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Sunday, 20 May 2012


Beef eating dates back to prehistoric times when men hunted aurochs for food. Aurochs were large wild animals large pointing horns that were ancestors of modern domestic cattle. The last individual auroch was killed by a poacher in 1627 on a reserve near Warsaw, Poland.

British politician, John Montagu, the 4th Earl of Sandwich, is credited with naming the 'sandwich.' He developed a habit of eating beef between slices of toast so he could continue to play cards uninterrupted.

Count Pavel Stroganov of St Petersburg was a noted gourmet as well as a friend of Czar Alexander III. A recipe called Beef Stroganoff had been in the family for some years and had been brought to the notice of many due to the Count’s love of entertaining. A chef, Charles Briere, who worked in St. Petersburg, submitted the recipe to L 'Art Culinaire, thus bringing the dish to the attention of many.

A major outbreak of BSE or mad cow’s disease in the late 1980s in Britain resulted many shying away from eating beef. On May 16, 1990, a photograph of British minister John Selwyn Gummer feeding his daughter a British beefburger appeared in many newspapers. Because of the growing anxiety about BSE the British minister was keen to show the world that British beef was safe.

In 1994 controls of export of British beef to the continent were imposed due to fears of contamination from BSE. The livelihoods of many British farmers were affected. Such health scares contributed to many turning to vegetarian options.

Lean finely textured beef, also known as pink slime, in the U.S ground beef supply declined from 70% in March 2012 to around 5% in March 2013, in part due to news media coverage about it. 

Corned beef got its name because this beef was preserved with pellets of salt that were the size of corn kernels, which was also referred to as "corns" of salt.

25% of global land use, land-use change and forestry emissions are driven by beef production. This includes the conversion of forests in the Brazilian Amazon.

Brazil is the largest exporter of beef in the world. The number of cattle in the country has risen from 78 million back in the 1960s to well over 200 million today. In 2014 Brazil exported 2.23 million metric tons of beef.

In the US, people eat over 1 billion pounds of beef at McDonald’s in a year, which is five-and-a-half million head of cattle.

Hong Kong consumes the most beef per capita.

Since Hindus don't eat beef, the McDonald's in New Delhi makes its burgers with mutton.

The actor Shia LaBeouf's name means "Thank God for beef."

Source Food For Thought (Extraordinary Little Chronicles of the World) by Ed Pearce

Henry Ward Beecher

Henry Ward Beecher was born in Litchfield, Connecticut on June 24, 1813. He was the eighth of thirteen children born to the outspoken Presbyterian preacher Lyman Beecher. His siblings included Uncle Tom's Cabin writer Harriet Beecher Stowe and educator Catharine Beecher.

Henry had a childhood stammer and was considered slow-witted; his less than stellar performance at Biston Latin school earned him punishments such as being forced to sit for hours in the girls' corner wearing a dunce cap.

In 1837 Henry Beecher received a degree from Lane Theological Seminary outside Cincinnati, Ohio, which his father then headed.

Daguerreotype of Beecher as a young man

Henry Beecher was named the first pastor of Plymouth Congregational Church in Brooklyn, New York in 1847. Thousands of worshipers flocked to Beecher's enormous church and he became one of the most influential public figures in America.

An advocate of Women's suffrage, temperance and Darwin's theory of evolution, and a foe of bigotry of all kinds (religious, racial and social), Beecher held that Christianity should adapt itself to the changing culture of the times.

An abolitionist, he raised funds to buy weapons for those willing to oppose slavery in Kansas and Nebraska, and the rifles bought with this money became known as "Beecher's Bibles".

Beecher held mock 'auctions' at which the congregation purchased the freedom of real slaves. The most famous of these former slaves was a young girl named Pinky, auctioned during a regular Sunday worship service at Plymouth on February 5, 1860. A collection taken up that day raised $900 to buy Pinky from her owner.

An 1875 adultery trial in which Beecher was accused of having an affair with a friend's wife, Elizabeth Tilton, was one of the most notorious American trials of the 19th century. He was acquitted but the whole affair has scandalized America as Beecher was an immensely popular and respected Christian public figure.

Beecher's fame on the lecture circuit led to his becoming editor of several religious magazines, and he received large advances for a novel and for a biography of Jesus.

One of the great preachers of the age, amongst the many thought-provoking quotes in his Life Thoughts was, “There are many people who think that Sunday is a sponge to wipe out all the sins of the week.”

Thomas J Barrett, a pioneer of modern advertising, popularized the “phrase “cleanliness is next to godliness,” which was used in the writings of Phinehas ben Yair, a rabbi. On a visit to America he sought a testimonial from a man of distinction. Henry Ward Beecher agreed to help and wrote a short text, which started “If cleanliness is next to godliness…”. Beecher merely received Barratt’s “hearty thanks” for his labor.

Henry Beecher developed a passion for jewels, which he carried, unset, in his pockets, taking them out for comfort when he was tired or in low spirits.

Beecher suffered a stroke and died in his sleep two days later on March 8, 1887. Brooklyn, still an independent city, declared a day of mourning. He is interred at Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York.

Source Wikipedia 

Catharine Beecher

Catharine Beecher was born on September 6, 1800. The daughter of outspoken religious leader Lyman Beecher and sister of Uncle Tom's Cabin writer Harriet Beecher Stowe and preacher Henry Ward Beecher, she was the eldest of eight surviving children.

In 1821 she began teaching at a school in New Haven, Connecticut and went through a religious crisis brought on by her father's attempt to force his Calvinist views on her.

Catharine was engaged to marry Professor Alexander M. Fisher of Yale University, but he died at sea before the wedding took place. She never got married.

Catharine Beecher

After her fiancée’s death, Catharine founded the Hartford Female Seminary, launching a life-long campaign as lecturer, writer, and advocate for women's education.

The Hartford Female Seminary began with one room and 7 students; within three years, it grew to almost 100 students with 10 rooms and 8 teachers.

Catharine was constantly making experiments, and practicing them upon the girls, weighing all their food before they ate it, holding that Graham flour and the Graham diet were better for them than richer food. Ten of her pupils invited her to dine with them at a restaurant. She accepted the invitation, and the excellent dinner changed her views. Thereafter they were served with more palatable food.

In 1852 she founded the American Women's Education Association. Her goal was to rescue women who wasted their lives in frivolous "feminine" pursuits as well as those exploited as factory hands.

Catharine Beecher

Among her many published works was Treatise of Domestic Economy (1841). In 1869 she collaborated with her sister Harriet Beecher Stowe on a new edition, retitled The American Woman's Home (1869) which became a hugely influential guide for generations of American housewives.

Sources Wikipedia



The Ancient Egyptians kept their bees in tall, cylindrical hives; similar hives are still used in remote parts of Egypt today.

Golden bees were discovered in Tournai in the tomb of Childeric I (father of Clovis) who founded the Merovingian dynasty in 457. They were considered to be the oldest emblem of the sovereigns of France.

After the first settlers arrived in the New World, they found their orchards weren't producing very few apples because there were no honeybees to pollinate them. So in the late 1630s the first colony of honeybees were introduced to the Colony of Virginia from England. The North American Indians called these honeybees the "white man's flies."

Napoleon used the bee as a symbol of his empire after his coronation in 1804. He believed it stood for industry, efficiency and productivity.

Africanized hive bees, also called killer bees, are particularly aggressive. They are descended from African bees that were imported into Brazil in 1956. The imported bees escaped in 1957 and began to mate with European honeybees--the kind found in most hives.

Since 1957 killer bees have been moving steadily northward, and the first swarm entered the United States in October 1990.


The most familiar species is the bumblebee (see below), which is larger and stronger than the Honey bee.

Bumblebees have smelly feet and leave a scent on the flower they visit to tell other bees there is no other nectar left.

Bees have two separate stomachs; one for food and another just for nectar.

Bumblebees don’t have ears. They pick up vibrations through their bodies.

Bumblebees have hair on their eyes.

Bees cannot see the color red. To them it looks like black.


Bees’s wings flap 11,400 a minute, creating their buzz.

The flapping of the wings of 1,000 bees generates seven watts of heat.

Honeybees navigate by using the sun as a compass.

Bees can sense moisture changes in the air, so they put in extra work  enabling them to make it back to their hives before it rains.

Bees build up an electrical charge as they fly, meaning the pollen leaps from the plant onto them.

In one trip, a honey bee visits about 75 flowers.

Bees visit two million flowers and travel an average of 43 million miles to collect enough nectar to make just one pound of honey.

Bumblebees can carry as much as 91 percent of their body weight in nectar.

Bees fly at 15 mph and can reach up to 30 mph, visiting 50 to 100 flowers on each trip.

Bumblebees are abundant in high alpine regions and are capable of flying at altitudes higher than Mt. Everest. during research, two bees were able to fly at simulated altitudes of 29,525 feet inside a plexiglass chamber. The plexiglass kept breaking before the bees stopped flying.

The Australian blue-banded bee can headbang flowers up to 350 times a second to collect their pollen.

Two tablespoons of honey would be enough to fuel a bee’s entire flight around the world.


No male bee of any bee species can sting— a stinger is a modified version of a female bee's egg-laying organ, the ovipositor.

There is a species of stingless bee in the Amazon known as the "Barber Bee" that will cut your hair as a means of defense.

Although the sting of one Africanized bee is no more dangerous than that of a European honeybee, the Africanized bees release a chemical when they attack that signals other bees to come and join the attack.

Elephants are so afraid of bees that the mere sound of buzzing is enough to make an entire herd flee. Elephants even have a particular call to use to warn others of bees.

Killer bees may swarm over great distances in pursuit of a raider of their hives, and they have been known to attack in such numbers as to kill farm animals and humans.

A bee uses 22 muscles to sting someone.

Honey bee's will only die after stinging mammals with thick skin, but can freely sting other insects such a spiders.

Michael Smith, a PHD student of Cornell University in New York,  allowed bees to sting him 190 times to find out which part of the body hurt the most. Smith said the most painful area was the inside of his nostril.

In a typical year, nearly 100 American deaths are caused by bee stings.


Bumblebees all die at the end of the summer apart from new queens, which hibernate.

A queen bee continues to mate until she collects more than 70 million sperm from multiple males.

A productive queen bee can lay 3,000 eggs a day.

Queen bees only sting other Queen bees.

If a queen honey bee is removed from her hive, all the bees in the hive know she’s missing within 15 minutes.


The average temperature of a bee hive and the human body are the same.

In 1984, a backstage worker at the Paris opera established one of the most unusually sited beehives on the roof of the opera house. The "opera bees" gather their nectar as they visit flowers all over the city of Paris. The fruits of their labors are on sale in the souvenir shop of the opera.


Geoffrey Chaucer coined the simile "busy as a bee" in his Canterbury Tales  In the “Epilogue to The Merchant’s Tale,” he wrote: “In wommen been! for ay as bisy as bees.”

In 1984, honeybees constructed a honeycomb in zero gravity as part of an experiment on a space shuttle.

Most insects used in a film: 22 million bees in The Swarm.

Sherlock Holmes took up beekeeping when he retired.

In 2008, it was reported that Asian honeybees and European honeybees can understand each other through waggling dance movements, though they need to learn each other’s dialects.

Japanese Honeybees defend themselves against wasps by swarming them and "baking" them by vibrating their wings to 47 degrees Celsius. This is one degree above the wasp's maximum temperature.

A newly discovered species of bee in 2013 was named ‘Euglossa bazinga’ after a catchphrase from TV show The Big Bang Theory.

The scientific name for the bumblebee is bombus. Their old English name is Dumbledore.

Most bees buzz in the key of A, unless they are tired, when they buzz in the key of E.

Worker bees, the smallest in a colony are immature females. They live for 28 to 35 days.

Bees are directly responsible for the production of 70% of fruits, vegetables, seeds, and nuts that we consume on a daily basis.

Sources Compton's Interactive Encyclopedia,, Daily Mail.

The Venerable Bede

Bede (673-735)'s name most likely derives from the Old English bēd, or prayer. Most likely his family had planned on his entering the clergy from birth.

He was known as Venerable Bede from the 9th century due to the holiness of his life. From Latin "venerablius" meaning "worthy of honour".

Young Bede was sent by his parents to the nearby newly founded monastery at Wearmouth at the age of 7. He was placed under the care of the abbot Benedict Biscop, Abbot of the monastery of Wearmouth and Jarrow, to be raised as a monk.

Two years after his transfer to Jarrow, all the monks responsible for leading the worship were killed by the plague leaving only the abbot and the 11 year old Bede to maintain the services.

Bede devoted his life to the study of scripture and recording of history. His entire working life was spent as a Benedictine monk at the monastery of Saint Peter at Wearmouth, and its companion monastery, Saint Paul's, in Jarrow.

"The Venerable Bede Translates John" by James Doyle Penrose (1862-1932

The library in Jarrow was the largest library in England at the time. Bede became one of the most learned men in Western Europe.

All his works were written out by hand with ink made from ground up oak gall on vellum (animal skins).

He wrote 68 books in total, mainly religious biographies, scientific and theological works with a quill dipped in "encaustum", the monk’s word for ink.

Ecclesiastical History of the English People, Bede's classic historical tome written in Latin of the purest style, which tells of early Anglo Saxon kingdoms and their conversion to Christianity. Scrupulously researched, he even had a monk colleague gathering material for him in the Pope's archives in Rome

Bede cited his references and was very concerned about sources of all his sources, which created an important historical chain. He is credited with inventing footnoting.

An oddity in Bede's writings is that in one of his works, the Commentary on the Seven Catholic Epistles, he writes in a manner that gives the impression he was married. The section in question is the only one in that work that is written in first-person view, where Bede says: "Prayers are hindered by the conjugal duty because as often as I perform what is due to my wife I am not able to pray."

In those days when people did not believe the Earth was round, Bede wrote that the Earth was round "like a playground ball", contrasting that with being "round like a shield".

Bede tells us of in writings of his interest in carpentry and music and how he enjoyed long walks along the Northumbrian coast that allowed him to study the movement of the tides.

Bede loved cooking and he was especially proud of his store of peppercorns and spices that he added to improve the bland monastery food.

Late in life Bede became almost blind because of the strain on his eyes of working long hours by candlelight. He would dictate his works to other monks, who would write them out for him.

Bede died on May 26, 735 (Ascension Day) on the floor of his cell, chanting "Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit" and was buried at Jarrow.

Cuthbert, a disciple of Bede's, wrote a letter to a Cuthwin describing Bede's last days and his death. According to Cuthbert, Bede fell ill, "with frequent attacks of breathlessness but almost without pain", before Easter. Two days before Bede died, his breathing became worse and his feet swelled.

On the evening of May 26th his scribe, a boy named Wilberht said, "Dear master, there is one sentence still unfinished." "Very well," he replied, "write it down." After a short while, the lad said, "Now it is finished." "You have spoken truly," Bede replied. "It is well finished. Now raise my head in your hands, for it would give me great joy to sit facing the holy place where I used to pray, so that I may sit and call on my Father." Singing "Glory be to the Father, and to the Son," he died.

When Bede died his estate was made up of some peppercorns, incense and handkerchiefs.

Bede's remains were moved to Durham Cathedral’s Galilee Chapel in 1370 and lie within a tomb chest sealed by a black marble slab.

Bede's tomb in Durham Cathedral

Bede is the only Englishman to be named by Dante as being in paradise in his Divine Comedy.

St Paul's Church, Jarrow, where Bede worshipped is still situated on the grounds of the monastery. A nearby metro station, Bede station is named after him.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012



Linen woven from flax were used by lakeside dwellers in Switzerland in 9000 BC. They used it to cover themselves and keep themselves warm as they sleep.

The first beds were used around 3400 BC after Egyptian pharaohs discovered the benefits of raising a pallet off the earth.

Ancient Egyptians did not use pillows on their beds, but had a carved headboard shaped to allow their neck and head to rest on it to sleep.

Several beds were found in the tomb of Tutankhamen including one that folded up for travelling and another of ebony and gold with a base of woven string to lie on.

Tutankhamun's gilded bed By Hans Ollermann - Wikipedia Commons

The Upper Class Romans owned beds decorated with gold, silver or bronze with mattresses stuffed with feathers, hay, reeds or wool. They also had waterbeds.

In the East in Bible times the bed was not a piece of furniture but a mat. Whole families slept on a single mat together. In the morning the mat was rolled up so that it did not take up so much space. People could, and did, quite easily take their "beds" around with them. Hence Jesus said to a man he had just healed: "Get up, take your mat and go home"

In 1495 The English Parliament passed a statute regulating the content of bed stuffing, requiring that it be good, clean feathers, not dirty old horse hair.

In the 1500s there was nothing to stop things from falling into the house. This posed a real problem in the bedroom where bugs and other droppings could mess up your nice clean bed. Hence, a bed with big posts and a sheet hung over the top afforded some protection. That's how canopy beds came into existence.

Britain’s largest bed, the Great Bed of Ware was built in 1596. It can accommodate 12 people.
The Great Bed of Ware, By The original uploader was VAwebteam at English Wikipedia - Wikipedia Commons

Mattresses in Shakespeare’s time were filled with straw and held up with a rope stretched across the bed frame. If the rope was tight, sleep was comfortable. Hence the phrase, "sleep tight."

‘Bed’ is an Old English word but ‘bedroom’ arrived only in 1600.

William Shakespeare's will, still in existence, bequeathed most of his property to Susanna and her daughter. He left small mementos to friends. He mentioned his wife only once, leaving her his "second best bed" with its furnishings.

King Louis XIV(1638-1715) of France’s rising in the morning and going to bed at night were attended by elaborate ceremonies called the "levee & couchee." Each noblemen had his own duty & part to play in these rituals. Louis collected beds, he owned 414 in total. All were elaborately carved, gilded and hung with costly embroideries. His great joy was the magnificent bed in the Palace of Versailles, on which were woven in gold the words "The Triumph of Venus". But when Louis married his religious second wife she had the pagan subject replaced by "The Sacrifice of Abraham."

Cast-iron beds and cotton mattresses were introduced in the middle of the 18th century.

Thomas Jefferson had 13 bedrooms at his Monticello home. All the beds were simply mattress supports hung on wall hooks.

In order to overcome insomnia Charles Dickens pointed the head of his bed north because of his belief in the powers of magnetic flow.

Mattresses with coiled springs inside were invented in 1865.

Victoria Woodhall, the radical feminist who was the first woman to run for the U.S. presidency in 1872, feared that she would die if she went to bed in her old age. She spent the last four years of her life sitting in a chair. (She died at the age of 89 in 1927.)

After near-fatal aircraft  crash on July 7, 1946, Howard Hughes decided he did not like the design of the hospital bed he was laying in. He called in his engineers and had them design a new bed that would allow someone with severe burns to move freely. It became the prototype for the modern hospital bed.

In 1964 the first Habitat store opened in the UK. They were one of the first British stores to sell duvets and shoppers were so intrigued they would climb into the beds in the store to try them.


The world’s largest bed was made in the Netherlands in 2011. It was 86ft 11in long and 53ft 11in wide.

The world's most expensive bed is the Baldacchino Supreme - $6.3 million, with over 200 lbs of 24k gold and fine Italian silk fabric.

Kevin Wheatcroft, a British businessman and motor sport entrepreneur, is the owner of the world's largest collection of Nazi memorabilia. He sleeps in a bed once owned by Hitler, but has "changed the mattress"

The first couple to be shown in bed together on prime time TV was Fred and Wilma Flintstone.

Studies suggest that unmade beds are healthier for us than neat and made beds - Bed bugs have a harder time surviving in messy beds.

In a year, the average person walks four miles making his or her bed.

One out of every two million people will die by falling out of bed.

Clinophobia is the fear of beds.

Clinomania is the excessive desire to stay in bed.

Dysania is the technical term for finding it difficult to get out of bed in the morning.

Source Daily Express

Samuel Beckett

Samuel Beckett (1906 - 1989) was born on Good Friday, April 13, 1906 to William Frank Beckett, a 35 year old Civil Engineer, and May Barclay (also 35 at Beckett's birth).

A natural athlete, Beckett played two first-class cricket matches for his university, Trinity College Dublin, against Northamptonshire in the Twenties. He was a left-handed batsman and a left-arm medium-pace bowler.

Beckett is the only Nobel laureate to have an entry in Wisden Cricketers' Almanack, the bible of cricket.

After graduating from Dublin, Becket took up the post of lecteur d'anglais in the École Normale Supérieure in Paris. He found himself there a member of the same circle of artists as renowned Irish writer James Joyce. Beckett assisted Joyce in various ways, one of which was research towards the book that became Finnegans Wake.

Beckett's close relationship with Joyce and his family cooled, however, when he rejected the advances of Joyce's daughter Lucia owing to her progressing schizophrenia.

In 1932, Beckett wrote his first novel, Dream of Fair to Middling Women, but after many rejections from publishers decided to abandon it (it was eventually published in 1993).

In January 1938 in Paris, Beckett was stabbed in the chest and nearly killed when he refused the solicitations of a notorious pimp called Prudent.  A tennis acquaintance of Beckett’s, Suzanne Dechevaux-Dumesnil, heard about the attack and visited Beckett regularly in the hospital during his two week stay. 

Beckett and Suzanne, who was six years older, fell in love, lived together for many years, and eventually married in 1961.

Beckett joined the French Resistance after the 1940 occupation by Germany, in which he worked as a courier. He was awarded the Croix de Guerre by the French government for his efforts in fighting the German occupation.

Beckett first won international acclaim for his play En attendant Godot, which was first performed in Paris in 1952, and then in his own translation as Waiting for Godot in London in 1955 and New York in 1956.

He was renowned for the bleakness of his work. Beckett's most well-known line of prose was arguably: "Try again. Fail again. Fail better."

Samuel Beckett bought some land in 1953 near a hamlet around 60 km (40 mi) northeast of Paris. He built a cottage for himself with the help of Boris Roussimoff, the father of French professional wrestler and actor André the Giant. 

Beckett used to drive a young André the Giant to school in his truck because he was too large for the bus. When André recounted the drives with Beckett, he revealed that they rarely talked about anything other than cricket.

In October 1969 while on holiday in Tunis with his wife Suzanne, Beckett heard that he had won the Nobel Prize For Literature. In true ascetic fashion, he gave away all of the prize money.

Suzanne Dechevaux-Dumesnil and Samuel Beckett

Confined to a nursing home and suffering from emphysema and possibly Parkinson's disease, Samuel Beckett died on December 22, 1989. He was interred together with his wife Suzanne Déchevaux-Dumesnil in the Cimetière du Montparnasse in Paris. They share a simple granite gravestone that follows Beckett's directive that it should be "any colour, so long as it's grey."


Saint Thomas Becket

Thomas Becket was born in Cheapside, London on December 21, 1119 (or 1120 according to later tradition.) He came from relatively humble origins, his father, Gilbert Beckett, meaning "Little Beak", was part of a Norman family of knights, who originally came from Rouen in France.

Becket was educated by monks at Merton Priory, Surrey, where he learnt to read and City Grammar, London. He then studied canon law in Bologna, Italy and Auxerre, France.

Becket was six foot tall which was very tall in those days. He was strong jawed, dark-haired, slim, pale skinned, straight faced, his forehead creased with frown lines. Strangely this Little Beak actually had quite a long nose.

Before they fell out, Becket was a good friend of King Henry II, it was commented they acted like two schoolboys at play.

 14th-century depiction of Becket with King Henry II Wikipedia Commons
After being appointed chancellor by the king, Becket amassed such wealth that 52 clerks were needed to run his affairs.

At Tarring on the outskirts of Worthing in Sussex, there is a fig orchard said to be descended from a tree planted by Becket.

After being appointed Archbishop of Canterbury, Becket fell out with the king as the interests of the Roman Catholic medieval church conflicted with those of the crown and he was forced into exile in France.

Thomas Becket enthroned as Archbishop of Canterbury from a Nottingham Alabaster by Saracen78 

Becket dressed in fine clothes such as scarlet furs until his appointment as Archbishop when he adopted a more austere style. In his final years he wore a lice ridden hair shirt next to his skin.

Becket introduced a two-pronged fork to England after his continental exile but when he tried to explain that one of the advantages of the fork was it could be washed Henry II replied “But, so can your hands”.

After Becket fled to France, his dispute with Henry remained unsettled, the King refusing to give the kiss of peace on which the Archbishop insisted if there was to be a reconciliation. Instead Henry conducted a campaign of attrition against his former friends' associates expelling many of them. In return Becket excommunicated his adversaries.

In 1170 Henry had his eldest Son, also named Henry, crowned by the Archbishop of York, a violation of the Archbishop of Canterbury's traditional right. The exasperated Becket returned to England, landing in Sandwich. His entry into Canterbury was triumphant, the common people flocked to show their adulation.

On hearing that Becket still refused to absolve the Archbishop of York and his associates from excommunication and indeed had excommunicated some more. Henry  roared "what miserable drones and traitors have I nourished and prompted in my household, who let their Lord be treated with such shameful contempt by a low born clerk. This fellow who has eaten my bread has lifted up his heel against me."(a quote from Psalm 41 v 9). "Have I no friend who will rob me of this upstart Priest."

Four knights took their King at his word and set off  to confront then kill the Archbishop. Becket was assassinated on December 29, 1170 at Canterbury Cathedral.

Illumination from an English Book of Hours 
Becket's death caused a scandal in all of western Christendom. When the clothes were removed from his dead body, it was discovered that unbeknown to anyone, he was wearing a hairshirt riddled with lice and maggots, the skin on his chest ripped to shred. Becket was immediately a saint and martyr.

In the years following his death many miraculous cures were said to have occurred at Becket's shrine. Indeed 700 miracles were recorded in the decade after his assassination at the crypt.

Becket was canonised in 1172. His feast day is December 29th.

At one stage during the Hundred Years War, the King of France obtained a cease-fire to enable him to make a pilgrimage to see Becket's tomb at Canterbury.

Becket was the first Englishman since the Norman conquest, a hundred years before, to hold high office and the first commoner of any kind to make his mark on English history.

Pilgrim's way, a country route from London to Canterbury over the Downs, which was used for centuries by pilgrims visiting Becket's grave, still exists.

Boris Becker

Boris Becker was born on November 22, 1967 in Leimen, Germany, the only son of Elvira and Karl-Heinz Becker. 

Boris Becker’s father Karl-Heinz, an architect, designed the tennis center where Becker and Steffi Graf played against each other as children.

Boris Becker became the first unseeded player to win the Wimbledon's men's singles title in 1985.

Becker is also the youngest men's Wimbledon champ in history (at age 17 years, 7 months).

The German tennis star went on to win 49 singles titles. 

Becker in 1994

Becker left his £200,000 for winning Wimbledon in 1989 in his tracksuit bottoms - only for his mother to wash them, destroying the check. He had to go back and ask for another one.

He famously fathered a child with a waitress in the broom cupboard of a London restaurant while his wife was pregnant with their second child. 

Sidney Bechet

Sidney Bechet, (1897-1959) was born in New Orleans. He began playing his brother's clarinet at the age of 6 playing at a family birthday party.

Bechet's primary instruments were the clarinet and the soprano sax.

During a 1919-20 tour of Europe with a concert group became the first jazz musician to receive critical attention.

He was one of the first important soloists in jazz (beating Louis Armstrong to the recording studio by several months.) Bechet recorded "Wild Cat Blues" and "Kansas City Man Blues". "Wild Cat Blues" is in a multi-thematic ragtime tradition, with four themes, at sixteen bars each, and "Kansas City Man Blues" is a genuine 12-bar blues.

Sidney Bechet in 1922

After being found guilty of assaulting a woman, Bechet was imprisoned in London from September 13 to 26, 1922. He was jailed again in Paris in the late 1920s when a female passer-by was wounded during a shoot-out. After serving time in prison, Bechet was deported to the US.

 In 1953, he signed a recording contract with French Vogue, which lasted for the rest of his life. He recorded many hit tunes, including the international hit "Petite Fleur."

Sunday, 13 May 2012


Bebop was a modern jazz style characterized by ever-shifting chord changes.

It was developed in the early 1940s by Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Kenny Clarke, and Thelonious Monk and other black musicians reacting against swing music.

According to Dizzy Gillespie, the audiences coined the name after hearing him scat the then-nameless tunes to his players and the press ultimately picked it up, using it as an official term: "People, when they'd wanna ask for those numbers and didn't know the name, would ask for bebop."

Many bop pieces were played at the fastest tempos yet heard in jazz. Bop featured many-noted solos and unusual, quickly changing harmonies.

The classic bebop combo consisted of saxophone, trumpet, bass, drums, and piano. This was a format used (and popularized) by both Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie in their 1940s groups and recordings.

Even though bebop was difficult to sing, a few vocalists such as Sarah Vaughan had the necessary control and wide voice range.

The famous jazz musician Miles Davis started out as a teenager playing bebop with the saxophonist giant Charlie Parker.



Beavers weigh up to 70lb and wat reeds, leaves and bark..

Beavers have transparent eyelids that work like goggles and can stay underwater for 15 minutes.

They have four razor-sharp incisors for cutting and 16 back teeth for chewing. Their front teeth never stop growing.

They can cut down a 6in diameter tree in three minutes - faster than a human with an axe.

A beaver can fell up to 300 trees in a single winter.

They live in family groups. Older offspring help look after babies.

Beavers swim at an average of 5 mph.

Beavers can swim underwater for 15 minutes. They have transparent eyelids so they can see underwater with their eyes shut.

Beavers are herbivorous, but in March 2013 a fisherman in Belarus died from his injuries after a beaver chomped on his leg when he tried to catch it, severing a major artery.

When beavers lived in the wild, their flat, scaly tail led many Roman Catholics to class them as fish-which meant Catholics could eat them on Fridays.

Beavers dam stream and rivers with branches, mud and stones to create still, deep pools. This enables them to build a lodge for refuge during the winter.

Lodges made by Beavers have two chambers. The floor of the first chamber is a few inches above the water level and is used to dry off after coming out of the water. The floor of the second chamber is above the first, and is used for sleeping and caring for kits (baby beavers).

A beaver's lodge and dam is the largest structure built by any animal.

The largest beaver dam known to exist is currently in Wood Buffalo National Park in Alberta, Canada and measures 850 metres in length.

They grow to the size of a tubby spaniel and are the second-largest rodent in the world - that honour goes to the South American capybara.

Beavers teeth never stop growing.

Beaver teeth are orange because they contain iron. This gives them strength and prevents against tooth decay.

As well as being hunted for meat and fur, beavers are also valued for a secretion from their anal glands called castoreum, which was used as a pain relief in medieval times. It’s still used in perfumes and as a food additive.

Canada sent 50 beavers to into Argentina's Tierra del Fuego province in 1946 to help start a fur trade. There are now over 100,000, and they have devastated over 16 million hectares.

European beaver numbers fell to 1,200 at the turn of the 20th century but they have been reintroduced to more than 20 countries

Sources Daily Mail, Radio Times

Beauty Contest

The world’s first beauty contest was held at Spa, Belgium in 1888. All participants had to supply a photograph and a short description of themselves to be eligible for entry and a final selection of 21 were judged by a formal panel. It  was won by 18-year-old Bertha Soucaret.

The Blonde & Brunette Beauty Show, the UK’s first beauty contest, was held in Newcastle upon Tyne on December 23, 1905. The winner, whose name is not recorded, was awarded a gold bangle and bracelet.

The Miss America Contest was created in Atlantic City with the purpose of extending the tourist season beyond Labor Day. On September 8, 1921, 100,000 people gathered at the Boardwalk to watch the contestants from Washington, D.C., Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, Ocean City, Camden, Newark, New York, and Philadelphia. The winner from Washington D.C., 16-year-old Margaret Gorman (see below) was crowned the "Golden Mermaid" and won $100.

The first Miss World competition took place at the Lyceum Ballroom in London on April 19, 1951. It actually was originally called Festive Bikini Contest, but the media panned it as Miss World, and it retained that name from then on. The competition was won by Sweden’s Kiki Hakansson.

Mrs. America Pageant is a beauty competition that was established in 1977 to honor married women throughout the United States of America. Before the Miss USA beauty pageant, there existed a "Mrs America" which chose an annual best wife, based on cooking, sewing, ironing skills, as well as personality and looks. 

Canada declared national beauty contests canceled as of 1992, claiming they were degrading to women.


A Quick Beauty Timeline
1000 1000 The Middle Ages saw the rise of a more complex view of female beauty in Western Europe. Purity was the order of the day.
1530 A slender ankle, small breasts and a pale face are in.
1605 The Stuarts go for big-haired beauty.
1670 Dark ringlets and plenty of padding come with the Restoration.
1700 Women were at least size 16, the fuller figure was fashionable , girth being a sign of wealth.
1730 A powdered wig and a face to match is in.
1851 A wasp waist and well-shaped nose is in.
1925 The film industry has become the greatest single source for the employment of beautiful people.
Boyish good looks with short hair and no waist is in.

The Ancient Greek philosopher Plato taught that the essence of human beauty lies in the belief that all things beautiful can be divided into thirds. A brow one third of way from hairline, a mouth 1/3rd of way from the brow and a point of chin 1/3rd way from the mouth.

In ancient Japan, small eyes, a round puffy face, and plump body were considered attractive features of women.

A famous musician and singer from Baghdad known as Blackbird opened the world’s first beauty institute in southern Spain in 840AD. Here, students learned the secrets of hair removal, as well as how to apply cosmetics, manufacture deodorants, use toothpowder, and the basics of hairdressing.

In Europe in the early Middle Ages, Married women were expected to conceal their hair in order not to stimulate the sexual desires of men. Only virgins were permitted to wear their hair loose.

The Renaissance period gave rise to a new obsession: the breast. The nude breast increasingly began to appear in Renaissance art, often set in the context of religious or maternal images.

The Tudors preferred small-breasted women. Fashion reflected this, with stiffened bodices to flatten the chests of even the most well endowed.

Paleness of skin was symbolic of a woman’s inner purity in the Middle Ages. Rosy cheeks were a sign of sin and lust, as well as of common birth. Everyone strove for that instant sign of aristocracy--the pale complexion--even though the white lead that many used corroded skin and caused hair to fall out.

At the French court in the sixteenth century, men and women competed with each other in excesses of personal adornment. They wore powders, perfumes, wigs, laces, jewelry, corsets, ruffles, and beauty marks that originally were black patches to cover blemishes, including scars and pits left by disease. Ointments of oils and almond paste were used to whiten skin, as were clay, chalk, and zinc.

Powders of orris (the rootstock of a European iris), flour, and cornstarch became so popular for faces and wigs in sixteenth century France for the aristocracy that they caused a shortage of grain for hungry peasants.

The Restoration period gave rise to a new trend in beauty that was to prevail throughout the following century-the wig. Increasingly elaborate, these wigs were worn by the aristocracy to demonstrate how wealthy they were.

In the 1700s, European women achieved a pale complexion by eating "Arsenic Complexion Wafers" actually made with the poison.

Americans spend more than $5 billion a year on cosmetics, toiletries, beauty parlors and barber shops.

The San Blas Indian women of Panama consider giant noses a mark of great beauty.

Caligynephobia is the fear of beautiful women.

Sources BBC History Magazine, Compton's Interactive Encyclopedia © 1998 The Learning Company, Inc

Warren Beatty

Warren Beatty received ten offers of football scholarships after graduating from high school. He turned them all down.

Warren Beatty and Shirley McLaine are brother and sister.

Beatty once worked as a rat-catcher.

Beatty is credited with founding the "political concert" when he and his then girlfriend, Julie Christie, funded the "Together with McGovern" concert in 1972 featuring Joni Mitchell, Carole King, James Taylor, and even reuniting Simon and Garfunkel. He was also an advisor on George McGovern's presidential campaign of that year.

Songs that may be about failed romances with Warren Beatty include Carly Simon's "You're so Vain" and Madonna's "Take a Bow."

The Beatles

The Beatles were a quartet of musicians from Liverpool - John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr. They sang songs written mainly by Lennon and McCartney. Their infectious music and witty lyrics made them two of the finest 20th-century songwriters.

The three guitarists in the group--John Lennon (October 9, 1940-December 8, 1980), Paul McCartney (born June 18, 1942), and George Harrison (born February 25, 1943)--first played together as schoolboys with the Quarrymen. They had been performing in small clubs in Liverpool and in Hamburg, West Germany, when the original drummer was replaced in 1962 by Ringo Starr (born Richard Starkey, July 7, 1940).

George Harrison was born on February 25, 1943 at 12 Arnold Grove,  a house near Picton Clock Tower in the Liverpool suburb of Wavertree.

On July 6, 1957 16-year-old John Lennon met 15-year-old Paul McCartney at a St Peter’s Parish Church Fête in Woolton, Liverpool. Lennon's band, The Quarrymen were performing at the do whilst Paul, who was baptized a Roman Catholic but was being raised inter-denominationally attended the function. Impressed by Paul's ability to tune a guitar and by his knowledge of song lyrics, John asked him to join his band as lead guitarist.

Originally calling themselves the Quarrymen, in the late 1950s the group was renamed Johnny and the Moondogs, the Moonshiners, then the Silver Beatles (a wordplay on the musical term beat that also paid tribute to rocker Buddy Holly's Crickets).

The Beatles played their first proper evening gig at Liverpool’s Cavern Club on March 21, 1961. They played there 292 times between 1961 and 1963, sharing just £5 a gig between them.

A customer asked London record store owner Brian Epstein for "My Bonnie" by the The Silver Beatles. Epstein didn’t have it, but he went to a lunchtime gig at the Cavern Club to check out the group and signed them a few days later. The date The Beatles first met their future manager was November 9, 1961.

The Beatles auditioned unsuccessfully for Decca Records on January 1, 1962. They were rejected on the grounds that "groups with guitars are on the way out." It was a bad day for The Liverpudlians, who got lost on the ten- hour journey to London for their audition.

The Beatles appeared on the BBC for the first time on March 7, 1962, recording for the radio show Here We Go. This also marked the group's first full live performance caught on tape, and the first performance in what would become their trademark collarless suits designed by Beno Dorn.

The Beatles' first record "Love Me Do", written by Lennon and McCartney in 1958, was released in the United Kingdom on October 5, 1962.

The Beatles began their first British tour in Bradford, England on February 2, 1963 supporting Helen Shapiro.

On February 8 1963, The Beatles were asked to leave the Carlisle Golf Club dance because they were wearing leather jackets.

Please Please Me,  The Beatles' debut studio album was released on March 22, 1963. Parlophone rush-released the LP in the United Kingdom to capitalize on the success of the singles "Please Please Me" and "Love Me Do."

Wikipedia Commons

The term 'Beatlemania' was used by the Daily Mirror in the aftermath of a successful appearance by The Beatles on Sunday Night At The London Palladium on October 13, 1963, which was seen by an estimated 15 million television viewers in the UK.

The Beatles' "I Want to Hold Your Hand" and "I Saw Her Standing There" were released in the United States on December 26, 1963, marking the beginning of Beatlemania on an international level.
"I Want to Hold Your Hand." became their first US number one hit on February 1, 1964.

By the time they led the so-called British invasion of the United States in 1964, the Beatles held the top five spots on the singles recording charts. On March 14, 1964 Billboard Magazine reported that Beatles records made up 60% of all singles sold.

Their first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show on February 9, 1964 drew what was at the time the largest audience in the history of American television of 73 million viewers. Crime in America dropped noticeably that night, especially juvenile offenses.

It was The Beatles that popularized longer hair for the first time in many decades with their bowl haircuts.

The Beatles began their first full concert tour of North America on August 19, 1964 at a sold-out arena in San Francisco. Their opening song at 9pm was "Twist and Shout."

The Beatles and Elvis only crossed paths once on August 27, 1965 at Presley 's home in Bel Air, California. The NME reported that Elvis, John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison jammed together, but without The Beatles' drummer. "Too bad we left the drums in Memphis," Elvis told Ringo.

When John Lennon commented in an interview with a London newspaper, “I don't know what will go first, rock 'n' roll or Christianity. We're more popular than Jesus now. Jesus was all right but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It's them twisting it that ruins it for me," it barely caused a ripple. However, when five months later a magazine got hold of it in the United States and in the Bible Belt area many Christians started protesting, burning Beatles records and even causing concerts to be cancelled. The Vatican also made a public denunciation of Lennon's comments.
In 2008 a Vatican newspaper belatedly forgave Lennon for his comments explaining that he had simply been “showing off.”

At one point, the Revolver album was going to be called After Geography, Ringo Starr's terrible pun on the Rolling Stones' Aftermath,

The Beatles almost had roles in a Disney movie. They were meant to be the voices of the vultures in The Jungle Book.

For several years in the late 60s the four Beatles had an interest in Eastern religion and for a period they were students of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s Transcendental Meditation movement. Their attraction towards this belief has helped make adoption of an Eastern religion a trendy thing among the young.

Under the Soviet Union, the distribution of Beatles albums was forbidden by the government, so some medical students would burn Beatles songs onto old X-rays.

The Beatles played live for the last time in the UK on May 1, 1966 when they appeared at the NME Poll Winners concert at Wembley Empire Pool in London.

The last concert appearance of the Beatles before paying fans was at Candlestick Park in San Francisco on August 29, 1966. It wasn't a runaway success, as only 25,000 of the 42,500 tickets available were sold.

The Beatles - Nowhere Man [Live In Candlestick Park, San Francisco, 1966]

Their last public performance was on the roof of Apple Records in London on January 30, 1969.  During the 42-minute set, the Beatles were heard playing nine takes of five songs before the Metropolitan Police Service asked them to reduce the volume. The concert came to an end with the conclusion of "Get Back", with John Lennon saying, "I'd like to say thank you on behalf of the group and ourselves and I hope we've passed the audition." Amid public quarrels and lawsuits, The Beatles officially broke up the following year.

"The Beatles rooftop concert" by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia - 

"Come Together" was the last song all four of The Beatles made together.

"The Long and Winding Road" became The Beatles' last U.S. #1 song on June 13, 1970.

The last Beatles song was recorded in 1995. The three surviving members (at the time) reunited to complete an unfinished John Lennon single, "Real Love" and the finished product was credited to the Beatles.

The Beatles used the word “love” 613 times in their songs.

Despite their huge international success, the Beatles never learnt to read or write music using traditional notation.

McCartney's first wife, Linda, and Lennon's second, Yoko, both went to Sarah Lawrence College.

The Beatles are the best-selling group of all time, estimated to have sold over one billion records worldwide. They have had more #1 singles and albums than any other musical group and are the only band with 6 diamond albums, meaning sales of 10 million each: Sgt. Pepper, Abbey Road, The Beatles 1962-1966, The Beatles 1967-1970, The White Album, The Beatles 1

Sources Compton's Interactive Encyclopedia © 1998 The Learning Company, Inc, Artistfacts



In the 5th century BC Athenian men began to wear shorter hair, cutting it in ritual offering to Hercules.

Beards, real and fake, remained popular until the reign in the 4th century BC of Alexander the Great, whose soldiers had to shave their beards to avoid having them seized in hand-to-hand combat.

The renowned Scipio Africanus  Major (236-183 BC), conqueror of Hannibal in 202 BC affirmed the mode in his era for being clean-shaven. He was admired and copied by men throughout Rome and by neighbours.

The Roman Emperor Hadrian shocked his empire by introducing beards into Roman society at a time when the Romans had been mainly clean shaven. Hadrian grew a beard because he wanted to hide his poor complexion.

Archaeological discoveries suggest that Viking beards were combed, curled, trimmed, and occasionally even bleached blonde.

A decree issued in 1092 by which the ecclesiastical authorities forbade monks to grow beards.

In the Middle Ages the Swedish town of Hurdenburg elected its mayor by seeing which candidate’s beard was selected by a louse.

In the mid 14th century a new fashion sprang up amongst the Spanish aristocracy-every man sported an identical long, black false beard. Soon nobody knew who was who. Debtors escaped recognition by their creditors and villains hid behind cascades of hair while the innocent were led helplessly away to prison. Wives failed to recognise their hair- until it was too late & the market price of hair rose to astronomical heights. Finally King Peter of Aragon stepped in to halt the chaos and passed a law expressly forbidding the wearing of false beards in Spain. 

Henry VIII put a tax on beards in 1535, but made his own exempt.on. His daughter, Elizabeth. I of England, reintroduced the beard tax, taxing every beard of more than two weeks' growth

In the 16th century, after Francis I of France accidentally burned his hair with a torch, his male subjects started wearing short hair and trimmed their beards and moustaches.

In 1567, the man said to have the longest beard in the world died after he tripped over his beard running away from a fire.

Oliver Cromwell condemned the decadence of the cavalier's flowing hair, moustaches and beards. He believed beards were an icon of the bourgeois cavalier classes and as a result they were going out of fashion.

Tsar Peter I of Russia’s visits to the West impressed upon him the notion that European customs were in several respects superior to Russian traditions. The Tsar imposed on September 5, 1698, a tax on beards. All men except priests and peasants had to pay up to 100 roubles (a small fortune in those years) annually and carry around a copper or bronze token to show they had paid the tax. Peasants were allowed to wear beards in their villages, but were required to shave it off when entering the city or pay a one kopek coin for it.

Beards cane roaring back into fashion in the UK in the mid 19th Century. They had been banned in the army, but the freezing conditions endured  by troops during the Crimean War made shaving and impossible, so facial hair flourished  in the military. This helped to bring mutton chops and other forms of facial hair back into fashion.

On October 15, 1860, an 11-year-old girl, Grace Bedell, wrote Abraham Lincoln with a suggestion. He was running for the Presidency and she urged him to grow a beard. Lincoln was convinced and for the rest of his life he maintained facial hair.

The last US president to have had a beard was Benjamin Harrison, who left office in 1893.

Valentine Tapley from Pike County, Missouri grew chin whiskers attaining a length of twelve feet six inches from 1860 until his death 1910, protesting Abraham Lincoln's election to the presidency.

Of the 658 Members of Parliament in 1874, only two were beardless.

In the 1937 Disney animated movie Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs, only one of the dwarfs doesn’t have a beard — Dopey. 

In 1955, the New York State Labor Department ruled that “there is nothing inherently repulsive about a Van Dyke beard.”

Under the Taliban, men in Afghanistan were required to grow beards at least four inches long.


Old Order Amish men don't wear wedding rings. Instead they grow their beards out. 

The average human beard, if left untended, will grow 14cm a year.

If a man never cut his beard, by the time he died it would be 27.5 feet long.

The longest ever beard was that of the Norwegian Hans Langseth. It measured 17ft 6in when he died in Kensett, Iowa, in 1927.

Beards can slow the aging process by stopping water from leaving the skin, keeping it moisturized.

Bjorn Borg had a no-shave rule at Wimbledon - he and his famous beard won the tournament for five consecutive years.

The video for Wham's "Last Christmas" was the last time that George Michael was filmed without a beard.

The only member of ZZ Top to not have a beard was the drummer . . . Frank Beard.

Blonde beards grow faster than darker beards.

The correct term for fear of beards is ‘pogonophobia’.

Sources That's Life (Octopus Books), Daily Express



The baiting of bears was a popular entertainment in England in the 17–18C. The baited animal was usually tethered to a post or put into a pit, and then attacked by dogs. Betting took place on the performance of individual dogs. The London theatres of the time had the form of an enclosed ring perfectly suited to animal baiting. The baiting of animals was not banned by law in Britain until 1835, but it was carried on in private for at least another 50 years.

Peter the Great of Russia (1672-1725) trained bears to serve alcoholic drinks to his guests.

English romantic poet Lord Byron kept a pet bear in his rooms at Cambridge, because he was not allowed a dog.

In 1962 a bear was ejected from a B-58 jet bomber at 870 mph to test whether humans could survive supersonic ejections. The bear then floated down via parachute from 35,000 feet over the course of 7 minutes, where it landed unharmed.

In April 2001, there were estimated to be fewer than 1,000 grizzly bears in the wild.


Winnie The Pooh's real name is Edward The Bear.

Smokey the Bear is based off an orphan bear rescued from a New Mexico wildfire in 1950.

A bear named Wojtek (see below) was officially drafted as a private in the Polish army during the Second World War. Originally a mascot, he lived with other soldiers in their tents, and helped at the Battle of Monte Cassino in Italy by transporting ammunition. After the war, Wojtek retired to Edinburgh Zoo where he would wave at visitors who spoke to him in Polish. He died aged 22 in December 1963. Kraków city council unveiled a statue of Wojtek in Park Jordana on 18 May 2014 - the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Monte Cassino.

Hercules, a trained grizzly bear that disappeared on a Scottish island while being filmed for a Kleenex TV advert, was finally recaptured after 24 days on the run on September 13, 1980.

Juan, an Andean spectacled bear made a bold bid to escape from Berlin zoo in 2004. Juan paddled across a moat using a log as a raft, scaled a wall and then finally appeared to commandeer a bicycle before before zookeepers with brooms cornered him, and a colleague picked him off with a tranquiliser gun.


There are eight species of bear: American black, polar, giant panda, Asiatic black, sloth bears, sun bears, spectacled bears and brown bears.

The giant panda is the only species of bear that does not move its ears to pick up sound.

The Andean bear, the inspiration for Paddington Bear, is the only bear native to South America.

A male bear is a boar; a female is a sow.

A group of bears is called a sleuth or sloth.

We call many things "bears" that aren't actually bears. Red pandas are "bear-cats" in Nepal, for example, and koalas are sometimes erroneously referred to as "koala bears."

Bears live in dens.

Bears have the largest relative brain size of any carnivore, and a study has found that black bears can count just as well as primates.

Grizzly bears can remember the faces of other bears they have not seen for ten years or more.

Grizzly Bears and Polar Bears can mate. Their offspring are referred to as "Pizzlies" and "Grolar Bears."

The smallest bear is the Malaysian sun bear, rarely more than 4 ft long, a good climber, whose favourite food is honey.

Some bears in Russia are hooked on jet fuel due to the leftover kerosene and gasoline containers in far-east regions.

Bears have 42 teeth.

A full-grown black bear can run as fast as a horse.

A black bear can smell seven times better than a bloodhound and a hundred times better than a human.

Though bears are classified as carnivores, most are omnivorous and the panda is almost entirely vegetarian.

Black Bears eat pine needles and hair to get stuck in their system on purpose. It forms up to a 30cm long anal plug that holds the food in them all winter, then they poop it out in the Spring.

Bears do not urinate while they hibernate. Their bodies convert urine into protein and use it as food.

The black bear is not always black. It can be brown, cinnamon, yellow, and sometimes a bluish color.

In the US, it is legal to own a brown bear in nine states. 

No bears are native to the continent of Australia. Koalas aren't bears, they are marsupials.

Sources History, Daily Express



In ancient Egypt broad beans, which originated in Persia, North Africa and Europe were mostly eaten by the common people. The upper classes considered them to be unclean and unworthy.

The French bean, kidney bean, or haricot is probably of South American origin.

The Asian mung bean yields the bean sprouts used in Chinese cookery.

Pythagoras forbade the eating of broad (fava) beans as he thought they contained the souls of the dead. He even refused to walk through fields of broad beans. He is said to have allowed himself to be slaughtered rather than cross a field of beans.

It is probable that Pythagoras was prone to favism, which is almost entirely confined to genetically susceptible people of Mediterranean origin. Favism occurs when such individuals consume broad beans or inhale the pollen and it leads to the destruction of red blood cells resulting in severe anaemia. 

In ancient Greece minor officials were elected by putting one white and many black beans in a pot. Whoever picked the white bean got the job.

The phrase "Don't spill the beans" probably dates back to the ancient Greek method of placing black or white beans in a jar to cast votes.


Canned baked beans are usually a variety of (P. vulgaris), which grows well in the USA.

A bean has more DNA per cell than a human cell.

The Mexican Jumping Bean is not a bean. It is actually a thin-shelled section of a seed capsule  that have been inhabited by the larva of a small moth. The "bean" "jumps" when heated because the larva spasms in an attempt to roll the seed to a cooler environment to avoid dehydration and consequent death.

Mexican jumping beans jump in order to get out of the sun's heat.

A $1100 (£700) prize was offered in Indonesia in 1985 for a song extolling the joys of planting soya beans.

The French Idiom: "Il me court sur le haricot" literally "He’s running on my bean", means "He’s getting on my nerves."

Astronauts are not allowed to eat beans before they go into space because passing wind in a spacesuit damages them.

Black-eyed peas are not peas. They are beans.

Sources Hutchinson Encyclopedia © RM 2012.,, Food For Thought by Ed Pearce, Daily Express


Beagle (ship)

The Beagle was a 242 ton, 10 gun, 90 ft long ship. The vessel, constructed at a cost of £7,803, was launched on May 11, 1820 from the Woolwich Dockyard on the River Thames.

The Beagle set sail from Plymouth on May 22, 1826 on her first voyage, under the command of Captain Stokes. The mission was to accompany the larger ship HMS Adventure (380 tons) on a hydrographic survey of Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego,

It's second voyage was Charles Darwin's famous 1831-36 voyage to the Pacific. Darwin took part in the expedition as a self-financing gentleman naturalist and companion to the captain. The Beagle departed from Devonport on December 27, 1831 with 74 on board.

Also on board was an English-born landscape artist Conrad Martens. Below is his painting of HMS Beagle in the seaways of Tierra del Fuego,

Darwin's father strongly opposed Charles going on the voyage as he felt his son's calling was to the Church.

Darwin paid his own way on the trip spending £500pa.

Charles Darwin had been told that the Beagle was expected to sail about the end of September 1831, but fitting out took longer. Repeated Westerly gales caused delays, and forced them to turn back after departing on 10th and 21st of December. Drunkenness at Christmas lost another day. Finally, on the morning of December 27th, the Beagle left its anchorage on the west side of Plymouth Sound.

Charles Darwin wrote his account of his five-year voyage on the Beagle to the Pacific, during which he shared a cabin with Robert Fitzroy, the commander of the Beagle.  His account attracted no interest at all. However he was lionised on his return to London from the Beagle as a brilliant geologist.

Darwin was nearly rejected as ship's naturalist on the Beagle because of shape of his nose. The captain, Robert Fitzroy was not certain that anyone with such a broad, squat nose would have the character to survive such an arduous journey.

The Beagle replica in February 2016

The HMS Beagle reached the Galápagos Islands on September 15, 1835. The ship landed at Chatham or San Cristobal, the easternmost of the archipelago. Charles Darwin's observations of species of animals and plants (including the giant tortoises) on Galapagos Islands were different to everywhere else and even differed from island to island. The year he spent studying there suggested to him that animals and plants were not replicas created by a heavenly snap of fingers. Darwin's observations during the voyage led to his theory of modification of species.

Robert Fitzroy became one of Darwin's fiercest critics on scriptural grounds. Tragically he later committed suicide for the part he believed he played in undermining the Bible.