Showing posts from January, 2013

Christopher Marlowe - a turbulent life and a tragic death

In the Sixteenth Century the small port of Deptford had two claims to fame. It was here that Francis Drake arrived in 1581 after circumnavigating the world and where he was knighted onboard his ship Golden Hind by Queen Elizabeth. And it was at Deptford in 1593 that Christopher Marlowe was murdered.

Marlowe was born in Canterbury in 1564, the same year as Shakespeare. His father, like Shakespeare’s, had been a local councillor, but, unlike Shakespeare, Marlowe was the fortunate recipient of a university scholarship thanks to a generous endowment from a former Archbishop of Canterbury and a native of the town.

Marlowe duly enrolled into Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, in 1580, at the age of fourteen, for seven years reading Divinity in preparation for a life in Holy Orders. However, like everything in Marlowe’s life, his university career was tempestuous, for at some point he was recruited into the Intelligence Service run by the shadowy spook figure of Sir Thomas Walsingham. 

At that …

Tea! Tea! My kingdom for a cup of tea!

'I am in no way interested in immortality, but only in the taste of tea'.[Lu T'ung]
 The English love their tea. They drink it at teatime poured from a teapot into a teacup and stirred with a teaspoon.

They have colloquial names for their tea - char; brew; cuppa; Rosie Lee (rhyming slang for tea).

The person pouring tea traditionally says: "Shall I be mother?"

“’A cuppa char, dearie?”
“Don’t mind if I do, ducks. Shall I be mother?”

Tea was first brought to Europe in 1610 by the Dutch East India Company and introduced into England around 1650.

'....afterwards I did send for a cup of tee (a China drink) of which I had never drank before...'  [Samuel Pepys 25 September 1660]

As tea grew in popularity in the Seventeenth Century, so did the irresistible temptation to tax it. 

The first Tax Act on tea was in 1676, and by the mid-1700s the tax rate stood at 119%, providing the incentive for the creation of a new industry - tea smuggling.

By 1830, 10% of the British Govern…

What happened when Topsy the Elephant met Thomas the Edison...

On 4 January 1903, Western death culture reached new depths of depravity when it executed an Asian elephant that had killed its keeper after the keeper had fed it, for his idle amusement, a lighted cigarette.

The magnificent and unfortunate animal, that its human slave owners named Topsy, had already rid herself of two of her tormentors of the Forepaugh Circus, in retaliation at being forced to perform humiliating and degrading tricks for the diversion of a decadent public. Her punishment was to be committed to the penal institution known as Lunar Park on Coney Island. 

It was here, at Lunar Park, that Topsy dispatched her third victim, her human jailer that had given her a lighted cigarette to smoke, grabbing him in her trunk and hurling him to the ground, proof that the man, though an imbecile, was still good enough to have his brains dashed out.

Topsy was condemned to death as a common criminal, and Thomas Edison, the celebrated inventor, volunteered to deliver the coup de grâce by gr…

Commodus - The Death of an Emperor

'Let me have war, say I. It exceeds peace as far as day does night. It's spritely walking, audible, and full of vent. Peace is a very apoplexy, lethargy; mulled, deaf, sleepy, insensible; a getter of more bastard children than war's a destroyer of men'. [Coriolanus]
What better way to celebrate the New Year than with a juicy murder story? After all, if it were not for violence, treachery, massacre, genocide, war, treason and general beastliness, where would the human race be? We’d still be living in caves and bushes, existing on berries and roots, with not even a sudoku to stave off the boredom. Hurrah for human nastiness!

Thus it was that on 31 December 192, the Roman Emperor Commodus was strangled to death by his loyal servant, Narcissus, in his villa at Quintili. 

'Infamy! Infamy! They've all got it in for me!' [Carry On Cleo]
It is the afternoon of 31 December 192 and Rome waits to celebrate the New Year. But treachery is afoot. There is a plot to assassina…