Friday, March 24, 2017

Keeping children safe: Childproofing your home

Here is an inforgraphic with tips about childproofing your home.  It's a guide to arrange your home so that your child is kept out of danger.  It may remind you of something you hadn't thought about or missed.  This guide takes you room by room as it shows you ways to better protect your child from the moment he or she begins crawling.  I hope you'll find it useful and informative.

- Joanne

Childproofing Your Home by Radiator Valves 4u
Childproofing Your Home by Radiator Valves 4u.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

The Danging Plague of 1518: Why did people dance themselves to death?

The story of the Dancing Plague of 1518 is both mysterious and macabre.  It happened in the city of Strasbourg, then a part of the Holy Roman Empire (now northeastern France). The Dutch scholar,and social critic, Erasmus, visited the city in 1514 and described it as "a monarchy without tyranny, an aristocracy without factions, a democracy without disorder, prosperity without luxury, happiness without insolence."  However, despite Erasmus' favourable portrayal, of early 16th century Strasbourg, there was a much darker side to life in the city and its surrounding area.  Prior the dancing plague of 1518, the region was hit by a number of terrible afflictions that turned it into a place of misery.

According to John Waller, author of two books on the subject - A Time to Dance, A Time To Die: The Extraordinary Story of the Dancing Plague of 1518 and Dancing Plague: The Strange True Story of an Extraordinary Illness - hunger and disease were rampant.

In the decade before the dancing plague of 1518, famine, sickness and terrible cold caused widespread despair in Strasbourg and its environs.  Bread prices reached their highest levels for a generation, thousands of starving farmers and vine growers arrived at the city gates, and old killers like leprosy and the plague were joined by a terrifying new affliction named syphilis. (John Waller, The Psychologist, July 2009, "Dancing Plagues and Mass Hysteria")

In mid-July of 1518, Frau Troffea, a resident of Strasbourg, suddenly began dancing in the street for no apparent reason.  There was no music associated with her dancing.  Before long, however, she was joined by others and they were all dancing wildly in the searing summer heat. They danced for days without rest.  Within a week, 100 people were consumed with an uncontrollable compulsion to dance. Within a month, the number of dancers in the city had swollen to 400.  They were loaded onto wagons and brought to a healing shrine. Many died from exhaustion and heart attacks. the madness did not subside until early September.

Waller, a professor of the History of Medicine at Michigan State University, points out that this was not the first outbreak of a dancing frenzy in Europe.  There had been about ten dance epidemics prior to 1518.  One in 1374 swept over many towns located in present-day Belgium, northeastern France and Luxembourg. However, the 1518 outbreak is the best documented and probably the final one to occur in Europe.

The dancing plagues may seem quite bizarre and difficult to believe, but there is plenty of evidence that they happened.  Waller contends that there is documentation from "scores of physicians, chroniclers, monks and priests."  He says that during the time of the 1518 epidemic, municipal orders were written by nervous Strasbourg authorities.

How can the Dancing Plague of 1518 be explained. What was the the cause of such mass hysteria? Was a it a genuine illness?  Was it some kind of social phenomenon?  According to John Waller, one popular theory has been that the dancers had accidentally ingested ergot fungus, a psychotropic mould that grows on stalks of rye.  However, Walker dismisses this theory, pointing out that although Ergotism can cause delusions and spasms, it cuts off blood supply to the hands and feet, making coordinated movement very difficult.

Professor Waller thinks it is plausible that the dancing outbreak of 1518 was caused by mass psychogenic illness (MPI), a symptom of mass hysteria that is brought on by the horrific conditions that were experienced in Strasbourg at that time.  In a September 2008 BBC article entitled "Dancing Death," he asserts that "the poor of Strasbourg were experiencing famine and disease and spiritual despair on a scale unknown for generations."  According to Waller, the dancer were in a trance state. Otherwise, he argues, they would not have been able to dance for such lengths of time.

Trances more often occur in people who are in extreme psychological stress, as were the people of Strasbourg, and in people who believe in spiritual possession. Waller believes that those conditions were met in the city of Strasbourg in 1518.  He tells us that many people in the city were devotees of a saint called St. Vitas.  Christian legend holds that Vitas, a Sicilian, died as a martyr in 303 A.D during the persecution of Christians by co-ruling Roman Emperors Diocletian and Maximian.  People in Strasbourg believed that if anyone aroused the anger of St. Vitas, he would take over their minds and bring down plagues of uncontrollable dancing.  Once they anticipated the St. Vitas curse, says Waller, it increased the chances that they would enter into a trance-like state.  One they entered a trance-like state, they played the role of the accursed and possessed, dancing crazily for days at a time.

John Waller sums up his conclusions about the Dancing Plague of 1518 with these words: " So the epidemic, I argue, was a result of both desperation and pious fear."


St. Vitus is regarded as the patron saint of actors, comedians and epileptics.  He is believed to have been only 12 or 13 at the time of his death.  During the Middle Ages, people in places such as Germany and Latvia danced before his statue.

- Joanne

Monday, March 20, 2017

Vera Lynn on her 100th Birthday

We'll meet again
Don't know where
Don't know when
But I know we'll meet again

Some sunny day

- Refrain from the song We'll Meet Again, written by Ross Parker and Hughie Charles

Dame Vera Lynn celebrates her 100th birthday today.  The English singer, songwriter and actress is a living treasure to those of the World War II generation.  Her recordings and performances were extremely popular during that era.  Her wistful tunes brought hope and comfort to the British people and their allies in their darkest days.  Vera was nicknamed "the Forces sweetheart" and her most well known songs include "We'll Meet Again," "The White Cliffs of Dover," "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square" and "There'll Always Be an England."  Their sentimental lyrics and unabashed patriotism resonated strongly with soldiers abroad who were homesick for their familiar surroundings.

Vera Lynn was born Vera Margaret Welch on March 20, 1917 in East Ham, Essex (now Greater London), England.  She was born to a working class family and, according to Encyclopaedia Britannica, began singing at men's clubs by the age of seven.  At 11, she assumed her grandmother's maiden name (Lynn) and joined a singing troupe.

After dropping out of school at 14, Vera caught the eye of a talent agent who found work for her at parties and events.  By 1935, she was singing the refrain on big band recordings and performing on the radio. In 1936, she released her first solo recording, "Up the Wooden Hill to Bedfordshire."

In 1937, Vera Lynn collaborated with bandleader Benjamin "Bert" Ambrose, entertaining on his radio program, Life from Mayfair, until 1940.  In late 1939, she performed her signature song, "We'll Meet Again," which was written by Ross Parker and Hughie Charles, two composers on Life from Mayfair. In 1941, Vera became the star of her own BBC radio show, Sincerely Yours, Vera Lynn.  The next year, she recorded "The White Cliffs of Dover."

Vera was affiliated with the Entertainments National Service Association which was established in 1939 to entertain soldiers.  During the war, she toured the world in order to perform for troops, often placing her own life in jeopardy.

When the war end, Vera travelled extensively throughout Europe and continued to broadcast her radio show for years.  She has continually engaged in charitable activities, including establishing a fund for those suffering from cerebral palsy.  She has also been a tireless advocate for veterans and their causes. In 2008, she became a patron of the Forces Literary Organisation Worldwide for ALL.  In 2010 she became patron of the British charity Projects to Support Refugees from Burma/Help 4 Forgotten Allies  In 2013, she lent her support to a People for Ethical Treatment of Animals' (PETA) campaign against pigeon racing, which she described as "utterly cruel."

To mark the centenary of Dame Vera's birth, her image will be projected over the White Cliffs of Dover today.


* Vera Lynn was awarded the Order of the British Empire in 1969 and was created a Dame of the British Empire in 1975.

* In 1941, Vera married Harry Lewis, a clarinetist and saxophonist in Bert Ambrose's orchestra.  The couple had one child, a daughter named Virginia Penelope Anne Lewis.  Harry Lewis, who worked as Vera's manager after the war, died in 1998,

* In September of 2009, Vera, who was then 92 years of age, became the oldest living artist to have a Number 1 record in Britain. when her album, We'll Meet Again - The Very Best of Vera Lynn, reached top spot.

* In August of 2014, Vera was one of the 200 public figures who signed a letter to The Guardian opposing the independence of Scotland during the referendum campaign on the issue that year.

* On March 17, 2017, in commemoration of her 100th birthday, Vera Lynn released a new album on the Decca Records label.  It's titled Vera Lynn 100.

Vera Lynn in 2009

PHOTO ATTRIBUTION: Nicki (Growl Roar) from United Kingdom

- Joanne

Thursday, March 9, 2017

How To Make Your Home a Happier Place Using Hygge

Do you want to improve the atmosphere of the place where you live. This infographic guides you in the task of improving the mood of your home.  It provides you with tips on how to make your dwelling place happier by using the concept of Hygge or "well-being."  I hope that you find it informative and useful.  Note: Prices are listed in British pounds.

- Joanne

 How to Make a Hygge Home by The Rug Seller
How to Make a Hygge Home by The Rug Seller by The Rug Seller