Tuesday, 21 July 2009


Some angelic trivia:
1.The word angel comes from the Greek “angelos” meaning “messenger.”
2. Despite numerous references in the Bible to angels, none says explicitly that they have wings
Angels are numberless and arranged in angelic orders. There are nine orders Seraphim, Cherubim and Thrones contemplate God and reflect his glory.
Dominions, Virtues and Powers regulate the stars and the universe
Principalities, Archangels and angels who minister to humanity. (Ephesians 1 v21)
3.The devil is an angel- a fallen angel. He led the angelic revolt.
4.There is no known reference to a female angel- maybe they are genderless.
5. Archangel Michael is the most senior angel, with Gabriel ranked below him. Both are mentioned in the Bible. Other high ranking angels include Raphael (who is mentioned in the Apocrypha) and Unez, Chamuel, Jophiel and Zadkiel (who are all mentioned in Enoch).
6. According to 14th century members of the Jewish Kabbalah sect, the total number of angels is 301,655,722.
7. St Patrick spent 40 days in retreat on the Crough Patrick Mountain, fasting and praying with tears that Ireland might be delivered from the hands of the pagans. Every night an angel appeared to him with more and more promises from God arising from his prayers. Patrick stubbornly refused to leave the mountain until all his prayers were answered including that at the last judgement Patrick himself should be appointed to pronounce judgement on the Irish people. Finally he was assured by the angel that all his prayers had been heard and he descended the mountain pausing only to preach a sermon in which he cast the snakes (meaning the serpent symbolism of the Irish pagans) out of Ireland.
8. In 596 Pope Gregory I spotted some Angles (British) boys who have been bought to Rome and being told they are pagan “angli” the pope exclaimed “They are not Angles but Angels”. Inspired he instructed the respected abbot, Augustine to lead a mission to convert Britain. Within a few years much of southern Britain was Christianised.
9. William Blake (1957-1827), the painter, engraver and mystic described in later life the visionary experiences he had as a child, including visions of angels in a tree and the prophet, Ezekiel in a field.
10. The Angels of Mons became famous after a Fleet Street description by Arthur Machen of an angelic vision during the British retreat from Mons in 1914. Machen later said he made the story up, but many soldiers described a similar experience.
11. The first Russian astronaut told his communist masters that he didn’t see any angels when he went into space.
12. Pope John Paul II confirmed his belief in angels in 1986 when he explained: “They are invisible, for they are purely spiritual beings.”
13. Two Quotes: GK Chesterton: “Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly.”
Psalm 91 v11 “For He will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.”
Check out my Encyclopedia of Church History blog for more.

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Songfacts 2

Here are some highlights from my latest batch of Songfacts.

1. Jamie T's EP Sticks 'N' Stones was the British hip-hop artist's first release since his 2007 Panic Prevention album. He told Q magazine about the title track: “I think it sounds a bit like The Police. It’s about travelling on the train and reminiscing about things I’ve seen on the line, like running away from gangs down side alleys.”

2. "She’s a Genius" is the first single taken from Australian rock band Jet’s third studio album, Shaka Rock. Drummer Chris Cester told Billboard that this track is “about a girl who does things that just take it to the next level in your mind.”

3. "Never Would've Made It", Marvin Sapp 2008 record-breaking tune, is the first song by a gospel artist to sell over 1 million ringtones.

4. David Bowie explained on the VH1 Storytellers series that he penned his 1976 track "Word on a Wing" as a prayer to see him through the period when a debilitating coke addiction had him flirting with fascism and black magic.

5. "Over You", was the first single taken from British rock band Roxy Music’s seventh studio album, Flesh + Blood. It reached #5 in the UK and #80 in the US. Guitarist Phil Manzanera recalled to The Mail on Sunday: “In 1979, I had just built my first recording studio and I rang up Bryan (Ferry) and asked if he’d like to check it out. We decided to have a jam together, Bryan on bass and me on guitar with a rhythm box. Within five minutes we had written this track.”

6. "Porcelain" was released as the sixth single from American electronic artist Moby’s sixth studio album, Play. It reached #5 in the UK. The song’s popularity was enhanced by being featured on the soundtrack of the 2000 movie The Beach and in the UK it became Moby’s highest charted song to date. Moby recalled to Rolling Stone: “Strangely enough, that's probably the most signature song on the record, and I actually had to be talked into including it. When I first recorded it, I thought it was average. I didn't like the way I produced it, I thought it sounded mushy, I thought my vocals sounded really weak. I couldn't imagine anyone else wanting to listen to it. When the tour for Play started, "Porcelain" was the song during the set where most people would get a drink. But then Danny Boyle put it in the movie The Beach with Leo DiCaprio. It was Leo DiCaprio's first film since Titanic and everyone went to go see it. He used the music so well in the movie. I think that's when a lot of people became aware of the record.”

7. Vincent Price recorded the central spoken section of "Thriller" on his second take, after it had been written by Rod Temperton in the taxi on the way to the studio for the recording session.

8. In the US Michael Jackson's Bad long player is the only studio album to have spawned five #1 singles. The chart-toppers in question are “Bad,” “I Just Can‘t Stop Loving You,” “The Way You Make Me Feel,”“Man In The Mirror” and “Dirty Diana.”

9. Bulletproof by La Roux debuted at #1 in the UK in the week that Michael Jackson died, so it was apt that a Jackson, in this instance La Roux vocalist Elly Jackson, was involved in that week’s premier song.

10. Canadian rapper Drake is the nephew of former Sly & the Family Stone member and solo R&B star Larry Graham.

11. Lady Gaga's hit "Poker Face" reigned for 16 non-consecutive weeks on top of the Eurochart Hot 100 Singles chart. It was the longest-running pan-European # 1 single since Kylie Minogue's "Can‘t Get You Out Of My Head" completed 16 consecutive weeks at the summit in January 2002.

12. Mariah Carey’s husband, Nick Cannon, told MTV News that the main inspiration for her song "Obsessed" was a Lindsay Lohan movie. He said: "To be completely honest, she did the record 'cause she's a huge fan of this movie Mean Girls, and there's a line in the movie where one of the girls is like, 'Why are you so obsessed with me?' She says that at the beginning of the song, and that's where the concept came from. But you know, art imitates life."

Sunday, 28 June 2009


Here is some song trivia that I've recently sent to the Songfacts site.

1. During a chat on an internet forum in 2001, Michael Jackson said that "Heal The World" was the song that he is most proud to have created

2. In the chart for the week ending June 28th 2009, Florence and the Machine had her first UK top 20 hit with "Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)." Florence and the Machine is the recording name of Florence Welch, a singer-songwriter from London, who specialises in dark, gothic songs and a theatrical on-stage persona. At the beginning of 2009, she won The Brits Critics Choice award for most promising newcomer.

3. "Pale Horses" is the second single released by New York electronica singer Moby, from his ninth studio album, Wait for Me. The track features vocals by Moby’s friend, cabaret singer Amelia Zirin Brown. In 2007, she was nominated for an MVPA for the choreography of Moby’s video of “New York, New York,” which featured Debbie Harry.

4. "Hotel Room Service" is the third single from Miami rapper Pitbull’s fourth studio album, Rebelution. The song samples the Nightcrawlers 1995 dance hit “Push the Feeling On.” The Nightcrawlers were a house music project assembled by Scottish producer, DJ and vocalist Jon Reid. Originally recorded in 1993, it is considered today to be a classic track of the house music genre. It finally became a top ten hit in the UK after a re-mix by Marc Kinchen was released.

5. "Smile" is the first single released from American singer-songwriter Uncle Kracker’s fourth studio album, Happy Hour It was his first outing since Seventy Two and Sunny in 2004. Uncle Kracker explained to Real Detroit Weekly why there was a five year between Seventy Two and Sunny and Happy Hour: “I wrote a record and completed it three years ago … completely done and turned in. I had long enough to sit on it that I reneged. I got to the point where I was feeling like music had, in general, changed so much. It got to the point where I felt like it wasn’t my right record. So I basically trashed the album and started over last year. I sat on it for six, seven months and started writing in January, so it took about a year to write and record.”

6. Yorkshire born Tony Christie was a successful singer of dramatic big-voiced pop ballads in the early 1970s. He achieved five top 40 hits in the UK in that period, including "(Is This The Way To) Amarillo," which peaked at #18 and "I Did What I Did For Maria," which got to #2. Meanwhile in continental Europe he was even more successful, topping the German and Spanish charts with "Amarillo." Although Christie’s popularity waned in his native Britain from the mid-seventies, he maintained a successful singing career in Germany. Back home, his career began to revive when he was the vocalist on All Seeing I’s 1999 top ten hit, "Walk Like a Panther." Soon after the British comedian Peter Kay started using "Amarillo" as a kind of unofficial theme song, playing it at the start of live concerts to rev the crowd up. Kay also featured it in his TV comedy series Phoenix Nights, leading to a resurgence in his popularity. Cottoning on to the revived interest in the song, the decision was made to re-release it on 14 March 2005 to raise money for the Comic Relief charity. Kay filmed a new video for the song which featured him miming to the track whilst a string of celebrities appeared marching behind him. The song and its accompanying video caught the British public’s imagination reaching #1, where it stayed for seven weeks and becoming the best selling record of 2005 in the UK. The song raised over £1.5 million for charity and Christie broke the record for the act who had the longest wait for a #1 single having waited close to near 35 years from his first chart entry.

7. In an interview by BBC News with Will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas, the interviewer took mock offence at "Boom Boom Pow’s" lyric about "stepping on leprechauns." Will.i.am replied, a bit flustered: "It's not about actual leprechauns. I'm rapping about, um, er... Cons. Convicts. Criminals. Who are leopards. Leopard-cons. So it's not offensive at all."

8. Outkast were the first group or duo to top the Billboard 200 and Hot 100 simultaneously in the 21st century. Over a four week period in January and February 2004, Speakerboxxx/The Love Below led the former survey, whilst "Hey Ya!" reigned on the latter list.

9. "Mama Do" debuted at #1 on the UK singles chart, making Pixie Lott the first British female artist ever to debut at the peak position who hadn’t emerged from a reality TV/talent series background.

10. "When Love Takes Over" by David Guetta was the #1 UK single in the chart dated June 21, 2009. Guetta thus became the first Frenchman to top the UK charts since Romain Tranchart and Yann Destagnol of Modjo did with “Lady (Hear Me Tonight)” in September 2000.

11. The bridge of Jay-Z's new tune, "D.O.A.(Death of Auto-Tune)" samples Steam‘s 1969American chart-topper, "Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye." Two other 2009 songs utilised the same song. Washington DC rapper Wale riffed on the track on his single "Chillin‘" and Kristinia DeBarge also borrowed from it for her debut number "Goodbye."

12. Dial-a-disc was a service ran by the GPO (now British Telecom) in the UK enabling callers to listen to a song down a telephone line. "All Kinds of Everything" by Dana was the first record to be played on Dial-a-disc.

13. Kate Pierson of the B-52s told Q magazine that it was bandmate Keith Strickland who came up with their name. She explained: "Keith thought of the name. He had a dream, like a vision of a little lounge band and they all played organs and had bouffant hairdos, and someone said, Look, it's the B-52's. B-52 was slang for a nosecone-shaped hairdo, named after the bomber. We thought, This is a great name: it's a number and a letter, it's really different and snappy. But now," her brows knit, "there's this plan to prolong the life of the B-52 bomber, and we're lending our name to a campaign to stop it."

14. "Tender," Blur's 1999 hit single is about Daman Albarn’s break-up with his girlfriend, Republica frontwoman Justine Frischmann. In an interview with The Observer, Frischmann confessed that she cried the first time she heard this song, then became irritated and embarrassed, before her attitude finally softened.

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Some Bed Trivia

Here's some trivia about beds, which I researched for a project but didn't use.

The first beds were used around 3400BC after Egyptian pharaohs discovered the benefits of raising a pallet off the earth.

Tutankhamen has a bed of ebony and gold.

The Upper Class Romans owned beds decorated with gold, silver or bronze with mattresses stuffed with feathers, hay, reeds or wool. They also had waterbeds.

In the East in Bible times the bed was not a piece of furniture but a mat. Whole families slept on a single mat together. In the morning the mat was rolled up so that it did not take up so much space. People could, and did, quite easily take their "beds" around with them. Hence Jesus said to a man he had just healed: "Get up, take your mat and go home"

In 1495 The English Parliament passed a statute regulating the content of bed stuffing, requiring that it be good, clean feathers, not dirty old horse hair.

Britain’s largest bed, the Great Bed of Ware was built in 1596. It can accommodate 12people.

Mattresses in Shakespeare’s time were filled with straw and held up with a rope stretched across the bed frame. If the rope was tight, sleep was comfortable. Hence the phrase, "sleep tight."

William Shakespeare's will, still in existence, bequeathed most of his property to Susanna and her daughter. He left small mementoes to friends. He mentioned his wife only once, leaving her his "second best bed" with its furnishings.

King Louis XIV (1638-1715) of France’s rising in the morning and going to bed at night were attended by elaborate ceremonies called the "levee & couchee." Each noblemen had his own duty & part to play in these rituals. Louis collected beds, he owned 414 in total. All were elaborately carved, gilded and hung with costly embroideries. His great joy was the magnificent bed in the Palace of Versailles, on which were woven in gold the words "The Triumph of Venus". But when Louis married his religious second wife she had the pagan subject replaced by "The Sacrifice of Abraham."

Cast-iron beds and cotton mattresses were introduced in the middle of the 18th century.

Thomas Jefferson had 13 bedrooms at his Monticello home. All the beds were simply mattress supports hung on wall hooks.

In 1964 the first Habitat store opened in the UK. They were one of the first British stores to sell duvets and shoppers were so intrigued they would climb into the beds in the store to try them.

Sunday, 24 May 2009

Ten Little Churchmen

This poem first appeared in a New Zealand parish magazine about 50 years ago. I have used it a couple of times in my addresses and I thought I'd share it with you.

Ten little churchmen went to church when fine;
But it started raining, then there were nine.
Nine little Churchmen stayed up late;
One overslept himself, then there were eight
Eight little Churchmen on the road to Heaven;
One joined a rambling club, then there were seven
Seven little Churchmen heard of Sunday “flicks”
One thought he’d like to go, then there were six.
Six little Churchmen kept the place alive:
One bought a television, then there were five.
Five little Churchmen seemed loyal to the core;
The vicar upset one of them, then there were four.
Four little Churchmen argued heatedly
Over all the changes; then there were three.
Three little Churchmen sang the service through
Got a hymn they didn’t know, then there were two.
Two little Churchmen disputed who should run
The next social evening; then there was one.
One faithful Churchmen knowing what to do
Got a friend to go to church; then there was two.
Two sincere Churchmen each brought in one more;
So their number doubled, then there were four.
Four sturdy Churchmen simply couldn’t wait
Till they found four others, and so there were eight.
Eight eager Churchmen at communion every week
Soon encouraged others, troubled souls to seek.
All the seats in church are filled, not a vacant pew!
O God, supply this grace and zeal in our own parish too!

Sunday, 3 May 2009

In The Garden

I recently submitted to Songfacts some information re the classic hymn "In The Garden." This is what I submitted.

"In the Garden" was written by C. Austin Miles (1868-1946), who at the age of 24 left his job as a pharmacist to concentrate on music publishing and hymn-writing. For 37 years, he served as editor and manager at the hymnal publishers Hall-Mack, whilst penning a number of religious songs including “Answering Thy Call,” “He Is Mine” and “Love, Mercy and Grace.”
"In the Garden" is Miles’ best known piece. It was commissioned by the music publisher Dr. Adam Geible, who asked Miles to write something that was “sympathetic in tone, breathing tenderness in every line; one that would bring tenderness in every line; one that would bring hope to the hopeless, rest for the weary, and downy pillows to dying beds.” Miles later recalled in George W. Sanville's book, Forty Gospel Hymn Stories the inspiration for this song: “One day in March, 1912, I was seated in the dark room, where I kept my photographic equipment and organ. I drew my bible toward me; it opened at my favorite chapter, John 20-whether by chance or inspiration let each reader decide.” Miles went on to recount how he had a vision, in which he could see and hear Mary Magdalene weeping outside the tomb of Jesus as the resurrected Christ appeared to her. He recalled how he “became a silent witness to that dramatic moment in Mary's life, when she knelt before her Lord, and cried, ‘Rabboni!’” Miles then described how: “I awakened in full light, gripping the Bible, with muscles tense and nerves vibrating. Under the inspiration of this vision I wrote as quickly as the words could be formed the poem exactly as it has since appeared. That same evening I wrote the music.”
Miles great-granddaughter recounted on mnkurmudge.blogspot that the hymn “was written on a cold, dreary day in a cold, dreary and leaky basement in New Jersey that didn't even have a window in it let alone a view of a garden.”
After the hymn was published in 1912 it was popularized during Billy Sunday’s evangelistic campaigns of the 1910s and 20s. It is now one of America’s most popular hymns.
Elvis Presley recorded this hymn on his 1967 gospel album How Great Thou Art. Many other artists have covered it including Ella Fitzgerald, Loretta Lynn, Dionne Warwick, Johnny Cash, Amy Grant and Perry Como.
The hymn is sung in the closing scene of the 1984 movie Places of the Heart.

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Aristotle's Blunders

Aristotle (384-322BC) was a Greek philosopher who advocated reason and moderation. It has been suggested that he was probably the last person to know everything there was to be known in his own time. In the Middle Ages Aristotle's works became first of all the foundation of Islamic philosophy. Then in the 13th century, the writings of Thomas Aquinas, which reconciled Aristotle's reasoning with Christian theology ensured that for a couple of hundred years, Aristotle straddled Western thought like a colossus. From around 1300 he was virtually regarded as a prophet, reaching Aristotelation point in the 1400s. Later Copernicus, Galileo and Darwin's theories outmoded Aristotle’s.
Aristotle's works covered many topics, including logic, physics, astronomy, meteorology, biology, psychology, ethics, politics, and literary criticism. However his successors were influenced more by his physical and astronomical theories, of which some were later proved to be correct. For instance, he was one of the first men to believe that the world is round. However Aristotle was a man of his times with many Achilles heels. Because he didn't have the knowledge we have accumulated 2,400 years later, the great Greek came up with some balderdash, piffle and poppycock. Here's some examples of where Aristotle blew it:

(1) For a start his knowledge of the body was only skin deep. He considered the brain to be a device for cooling the blood and intelligence and sensation emits from the heart. . Why? Its all Greek to me.

(2) Aristotle thought heavy objects fall faster than lighter ones. He also believed that the moon didn't fall to the ground as it was made of a very light substance called ether. Doh!

(3) Because Aristotle didn't believe that all matter consisted of tiny particles, atomic theory remained dormant through ancient and medieval times. He criticised Democritus who'd introduced atomic theory.

(4) Aristotle's theory that stars move around a stationary Earth was held for centuries.

(5) Aristotle said some pretty obvious things such as: "Now a whole is that which has a beginning, a middle and an end."

(6) All his life, Aristotle, believed men have more teeth than women. I guess he never counted Mrs Aristotle's teeth.

(7) Aristotle believed in spontaneous generating. For instance bees are born from carcasses of oxon. And there is more... he was brimming with wrongability.

(8) Aristotle believed there was a fifth element in addition to the Ancient Greeks understanding of the four, earth, air, fire and water. His element was quintessence of which the cosmos and all celestial bodies were made.

If man manages to survive another 2,400 years, which I doubt, I wonder how many of our ideas, beliefs and theories will similarly be scoffed at as balderdash, piffle and poppycock.

For more on Aristotle, check out his Trivial Biography.

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Eating Humble Pie

Umble Pie was a medieval dish made from the "umbles" (liver, heart, brains, feet etc.) of a deer, or other animal killed in a hunt. After being topped with a layer of dried fruit the mixture was put into a pastry case and baked. This pie, however, was not for the aristocracy, who ate only the superior fleshy part of the deer, it was only considered suitable for the huntsmen and the servants. That is why the phrase "to eat humble pie" means that someone of lower rank is forced to give way to those in higher positions, and be made humble.

Bring Home The Bacon

A long-standing tradition was established in the 12th century at Dunmow, Essex whereby married couples who stay together for a year and a day without arguing or regretting their marriage and can prove this are able to claim a gammon of bacon. The saying “Bring home the bacon” originates from this.

Sunday, 8 March 2009

A History of Cutlery

Prehistoric man used flints to cut meat and dig for vegetables. The flint-maker utilised a rock to chip off the pieces of flint, or it was prepared by hitting it against a large stone set on the ground. Tree bark, seashells or tortoise shells were used as containers to collect, transport, preserve, cook and eat food. Spoons cut in a simple fashion out of wood, bone or shells were used both to prepare and eat the meal. By 4000 BC the first two pronged forks were being used in Turkey.
Around 1700BC chopsticks made of ivory, bone or wood, were being prepared in China. With tables virtually unknown one hand had to be free to hold the bowl and they proved to be a practical solution. The replacement of chopsticks over knives for eating at the table indicated the increased respect for the scholar over the warrior in Chinese society.
By 1500 BC bronze cutting implements were being used from the British Isles to China. The ancient Greeks and Romans used two pronged kitchen forks to assist in the carving and serving of meat. The fork's teeth prevented meat from moving during carving and allowed food to slide off more easily than it would with a knife. However the Romans and Greeks did not use forks whilst eating, instead they washed their fingers between every course. The Romans used two different types of spoons made of bronze or silver. One with a pointed oval bowl and a handle ending in a decorative design was used for soups and pottages. The second was a small spoon with a round bowl and a pointed, narrow handle for eating shellfish and eggs. Knives of all sizes were used, made of iron, with bone, wood or bronze handles. The poor would use spoons made of bone. When the food was ready it was served on a discus, a large circular silver, or bronze or pewter plate. The Romans also moulded them from glass paste. The poor would use wood plates. By the end of the first century Porcelain had been perfected in China and some culinary utensils were being made with it.
In medieval Europe, a meat based Viking dish was served on wooden plates and eaten with a personal knife. Soups and pottages were served in wooden bowls and eaten with wooden or horn spoons.
Meanwhile the Normans were developing the saucer. The small plate contained sauce each diner having an individual saucer in which they dipped their food to enhance the flavour.
In the late 11th century small two pronged eating forks began to appear on mainland Europe, in Tuscany. Forks had been introduced into Venice by a Byzantine princess and were now spreading throughout Italy. Thomas Beckett was one of the few Englishmen to use a fork when eating. He introduced a two-pronged fork to England after his exile in Italy but when he tried to explain that one of the advantages of the fork was it could be washed Henry II replied “But, so can your hands”.
Broth was usually served in bowls made of a thick slice of stale bread that soaked up the juice. When they become too impregnated with broth or sauce they were changed or sometimes at the end of the meal and were given to the poor. These trenchers were shared by two people, the lesser helping the more important, the younger the older, the man the woman. The former in each case broke the bread, cut the meat, and passed the cup. The liquid was sipped directly from the bowl. Diners used their right hands to pull out chunks of meat or vegetables from shared bowls. The more finicky used knives to spear the solids and convey them to the mouth.
By the beginning of the 13th century cutlery manufacture had began to settle in London and Sheffield in England and in places on the continent where craft guilds existed. Craftsmen produced elaborately ornamented blades and fashioned handles of such fine materials as amber, ebony, gold, ivory, marble and silver. England’s King Edward 1st’s 1307 royal inventory showed 7 forks- 6 silver and 1 gold and thousands of knives.
By the end of the 13th century in the homes of wealthy Western Europeans it was becoming usual to provide knives for guests, though most men carried their own. These knives were narrow and their sharply pointed ends were used to spear food and then lift it to one's mouth. Dinner hosts also usually supplied spoons, generally made of wood or horn. Forks were still rarely used apart from in Italy as clergymen condemned their use, arguing that only human fingers, created by God, should touch God’s provisions. Also the use of the fork by men was considered effeminate.
In the second half of the 15th century a change in the design of spoons was required once men and women started wearing large, stiff-laced collars called ruffs. Originally those wearing ruffs around their necks couldn’t easily drink soup from bowls, as the early spoons with their short stems, were not able to transport the soup past the ruffs without spilling. So spoon handles lengthened and the spoon's bowl became larger permitting more liquid to be transported to the mouth with less chance of dribbling the contents on the ruffs.
In the 1570s Henry III of France, during a visit to the court at Venice, noted that a two-pronged table forks were being used. He brought some back to France and some of the French nobility started using them. Meanwhile in England very little cutlery was used, even Queen Elizabeth 1st would pick up her chicken bone deftly in her long fingers rather than use cutlery. The few plates there were would be made of wood or pewter and the spoons of wood, silver or tin.
In 1608 an Englishman named Thomas Coryate brought some forks back to England after seeing them in Italy during his travels there. But by the 1650s forks were still rarely used, apart from in the kitchen or at the serving table to hold meat when it was being cut. Indeed at European banquets hands were still being used to serve much of the food, even though the servants were only using their fingertips. It wasn’t until the 1670s that the fork began to achieve general popularity as an eating implement. Once their efficiency for spearing food was noted there was no longer any need for a pointed tip at the end of a dagger which were used as toothpicks and to cut meat. Consequently in France King Louis XIV ordered rounded knives, which Cardinal Richelieu had introduced 35 years earlier so that the diners couldn’t stab each other. Further, he decreed all pointed daggers on the street or the dinner table illegal, and all knife points were ground down in order to reduce violence.
18th century Americans would either use their fingers to eat or spoons with which they steadied the food as they cut it and then passed the spoon to the other hand in order to scoop the food up. Meanwhile four pronged forks were being used by the French nobility at separate place settings to distinguish themselves from the lower classes who still shared bowls and glasses. The additional prongs made diners less likely to drop food and the curves in the prongs served as a scoop so people did not have to constantly switch to a spoon while eating.
By the early 19th Century, these four pronged forks had also been developed in England and were spreading to America. At first they were used mainly in restaurants or to hold meat while cutting it. Many were still suspicious, an irate American Preacher told his congregation that to eat meat with a fork is to declare irreverently that God’s creatures are not worthy of being touched by human hand.
By this time Sheffield, in England had become an international center of the cutlery industry.
In 1840 the Englishman Elkington and the Frenchman Ruolz simultaneously invented electroplating. With the mass production of silverplating elegant dining utensils became widely available to American and British households with moderate incomes. Rather than using their fingers to eat many Americans were now using forks for everyday meals. Meanwhile in Britain the wealthy would show their wealth and status by collecting as many silver services as they could afford- the bigger, the better.
In 1912 Stainless Steel, steel that was very resistant to corrosion and couldn’t be hardened by cooling, was invented in England. The development of stainless steel cutlery made a cutlery set affordable for most households.
By the middle of the 20th century all meals in western households were being eaten with either a knife and fork or spoon. However times were a' changing. In 1948 Dick and Maurice McDonald replaced the trained cooks in their San Bernardino, California restaurant with low-paid teenagers who simply flipped burgers and dunked fries in oil. The menu was reduced to a few items and cutlery and china were discarded. Customers had to queue for their food and eat out of a cardboard carton with their hands. Prices were reduced, people piled in and the fast food restaurant was born.
This initial move towards eating without cutlery is gathering steam, as in these busy times, many a meal is eaten on the move. As burgers, kebabs, fish and chips, sandwiches and other food eaten with hands become an increasingly popular alternative to a sit down meal, it makes me wonder if our descendants will look back at the household cutlery set as a 20th century fad?
This was extracted from my book Food For Thought: Extraordinary Little Chronicles of the World.

Sunday, 1 March 2009

The Hokey Cokey

I sent off yesterday to Songfacts this article about the disputed authorship of the British participation dance song, "The Hokey Cokey." This is what I wrote:

There have been claims by some Catholic authorities, that the words to this British participation dance song were written by Protestants around 400 years ago to mock the Latin Mass. They maintain that the phrase "hokey cokey" dates back to Reformation England and is a corruption of "Hoc est enim corpus meum," which are the Latin words that the priest said over the bread in the Mass, meaning "This is my body."
The song’s critics add that other lyrics of this song also contain a sinister sectarian message. They explain that "And you turn around" refers to the action of the priest after consecrating the bread and the wine. Because in Reformation England the altar was up against the east wall of the church, the priest had his back to the people, so he had to turn around to show the consecrated bread to them. Furthermore, "Knees bend" refers to the priest extending his arms during the Eucharistic Prayer, which consecrates the bread and wine.
In an article in The Sunday Times January 11 2009, the grandson of one of the alleged composers of this song, Al Tabor defended the right-hand-in, right-hand-out ditty against claims that it mocks the language and actions of Catholic priests. Alan Balfour said his band-leader grandfather wrote the words and music in the 1940s to raise people’s spirits during the Blitz and rather than poking fun at the Mass, the song is all about ice cream. He explained in the article that Tabor wrote the song while working at Murray’s Cabaret Club in Soho, London. Balfour added that his grandfather told him he thought of the ice-cream sellers of his youth when he was looking for a bright and breezy title for what he saw as a throwaway ditty. So according to the article Tabor "took the name from ‘hokey pokey,’ a common term for ice cream and a corruption of the Italian phrase "ecco un poco" used by vendors when they gave their customers a small amount to taste." Tabor subsequently changed the title to ‘hokey cokey‘ at the suggestion of a Canadian officer, because "cokey" was a slang term for crazy in Canada."
An alternative claim to the authorship of this song, has been made by the son of Irish songwriter Jimmy Kennedy, who is best known for penning the lyrics to "The Teddy Bears’ Picnic." Kennedy Jr. stated in a letter to the Financial Times newspaper that his father penned the song in 1942 with an original title of "Cokey Cokey." He added that it stemmed from an experience his father had with Canadian soldiers stationed at a London nightclub. He wrote: "They were having a hilarious time, singing and playing games, one of which they said was a Canadian children’s game called The Cokey Cokey. I thought to myself, wouldn’t that be fun as a dance to cheer people up! So when I got back to my hotel, I wrote a chorus based on the feet and hand movements the Canadians had used, with a few adaptations. A few days later, I wrote additional lyrics to it but kept the title, Cokey Cokey, and, as everybody knows, it became a big hit."
Despite the alternative claims of authorship (or maybe as a British compromise!), in the United Kingdom for copyright purposes, this song is regarded as a traditional song and is therefore free of copyright restrictions. This does not apply to the similar American participation dance song, "The Hokey Pokey," which is copyrighted to its authors Larry LaPrise, Charles Macak and Tafit Baker.

Sunday, 22 February 2009

William Wilberforce

William Wilberforce is one of my heroes. A talented orator, many of his fellow politicians said he could be Prime Minister but instead he devoted himself to what he felt called by God to do-The abolition of slavery. A year after read a biography telling his life story, I had the privilege of being an extra (as an MP) in the filming of the Wilberforce biopic Amazing Grace. Both highlighted what a remarkable man he was.
William Wilberforce was born in Hull, Yorkshire to Robert Wilberforce (1728–68), a wealthy merchant, and his wife Elizabeth, A sickly child, William was their only son. After his father's death the nine-year-old slightly built Yorkshire boy went to live with his aunt and uncle in Wimbledon. William became interested in evangelical Christianity through the influence of his aunt, but his stanch Anglican mother, alarmed at the youngster's increasing non-conformist leanings, bought him back to Hull. Another influence on William's faith was the former slave trader, John Newton, who had become the vicar of Olney in Buckinghamshire. However after it was decided that the evangelical Newton was a bad influence on the him, they lost contact and William drifted away from God for a time. At Cambridge University he pursued a hedonistic lifestyle enjoying cards, gambling and late-night drinking sessions. He was also developing an interest in politics and at the age of 21, whilst still a student, he was elected Member of Parliament for Kingston Upon Hull. Wilberforce's eloquent speaking voice whilst making political speeches was immediately noted as was a tendency towards tardiness. He was seen as a man, who whilst weak in health and insignificantly small in body was blessed with an unique gift of witty and eloquent oratory. After hearing him speak, Dr Johnson’s biographer, Boswell, wrote: “ I saw what seemed to be a shrimp mount upon the table but as I listened he grew and grew until the shrimp became a whale.”
However in 1785 a journey across Europe with a Christian friend, Isaac Milner changed his life for ever. During the trip, Wilberforce's reading of the Bible and Philip Doddridges book, The Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul brought him to a spiritual crisis and he returned to God. At first Wilberforce wanted to go into the church but eventually his friends persuaded him to stay on as an MP. One friend was John Newton, with whom Wilberforce had renewed acquaintance.
Around the time of Wilberforce's conversion, a British campaign to abolish the slave trade, originally by Quakers had began to gain support from within the evangelical wing of the church. In the 1780s over 100,000 Africans were being shipped abroad every year and more than half were being carried on British ships. The testimony of John Newton and many others about the cruel conditions, the slaves had to endure convinced many that something had to be one about it.
As he grew in his faith, Wilberforce had become interested in humanitarian affairs. He became a leader of the Clapham Sect, centered on Holy Trinity Church, Clapham in London, a fellowship of influential Anglicans who prayed several hours a day to get laws changed, lobbying hard to MPs. Wilberforce was seen as a potential key figure by the slave trade abolitionists and after a number of meetings and exchange of letters he saw that God was calling him to be a figurehead of the movement. He said "God Almighty has set before me two great objects, the suppression of the Slave Trade and the reformation of manners." In 1791, Wilberforce moved in the House of Commons that the import of African slaves be banned but lost the vote 168-88. In 1793, another vote to abolish the slave trade was narrowly defeated by eight votes. The war with France effectively prevented any further serious consideration of the issue, and as politicians concentrated on the threat of invasion, there was a decline in public support for several years. However, despite battling ill-health , Wilberforce refused to give up and in 1804 he bought another bill to Parliament. Though that was defeated, a radical change of tactics, which involved the introduction of a bill by another MP banning British subjects from participating in the slave trade to the French Colonies and an increasing amount of abolitionist MPs in the House of Commons, finally bore fruit for the persistent Wilberforce, In 1807, the slave trade was abolished in the British Empire though all existing slaves were still bound to their masters. A blind, elderly John Newton witnessed the passing of the bill in the visitors gallery. Britain was the first Western country to abolish the slave trade and much of this was due to the persistence of William Wilberforce MP.
As a postscript, in 1833 all slaves in the British Empire were released, with the British Government paying a huge sum to compensate all the Slave owners. When the dying Wilberforce heard this news on his deathbed, he mumbled, "Thank God that I have lived to witness a day when England is willing to give 20 million sterling for the abolition of slavery."
  • Sunday, 15 February 2009


    I recently researched for Songfacts the story of the traditional spiritual "Kumbaya." This is what I found.
    "Kumbaya" originates from the 1920s. It has been traced to the African-American Gullah people, who live on the Sea Islands just off the states of South Carolina and Georgia. In their Creole dialect “kumbaya” means simply “come by here” and this tune began as a Gullah spiritual where the former slaves living on the Sea Islands sang the lyric “Come by here, my Lord, come by here.” It is thought that American missionaries taught the song to locals in Angola, and it was in the African country where it was rediscovered. The spiritual was brought back to America where it became a popular tune in the folk revival and civil rights movements of the 1960s and a standard campfire song.
    Peter Seeger recorded this in 1958, but it was Joan Baez’s live version in 1962 that really helped boost its popularity. In 1969 the vocal group, The Sandpipers took this song to #38 in the UK singles charts.

    Sunday, 8 February 2009

    How Creation Proves The Existence of God

    In a letter to the Corinthian church, St Paul wrote that the gospel is open and revealed to everyone, except those who refuse to believe. He added that the “god of this age”, who of course is Satan, has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light. (2 Corinthians 4v4) . All too frequently these days, on the radio, TV and newspapers, when referring to Christian issues, the comment is made that religious believers are deluding themselves. These secular commentators who seem to pop up in the media with desperate frequency have been blinded to the light of Christ’s gospel. They cannot see it, understand it or comprehend it and are deluding themselves when they decry it.
    One of the areas where to me it seems to me particularly bizarre that so many people reject the existence of God is if you look at His creative acts. To me in the same way you look at a watch and infer there was a watchmaker, you look at creation and infer there is a creator. There’s a story about Henry Ward Beecher the US congregational minister and political activist, who possessed a beautiful globe depicting the various constellations and stars of the heavens. Robert Ingersoll, an agnostic visited Beecher admired the globe and asked who made it. “Who made it” said Beecher satirically, “Why nobody made it, it just happened”. St Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome: “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities-his eternal power and divine nature- have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse,” (Romans 1v20). St Paul wrote this 2,000 years ago, and today with all the advances in science, we have a much greater knowledge and understanding of this planet in this incredible universe, which God created. A universe, which shows God to be a God of might, intelligence and intricate detail; a God of order and beauty; a God who controls powerful forces.
    Because of the rapid advances in scientific knowledge in modern times, particularly in the new ways that things around us can be observed, measured and evaluated, scientists have discovered many other remarkable things. Taken alone they would just be considered quirks or oddities, but taken together- and there’s an awfully large number of them- they tell an awesome story. Here's just a few of the many examples of how this wonderful universe surely didn't haapen by chance but instead reveals to me that it was created by a creator God .
    I don’t know if any of you have experienced a total eclipse of the sun, when the moon passes from our perspective exactly in front of the sun, blots it out to our eyes and it goes all dark. It appears to us that the sun and the moon are the same size, but they are not. The sun is around 400 times larger than the moon and the only reason they seem to be the same size is that the sun is 400 times further away from us. And there is a God ordained reason for the fact that the Sun and the Moon are the size and the distance away that they are for if this was not the case we would not exist or at best we’d live as scraps of amoeba or bacteria. The Sun itself is just the perfect size for life on Earth. It is also the perfect distance from our planet, as for life to occur, the sun needs to be not so near that the water in the oceans boils away and not so far that it freezes over. Earth is the only planet in the Solar System within that zone. If we were 5% closer to the Sun we would burn to a crisp in a runaway greenhouse effect. If we were a tad further away from the Sun, we would suffocate in a cloud of carbon dioxide. If the Moon was a little larger, our tides would swamp the earth. If it were a little smaller there would be no tides.
    Moving outwards into the Solar System, we discover that Jupiter, the largest planet, is in just the right place to act as protector of Earth, by capturing asteroids and comets, which otherwise could threaten us and knock lumps out of us.
    If the force of gravity that exists in this universe was pushed upwards a bit, the sun would have burned out faster, leaving not enough time for the Earth to have become formulated in its present form as perfect for life. Also if the relative masses of protons and neutrons were changed by a hair, stars like the sun would never have happened, since the hydrogen they eat would never exist.
    The Big Bang, the massive explosion, which many scientists believe was the way in which the universe was created, is a statistical miracle. It has been that had the explosion differed in strength at the outset by only one part in 1 followed by 60 noughts, the universe including this planet on which we live would not exist. Also Stephen Hawking has calculated that, “if the density of the universe one second after the Big Bang had been greater by one part in a thousand billion, the universe would have recollapsed after 10 years. On the other hand, if the density of the universe at that time had been less by the same amount, the universe would have been essentially empty since it was about 10 years old.
    Incidentally centuries before the telescope was invented and man realised that our home galaxy, the Milky Way, contains about 100 billion stars plus that there are another 100 billion galaxies each of 100 billion stars, the Bible told us in a number of different places that the number of stars was countless. When the Old Testament was written man reckoned the number of stars that existed to be the number of stars visible to the naked eye, which is around 1,500. Yet in the Book of Jeremiah 34 v 22 we see the Lord promise to Jeremiah “I will make the descendants of David my servant and the Levites who minister before me as countless as the stars of the sky and as measureless as the sand on the seashore”. How did Jeremiah know that the amount of stars was a countless amount comparable to the amount of grains of sand on the seashore?
    Going back to my spiel, scientists have discovered how finely tuned the earth is in so many ways. The magnetic field is just right, the amount of oxygen in the atmosphere is just right, the rate of rotation is just right, the size and properties of the Earth’s crust are just right. The list goes on and, in fact, scientists have come up with a list of twenty things that need to be just right and how, if any one of them was slightly different, life on Earth just would not exist.
    A few decades ago the American astronomer Carl Sagan summed up the then viewpoint of the majority of the scientific community’s beliefs about the place of the Earth in this universe. He said: “Our posterings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe are challenged by this point of pale light (upon our world). Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark.” Today many scientists are reconsidering their views and are now starting to consider the possibility that the whole Universe seems to be constructed for one purpose only-to make life on Earth possible. For instance the agnostic British astronomer Sir Fred Hoyle who died in 2001 reluctantly admitted in his later years that the universe appears to be delicately tuned for life: He wrote “A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a superintellect has monkeyed with the physics, as well as the chemistry and biology (of the universe)… The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question.”
    And its not just advances in our understanding of the universe. A solitary sperm and a single egg can fuse under any circumstances and can grow into 8lbs of human baby. All the information needed for learning to read, to write, pulling the curtains or playing the piano is in that first cell. As scientists have studied the human cell they have been astounded at the vast amount of information in the form of a language embedded in the DNA molecules contained within the cell. If you unwrapped all the DNA contained within the cells of an average human’s body, and laid it end to end, it would reach to the moon and back 8,000 times.
    Several British newspapers reported just a few years ago how one of the world’s most renowned atheists, Sir Antony Flew, had recently renounced his atheism because of the compelling evidence of the DNA molecule. He had been persuaded by “the almost unbelievable complexity of the arrangements which are needed to produce (life), that intelligence must have been involved.”
    From the orderly pattern of the enormous universe, the galaxies and our planet with its amazing creatures, to the equally wondrous and complex microcosm of the cell, the evidence shouts an unmistakable message that Christians are not deluded: We are the result of a Master Designer!

    Sunday, 1 February 2009

    Medicine Amongst the Hebrews in Old Testament Times

    Unlike the many magical and folk medical treatments being used by the rest of the world in around 1000BC, the Hebrews were using innovative health techniques given to them by God based on science.
    In Old Testament times the priests acted as doctors and much of the scriptural legislation dealt with maintaining good health. Of the 613 commandments in the Pentateuch, 213 were of a medical nature, which in the main stressed the importance of social hygiene and preventative medicine.
    In the Book of Numbers we see that amongst the instructions given by God to Moses and the Hebrews was that if a woman was suspected of being unfaithful, she was to be taken to a priest and made to drink some impure water. If she was guilty, she was taken ill, if innocent she would have no harmful effects. The emotion of guilt would produce the illness.
    God also gave Moses and the Hebrews basic sanitary instructions, which prevented cholera and many epidemics. In the Book of Deuteronomy we see they were told to designate a place outside the camp, where they could relieve themselves. They were told to have as part of their equipment, something to dig with, and when they had finished they should dig a hole and cover up their excrement.
    An innovative divine sanitary instruction included in the Book of Numbers ordained that if somebody was to touch a corpse he was considered unclean for seven days and would have to wash with water on the third and seventh days. The washing procedure thereby cleared the unclean person of germs and protected others from exposure to harmful bacteria.
    In the Book of Leviticus we see a person with an infectious disease was instructed to wear torn clothes, let their hair go unkempt, cover the lower part of his face and cry out “unclean, unclean.” They had to live alone away from anyone else, the first ever example of quarantine. The unusual rituals were to prevent others coming near and catching any contagious diseases for fear of starting an epidemic.
    Even the Seventh Commandment “you shall not commit adultery” was God’s way of preventing epidemics of sexually transmitted diseases. People with a series of sexual partners ran a high risk of catching such diseases, which they were likely to pass on to later sexual partners, including their spouses.
    Later in the Old Testament there is an example of cardio-pulmonary resuscitation, now widely taught as an emergency treatment for heart stoppage. This occurred when the Old Testament prophet Elijah gave mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to the son of a widow.
    These are just a few of the numerous instances where the Bible contains medical information, which predates by centuries man's actual discoveries of related principles in the field of medicine.

    Sunday, 18 January 2009


    The word “teetotal” was first used in 1833 at a meeting in a English village where one of the founders of the Total Abstinence Society, Mr Richard Turner, was making a speech advocating total abstention from intoxicating drink. Mr Turner, a Preston, Lancashire working man suffered from a stutter.
    Passionately pleading his cause, he ended his address by proclaiming that "nothing but t-t-ttotal abstention will do - that or nowt!" His opponents seeing an opportunity for ridiculing both Mr Turner and the movement nicknamed it “t-totalism." However Mr Turner used this to his advantage and in later speeches to emphasize that members were to totally abstain he stressed the first word "T total" or teetotal. Soon the temperance movement as a whole both in Britain and America were adopting the name, possibly also because many total abstainers drank a lot of tea.

    Sunday, 11 January 2009

    One Liners

    I have a weakness for quick fired jokes, the sillier the better. The sort of jokes told by American comedian Stephen Wright and English comics Harry Hill, Milton Jones and the king of one liners- Tommy Cooper. Here's a selection and I warn you- the corn factor is very high:

    When my wife asked me to whisper something soft and sweet in her ear, I whispered "cake."

    Do Norwegians drive fjords?

    I attended an organ recital recently by Count Dracula. He was terrible-his Bach was worse than his bite.

    I was asked to write some music, I only got as far as SOME MUS when the telephone rung.

    Telephone wires are put up high to keep up the conversation.

    The only reason the pony didn't stop to chat was because it was a little hoarse.

    The tummy button got disorientated and asked the policeman where he was. He was told: "You are under a vest."

    What does the story of David and Goliath teach us? To duck.

    The police constable arrested the mime artist and told him he had the right to remain silent.

    The car mechanic visited the psychiatrist, who told him to lie down under the couch.

    Sigmund Freud bumped into Carl Jung one day in town and said "You look well how am I?"

    My family used pier pressure to force me to visit Brighton.

    Sir Edward Elgar once asked my grandfather to rearrange a piece for him. He asked for a pen and paper and wrote "e pcaei."

    An elephant came up to me and said " I can jump higher than a mountain." I asked him how come you can jump so high. The elephant replied: "Mountains can't jump."

    My friend told me that for years he'd been hoping for a son and heir. I suggested he should try a hair restorer in the south of France.

    The leather clad biker roared dangerously fast down the road on his motorbike with a cigarette in his mouth. "You'll kill yourself" shouted a passer by. "Don't worry", he replied "I only smoke 5 a day.

    When the lady criticised her friend's apartment she knocked her flat.

    What is a coincidence? Funny I was just about to ask the same question

    How does one join the crew on a battleship? They are handcuffed together.

    It was very stormy when the captain welcomed me on board. I was told not to worry, ships don't sink that often... only once.

    The announcement was made by the ship's captain "Man washed overboard" He then added "Because there are no baths on board."

    The chess player's best mate was King to Q2.

    I did have a joke about a rope but I think I'll skip it.

    I've been really unlucky in love, The only time I've ever held a hand was when I was playing Bridge.

    The owner of the stationary shop appeared to be very autocratic. He demanded that even pencils must be lead.

    Jones found that he was good at selling stationary. This came as a relief, as nobody had been interested in buying from him when he was jogging.

    I joined the navy to see the world and spent five years in a submarine.

    The victor at the Battle of Trafalgar was a man with one arm called Nelson. I'm not sure what his other arm was called.

    "Nurse, Nurse, I keep thinking I'm a bucket. Actually you are looking rather pail"

    Sunday, 4 January 2009

    What Famous People Ate

    Some of us eat to live, others live to eat. However whether a person is unknown outside their own family or is the most famous person in the world, you can guarantee they will have their own individual likes and dislikes regarding food. Personally, I positively ADORE Scottish Shortbread, meat pies and moussaka. However I just cannot stand eggs, yogurt and pineapples. Tomatoes I like as a soup or as a sauce but not cold in a salad. Call me Mr Fussypotts if you like, but I'm not alone in liking some foodstuffs more than others. Here's a selection of the favourite dishes and eating habits of some famous historical figures. They are all taken from my book Food For Thought: Extraordinary Little Chronicles of the World.

    Tiberius (42BC-37AD) The Roman Emperor Tiberius was a lover of pickles and grew cucumbers in carts; he got his slaves to wheel them around to catch the sun. and had cucumbers at his table throughout the year.

    Nero (37-68AD) The Roman emperor Nero had leek soup served to him every day, as he believed the leek made his speech honeyed and thus gave him a clear and sonorous voice for delivering his orations. Due to his inordinate appetite for leeks some people nicknamed him “Porrophagus” (“porrum” meaning leek in Latin.)

    Charlemagne (742-814) The Holy Roman Emperor was partial to cheese, especially Brie which he said was, "one of the most marvellous of foods." He insisted on having two mule loads of his favorite blue cheeses sent to his palace every Christmas. Charlemagne discovered blue cheese while on a tour of his territory, when at a stop at the priory of Rueil-en-Brie he was given some brie as a tithe.

    Francis of Assisi (1182-1226) Despite his refusal to kill any animals, the founder of the Franciscan order was not a vegetarian. Francis was particularly partial to pig’s knuckles and chicken legs and marzipan. Occasionally he enjoyed a fancy pastry and on his deathbed asked a dear friend, Lady Jacob to bring him some almond cakes.

    Leonardo Da Vinci (1452-1519) The Italian painter and engineer was such a fervent vegetarian that he was known to buy caged birds from poultry vendors and set them free.

    Queen Elizabeth I (1533-1603) The English Queen disliked gluttony and retained a reasonably slim figure throughout her life. Elizabeth's regular Breakfast was a biscuit and undercooked boiled beefsteaks. However in her old age her teeth had turned black through eating too many sweet things. Black teeth in the 16th century was a status symbol as sugar was very expensive, costing nine times as much as milk.

    Galilei Galileo (1564-1642) The Italian scientist and mathematician was fond of good food. For treats his nun daughter Sister Marie made him marzipan shaped like little fish.

    King Louis XIV (1638-1715) The French King had a passion for vegetables and fruit and his magnificent royal feasts always ended with marmalades and jellies served in silver dishes made from fruit grown in the king's own gardens and glasshouses. The fruit dish that Louis favoured was strawberries in wine. He also had a great liking for asparagus and he regularly received supplies of his favorite vegetable.
    In addition the Sun King was addicted to aniseed lozenges to "sweeten his breath."

    Peter the Great (1672-1725) The energetic Russian Czar generally ate simple food and had lousy table manners, he regularly trampled across the banquet table, treading on dishes and cutlery with his unwashed feet. However he laid on lavish banquets, modelled on the splendour of Versailles. The embroidered cloths, caviar from the Caspian Sea and oysters from the Baltic all matched the sumptuous feasts that King Louis XIV used to host. Peter preferred at banquets to be seated near the door so he could slip away early.

    Frederick the Great (1712-1786) The Prussian King's favorite lunch was spiced soup, Russian beef in brandy, Italian maize with garlic and savoury eel pie.

    Dr Johnson (1709-1784) The English writer and wit was a lover of good food. His favorite dish, which he took at the Cheshire Cheese inn off Fleet Street in London, was a vast pudding containing beefsteaks, kidneys, mushrooms, oysters and larks. He once claimed "There is nothing which has yet been contrived by man by which so much happiness is produced as by a good tavern or inn.”
    Dr Johnson once said: "A cucumber should be well sliced and dressed with pepper & vinegar and then thrown out, as good for nothing."
    He disliked fish as due to his poor eyesight he had to eat them with his fingers in order to locate the bones.

    Marie Antoinette (1755-1793) The French Queen had a sweet tooth; she loved meringues, even making them with her own hands. Marie Antoinette was also partial to a pastille stuffed with chocolate paste.

    Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) After serving as ambassador in Paris, Jefferson brought back with him to America ice cream which he delighted in serving to his guests. The statesman also introduced to the Americans the joys of fried potatoes after sampling them in Paris. He also served macaroni or spaghetti made by cutting rolled dough into strips, which were then rolled by hand into noodles.

    Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) The French Emperor ate very rapidly; he never took more than 20 minutes to finish a meal, often eating with his fingers. He usually finished long before anyone else. Sometimes Napoleon ate in reverse order starting with a sweet and finishing with a starter.
    The sweet toothed emperor was very fond of liquorice-indeed his teeth were almost permanently black from chewing it.

    William Pitt (1759-1806) The British Prime Minister was very fond of veal pies. His last words before he died included, “I think I could eat one of Bellamy’s meat pies.”

    Lord Byron (1788-1824) The English romantic poet was inclined to put on weight. Fearful of getting fat, for days on end he refused most dinner invitations. During this period all Byron ate were biscuits and soda water, chewing tobacco to keep his mind off hunger occasionally treating himself to a mixture of fish, greens, potatoes or rice drowned in vinegar. (Byron took vinegar to lessen his appetite). The poet adopted original slimming strategies; for instance he once played cricket in half-a-dozen waistcoats.

    Charles Dickens (1812-1870) The British novelist's wife, Kate, was a lavish cook. Dickens loved good food and was especially partial to "lamb chops breaded with plenty of ketchup."

    Louis Pasteur (1822-1895) The French chemist was not an adventurous eater. Every Thursday Pasteur consumed hot sausage garnished with red kidney beans, the other six days of the week he had a mutton cutlet with sauteed potatoes.

    Queen Victoria (1819-1901) The British Queen had an excessive liking for beef marrow, which she ate on toast for tea every day. Victoria also enjoyed roast beef and Yorkshire pudding followed by mind numbingly cold ice cream. The Queen decreed that only roast beef of mutton, followed by milk puddings were suitable fare for her children and grandchildren.

    Thomas Edison (1847-1931) The American inventor believed in a good hearty breakfast to work upon but didn't eat much else apart from the occasional meal of sardines or lamb chops and vegetables. Most of the time his wife and children dined alone as Edison only ate when hungry. "A pound of food a day is all I need when I am working," he once said

    Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910) In his later years, the Russian novelist became a strict vegetarian. He came to believe that meat was not a suitable diet for humans as it excited the mortal lusts and involved pain and death for animals. As a vegetarian, Tolstoy existed mainly on oatmeal porridge, bread and vegetable soup.

    Edward VII (1841-1910) The British King was well known for his numerous extravagant court functions and his obesity. He faithfully recorded the height and weight of his guests after weekends at Sandringham to ensure they had eaten well.
    Breakfast for Edward was eggs followed by large thick slices of bacon then fish (turbot, lobster or salmon) with finally steak or chops with a little game or poultry. He then has a ten-course lunch at 1.00 sharp. Dinner could be up to 12 courses. "Tum Tum" as he was nicknamed, especially enjoyed grilled oysters and peasant stuffed with snipe all washed down with champagne. He also loved small whitebait. One man had the job of picking out the tiniest fish of uniform size for the king.

    George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) The Irish dramatist and wit was a vegetarian as "a man of my spiritual intensity does not eat corpses." He regularly frequented Cafe Royal, 68 Regent Street, London.
    Shaw always ate small meals and after nearly 60 years of vegetarianism, he switched from a diet of macaroni with beans and lentils in soups and porridges to one with more fresh fruit and vegetables, which he said helped him healthwise.

    Mohandas Gandhi (1869-1948) The vegetarian Indian leader would not even pluck fruit from a tree as he felt this was too violent a gesture. Gandhi relied on gathering fruit once it had fallen to the ground. At one time he reduced his daily food to four ingredients, wheat, vegetables, a little oil and fruit but increased his choices after becoming very ill.

    Adolf Hitler (1889-1945) A vegetarian, in a book on diet, Hitler pencilled a marginal note: "Cows were meant to give milk, oxen for drawing loads." He lost his taste buds during a gas attack in the 1914-18 World War and as a result The Nazi leader adored spicy food. Hitler also had a passion for cream cakes and chocolate.

    Richard Nixon (1913-1994) The American President was very fond of his wife’s home-made meatloaf and had a liking for the curious combination of cottage cheese and ketchup.

    Elvis Presley (1935-1977) The King of Rock and Roll devoured vast amounts of
    hamburgers and peanut butter and banana sandwiches. The last food Elvis ate was four scoops of ice cream and six chocolate chip cookies.

    Bill Clinton (1946-) The former American President is well known for his fondness for junk food but he also absolutely adores spicy Indian dishes. The White House kitchen used to cook some for him and his wife Hilary at least once a week. Frequently when they had the opportunity to eat out during his time as President, the Clintons went to a local Indian restaurant for a chicken tandoori.

    Tony Blair (1953-) All things to all men Tony Blair once told a Labour Party magazine that his favorite food was fish and chips and the upmarket Islington Cookbook that it is “fresh fettuccine garnished with olive oil, sun-dried tomatoes and capers.”