Monday, September 27, 2010

Britain's Finest Hour

Britain's finest hour came in the Second World War. In the summer and winter of 1940 Britain, alone, stood against Nazi Germany. In the preceding 15 months, the Nazi war machine had steam-rolled through Western Europe. First carving up Poland with the Soviet Union, and then capturing the low countries and spectacularly defeating France. In the summer of 1940, there were people in the British cabinet who thought Britain could not hold out alone, and the best thing was to sue for peace with Hitler, perhaps similar to Vichy France. However, Churchill stood firm against the likes of Lord Halifax saying there could be no compromise with Hitler. The outlook was certainly bleak, but, the inspirational speeches of Churchill helped firm up British resolve to keep fighting against the tyranny of Hitler's Germany.

Unexpectedly, 1941 and 1942, saw the tide of war change as Germany invaded Russia, and Japan bombed Pearl Harbour. This effectively brought Britain two much more powerful allies and after years of hard fighting, Germany was eventually, comprehensively and decisively beaten. The Thousand Year Reich was destroyed and the top leaders were mostly either killed, arrested or committed suicide at their own hands. It was only at the defeat of Nazi Germany that the true scale and horror of the Nazi state were fully revealed. Though, allied intelligence knew about the persecution of Jews, it was only pictures of concentration camps and the mass extermination of people that brought home the evils of a regime that had sought to conquer the whole of Europe, if not the world.

One irony of the Second World War is that though it was Britain's final hour, it came at a high cost. The war bankrupted Britain creating a national debt of nearly 200% of GDP (by end of 1940s).

The war was also a turning point, no longer would Britain have an Empire, soon countries which had been part of Britain's Empire were given their freedom, such as India in 1947.

From one perspective, Britain gained nothing and lost materially. But, in fighting the Nazi Empire, it was as if Britain learnt that ruling countries against their will was wrong. After fighting fascism in Europe, Britain could no longer morally hold out against other countries claim for self-determination.

By fighting Hitler's Germany, fascist tendencies in Britain were reduced. Before the war, Oswald Mosley's black shirts were a potential political force. The war changed all that. Before the war, Churchill despised the idea of giving India independence. After 1947, even Churchill gave up the pretence of trying to maintain an Empire.

The Second World War also had a profound impact on Britain's society. The war gave the ordinary working people greater expectations, they no longer wanted a return to the staid class ridden society complete with mass unemployment of the 1930s. In 1945, the British even voted against the Conservative war hero - Winston Churchill. Instead there was a Labour landslide and a manifesto for a National Health Service, a Welfare State and a socialist government.


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Random Interesting Facts

French subway stations aren't usually used as parking places
  • Coca Cola was invented by John Pemerton in 1886. It used to be made from coca leaves and could contain traces of cocaine (from 0.1% to 0.9% depending on where grown) Though it is no longer made with cocaine.
  • The Guinness World Record for holding the most Guinness Records is set by Ashrita Furman. Ashrita has set - 303 - official Guinness Records since 1979 and currently holds - 121 (sept 2010)
  • A googol is a large number. the digit 1 followed by one hundred zeros: 10,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000,­000.
  • TYPEWRITER is the longest word that can be made using the letters only on one row of the keyboard.
  • The most common name in the world is Mohammed.
  • 111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321
  • The 57 on Heinz ketchup bottles represents the number of varieties of pickles the company once had.
  • There are more than 1,700 references to gems and precious stones in the King James translation of the Bible.
  • The bagpipe was originally made from the whole skin of a dead sheep.
  • No piece of normal-size paper can be folded in half more than 7 times.
  • 2,520 can be divided by 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10 without having a fractional leftover
  • It is unknown if odd perfect numbers exist
  • A perfect number is a number whose divisors add up to itself such as 28: 1+2+4+7+14=28
  • 5% of the world population lives in the US but 22% of the world's prisons population are held in the US.
  • If you walk outside George Orwell's old house in London you are now captured on surveillance cameras 33 times.
  • Approximately 105 million bicycles are made every year. This is double the number of motor cars made every year.
  • In Chinese the words for 'crisis' and 'opportunity' are the same.
  • The Netherlands has the highest rate of cycling with an average of 2.5 Km per day per person. In the US, this rate is 0.1 Km per person. In the UK 0.2Km (cycling facts)
  • The Rhubarb Triangle is a small area in West Yorkshire between Wakefield, Morley and Rothwell. At one time, the 'Rhubarb triangle' produced 90% of the world's forced winter rhubarb. (Yorkshire Facts)
  • Everything weighs one per cent less at the equator.
  • The mosquito has killed more human beings than any other animal.
  • Birmingham(UK) has 22 more miles of canals than Venice.
  • 9 out of every 10 living thing lives in the ocean.
  • Honey is the only food that does not spoil. Honey found in the tombs of Egyptian Pharoahs has been tasted by archaeologists and found edible.
  • HThere have been over 2,00 known nuclear bomb explosions since World War Two.
  • A snail's reproductive organs are in it's head.
  • An adult giraffe´s kick is so powerful it can decapitate a lion.
  • The largest toy distributor in the world is Mcdonalds.
  • The shortest war in history was between Zanzibar and Britain in 1896.Zanzibar surrendered after 38 minutes.
  • Each king in a pack of playing cards represents a great king from history: Spades-King David , Clubs-Alexander the Great ,Hearts-Charlemagne and Diamonds-Julius Caesar.

A random photo I took in Oxfordshire.

More bizarre facts try: Uncle John's Bathroom Reader Extraordinary Book of Facts: And Bizarre Information (Bathroom Readers)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Why We Love Character of Sherlock Holmes

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle always wished to be known as a great author of historical novels. He never warmed to his own creation - Sherlock Holmes - as much as the reading public who loved this eccentric detective.

What is it about Sherlock Holmes which makes him such a great Character?

Analysis of Sherlock Holmes Character

Great self-confidence

Sherlock Holmes has great confidence in his abilities and capacities. This confidence doesn't come across as egotistic and proud. It is a confidence based on his undoubted abilities in his chosen profession of detective work.


It is perhaps a paradox that someone with so much confidence and belief in his deductive powers can at the same times have a humble modest approach, which doesn't need the praise of the world. There are numerous times, when he is happy to play down his role and give more (or all the ) credit to the police. To Holmes, the satisfaction comes not from worldly and financial reward, but, the satisfaction of solving a crime mystery. He is a true believer in crime detection. His work is his greatest reward. When he throws himself into a crime it is with the best motives.

The Outsider.

We always admire someone just outside the orthodox establishment. Because Holmes is not a real policemen he can do things outside the law. He is willing to bend the law in order to get a bigger prize. It is hard to criticise this approach when he is so successful in getting the bigger prize. At least once a detective notes 'I could never get away with your approach'. It is Holmes willingness to place his own personal safety at risk which we admire.

True Friend

Holmes is not the emotional type given to expressing his emotions. In fact he works hard to display a cold exterior. But, underneath his approach, we know Holmes is a steadfast friend to his Beloved Watson. He is also loyal and willing to sacrifice everything for clients who come to him and he is willing to take on their case.

The Eccentric.

Holmes is no dedicated follower of fashion. He sets his own way of life and appears content with or without society's approval. He is the long tradition of the English eccentric with his own foibles, genius and eccentricity.

A Great Judge of Character.

It seems Holmes can weigh up a person's life, personality and character from the flimsiest of external evidence. But, often he is proved right.

By far the best media representation of Sherlock Holmes is Jeremy Brett in the ITV series. He captures the mood and character of Holmes to perfection and with a considerable degree of flair.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Napoleon Bonarparte Facts

  • Napoleon Bonaparte 15 August 1769 – 5 May 1821 born in Corsica, France.
  • In 1799, he staged a coup d'état amidst the turmoil of post revolutionary France and installed himself as First Consul.
  • In 1804 he was proclaimed Emperor by French Senate
  • In 1784, Napoleon was admitted to the elite École Militaire in Paris
  • At one time he did to consider an application to the British Royal Navy to further his naval ambitions, but chose against it.
  • Bonaparte was put under house arrest in August 1794 for his association with the Robespierre brothers.
  • In October 1795 he helped defeat a Royalist insurrection, which caused him to rise rapidly to fame.
  • By 1812, Napoleon had wiped out the last traces of the Holy Roman Empire and conquered most of Europe.
  • However, his next invasion of Russia proved very costly as his army suffered in the harsh winter near Moscow.
  • On 18 March 1814, the allies marched into Paris and Napoleon was forced to abdicate on 6 April 1814.
  • Napoleon was exiled to the island of Elba, but, a year later broke away with a 1,000 men and reclaimed the leadership of France.
  • Napoleon was finally defeated at the Battle of Waterloo by the allied armies commanded by the Duke of Wellington.
  • His second exile was to the island of Saint Helena, where he died six years later.

How Tall Was Napoleon?

  • His autopsy states that by the French measure he was five foot two (5' 2"),This actually translates into five feet six and one half inches (5' 6.5")
  • The Napoleonic code, which he introduced forbade privileges based on birth, allowed freedom of religion, and specified that government jobs go to the most qualified.
  • Ludwig van Beethoven initially dedicated his third symphony, the Eroica (Italian for "heroic"), to Napoleon in the belief that the general would sustain the democratic and republican ideals of the French Revolution.
  • But, after Napoleon's imperial ambitions became clear he renamed the symphony "Sinfonia Eroica, composta per festeggiare il Sovvenire di un grand'Uomo", or in English, "composed to celebrate the memory of a great man".