Category Archives: History

The Onward March of Progress

How Two Generations Have Changed The World

My grandparents lived in back-to-back housing, with outside toilets, and no hot water.

The height of technology available to them was the Wireless. No, not “Wifi Internet Connection“. Radio. The BBC News Broadcast.

When one says “Almost 100 years ago …”, it is easy to think “oh, back in the Olden Days“, but my grandparents, that I knew and loved, lived through that.Image result for 1920s housing derby terraces

Although Electricity Suppliers were available, they were expensive and diverse, and it was not until 1935 the the National Grid was created, and it was unreliable until the ’60s. Houses were lit by gas, or candles, and most household tasks, such as laundry and cleaning were done by hand. There were no Automatic Washing Machines, or Dishwashers, or even Vacuum Cleaners.

Penicillin was not invented until 1928, and took years to be available to the general public. “The Youth of Today” do not realise what a Big Thing this is. Infections that we now think of as minor were considered Killers. My own father spent time as a child in an Isolation Hospital with Scarlet Fever.

So, your web-page is taking an extra 5 seconds to load? Cry me a river!

Managing Expectations

Everyone sees the world through their own experiences.

A public Telephone Box

My dad regales anyone who will listen with his tale of my nephew (his grandson. Now in his early 20s) asking what my dad’s first mobile phone was like, when he was a kid … cue “When I were a lad ...” Pythonesque rant. He had to walk down the street to a public telephone box. (For our younger readers, this is a Land Line, shared with everyone, situated at the Village Green. You  had to pre-pay shilling coins. People did not have their own land-line! ) But I digress. This is “New-Fangled Gadgets”

While I bemoaned my parents’ frugality (read: stinginess) regarding a VHS recorder, today’s hard-done-by children are rationed Mobile Phone credit and have curfews on their games consoles.

The youth of today have grown up with microprocessor technology. My niece had a mobile phone in her cot on Day One (playing soothing womb-sounds). Why would she not think everyone did?

Even those of us who remember dial-up internet (and its interminable screeching) now get frustrated at a 5-second delay on web-pages loading, or ‘buffering’ on our Netflix movies.

Time moves ever on, and we judge our relative position against those around us, not those who came before.

Next Generation

While my grandparents would be astounded at the technological accomplishments that we have made, and the ready availability of such, my generation will likely be just as amazed at what the next advancements will be.

Image from www.fanpop.com

A 1950s television.

From the 4″-9″ TV sets used to view the coronation of King George in 1937 to the 49″+ sets now used to watch ‘celebrities’ eating bugs, we have come a long way. Where next? There is talk of home projectors, or even Active Wallpaper, able to turn an entire wall of your living-room into a video display.

Our current Super-Fast broadband will be the poor-man’s speed of the 2020s. But what will this mean? Comparing to previous technology, we struggled to stream video, yet now it is expected, and even my parents have upgraded so that they can both be watching different programs (What? TWO computers? Are these people Aristocrats, or Merchant-Princes? Actually, they also have a laptop AND an iPad!) without buffering. They also both have mobile phones, which, in my opinion, are the major step forwards, and where the advancements will come.

On The Move

Imagine, if you can, dear reader, a time when all of the peoples of the world will carry a device that links them to every other person on the planet. At the touch of a button, they can call forth any piece of information from the Global Databases, read any book ever written, watch any movie ever made, or listen to any music ever recorded. The latest news from even the furthest reaches of the world are broadcast immediately to all of these devices. All of the Academic courses, History, Geography, Mathematics, Philosophy, the Arts, are there in your hand, and even Teachers available to discuss with.

That time, my friends, is upon us!

Related image

Alcatel Pixi 3. £20. All the phone you need.

Even my dad’s most basic of mobile ‘phone’s is capable of full internet access, and although its on-board processor is limited, it can off-load much of the work to online servers, storing photos and documents in The Cloud, utilising the network of “4G” Mobile Masts around the country.

The communicators, and even ‘tri-corders’ that Captain Kirk relied upon so much pale besides our “Phones”.

I have friends who no longer even use a Home Computer, their phones and tablets providing all of the functionality they need to survive a Modern Lifestyle, and the next generation will consider our desktop PCs quite quaint!

There may  be black-spots, and no-signal zones, but these are disappearing fast. Optical Fibre connections are being rolled out to even the most remote locations. Soon there will be no place without constant, reliable connection to the Global Village!

When the youngest of our families become grandparents, what marvels will the new generation be privy to?

Epilogue

It is my opinion that:

  1. The Internet, mobile phones, etc are a natural progression from Marconi’s initial radio experiments, and Shokley et al‘s transistors.
  2. We are still in the early days. Compare to other technologies in our homes: TV is nearly 100 years old. Radio even older. Electric lighting 150 years. We have a long way to go before Instant Global Communication is considered a mature technology, and it’s social effects (little touched upon here) are fully felt.

 

Red ‘ren, Soul of Egypt

Welcome back to the “I have a new car” blog!

KA

KA

Although Li’l Singin’ Suzie has not actually fallen apart at the seams, she has become unreliable, and less than melodic (especially on rough roads – everything rattles!). Some local ruffian has put a screwdriver through the passenger door lock, the repair of which left it non-functional. The window also fails to work. There are a couple of MOT Advisories,

Getting through this coming winter was looking like a worrying time.

As luck would have it, one of my Mother’s friends happened to mention that she rarely drives and was looking to get rid of her car. Knowing my situation, Mum asked her to consider us if she did decide to sell.

Long story short: I (with a little help from Dad) bought the car!

Technical Details:

  • Ford KA Zetec Climate 2007
  • Metallic red paint
  • Very low mileage
  • Very good condition (full service history)
  • One lady owner (two, if you count the lady who owned it for a whole month from new, before deciding it wasn’t for her!)

Pros:

  • Despite being 11 years old, she is in almost mint condition
  • 1300cc engine is notably more power than anything I’ve driven before (The Stallion had a 1600cc,  but a much heavier body, and was a bit older)
  • She has a reflection of the Sydney Opera House in the rear wing!

Sydney Opera House

Cons:

  • 1300cc engine is notably more power than anything I’ve driven before!
  • Can’t see the corners (my li’l bro noted that a KA has no corners!)
  • £195/year road tax!*

Worky Bits

I have figured where most of the important controls are, although I am settling into the “New Car Standard-Signalling Procedure”. The correct action when a new car approaches a junction is to switch on the windscreen wipers, and then indicate in both directions while changing radio stations. But you knew that.

I still don’t know how to get to the engine, but I hope that I never have to! My sister-in-law has had two KAs, and given me some suggestions, but she is of a similar “ring the RAC” mind as me.

Fuel

It’s a little early to comment on fuel consumption, but I feel that she may be a little thirsty. I’m still impressed at modern mileage figures, though. My initial estimate is approximately 45MPG. I hope to be able to get that up to 50, once I’m more familiar with the clutch and gears, and no longer massively over-revving on manoeuvring.

Suzie

Li’l Suzie (also known as The Car of Theseus) is being taken away later this week. While I am sad that our 4 year relationship is over, I know that she served me as well as she could.

Notes

Ka, his arms raised

Ka, his arms raised

You may be wondering where I got the title of this Blog Post. Well, sit back, and let me explain …

Red ‘ren, Soul of Egypt:

  • She is red. This part is not so puzzling.
  • KA ‘ren = Karen. If you’ve got a better name for a KA, please let me know!
  • Pharaoh Ka reigned Egypt circa 3200BC. His name means “soul”, as signified by the “raised arms” motif.

Going Forward

I don’t see my general attitude towards cars changing; keep them running until they are no longer economically viable. How much will it cost to get her through the next MOT? Hopefully, Red ‘ren will last a good few years before needing any major work, at which point, I will have to consider my options.


*Road Tax: Colloquial term for emissions-based Vehicle Excise Duty, a tax levied on all motor vehicles that use the public roads. The funds raised go in to the general Coffers, and are not ring-fenced for any particular purpose.

Shakespeare Lives

I’m really not sure what to make of Viktoria Modesta‘s new feature: “A Midsummer Night’s Dream“.

Made as part of the British Council‘s Shakespeare Lives #2016 programme of events marking 400 years since the Bard’s death, it shows VM as Titania, linked to some kind of digital dreaming machine, playing out part of the famous production in a Virtual Reality.

Titania

Titania Dreaming

The video contains some very striking imagery, switching between the futuristic lab where Titania sleeps and her dark, neon-lit imagined-reality, where she dances, free to live out any fantasy she wishes. In the dream, she is clothed entirely in a white 3d-printed outfit resembling some kind of skeletal structure, contrasting with Bottom’s black leather ‘armour’ (complete with smooth, full-face mask). But beyond the imagery, what else is there?

The original play contained themes of Finding Oneself, Dreams vs Reality, and (of course) Sexual Tension. These themes are well reflected in this  modern telling, if conveyed in a way Shakespeare could hardly have dreamed(!) of. Oberon is concerned that Titania is losing herself in the Dream, and fixating on her idealised self-image. The masks worn in the Dreamed Reality mirror the ones worn by actors, if a little more dramatic(!).

Director Sing J Lee allows VM to explore infatuation, alter-ego overpowering self, and self-presentation, echoing the play-within-a-play of the original and asking questions of all who would stand on stage and perform (and of those of us who would not!).

As I began – I am still not entirely sure what to make of it. But I hope that it fulfils it’s main intention of drawing the next generation towards The Great Bard. And also, towards VM, who, I feel, has only started to make the impact that she is capable of!

VM

VM

Write On, Comrade!

Poetry Can F*ck Off!
An evening of Words, at Leicester’s Upstairs at The Western theatre.

“Poetry can seriously f*ck off authority figures. It gets under the skin of those whose brains have been made rigid by power.”

I’ve been hoping to find something tempting at the Western since it opened, being one of the few pub-based theatres in the country, but this is the first show that really grabbed my attention. I wasn’t sure quite what to expect. The posters featured little more than the NSFW title, and a quick search revealed the show to be about Rebellion, Subversion and Defiance.

Jonny Fluffypunk, designated poet of the Bristol squat scene

Jonny Fluffypunk, designated poet of the Bristol squat scene

As we were seated in the warm, cramped space (every ticket sold!), a gent sporting a fine beard and steel guitar (Mike Dr Blue), alongside a man with a keyboard on shoulder-strap (this would be Roy Hutchins, narrator), tinkled out some tunes. This was to form the background (and sometime foreground) music for the show.

Once the show started in earnest, we were thrown in at the deep end, as Mr Hutchins launched into a tirade of how poetry has changed the world, forming rebellions, toppling dictators and freeing the oppressed. The three other figures on stage were Jonny Fluffypunk, Sameena Zehra (a veteran of the Delhi AIDS awareness campaigns) and Selina Nwulu (daughter of Nigerian refugees who fled their civil war). They counterpointed Hutchins’ speech with numerous diverse quotes, including Maya Angelou, Martin Luther King, William Blake and Gill Scott Heron, to name but a few, echoing them in triplicate, giving weight to the words.

Shelly’s Masque of Anarchy, as recited by Ghandi while he stood peacefully against the the British troops, rang out through the small space to remind us of what all dictators and oppressors fear: our numbers!

“Rise, like lions after slumber
In un-vanquishable number!
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you:
Ye are many—they are few!
Ye are many—they are few!
YA ARE MANY! – THEY ARE FEW!

It ran on in this vein, building a picture of the power of poetry, and how it has been used since time immemorial to embrace the suffering of the dispossessed, clarifying their feelings, expressing them eloquently, and as a clarion-call to action.

Another world is not only possible, She is on her way. On a quiet day,I can hear her breathing. Arundhati Roy

The interval came as no small relief! The heady atmosphere of rebellion was building up, and my chest was tight with emotions. The plight of those who had gone before us had been highlighted; the suffering and subjugation dating back even to Sumerian times. But also, as Jonny’s voice echoed the inscription on Ozymandias‘s statue, that no power can last. Even the King of Kings can be brought low.

We filed back in after the intermission, wary, yet hopeful, of what was to follow.

We were not to be disappointed! With the lights still low, a  local choir stood and performed a very heartfelt “Bread and Roses”. The cool evening breeze, so recently to refresh us, suddenly seemed so far away, as we were transported back to the Massachusetts textile strike, 1912, and the lines of women marching (to avoid a recent No Loitering law!) by the factory gates, demanding not only decent wages (bread), but respect, and dignified conditions (roses).

And more was to come!

The first time I heard it, I didn’t really get “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”. How could I? A naive young white boy full of hope and ambition, stretching out on my own, but with a secure safety net in place. Now, many years later, to  hear it recited by The Poetry Army, I felt I finally understood something about what it was about.

I still don’t ‘get’ “Still I Rise”, but I can see some of what it means, and to hear it in choral form set my  heart racing.

From the Peasant’s Revolt (1381), through to Occupy Wall Street (ongoing), featuring Women’s Liberation, American slavery (Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit” was particularly harrowing), Vietnam (we had a good sing-a-long to Country Joe McDonald), General Pinochet’s brutal regime, and many more, we were taken through a history of Words overcoming Oppressors.

So if you, like Roddy Doyle, think that “Poetry was School. All poetry could fuck off”, why not take a moment to think on where poetry was not School, and firmly refused to fuck off, even the the face of the worst violence and oppression. Poetry that changed the world. Undermined dictators, unified protesters and brought the spotlight of the world onto injustices.

“Poetry can seriously f*ck off authority figures. It gets under the skin of those whose brains have been made rigid by power.”

Poetry Can Fuck Off!

Meanwhile, Bacchus at the Cafe …

You may not be too surprised to hear that I found some Art at a clothes shop today, but it may intrigue you to know the details!

Opposite one of my regular haunts is a clothing alteration shop. I’ve seen it many a time, while sat sipping a latte (No pumpkin spice, thanks. Or vanilla, or any other “exotic” flavours. Coffee. With milk. In a mug. Cheers) in the sunshine, but it was only today that I took a proper look at the decorations around the doors.

The Clothing Alteration Company. Decorations around the door and windows.

http://www.clothingalts4u.co.uk/

None of the surrounding shops have similar frontages, so I thought I would inquire. I stepped inside, and sought knowledge!

The lady at the counter was very friendly and helpful, and explained that the shop used to be the site of a wine merchant, and they had decorated the front with images of Bacchus, the Roman god of Wine and Agriculture, in homage to Leicester’s Roman heritage.

Carvings of Bacchus over the shop doorway

Door Decorations

She was very happy to grant me permission to take a few photos for this blog, so I snapped away for a while, and include a few of the best pictures.

Side panel showing more Bacchus imagery

Side Panel

Detail of side panel

Detail of side panel

Unfortunately, I have so far been unable to dig out the name of the wine merchants that commissioned these pieces, but I will be looking further into this!

In the meantime, if you have any clothes that need altering, and feel a blessing from Bacchus would help, do visit The Clothing Alteration Company in St Martin’s Square! While your clothes are being altered, grab a coffee and admire the decorations!

(I nearly made it all the way through a post without mentioning The Cank!)

The Cank: Part 2. No Plaque! (EDIT: Plaque returning soon!)

EDIT: Leicester City Council Twitter (@Leicester_news) have replied, and are looking into the status of this. Please keep your powder dry while we await their response.

EDIT 2: The Leicester City Council Twitter team have assured me that the plaque is in safe storage, and will be replaced as soon the the renovation work is completed in the area.

In my previous post, I extolled the virtue of The Cank Street Well, and lauded the fact that Leicester remembers its past.

Cank Well Plaque

Close up view of Cank Well Plaque

So imagine my surprise when I found out that, after a period of renovation, the large brass plaque explaining the origins of Cank Street’s name has been removed!

The small brass tile still marks the original site (as best as we can tell) of the Cank Well, but there is nothing to tell people it is there, or what it was.

I foolishly thought that Leicester City Council’s Social Media Manager might be able to shed some light on this, but my request on their Facebook page has gone unanswered. Next will be a strongly-worded email, requesting not just an explanation for the missing plaque, but also for the ignoring of one of their Constituents! Such is the Wrath of a Wizard wronged!

As the next stage of my campaign, I am urging the good people of Leicester (and anyone else who wishes to get involved) to let LCC know that their negligence, whether through malice or ignorance, has not gone unnoticed, and request that you contact them with regards to replacing the plaque!

EDIT: Leicester City Council Twitter (@Leicester_news) have replied, and are looking into the status of this. Please keep your powder dry while we await their response.

EDIT 2: The Leicester City Council Twitter team have assured me that the plaque is in safe storage, and will be replaced as soon the the renovation work is completed in the area.

Link to Leicester City Council contact page: http://www.leicester.gov.uk/contact-us

Postal Address: Leicester City Council ,City Hall, 115 Charles Street, Leicester, LE1 1FZ

Please do what you can to get The Cank Street Well recognised!

Lady Burghclere and Ethel

Detail from an Egyptian mummy at New Walk Museum

Detail from an Egyptian mummy at New Walk Museum

One of my clearest childhood memories is visiting the New Walk Museum, and finding they not only had dinosaurs and holograms, but also Egyptian Mummies! The Egypt section was dark, like a tomb, and a little scary for a young lad such as myself, but I was fascinated.

Later, when I joined up for the Natural History Sunday Club, we would always find some time to wander through the Egypt display. They have Royal mummies, funereal urns, and even a mummified cat!

Alas, childhood gave way to other, more important, things (or so they seemed at the time!). Rock ‘n’ Roll. Girls. Computers. Howard Carter and his ilk had to take a back seat for a while. But they never completely left.

So imagine my surprise and joy when I found this blog: http://ladyburghclereandethel.com/

A friend has found letters to her grandmother, Elsie Merrall,  from Ethel North, lady’s maid and companion to Lady Winifred Burghclere, the elder sister of the 5th Earl of Carnarvon! You probably know that Lord Carnarvon is not only the business-partner of Howard Carter, discoverer of Tutankhamen’s tomb, but also the inspiration for the UK TV series Downton Abbey.

Ethel and Lady B travelled the world together, and Ethel wrote many letters and postcards to Elsie, telling of her exploits and adventures, along with commentary on many subjects. These  letters are now being compiled into a book, ready for publication.

To find out more, including how to get hold of the book when it is released, visit:

http://ladyburghclereandethel.com

The Cank: 12th Century Water Cooler?

Cank Street, Leicester, is a well-known thoroughfare near the Market, but do you know the origin of the name “Cank”?

Plaque on Cank Street

Plaque explaining the origins of “The Cank”

According to a brass plaque near St Martin’s, the name refers to “The Cank”, a well first recorder in 1313 AD, and is thought to be a dialect word meaning “gossip”.

A small plaque is set into the road marking the original site of the well, now long gone. Such a tiny marker is easily lost amongst the manhole covers, hydrants and drains, but a careful search of the area will find it.

Cank Well

Plaque marking the site of The Cank

It seems a shame that The Cank is not better known, and despite St Martin’s being a popular area, most people will walk past the plaque, or even sit in the seating that it is mounted on the back of, without even noticing it.

From outside the Olde Sweet Shoppe, you can view both plaques, if you know where to look.

two brass plaques

View of the two brass plaques

So next time you are out and about in Leicester, why not take time to walk along Cank Street (I suggest starting from the Clock Tower so that you can enjoy the newly re-opened Silver Arcade), and see if you can spot the site of The Cank? If you do, you can reward yourself with a relaxing drink at the nearby St Martin’s Coffee Emporium!

Cank Well Plaque

Close up view of Cank Well Plaque