There are numerous stories about how the 'teddy bear' was created, but one commonly heard is based in the USA. The story goes that in 1903 the 26th president of the USA, Theodore Roosevelt, went on a bear hunt during a visit to the states of Louisiana and Mississippi, which turned out to be unsuccessful. His hosts in an effort to please the president captured a bear cub and bought it to the president for him to shoot. After the president refused to shoot the cub the incident was reported in the Washington Post newspaper. This article was later captured in a political cartoon and published in newspapers across the country to the nations delight!
If you have an irrational fear of spiders/tarantulas, you may want to look away now! You have been warned...
However, I happily admit to being an arachnophobe and I am quite happy as such, as my colleagues will testify after hearing my blood-curdling screams when a money spider is seen running across the desk! No amount of cajoling will get me to change my fear of spiders or even attempt to overcome it.
The strange thing is - and this my colleagues cannot understand - I just love tarantulas!
This all started when I was a wee girl of 14... my parents bought a Mexican Red Knee tarantula sub-adult female (i.e. almost, but not quite, full grown) home as a 'surprise' new pet. I still think that they had the ultimate morbid aim of curing me of my fear. However, it didn't work - to me a Tarantula is not a spider, it is an arachnid of the order Theraphosidae, completely different to 'true' spiders. A true spider has fangs that move on an axis, a Tarantula's fangs are fixed and therefore it must rear up and lunge in order to get a bite of food or your hand! I loved our Mexican Red Knee (latin name of Brachypelma Smithi) - we named her Tabatha. She was very mild-mannered and we were able to handle her as the photo to the right shows. B. Smithi's are known for their long life and females can live to 20 years and longer. Tabatha lived a good life although not quite that old.
It all started when my better half announced "I have always wanted a motorhome". This came out of the blue, after over 20 years together, with not a mention of this heartfelt desire - no "now that we are retired.", no "how do you feel about.", just came straight out with it.
Knowing better, through bitter experience, than to question this pronouncement, it was followed by trips to an assortment of venues to inspect dealers' stock of acceptable vehicles. Now I admit some were magnificent, all mod cons and resplendent in manufacturers logos etc. but when common sense returned in small measure and we inspected the grotty ones out the back that we might have a chance of affording, opinions began to differ!
It has to be oblong format
Nearly always paperback format
There is more than one picture per page, with just a few words below telling the story.
They are typically small in size, around 15-20cm across and 7-10cm deep
These books are aimed at the very young, aged 1-5. The idea is that the child looks at the pictures while an adult reads the story to them. The multiple pictures on each page hold the child's interest long enough for the adult to read the few words, as well as helping the child to build their vocabulary of words.
Engines, just engines, surely not, those snorting, steaming leviathans must be alive. They certainly have character - huffing and puffing their way around Vintage Steam shows. They even smell alive with the steam, coal and grease. Today we see them immaculately preserved and maintained but in the latter half of the nineteenth century Traction Engines, grimy and muddy, were essential to farming and local industry throughout the UK.
The Traction Engine came into being around 1850 with Ransomes of Ipswich being credited with producing the first self-moving agricultural engine and although there was development, the form of the machine did not change right up till their demise around 1930. There are other rival claimants to being first: Aveling and Porter for example. The 1850's and 1860's saw a rapid expansion in production which continued throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth century with firmssuch as Burrell,Allchin, Clayton & Shuttleworth, Fowler, Garrett and Ruston being the major names we know today.
Depending on the occasion a collectible book can make the ideal gift.
To commemorate that special birthday why not try an annual from their birth year? For example anyone celebrating their 18th this year would mean looking at 1994. Our present selection would include Dandy and Beano annuals, themselves celebrating 50 years at the time, or maybe Dennis the Menace or Rupert might be more appropriate? With annuals covering the mid 1930's to the present day, there are many other titles to chose from so there is something for most tastes.
It was with great excitement that we discovered that most books in a very large recently purchased collection had been signed by either the author or the illustrator, and sometimes both. It was my task to sort and catalogue them and for many weeks I watched the different boxes of well kept books being unloaded onto my 'cataloguing' shelves. As soon as each shelf was filled the excitement would get the better of me and I would have to see what had just arrived!
When we refer to walking today we think of walking for leisure. Yet until relatively recent times most people went on Shank's Pony (derived from 'shank' meaning 'leg') for their everyday business. From the Welsh drovers, who took the cattle from the hills of Wales to London , to the door to door hawkers and pedlars.
Walking for leisure started with the first "tourists" in the eighteenth century and an early example is the Reverend Richard Warner. In "A Walk Through Wales" he travelled 469 miles in 17 days on foot. No modern walking boots, rucksack and bright shiny waterproofs. To quote: "In preparing for a pedestrian tour, few arrangements are requisite; a single change of raiment and some other little articles". He had extra pockets added to his coat to carry these items and that was that - one suspects that after a few days hard walking in the rain he stank!
Although the butt of many jokes Dyb Dyb Dyb and Woggles were for millions of us all part of that great life that was and is the Boy Scouts.
2007 marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Boys Scouts movement by Lord Robert Baden-Powell (BP). It started with a camp for boys from mixed social backgrounds on Brownsea Island to which Baden-Powell had been a frequent visitor as a guest of the Van Raalte family who owned the island. Although this camp in August 1907 is seen as the formal start of the movement it was in fact the culmination of several years of thinking and absorption of ideas from other people and groups. The Boys Brigade and author/naturalist Ernest Thompson Seton contributed but there's no doubt the main ideas came from BP's experience in the Boer war where he used young cadets as messengers during the siege of Mafeking .
With our latest themed room being based on 'school years', I thought, why not write about my own memories of school? After all, someone might be interested!
I remember my first day at infant school which was Wood End First School in Stantonbury, Milton Keynes. This was in the mid 1970s and I remember my mother wearing fake fur gloves on the day. I was sobbing my heart out into these gloves crying 'don't leave me mummy' - they must have been drenched!
I don't remember a great deal about my time at Wood End First School but I do remember the teacher trying to teach the class how to write their date of birth and I just didn't get it. This was probably due to the fact that my deafness at this point was undiagnosed and no doubt I wasn't hearing what the teacher was saying. (As a baby Mum used to think I was just a sound sleeper because I slept through the noise of vacuum cleaning, washing machine - anything!). Anyway, I got so frustrated with being unable to understand what was required, I picked up the chair I was sitting on, threw it across the room and stormed out of the school - I was only five years old! I have no idea what happened then but I marched home and remember being sent back to school the next day.
‘A Day In The Life’…no,‘A Year In the Day’…no, not quite right,‘A Life In the Year’… oh dear ...
Mummy says Stop Woofling and Get On With It! So here goes – ‘The Amazing, Breathtaking, Colourful…’ no stoppit – ‘Some Adventures From The Diary of a Swedish Vallhund’ (That’s me – Sammy! And this is all about when I was a baby and first came to live with my new Mummy and Daddy…)
Sunday 27th July
Today my new Mummy and Daddy came to take me to my new home. I was a bit frighted, leaving my doggy mummy and brothers and sisters and going off in a big grey box with wheels on and I did cry a bit but Mummy cuddled me and that was so nice I fell asleep. It took such a long time to get to my new home, Mummy and Daddy stopped half way to let me get out for a break and a drink of water. There were lots more big boxes on wheels, more people than I’ve ever seen before, miles of grass and everything was so interesting I just kept looking and looking. When we reached home I found a lovely new crate and pen, all of my own. My pen is my own play space with my crate where I sleep, my water bowl and a tray for me to use for wee and poo. I have lots of new toys, a ball, a rope, a bone and some chew toys. Then Mummy and Daddy put me in my pen in the garden – I wasn’t very happy about that and shouted to let Mummy know. Lots of visitors (Aunties, Uncles and Neighbours) came to meet me and play with me. I loved playing tug of war with Daddy and my rope. At the end of the day I was so tired I fell asleep on Daddy’s feet.
A character almost everyone is familiar with is Rupert Bear. Rupert is immensely collectable today and in particular the early annuals are very sought after. Although the first Rupert annual was published in 1936, Rupert Bear was actually created 16 years previously in 1920. His creator was Mary Tourtel, born in 1874 into a very artistic family and married in her early 20's to Herbert Tourtel who worked in printing and publishing.
As a child Mary was fond of sketching animals and eventually attended Canterbury Art School where she won a gold medal as the most outstanding pupil. Besides being a clever artist she was also an aviator and adventurer who pre-dated the more famous Amy Johnson by some years. With her husband in 1919 she had flown in a Handley-Page aeroplane breaking the record from Hounslow to Brussels.
It's that time of year again. Those spectacular Autumn colours have now been blown down, and we have just swept them up. The garden is looking smartish, but strangely empty without the colour, although the heather is in flower, and the choisia, and the schitzostylus, and the... But enough of that, although it has been a strange year, with plants flowering at such odd times. And our home grown grapes were splendiferous this year...
Left: Fishing on the Dordogne
So what have we to look forward to? Looming large on the skyline are the Christmas Lights, but we have spoken about them before. One of the real pleasures of this time of year is planning next year's holidays, which leads to fond memories of what has gone before.
What is it about men and their bikes? Their bikes are objects that they worship! My husband certainly takes more care of his bicycle than he does in maintaining our little flat! Are all men the same? Sorry.... I just needed to vent a little!
When I was young I used to love riding my bicycle. We lived up a steep single track lane and I would often cycle down into the village to meet my school friends (and back up again afterwards – or perhaps I walked up, I can't quite remember!) However, one day I had a little incident - I met a horse on our lane very unexpectedly! I slammed the brakes on and unfortunately didn't realise that I was on gravel at the time. And that was that really... Over the handlebars I went in spectacular fashion. I have been very nervous of cycling ever since – especially downhill! You'll be pleased to know that I didn't break anything – surprisingly! And the horse was fine too – if a little startled.
There are very many wonderful memories connected to this highly pleasurable activity. I have two daughters, now in their late twenties, to whom I used to read each day when they were young. One became an avid reader, staying up late into the night reading some treasured stories, over and over, with her parents blissfully asleep and unaware. Roald Dahl was a favourite author at that time.
I have vivid memories, which I hope they share, of laughter, safe “terror” and tears for those really sad endings followed by cuddles. I also loved watching them as they re-enacted various stories together or made up their own versions. It was wonderful to watch their development, from just pointing at pictures with smiles or frowns, to remembering the words by heart (it’s a shame that it can become so much harder in later life!) Of course it became a game to change a word here and there - they were so pleased when they had to correct me.
Who was Alice? She was born Alice Pleasance Liddell in Oxford in 1852, the middle daughter of Dean Liddell (Dr Henry Liddell, former head of Westminster School, Dean of Christ Church, Oxford). The Liddell family belonged to the English upper class. The family could afford all sorts of luxuries including elegant clothes, books , toys and have their children educated by private tutors . They had a beautiful home and hosted elegant parties Their house was staffed with lots of servants, so all in all Alice had a very privileged childhood. Mr Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) studied at Christ Church Oxford and obtained a Batchelor of Arts degree in Mathematics and remained at Christ Church as a lecturer for 47 years until his death.
A fascinating, colourful and educational series of books for children, first published at the start of the Second World War and with some volumes continuing to be reprinted well into the 1970's. How did this series come to be published in the war years when there were severe paper shortages and little money to be spent on books? The series was the brainchild of Noel Carrington, editor for Country Life books and described by Kathleen Hale as "a brilliant talent spotter"
Carrington had for some time been an admirer of the brightly coloured lithographed books mass-produced for Soviet children. Well illustrated, they were printed in huge numbers and given away on street corners so that every child in the land could have one. Carrington believed that there was a need for such books in Britain and was actively seeking a publisher who would be prepared to take a similar risk. He had researched the subject thoroughly with the printers W.H. Cowell and was convinced it was viable. Artists would be required to draw their illustrations directly onto lithographic plates to avoid the expense of camera work. While this was a complex and time-consuming process it would help to reduce the published price of the books in line with Carrington's ideal.
Whilst tidying the shelves recently I came across a book by Catherine Sefton. Nothing odd in that but as I was reading the text on the wrapper flaps I discovered that Catherine Sefton is the pen name of Martin Waddell! This set me thinking why do some authors use pseudonyms or pen names?
According to the Oxford English Dictionary a pseudonym is 'a fictitious name, especially one used by an author'. There are many reasons why an author may not want to use their own name. They may wish to hide their identity or to disguise their gender. They may use different names for different genres. There may already be an author with the same or similar name or it may simply be a marketing ploy. Some author's pseudonyms become common knowledge whilst others may be known only to their publishers.
Well that was in the middle of the nineteenth century!
What have the Portuguese done for us? (To paraphrase Monty Python)
Hans Christian Andersen, best known today for his children's Fairy Tales was, in his time, best known as a writer of travelogues. Andersen visited Portugal in 1865-66 and was extremely impressed with the country, the modernity of its railways, the neatness of its towns and the courtesy of its people (still true today - well at least the courtesy bit!) In contrast, he thought Spain was backward and disordered! Portugal at this time led the way in education and had developed new ways to help the children learn their own language, which right now I could use as I'm currently struggling to learn Portuguese!
I read in a newspaper recently that most people collect something - for me it's pigs! My collection started many years ago with a wooden pig I saw on a bric-a-brac stall in Hay market. It was nothing special, not an antique, not particularly pretty and not expensive (I think I paid about 50 pence) but it caught my eye and I bought it. My collection has grown and grown over the years because, along with my purchases, family and friends have bought me gifts of pigs as well - I was never difficult to buy for, if in doubt get a pig! To date I have over 400 pigs in all shapes and sizes and made of all manner of materials.