Hello…happy weekend. Some stuff I’ve read this week…

1) What losing weight changes and what it doesn’t. Interesting

Losing the weight was tough, she says: “I had no idea who I was, and while I went through all that I was lost.” But what came after was tougher. Contrary to media everywhere, being thin isn’t enough of an identity to go on. “This is it!” she thought, when she finally got her weight down, and then: “Now what do I do?”

2) Genetic testing to solve historical mysteries.

It was, he agrees, an odd feeling. “Standing in that field and thinking, 500 years ago Richard III died here. It’s very strange, and stranger still to think there’s a tiny bit of me, a tiny bit of my DNA, that was also in Richard. I don’t know that I can get my head round it, really.”

3) What really did the Grande Armee in was lice, not Russians. I’d always attributed it to hubris…

The typical French soldier was dirty and sweaty and lived in the same clothes for days; this is the perfect environment for lice to feed on his body and find a home in the seams of his clothing. Once the clothes and skin of the soldier were contaminated with lice excrement, the smallest scratch or abrasion would have been enough for the typhus germ to enter the soldier’s body. To compound the problem, the soldiers were sleeping in large groups in confined spaces for safety; they were concerned that the Russians would attack or the Poles would retaliate. This closeness allowed the lice to jump quickly to soldiers who were not infested. Only a month into the campaign, Napoleon lost 80,000 soldiers who were either incapacitated or had died from typhus. Under military surgeon Baron D.J. Larrey, the army’s medical and sanitary measures were the finest in the world, but no one could have coped with the scale of the epidemic.

4) What are you eating on Christmas Eve? The Dempsey tradition is fish pie and peas, with champagne!

 “You have to have a whisky mac: whisky and Stone’s ginger wine – it’s essential after midnight mass.”

5) The need to teach the history of England. I know quite a lot but the biggest gap I have is the Stuarts to George III. I missed 55 Days too because Hampstead is too far away!

Earlier this year, one of my children made a confession. He had reached adult life knowing almost nothing about the English civil war. Could I recommend him a book on the subject? I could, and I did. And a few months later, I saw that the Hampstead theatre in north London was putting on a Howard Brenton play, 55 Days, about the events leading up to the execution of Charles I. So we went to that too. As we were leaving the theatre we talked about Oliver Cromwell and the dramas and dilemmas of 1648-9. And my son said: “I don’t think any of my school friends know anything about the civil war. But everyone in this country ought to know about it. They all ought to see that play.”

What are you reading this week?


About nicdempsey

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