I’ve long been fascinated by the forgetfulness of human beings. There seems to be a limit to the capacity of the human brain for retaining information before some of it starts falling out of your ears. Your memory card is full, please delete some files to free up space, as it were. But it’s not just forgetting important dates like your mum’s birthday or your wedding anniversary though. As the Wombles put it so succinctly, it’s “the things that the everyday folk leave behind” that offer us an intriguing glimpse into the ways our memories work – or don’t, as the case may be.
Our brains are fallible. Quite ridiculously so at times. Losing your house keys, forgetting your phone, misplacing your glasses, the disappearance of the remote control – these are all everyday things that happen to us all at some point in our lives (although I’d bet you’ve never managed to lock yourself in your flat due to sheer stupidity. I have. The locksmith was highly amused, and I went round singing Vic and Bob’s ‘Trapped In My Flat’ for the rest of the day).
But some people forget the oddest things. Over the years I’ve posted quite a lot on the subject of the weirder side of lost property – bizarre items left on various forms of public transport or in hotel rooms by forgetful customers – and it never ceases to surprise and amaze me what kind of things people actually leave behind in public places.
Everything from wedding dresses, live tortoises, a bag of haggis. a casket of human ashes, and an inflatable dinosaur (yay!), to a gas mask, a framed photo of Mary Berry, a pair of breast implants, a stuffed puffer fish, and a hamster have been turned into various lost property offices in recent years. It really makes me wonder how such oblivious souls got some of these things on the train/bus/tube/into a hotel room in the first place, let alone forgot them!
Indeed, I still worry sometimes about the life-size Dalek someone once left abandoned in a hotel room after checking out – is the poor thing alright? Did anyone ever come back to claim it? Where did it go? Were there stairs involved? And how the hell do you forget a life-size Dalek in the first place? Such weird items of lost property leave me with so many questions (which is probably why I keep returning to the subject!).
Today is the opening day of the football European Championships in France and I’m quite excited. Indeed, I’ve got my fixtures wallchart ready and am planning my match predictions as we speak. One reason I’m quite excited by all this is that my team, the mighty Spurs, have sent a whole eleven (count ’em!) players to Euro ’16 – including five who are in the England squad – which, after the highly dramatic season we just had, is absolutely as it should be!
While I was looking for something football-related to mark the occasion, I came across this fantastic silent newsreel footage of the 1924 Spurs team in training and I just had to post it here (for obvious reasons…). Even from this brief clip, it’s fascinating to see how much is familiar to the 21st century football fan, as well as how much the game has changed since the 1920s – just look at those shorts and that heavy ball in comparison to the hi-tech kit worn and used by modern players, for a start. I honestly can’t see the likes of Wayne Rooney in get up like that…
Watch out for more vintage football-related posts coming soon.
Walking home from a hospital appointment yesterday, I was struck by these trees in a local neighbourhood park. Almost leaning into the wintery blue skies as if reaching for the hazy sunlight, it’s just possible to see a hint of new growth on their bare branches.
Maybe spring is on its way in London…
Back in 2012, I wrote about the history of that well-loved icon of a London Christmas – the Trafalgar Square Christmas tree. Recently, while looking for something else entirely (as is always the way!), I came across a couple of vintage pictures of what appears to be the first tree to go up in the Square back in 1947, which I thought I would share with you this Christmas. From two different sources (click on each image for more information), these pictures were taken from different angles and seemingly by different photographers, but they clearly show the same tree and the crowds of Londoners who came to see it.
Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.
The last few days may have been a bit overcast and cloudy, but Friday was a beautiful early autumn day in my little corner of west London. As I went about my business, the morning skies were that fading, mist-tinged blue that I associate with such early October days; the sun a little lower in the sky and the trees just on the turn. Give it a week or so, and the full colourful impact of the season will be revealed right across London – and there are plenty of green spaces in the city where you can see the most glorious displays of colour as the trees prepare for the changing seasons.
Oh, I love this!
Like many, many people, I was genuinely upset when the novelist Terry Pratchett died last month. His books have been a part of my cultural existance almost as long as I can remember, and the joy they have brought into my life cannot be underestimated. So when I heard that a clever street art type had painted a tribute to him in east London, I had to go and find out what it was all about and report back to you all with photos.
And it’s wonderful.
Packed with many of Terry’s most beloved characters (and a great portrait of the man himself), this mural really is a fitting tribute to him. If you want to see it for yourself, you can find it right by the park in Code Street, off Brick Lane. I recommend you do go and have a look if you’re a fan, it’s an amazing piece of work!
It’s simple. One theme + ten songs = playlisting, Another Kind Of Mind style.
First up, here’s a selection of songs (in no particular order) about my favourite city in the world. London has been immortalised in song countless times over the centuries (if you don’t believe me, have a look at this), from traditional folk songs, jazz standards, musical revue numbers and music hall songs, to calypsos, reggae tracks, psychedelic rock epics, punk classics and rave remixes – and everything in between. Here are ten tracks I particularly love. If you’ve got any suggestions or reckon I’ve missed anything glaringly obvious, let me know here or on Twitter.
Lord Kitchener – London Is The Place For Me:
I’ve written before about the incredibly strange and random things people have been known to leave behind on the London Underground, on planes and in hotel rooms (it still amazes me that someone once checked out of a hotel and drove away without remembering they’d left a full size replica Dalek in their room (no, really). And, incidentally, how do you get a full size replica Dalek in your car anyway?).
Since 1934, items left behind on London’s buses, the tube and in taxis have been taken to the Transport for London Lost Property Office on Baker Street, an Aladdin’s cave of everything from abandoned umbrellas to forgotten mobile phones and beyond. But alongside the everyday things we all occasionally misplace, there’s also some very weird and wonderful things that have been sitting in the TfL Lost Property Office, just waiting to be reunited with their owners…
- A giant red-nosed reindeer stuffed toy
- A pair of size 17 trainers, belonging to a basketball player
- A stuffed puffer fish
- A gas mask
- A mannequin head used by trainee hairdressers to practice on
- A school crossing guard’s ‘lollipop’
- A gorilla costume, wearing an Hawaiian shirt
- An assortment of African carvings
- A life-sized stuffed Spiderman
- A pair of breast implants
- A wedding dress
Luckily, about a quarter of the lost property items found on the London transport network will be returned to their owners – but I suspect the giant red-nosed reindeer has metaphorically missed the boat (or possibly sleigh) this year…
This seasonal wartime propaganda short was produced for the American market and has since become a minor classic of the genre, also being nominated for the Best Documentary (Short Subject) Oscar in 1942. Written and narrated by the London-based US journalist Quentin Reynolds (1902–1965) (whose distinctively intimate voice can also be heard on the previous year’s now-iconic London Can Take It!, also aimed at American cinemagoers), this film tells the story of Britain during the Christmas of 1940, when the country was quite literally under fire.
Wearing its propaganda colours firmly on its sleeve right from the off (the opening shot tells us this is a ‘Ministry of Information film’), this film knows exactly which buttons to press in order to get an emotional and visceral reaction from the average American viewer. As a result, there are vivid images of the way the war has had an impact on what Reynolds sees as the timeless peace of British life – so there are shots of shelterers in the London Underground, children playing at soldiers, troops watching out for enemy planes or manning guns in British cities and countryside, and bombed-out shopkeepers in what remains of their premises, declaring ‘business as usual’.
Eagle-eyed readers might recall that I wrote a World War Two Christmas Miscellany post some years ago, examining the experiences of Christmas on the home front during that conflict – and since I have also been writing a series of posts on the First World War, I thought it would be interesting to try the same for 1914-1918 too.
This post mainly focuses on the wartime Christmas experiences of Londoners (mostly because I am a Londoner and I have posted about this city, its history and my fascination with it on many previous occasions), but I am sure those resident in other British towns, cities, and even smaller settlements would have had similar festive seasons and felt similar emotions during the war years to those living and working in the capital – these were, as you will see, difficult times for everybody, both at home and on the front line. Indeed, I was particularly interested to note just how bleak and, quite frankly, how depressing wartime Christmases became as the conflict progressed.
For more information on the subject, see the ‘Further reading, listening and sources’ section at the end of the post – and I would also be interested to hear from you if you have any further details of World War One home front Christmases in London, or from elsewhere in the country. You can leave a comment here or get hold of me on Twitter.
By December 1914, the oft-voiced view that the war would be ‘over by Christmas’ had already proved to be sadly mistaken – although it was unlikely that anyone preparing for the festive season that year could have possibly imagined there would actually be another three wartime Christmases yet to come before the return of peace.