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

 

April 23rd… St George’s Day

Today is the day of England’s patron saint, St George. Well known for killing the dragon and saving the maid, he was probably a Roman soldier of Greek origin who was put to death because of his faith.

We no longer have any traditions to celebrate our national day, in fact we make much more fuss of St Patrick’s day, and even St David usually has a few daffodils pinned to people’s chests on March 1st. There has been quite a few articles in the media about trying to make more of the day, and I guess once it is taken up more than the shops will be full of flags of St George (red cross on a white background) red roses, knick-knacks and gew-gaws and more money spinners/money wasters from businesses… it will become like St Valentine’s day, or Halloween, another excuse to make/waste money! Cynical old me!

ROAR!!!!!!

ROAR!!!!!!

In the meantime, at my voluntary teaching today, our theme will be St George’s Day and it will be interesting to see how many of the students from other countries know it already, and also to find out how they celebrate their patron saints. Maybe we should have bacon and egg and toast and marmalade for breakfast, a ploughman’s lunch and bangers and mash for dinner today, drink only tea, and have snacks of scones and Victoria sponges!

Thank you Judith!

I can’t finish this without a little Shakespeare whose birthday it is:

KING HENRY V:
Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
Or close the wall up with our English dead.
In peace there’s nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness and humility:
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger;
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,
Disguise fair nature with hard-favour’d rage;
Then lend the eye a terrible aspect;
Let pry through the portage of the head
Like the brass cannon; let the brow o’erwhelm it
As fearfully as doth a galled rock
O’erhang and jutty his confounded base,
Swill’d with the wild and wasteful ocean.
Now set the teeth and stretch the nostril wide,
Hold hard the breath and bend up every spirit
To his full height. On, on, you noblest English.
Whose blood is fet from fathers of war-proof!
Fathers that, like so many Alexanders,
Have in these parts from morn till even fought
And sheathed their swords for lack of argument:
Dishonour not your mothers; now attest
That those whom you call’d fathers did beget you.
Be copy now to men of grosser blood,
And teach them how to war. And you, good yeoman,
Whose limbs were made in England, show us here
The mettle of your pasture; let us swear
That you are worth your breeding; which I doubt not;
For there is none of you so mean and base,
That hath not noble lustre in your eyes.
I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,
Straining upon the start. The game’s afoot:
Follow your spirit, and upon this charge
Cry ‘God for Harry, England, and Saint George!’