Sussex Skulduggery

By David Dennis Our challenge: Can we really hope to connect Hastings, Bexhill, Pevensey, Lewes, Brighton, Uckfield, Crowborough, Virginia Woolf, Sherlock Holmes, the Pope, Shakespeare, some fairies and a sea serpent in one feature? Certainly, dear reader, if you hark back to an England ruled by King Edward the Seventh, when amateur scientists abounded and to be a Fellow of the Royal Society would guarantee you wine, women and song. How to be an Edwardian celeb? You could move to Hastings as a young boy, live in a posh six-floored house in St Leonards, train as a solicitor, form a…

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Just how old are fairy tales?

When we were running through our alphabet journey, we looked at the importance of storytelling and how the idea of it is as old as mankind.  Until now, we weren’t sure just how old some of our well known and loved fairy tales might be, but some fascinating research has uncovered evidence that shows they could be as much as 5,000 or more years old.  Some of them even pre-date modern languages, having been told in a now extinct Indo-European language. Read more about it in this BBC news article here: Fairy tale origins thousands of years old, researchers say…

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The end or the beginning?

We have arrived at Z – the end of our alphabet journey to 2016. If we stop for a moment to look at Z – we discover that it is the least used letter of the English alphabet.  It can be traced back to the Romans, who got it from the Greeks, who got it from the Phoenicians, who perhaps got it from the Semitic alphabet – but whoever and however it arrived, it is interesting that it ended up at the end.  All of this got me wondering why our alphabet is ordered in the way it is. It…

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Happy Yuletide!

As we have reached the penultimate letter in our alphabet journey to 2016, it is a perfect time to look at the tradition of Yuletide (or Christmas to you and me). The word Yule derives from Scandinavia and means ‘feast’ and ‘tide’ means ‘time’ – so Yuletide was (and is) a time for great feasts. Yule was originally a Pagan holiday, which took place around the time of the winter solstice (December 21st) and lasted twelve days.  In the Northern hemisphere the winter solstice has been celebrated for millennia and the Yule log, wassailing and the decorated tree, all originate…

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R is for Romance

We have already explored the idea that the English language came in part from Latin, when the Romans arrived on these islands.  We also looked at the other influences on English, which has given us the mixture that we have today.  Those other influences means that English does not join the group of languages described as Romance languages. The Romance languages are the modern languages derived from spoken Latin, between the sixth and the ninth centuries.  The five most widely spoken Romance languages are: French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and Romanian with a total of around 780 million people speaking them worldwide. That’s quite a few people! Just…

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