• Let’s Sing ‘Jingle Bells’

    The question where and when Pierpont originally composed the song that would become known as “Jingle Bells”. A plaque at 19 High Street in the center of Medford Square in Medford, Massachusetts commemorates the “birthplace” of “Jingle Bells,” and claims that Pierpont wrote the song there in 1850, at what was then the Simpson Tavern. According to the Medford Historical Society, the song was inspired by the town’s popular sleigh races during the 19th century. “Jingle Bells” was originally copyrighted with the name “One Horse Open Sleigh” on September 16, 1857. Mrs. Otis Waterman, one of Pierpoint’s friends, described the song as a “merry little jingle”, which became part of its new name when published in 1859 under the revised title of “Jingle Bells, or the One Horse Open Sleigh.” The song has since passed into the public domain. The date of the song’s copyright casts some doubt on the theory that Pierpont wrote the song in Medford, since by that date he was the organist and music director of the Unitarian Church in Savannah, Georgia, where his brother, Rev. John Pierpont Jr., was employed. In August of the same year, James Pierpont married the daughter of the mayor of Savannah. He stayed on in the city even after the church closed due to its abolitionist leanings. “Jingle Bells” is one of the best-known and commonly sung American songs in the world. It was written by James Lord Pierpont (1822–1893) and published under the title “One Horse Open Sleigh” in the autumn of 1857. It has been claimed that it was originally written to be sung by a Sunday school choir; however, historians dispute this, stating that it was much too “racy” (and secular) to be sung by a children’s church choir in the days it was written. Although originally intended for the Thanksgiving season, and having no connection to Christmas, it became associated with Christmas music and the holiday season in general decades after it was first performed on Washington Street in Boston in 1857. Some area choirs adopted it as part of their repertoire in the 1860s and 1870s, and it was featured in a variety of parlor-song and college anthologies in the 1880s. It was first recorded in 1889 on an Edison cylinder. “Jingle Bells” was often used as a drinking song at parties: people would jingle the ice in their glasses as they sang. The double-meaning of “upsot” was thought humorous, and a sleigh ride gave an unescorted couple a rare chance to be together, unchaperoned, in distant woods or fields, with all the opportunities that afforded.

    Music historian James Fuld notes that “the word jingle in the title and opening phrase is apparently an imperative verb.” In the winter in New England in pre-automobile days, it was common to adorn horses’ harnesses with straps bearing bells as a way to avoid collisions at blind intersections, since a horse-drawn sleigh in snow makes almost no noise. The rhythm of the tune mimics that of a trotting horse’s bells. However, “jingle bells” is commonly taken to mean a certain kind of bell. Let’s sing Jingle Bells
    Dashing through the snow
    In a one-horse open sleigh
    O’er the fields we go
    Laughing all the way

    Bells on bob tail ring
    Making spirits bright
    What fun it is to ride and sing
    A sleighing song tonight!

    Jingle bells, jingle bells,
    Jingle all the way.
    Oh! what fun it is to ride
    In a one-horse open sleigh.

    Jingle bells, jingle bells,
    Jingle all the way;
    Oh! what fun it is to ride
    In a one-horse open sleigh.

    The original 1857 “Jingle Bells” had a slightly different chorus featuring a more classical-style melody. The “I V vi iii IV I V I” chord progression is a common theme in classical music; except for the final two chord changes, the melody as originally written follows the same chord progression as Pachelbel’s Canon; the tune would later become more closely associated with another Christmas song, “Jolly Old Saint Nicholas,” which appeared about twenty years after “Jingle Bells”. The “Jingle Bells” tune is used in French and German songs, although the lyrics are unrelated to the English lyrics. Both songs celebrate winter fun, as in the English version. The French song, titled “Vive le vent” (“Long Live the Wind”), was written by Francis Blanche and contains references to Father Time, Baby New Year, and New Year’s Day. There are several German versions of “Jingle Bells”, including the popular Roy Black versions of Christkindl and Christmastime. “Jingle Bells” was first recorded by Will Lyle on October 30,1889 on an Edison cylinder however no surviving copies are known.


  • Christmas Films..Do You Remember Holiday Inn

    In May 1940, Irving Berlin signed an exclusive contract with Paramount Pictures to write songs for a film musical based on his idea of an inn that opened only on public holidays. Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire were the stars of Holiday Inn with support from Marjorie Reynolds and Virginia Dale. Produced and directed by Mark Sandrich, filming took place between November 1941 and January 1942. Holiday Inn had its premiere at the New York Paramount Theatre August 4, 1942. It was a success in the US and the UK, the highest-grossing film musical to that time. It was expected that “Be Careful, It’s My Heart” would be the big song. While that song did very well, it was “White Christmas” that topped the charts in October 1942 and stayed there for eleven weeks. Another Berlin song, “Happy Holiday,” is featured over the opening credits and within the film storyline. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii occurred halfway through filming. As a result, the Fourth of July segment was expanded beyond Fred Astaire’s firecracker dance to include the patriotic number that highlights the strength of the US military. Many segments of the film are preceded by shots of a calendar with a visual symbol of the given holiday. For November, an animated turkey is shown running back and forth between the third and fourth Thursdays, finally shrugging its shoulders in confusion. This is a satirical reference to the “Franksgiving” controversy when President Franklin D. Roosevelt tried to expand the Christmas shopping season by declaring Thanksgiving a week earlier than before, leading to Congress setting Thanksgiving as the fourth Thursday in November by law. Holiday Inn is a 1942 American musical film directed by Mark Sandrich and starring Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire. With music by Irving Berlin, the composer wrote twelve songs specifically for the film, the best known being “White Christmas.” The film features the complete reuse of “Easter Parade,” written by Berlin for the 1933 Broadway revue As Thousands Cheer. The film’s choreography was by Danny Dare. The film received a 1943 Academy Award for Best Original Song (Irving Berlin for “White Christmas”), as well as Academy Award nominations for Best Score (Robert Emmett Dolan) and Best Original Story (Irving Berlin). Jim Hardy (Bing Crosby), Ted Hanover (Fred Astaire), and Lila Dixon (Virginia Dale) have a musical act popular in the New York City nightlife scene. On Christmas Eve, Jim prepares to give his last performance as part of the act before marrying Lila and retiring with her to a farm in Connecticut. At the last minute, Lila decides she is not ready to stop performing, and that she has fallen in love with Ted. She tells Jim that she will stay on as Ted’s dancing partner. While heartbroken, Jim follows through with his plan and bids the act goodbye. One year later on Christmas Eve, Jim is back in New York City. Farm life has proven difficult; he plans to turn his farm into an entertainment venue called Holiday Inn, to be open only on public holidays.

    On Christmas Day, Linda arrives at Holiday Inn, where she meets Jim—both realizing they were fooling each other the previous evening. Jim is preparing the place for New Year’s Eve, and they take to each other immediately. Jim sings her his new song, “White Christmas,” which he would have performed had the inn been open that night. Later that week, on New Year’s Eve, Holiday Inn opens to a packed house. The song that would become “White Christmas” was conceived by Berlin on the set of the film Top Hat in 1935. He hummed the melody to Astaire and the film’s director Mark Sandrich as a song possibility for a future Astaire-Ginger Rogers vehicle. Astaire loved the tune, but Sandrich passed on it. Berlin’s assignment for Paramount was to write a song about each of the major holidays of the year. He found that writing a song about Christmas was the most challenging, due to his Jewish upbringing. When Crosby first heard Berlin play “White Christmas” in 1941 at the first rehearsals, he did not immediately recognize its full potential. Crosby simply said: “I don’t think we have any problems with that one, Irving.” Although White Christmas has become iconic, this was not the original intention. The song Be Careful, It’s My Heart, played during the Valentine’s Day section of the film, was originally intended to be a bigger hit when production of Holiday Inn commenced. The song is used during the Christmas holiday sections of the movie, most notably when it is introduced to Linda Mason (Reynolds) by Jim Hardy (Crosby) while she is trying to obtain a position in the shows at the inn. Hardy begins playing the song to her allowing her to join him and eventually perform solo. The song is also reprised near the end of the movie. Full-length studio recordings of the film’s songs, differing slightly from those in the movie, were made for commercial release. Initially issued on 78rpm records, they were later collected on LP, cassette and CD. These are the song recordings taken directly from the movie and are often confused with the ones above released to the public.

    Holiday Inn was released on VHS in 1986 and again in 1992. It was first released on DVD paired with another Crosby vehicle, Going My Way (1944). It added a trailer for each film and some text-based extras. This version is also available in many boxed set collections of holiday-themed or Crosby-themed movies. In 2006 it was released as a single-disc “Special Edition” featuring a commentary by Ken Barnes, with interspersed archival comments by Crosby and Astaire. It also included A Couple of Song and Dance Men, a documentary on Astaire and Crosby; All-Singing All-Dancing, a featurette on audio recording of movie musicals; and a reissue theatrical trailer. In 2014 it was released on Blu-ray as a single disc edition featuring both black and white and colorized versions and all previous DVD extras. The success of the song “White Christmas” eventually led to another film based on the song, White Christmas (1954), which starred Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, and Vera-Ellen. It was an extremely loose remake of Holiday Inn, with a plot again involving an inn, but otherwise different from the earlier film. Fred Astaire was offered the second lead in the new film, but after reading the script, he declined. The role was then offered to Donald O’Connor, but he was injured before filming began. Danny Kaye ultimately took the role.


  • So Where Exactly is Lapland ??

    Lapland or Sápmi, an ethno-cultural region stretching over northern Fennoscandia (parts of Sweden, Finland, Norway, and Russia). The area of Lapland was split between two counties of the Swedish Realm from 1634 to 1809. The northern and western areas were part of Västerbotten County, while the southern areas were part of Ostrobothnia County (after 1755 Oulu County). The northern and western areas were transferred in 1809 to Oulu County, which became Oulu Province. Under the royalist constitution of Finland during the first half of 1918, Lapland was to become a Grand Principality and part of the inheritance of the proposed king of Finland. Lapland Province was separated from Oulu Province in 1938. During the Interim Peace and beginning of the Continuation War the government of Finland allowed the Nazi German Army to station itself in Lapland as a part of Operation Barbarossa. After Finland made a separate peace with the Soviet Union in 1944, the Soviet Union demanded that Finland expel the German army from her soil. The result was the Lapland War, during which almost the whole civilian population of Lapland was evacuated. The Germans used scorched earth tactics in Lapland, before they withdrew to Norway. Forty to forty-seven percent of the dwellings in Lapland and 417 kilometres (259 mi) of railroads were destroyed, 9,500 kilometres (5,900 mi) of roadways were mined, destroyed or were unusable, and 675 bridges and 3,700 kilometres (2,300 mi) of telephone lines were destroyed. Ninety percent of Rovaniemi, the capital of Lapland, was burned to the ground, with only a few pre-war buildings surviving the destruction. After the Second World War, Petsamo municipality and part of Salla municipality were ceded to the Soviet Union. The decades following the war were a period of rebuilding, industrialization and fast economic growth. Large hydroelectric plants and mines were established and cities, roads and bridges were rebuilt from the destruction of the war. In the late 20th century the economy of Lapland started to decline, mines and factories became unprofitable and the population started to decline rapidly across most of the region. The provinces of Finland were abolished on January 1, 2010, but Lapland was reorganised as one of the new regions that replaced them. Sápmi (Northern Sami: [?sapmi]), in English commonly known as Lapland (/?læpl?nd/), is the cultural region traditionally inhabited by the Sami people, traditionally known in English as Lapps. Sápmi is located in Northern Europe and includes the northern parts of Fennoscandia. The region stretches over four countries: Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia. On the north it is bounded by the Barents Sea, on the west by the Norwegian Sea and on the east by the White Sea. Despite being the namesake of the region, the Sami people are estimated to only make up around 5% of its total population. No political organization advocates secession, although several groups desire more territorial autonomy and/or more self-determination for the region’s indigenous population.

    Sápmi is the name in North Sami, while the Julev Sami name is Sábme and the South Sami name is Saemie. In Norwegian and Swedish the term Sameland is often used. In modern Swedish and Norwegian, Sápmi is known as “Sameland”, but in older Swedish it was known as “Lappmarken”, “Lappland”, and Finnmark, respectively. Originally these two names did refer to the entire Sápmi, but subsequently became applied to areas exclusively inhabited by the Sami. “Lappland” (Laponia) became the name of Sweden’s northernmost province (landskap) which in 1809 was split into one part that remained Swedish and one part falling under Finland (which became part of the Russian Empire). “Lappland” survives as the name of both Sweden’s northernmost province and Finland’s, also containing part of the old Ostrobothnian province. The climate is subarctic and vegetation is sparse, except in the densely forested southern portion. The mountainous west coast has significantly milder winters and more precipitation than the large areas east of the mountain chain. North of the Arctic Circle polar night characterize the winter season and midnight sun the summer season—both phenomena are longer the further north you go. Traditionally, the Sami divide the year in eight seasons instead of four. Sápmi contains valuable mineral deposits, particularly iron ore in Sweden, copper in Norway, and nickel and apatite in Russia. Reindeer, wolf, bear, and birds are the main forms of animal life, in addition to a myriad of insects in the short summer. Sea and river fisheries abound in the region. Steamers are operated on some of the lakes, and many ports are ice-free throughout the year. All ports along the Norwegian Sea in the west and the Barents Sea in the northeast to Murmansk are ice-free all year. The Gulf of Bothnia usually freezes over in winter. The ocean floor to the north and west of Sápmi has deposits of petroleum and natural gas. The inner parts of Sápmi are often referred to as Lapland or Lappi, a name deriving from a former name given to the Sami, which is today considered derogatory by many Sami. The name is also found on the Russian side as Laplandige (the name of a natural reservation) and the Norwegian county of Finnmark is sometimes titled the “Norwegian Lapland”, especially by the travel industry. Lappi- appears as a common component of place-names throughout central and southern Finland as well; in many cases it probably refers to earlier Sami presence, though in some cases the underlying meaning may be merely “periphery” or “outlying district”. The approximate number of people living in Sápmi is about 2 million, though it is difficult to give the precise number of inhabitants since certain counties and provinces only include parts of Sápmi. It is also quite difficult to account for the distribution of ethnic groups as many people have double or multiple ethnic identities—both seeing themselves as members of the majority population and being part of one or more minority groups.

    There has been a long association between Christmas and Lapland. (THE SANTA CLAUS VILLAGE AT THE ARCTIC CIRCLE IN ROVANIEMI, LAPLAND) You can meet Santa Claus and cross the magical Arctic Circle every day at the Santa Claus Village in Lapland in Finland. It might be better to stay near Rovaniemi and visit Father Christmas Village or SantaPark, or go further north to Levi or Yllas for a traditional Finnish experience? Finnish Lapland is a good place to visit for a magical, festive atmosphere but you are right to be wary of over-commercialisation. There are new programmes introduced every year but some of these can suffer from being impersonal, The trick is to examine every detail of the itinerary, from how long you spend with Santa, which activities are included and how the gifts are organised. Expect to pay at least £2,000 for a family of four on a two- or three-night stay in a log cabin or hotel, including flights, transfers and meals. The climate can be harsh. Throughout the seven-month winter, you can expect little more than five hours of sunlight with temperatures dropping well below freezing and sometimes as low as -20 to -40C. But during daylight hours the sun often shines, the air is still and very dry, so as long as you dress properly, the cold is perfectly bearable.


  • History of the Christmas Pudding

    There is a popular myth that plum pudding’s association with Christmas goes back to a custom in medieval England that the “pudding should be made on the 25th Sunday after Trinity, that it be prepared with 13 ingredients to represent Christ and the 12 apostles, and that every family member stir it in turn from east to west to honour the Magi and their journey in that direction”. However, recipes for plum puddings appear mainly, if not entirely, in the 17th century and later. The collect for the Sunday before Advent in the Church of England’s Book of Common Prayer begins with the words “Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works…”. This led to the custom of preparing Christmas puddings on that day which became known as Stir-up Sunday. Puddings possible ancestors include savoury puddings such as those in Harleian MS 279, crustades, malaches whyte, creme boiled (a kind of stirred custard), and sippets. Various ingredients and methods of these older recipes appear in early plum puddings. Pudding predecessors often contained meat, as well as sweet ingredients, and prior to being steamed in a cloth the ingredients may have been stuffed into the gut or stomach of an animal – like the Scottish haggis or sausages. One of the earliest plum pudding recipes is given by Mary Kettilby in her 1714 book A Collection of above Three Hundred Receipts in Cookery, Physick and Surgery. There is a popular and wholly unsubstantiated myth that in 1714, King George I (sometimes known as the Pudding King) requested that plum pudding be served as part of his royal feast in his first Christmas in England. As techniques for meat preserving improved in the 18th century, the savoury element of both the mince pie and the plum pottage diminished as the sweet content increased. People began adding dried fruit and sugar. The mince pie kept its name, though the pottage was increasingly referred to as plum pudding. Although the latter was always a celebratory dish it was originally eaten at the Harvest festival, not Christmas. It was not until the 1830s that the cannonball of flour, fruits, suet, sugar and spices, all topped with holly, made a definite appearance, becoming more and more associated with Christmas. The East Sussex cook Eliza Acton was the first to refer to it as “Christmas Pudding” in her bestselling 1845 book Modern Cookery for Private Families. Throughout the colonial period, the pudding was a symbol of unity throughout the British Empire. In 1927, the Empire Marketing Board (EMB) wrote a letter to the Master of the Royal Household, requesting a copy of the recipe used to make the Christmas pudding for the royal family. The King and Queen granted Leo Amery, the head of the EMB, permission to use the recipe in a publication in the following November. The royal chef, André Cédard, provided the recipe.

    In order to distribute the recipe, the EMB had to overcome two challenges: size and ingredients. First, the original recipe was measured to serve 40 people, including the entire royal family and their guests. The EMB was challenged to rework the recipe to serve only 8 people. Second, the ingredients used to make the pudding had to be changed to reflect the ideals of the Empire. The origins of each ingredient had to be carefully manipulated to represent each of the Empire’s many colonies. Brandy from Cyprus and nutmeg from the West Indies, which had been inadvertently forgotten in previous recipes, made special appearances. Unfortunately, there were a number of colonies that produced the same foodstuffs. The final recipe included Australian currants, South African stoned raisins, Canadian apples, Jamaican rum, and English Beer, among other ingredients all sourced from somewhere in the Empire. The custom of eating Christmas pudding was carried to many parts of the world by British colonists. It is a common dish in the Republic of Ireland, it is often eaten in many other countries. In America, the traditions of the Christmas Pudding had already arrived in pre-revolutionary days. Traditionally puddings were made on or immediately after the Sunday “next before Advent”, i.e. four to five weeks before Christmas. The collect for that Sunday in the Book of Common Prayer of the Church of England, as it was used from the 16th century (and still is in traditional churches). The day became known as “Stir-up Sunday”. Traditionally everyone in the household, or at least every child, gave the mixture a stir and made a wish while doing so. It was common practice to include small silver coins in the pudding mixture, which could be kept by the person whose serving included them. The usual choice was a silver threepence or a sixpence. The coin was believed to bring wealth in the coming year.

    Christmas pudding is a type of pudding traditionally served as part of the Christmas dinner in the UK, Ireland and in other countries where it has been brought by British emigrants. It has its origins in medieval England, and is sometimes known as plum pudding or just “pud”, though this can also refer to other kinds of boiled pudding involving dried fruit. Despite the name “plum pudding,” the pudding contains no actual plums due to the pre-Victorian use of the word “plums” as a term for raisins. The pudding is composed of many dried fruits held together by egg and suet, sometimes moistened by treacle or molasses and flavoured with cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, and other spices. The pudding is usually aged for a month or more, or even a year; the high alcohol content of the pudding prevents it from spoiling during this time. Many households have their own recipe for Christmas pudding, some handed down through families for generations. Essentially the recipe brings together what traditionally were expensive or luxurious ingredients — notably the sweet spices that are so important in developing its distinctive rich aroma, and usually made with suet. It is very dark in appearance — very nearly black — as a result of the dark sugars and black treacle in most recipes, and its long cooking time. The mixture can be moistened with the juice of citrus fruits, brandy and other alcohol (some recipes call for dark beers such as mild, stout or porter). Prior to the 19th century, the English Christmas pudding was boiled in a pudding cloth, and often represented as round. The new Victorian era fashion involved putting the batter into a basin and then steaming it, followed by unwrapping the pudding, placing it on a platter, and decorating the top with a sprig of holly. Christmas puddings have very good keeping properties and many families keep one back from Christmas to be eaten at another celebration later in the year, often at Easter. Constance Spry records that it was not uncommon to go so far as to make each year’s pudding the previous Christmas.


  • Do you Play Volleyball ?

    Volleyball is a team sport in which two teams of six players are separated by a net. Each team tries to score points by grounding a ball on the other team’s court under organized rules. It has been a part of the official program of the Summer Olympic Games since 1964. On February 9, 1895, in Holyoke, Massachusetts (United States), William G. Morgan, a YMCA physical education director, created a new game called Mintonette as a pastime to be played (preferably) indoors and by any number of players. The game took some of its characteristics from tennis and handball. Another indoor sport, basketball, was catching on in the area, having been invented just ten miles (sixteen kilometers) away in the city of Springfield, Massachusetts, only four years before. Mintonette was designed to be an indoor sport, less rough than basketball, for older members of the YMCA, while still requiring a bit of athletic effort. The first rules, written down by William G Morgan, called for a net 6 ft 6 in (1.98 m) high, a 25 ft × 50 ft (7.6 m × 15.2 m) court, and any number of players. A match was composed of nine innings with three serves for each team in each inning, and no limit to the number of ball contacts for each team before sending the ball to the opponents’ court. In case of a serving error, a second try was allowed. Hitting the ball into the net was considered a foul (with loss of the point or a side-out)—except in the case of the first-try serve. After an observer, Alfred Halstead, noticed the volleying nature of the game at its first exhibition match in 1896, played at the International YMCA Training School (now called Springfield College), the game quickly became known as volleyball (it was originally spelled as two words: “volley ball”). Volleyball rules were slightly modified by the International YMCA Training School and the game spread around the country to various YMCAs. The first official ball used in volleyball is disputed; some sources say that Spalding created the first official ball in 1896, while others claim it was created in 1900. The rules evolved over time: in the Philippines by 1916, the skill and power of the set and spike had been introduced, and four years later a “three hits” rule and a rule against hitting from the back row were established. In 1917, the game was changed from 21 to 15 points. In 1919, about 16,000 volleyballs were distributed by the American Expeditionary Forces to their troops and allies, which sparked the growth of volleyball in new countries. The first country outside the United States to adopt volleyball was Canada in 1900. An international federation, the Fédération Internationale de Volleyball (FIVB), was founded in 1947, and the first World Championships were held in 1949 for men and 1952 for women.

    The complete rules are extensive, but simply, play proceeds as follows: a player on one of the teams begins a ‘rally’ by serving the ball (tossing or releasing it and then hitting it with a hand or arm), from behind the back boundary line of the court, over the net, and into the receiving team’s court. The receiving team must not let the ball be grounded within their court. The team may touch the ball up to 3 times but individual players may not touch the ball twice consecutively. Typically, the first two touches are used to set up for an attack, an attempt to direct the ball back over the net in such a way that the serving team is unable to prevent it from being grounded in their court. The rally continues, with each team allowed as many as three consecutive touches, until either: a team makes a kill, grounding the ball on the opponent’s court and winning the rally; or a team commits a fault and loses the rally. The team that wins the rally is awarded a point, and serves the ball to start the next rally. A few of the most common faults include, causing the ball to touch the ground or floor outside the opponents’ court or without first passing over the net, catching and throwing the ball, double hit: two consecutive contacts with the ball made by the same player, four consecutive contacts with the ball made by the same team, net foul: touching the net during play, foot fault: the foot crosses over the boundary line when serving. The ball is usually played with the hands or arms, but players can legally strike or push (short contact) the ball with any part of the body. A number of consistent techniques have evolved in volleyball, including spiking and blocking (because these plays are made above the top of the net, the vertical jump is an athletic skill emphasized in the sport) as well as passing, setting, and specialized player positions and offensive and defensive structures. Nudists were early adopters of the game with regular organized play in clubs as early as the late 1920s. By the 1960s, a volleyball court had become standard in almost all nudist/naturist clubs. The history of Olympic volleyball traces back to the 1924 Summer Olympics in Paris, where volleyball was played as part of an American sports demonstration event.

    The Olympic volleyball tournament was originally a simple competition: all teams played against each other’s team and then were ranked by wins, set average, and point average. One disadvantage of the round-robin system was that medal winners could be determined before the end of the games, making the audience lose interest in the outcome of the remaining matches. To cope with this situation, the competition was split into two phases with the addition of a “final round” elimination tournament consisting of quarterfinals, semifinals, and finals matches in 1972. The number of teams involved in the Olympic tournament has grown steadily since 1964. Since 1996, both men’s and women’s events count twelve participant nations. The U.S.S.R. won men’s gold in both 1964 and 1968. After taking bronze in 1964 and silver in 1968, Japan finally won the gold for men’s volleyball in 1972. Women’s gold went to Japan in 1964 and again in 1976. That year, the introduction of a new offensive skill, the backrow attack, allowed Poland to win the men’s competition over the Soviets in a very tight five-set match. Since the strongest teams in men’s volleyball at the time belonged to the Eastern Bloc, the American-led boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics did not have as great an effect on these events as it had on the women’s. The U.S.S.R. collected their third Olympic Gold Medal in men’s volleyball with a 3–1 victory over Bulgaria (the Soviet women won that year as well, their third gold as well). With the U.S.S.R. boycotting the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, the U.S. was able to sweep Brazil in the finals to win the men’s gold medal. Italy won its first medal (bronze in the men’s competition) in 1984, foreshadowing a rise in prominence for their volleyball teams. The 1984 women’s tournament was also won by a rising force, China. There are many variations on the basic rules of volleyball. By far the most popular of these is beach volleyball, which is played on sand with two people per team, and rivals the main sport in popularity.


  • Groom of the Stool…An Intimate Job

    The Groom of the Stool was, in the earliest times, a male servant in the household of an English monarch who was responsible for assisting the king in excretion and ablution, whilst maintaining an aura of royal decorum over the proceedings. The appellation “Groom of the Close Stool” derived from the item of furniture used as a toilet. It also appears as “Grom of the Stole” as the word “Groom” comes from the Old Low Franconian word “Grom”. The physical intimacy of the role naturally led to him becoming a man in whom much confidence was placed by his royal master and with whom many royal secrets were shared as a matter of course. This secret information—while it would never have been revealed, to the discredit of his honour—in turn led to him becoming feared and respected and therefore powerful within the royal court in his own right. The office developed gradually over decades and centuries into one of administration of the royal finances, and under Henry VII, the Groom of the Stool became a powerful official involved in setting national fiscal policy, under the “chamber system”. In the early years of Henry VIII’s reign, the title was awarded to court companions of the king who spent time with him in the privy chamber. These were generally the sons of noblemen or important members of the gentry. In time they came to act as virtual personal secretaries to the king, carrying out a variety of administrative tasks within his private rooms. The position was an especially prized one, as it allowed unobstructed access to the king, “the mere word of the Gentleman of the Privy Chamber was sufficient evidence in itself of the king’s will”, and the Groom of the Stool bore “the indefinable charisma of the monarchy”. By the Tudor age, the Groom of the Stool was a substantial figure like Hugh Denys (d.1511) who was a member of the Gloucestershire gentry, married to an aristocratic wife, and who died possessing at least four manors. The function was transformed into that of a virtual minister of the royal treasury, being then an essential figure in the king’s management of fiscal policy. The office was exclusively one serving male monarchs, so on the accession of Elizabeth I of England in 1558, it was replaced by the First Lady of the Bedchamber, first held by Kat Ashley.

    In British Royal Households, First Lady of the Bedchamber is the title of the highest of the Ladies of the Bedchamber, those holding the official position of personal attendants on a queen or princess. The title had its equivalent in several European royal courts. The position is traditionally held by a female member of a noble family. During the Tudor dynasty (1485-1603), the First Lady of the Bedchamber was called Chief Gentlewoman of the Privy Chamber. She had the highest rank among the Ladies of the Bedchamber, and their role was to act as the attendants and companions of the royal woman. The First Lady of the Bedchamber of a queen consort was the equivalent of the post of First Lord of the Bedchamber to a king. The First Lord of the Bedchamber combined his post with the office of Groom of the Stool, who was in charge of the staff of the bedchamber and served as the keeper of the sovereigns stole or official robe. When the sovereign was female, the post of Groom of the Stoles was given to the First Lady of the Bedchamber. This created some confusion between the office of First Lady of the Bedchamber and the office of Mistress of the Robes, who was originally in charge of the queen’s robes or “stoles”. The result was a blur between the offices of First Lady of the Bedchamber and Mistress of the Robes, who were often combined during the 17th-century and 18th-century, until a strict organisation was finally set between them in the 1760s. The office effectively came to an end when it was “neutralised” in 1559. On the accession of James I, the male office was revived as the senior Lord of the Bedchamber, who always was a great nobleman who had considerable power because of its intimate access to the king. During the reign of Charles I, the term “stool” appears to have lost its original signification of chair. The office fell into disuse with the accession of Queen Victoria, though her husband, Prince Albert, and their son, Edward, Prince of Wales employed similar courtiers, now renamed “Groom of the Stole”, from the Latin stola, a long outer garment or robe worn by Roman ladies. Often when the visit of a modern monarch is planned, for example during the construction of a new building, a special royal lavatory pavilion is built for the occasion.

    A close stool was an early type of portable toilet, made in the shape of a cabinet or box at sitting height with an opening in the top. The external structure contained a pewter or earthenware chamberpot to receive the user’s excrement and urine when he or she sat on it; this was normally covered (closed) by a folding lid. “Stool” has two relevant meanings: as a type of seat and as human feces. Close stools were used from the Middle Ages (the Oxford English Dictionary gives the first citation as 1410) until the introduction of the indoor flush toilet. The close stool was sometimes called a necessary stool or a night stool. The eighteenth-century euphemism was convenience; the term was further euphemised in the nineteenth century with the term night commode, which John Gloag suggested may have derived its significance from a design for a “balance night stool” in Thomas Sheraton’s Cabinet Dictionary (London, 1803); Sheraton’s design was “made to have the appearance of a small commode standing upon legs; when it is used the seat part presses down to a proper height by the hand, and afterwards it rises by means of lead weights, hung to the seat, by lines passing over pulleys at each end, all which are enclosed in a case.” This appears to be the link between “commode” as an elegant article of French furniture, and “commode” as a prosaic invalid toilet. “Close stool,” in turn, is itself a euphemism for toilet chair. One meaning of commode survived into the twentieth century to refer to the flush toilet; “toilet” itself originally euphemistic.