Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Take two, and call me in the morning!

The London Lock Hospital was the first venereal disease clinic, being the most famous and first of the Lock Hospitals, which opened on January 31, 1747.

The Lock Hospital was developed for the treatment of syphilis following the end of its use as places to treat leprosy. Later the hospital served the needs of maternity and gynaecology physicians until its close in 1952.

Originally, a chairitable society worked to establish the hospital, and a house was found for the purpose in Grovenor Place, in London, near Hyde Park Corner. Its founder was William Bromfield, and when the hospital opened, it treated over 300 patients in its first year of operation, the demand for its services stemming from the unfounded belief that the treatments then available could be effective.

The name Lock dates back to the years when rags, or "locks" were given to patients to cover their leprosy lesions. The name dates back to medieval times.

The Lock Hospital is just one of the many alternative titles for a popular, widespread, traditional British folk song,   The Unfortunate Lad, a warning against venereal disease, dating from the late 18th century. The hospital is often mentioned by name in the first verse:
"As I was walking down by the Lock Hospital,
As I was walking one morning of late,
Who did I spy but my own dear comrade,
Wrapped in flannel, so hard is his fate."
The chorus (or subsequent verses) mention the "salts and pills of white mercury" which might have saved the unfortunate youth's life if only his lover had warned him in time.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Happy Birthday, Wolfie!

Perhaps one of the most important dates in Musical History is January 27th, the day that Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born! We celebrate his birthday once again today! He, or rather his music, is 256 years old! And what a catalogue of the finest music ever written! He wrote symphonies, concertos, sonatas, opera, chamber music, choral music, church music; he wrote for piano, violin, strings, wind; over 600 pieces of glorious sound!

A child prodigy, he grew up in Salzburg, Austria and was proficient on the piano and violin by age five, and by age 17, he was engaged as court musician and composing for the King! Though he only lived to be 36, his music has endured. He did not die as depicted in the ever-popular movie Amadeus; that makes for great entertainment (artistic license allowed!). He was a cup-half-full type of person, enthusiastic, energetic, hopeful. He did have his ups and downs, personally and professionally, but he continued to write, lucky for us! His work was not adversely effected, in fact, perhaps his troubles and triumphs are the ingredients that give his music such richness, humanity, brilliance!

Fortunately, his music is catalogued thanks to Ludwig von Kochel, with each piece labelled with a K or KV numbering system. For example, Mozart's Requiem in D Minor was, according to Köchel's counting, the 626th piece Mozart composed. Thus, the piece is designated K. 626 or KV 626. Köchel catalogue numbers not only attempt to establish chronology, but also give a helpful shorthand to refer to Mozart's works.

Every year, for years now, I celebrate this special day, with the purchase of a book on Wolfgang, or some of his music that I do not currently own. My collection of word and sound is quite extensive now. This year I purchased his Piano Concerto #16, a mature work, full of depth and charm. It is exhilerating!

Other years I have had parties with German food and powdered wigs! And sacher torte thrown in! It's a happy excuse to have a gathering, but honestly, I love his music, party or no. I honor this day, as do so many others. Check out some beautiful quotes about him and his music:

O Mozart, immortal Mozart, how many, how infinitely many inspiring suggestions of a finer, better life have you left in our souls! -- Franz Schubert, Diary, 1816

Mozart’s music is so beautiful as to entice angels down to earth. (Franz Alexander von Kleist)

Mozart is the highest, the culminating point that beauty has attained in the sphere of music. (Tchaikovsky)

Mozart’s music is the mysterious language of a distant spiritual kingdom, whose marvelous accents echo in our inner being and arouse a higher, intensive life. (E. T. A. Hoffmann)

My candlelight "Happy Birthday, Wolfie" breakfast mit Sacher Torte und cafe!

So, there it is, what more can one say!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Show Me The Money!

With all the recent political hoopla about tax returns and how much money the candidates are worth, I came upon an interesting article asking the question: Who is the richest President?
Hands down, it is George Washington, our first president! Read the following interesting statement taken from an article by William P. Barett from Forbes:

"In the largely tax-free environment that characterized colonial America, the father of his country was one of its richest residents, a product of his shrewd business sense, a marriage to a wealthy widow and several inheritances. He benefited from an older brother’s marriage into a powerful family, while early work as a surveyor helped give him a keen understanding of land. His Mount Vernon plantation grew to 6,500 acres, and he had other acreage in Virginia and what became West Virginia. Washington ran farms, started businesses and owned lots of slaves.
Our pick for No. 2: Herbert Hoover, perhaps the last true businessman to be elected (and, given the Depression that ensued on his watch, maybe not such a great reason to choose a business leader). Nearly two decades before taking office in 1929, he was earning $2.5 million a year in today's dollars from the mining business. He served as president without pocketing a salary.
The pre-presidential Thomas Jefferson gets our bronze. Due primarily to inheritance, Jefferson was considered one of the richest citizens in his native Virginia. But after he left office, his income was not commensurate with his spending. He died essentially broke."

Of course, times were different as well as the scrutiny of those seeking political office. Would they be elected today, or would they even want to run? Today's political landscape is a mine-field, to be ever-so-careully tread. Few can manuever through without losing life or limb, metaphorically speaking.

In the early days of our nation, wealth was considered an asset; these days it has become a potential political liability. Who would have known, when the premise of this nation is the ability to rise; the sky's the limit! Or, well it should be!

Friday, January 6, 2012

To The Queen!

The Royal Navy's drinking policy is interesting! When the "Sun goes over the yardarm", you may be caught "three sheets to the wind"! Then, "What will we do with a drunken sailor?"

It might come as a surprise to us these days, but during the 18th Century, the Royal Navy issued daily rum rations to all the enlisted men. This practice actually survived until 1970. On the last day, sadly known as "Black Tot Day", the final rum ration was replaced with 3 cans of daily beer.

But, the famed grog was actually a healthier drink than water, which often was not fresh, and contained for long periods of time in casks, stale, foul-tasting and contaminated. From 1740, each sailor received a half pint of rum each day, (half of that at noon, the other half at sunset), served neat. After 1756, a "standard" grog was issued which was 2 parts water to 1 part rum, mixed with lime or lemon and cinnamon, to prevent scurvy. Hence, the British sailors were called "Limeys".

Of course, the naval tradition of drinking is always accompanied by the ritual toasts. The ritual was, and still is, to toast first, the reigning monarch, and secondly, as shown below by the order of the day:

on Monday “Our ships at sea”
on Tuesday “Our men”
on Wednesday “Ourselves”
on Thursday “A bloody war and quick promotion”
on Friday “A willing soul and sea room”
on Saturday “Sweethearts and wives, may they never meet”
on Sunday “Absent friends and those at sea”

I am signing off for a bit as I travel "across the pond" to visit family in London. I will be back soon with, hopefully, new and interesting posts for you.

So, today, being Friday, I say, "To the Queen", and "A willing soul and sea room"!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Here's Looking at You!

At left is an 18th Century, single draw, ten sided, terrestrial telescope made by Nairne & Blunt of London, made of brass and hardwood. Its objective lens is 7/8" in diameter; overall length when closed is 24" and about 27" in use. It is estimated at  the power at about 10X. It had state-of-art optics at the time of the American Revolution.

It was made by Nairne and Blunt of London, instrument makers who formed a partnership and conducted business from their shop at 22 Cornhill in London from 1774 to 1793.

In the early, 1770's, Nairne patented several electrical machines, including an electrostatic generator that supplied either positive or negative electricity, intended for medical use. He also constructed the first sucessful marine barometer that James Cook took on his second voyage to the South Pacific.

Nairne also is credited with creating the first rubber eraser! The earliest references to rubber in Europe were in 1770, when Nairne was selling cubes of natural rubber at his Cornhill shop, at an incredibly high price of 3 shillings per half inch cube! Interestingly enough, before rubber erasers, people used bread crumbs!

He was a regular contributor to the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, and elected a fellow in 1776. He enjoyed an international reputation and corresponded with Benjamin Franklin, another scientific inventor of the times. Nairne made a set of magnets and a telescope around 1758 for Franklin, and on Franklin's recommendation, he was asked to supply instruments for the fire-damaged collection at Harvard University.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

It's been Bedlam!

Happy New Year! Wishing you all the best for 2012. Health, happiness, prosperity, adventure!

With the holidays behind us now, and decorations all put away, our homes may seem a bit spartan, but a nice contrast to all the hoopla of the past month. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE the Christmas season, the planning, the anticipation, the entertaining. But it's nice to be quiet again, to get back to reading, practicing music, making new plans. It been kind of crazy; it's been Bedlam!

Ahh! Bedlam, you say! Where does that expression come from? Well, see a passage below for a bit of an explanation:
Bethlehem Royal Hospital (Bedlam), a palatial asylum for lunatics in Finsbury Square in London, was open to the public until 1770 as a sort of human zoo. Visitors could pay a few pence to enter and gawk at the inmates for as long as they liked. Thousands of sightseers came each year, wandering through the wards and brutally teasing the patients in order to heighten the fun. At one point, Bedlam's governors felt that the sightseers were behaving so badly, they decreed "the doors be locked on public holidays against all visitors."

Ha! Ha! They were locking the doors during the holidays!

The doors at The Owlery were wide open in December, and a good time was had by all. Now, we move on to enjoying some early Spring cleaning, re-arranging, redecorating, and re-evaluating. Bye, bye Bedlam; hello Sanity!