Friday, October 22, 2010

Nurdling (not to be confused with nerding, which is different altogether)

According to Wikipedia, the Jackson Stops Inn at Stretton hosts the World Nurdling Championships evey Late May Bank Holiday (so there is also a bank in Rutland?) in which 13 old pennies (I'm guessing they mean pennies of the old money, not aged coins) are hurled into a hole drilled into the seat of an oaken settle. (Guessing a settle is a bench or big chair.)

Sounds like really great fun. They claim the traditional game of Nurdling dates back to the Middle Ages.

The champion is called the "Best Tosser".

This has got to be a joke. (Having me on, they are. Well. we'll just see about that.)

(more) Observations, from an American viewpoint:

1. I would want to know how big the drilled hole is. Here I am assuming a "settle" is not an outdoor loo. If it is, then I guess the holes would be standardized and pretty easy to "hurl" pennies into, even if drunk. Plus you wouldn't have to bother retrieving the pennies, I suppose.

2. I think the word "hurl" is not apt. Not if the contestants are called tossers.

3. Is a new settle drilled every year? Or is there a royal and ancient settle from the middle ages?

Come to think of it, we used to toss pennies for sport too. As 12 year olds, not grown tossers. We didn't know it was an ancient game so we used an ashtray on a table instead of drilling holes in the furniture.

Am I talking to myself? Hello? Is this thing on? I feel alone right now. Perhaps the topic of this post has something to do with the lonely feeling. Or maybe it is the stigma of trying to make Rutland sound interesting. Sort of a weird feeling. Jenny say kwah, you know? (That's American for je ne sais quoi.) But it is almost Halloween, so that might be it.

What else? I think there are no extra points for tactical awareness (being awake) as in cricket. (And in the final analysis nurdling IS a cricket term.) I'm also pretty sure the rules said you have to bleat when you hurl, but don't quote me because I don't want to go back and look it up again. Bleating might be a whole different game, knowing the English. And something about Eric Idle, but I am fuzzy on that part. Maybe not Nurdling. Maybe just Rutland in general. I know he's not from Rutland, but I'm pretty sure he probably made fun of Rutland.

Did you know there are no cars allowed in Rutland? (Perhaps an urban legend) but for sure no trains to London until recently.)

There is a school, I'm told, in Uppingham. But apparently they don't teach about London since you can't get there from Rutland. I'm told it is a public school, which, of course, means it is a private school in the British language. Am I right?

Please don't confuse the Dorset Variation of nurdling to be connected to this post.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Multum In Parvo

They laugh at us. They say Oakam Castle is not even a castle at all, but nothing more than a great hall with a very large horseshoe collection, but they are wrong. Let them laugh.

One of the guys that fought at the battle of Bosworth Field has his balls stuck in a tree somewhere around here. So TWO tourist attractions.

Tomorrow I'll tell you what nurdling is.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Twitter: World news in less than 140 characters

The following was just too darn good for only Soubriquet's eyes. Sorry. I am an ace tweeter and MUST share my masterpiece with the world. Eat your heart out Shakespeare lady:

Berserk senate stabs consul in Ides forum fiasco! Julius croaked! Final words: “Et tu, Brute? Dammit, man!” Antony to speak at 11.

Go Max!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Outline IDs

Can you identify the state by the outline?
Can you identify the county by the outline?
Answers may be forthcoming. Stay tuned. :)

Saturday, October 9, 2010


A Roundhead was a person who supported Parliament back during the English Civil War. Obviously.

But the reason Roundheads got their name may have escaped your memory. Back in those days it was usual for a man to have long hair. A man with short-clipped hair was an oddity. With short hair, his head looked round. At least it looked round to people who had long hair.

The counterpart of the Roundhead (also known as Parliamentarians) was the Cavalier, who were Royalists. That is, they supported Charles I. Charles I had long hair. Guess whether Cavaliers had long hair or short hair? Well, no matter, since they would shortly be losing their heads anyway, right?

Roundheads were mostly Puritans or Presbyterians, although not ALL Puritans had short hair. Come to think of it, not ALL Puritans were against the crown either. And not all Puritans with short hair supported republicanism. Ah, well. There were also other factions that were included in the Roundhead realm, like the Diggers. We'll talk about the Diggers some other time, though.

Henrietta Maria was mainly known by the odd way she carried her hands when she walked. Almost like a ballerina who was about to FLING her arms out at any second. Passersby beware. Some say [citation needed] that she had carpel tunnel syndrome from holding curling irons for extended periods of time. I don't know. It's hard to speculate about something like that. But she sure was Catholic and Mr. Stuart sure did believe in the divine right to rule and lost his head over it.
Well, after the restoration, Charles II resumed, restored as it were, with a FIRM grasp of what the term "Constitutional Monarchy" meant. And on and on it went. The Stuarts are best known in history as the snappiest dressers of all British monarchs. No citation needed, just a fact.

The thing that has always puzzled me, though - and this is probably off the Roundhead topic, though perhaps not - is WHY would a future monarch, having the full 20/20 hindsight of history, still go ahead and name her heir Charles? Have you ever thought of that? Don't any of these people believe in bad luck? I am now visualizing the proud parents, beaming down at their new, rather large-eared infant, and suddenly she says, "I know, Phil, let's call it Charles."

Ah, well. Charles III may never come to pass anyhow. Unlikely he'll outlive her. I'm guessing we may be looking at a William V instead. Or, if he does get to the throne for a year or two, he'll have enough historical sense to call himself King Arthur. Either way, I wish him well, and that's a fact.

(He's the one holding his knees tightly together, not the one picking its teeth.)

You are supposed to already know who Henrietta Maria of France was.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Wars and Battles: The Wars of the Roses

You may wonder what a post about about a ficticious Indiana divorce case narrated by actor-lawyer Danny Devito is doing on a blog called BritishSpeak. Well you may.

This post is about different wars fought by different roses, but I couldn't find any suitable pictures. In fact, the only pictures I could find of Richard III looked like a cross between Picasso on a bad day with both eyes on the same side of his face and something out of a deck of playing cards. I considered using Charles Laughton's Quasimoto, but figured you'd be on to me.

No, the Wars of the Roses that this post is about were fought in the 15th century and lasted about 50 years (1435-1485 for those who have a thing about accuracy) though there was considerable pushing and shoving before and after these dates.

The wars were fought over the throne of England and Wales, so the stakes were high.

No, I'm not REALLY going to try to tell the entire story of the Wars of the Roses here in a blog post. I'll just try to give the headlines.

The Duke of G:
"Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this sun of York;
And all the clouds that low'r'd upon our house
In the deep bosom of the ocean buried."

"Dicky, please stop speaking like that and wash up for supper, K?"

The above is one of only 4 or 5 passages of Shakespeare that I can actually quote. Please be kind enough not to look it up in case I got it wrong. Some versions of the play don't include this Dick's mother's lines.

If you would prefer to learn about the entirety of the Wars of the Roses simply by reading words that are hard to understand, then I refer you to Shakespeare's Henry VI (all three plays) and cap it off with Richard III. But I assure you MY version is much more entertaining and plausible (if not more coherent) than Shakespeare's, especially since I may tell you about some things Shakespeare forgot to put in his plays. My version may be a bit longer than those 4 plays, though.

"This above all, to thine own self be true..."

The above line represents another figment fragment of my quotable knowledge of The Bard. Although it has nothing at all to do with the War of the Roses, I DID learn it in another Danny Devito movie. Thus, while not exactly pertinent to this post, it is at least obliquely relevant. Some say I am The Bard's pard. Not many, though. Most simply say, "He's a poet 'n don't knowit but his feet showit. They're Longfellows." Children can be cruel.

::takes deep breath and plunges forward::

The house of York (white rose, I think) and the House of Lancaster (that would then be the red rose on the coat of arms and battle flags) were bickering [read: "killing each other"] about who would finish off the last gasp of the Plantagenet dynasty. But of course you knew that. Here will follow a lot of Henrys and Richards and Edwards, so your close attention is requested for two minutes.

Long story short: (as if)

The infant Henry VI becomes king upon the death of Henry V, Henry the IV having dispatched Richard II sometime prior. I know it is not politically correct to use the term feeble-minded, especially when you are talking about infants, but my mind is churning for a synonym without success. So we will just call Henry VI feeble-minded. No, wait. NOT feeble-minded, as in licking the windows; more like DEE ranged, as in marrying a camel and then jumping off the castle parapet wearing nothing but a superman cape. Oh Christ. That doesn't capture Henry VI, either. How about... and this is PC, too... "mentally unstable." Hey? Can I get you another beer?

Anyway, Henry VI was a Lancaster dude, to be sure. The Lancastrian claim to the throne (after Richard II... um.... retired) was through the fourth son of Edward III, whom the history books never mention by name. Wait. John of Gaunt. I guess the history books DO mention him. Nevertheless, this is only a hysterical historical side-trip and you will not be tested on this.

The point is, Henry VI's inability to rule all that well because of his mental challenges and his general desire to be doing something else for a living resulted in a challenge to his throneship by his relatives the Yorkites. Yorkians. Old Yorkers. (Picture Foster Brooks succumbing onstage to one-too-many alcoholic beverages and sinking loudly to his knees with a final frustrated moan: THE HOUSE OF YORK GODDAMITT!!!)

Enter the Wars of the Roses.

Hurry, you say?

Ok. Moving right along. The House of York successfully (for a while) asserts their claim to the throne and Edward IV becomes king. Then back to Henry VI again, then back to Edward IV. Then Edward V, who is just a kid and stongly dominated by the ever-present uncle Dick. Finally this last Dick becomes king as Richard III, hump and all, despite enduring a winter of discontent and despite Shakespeare putting far too many allegorical fantasies in his mouth - it is not possible to bury clouds in the ocean, which has no bosom to begin with; c'mon Will, the guy was a real Dick but holy cow, huh? - but not for very long. Two years. That's right, two lousy years. I swear. All of that for two years on the throne for Dick III.

Well, Richard III is killed in the almost-last battle of the Roses, as you know, and so that's why he only got 2 years on the throne. Now enter Henry Tudor, a remote Lancastrian, sort of, relative ('cause there's only girls left, I think. A bit foggy here. And don't you DARE start talking about France.) And Henry becomes Henry VII but marries a Yorkian chick lady by the name of Elizabeth of York, and so the two dynasties are untied united and they lived happily ever after. The end.

P.S. And Henry VII and Elizabeth begat Henry VIII who coveted Ireland, and his older sister whose name I can't remember, but who went to live in Scotland because of marriage and by all that's holy here comes the house of Stuart lurking in the wings and I am more than finished now.

Richard Nixon: Golly, Molly, old Max is starting to actually make sense in a semi-surreal way, doncha think? He's almost tying all this togeth.... ::walks toward helicopter::

In point of fact, the era of the Wars of the Roses was a very important time in England, and affected the future of the kingdom for many, many years. Richard III was killed in the penultimate battle of those wars, the Battle of Bosworth Field. Historians consider the Battle of Bosworth Field to be the end of the Plantagenet dynasty, a distinct turning point in English history. It ushered in the House of Tudor. Other kings killed in prior battles of the Wars of the Roses were Henry VI and Edward IV.

The Battle of Bosworth Field lasted about 2 hours. Richard III was the last English king to die in battle. Henry VII was crowned king immediately after the battle, on crown hill (using Richard's circlet.) The exact location of the battle is in dispute today, though they know within a couple of miles. Bosworth is approximately in the center of England as you look at a map.


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