Thursday, 31 October 2013


Today is one of my favourite days of the year (apart from my birthday, Christmas and the start of the summer holidays). Yes, today is Hallowe’en and because I am apparently too old for trick-or-treating, I will curl up on the sofa with a bowl full of sweets watching Coraline and Pan’s Labyrinth instead. I can’t believe that it’s here already! So instead of revising for my looming mocks and controlled assessments, I have decided to research the history of Hallowe’en and write it up in a blog format, just for you.

Hallowe’en actually originated from a pagan Celtic festival called Samhain (you pronounce this ‘sow-in’, not ‘samhayn’ like how I pronounced it). This festival marked the end of summer and the start of winter as it was believed that during that period of time, the dead could come back to Earth and annoy and harm the living. In order to protect themselves, the druids built massive bonfires as they believed that this would ward away the dead. They also made offerings to their gods.

These beliefs were then mixed with Roman beliefs when the Romans invaded the British Isles. Roman gods, such as Pomona, Goddess of fruit and trees, may have influenced some traditions (for example, this may have created apple bobbing) because harvest was around the same time. However, pumpkin carving comes from 17th Century England.

After that, the Church tried to put an end to these festivals by putting All Saints’ Day on the 2nd of November. As you can probably guess, this wasn’t very effective as Hallowe’en is still around today (not that I’m complaining, of course).


Wednesday, 23 October 2013

'Why look back when you should look forward?'

  Let's not have any misconceptions here. As much as I love this blog an amount that is ever so slightly odd, today’s article is not a by-product of that slightly irrational emotion. Lets get one thing straight, and that is that this post really is just an extension of the procrastonation that has led me to paint my toenails, read half a book, and actually clean my room. Like, and actual clean. With a duster and everything. You see, I’m meant to be revising, really, for an incredibly long and incredibly boring chemistry test, but why do chemistry when you could be doing history? That being my argument for being sat here with my chemistry revision book exiled to the far corner of my room along with Twilight, it lead me on to think about a debate that has been ongoing for many years between me and my ridiculously long-suffering best friend. You see, as you might have just about possibly guessed, I think history is pretty decent. My friend, on the other hand, does not. Then again, she likes maths, so what can you do?  And seeing as you're reading this article, I think I can assume that you are equally as enthusiastic, unless you're just reading my articles because you like to have a good laugh at somebody so stupid that they couldn’t sleep one night because they were trying to remember how to spell YMCA. Now, it comforts me slightly more to believe that the former is the reason that you are reading this, and so I shall work on the most comforting assumption and keep the normal amount of nonsense in my post to amuse you ever so slightly. 
 The slightly more attentive of you may remember a post that I did a while back that, once you dug through the waffle and stupidity, was about Politics, and why I’m a big fan of it in the same way some people are big fans of the X Factor. Now, after having dug through the waffle and stupidity, it should become apparent that this one is about History, and why anyone who doesn't like history is placed, in my mind, with the likes of the Kardashians. People argue that there is no point to History, why know everything there is to know about the past and then know absolutely nothing about the present. ''The past is the past'' they say, ''what good does digging it up do?''. Now if one of these people were not my best friend (try not to be too shocked that I managed to reel somebody in as a friend), i would not even bother to work out their point of view, banishing them to the part of my mind reserved for those who also don't think Harry Potter is any good. But apart from her, my weirdness seems to have scared every one away, and so I tried to understand, I really did...
  And I don't get it. I love History an amount that really should be saved for a human being, and maybe that has biased me a little bit, but how can you honestly argue that history doesn’t matter? I don’t like Maths, but I can see that at some point it might be useful to be able to add. History is what makes us us, if any of it hadn’t happened, none of us would really be the same. Because our History is what contributed to the current social climate, and the current social climate contributes to who we are. If good old William the Conqueror hadn’t fancied a trip over to England, what would we be like now? If Chris Columbus hadn’t gone on a little pleasure jaunt and found what he reckoned to be a pretty brilliant country, where would America be now? We've all heard of the butterfly effect; step on one butterfly in the past and dinosaurs don’t die and you end up eating velociraptor for breakfast (or they eat you for breakfast), so why shouldn't it apply to massive events like... I don’t know... that whole Hitler thing? Without any of our background we wouldn’t be who we are.
 "Right." The History-Haters say. "I get that, but why should we know about it. Why can’t it just be?" Because A) If we forget it, we'll forget what made us us, and without any background to who we are things never go well, and B) Because as much as I hate to admit it, teachers can be right sometimes. We have to learn from our mistakes. And how can we do that without knowing them?  If we didn't learn about the little slip-up with Dunkirk, how would we know not to do it again? In years to come, when people look back, perhaps they'll learn that when the Lib Dems say 'I promise' what they actually mean is 'We'll give it a go, but if it doesn’t happen, oh well'. Not only that, but it’s interesting. Its real life stories about what went on, it’s a glimpse back into a past that made us who we are. I personally have been heard to profess very loudly that 'If anyone told me that History was no longer a school subject, I wouldn’t come in', and I mean it. Not only is it my favourite subject, but it's my favourite hobby.
 So just think about this next time somebody tells you history is pointless, you may just surprise them...

Monday, 21 October 2013

Myths about the Wild West

Yesterday evening, my parents were watching a film about the Wild West. As you can probably guess, they tried to rope me into some ‘family time’, so, naturally, I decided to play on my phone in the corner of the room instead. However, the film was actually quite interesting (much to my surprise) so I ended up watching it anyway. It was so good, that it inspired me to write a history blog about it. So, here I am, ‘Google-ing’ the ‘Wild West’ after running around like a headless chicken all day at school.

After researching the Wild West, I found that there are many myths surrounding that period of history. But first, let’s start with the fact that cowboys and red indians are fighting at least five times in every single film. A lot of blood shed, right? WRONG. Thankfully, there were few clashes between settlers and red indians. I mean obviously, a few hundred people were killed from both sides, but from the way that they go around shooting everyone in those films, I thought it would be nearing the hundred thousand mark! 

Another thing that I found shocking is that cowboys don’t actually wear cowboy hats. You have no idea how disappointed I was when I found that one out! Apparently, everyone wore hats and the last thing that they would wear were our typical idea of cowboy hats. Generally, the fashionable hat among cowboys were bowler hats. I know, I know, I can’t believe it either.

Finally, you know how practically everyone who lived back then had a six-shooter (for people like me, who have no idea about weapons, this is a gun) strapped to their hip? That too is false. Gun laws were stricter then than they are now (in America) and normally, your average cowboy opted for a classic rifle or shotgun.

But anyway, despite the inaccuracies, I doubt that these facts will take away from my newfound love for films about the Wild West (it’s better than watching Twilight any day).


Thursday, 17 October 2013

Have you tried turning it off and then back on again...?

               Right. So seriously, let me just point something out to you. This is literally my second article in like an hour. I finished the whole weird Congo thing, saw the news, and then basically ran back to my computer. Just to reiterate: MY SECOND IN AN HOUR. Not that I feel overly pleased with myself for something that cannot even be vaguely regarded as an achievement. But two. In one hour. On the trot. Bang bang. Okay, gloating over. But it took a monumental amount of effort to actually begin to type again after what seemed to my hands like 'War and Peace Unabridged'. But I don't think that a tiny thing like the U.S government deciding that they were gonna end the shutdown warrants an article on a blog the claims to also include politics and not just historical and opinion pieces plagued with the weird ramblings of a girl who doesn’t really know anything about anything. So here is that article.
 You might be wondering why I only just found out about this whole thing. But I haven’t even turned a T.V on in the past few days, let alone sat down for long enough for the rambling presenters to get over whatever other ridiculous story counts as 'news' today and actually get on to the good stuff. And, shockingly, no-one mentioned it to me. I feel as if i should have been greeted with it as I walked into school, just to keep me in the loop. But no. I have been left more woefully ignorant than usual, which is saying something. And I know that there are Americans out there who read this, and I reckon we've been neglecting you a little bit at Nonsuch HP. So here's a little article (I mean little, my hand feels like ive just sewed the Bayeux Tapestry) for you. And hey, well done with the whole 'fixing the government' thing. Give yourselves a pat on the back.
 For those of you who don’t know what has been going on in the Land of the Free, the government shutdown as a result of the Republicans and Democrats disagreeing over Obamacare and the debt ceiling. Basically, Obamacare is like a free healthcare system, which the Republicans don’t want (I’m not going into why, because my opinions will come out, and that is never good). But this thing called the 'debt ceiling' which regulates how much money America can borrow from everyone unfortunately is close to being reached and Obama wants to change this. In order to do this, the Republicans have to agree with it, which they said that they wouldn’t unless Obama agreed to scrap Obamacare. As a result, government spending stopped. Public parks were shut, the NASA website didn’t operate, and, as a girl in my class woefully pointed out, the ‘bins didn’t work’. Quite how this is possible I don’t know. But, bins aside, anything that was paid for by the government simply ceased to work. But a vote was passed to end the shutdown, and put off the whole debt-ceiling thing until February. So for now, the bins can work again. But who knows what will happen next year..
 I apologise for the appalling quality of both this article and my knowledge of American politics, but somebody had to post something about America, and unfortunately for you, that task fell to me. But thank you for reading for so long, and I’ll post again soon!

Everybody wants a piece of the Congo...


As with all resolutions, (especially gym-related ones) I have stayed true to my word for the first day. I have gone out as soon as possible to the gym with a strange, unnatural amount of vigour for a teenager. A little part in the back of my head knows for a fact that within a few days the trainers will be kicked into embarrassed exile underneath the bed and never show themselves again for fear of offending the cake that I am consuming with the correct amount of vigour (you can never be too energetic when it comes to cake). I realise that this is the second time that I have used an exercise metaphor in an article, and please don't be fooled that I do more exercise than is absolutely required of me by the school. Exercise, for me, is almost as bad as maths. Anyway, weird, unrelated metaphors aside, here I am. I don't bother telling you who 'me' is, because nobody else would still be rambling on about completely pointless, piffling and boring things nine lines into the article without making any reference at all to anything remotely historical. Again, please feel free to skip this article if you can deal with the guilt.
 So. History. History History History. The funny thing is, this post sounds like I had no idea what to write and so started rambling weirdly, but I honestly have wanted to write this article for ages. Sorry. Okay.
 Basically, the other day I watched 'Dan Snows History of the Congo'; partly because I know nothing about the Congo, and partly because I know nothing about Dan Snow, and had heard they were both interesting. I have to say that I was simultaneously pleasantly surprised and crushingly disappointed. You'll have to work out which topic induced each emotion, but I’ll give you a tip: This article isn’t called 'Everybody wants a piece of Dan Snow'. The Congo, however, blew me away. It may be due to my primary school education that I mentioned in another post, where my lessons on Africa can be summed up by the first sentence of my history lesson: ''It was ours, but we gave it back''. I won't lie; it didn’t really cause an unquenchable thirst for knowledge of African history to rise up in me, never to be truly quelled. Turns out that the Congo is actually pretty interesting, who knew? So basically, in the 1800s the Belgians didn't really have much of an empire. Or an empire at all, in fact. And Britain, big old Britain that was just across the water, had a massive whopping great empire. So it made perfect sense, really, for Belgium to own a little bit of land for itself, a 'place in the sun'. When I say Belgium, I mean King Leopold II, who for the sake of my hands we'll call Leo from now on. But Leo's a King, and has no intention of holiday-home shopping for himself, really, so he sends off the famous explorer, Sir Henry Morton Stanley to find him somewhere, preferably in Africa. Imagine Bear Grylls meets 'Location, Location, Location'. So anyway, off pops Henry and he comes across the Congo, which was a little bit of a gold mine in terms of natural resources, and decides that its a pretty good prize to take back to Leo, who had been waiting a little while for him. Leo likes what he hears, and pretty much takes the Congo, acquiring the rights to the land in 1855. Leo turns a little bit nasty in the quest for ridiculous amounts of money and starts exploiting the Congolese in order to run a new railway right through the Congo and also for the rubber trade, which made Leo very rich (which could in some way be confused with 'happy'). However, to keep such a trade going a large amount of rubber was needed, and the seeing as it would cost money to bring over Belgian labour, it seemed logical to use the Congolese as labour. And this is where I get a little bit angry. It does that sometimes, History, makes me really annoyed at things that happened way before I was even born. But basically it was decided that a really great idea was to scare your labourers into doing what you want, and the best way to do that was violence. Oh yeah, great idea. So the practise became to cut off the limbs of Congolese that were not thought to be working hard enough. Because obviously somebody with only one hand will be able to work faster than somebody with two. (It’s the stupidity, really, that annoys me). And because they were not being looked after in any way, disease set in. It is thought the half the population died in the period that the Belgian’s were in charge, as a direct result of disease or exploitation.  The Congo then stopped being owned by Leo and became owned by the Belgium parliament, which they didn’t really want to do, but it improved the situation for the Congolese a little bit.
 And then the bit I love happened. Because Henry, and Leo, and even the Belgian government overlooked one tiny, inconsequential thing. They failed to pay any attention to the people. Good old ordinary, average, brilliant people. Because the people of Congo weren't content to be exploited and used any more. And finally, they decided to do something about it. Because although they were treated awfully, they were still people, with rights. And people with rights should fight for them.
 So that’s what they did. Patrice Lumumba and his MNC Party won an election, and independence was achieved shortly afterwards in 1960. Yay for the Congo. But don’t get too settled, because everything soon goes mental again when a crises between the two leaders Lumumba and Kasavubu leads to Lumumba being kidnapped and executed. Since then, the Congo has been through three civil wars and a weird cold war period in which the bloke called Mobutu seized power in a one-party state and did this whole 'personality cult' thing, which never ends well. But basically, tats all I really know about the Congo. I'll try and find out more, but not now, because food is calling me. And you never ignore food.
 So there we are. My own 'History of the Congo'. Eat your heart out, Dan Snow.


Wednesday, 16 October 2013

The Big Question


            Blimey. I can tell you now, blog reader, that there really aren't that many people on this earth than can have me attempt to be vaguely coherent at 9:10 after having done 3 hours of homework, let alone trying to write something vaguely amusing and interesting and not littered with more spelling mistakes than the English essay of somebody from 'Educating Yorkshire'. But here I am. Why? I won’t lie, I’m getting a weird kind of attachment to this page, and although my articles aren't exactly great works of literature, I still like to see them on here. And I’ve noticed that my posts are becoming less and less apparent on the blog. This worries me. There are three things that bring active enjoyment into my life: History, Acting, and Winston Churchill, and I get the vague feeling that the ludicrous amount of extra 'stuff' I’m doing is distracting from all three of those. So I am making a New Days Resolution to write more articles. Please don't let this put you off reading the blog, you can just skip my articles and read the good ones. Okay, I’ve said my piece and made my point. Now to the 'good' bit ( I hope).
  I've always been taught that when you speak to somebody, three things are 'off the table' in terms of conversation: Politics, Religion, and Somebody’s Wage. For as long as I can remember, that has been the golden 'dinner rule' (although we never actually had anyone over for dinner, but I assume I'll use it in later life). Now, for as long as I can remember that idea has been branded neatly into my brain next to 'remember to dust the lampshade' and 'remember to redden the step'. And before you ask, I’m not willing to explain what 'reddening a step' is, just look it up. But the thing that I was never told to not discuss, I have just grown to known not to, is class. The large, prejudiced, ugly elephant in the room. And I suppose that's because up until relatively recently you didn't have to guess what class somebody was, you just knew. That was the way the divide was. But now lines are blurred, with working class kids going to school with middle class kids and the ideologies mixing, creating a new kind of 'mixed class'. Don't get me wrong, I’m not saying it's a bad thing at all, I'm purely noting that for some people it causes all sorts of issues with personal identity. See, I always have and always will consider myself working class. I may not 'talk working class' anymore, or live in a particularly working class area, but I still consider myself working class. Why? Because that’s what I was brought up to be. Both of my parents are working class, and I spent the early years of my life in a very working class environment. But it's not just that. It's the set of values that comes of being working class, values that I see as intrinsic to who I am. The working class work. We're not snobby; we'll do whatever job comes our way, if it puts money in the pocket and food on the table. That's why I’m proud to consider myself working class, if slightly spiced with middle class attributes. But speaking to my Nan the other day, she made the statement that she certainly considered me to be middle class - look at my education. I must say, I was shocked and slightly offended. Not because there is anything wrong with being middle class, but because being working class was one of those things that I just was. Personality traits change as you grow, your perception of your sexuality might, but I have always thought of class as something that stayed constant. And therefore was part of you, your identity. The history of the working class, the Jarrow Crusades for example, I had always taken on as my history, something that I could fall back on when the ever-looming question of adolescence 'but who am I' hits me. So instead of deciding that now I was going to abandon my culture and dedicate my time to becoming thoroughly middle class, I did a very weird thing for me, and sat down and thought. And through that dangerous action, I’ve come to the conclusion that, with the blurred class lines, you're whatever class you think you are. If you think you're working class, and you've grown up with the values, and believe that is your history, then you are. And I won't lie, at the moment that doesn’t sit too well with me, but I rarely agree with myself. So here's a little tip: if you're talking to me about current politics, don’t open with 'well you're middle class...'
 So, here's the Big Question: What class are you? Or do you even care?