It’s that time again…I’m handing over to Nell Peters for her end of the month round up. Hope you’ve got a cuppa on standby…
Over to you Nell…
Oh hi! It’s you again! Nothing better to do? Well, you’d better come in, I suppose – but you’ll have to make your own tea, because I’m involved in matters of national importance. Not all of that is true …
So, did March come in like a lion, go out like a lamb? Rather depends upon where you live, I imagine. The saying is obviously based on northern hemisphere weather variance at this time of year, originating from times when the land dominated peoples’ lives and bad weather could trigger food shortages, putting whole communities at risk. It was believed that bad spirits could affect the weather adversely, and so everyone watched their Ps and Qs, trying not to upset the little devils.
March can be a changeable month, in which we experience a huge range of temperatures and conditions, but it’s also a month that hints at spring turning to summer and better weather to come. I’m always thrilled to see daffs in Tesco, with at least the promise of those and other bulbs’ brave green shoots raising their tips above the parapet of soil, where they’ve snoozed over winter. Lambs frolic in lush green fields (cue ooh-ah sounds, or maybe ooh-baa?) and baby birds hatch in their nests, beaks ever-open demanding food from their poor overworked/underpaid mothers. All in all, a hopeful time of year, especially after the vernal (spring) equinox – Monday 20th in 2017. Apart from lion/lamb lore, lesser-known predictions are: Dry March and a wet May? Fill barns and bays with corn and hay. Or: As it rains in March so it rains in June. Then we have: March winds and April showers? Bring forth May flowers. Genius.
There are two saints’ days in March; David (1st) and Patrick (17th), plus Mothering Sunday/Mother’s Day (26th in the UK 2017, the fourth Sunday in Lent) – and, occasionally, Easter; but not this year. Far more interesting though are National Peanut Butter Day and National Pig Day (perhaps referring to those who scoff more than their fair share of peanut butter?), celebrated on March 1st in the USA – where else? – and they follow that up with National Crème Pie Day (3rd), National Peanut Cluster Day (8th), National Crab Meat Day and National Meatball Day (9th), then National Blueberry Popover Day on the 10th. After that, there’s a bit of a digestion-resting lull, when any self-respecting American books on SAS (Scandinavian Airlines, not the scary military lot) and nips over to Sweden for Waffle Day on the 25th. Then it’s back home to wash down all that junk food on the 27th, National Whiskey Day. Good grief, I have enough trouble keeping up with all the family birthdays, let alone anything else!
Apart from being the third month of the year in both Julian (who he?) and Gregorian calendars, March is a Fenland market town and civil parish in the Isle of Ely area of Cambridgeshire, situated on the old course of the River Nene. It was the county town of the Isle of Ely (which was a separate administrative county from 1889 to 1965) and is now the administrative centre of Fenland District Council. Don’t say I don’t tell you everything you need to know to get on in life.
In the nineteenth century, March grew through becoming an important railway centre and like many Fenland towns, it was once a Billy-no-mates island, surrounded by marshes – the second largest in the Great Level. As the land drained, the town prospered as a minor port, a trading and religious centre – but now it’s a market town, administrative and railway centre and a popular port of call for those messing about on the river in pleasure boats.
This day in 1596, René Descartes was born in La Haye en Touraine – now Descartes, Indre-et-Loire, France – how neat to have the town where you were born re-named after you! (I wonder if Wimbledon would do the same for me?) Though every schoolboy could probably quote Descartes’ observation, ‘Cogito ergo sum’ – ‘I think, therefore I am’ – the ‘Father of Modern Philosophy’ also said: ‘It is not enough to have a good mind; the main thing is to use it well.’ Plus: ‘The reading of all good books is like a conversation with the finest minds of past centuries.’ And: ‘If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things.’ Descartes was certainly no slacker in the fields of mathematics and science, either – a real Smarty Pants.
Sharing his birthday, we have German composer Johann Sebastian Bach (1685), the eighth and youngest child born into a musical family, as was Austrian, Franz Joseph Haydn (1732). Quite a few composers were born on this day, but since Feb’s blog leant heavily into the musical side of things, let’s move on to a couple of chemists. First up, German Robert Wilhelm Eberhard von Bunsen (1811) – absolutely no prizes for guessing he invented the Bunsen burner – and sporran-wearer Archibald Scott Couper in 1831. Archie came up with an early theory of chemical structure and bonding, clever chap.
American actor (George) Richard Chamberlain (1934) appeared in Dr Kildare (which even I would struggle to remember), mini-series Shogun in 1980 and The Thorn Birds in 1983. I wonder if he met Japanese actor Dokumamushi Sandayu (1936, and don’t ask me what he’s been in!) while filming Shogun, assuming at least some of it was shot on location. Another American, Christopher Walken, was Ronald Christopher Walken at his birth in 1943, and is perhaps best known for blowing his brains out while playing Russian roulette in the film The Deer Hunter. Don’t try that at home.
Fans of the Partridge Family may recognise the name of actress/singer Shirley Jones, who is eighty-three today. In the musical sitcom, she played David Cassidy’s mother and is in real life his stepmother, having been the second wife of actor/singer/director, the late Jack Cassidy. Cassidy Snr was bipolar (manic depressive), an alcoholic and bisexual – quite a combination. He sadly died aged only forty-nine, when he nodded off on a sofa after a boozy night out and set light to it with a cigarette.
David C has had his own, well-documented trials with alcoholism and more than one trip to rehab. But before that and the more recent shocking revelation that he is suffering from dementia, he spent many years, first as a teen idol and then a popular singer/actor who managed to evolve from child star to adult entertainer. I was never a fan of the young DC, but a friend, author/journo Allison Pearson most certainly was – with bells on. Her second novel, I Think I Love You (I wonder where she got the title from?) is written in two parts, the first about two young girls, Petra and Sharon, living in 1970s South Wales. Their lives revolve around their shared crush, David Cassidy, and so to a certain extent the story is autobiographical.
The book – I believe the only one ever printed with my (real) name included in the Acknowledgements – was launched in June 2010 and the OH and I toddled along to Cambridge for a lavish party, to join a huge number of people gathered under the marquee to be fed, watered and entertained – I rather doubt I could fill the garden shed. But the road to finished MS was a very rocky one for Allison (and everyone who knew her!) Amongst other things, Miramax threatened to sue over delayed delivery (it was due in 2005, which is impressively late in anyone’s book!) and her agent, Pat Kavanagh, tragically died of a brain tumour. Incidentally, since we’re a bit low in the unusual names department this month, can I just mention that Allison was born Judith Allison Lobbett … Pearson comes from her ex-husband, Simon Pearson.
Right. What else? Anyone interested in knowing that on this day in 1996 actor and director Clinton (aka Clint) Eastwood (then 65) married news anchor Dina Ruiz (30) in Las Vegas – that’s what you call an age gap! The marriage lasted until 2014 – eons by Hollywood standards. Clint was named after his father – imagine the senior version being asked his name, ‘Clint Eastwood.’ ‘Yeah right, very funny buddy – now what’s your real name?’
Nipping forward to 2011, Italian Canadian singer Michael Bublé (my auto-correct keeps insisting that should be Bubble – I do see its point) aged 35, tied the knot with actress and model Luisana Lopilato (23) in Buenos Aires. Not such a happy day one year before though, when Dawson’s Creek actor, James Van Der Beek (32) and actress Heather Ann McComb (33) divorced after almost seven years – an almost-itch. At least we’ve collected a few more contenders for the dodgy name competition – my money is on Ms Lopilato so far. Has a nice ring to it.
Historically on 31st March, in 1657 English Parliament made the Humble Petition to Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell and offered him the crown, which he declined. Gold not his colour, perhaps. Quebec and Montreal were incorporated (1831), and keeping a tenuous French connection, in 1889 the Eiffel Tower – designed by engineer and architect Gustave Eiffel – officially opened in Paris. It was built as a gateway to the Exposition Universelle, and at 300m high retained the record for the tallest man-made structure for 41 years. The tower usurped the Washington Monument for the title and was itself knocked from the perch when the Chrysler Building in New York City was finished in 1930.
In 1903, a dude called Richard Pearse flew a monoplane several hundred yards in Waitohi, New Zealand. The plane resembled a modern-day micro light and witness accounts controversially suggested he flew before the Wright brothers took off into the wide blue yonder – claims which were subsequently discounted. Fast forward eleven years and the bi-planes flown in WWI were not a great deal more substantial than these pioneering aircraft.
My paternal great grandmother, Rose, was born in Kingston upon Thames workhouse in 1876 – as was her mother (also Rose) before her. It’s almost impossible to comprehend the levels of poverty and deprivation they would have endured in those dark, patriarchal days of extreme inequality during the Victorian era. (There is a point here, loosely connecting Richard Pearse and my ancestors – I promise. Bear with me. Or bare with me, if you prefer; I won’t look.) Younger Rose must have been made of pretty stern stuff, because she pulled herself up by the bootstraps and married a wealthy landowner – way da go, Rose! That level of social mobility was almost unheard of then. One of their sons, my grandfather Wilfred, lied about his age to join up as a pilot with the Royal Flying Corps, twenty days before his seventeenth birthday in August 1914. (Got there in the end!)
There are quite a few anecdotes surrounding Wilfred’s flying career – one of my favourites is when he formed the airborne escort for the King of Belgium. Inevitably, they came under attack from German aircraft and once Wilfred had run out of ammo, he soared above the enemy plane and threw his toolbox down on the poor pilot, who – if he didn’t die of heart failure – may have had a bit of a headache thereafter. Apparently, there was no official recognition of his quick-witted act of bravery – not even a new toolbox. My grandmother once told me that when Wilfred asked her out before the war, she turned him down flat because he looked too young. It seems that his service years aged him a little (unsurprisingly!) because they got together immediately upon his return. Lucky for me.
Now it’s time for me to fly (so sorry!) Thanks once again for having me, Jenny – now stop eating those hot cross buns! A moment on the lips …
Another triumph Nell – thank you so much!!
(As if I’d over eat Hot Cross Buns…hides crumbs quickly…)
Happy reading everyone,