Saturday, 22 December 2018

Beatrix Potter - 75 Years On

Pictured in 1913

75 years ago today, British children’s author and illustrator Beatrix Potter died of complications from pneumonia and heart disease at the age of 77.

The creator of such loved characters as Peter Rabbit, Squirrel Nutkin, Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle, Jemima Puddle-Duck and many more was also a natural scientist and conservationist, being widely respected in the field of mycology.

Born into a well-to-do family in Kensington, London in 1866, Helen Beatrix Potter wrote 30 books in total, being fondly remembered for her 23 children’s tales. On her death on 22nd December 1943, she left the majority of her sizeable estate and property to the National Trust.

Her books continue to sell to this day, bringing the stories of her created animal characters to life for millions of children (and adults) worldwide.

Saturday, 10 November 2018

The First Ever London Derby!

This weekend saw the 111th anniversary of the first ever First Division London derby when on 9th November 1907, Arsenal were the visitors to Stamford Bridge to play Chelsea.

Stamford Bridge pictured in 1905

Arsenal were the first London club to enter the top flight of the Football League in 1904 and remained alone among those nasty northerners for 3 years until the Blues joined them in 1907.

Previously in the season Chelsea had struggled, so it was something of a surprise when Chelsea took a 2-0 lead with a brace from George Hilsdon. Arsenal narrowed the gap to 2-1, but could get no closer and suffered their fifth defeat of the season. Various reports suggested the crowd was somewhere between 50,000 and 70,000, which was a new league record.

By the end of the season, Chelsea finished in thirteenth, one place ahead of Arsenal, with whom they were level on points, by virtue of a superior goal average.

Monday, 27 August 2018

Afrikaans Bible Translation

In 1933 the first official translation of the entire Bible into Afrikaans was completed and on this day 85 years ago, it was introduced to the Afrikaans-speaking Christian community during a Bible Festival in Bloemfontein.

Originally translated by J. D. du Toit (an Afrikaaner poet better known by his pen name of Totius), E. E. van Rooyen, J. D. Kestell, H. C. M. Fourie, and B.B Keet, it was updated 20 years later  to prevent it from being rejected by Christians who were used to using the Dutch translation. 

The 1953 edition contained a number of small changes and changes to the spelling of names. The 1953 edition also introduced copious cross-references that were present in all subsequent prints of that edition.

Friday, 15 June 2018

The LP is 70 Years Old

Long before the MP3 download and way back further than the compact disc, many old crusties like myself used to listen to our favourite music on vinyl records.

As far back as 1941 CBS Laboratories (Columbia Records) began research into developing a phonograph record that could last at least 20 minutes on each side. 

After a break during World War II, work was resumed at the end of hostilities and on 18th June 1948 at a press conference at the Waldorf Astoria in New York, the long-playing record (LP) was unveiled to an amazed public and press.

Two formats were initially released. The first was just 10 inches (25cm) in diameter and played for a total of 35 minutes while it’s sister platter being 2 inches wider at 12 inches, contained a further 10 minutes of sound.

Columbia’s long-playing record became the standard LP format until well into the 1980s, when it was overtaken by the compact disc. However in the early part of the 2010s, vinyl made a comeback reigniting the debate of which format was the best.

So what is your choice of sound? Are you a traditionalist enjoying the hiss and crackle of vinyl? Or is the supposedly perfect sound of the CD for you? Or maybe you are a download dolly and are never seen without a set of earbuds plugged into your trusty iPod?

Friday, 29 September 2017

Marc Bolan - 70 Years On.

Marc Bolan
It takes some believing that on Saturday 30th September 2017, Glam Rock legend Marc Bolan would have been celebrating his 70th birthday.

Early Life

Born Mark Feld in the East London suburb of Stoke Newington, on 30th September 1947, he received his first guitar at the age of 9 and soon set up a skiffle group. Whilst still at school, he became the guitarist with a band called “Susie and the Hula Hoops” alongside none other than a 12-year-old (at the time) Helen Shapiro, later to become a solo chart star in her own right.
Helen Shapiro

Known at the time for playing guitar sets for his friends' enjoyment during lunch breaks, he was eventually expelled from school at the age of 15 for bad behaviour.
After moving to Wimbledon in south-west London, he became entranced with rock and roll, especially the music of Eddie Cochrane, Gene Vincent and Chuck Berry. However, his own music career seemed to take its time to really take off.

T Rex

T Rex
Helped along the way by his friend David Bowie and with a couple of failed band projects behind him, in the late 60s Bolan’s folk/rock duo set up with Steven Took, Tyrannosaurus Rex began to get noticed, helped along by radio support and promotion from legendary British radio DJ John Peel.
A year later Took was replaced by Micky Finn and the band name was shortened to T Rex. Ride a White Swan, dominated by Bolan’s amazing electric guitar work, was released, peaking at No.2 on the UK chart. Fuelled with mythological references, Bolan claimed it was written after he was tripping on acid at a Rolling Stone magazine launch.
Mark Bolan became an instant star and very soon Hot Love was released, going one better than its predecessor, spending 6 weeks at the peak of the charts. Glam Rock was well and truly born.
T Rex - Get It On (Bang a Gong)


With other UK chart toppers such as Get It On, Telegram Sam and Metal Guru, Mark Bolan then left the UK, both for tax reasons and to ‘try and crack America’. But whilst away from the UK, the big hits at home started to slow down.
However, he never really made it big ‘across the pond’. From a country which never particularly shared the love of either glitter or Glam Rock, Bolan returned to these shores. 
After a large, blockbusting national tour, he fronted a 6-part TV show for Granada TV entitled Marc, where he introduced music from both new and established artists, along with performing some of his own material.
He died instantly in a car accident at Barnes, south-west London, 2 weeks short of his 30th birthday in September 1977. 
T Rex - Children of the Revolution


Like John Lennon, Marvin Gaye and others who left us before their time, any thoughts of whatever would have become of Mark Bolan, the music he may have subsequently produced and the way his career could have progressed are obviously all total conjecture.
The fact is that throughout the early and mid-1970s, in the UK and beyond, Marc Bolan became the ‘biggest’ pop/rock star of them all, and with his long trademark flowing locks, the most recognisable. He boasted a universal following made up of fans of all ages.
To many music fans, even 40 years after his death, he is still sorely missed.

Happy 70th birthday Marc, wherever you may be!

Monday, 25 September 2017

'Love Thy Neighbour' Down Under

I was rifling through a few old UK sitcom videos on YouTube today and came across Love Thy Neighbour from the 1970s.

Thames TV Production

Love Thy Neighbour was a Thames TV production screened on the ITV network that would certainly never see the light of day in these more liberated times.

Starring Jack Smethurst and Rudolph Walker (now featuring as Patrick in BBC’s flagship soap ‘EastEnders’ - see right), it was the story of two couples living next door to each other. One couple were black while the other were white and it brought to the fore the animosity held between the two male characters, meanwhile their character wives were great friends.

Racist Overtones

The racist overtones expressed quite freely throughout the programme were, in my opinion, even totally unacceptable back then and the reason the show has not seen a more recent airing on the numerous satellite channels we now have, bears witness that this holds true, if not more so, to this day.

Sequel Down Under

But I was unaware that the show, like other 70s sitcoms actually received a sequel ‘Down Under’ as it was produced in Australia after its run in the UK came to a close. 

Again it featured Jack Smethurst, this time playing the same Eddie Booth character who had supposedly emigrated to the other side of the world and was awaiting his family to join him.

The difference however, was that his neighbours were white and consequently it was just based on two sets of home dwellers not getting on and nothing to do with colour as in its UK version.

Other 70s Sitcoms in Australia

Other UK shows that have made it to the other side of the world for Australian series in addition to their UK predecessor include such greats as ‘Doctor in the House’ (as ‘Doctor Down Under’), ‘Father Dear Father’ and ‘Are You Being Served’.

‘Love Thy Neighbour in Australia’ is available to watch on YouTube should you so desire, though somehow I don’t think I will bother tuning in.

Monday, 18 September 2017

The Wipers Times

One of the benefits of being hard of hearing and having to wear hearing aids is the fact that I qualify for a concessionary library ticket.

This gives the opportunity to request and reserve books for half the standard cost, but more importantly (for me anyway), allows the hire of pretty well any AV item, such as DVDs and CDs (including talking books), for free. Not bad when DVDs are invariably £2.50 a week and CDs at £1.10

A DVD we recently borrowed was ‘The Wipers Times’ a BBC dramatisation of the true story of a trench magazine published by British soldiers fighting in the Ypres area during the 1st World War.

In early 1916, the 12th Battalion, Sherwood Foresters were stationed on the front line at Ypres, Belgium and discovered an old printing press. 

A Tommy, previously a printer in Civvy Street before the war, managed to salvage it and printed a test page. Soon ‘The Wipers Times’ (named after slang for Ypres, which many Tommy’s found difficult to pronounce) was in production.

The paper was made up of a collection of jokes, poems, reflections and ironic, satirical slants at the war and, of course, the enemy as well.

The BBC dramatisation, produced in 2013, was written by Ian Hislop and Nick Newman. In September 2016 a stage production, adapted from the TV version, opened in Newbury, Berkshire and is currently mid-way through a national UK tour.