Tag Archives: France

January 2nd

On this day in 1791 there was a bit of a massacre in Ohio. At the time Ohio was a country and not a state and people were all starting to move over there because there was a lot of space and as it was in the mid-west, it was less scandalous than places like New York, so those of very little brain could wander off there and be happy worshipping God, snakes and beating their children for having impure thoughts.

Unlike Queen and Spinal Tap, the Wyandot did not like Big Bottomed Girls

That said, they probably didn’t deserve to be massacred, but then neither did the Wyandot Indians deserve to lose their land. All in all it’s a bit of a conundrum when it comes to “whose side should I be on?” To be fair to the Wyandot, they suffered far more in the aftermath as a big war began which was known as the Northwest Indian War. The clue is in the name; it was a war to murder as many Indians as humanly possible.

To be even fairer to the Indians, we need to know what the massacre was called and to understand more about the Wyandot people. The massacre was called The Big Bottom Massacre. The Wyandot people feared large arses and saw them as things that only devil type people had. The Wyandot were a slender and small-arsed tribe. The settlers liked a pie or several and as a result a few of them had rather large backsides.

As a result, on this day, the Wyandot went down to the place where the fattest settlers were staying and murdered 11 men, one woman and two children. From this we can see that the men were the fattest, with only one chunky woman and two chunky children who evidence tells us had a huge Ye Olde McDonald’s habit and were forerunners of kids who eat too many Twinkies and shit like that.

Despite how it may seem, I do not support the murderingof

Wyandot: Please note, no big bottom

overweight people. Far from it. Live and let live is pretty much my raison d’etre, but one has to understand the fear, albeit a bloody stupid one, of the Wyandot. They thought they were being invaded by devils who would kill them in their sleep. As it happens they did end up being murdered in their sleep because they killed the large of arse, so the whole thing is a terrible old mess for all concerned. But, and I do think this is very important, it did give us the wonderfully named Big Bottom Massacre and for that I think we can all be truly grateful.

 

 

 

 

Today was the birthday of Thérèse of Lisieux who went on to die in 1897 and become a saint in 1925.

What was so special about her, you may ask. Or not. Well, she was a sickly sort. She’d been nervy and poorly as a child, joined a convent at the age of 15 and not long after that got TB and died aged 24. But as befits a woman who was to become a saint, she never complained about her suffering and was very Pollyanna about the whole thing. Personally, I think she must have really annoyed some of the other nuns, but we have no record to prove that one way or the other.

Like Ernie Wise, St Theresa had short fat hairy legs

She also said lots of pretty stuff when she was alive, like be nice to other people and you don’t have to do great deeds to be holy, you can do small things as well and that’s just as nice. She was also very tiny due to being ill a lot as a child. Apparently she liked being small because according to her only dwarfs, midgets and children could get into heaven, which indicates that she probably had a strange idea about the entrance of heaven and the ability of taller people to bend over a bit.

She got made into a saint very quickly, probably because people with a cold went along to her grave, said a prayer and oh, my, they stopped sneezing. Or something. Men in the church liked her because she was all tiny and sweet and said things like “Ooh, that book is too hard for my little brain I think I’ll do some embroidery and think about God instead.” [The book in question being “Janet and John add up one plus one.”] In other words, she wasn’t a woman who might kick them in the nuts and tell them to make their own cup of tea.

Since her death and canonisation, she’s been made the patron saint of lots of things, including AIDS. Frankly, given her inability to cure AIDS from beyond the grave, people should be doubting her holiness, but luckily for her, no one has put two and two together yet (they’re still to busy with Janet and John’s One Plus One).

So, happy birthday you little sickly midget. I hope you spend it doing good things like actually curing something rather than faffing about being all “oh what a pretty birdy” like you usually do.

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June 4th

On this day in 1411 King Charles VI of France, granted a monopoly on cheese to the people of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon. Not just any cheese, natch, because that would be unfair to the rest of France, which is a nation of cheese makers (who as we all know are blessed), but their own brand of stinky blue cheese, riddled with mould and stuff. From that day if your cheese wasn’t made in Roquefort-sur-Soulzon, then you could not call your stinky blue cheese, riddled with mould and stuff, Roquefort.

A cave of cheese beyond your wildest dreams

This has been repeated throughout the ages from the days of yore right up into smoking hot modernity. In 1925 Roquefort got France’s first ever Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée, which was basically what Chaz had given them back in the day and then in 1961 there was some sort of council meeting in Millau, which is near the special caves of Roquefort (more of those in a minute) called a Tribunal de Grande Instance, where they told everyone that they could use the same method of cheese manufacture if they felt like it, but if they tried to call it Roquefort they would have their goodies cut off. Probably.

So, there we have a little potted history of how special Roquefort is, even though it’s stinky, blue and full of mould. But how do they make it so mouldy? Well, here’s the legend, which is more full of holes than the cheese before they stick mould in it. A little shepherd boy was having a breather in the caves when he saw a fit lass and thought “I’ll have me some of that” and he went off to follow her, leaving his bread and cheese behind. So far, so plausible if dull and uninspired. Then, we are expected to believe that he didn’t go back to the cave for “a couple of months”. What now?! I mean, yes, one could get struck by a bit of a coup de foudre, but what was he doing for a couple of months? What about the sheep? And why didn’t some other animal or something happen into the cave and go “Mmm! Cheese! I’ll have me some of that!” But no. Allegedly the little shepherd boy went back there a couple of months later and there was his cheese gone all mouldy. Rather than be put off by it, he was apparently so hungry that he decided to eat it and upon eating it he  was all “Well, bugger me sideways with my shepherd’s crook, that sure is tasty!” It’s actually more likely that he mounted a sheep, entered it into a rodeo and then stuck a chicken feather up his arse and flew to Paris.

But, however the whole thing started, there is a long history of cheese making in that region. Pliny the Eldermentioned it in AD 79 (his

They call it blue, but yes, you're right, it's green

words were along the lines of “For something so minging to look at, it tastes pretty good, but when it comes to a nice snack I prefer wolf nipple chips“) and archaeologists have found prehistoric cheese colanders in the region.  How do they make it. Well there’s something in the caves around Roquefort-sur-Soulzon that produces the specific type of mould that gives the cheese its taste. Back in the day they’d put bread in the caves until it moulded up good and proper, then reduce it to powder and stick it into holes they’d made in the cheese and then leave the cheese in the caves until it was good and ripe. These days they can make the mould in laboratories if they want and they tend to inject it using aerosols. None of it sounds particularly pleasant, but the aerosol thing makes me think of cheese in a can, which is even less appetising than blue cheese (you might have guessed by now, I’m not a big fan).

And there it is. You’re left with a nice crumbly white, ewe’s cheese that’s full of mould and rather salty and well-liked by those who like that sort of thing. The French do; it’s their second favourite cheese after Comté which is not blue.

Today is the birthday of Russell Brand.

Brand is a bit like Marmite. Those who love him love him. Those who hate him need to get over themselves. I do understand, well sort of. There was a time when I thought I hated Marmite, but one day I found out that Twiglets– which I love – are basically a wheat based snack

Rusty Rockets in the flesh

covered in Marmite, so I did in fact love Marmite.

I didn’t have a Damascene conversion about Mr Brand. I found  him hilarious from the get-go and if anything find him even more hilarious now. I think that his shift into the world of movies may be a mistake, but he’s hard to touch as a stand up. The man is funny. He is very, very funny, and despite his rat-like teeth, he is also quite attractive in an “I know I’ll feel dirty if I go there, but I can always have a shower afterwards” kind of a way.

He’s a Victorian urchin, mixed with a terrible rogue, mixed with a filthy horndog, mixed with a raconteur of rare erudition and wit, mixed with … he’s funny, he speaks all cockney, he used to be a smackhead, he isn’t now, he used to be led by his cock, but now he’s apparently found true love with Katy Perry.  And he supports West Ham, which shows that the man knows all about suffering.

If you’ve never seen him do stand up watch the video. I love him and I’m happy to wish him a well happy birthday.

 

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April 19th

Much as Almaniacal shies away from being all topical, the fact that April is a bit of a favourite time for royal weddings can’t be avoided and as today’s date saw two royal weddings a mere 186 years apart I have been prompted to stop being shy and come right out into the topical sunshine.

Marie Antoinette at about the time of her marriage

First up in 1770 the fourteen year old, Maria Antonia, Archduchess of Austria was married by proxy – a proxy wedding is one where either or both of the spouses is absent and their place is taken by another party – to the French Dauphin. She then became Marie Antoinette, Dauphine of France and entered into a whole world of trouble. By the by, the party who took the place of her groom, was her brother, Ferdinand. Those royals really do know how to make their formal events really bloody strange. One hundred and eighty-six years later it was Hollywood aristocracy who walked up the aisle to meet with her prince when Grace Kelly gave up being a film star and became Princess Grace of Monaco.

Both marriages had their problems, but it’s likely that once Marie Antoinette and Louis got over the fact that they didn’t know how to have sex and Louis, especially, got over the fact that he wasn’t that fussed about learning, they were the couple with the happier marriage. At first there was little in the way of warmth or affection between them, but as this was a political match, it’s hardly surprising that they weren’t all loved up. There was also the issue of the political match being a bit defunct by the time they married, that is, the Franco-Austrian pact was pretty much dead in the water as the Kleine Österricherin married her Petit Prince and the French really didn’t like the Austrians much at all. It took them about seven years, but after a visit from Marie Antoinette’s brother the Emperor Joseph, who almost certainly taught Louis how to use his royal winky, the couple had their first child and from then on were closer. Certainly, by the time they were prisoners of the new French Republic there was a lot of love and affection between Mr and Mrs Capet and she truly mourned him when he was executed before her.

Now, I’m aware that at times I can go on here and also aware that you’d probably like to know the truth of all the terrible stories about Marie Antoinette, so rather than go into great detail, I’ll just tell you that the woman was much maligned. She was a queen, so she was hardly a socialist feminist icon, but she was nothing like the image of her that was promulgated. Maybe we’ll come back to all that another time, but right now we have another royal wedding to consider, so we shall get to that quick smart!

It might seem odd to state that the political union of Louis and his bride was happier than the love match of Princess Grace and Prince

Grace Kelly on her wedding day. I bloody love that frock!

Rainier, but things aren’t always as simple as they seem. Firstly, was it really a love match? Obviously it was sold as that to the world’s media and everyone lapped it up because we all love a romantic fairytale, but given that Rainier was sniffing around Hollywood for a missus, one who could look all nice, seem all proper and make his little principality seem more exciting, it’s hard to believe that it was love at first, second or even third sight for the couple. Secondly, there’s the dowry. Mr and Mrs Kelly had to give the Prince $2 million. What now?! I mean yes, he’s a prince, but he’s the prince of the tiniest little place imaginable, he’s no oil-painting and he’s getting to marry Grace Kelly who in every way imaginable is way out of his league! But that’s the whole royalty thing for you. Especially royalty down on its luck. And then of course, after the marriage, Rainier doesn’t want her films shown in Monaco and he doesn’t want her making any more films because it’s not dignified. Obviously being the prince of some shitty little principality whose main economy is gambling and being a tax haven for rich parasites is SO dignified!

Maybe I’m a cynic. Maybe poncing around the Mediterranean being all royal and giving birth to heirs and spares was everything that Princess Grace had ever wanted, but somehow I think, and many accounts back this up, that she soon began to realise that she’d got into something that she wasn’t really happy with. Her Catholicism meant that she would stick with it to the end.

I’m not sure that one should see any real pattern of what a royal marriage is from these two examples. I’m sure that Catherine Middleton won’t be executed, I’m sure that her fiancé knows how to do the whole sex thing and thus far the economy of the UK isn’t all about casinos and tax refugees (give it time!) However, once she walks down that aisle and becomes either a princess or a duchess, (whatever the Queen decides, as it’s up to her which titles she gives her grandson and his new wife) her life will change in ways she really can’t imagine right now. Like Marie Antoinette her popularity may wax and wane, she will almost certainly have dreadful lies told about her. Like both princesses her womb will be a subject of public scrutiny and until she’s popped out least two babies, every slight breeze that makes her look as though she’s sporting a small bump will be pronounced a pregnancy, with huge disappointment when it turns out to be a bit of gas.  She’ll hardly ever see her own family or her old friends. Everything will be new, except, one hopes, the love of her husband. I’m sure she’ll be happy, but I’m equally sure there’ll be nights when she sits up alone at 3am and wonders what in the name of holy fuckery she’s done.

Being a princess really isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Long live being as common as muck, dahlings!

Today is the birthday of Jiroemon Kimura. I doubt you’ve heard of him. He’s a retired Japanese post-office worker and a retired farmer who lives in Kyoto. What makes him unique is that at this moment he is the world’s oldest living man. He was born in 1897 and is now 114 years old and a few days. It’s funny that the older one gets the more the days matter. They matter when you’re a little baby, they’re important to you when you’re a child and then you go through most of your adult life not worrying about days, weeks or months when it comes to your age, but become a supercentenarian and oh my, those days matter all over again.

Mr Kimura at home. Nice gaff

Mr Kimura likes to stay healthy, as I guess you’d have to if you were going to be alive that long. For those who’d like to achieve stupendous longevity, he puts his long life down to eating small portions of food. Being Japanese it’s unlikely that those portions consist of dairy produce and lashings of lard, so that probably helps too. He likes to read the newspaper each morning using a magnifying glass (shit eyes) and watch parliamentary debates on television, so I’m guessing another contributor to his longevity is actively seeking out boring pursuits.

He lives with the widows of one of his sons and one of his grandsons. He has outlived two of his children (five surviving), one of his grandchildren (fourteen surviving) and has 25 great-grandchildren and 11 great-great grandchildren. Clearly Mr Kimura did not have Louis XVI‘s problem with marital ghastliness.

Anyway, HAPPY BIRTHDAY (I’m typing it loud, if his eyes have gone, his ears probably have too) Kimura San, I shan’t wish you many more, because life must get difficult when all you have known keeps disappearing, but I hope each birthday you have left is sweet and happy.

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February 26th

On this day in 1815 Napoleon Bonaparte escaped from Elba where he had been sent to live in exile by the rulers of most of Europe who had invaded France, defeated him and made him sign The Treaty of Fontainebleau, in which he agreed to stop being emperor, to abdicate, to agree that none of his descendants would ever try to take the thrones of France or Italy and that he would bugger off to Elba, where he could be a pretend emperor and nothing more. This happened in April 1814 and Napoleon stayed there for just over nine months before getting all “Sod this for a game of soldiers!” and making his way back to France to get his old empire back.

Yes, you can see the outline of his winky.

And who was this man who put the fear of god into the heads of states of Europe. There’s a lot we think we know about Napoleon, but only some of it is true. He wasn’t French, he was Corsican and only learned to speak French when he went to school  there. He learned well, but his spelling remained appalling which made his fellow students take the piss out of him. Children are such darlings!  And then there’s his height. We’ve all heard of the Napoleon complex which is the whole thing about short men being all aggressive and fighty because they feel that their lack of stature makes them less manly, but unfortunately for Alfred Adler who came up with this theory and cited Napoleon as a prime example of it, Napoleon wasn’t actually a short-arse. Bonaparte was about 5’6 or 5’7. This might be seen as toward the shorter end of the spectrum today, but it was about average back in his day. There are a couple of reasons that his height may have been underestimated. Firstly, it suited his enemies to see him as a little diddy man. They could mock  him and try to undermine him on the grounds that he was nothing but a jumped up dwarf. Secondly, Napoleon, far from having a complex about his alleged lack of stature, surrounded himself with tall men in his elite guard; they had to be at least 6ft or no dice. This may have given idiot onlookers the notion that he was shorter than he was, although if they’d had any sense they’d have noticed that the men around him were virtual giants.

So, that’s  a bit of Napoleonic background. Of course image and nationality aside, he was also a bit of a shit hot general who came from humble beginnings, got to be Emperor of France and had wars with everyone in Europe for shits and giggles. But, by 1814, things weren’t going quite as well for him. He’d had a bit of trouble in Russia and the rest of Europe had decided to stop hating each other for five minutes so they could all concentrate on hating him. Hence the Treaty of Fontainebleau and getting sent to Elba for being a very naughty boy indeed. He put up with it for a while, but when he started getting wind of plans to dump him on an island in the Atlantic or maybe just do away with him completely, he got back to France, pretty certain that he’d have the support of his people.

He did. For all of 100 days – well 111 days, but 100 sounds so much better. He got armies back, the French were all “Our boy is back in town!” and he was all “Yeah! We’re gonna show those mofos that you can’t mess with us and get away with it!” and then came Waterloo. As Abba once sang “My, my, at Waterloo Napoleon did surrender.” He had to. It all went a bit tits up with him for a variety of reasons, not least his dreaded bum grapes. He’d suffered with them for years and it meant he couldn’t sit on his horse for too long because, well because he got dreadful arse ache. He was getting older, his piles were getting worse and at Waterloo he had to keep getting off his horse, which made reviewing his troops and figuring out strategic type stuff a bit difficult. It wasn’t Wellington that won the battle it was Farmer Giles.

Napoleon found himself exiled again. Although he managed to get out and about a bit, most notably to San Dimas in California where he enjoyed their local water slide and ice-cream, he was pretty much stuck on St Helena for the rest of his life. As he may have written himself (although he’d have misspelt it) C’est la vie, c’est la guerre!

Today was the birthday of probably the best cartoonist, animator and director of animated shorts, ever! Tex Avery entered the world in 1908 in Taylor, Texas.

He left Texas behind for good when he moved to California in 1931 and began working in a succession of animation studios including

Elmer Fudd and Bugs Bunny in their first official outing together

Warner Brothers and MGM. He developed Porky Pig and Elmer Fudd into the characters we know today and created Daffy Duck and Bugs Bunny. More than these characters, he gave Looney Toons it own crazy, anarchic style and made shorts which appealed every bit as much to adults as they did to children. In fact Red Hot Riding Hood (see below) was pretty much made for adults and Red was getting grown men hot under the collar long before Jessica Rabbit strutted her stuff.

Tex was a pioneer, a genius, a mad man and we all have so much to thank him for. If  you don’t love his cunning cartoonery, you may have been born without  soul, so think on.

Happy birthday you wonderful man and the rest of you? Th-th-that’s all folks!

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