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Archive for January, 2011

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The first weather report

Posted in Anniversary, Nature, Science on Monday, 31 January 2011

11 February marks the anniversary of the first weekly weather report issued by the Meteorological Office in 1878. The Met Office (as it is now known) was established in 1854 as a service to mariners but it wasn’t until the 1870s that weather forecasts were issued to newspapers and the general public.

picture, weather, satellite, Meteorological Office, ships, aircraft

Correctly predicting the weather can have important consequences for many industries. Illustration by Wilf Hardy

In the year of its 150th anniversary, the Met Office opened new offices near Exeter Airport in Devon. It produces the Shipping Forecast each day for broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and is responsible for issuing Severe Weather Warnings via the National Severe Weather Warning Service. Both BBC and ITV weather forecasts are based on Met Office data.

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The Vatican beomes a independent state

Posted in Anniversary, Geography, Religion on Monday, 31 January 2011

11 February marks the anniversary of the signing of the Lateran Treaty, one of of three agreements between Italy and the Holy See which were ratified on 7 June 1929. Signed by Mussolini, the Prime Minister, on behalf of King Victor Emmanuel III, and Pietro Gasparri, Cardinal Secretary of State, on behalf of Pope Pius XI, the agreements were signed at Lateran Palace, hence the name by which they are known.

picture, Pope, Vatican City, Holy See, crowds, waving

The Pope, bishop of the Holy See, greeting crowds in Vatican City

The treaty gave the Holy See (the jurisdiction within Rome whose Bishop is commonly known as the Pope) sovereignty over Vatican  City State, a walled area within Rome of around 110 acres.

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The Tenth Plague of Egypt

Posted in Bible, Religion on Sunday, 30 January 2011

Tenth plague, picture, illustration, image

The Pharaoh’s firstborn son is struck dead at midnight during the Tenth Plague

The dramatic events recounted in the book of Exodus are among the most memorable in the Bible, and their often extravagant images, symbols and profound moral import serve to captivate the reader or listener in that desperate, epic struggle for freedom which so inspired Moses and the Israelites. God visits ten plagues on Egypt, and after the rivers of blood and frogs and the rest, it is the tenth plague which God knows will compel the Pharaoh to let His people go. At midnight on the appointed day He sends the Angel of Death to Egypt to take all the firstborn of the land, and when Pharaoh’s son dies during this final devastating visitation, his grief gives way to acceptance that the God of Israel is mightier than those of Egypt, including himself, and that the Israelites should be freed.

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The parable of the sower

Posted in Bible, Parables, Religion on Sunday, 30 January 2011

sower, picture, image, illustration

Sowing seed on the path, among thorns, on rocky ground and fertile soil, by Clive Uptton

Jesus told several parables, some more complicated than others. The parable of the sower is simple in narrative detail and the message it clothes. When a farmer sows seed on inappropriate terrain the results are predictable, whether the plants wither for lack of soil or choke to death among thorny weeds. Only when the soil is good does the farmer see a decent crop, and this multiplies with each harvest. The seed is the Word in its various stages of understanding and acceptance, be it one of shallowness or one of deeply rooted vitality yielding rich and plentiful fruit. In the gospel of St Matthew, the poor birds which take the seed from the road are likened to the devil confounding potential believers.

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The Baptism of Jesus

Posted in Bible, Religion on Sunday, 30 January 2011

Baptism of Christ, picture, image, illustration

The baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist

The baptism of Jesus marks the beginning of His ministry and is one of the central events in His life. It takes place in the River Jordan. In the gospels John the Baptist is variously described as haranguing a crowd of Pharisees and Sadducees with phrases like “brood of vipers’ before the baptism, or simply performing the sacred ceremony without onlookers of any kind. Whatever the circumstances, it is generally thought to have taken place at Bethany.

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David and Goliath

Posted in Bible, Religion on Sunday, 30 January 2011

David and Goliath, picture, illustration, image

David and Goliath, by Clive Uptton

The contest between David and Goliath is remembered now as much for its metaphorical usage in everyday speech, as it is for the historical man-to-man fight between the two of them which ended this particular battle in the Valley of Elah. The Philistines are a formidable enemy, and the advantage appears to lie with them.Their champion warrior, Goliath, a huge powerful man, challenges the strongest Israelite to single combat and thus decide the battle’s outcome. He does this twice each day for forty days, and the Israelites dare not take up a challenge in which they will surely fail. They are filled with terror and despair, but when David comes forward to volunteer, having heard of the great reward which includes marriage to the king’s daughter, King Saul reluctantly agrees, even offering his own armour to the young shepherd. Despite Goliath being burnished in armour from head to toe, David declines all such help, taking only his sling as a weapon, and after selecting five pebbles from the stream, readies himself for combat, addressing Goliath thus:

This day will the Lord deliver thee into mine hand; and I will smite thee, and take thine head from thee; and I will give the carcases of the host of the Philistines this day unto the fowls of the air, and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know there is a God in Israel. (1 Samuel, 17: 46)

And the future King of Israel does just that.

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Henry IV: Famous Last Words

Posted in Famous Last Words on Sunday, 30 January 2011

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King Henry IV, who believed he would die in Jerusalem

“I know I shall die in this chamber and depart this life for Jerusalem.”

Henry IV was also known as Henry Bolingbroke as he was born at Bolingbroke Castle in Lincolnshire, the son of John of Gaunt (third son of Edward III). He ascended to the throne in 1399 after the deposition of his cousin, Richard II, who subsequently died in prison (almost certainly on Henry’s orders). Henry spent a great deal of his 13 years on the throne quelling plots and rebellions. It took a toll on his health and he suffered serious health problems. He died on 20 March 1413, his final words probably a reference to the fact that it had been predicted that he would die in Jerusalem, which Henry took to mean during a crusade. He died, however, in the Jerusalem chamber at the house of the Abbot of Westminster.

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Britain takes over Canada

Posted in Anniversary, Famous battles, Geography on Sunday, 30 January 2011

10 February marks the anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Paris between Britain, France and Spain in 1763.

picture, Canada, Mountie, police, horse

One of the icons of Canada: the Canadian Mounted Police. Illustration by Ron Embleton

The treaty ended the Seven Years’ War during which Britain had conquered a number of French territories, including Canada. Signing the treaty returned a number of territories to Britain which the French had invaded and ceded former French colonies Canada, Dominica, Grenada, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Tobago to Britain.

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Marriage of Queen Victoria

Posted in Anniversary, History, Royalty on Sunday, 30 January 2011

10 February marks the anniversary of the marriage of Queen Victoria to Prince Albert in 1840.

picture, Queen Victoria, Prince Albert, marriage, St James's Palace

The marriage of Victoria and Albert at St. James’s Palace. Illustration by Kronheim

Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha had family connections to many of Europe’s ruling monarchs and was a first cousin to Victoria. They met in 1836 during a period when a number of potential husbands for the then princess were paraded before her. Victoria became queen in 1837 and proposed to Albert in 1839. They were married at the Chapel Royal at St. James’s Palace.

Albert died in 1861 at the age of 42 and his widow mourned his passing for the rest of her life.

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Launch of the Dreadnought

Posted in Anniversary, Ships on Sunday, 30 January 2011

10 February marks the anniversary of the launch of the revolutionary new British battleship Dreadnought in 1906. Built at HM Dockyard in Portsmouth, HMS Dreadnought was a great advance in naval technology and an entire generation of battleships were to become known as “dreadnoughts”.

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HMS Dreadnought, the revolutionary battleship

The Dreadnought was the first battleship to be powered by steam turbines, giving her a speed of 21 knots. However, despite her heavy armour and heavy armament, Dreadnought took little part in the major Naval battles of World War I: she was being refitted during the Battle of Jutland in 1916 (the only time a dreadnought fired upon one of its German counterparts). She did, on the other hand, sink a submarine by ramming it.

HMS Dreadnought was sold for scrap in 1921.

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