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Monday, 24 June 2013

Ed Murrow (1908-1965)

Sat wating for M to come back from work - she's recently changed job and now does 3 12 hour shifts a week - hard but giving her 4 whole free days per week. Listening to yesterdays Desert Island Discs which featured the wonderful Hugh Laurie Im searching back through my most recent perambulations which ended after Nunhead with a bus and tube ride to Bond Street and then a wandering N of Oxford Street where I came across a bit of bumper blue plaque crop among which was one dedicated to Ed Murrow who lived throughout the war in a flat on Hallam Street. His broadcasts showing a reluctant America the reality of the blitz, he also flew 25 missions over Europe recording what he saw and felt. His broadcasts were bookended by the words " London" and "Good night and good luck" the title of the fictionalisde 2005 movie of his experiences of the House Un-American Activities Committee in the 1950s, his editorials on CBS (a network he stayed with for the entirity of his career) developed into a regular spot called "See it now" and his criticisms of Senator McCarthy were aired in 1954 and contribued to a nationwide backlash against the Red Scare. I wonder what he would have thought of the current bunch of craven corporate shills masquerading as newsmen? Im not going to explain my stance on journalism, suffice to say that Mr Rupert Murdoch is not welcome in this house. I'm not sure which dismays me more - the journos or the politicians who are reduced to 2 second soundbites who live in fear of the aforementioned journos. I normally watch the 7 o'clock news on Channel 4, I can live with Auntie beeb but perhaps as a result of their status as the national broadcasters they are at least to me a horribly deferential outfit - slavishly lapping up the latest royal goss. Channel 4 at least do bring a little depth to current events.

Monday, 17 June 2013

Ida Aldridge (1807-1867)

In last weeks Independent weekend in one of the horrific quizzes that they run - on the subject of the arts - what TV / film / theatre /music / exhibition has impressed you lately Lenny Henry (last funny somewhere around 1998) picked out Ira Aldridge as his hero. Strangely Id made the trip down to Crystal Palace a couple of weeks before - actaully to do a part of the Green Chain walks that cover SE London from Crystal Palace to Nunhead cemetery. On the Southern edge of Crystal Palace park (given over to a car rally for the day) is Hamlet Road where at No. 5 you'll find an English Heritage plaque erected in 2007. Aldridge was born in 1807 in NYC and was educated at the Manumission society school where he received a classical education. He took his first acting gig in the early 1820s with the African Grove an African-American theatre group where he played both Romeo and Hamlet. He emigrated to England to escape the persistent racism of the States and seems to have been broadly accepted by the European audience, taking on roles - most notably Richard III,Shylock and Othello marrying Margaret Gill and travelling and playing in Ireland, Prussia and Russia. Another forgotten narrative - something that Im enjoying discovering after the last years OU course finding out these little cliche breakers. Not to say that Aldridge didnt face prejudice, his mixed-race marriage seems to have caused a bit of a furore. Crystal palace was deserted the eagles playing at Wenbley that day - plenty of palatial mansions built for the Victorian entrepeneurs hoping to impr4ess at the exposition of which sadly theres not a whole lot left of, the Crystal Palace itself having burned down in 1936.

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Southwold and the Battle of Sole Bay

Last weekends Bank Holiday saw us escape to the Suffolk coast. We overnighted at Woodbridge after a visit to Sutton Hoo home for a thousand unknown years of an Anglo-Saxon king buried overlooking the Deben in his boat that have been hauled up. In was (re) discovered in 1939 and is now home to a visitors centre although not surprisingly the hoard of exquisitely worked gold is not kept in rural Suffolk but the British Museum. A shame as the ethereal, otherworldly mounds were of course intended to hold these grave goods. We also visited Wickham Market, my childhood home. As we were so early the village was still asleep although I doubt there would be much of a difference if we visited in the middle of the workday week. It had shrunk in the meantime but is still essentially the same sleepy little place. I suspect that a fair few of the kids who I went to primary school with are still in the area. We then went up the coast to Southwold, a candidate for M's favourite place on the planet. Being out of the way its not a thronged as Great Yarmouth just up the coast. And just the way we like it. The pier is a winner and we had a go at Wack a Banker one of Tim Hunkin's odd creations subverting the end of the pier show. The Adnams brewery is another big draw for the town, and I returned home with a half dozen bottles of Harry Sparrow, sold told me rather grudgingly by a lady who described it as "A bit West Country" - because obviously those West country folk don't know their cider! There is also a small terracotta plaque in town marking the house where James II stayed during the battle of Sole Bay in 1672 - the first naval battle of the Third Anglo-Dutch War. The English and French fleets were caught at anchor by our good freinds the Dutch intend of establishing their nationhood. Funny that we as Brits memorialise our animosity with our gallic cousins forgetting that we are but their basatard offspring (just a lot more interesting with our more varied scani-german-roman-celntic stock). Equally we seem pretty cool with our cheese eating dutch buddies across the water whereas that has not always been the case. Prehaps its a sectarian thing - being drawn together through Protestantism or rather against the Great catholic powers of Europe and lets not forget this is just after the English Civil War and the restoration of the monarchy. In this little remembered fracas its unknown just how many men perished - around 35,000 men were involved in the battle. Bodies were washed up for quite a while - and lets not forget that it wasnt unusual that sailors at this time could not swim. The battle was (as most I guess are) inconclusive - there was (as there usually are) no winners. The Anglo-French fleet was supposed to pen the Dutch navy in its home ports which it failed to do. Holland became established as a world power and like all the powers of that time has faded. Laters.