Pete’s History Picks: 31st October – 6th November

It gives me great pleasure to announce a new feature of my blog. Every week, my esteemed colleague, Master Peter Tollywash (of time-travelling underpants fame), will be presenting us with some of the interesting facts he has discovered about the past. So, without further ado, I hand you over to Guildford’s great historical scholar.

This week in history – 31st October – 6th November

Hi everyone. I’m not really used to this writing about history thingy, but since I started my time-travelling adventures (don’t tell Mum) I’ve become really, like, interested in things that happened a long time ago. One thing I’ve realised is they kind of explain quite a lot of stuff that happens today too. Who’d have thought that, hey? Right, anyway, Barford’s asked me to share with you some of the stuff that I’ve found out about that happened in this week but in, like, history. So here’s the best bits I’ve found from this week in history.

31st October, 1517 – Martin Luther posts 95 theses on Wittenberg church door

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This is Martin Luther – looks a bit like Thomas Cromwell who I met on my recent adventure.
This one sounds really boring, right? I thought that too. I was hoping I’d find out something about how the first Halloween happened or something fun like that. But, actually, this one’s a really important event. I’ve recently come back from Tudor England (Barford’s writing that one up at the mo and you’ll be able to read it later in November) and this Martin Luther guy hanging a bit of paper on a church door explains a lot about what was happening while I was there. Before that, though, just so you know, this guy isn’t the same as that Martin Luther King guy (I thought he was to begin with). Barford tells me Martin Luther King was alive in the twentieth century (the one just before this one) and he was really important in getting more rights for African-American people. Anyway, it’s not that guy, although maybe that guy was named after him? Martin Luther wasn’t happy with the way the Catholic Church was being run and he made a list of 95 things he wasn’t happy about or things he wanted to change. This started something called the Protestant Reformation, which would be really important in the history of England (see 3rd November for more).

2nd November, 1355 – King Edward III of England lands at Calais to invade France

Crazy, right? I didn’t know we’d ever invaded France, but Auntie Cheryl tells me it happened a lot (she knows this kind of thing ‘cause she’s a history teacher). I was also surprised as I wondered why the French didn’t just close the Channel Tunnel, but Auntie Cheryl says there wasn’t one then. They had to go in boats. But yeah, apparently we were fighting a lot with the French at this time and actually ruled bits of France. It was part of something called the Hundred Years War which actually went on for 116 years. Though, Auntie Cher says they weren’t fighting the whole time just on-and-off. She also told me that England actually ruled Calais until 1558. Not sure why we were so keen to keep Calais, unless it was for all the big supermarkets that Dad always makes us go to on the way home from camping in France.

3rd November, 1534 – English parliament accepts Act of Supremacy and King Henry the Eighth becomes Head of the Church of England

Henry the Eighth - not a bad likeness actually.
Henry the Eighth – not a bad likeness actually.
As I think I said, I’ve just come back from my latest time-travelling adventure (seriously, don’t tell Mum) and it was in the year 1535. I even met King Henry the Eighth (but that’s enough as I don’t want to ruin the surprise when Barford’s book on the adventure comes out shortly). Anyway, I said that the list that Martin Luther stuck on that church door in 1517 was a really important event, well this is one of the reasons why.  King Henry had really disagreed with Martin Luther in 1517 and even written something in 1522 about why Martin Luther was wrong and a bad’un. But by 1534 Henry was really keen for the Pope in Rome to stop being in charge of the Church of England, partly because Henry couldn’t divorce his wife if he was. So, Henry was quite keen to have a ‘Protestant Reformation’ (the thing Martin Luther started with his list) in England to get rid of the Pope as head of the Church of England. This act of Parliament put Henry in charge instead, meaning he could decide how things worked instead of the Pope. Even now Queen Elizabeth the Second is in charge of the Church of England.

4th November, 1922 – Howard Carter discovers tomb of Tutankhamen in Egypt

Tutankhamen's death mask - imagine how heavy that must have been to wear. Oh right, he was dead.
Tutankhamen’s death mask – imagine how heavy that must have been to wear. Oh right, he was dead.
This one’s cool and a little bit creepy, which makes it even cooler. This Howard Carter guy had spent a really, really long time, trying to find the tombs of the old Egyptian pharaohs. I dunno why. Doesn’t he know Egyptian mummies have special powers and can zap you with their laser eyes? Anyway, he really wanted to find them and in 1922 he found the tomb that made him really famous – the tomb of some eighteen-year-old pharaoh called Tutankhamen (imagine being king at eighteen, that would be, like, awesome). Apparently it was full of gold and jewellery and stuff. Not sure where King Tut’s xboxes and iPhones went. After that it all got creepy and people who had been part of the discovery of the tomb, like, started to die in ‘mysterious circumstances’. People were saying it was cursed and this was the pharaoh’s revenge. That Howard Carter guy said it was a load of rubbish, but he wasn’t one of the poor people that ended up mysteriously dead!

5th November, 1605 – The Gunpowder Plot is discovered in the Houses of Parliament

What I really like about finding out about this history stuff is that I’m finding out so much of it is linked. I used to think what happened in history was kind of irrelevant, but apparently it isn’t. Anyway, you know all the fireworks and bonfires we do on 5th November? This is why. And what’s weird is it’s linked to two of the other events I mentioned earlier – Martin Luther King and his list and King Henry becoming head of the Church of England. Guy Fawkes, who was the guy they found with all his gunpowder, was part of a group of Catholics who were unhappy about the Protestant Reformation. They didn’t like the fact that the Pope was no longer in charge of the Church of England and the way Catholics were being treated in England. They hoped that, if they could kill King James the First by blowing him up as he opened Parliament, they could replace him with a Catholic king or queen. Weirdly we now celebrate these people being stopped from setting off explosives by setting off explosives and burning stuff. At least I know why now.

Until next time…

Hope you liked this and thanks to Barford for helping me with spelling and stuff. See you next week for more Pete’s History Picks. By the way, Barford’s recently written a short story about some crazy stuff that happened when I went to a Roman bathhouse. Join his mailing list for a free copy.

Five great ways to get creative with the kids this half-term

October half-term can be a tricky holiday. The warmer weather of summer is fading to a distant memory. The parties and other fun activities which fill the Christmas holidays are still to come. So what do you do when it’s probably raining and grey outside and the kids are saying they’re bored? It’s time to get creative (and get them away from the tablets and TV screens).

1. Write a picture book

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As a children’s author I’m always looking for ways to get kids interested in writing and reading. This is perhaps the best way I’ve found. This activity combines kids’ limitless imagination with writing and drawing. And what could be better than that? Kids may need a bit of prompting to get going with the storyline, but once they do get going this is an activity that can keep them busy for hours. When I do school visits I include some creative writing classes and kids are always disappointed when the lesson comes to an end. They always want to know when they can continue their stories. To get the kids started, just help them to pull together a storyline (you can use the prompts in my previous post on story development here) and give them plenty of paper and colour pens and stand back and watch!

2. Make a board game

In these days of tablets and online games a board game seems almost exotic to many kids. Making their own is a great way to develop their design skills and let their imagination run wild. It could be anything from a variant on snakes and ladders to a more ambitious role-playing game. As a kid I used to enjoy making role-playing board games with a bit of a story. I even made boxes for the games out of old chocolate boxes, covering them in paper and drawing on them. A basic game can be made just using paper, sellotape, some old buttons and some glue.

3. Make a pie out of apples you’ve picked yourself

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If you’re in Northern Europe or North America, it’s probably prime time to go and pick some apples. Many farms offer ‘pick your own’ in the UK and I’m sure they do in other countries too. Why not get out in the fresh air (you may need your scarf and extra-thick jumper) and have some fun gathering the ingredients for a tasty cake or pie? Making the mix for the sponge for an apple cake is loads of fun for kids (and there’s always the bowl and spoon to lick clean at the end).

4. Make story art from an old newspaper

Put those old Sunday papers to good use. Get your kids to look through and choose pictures for a story. This may need some supervision or help at the cutting out stage! Then they can have some collage fun gluing the pictures to paper and writing a caption for each part of the story. This activity will encourage your kids to think very laterally to create a story to fit the pictures they find. You may end up with complete nonsense, but that’s half the fun!

5. Create a photo journal of a walk through town

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This activity has two added benefits. It can turn a mundane trip to the shops into an exciting activity for your kids. It can also get them using IT creatively, if you choose to go the higher-tech route. Before you go out, tell the kids you want them to keep an eye out for anything interesting or unusual they notice as you go around town. Explain that this will be for an activity you want to do later. When they spot something, photograph it. This could be anything from an old building to a billboard advert. When you get home, their task is to write a journal saying where they saw the item and why they wanted to photograph it. For added challenge, get them to write a story using the pictures (as a variant on activity number 4 above). You could do this on the computer using MS PowerPoint or a package like that or print out the photos if you want them to do it on paper.
Do you do any of the activities above with your kids? Are there others we should know about? Share your great ideas with the rest of us by leaving a comment below.