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Writer of things. Hater of semi-colons. “I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: democracy simply doesn’t work” — Kenny Brockelstein.

Why are they so special?

— edited by author

Okay, so this one is going to be part etymology and part entomology.

Firstly, saying something or someone is “the bee’s knees” is saying that thing is excellent, top notch, really cool, and so on.

The history of the expression is, like most idioms in the English language, confusing, uncertain, and utter nonsense. But let’s get one pressing matter out of the way first…

Do bees even have knees?

Well, they aren’t called knees, but in terms of joints in the legs, bees have quite a few of them. All insects have six sections to their legs, each connected by a joint: the coxa, trochanter…

Turns out that isn’t very rare at all

— edited by author

To say something happens “once in a blue moon” is to say it is very rare. Your husband doing the dishes, for example. But like many expressions in the English language, this one’s meaning has got muddied along the way.

It dates back some 400 years, but back then, it would have been akin to a modern day “when pigs fly”: a nonsensical thing that will never happen. Like your husband cooking dinner.

The earliest recorded example comes from 1528, in an anti-clerical pamphlet by William Roy and Jerome Barlow (complete with Old English spellings):

O churche men are wyly…

Russian serfs hearing of their freedom on at the proclamation of the Emancipation Manifesto in 1861, painting by Boris Kustodiev, 1907 — (public domain)

The long and complicated history of the reliance on serfdom, and slow attempts to break from it

Until serfdom was abolished, to be a peasant in Russia was to be a serf: to work the land for the profit of a master, with no chance of freedom. Unlike a slave, a serf is technically tied to the land, only to be traded or sold when a landowner changes, but in practice, there was little difference between the two.

Russian serfs were often policed, whipped, executed, governed and controlled much like any slave, bowing to a master, marrying only with their approval, and having children knowing their fate would also be a life of servitude and toil for…

“Dear me. It’s like they’re just making it up as they go along.”

Photo by on

It was the anniversary of their marriage and Jeremy was at the local corner shop hoping to pick something up for his wife, as was tradition. In front of him were some rotting flowers with brown stems and sad, drooping heads.

“Is this all you have?” he asked.

“What’s wrong with them?” the store owner said, crossing his arms.

“They look dead.”

“They’re dead the second you pull them out the ground. But that’s the best you’ll find anywhere right now. Not really the season for them.”

“There’s gardens filled with nicer flowers than this all over here.”

The store…

A short story where there is more than meets the eye…

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Jonny was asked to make an effort by his mother, but there was no mistaking he had come against his will.

“It’ll do you the world of good being around people, socialising,” she said. “Just try to relax and have a good time.”

And that was that. He didn’t argue, although there was no question he would have a terrible time.

It was Jonny’s second-cousin’s 9th birthday, and the entire house had been decked with streamers, banners, and screaming children. Dozens of children charged around the room wearing all manner of costume, quite caught up with the excitement. …

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In the world of writing, it’s all you have

I’ve been writing on Medium for about a cup of coffee but have been writing and submitting to mainstream publications for years. By and large, I’ve been rejected more times than I care to count. But that is life.

Some of those articles and stories, I freely admit, were not up to scratch, some might not have been a good match, and many simply didn’t make it because the publications get so many submissions the bar is extremely high.

I get it, honestly.

But the one reason why some of these have been rejected that I refuse to accept (and…

How this blood disease shaped the history of Europe

Queen Victoria of England (centre), surrounded by 38 members of her extended royal family that would spread throughout the European continent — (public domain)

By the late-18th and early-19th century, the extended family of Queen Victoria had stretched throughout the European continent. With nine children of her own, marrying each of them off to Europe’s wealthiest and most powerful, her influence spread across the globe. But thanks to what would become known as ‘the Royal disease’, she was unknowingly spreading far more.

Haemophilia is a mostly inherited disease that affects the blood’s ability to form clots, in mild cases just causing complications in serious injury and surgery, but in more severe cases making a simple bruise or scrape life-threatening. As Victoria’s extended family grew…

Artist’s depiction of the first False Dmitry, ruling tsar of Russia for a year, making a run for it as a lynch mob approaches— (public domain)

The strange and long history of pretenders to the Russian throne

World history is filled with the intriguing, opportunistic tales of famous imposters, and it isn’t hard to see why. For most of recorded human history, a ruling monarch sits on a throne with unchallenged power, willing to do anything in order to keep it.

Then, every now and again, perhaps if the ruler is not altogether popular, or if their grasp on power is slipping, a person will step out of the woods one day and proclaim themselves to be the rightful heir to the throne — a long lost brother or son of some former leader, an old heir…

Seen here in an advertisement for the film — (public domain)

The remarkable life of Rasputin’s biggest opponent

Read about Russian history around the turn of the 20th century, and Iliodor, much like Rasputin, is a name that seems to pop up everywhere. He was a strange, unhinged trouble maker with a list of enemies as long as his arm, and natural charisma to match anyone in history, whether he used it preaching, badmouthing his rivals, or just spinning remarkably imaginative lies.

Iliodor’s story is one that has rarely ever been told — his rise and fall (and rise and fall again), rarely matched.

While his greatest rival, Grigori Rasputin, has dominated popular culture for over a century…

Tsarevich Alexei with his pet spaniel Joy, prior to the 1918 murder — photo by Zlatoust City Museum via

The remarkable story of the sole survivor of the Romanov murders

On 17 July 1918 the final Imperial family of the Russian Empire — former Tsar Nicholas II, his wife Alexandra, and their children Olga, Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia, and Alexei, were executed by Bolshevik soldiers in the basement of the Ipatiev House in Ekaterinburg, a little over a year after Nicholas’ abdication.

Along with the family, their three servants and doctor were also murdered, and as the bodies were piled into a truck to be driven to the woods and disposed of, Tatiana’s loyal bulldog Ortino (or Ortipo, it varies between sources) came running down the stairs barking and was swiftly…

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