Monthly Archives: June 2013

Does knitting have a future?

I don’t usually re blog – and certainly not my own stuff. But this post from last year seems too apposite not to remind people of. Cheers, Marion

Historians are Past Caring

It was brave of the PM to say recently that she knits as a relaxation – even if it was a soft interview for the Australian Women’s Weekly.  Not just because powerful women tend to be wary of revealing a more girly side, but because it was such a gift to the cartoonists: a red-haired Madame Defarge, knitting in a blood-soaked Place, as the tumbrils roll by, loaded with the finest flower of carbon-emitting mining aristocrats.  If there was such a cartoon, I missed it.  Maybe nobody reads A Tale of Two Cities anymore.

Public figures tend to go for blokey hobbies, even the women, with a heavy emphasis on sport: jogging or cycling, following cricket or the AFL.  It’s not long ago that politicians would have run a mile (or in the case of Anna Bligh, a marathon) from such overt signs of domestic behaviour.  And not…

View original post 722 more words

Drawing Lines on a Map

In 886, having defeated the Danish leader Guthrum at the Battle of Eddington (878), King Alfred of Wessex and his advisors drew a line across England, roughly north-west to south-east.  North and east of this line was the Danelaw, the area inhabited by descendants of the Viking raiders, speaking Danish and ruled by Danish law; to the west and south was Anglo-Saxon territory, Christian like Alfred himself, ruled by English law, and speaking an Anglo-Saxon language in the process of becoming Old English.

Or so the story goes. Continue reading

Killing at a Distance: the loss of trust

In 1584, William the Silent was assassinated by a French Catholic, Balthasar Gérard.  William, Prince of Orange, was the leader of the Dutch revolt against Spanish rule in the Netherlands, and the Spanish king had promised 25,000 crowns to anyone who killed him.  William had just finished dinner in his home in Delft when Gérard arrived, on the pretext of delivering a message, pulled out his pistols, and shot him 3 times.

William the Silent, Prince of Orange, Stadthol...

Assassination wasn’t new.  People have been stabbing, skewering and poisoning their rulers since Suetonius was reporting from Rome, but this death was different. In The Awful End of William the Silent (2005), Lisa Jardine calls it a turning point in European history, the first time a head of state was killed by a handgun (though Wikipedia, which always knows better, points out that the Scottish Regent, the Earl of Moray, was shot dead 13 years earlier).

Continue reading

Governor and Lady Bowen: an odd couple in Queensland

Today is Queensland Day, an inoffensive but slightly daft non-holiday that was dreamed up in 1981, during the mad, bad days of the Bjelke-Petersen administration, with its separatist, anti-Canberra agenda.  It celebrates the splitting off of the northern part of New South Wales into a separate colony, Queensland in 1859.

It’s an odd date.  6 June was the day on which Queen Victoria signed the Letters Patent, which are still held in Britain at the National Archives, but given communications at the time, nobody in the Australian colonies knew what Victoria was doing that day.  If we must celebrate the birth of Queensland – and do we really need to? – then surely 10 December makes more sense. This was the day that Governor Bowen arrived in Brisbane, and the new colony was proclaimed. We usually celebrate birthdays, not the date of conception, after all.

Continue reading

Feast and Famine, and the Fast Diet

It seems as if half the population of the developed (and therefore obese) world is currently reading The Fast Diet, otherwise known as the 5:2 Diet, or Intermittent Fasting.  The author, Michael Mosley, is a BBC journalist with a medical degree, and his documentary and book (co-authored by Mimi Spencer) seem interesting.

The rules are simple: for 5 days of the week, eat as you normally do, but twice a week, limit your food to 500 calories (for women) or 600 (for men).  Someone I know tried it and found it worked.  She even fasted a few times during a holiday in France – how’s that for dedication?

As Mosley points out, many religions include periods of fasting.  During Yom Kipper, Lent, and Ramadan, the aim is similar in each case: to concentrate on spiritual rather than material things and – in extreme cases – to mortify the flesh.  All require self-discipline, but they use quite different strategies.

Continue reading