All Posts (649)
Nos 551 to 560
Muzio Clementi
Greek and Roman Myths
Odysseus Comes Home
The wandering King was alive after all - unknown to his “widow’s” suitors.

WHEN Odysseus, King of Ithaca, had not returned from the Trojan War even after nineteen years, his nobles, feasting in his palace and neglecting his kingdom, thought only of marrying his grieving ‘widow’, Penelope, and taking his crown.

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No. 551
Edward German
Aesop’s Fables
The Fox and the Grapes
Some people disparage what they can’t have.
Based on a fable by
Aesop of Samos

A FOX was padding about a vineyard in the mountains, when he spotted some bunches of grapes hanging from a trellis.

He scampered over to them, as they were ripe and deep black, harvested in peak condition by someone who knew his business.

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No. 552
Elias Parish Alvars
Lives of the Saints
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. 553
George Frideric Handel
Lives of the Saints
St Wilfrid and the Angel of Light
St Wilfrid finds comfort during his tussle with the King of Northumbria
Based on an account by Stephen of Ripon
(early 8th century)

AFTER the King of Northumbria, Ecgfrith, expelled Wilfrid from his place as Bishop of York in 678, Wilfrid went to Rome, and brought back with him a letter of support from the Pope. However, the letter only made the King more angry. He had his sheriff, Osfrith, lock Wilfrid in a deep dungeon where little daylight came, ordering for good measure that no lamps be lit there by night.

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No. 554
Lives of the Saints
St Wilfrid and the Sheriff’s Wife
St Wilfrid brings healing to the wife of his own gaoler.
Based on an account by Stephen of Ripon
(early 8th century)

THE King’s sheriff, Osfrith, was a married man. One day, his wife suddenly fell ill. First, she experienced a growing stiffness, which in time became a complete numbness in all her limbs. The sheriff found her cold to the touch, and flecks of foam appeared round her mouth.

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No. 555
Muzio Clementi
Discovery and Invention
The Character of George Stephenson
A self-made man who never forgot his humble beginnings.
By Samuel Smiles
(1812-1904)

HE would frequently invite to his house the humbler companions of his early life, and take pleasure in talking over old times with them.

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No. 556
Discovery and Invention
John Logie Baird
Baird’s inventions didn’t always work as well as his televisions.

IN 1923, John Logie Baird pressed an old hatbox, a pair of scissors, some darning needles, a handful of lenses taken from bicycle lights, a tea chest, and some glue into service, and made the world’s first working tv set.

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No. 557
Sir William Sterndale Bennett
Lives of the Saints
St Cuthbert and the Otters
An inquisitive monk spied on a guest’s night-time walks.
Based on an account by Saint Bede of Jarrow
(672-735)

IT was Cuthbert’s habit to walk alone down to the seashore after dark. Intrigued, one of the monks followed him at a discreet distance, hoping to see what it was that Cuthbert did at dead of night.

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No. 558
Byzantine Chant
Lives of the Saints
How St Benedict Biscop brought Byzantium to Britain
The chapel of Bede’s monastery in Sunderland was full of the colours and sounds of the far-off Mediterranean world.
By Saint Bede of Jarrow
(672-735)

IN addition, Benedict introduced the Roman mode of chanting, singing, and ministering in the church.

With that in mind, he obtained permission from Pope Agatho to take back with him John, the archchanter of the church of St Peter and abbot of the monastery of St Martin, to teach the English.

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No. 559
Seneca the Younger
Keep away from the Games!
The wise old philosopher had learnt that popular entertainments rot the soul.
From ‘Letters to Lucilius’ by Seneca the Younger
(?4BC-?AD65)

I HAPPENED to drop in at the midday games, expecting a bit of fun and wit and something relaxing for eyes that needed a break from human cruelty. What I got was the opposite.

The fighting that went before was miserable enough; now they dropped all sporting pretence, and it was straightforward murder.

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No. 560
Polywords (182)
Make as many words as you can from the letters of a nine-letter word.
Latest: Path
Added on Monday December 11th, 2017
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.
Today in History
1878 The death of Alfred Bird, Birmingham pharmacist and confectioner
From our Archive
John Goodricke’s observations of Algol won him the Copley Medal while still in his teens, despite his disability.
Music by George Frideric Handel
(1685-1759)
The first thing George Frideric Handel’s oratorio ‘Messiah’ did was to set a hundred and forty-two prisoners free.
By Saint Bede of Jarrow
(672-735)
In the fourth century, Britain’s Christians acquired a taste for watering down the mystery of their message.
Smarting for his outraged ‘rights’, Cain lost his reason — but not God’s pity and love.
The King who condemned him to the den of lions felt far worse about it than Daniel did.

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History (394)
Polywords (182)
Georgian Era (107)
Fiction (84)
Quickwords (46)
Doublets (34)
Triplets (23)
Railways (23)
Stuart Era (16)
Adam Smith (10)
Polyword ‘Hive’
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 ‘beg’ (7 letters), and ‘a single game in the sport of darts’ (3 letters)?
Changing one letter at a time, see if you can start with DOOR and finish with STEP.
Find the magic letter that can change three words into three different ones.