February 28, 2011

Earl Grey takes Tea

Written by: Rosa Morgan 

I, the second Earl Grey, sat by my hearth on an achingly cold winter day. Having spent the morning riding in inclement weather, I could not rid the chill from my bones. A timid knock at my door surprised me, for the servants knew my study was a sanctuary for solitary rumination. My children, all fifteen of them, were grown now, but I warranted the weak tapping was a child's rap. “I'm busy!” I bellowed with, what I thought was, sufficient ferocity. Surprisingly, the knock occurred again with even more force than before. Intrigued, I asked the mysterious visitor to enter.

It was my favorite granddaughter, a darling cherub with dimpled cheeks. “Grandpa Charlie, I've brought tea and biscuits," she chirped. Impossible to show displeasure at the sweet intrusion, I smiled, “Well then, you best come in." Eagerly accepting my offer, she made herself comfortable on my knee. "Who is that in the painting?" she asked, her chubby finger pointing above the mantle. "Don't you recognize your Grandmother Mary?"

She shook her curls, then, pointing at another painting, declared knowingly, "That's this house, Howick Hall!" "Our ancestral home," I nodded.
"Grandpa, please tell me the story about the tea, the one named after you." I sighed resignedly, "There's really not much to it." "But, didn't a Chinaman make the tea for you because one of your men saved his son from drowning?" "Only partially true. I, nor my men, have never set foot in China. However, the water here at Howick is heavy with lime, so a Mandarin blended a tea for me that was infused with bergamot oil to offset the taste."

She scrunched her nose, "Bergamot? Is that the smelly herb in the knot garden?" "No, darling child, that bergamot is Monarda didyma, completely unrelated. This is Citrus bergamia, a tree with yellow fruit, the size of an orange. Though it's native to Italy, I've successfully cultivated it in our greenhouse." Her eyes brightened, "May I taste it, Grandfather? "You'll find it bitter, my dear." "But it's so yummy in my tea," she said, sipping. "Yes, everyone is clamoring for Earl Grey Tea, after your grandmother served it at one of her gatherings."

I considered dejectedly my future legacy. I wondered how many people would remember my political achievements as Prime Minister. I'd helped abolish slavery in Great Britain, and authored the Reform Bill of 1832, leading to our parliamentary democracy. Would my name be only linked to a tea, which I'd not profited a farthing on? If only I'd thought of trademarking it before that damnable Twinings!

Earl Grey in the 24th century Captain Picard takes Tea: Earl Grey Hot 

February 21, 2011


Written by Rosa Morgan
Today is President's Day, and children across the United States will be cutting out silhouettes of Washington and Lincoln. They'll reminisce patriotic stories of felled cherry trees and split-log cabins, but there will be no mention of me: Martin Van Buren, 8th president of this fine country. I theorize my obscurity is due to the fact that Washington is on the one dollar bill, and Lincoln on the five note. No currency is graced by my fetching portrait other than a recently minted coin, only collectors will ever notice. I want to be on paper money, perhaps the million dollar bill! I shall now campaign for readers to send letters of persuasion to their Representatives on my behalf.

Ten Reasons for You to VOTE for VAN BUREN! Sorry I don't have a catchier slogan like "Tippecanoe and Tyler too".

1) I'm a pull yourself up by your bootstraps kind of guy, my father being a tavern owner.
2) I have immense political savvy, having started my studies of law at 14.
A sympathy vote: I never remarried after dear Hannah died.
4) I was the first president born an American citizen. The other 7 were born British subjects before the American Revolution.
I'm bilingual. Dutch being my first language.

6) Other than Thomas Jefferson, I'm the only one to serve as Secretary of State, Vice President and President.

7) I was the first American president during the Victorian era. This is a cartoon of Victoria and myself arguing over some silly Canadian timber in the Aroostook War.

8) I am willing to admit my mistakes: Trail of Tears, my denying Texas to join the United States, those tiresome slaves on La Amistad, and the Panic of 1837.

There would be no "OK" without me. My nickname was "Old Kinderhook", and I often approved things by signing "OK".

10) I save the best for last. I have the most prodigious mutton chops of any president.

Your unsung president! Martin Van Buren

February 14, 2011

The Saintly Origins of Valentines

Written by: Rosa Morgan
Some good-meaning folk have tagged me a saint, though I am merely Valentinus, a humble priest. My troubles began when Emperor Claudius Gothicus outlawed marriage for his soldiers. Outraged, I secretively continued to perform marriages for young lovers, but my subterfuge was short lived, and I was duly imprisoned. My days and nights were long in that dark, barren cell, but salvation came not by way of spiritual epiphany, but rather the golden haired daughter of my jailer. Love blossomed the moment my eyes fell upon her innocent beauty. Alas, I knew attempts to woo the maiden were futile, but to squelch the inferno of desires within me was impossible. With my own death knell ringing in my ears, I penned a missive to the fair maiden, revealing the depths of my feelings. I signed it, “From your Valentine". The year was 269, but henceforth, February 14, the day of my death, has been a time for lovers to send their own proclamations of love.
By the Middle Ages, I was one of the most popular saints in England and France, but the practice of exchanging valentines did not truly flourish until the Victorian era. The combination of commercially produced cards, along with the 1840 establishment of uniform postal rates throughout the entire United Kingdom, brought about the change. The first valentines were decorated writing papers, like this one, folded and sealed with wax for mailing.
Embossed paper, resembling delicate lace, was the next rage. No one did it better than Esther Howland, "Mother of American Valentines". A contemporary of Emily Dickinson, Esther received an elaborate English Valentine, and was inspired to create similar ones. Ordering lace paper, she made a dozen samples for her brother, the salesman, and soon had so many orders, she recruited friends for an assembly line. Thus her cottage industry was born, with a $100,000annual profit.

Am I annoyed by the commercialization of this special day or pagan cupids flitting about? No! -->
Do we need a special day for sentimental mush, flowers and gush? Yes, yes, and yes again.
The timid at heart must be prodded, as must the smoldering embers of love be flared anew. Buy the box of candy and the bouquet of roses, and wish friend and lover, "Happy Valentine's Day"!

February 1, 2011

Queen Victoria's Musings

Dear Friends,

I, Alexandrina Victoria, have emerged from the mystical ether to visit this world of the internet. Never could I imagine gentlefolk being interested in myself, a hundred and ten years after my demise. I admit my reign over the United Kingdom was the longest of any female monarch in history, but modesty precludes any boasting. I will, however, share a few thoughts on my life.

One cannot envy my melancholy childhood. I never knew Papa, as he died a mere eight months after my birth, leaving us with huge debt. As for my mother... She was intent on rendering me weak and dependent upon her. She NEVER allowed me a single moment alone, nor allowed me to play with other children. Though I was pretty and clever, this portrait of me, with that absurd hat, is proof of my strange upbringing.

When I ascended the throne, and the welfare of millions lay in my hands, one of my first orders was to relocate Mama to a distant apartment in the castle. My trusted adviser, Melbourne, recommended marriage as a way of removing her altogether from the premises. This, I considered a shocking alternative. I did not expect I'd soon propose marriage to my dear cousin, Prince Albert. Smitten, I wrote in my diary, "He is extremely handsome; his hair is about the same colour as mine; his eyes are large and blue, and he has a beautiful nose and a very sweet mouth with fine teeth."
Note my mention of "fine teeth". My granddaughter, Marie, who later became Queen of Romania, described my teeth: 'small like those of a mouse'. I'm not certain what she meant by that. I diligently used cherry toothpaste, and several years back I heard my dental tools were auctioned off at Christie's for 14,000 pounds!

Here's my brood, all 9 of them! We looked a sullen group, having to stand so long for that silly photographer. Little Leopold, to my right, had not been feeling well. He was cursed with that dreadful hemophilia. I swore at the time it was not from my side of the family, but now I know it was, as my children spread it to the royal families of Europe. We needed to find more black eyed Princes and Princesses to infuse fresh blood into our line.

I do not care for this portrait of myself. It captures my mood too truthfully. My inestimable husband and friend, Albert, possessed every quality that could be desired to render me perfectly happy. And after his passing, I lost my joie de vivre. I kept to my home, wearing widow's weeds until my own death. Now I have gone and become maudlin with reminiscing. I will leave on a more positive note. I bid cheerio to all Victorian observers and wish Rosa luck and perseverance in her...What is this called again? Oh yes, blogging.
With warmest wishes,
Queen Victoria