I live in west London, right under the Heathrow flightpath, and my flat backs on to a fairly busy railway line that sometimes sees traffic at all hours of the day and night. Noisy, yes, but still a great place to live because (and this may surprise some people) of all the wildlife in the area. There is a perhaps surprising amount of green space nearby, creating perfect habitats for numerous creatures – you’ll find a small park and various allotments (some in use, some derelict) within a block or so of my flat, and the railway line itself is flanked by trees and other greenery.
I ventured out into the snowy wilds of west London this afternoon. It was icy cold and the biting wind made it feel even colder, but as I left my building I was amused to spot this adorable little fella guarding the front door. I suspect he was built by my lovely next-door-neighbours, who have an energetic toddler – he’s just the perfect size for a little one to have made!
Keep warm and safe out there, dear readers. And if you build a snowman, send me a snap! In weather like this, it’s important to keep an eye on your friends, neighbours and family too, especially anyone who is elderly, vulnerable, or in poor health. Sometimes even something as simple as an extra pair of fluffy socks or a hot flask of tea can make all the difference…
It’s Valentine’s Day, and love is in the air…
Or perhaps not, if you’re me!
But because I’m a soppy old romantic (no, really, I am), I thought I’d share this very educational newsreel clip with you. Going by the clothing and design shown, this piece of film was probably made sometime in the 1960s – and it compares Victorian and Edwardian Valentine’s cards with the mass-produced romantic greetings of the mid 20th century, showing how the latter are made (with the high-tech, ultramodern help of a computer, no less).
The centrality of this ‘masculine’, modern industrial technology, and the mention of “this year’s sweetheart” being “next year’s wife” makes me wonder if this report was, at least in part, designed as a half-hearted (and somewhat stereotypical) little reminder of the date for the male population of the UK at the time!
Whether you’re on a date tonight, having a cosy night in with a significant other, or on your own (especially if you’re on your own), I hope you have a lovely evening – and always remember to tell the people you love that you love them, whatever the day…
Rock ‘n’ roll got a little less rock ‘n’ roll yesterday with the passing of the one remaining member of Mötorhead’s classic lineup, guitarist ‘Fast’ Eddie Clarke. Guitarist for the band’s first six albums, he was responsible for the killer riffs that defined the band’s sound – most famously the driving, ferocious riffing that is the foundation of the all-time, stone-cold classic ‘Ace of Spades’
There’s no point in trying to intellectualise a band like Mötorhead, and why bother? Their blast volume music crossed the punk/metal divide with ease, and the classic line-up of Lemmy, Phil ‘Philthy Animal’ Taylor and Fast Eddie created a rock ‘n’ roll legend the likes of which we will never see again.
So turn the volume up and enjoy their simultaneously silly and kick ass version of Johnny Kidd and the Pirates ‘Please Don’t Touch’, recorded with the queens of eighties metal, Girlschool (a collaboration amusingly titled Head Girl), and let us hope the three of them are creating a noisy racket in a rehearsal room somewhere in rock ‘n’ roll heaven right now…
RIP ‘Fast’ Eddie Clarke (1950-2018)
“To all who pass that they may see, Rock ‘N’ Roll was a part of me”
– Nik Cohn
I’ve been to a fair few extremely messy New Years Eve parties in my time (I don’t actually remember much of Millennium Eve, or NYE the year prior to that, to take but two hazy examples), which have usually ended up with me passing out on someone else’s sofa or floor in a total state – but I have never woken up the following morning in a snow drift wearing only one shoe and with an irate policeman bending over me!
Incoming hangovers notwithstanding, I hope none of you have either…
This rather fun postcard portrays those age-old questions asked by many of any January 1st in any year (“Where am I? Who am I? Who are you? What did I do last night? Ow, my head…”). You can almost see the regret in the poor man’s face. The card itself was made in Germany and posted in January 1912, making it 116 years old. Despite the cold and his imminently descending hangover (and possible arrest), I’m sure that this still-drunken early 20th century chap could teach us modern types a thing or two about partying!
While we’re all recovering from the excesses of the festive season, I’d like to wish you all (and those you love) a very happy New Year. Thank you to all my readers for your support and patience in 2017 – there is much more to come for everyone in 2018.
I wish you love, light and luck.
Stay safe and stay happy.
Click through on the image for more details and source information.
The sleigh got clamped and is languishing in dusty obscurity in a garage somewhere near the North Pole, and poor old Rudolph has been deemed surplus to requirements and has unceremoniously been given his P45. Why? Because Santa has decided to get bang up to date with his transportation this Christmas, and he’s bought a motor car. And just look at him go! Those presents will be delivered extra fast this year, although he better leave all those tempting glasses of sherry alone – Santa getting nicked for drink driving would just ruin Christmas…
Dealing with inclement weather at this time of the year is nothing new. We’ve had some snow in London already this December, but it’s unlikely to be a white Christmas here this year. The early 19th century was a chilly time, though, as illustrated by this witty 1821 etching by Richard Dighton from the Wellcome Library collection. This unfortunate chap has just had his fashionable top hat knocked into his eyes by falling snow being shovelled above – just as he passes a shop selling ice skates (I love the shop’s name: ‘Careless Skate Maker’. Not sure I’d want to be shopping there if I was wanting to get out on the ice!). This was obviously a common annoyance in a wintery 19th century London, and it didn’t matter if you were an elegantly dressed gentleman like this one – the snow would still get you!
It’s almost Christmas Eve. Wherever you are, and whether you have snow or not, keep safe and warm out there…
For links to more festive reading, click here!
It’s the day before Christmas Eve and I hope you’ve done all your shopping. Since it’s a Saturday too, high streets and shopping centres up and down the country will be buzzing with last-minute shoppers all day. Personally, that’s one of my more anxiety-inducing ideas of hell, and makes me glad I’ve done all my Christmas shopping, and all I have to do now is to stay in the warm and wrap the presents up (which, in its way, is a circle of hell in its own right – can someone PLEASE find the end of the Sellotape for me!?). I’m looking forward to Christmas Day when I can put my feet up and not have to think about anything!
This wonderful early example of stop-motion animation was made in Russia just before the First World War. A charming and quirky film, this is the work of the relatively unknown animation pioneer Wladyslaw Starewicz (1882-1965). Starting work in animation at least ten years before Walt Disney (who, as we know, grabbed all the headlines) and almost by accident, Starewicz produced films in Lithuania, Russia and France over a long career that lasted until his death in the mid-1960s.
His interest in insects ran alongside his interest in film, eventually resulting in works like The Insects’ Christmas. In 1910, he became Director of the Museum of Natural History in Kaunas (Lithuania), where he studied various bugs and beetles by filming their activities. This obviously inspired him, and these creepy-crawlies became insect puppets after their short lives were over, transforming into his stars in imaginative works like this.
Way back in 2010, I wrote a Christmas post examining how the festive season was celebrated in the 17th century. This was a period of great upheaval in British culture and society, especially in the aftermath of the Civil Wars and the execution of King Charles I. A Puritan government under Oliver Cromwell had taken over from the monarchy and implemented a new set of policies that weren’t always popular with the ordinary people.
Most notoriously, they banned the celebration of Christmas – as I wrote in the previous post, this really annoyed the people of London (and elsewhere), who simply carried on as usual when it came to enjoying the festivities, and even rioted when they could not! In return, London’s refusal to abide by the law thoroughly irritated the government, as this intriguing report from around 1650 (attributed to Cromwell himself) shows.