A is for.. August Bank Holiday

A is for August Bank Holiday, which is this weekend, yay!

In England, we have eight public holidays per year. The easy ones to understand are Christmas Day, Boxing Day, Good Friday, Easter Monday and New Year’s Day. The others are not quite so straightforward. Why do we have August Bank Holiday, for example? And why do we call them bank holidays? We need to go back to the nineteenth century to find out.

The Bank of England, founded in 1694, observed around 33 religious festivals, including saints’ days, as holiday, but that changed in 1834 when they reduced to four! And slavery had been abolished in the previous year. Just for interest, they were

May Day – 1 May
All Saint’s Day – 1 November
Good Friday
Christmas Day

These holidays became known as Bank Holidays because, in general, if the banks didn’t work, there was no point in other businesses working.

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In 1871, the Liberal MP John Lubbock, who himself had been a banker, put forward a bill to go through parliament to give workers an extra four days off:

Easter Monday
The first Monday in August
Whitsun Monday (the first Monday in May)
Boxing Day

Fortunately for the rest of us workers, the Bank Holidays Act of 1871 was passed. Good Friday and Christmas Day weren’t included because they were already recognised as common law holidays.

In 1971, the Banking and Financial Dealings Act was passed, which is the legislation that regulates the bank holidays that we have today. It covered most of the bank holidays that we have today, except for New Year’s Day and May Day. These two days were introduced in 1974 (New Year’s Day) and 1978 (May Day). In 1965, the date of the August Bank Holiday was changed from the first Monday in August to the last Monday of the month. In 1971, Whitsun Bank Holiday was replaced by the Late Spring Bank Holiday, the last Monday in May.

What I didn’t know until I started researching this was that bank holidays are proclaimed every year by way of Royal Proclamation, and to move any bank holidays that fall on weekends (so that we still get two bank holidays when Christmas Day falls on a Saturday and Boxing Day falls on a Sunday, for example).

So that’s why we have bank holidays.

© Susan Shirley

Greek Mythology

I recently had a conversation about a subject close to my heart – Greek Mythology. I don’t profess to be an expert in mythology, Greek or otherwise, but here’s the abridged version of what I do know:

The ancient Greeks, like the ancient Romans, and many other cultures, didn’t believe in just one God, they believed in many. In Greek mythology, the Gods originated something like this:

In something akin to evolutionary theory, first there nothing – Chaos – out of which came Gaia (the earth). There was also Eros (love), the Tartarus (the Abyss, which I think is perhaps most easily described as hell), and Erebus (a dark shadow). (Rightly or wrongly, I always associate this with Freud’s shadow.)

I don’t see any of this as being very different from the earth, air, fire and water that we see in other cultures. Maybe not exactly the same, but there are analogies in the properties.

Gaia gave birth to Uranus by means of asexual reproduction (as happened with all life on this planet in its early days), then, as a result of a union between Gaia and Uranus, the first of the Titans (the elder Gods) were born.

There were six males: Coeus, Crius, Hyperion, Iapetus, Oceanus and Cronus.

And six females: Mnemosyne, Phoebe, Rhea, Theia, Themys and Tethys.

They all had different attributes, good and bad. Cronus was the youngest of the Titans, and Mum and Dad decided that there should be no more offspring after this. However, Cyclopes (with the one eye in the centre of his forehead and Hecatonchires (hundred-handed ones) soon appeared.

Both Cyclopes and Hecatonchires were thrown into Tartarus, which did not impress Gaia one bit. In fact, she was decidedly pee’ed off (she was their mother, after all), consequently, Gaia persuaded Cronus to do a Lorena Bobbitt on his father (for those of you who don’t know, Lorena cut off her husband’s penis. Technically that is not castration but it’s a pretty effective way of making a point). Cronus castrated his father and became the ruler of the Titan’s. Rhea, his sister, but also his wife (how weird is this?) was his consort.

Rhea and Cronus were the parents of Zeus (thus, Rhea is known as the mother of the Gods). Cronus feared that his children would behave towards him as he had to his father (quite a reasonable concern, I should have thought) so whenever his wife gave birth, he ate the child.

Zeus
Zeus

Strangely enough, Rhea was not happy with this, so when she gave birth to Zeus, she hid him. When Zeus was grown up, Rhea drugged and poisoned Cronus and he vomited up all the other children. One wonders whether Cronus had a history of indigestion?

Long story short, Zeus and Cronus had a disagreement and, with the help of Cyclopes (whom Zeus had freed), they beat Dad. Cronus and the rest of the Titans were imprisoned in Tartarus and so the reign of the Olympian God’s began.
Zeus’s wife, Metis, was expecting, however, there had been a prophecy that she would give birth to a God greater than him, so Zeus ate his wife. (There’s a bit of a theme emerging here.). The daughter Metis was carrying at the time of her demise – Athena, the Greek Goddess of wisdom, reason, intellect and the arts and literature, burst forth through Dad’s head, fully grown when he ate her mother. (That’s what I call girl power!).

Greek Mythology continues to be equally complicated and violent. Here’s a quick overview of the Gods and Goddesses:

Zeus – became the supreme God after he kicked his Dad’s butt.

Hera – the Goddess of marriage and family, wife of Zeus. Zeus was a bad boy, but Hera didn’t take it lying down.

Aphrodite – was born out of the foam when Cronus threw his father’s testicles into the ocean. She was reputedly bad-tempered and jealous, as well as being the goddess of sexual love, and was married to Hephaestus.

Aphrodite
Aphrodite

Apollo – The son of Zeus and Leto, the God of music. He was the twin of Artemis (the huntress) and is usually known as the sun God.

Artemis – One of the virgin goddesses, and the huntress. She is called Diana in Roman mythology.

Ares – son of Zeus and Hera, he was the God of War and Aphrodite’s lover.

Athena – Daughter of Zeus and Metis. As well as the attributes I listed above, she is also the Goddess of War.

Athena
Athena

Demeter – sister of Zeus, goddess of agriculture and vegetation. She was the mother of Persephone, the goddess of the underworld.

Dionysus – the Greek God of Wine, (yay!). Otherwise known as Bacchus, he was the son of Zeus and Semele.

Hades – sometimes known as Pluto, the brother of Zeus. He ruled the Underworld and was married to Persephone.

Hephaestus – husband of Aphrodite, apparently he was a bit lacking in the looks stakes. He was the God of metallurgy.

Hermes – the messenger of the Gods. Son of Zeus and Maea (she was a nymph, and a daughter of one of the Titans, some serious interbreeding going on here).

Hestia – the eldest daughter of Rhea and Cronus, the goddess of the hearth, home and family. In Roman mythology, she was known as Vesta, she of the virgins fame…

Poseidon – aka Oceanus, the older brother of Zeus, ruler of the oceans.

Now doesn’t that little taste make you want to find out more?

© Susan Shirley 2016

Daydreaming Stanley Kubrick

I went, with fellow blogger Gianni Washington TK link to see Daydreaming with Stanley Kubrick at Somerset House. I confess right here that I am not an artsy person and what art I do like is mainly confined paintings or photography of wild life. I do think its good to push your boundaries a bit sometimes, so when Gianni suggested going to see Daydreaming, I was up for the challenge.

It was probably one of the weirdest events in my life. I am not someone who just goes to see a film because it is directed by a certain person, and I didn’t realise I’d seen so many of his films until today. The only ones I knew to be his were 2001: A Space Odessey and Full Metal Jacket.

Somerset House gave all the visitors a little guide book, although there were places where I found it too dark to read it!

The exhibition started with a display of a sort of three dimensional image of a chimp looking through into a space helmet – then went straight into a load of electric, log effect fires. Apparently, this referred to a scene in The Shining. That was pretty normal compared with the rest of it.  I tried to photograph this but it just turned out as an orange blob.

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Two big teddy bears on cardboard boxes, apparently with a scent in the room that I couldn’t smell (Gianni could, so it was clearly there) seemed OK, until I read what it was depicting a reference to the pantry scene in The Shining.

I completely missed the sinister aspects of some of the paintings I thought some of them looked quite nice, while others were just a bit.. Well, plain, I suppose. The picture of the barn for the final duel in Barry Lyndon fell into this category for me.

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I did like the breathing camera, although I didn’t realise that was what it was until afterwards. I started by thinking it was a peacock feather, but the eye of the peacock seemed to be the centre of the universe.

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I had to take a photograph of the concrete penis on top of a crushed car Partly because I could actually understand what I was looking at and partly because it just epitomised the weirdness of the exhibition.

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If I say that I didn’t really enjoy it, that doesn’t mean its a reason not to go – I did say at the start, I am not an artsy person. I feel a bit sorry for these artists, all their work was wasted on me, but if you like that kind of thing, go along.

 

© Susan Shirley 2016

 

 

Olympic Games

So the Olympic Games in Rio has just started, with all the attendant controversy about athletic enhancement.  It takes me back to the Olympics in London four years ago.

 

Winners' Parade 10/9/12
Winners’ Parade 10/9/12

The 2012 Olympics were amazing.  I am not a huge sports fan, but I will remember the Olympics until the day I die, and not just for the sport.  The main site for the Olympics was an ex-industrial site in Stratford, London E15 (thinking back now, I struggle to think what it was like pre-Olympics, although I have a photograph somewhere, and I’ve lived over that way for a long time).

The opening ceremony was directed by Danny Boyle (Trainspotting fame, to name only one).  Most of us Londoners were pretty impressed.

Winners' Parade 10/9/12
Winners’ Parade 10/9/12

 

A highlight of the games was that Qatar, Brunei and Saudi Arabia entered female athletes for the first time.   Female boxing was admitted as a sport for the first time, which meant that every sport had female competitors.  Yay for London 2012.

Transport for London built the cable car across the Thames between Greenwich Peninsula and Royal Docks (which was a very under-developed area before the games) to make travel between venues easier.  It is called the Emirates Air Line, because of the sponsorship.

View from the cable car
View from the cable car

Something that made the games stand out were the Games Makers.  They were a team of (in the region of) 70,000 volunteers who helped everyone (visitors, athletes, etc) to make their way aroud the venues.  They were amazing the whole way through, with some of them even handing out sweets to visitors.  I know we should never accept sweets from strangers, but when it’s a chocolate…. Lol.

The Olympics was followed by the Paralympics, which was renowned as a success for the athletes involved, and the number of countries who put forward paralymians.  And the number of medals Britain won.  (Sorry if that’s not very sporting but it was good for us Brits.)

 

Winners' Parade 2012
Winners’ Parade 2012

I was fortunate enough to attend the winners’ parade.  It was amazing.  All these people who had worked so hard to get themselves to their peak of fitness and bring home the goods.  Oh yes, the 2012 Olympics were good.  Here’s hoping that Rio is just as good.

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© Susan Shirley 2016