November 30 – Independence Day in Barbados

Posted on November 30, 2015

On this day in 1966, Barbados became officially independent of the United Kingdom.

Barbados became a British colony starting with the first English settlement waaaayyyy back in 1627. At that time, apparently, there were no native peoples living on the island, although there were a lot of wild hogs descended from some pigs installed on the island by earlier Portuguese explorers.

The relationship between the Caribbean island colony of Barbados and the European island nation of England / Great Britain / United Kingdom was uninterrupted and peaceful. Even the move to independence was a peaceful process that began after World War II, in 1949.

Independence Day celebrations include a parade and gold-and-blue lights that echo the national flag.

Discover Barbados!

  • Barbados is famous for its consistent waves and good surfing. One of the most famous surf spots is called “Soup Bowl.”

  • Some of the names found in Barbados sound bad – even if the place is very nice. Two examples are the beautiful beach called Foul Bay and the very nice town called Holetown, which also has great beaches.
Foul Bay, above.
Holetown, below (2 photos).

  • The Barbados Wildlife Reserve features many tropical birds, brocket deer, iguanas, and red-footed tortoises.  Plus the very popular monkeys and giant snakes and...
  • The manchineel tree seems like any other tropical plant, and the fruit looks like an apple or pear – but this tree is toxic. The sap of the plant can blister skin and – if it gets into your eyes – can cause blindness! Yikes!

Another somewhat dangerous organism is the sea urchin. Its spines are not venomous, but they are sharp and can cause an infection if you step on one.

To learn more about Barbados, check out this and this other earlier post. 

Also on this date:

Anniversary of the only documented case of a meteorite hitting a human

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November 29 – Liberation Day in Albania

Posted on November 29, 2015

Today Albania celebrates its 1944 liberation from the Nazis.

During the beginnings of World War II, Italy under Mussolini and Germany under Hitler were partners in what was called the Axis powers. Hitler and his Nazi forces took over Austria and then invaded Czechoslovakia without alerting Mussolini; angry at being left out and feeling like a second-rate member of the Axis, Mussolini invaded Albania, attacking all of its ports at the same time.

The Albanians were only able to resist Italy's greater forces for a short time – less than one day. The Albanian king, Zog, escaped with his family to Greece and later England, but the Albanian parliament voted to unite with Italy.

In other words, Albania fell to Italy.

But some Albanians fought back, creating a resistance movement (made up mostly of communists) that fought the Italians and, later, the Germans. And eventually the resistance was able to defeat the occupying forces and liberate Albania!

Did you know...?

  • Apparently, before 1991, there were only about 600 cars in Albania; only Communist Party officials were allowed to drive them. Because of that, I read, roads are not so great, and drivers are not so skilled.
  • But trains and buses are not so good, either! I read that routes are often suspended during the off-season, stations are sketchy, and schedules are hard to find and not adhered to very well.
  • A painter was the mayor of capital city Tirana from 2000 to 2011, and partly because of him, the city is pretty colorful! Check out these photos:

  • One of Albania's more paranoid Communist leaders, Enver Hoxha, had 700,000 bunkers built throughout the nation to help turn away invaders who didn't even exist!
That's one bunker for every four Albanians!

After the collapse of communism, the concrete bunkers were abandoned. Apparently they are difficult and expensive to remove, so they just sit around dotting farms, backyards, mountain passes, city streets, beaches... even graveyards!

I'm glad to report that some bunkers have been reused as living spaces, cafes, storehouses, shelters for animals or for the homeless.

By the way, Hoxha himself had a huge bunker for his own use – a 106-room, 5-story secret bunker! It is now open to the public.

Also on this date:

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November 28 – A Lady in Parliament!

Posted on November 28, 2015

Lady Astor

On this date in 1919, Lady Astor was elected as a Member of Parliament of the United Kingdom.

She wasn't the first woman to be elected MP, but she was the first woman to sit in the House of Commons as an MP.

(In 1918 Countess Markievicz, from Ireland, was elected to the British House of Commons, but she was working for Ireland's independence from the U.K., and so she and 72 other Sinn Fein members who were also elected to represent Ireland refused to sit in Parliament. This abstentionist policy was part of the political and military actions that resulted in the Republic of Ireland.)

Okay, back to Lady Astor, who was really the first woman to serve as MP:

She was born Nancy Witcher Langhorne in America in 1879, and she married an American man (a Mr. Shaw) at age 18. However, the marriage was unhappy, and she ended up divorcing her husband and moving to England to start again.

Now named Nancy Shaw, she was known as a beautiful, witty, and often unexpected young woman whose “saucy” conversation yet prudish behavior confused many Brits. She met another American, Waldorf Astor, who had moved to England when he was 12 years old. They hit it off! Astor was raised to be an aristocrat, and when Nancy Shaw married him, they moved to a posh estate in the country and a posh house in London. Now named Nancy Astor, she busied herself hosting parties and other get-togethers with the social elite. Her husband was elected a Member of Parliament, serving in the House of Commons, but when his father died Mr. Astor became Sir Astor as he took the title of Viscount; he was automatically moved up to the House of Lords, and his seat became available in the House of Commons.

Now named Viscountess Astor (addressed as Lady Astor) wondered why SHE shouldn't have that seat! Despite the fact that she hadn't been involved in the women's suffrage movement, hadn't been imprisoned for the cause, hadn't really paid her dues (some said), she ran and won and became the first woman to take her seat in Parliament.

Bits about Lady Astor

  • Did you notice how many times this woman changed her name? I guess we could give her full name as Viscountess (Lady) Nancy Witcher Langhorne Shaw Astor!
  • The iconic Gibson Girl
    When they met, Nancy and Waldorf Astor had a lot in common—they even shared the exact same birthday! Both were born on May 19, 1879.
  • Lady Astor's sisters were also known for their beauty. One of her sisters, Irene, married an illustrator named Charles Dana Gibson – and she served as one of the models (perhaps the original model) for his popular “Gibson Girls.”

Here are some quotes from Lady Astor:

  • Pioneers may be picturesque figures, but they are often rather lonely ones.
  • The main dangers in this life are the people who want to change everything... or nothing.

  • The only thing I like about rich people is their money.

  • The penalty for success is to be bored by the people who used to snub you.
  • Women have got to make the world safe for men since men have made it so darned unsafe for women.

Also on this date:

Anniversary of the first skywriting in U.S. skies

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