Monday, 24 August 2015


“Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.” - Blaise Pascal

Today is St Bartholomew’s Feast Day in the Catholic calendar and St Cosmas the Aetolian’s Feast Day and St Dionysius of Zante’s Feast Day in the Greek Orthodox Calendar. It is also the National Day of Kazakhstan; the Flag Day of Liberia; the National Day (II) of Romania; the Independence Day of Russia and the National Day of Ukraine.

It is the anniversary of the birth of:
 Robert Herrick, English poet (1591);
 William Wilberforce, anti-slavery campaigner (1759);
 Max Beerbohm, writer (1872);
 Albert Claude, Nobel laureate (1974) physician (1898);
 Jorge Luis Borges, Argentinian writer (1899);
 Fernand Braudel, historian (1902);
 Mason Williams, musician (1938);
 Steve Gutenberg, actor (1958).

The dahlia, Dahlia pinnata, is today’s birthday flower.  It is symbolic of pomp and circumstance, elegance and dignity but also of instability. The language of flowers ascribes dahlia with the meaning “forever yours”. The petals of the dahlia, as also those of the chrysanthemum and the marigold can be eaten in salads!

St Bartholomew was an apostle. He was martyred by being flayed alive. He is the patron saint of skinners, tanners, butchers, leatherworkers and bookbinders. St Bartholomew’s Day in 1572 was a black day for French Protestants as they were massacred by fanatical Catholics.  The feast was often called “Black Bartholomew” in England in remembrance of this massacre.  Many fairs were held on this day in Britain, including the great Bartholomew Fair at Smithfield in London.

  And yet anon, the full sunflowre blew
  And became a starre for Bartholomew.
 The sunflower blooming on St Bartholomew’s Day becomes a beacon burning bright for the saint, while another couplet forecasts that autumn’s harvest depending on the weather on that day:
  If Bartlemas Day be bright and clear,
  Then a prosperous autumn comes that year.

If St Swithin’s day was wet, it is said that St Bartholomew’s day will be fine:
  All the tears that St Swithin doth cry
  St Barthlemy’s mantle can wipe dry.

On this day in 79 AD, Vesuvius erupted and buried the twin towns of Herculaneum and Pompeii.

Kazakhstan is a central Asian country of 2.7 million square km and a population of 17 million. The capital city is Alma-Ata and other major cities include Chimkent, Dzhambul, Semipalatinsk, Karaganda, Uralsk and Aktyubinsk. The country gained its independence in 1991 and because of its rich resources the economic development of this country appears favourable. The lowlands, hilly plains and plateaux that the country comprises is ideal for pasture, but rapid industrialisation ensures that chemicals, fertilisers,  iron, steel, cement and consumer goods provide for strong economic growth. However, the environmental problems caused by the Soviet irrigation schemes around the Aral Sea will not prove to easy to resolve. 

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