’20 A To Z Challenge – P

Frat-boy college students did not invent – or perfect – the booze-your-face-off, lost-weekend, drinking party.  Adult men, who should have known better, have been doing it for millennia.  Modern-day drinking glasses have flat bottoms, and stand up straighter and steadier than most of the sots at bars.

Greeks and Romans, and many Medieval European hard-drinkers, went about the task with a round-bottomed pottery, or later, metal, drinking cup in their hand.  Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you to the

PTOMATIS

If ever you needed an incentive to drink, owning a ptomatis might be it. Derived via Latin from Ancient Greek, a ptomatis is a cup or similar drinking vessel that needs to be emptied before it can be put down, because it is shaped in such a way that it won’t stand upright open-end up.

These handle-less drinking cups were even made from wood, but as technology improved, they were fabricated in china, and glass.  This is why drinking glasses, are referred to as ‘glasses.’  While most are flat-bottomed and steady today, the earlier, fall-over versions were why they are also still called tumblers.

Aside from weapons forging, there wasn’t a lot of technology among the Norsemen.  For their drinking, they made do with hollowed out cattle horns.  After a hard day of looting and pillaging, they would settle down with a bovine ptomatis full of mead.

If you ever watched the movie, The Thirteenth Warrior you will have seen the young Muslim, exiled to the far North as an emissary.  When he is offered a little fortified fermented drink to keep the cold away, his face shows disappointment when he says that he is forbidden to partake of the fruits of the grape or the grain.  It quickly lights up again in delight when the Viking claps him on the shoulder, and explains that the mead is made from honey.

Let the party begin!

 

Who Am I?

I’ve been arguing with my computer for about a week, and losing!  It needs a good spring-cleaning.  First it wouldn’t let me access my blog-stats via the front door.  I had to sneak in the Manage My Blogs back door and access them that way.  Now it won’t even do that.  Because of that, I’ve read more Fresh Pressed blogs than I would normally.  One was from a 100% Chinese female, born in the USA.  Who does she root for in the Olympics?  Aha!  A blog theme, and off we go.

Who am I?  I’m a Canadian mongrel mutt, and proud of it.  I am everyman, and every race.  I have the blood of so many races and ethnicities flowing in my veins, I feel like a bowl of Skittles.  I don’t understand “racial purists”, whether redneck white supremacists, or Sikh exclusionists.  There may be a few lost valleys of uncontaminated human DNA in the world, but, more and more, the rest of us are being run through the societal blender.  A recent study said that within a hundred years, the world skin color will be beige.  Even Hitler was one eighth Jewish.  People like the above-mentioned supremacists often are, unknowingly, what they claim to hate.

With three proven Scottish ancestors, for years I’ve told people that I’m one quarter English and three-quarters Scottish.  I am afflicted with the family name Smith, the second-most-common English name.  A surprising free week of study by my daughter on Ancestry.ca revealed that my “English” male ancestor was actually a Hessian who came over to fight for the British in the American War of Independence around 1776.  He survived the war, but didn’t want to return to Europe and managed to stay.  My English side started with a German named Schmidt.  He married a newly arrived English girl, and so did the next several succeeding generations, till Schmidt was changed to Smith, and one of them wandered north into Canada.

The remaining three-quarters Scottish is even more complex and interwoven.  The term Scottish is geo-political, and didn’t exist much more than a thousand years ago.  There is no Scottish race.  The Picts held most of what is now Scotland for centuries.  They fought and interbred with Gaels and Britons.  The Romans tried to sweep up into Scotland, and were swept right back out.  Over the centuries, invaders have found what the Russians, and many others, have learned about Afghanistan.  They could not take and hold the wild mountains and wilder inhabitants.

Many “Roman” soldiers were actually from other countries around the Mediterranean and Europe.  After the Romans left, the Celts and Welsh tried invading the Northland, with about as much success.  Later, the Anglo-Saxons tried invading, in an attempt to form one cohesive kingdom.  The northern tribes amalgamated to preserve their freedom.  Irish Gaels rowed over and slowly brought Christianity to the pagans.  This is why there is an Irish, and a Scottish Gaelic language, incomprehensible to each other.

The Vikings, from three or four Scandinavian countries, roamed the isles and mountains for many years.  Each of these waves of invaders left behind some men, and genetic deposits with local females.  The Spanish Armada, like the Roman Army was actually crewed by sailors of a wide variety of races, including black Moors, from North Africa.  When it was decisively defeated in the English Channel, several of the ships were driven north to the Scottish shore, where the survivors were integrated among the anti-English population.  The Moors were the origination of the term Black Scots.

My maternal grandparents came to Canada from Glasgow, where they were both weavers.  My grandfather was the Keeper of the Patterns, responsible for the production of all Tartans at his mill.  He was a Lowlander, living near the sea.  Several times he had ill words to say about highlanders, descendents of Gaels and Britons.  He claimed they were all stupid, useless oafs, good only for fighting among themselves, and with others.  Grandpa was a short, powerful, dark-haired man, unlike the tall, rangy, fair-skinned, red-haired uplanders.

It is possible (likely?) that he was descended from the disappeared Picts.  One day, when I was about four, our family visited Mom’s family.  The women were inside, doing women things.  My Dad and one of the uncles had started a game of horse-shoes.  The conversation had included another example of Granddad’s disdain for Highlanders.  Another uncle went into the house to get another beer, leaving me sitting on the ground next to the old man.  He was an intelligent, educated and well-read man.  Years later I remembered him speaking, if not to me, then near me.  If memory serves, he said, “They came among us with fire and sword, and drove us from our homes.  But we, the small folk prevailed, and live among them still, unbowed, unnoticed!”  The quote would probably be from a book, rather than from him, but it supports the Pictish background theory.

Who am I?  I am an inclusive citizen of the world.  The blood of countless races and cultures flows through my veins.  I am the result of great plans, and great failures.  I am like a fine Scottish whiskey, the synergistic total being more than the sum of the merely good parts, and the product being both pleasing and stimulating.  Not as hokey as Bill Shatner but, I am Canadian.  I am Me, and I am proud of both, and all the parts it took to make me what I am.