Thursday, 11 October 2012

Captain Webb versus the Newfoundland

Have you heard of the 'Stiff Upper Lip'?

Well I'm not sure I totally understand the concept. It was supposedly a foundation stone of British Imperialism. Something about self control, endurance and not displaying one's emotions, I think. The fact that when things are not going my way I like to let people know right away how bad I'm feeling, by body language or barking, apparently means that I don't have one. (A Stiff Upper Lip that is.)

Anyway, I was snuggled up on Gail's lap while she was watching a TV programme all about this famous British character trait, dozing fitfully, when a Newfoundland dog appeared on the screen and captured my attention.

Who knew that one of my species played a role, albeit a minor one, in the development of the Stiff Upper Lip when Queen Victoria was on the throne?

So there was this Captain Webb character, who in 1875 swam the English channel, appeared on match boxes and was generally considered a big hero. But before all this he accepted and won the challenge of staying immersed in the sea longer than a Newfoundland dog, thus demonstrating the nineteenth century Englishman's capacity to endure pointless discomfort without complaint. Or at least that's what Ian Hislop* claimed, more or less.

It's no wonder we lost the Empire is it...?

*Presenter of the TV programme 'Stiff Upper Lip: an Emotional History of Britain' 

PS from Gail: thank you for all your kind thoughts and prayers for HGD. When the body is over ninety years old, it is a challenge to recover from any sort of trauma. We are doing all we can for him and the latest report is that he has 'perked up a bit' and may even be home by the end of the week.


  1. We trust Gail is keeping a stiff upper lip with your help, Bertie. Paws continue to be crossed for HGD.

    -Bart and Ruby

  2. So glad to hear the HGD is doing well.

    The history of stiff upper lip is most interesting. I always wondered why that skill was seen as key to leadership. I do like the saying though

    urban hounds

  3. Nice history lesson Bertie. We really hope HGD will be back with you at the weekend. Our paws are crossed. Have a terrific Thursday.
    Best wishes Molly

  4. Good news about HGD. As for that stiff upper lip bit, our dad often calls us "liver lips." Never a word about their consistency. We'll do more research!

    Wirey love,

    Jake and Just Harry

  5. I say Bertie old chap, it's all gone to pot now the map of the world is no longer pink, what?! Jolly glad HGD is doing a little better. Spiffing news. Deccy x

  6. Glad to hear HGD may be home real soon!

  7. I don't understand the point of a stiff upper lip. If you don't let people see how you're feeling, how do they know to make you feel better with belly scratches and a treat?

  8. I am sooooo glad to hear the news about HGD.

    Now Bertie when MY (Frankie Furter) upper lip gets stiff... my teefs show. I do that to ERNIE ALL the time.. butt unfortunately he just does NOT get the concept and continues to PESTER me.

  9. We don't know what Gails talking about cause we don't got no lips I don't think. What's a lip?
    Benny & Lily

  10. i love to learn new things and I just learned something I did not know....thank you, my friend!

  11. I think it shows how intelligent Newfs are. BOL!

    We're glad HGD is feeling better. Ninety makes recovery difficult. Just keep telling him that the Queen Mother made it to 101.

    XXXOOO Daisy, Bella & Roxy

  12. Hooray for HGD perking up some, getting home will perk him up even more, I bet.

    I try to keep a stiff upper lip but I am not sure I am doing it right. Does Google feature lessons on this?