Friday, 15 September 2017

15th September 2017 - Crete day 2

Thought for the day :"Let me tell you a little about myself - it is a reflexive pronoun that means 'me' "

Some evening shots of Agios Nikolaus...

Let me tell you a little about myself. It’s a reflexive pronoun that means ‘me’.”

Read more at:
“Let me tell you a little about myself. It’s a reflexive pronoun that means ‘me’.”

Read more at:
“Let me tell you a little about myself. It’s a reflexive pronoun that means ‘me’.”

Read more at:
“Let me tell you a little about myself. It’s a reflexive pronoun that means ‘me’.”

Read more at:
“Let me tell you a little about myself. It’s a reflexive pronoun that means ‘me’.”

Read more at:
“Let me tell you a little about myself. It’s a reflexive pronoun that means ‘me’.”

Read more at:
“Let me tell you a little about myself. It’s a reflexive pronoun that means ‘me’.”

Read more at:
“Let me tell you a little about myself. It’s a reflexive pronoun that means ‘me’.”

Read more at:
“Let me tell you a little about myself. It’s a reflexive pronoun that means ‘me’.”

Read more at: is a little hot i
It is a little hot in the day
λευκό κρασί  - don't mind if I do ...

Thursday, 14 September 2017

14th September 2017 - Crete - Day 1

Thought for the day:“If you don’t know what introspection is, you need to take a long, hard look at yourself.”

Sunning in Crete and |Scarlett and Bun pop by...  and a gift from Allie Ballie for Scarlett...

best go for dinner now
cheers !

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

13th September 2017 - On my Travels

Thought for the day:"I'm selling some old tennis equipment - but I am not sure what is the net worth …"

Pimms O'clock

No Pimms o'clock
Meanwhile I should be in Crete

and in other news...


Tuesday, 12 September 2017

12th September 2017 - It's all News to Me

Thought for the day:"Did the inventor of the Umbrella want to call it a 'Brella' but hesitated?"

You can see some strange things as you wander around the tintertweb...  apparently wood lice can be called many things - who would have known?

And in other news - you just have to look at the papers...

Enjoy the day - I am off to Crete for a week ...

Monday, 11 September 2017

11th September 2017 - Of Tangos and Tongue Twisters

Thought for the day:"PC World - you have to watch what you say in there

Spent all day yesterday looking at videos on Youtube on how to use Flash with the camera - we shall soon see in Crete if any of it sank in...

Meanwhile - Mary Poppins does Heavy Metal

Super Callous !!

And someone told me today that the Tango was originally danced by two men - I said "Don't be silly ! it came from the Brothels of Buenos Aries"  so I looked it up...

A brief Tango History by Murray Pfeffer

     The Tango, often called 'The Argentine Tango', is Argentina's contribution to the world of dance. The Tango came from the brothels and low cafes of Buenos Aires at the turn of the century. However, at it's very beginning, it was a ballet-like dance between two men, which, just a little later, became the obscene dance of the brothels where both men and women had the opportunity to rub their bodies together. Over the years, the Tango has changed becoming an elegant and stylish dance evoking a picture of high society, with women in sleek glittering evening gowns and men in tuxedos and tails.

During the last 25 years of the nineteenth century, the desperate poverty of a disintegrating Europe caused a great migration - "to make America" was the saying. Very large numbers of eastern Europeans emigrated to the New World. While New York City was a favorite destination, a great many landed in Buenos Aires with their few tattered belongings and a pocket full of dreams for a better life. Although a few emigres did bring their families, generally it was the men who came first to build a home and then later sent for their wives and children. Many found a new home in the outskirts of Buenos Aires during the 1880's.

Here, instead of their dreams, they found the stark reality of the meat packing houses along the Riachuelo in Buenos Aires, and near the port in Montevideo, Uruguay. In places like the Mataderos district of Buenos Aires and El Cerro in Montevideo; or along the docks on both shores of the mud colored Rio de la Plata, they worked from dawn till dusk amid the heat and the stench of spoiling meat.

Many lived five and six to a room, in various housing conglomerates that came to be called "conventillos", while others lived in sewer pipes stored on an empty lot belonging to a Frenchman named A. Touraint and, in the Argentine vernacular, became known as the "atorrantes", - a slang expression which today still describes homeless 'bums'. The Conventillos housed thousands of poor immigrants, mostly from Spain and Italy, but elsewhere too, along with Argentineans from the provinces.

Nights were often the worst times. Italian, French, Turkish, Irish and German immigrants would congregate on street corners of the "arrabales" (the city's outskirts), or crowd into the bars where they could dull their desires with cheap wine and sing mournful Andalucian and Neapolitan love songs to the women left behind.

In this 'male world' there was often violence as the alcohol and the cocaine took effect. Knife wielding toughs, called "compadrones," ruled the arrabales. In the beginning, the Tango was danced by two men - "the tango of the compadron". They danced not arm in arm, but in something of a ballet-like, style, expressing a tale of two men locked in symbolic mortal combat (and often ending in real combat). The expression 'ballet-style' may be confusing. In the Spanish ethos, there is a history of men dancing either alone, or in a group. Nowadays, we can conjure up a vision of modern day male Flamenco dancers dancing in bolero jackets, with a hat pulled low over one eye, and such. So too, with the early Tango. It was danced by one man alone, -expressing his sorrows and hopes, or by two men expressing some sort of moral combat. This is the type of dancing to which 'ballet-style'makes reference.

In time, women - many of them prostitutes - made their way to the ports. They too, found their way into the Tango. The "kilombos" and "enramadas" (brothels), where they plied their trade around the turn of the century, became show places for the Tango. French, Italian, Spanish, Polish, and German women were brought in to work in these bordellos. Supply very often did not meet Demand and eager men would wait in long lines. Not wishing to lose the "customers" to boredom while they were waiting, the bordello owners hired musicians - usually trios playing guitar, violin and flute -as entertainment. Mostly they would play the popular music of the time: polkas, habaneras, waltzes, and mazurkas. And, the customers, might often "dance" with a prostitute. Since these humble people had no dance training whatsoever, it must have been some very simple "walking" dance, with quite a bit of body rubbing. (In today's ballroom, the Basic steps of the Tango are 'walks' and the dance protocol demands that the dancer's bodies be in contact.)

Many men found momentary respite in these brothels of Buenos Aires. Here, both the new immigrants and the 'portenos' (men born in Bueno Aires) could find some companionship and drown their troubles in a few drinks. The grey stone and muddy streets of their barrio (neighborhoods) echoed their sadness. Only the rising sun would dull the pain of memories. It was a time when the Tango belonged to the night.

This eclectic mix of cultures, the European emigres, the peasants from the Argentine hinterland, and the disadvantaged "portenos" became a new social class. They began to create their own cultural expressions. This "Tango culture", -the particular slang, usages and customs of the group, is earlier than Tango dance as an artistic expression.

Today it is generally accepted that the Tango is borrowed from many nations. It took the relentless African slave rhythms -the 'Candombe' and the beat of their drums (known as tan-go), and added the popular dance music of the Pampas (Argentina's prarie land) called the 'Milonga' .(The Milonga, was an early rural dance-form that mutated into the Tango around 1880.) It combined Indian rhythms with music of early Spanish colonists. The "Candombe", was a typical Uruguayan rhythmic form, well known in the nearby port city of Buenos Aires. (As an aside, it is interesting to note that 'True' Tango music does NOT use any drums in the ensemble.) The Salon dances (mainly the Waltz), -those involving men and women embracing, were the precedent for the dance, which was refined until it became what we now know as Tango.

These early immigrants and societal outcasts, seeking escape from their own emotions and feelings, would soon develop a music and a dance that epitomized their loneliness and desires. The wail of "their" Tango spoke of more than just frustrated love. It spoke of fatality and of destinies engulfed in pain. It was a dance of sorrow. "El Tango no est en los pies. Est en el coraz¢n." (Tango is not in the feet. It is in the heart.)

The Tango dance originated as an "acting out" of the relationship between a prostitute and her pimp. Tango songs and dances, often highly improvised, had no lyrics, and were generally quite obscene. Titles usually referred to characters in the world of prostitution. During this period, Tango music largely consisted of the melancholy wailing of a bandoneon, an accordion-like instrument imported to Argentina from Germany in 1886.

Between 1880 and 1930, Argentina developed qjuickly. Buenos Aires was virtually entirely rebuilt during this period. The beautiful old colonial Spanish city, with it's one story buildings and narrow streets, was replaced by a metropolis of wide avenues and beautiful parks. The tall buildings were of French and Italian architecture. (Argentina became one of the ten richest nations in the world, maintaining that position until the early 1950's when it's economy began a lengthy decline, lasting for the next 30 years.) During the prosperous period, the very rich had the habit of going to Europe at least once a year. They. maintained big homes in Paris or London, where the nobility, the famous and the very rich regularly attended their parties. The French coined the phrase "he is as rich as an Argentinean" to mean extremely rich. Some young Argentineans visiting Europe introduced their "indecent" Argentine Tango to the Parisian nobility, and the dance took Paris by storm. Tango became the craze of the time. Parties were given with Argentinean orchestras, tango lessons and milongas. Even women's fashion changed. Bulky dresses were replaced by lighter, looser ones so the ladies could adjust to the moves of Tango. Tango rapidly migrated to the other big capitals, London, Rome, Berlin, and finally New York. Now the Tango became "respectable", and was soon re-imported to the shores of the Rio de la Plata and featured in the cafes and clubs frequented by rich Argentinians.

But it was no longer the Tango of the compadron - the two men in combat. "The compadron was replaced by the "compadrito" who dressed like him; the "fungi," a wide rimmed hat thrown over one eye, a white handkerchief tied around his neck, the short coat and tight trousers and, as a last connection to the toughness of the port, the knife at his side. But it was all 'looks', he had none of the compadron's substance."

By 1912, the Tango, helped by Argentina's passage of Universal Suffrage, was becoming absorbed into the larger Argentine society. While the dance lost some of it abrasiveness, it's structure remained intact, and soon the Tango developed into a worldwide phenomenon. One writer said that even the Americans were doing it, although noting that "some ladies were given to wearing "bumpers" to protect themselves from rubbing a bit too closely against their male partners".

"Eventually, the evolution of the tango took it to the better dance halls closer to "el centro," (downtown) of Buenos Aires. The "fungi" and the silk neckerchief were replaced by the black tuxedo, patent leather shoes, spats and silk top hat."

In this new culture, the tango musicians were now elevated to professional composer status. Roberto Firpo, an early pioneer of the genre, created the typical Tango orchestra. The piano and double bass carried the rhythm. The melody, with strong counter melodies and variations, was played on the bandoneon and the violin. Performance stars of this era included such men as Osvaldo Fresedo and Julio de Caro.

A somewhat more rigorous classification of this history, that has become widely used, includes the dates and commonly used labels for the eras:

1900 - 1920 : La Guardia Vieja (The Old Guard)

1920 - 1940 : La Guardia Nueva (The New Guard) - The Epoca de Oro of Argentine Tango.

1940 - 1960 : La Post-Guardia Nueva (The New Post-Guard), - aka: "The generation of the 40's"

1960 - present : El Nuevo Tango (The New Tango )

1900 - 1920 : Mainly the sung and small instrumental tangos (fundamentally trios and quartets), until 'La Orquesta Tipica' arrives on the scene, with the incorporation of the bandone¢n. Musicians like: Vicente Greco, Villoldo, Arolas, etc. One of the more representative tangos is La Morocha (Saborido and Villoldo). Perhaps, the Tango "El Choclo", best exemplifies the "Guardia Vieja". In 1907, one of the very first genuine Argentine Tangueros to visit Paris (France)was the song's composer, Angel Villoldo, who wanted to do some recording. (At the time, Paris had the best recording facilities and techniques.) In 1918, writing Lyrics for the tango became all the rage with singers such as the tragic Carlos Gardel and celebrated salon orchestras like Francisco Canaro's giving the music a new legitimacy and acceptance. Carlos Gardel is still revered today, five decades after his death. Another of the more representative Tangos of this period is "La Morocha" (by: Saborido and Villoldo).

1920 - 1940 : Here, besides the tango with lyrics and authors such as Discepolo, the instrumental Tango becomes prominent. There are two groups of writers. The composers most identified with the 'Traditional' Tango include Juan Darienzo, Francisco Canaro, Pugliese, D'Arienzo, Di Sarli, Troilo, Tanturi, and (early) Salgan. While such composers as Astor Piazzolla, Julio and Francisco de Caro, Juan Carlos Cobian, Elvino Vardaro, try to take Tango into a newer form. But probably the most important evolutionist was Astor Piazzolla. "La Cumparsita", is an excellent example of a 'Golden Age' song. Another example is the Tango "Celos", ("Jealousy" is the English name). Paris, France, was first to take the Tango to her heart, and soon after, the Tango took all Europe by storm. "Tango Jalousie" is a European tango written by the Danish composer Jacob Gade, and may be the best known Tango of the "golden age".In 1930, an Argentine military coup ended universal suffrage. No longer able to vote, the citizenry became largely apathetic with a concomitant depressing effect on dancing the Tango. A rather pessimistic philosopher/singer of the Tango emerged at this time. Enrique Santos Discepolo is perhaps most famous for his lyric, "The 20th Century is a trash heap. No one can deny it."The late 1930's saw a Tango revival when Argentinean's regained a good measure of political freedom. Celebrating their social rise, the Tango again became a symbol of solidarity and a part of people's daily life. Tango musicians emerged taking the form into new paths. Among those musicians were such men as Fresedo, de Caro, Pugliese, and Anibal Troilo. Even wealthy intellectuals, far removed from the working class "orilla", were writing new lyrics for Tango songs. Due to their influence, The Tango became more romantic, more nostalgic, and much less threatening, -"a sweet remembrance of youth in an idyllic society that never existed".

1940 - 1960 : Musicians such as Anibal Troilo, Osvaldo Pugliese, Leopoldo Federico, Osmar Maderna, Atilio Stampone, are writing, strongly influenced by Astor Piazzolla's evolutionist line with "La Ulltima Curda" being a good example of the songs then written. Such poets as Homero Manzi, Enrique Cadicamo, and Homero Exposito are writing.  In 1946, Juan Peron rose to power and the Tango reached a new pinnacle of popularity in Argentina with both the generalisimo and his wife Evita embracing it wholeheartedly. But with Evita's death in 1952, the Tango again fell from public favor. With the advent of American rock-and-roll, the Tango seemed "out of step" with the times.

1960 - To The Present: Piazzolla's influence is so very strong, that many now divide Tango into Before and After Piazzolla. Piazzolla's big hit, "Balada para un Loco", convinced many doubting Argentinians that the "New Tango" was "for real". Another example is "La Bestia Potenciada", a big hit from the Tango heartland, Buenos Aires.The Tango still enjoys wide favor. Immensely popular (it is virtually the "national" dance of Finland), the Tango is again enjoying a world-wide renaissance. Several shows have already appeared on New York's Broadway stages, and another version is still a very popular and required ballroom dance in international DanceSport Competitions. .

Many attempts have been made to trace the history of Tango, but nobody has ever found the exact root of its origins. It suffices to say that that Tango was the music of the "portenos", - the inhabitants of the city of Buenos Aires. It is a "rags to riches" story that began in the late 1800s, when poor immigrants danced in Argentine brothels, and continued on to the glittering evening Galas of high society. Tango is still sexy and elegant, and danced with passion not only in Buenos Aires, but in London, Berlin, Tokyo, Paris, and New York, - but in fact, in every nation of the world, including Zambia. .


ARRABAL: Outskirts, suburb

BARRIO: Neighborhood or district

COMPADRE: Haughty, proud, brave man living in the arrabales (suburb)

COMPADRITO: Typical character of the suburb, a bully and a braggart

CONVENTILLO: Housing edifice with multiple rooms and no basic comfort where the immigrants of different origins live: workers, failed craftsmen...

FUEYE: the Bandoneon (accordion-type instrument)

GUAPO: Nickname for a man who practises the cult of courage

LUNFARDO: Slang of Buenos Aires

MILONGA: Popular music of the pampas and the Rio del Plata

PORTENIO: Term for the residents of Buenos Aires (port-area)


Sunday, 10 September 2017

10th September 2017 - Of Vouchers and Flash

Thought for the day:"If you don't drink - how will your friends know that you love them at 2am?"

Sunday - and no learning to do !! that makes a change !
Will have to think about packing for Crete as we leave on Tuesday and I shall be playing the Organ for the Price of Wales Installation tomorrow here in Llanelli.

Thought I would be sneaky today - and joined one of those Voucher Code websites - and sure enough Frankie and Bennies have a special offer at the moment for 25% off the food bill. I thought "That will be useful as we always have a quick meal in the airport after we get through security" and so I sign up for the emails. Always read the small print, I thought as I get ready to email myself the voucher - and yes - sure enough in the small print it excludes airport locations - oh well !!

Can't win them all !

So a day of study today to see how to use a flash unit with my camera - all seems very technical - the inverse square law I think I understand - but not sure how it helps - I think I will just have to experiment again ...

Cheers !

Saturday, 9 September 2017

9th September 2017 - Of Bugs and Computers and Amazing Grace

Thought for the day:"As I am over 60 and apparently I can sign up for Amazon Past Your Prime!"

1945 1st "bug" in a computer program discovered by Grace Hopper, a moth was removed with tweezers from a relay & taped into the log...
Grace Hopper was an Admiral and Computer Scientist which is a novel connection - especially for 1945...

She was one of the first programmers of the Harvard Mark I computer which was used in the war effort and the Manhattan project from 1944.

Hopper went on to invent the first compiler for a universal computer programming language.

She is also credited with coining the phrase 'debugging' after removing a moth with tweezers from a relay and taping it into the log.

Owing to both her accomplishments and naval rank, she was often referred to as "Amazing Grace". The USS Hopper, a Burke-class guided-missile destroyer was named for her, as was the Cray XE6 "Hopper" supercomputer.

She popularized the idea of machine-independent programming languages, which led to the development of COBOL, an early high-level programming language still in use today.

Hopper had tried to enlist in the Navy during World War II. She had to join the Navy Reserves because she was too old to enlist at the age of 34. Hopper started her computing career working in the Harvard Mark I team led by Howard H. Aiken. In 1949, she joined the Eckert–Mauchly Computer Corporation, joining the team that developed the UNIVAC I in 1944. It was at Eckert–Mauchly that she began developing the compiler. She believed that computer code could be written in English using a programming language based on English words. The compiler would convert that code into machine code understood by computers. By 1952, Hopper finished her compiler, which was written for the A-0 System programming language.

In 1954, Eckert–Mauchly chose Hopper to lead their department for automatic programming, and she led the release of some of the first compiled languages like FLOW-MATIC. In 1959, she participated in the CODASYLconsortium, which consulted Hopper to guide them in creating a machine-independent programming language. This led to the COBOL language, inspired by her idea of a language being based on English. In 1966, she retired from the Naval Reserve, but in 1967, the Navy recalled her into active duty. She retired from the Navy in 1986 and found work as a consultant for the Digital Equipment Corporation, sharing her computing experiences.

Owing to her accomplishments and her naval rank, she was sometimes referred to as "Amazing Grace". The U.S. Navy Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Hopper was named for her, as was the Cray XE6"Hopper" supercomputer at NERSC.  During her lifetime, Hopper was awarded 40 honorary degrees from universities across the world. In 1991, she received the National Medal of Technology. On November 22, 2016, she was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama.

Hopper had tried to enlist in the Navy early in the war. She was at age 34, too old to enlist, and her weight to height ratio was too low. She was also denied on the basis that her job as a mathematician and mathematics professor at Vassar College was valuable to the war effort. 

During World War II in 1943, Hopper obtained a leave of absence from Vassar and was sworn into the United States Navy Reserve, one of many women to volunteer to serve in the WAVES. She had to get an exemption to enlist; she was 15 pounds (6.8 kg) below the Navy minimum weight of 120 pounds (54 kg). 

She reported in December and trained at the Naval Reserve Midshipmen's School at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. Hopper graduated first in her class in 1944, and was assigned to the Bureau of Ships Computation Project at Harvard University as a lieutenant, junior grade. 

She served on the Mark I computer programming staff headed by Howard H. Aiken. Hopper and Aiken co-authored three papers on the Mark I, also known as the Automatic Sequence Controlled Calculator. Hopper's request to transfer to the regular Navy at the end of the war was declined due to her advanced age of 38. She continued to serve in the Navy Reserve. Hopper remained at the Harvard Computation Lab until 1949, turning down a full professorship at Vassar in favor of working as a research fellow under a Navy contract at Harvard.

In accordance with Navy attrition regulations, Hopper retired from the Naval Reserve with the rank of commander at age 60 at the end of 1966. She was recalled to active duty in August 1967 for a six-month period that turned into an indefinite assignment. She again retired in 1971, but was again asked to return to active duty in 1972. She was promoted to captain in 1973.

After Republican Representative Philip Crane saw her on a March 1983 segment of 60 Minutes, he championed H.J.Res. 341, a joint resolution originating in the House of Representatives, which led to her promotion to commodore by special Presidential appointment. She remained on active duty for several years beyond mandatory retirement by special approval of Congress. Effective November 8, 1985, the rank of commodore was renamed rear admiral (lower half) and Hopper became one of the Navy's few female admirals.

Admiral Hopper retired (involuntarily) from the Navy on August 14, 1986 after a career over 42 years. At a celebration held in Boston on the USS Constitution to commemorate her retirement, Hopper was awarded the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, the highest non-combat decoration awarded by the Department of Defense.

At the time of her retirement, she was the oldest active-duty commissioned officer in the United States Navy (79 years, eight months and five days), and aboard the oldest commissioned ship in the United States Navy (188 years, nine months and 23 days). 

Hopper died in her sleep of natural causes on New Year's Day 1992 at her home in Arlington, Virginia; she was 85 years of age. She was interred with full military honors

So there

Friday, 8 September 2017

8th September 2017 - Three Chairs for Me - Hip hip...

Thought for the day:"Nothing wrong with men in their 30's living with their mother - they made a film about it - Psycho!"

(Actually that is relevant as this film was released in 1960 on September 8th !!)

So - another Chair under the belt ...

This time Cynghordy Conclave - Secret Monitor in Llanelli. Unfortunately the current Supreme Ruler was not able to make it but luckily I had my Ruler Sash from the other conclave where I am ruler (by dispensation) so was able to complete the ceremonials ....

A busy day - but an enjoyable one ...
So - now I have to do the sums and cash up the bar - somehow I am meant to be able to get away from all that - but it does not seem to happen - Oh Well - just flog the willing horse ...


Thursday, 7 September 2017

7th September 2017 - Of Scarlet Cords

Thought for the day:"Been learning to guess the weight of dogs - picked up a few pointers today.."

So, the season starts properly today with the Order of Scarlet Cord  - Provincial Director of Ceremonies for a third Grade and Preparation Ceremony - followed by Cynghordy Conclave Order of Secret Monitor where I shall be taking the Chair - no pressure therefore !!

Little book has been out and I think I have most of it learned - we shall find out this afternoon I guess.

The Masonic Order of the Scarlet Cord actually started in 1889 based upon 18th Century documents from Amsterdam and was then called the Knights of the Scarlet Cord and the rituals were re written by the authors of the Secret Monitor Order.

The Order was revived in the early 2000's and was an addition to the Secret Monitor Degree and in 2010 it was inaugurated as an independent Masonic Order thought the requirement for membership remains being a member of the Secret Monitor and the ritual includes proof of the second or Prince's Degree in that Order. As a member when the order was founded I am entitled to wear the Founders Jewel with my other regalia ..

So - better get back to the books...
Cheers !

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

6th September 2017 - Rappers and Swords

Thought for the day:"I went to a Pretenders Concert - I think it was a tribute act"

Found some old footage today form the early 20's showing Northumbria Miners doing the "Rapper" or "Sword Dance" - as one title shows "The youngest is 60 year old" . Considering the expected life span of a miner that is quite impressive ... Did a little study and found a couple more form Pathe News which I though I would share...

Hilt-and-point sword dances exist all over Europe, with the forms practised in Germany, Austria and Flanders bearing the greatest resemblance to the forms existing in this country – the rapper dance of Northumberland and Durham, and the longsword dance of Yorkshire, which uses rigid swords.
The earliest definite account of hilt-and-point sword dancing in England dates back to an article in 1715 describing a dance in the Tyne Valley to the west of Newcastle upon Tyne. The dance described closely resembles linked sword dances of the Yorkshire and continental type rather than the rapper dance. Later accounts in the same century describe the dance in greater detail, and although rigid swords continue to be used, some elements of the modern dance already exist, including the male and ‘female’ characters and the close association between the dance and coal mining.
At this stage, the dance was only performed in midwinter and was the major part of a longer performance starting with a short play. The play resembled a mummers play with historical characters, mock executions and revivals of the dead by doctors – these were meant to symbolise death and rebirth, and such symbolic midwinter rituals were common in much of northern Europe. Mock executions were sometimes also part of the dance, just as they still are in many longsword and continental sword dances.
The introduction of the flexible rapper to replace the rigid sword occurred at some time in the nineteenth century. The exact date is unknown, but the rapper was certainly in use by 1880, and there is some anecdotal evidence that it may have been as early as 1820. Nor do we know how the rapper was discovered – but it is most likely that it was discovered by accident when mining tools were adapted to be used as improvised swords. It is certainly known that later on, rapper teams improvised rappers from bed laths or by filing down the teeth of saw blades; occasionally these pit tools were donated by a sympathetic manager at the mine, but they otherwise probably just recycled discarded old tools.
Prior to the invention of the Gilchrist-Thomas lining for the Bessemer converter in the 1878, high quality steel was expensive, as British iron ore had too high a phosphorus content for the manufacture of steel, and so iron ore was imported from Sweden for steel-making. Steel of the quality necessary for rappers was therefore very expensive, so it was almost certainly beyond the means of the average coal miner to purchase purpose-made rappers; and the Earsdon team had been performing regularly with flexible rappers for 20 years before this. This also supports the theory that rappers were improvised from old mining tools.
The discovery of flexible swords unleashed the potential for major innovations in the form and style of the dance, to the point where it became completely different from the dances like longsword. Indeed the very basic structure of the dance changed from dancers moving around in a single circle to a pair of circles meeting together to form a figure-of-eight pattern. The radical change in the form of the dance and the common stock of a few basic figures used in most traditional dances suggest that the changes to the dance were invented in one place, possibly by one clever person, and later spread out.

However and whenever the rapper dance started, by the end of the nineteenth century it had supplanted the earlier rigid sword dance so completely that the older dance was extinct. As the early dances were recorded in the Tyne Valley, whereas the rapper dances were recorded in Tyneside – some 20 miles (30 km) downstream – it is quite possible that the two co-existed for part of the 19th century, the rapper dance thriving in one location while its ancestor died out in another.
Little is actually known about how the dance evolved over the course of the remainder of the nineteenth century, as no notations or accurate descriptions have yet been found. The only evidence is accounts of the existence of early teams, such as Winlaton and Earsdon, although local press coverage of a rapper tournament in Blyth in 1881 suggests that rapper was quite widespread and well-known in the region by the late nineteenth century.
The dance was always associated with coal mining communities, and the true essence of the dance cannot be appreciated without an understanding of the social context in which it developed.

The pit villages of Northumberland and Durham had their own social order, the product of the living and working conditions of the miners. At the time of the greatest evolution of the rapper dance, industrialists increasingly exploited the great resource that was the Northumberland and Durham coalfield. The development of the rapper dance cannot be fully understood without referring to the conditions in which it evolved.
Conditions for the workers were harsh – shifts lasting twelve hours or longer were worked in conditions of damp and darkness deep below the ground, the miners paid a pittance on piece-work rates. Safety procedures were often non-existent, and major accidents occurred frequently, occasionally claiming hundreds of lives. Prior to a change in the law in 1863, mine owners commonly saved money by only having a single shaft; on 16th January 1862, the single shaft at New Hartley Colliery was blocked when the beam of the pumping engine broke, and the 204 men and boys in the mine were trapped and died.
Above ground, life was little better, families being crammed into slum housing with basic outdoor sanitation shared between many. Initially, houses were often built without staircases, access to the upper floor afforded by a ladder! A visitor to South Hetton in 1842 noted that there were only five water taps to serve 190 houses, and in the same village in 1892, there was only one privy to serve 154 houses! Workers were sometimes paid part of their wages in vouchers called “Tommy Ticket” which could only be exchanged for goods at inflated prices in the “Tommy Shop,” owned by the mine owner. Until the Great Strike of 1844, miners were typically employed on annual indentures, with no long term job security. Worker dissent was not tolerated, and anyone sacked would find it difficult to feed his family, in an age before the welfare state.
It was out of these adverse conditions that a spirit of solidarity grew between the miners – a solidarity that was essential when relying on your marrer, or work partner, to keep you alive in the dangerous conditions below the ground. Coupled with this was the desire to make the most out of every moment of their limited free time – and so pastimes, including rapper, were taken very seriously indeed and practised to the point of perfection.
The solidarity between miners in a pit village was exceeded only by the bitter rivalry between adjacent pit villages, sometimes only hundreds of yards apart. This rivalry led to hard-fought competitions between villages, whether in football, handball, pigeon racing, leek growing, chess, rapper or simply drunken brawls in the streets.

The late 19th century is a period poorly documented in the history of rapper. Previously all that had been known about this era came from the oral histories of teams such as Earsdon, and inferences from accounts of teams in the early 20th century.
A major discovery in the research into rapper in this period was the discovery of contemporary articles in the local press describing a "monster sword dancing competition" held in Blyth in 1881. The articles in the Blyth Weekly News and also the Newcastle newspapers described the competition, but not the dance, and the newsworthy fact was that the result of the competition was a draw leading to a dance off a week later. The articles provide a long list of the competing teams, mostly from the immediate area around Blyth, and it has been commented elsewhere that this indicates the sword dance was much more prevalent at that time than is now appreciated. It is also notable, however, that none of these newspaper writers felt it necessary to describe the dance to their readers, who were presumably assumed to be familiar enough with sword dancing for a description of the sword dance to be superfluous.
It would seem reasonable to assume that if a monster sword dancing competition would draw crowds in Blyth, similar competitions would also have taken place in the music halls of Newcastle and Sunderland. Perhaps the sword dance was so well known that it would not have been reported except in the drama of an dead heat. But was the late nineteenth century a high point in the popularity of rapper? Perhaps not, as John Stokoe in his 1887 article on the Sword Dancers Song and Interlude from the Monthly Chronicle of North Country Lore and Legend stated that the sword dance was in decline compared with previously.
By the end of the first decade of the twentieth century, the rapper dance was slowly going into decline as village traditions were beginning to die out. However, it is at this time that Cecil Sharp, the great collector of traditional English songs and dances, arrives on the scene.
Cecil Sharp recorded notations of a number of rapper dances, and published notations of five of them in the three volumes that made up his book The Sword Dances of Northern England. Although Cecil Sharp preferred the longsword dance, and even called the rapper dance decadent, he did make an effort to encourage a revival of the rapper dance by holding annual competitions in Newcastle upon Tyne and by teaching rapper at workshops around the country.
The Newcastle Competitions were passionately hard-fought affairs, with a very high standard of dance performed. The competitive spirit encouraged new developments in the form of the dance, probably including the introduction of modern more-elaborate rapper stepping by clog-dancing members of rapper teams, especially Earsdon and Newbiggin. One competition winner of this time, Westerhope, was actually offered a professional contract for three years, including one year in the USA, with pay several times greater than their coal mining wages, but they turned the offer down!
Many new teams, now regarded as traditional, were set up at this time. Some of these, like Newbiggin, were genuinely new teams. Others, like Callerton, were offshoots of established teams entered as B sides! Others, like the High Spen Blue Diamonds, were new teams reviving an older tradition from the same location.
The new competitive edge and purpose-made rappers fashioned from better steels encouraged the development of faster, more elaborate, exciting figures designed to impress, and the rapper dance became much more like the dance we know and love today.
Traditionally performed for beer money, rapper became a temporary source of some income during the long strikes and periods of unemployment of the difficult inter-war years. Teams would go on tour and perform for donations, with varying rates of success. Teams also busked for charitable causes, such as Westerhope to raise funds for widows and orphans after the Montagu pit disaster in 1925. However, as the Second World War started, rapper had to take a back seat for a while.
Following the war, rapper began to go into decline again in its homeland. Although competitions were held throughout the 1950s, interest in them began to flag and they never reached the level of the Newcastle Competitions.
Social changes also had their effects. As coal mining became less important to the national economy, the government realised that the pit villages were likely to go into decline, with massive unemployment, and introduced the “D Schedules,” a set of measures to relocate the populations of designated pit villages to new towns with more diverse economies such as Peterlee and Newton Aycliffe. The D Schedules were well-intentioned, and probably prevented (or delayed) some severe social problems, but they destroyed the close-knit social structure of the pit villages, and their effect on village rapper dancing traditions was catastrophic.
In 1949 at King's College in Newcastle upon Tyne, then the Newcastle Division of the University of Durham, Bill Cassie, the professor of mechanical engineering, persuaded a group of students to learn the rapper dances of some local villages to perform during Rag Week, the week of the year where students raise money for charities. The students continued to perform the dance afterwards, later calling themselves the Newcastle Kingsmen, and became the main force behind the second revival of the dance.
Bill Cassie, founder of the Newcastle Kingsmen, encouraged the students to collect local rapper dances and published their notations. He received a lot of support in this from Fred Forster of the High Spen Blue Diamonds. Brian Hayden and E C Cawte, also of the Newcastle Kingsmen, also collected and published notations of dances.
Members of the Newcastle Kingsmen were university students, and as they graduated and moved away from Newcastle, some set up rapper sides in the areas where they settled, spreading rapper throughout the country. Some of the sides were set up in other universities, such as the Keele University team and the team at the Sadler Hall of Residence at Leeds University, both teams now sadly demised.
However, the development of rapper was not static in Tyneside either! With the help of the Newcastle Kingsmen, High Spen and individual rapper dancers, new sides were set up in the rapper homeland, including Sallyport in 1969, who have also had a major influence in the setting up of rapper sides around the country.
Although competitions continued to be held in Darlington and Whitby, they were poorly attended, and serious competitions did not start until a rapper class was introduced to the Dancing England tournaments in Derby in the 1980s. The Derby Competitions, which later became called the Dancing England Rapper Tournament, or DERT, led to further growth of rapper around the country.
An encouraging feature in the continuing evolution of the rapper tradition is that teams continued to be formed around country in the 1990s, followed by an almost exponential growth since the millennium. Thankfully, only a few teams have folded in the same period, which has meant that we have experienced a period of very healthy growth, reflected by the much larger participation at DERT in the last few years.
There are now rapper sides all over England, and sides in Scotland, Norway, The Netherlands, Belgium, New Zealand and the USA as well. Rapper is now danced by both men and women, with a few mixed sides as well. Although women dancing rapper has provoked criticism from some quarters, mainly from outside the rapper community, women are known to have danced rapper in Tyneside since at least the early 1950s. Pengwyn Rapper, from Newcastle upon Tyne, made history in 1999 as the first women's team to win a Premier class at DERT.
Most rapper teams today perform dances of their own composition, using a pick and mix selection of invented and (mostly) borrowed figures. However, traditional notated dances remain popular, especially among teams in the north-east of England, and three teams from the south sometimes perform the Beadnell dance, one of the dances notated by Cecil Sharp.
The rapper dance is relatively young when compared to related sword dances, and is really still developing. It is not appropriate for the dance to be set in stone and performed as a dry museum piece; nor would it be right to forget the roots of the dance. Fortunately, many sides, including the most influential, have managed to achieve the right balance between innovation and tradition, and the outlook for rapper is very good.
[source : ]

And there you have it - though as I heard it in modern music - "Music is like a Sweetie - the first thing you do is get rid of the Rapper"


Tuesday, 5 September 2017

5th September 2017 - A day in History ...

Thought for the day:"Insominia is terrible - but on the plus side - only 3 more sleeps till Christmas"

Happy Birthday to Scarlett today - 3 years old and looking forward to her Baptism in a couple of weeks time

And other birthday's for today include ...

Jasper Newton 'Jack' Daniel, founder of Jack Daniel's Tennessee whiskey distillery was born on September 5th, 1850 in Lynchburg, Tennessee, his grandfather Joseph 'Job' Daniel, was born in Wales and had emigrated to America. Jack Daniel died from blood poisoning in 1911, which was allegedly caused when he kicked his safe in anger when he could not get it open. He had always had trouble remembering the combination.

Was the original recipe for Jack Daniel's legendary American whiskey discovered in Wales?

Mark Evans was researching his family history when he discovered a recipe, the ingredients of which match that which goes into making the world's best-selling whiskey. It was written in 1853 by his great-great grandmother who was called Daniels and who was a local herbalist in Llanelli. Her brother-in-law John 'Jack the Lad' Daniel left Llanelli at about the same time to move to Tennessee, where the Jack Daniel distillery was opened three years later. The assumption being that he made contact with his namesake and introduced him to the Welsh recipe.

and today was the day that Peter the Great imposed a tax upon beards - but that was in 1698!!

1793 - the Reign of Terror begins in the French Revolution...

and my drains are blocked - thought I would mention that - so I really should get off my backside and go and fix that ..

So - Until tomorrow 


Monday, 4 September 2017

4th September 2017 - and for some it is back to school

Thought for the day" Hey Teachers - Tag - you're IT - love Parents"

After the school holidays - it is back to school day - or at least it might be but I think most schools have decided to add some additional days for training, so some are still caring for their little angels at home.

A morning of administration changing dates for an installation and making sure everyone is available.
Better get the book out - only a few more days until the Scarlet Cord and getting installed into the Chair of Cynghordy Secret Monitor - all a busy time...
And because they are on the desktop and for no other reason really - I have some Viking resources...

So there you have it ....