Saturday, January 14, 2006

Dollar, weeds, cricket road sign, weeds

Today I learn from two different sources, a travel programme on BBC Radio 4 and a review of a book called A Silver Legend: the Story of the Maria Theresa Thaler, in the Guardian, that the word "dollar" is associated with the word "thaler". The thaler was a unit of currency, based on a coin minted from silver first mined in the valley of St Joachsmsthal in Bohemia in the 16th century. During the reign of the Empress of the Austro Hungarian empire Maria Theresa (1740 -1780) the thaler began to be a widely used currency including the Middle East and the Americas, partly because of the quality and value of the silver, and partly because of the portrait of Maria Theresa on the coin. According to the victorian traveller Samuel Baker: "The effigy of the Empress with a very low dress and a profusion of bust is, I believe, the charm that suits Arab tastes."

A road sign depicting cricket is to be seen opposite the entrance to the Pantiles and pointing up Warwick Road in the direction of the Neville Cricket Ground. It shows three stumps, one on the right, askew, and two bails up in the air.

A book entitled Garden Weeds and their Control catches my eye in the Oxfam bookshop in Chapel Place. I have never been fond of the word "weed", believing that a weed is no more than a plant growing where someone doesn't want it. But I love the illustrations (beautifully executed watercolours, accompanied by leaf outlines in black) by Hilary Broad; and it is good to be reminded of the names of what sometimes it is necessary to control. Some of the so called weeds in the book are lovely wild flowers, like pink flowered oxalis, which can be used for salad and the delightful lesser celandine, which, with its star-shaped, yellow flowers, announces spring, and grows profusely in the triangular shrubbery in the middle of Berkeley Road, known locally as the "village green".

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