For learning. For inspiration. For plain speaking.
I LOVE snow, and all the forms
Of the radiant frost.
Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822)
Bramble and snow in Downpatrick,
County Down, Northern Ireland.
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Two-minute tales and grammar games
Games with words and numbers
Byzantine Chant
Lives of the Saints
Roman Empire (Byzantine Era) (330 - 1453)
For February 12th OS (Feb 25th NS)
Sunday of Orthodoxy
St John of Damascus
John’s enduring influence is evident today in the rich sights and sounds of Christian liturgy.

MANSUR Bin Sargun was a Christian in the Syrian court of the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius the Great. After the Muslims took Syria from the Byzantines, Mansur’s son Sarjun served the new Caliph in the same capacity.

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No. 1
Igor Stravinsky
Lives of the Saints
Russian Empire (1721-1917)
For February 12th OS (Feb 25th NS)
Sunday of Orthodoxy
Not a Scratch!
Hapless extremists try to wipe out a miraculous icon of the Virgin Mary.

IN 1898, Russian anarchists planted a bomb in the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Sign in Kursk. It was timed to go off during the evening service for maximum casualties, and designed to destroy the miraculous icon of Mary kept there in a glass case. A shared belief in the icon’s miraculous powers drew peasant and Tsar closer together, which did not suit the anarchists at all.

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No. 2
John Marsh
Lives of the Saints
Roman Empire (Byzantine Era) (330 - 1453)
For February 12th OS (Feb 25th NS)
Sunday of Orthodoxy
Stick and Carrot
The Virgin Mary and her son team up to get the best out of some careless monks.
Based on a
Byzantine Tradition

THE Abbot of the Vatopedi monastery was in the chapel alone one morning, when suddenly he heard a voice.

After looking this way and that, he realised it had come from an icon of Mary, with her child Jesus on her lap.

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No. 3
2 two-part story
Vassilis Tsabropoulos and Byzantine Chant
Lives of the Saints
Roman Empire (Byzantine Era) (330 - 1453)
For February 12th OS (Feb 25th NS)
Sunday of Orthodoxy
The Voice of an Angel
A tenth-century Greek monk is joined by a total stranger for Mattins.
Based on a
Byzantine Tradition

AT daybreak one Sunday morning in 982, a monk on Mount Athos could be heard chanting before an icon of Mary. At his side, taking it in turns to sing, was another monk – not his own elder, who had left him alone for a night and gone to nearby Karyes, but a visitor, a total stranger who had knocked on his door in the small hours and introduced himself as Monk Gabriel.

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No. 4
Elias Parish Alvars
Lives of the Saints
Roman Empire (Byzantine Era) (330 - 1453)
For February 12th OS (Feb 25th NS)
Sunday of Orthodoxy
The Keeper of the Gate
A widow cast her precious icon into the sea rather than see it dishonoured by government agents, but that wasn’t the end of the story.
Based on a
Byzantine Tradition

A WEALTHY widow from Nicaea near Constantinople kept an icon of Mary, a criminal offence at the time. Rather than see it harmed again - a soldier’s sword had already left a scar on its cheek - she set it afloat on the Aegean Sea.

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No. 5
2 two-part story
Charles Villiers Stanford
Lives of the Saints
For February 12th OS (Feb 25th NS)
Sunday of Orthodoxy
The Restoration of the Icons
By the early eighth century, sacred art was thriving in newly-Christian England, but in the East seeds of doubt and confusion had been sown.

WHEN St Augustine preached Christianity to King Ethelbert of Kent in 597, he carried a silver cross and a painted icon of Christ. A century later, icons were putting a human face to the spoken word up in Bede’s Northumbria, from church walls to the pages of the Lindisfarne Gospels.

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No. 6
Camille Saint-Saens
Extracts from Literature
Silver Swan
Mark Twain’s attention was drawn off people-watching for a moment by an extraordinarily lifelike machine.
By Mark Twain

OF course we visited the renowned International Exposition. It was a wonderful show, but the moving masses of people of all nations we saw there were a still more wonderful show.

I discovered that if I were to stay there a month, I should still find myself looking at the people instead of the inanimate objects on exhibition.

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No. 7
Camille Saint-Saens
Cats, Dogs and Other Animals
Trunk and Disorderly
Arthur Wellesley watches on as one of his soldiers is rescued from a watery grave.
By Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington

NEVER saw but one royal tiger wild. Never at a tiger hunt.

Elephants used always in war, for conveyance of stores or artillery. I had once occasion to send my men through a river upon some. A drunken soldier fell off, and was carried down by the torrent till he scrambled up a rock in the middle of the stream.

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No. 8
Sir Arthur Sullivan
Discovery and Invention
Queen Victoria (1837-1901)
Never say ‘What, never?’ again
The comic operetta ‘HMS Pinafore’ took America by storm, but some regarded it as infernal nonsense.
By Charles Willeby

THE opera ‘caught on’ in America to such an extent that it literally raged through the country. From start to finish it held the stage for seven hundred nights. In Boston USA it was no uncommon thing for people to go as many as ten and twelve times to see, and then, not content with that, they would insist upon their friends’ attendance, one and all.

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No. 9
2 two-part story
John Playford
Modern History
James II (1685-1689) to Queen Mary II and King William III (1689-1694)
Job’s City of Joy
The East India Company’s top agent in India was also the man who put Calcutta on the world map.

THE East India Company’s muslin, silk and saltpetre factories in Dacca and Hooghly were reluctantly closed down in 1685, owing to burdensome regulations laid upon non-Muslims by the Nawab of Bengal, and its agents withdrew to Madras.

The Company returned to Hooghly when conditions eased, but were once again driven out in 1686, after a foolish attempt by Sir John Child to overthrow the Mughal Emperor, Aurangzeb.

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No. 10
Polywords (185)
Make as many words as you can from the letters of a nine-letter word.
Latest: Grey
Added on Thursday February 15th, 2018
Doublets (34)
Turn one word into another, changing just one letter each time.
Latest: Stardust
Quickwords (46)
A mini-crossword of everyday vocabulary and general knowledge.
Triplets (23)
Find one common letter that will turn three words into three new ones.
Latest: Triplet No. 23
Guess these words letter by letter – before the cats are gone!
See how ingenious you can be in combining three randomly chosen words in one sentence.
Compose sentences showing the difference in meaning, grammar or usage between these words.
Practise your basic arithmetic, from multiplation tables to percentages.
Latest: Target Number
Take command of English grammar and composition with these traditional exercises.
Latest: Letters Game
A word search game with a dash of strategy.

About our calendars

Today in the Church
February 12 ‘English Style’ ?
The Sunday of the Triumph of Orthodoxy
From our Archive
Thetis snubs Eris, goddess of Discord, and sets off a series of events leading to the Trojan War.
By Plutarch
The surprisingly sensitive Roman commander was hoping to impress a girl with his angling skills.
Benjamin Jesty and Edward Jenner continue to save millions of lives because they listened to an old wives’ tale.
By Charlotte Yonge
A popular tale of scorched cakes and a scolded king.
The 17th-century entrepreneur developed a way of smelting iron with coke rather than charcoal, but the Civil War frustrated his plans.

A to Z Index

Top Topics
History (420)
Polywords (185)
Georgian Era (115)
Fiction (85)
Quickwords (46)
Doublets (34)
Railways (24)
Triplets (23)
Stuart Era (19)
India (16)
Tudor Era (11)
Adam Smith (10)
Polyword ‘Pied’
Make as many words as you can with the letters below. All your words must be at least four letters long, and must also include the highlighted letter. What’s the nine-letter word?

SEE how many words you can make using the letters below. All your words must be at least 4 letters long, and must include the letter (change).

We found commonly used words, plus one 9-letter word. Can you do better?

Use each letter only once. But if there are e.g. two As, you can used them both.

Don’t count proper nouns such as April, Zeus, or Newcastle (pretty much anything that has to be spelled with a capital letter at the start), or acronyms like HMRC.

Don’t just add -S for plurals or third person singular verbs, e.g. CAT → CATS or SPEAK → SPEAKS.

More Word Games
A word search game with a dash of strategy.
Guess these words letter by letter – before the cats are gone!
Do you know ‘entertainer’ (7 letters), and ‘distant’ (3 letters)?
Changing one letter at a time, see if you can start with ASH and finish with OAK.
Find the magic letter that can change three words into three different ones.