The name itself is thought to have originated outside England, possibly in America, as drinking black tea for breakfast was a long-standing English custom.
The young brother and sister are the children of a poor woodcutter whose wicked second wife plots to abandon them in the forest. Overhearing the plan, Hansel and Gretel make preparations and, on the day of their abandonment, Hansel surreptitiously lays a trail of white pebbles to mark the way they have come. Thanks to this, they are able to make their way home again, much to the annoyance of their stepmother.
On her second attempt, Hansel lays a trail of crumbs but these are eaten by birds, leaving the children lost and starving. They stumble across a clearing in which they find a house made of gingerbread and decorated with sweets. It is the home of an evil witch who traps the children with the intention of eating them. She feeds Hansel to fatten him up and uses Gretel as a slave. But Gretel manages to trip the witch into the fire and burns her alive. She frees her brother and they return home, with the witch’s treasure, to find their stepmother dead. They live with their father happily ever after.
Exorcism is a practice existing in numerous world religions in which a religious leader commands an evil spirit to leave a place or person which it has supposedly possessed. Catholic Christian formal exorcisms are carried out by a priest and may involve a ritual, prayers and the invocation of Jesus Christ, God or certain angels to help evict the spirit. Anyone may say prayers of deliverance but formal exorcisms can be carried out if it is deemed necessary – it may take months until the spirit is thought to be gone.
Media attention in the latter half of the twentieth century saw a sharp rise in the number of exorcisms performed, helped along by the portrayal of exorcism in popular culture such as the 1973 horror film ‘The Exorcist’.
Mistletoe is the common name for Viscum album, a type of evergreen plant which grows high in the branches of trees and other plants. There are several different varieties including sub-tropical families, but the most common is the European mistletoe which is found across the continent.
Mistletoe has green leaves and small white berries, both of which are poisonous. It is, however, an important part of folklore – in ancient Europe, it was closely associated with male virility, romance and fertility. This is most likely what has caused the custom of kissing under mistletoe, a tradition which dates back in England to the 16th century. As it is an evergreen, mistletoe is commonly used as a decoration around Christmas time, and whenever a man and woman encounter one another below it they are supposed to exchange a kiss, the man plucking a berry from the branch. When no berries are left on the branch, the kiss is no longer obligatory for anyone who passes below it.
The annual Tenbury Wells Mistletoe Festival is a winter-time celebration of the plant.
Gentlemen’s clubs were private members-only clubs set up by upper class men in eighteenth-century Britain; however, in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries they became popular amongst the middle classes who could afford to pay for membership. In the late 1800s there were around 400 clubs in London, some of which catered to particular political, cultural or sporting interests, others which were based on previous membership to a certain school or battalion of the armed forces. The clubs were not for entertainment purposes – this came later, when many strip clubs took on the name – but were a second home for their members, who may have lived out of town or even abroad. Clubs offered living rooms, a restaurant, games rooms and sometimes bedrooms, allowing their members to socialise, relax, eat and use the building as a base on their business trips to London.
A full list of London’s gentlemen’s clubs, including those no longer in operation or fictional, can be found here.
Arsenic is incredibly poisonous and the contamination of groundwater due to its use in pesticides or near where it is mined is a dangerous problem. The symptoms of arsenic poisoning include headaches, confusion, drowsiness and diarrhea, which can lead to stomach pains, vomiting, muscle cramping and convulsions. Eventually, the poisoning will lead to coma and death.
Prolonged exposure to small amounts of arsenic (such as in groundwater) can be easily treated if the early symptoms are recognised and diagnosed; if left untreated it can lead to damaging health effects such as heart diseases and cancer of the skin, lungs, kidneys and liver.