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Tag Archives: Britain

Knockers-Up

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If you were living in the 19th century, before the age of reliable and affordable alarm clocks, how could you be ensured of getting up on time, and being at your workplace?  Hire a knocker-up, of course.  That’s if you lived in Britain or Ireland.  Knockers-up were employed from the time of the Industrial Revolution up until (in places such as Manchester) as late as the 1950s.  Here are a few rare photographs of knockers-up knocking up.  Also known as “human alarm clocks” they would use sticks, clubs, pebbles or pea shooters to knock on clients’ door and windows.  I wonder who woke them up?

Human Alarm Clock - Knocker-uppers  – hired to ensure people would wake up on time for their own jobs. They would use sticks, clubs or pebbles to knock on clients’ windows and doors Human Alarm Clock 2 Human Alarm Clock

A Short History of Gibraltar

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My husband and I just spent a few days in Gibraltar, so I thought I’d give you a bit of history in a nutshell for this unique territory:

Gibraltar is a tiny outpost of Britain at the gateway to the Mediterranean, spitting distance from Spain (as a matter of fact I walked across the border and it took all of 2 minutes).  Its history is disproportionately immense, spanning thousands of years, as it has always been a strategic nautical or military location.  You can’t walk down a single street or lane without being reminded in some way of its military history:  There are cannons everywhere, street names and square names reflect either military leaders or garrison locations, and even the town’s parks are walled in by fortress walls.  The first known name of Gibraltar was “Calpe”, likely the Phoenician verb “kalph”, to hollow out, perhaps in reference to what is now known as St. Michael’s Cave.  There was a Roman occupation, and in 400 AD eastern barbarians invaded; Vandals, then Goths, and then Berber Muslims followed.  In 711 AD Tarik ibn Zeyad landed, and left behind his name:  The Arabic phrase “Jebel Tarik” (Tarik’s Mountain) has been corrupted into the modern name of Gibraltar.  For over six centuries, with the exception of 1309 to 1333, the Rock was under Moorish occupation, though no town existed until 1160 (there were only fortifications).

In 1462 Gibraltar was retaken from the Moors by the Spanish; from there it was quibbled over between Spanish dukes, kings and queens until the Treaty of Utrecht in which Gibraltar was yielded to the Crown of Great Britain “for ever”.  The Great Siege, 1779 to 1783, was Spain’s last great attempt to reclaim the Rock, and led to vast destruction of the town and fortifications.

In the 19th century the phrase “As safe as the Rock of Gibraltar” entered the English language, as Gibraltar became renowned for its impregnability.  A civilian community began to grow up within the safety of the fortified walls, earning their living from commercial trade.  Today there is still a British and American military presence, and the local language is a mixture of Spanish and English.

The Rock is dominated by the presence of the only wild monkey population in Europe, all of the Barbary macaques breed; they were most likely brought as pets during the Moorish occupation.  Tourists are lower in the pecking order than the monkeys, because in their hierarchy, the lower in rank give their food to the higher in rank… just remember that the next time you want to feed monkeys.

Gibraltar Rock

The Rock of Gibraltar, with Spain in the distance just beyond the airport’s single runway.

Gibraltar - Reminders of Military Past, Russian Cannon

The Promenade, showing the City War Memorial honouring Gibraltarians who gave their lives in World War One. In the foreground is one of four Russian cannons (24-pounders) that arrived in GBZ in 1858 from England, having been captured in the Crimean War.

A Barbary macaque; Spain in the distance.

A Barbary macaque; Spain in the distance.

If World War I were a Bar Fight

I don’t know who came up with this originally, but it’s brilliant! I made several additions here and there, but otherwise it’s someone else’s work – if anyone knows who originally came up with this analogy, please let me know so that I can give credit where credit is due!

If World War I were a Bar Fight

funny-If World War One Were a Bar Fight

Germany, Austria and Italy are standing together in the middle of a pub when Serbia bumps into Austria and spills Austria’s pint.

Austria demands Serbia buy it a whole new suit because of the new beer stains on its trouser leg.

Germany expresses its support of Austria’s point of view.

Britain recommends that everyone calm down a bit.

Serbia points out that it can’t afford a whole new suit, but offers to pay for the cleaning of Austria’s trousers.

Russia and Serbia look at Austria.

Austria asks Serbia who they’re looking at.

Russia suggests that Austria should leave its little brother alone.

Austria inquires as to whose army will help Russia make them do so.

Germany appeals to Britain that France has been eyeing Britain, and that it’s unwise for Britain not to intervene.

Britain replies that France can look at whoever it wants to, and that Britain has been watching Germany too, and what is Germany going to do about it?

Germany tells Russia to stop looking at Austria, or Germany will render Russia incapable of such action anymore.

Britain and France ask Germany whether it’s looking at Belgium.

Turkey and Germany go off into a corner and whisper.  When they come back, Turkey makes a show of not looking at anyone.

Germany rolls up its sleeves, looks at France, and punches Belgium and Luxembourg, who had been minding their own business at the end of the bar.

France and Britain punch Germany; Austria punches Bosnia and Herzegovina (which Russia and Serbia took personally); Germany punches Britain and France with one fist and Russia with the other.

Russia throws a punch at Germany, but misses and nearly falls over.

Japan calls from the other side of the room that it’s on Britain’s side, but stays there.

Italy surprises everyone by punching Austria.

Australia punches Turkey, and gets punched back.  There are no hard feelings because Britain made Australia do it.

France gets thrown through a plate glass window, but gets back up and carries on fighting.  Russia gets thrown through another one, gets knocked out, suffers brain damage, and wakes up with a complete personality change.

Italy throws a punch at Austria and misses, but Austria falls over anyway.  Italy raises both fists in the air and runs around the room chanting.

America waits until Germany is about to fall over from sustained punching from Britain and France, then walks over and smashes it with a bar stool and pretends it won the fight all by itself.

By now all the chairs are broken and the big mirror over the bar is shattered.  Britain, France and America agree that Germany threw the first punch, so the whole thing is Germany’s fault.  While Germany is still unconscious, they go through its pockets, steal its wallet, and buy drinks for all their friends.

Everyone went home, leaving Germany to pout on the floor planning on how to get even.

The Uffington White Horse

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Uffington White HorseI like to go “flying” occasionally with Google Earth; it is how my husband and I discovered the Scilly Isles (I’ll tell you more about that sometime), and how I’ve found several hill figures across the UK; here’s one of my favourites:

Dating from the late Bronze Age (1000–700 BC), the Uffington White Horse (in Oxfordshire, nearest the town of Uffington) is a stylized hill figure of 110 metres long, created by deep trenches filled with crushed white chalk. It is protected and maintained by the National Trust as a Scheduled Ancient Monument (if it is not cleaned regularly it would disappear rapidly, the chalk being washed away by rain or the trenches filling in with local vegetation).

Iron Age Celtic CoinsThese coins pictured are Iron Age Celtic coins (the currency of the pre-Roman population), and the designs are comparable to the White Horse, supporting the early dating (it was thought for some time that the figure could have been constructed as late as the Iron Age, 800 BC–AD 100, but samples from silt of the figure supported the earlier date).  The White Horse is by far the oldest such figure in Britain, but certainly not the only one; ancient figures are scattered throughout the British Isles, though Wiltshire alone has at least eight.  When you have a few minutes to spare, take a Google Earth flight over the UK, and see if you can spot any other figures!

 

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