Friday, May 24, 2019

Stinky smelly feet: What does history tell us

Diogenes (412 - 323 BCE) should probably become the patron of foot deodorants because he refused to wear perfume anywhere other than on his feet. The clever man worked out the heat of his feet evaporated the solution which released a perfumed gas which then wafted upwards towards his nose. By his reckoning to apply perfume to the upper body was a complete waste because it only ever benefited the birds.

Socrates (circa 469 – 399 BCE) on the other hand (or should it be foot) was a firm believer in free men smelling only of free labours and manly exercise. He was concerned of the growing trend at the time for men to wear perfume. The women of ancient Greece by contrast, were not well known for smelling sweet.

Cleopatra scented her feet with aegyptium (a lotion containing almond oil, henna, honey, cinnamon, and orange blossoms). One to the properties of henna is it is an effective anti-perspirant, so maybe the Queen of the Nile had sweaty feet. Egyptian and Indian women from the classic period dyed the palms of their hands and soles of their feet with henna to keep them cool. One Indian princess, it is written, kept a maid servant whose job it was to follow her mistress from her bath and wipe the ‘tell-tale’ red footprints from the wet floor. Clearly the lady had feet to rot her socks and perhaps the most alluring quality of a seductress.

The term footman, as in a royal household originated from the fear of putting your foot in it. Well putting the wrong foot forward. It was considered extremely bad luck to enter a room with the left foot forward. The job of the footman was to ensure on right foot entry took place. The footman of Elizabeth I’s court would be very familiar with her shoes because she perfumed them with ambergris (excrete of the sperm whale).

An old remedy to mask underarm smells was urine. The drastic action was very often prescribed for little boys under twelve years of age. Urine was also used to soak the feet prior to binding the feet. In the first world war men would urinate on their boots in order to soften the hard leather. The skin of a human being is covered with an acetic covering known as the acid mantle. A large percentage of which is made up with urine. Some Africa tribes considered urine to have special properties and use cow urine to dye their hair. Other tribes in central Africa were known to keep young females responsible for golden showers to the feet of their king every morning so that he could have a successful start to the day.

Somewhat surprisingly, the late (great) Frank Zappa (Mothers of Invention) remains the only pop star to have written lyrics demonstrating the problems of foot odour. The condition is common enough, which might make you think others had trodden the ground before. Obviously not.

(Video Courtesy: Keraban Rocha by Youtube Channel)

Reviewed 24/05/2019

Heel spur syndrome

Bipedal gait causes heels to repeatedly hit the ground with considerable force. The heels absorb impact as the foot strikes the ground giving support to our skeleton. When pain develops in the heel it can become very disabling and often affects posture. There are a few conditions which cause the heel to become painful but probably the most common is called heel spurs. First discovered in 1900 by x-ray, this condition describes a dull to sharp pain on the under surface of the heel. Pain is characterised by stabbing discomfort, especially first thing in the morning, when weight is put on the foot and often noted when visiting the loo. Heel spurs affect one or both feet and the presence of a bony outgrowth or exostosis is easily detected by x-ray. Firm pressure with the thumb will bring on a deep tender spot, often on the inner side of the heel. These sites correspond to the attachments of deep ligamentous structures which bind the heel to the rest of the foot. Females are more prone to heel spurs the older they become. Studies indicate approximately 15% of all adults attending podiatrists is for relief from painful heels. Three quarters of them will be caused by heel spur syndrome. Paradoxically many people have asymptomatic heel spurs yet less than half complain of heel pain. No-one has satisfactorily described what causes Heel Spur Syndrome and most experts believe it is either a single trauma such as hitting the midfoot against the sidewalk (kerb), or continued micro trauma due to the stress of walking.

According to some experts wearing high heels can put up to 26% more stress on the knee joints and that a three-inch heel can add 76% more stress to the feet. Plantar fasciitis is a common problem that causes pain under the heel bone and in the arch of the foot. Plantar fasciitis is an irritation to the tough, fibrous tissue that forms the arch of the foot. Most patients with plantar fasciitis are effectively treated with some simple measures. Common treatments include anti-inflammatory medications, ice applications, shoe inserts, and stretching exercises. In some situations patients do not find relief from their symptoms and require more aggressive treatment. In very severe cases the heel spurs can be surgically removed.

An interesting alternative to these theories is the condition known as enthesopathy. This refers to an inflammation of the cells which cement the bone surface and the hardened spur. Pain in the morning is a common symptom and has been described as "inflammation puddles". The theory goes as follows fluids, due to inflammation, pool or puddle around the heel during the night. As the foot takes weight, the compressed fluid increases pressure on the nerves causing a sharp pain in the heel. Continual walking reduces the fluid resulting in less pain. Once set in motion however the inflammatory process continues and the same cycle is repeated after periods of non weightbearing. Heel spurs need only be treated if painful. Most cases respond to mechanical management including heel pads to reduce shock, or accommodative orthoses made to reduce symptoms. Localised treatments such as steroid injections and oral anti-inflammatory are used to temporarily relieve pain.

Exercising the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles are also recommended as well as stretching the Tendo achilles in the morning before standing. To exercise the gastrocnemius muscle keep the knees straight while pulling the foot gently towards the front of the leg causing the ankle to bend. To exercise the soleus muscle repeat with the knees bent. These muscles are stretched separately and each exercise is repeated ten times, five to six times per day. Have a pair of shoes or slippers with a slight heel to slip into before you take your first footsteps of the day.

Reviewed 24/05/2019

Mark Schwartz's High Heeled Art

Mark Schwartz launched a collection of whimsical scarves featuring his original footwear artwork under Schwartz’s High Heeled Art label.

Schwartz is best known for his heels and intends to release a new footwear collection. His career includes starting with Roger Vivier, before moving on to work with Ralph Lauren, Balenciaga and Gucci. Over the decades, he’s designed and custom-made shoes for high-profile clients that include Oprah Winfrey, Jennifer Lopez and Lady Gaga. The designer is recognized in footwear circles for his shoe-inspired artwork. Early on, Schwartz had the opportunity to work with Andy Warhol, who taught him how to make paintings of his shoe designs.

(Video Courtesy: by Youtube Channel)

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Shoey and the origins of drinking games

Formula 1 champion , Daniel Ricciardo likes to celebrate his victories by drinking Champagne from his shoe. Now dubbed a 'Shoey celebration, the owners of Formula One (F1) have trademarked the term, ‘Shoey’ as the podium celebration of drinking champagne from a shoe. Daniel Ricciardo is an Australian and has got his celebrity friends, Sir Patrick Stewart and Gerard Butler to join him for a shoe full of champagne after winning races.

According to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), F1’s branding department Formula One Licensing was granted a trademark registration to the word ‘Shoey’ in 2017, in 25 countries including the United States, Germany, Italy, France and the United Kingdom . The registration is only for one category but does cover flasks, glasses, bottles, mugs, sculptures and figurines. Many expect ‘licenced’ shoe-shaped beer steins and drinking trophies to be on sale over the coming months.

Daniel Ricciardo is not the first sportsman to celebrate by driking from his shoe, and that accolade goes to fellow Australian, Supercar rider, David Reynolds when he won the first non-endurance race of his career in 2015. Another Aussie, MotoGP rider Jack Miller was clearly impressed and he too celebrated his first premier class victory in 2016 by drinking champagne out of his shoe at the Dutch circuit of Assen.

Downunder, drinking beer out of your shoe is a ritual party trick known colloquially as, a "shoey", and the boys from the Big Brownland have taken it to a new high on the victor’s podium. To do it right. the shoe needs to be full beer, usually the contents of a tinny (can). Tipping the shoe up to the mouth and with head tilted back he throat open, a quick half breath before quickly swigging the grog to the back of the throat. Just before the beer hits swallow then gravity takes over. The alcohol essentially pours down your throat.

The shoey gained widespread popularity in Australia, after celebrity twin surfers, Dean and Shaun Harrington were seen drinking 'Shoeys, The pair were associated with the surfing and fishing brand, The Mad Hueys, and as the brand increased in popularity more and more young people began to emulate the twins.

(Video Courtesy: GoPro World by Youtube Channel)

Shoey and other scoling pranks however, are not a new phenomenon nor just the prerogative of larrikins and adolescents, but have been practiced by many civilisations.

In Ancient Greece, most Athenian houses had a symposium, an annexed, circular room, which held a number of upholstered podiums set against the walls where guests lay prone and played kottabos. The floors were sloped to make cleaning easier. The most common variant had recumbent players attempt to topple a precariously balanced cup (or plastinx) by filling it with wine. They had to do this by flinging wine from their own cups, using their right hand only. Players would call out the name of an intended paramour and the outcome would foretell their pursuit of love.

During the Western Zhou Dynasty (11th century BC - 771 BC), in Ancient China, jiuling (drinking games) were initially introduced to regulate social drinking by providing alternative behaviours or etiquettes to accompany consumption of alcohol. These included simple games like dice, finger guessing and a variant of rock, paper, scissors called tiger, chicken, worm, board. Each could be readily adapted to incorporate alcohol and this led inevitably, to the social toast we have today. However, it also had the opposite affect and more indulgent drinking games like ‘spin the bottle,’ was played until no one could stand up. Often the consequence of more sophisticated jiuling by the intellectual classes, was dire.

By the Middle Ages, beer drinking games in Europe were sometimes used to settle disputes and provided a safer alternative to duelling. Special drinking cups, i.e. puzzle jugs were sometimes conjoined, and had numerous spouts which forced the players to work out which holes they had to cover to successfully drink from the vessel. The forfeit for getting it wrong was to be drenched in small amount beer much to the the amusement of on-lookers. With increased urbanisation and the development of tavern culture new variations such as ‘passatella,’ had players armed with knives, sit opposite each other consuming alcohol, pausing only to exchange verbal insults. This frequently let to fights sometimes with fatal consequences.

By the late 19th Century drinking champagne from a lady's slipper was the height of decadence and sophistication and a practice most often seen in high class brothels. It was reported in 1902, at the Everleigh Club, in Chicago, after a dancer's slipper fell to the floor, a member of Prince Henry of Prussia's entourage picked it up and used it to drink champagne.

The Bierstiefel is a German boot-shaped beer glass said to have been created by a Prussian general in an unnamed war who promised his troops if they were victorious in an upcoming battle, he would drink beer from his own boot. Instead , after seconds thoughts, the prudent general ordered a glass imitation to be made and they celebrated their victory drinking for a Bierstiefel. Boot shaped drinking vessels have been discovered to date from antiquity and drinking from a soldier’s boot has become a traditional initiation ceremony (or hazing) which is still practised to this day. During the First World War, in the trenches and prior to engagement, soldiers passed around a leather boot filled with beer and shared a drink for luck. The soldiers would also flicked the boot before and after taking a drink from it. The Bierstiefel is closely related to the English “yard of ale. ” Former Australian Prime Minister, the late Bob Hawke held briefly the world record in 1953 for the fastest consumed yard of ale when he was at Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar.

In more modern times, skolling, a term from the Scandinavian ‘Skol’ to toast, describes binge consumption of alcohol, usually beer, but not always. This is seen by many as part of a ‘coming of age ritual,’ and holding your drink is widely regarded as the mark of an adult. Consequently, it is practised universally among adolescents and younger adults. In no short measure (sic no pun intended) it was post-Push Australians in 60s London which gave the world the vocabulary of binge drinking. After Barry Humphries created the characters Buster Thompson, then Barry McKenzie in his comic strip about a "randy, boozy Australian rampaging through Swinging London" in the satirical magazine, Private Eye, the cult following of the film version ensured the modern lexicon of binge drinking was born.

A Pair of Leather Clogs

A Pair of Leather Clogs. Vincent van Gogh, 1889.

Sumptuary Laws and Shoes: A Summary

From the days of antiquity, the right to wear shoes was a privilege only afforded to the free and affluent. Whilst there were several attempts to limit excesses, the dress code for footwear was simple, rich people wore them and ordinary people went without. Colour and styling, including the height of shoes, became the discernible means of class distinction and this was reflected in many cultures. The need to preserve class distinction coupled with clerical conscience would seem to have been the two main motivations for sumptuary laws governing shoes.

Whilst the fashion for long toed shoes lasted four hundred years they were not always in vogue. The restriction in length of shoes was at first to discriminate "the haves" from "the have nots", then to quell the reappearance of the worship of the phallus.

Shoe fashion did change and by all accounts pretty rapidly at the beginning of the 15 century. Rossi believed this had nothing to do with legislation but more to do with the news of a high profile assassination. Alarm was raised when the victim could not escape his attackers because he was wearing long toed shoes. Others believe it may have been due to the birth of the heir apparent to the Spanish thrown who had polydactylism (extra toes). The risks following surgical removal of the extra toe would have presented with many complications and it was much easier to change the fashion to broad toed shoes. Credible reasons perhaps but unlikely to explain the quick transition from long toed shoes to broad shoes (Bear’ Paws).

An altogether more credible explanation would be the presence of disease which would necessitate accommodating painful feet. History records a great syphilis epidemic spread throughout Europe after the return of Christopher Columbus from the New World in 1493. One of the outcomes of tertiary syphilis is Charcot feet. This is a very painful condition and feet ulcerate due to undue pressure. The presence of syphilis in the courts of Europe and sequestrate would be a more satisfactory explanation for the swift change in shoe style. Bears' Paws were fashionable with the affluent and in the spirit of zeitgeist celebrated the Cult of the Virgin Mary with reference to the female genitalia in the form of delicate slashing of the upper.

Eventually Queen Mary (1516 - 1558), keen to comply with the wishes of the Catholic Church banned broad toed shoes from England and her dominions.

The platform shoe, popular with the women from Venice and Florence were eventually legislated against because of the number of accidents reported by ladies falling over. It is thought the term ‘miscarriage’ refers to the fall from the chopines and not specifically pelvic complications.

During the Victorian era high heels became closely associated with sado-masochistic eroticism. This was promulgated in no short measure by the introduction of still photography, then cinematography. The high heeled shoe became the symbol of the Jezebel. During the last century attempts were made at times of national emergency to control heel height through rationing. Rather than reduce interest in heeled shoes this is likely to have been the reason for their continued popularity.

Despite the absence of official sumptuary law to curtail the heights of the shoe, subsequent to the introduction of the stiletto heel, free access to privately owned public spaces has become evermore restricted by dress codes. Just to keep a balance the same dress codes apply to thong wearers and barefoot persons.

Reviewed 23/05/2019

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

No brown in town: An idiosyncratic quirk of Britishness?

According to Rossi (1994) the word shoe (Old English scoh "shoe," from Proto-Germanic skokhaz - source also of Old Norse skor, Danish and Swedish sko, Old Frisian skoch, Old Saxon skoh, Middle Dutch scoe, Dutch schoen, Old High German scuoh, German Schuh, Gothic skoh) means to furtively cover the foot . Black and shoes therefore, presents an interesting combination which I hope the following explanation will help you understand why anything other than black shoes in the business world is historically considered socially unacceptable.

Colour (Latin celare, meaning to conceal or hide) is regarded as a code, sign, or message we use to communicate our thoughts and feelings. Colour vision in primates developed between 38 and 65 million years ago and neurons devoted to visual processing occupy more of the neocortex than those devoted to hearing or touch. Clothing from antiquity was full of colour and only constrained by the limited dyes available. In the West, despite foreboding by St Augustine of Hippo (354 – 430 AD) who accused colour of “a seductive and dangerous sweetness”, the early Christian Church, embraced colour in their churches and clothing and it became an integral part of liturgical garments of both high clergy and the ruling class. Sumptuary laws in some parts of Europe already prohibited the wearing of costly colourful clothes to anyone other than nobility, but as international trade developed and wealth increased amongst the Middle Classes of the city states, bankers and merchants of northern Italy wore black robes and gowns, made from the most expensive fabrics. High-quality black dyes were first made available in the 15th century, and garments of a deep, rich black became popular with Magistrates and government officials. Devoid of colour, official’s black robes, were worn to signify the importance and seriousness of their position. Black became the new fashion and soon the 16th century nobility abandoned their colourful sartoria and adopted black dress for preference.

Black has a pedigree and a history which did not happened by accident. During the Age of Enlightenment, Sir Isaac Newton (1643 - 1727), discovered the colour spectrum appears when you point white light at a prism (1672). Since neither black nor white were within the colour spectrum they were none-colours. This only added to the enigma of black and white. From antiquity the dualism of black (darkness) and white (light) became imprinted on the human psyche and symbolized the moral dichotomy of good and evil. Black was ambiguous and came to be associated with death, evil, mourning, magic, fierceness, illness, bad luck, and mystery. Yet in other cultures black represented age, maturity, and masculinity, as well as both rebirth and mourning. Through the centuries black has also come to symbolize sophistication and formality.

During the Protestant Reformation in Europe (1517 -1648), black came to represent sophistication, culture, power, secrecy and self-control, and was the emblematic colour of the Puritans in England and America. As colourful church interiors and clerical clothing were denounced and colour was regarded idolatry symbolising luxury, sin, and human folly. Colour was a distraction from God, and systematically stripped from all protestant churches. Protestant doctrine, demanded clothing be sober, simple and discreet. Black signified renunciation, self-control and business. The French Revolution (1789 –1799) saw the end of ostentatious, peacock fashions for men, and many public figures and revolutionaries styled themselves as ‘citoyens sans-culottes.’ in solidarity. Black sober clothing became the order of the day and in 1801, Thomas Jefferson almost caused a scandal by wearing black lacing bootees to his inauguration. Jefferson shoes eventually became the preferred shoes for American politicians.

By the early 19th century men's fashions underwent radical change. Gradually long trousers replaced knee breeches. Nineteenth century dandies and men of fashion like Beau Brummell (1778 – 1840) wore black, champagne polished leather boots for town wear. Others followed his example as leading arbiters of fashion like Comte d’Orsay (1801 – 1852), Hermann Fürst von Pückler-Muskau (1785-1871), Honoré de Balzac (1799 – 1850), Barbey d’Aurevilly (1808 – 1889), and Edward VII (1841 – 1910) followed his example and wore black footwear for formal occasions and in town. Social organisation was divided between hunting on the estate where browns were acceptable and doing business in town wearing only black footwear. It was at this point in history the fashion maxim, “no brown in town” or “no brown after six” were very much respected, and ensured people were socially accepted. By the end of the century black was the uniform of power and control and the banking classes, and high society wore it as the uniform of seriousness, high culture and sophistication.

In America, brown shoes became stigmatised because they were associated with cheaply produced footwear for African American slaves and made from undyed leathers. In the eighteenth century, enslaved adults generally received one pair of leather, straight-lasted (i.e., no left or right) shoes in their annual clothing allotment. Some shoes were imported, some purchased from local tradesmen, and others, called "country shoes," were produced on the plantation when a slave was taught the trade. In the nineteenth century, enslaved shoemakers continued to produce country shoes, while other shoes, called red russets ('Ga Bootees, Nigger shoes, or Jackson ties) were massed produced in factories in the North. The wooden-soled brogans so uncomfortable, many slaves preferred to go barefoot. Later, when the Confederate troops were supplied with the same russet shoes, they frequently blacken them with grease and soot so not to be seen wearing brown, sweet potato coloured shoes.

During his reign King Edward VII (1901-1910) saw the introduction of the Edwardian style which would determine international men's fashion. The de rigueur was regulated by exact rules, and published by prominent tailors, as to when and under what circumstances certain clothes were to be worn. Laced, (later elastic sided) boots were generally designed for country walking and appropriate for traveling, and manual labour. Black Oxford shoes were strictly for business. A cap toe was the standard choice for city life while some punctured holes (brogueing) on the toe top decorated men’s country shoes. At first, younger men preferred the oxford over the boot while older men held fast to their traditional boots. For formal wear, black dress pumps sometimes in patent leather, were worn to social events. Nineteenth century bankers and city business men dressed in morning dress with tailcoat, striped trousers and black shoes to match. Each bank had its own distinctive stripes, which became the catalyst for the two and three-piece business suit versions. Dubbed the English Look, by the 20s and 30s pinstripe suits gained popularity in America but were largely worn by the Nouveau Riche including less salubrious types of the Prohibition Era and Hollywood. By the late 1930’s, the influence of Edward the Prince of Wales (1894 – 1972 ) saw a more relaxed set of rules in menswear, leading to softer materials and bolder colours. Edward made spectator (two tone) shoes very popular when photographed wearing them. On set Fred Astaire took to wearing pink socks in his outfits for films.

By the 1950’s, clothing guides such as Clothes and the Man: A Guide to Correct Dress for all Occasions by Sydney D. Barney in 1951 advised shoes and suit had to match. Like red and green must never be seen. Blue suits with brown shoes was a fashion faux pas. In more conservative circles, black still held a certain association with business, but brown oxford shoes were becoming increasingly popular. Then, in the London Stock Exchange young traders who dared wear brown shoes were booed off the trading floor.

In 2016, a Social Mobility Commission’s study entitled Socio-Economic Diversity in Life Sciences and Investment Banking was conducted and it was discovered investment banks were less likely to hire men wearing brown shoes to an interview. Even graduates with first-class degrees from elite universities were rejected when they wore brown shoes to the interview.

According to Rossi (1995), most businessmen are comfortable in ‘masculine shoes. This he postulated, may be in part because they provide compensation or a psychosexual defence for an insecure masculinity. Masculine shoes e.g. Oxfords are the preferred footwear of conformists in personality, habits, attitudes and behavioural patterns. By far Oxford Shoes take the highest preference for city gents with Derbies second, and loafers an aesthetic inferior in the workplace. The modern business psyche in regard to black shoes is they are inconspicuous, do not draw undue attention nor distract clients from the business of the day. In the workplace Black shoes are considered bland, and safe, yet, boost confidence in appearance, and increase the sense of potential and possibility.

The conventions of black dress pre-date the English Look by centuries but the influence of European fashion most certainly impacted on the attire of North American business people. The non-colour black, has long been associated with power and privilege promulgated by ‘protestant chromophobia,’ practised widely among WASPs and transferred into their modern judicial, academic and business clothing. This still exists, although its origins are long forgotten. In the 19th century America brown leather footwear became déclassé in no short measure because of their association with the slave trade.

Batchelor, D. 2000 Chromophobia. Reaktion Books. London
Corvette M 2016 Consuming colour: a critical theory of colour concerning the legality and implications of colour in public space Department of Art Goldsmiths University of London
Footwear C & D Jarnagin Company
Goethe, J. W. 1810 Theory of Colors . C. L. Eastlake (Trans.). Dover (2006)
Harvey, J. 1995 Men in Black. Reaktion Books. London
Pastoureau M 2008 Black - The History of a color Princeton University Press
Rossi WA 1995 The sexlife of the foot and shoe (2nd Edition) Krieger Publishing Company Malabar Florida

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

St Andrews, The Lion Rampant and the Flower of Scotland

The feast of Andrew is observed on 30 November in both the Eastern and Western churches, and is the national day of Scotland. St Andrew’s patronage extends to fishmongers, gout, singers, sore throats, spinsters, maidens, old maids and women wishing to become mothers.

Andrew the Apostle (or Saint Andrew) was the brother of Saint Peter. Prior to becoming disciples, the brothers were Galilean fishermen working in the Black Sea. Andrew derives from the Greek word for brave and was martyred at Patras in Greece, bound, (not nailed), to an X shaped cross or saltire (crux decussata). Legend has it a Greek monk called St Rule or St Regulus was ordered in a vision to take relics of Andrew (a tooth, a kneecap, and arm and finger bones) to the ‘ends of the earth’ for safe keeping. He set off on a sea journey and eventually came ashore on the Fife coast at a settlement which would become the modern town of St Andrews.

According to legend, in 832 AD, Óengus II (Angus) led an army of Picts and Scots into battle where they were heavily outnumbered. The night before the battle Óengus prayed to St Andrew for help. In the morning a white cloud formed an X in the sky and after the battle Óengus honoured his pledge and duly appointed Saint Andrew as the Patron Saint of Scotland. Andrew was first recognised as an official patron saint of Scotland in 1320 at the signing of the Declaration of Arbroath an appeal to the Pope by Scottish noblemen asserting Scotland’s independence from England. The white saltire set against a celestial blue background was eventually adopted as the flag of Scotland with the earliest use of the saltire as a flag traced to 1542.The original colour of the saltire cross was silver (Argent), but in heraldry white stands for silver.

There were several advantages having Saint Andrew as Scotland's Patron. Early Picts and Scots Christian converts modelled themselves on Saint Andrew which, in turn, carried favour with the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great. In the event of conflict between England and Scotland, the Scots could now appeal to the Pope for protection.

A local superstition was to use the cross of Saint Andrew as a hex sign on the fireplaces in northern England and Scotland to prevent witches from flying down the chimney and entering the house to do mischief. By placing the St Andrew's cross on one of the fireplace posts or lintels, witches are prevented from entering through this opening.

The Confederate flag also features a saltire commonly referred to as a St Andrew's cross, although the designer, William Porcher Miles, said he changed it from an upright cross to a saltire so that it would not be a religious symbol but merely a heraldic device.

(Video Courtesy: Scotland Is Now by Youtube Channel)

The Lion Rampant

The Royal Standard of Scotland (Banner of the King of Scots) is the Scottish Royal Banner of Arms used historically by the King of Scots. The flag historically, and legally, belongs to the monarchy and since there has not been a Scottish Regent since the 17th Century, it now belongs to Queen Elizabeth II. The earliest recorded use of the Lion rampant was by Alexander II in 1222. Later a double border set with lilies was added to the standard during the reign of Alexander III (1249–1286). Following the Union of the Crowns of England, Ireland and Scotland in 1603, the Royal Standard of Scotland was incorporated into the royal standards of successive Scottish then, following the Acts of Union in 1707, British monarchs.

The Royal Banner of Scotland is used officially at the Scottish royal residences of the Palace of Holyrood House, Edinburgh, and Balmoral Castle, Aberdeenshire, when The Queen is not in residence. The Royal Standard of the United Kingdom used in Scotland is flown when the Sovereign is present.

According to an Act of Parliament, passed in 1672, it is an offense for any private citizen or corporate body to fly or wave this flag. In 1935, King George V gave permission for Lion Rampant flags to be waived by the public during his Silver Jubilee celebrations. Ever since the Lion Rampant is seen in public at many football matches and other events.

The Scottish Thistle

This is the oldest recorded 'National Flower' and one of the most well-known, and easily recognized symbols of Scotland. The prickly-leaved, pink or purple-flowered ‘Scotch’ thistle is a weed which may seem a strange choice for a national flower. This proud and regal plant grows to a height of five feet with vicious spines to protect it like a porcupine. It has no natural enemies.

For hundreds of years much of Scotland was part of the Kingdom of Norway. By the 13th century Norway seemed to have lost interest in their former territory. King Alexander III proposed to buy back the Western Isles and Kintyre from the Norse King Haakon IV (Haakon the Elder). He played the King of Norway for a fool, laying claim to the Western Isles and then stringing out negotiations until the Norwegian king lost patience. In 1263 King Haakon of Norway decided to conquer the Scots and sent a large fleet of longships. Storms forced the armada onto the beach at Largs in Ayrshire and the Norwegians were forced to land. Legend has it a sleeping party of Scots warriors were saved from ambush by the invaders when one of the attackers trod on a thistle with his bare feet. His cries raised the alarm and roused the Scots who duly defeated them. Many believe the thistle was adopted thereafter as the symbol of Scotland.

In Scotland there are several types of thistle and it is not clear which one was trod upon. Many believe it may have been the Spear Thistle (Cirsium vulgare) as it is an abundant native species in Scotland.

Whilst the Cotton Thistle (Onopordum acanthium) is by far the most imposing thistle with extremely sharp thorns, it is unlikely to have been a native of Scotland at that time.

The first use of the thistle as a royal symbol of Scotland was on silver coins issued by James III in 1470. It is said that the Order of the Thistle, the highest honour in Scotland, was founded in 1540 by King James V who, after being honoured with the Order of the Garter from his uncle King Henry VIII of England and with the Golden Fleece from the Emperor of France, felt a little left out. He resolved the issue by creating the royal title of Order of the Thistle for himself and twelve of his knights. He set up the arms and badges of the order over the gate of his palace at Linlithgow. The common badge worn over the left breast by the knights is a cross surmounted by a star of four silver points, and over this a green circle bordered and lettered with gold, containing the motto "Nemo me impune lacessit", "No-one harms me without punishment" but more commonly translated in Scots as "Wha daurs meddle wi me", in the centre is the thistle.

Hugh MacDiarmid ‘s A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle was published in 1926, and remains one of the most famous works by a Scottish poet.

(Video Courtesy: John Laurie - Topic by Youtube Channel)

Flower of Scotland

(Video Courtesy: Peter Coiaby Youtube Channel)

Flower of Scotland is a Scottish song, used frequently at special occasions and sporting events. Although there is no official national anthem of Scotland, Flower of Scotland is one of a number of songs which unofficially fulfil this role. The lyrics were Written by Roy Williamson (1936- 1990) of The Corries in 1967 and refers to the victory of the Scots, led by Robert the Bruce (1274-1329), over King Edward II at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314. The tune was originally composed on the Northumbrian smallpipes, which play in D and have the benefit of keys on the chanter to achieve a greater range of notes.

(Video Courtesy: Guinness Six Nations by Youtube Channel)

When sung at sporting events, crowds will often call back after certain lines: after the words "and stood against him", you may hear "(a)gainst who"; and after the words "and sent him homewards", you may hear "whit fur?" ("what for?").

The Flower of Scotland

O flower of Scotland
When will we see
Your like again
That fought and died for
Your wee bit hill and glen
And stood against him
Proud Edward's army
And sent him homeward
Tae think again

The hills are bare now
And autumn leaves lie thick and still
O'er land that is lost now
Which those so dearly held
And stood against him
Proud Edward's army
And sent him homeward
Tae think again

Those days are passed now
And in the past they must remain
But we can still rise now
And be the nation again
That stood against him
Proud Edward's army
And sent him homeward
Tae think again

The music is credited to Peter Dodds McCormick (c1834-1916) who emigrated to Australia as a young man, and composed the National Anthem of Australia, "Advance Australia Fair".

(Video Courtesy: Anthony Callea by Youtube Channel)

Reviewed 21/05/2019