

If we had a National Literature day, when would it be held? There are so many dates in contention:

  • January 25th is already celebrated in Scotland and by Scots people everywhere as the birth date of Robbie Burns in 1759, he died July 21st 1796
  • February 7th when Dickens was born in 1812 or when he died in 1870, June 9th
  • April 17th, Henry Vaughan was born in 1621 in Wales
  • April 23rd to commemorate Shakespeare, 1564-1616 – but he is already commemorated on this day – and it’s St George’s Day, and it’s the anniversary of the death of Henry Vaughan in 1695
  • May 22nd 1859, Arthur Conan Doyle was born in Edinburgh – he died in England in 1930 on July 7th
  • August 15th – Sir Walter Scott was born in Edinburgh in 1771; he died in Melrose on September 21st 1832
  • October 25 – the great 14th century English poet Geoffrey Chaucer died 1400 in London, (no-one knows exactly when he was born)
  • October 27, 1914 Dylan Thomas was born; he died  November 9, 1953
  • November 9th when John Milton was born in 1608 – or December 8th when he dies, in 1674
  • November 13th one of my favourite story-tellers, Robert Louis Stephenson was born, also in Edinburgh, and died in Samoa December 3rd 1894

So quite a selection of dates – and I’m sure other people would think of more! So here is the section, bear in mind time of year, other festivities about the same time and clashes with other special days:

  • January 25th birth of Robbie Burns
  • February 7th birth of Dickens
  • April 17th birth Henry Vaughan
  • April 23rd Shakespeare’s birth and death, death of Henry Vaughan
  • May 22nd birth of Arthur Conan Doyle
  •  June 9th death of Dickens
  • July 7th death of Arthur Conan Doyle
  • July 21st  death of Robbie Burns
  • August 15th birth of Sir Walter Scott
  •  September 21st death of Arthur Conan Doyle
  • October 25 death of Geoffrey Chaucer
  • October 27 birth of Dylan Thomas
  • November 9th birth of John Milton, death of Dylan Thomas
  • November 13th birth of Robert Louis Stephenson
  • December 3rd death of Robert Louis Stephenson
  • December 8th death of John Milton

 

Drumsticks

There are plenty of celebrations held throughout the year which have their origins in the Christian calendar, but apart from the well-known few such as Christmas, Easter and maybe pancake day, many have fallen away from many people’s lives. Michaelmas isn’t much celebrated in general, but it used to be. Traditionally families would eat a goose, a Michaelmas goose, apparently sometimes called a stubble-goose because that’s where the creature would be feeding at this post-harvest time of year. Chaucer mentions a stubble goose in the prologue to the Cook’s Tale.

I was thinking about Michaelmas geese because there is a recipe for goose;’s drumsticks in the National Mark Calendar of Cooking, the little 1930’s seasonal cookery book produced by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries. There seems to be a constant refrain in modern cookery that before Elizabeth and cooks like her, no-one in these islands used and had barely heard of such things as spices, garlic and olive oil; not true… this recipe uses olive oil:

The Goose’s Drumsticks

  • 2 goose drumsticks (it doesn’t specify but i think they must be cooked already)
  • thin bacon rashers
  • 1 egg beaten
  • s slices of onion, blanched and finely chopped
  • 1 tsp parsley finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp breadcrumbs
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • mixed herbs finely chopped
  • olive oil
  • cayenne pepper
  • salt
  1. skin the drumsticks and let them soak in olive oil seasoned with salt and pepper for 1-2 hours, turning from time to time
  2. make a forcemeat by mixing the herbs, breadcrumbs, onion, seasoning, zest, egg
  3. wipe the drumsticks of excess oil and cover them with the forcemeat, then wrapping them with the bacon; secure with string, cocktail sticks, or just sit them in a dish rasher ends underneath
  4. bake them in a hot oven for about 20 minutes

 

April Fool’s day

I thought April Fool’s day was just a Brit thing, but apparently it is celebrated in other countries as well. I think there must have been a special pranking day gong right back to earliest times, but some ‘fool’s have become very sophisticated .. I shall be looking in the newspaper to see if there are any joke articles printed! Chaucer was the first person to mention it, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen before then, although there is some discussion and dispute about when the actual day was.

When I was teaching, the students were always trying to play tricks, but unfortunately they were never as good at it as the teachers’ were, I guess we had more practice! They would try to tell us our shoe laces were undone, or there was a spider in our hair or we had chalk on our face (in the days when we used blackboards and chalk rather than whiteboards and markers)

here are just a selection of the tricks we teachers played on the students:

  • sending one to the science department for a long weight, and they would be told they would get one in a little while and to stand just there … and of course they had a long wait! (It could also be a short stand!)
  • sending  one to the biology department for two yards of fallopian tube
  • sending one to the art department for striped or spotted paint,
  • sticking a coin to the floor in  a prominent place
  • sending one to the woodwork department for a new bubble for a spirit level (then the woodwork department sending the student  back with a bowl of water with two drops of linseed oil floating on top – which looked like bubbles

Teachers weren’t above playing tricks on each other

  • for the teacher who meticulously checked his mileage and recorded it to see what his miles per gallon were, someone topped up his petrol so he seemed to have done a phenomenal amount

Valentine’s Day

Yes, I know it was last Thursday, I did remember, and so did my beloved!Saint Valentine… or the Saints Valentine were all martyrs in the early Christian church; apparently there is a Valentine of Rome who was a priest and physician in the time of Emperor Claudius the Goth , a Valentine of Interamna (Terni) was a Bishop who also suffer under Claudius, – having his head chopped off, and a Valentine from Africa who no-one knows anything about except he was martyred.

Geoffrey Chaucer first mentioned the tradition of giving love tokens, a tradition which must have been going on for a very long time; the idea of courtly love perpetuated it, but the little giving of little gifts and cards as marks of  affection has morphed into a massive multi-million pound industry of nicknacks and chocolates and cakes and everything you could possibly think of transformed into a Valentine themed spectacular… I suppose it helps keep businesses afloat in the doldrums between Christmas and Easter.

Bran flakes with banana hearts... so soppy and so healthy!

Bran flakes with banana hearts… so soppy and so healthy!

Egg and sausage hearts on toast. Unfortunately the egg fell on its face so doesn't look as pretty!

Egg and sausage hearts on toast. Unfortunately the egg fell on its face so doesn’t look as pretty!

Toast and marmalade... I hadn't got a big enough cutter, so I made little figures, B and me!

Toast and marmalade… I hadn’t got a big enough cutter, so I made little figures, B and me!