Tags: 2016, blogging, friendship, New Year, wishing for peace
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.
It has been gratifying to see the rise in the number of visitors and also of followers to my blog. Thank you to all who come to my page and especially to those who comment on the posts.
Here’s an excerpt:
The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 10,000 times in 2015. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.
I’d like to wish every one of you a Happy New Year for 2016. I hope it is a year filled with positives in every part of your lives; challenges that help you grow; joys that make you happy; friends with whom you can share; and a world that becomes less troubled by hate, intolerance and violence.
May peace and love be the mainstays of your life and spread from you to all with whom you come in contact.
Tags: Albion Park Rail, Christmas Day, Christmas in summer, Oak Flats, Oswaldtwistle
Going away for a holiday in summer – or at any time – was unheard of in our family when I was growing up. However, the Christmas holidays were always a wonderful time of the year, as they were for all kids. Christmas Day was, for us coming to Australia from England, so different that we may as well have been in another world.
I still remembered the grey, drab, cold and usually wet days in Lancashire. Sometimes it did snow too. On Christmas morning, we would be rugged up in a coat and hat, with leggings and boots, and a mackintosh, to walk the mile or so to St Mary’s Catholic church for Mass.
How different was the two-mile walk to 7am Mass in Australia. We would set off, without breakfast, just after six o’clock. Our little home was in Albion Park Rail, but the hall where Mass was held was in Oak Flats. Almost always, the day would be clear and bright with no sign of drizzle or smog, and no smoke-blackened stone buildings. Instead of wet or icy stone footpaths, we walked along long, dusty streets that were usually hat as well.
Mum and Dad wore their Sunday clothes, as did we, but instead of the heavy clothes of England, they were light cotton shirts, or dresses (usually made by Mum) and sandshoes (usually freshly whitened by Dad). I remember skipping along the street, light-hearted and happy. The lake was on our left as we walked to church, and the new-risen sun shone from a blue sky onto its still waters, making it gleam and glisten. Everything looked fresh and clean.
There were few houses along our street, and hardly anyone was about so early. But whenever we did see someone, we would call out “Merry Christmas!” and they would respond with a smile and a similar greeting. This made the day even more special.
A wide creek marked the boundary between the two little villages and the halfway point in our walk. An old wooden bridge, missing many of its planks, spanned the creek. We thought crossing it was an adventure, but Mum always called out for us to be careful. It was later replaced by a higher one, still of wood and but with handrails on the sides. We’d stop in the middle and watch the ducks swimming in the water – how many would there be there today?
Mum and Dad would catch up with us at the other side of the creek and we’d climb the steep rise to the road above. This took us to the centre of Oak Flats village, where Mass was held in a small, community hall made of fibro.
Mass was still said in Latin then, but we would follow it with our Missal, that gave both the Latin and English words of the priest and altar boys. It was often boring on other days, but on Christmas morning there was a special joy and reverence that was missing on normal Sundays. I loved listening to the story of the birth of Jesus in the manger, the coming of the shepherds and the wise men.
The walk home included anticipation of breakfast, but also of what we would find under the Christmas tree we’d decorated with bits of tinsel, crepe paper streamers and a star made from cardboard covered with silver paper from Mum’s cigarette packet. With little money to buy presents, we usually received home-made gifts, or clothes we needed for going to church. There were no large items like bikes or doll’s prams.
However, one Christmas, Dad made wooden scooters, one for me and one for my younger sister. Another year, she got a cowgirl outfit and I, being a tomboy, received a cowboy outfit. Apart from the scooter and the cowboy outfit, the best present I ever received as a child was two children’s books of adventure stories. They were the first books I ever owned and I treasured them for many years.
Those years, from age six to ten, were the happiest of my childhood, and the best Christmases that I can remember.
Best wishes from me in Australia to all you lovely blog visitors for a wonderful Christmas, wherever you may be in the world.
© Linda Visman
Tags: alchemists, chemicals in fireworks, Chinese invention, firecrackers, fireworks, fireworks in celebrations, Li Tian
Fireworks of a kind were used in China over 2,000 years ago, well before the discovery of gunpowder.
These early ‘fireworks’ consisted of green bamboo thrown onto a fire. As air pockets inside the bamboo heated, they exploded, creating a frightening noise. They were used to scare away bad spirits, and it became part of a ritual to scare away the evil spirit Nian at the start of each new year.
Gradually, the green bamboo bangs because part of other celebrations like births, weddings and coronations. They were used thus for the next thousand years.
Invention of Gunpowder
There are several references to a Chinese monk named Li Tian, who lived near the city of Liu Yang in Hunan Province, who is credited with the invention of firecrackers about 1,000 years ago. There are other stories of an accidental explosion when an alchemist was heating a mix of chemicals.
What is known however, is that somewhere between about 600 and 900AD, Chinese alchemists discovered a particular mixture of chemicals that ignited with a flash and a bang when heated over a fire. The records show that they were advised to shun this mixture of sulfur, saltpetre (potassium nitrate), honey and arsenic disulfide.
However, some alchemists continued to experiment with it.
They discovered that explosions resulted when the mixture was heated inside bamboo tubes, and that flames, smoke and sparks erupted when it was ignited in an open container. The more saltpetre added to the mix, the more violently it exploded.
What we now call gunpowder became a useful as a military weapon around the 10th century, though initially it was only used to frighten and confuse the enemy. Later, it was it used also to inflict injury.
Bamboo was gradually replaced by thick paper tubes and fuses, made from gunpowder wrapped in long thin pieces of paper, were developed.
As well as for military applications, firecrackers continued to be used in China at important celebrations.
The main components of gunpowder and their ratios, developed over 500 years ago, are still the same as are used today:
1) Saltpetre 75%
2) Charcoal 15%
3) Sulphur 10%
Firecrackers go to Europe and Beyond
In its early years, the important part of exploding black powder was the light and sound that would scare off the spirits. Even when fireworks came to Europe and spread across the world, it wasn’t the colour that mattered. It is believed that Marco Polo brought firecrackers back to Europe from China in 1292. The Italians loved them. Three hundred years later, with the arrival of the Renaissance and the era of exploration and experiment, they developed a greater range of fireworks; especially skyrockets, fountains and spinning wheels.
These were refined and expanded over the years, and their use spread throughout Europe, where monarchs and other rulers used them (especially rockets) to demonstrate their power and majesty.
As exploration of the world proceeded during the 16th to the 18th centuries, the use of fireworks spread to new lands. Soon they had become a common element of major celebrations throughout the world.
Fireworks Become More Colourful
For almost 1000 years, the only colours in fireworks were orange and white (from black powder or metallic powder respectively).
By the 1830s however, knowledge of chemicals and their properties was greatly expanded. During that decade, fire masters in southern Italy were able to add reds, greens, blues and yellows by the addition of metallic salts and chlorinated powders. The discovery and use of electrical energy and hydrolysis meant that the chemicals could burn faster, hotter and brighter, and displays, especially aerial ones, became even more dramatic.
Fireworks can be classified broadly by whether they are used for ground or aerial display. Not until the last 200 years did the magical display of coloured sparks become the real focus of a fireworks show. Modern fireworks are also called pyrotechnics, and the experts who develop and stage them are known as pyro-technicians.
As well as science, there is and always has always been an art and craft to development and use of fireworks. Modern fireworks have a myriad of different effects depending on their chemical composition, strength and containment.
China is by far the largest producer and exporter of fireworks in the world. During the 20th century, the mechanics of mass production gradually brought their cost down considerably. Eventually, fireworks became cheap enough to be available to ordinary families, and they could be more personally involved in national, religious and cultural fireworks displays.
General history: http://www.pyrouniverse.com/history.htm
Use of fireworks by European monarchs: http://io9.com/the-first-fireworks-displays-were-terrifyingly-huge-1600541130
Depictions of fireworks in Europe from the 16th century: http://publicdomainreview.org/2014/06/25/picturing-pyrotechnics/
(c) Linda Visman
Tags: 2013 in review, blogging, friends, New Year, positive attitude, writing
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 4,100 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 7 years to get that many views.
Hello readers. I haven’t blogged nearly as much as I’d intended this year. However, when I look back, I realise I haven’t done too badly. As with you all, I have had health and other issues to face, but I think I have come through the year pretty well.
I would like to thank all those who have been kind enough to follow this little blog, and especially those who have commented on my posts. It is always great to receive feedback.
The most viewed and commented on post was The Long Goodbye, which really struck a chord for many people.
My dad is still there, living at home on his own. However his short-term memory is gone and the longer-term memory is all mixed up. Fortunately, he knows his children still. He has lots of visiting care workers, as well as my sister who goes over to see to specific needs a couple of times a day. I make the trip (4-5 hours each way) every couple of weeks and spend a few days with him to give my sister a break. Dad is still so accepting and positive, and we can still have conversations about general things. He is a wonderful man.
I have posted several times about reading and writing, and those posts have also attracted lots of views and some comments. Perhaps the most popular was When do you know when you’ve found a good author?
A couple of philosophical posts attracted a few comments. I think we all tend to look back and wonder what effect the past has had on out present selves. Bringing Back the Past and Whose Tradition? were popular, but What would you go back and change? topped them.
And finally, Making Lists brought out those who like to make sure they don’t forget to do those important things that may be lost to memory if not written down.
2012 has been a rather tumultuous year, with political, social, religious and economic instability in evidence around the world. It has been a difficult one personally for many of you, with illness, loss of loved ones and other issues taking their toll on confidence and optimism.
I hope that 2013 brings a much more positive and creative approach to solving both the problems in the world and your own personal challenges. Wishing you all peace, health and happiness for the year ahead. And I hope to see you here again through 2013, the Chinese Year of the Snake.
Regards to all, Linda
Tags: America, Australia, candy, chocolate, commercialism, consumer society, consumerism, England, ghosts, Halloween, holidays, lollies, Middle Ages, religion, sweets, trick or treat
Centuries ago in England and, later, in America, it was believed that the souls of the dead appeared among the living. Superstitious rituals grew up as people sought to protect themselves from the evil souls that had not died in a state of grace.
Over the years and into the 20th century, Halloween mostly lost its religious significance. It has now become, as have many other Christian rituals, a secular celebration of over-indulgence on the dark side.
Australia, because it was settled later than the Americas, and in more enlightened times, didn’t become part of the mania of Halloween until quite recently. And the only reason it has done so now is because of a different god – one created in the 20th century.
Now, every October, we are bombarded by the spooky: books, blogs and writing contests on the themes of ghosts, ghouls and gremlins; ads for creepy costumes and party gear; and whole stores full of “candy” – chocolates and lollies and every other sweet thing that can be created by man for sale to the gullible.
As if we don’t already have a sugar-coated and sugar-centred society! Dentists for the well-off rub their hands in glee. However, the people who cannot afford to go to a dentist – but the most likely to buy into this cacophonous culture of cash – are left with blackened and rotten teeth. I suppose that is apt, given the dark and sickly nature of Halloween’s origins.
When my children were young, in the 1970s and 1980s, Halloween had not yet caught hold in Australia – for which I am very grateful. But now, it is my grandchildren who are being coerced into a culture that celebrates darkness and consumerism.
I will not support this imported, destructive ritual. When children come to my door crying “trick or treat”, they get neither.
It is not my tradition!
© Linda Visman
Tags: Christmas, consumerism, violence
An ideal Christmas – you have to be kidding!
I think it won’t happen – at least while I’m living.
When will we have peace and joy in our lives;
or a world without war, and where everyone strives
to understand one another, and tries their best
to make their religion mean something that’s blessed.
What about the stores, with their Buy! Buy! Buy!
Will that ever stop so that we can see why
this special day originally came to be?
It’s the opposite of their greed and venality!
And when will families, parted all year,
come together again without anger or fear,
but instead will create a real celebration
of love and of sacrifice and deep contemplation?
My ideal Christmas has none of the hype,
but is based upon joy and on love of the type
that gives unto others and asks for no more
than to have all men equal, both the rich and the poor.
Of course, in this world, that’s all an illusion –
here, life is ruled by fear and confusion.
Selfish wants take the lead, and of love there’s a dearth;
Man doesn’t change because a child came to earth.
So, I’ll just take the presents, the food and the wine,
and shut out the world, so that all will be fine.
© Linda Visman