Sunday, 29 November 2009

royal household football team; death row team

In the show of Saturday 7 November, Danny Baker took an email from Daniel Robinson whose London Saturday football team about five years ago played a team called Royal Household, a team made up of Kensington Palace staff. Their home ground was a pitch in the palace grounds that doubled as Princess Anne's helipad. Their match was interrupted, they took the goals off and stood well back, the helicopter landed and a Bentley drove on to pick her up.

The story reminded them of a story they'd had in the past from someone who refereed a game in Hong Kong involving a church team going into a prison and playing a death row team, and they wondered how ineffectual yellow cards might be against the latter.

danny kelly sees the who with a car battery

According to Danny Baker, on his show of Saturday 17 October, Danny Kelly saw The Who at the Valley, Charlton Athletic's ground, where seventy-five thousand people saw them play the loudest open air concert ever, and he took a car battery and a portable television with him, because England were playing a match at the same time.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

peter pan and the princess

Peter Pan and the princess: Sir James "JM" Barrie, author of Peter Pan, was revealed yesterday to have undertaken an unusual royal collaboration.
When Princess Margaret unveiled a plaque commemorating the 85th anniversary of Peter Pan's statue in Kensington Gardens, she recalled how she was befriended, at the age of three, by the celebrated writer.
Sir James was so impressed with the young princess that he used her words in a play and paid her 14 newly minted pennies by way of royalties.
Princess Margaret explained how Sir James sat next to her at her third birthday party and later wrote a description of their meeting for Cynthia Asquith's book The King's Daughters.
He said: "Some of her presents were on the table, simple things that might have come from the sixpenny shops, but she was in a frenzy of glee over them, especially about one to which she had given the place of honour by her plate.
"I said to her as one astounded, 'Is that really your very own?' and she saw how I envied her and immediately placed it between us with the words 'It is yours and mine'."
Soon after the party, the princess heard someone speak of him, and remarked: "I know that man. He is my greatest friend, and I am his greatest friend."
Barrie incorporated the phrases in his last play, The Boy David, and when he next met the Princess, agreed that, as a collaborator in the production, she would receive a penny for each performance.
The play closed after a short run and Sir James assumed Margaret had forgotten his promise. However, in 1937, her father, George VI, wrote Barrie a playful reminder that, if he did not pay up, he would hear from the royal solicitors.
So the writer drew up a formal agreement to pay, which still exists in the Royal Library at Windsor Castle. It was the last thing Barrie wrote. He died on 19 June, 1937.
- Independent, 2 May 1997

nick griffin's views are far from outdated

Nick Griffin's views are far from outdated: In the past, discussions over population were often overshadowed by ideas of 'Us' and 'Them'
- Ian Jack, Guardian, 24 October

However foolish Nick Griffin may have been on Question Time, one thing he said rang true: that if Winston Churchill were alive today, the British National party would be the only party that would have him. Churchill had notably racist opinions. About Indians, as the historian Ramachandra Guha has written, he could be "truly dreadful". Leo Amery, his long-suffering secretary of state for India, recorded many Churchillian moments in his diary. One from September 1942 reads: "During my talk with Winston he burst out with, 'I hate Indians. They are a beastly people with a beastly religion'." The next year hundreds of thousands of people lay dead or dying from starvation in Bengal. When the cabinet was discussing the possibility that grain might be sent to relieve this appalling famine, Amery writes that the prime minister butted in with "a flourish on Indians breeding like rabbits and being paid a million a day by us for doing nothing about the war".
In the end Amery wondered if his boss was '"really quite sane" about India.
Thompson's figure has yet to be reached – the UK population now stands between 61 and 62 million – but the projections carry on. Last year the European Union forecast 76.7 million by 2060 to make the UK the most populous country in Europe. This week the Office for National Statistics calculated the figure would hit 70 million by 2029, with two thirds of the increase coming from new migrants and their children. But just as earlier projections couldn't factor in unknowables and yet-to-come-ables such as the effects of war and immigration, the present ones can take no account of a possibly severe alteration to the British economy.
What does this history tell us? That, in McCleary's words, "attempting to forecast the future arrangements of human society is notoriously a hazardous undertaking". Some things are unimaginable. Could Charles ever have imagined a UK population of 70 million? Could Churchill have imagined that the British steel industry would be owned by the beastly Indians? In this complicated, hazardous world, the BNP is the stupid voice of certainty from another time.

michael green: master of the universe

Michael Green: Master of the universe. Michael Green is the new Lucasian chair of mathematics at Cambridge – following in the footsteps of Newton and Hawking. So does the pioneer of string theory think he holds the answers to life's mysteries?
- Guardian, 24 October.

Usefulness can be a bit of a fraught word in the looping corridors of the Centre for Mathematical Sciences at the leafy edges of Cambridge, however, not least because of recent suggestions from the Science and Technology Facilities Council that levels of future funding will be linked to the degree to which research might contribute to the British economy. Science has, on balance, been very well funded by Labour, says Green, and particle physics and astronomy have so far been more or less exempt from such requirements, but the whole idea has the potential to be "disastrous for certain types of science". (Though "it would be much more disastrous for non-science. I have colleagues who are historians or linguists or whatever who have no idea what's going to happen").
"Throw your mind back to when Faraday was working on electromagnetism, when there was apparently no use whatsoever for electricity OR magnetism. There's a famous quote – I think it was Gladstone – who asked, 'What use is it'? And Faraday is reputed to have said, 'Someday, sir, you will tax it'."
I wonder if his parents were religious, and whether he is: I cannot but imagine that routinely contemplating 11 dimensions and a constantly expanding universe (only 20% of the matter in which is currently understood, the rest being dark matter. And that's not to mention dark energy, or the multiverse) might induce a kind of existential vertigo, and thus nihilism, or belief, or total rejection. Some properly thought-through accommodation with the idea of divinity, at least. Dimensions, particularly, seem to me to require a certain leap of faith. He admits to regularly feeling awe, but the dimensions don't seem to trouble him much – mostly because, rather than trying to imagine them in space, they generally exist, for him, as letters and numbers in equations.
He doesn't believe in God. "My parents were very unreligious. Extremely. I presume they influenced me. I'm sort of jealous of people who do have faith. I suppose it depends on the sort of god you have faith in, but it gives you security, I guess.
"I get angry with people who are wildly atheist, because they sort of deny any humanity whatsoever. They deny the poetry – and they talk as if we understand everything, including love, and actually there are beautiful things which can move you in ways that presumably can be understood entirely in terms of complex pathways in the brain, but that's still not a useful way of thinking of them. So I get annoyed by ultra-atheists who aren't willing to tolerate anything – I suppose I'm less atheist than that."


Philip Welch who, to my astonishment, I discovered, after the programme, was appearing on radio for the first time (the seam of academics who can richly reward listening to appears to be endless in this country) was of the opinion that Gödel was now rather overplayed. He said that somewhere in the world at the moment, there would be someone writing an essay or book about Gödel and economics, or Gödel and politics, and it was mostly nonsense. Gödel existed in a specific area of mathematics and the idea of universal application did not hold water.
Marcus, a fanatical Arsenal supporter, is making a series about mathematics and he is doing something on Gödel and Hilbert on 27 October on BBC4 (this is the first known plug in an infinity of newsletters). But it’s relevant to our programme because he went to Vienna and found out more about Gödel. One of the things he found out was about Gödel’s marriage to a nightclub singer. A divorcee, a few years his senior, who saved him from the Nazis. Gödel was not a Jew but had worked with and was very sympathetic to the Jews and the Nazis came for him. They found him at the top of some steps (outside a nightclub? I did not clear that with Marcus). His wife saw them off. They retreated in front of the nightclub singer and Gödel retreated to America where he met up with Einstein, with whom he used to walk to university every morning. When Einstein had a celebratory occasion and people wrote celebratory things about him, Gödel’s contribution was to solve some of Einstein’s unsolved equations! Gödel died of malnutrition in his 70s because he became convinced that someone was trying to poison him.
PS: John Barrow, the only academic since about the 16th century to hold two professorial Chairs at Gresham, in his case astronomy and geometry, said that people who met Gödel in Princeton were left literally speechless. After their opening remark, he would work through the way in which the conversation would logically proceed and to an end in rapid order.
PPS: I’m very sorry we did not get around to Leibnitz’s logic machine, in which all things would be fed and out of which would come answers to every question in the universe.
- extracts from Melvyn Bragg's In Our Time newsletter of 9 October 2008 (sic)

boris johnson 'actively trying to broker' elephant & castle regeneration deal

Boris Johnson "actively trying to broker" Elephant & Castle regeneration deal: Mayor of London Boris Johnson says that Elephant & Castle's prospective developers Lend Lease are in a "dire position" as a result of the credit crunch.
- SE1 Direct, 10 November

celebrities lead charge against scientology

Celebrities lead charge against Scientology: Hollywood figures quit 'rip-off' church as Australian prime minister threatens parliamentary inquiry into its activities
- Observer, 22 November

wikipedia shows signs of stalling as number of volunteers falls sharply

Wikipedia shows signs of stalling as number of volunteers falls sharply
- Times, 25 November

how david arnold got the james bond gig

On the Robert Elms best of the week podcast of 30th October David Arnold told Gary Crowley - who was sitting in for Robert - how he became the James Bond soundtrack composer. Barbara Broccoli, the producer, was looking for ideas for a new composer and went to a record shop to get some ideas. She took a bundle of CDs to the counter, the assistant noticed that they were all film soundtracks, and she told him what she was doing. He told her she should get David Arnold's Shaken and Stirred, a CD with new versions of various old Bond themes, which she did, and she chose David Arnold as a result. Wikipedia isn't up to speed on this, interestingly, saying it was John Barry who recommended him.

'someone is *wrong* on the internet'

Found my way to after a long time because this cartoon was on someone's blog:
- Are you coming to bed?
- I can't. This is important.
- What?
- Someone is *wrong* on the internet.

Posted at...

Friday, 27 November 2009

boris; caroline

I have lunch from time to time in the cafe in the lower floor of City Hall, the Mayor's office - it's a short menu, but it's subsidised (by us, of course) - and this Tuesday Boris nearly jumped the queue in front of me for paying, but then realised his mistake; I smiled at him but made no smart reply. It used to be easily open to the public, but now you have to go through security, which isn't a problem but does mean that it's not obvious to many people that it's open to the public.

I've also met Caroline Pidgeon there and spoke to her about a letter I'd written - she's a Lib Dem London Assembly member, but also one of our three local councillors (don't know how long that'll last now that she's in the LA. When I saw her first at a TRA meeting I thought - not in a bad way - that she was someone who might be going places politically (here's a post on that theme in praise of her from another Lib Dem).

paul cornell

Paul Cornell's Wikipedia entry includes this:
In an interview on the Doctor Who: DWO Whocast, Cornell stated that this entry in wikipedia described him as "..both a Christian and a pagan..", which he has chosen not to correct as it illustrates his sympathies for the pagan world. He then goes on to state that he is an Anglican but is very "..Low Church, almost a Calvinist.." and this is partly because he doesn't enjoy hymns.
Spiritual themes are not uncommon in his work (for example his novel Something More). Other frequent references in his work include owls.

This is his blog.

exploded: the myth of a miracle bomb detector

Exploded: the myth of a miracle bomb detector
- Bad Science, Guardian, 14 November.

Similar devices have been tested repeatedly and shown to perform no better than chance. No police force or security service anywhere in the developed world uses them. But, in 2008, the Iraqi interior ministry bought 800 ADE651s for $32m (£19m) and they've ordered a further shipment at $53m. These devices are being used at hundreds of checkpoints in Iraq to look for bombs.
General Jabiri challenged a New York Times reporter to test the ADE651, placing a grenade and a machine pistol in plain view in his office. Every time a policeman used it, the wand pointed at the explosives. Every time the reporter used the device, it failed to detect anything. "You need more training," said the general.

record review

The Guardian Guide on 14 November describes Florence and the Machine's new single, You've Got The Love, as 'so shamelessly geared towards office Christmas parties that it may as well come with a great big print-out of your employer's sexual harassment policy.'

john hurt and religion

Hurt came from a family of working-class high achievers. His father studied maths at Cambridge before becoming an Anglican clergyman; his mother was a draughtswoman. He had a good sense of humour, but was strict and dogmatic; she was aspirational and didn't like young John playing with the "common" local children. Hurt felt stifled by the attitudes, the godliness, the smallness of their lives. The second world war had turned everything on its head – after all the destruction and austerity, Hurt belonged to a new generation that wanted to experiment and create.
By 16, he was bored with school, had given up on God and was headed for art school. His new-found agnosticism would have caused ructions in the family were it not for the fact that his older brother Michael had created a far bigger shock wave by joining the Catholic church. "That was the blackest day in the family history ever; that was my brother joining the Antichrist. It acted as a complete smokescreen to my agnosticism, so I got away with it." His brother went on to become a monk at Glenstal Abbey in Ireland, then left the order and fathered three children, before returning as Brother Anselm.
And he talks about the relationship between science and godlessness. "Of the last 100 Nobel prize winners for physics, only one was a Christian, all the rest were atheists." What a weird fact to know, I say. He laughs. "I'm interested... It's something Richard Dawkins brings into his book The God Delusion." Hurt so wanted to agree with Dawkins, but found him every bit as dogmatic as his father had been, only in the other direction. "I liked his early books, then when I read The God Delusion, I thought, you're making a huge mistake, you're being so strident and you can't back it up. I kept thinking, you haven't proved a thing, and you're going on about science having to have the proof. We still don't know what the business of life is, and I'm perfectly happy not to know."
- interview-based article on John Hurt in the Guardian, 21 November

gordon brown's allegedly strange pronunciations

Gordon Brown's strange pronunciations, part 87: the prime minister has been making much of the Conservative party leader David Cameron's "cast-iron" promise, now abandoned, of a referendum on the Lisbon treaty.
"I suppose that is a cast-iron promise!" he says sarkily of any proposal the Tory leader makes. Though sometimes he gets it the wrong way round and calls it an "iron-cast promise".
It's rather spoiled, though, by the fact that he seems to be the only person in the English-speaking world who pronounces the letter "r" in "iron", thus: "cast eye-ron promise." It brings you up short and makes it hard to concentrate on what follows.
- Simon Hoggart, Guardian, 21 November. He's made comments before about Gordon Brown's 'strange' pronunciation: it's as if he's never heard anyone Scottish speak ever before.

down with the kids: victorian values

Down with the kids: Victorian values. My son's school project on the Victorians taught me the dangers of the internet for research
- Guardian, 21 November.

Our six-year-old's school project this half-term is the Victorians. It's a big project, as of course the Victorians invented everything good that exists in the world, except for the modern and still relatively untested concept of letting foreigners run their own countries. The Victorians certainly invented everything our own kids love: trains, jelly babies and toilets. As our six-year-old pointed out, before the Victorian age you would have had to fly everywhere in planes, eat Smarties, and never do a wee or a poo, ever. "They just had to really … hold … it … in," he suggested, making an agonised face.
School projects are brilliant. When else do you get to answer questions such as, "Daddy, did sabre-toothed tigers die out in Britain before or after you had to go out when it was dark and do a wee all alone at the end of the garden?"
As my wife is from Paris, the most exciting part of the Victorian project has been the discovery that the French and the English do not agree on one single thing that happened between 1837 and 1901. We believe that Fox Talbot invented photography. In France, they say Daguerre. We insist that Cunard ruled the waves. The French are equally adamant that it was the Compagnie Générale Transatlantique. Our kids witnessed what became a spirited project-work dispute. The French thing was awkward. But what can you expect from a degenerate nation whose only answer to our bracing soft-porn depictions of Ophelia was the work of Monet and Cézanne? To end the argument, for the sake of our son's project, we decided that the Victorian world didn't include France – a state of affairs that the French were indeed keen to maintain at the time.

joe meek's session musicians

Coverage of the Joe Meek biopic, Telstar, which would be good to see sometime, reminds me that his session musicians included Chas Hodges, Ritchie Blackmore and Mitch Mitchell. Features from Sunday Times and the Observer have some of the pertinent facts, including that another of the musicians, Clem Cattini, was a session drummer who subsequently played on more No 1 records than any other musician. 304 Holloway Road isn't far from where I used to live.

patrick stewart: the legacy of domestic violence

Patrick Stewart: the legacy of domestic violence. As a child, the actor regularly saw his father hit his mother. Here he describes how the horrors of his childhood remained with him in his adult life
- Guardian, 27 November

alan bennett and the question of innocence

Johann Hari: Alan Bennett and the question of innocence. In his new play, [Bennett] takes his dark analysis of pederasty further
- Independent, 27 November

the dark side of the internet

The dark side of the internet: In the 'deep web', Freenet software allows users complete anonymity as they share viruses, criminal contacts and child pornography
- Guardian, 26 November

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

dull videos of streets in our area

Dull videos of streets in our area are on AmeliaStreet's YouTube channel - dull in terms of action, but hey, they're our streets. Amelia, Penton, Crampton, Iliffe, Peacock.

how belle de jour's secret ally googlewhacked the press

How Belle de Jour's secret ally Googlewhacked the press: British blogger called Darren worked out identity of blogging sensation but kept it secret for almost six years
- Guardian, 18 November. I'm less interested in the Belle de Jour story than Darren's detective work and impressive technological tripwire trap.

missing canadian teenager survives three days on ice floe

Missing Canadian teenager survives three days on ice floe: Search team finds teenager Jupi Nakoolak 'in decent shape' after drifting in -15C temperatures with polar bears
- Guardian, 10 November

trapped in his own body for 23 years

Trapped in his own body for 23 years - the coma victim who screamed unheard • Misdiagnosed man's tale of rebirth thanks to doctor • Total paralysis masked fully functioning brain
- Guardian, 23 November

Monday, 23 November 2009

gordon banks's 'greatest save of all time'

On Second Thoughts: Gordon Banks's 'greatest save of all time'. Countless keepers have displayed sharper reflexes, superior athleticism and more deliberate and admirable technique than Banks did against Brazil
- Guardian sport blog, 18 November. Paul Doyle says what I've always thought.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

abuse on the internet

Previous story via Private Eye, where this was part of a spoof story:
Meanwhile, celebrities everywhere were devastated at the news that an ordinary member of the public had used the internet to call Stephen Fry 'dull'.
'I would never have guessed that people were using such highly derogatory words such as "dull" when discussing celebrities on the internet,' said a horrified Britney Spears. 'I certainly hope no one has ever been as abusive as that about me on the net.'
'I always assumed the internet was a lovely, kind, forgiving, gentle place,' added a crestfallen Lindsay Lohan, 'but if people are using horrible words like "dull" on it, then obviously I must be wrong.'

Also a cartoon of J Keats Fruiterer behind his stall telling a woman, 'That's not mould, love, that's mellow fruitfulness that is...'

south africa pigeon 'faster than broadband'

South Africa pigeon 'faster than broadband'
Broadband promised to unite the world with super-fast data delivery - but in South Africa it seems the web is still no faster than a humble pigeon. A Durban IT company pitted an 11-month-old bird armed with a 4GB memory stick against the ADSL service from the country's biggest web firm, Telkom. Winston the pigeon took two hours to carry the data 60 miles - in the same time the ADSL had sent 4% of the data. Telkom said it was not responsible for the firm's slow internet speeds. The idea for the race came when a member of staff at Unlimited IT complained about the speed of data transmission on ADSL.
He said it would be faster by carrier pigeon. "We renown ourselves on being innovative, so we decided to test that statement," Unlimited's Kevin Rolfe told the Beeld newspaper.
- BBC, 10 September

Thursday, 19 November 2009

filming down our way - caine and eastwood

We've always been used to filming going on near our church - the City being virtually empty at the weekends, especially Sunday. We seem to get more filming near home than we used to, though. The emptying out of the Heygate Estate has made a difference, I'm sure, as it has become a more viable location for gritty inner-city council block filming. The empty lot at the top of Walworth Road, west side, where the petrol station used to be, is often used as a location base, so I don't know if thta availability has also made a difference.

Michael Caine recently filmed Harry Brown on the Heygate Estate, and of course he's from inner south-east London; it came up quite a bit in the publicity for the film. Evening Standard article ('Michael Caine: We've left children to rot, now they are animals'). Film Shaft ('Daniel Barber: Harry Brown Is “Born Out Of Reality”'). Daily Express ('The violent Britain of today scares me'). Daily Telegraph ('Sir Michael Caine: Harry Brown filming taught me of 'wasted generation'. Sir Michael Caine believes society has created a 'wasted generation' of children in Britain's inner cities.'). Metro ('Michael Caine channels Harry Brown: Actor found filming in his old neighbourhood depressing'). Daily Mirror ('Harry Brown star Sir Michael Caine says kids need our help').

And at the moment, Clint Eastwood is filming Hereafter around here. He used the Heygate too. At the moment they're 'set dressing' Iliffe Street and Crampton Street for filming next Tuesday. I took a couple of photos this morning, but I'm sure there'll be more online before long that I can link to - it'll be easier to take photos there than of the Heygate. They're putting old-style wall-painted adverts and notices and shop fronts up, and making the ground floor frontage of the row along Iliffe Street all grimy and grubby. Some articles and pics South London Press. SE1 Forum. Zimbio.

Film London is the official body for arranging filming locations. They have a location of the month feature - the current one is Heygate Estate.

I'll be looking out for London Boulevard too, the film starring Keira Knightley and Colin Farrell for which they filmed a scene in our local pub, the Hampton Court Palace, earlier this year.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009


I also recently read Dune by Frank Herbert, breaking the back of it on some long train journeys to and from Inverness. It was okay, but I don't feel the need to read any of the many sequels. I was surprised to find the extent to which it was essentially a fantasy novel with a very light science fiction framework (it could have been easily managed without it), and also the extent to which the religion in the book seemed to draw on Islam. It was long, and it dragged in stretches, though I'm not sure but that that may have coincided with my reading pattern - did the first part seem to go more quickly because I read it in longer stretches, while I read a lot of the second part in smaller stretches, me rather than the book? Top of a lot of SF lists, but not anywhere on mine.

(Coincidentally not long before I'd watched the BBC documentary The Conspiracy Files: 7/7, based around a conspiracy theory video - which they went on to debunk - which was the work of someone calling themselves 'Muad'Dib', which sounded Islamic but which was taken from Dune, and the man behind it was an old white nutter (The Independent review).)

Just one small quote, p447 in my relatively modern NEL edition (no edition date, for some reason):
'Give as few orders as possible,' his father had told him . . . once . . . long ago. 'Once you've given orders on a subject, you must always give orders on that subject.'

make room make room

Just finished Make Room! Make Room! by Harry Harrison. Published in 1966, it shares with Stand On Zanzibar by John Brunner a couple of years later a plot based on the extrapolation of population growth and its implications, with added depletion of food and energy resources and apparent climate change. It was good fun and a quick read, where Stand on Zanzibar was something of a plod, but not a classic (although like Stand on Zanzibar it's on a lot of lists of SF classics, perhaps more reflective of their impact at the time and in the history of SF); it petered out a bit (Soylent Green is based on it, but the film's twist isn't in the book), but it did work the implications out quite well through the characters and their stories without too much sermonising, much better integrated than SOZ.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

cartoon readings

In Private Eye of 30 October, a cartoon of a playpark with a parkkeeper saying to a woman, 'We've renamed it to try to attract kids out of doors', and there's a sign beside the slide which says 'Nintendo Wheeee'.

silence in the square

On Wednesday morning I went into town to take photos of Armistice Day things - I'd particularly seen that at the end of the British Legion's Silence in the Square event they put poppy leaves into the fountain which might make a good photo, and when it came to it there seemed to be as many people taking photos of it as there were putting poppies in. If I'd stayed longer I might have got photos with more poppies in them, but I went back down Whitehall past the Cenotaph again and then to Westminster Abbey, where they were having a special service to mark the fact that this year the last WWI veterans died. I'd hoped to get photos of the Field of Remembrance there, but they'd cordoned a lot of it off so you couldn't get near - there was quite a crowd of folk, who had obviously watched everyone go in and were waiting for them to come back out, but I had to get back to work and my camera battery was running out. I went back on Thursday to the Abbey and got some better photos of the Field of Remembrance.

I'd got to the Square in plenty of time, having got off the bus in Parliament Street and taken photos at the Cenotaph (which was quieter than afterwards) and then around the Square. When I'd taken enough photos I went to the stage area, which is why I ended up being right at the front, at the barrier front left - at house group on Thursday Ria said she'd seen me on the news. I wasn't sure what the event would be like, as it might be tricky to manage the tone, since you're having performances for an hour in advance of the two minutes' silence, but it was fine.

Links. The British Legion page on the event, which gives this summary: 'In London the sun shone as Ben Shephard introduced a moving programme of musical performances and readings leading up to 11.00am on the 11th day of the 11th month. Only Men Aloud, Cerys Matthews, Mark Knopfler and Athlete all performed and George Taylor and Stephen Fry read poems. After observing the silence, the crowd were invited to place poppy petals in the fountains.' Blink and you'll miss me in one of the clips on this ITN page - the first one that came up when I looked at this page. A BBC report of the day. Here are two clips of Cerys singing Arglwydd Dyma Fi - this from a tv programme, this from a live concert (I see from the blurbs that she'd done this on an album).

The Only Men Aloud choir were fine, though it was hard to fully appreciate how good they might be because their backing track was too loud - it would have been a lot better if the backing track was a quarter of the volume, or not there at all. They sang at the start and the end. One of the most unusual thing about the event was that the first two songs were the same - the Welsh hymn Arglwydd Dyma Fi (the one the end of the chorus of which in English is 'wash me, cleanse me in the blood that flowed on Calvary'), which Only Men Aloud sang, and then almost immediately afterwards Cerys Matthews sang with just an acoustic guitar. They were both stirring in different ways, but Cerys's was certainly classier and more natural; it ran into an English hymn which I didn't recognise, and then she did Love Me Tender. I don't know if that hymn has a particular association with the military in Wales; they did mention that Cerys's performance was being beamed to the sister event in Swansea, so I'm sure she wanted to do something with them in mind if nothing else. I also enjoyed Mark Knopfler's song, Remembrance Day, done with the men's choir and a children's choir as well as his band. And Athlete were okay too - they played what I presume is their hit, which I did recognise, and then a song specially written, with an interesting story: the singer/writer's grandfather was wounded at Arnhem and as he lay for twenty hours before being picked up, he wrote a letter to his wife/girlfriend, presumably anticipating he would die, but he didn't, and the song was inspired by that (although I'm not clear on whether the words draw on the words of the letter). Stephen Fry read well, though I got the impression he was rather rushed, as the hour was approaching.

I wore a poppy, which isn't my usual practice (that's another story), since I was at an event actually organised by the charity so it would be at the very least discourteous not to, and also because I was there in a work capacity, taking photos for possible future use, and not just there on my own behalf. The photos before and after were what had taken me there really, but it was good to be at the event also.

Friday, 13 November 2009

spare us the phoney poppy apoplexy

Spare us the phoney poppy apoplexy: The vitriolic campaign to bully all Premier League clubs into wearing a poppy on their shirts shames the memory of the fallen
- Marina Hyde, Guardian, 5 November

environmentalism is given the same weight as religion in british employment laws

A matter of faith: Environmentalism is given the same weight as religion in British employment laws
“A belief in man-made climate change and the alleged resulting moral imperatives is capable, if genuinely held, of being a philosophical belief for the purpose of the 2003 Religion and Belief Regulations.”
Those were the words of an English High Court judge, Mr Justice Burton, on November 3rd as he ruled that green beliefs deserve the same protection in the workplace as religious convictions. A person’s right to believe in anthropogenic climate change, and not be hounded out of his job because of it, is now enshrined in law.
- Economist, 9 November

newspaper pay walls have a lot of confused writing on them

Newspaper pay walls have a lot of confused writing on them: As Murdoch hesitates, there are no simple solutions over charging for digital content
- Guardian, 8 November

teachings of jesus are a ‘good guide’ to life, says cameron

Teachings of Jesus are a ‘good guide’ to life, says Cameron
David Cameron has admitted his Christian faith may not always the rock it should be, but is nonetheless a good guide to get through life.
In an intimate interview with the Evening Standard, the Tory leader spoke openly about his fluctuating faith.
When asked if his faith was important to him, he said: "If you are asking, do I drop to my knees and pray for guidance, no. But do I have faith and is it important? Yes. My own faith is there, it's not always the rock that perhaps it should be.
"I've a sort of fairly classic Church of England faith, a faith that grows hotter and colder by moments but ... I suppose I sort of started life believing that one's individual faith was important, but actually the institutions of the church were less important.
"I do think that organised religion can get things wrong but the Church of England and the other churches do play a very important role in society."
Mr Cameron, who was confirmed at 18, admitted to being in his younger years a “good, sceptical, questioning” Christian who liked to think his faith through.
"I think that it's perfectly possible to live a good life without having faith, by which I mean a positive and altruistic life, but I think the teachings of Jesus, just as the teachings of other religions are, a good guide to help us through,” he continued.
"Do unto others as you would have them do to you; don't walk on by. These are good and thoughtful ideas to bring to life."
- Christian Today, 6 November

the church's abortion mistake

The Church's Abortion Mistake: By focusing exclusively on the abortion issue in the health-care debate, James Carroll says the Catholic Church is sabotaging its broader moral mission.
- The Daily Beast, 12 November


TV matters: Poppies. The wearing of poppies by TV presenters is getting earlier and earlier
- Mark Lawson, The Guardian, 12 November

maclaren bows to pressure over pushchair safety kits

Maclaren bows to pressure over pushchair safety kits: UK customers concerned about safety of its pushchairs can now obtain hinge covers previously offered only in US
- Guardian, 12 November

disgruntled star editor takes constructive revenge

Disgruntled Star Editor Takes Constructive Revenge
Earlier this week the Toronto Star announced, among other changes, that it was planning to outsource some one hundred in-house, union editing jobs. In the press release issued by the union in the wake of the announcement, union chief Maureen Dawson explained that "Journalism is a collaborative effort, the product of a team of reporters, photographers and editors working in concert to produce the kind of activist agenda that has served Star readers and our community so well for so long...To remove a critical element of that work is to shortchange everyone who depends on it."
Now, one (apparent) editor at the Star has decided to show us all the benefits of collaboration. An extensively marked-up copy of Publisher John Cruickshank's internal memo announcing the changes was sent to Torontoist by a self-described "intermediary who was asked to send this for a friend who works at the Star" this morning; it's, allegedly, "the work of a Star editor."
- the Torontoist article which this is from, has an image of the marked-up letter in question. Good work.

london in colour 1927

The Open Road London - a lovely colour clip of London from 1927 on Youtube, part of London's Screen Archive.

playing with the moon

Playing with the moon - a nice set of photos from

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

stadiums from trains, abandoned matches

Today's Guardian Knowledge has a lovely map of stadiums viewable from trains, and an interesting item on the latest times of abandoning matches. The article linked to about the Barrow Gillingham game also entertaining.

micro men

Just watched and enjoyed Micro Men, which we recorded from BBC4 a few weeks ago. Entertaining, and a memory rush, and a reminder of how far we've come in such a short time. BBC Micros appearing in one room - the computer lab - in school, Spectrums or similar in rare homes.

Some reviews and related articles, with interesting content - unsurprisingly, several from geeky sites I've never come across before when searching for reviews. Games Industry. Daily Telegraph. Drobe interview and review. The Arts Desk. Guardian. Den of Geek. TV Throng. The Sci-Fi Gene. The Inquirer. Rock, Paper, Shotgun.

Unusually, the comments section at the end of the Guardian review has an interesting exchange. X: 'Very entertaining portryal of the Curry/Sinclair rivalry. But why the portrayal of male-only geeks? Wikipedia reveals that the Acorn employee who designed Acorn System 1 was Sophie Wilson. Maybe they'd have had to choose a different title for the programme, but couldn't we have a bit more accuracy please?' Y: 'Sophie used to be called Roger.'

Monday, 9 November 2009

war photography

'I was there': From Roger Fenton's prints of the Crimea to mobile-phone images of Baghdad, every era of war photography has been marked by new technology. But what has always mattered more than technical brilliance, argues Geoff Dyer, is getting close enough to the epicentre of history
- Guardian, 18 October 2008.

Robert Capa's 1936 photograph The Falling Soldier shows the moment of a republican soldier's death in the Spanish civil war. Or so it was claimed and widely believed. Then doubts began to circulate. Perhaps the picture was posed, fake. Capa's biographer, Richard Whelan, has gnawed away at this issue for decades. The explanation put forward by him in the catalogue accompanying an exhibition at the Barbican is that, during an informal truce, a group of soldiers simulated a bit of a battle charge for the benefit of the camera. Fearing a genuine attack was being mounted, enemy troops opened fire. The trigger was pulled, the camera clicked simultaneously - and a man died. Make-believe became tragically real.
Whelan's explanation is unlikely to be improved on, but it is worth considering something that David Simon, in his book Homicide, learned from ballistics experts: that "no bullet short of an artillery shell is capable of knocking a human being off his feet". This is not to say that people don't fall down when shot. They do, but only as "a learned response. People who have been shot believe they are supposed to fall immediately to the ground, so they do."
Capa said that he would rather have "a strong image that is technically bad than vice versa". He realised early on that a little camera-shake created a dangerous air of bullets whirring overhead. In certain circumstances, then, technical imperfection could be a source of visual strength. When his pictures of the D-day landings were published in Life magazine, a caption explained that the "immense excitement of the moment made Capa move his camera". The blurring actually came later, as a result of a printing error at the lab in London. In the excitement of receiving Capa's films, most of the 72 pictures were completely ruined. Eleven survived, all wounded, maimed, but the darkroom accident imbued them with sea-drenched authenticity and unprecedented immediacy.
One of the emblematic images from the Vietnam war shows a severely injured civilian woman lying covered in blood, a soldier crouching over her protectively. It was taken in Saigon in 1969 by Larry Burrows. And by Jones Griffiths. The two photographers were right next to each other, snapping away at the same moment. So these pictures are emblematic less of the Vietnam war than of the way images are gathered and presented. A recent documentary showed a correspondent in close-up, reporting on the latest bloodshed in Iraq. The tight camera added to the intensity of the scene - and, the documentary revealed, hid the fact that, a few feet away, another correspondent was doing his to-camera version of the same story.
A few yards away from this photograph is a display case containing equipment used by a tank commander, Gordon Hassell. First deployed successfully in the Battle of Cambrai in 1917, the tank was a radical technological innovation, one requiring new, specially designed masks for the crew. Imagine what this mask looks like - a version of a pilot's or motorcyclist's helmet? - and then think again. The top part is solid dark, heavy metal, moulded round the bridge of the nose with slits for the eyes; the bottom half is a kind of chain-mail drape. It looks as if it was made for King Arthur and his knights. In the adjacent case is an even more ancient-seeming exhibit: a club, fashioned from a length of wood, used for hand-to-hand fighting in the trenches.

like a rolling stone, sound of silence, blue jay way, bridge over troubled water

The 'interesting fact' on the Rocking Vicar home page just now is this: 'The same studio musicians who had just helped Bob Dylan record "Like A Rolling Stone" were asked by producer Tom Dowd to stay in the studio for one more song. He then recorded the electric guitar, bass and drums that were to be added to Paul Simon's voice and acoustic guitar. The result was the 1966 number one hit, "Sound of Silence".'

Which reminds me that Blue Jay Way was written in the same house in Los Angeles as Bridge Over Troubled Water, which George and Paul were respectively staying in at the relevant moments.

Here's a page all about Blue Jay Way the place, and the house, which also says taht the percussion track for Cecilia was recorded there.

Here's a page of info on Simon & Garfunkel songs, drawing on quotes from Paul and Art.

the siege of munster

Listened to a very interesting In Our Time, from last week, on The Siege of Munster. Here's the Wikipedia article on it, though of course it doesn't do the justice to it that IOT did.

list of lighthouses

Here's a list of lighthouses in Lewis and Harris, some with photos.

google earth

Google Earth is a fantastic thing, of course. But just looked at the Google Earth image of the Castle Grounds, and it's shrouded in cloud, which is amusing. It's also confirmed just how much of the castle grounds I've never actually been to. What's also amusing is that the clouds stop abruptly in a vertical line, west of which the sky is lovely and clear. Different squares on different days. The Lewis moor seen from above is fascinating, though, a lot more interesting than one might expect. Lots of lines and textures.

butch cassidy

Butch Cassidy was called Butch because he had been a butcher, I learned on Danny Baker's Saturday show. Wikipedia confirms that, and also tells me that Cassidy wasn't his real surname either.

london gas lamps, and more

There are still street lamps in London which are gas lamps. Here is an Urban75 item with some nice photos. A message board thread on Sabre (The Society for All British and Irish Road Enthusiasts!) on gas lighting in Westminster.

London was also the first public place lit by gas lamps. The Wikipedia version: 'The first public street lighting with gas took place in Pall Mall, London on January 28, 1807. In 1812, Parliament granted a charter to the London and Westminster Gas Light and Coke Company, and the first gas company in the world came into being. Less than two years later, on December 31, 1813, the Westminster Bridge was lit by gas.'

The gas lamp in Carting Lane used to run off sewer gas but doesn't now. Shady Old Lady version. Ian Visits likewise, and wider.

Other things found on this trawl:
Interesting English Heritage document on the listing of street furniture.
IanVisits has saved Ivor Hoole's detailed website on London's alleys, courts, passages and yards, the hosting website of which (Geocities) has closed down.
Paul McCartney's London address is 7 Cavendish Avenue (Shady Old Lady).
London's highest accessible point is the London Eye (Tiredoflondontiredoflife).

In the end, though, I didn't really find what I was looking for, which was to see whether those original gas lamps are still there on Pall Mall. I didn't look that hard really, though.

Saturday, 7 November 2009


Bloody, as a swear word, is not, as I had thought, derived from 'Christ's blood' or similar. World Wide Words says, 'people mistakenly believed it derived from old oaths like Christ’s blood, by God’s blood, or by our lady, in reference to the Virgin Mary. The real origin, still in doubt, may be traceable back to the aristocratic rowdies, the bloods, of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.'

michael caine's acting tip

In the new Radio Times the (new) editor Ben Preston writes of Michael Caine, 'More than two decades ago, the Walworth wonder gave an acting master-class that changed the way I watch films for ever. How does a screen actor hold his audience's attention? The Caine solution is stunningly simple. Staring straight into the camera from six inches, he explains: "If I'm talking to you, and I don't blink, and I just keep going, and I don't blink, and I just keep going, and I don't blink... you start to listen." He's right.'

Friday, 6 November 2009

incredible movie plots that are based on real life

Incredible Movie Plots That Are Based On Real Life: The true stories that are weirder than the movies. The release of The Men Who Stare At Goats this week has got us thinking about the true stories that are stranger than anything Hollywood could come up with on its own. After all, psychic spies and attempts by US soldiers to walk through walls is one thing, but some of these tales are just as weird and wonderful...
- Empire feature. The Audie Murphy story is the most interesting

neil young sued

I was reminded in a Word I read recently that Neil Young was sued by his record label Geffen in the 1980s for making records that didn't sound like Neil Young.

paul atkinson

Paul Atkinson was both the guitarist in The Zombies and the A&R man who signed Abba to Epic in the UK.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

observer expenses

It's pleasingly ironic that MPs were encouraged to exaggerate their expenses to replace a pay rise which would have attracted public opprobrium. Now they are suffering vastly more contempt than they would from a salary increase which would have been forgotten in a week.
But the law of unintended consequences is constantly enforced. When I joined the Observer, we never had to produce paperwork for our expenses. It was assumed that no Observer man or woman would ever dream of fiddling. Then Lonrho took over and their executives were appalled by this gentlemanly nonsense. Why, everyone knew that journalists were chiselling frauds! We had to produce a bill, receipt or invoice for every penny we spent, whether for two weeks in a Tokyo hotel or a cup of tea and a bun.
To their bafflement, expenses claims almost doubled. This was because, while a few were cheats, most journalists were completely disorganised and forgetful. Having to save each scrap of paper meant we could at last remember everything we'd spent. You'd think they would have cut their losses and gone back to the old way. But as the Freakonomics books demonstrate, common sense is only one very small factor in financial decision making.
- Simon Hoggart, Guardian, 31 October

the power of tweets

The power of tweets: What have Jan Moir, AA Gill and Jimmy Carr got in common? They have all provoked storms of protest on microblogging website Twitter. But is this a new age of democracy, or a danger to free speech?
- Guardian, 31 October

new battle over bosworth's site

New battle over Bosworth's site. It is more than 500 years since the Battle of Bosworth saw the death of Richard III and ushered in the Tudor dynasty. Since then scholars have argued over the precise location of the battle with several different locations given serious consideration. Now a team of historians and archaeologists says it has found the site - and it is not where everyone thought it was.
- BBC, 28 October

the stephen fry outcry shows how twitter has changed

The Stephen Fry outcry shows how Twitter has changed: As a user who criticised Stephen Fry discovered, Twitter can now turn anyone into a news story. Time to get off the site?
- Guardian, 2 November

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

from which train trip in britain can you see the most league football grounds?

From which train trip in Britain can you see the most league football grounds?
"During train journeys I always keep an eye out for the tell-tale sign of a football ground in the distance: the sight of floodlights," wrote Peter Newbitt two weeks ago. "I wonder, on which single railway journey (no changes!) in the UK can you see the most league football grounds?"
Trainspotting meets football trivia: welcome to the Knowledge's very own perfect storm of nerdvana. It has prompted a deluge of emails in our direction, detailing journeys from every corner of the Great Britain and throwing up counter-claim and controversy. Can Saltergate be seen from the elevated section of track over the A617? Is Easter Road hidden from view by Calton Hill? Do Millmoor and Feethams still count?
Fortunately we had an epic missive from Robin Foot of First Great Western, who revealed that Arriva Cross Country still runs a direct service from Plymouth to Aberdeen. Using Robin's in-depth knowledge of all things track-related, and with help from a bevy of other readers, we've concluded that the £180, 11-and-a-half-hour journey takes in 20 league grounds:
"There are also a couple of recently defunct grounds that can be seen," adds Robin. "The Baseball Ground (Derby) and Feethams (Darlington - you used to be able to see the floodlights, not sure now). If that wasn't enough, looking at the engineering notices, over the past year the train has been diverted at various times to include the following grounds: Barnsley, the Durham Coast (Sunderland and Hartlepool) and Perth (St Johnstone, Stirling Albion, Falkirk, East Stirling). I know the original request was for league grounds, but if you pardon my insouciance towards the rules, then there are also these Blue Square Premier grounds: Gateshead International Stadium (Gateshead), the Lamb Ground (Tamworth) and KitKat Crescent (York)."
James Mackenzie's days at Durham University led him to suggest the East Coast Mainline route from London to Aberdeen, which we reckon heads past 14 different grounds. In addition to all 10 grounds from Darlington northwards, as shown on the map, he suggests:
• Highbury and Emirates Stadium, Arsenal - both are visible on the right
• Lamex Stadium, Stevenage (admittedly non-league) - on the left at the top of a hill just before the station
• London Road, Peterborough - on the right of the station as you pull in, very close to the tracks
• Keepmoat Stadium, Doncaster - on the right about two minutes before the station
"On the London Euston to Carlisle train you can catch a glimpse of the Wembley arch, then Vicarage Road as you pull in to Watford Junction, Gresty Road from Crewe Station, the JJB as you pull out of Wigan North Western and Deepdale from a distance as you pass through Preston." writes Stephen Campbell. "You can even see Lancaster City as an added bonus." As Kieran Corr points out, the route continues up to Glasgow via Motherwell passing Fir Park, possibly Parkhead and possibly with Ibrox visible: "Being a native of the city I'm actually horrified that I can't remember if you can see Ibrox when crossing the Clyde outside Central Station." All three would bring the total of grounds visible to eight.
With the coveted "Most Grounds From One Journey" title pretty much sown up, a few of you have offered suggestions for the "Grounds Per Mile" champion. Amir Arezoo suggests the Buxton to Blackpool service which, between Stockport and its final destination, passes "Edgeley Park (bang next to the train station), the City Of Manchester Stadium (on the way past Ardwick), Old Trafford (a glimpse, look to the left coming out of Deansgate), the Reebok Stadium (down the road from Horwich Parkway) and Bloomfield Road (just a glimpse again)." Five stadiums in just under 60 miles, or 12 miles per stadium.
Richard Scrimshaw, though, can top that with the service from East Croydon to Milton Keynes Central. "In 1hr 51mins [and just under 70 miles] the train passes Selhurst Park, Stamford Bridge, Loftus Road, Wembley Stadium, Vicarage Road, Berkhamsted Town and stadium:mk." That's 10 miles per stadium, though the presence of the non-league ground of Broadwater in Berkhamsted and Wembley do raise doubts over its legitimacy. Though Broadwater must be deserving of extra praise for the ability of wayward shots to threaten waiting passengers on the station platform.
So we've established two champion train routes, but now we want your help once more. One flashy interactive graphic route isn't enough. We want to plot a map of the entire country listing every ground visible from the railway tracks so we can create a resource for groundspotters. When planning a journey we want travellers to think "I won't bother watching that DVD or reading that book, I'll keep my eyes peeled for Sincil Bank". So send in your suggestions, and preferably how they can be seen, to the usual address - - with the subject title 'Groundspotting'. We'll publish the results in the next few weeks.
- the Guardian Knowledge, 4 November

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

dead man in ambergate street

Man murdered in street shooting: A 22-year-old man has died after being shot in a south London street. Police found the victim in Ambergate Street, Kennington, just before 1900 GMT on Monday. The man, who has not been identified, suffered multiple gunshot wounds in the attack which happened a short distance from Kennington Tube station. Police believe he was shot in Alberta Street and staggered into Ambergate Street where he collapsed. No one has yet been arrested over the killing. The victim was taken to hospital where he died in the early hours of Tuesday. Officers from the Trident unit, which investigates gun crime in London's black community, are treating the death as murder.
- BBC, 3 November

london 2012 borough landmarks for badges

London landmark pin badges - the results are in!
Last month we asked Londoners to tell the world what they think makes their borough great with the London Landmark pin vote. I'm pleased to say we had a fabulous response – thanks to all who voted. you can see comments from some of the people who voted on my previous blog announcing the competition.
The results are now voted by Londoners the pin badges will feature the following landmarks...designs will be unveiled early next year...
Barking and Dagenham: The Catch A gateway public artwork for Barking Town Centre reflecting the area’s Saxon heritage and involvement in the fishing industry.
Barnet: The Archer Statue Sculpted by Eric Aumonier and located outside East Finchley tube station, the archer points his arrow to the opening of a 17.3 mile tunnel running all the way to Morden.
Bexley: Hall Place A Grade I listed house built for the Lord Mayor of London during the reign of King Henry VIII, now houses the Bexley Museum Collection, a tourist information centre and riverside tearooms.
Brent: Neasden Mandir Temple Popularly known as ‘Neasden Temple’, The Mandir is a masterpiece of Indian craftsmanship and continues to attract over half a million visitors annually.
Bromley: Crystal Palace Transmitting Station and Park Crystal Palace Park hosted the great exhibition of 1851, showcasing the glasshouse with over a million feet of glass. It is the site of the BBC’s main broadcast tower in London, built in the 1950s. The Athletics Stadium within the grounds hosts international track and field competition.
Camden: St Pancras Station When it opened in 1868, St Pancras’s ironwork train shed was the largest enclosed space in the world. The Grade I listed building has recently been refurbished and is the jewel of the crown of the High Speed 1 railway.
City of London: Tower Bridge Designed by Sir Horace Jones and Sir John Wolfe-Barry, the Bridge was built over the Thames in 1894. It is one of the most recognisable landmarks in the world.
City of Westminster: Westminster Abbey Steeped in more than 1000 years of history, it has been the coronation church since 1066.
Croydon: Croydon Clock Tower Built in 1895 as the borough’s Town Hall, it now also houses the Croydon Museum and art galleries, a cinema and library.
Ealing: Ealing Studios One of the great names in British entertainment, Ealing Studios is famous around the world as the home to the great Ealing comedies of the 1940's and 1950's. It s the oldest film studio in the world still in production.
Enfield: Forty Hall Forty Hall was built in 1629. This Grade I listed building it provides a link with Enfield's past while providing the borough with an outstanding venue for many arts and cultural events.
Greenwich: Old Royal Observatory A monument to navigational research, this is the home of Greenwich Mean Time and is famous as the source of the Prime Meridian line, dividing East from West (longitude 0° 0' 0''). The Observatory galleries unravel time, space and astronomy; the Planetarium lets visitors explore the heavens.
Hackney: Hackney Empire Each Christmas a cosmopolitan, diverse audience visits for sensational shows. International opera companies, famous orchestras, leading touring productions, top comedians and musicians have all appeared.
Hammersmith and Fulham: Hammersmith Bridge Hammersmith Bridge was built in 1887 as a replacement for the original suspension bridge dating from 1827. The present bridge was designed by Sir Joseph Bazalgette.
Haringey: Alexandra Palace ‘Ally Pally’ finally opened in 1875, two years after it was destroyed by fire. Damaged again by fire in 1980, it now has event halls, a public ice rink and parklands.
Harrow: St Mary's on the Hill This beautiful church is visible for miles around; it has a history going back 900 years.
Havering: Upminster Windmill This Grade II listed building was built by local farmer James Noakes in 1803. The windmill continued to grind wheat and produce flour until 1934.
Hillingdon: Hillingdon Sports and Leisure Centre Hillingdon Sports and Leisure Centre will have the first new 50m indoor pool in London for 40 years.
Hounslow: Chiswick House Built in the mid-1700's by Sir Edward Seymour, the house is considered to be the finest surviving example of Palladian architecture in Britain.
Islington: St John's Gate, Clerkenwell The In the original Tudor Gate House to the Priory's English headquarters, visitors can see the Priory church and 12th century crypt.
Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea: Natural History Museum The building was designed in 1865 by Alfred Waterhouse to house Sir Hans Sloane's extensive collection of natural curiosities.
Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames: Telephone Boxes sculpture (London Road) A sculpture by David Mach, commissioned in 1988 for the new relief road, these disused red telephone boxes have been tipped up to lean against one another in an arrangement resembling dominoes.
Lambeth: London Eye At 135 metres, The London Eye is the world's largest cantilevered observation wheel, with 40 kilometre panoramic views on a clear day. It has welcomed over 30 million visitors to date.
Lewisham: Horniman Museum Victorian tea trader Frederick John Horniman began collecting specimens, musical instruments and artefacts from around the world in the 1860s, and the growing collection was moved to a bespoke museum in 1901.
Merton: Wimbledon Centre Court (AELTC) Centre Court has seen a number of changes since its first match in 1877. It is recognisable the world over and recent additions include a fully retractable roof.
Newham: Three Mills Three Mills and its surrounding waterways is a beautiful conservation area for industrial heritage and astonishingly abundant wildlife.
Redbridge: Churchill Statue On Woodford Green stands a statue of Sir Winston Churchill, Britain's wartime leader who was MP for Wanstead and Woodford for 40 years.
Richmond upon Thames: Richmond Park London’s largest park with 2,500 acres of hills, woodlands, gardens and grassland with stunning views as far as St Paul’s Cathedral.
Southwark: Globe Theatre Performances and an education programme combine to create an international resource dedicated to the exploration of Shakespeare's work and the playhouse for which he wrote.
Sutton: Honeywood Museum Located by Carshalton Ponds, Honeywood dates from the 17th century.
Tower Hamlets: Tower of London Founded by William the Conqueror in 1066-7, this is one of the world's most famous fortresses, and one of Britain's most visited historic sites.
Waltham Forest: Waltham Forest Town Hall The centrepiece of the impressive 1930s Civic Centre complex by P.D. Hepworth, completed during the early years of World War II.
Wandsworth: Battersea Power Station A Grade II listed building built in 1939. It was the first in a series of generators set up as part of the National Grid power distribution system, standardising the supply of electricity in England.
- London 2012 blog, 29 October. An interesting set of landmarks.

the 2004 olympic legacy that london must avoid

The 2004 Olympic legacy that London must avoid: A diving pool with four inches of stagnant water, brand new stadia mothballed and derelict, an Olympic complex all but abandoned and strewn with litter and graffiti — this is the legacy from the Athens Olympics in 2004. An Evening Standard investigation has uncovered Olympic venues which remain unused and barred to the public just five years on — in a stark warning for organisers of the London Games. On the day Mayor Boris Johnson and Olympics minister Tessa Jowell announce a new company to “secure a lasting legacy” in the wake of London 2012, the size of the task that confronts them is obvious — if the Athens experience is anything to go by. Venue after venue of the 2004 Games, visited by the Standard, is in disrepair. Graffiti covers stadia walls; weeds grow through walkways once used by spectators and athletes; litter spills out across empty plazas while metal fences and padlocked gates bar entry.
- Evening Standard, 6 February

temporary parks that could pop up on recession-hit building sites

Temporary parks that could pop up on recession-hit building sites: We've had "pop-up" shops, restaurants and galleries. Now the craze for temporary experiences could include parks, allotments and markets in London. Architects have realised there are hundreds of unused building sites across the capital where work has been mothballed during the recession. Some of these could soon be full of greenery and people. The latest example is among the foundations of the abandoned Leadenhall tower in the City, where a 48-storey sloping skyscraper, nicknamed the Cheese Grater and designed by Lord Richard Rogers, was due to be constructed.
- Evening Standard, 30 October

unoccupied, unloved: london mansions left to crumble by elusive offshore owners

Unoccupied, unloved: London mansions left to crumble by elusive offshore owners. Council official despairs at total of 1m empty homes in London and across the UK
- Guardian, 16 October

Monday, 2 November 2009

november ansible extracts

Erin Karpluk on her Canadian TV series, _Being Erica_: 'Erica is an over-educated, under-achieving woman who gets the change to go back in time and fix all the bad decisions she made in the past. [...] It's not sci-fi -- the time travel is just a catalyst.' [SJ] Which cries out to be satirized by Ursula Le Guin. 'The galaxy-spanning FTL spacefleet is just transportation. The psionic talking cabbages are just a metaphor.'

CONTRAST. When the interestingly named Ms Marmite Lover staged a Marmite-themed dinner at her London home restaurant, the Marmite people sent product freebies and earned some useful goodwill. When she planned a (non-profit) Harry Potter dinner whose guests would dress as wizards etc, Warner Bros sent a lovable cease-and-desist letter: 'your proposed use of the Harry Potter properties [...] would amount to an infringement of Warner's rights.' (_Telegraph_, 25 October) [MPJ]

_Andy Sawyer_ has the dirt on Prof John Mullan (see _A267_), he who scorns the sf reader as 'a special kind of person who has special weird things they go to and meet each other.' Take it away, Andy: 'Do I detect pique? Obviously this is not the same John Mullan who _next weekend_ [written 2 October] will be found hanging about with a very special fandom, aka the Jane Austen Society of North America. I don't know if there's a masquerade, but there's certainly a competition: "Which two brothers and which two sisters, created by Jane Austen, would JASNA members like to have as their own brothers and sisters?" And the programme includes: "Fashion Demonstration, 'Dressing Mr. Darcy'", "Workshops: Dance, Reticule, Silhouette", and the rather mournful combination of "4:30pm to 5:30pm Social hour (cash bar) / 5:30pm to 8:00pm / Dinner on your own".'

crossing continents on the old kent road

Crossing continents on the Old Kent Road: One small stretch of London seems to capture half the world - and it is Britain's future, whether Michael Howard likes it or not
- Guardian, 4 April 2005

paranoia in the playground

Paranoia in the playground: Listen to mayor Dorothy Thornhill. Her council has just banned parents from watching their own children at two council play areas in Watford. Quoted in the Watford Observer this evidently simple-minded woman says, "Sadly, in today's climate, you can't have adults walking around unchecked in a children's playground."
Instead of parents being able to watch and play with their own and other people's children at the Harwoods and Harebreaks recreation grounds, vetted council staff known as "play rangers" will be in charge. The mayor says that this enforces government policy.
Actually that's not true because no government policy has yet determined that parents may not supervise their own children in a playground. It seems possible that the mayor and her appalling council may be in breach of article 8 of the Human Rights Act – the right to family life. A mother of three named Rebekah Makinson was quoted by reporter Neil Skinner as saying: "Banning parents from an open access playground, I feel, is a breach of our personal freedom."
- Henry Porter's blog, Guardian, 28 October

the internet has done for scientology. could it rumble the christians, too?

The internet has done for Scientology. Could it rumble the Christians, too? While Hubbard's cult gets ever more exposed, it's a shame other religions are not forced to justify their own doctrinal lunacies
- Guardian, 30 October. Marina Hyde makes a rather illogical connection.

starter for ten

Starter for 10: why do University Challenge winners go on to failure? For ordinary viewers who struggle to answer the starter for 10, the impossibly bright contestants on University Challenge are a source of wonder.
- Daily Telegraph, 30 October

Sunday, 1 November 2009

hottest heads of state

The Hottest Heads of State website declares itself to be 'A scientific and unbiased ranking of world leaders in order of hotness.'

I like their FAQ page, on which the last question is this:
Q: Do you own the copyrights to the images that you use?
A: Enough questions!

Top of their list is Yulia Tymoshenko, Prime Minister of Ukraine. Our Gordon is 84th of 172.

a blunt instrument

Also read this year another Georgette Heyer, A Blunt Instrument (1938), which I enjoyed.

An extract from p78 of my Harper Collins paperback:

Sally was so much interested that she was beguiled into pursuing the subject of foreign travel. Neville's disjointed yet picturesque account of incredible adventures encountered during the course of aimless and impecunious wanderings held her entranced, and drew from her at length a rather wistful exclamation of: 'Golly, what fun you must have had! I wish I were a man. Why haven't you written a book about all this?'
'That,' said Neville incorrigibly, 'would have invested my travels with a purpose and spoilt them for me.'

the nine tailors

I read this year I think my second Dorothy L Sayers, The Nine Tailors (1934: Wikipedia entry here - nb contains full plot summary including solution), and it may be my last; I haven't really taken to her.

It did, however, help me to understand something about bell-ringing which I hadn't before and which I recognised at once when I read it. As it says on p21 of my old Coronet paperback: 'The art of change ringing is peculiar to the English, and, like most English peculiarities, unintelligible to the rest of the world. To the musical Belgian, for example, it appears that the proper thing to do with a carefully tuned ring of bells is to play a tune upon it. By the English campanoloigst, the playing of tunes is considered to be a childish game, only fit for foreigners; the proper use of bells is to work out mathematical permutations and combinations. ... His passion - and it is a passion - finds its satisfaction in mathematical completeness and mechanical perfection, and as his bell weaves her way rhythmically up from lead to hinder place and down again, he is filled with the solemn intoxication that comes of intricate ritual faultlessly performed.'

Another quote, from p113, a character speaking: 'She's a sort of cousin of the Thorpes, a lot of times removed, and long way back, and she's got a stack of money and the meanness of fifty thousand Scotch Jews rolled into one.' Such casual references scattered through pre-War novels attract accusations of anti-Semitism for the authors, which I don't generally think is fair, as I think you can make a case in several ways - you've got to judge by the times and not anachronistically, you can't definitively judge an author's position on anything by positions they put into their characters. And there is surely a distinction between racism and proverbial stereotyping - the doubling up of 'Scotch Jews' emphasises this issue here. If it had just said 'Scotchmen' no one would bat an eyelid today - and the question 'Why not? What's the difference?' bears serious consideration (and is not anti-Semitic).

Finally, this exchange between Sir Peter Wimsey and his man, from p151:
'Can we deduce anything further from this envelope?'
'If I may be allowed to say so, my lord, it is possibly a little remarkable that the name and address of the sender does not appear on the back.'
'That is well observed. Yes, Bunter, you may have full marks for that. The French, as you have no doubt often noticed, seldom head their letters with an address as we do in England, though they occasionally write at the foot some such useless indication as "Paris" or "Lyon", without adding the number of the house and the name of the street. They do, however, frequently place these necessary indications on the flap of the envelope, in the hope that they may be thrown into the fire and irrecoverably lost before the letter is answered or even read.'
'It has sometimes occurred to me, my lord, to be surprised at that habit.'
'Not at all, Bunter. It is quite logical. To begin with, it is a fixed idea with the French that the majority of letters tend to be lost in the post. They put no faith in Government departments, and I think they are perfectly right. They hope, however, that if the post office fails to deliver the letter to the addressee, it may, in time, return it to the sender. It seems a forlorn hope, but they are again perfectly right. One must explore every stone and leave no avenue unturned. The Englishman, in his bluff, hearty way, is content that under such circumstances the post office should violate his seals, peruse his correspondence, extract his signature and address from the surrounding verbiage, supply a fresh envelope and return the whole to him under the blushing pseudonym of "Hubbykins" or "Dogsbody" for the entertainment of his local postman. But the Frenchman, being decorous, not to say secretive, by nature, thinks it better to preserve his privacy by providing, on the exterior of the missive, all the necessary details for the proper functioning of this transaction.'

a wreath for rivera; death in a white tie

I've just finished the second of two Ngaio Marsh's in a row - A Wreath For Rivera (the title on my US edition; real title ) and then Death In A White Tie (1938). I can't remember what the previous one was but I didn't warm to it that much, but I liked these two. As always, a fascinating insight into the way of life at the time, especially the class system, more so than you'd get in a serious novel about society. For example, the upper class disdain for the police and the sense that they're above the law, their servants seeing their first duty being to lie or conceal on behalf of their employers; illegitimacy as a reason for blackmail; a very entertaining sequence in the second one in which the detectives are interviewing a lady who was in the toilet at the crucial time, and the awkwardness and euphemism involved in the interview.

The second one also has a peculiarly misleading cover; presumably the designer knew there was a murder, a phone call and a cigarette case involved, but the murder was in a carriage not by the phone and the cigarette case was not found at the scene.

Both stories have a very short time frame, the detectives being up when the murder happens in the middle of the night and beginning work then and through the next day (and night) until the crime is solved.

I don't know who summed up the golden age of the English detective novel as 'snobbery with violence', but it was well put.