St Andrew’s Day – the Day of the Wolf

St Andrew’s Day – the Day of the Wolf


Today, 30th November, is Saint Andrew’s Day and I hope all Scottish friends are having a wonderful time. But the day has a different significance in Romania.

In Romania St Andrew’s Day is also known as “The Day of the Wolf.” It is believed that on the night of 29th November, St. Andrew ( patron of wolves ) gathers all the wolves together to supply them with food for the coming winter. During this period, the wolf is invested with fantastic skills becoming faster  more subtle and more fierce.

According to the old superstition, during the night of the 29th, the wolves are allowed to eat all the animals they want. They can speak, too, but anyone that hears them will die soon. To protect yourself against the power of the wolf and keep them away from the house, you should not comb your hair during this day, nor toil, nor clean the house. Don’t even take out the trash.  No one will want to come near!

Santandrei, master of the wolves

The Romanian’s ancestors, the Dacians, whose flag was shaped as a wolf, , celebrated another divinity on this day; the Santandrei or the master of the wolves. The Dacian New Year took place from the 14th of November until the 7th of December, this was the interval when time began its course.  The timing may have its origins in the Roman celebrations of Saturn; Saint Andrew is usually seen as an old man because now the Sun is old and tired too.

It said that from the weather on this day one can predict if the winter is going to be long and frosty.

Bubbles, The Bed And Kir Royale

Kir Royale – ah happy thought! And this is the first entry here for a long time. It had begun with a wish to start a daily meditation on what interests me at the time. Some how this was to replace the daily pages that I’ve got out of the habit of writing. So, I wanted to find an image that summed up what was in my head right then.

Room 414. This photo of Le Grand Hotel Cabourg – MGallery Collection is courtesy of TripAdvisor

I started a search on “Proustian bubbles,” of all things. It was an expression used by a friend on drinking a glass of Kir Royale a very long time ago. It had led led to a discussion of Proust and set me off on the mammoth task of reading À la recherche du temps perdu (In Search of Lost Time) as a challenge. There had been a time when I would have tried reading it in French. But that time had long passed.

Anyway, my search led not to picture of the lovely drink, but to a review of Le Grand Hotel Cabourg and a picture of the room used by Marcel Proust. Marcel often stayed in room 414 on the fourth floor. He invokes the place in À la recherche with Cabourg dressed up as Balbec.

After my own warm memory I suppose now I should provide you with a recipe for Kir Royale. It is the simplest of cocktails but really quite delicious.


  • 1 to 2 Tablespoons crème de cassis (currant liqueur) or cranberry liqueur
  • 4 to 6 ounces champagne or sparkling wine – Prosecco works well

How to Make It

For each cocktail, pour the crème de cassis into a champagne flute or coupe . Those with a sweet tooth add two table spoon of crème de cassis or more to their taste. Top up with champagne or sparkling wine.

Kir Royale is  named after Félix Kir, a one-time mayor of Dijon in Burgundy,  who helped popularize the white-wine version of the drink.  Crème de cassis is made from blackcurrants that are crushed and soaked in alcohol, with sugar then added.  It is a specialty of Burgundy, but also made in Anjou, England, Luxembourg, Alberta, Quebec and, oddly for me,Tasmania. It is claimed to be the  favourite drink of Hercule Poirot

A Very Posh Umbrella, A Hat And A Little Bit Of Leather

A Very Posh Umbrella, A Hat And A Little Bit Of Leather

This morning I stumbled across How it’s Made; a  documentary program showing how common, everyday, items such as kitchen equipment or accessories are manufactured. And they show the alchemy of everything from surfboards to alligator handbags. This morning they were talking about umbrellas. It was my husband who spotted the name on the umbrella’s label. So, it was Brigg.

Now, I knew nothing about Brigg umbrellas. Therefore we looked them up. As well as finding out how special and very expensive they are, I hit on two other names I recognized. The first was  the name of a very special store; Swaine Adeney Brigg – they sell the Brig umbrellas. And then the name of that most romantic of hatters; Herbert Johnson.

My life in leather

Too many moons ago, my first job was found for me by a frustrated mother. She was determined that even as a student, I should contribute to my keep. The husband of a friend of hers found the solution. He was MD of Fine English Leatherware in my home town of Walsall. They made the most luxurious of wallets, handbags, document and folio cases and, even, leather-coated jewelry boxes and jewel rolls. These goods were produced in exotic of leathers, alligator and snake skin being considered quite mundane. The factory supplied shops like Harrods, Aspreys and, of course, Swaine Adeney Brigg.

I didn’t enjoy my part-time job in the warehouse. I was never very good at packing parcels. And, I had a tendency to drop the valuable gold corners when I dispensed them to the leather craftsmen.

Those craftsmen and craftswomen were very special – mainly they came from families steeped in the leather trade. They spoke in a broad Black Country dialect that often I didn’t understand. They were mesmerizing to watch at work. But, the saddest thing was to see the effect of the seesaw economy of 1967 that led eventually to devaluation of the pound. The craftsmen were on piece work rates (paid for each piece of work) and the demand for luxury goods just slumped. I was very grateful when the boss explained to my mum that they couldn’t afford to keep me on.

And the hat?

And so to Herbert Johnson, who are now part of the Swaine Adeney Brigg empire. Well, by the mid-seventies I was swanning around London wearing a Christmas present given me by a chum who happened to work at Herbert Johnson. It was a voluptuous and  romantic black fedora known as the poet hat. Mine was similar to that warn by Nureyev in the film Valentino. The poet hat has quite a history in film. It was modified for the character Indiana Jones in a number of ways and made in sable brown. Personally I prefer the black.

Wendy Smith is a Life and Career Coach and a writer. You can find at more about her writing elsewhere on this site.

Marie Curie and International Women’s Day

2011 year marks the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day.

The day was commemorated for the first time on 19 March 1911 in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland!  It had been established  during the Socialist International meeting the year before.

More than one million women and men attended rallies on that first commemoration.

In 1975, during International Women’s Year, the United Nations began celebrating 8 March as International Women’s Day. Two years later, in December 1977, the General Assembly adopted a resolution proclaiming a United Nations Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace to be observed on any day of the year by Member States, in accordance with their historical and national traditions. The Day is traditionally marked with a message from the Secretary-General.

The Theme for International Women’s Day 2011 is Equal access to education, training and science and technology: Pathway to decent work for women

So I thought this was an ideal time to write about my great inspiration; Marie Curie.

Marie Curie (1867 – 1934) is famous for her work on radioactivity.

I can’t remember now in which girl’s comic I saw a pictorial  story of her life. I was very young!  But it made a huge impression –  I can still remember the images quite clearly.

Curie founded the Curie Insititutes in Paris and Warsaw.  She shared her Nobel prize in physics with her husband.  (Her daughter and son-in-law, also shared a Nobel prize, so it wasn’t just me who was inspired).  She was the sole winner of the 1911 Nobel Prize for Chemistry!

Marie Curie was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize and she is the only woman to win the award in two different fields

Having left her native Poland to live in Paris, her achievments include the creation of a theory of radioactivity (a term she coined), techniques for isolating radioactive isotopes, and the discovery of two new elements, polonium and radium . Under her direction, the world’s first studies were conducted into the treatment of cancers using radioactive isotopes.

Everyone one who is treated with radiotherapy owes her a debt!

Her struggles to study and to support herself and her sister, penniless and caught up in the politics of Europe, are inspirational in themselves.

She became the first woman to become a professor at the Sorbonne.  But she clearly led a full, complex and at times scandalous private life.

During World War I,  she pushed for the use of mobile radiography units, which came to be known popularly as petites Curies (“Little Curies”), for the treatment of wounded soldiers.  After the war started, she donated the gold Nobel Prize medals she and her husband had been awarded, to the war effort.

But she paid a price for her work.

On the 4th of July 1934,  Marie Curie died  from aplastic anaemia.  This was almost certainly contracted from exposure to radiation. The damaging effects were not known then and much of her work had been carried out in a shed, without proper safety measures. She had carried test tubes containing radioactive isotopes in her pocket and stored them in her desk drawer.  She was know to remark on the pretty blue-green light that the substances gave off in the dark.

She was interred in a  cemetery in alongside her husband, Pierre. Sixty years later, in 1995, in honor of their achievements, the remains of both were transferred to the Paris Panthéon.  She became the first, and so far the only, woman to be honored with interrment in the Panthéon on her own merits.

To attain her scientific achievements, she had to overcome barriers  because she was a woman.  This is highlighted in Francoise Giroud’s Marie Curie: A Life, which emphasizes  her role as a feminist icon.

She was ahead of her time; emancipated, independent and incorruptible.

Albert Einstein is reported to have remarked that she was probably the only person who was not corrupted by the fame that she had won.

Who better to inspire us on International Women’s Day!

In praise of older women – no thank you!

Robert Graves (The White Goddess) and the neo-pagans have a lot to answer for with their triple Goddess. We seem to have imbibed that whole “maiden-mother-crone” schema. It brings us all those stereotypes that I believe are best avoided – the girl who must be beautiful, the woman who must be a mother and, after a certain age, all that is left to us is our wisdom! These are gender roles that have existed for thousands of years!

I tell you now, I don’t intend to be a crone – even one honoured for her wisdom! In reality, the most famous of the ancient Celtic triple Goddesses is Brigit, the daughter of the Dagda (Father God), often called “the poetess.” The story goes that there were three of Brigits, all sisters–Brigit the Poetess, Brigit the Smith and Brigit the Doctor–patrons of their respective skills. But they are all the same age. Brigit’s multiplicity implies that she is a master of many arts – all valuable.

Having said that, I am getting very tired of having to live with baby boomer stereotypes of the older woman! I don’t want to live in a world where I am constantly reassured that there is ‘life after fifty’ or ‘life after sixty’ (are we now to live in fear of seventy?). I have lived through fifty and have passed sixty – so I know there is life beyond!   I don’t want be praised for looking good any more than I want to be praised for being able to complete a full day’s work! It makes me feel like a performing seal and I don’t need your fish! Will I be a failure when strength fails and I can’t keep up the ‘standard’ anymore? If I want to dye my hair there is nothing noble about it! Nor is there anything noble or ignoble about going grey. It just happens, it is a personal choice and it is part of life! If you don’t like it that is your problem, not mine!

Beautiful Places – St Dogmaels, Cardigan,West Wales

St Dogmaels

Cardigan, on the totally unspoiled West Wales coast, is the birthplace of the Welsh National Eisteddfod. With a population of 4,200, Aberteifi (its Welsh name meaning bridge over the Teifi) stands on the banks of the river Teifi where Ceredigion meets Pembrokeshire.  Just outside Cardigan is St Dogmaels, an ancient and tranquil village nestling peacefully around a ruined Abbey at the mouth of the river Teifi.  The monastery at St. Dogmaels was formally established as an abbey on September 10th 1120.  It suffered in the dissolution of the monasteries and is now a picturesque ruin – well worth a visit. Near-by is Poppit Sands,  one of west Wales’ premier blue flag beaches with acres of golden sands and where you can get lungfulls of bracing sea breezes. That is where the wonderful Pembrokeshire coastal path begins.  But it is the river at St Dogmaels that I love best – fascinating in all lights, tidal so constantly changing, but with a wonderful calmness.  Nowhere quite like it on a summer evening with clouds of swallows taking their nightly constitutional before settling to roost! Why don’t you take the lovely winding road across the mountains and visit the place for yourself.

Beautiful Disappering World – Sea Ice

Article by Michon Scott design by Robert Simmon

April 20, 2009

This Article is from the NASA Earth Observatory Website to which there is a link below

Sea ice is frozen seawater that floats on the ocean surface. It forms in both the Arctic and the Antarctic in each hemisphere’s winter, and it retreats, but does not completely disappear, in the summer.

Sea ice plays an important role in the climate and ecosystems of the Arctic and Antarctic. (Photograph ©2008 fruchtzwerg’s world.)

The Importance of Sea Ice

Sea ice has a profound influence on the polar physical environment, including ocean circulation, weather, and regional climate. As ice crystals form, they expel salt, which increases the salinity of the underlying ocean waters. This cold, salty water is dense, and it can sink deep to the ocean floor, where it flows back toward the equator. The sea ice layer also restricts wind and wave action near coastlines, lessening coastal erosion and protecting ice shelves. And sea ice creates an insulating cap across the ocean surface, which reduces evaporation and prevents heat loss to the atmosphere from the ocean surface. As a result, ice-covered areas are colder and drier than they would be without ice.

Sea ice also has a fundamental role in polar ecosystems. When sea ice melts in the summer, it releases nutrients into the water, which stimulate the growth of phytoplankton, which are the base of the marine food web. As the ice melts, it exposes ocean water to sunlight, spurring photosynthesis in phytoplankton.When ice freezes, the underlying water gets saltier and sinks, mixing the water column and bringing nutrients to the surface. The ice itself is habitat for animals such as seals, Arctic foxes, polar bears, and penguins.

Life thrives along the margins of sea ice. Melting and freezing enhance circulation, bringing nutrients to the surface. The nutrients nourish phytoplankton, which are the base of the ocean food web. All marine animals, including the magnificent killer whale, ultimately depend on phytoplankton. (Photograph courtesy Donald LeRoi, NOAA Southwest Fisheries Science Center, NSF Antarctic Photo Library.)

Sea ice’s influence on the Earth is not just regional; it’s global. The white surface of sea ice reflects far more sunlight back to space than ocean water does. (In scientific terms, ice has a high albedo.) Once sea ice begins to melt, a self-reinforcing cycle often begins. As more ice melts and exposes more dark water, the water absorbs more sunlight. The sun-warmed water then melts more ice. Over several years, this positive feedback cycle (the “ice-albedo feedback”) can influence global climate.

Sea ice plays many important roles in the Earth system, but influencing sea level is not one of them. Because it is already floating on the ocean surface, sea ice is already displacing its own weight. Melting sea ice won’t raise ocean level any more than melting ice cubes will cause a glass of iced tea to overflow.

The Sea Ice Life Cycle

When seawater begins to freeze, it forms tiny crystals just millimeters wide, called frazil. How the crystals coalesce into larger masses of ice depends on whether the seas are calm or rough. In calm seas, the crystals form thin sheets of ice, nilas, so smooth they have an oily or greasy appearance. These wafer-thin sheets of ice slide over each other forming rafts of thicker ice. In rough seas, ice crystals converge into slushy pancakes. These pancakes can slide over each other to form smooth rafts, or they can collide into each other, creating ridges on the surface and keels on the bottom.

(At left) Sea ice begins as thin sheets of smooth nilas in calm water (top) or disks of pancake ice in choppy water (2nd from top). Individual pieces pile up on top of one another to form rafts and eventually solidify (3rd from top). Over time, large sheets of ice collide, forming thick pressure ridges along the margins (bottom). (Nilas, pancake, and ice raft photographs courtesy Don Perovich, Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory. Pressure ridge photograph courtesy Ted Scambos, National Snow and Ice Data Center.)

Some sea ice is fast ice that holds fast to a coastline or the sea floor, and some sea ice is pack ice that drifts with winds and currents. Because pack ice is dynamic, pieces of ice can collide and form much thicker ice. Leads—narrow, linear openings in the ice ranging in size from meters to kilometers—continually form and disappear.

Larger and more persistent openings, polynyas, are sustained by upwelling currents of warm water or steady winds that blow the sea ice away from a spot as quickly as it forms. Polynyas often occur along coastlines where offshore winds maintain their presence.

Fast ice is anchored to the shore or the sea bottom, while pack ice floats freely. As it drifts, leads continually open and close between ice floes. Persistent openings, polynyas, are maintained by strong winds or ocean currents. (NASA satellite image courtesy Jacques Descloitres, MODIS Rapid Response Team .)

As the water and air temperatures rise each summer, some sea ice melts. Because of differences in geography and climate, it’s normal for Antarctic sea ice to melt more completely in the summer than Arctic sea ice. Ice that escapes summer melting may last for years, often growing to a thickness of 2 to 4 meters (roughly 6.5 to 13 feet) or more in the Arctic.


For ice to thicken, the ocean must lose heat to the atmosphere. But the ice insulates the ocean like a blanket. Eventually, the ice gets so thick that no more heat can escape. Once the ice reaches this thickness—3 to 4 meters (10 to 13 feet)—further thickening isn’t possible except through collisions and ridge-building.

Ice that survives the summer melt season is called multi-year ice. Multi-year ice increasingly loses salt and hardens each year it survives the summer melt. In contrast to multi-year ice, first-year ice—ice that has grown just since the previous summer—is thinner, saltier, and more prone to melt in the subsequent summer.

Sea Ice : Feature Articles.

Beautiful Paintings:Vincent van Gogh: Sunflowers

A Brief Understanding of Sunflowers.

There are pieces of artwork drifting through galleries around the world that have become nearly synonymous with the artists name and techniques. The various paintings of Sunflowers and Vincent van Gogh are a perfect example of this. Not only can one make a mental connection between the artists name and painting but also between the artist and their influence on the development of art through these paintings. Vincent van Gogh’s Sunflower paintings have been duplicated many times by various artists (although never reaching the vivacity and intensity of Van Gogh’s) and displayed everywhere; from households to art expos.

The ‘Sunflowers’ is one of the most popular paintings and most often reproduced on cards, posters, mugs, tea-towels and stationery. It was also the picture that Van Gogh was most proud of.

It was painted during a rare period of excited optimism, while Van Gogh awaited the arrival of his hero, the avant-garde painter Paul Gauguin. The lonely and passionate Vincent had moved to Arles, in the South of France, where he dreamed of setting up a community of artists with Gauguin as its mentor. The ‘Sunflowers’ was intended to impress Gauguin, and as a gesture of friendship. The alliance was to end in disaster.