Archive for December, 2011

Did you know that it was on this day in 406 VandalsAlans and Suebians cross the Rhine, beginning an invasion of Gaul? Or that it was on this day in 1695 a window tax is imposed in England, causing many householders to brick up windows to avoid the tax?

And on this day in 1759 Arthur Guinness signs a 9,000 year lease at £45 per annum and starts brewing Guinness, in 1857 Queen Victoria chooses OttawaOntario, then a small logging town, as the capital of Canada, in 1907 the first New Year’s Eve celebration is held in Times Square (then known as Longacre Square) in New York, New York, in 1923 the chimes of Big Ben are broadcast on radio for the first time by the BBC, in 1991 all official Soviet Union institutions have ceased operations by this date and the Soviet Union is officially dissolved and in 1998 the European Exchange Rate Mechanism freezes the values of the legacy currencies in the Eurozone, and establishes the value of the euro currency.

Some birthdays to remember on this day are Henri Matisse, French painter (1869-1954), Elizabeth Arden, Canadian businesswoman (1878-1966), Julia Bathory, Hungarian glass designer (1901-2000), Simon Wiesenthal, Austrian Holocaust survivor (1908-2005), Sir Anthony Hopkins, Welsh actor (1937), Alex Ferguson, Scottish football manager (1941), John Denver, American singer and songwriter (d. 1997) and Sir Ben Kingsley, English actor (both born 1943), Diane von Fürstenberg, Belgian-born fashion designer (1945), Donna Summer, American singer (1948), Val Kilmer, American actor (1959) and Richie McCaw, New Zealand rugby player (1980).

Need a reason for raising a glass of bubbly on this day, even though this would be the day when more bubbly glasses are raised than any other? Well there is the International Solidarity Day (Azerbaijan) that you could blame, but me, I’ll join in with the rest of them in the celebrations of New Year’s Eve (International observances), and its related observances.

For more information about historic events on this day, please go here.

Happy New Year to all of you and cheers!


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Did you know that it was on this day in 1066 the Granada massacre takes place as a Muslim mob storms the royal palace in Granada, crucifies Jewish vizier Joseph ibn Naghrela and massacres most of the Jewish population of the city (why would a Muslim mob crucify someone?)? Or that it was on this day in 1919 Lincoln’s Inn in London admits its first female bar student?

And on this day in 1922 The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics is formed, in 1924 Edwin Hubble announces the existence of other galaxies, in 1948 The Cole Porter Broadway musical, Kiss Me, Kate (1,077 performances), opens at the New Century Theatre and becomes the first show to win the Best Musical Tony Award, in Tropical Storm Zeta forms in the open Atlantic Ocean, tying the record for the latest tropical cyclone ever to form in the North Atlantic basin and today, in 2011, due to a change of time zone the day is skipped in Samoa and Tokelau.

Some birthdays you may want to remember on this day are Rudyard Kipling, English writer, Nobel laureate (1865-1936), Bo Diddley, American singer and musician (1928-2008), Sandy Koufax, American baseball player (1935), Patti Smith, American singer and poet (1946), Tracey Ullman, English actress and singer (1959), Heidi Fleiss, American madam (1965), Ato Boldon, Trinidadian athlete (1973) and Tiger Woods, American golfer (1975).

Need a reason to raise a glass of bubbly on this day? Maybe you can do so in celebration of Day of the Declaration of Slovakia as an Independent Ecclesiastic Province (Slovakia) or, if you get really desperate, perhaps for Freedom Day (Church of Scientology)?

For more information about historic events on this day, please go here.

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Forty is not really that much different from thirty-nine, really. I didn’t see any new grey or white hairs in the bathroom mirror, my body doesn’t hurt more than it has been for a while and I’m no quicker or slower on my feet or my uptake (as long as I don’t have to try to understand Spanish spoken at 100 km/h)… At least that’s my experience so far.

Tequila! One of the things Mexico is (in-)famous for! Ajajajajajaj! There’s something strangely terrifying about traveling on your own and ordering a drink you know, through way too much experience, causes you to lose control, which is why I hadn’t had any, at least not straight, until this evening. What would happen if I got drunk and couldn’t get myself back to my hotel? There’s no one here who knows where I live or who would take care of me, so I am staying on my toes where alcohol is concerned (though it is strange how much more you can take without feeling the effects in a warm climate compared to at home). But tequila is a part of my birthday celebratory tradition as surely as strawberry birthday cake is part of my official birthday celebration in summer. It all started in 1999, when I turned 28.

1999 was a year of great upheaval for me. Having arrived, as an appendix to then-husband, in Switzerland in November 1998 I was climbing the walls for boredom in the early months of the year. At 27, childless and not very self-disciplined, I had far too much time on my hands and far too little to do with it. Admittedly I did learn a fair bit more German watching the endless soaps on daytime TV, but apart from that I was a ship lost at sea… Until then-husband gave me an ultimatum. Either I was to finish the final paper at university and get my diploma, or I was to look for a job. Switzerland was not then, nor is it now, a part of the EU and considering my modest take on the German language I believed it very unlikely anyone would want to hire me. More as an afterthought I included my ‘Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English’ with my other documentation when I sent out a total of six applications, and I was completely dumbfounded when I started getting calls for interviews. Going back and finishing my essay was then, and is still, out of the question. From what I remember I had three interviews and two job offers in the end. I ended up accepting one, and I never looked back.

As I started working it was as if I awoke from a dream. Somehow the people around me, the environment not only in the office, but in Switzerland and also my own feelings started to come alive. I had loved my then-husband and we had been married for four years, but I found myself questioning the me I was around him. I felt trapped, I felt tied down, and most of all I had the question ‘is this really what I want for the rest of my life?’ echoing in my head. By August I had decided it was not. By November I had finally told him. It was messy, to say the least, but by the time Christmas rolled around and we went back to Sweden to celebrate with our (separate) parents, things were starting to clear up. I had found a wonderful flat I could move into by the end of January, he was going to go back to Sweden by that time and I felt as if I could, somehow, start to breathe again. I will never forget the first night we slept in separate bedrooms… The first time in almost ten years I could go in a room, close the door and just be by myself. I took up writing a diary that same night.

When Christmas started getting closer I was pulled aside at work by a colleague, Madeleine, who had a question for me: Could I possibly cat-sit her flat and cat over the holidays? She was going to South Africa and would be away for two weeks… We had never been close at work or outside of it, so her asking was huge for me. I tearfully accepted, and knowing that I’d come back from Sweden to spend a week and a half on my own made my life soooo much easier. The flights to and from Stockholm had been booked months earlier, but since the separation was to be a fact soon then-husband went to his parents and I to mine. It was lovely! Returning to Switzerland we went our separate ways at the train station, and I settled into Madeleine’s apartment. It was pure bliss (for me)! But then there was the issue of my birthday, falling – as always – between Christmas and New Year’s. I didn’t want to celebrate alone! When I carefully started asking a few colleagues if they wouldn’t mind keeping me company for the evening, I was extremely pleased with the response, and in the end I believe twelve of us descended on the one Mexican restaurant in town that fateful 29 December.

I had had a rough couple of days coming back from Sweden. Then-husband was not well-pleased, work was full-on and I was tired so even as I left work that fateful Thursday I had decided I wasn’t going to have more than two beers that night! I also had to work the next day, so I was definitely not going to have more than two beers that night! By the time I took my seat in the restaurant there was already a carpirinha waiting for me, a birthday drink from one of my friends. I had my dinner and my two beers, and then another birthday drink appeared. And another… Then someone said ‘Do you like tequila?’ and that is what sealed my fate that night. I don’t know if I had ever had tequila before, and if I had, surely not more than one or possibly two. My then-husband had a ‘no more than two glasses of wine if you’re out without me’-rule, but I wasn’t with him anymore. I was free! I had one, then another one appeared before me and I had that… And another one… And – hick – another one… And then the colleague who had supplied me so far (kept pace with me and was driving home) started ordering more for himself and a bartender that he had befriended that evening… Since he was driving (and completely forgetting that he had previously tended bar and owned his own bar in Zürich) I felt it my duty to prevent him from drinking too much, so I kept stealing his. The night is a bit of a blur at that point…

My next memory of the evening is throwing up. Violently, embarrassingly and very much still at the table in the restaurant. By that time it was just me and one friend who had stayed behind to take care of me (though I doubt I realised that then).  I was humiliated by my own weakness (throwing up in public is not something you do often – if at all – and definitely not when you are 28 years old!), and even more so when she helped clean up the mess and more or less carried me back to the apartment I. There are vague recollections of her dumping me in the shower, hosing me down and then just a black, twisting spiral of tequila infused madness.

When I woke up the next morning I was not even part human yet. Opening one eye hurt, opening two eyes hurt even more! Raising my head off the pillow was pure pain, but I knew – somehow – that I could not fail to show for work that day or I would be not only in trouble with my boss, but the laughing-stock of the entire company. Slowly, one limb at the time, I managed to get myself out of bed and into the shower. The front door was ajar, so there were a few panicky moments of looking for the cat to see he hadn’t escaped before the torture of a shower, dressing and setting off for work… When I reached into my handbag to get my buss pass I found a business card from the Mexican restaurant we had visited the previous night: ‘Don’t worry about your shirt, we will wash it for you’. Piecing it all together I realised that I must have puked not only over the floor of the restaurant, but also over myself… I was mortified.

Arriving at the office, probably looking more dead than alive, my boss took one look at me and asked if I’d had a rough night? Shamefacedly I nodded my pounding head and asked him to remind me never, ever, again to get into a tequila race with Peter K, the colleague who had supplied me with the shots the night before. My boss smiled and evil smile that should have told me I was a complete idiot, then promised he would go easy on me that day. He never, in my two plus years with him, ever worked me harder than he did that day, and I have since then always had at least one tequila on my birthday. But I have never gotten into a tequila race again, and I don’t ever plan on doing so either!


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Turning 40

Photo: CC Champagne

I’m tasting the words, not knowing if they fit.
I’m forty today, just say it.
How did this happen?
All those years just sped away?
I don’t feel any different
today than yesterday,
but still,
I am forty today.

The words taste salty,
but that could be the sea
I’m forty years old today,
How did this happen?
Should I lay down and wait to die?
Can I really be forty?

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Did you know that on this day in 1170 Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, is assassinated inside Canterbury Cathedral by followers of King Henry II; he subsequently becomes a saint and martyr in the Anglican Church and the Roman Catholic Church? Or that it was on this day in 1851 the first American YMCA opens in BostonMassachusetts?

And it was on this day in 1890 United States soldiers kill more than 200 Oglala Lakota people with four Hotchkiss guns in the Wounded Knee Massacre, in 1914 A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, the first novel by James Joyce, is serialised in The Egoist, in 1937 the Irish Free State is replaced by a new state called Ireland with the adoption of a new constitution, in 1989 riots break-out after Hong Kong decides to forcibly repatriate Vietnamese refugees and in 1996 Guatemala and leaders of Guatemalan National Revolutionary Union sign a peace accord ending a 36-year civil war.

Some birthdays not to forget today are Madame de Pompadour, mistress of King Louis XV of France (1721-1764), Mary Tyler Moore, American actress (1936), Jon Voight, American actor (1938), Marianne Faithfull, British singer (1946), Ted Danson, American actor (1947) and Jude Law, British actor (1972).

Need a reason to raise a glass of bubbly on this day? Perhaps you can join in the celebration of Constitution Day (Ireland), or why not raise a glass alongside me as I celebrate my 40th birthday on this day! *cheers*

For more information about historic events on this day, please go here.

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Another year that came and went
in the blink of an eye.
We live, we love, we hurt and laugh
and one day we must die!
So much we need to learn and know
so much we want to try
as 2012 is dawning
to this year we say good-bye.

Remember them, the moments of bliss
forget the darkened days!
Remember joy and happiness
when the old year made you play.
Of international politics
of what the learned say
perhaps we should just remember
the good, on this last day?

The wars were fought, the famined starved
disasters of nature struck,
a deranged man with a gun in hand
in Norway ran amok.
Two young lovers wed and kissed
before the public’s roar
this year will never come again
and never was before.

As every year we stand before
something great and oh so new.
An unwritten page of history,
a story to be writ by you!
So as we sing the Auld Lang Syne
and as we drink and cheer,
I’m wishing you the best of luck
in this, our brand New Year!

This has been entered at d’Verse Poets Pub for the Poetics – Endings & Beginnings.

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Did you know that it was on this day in 1065  Westminster Abbey is consecrated? Or that it was on this day in 1836 Spain recognizes the independence of Mexico?

And on this day in 1885 Indian National Congress a political party of India is founded in BombayBritish India, in 1895 Wilhelm Röntgen publishes a paper detailing his discovery of a new type of radiation, which later will be known as x-rays, in 1908 a magnitude 7.2 earthquake rocks Messina, Sicily killing over 75,000, in 1945 (only 66 years ago) the United States Congress officially recognizes the Pledge of Allegiance and in 2010, during what has become known as the Arab SpringPopular protests begin in Algeria against the government.

Some birthdays you may want to remember on this day are Earl Hines, American musician (1903-1983), Stan Lee, American comic book writer (1922), Keith Floyd, British chef (1943-2009), Gayle King, American magazine editor and Denzel Washington, American actor (both born in 1954),  Linus Torvalds, Finnish computer programmer (1969), Noomi Rapace, Swedish actress (1979) and Sienna Miller, British actress (1981).

Need a reason to raise a glass of bubbly on this day? Perhaps you should look into the celebration of King Taksin Memorial Day (Thailand) or Proclamation Day, celebration started on the day following Christmas. (South Australia)?

For more information about historic events on this day, please go here.

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