Vintage Christmas Puddings: A Fourth Helping

The Empire Christmas Pudding (1926-1939)

Considering I don’t actually like Christmas pudding, it may seem a little strange that this is actually the fourth post I’ve written concerning the stuff in as many years (you can find the previous three here, here and here) – but I keep finding interesting and unusual historical recipes for this most seasonal of desserts! And this recipe is a particularly interesting one, which dates from sometime during the interwar period.

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Christmas on Film: ‘Lonely Lightship’s Christmas’ (1922)

For many people, Christmas is about family and friends and home and comfort. But it’s not always like that for some, and a surprising number of folk also have to work over the festive season. This is by no means a modern 21st century phenomenon, as this unusual and rather cheering 1922 Topical Budget newsreel clip from the BFI National Archive shows.

Stuck out in the North Sea for Christmas, the crew of the Lynn Well lightship are still determined to celebrate, and are delighted when a chaplain from the Seamens’ Mission arrives with the makings of a festive feast. We see the men preparing their well-earned Christmas dinner, observing a religious service, and then having some fun with music and dancing on deck. But the lightship’s lamp must still be trimmed to keep shipping in the area safe, just as it would be on any other day of the year…

Lightships (more commonly known now as lightvessels – a term which will be familiar to anyone who, like me, is a devotee of the Shipping Forecast on BBC Radio 4) are basically floating lighthouses which, in some cases, also function as weather stations. Modern lightships in British waters have all been unmanned and automated since 1989.

For more from the BFI National Archive, visit their website or their excellent YouTube channel.

You can also find more BFI festive goodies (and numerous other seasonal posts) on Another Kind Of Mind here.

December Update: New Christmas Posts

It’s nearly Christmas again. I hope you’ve all stocked up on plenty of booze and written your letters to Santa….

And, round these parts, the approach of Christmas can only mean one thing: new festive blog posts.

They’ve become a bit of a tradition on Another Kind Of Mind (indeed, folk read them all year round – you’d be surprised how many people seem to feel Christmassy in the middle of June!), and I try to do something different every year.

So, from next Saturday (that’s the 19th December) until Christmas Day, there will be a brand new seasonal blog post for you every day.

Until then, if you’re looking for some festive reading (and watching), you can find all my previous Christmas posts right here – and I’ll be adding links to the new posts there as soon as they’re published. Enjoy!

A sprig of holly

The Festive 50 Top Five Songs 2015

Update 14/12/15: VOTING IS NOW CLOSED! Watch out for a link to the Top 50 soon…

Update 18/12/15: Sadly, none of my choices made the final list, but you can check out the full Festive 50 for 2015 here!

You know me, I love my lists! Over on Twitter, @TheFestive50 is busy compiling a chart of this year’s favourite songs (voting on Twitter closes next weekend, and the 2015 Top 50 will be available on the Festive 50 Mixcloud soon – you can find the final lists for the last two years at that link too). Obviously, this was a challenge I couldn’t resist. In reverse order, here are my top five choices….

5) Therapy? – Helpless Still Lost (from the album ‘Disquiet’):

As a long-time fan who always welcomes a new album by this kick-ass Northern Irish punk/metal trio, it was inevitable that I would include one of Therapy?’s excellent 2015 tracks in my top five – but it was really difficult to decide which one, since Disquiet (incredibly, their fourteenth studio album – I feel old) has pretty much been glued to my stereo on repeat since it came out earlier this year. With a sound and production which echoes their earlier material but that still feels fresh, this sludgy, riff-heavy clatter of a track was my eventual choice. This is a real return to form, and, like all of Therapy?’s best moments, this track manages to weave a bleakly twisted melody into the distinctively tangled raw-edged mesh of driving guitars and breakneck drumming that the band have utilised to great effect over the course of their career. More please!

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Making Sense of Breaking News

Like many people, I was glued to social media on the night of November 13th as the terrorist attacks on Paris unfolded. When something terrible like that happens, it is easy to become confused and bewildered by the conflicting reports that fly around on TV and online. So I decided to write a guide to understanding and demystifying the kinds of sources (newspaper articles, TV and radio reports, live blogs, social media posts, visual images etc.) that you will encounter in all forms of the media when a major news story is breaking. But what qualifies me to write such a guide?

While studying for a degree in history some years ago, I was taught how to analyse and interrogate sources of all kinds; a skill which has come in handy when attempting to understand how breaking news works. By ‘analyse and interrogate’ I mean placing a source (whether written, illustrated or audio-visual) in its wider context in order to understand and assess it. This involves asking a lot of questions about the source, its origins and its creator – the who, what, where, why, and when that you will see in this brief guide to interpreting and making sense of the media’s reaction to breaking events. The answers to those questions can help you decide whether a source can be trusted or whether it needs to be taken with a pinch of salt…

Who?

Who wrote/produced/directed/photographed/filmed this source? Are they a professional journalist/photographer/film-maker? Or are they a member of the public who happened to be there at the time and snapped a photo or filmed events with their phone then posted it on Facebook? If they’re a professional, what do you know about them? What can you find out about them? Are they well-known for personally having a particular political bias? Or do they work for a media outlet known for having a particular political bias? How might this affect their work?

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Playlisting: Cover Versions

Back in March, I compiled a playlist of songs about London. That was so much fun to do I decided to put together another on a different theme, and I’d been thinking about this new one for a while – but when I noticed there was a programme about cover versions on BBC4 this evening, it seemed to be exactly the right time to post it!

Cover versions can be a really bad idea (see any classic butchered on The X Factor, for example), but they can also be the definitive version of a particular song or songs (see pretty much any of The Byrds’s Bob Dylan covers as a sublime case in point there). Some of my choices here are simply great covers, but others are possibly a little unexpected, or even just ones I’m rather fond of. If you think I’ve missed anything, or would like to suggest a theme for the next Playlisting, feel free to leave a comment or tweet me.

Edit 07/11/15: Click here for another ten great cover versions!

Same ridiculously basic rules as last time: One theme + ten songs = playlisting.

Here we go….

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Votes for Women!

With the recent success of the film Suffragette, the media has been full of the history of the campaign for Votes for Women over the past few months. So I decided to share this fantastic all-or-nothing, JUST DO IT NOW AND GIVE US THE VOTE contemporary letter to (I think) The Times, which I found quoted on pp. 176-177 of Caroline Lucas MP’s excellent book, Honourable Friends?: Parliament & the Fight for Change*:

Sir,

Everyone seems to agree upon the necessity of putting a stop to Suffragist outrages, but no-one seems certain how to do so. There are two, and only two, ways in which this can be done. Both will be effectual. 1. Kill every woman in the United Kingdom. 2. Give women the vote.

Yours truly,

Bertha Brewster.

Bertha, I think I love you….

*London: Portobello Books, 2015 – and very much recommended too!

Bats in the Belfry: Bats in fact and fiction

Long-Eared and Daubenton's Bats, 1892The bats have left the bell tower
The victims have been bled
Red velvet lines the black box

Bela Lugosi’s dead…

Bauhaus‘Bela Lugosi’s Dead’ (1979)

Well, I’m afraid I’ve got some news for you, Bauhaus. The bats are unlikely to have left the bell tower, no matter which classic cult horror movie legend has just passed into the great beyond, because bats don’t often tend to roost in belfries. According to the Bat Conservation Trust (pdf), bats do roost in churches – it’s just they seem to find bell towers far too noisy, dusty and draughty for their purposes (and who can blame them). Sorry to ruin the illusion!

Honestly, it’s true, bats really aren’t as scary as all that, despite the continued attempts of Halloween tradition to try and convince us otherwise. I’m very fond of the little critters (they’re seriously cute – no, they really are!), and I find their lives fascinating. Which is why, this Halloween, I’ll be looking at bats in much more detail, and trying to separate the facts from the fiction.

The basic bat facts are these. Bats are the only true flying mammals. Rather weirdly, their wings are similar in structure to the bones in a human hand. Most bats eat insects, navigating and finding their prey in the dark using echolocation, which works in a similar way to sonar. Bats are found the world over, and make up about 20% of all mammals across the globe (over a quarter here in the UK).

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Autumn again…

Autumn colours

After my recent post about all things autumnal, I felt some more seasonal colour was needed round here. I thought I might go to the local park and see what was on offer for my camera there, but while I was pondering that I noticed this tree, which happens to be almost literally on my doorstep. This lovely, still part-green tree is not in the sylvan surroundings of said park – it’s in the more prosaic location of the carpark attached to the block of flats I live in (not visible in the photo: one of my neighbours sitting in his car giving me a strange look while I repeatedly pointed my camera at the tree…!)