Category: People

Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday

Following Shrove Tuesday yesterday, today is Ash Wednesday, the official first day of Lent during the Christian year and the prelude to Easter.  Lent represents the 40 days that Jesus Christ spent in the wilderness, fasting and contemplating his mission on earth. Known as the ‘Day of Ashes’ because of the practice of having ash rubbed &  drawn on the forehead in the shape of a cross (representing Christ’s crucifixion), by a priest at the  dedicated Ash Wednesday church service. The priest and participants from the church congregation intone the phrase either the words:-

“Repent, and believe in the Gospel” or  the dictum “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”       

Anglican,Catholic and most Protestant and Christians hold Ash Wednesday services around the world. Following the service, participants observe some sort of fasting,abstinence and spiritual contemplation for 40 Days, ending on Maundy Thursday in 2018.

The practice of using  ash comes from the 11th Century and is taken from the Biblical Book of Daniel, where ashes are regarded as a sign of Penance & fasting. The ashes are normally made by the burning of palm crosses. These palm crosses were  handed out to  church congregations during the previous year’s Palm Sunday service (commemorating Christ’s entry into Jerusalem to crowds waving palm leaves in celebration) and given back to the priest shortly before Ash Wednesday. The priest will then burn the crosses and mix the ash normally with Holy Oil to sanctify and make a ‘paste’ with which to rub on the participant’s forehead.

What’s Bilao in English?

Bilao, photo by JMorton

What’s Bilao in English?

Bilao, bigao in Ilocano, is called a winnowing basket.

This basket is very versatile.  Its usefulness was first used in ancient times by agricultural folks to separate the grains from the chaffs at harvest or milling time.

This process is called agtaep in Ilocano which means to winnow!

Diana – Princess of Wales

Sometimes, when one person is missing, the whole world seems depopulated.
– Lamartine

Diana – Princess of Wales

Today is the 20th year anniversary of the death of the Princess.   She was only 37 years old when she died.

I still remember what I was doing when I found out that she had died.

It was the weekend and we got up rather late. It was almost midday.  I went to boil the kettle in preparation to make breakfast/brunch/lunch.  I turned on the radio and just caught the tail end of the news, where the newscaster was rather excited and almost shouting about the princess death.

I run immediately to the the living room (extension part of the house) where Peter and James were reading.

I told them starkly that Diana was dead.  For a moment we were all in shock.  Peter said I was joking.  She was in the paper just yesterday, swimming.

Peter turned on the tv and there Diana was being confirmed as dead from car crash together with her lover in Paris.

May she rest in peace.

Achilles Heel, Greek Legend

Nymph Thetis holding Achilles by the heel , Walker Art Gallery – Liverpool, photo by JMorton


Achilles Heel, Greek Legend

I love the look of the statue.  It was one of many beautiful statues on display at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool.

The statue gives credence to the legend why the Greek hero, Achilles, has a vulnerability, although becoming the greatest warrior of Homer’s Illiad.

Achilles was the son of an immortal nymph, Thetis and a mortal (person) Peleus, the King of Myrmidons.

Apparently it was foretold by the oracle that their son will die very young.

Thetis and Peleus went to great lengths to protect Achilles.

Thetis took the baby Achilles and completely submerged him to the river Styx  except for his heel, which he was being held.  Apparently this ritual would make him invulnerable.

Achilles was valiant as a warrior until he was shot on his heel by Paris during the bloody Trojan War.

Achilles heel had come to mean ‘Point of vulnerability“.




Dame Vera Lynn on her 100th Birthday

Dame Vera Lynn

Giant projection slide of Vera Lynn on the iconic white cliffs of Dover.

Dame Vera Lynn on her 100th Birthday

Dame Vera Lynn on her 100th  Birthday.

During World War 2 (WWll) Vera Lynn was known as the ‘forces sweetheart’ and was massively popular.

Born in London 20th March 1917, she became an actress singer and songwriter. During the war years, her songs  “We’ll Meet Again“, “The White Cliffs of Dover“, “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square” and “There’ll Always Be an England“. became iconic and a tonic for troops and forces fighting in the war. The white cliffs of Dover were the last part of Britain troops saw as they departed on ships across the Channel to fight. Also the cliff were a  welcoming sight on their return home.

My late father was a WW2 soldier in the British army(known as Desert Rats) fighting in Egypt.

Vera Lynn undertook concert tours in Burma, Egypt and India for the troops. She remained popular after the war, appearing in movies and on radio & TV.  At the age of 92, Vera became the oldest artist ever to top UK music charts with a melody of her famous songs. She outsold outselling both the Arctic Monkeys and the Beatles.

My favourite rock group Pink Floyd even had a track about her in their superb album ‘The Wall’.


Whenever my wife hears anything about Vera Lynn she would burst into song of We’ll meet again

Saint David’s Day

Saint David’s Day


March 1st  is Saint David’s Day.

Did you remember to celebrate it yesterday?

The first day of March was chosen in remembrance of the death of Saint David as traditionally it is believed that he might have died on that day in 569, 588 or even 589; the date is uncertain.

Stainglass picture of St David of Wales

Stainglass depicting St David of Wales

St David (Dewi Sant) was a Celtic monk, abbot and bishop, who lived in the sixth century.  He spread the word of Christianity across Wales.

St David's own flag flown over Churches and some public buildings on St David's Day

St David’s own flag flown over Churches and some public buildings on St David’s Day

A  famous story about Saint David tells how he was preaching to a huge crowd and the ground is said to have risen up, so that he was standing on a hill and everyone had a better chance of hearing and seeing him.

 He was born towards the end of the 5th century. He was of the royal house of Ceredigion, and founded a Celtic monastic community at Glyn Rhosyn (The Vale of Roses) on the western headland of Pembrokeshire (Sir Benfro) where St David’s Cathedral  stands today. David was famous for being a teacher.  His monastery at Glyn Rhosin became an important Christian shrine and important centre in Wales. Before  his death, Saint David is said to have uttered these words: “Brothers be ye constant. The yoke which with single mind ye have taken, bear ye to the end; and whatsoever ye have seen with me and heard, keep and fulfil.”

Welsh ex-pats around the  world celebrate St David’s Day. The  daffodil  & the leek are the national emblem of Wales and badges of which are worn with pride.

Daffodil flower and emblem of Wales

Daffodil flower and emblem of Wales

Why a leek as an emblem?  One theory is that St David advised the Welsh, on the eve of battle with the Saxons, to wear leeks in their caps to distinguish friend from the enemy. Shakespeare mentions in Henry V, that the Welsh archers (fearsome for the power and accuracy of their legendary long bows,)  wore leeks at the battle  with the French at Agincourt in 1415.

The Leek vegetbale an other emblem of Wales

The Leek vegetable an other emblem of Wales

The traditional meal on St David’s Day is cawl. This is a soup that is made of leek and other locally grown produce.

Another symbol of Wales is  the iconic Welsh Dragon  in Welsh- Y Ddraig Goch (“the red dragon”)

Welsh National-Flag

The Welsh National Flag

It  appears on the national flag of Wales. The flag is also called Y Ddraig Goch.

The Historia Brittonum(History of Britons written around 828)  records the first  use of the dragon to  symbolise Wales.

The Dragon was popularly supposed to have been the battle standard of the legendary King Arthur  other ancient Celtic leaders. archaeological  literature, and documentary history suggests that  it evolved from an earlier Romano-British national symbol.  During the reigns of the  Tudor Monarchs, the red dragon was used as a symbol of support  in the English Crown’s coat of arms (one of two supporters, along with the traditional English lion).  The red dragon is often seen as symbolising all things Welsh, and flags are flown  by many public and private institutions in Wales and some in London too.


1 March 2014

To celebrate St David’s Day Google has this special doodle to commemorate the occasion.




A New Era in American Politics

A New Era in American Politics


Here in London, we stayed up to 4am watching the excellent BBC US Presidential election results coverage. We saw  the incoming results from what has been such a diverse and as many found, a divisive U.S. campaign, which has now ushered in a new era for American politics and governance.

Normally those from other nations may not bother to stay up to the wee small hours  to watch such. However the the two candidates involved and the known baggage they brought with them to the campaign, did make this election race a fascinating spectacle for many around the globe.


Hilary Clinton the favourite, an experienced  party apparatchik,  who seems to have been around since her husband Bill was President over 15 years ago was the Democrats candidate. Her role as the powerful Secretary of State under President Obama, was regarded by many as a stepping stone to the White House but in the end this counted as nought.



Donald Trump, a billionaire businessman who had  never held any political office and had  failed   badly in a Presidential bid in 2004, was the rank outsider.

He imposed his formidable personality on the election race, sweeping aside fellow Republican candidates and in effect bulldozing his way to be the only rival to Mrs Clinton and the Democratic Party.

The televised debates between Clinton & Trump were at times acrimonious with enough mud slung to make a decent sized football field!

They made compulsive viewing, more so than any other previous presidential  debates.

History was being made.

Mrs Clinton had policies planned that  she put to the people.  Mr Trump was rather vague on the same. He however  made some big bold  promises to fix the big issues, not heard of before by the people.

Mr Trump’s antics and comments during the campaign will become the stuff of  legend.

Any other candidate who acted his way, would have been bundled away, never to be seen again!

It was understandable that Mrs Clinton and the Democrats, initially thought that with the at times bellicose Mr Trump as her rival, election to the Presidency would be straightforward.

It became clear that Mr Trump in his rousing election speeches and promises during the debates, tapped into the visceral anti establishment mood felt by the majority of  US citizens.

These disaffected citizens turned out en masse to vote for someone whom they see as a ‘new broom’ to sweep away over 15 years of  distrust in the political system, the  stagnation of the economy, jobs and the continued involvement in foreign conflicts.

Mr Trump had no political baggage and to use a cowboy analogy ‘shoots from the hip’.

In computer parlance ‘WYSIWYG’ (What-You-See-Is-What-You-Get). This was so refreshing to many voters, fed up with dissembling anodyne politicians.

His various peccadilloes and outrageous statements did not matter to his voters.

As  with the quote attributed to  Oliver Cromwell nearly 400 years ago,  we get Trump ‘warts and all’, nothing is hidden.

Noting the similar feeling between many British and US people,  Mr Trump mentioned the momentous UK exit vote from the EU and said he would do a ‘Brexit’ 1000 times over if elected. He did!

The Blind Beggar Pub

The Blind Beggar Pub


he Blind Beggar Pub Whitechapel London E1

The Blind Beggar Pub Whitechapel London E1

The Blind Beggar Pub is a famous East End Pub in Whitechapel, East London. Sadly many pubs are closing in London and England because of taxes and the fact that most people now prefer tp buy cheaper

Sadly many pubs are closing in London and England because of taxes and the fact that most people now prefer to buy cheaper alcoholic drinks in supermarkets and cut-price shops to drink at home. These closed pubs end up being demolished or converted by property developers into apartments and flats. Such is the building boom in London that  houses & former commercial property are now being turned into apartments to make a quick profit on sale or rental. We have lost three local pubs each over 100 years old to such in the last few years.

These closed pubs end up being demolished or converted by property developers into apartments and flats. Such is the building boom in London that  houses & former commercial property are now being turned into apartments to make a quick profit on sale or rental. We have lost three local pubs, each over 100 years old, to such in the last few years.

Numerous history and convivial social meeting places are now disappearing from the London landscape and culture.

The Blind Beggar was built in 1894 on the site of an Inn dating from 1654.

Notable events in its history include where William Booth preached his first open air  sermon then forming a Mission that led to the founding of The Salvation Army.

The first modern Brown Ale ( my first beer when a teenager) was brewed and sold in the pub which was then part of Manns brewery.

The pub’s name is linked to a popular legend concerning a local connection with a knight, who was the son of the famous Simon de Montfort , an Earl, who rebelled against King Henry III in the 13th century.

His son Henry de Montfort,  lived in a grand manor house in the area. One story  of the legend  is that de Montfort was wounded and blinded at the Battle of Evesham and was left wandering and with no memory.  He became  a beggar. He was found by a nobleman’s daughter, who married him. Their child, Besse, could not find a husband as her father had no status, as he was the blind beggar of Bethnal Green. At that time, a woman needed a sizeable dowry to be able to marry a suitable husband.  Marriage was a way of bringing wealth and prestige to a union of families.high-classNoblemen,

Noblemen, merchants, and  knights courted her but when they found out that there was no dowry they all left, except for a lone Knight, who was not concerned about a dowry and loved Besse as she was; as herself.

This union was blessed when Besse’s father revealed that far from being the poor beggar, he was a rich nobleman and so rewarded the Knight.  As Shakespeare would have said: “All’s well that ends well” 🙂

Now, what captured my imagination to the Blind Beggar many years ago, is my interest in major historical crime cases of London.

In March 1966, a murder took place in the Blind Beggar, which later became part of London crime legend.

Ronnie Kray, the twin brother of Reggie, the notorious, infamous and any other ..’ous’!  Kray Twins  walked into the pub and calmly took out a pistol and shot and killed another criminal, George Cornell, in front of a few witnesses.

The Kray Twins

The Kray Twins (Reggie & Ronnie (front)

Ronnie Kray had a long-standing score to settle with Cornell, who was apparently as ruthless as the Krays, but who was nowhere in their league.

Such was Krays power & influence in the 1960s London’s criminal underworld, many involved  kept quiet about the Twins activities for years before they were arrested and sentenced to 25-30 years in prison.

There have been many books about the Krays & by the Krays too, which are interesting to read, if one is interested in major crimes.

Two movies have been made about the Krays too.

They are truly legends in the criminal history of London.

It appears from current on-line reviews  that the Blind Beggar today is a shadow of its former standing as a popular east end pub.

I hope the pub remains as a pub for many years to come as London cannot keep affording to lose such culturally important pubs.

Egyptians mock ‘ugly’ new Nefertiti Statue

Nefertiti and the unpopular modern creation

Nefertiti and the unpopular modern creation


Its me Mansfertiti

Egyptians Mock ‘ugly’ new Nefertiti Statue

With the showing of a new rendition of the classical  Egyptian beauty,  Queen Nefertiti, loosely or we should say very loosely based on the iconic bust,  has resulted in Egyptians mocking this latest recreation.

Queen Nefertiti ruled Egypt alongside her husband the heretical King Akhenaten  in the 14th century BC.  Her legendary beauty reflected in the bust – her name in fact translates as “a beautiful woman has arrived.”

When authorities had this version commissioned for the Egyptian people, their reaction was as abrasive as a desert sandstorm

Nefertiti remains a proud symbol of their country’s impressive history and beauty. So when the authorities wanted to commission a statue at the entrance of the city of Samalut, they thought of the ancient queen.

Unfortunately, the replica bears  little resemblance to the legendary beauty, many  despaired for the state of Egyptian art.

“This is an insult to Nefertiti and to every Egyptian,” tweeted one Egyptian woman. Another wrote: “It should be named ‘ugly tasteless artless statue’… not Nefertiti.”

Many Egyptians feeling offended by the failed attempt to replicate the iconic bust directed their anger at the sculptors: “If you don’t know how to make statues don’t go and do something so unfair to the beautiful Nefertiti,” tweeted one man.

Some even compared the  bust to the 1930s move classic  Frankenstein’s monster!

Thank goodness the power of the people prevailed as the statue was removed and probably will not see the light of day any time soon!


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