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End of the Month: July in a Nutshell

Another month has zipped by, and so Nell Peters is here with her popular roundup of events. A belated happy birthday to Nell (who shares the same birthday as me), and thanks, as ever, for another fab post.

Over to you…

Good day! Both Jenny and I are a year older since we last met, and while the Football World Cup didn’t actually come home, sales of waistcoats rocketed. That’s July in a nutshell and I’m not even going to mention tennis or Donald Trump …

Someone celebrating their birthday this fine day is JK (Joanne Kathleen, as I’m sure you all know) Rowling, who clocks up fifty-three years. The Harry Potter series of books hit the shelves in June 1997, with publication of HP and the Philosopher’s Stone, and the last (seventh), HP and the Deathly Hallows was released in July 2007. Rowling’s imagined biography for her main character saw him born on 31st July 1980 in Godric’s Hollow, whereas the actor Daniel Radcliffe, who played Harry P (again, as you all know – I have a talent for stating the obvious), was born in Queen Charlotte’s Hospital, London – where sons #2, 3 and 4 were born – on 23rd July 1989, about nine weeks after #3. I’m sure if Daniel’s mother had known then the significance of the last day of the month, she’d have held on. In keeping with the 31/7 theme, the play, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by Jack Thorne, with contributions by JKR, was published worldwide at midnight on this day two years ago. And what do you give the woman who can have anything she wants for her birthday? I like to think at least one of her friends will give her some tasteful Harry Pottery. I’m so sorry …

A name caught my eye as I was researching people born on 31st July and immediately appealed to my pathetic sense of humour – take a posthumous bow Arthur (John) Daley; not the ducker and diver, but an American sports writer and journalist born in New York City in 1904. He wrote for The New York Times (his only employer) for almost fifty years, producing over 10,000 columns with an estimated twenty million words – and in 1956 was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for his troubles. He reported on the 1932 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, and when he was chosen to repeat that role in Berlin in 1936, he became the first Times correspondent to be sent overseas for a sports assignment. In later years, he covered the Olympics in Rome, Tokyo, Mexico City and Munich. Daley lived in Old Greenwich, Connecticut with his wife, Betty and their four children, two of whom followed in his footsteps to become journalists on the Times. He died of a heart attack on January 3rd 1974, as he was walking to work, and is buried in the ambitiously-named Gate of Heaven Cemetery, New York.

Poor old Arthur didn’t make the Montreal Olympics in 1976, but I did. I managed to miss all of the long, hot summer that cooked the UK that year, but Montreal summers are always hot, with crippling degrees of humidity because the city is a series of islands. Being around three months pregnant and very sickly, I quite regretted shelling out for a ticket for the opening ceremony, as I sat through the rather lacklustre proceedings, feeling like death.

Montreal had experienced the coldest winter on record during 1970/71 (152 inches of snow, yikes!), followed by a period of violent political unrest. The terrorist Front du Libération du Quebec (FLQ) exploded ninety-five bombs in the city – the largest of which blew up the Stock Exchange – and kidnapped the British Consul, James Cross, along with the Minister of Labour, Pierre Laporte. Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau responded by imposing martial law, and armoured personnel carriers patrolled the streets, with troops detaining hundreds of people without charge. The FLQ released Cross but murdered Laporte, and the city was a pretty scary place to be for a very long time – even when I arrived in ’74 – particularly if you spoke with a British accent.

You might think, then, that the Games of the XXI Olympiad – to give them their official title – would be embraced as an opportunity to turn a corner, to go some way to ease the tragedy of the 1972 Munich Olympics, and demonstrate that sport could transcend all. After all, the Games were the first to be hosted by Canada and, to date, the only summer Olympics held there. But no; multiple strikes, organised corruption, theft and sabotage, along with rocketing costs, left the city with a debt of (Canadian) $1.6bn which would take decades to clear, not to mention an unfinished stadium. And to add to the fiasco, as the Games were about to open, twenty-two African nations withdrew, because the International Olympic Committee refused to ban New Zealand for sending the All Blacks rugby team to tour in apartheid South Africa.

But the British did turn up, and one of the women toddling around the stadium, dodging cement mixers and wearing the rather hideous uniform – red skirt suit, white shoes, bag, scarf that looked like a hangman’s noose, topped off with what one of my grandmothers would have described as a muck-spreading hat – was Princess Anne (without her horse, in case you were wondering?)

My only claim to fame is that I’ve watched the Olympic Torch procession up close and personal twice – first in Montreal in torrential rain and then in sunny Norfolk in 2012, prior to the London Olympics. Following in her mother’s footsteps, Zara Phillips won a silver medal on her horse, High Kingdom in the Equestrian Eventing final on 31/7/12. This was on the same day that two car bombs killed twenty-one people in Baghdad and a second power grid failure in India in two days left 670 million people without power. That’s an awful lot of redundant toasters.

I doubt Zara ever met our niece, who was a volunteer chauffeur during the London Games – as a teacher she was on summer hols and didn’t have to take leave. Not speaking a word of Russian, she was the perfect choice to ferry around a Russian ambassador, who didn’t speak a word of English. What a jovial pairing that must have been (he did, however, manage to invite her to some lavish official function – an offer she tactfully and wisely refused.) Worst of all, she had to wear the awful pink and purple clobber assigned to all staff and volunteers. Who ‘designs’ these outfits, I wonder – colour blind orang-utans with no dress sense?

As I write this in advance, I hope I’m not tempting fate by mentioning that this July has brought hot temperatures and little rain to the UK. And some record heat levels were recorded elsewhere in 1994. It was 39.3°C in Pleschen, East-Germany on this day; Arcen Limburg, Holland recorded an average over the month of 22.0°C – the warmest July since 1783; and Stockholm averaged 21.5°C, their hottest July since 1855. Phew!

Loretta Young

Lots of weddings have taken place on 31st July over the years; American actress Loretta Young married advertising executive Tom Lewis (1940); singer-songwriter and musician Ray Charles married Eileen Williams (1951); singer Natalie Cole married songwriter Marvin Yancy (1976); Bee Gee Robin Gibb married author and artist Dwina Murphy (1986); actor Patrick Dempsey married make-up artist Jillian Fink (1999); Lady Davina Windsor married surfer and the first Maori to marry into the Royal Family, Gary Lewis at the chapel in Kensington Palace in London (2004); and then a double whammy in 2010 when singer-songwriter Alicia Keys married award-winning rapper Swizz Beatz in Corsica, and Chelsea Clinton, daughter of former US President Bill and wife Hillary, married investment banker Marc Mezvinsky in New York.

We had a family wedding on 31st July 2015, when our oldest niece (aforementioned Olympic chauffeur) tied the knot in Stratford-upon-Avon, from whence her OH hailed. It was a lovely old country house-type venue and no expense was spared, as the sun shone down on the bridal party and their many guests. Our immediate family had a couple of wardrobe malfunctions in the footwear department – #2 son forgot to pack his smart shoes and so had to wear trainers with his formal suit, but that paled into insignificance compared with #1’s experience. Can you imagine why anyone would order a pair of very expensive shoes off the internet and not try them on to make sure they were a good fit? The first time those shoes met his larger feet was in the hotel room as he and his wife were getting ready for the ceremony – he was giving the bride (his cousin) away because her dad had died four years previously, so no trainer substitutes for him.

The wedding was in two parts – the first conducted by a celebrant in the ruins of an old chapel in the grounds. Son managed to escort the bride from house to chapel wearing the crippling shoes, but they were removed at the first opportunity, and when he walked the bride into the official proceedings within the house, he did so in his brightly-coloured socks. That was also the case for the photographs – at least there were no visible holes. Nor did anyone seem to notice that #2 and 3 were wearing almost-identical blue suits – #2’s newly-purchased and #3’s hired. Despite an enviable honeymoon in the Maldives, the ‘happy couple’ had separated before Christmas. Slightly bizarre that the outfit I purchased far outlasted the marriage …

#2 son’s wedding was booked for 30th July 2011, but, alas, was called off a few months beforehand – there seems to be some sort of wedding curse going on here! That year for us was four funerals and no weddings … Looking on the bright side, cancellation meant the dreaded stag do would not go ahead – they’d planned a long weekend on a canal barge. The very thought of several inebriated young men, staggering around on deck in close proximity to murky waters, turned my blood cold – not helped by my friend Allison insisting on referring to it as The Boat of Death. The wedding may not have happened, but the couple are still together, as are another couple who actually did get married on that day.

Step forward once again Zara Phillips, who wed rugby player, Mike Tindall. Without any nuptials to attend, the OH and I nipped up to Edinburgh for a few days, not realising the wedding would be taking place down the road in Canongate Kirk – in fact, several people staying at our hotel were going to the bunfight. As I hadn’t packed my embarrassing hat, we decided not to gatecrash.

Speaking of which, hat’s me lot – sorry again! Thanks, Jenny!

Toodles!

NP

***

Thanks again Nell!

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny xx

 

 


End of the Month: Cheerio June with Nell Peters

June seems to be all but over? Anyone notice that happen? Nope? Nor me..I was probably in a dark corner somewhere writing a book…

Everyone ready? Got coffee, tea and cake? Great, let’s hand over to Nell. 

Morning all – I trust this finds you in fine fettle?

If it’s OK with Jenny, we’ll dive straight in shall we?

Two American professional wrestlers were born on this day in 1891. Frank Simmons Leavitt was born in New York City to parents, John McKenney and Henrietta (née Decker) Leavitt. He tried out various wrestling names for size: Soldier Leavitt (when he was on active duty both at the Mexican border and in France), Hell’s Kitchen Bill-Bill and Stone Mountain, before adopting Man Mountain Dean after meeting his wife, Doris Dean. I don’t know about mountainous, but at 5’11” and 310lbs, he wasn’t a small guy… As well as his wrestling career, he worked as a stunt double, appeared as himself in five films and studied journalism at the University of Georgia. He died of a heart attack, aged sixty-one.

Sharing his date of birth was Robert Herman Julius Friedrich, born in Wisconsin. Friedrich began wrestling at the age of fourteen using the ring name Ed Lewis but was subsequently known as the rather more sinister Ed Strangler Lewis after a match in France where he applied a sleeper hold, and the French, who were unfamiliar with the manoeuvre, thought he was strangling his opponent. Call me picky, but that doesn’t sound very sporting. A four-time World Heavyweight Wrestling Champion, he semi-retired in 1935 but returned to the ring seven years later, despite being legally blind from trachoma. It was another five years before he fully retired from the professional circuit aged fifty-seven, and he died destitute in New York in 1966. Ah bless.

Two more American wrestlers were born on June 30th – in 1985 Cody Garrett Runnels (now known as Cody Rhodes, or The American Nightmare) checked into Marietta, Georgia. He followed in his father – Virgil Riley Runnels Junior, better known as The American Dream (I see what they did there!) or Dusty Rhodes – and his older half-brother Goldust’s footsteps, into the professional ranks of World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. (WWE). Cody’s godfather, Terry Wayne Allan is a retired pro wrestler who fought under the name of Magnum TA – so, it seems an aptitude for the sport and coming up with creative ring names are family traits.

Incidentally, Cody is also an ‘occasional’ actor (whatever that means – maybe he appears annually as the Easter Bunny, the Grim Reaper on Halloween, or even Poldark’s shirt?) and this wrestling/acting combination, with a bit of modelling thrown in, has also been embraced by one Victoria Elizabeth Crawford (ring name Alicia Fox), born on this day in 1986 in Florida. She is the longest tenured WWE female performer, having been with the company since 2006.

Step into the ring – the boxing type this time – heavyweight fighter, ‘The Greatest’ Muhammad Ali (formerly Cassius Marcellus Clay Junior, which he denounced as his slave name) who defeated Joe Bugner in Malaysia on 30th June 1975. Presumably he floated like a butterfly, stung like a bee?

Clay’s name change came about when he converted to Islam, as did Michael Gerard Tyson, who will need fifty-two candles for his cake today. He’s of course better known as Mike Tyson, alias ‘The Baddest Man on the Planet’. (By coincidence, I am known en famille as ‘The Baddest Cook on the Planet.’) One of his several dubious claims to fame was when he was disqualified during a World Boxing Association championship rematch in 1997, for biting Evander Holyfield’s ear – now that’s definitely not sporting! He has a bit of a dodgy history in his personal life too, but we won’t go into that here, as it’s a family show. It was during one of his banged-up spells that he converted to Islam – that’s OK then.

Another sportsman who has spent time on the Very Naughty Step is former National Football League running back, OJ (Orenthal James) Simpson, whose pre-trial hearing for the murders of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman began this day in 1994. Unless you’ve been living on Mars for the last twenty-odd years, you will know that Simpson was found Not Guilty by a criminal trial jury, but was subsequently deemed responsible for both deaths by a unanimous jury deliberating a civil lawsuit, filed by the Brown and Goldman families in 1997. They were awarded compensatory and punitive damages totalling $33.5 million (not far short of $52 million now), but have received only a tiny percentage of that.

OJ did go to jail, however; in 2007, he was convicted of multiple felonies, including use of a deadly weapon to commit kidnapping, burglary and armed robbery. Yikes! He was sentenced to a minimum nine, maximum thirty-three years (how does that work?) in Lovelock Correctional Centre, Nevada and was released on parole on 1st October 2017.

Who keeps up with the Kardashians? The late patriarch Robert K was part of his friend OJ’s defence team during the 90s murder trial. Although he had let his licence to practice law lapse before the case came to court to concentrate on business interests, he reactivated it to sit in as a volunteer assistant on the legal ‘dream team’. I’ve never seen the reality programme (I’m more of a Come Dine with Me fan tbh – love the voiceover) so had to research it (though I drew the line at actually watching!) – there’s a cast of thousands!

There appear to be six offspring – some are Ks and some are Jenners, on account of mum Kris’s two marriages, the first to Robert and the second to Bruce (now Caitlyn) Jenner. All five daughters have names beginning with K like their mum (or mom) and the only son, Rob was obviously named after his dad – lucky escape, as he could have ended up as a Kayne … oh wait, they have one of those by marriage. The show apparently focuses on the personal and professional lives of the Kardashian–Jenner ‘blended’ family, though what any of them actually do I’ve no idea and frankly don’t care. For me, the most surprising thing is that the programme has run for nearly eleven years. Seriously?

Enough of tinsel town. In 1971 Ohio became the 38th US state to approve the lowering of the voting age to eighteen (1970 in the UK), thus ratifying the 26th amendment. (I will refrain from mentioning here that the prefrontal cortex, which amongst other things assesses and judges consequences of decisions made, is nowhere near mature at eighteen, being the last area of the brain to fully develop.)

This was on the same day that the crew of Russian space mission Soyuz 11 were found dead upon their return to Earth – the only people to die in space.  In the early hours, the Soviet Union prepared to welcome its three latest cosmonaut heroes after a record-breaking mission; Georgi Dobrovolski, Vladislav Volkov and Viktor Patsayev had spent more than twenty-three days in orbit, and also occupied the world’s first space station.

The parachute of Soyuz 11’s descent module was spotted and helicopters touched down for would-be rescuers to make their way to the spacecraft, still superheated and charred from re-entry. Nikolai Kamanin, commander of the cosmonaut team, and veteran cosmonaut Alexei Yeliseyev, waited more than an hour for news of a successful recovery, only to hear three numbers: 1-1-1, which translated as the entire crew being dead. The subsequent investigation determined that an air vent had been jerked open during the separation of the orbital and descent modules and that all three men had been dead for some time from suffocation. How dreadfully sad.

Happily, safety in space travel has much improved and UK astronaut, Tim Peake became the first Briton to join a European Space Agency mission in December 2015, when he blasted into orbit aboard a Soyuz rocket from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. He spent six months on the International Space Station (ISS) and during that time the 44-year-old former helicopter test pilot took part in more than two hundred and fifty experiments. He also ran the London Marathon on a treadmill and engaged more than a million schoolchildren with educational activities – I thought he was brilliant. One of the highlights of Peake’s time in space was a space walk with Nasa astronaut Tim Kopra. While their repair work on the outside of the station was a success, mission controllers cut the walk short after Kopra noticed water leaking into his helmet. Peake will return for another stint on the space station, probably in 2019.

At the beginning of this month, the latest successful ISS mission was completed when a Soyuz capsule carrying Russian Anton Shkaplerov, American Scott Tingle and Japanese Norishige Kanai floated down to Earth after more than five months, landing in Kazakhstan. Footage from within the ISS had shown Shkaplerov practicing with a football, which he was reportedly going to take back to Moscow for the opening game of the World Cup.

Back on terra firma, on the last day of June 1984, Joseph Philippe Pierre Yves Elliott (known as Pierre) Trudeau officially stepped down as Liberal (15th) Prime Minister of Canada after serving two separate terms for a total of fifteen years. He was a charismatic personality described as a ‘swinging young bachelor’ when first elected in 1968 – even though he was almost forty-nine – and dated Barbra Streisand. However, he married much younger TV presenter Margaret Sinclair in March 1971 and they had three sons, the oldest being Justin, current PM. He and middle son, Alexandre (aka Sacha) were both born on Christmas Day, in 1971 and 1973 respectively, poor things – as #4 son (born on Christmas Eve) says, you have to wait all year and everything comes at once. The third Trudeau son, Michel was born in October 1975, but was tragically killed aged only twenty-three in a skiing accident. His body was never found.

Nothing to do with June 30th, but Michel Trudeau’s lost-forever body reminded me of Harold Edward Holt, ditto. I came across him a few years ago when I was researching for a book, never having heard of him beforehand. Harold was Liberal (17th) Prime Minister of Australia from January 1966 until his disappearance in December 1967 when he got caught in a rip current, swimming at Cheviot Beach, Victoria.

Although he was a strong swimmer, he had injured his shoulder at the time, but that didn’t stop the conspiracy theorists coming up with such gems as he was abducted by aliens, faked his own death to run off with his mistress, was assassinated by the CIA or (my favourite!) had been whisked away by a Chinese submarine so that he could defect. Holt was big pals with the US President at the time, Democrat Lyndon B Johnson (in contrast to his frosty relationship with UK Labour PM Harold Wilson, whose widow, Mary died earlier this month aged 102!) and supported the American presence in Vietnam, pledging ‘All the way with LBJ’. It wasn’t until 2005 that an inquest ruled Holt’s death as accidental drowning.

Staying Down Under, I’ll just mention here that Olivia Newton John married  businessman, John Easterling on this day in 2008 in Florida – that’s exactly thirty-three years after Cher married singer-songwriter Gregg Allman, having divorced Sonny Bono four days earlier. And the beat goes on…

Toodles!

NP

***

Another epic end of the month blog! Thanks so much Nell.

See you next time for our mutual birthday month!!

Happy reading,

Jenny xx


End of the month with Nell Peters: 2 years on…

For the past two years I’ve been lucky enough to have the fabulous Nell Peters write end of the month blogs for me. Let’s see what she has in store for us as May winds to an end.

Over to you Nell…

Good morning! And how are we today?

Back again – and on the second anniversary of my guest blogs for Jenny. I’m very soon going to run out of things to rattle on about!

On this day in 1902 Australia were all out for 36 v England at Edgbaston, their lowest ever cricket score. Elsewhere, the Second Boer War ended after two years, seven months, two weeks and six days – the first having lasted but four months. The British Army was reinforced by volunteer contingents from the Empire, including Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the Cape Colony and Natal and wisely no longer wore ‘here-I-am-feel-free-to-shoot-me’ red uniforms.

This was thanks to Lieutenant Harry Lumsden of the Corps of Guides, who was the first British officer to provide his men with practical working garments when he served in India in 1846. He had white cotton dyed with mud so that when they dried, the uniforms blended in with the surrounding landscape – this became known as khaki, Hindi for dust.

The Boers (Boer being the Afrikaans and Dutch word for farmer – I’m such a linguist!) were adept at guerrilla warfare and wore no uniform at all, so they were hard to spot amongst farming communities, where they found places to hide, horses and supplies. Brutally, the British solution to that was a ‘scorched earth’ policy of burning down or destroying farmhouses, crops etc. and rounding up the inhabitants of the countryside to be held in segregated concentration camps, often under horrific conditions. Many thousands – mostly women and children – died during their incarceration.

Ardent imperialist Cecil Rhodes didn’t live to see the British victory at the end of the war, having died a few weeks beforehand on March 26th. Rhodes was a British-born financier, statesman, and empire builder who was Prime Minister of Cape Colony from 1890 to 1896. He also co-founded the now global diamond company, De Beers with Charles Rudd in 1880, so called after the De Beers brothers who originally owned the land where the diamonds were mined. Next (1887) came the purchase of the Kimberley Central Mining Company, to form De Beers Consolidated Mining Ltd.

A controversial figure even now, Rhodes also had a philanthropic side. His will gifted a large area of land on the slopes of Table Mountain to the South African nation and part of this estate became the upper campus of the University of Cape Town (my youngest sister-in-law went there!) Another area became the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens, and land that wasn’t developed is now a conservation area. He also made a bequest of funds to establish the Rhodes Scholarship – the world’s first international study programme. The scholarship enabled students from territories under British rule, or formerly under British rule and from Germany to study at Rhodes’ alma mater, Oxford University. His aim was to promote leadership marked by public spirit and good character, and to ‘render war impossible’ by promoting friendship between the great powers. That worked well…

#3 son was recently headhunted by De Beers – as I write this (in advance, obvs), he has had three interviews and will have a fourth either in Mumbai or Bangkok, where he is currently based. I’m not sure he actually wants to move just yet, but it’s a bit of a diamond-encrusted feather in his cap to be sought out, I imagine. And since he travelled around SA as part of his gap year, he at least has something to talk about to fill any pregnant pauses while he’s being grilled. He had a high old time travelling (I know, because I paid his credit card bills!) – quite literally when he did the Bloukrans Bridge bungee jump. It’s one of the world’s highest at 216 metres (709 ft) above the Bloukrans River on the Garden Route. He also swam with sharks in a rather flimsy-looking cage and did a parachute jump. When he was home again, he actually told me in all seriousness that he’d have been very scared of jumping from the back of the tiny plane, if he hadn’t had a parachute on his back…

The OH was born in the UK but spent his formative years from the age of ten in Johannesburg, where he went to the Marist Brothers Independent Catholic Day School, along with one of the De Beers sons. The Marist Brothers were apparently a mean bunch with a penchant for corporal punishment at the drop of a hat, and I don’t think he’s been inside a Catholic church since he left.

In fact, churches generally give him the creeps and he has to be dragged, screaming, to weddings and funerals. In between school and uni, he was conscripted into the SA Army for two years’ National Service, where he joined the Paras and had to learn Afrikaans mighty quickly. Unfortunately, his jumping career was cut short when he fell awkwardly on an old ankle injury (motor bike accident) and spent a few weeks in hospital.

Thereafter he was sent for duty in the Townships and the Angolan Bush, where he spent his twenty-first birthday and slept through a mortar attack on the camp (not on the same day, I’m guessing). When out on patrol in the Bush, troops weren’t allowed to wash or clean their teeth lest the scent was picked up by enemy forces. Scary stuff, and a swift education in what apartheid really meant to those who weren’t lucky enough to be white and comparatively wealthy. He never really came to terms with the regime, left uni after less than a year and returned to the UK. He still has his red beret, though thankfully doesn’t wear it Frank Spencer-style.

Of course, we all know that Ramesses II, also known as Ramesses the Great, became Pharaoh of Ancient Egypt (19th Dynasty) on this day in 1279 BC, but what else has happened? Let me see … Jerusalem’s rabbi Sjabtai Tswi proclaimed himself the Messiah in 1665 – the guy must have had an ego the size of Mars: the planet, not the chocolate bar. Almost two hundred years later in 1853, Elisha Kane’s Arctic expedition left New York aboard the good ship Advance – any relation, Jenny? Kane was an American surgeon and explorer making his second trip to the Arctic, but had to abandon the icebound vessel on May 20 1855. The crew marched for eighty-three days to Upernavik, carrying their sick and wounded and remarkably lost only one man. They were saved by a handy sailing ship and Kane returned to New York on October 11 1855. The following year Kane published his two-volume Arctic Explorations, before he sadly died in Havana ten days short of his thirty-seventh birthday.

In 1861, on the same day that the Mint in New Orleans was decommissioned, General Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard was given command of the Confederate Alexandria Line. I mention that only because Beauregard is a name that always makes me smile, though I’ve no idea why. But since he’s popped up here, let me tell you that he was a prominent general during the American Civil War and had several nicknames, including Little Napoleon, Little Frenchman – he was born in Louisiana and didn’t learn to speak English until he went to school in New York, aged twelve – and Felix. Felix? In April 1865, it was Beauregard and his commander, General Joseph E Johnston, who convinced President Jefferson Davis and the remaining cabinet members that the war should end. After the military, he held two posts as an executive on the railroads and used his civil engineering knowledge to patent the design for a cable car in 1869.

The oldest recorded bride, one Minnie Munro aged 102, wed Dudley Reid 83, at Point Clare, New South Wales in Australia on 31st May 1991 – that’s what you call a toy boy – telling reporters they planned to make the most of the time they would have together. As children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren gathered for the ceremony in the gardens of the couple’s home at Orana Nursing Village, widow Minnie proudly showed off her antique amethyst engagement ring and said, ‘He’s been waiting for me a long time and I am pretty old you know, so I decided to say yes.’ The couple met four years previously at a health centre in nearby Woy Woy. So good they named it twice?

It was not such a happy occasion on this day in 2007, when actress Billie Piper and radio DJ Chris Evans divorced after six years of marriage. Billie was born Leian Paul Piper to parents Paul Victor Piper and Mandy Kane Kent (another Kane?!) and is a singer, dancer and actress who played Rose Tyler in Doctor Who from 2005-6. Perhaps attracted by the fact they share the same middle name, she didn’t hang around and married actor Laurence Paul Fox (Hathaway in Lewis) on 31st December 2007. By marriage she became sister-in-law to Richard Ayoade (The IT Crowd) who was newly wed to Laurence’s sister, Lydia. Alas, Billie headed to the divorce courts again – also in May, but the 12th – after eight years and two children.

Two Walters were born on this day – Walt Whitman (so called because his father was also Walter), American poet, essayist, and journalist in 1819, and artist Walter Richard Sickert, born in Munich in 1860. When he was eight, the family moved to England and were granted citizenship. Although he was the son and grandson of painters, he initially wanted to be an actor and appeared in small parts with Sir Henry Irving’s theatre company, before going to the Slade School to study art in 1881. After less than a year he left to become a pupil of Whistler, whose influence can be seen in his early work.

In his late twenties, Sickert took a keen interest in the crimes of Jack the Ripper. He believed he had lodged in a room used by the serial killer, having been told this by his landlady, who suspected a previous lodger. He produced a painting of the dark, melancholy room entitled Jack the Ripper’s Bedroom which now hangs in Manchester Art Gallery. Author Patricia Cornwell wrote a book in 2002 called Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper – Case Closed in which she names Walter Sickert as Jack. Not wholly original, as Jean Overton Fuller wrote Sickert and the Ripper Crimes in 1990, making the same claim. However in a 2004 article on Sickert, the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography dismissed any allegation that he was Jack the Ripper as ‘fantasy’. So, ladies and gentlemen, I invite you to decide for yourselves. Or not.

Meanwhile, I’m off in my Tardis to wrong rights and generally make a nuisance of myself. See you in June, perhaps?

Thanks, Jenny and toodles, all!

NP

Once again- a HUGE thank you for such an excellent blog – and for the previous 23 fabulous blogs!! Very much appreciated. It is no co-incidence that the last day of the month sees more visitors to my web site than any other.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny x

 

 

 

 

 


End of the Month: Nell Peters is thinking April

Hang on a minute…no one asked my permission for time to pass so quickly! I am sure I should have finished this years novel by now. I obviously spend too much time reading Nell Peters’ blogs!

Why not procrastinate with me and enjoy this months fabulous end of the month special.

Over to you Nell…

 

Another month gone! Toodles, April 2018 – it’s been …

Anyone planning to watch the Eurovision Song Contest in May, coming from Portugal? I have to confess I haven’t bothered with it for many, many years – my bad.

I didn’t know that Canadian, Celine Dion won the contest in Dublin on 30th April 1988 for Switzerland (how does that work?), beating the UK entry by just one point. Yikes, that’s thirty years ago! She sang Ne Partez Pas Sans Moi (don’t leave without me) in the Simmonscourt Pavilion of the Royal Dublin Society, which was normally used for agricultural and horse shows. I just know a joke lurks there, but sadly it eludes me. Maybe just as well.

The same venue hosted the 1981 contest, but when the performers lined up to take part in the 39th sing-off in 1994, also on 30th April, it was held at the Point Theatre, Dublin. Perhaps having the psychological advantage of being on home ground helped, because Ireland won for the third consecutive year, when Paul Harrington and Charlie McGettigan warbled a number called Rock ‘N Roll Kids, composed by Brendan Graham.

That doesn’t ring even a vague bell for me, but the interval entertainment certainly does – the first ever performance of the Irish dancing spectacular Riverdance, featuring the Lord of the Dance himself, Michael Flatley, and Jean Butler. They are both American, although Flatley has duel US/Irish citizenship. He hung up his tap shoes at the end of 2015, after an incredible forty-six years of performing and suffering a whole range of orthopaedic problems over the course of his career – he’ll be sixty in July.

The last day of April features randomly in Dutch history, starting in 1804 when The New Hague Theatre opened. The Hague (Den Haag) is on the western coast of the Netherlands and nowadays is the capital of South Holland province; with a metropolitan population of more than a million, it is the third-largest Dutch city, after the capital Amsterdam and Rotterdam. The Hague is home to the Cabinet, States General, Supreme Court, and the Council of State, most foreign embassies and the International Court of Justice, plus the International Criminal Court. It is also one of the host cities to the United Nations.

In 1905 on this day Holland played Belgium at soccer in the first of what would become a twice-yearly match, known as a Lowlands Derby.

The Netherlands won the International Friendly 4-1, but the next time the teams played on 30th April – in 1975, the Belgians were victorious, scoring the only goal of the game. According to statistics published in 2016, the Netherlands had won a total of fifty-six games, Belgium forty-one and thirty matches ended in a draw.

Moving along, wee Juliana Louise Emma Marie Wilhelmina was born on 30 April 1909, at Noordeinde Palace in The Hague to the reigning Dutch monarch, Queen Wilhelmina, and her husband Duke Henry of Mecklenburg-Schwerin. She was the first Dutch royal baby since Wilhelmina herself was born in 1880 and as an only child, remained heir presumptive from birth. On her eighteenth birthday in 1927, Princess Juliana officially came of age and was entitled to assume the royal prerogative; two days later her mother installed her in the Council of State (Raad van State.) She reigned as queen from September 1948 until abdicating in favour of her first-born daughter (of four) Beatrix, on her seventy-first birthday in 1980 – the same day that the Iranian Embassy siege began in London.

Celebrations of the national holiday, Queen’s Day (Koninginnedag) on 30th April 2009 turned mighty sour when 38-year-old Dutch national Karst Roeland Tates, drove his car at high speed into a parade which included Queen Beatrix, her son and heir Prince Willem-Alexander and other royals at Apeldoorn. Narrowly missing the royal family, the vehicle ploughed through people lining the street before colliding with a monument, killing eight (including the driver) and causing multiple injuries. It was the first attack on the Dutch royal family in modern times and happened on the same day that the UK formally ended combat operations in Iraq. Exactly four years later in 2013, Beatrix abdicated in favour of her son, who became the first male monarch in one hundred and twenty-three years.

Cloris Leachman

One year before (the then) Princess Juliana’s eighteenth birthday, American actress and comedienne Cloris Leachman was born in Des Moines, Iowa – she’s celebrating her ninety-second birthday today. A former beauty queen, award-winning Leachman’s stage and screen credits are numerous, including Lassie, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Rawhide, The Last Picture Show, Malcolm in the Middle, Young Frankenstein and The Muppets. Living in Canada, I watched US TV and remember her from The Mary Tyler Moore Show and her character’s spin-off sitcom, Phyllis – very funny lady, IMO.

Judy Garland

Somewhere along the line, she managed to have four sons and a daughter with her now ex-husband, director and screenwriter George Englund – best pal of Marlon Brando. During the 1960s, the Englunds were Bel Air neighbours of Judy Garland, her third husband Sid Luft, and their children, Lorna and Joey, (their half-sister being Liza Minelli.) Lorna Luft wrote in her 1998 memoir Me and My Shadow: A Family Memoir, that Leachman was ‘the kind of mom I’d only seen on TV’. Knowing of the turmoil at the Garland home but never mentioning it, Leachman prepared meals for the Luft children and made them feel welcome whenever they needed a place to stay. Awesome …

Rather younger than Cloris at thirty-six, American/German actress Kirsten Dunst also celebrates her birthday today, as does Canadian actor, singer and dancer Andrew Michael Edgar (Drew) Seeley who shares Kirsten’s date of birth. Could have been worse; I share my date of birth with Texan serial killer Genene Jones, who is currently serving a ninety-nine year prison sentence for multiple child murder. Bringing up the rear, today UK comedian Leigh Francis (better known as Keith Lemon) will have forty-five candles on his cake – a lemon sponge, perhaps? So sorry.

Drifting slightly off-piste, on 30th April 1988, the first Californian condor conceived in captivity was hatched at the San Diego Wild Animal Park. The avian celebrity was called Moloko, being the Northern Maidu Indian word for condor, thus acknowledging their respect for the birds. It was an immensely expensive project to save the condor from extinction, running to millions of dollars. Might I suggest this was the Day of the Condor? You’re right – I won’t do any such thing.

In July 1993, British forensic scientists announced that they had positively identified the remains of Russia’s last tsar, Nicholas II, along with his wife, Tsarina Alexandra and three of their daughters. The team used mitochondria DNA fingerprinting to identify the bones, excavated from a mass grave near Yekaterinburg in 1991. It was on the night of July 17 1918 – almost a hundred years ago – that three centuries of the Romanov dynasty came to an end when Bolshevik troops executed Nicholas and his family, plus servants, almost certainly on the orders of Lenin – the details of the execution, along with the location of their final resting place remained a Soviet secret for more than six decades.

To prove the identity of Alexandra and her children, scientists took blood from Prince Philip, her grand nephew. Because they all share a common maternal ancestor, they would also share mitochondria DNA, which is passed almost unchanged from mother to child. The Tsar was identified by exhuming and testing the remains of his brother, Grand Duke George. That left Crown Prince Alexei and one Romanov daughter, Anastasia, unaccounted for – apparently it wasn’t her cavorting with Christian Grey in Fifty Shades.

Anna Anderson

Nor was it Anna Anderson, a Polish woman who persistently claimed (amongst others less convincing) to be the Grand Duchess. She moved to Virginia, USA and died there in 1984, still maintaining her spurious heritage. On 30 April 2008, Russian forensic scientists confirmed that DNA from remains they’d tested belonged to Alexei and his sister Anastasia. This followed the discovery in August 2007 of two burned, partial skeletons at a site near Yekaterinburg. Archaeologists identified the bones as from a boy roughly between ten and thirteen at the time of his death and a young woman aged between eighteen and twenty-three years old. Alexei and Anastasia were thirteen and seventeen years respectively, when they were killed.

Aleksei

Incidentally, Alexei had inherited haemophilia B from his mother Alexandra, a condition that could be traced back to her maternal grandmother, Queen Victoria. He had to be careful not to injure himself because he lacked factor IX, one of the proteins necessary for blood to clot. It was so severe that trivial injuries like a bruise, nosebleed or tiny cut were potentially life-threatening and two naval officers were assigned to supervise him to help prevent injuries.  They also carried him around when he was unable to walk. As well as being a source of constant worry to his parents, the recurring episodes of poor health and recovery significantly interfered with the boy’s education. According to his French tutor Pierre Gilliard, the nature of his illness was kept a state secret.

Disgustingly healthy #2 GD was five on 26/4 (which doesn’t seem possible!) and her birthday party was held on Saturday – she discovered ten pin bowling when we took her during the Christmas holidays and asked to have her party there. #3 son specifically timed his periodic trip home from foreign parts so that he could attend, in his capacity as everyone’s favourite uncle. Must say it was quite painless, as staff organised invitations, food, party bags etc – all the parents had to do was herd the guests from shoe swap to lanes and back again, on to the restaurant, provide a cake and pay the bill. Oh, and make sure none of the little dears sustained injury when heaving too-heavy balls around – plus it’s advisable to have at least one adult stationed to the rear of lanes requisitioned for party use, primed to dive in and rescue any child who gets their fingers caught in the holes and ends up gliding majestically toward skittles and machinery.

Tomorrow, of course, hails the beginning of May and for us the most horrendous month for family and friends’ birthdays! I’m off now to empty my money box …

Thanks again for having me, Jen – and toodles y’all!

NP

www.Author.to/nellpeters 

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Many thanks as ever Nell!!

Happy reading everyone. 

(Note to self- work faster, it’s nearly June!!!)

Jen xx



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