Wednesday, 21 August 2013


“Man is the only animal that blushes. Or needs to.” - Mark Twain

On August 21 the Greek Orthodox faith celebrates the feast of St Thaddaeus the Apostle (St Jude). It is also the Independence Day of the three Baltic States, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania whose history shows many common features.

This day is the anniversary of the birth of:
Philippe II Augustus, king of France (1165);
Francis de Sales, Geneva Bishop (1567);
Hubert Gautier, bridge builder (1660);
Tobias Furneaux, explorer (1735);
William IV, king of England (1765);
Hugh Victor McKay, Australian 'Sunshine Harvester' inventor (1865);
Aubrey Beardsley, English artist (1872);
Christopher Milne, son of A.A. Milne (1920);
Margaret, princess of England (1930);
Mart Crowley, playwright (1936);
Kenny Rogers, singer (1938);
Matthew Broderick, actor (1962);

The cuckoo flower, Cardamine pratensis, is today’s birthday flower.  The language of flower ascribes the meaning “ardour” to this bloom.  Astrologically the flower is under the moon's dominion.

Billowy white clouds that look tall and mountainous  in the morning, suggest afternoon rain according to this couplet:
            Mountains in the morning,
            Fountains in the evening.
Also sign of an approaching downpour is a heatwave:
            Heatwaves end in thunderstorms.

Rainbows do not always mean the end of rainy weather! Compare:
            Rainbow at morn, good weather has gone.
            Rainbow after noon, good weather comes soon.
And also:
            Rainbow to windward, foul falls the day;
            Rainbow to leeward, rain runs away.

Whenever a rainbow is seen you should bow to it and remember that it is God's promise to mankind that He will never again cause a flood of the type that Noah survived.  To point to a rainbow is always unlucky.

In ancient Rome, today was XII Kalends September, on which was celebrated the Feast of Hercules. Hercules was the roman equivalent of the Greek mythic hero Herakles. The son of Zeus and the mortal Alkmene, Herakles had superhuman strength and had to perform immense tasks in order to appease Hera, Zeus's much betrayed wife. When he died he was deified and became the protector of ancient Roman businessmen. All year long, Roman businessmen set aside a tenth of their profits for the god's benefit. On this day a solemn sacrifice to the god was offered, followed by an enormous banquet and much carousing. So much food was prepared that often mountains of leftovers had to be thrown into the Tiber the next few days.

The Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania were incorporated into the USSR in 1940 and gained their independence in 1991. They are situated on the shores of the Baltic Sea across them to the West being Finland and Sweden. Their areas and populations are 45,000 square km and 2 million for Estonia; 64,000 square km and 3 million for Latvia and 65,000 square km and 4 million for Lithuania. Temperate climate supports farming and agriculture. However, limited resources and damaged environment with many economic problems mean that these countries will have to struggle in this new millenium in order to recover fully and become prosperous and financially secure.

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