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Saturday, 3 December 2011

Reverend P.T.B. "Tubby" Clayton (1885-1972)

Another trip to London courtesy of work and astonishingly we decided not to brave the shopping hordes on Oxford Street but instead did a circular walk from Tower Hill through the deserted city or rather City and deserted it certainly was once we walked across Trnity Square home of the merchant navy memorial dotted with poppies after the recent remembrance day ceremonies. Trinity Square was home to Trinity House who were granted a charter by Henry VIII in 1514 - They look after the countries lighthouses and pilots hence the association with the Merchant Navy.Trinity Square was also the place of execution for many who had lost the great game of power and intrique from 1381 to 1747 who were spared death at the end of the rope due to their rank. It was the axe for them although they were many pubic executions conducted as a deterrant to all who opposed the powers that be.
Off to one side of Trinity Square is the blue plaque to the excellently named Philip Thomas Byard Clayton - born in Queensland he was educated at St. Paul's and Exeter College Oxford where he got a first in Theology. He was appointed priest of St. Mary's Church Portsea in 1910. In 1915 he became an army chaplain. He and another chaplain, Neville Talbot opened a rest house for troops in Poperinge, Belgion - Talbot House - translated by army signallers as Toc H. After the war Clayton wanting recreate the cameraderie found by all ranks visiting the establishment founded the Toc H movement - dedicated to four principles - Friendship, to love widely, - Service, to build bravely, Fairmindedness, to think fairly and The Kingdom of God, to witness humbly. The first Toc H house was built in Kensington in 1919 and several others quickly followed aiding those returning from war. Clayton became vicar at All Hallows by the Tower and travelled widely encouraging new investment in his idea.
The Toc H movement is still going strong - it has branches across the world and has kept true to Clayton's original vision.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Willie Rushton (1937-1996)

I think that my memories of Willie Rushton are of his narrating the Winnie the Pooh stories for Jackanory when was a wee'un.
It was only later when I became aware of I'm sorry I haven't a clue that I became of his place in radio history as joint inventor of Mornington Crescent and indeed his place in a groundbreaking generation of I was going to say comics but commentators I guess may be nearer the mark of the sixties satire boom and therefore as a bit of an iconoclast
I'm only an amateur player of Mornington Crescent myself so can only wonder at the likes of Tim Brooke-Taylor and Barry Cryer (a close friend of Rushton's) technical mastery of the game.I always get jammed into an opposing grommit somewhere around victoria :o(
He also gets a HUZZAH for his admittedly minor role in Those Magnificent Men in their Flying machines.
My Sundays aren't the same without I'm sorry i haven't a clue. Yes I enjoy Desert Island Discs and Ill listen to Just a Minute but even without Chairman Humph nothing comes close to ISIHAC.
There are other plaques sited in Tube Stations none of which commemorate a positive - the Kings Cross Fire in 1987 or the 7/7 terrorist attacks - Ruston's plaque at Mornington Crescent is a rather more smile inducing one.
There are quite a few comics blue plaques around - hopefully a few more to be viewed.

Monday, 31 October 2011

Albert Street - NW1

So a Prize winning Crystallographer, a peace activist and a storyteller walk in to a bar. Actually they probably don't but they do share one thing - a geograhical proximity to Camden High Street.
M and I visited Camden on Saturady as a breath of fresh air following the completion of my flat sale. We took the tube up to Chalk Farm and walked back through the Stables market without seeing a whole lot that really took our fancy. Yes there was some lovely reconditioned oak furniture but sadly at camden prices and some javanese masks that I would have loved but really need to be bought on the road. The Stables market is nice in that the worst of the tourist hordes dont make it that far from the tube station and lo and behold the closer we got to Camden tube the worse the crush of gawping lollygaggers became. We took a bit a a detour through the new reopened lock markewt and M picked up a new nurses watch complete with silicon holder so her late allergy wouldnt come into play. Once over the lock we headed west down Arlington St and thence on to Albert St one time home to John Desmond Bernal (1901-1971) Peggy Duff (1910-1981) and George MacDonald (1824-1905)interesting charactors al. I know bernal through my previous life with the MRC - portraits of their most prominent alumni peppering the walls but didnt know much of him - a controversial figure and outspoken supporter of Soviet Russia not to mention a Cambridge man he worked with both Aaron Klug and Max Perutz.
Next up at number 11 is Peggy Duffs blue - or rather brown plaque. She was a labour local councillor from 1956 until she resigned from the party in 1967 over Wilson's support for US involvement in Vietnam and their refusal to condemn the Greek colonels choosing to persue her political aims outside the party arena. She became the first secretary-general of CND and Noam Chomsky is and admirer.
Then at number 20 is George MacDonald the storyteller refered to earlier who in the latter half of the 20th centrury began a career that influenced Tolkien, and C.S. Lewis (particularly Lewis), E. Nesbit and Madeleine L'Engle with fairy tales like the Princess and the Goblin. He was as C.S. Lewis or rather Charles Lutwidge Dodgson a christian theologian, he came from a Calvinist background but rejected some of its harsher doctrines.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Joseph T. Clover (1825-1882)

Never heard of him? Nope me neither. His blue plaque is at 3 Cavendish Place at the southern end of Harley Street home of bespoke medical care to the very VERY wealthy.
He was born in Aylsham Norfolk - note to self another plaque to look out for!
He studied at UCL alongside Lister and upon graduation became house surgeon to James Syme and then Resident Medical Officer at the University College Hospital becoming a fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1850 before setting up at the Cavendish Place house as a GP. After several years of practice he became interested in the field of anaesthesia possibly inspired by his presence at Listons first anaesthatised operation in December 1846 and became chloroformist to the University College Hospital and the London Dental Hospital, his specialisation helping to fill the vacancy left by the death of John Snow whos story Ill have to recount another time. In 1871 he reported that hed administered chloroform 7000 times and other aneasthetics 4000 times without a fatality and was sought out by the royal family among others for his expertise. He invented several pieces of equipment to aid the process and to make it more controlled some of which lasted well into the 20th century.
As one whos had a couple of procedures involving general anaesthetic a big thank you to anyone involved in the process and gratitude that we dont live in a pre-anaesthetic age.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Long Melford

We took the cross country route to Southwold on Saturday it being the hottest October day since records began - an idea that a fair few others had it should be said.
We passed through Long melford which is a picturesque little Suffolk village which was used as a setting for the Lovejoy TV show.
On the way through the village a blue plaque was spotted. It was dedicated to Admiral William hanwell (1766-1830) who sounds like he had a rather checkered career to say the least. Funny to find an admiral in the Suffolk countryside. He was senior lieutenant of the Sheerness the flagship of Admiral Cornwallis. Cornwallis died of a fever and Lieutenant Hanwell promoted himself two ranks to Post Captain this was sshall we say rather infra dig and would not have been smiled upon if it werent in the backwaters of the Africa station but his promotion was confirmed on his return. He did take a couple of commissions in the dying days of the napoleaonic Wars but his career was in decline and he finished his career in a shore job superintending a prisoner of war depot in Norman Cross and retired as a rear admiral of the blue squadron.
Anyhoo we enjoyed a picnic on the beach and wander around the rather chi chi village again with a nautical plaque commemorating James II stay during the Dutch wars. Sadly no visit to the Adnams brewery as I was driving :o(

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Catty come home

Well eventually after a couple of little hiccups Pyewackett is settling in - we got her on Friday night and she made a bit for freedom on the Tuesady night. Cue mass panic as we discovered her absence. We did a leaflet drop locally - a damn good way to meet the neighbours - and left bowls of food outside the conservatory moving the bowl in a little closer every evening. Wed moved the bowl right in to the conservatory by Sunday and I distracted her while M snuck through the garage and slammed the door on her.
Ma and I wandered down to town last weekend to indulge in Open House 2011 and enjoyed a walk around a half dozen Wren churches. Thats half a dozen of the 51 churches some which were demolished by the Victorians or in the blitz. So we visited St Lawrence Jewry, St Mary le Bow (within the sound of whose bells true Cockneys are born), St Mary Aldermary, St Stephen Walbrook, St Mary Woolnoth and my favourite and most authentic St Mary Abchurch.
Sadly of many of his churches thoughtfully demolished by the Victorians now theres very little to mark them except a plaque. The street plan of the mediaeval city remains as do many of the street names - Poultry, Milk Street, Ironmonger Lane, Wood Street, Bread Street not to mention Staining Lane and Mincing Lane. Not sure quite what once was for sale in Love Lane though salvation could presumably be found at Paternoster Row just round the corner from Gropec*nt Lane (now no longer used) the sheer number of plaques in the area marking the two pillars of mediaeval society - the church and the guild and the connections between the two as many churches were guild churches.
And so descriptive - St James Garlickhythe, St Margaret Pattens, St Andrew by the Wardrobe, St Benet Gracechurch, St Mary Magdalen Old Fish Street.
The afternoons walk Alleys of the City and that really did stretch the term alley was rain shortened but was enjoyed and hey it was free ended at barts Hospital and Smithfields - formerly yet another place of execution - that final scene of Braveheart - the hanky drooping from Mels hand - the fletting glimpse of his lost love - that was Smithfield.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Hello Kitty

Sadly the house and its associated tasks are taking up a fair amount of my time at the moment - and theres noe nd in sight. The flat is no yet emptied while the garage here is full. Where did all this stuff come from?
Hey ho. A huge step from house to home this weekend with the addition of a small furry person called Pyewackett. She a refugee from a disintegrating home courtesy rather indirectly of Cambridgeshire County Council social services. Shes a lovely thing - a dark tortoiseshell and very affectionate but then again I get the distinct impression that she hasnt seen a whole lot of love she also needs a good going over by the vet after we found out that she has worms :o(
This posts hero is Sir Alec Guinness to mark the lastest butchering of the Star Wars franchise by George Lucas. Gotta love his whacked out space hippy Obi Wan Kenobi. I have to say that my favourites are his earlier Ealing comedies The Ladykillers, The Man inthe White Suit and the terrific Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949) in which he plays no fewer than eight roles. I'm amazed that some whizz kid hasnt decided to remake it.
Its kind of a shame (although inevitable) that his serious roles - Lawrence of Arabia, Doctor Zhivago, The Bridge on the River Kwai have rather obsured a real talent for light comedy.
His plaque is on the corner of Upper St matins Lane and West Street.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Dr Grantly Dick-Read (1890-1959)

A moment of serendipity as M was wandering through my blue plaque photos and quoth "Ooh Dr. Dick-Read" to which I responded "Eh?" She went on to explain that he was the father of natural childbirth and therefore a name rather familiar to her.
His plaque is located at 25 Harley Street the heart (Wha-hey) of the British medical establishment ironically after his ideas were widely opposed and he was shown the door of the clinic that he and a fellow group of obstetricians had set up and his first book Natural Childbirth went down with the powers that be like the proverbial lead balloon. His ideas gained credence after the publication on his second book Revelation of Childbirth aimed at a more general audience.
In other news this is the first post from a new home. I sit supervising the artisans repairing the external brickwork, the latest installment of the ongoing draining of our joint bank account - next up rewiring tomorrow. OY! Still the house is coming together and is slowly recoming a home. Sadly the sale of my late domain is dragging on which is a real pain in the derriere. Hey ho

Monday, 22 August 2011

Damn it

My will to post on a regular basis is draining at a rate of knots - actually I think its the opportunity thats lacking of late weve been returning late to the flat after opening boxes cleaning and tidying and general homemaking - as yet precious little evidence of my home being made but then as I look around me that would seem to be because most of my chattels would seem to be here in the falat as the sale appears to be making its way through treacle at the moment so a taste of childrood - David McKee has a inscribed pavement slab on the corner of Festing Road - converted to Festive Road in the series

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Oh Jimmy Jimmy Jimmy Jimmy Jimmy Jimmy Anderson

Spent yesterday at Edgbaston thanks to a works charabanc - the sames works that arrange the occaisional London trip that I try to take advantage of.
A cracking days entertainment unless of course you were Indian after a pretty dismal capitulation.
Yes sorry that we didnt get to see the Little Masters hundredth hundred after an unfortunate deflection from Graham Swann. Great to see Kumar put willow to ball but a great days performance from Englands terrifying bowling unit not sure which I find more scary Swanns speed or Jimmys agression - thought at a couple of points hed just keep running in rip off the batmans arm and beat him to death with the wet end.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Josef Dallos (1905-1979)

Huzzah for Josef Dallos - those cunning Magyars again. Having worn contact lenses for pretty much my entire adult life I owe a debt to the guy - no more horrible NHS specs for me thank you very much. Im reminded now that I have to pick up my new contact lens pack tomorrow. I restarted using them a few months back after a couple of years rest after getting a grain of sand lodged between lens and eye on a long haul flight back from Sri Lanka. Its a bit complicated now as I dont wear them if Im going to the gym - not good to wear contacts if swimming or showering and Im a little more aware of the fact that you only get one pair of eyes than I was when I was younger - changing lenses in shall we say less than hygienic situations - one notable evening when I was scrambling round the gutters in Downing Street comes to mind - not to mention festivals and on my peregrinations.
Anywho Dr Dallos' plaque was spotted in Cavendish Square a couple of weeks ago on a day away from the delights of house buying / moving - were a fair way along now the paintings pretty much done adn we had carpets put in today...

Sunday, 24 July 2011


My memories of Oslo are fleeting. We only had a day there - investigating the countrys maritime history - the Fram and Kon Tiki museums and the Viking Ship and the Folk Museum.
Its a city of the north - not given to show - austere even - I get the idea that the Norwegians take their fun seriously its not something to be done lightly. But I enjoyed our brief intro to the country. I guess the word progressive is the one that comes to mind. And I guess this led to Fridays horrific evennts. Terrifying though it might be the recent EDL march in Cambridge was a reminder that for some a forward-looking integrated multicultural nation is one that is to be feared. Have to say that the press coverage - the assumption that the attack was carried out by Islamists showed a really scary development - that the only nutters out there are beard wearing middle easterners. So what happens to airport profiling now?
I think that we can safely say that violence is the step taken by those who cant carry an argument through debate. Backed by a 1500 page manifesto or not.
Peace and hair grease

Saturday, 2 July 2011

T.E.Lawrence (1888-1935)

Tucked behind the ancient precincts of Westminster Abbey and the very nearly as ancient surrounds of Westminster School lies Barton Street home to a couple of blue plaques. At No. 14 is the plaque to T.E. Lawrence - Lawrence of Arabia.Where he rewrote The Seven Pillars of Wisdom his not quite 100% accurate account of his exploits in the dying embers of the Ottoman empire after he left the original draft on Reading Station.Its an extraordinary tale and one which certainly resonates today.
His pre-war career began with a first at Oxford during which time he travelled to both France and Syria (a trip that involved tramping for a thousand or so miles around the country) to research military architecture, his thesis was on The influence of the Crusades on European Military Architecture – to the end of the 12th century. After graduating he started a postgraduate career at oxford before being offered work as a field archaeologist with among others Leonard Woolley and Flinders Petrie.
At the outbreak of war in 1914 he was coopted into the intellegence services in Cairo as a result of his knowledge of the near and middle east. Hed been in contact with many in the ottoman administration of mesopotamia and their technical advisors when given the prevalent political alliances happened to be german. The Arab Bureau of the Foreign Office esxploited the Arab feelings of discontent under the Ottoman yoke to raise a revolt - the British realised that an uprising would tie up vast amounts of resources that the Turks would otherwise utilise against the allied powers - what would these days be called assymetric warfare.
Lawrence fought alongside the arabs under Emir Faisal councilling avoiding set piece battles instead favouring guerilla tactics - particularly attacking the Hejaz railway and then fading away before the turks could counterattack. In proximity to the arabs, fighting alongside them he came to believe in the importance of Arab independence. Ive been
In 1917 Lawrences troops with assistance from Auda ibn Tayis forces captured Aqaba now Jordans only port. Ive been fortunate enough to travel a little in Jordan - Ive overnighted at Wadi Rum that David Lean used to represent a little patch of Lawrences world in his 1962 film and that Lawrence did accually use as a base.Indeed one of the local mountains is called the seven pillars of Wisdom.
Before the end of teh war Lawrence was involved with the capture of Damascus and the setting up of a provisional arab government. It was shortlived the british and the french carving up the middle east in the Sykes-Picot agreement which also mandated Iraq as under british rule (how times change) Lawrences dream of a united arab nation stretching from Syria to Yemen died at that point.
Would the rise of radical islam have happened if the allied powers had been a little less fixated on their own self-interest? I dont know - hindsight is always 20/20 after all but the manipulation of the arabian peninsula has certainly made us no friends

Monday, 20 June 2011

Brian Haw (1949-2011)

A sad choice to make this week. I was going to talk about Clarence Clemons stalwart of the E Street Band a giant with a giant sound backing Bruce through some of his greatest moments - but there are a lot of people missing the big guy tonight so I thought Id write aboot another hero, one rather less well known certinly away from these shores...

Reading his obit in the Indie today he was called "Britain's conscience" and I certainly think that that the guy probably had more basic human decency in his little finger than the yes men careerists in the House who decided that ingratiating their way into Blairs good books was rather more important than the lives of both Afghan and Iraqi civilians not to mention the lives of British service personnel.

He actually started his protest bfore 9/11 to protest the embargo of medical supplies into Saddams Iraq and continued until receently until he was diagnosed with cancer and underwent treatment in Berlin. As a very public and sometimes lone figure of protest he bore the brunt of some spectacularly odious comment from such delightful cretins as Boris Johnson and David Cameron who announced that he "believed in demonstrations but there are limits" not to mention the numerous attempts by those brave boys in blue to move him along.

He was voted most inspiring political figure in the Channel 4 political awards not that there was a whole lot of competition - identikit suits both a delightful shade of blue labour.

Another nail in the coffin of dissent in this country

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Ill met by moonlight

Well it had to come I guess. Sir Patrick Leigh Fermor was after all 96 years old. And they were 96 years well lived.
I suspect that he'll be best remembered for his wartime exploits on the German occupied island of Crete, events that he never wrote about although they are the stuff of a Boys Own annual. The Powell and Pressburger film of his adventures show their trademark love of location, a love shared by Pat. The tale of the abduction and evacuation of a nazi general is barely credible but happen it did and bizarrely the events were very much in character.
His was an educated mind but an academic failiure culminating in an assignation with a greengrocers daughter that got him expelled from Kings College Canturbury. His family believed the army would be a fitting career but a peacetime army wasnt for him and so he decided that he would tramp from the Hook of Holland to Constantinople across a continent overshadowed by the upcoming war. A Europe now long vanished, noble families, relics of the Austro-Hungarian Empire swept away in the flood of post-war communism.
His two volumes of travel memoirs A time of gifts and Between the woods and the water are extraordinary - dense, lyrical, erudite and utterly bewitching. He set off in 1932 with an allowance of £5 a month and via - hostels and monasteries, sheep byres and castles reached Constantinople on New Years Day 1935. Unfortunately the final leg of his journey will now never be detailed. He spent his 20th birthday in a monastery on Mount Athos and a month later took part in a cavalry charge suppressing a rebellion in Greece. He fell in love both with Greece where he spent many years and also a Romanian princess. On the outbreak of war he returned and joined the Intellegence Corps were he was employed as a liasion officer with the greeks fighting the Italians to a standstill and then once the Germans invaded being evacuated to Crete where he fought a guerilla war.
He published his first book The Travellers Tree in 1950 a recital of his travels in the Caribbean after the war but his love was on the Mediterranean and Greence in particular and he lived the rest of his life in the sun - soaking up all he could of life. He wrote in long hand only very recently adopting a manual typewriter which mirrored a lengthy writing process where each word was measured before use.
He married in 1968 but leaves no children.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Sir Henry Cole (1808-1882)

So back to our London trip - M had expressed a wish to visit the V&A which due to its being on the wrong side of town tends to lose out to the British Museum on our cultural wanderings - but we thought that wed stretch our legs and visit as there was an exhibition of contemporary South African photography which was taken in after a brief wander around the lovely South Asian and Middle Eastern rooms and a cuppa in the rather lovely tiled dining hall. Its a really interesting glimpse of a society in flux. Whenever I look at some of the abuses of power going on around he world I think of the fact that nothing lasts forever and that in my lifetime Ive seen the fall of the wall and the end of apartheid in South Africa.

Opposite the V&A is the Kazakh embassy on which is the plaque for Sir Henry Cole. Cole was a member of the Society of Arts and an early proponent of memorial plaques. He was a civil servant who began his working live at the age of 15 in the National Records Office where he rose to the position of Assistant Keeper. From 1837 to 1840 he worked under Sir Roland Hill and helped introduce the penny Post - hes even credited with designing the worlds first christmas card. He visited the 1849 11th Quinquennial in Paris and inspired by it secured Queen Victorias backing of the Great Exhibition of 1851 which championed British industrial supremacy. The financial success of the exhibition meant thata significant surplus would fund the development of the South Kensington / Albertopolis development which he to a large extend supervised. He was the first direector of the V&A or at least the Museum of Ornmental Art as was and so was responsible for one of the great treasure houses of the world. at some point Ill have sort out some listing of museums but the V&A is certainly something...

Monday, 30 May 2011

Mes que un club

Congratulations to Barcelona. There are plenty of op eds around weighing in on the whole greatest club team in the world debate and of course its a non argument changes in the game, in the way its played, in technology measn that the whole debate is redundant.
All I'll say is that I watching the final with a huge smile on my face. Watching football being played the way it should be - with a smile - a fierce joy.
We went into town on saturday and "enjoyed" the spectacle of the pissed up obnoxious Man Utd fans in Covent Garden which added an additional sweetness to the evenings events.
Todays plaque is again on the wall of the Hobbs Pavilion on Parkers Piece commemorating the first game of codified game of football played on that hallowed ground in 1863. And from there well it is the worlds game - wherever you go there a bunch of kids kicking a ball around - its a touchstone which is why I always try to take a footie shirt on hols with me. Yes its been misused - a thinly veiled excuse from division, hate, racism, sectarianism and nationalism but then a team like Barca come along and blow that negativity away. Bravo Barca!

Monday, 23 May 2011

Edward Hardwicke (1932-2011)

Very happy to see that Martin Freeman won Supporting Actor in this years BAFTAs. Sherlock was a real highlight of last years viewing.
Wittyand intellegent with enough little nods to Conan Doyle while providing enough smiles with the introduction of technology and morals to make it relevent to a modern audience. But what of course makes it click is the chemistry between Holmes and Watson.
Rathbone and Bruce had it, Breet and Hardwicke (and Burke) had it, Cumberbatch and Freeman have it, Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law....I dont think so.
A purist was wittering on about the fact that this modern retelling wasnt up to much in comparison with the older period stories (although it should be said that the Rathbone movies have very little to do with the Conan Doyler originals) and referred to Edward hardwicke in the past tense.
Sadly he was correct at least on that point. Edward Hardwicke died on 16th May. The Brett/Hardwicke/Burke series I think is pretty much seminal as a faithful recounting of the original Conan Doyle stories. I think I prefer Hardwicke's Watson - theres a warmth there to complment Holmes' cold intellect but theres also a resoluteness a grit there without which Holmes would be a hopeless dilletente.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Martin a Beckett Boyd (1893-1972)

Spotted in Little Eversden on the Oxfam walk on Sunday which came as a bit of a surprise Little Eversden being well the name rather gives it away doesnt it? Not a thriving metropolis exactly. Still it was home to a rather nice village hall eqipped with both cake and tea both rather needed after somewhere around 17 and a half miles of trudging. I indulgd in ginger and rhubarb and ginger and very nice they were too. Kept me going until I got back to Wimpole Hall a rather nice 17th century house now in the hands of the National Trust. It was the second return to the house grounds Oxfam deciding that their three walks would all begin and end at the house. At that point M passed me on the way into the houses grounds and I managed to talk her into accompany me on the last leg of the days meanderings - a 4 mile walk around the estate. We had to do it at a fair pace as Oxfam would be closing up the finish marquee at 5.30. We eventually got in at 5.20. Whew! I'd managed to miss the first bus from Drummer Street as the Oxfam sign was happily posted at the wrong bus stop. Not the only bit of misorganization as a marshal went AWOL on the 4 mile walk which meant that we just kept going following the signs rather than turning right climbing the hill which wasnt really needed at that stage of the day.
Anyhoo its done and apart from a fairly messed up right foot - due to the lack of rain the ground is rock hard - even on the stages of the walk in the extensive woodlands theres no give at all. With ruts and whatnot its rather lkike walking on corrugated iron. Still a couple of hundred pounds for Oxfam so HUZZAh all over that.
Anyhoo Mr Boyds name was inscribed on the gable end of a venerable thatched cottage in Little Eversden - a life by all accounts blighted by the first world war....far from the only one of course

Friday, 29 April 2011

Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658)

It seems kind of appropriate on today of all days to mark the plaque on the Ely Tourist Board office - the one which reads "The home of Oliver Cromwell and his family. Cromwell rose to power during the English civil wars, to become 'Lord Protector of the Commonwealth' during England's brief period as a republic in the mid 17th Century. The Cromwell family lived in Ely for some 10 years from 1636 to 1646.

We spent the day at the coast far away from the TV and the radio. In fact besides the occasional viewing of red, white and blue as we zoomed through the Suffolk countryside it was a day like any other thankfully.

For the last week whenever the subject has appeared on the news -- and it HAS appeared on the news the remote control has been utilised.

Don't get me wrong as a couple I have no problem with the happy couple - its the hoohah surrounding it - the servile, forelock tugging dullards lining the route. And a hint here if you fight a war of independence to rid yourselves from the tyranny of inbreds please dont a couple of hundred years later turn up swooning about the romance of the day.

Anyhoo after a stop at Tescos I ended up driving to Southwold. The weather had cleared and we arrived in the middle of the day and after a 50p well spent in the amusement arcade on pinball we dined in the cafe before wandering up the pier - M indulged her love of beachhuttery and we had a go on the weird and wacky entertainment booths - - I did Test your nerve and M did The Doctor before we headed into town for a wander and a couple of purchases at Nutters Deli nom nom and a couple of oohs at a couple of cracking Kombis.

Note to self - dont drink Aspalls after bubblegum flabour ice cream. Hey ho.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Birth of a nation

Well my attempt to do an entry a week has fallen by the wayside what with one thing and another. Still no takers for my flat but on the other hand no real spark for any of the prospective places weve seen so far. Add to this two trips so far this year and the end to a tumultous footy season not no metion what can only be descibed as getting my fat lazy arse in gear means less typing time. Our long weekend was a success - caught up with the American portion of the family. Ed and Anna got in the day before we did and were off for a couple of days in Sweden on the day when we left. We got in in the middle of the day and after dumping our chattels at Rebecca's abode nestling in the shadow of the Petersen paper mill - all very Twin Peaks and along with Ed and Anna we crossed the Oslofjord to Horton. It was quickly noticed that there were a number of rather nice blue and white plaques affixed to prominent buildings in town. The closest to Rebeccas place happened to be the most significant. Marking the site of the Convention of Moss. The treaty gave birth to the modern Norwegian state marking the dissolution of the Dano-Norwegian nation in 1814 once Denmark put its hat into the ring in the Napoleonic wars (only after it should be said Britain attacked Copenhagen not once but twice). As a provision of the peace of Kiel Norway was ceded to Sweden which had sided with Britain as part of the sixth Coalition. Norway had other ideas and declared independence and fought a short and less than successful war with Sweden a war that ended with the signing of the Convention of Moss by King Christian Frederik for the Norwegians. It was incidentally the last war fought by Sweden. The peace was an interesting one granting Norway its own constitution and its own institutions barring the foreign service and policy.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Gustav Holst (x2)

I think we'll take a raincheck on the rash of new blue plaques from Norway - must have been quite funny to see the double take wandering the slush edged streets of Moss and spotting a handful of plaques while visiting cousin Rebecca whosw teaching in Norway and instead deal with the single rather out-of-place plaque in Thaxsted spotted on our cross-country jaunt in the ewarly hours of last night once wed landed and found the M11 northbound blocked off after an accident. Its a lovely village Thaxted. Weirdly M knows the vicars son (also a vicar) who was stationed in March at M's church. Thaxted is a lovely, rather twee, village all half-timbered houses and cobbled lanes and gives the impression of being lavender scented. It was mentioned in the Domesday Book and was a centre of cutlery production. Holst was a long time resident and Diana Wynne Jones the childrens author who wrote Howl's Moving Castle was riased there. Her name is one on my mind as she died only a week or so ago. I guess that Holst is best known for his Planets Suite and the setting for I vow to thee my country is named after the village. His other blue plaque is just down the riverside from Dame Ninette de Valois in Barnes. Reading his wikiography made me smile a socialist, vegetarian, asthmatic rambler... He was born on Swedish stock in 1874 in Cheltenham and was raised in a musical family - his grandfather was a composer and a music teacher, his father an organist and choirmaster, his mother a singer. He was a gifted pianist but was a sufferer of a nervous disorder which affected his right hand so switched instruments to the trombone. He played for both the Carl Rosa Opera Company and the White Viennese Band which by all accounts he less than enjoyed. He became interested in Hinduism and several of his early works set Sanskrit texts to music. He enrolled in Sanskrit classes at UCL. He was teaching music at this point in West London - Janes Allens Girls School and St Pauls Girls School. He wrote and travelled associating with local musicians and the avant garde of the early 20th century picking up influences here and there a great example being astrology which he described as his secret vice which he learnt about travelling in Spain and which of course shaped his most famous work - the Planets Suite

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Alberto Granado (1922-2011)

The final scene of The Motorcycle Diaries focuses on an old guy - an old guy who 50 years before had shared an extraordinary journey - a journey with his pal "Che" in Argentinian argot.
Both men took much from their formative experience - Ernesto deciding that the best way to alleviate suffering was to take up arms against it. Alberto decided to follow a career in medicine.
His father was a militant trade unionist and he first met Ernesto Guevara in police cells after he (Alberto) had taken part in a high school revolt. He was jailed in 1943 for a year after protesting against the Peron junta and after earned an MSc in biochemistry and a place at the Instituto Malbran before embarking on his trek on his Norton 500c - La Poderosa II. Granados tour ended in Caracas where he worked at the Cabo Blanca leprosarium in Maiquetia before taking a scholarship to the Istituto Superiore di Sanita in Rome.He married on his return to Argentina.
In 1960 he first visited Cuba on Guevaras invitation. He moved to Cuba the year afterwards and became trhe Professor of Biochemistry at the University of Havana. He founded the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Santiago in 1962 and worked there as senior professor from 1970-74. Between 1975 and 1986 he obtained his doctorate in biological sciences. He later became president of the Cuban Genetics Society and worked in the development of Holstein Tropical cattle breeds. He devoted the rest of his career to validating the methodologyof his previous research.
Che - adorner of t-shirts. Alberto - a lifetime devoted to the welfare of the common man.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

The Red Shoes

Having a break this afternnon and lazing in front of the TV. I missed the beginning hour of The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp - strong candidate for my most favourite film of all time and am nw settling in to watch The Red Shoes. Its been a while...

Ballet films arent perhaps the most well populated genre around - I can think of two the sublime The Red Shoes and Black Swan - which i have yet to say. I have to say that it never really appealed. Its got a lot to live up to following the technicolour gorgeousness that is The Red Shoes and its world gone by - Watching Covent garden when it was still a market...

Anyhoo another London trip courtesy of work and we decided to take a trek out to Barnes and then stroll back along the Thames to Fulham via Putney.

Its anothe month til the boat race and we did see the Cambridge Womens crew out on the water.

Little Em is taking ballet lessons although not possessed of a dancers physique and I cant say that its an artform that I have any huge interest in so this was an educational one for me.

Dame Ninette de Valois was born Edris Stannus in Co Wicklow Ireland daughter of a British officer and a glassmaker. She began taking ballet lessons when she was 10 and began her professional training when she was 13, she made her professional debut in pantomine.

At 21 she was appointed principal dancer of the Beecham Opera. She continued to study under eminent teachers and at 25 joined the Ballet Russes, the renowned company created by Diaghilev, she stayed for 3 years and was promoted to Soloist and created roles in some of the companys best known ballets - Les Biches and Le Train Bleu. She was also mentor to Markova.

She left the Ballet Russes in 1927 and founded the Academy of Choreographic Art, a dancing school for girls who would gain experience in the Old Vic with de Valois choreographing several short ballets for the theatre attempting to create a particularly English form of dance . Lilian Baylis, the owner of the Old Vic and later of the Sadlers Wells theatre employed her to stage full scale ballets and in 1931 de Valois moved her school to the Sadlers Wells and renamed it the Sadlers Wells Ballet School. the school and the ballet company associated with the theatre would later become the basis of the Royal Ballet, The Birmingham Royal Ballet and the Royal Ballet School.

On its foundation the Vic Wells had only a half dozen female dancers with de Valois as both lead dancer and choreographer. Once Alicia Markova joined the company she retired from the stage to concentrate her energies on her choreography including severalof her own works Job (1931), The Rakes Progress (1935) and Checkmate (1937). The company also became on of the first western companies to dance the repertoire of the Imperial Russian Ballet. the reputation of the Vic-Wells Ballet was spreading and attracted some of the greats talents of the Ballet world - Margot Fonteyn, Moira Shearer (as seen in The Red Shoes) and Beryl Grey.

She formed the Turkish National Ballet in Ankara in 1947 and also spent tiem ensuring that her company was richly supplied with talent. She officially retired from ballet in 1963 although her fearsome presence loomed over the English world of Ballet for decades after.

She died at the age of 102 in 2001.

Monday, 28 February 2011


'na, M and I went to see True Grit last week. Enjoyed it. The Coens are creating a bit of a backlog of Americana - True Grit, O Brother where art thou?, Millers Crossing, The Hudsucker Proxy.

Beautifully shot it carries straight on from No country for old men - sadly Roger Deakins got snubbed again at last nights awards.

Was the Kings Speech worth its awards -possibly in a pretty poor year for cinema. Yes I enjoyed it but felt it went a little for the easy laughs - if it didnt have a historical background I have to say it wouldnt mean a thing.

Ooh fore I forget - guy in supermarket at the weekend buys a Jason Statham box set. Oh boy...

Well have to wait and see where we go from here - Rango hopefully...

Sunday, 20 February 2011

The times they are a -changin'

Well things are speeding up. The flat will shortly be on the market. The agents been round, taken photos, contracts have been signed, A solicitor has been appointed, househunting should commence next week and wever starting looking at mortgages.

say hello to the next 15 years of disappearing paychecks. We shall see. At the moment there certainly doesnt seem to be an awful lotg of property around. Theres no way that were going to be able to afford to live in cambridge. Im hoping that were going to be able to afford to live within a bike commute of the centre - 5 miles or so. Itll be needed because I dont think that Im going to be able to afford the £50 a month gym membership one Im paying out on the mortgage as well.

Do I have doubts? Of course its a big step and when we sort out the legalise well also be arranging the contingencies. What happens if...

In other newws a visit to Norway is imminent to see cousins Rebecca and Ed and Ive also got the OK to take an extended break this winter thanks to the somewhat fortuitous yuletime holidays.

In the meantime its back to a distinctly frigid Cambridge - cant wait for winter to end

Sunday, 13 February 2011

The revolution will be televised

I've been lucky enough to travel to both Tunisia and to Egypt. And both countries share much. A rich history. A colonial past. A brutal and oppresive dictatorship. Time will tell if they can both move forward to a future that the people of both nations deserve, one where the will of the people(even if it doesn't cue neatly with the wishes of the West) is heard and represented.

The world has been stunned by the tenacity and courage of the protesters in Tahrir Square.

Hopefully there are a few interior ministry guys sitting somewhere nervously looking over their shoulders, a few generals sitting in their gilded palaces making sure that their private jet is fuelled and ready to go.

So where next? Syria? Iran? Saudi Arabia? Quite a sweepstake isnt it?

Interesting to see mad mel on Question Time last week ramping up the Islamophobia to undermind the popular revolt in Cairo. Interesting also to see one of the protesters describe the uprising as "for all Egyptians, Muslim, Christian, Straight, Gay..."

More power to them...

Next up putting the flat on the market

Monday, 31 January 2011

Edward Goodrich Acheson (1856-1931)

Anyone? Anyone??
No me neither.
So after the quietly chic terraces of Primrose Hill we walked up to the top of Primrose Hill - one of my most favourite places in the world gazing out over the capital. Looking over to the left the giant constructions of Euston and St Pancreas from which we had come. Ahead of us Regents Park and the humps and bumps of London Zoo. The hill was battered from the sledging that had obviously taken place in the pre-Christmas chill and sprinkled with the detritus of New Year festivities - champagne corks and cages and dead party poppers.
Fotunately the facilities at the bottom of the hill were open. Ive got a few spots a network of loos around central London. Its always a surprise to me how a great city has such a shocking lack of public loos but of course they are you just have to pay for them.
There are a number of blocks of -- well flats would be to sell them spectacularly short - apartments overlooking the skeletal trees of Regents Park and the slow moving moat of Regents Park.
Edward Goodrich Acheson lived here from 1912-1915. Hes not exactly a household name but put out 70 patents and worked for Edison working to develop conducting carbon for Edisons light bulb installing electric power in La Scala in Milan.
He discovered Carborundum aka Silicon Carbide. Its an amazingly hard ceramiclike material and is used in a huge variety of uses - from astronomical telescopes to bulletproof jackets, brakes and clutches for cars and cutting tools.
We didnt hang around. We headed west to St Johns Wood and Lords...

Monday, 24 January 2011

Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar (1891-1956)

So we wandered through the assorted overpriced artyness that is camden Market getting away relatively unscathed - M got a ringing charm for her necklace but besides that our bank balances remained intact. I will admit that I was tempted by memories of Istanbuls Grand Bazaar and a stall festooned with glowing multihued orbs but resisted.

We set off past the rubyhued tiles of Chalk Farm tube and crossed over the railway into the big money of primrose Hill - there are a couple of rather incongruous plaques there but I wanted to yap about Babasaheb.
A couple of days before I left India for home the rather antiseptic environs of New Delhi was invaded by truckloads of loudhailer toting sari swathed peeps. It was only afterwards that I learnt that it was Ambedkar Jayanti - the anniversary of his birth.

He was of that generation that made India - modern India. He was instrumental in formulating Indias constitution but many of his ideas have yet to be implemented.He was a jurist, political leader, Buddhist activist, philosopher, anthropologist, historian, orator, writer, economist, scholar and editor - so a bit of a renaissance man!

I came away from India more disenchanted with religion than Id ever been - or at least more disgusted with religions place in social injustice. And boy do they have previous...

He came into conflict with Gandhi as his belief that the Untouchables should have their own electorate would shatter Gandhis idea of a politically united Hindu society. It was to enforce his ideas that Gandhi embarked on a hunger strike at which under intense pressure from other Hindu leaders and fearful of attacks on the untouchable society he decided to drop his demands.

He became Principal of the Government Law College and wrote multiple books on the upcoming Hindu/Muslim schism noting that if their was a demand for a seperate Muslim state there would be little choice but to accept.

He was a major mover and shaker in the formation of the Indian constitution and implemented a series of reserved occupations - an early form of positive discrimination that granted a percentage of civil service posts for untouchables and also instituted a series of civil liberties that protected the rights of individuals.

After Independece disgusted by the opposition to equality for untouchables and after a lifetime of researching Buddhism he renounced Hinduism and converted to Buddhism - but more than that he encouraged his followers to do likewise.

It seems suitable yo echo his rallying call "Educate! Agitate! Organise!"

Monday, 17 January 2011

Tom Sayers (1826-1865)

We had our first London day on the 2nd Jan., which meant that the Aunt Rose memorial walk took place a day late but after a christmas marred by illness we wanted a day out before we returned to work.

We started at St Pancreas and walked up via Camden Town to Primrose Hill and St Johns Wood along the Regents Canal to Maida Vale.

There were a couple of points of interest behind St Pancreas most notably St. Pancreas Old Church where Sir John Soanes tomb which influenced the design of the Telephone Box and Johann Christian bach. There were also a couple of really interesting stuptures/installations which I thought for a moment were piles of discarded snow from our frigid pre-christmas winter.

We wandered north en direction de Camden Town and the delightful tourist trap that is Camden Market. On the hoof I espied the first blue plaque of the year above one of the gallery of so hip it hurts boutiques.

So Tom Sayers whose tomb was pointed out to me in Highgate West a while back as it features a statue of his canine pal Lion who was chief mourner at his funeral, a funeral that featured 100,000 people and which was modelled on the funeral of the Duke of Wellington.

He was born in brighton the youngest of 5 children and at the age of 6 was employed doing odd jobs for holidaymakers ands fishermen (cant help but think of those mongrel kids scraping a little living around the tourist resorts) before moving to London and working as a brickie. He began fighting informally before embarking on a professional pugilistic career in 1849. Not that there was a whole lot of professionalism in the fight game at this point. He fought Nat Langham widely thought of as Englands Middleweight champion and suffered the only defeat of his career.
He had acquitted himself well though and other middleweights feared facing him so in 1856 at 5ft 8 1/2 he decided that hed fight Harry Paulson a heavyweight. In 1857 he won the National Heavyweight Champion and then defeated several opponents before taking on John Camel Sheenan,
Sayers was eight years older than Sheenan, was 5 inches shorter and 40 pounds lighter. In addition he fought most of the 2 hour fight one handed after being injured early on in the fight. The fight was ended after the ropes were cut and the ring invaded. It was his last fight. Public subscription raixsed £3000 after a series of bad business decisions. sadly he lived his last years blighted by TB, Diabetes and alcohol abuse.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Richard Winters (1918-2011)

I'm wondering whether or not to add Richard Winters military rank of Major to the title but that would define him by a relatively short period of his life, and while its for his military exploits that hes remebered I get the idea from the various obit bits knocking around that that would be a less than fair assessment of the man.

He was one of the talking heads that appeared at the end of the HBO series Band of Brothers - old guys with lined faces and eyes sharp with memory, guys who had lived for real the experiences portrayed in the programme. Dropping over Normandy, sheltering in foxholes in the Ardennes, discovering the dark heart of the Nazi regime and then when it was all over picking up the pieces and getting on with their lives afterwards, no idea of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, no counselling - just back to a world made foreign by blood and fear.

Of course much has been written of an exlempory military service, the assualt on an artillery battery portrayed in the series, the Brecourt Manor assault is a text book example of an attack on a fixed position but I think what shines through for me was his care for those under his command, his humanity under combat conditions with orders that needed to be carried out the welfare of his men was all important, the fact that he never asked a soldier to do something thyat he wouldnt do himself.
I hope he rests easy.