Leap Year: The Science, Romance and Singing Pirates

1908 leap year postcard

Women trapping their perfect man to propose to on Feb 29th 1908

Image Source

The Science: A leap year occurs once every four years when an extra day, February 29th, is added to the calendar. While we all learn that the earth rotates around the sun in 365 days the solar system isn’t so tidy in working to exact days. It actually takes roughly a quarter of a day more and to stop our seasons from slowly getting out of alignment with the months an extra day is added every four years to ‘reset’ the balance.

The Romance: Supposedly initiating in Ireland there is a tradition that women can propose to men on a leap day. This lead to some amusing postcards in 1908 (above)

The Singing Pirates: When I think of a leap year I always think of the Pirates of Penzance by Gilbert and Sullivan which I was taken to see at the theatre as a child. In the story our hero Frederick reaching his 21st year celebrates being released from his apprenticeship aboard the ship of the Pirate King. This was an accident when his hard of hearing nursemaid misheard his fathers wishes for him to be apprenticed as a ships pilot. On the coast of Cornwall he meets Mabel (the daughter of the very model of a modern major general) and they fall in love. Unfortunately the terms of his apprenticeship states that he remains apprenticed to the pirates until his 21st birthday (not 21st year), and so he must serve for another 63 years. Add in some dancing policemen and singing pirates into the mix and you have a great  comic opera.


My Poker Dress

vivien of holloway poker runaround sue dress closeup

I saw this dress online and immediately fell in love with it, its got the length I want and such a quirky pattern. Its the Poker Print Runaround Sue dress from Vivien of Holloway and the fit is really amazing for me. Their sizing is different to high street and you can base everything around your waist measurement which is useful.

vivien of holloway runaround sue dress poker print

For those whoa are interested here are the traditional and most common high poker hand ranks

top poker hands

Image Source: Betshoot poker rules (NSFW)

London: Prufrock

Around the World in Tea and Cake (& Coffee again)

The Gentleman of the house has been wanting to take me here for ages and the other weekend we popped in for a coffee. Located in the City of London Prufrock is dedicated to providing people decent coffee

“our message is really to approach your coffee like you are a cook. Weigh your ingredients, regulate temperatures, time your extractions, clean your equipment, and read and taste as much as you can so you know what you have sourced and love what you are serving” – Prufrock Website

A light and airy large room with a counter bearing pastries and a brew bar where you can see the coffee being made. Theres probably a load more I could say about coffees and science but I only nipped in for an espresso (very nice) and may have more to say when I return again. When we went there it was really quiet but apparently its usually busy. They have a huge array of coffee making equipment available to buy

They also run a barista resource and training centre catering from individuals to groups


The Gentleman’s Guide to Valentine Chocolates

Or indeed anyone buying chocolates for anyone on any occasion, it is likely that your recipient will be thrilled anyway but with a little research you can get it just right. The main point here is know who you are buying for.

Strapped for cash: A present does not mean expense, when the gentleman of the house and I were poor students he would occasionally surprise me with a gift of chocolate buttons and I thought it terribly romantic. Later when he had a little more cash started getting me Green & Blacks bars (image source)

cadburys buttons

Her absolute favourite: If you know his/her absolute favourite chocolates then you may be on to a win (however make sure its something they actually do like, not something you buy every year and they are too polite to say anything) (image source)

Anthon berg plum in madeira marzipan chocolates (my favourite)

The Chocolate Connoisseur: Did you know you can now buy single estate chocolate bars (image source)

dark chocolate collection from chocolate trading co

Its all in the presentation: If you want to make a real splash (and have a pretty box to use later) I saw these in the Leonidas window and couldn’t stop going ooooh (image source)

leonidas valentine chocolate box

Alternatively there are these much cheaper tiny truffle boxes from Charbonnel & Walker (they’re so adorable and yum too) (image source)

Dairy Free, Glutan Free, Vegan: There is even chocolate available for those with specific dietary requirements. Booja Booja  truffles are all these and they also sell raw organic cacao beans! Im definitely curious to try those (image source)

booja booja truffles at ethical superstore

Alternatively why not treat yourself to your favourite chocolates this valentines day, at least you will always know what you like (yum yum yum)

The Northanger Horrid Novels

In Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey, two teenage girls shop, socialise, talk about boys and spend their time reading Gothic Romance novels which their parents probably would not approve. The Northanger Horrid Novels are seven early works of Gothic Fiction recommended by Isabella Thorpe to Catherine Morland:

illustration from solitary-elegance.com

illustration by Charles Edmund (“C.E.”) Brock for Northanger Abbey. Image Source: Solitary Elegance

“Dear creature! how much I am obliged to you; and when you have finished Udolpho, we will read The Italian together; and I have made out a list of ten or twelve more of the same kind for you.”

“Have you, indeed! How glad I am! — What are they all?”

“I will read you their names directly; here they are, in my pocket-book. Castle of Wolfenbach, Clermont, Mysterious Warnings, Necromancer of the Black Forest, Midnight Bell, Orphan of the Rhine, and Horrid Mysteries. Those will last us some time.”

“Yes, pretty well; but are they all horrid, are you sure they are all horrid?”

“Yes, quite sure; for a particular friend of mine, a Miss Andrews, a sweet girl, one of the sweetest creatures in the world, has read every one of them.”

The first book mentioned is The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794) by Ann Radcliffe.  I started reading this years ago at University but had to give it back to the library and never got round to buying it to finish. My uni library had really quite a good selection of Gothic Fiction and Victorian Sensation novels. Throughout Northanger Abbey, Catherine is Reading this novel and a few clues to the plot are given. One day I need to finish it so I can discover what is ‘behind the veil…’. I have a free copy of it via iBooks but its not quite the same as a real book. The Second, The Italian, or the Confessional of the Black Penitents (1797) also by Ann Radcliffe I have not yet read

Source Valancourt Books

The Seven Horrid Novels refer to the list given by Isabella. Apparently these were originally thought to be made up titles until research undertaken in the early 20th century unearthed them. The majority come from a fad in German lurid horror romances in the late 1700’s. Thanks to this Wikipedia page, I have a list of them and have found the majority of them on amazon. This is thanks to Valancourt Books who have issued reprints of rare Gothic novels spanning the period between 1790 and 1830. There are some quite lurid titles including ‘The Cavern of Death’ and ‘The Animated Skeleton’. The seven horrid novels are as follows:

My plan is to read them all, but not until I’ve finished the mountain of books I’m reading currently. My plan of reading only one book at a time went slightly wrong (and owned books always have to be abandoned in precedence of library books)

Another book mentioned in the novel is The Monk (1796) by Matthew Gregory Lewis (also free via iBooks)

Currently Reading

A Darkling Plain by Philip Reeve – Book 4 of the Mortal Engines (or Predator Cities) quartet. Far in the future after civilisation was destroyed in the sixty minute war, and the earth became unstable traction cities were built to move and prey on each other. Over a thousand years later a war rages between those who follow Municipal Darwinism and those who choose to re colonise the bare earth.

Heartless by Gail Carriger – Book 4 of the Parasol Protectorate series sees our soulless heroine Alexia investigating a threat against Queen Victoria, and of course drinking many cups of tea. Set in a Victorian London where vampires and werewolves are integrated into society, I can’t tell you much about the plot without giving away details of the earlier books. The series is Soulless, Changeless, Blameless, Heartless and Timeless should be out this month or next

Images from Amazon

Bath: The Canary

Around the World in Tea and Cake

I heard about The Canary via Mrs Stokes, and on walking past could see people using pretty china teacups and the food on the counter looked rather delicious.

I went first with Hayley and had carrot and apricot soup (how random!) but soon after that I discovered the broccoli quiche with Waldorf Salad. Oh its so Yum. They have quite a range of leaf teas to chose from which come in pretty mismatched teapots and cups.


Sri Lanka: Roadside Cafe

Around the World in Tea and Cake

When we were in Sri Lanka on our way to Kandy our driver stopped at a little roadside cafe. This was just perfect as we’d been on the road since around 6am and had not had a proper breakfast. Im unsure of the location but if the GPS on the camera can be believed then its somewhere near Horana in the Western Province (though thats just a guess)

We had a beautiful pot of Ceylon tea and fresh pineapple. What we learned from the cafe owner is that its really nice dipped in salt and pepper (although this varies with variety ofpineapple sweet or sourness)