Fireworks for Fawkes

I’ve just got home from a wonderful evening watching fireworks. I love firework displays.

The school that I work for held an annual event to commemorate Guy Fawkes Night. Ah yes – “Remember, remember the 5th of November”.

Okay – some of you are probably wondering why I’ve been watching fireworks tonight – it’s not New Year’s Eve – it’s not Chinese New Year – it’s not my birthday… Well it’s all about something which happened in 1605. The King of England didn’t get blown up – phew – how lucky he was.

The evening tonight didn’t actually mention Guy Fawkes (the guy who was caught as part of the plot to kill King James I of England). That would be too politically ‘provoking‘. However, the fireworks were brilliant – the children and parents were thoroughly entertained – and I had a great time.

History Part – If you actually want to know more about the whole Guy Fawkes story, you can check here.



The John Lennon Wall: Prague

Visitors at the Lennon Wall.

One of the most surprising places to visit in Prague is the John Lennon Wall – sometimes known as the Lennon Wall or the John Lennon Peace Wall. If you ever get the chance to go to Prague, don’t miss the opportunity to spend a few minutes here. It’s very close to the Charles Bridge.

Here I am at the Lennon Wall.

It is a colourful, ever-changing, graffiti-covered wall that really captures the eye and the imagination. I was lucky enough to have read about the wall in my Everyman MapGuide prior to arriving in Prague – I was so glad that I did read about it.

A tribute to the Beatles.

Situated on Velkopřevoské Square, the wall stretches approximately 20 metres. The original portrait of Lennon is long gone now, lost under layers and layers of spray-paint. Over the years, visitors continue to add lyrics from Beatles tracks, message of love and peace and their own names. I spent quite some time reading the things written. I could have spent a lot longer there – every time I looked I noticed something else.

Lennon? Why John Lennon? He wasn’t from the Czech Republic, so you would be forgiven for being confused. I was confused too.

A new portrait of John Lennon (but for how long?)

Well, the answer to that is that Lennon was a symbol of peace and a hero to the pacifist youth of Central and Eastern Europe during the totalitarian era. Before 1989 there was a ban on western pop music, especially songs by Lennon, which praised freedom. After Lennon’s death his portrait was painted on the wall, defying the authorities. From that moment the wall became a symbol of peace and freedom. There are also claims that the wall helped inspire the non-violent Velvet Revolution that led to the fall of Communism in the former Czechoslovakia.

One of my favourite shots.

Peaceful poetry.

I want to know who these people are... Love it.

All You Need Is Love.


Book Review: The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas.

I have just finished reading ‘The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas’ by John Boyne. I read it in two sittings. There are not many books that make me want to read on and on until finishing. Admittedly, the book is quite short (216 pages). A fast but addictive read. After finishing the book I was left speechless.

The story, based on a German boy called Bruce Hoess, takes the reader back to life in 1940. It centres around the Auschwitz ‘death’ (concentration) camp in Poland where Bruce is moved when his father is promoted to the position of Obersturmbannführer, a paramilitary Nazi Party rank used by both the SA and the SS. Bruce and his family live in the guard house and it is only after some exploring and questioning that Bruce begins to become more aware of who the people are on the other side of the fence.

The innocence of Bruno and the friendship that grows between him and Shmuel is heartwarming. The book touches on the horrendous truths of what happened back during World War II. By the end of the story the hairs on my arms were standing on end….

St. Patrick’s Day

Lucky, lucky, lucky.

Ireland always celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in style. Even outside of Ireland, the Irish will have decked out bars and pubs with green and orange to celebrate their special day. But, what is it all about?

Here are some facts about St. Patrick’s Day:

  • St. Patrick’s Day is observed on March 17 because that is the feast day of St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. It is believed that he died on March 17 in the year 461 AD. It is also a worldwide celebration of Irish culture and history. St. Patrick’s Day is a national holiday in Ireland, and a provincial holiday in the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador.
  • In Ireland on St. Patrick’s Day, people traditionally wear a small bunch of shamrocks on their jackets or caps. Children wear orange, white and green badges, and women and girls wear green ribbons in their hair.
  • Many cities have a St. Patrick’s Day parade. Dublin, the capital of Ireland, has a huge St. Patrick’s Day festival from March 15-19, that features a parade, family carnivals, treasure hunt, dance, theatre and more. In North American, parades are often held on the Sunday before March 17. Some paint the yellow street lines green for the day! In Chicago, the Chicago River is dyed green with a special dye that only lasts a few hours. There has been a St. Patrick’s Day parade in Boston, Massachusetts since 1737. Montreal is home to Canada’s longest running St. Patrick’s Day parade, which began in 1824.

  • But oh, the best facts are saved for last.  The real St. Patrick wasn’t even Irish. He was born in Britain around A.D. 390 to an aristocratic Christian family with a townhouse, a country villa, and plenty of slaves. At 16, Patrick’s world turned: He was kidnapped and sent overseas to tend sheep as a slave in the chilly, mountainous countryside of Ireland for seven years.
  • …..and finally.

    75 year old Jimmy Ford, who arrived on stage dressed as a Leprechaun.
  • The joys of ‘Britain’s Got Talent’…. The word ‘talent’ is used very loosely. I think I need a Guinness now.

    The King’s Speech: A British Historical Drama

    The 2010 film, The King’s Speech looks back at the British Royal Family back in the 1920s and 1930s. The story focusses on ‘Bertie’ (Prince Albert), who then became King George VI, and his struggle against his stammer.

    Image from Wikipedia


    There are moments in the film where the audience is taken back in time and can almost share the discomfort that crowds of people must have felt. The scene where Bertie is speaking at the close of the 1925 British Empire Exhibition at Wembley Stadium shows just how difficult his public life must have been. His duty to speak to the public cannot be avoided and as history shows, it would only increase with time.

    Image from Wikipedia

    It is amazing to watch how the film progresses. The techniques used by Lionel Logue are extremely unorthodox, and for anyone who knows anything of the British Royal Family, completely unthinkable. I sat open-mouthed at the ways in which Logue spoke to the prince. I was astounded to think that elements of the film had historical truth.

    It is not surprising that the film has been nominated for BAFTAs and Academy Awards (Oscars). A truly deserving film!

    “As the actor of the year in the film of the year, I can’t think of enough adjectives to praise Firth properly. The King’s Speech has left me speechless.”
    — Rex Reed, New York Observer

    This film is yet another example of the popularity of films regarding British Royals. ‘The Queen’, ‘Elizabeth’ and ‘Young Victoria’ have all be great successes.

    “Not a great deal was written about His Majesty’s speech therapist, Lionel Logue, certainly not in the official biographies. Nor was much published about the Royal stutter; it appeared to be a source of profound embarrassment.”
    — David Seidler

     It is not surprising that official biographies failed to mention Lionel Logue. His personality and work ethic tend not disagree with royal protocol.

    King George VI

    Films such as this always make me want to find out more about the historical facts. I wanted to read more about the abdication of King Edward VII.

    I was surprised and shocked to discover that he had met Adolf Hitler against the advice of the British Government in 1937. I was also shocked that it has been suggested that Hitler planned to reinstate Edward as the British monarch had history turned out differently.

    The amazing support of King George’s wife, Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon (Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother), really came across well in the film. It is amazing to think that she outlived her husband by almost 50 years. She had not planned for a life in the public eye, yet she went on to be such a figure of resistence in the Second World War and then in recent times helped to stabilise the popularity of the monarchy as a whole.

    The film also depicts the shift from Edward to George which ultimately resulted in Queen Elizabeth II being one of the greatest British monarchs of all time.

    You may also like these blog posts:

    Momentous Historial Occasions.

    The hairs on the back of my arms have been standing on end over the last couple of weeks. The news coverage of political change sweeping through Tunisia and Egypt has been amazing to watch. There are some fantastic images here. It is refreshing and uplifting to see the power of people changing their futures. There is definitely strength in numbers. Now, in domino effect the people of Bahrain, Yemen, Iran and Algeria are coming together to change the political movement in their respective countries. For many people living in democratic countries it can often be challenging to truly understand what it must be like for the people we see daily on our TV screens.

    How the times have changed too. It was astounding to read online that Facebook and Twitter had been used to bring people together. Social networking is increasingly useful in the 21st Century. I wonder how events in history would have been different if social networking has been around for the last 100 years.

    The images of the protests in Egypt will make the beginning of 2011. I will remember them for many years to come and I think that many of you will too. I am sure that you could name a couple of major historical times in the last century that have stayed with you. When I think of stories similar to the amazing scenes in Egypt I think of stories that truly shocked me. The list I have made are stories which I feel have really made a world-wide impact on people:

    • The Berlin Wall being brought to the ground.
    • The capture of Saddam Hussein.
    • The Gulf War.
    • 9/11.
    • The Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami of 2004.

    How well do you know some the biggest speeches of all time?

    Below are key words from some of the most famous speeches of all time. The text from the speeches has been muddled up using ‘Wordle’. How well do you know the big speeches in history? It may be easy to identify who said the speech, but can you also work out which speech it was (and in reference to what)?

    Feel free to comment on them and let me know which ones you think they are.

    Have fun!

    Speech #1

    Speech #2

    Speech #3

    Speech #4

    Speech #5

    If you’re really puzzled by them, don’t worry. I will put up the answers some time in the near future. Keep yourself updated to find out who said what.