Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘history’ Category

It is sometimes shocking to sit and think how quickly technology has come on in just a few short years. Photography is something I have always enjoyed, being brought up on Dad’s slides and even his own attempts to create a dark room in the attic.

I remember my first Kodak camera with its stacked, one-use-per-bulb flash, and how proud I was to finally be able to take my own pictures. It had no zoom, no focus and used what I regarded as proper film. (Funny how whatever it is you start with you regard as proper film, at least until you grow up and start using standard 35mm.) I remember, too, getting my first Olympus, sadly rarely used, and the pictures I took with it on my honeymoon less than ten years ago, when there was no imminent prospect of digital superseding plastics and silver salts.

Now, most of us have phones that can take better pictures than even the most expensive digital cameras of ten years ago, with top-end digital cameras such as the Canon EOS 7D or EOS 5D Mk II being so sophisticated that they can replace movie cameras, opening up the world of movie-making to amateurs the world over.

The Light Farm are an enthusiast co-operative “dedicated to the renaissance of handcrafted silver gelatin emulsions”.  They have got their hands on a historic film by Kodak, which details the process of making film.

Enjoy.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Read Full Post »

I have an eclectic musical taste that roams the genres and I can find myself listening to anything from Finzi and Mozart, to Counting Crows, The Jayhawks, Guns N’Roses, Linkin Park and Sick Puppies, all via the Pet Shop Boys, “Ibiza dance” and Lady Ga Ga. Not forgetting of course Led Zeppelin, U2, Nightwish, The Village People etc etc…

Nothing gets to me though quite like John Denver and there is one album in particular that defines him for me: Poems, Prayers and Promises.

It was his fourth album and every song is an acoustic musical masterpiece (except “The Box”, Kendrew Lascelles’s stunning anti-war poem, read with genuine agony by Denver on the last track of side two). His beautiful tenor soars and swoops, occasionally tinged with a spine-tingling melancholy, and the lyrics are homely, humbling and thought-provoking without being trite.

Perhaps it is because it is the first non-classical record I heard Mum and Dad play that it means so much to me. Perhaps it is because it conjures safe memories of lying on the carpet in pools of dappled sunlight, thinking that days like that could never end. Perhaps it is because it has been the soundtrack to many a long car journey to Cornwall. Or perhaps it is because its calm simplicity lets me find my centre, even in the hardest times.

John Denver died in 1997. What a beautiful legacy to leave.

From “Poems, Prayers and Promises”

The days they pass so quickly now

Nights are seldom long

And time around me whispers when it’s cold

The changes somehow frighten me

Still I have to smile

It turns me on to think of growing old

For though my life’s been good to me

There’s still so much to do

So many things my mind has never known

I’d like to raise a family

I’d like to sail away

And dance across the mountains on the moon


I have to say it now

It’s been a good life all in all

It’s really fine

To have the chance to hang around

And lie there by the fire

And watch the evening tire

While all my friends and my old lady

Sit and watch the sun go down


And talk of poems and prayers and promises

And things that we believe in

How sweet it is to love someone

How right it is to care

How long it’s been since yesterday

What about tomorrow

What about our dreams

And all the memories we share

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Read Full Post »

My future brother-in-law, Mr Bagnall, reminded me of one television programme that must be one of my all-time favourite childhood memories. Who could have thought that a five minute short animation of the simplest kind could create such a comforting sense of timelessness?

When so many of today’s children’s programmes are such a disruptive mess of loud music, rudeness, primary colours and inane bouncing around, the undramatic stories of The Merioneth and Llantisilly Rail Traction Company Limited, that recognise children are capable of being entertained in far quieter, more thoughtful ways, seem almost revolutionary.

Please give a big hand for Ivor the Engine.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Read Full Post »

Each morning the C2C trains trundle into London, beginning their journey in Shoeburyness, the end of the line that lies in close proximity to the secrecy-shrouded MOD facilities of the tidal island of Foulness. One hour and ten minutes later they arrive in Fenchurch Street, the oft-forgotten commuter terminal for East Essex that hides between the contradiction of gleaming office blocks and ramshackle reminders of older, darker London such as the East India Arms.

These trains pass through the seaside excitements of Southend, on past the old-now-fashionable fishing town of Leigh and then through the connurbation of Pitsea, which, with the closure of the Motorboat Museum, has almost lost its struggle to retain a sense of its own maritime connections. From Pitsea the journey enters the sprawl of Basildon, the brash young upstart neighbour of both Pitsea and Laindon, both of which were the principal local urban centres prior to the Whitehall social laboratory experiment which was the New Towns Act 1946.

Between Laindon and the sleepiness of West Horndon lies my favourite part of my daily commute: the Bulphan Fen.

Yes, I love the bleak industrial landscape of the detours via the loop line, forced on weary travellers by endless engineering works: the vast and towering complexes of Dagenham; the faded, crumbling decay of Tilbury’s dockside menace; and the empty mystery of Purfleet and its invisible military history. Yes, I love, too, the changing landscape of East London, where clean, proud new build sits between the higgledy-piggledy tangle of scrap-yards, brick-arch businesses and the shells of now-forgotten commercial giants of Britain’s imperial past.

However, for me, nothing touches the vast, rural emptiness of the Bulphan Fen for its capacity to reassure, by reminding me I have truly left the loud metropolitan chaos of the city behind me. Perhaps it is because it is the stretch I have travelled for more years than any other, the daily schoolboy journey to Upminster a daily and extravagant adventure that took me far from the country comfort of Langdon Hills. Whatever the reason, nothing gives me the calm reassurance of the prospect of home as much as this small stretch of a rural England that is quickly vanishing.

In Summer, the setting sun casts long, warm shadows that stretch from field to field, heralding barbecue-weekends, the easy company of family sharing a glass or two under the reaches of the old vine and the wistful strains of Finzi or Vaughn-Williams teasing our souls with the melancholia of English poems and promises.

In Autumn, tendrils of mist snake between the trees and hang low in the fields. They lend the landscape an ethereal shroud worthy of Tolkein that disguises agricultural purpose and hides the pylon sentinels in their silent vigil over this corner of South Essex.

In Winter, icy frosts glitter on earth as hard as iron. These last two years such frosts foretold the blizzards which saw our landscape reborn white and pristine, the dangers of broken road and path buried by snows that harbour their own cruelties and hazards.

And in today’s Spring morning, green fields sparkled with dew under cloudless blue skies and commuters burred quietly with refreshing wonder about the sunshine, its bold appearance vanquishing the greyness of February’s dying season.

I love the Bulphan Fen – and its enduring promise of home.

Read Full Post »

You could be forgiven for thinking that part of the appeal of “Never say ‘No’ to Panda” is the peculiar novelty of seeing pretend animals acting in unexpectedly violent ways.  However, I was shocked to discover possible antecedents in the early work of Jim Henson and an era of “muppet ultraviolence” that hitherto had passed me by.

In 1957, Henson was contacted by Washington DC-based Wilkins Coffee. They asked him to produce a series of 10 second adverts for local tv stations. Between 1957 and 1961 he made – according to the Muppet Wiki – 179 ads, in which Kermit-forerunner Wilkins, the Wilkins Coffee-lover, attacks Wontkins, the Wilkins Coffee-hater, in varyingly violent ways.

The question I have is… Whatever happened to Wilkins Coffee?

Surprisingly, there’s very little information out there, even in the vast cyber-wilderness of the Internet. According to a poster on Michael Procopio’s blog Food for the Thoughtless:

Wilkins sold the roasting plant to The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company in 1970 and continued to distribute Wilkins Coffee from Landover, Maryland. Halco, a public company, purchased Wilkins in 1974 and the division was called Halco/Wilkins Food Service. Wilkins was once again separated and sold in 1982.

There the trail seems to go cold and there are few if any references to what happened to Wilkins Coffee. A second poster on the same site reports that the name was bought by Royal Cup Coffee but notes that there are no products sold with that branding.

Frustratingly, there appears to be very little information available about Wilkins Coffee before its murderous muppet adventures. The only thing I could find is a tantalising early reference in this list of radio programmes which details a 15 minute transmission on WRC (National Broadcasting Co.) at 6.30pm EST on Friday 3rd October 1930 by the Wilkins Coffee Orchestra.

I wonder how big a phenomena that was? I wonder how proud the members of this now-forgotten ensemble must have felt to hear themselves broadcast over the airwaves?

There must have been countless numbers of similar artistic ventures sponsored by companies that are now barely footnotes in our global industrial history. Wilkins Coffee, boasting advertising budgets that could fund hundreds of television ads, now really only survives in the global consciousness as an interesting chapter in the early history of the lunatic puppets created by Jim Henson.

If you can cope with the undoing of happy childhood memories of Kermit’s nephew Robin singing “Halfway Down The Stairs”, take a look at the clips below.

Read Full Post »

The election was little more than two weeks ago, though, in truth, the astonishing developments of recent days make it feel like half a lifetime has passed.

This weekend is the first since before the start of the campaign that I have had a moment to catch breath and reflect on the incredible and exhausting roller-coaster of emotions that has carried me through the last few weeks. I am still struggling to get my head around a moment in history that has taken the party to which I have devoted most of my adult life from being the second party of opposition, fighting against media expectations of annihilation, through the incredible highs of Nick Clegg’s performances in the television debates, to the shock and dismay as we lost seats, and, finally, after careful and determined negotiations, on an extraordinary journey into government. Not at any moment had I envisaged the highs and lows of the last seventeen days, nor the conflict of emotion, loyalty and reason that has tested me and many, many party members.

As regular readers of my blog will know, I have never been backward in offering up frank criticisms of the Conservative Party. At the risk of offending “socialist” colleagues (I use the term advisedly these days), I have long mischievously regarded the Labour Party as merely a hundred-year anachronism that, hugely significant in its impact on the politics of the twentieth century, is merely the upstart younger brother of a progressive Liberal tradition that has a far longer and richer history as a counter-weight to the political and societal inhibitions of Conservatism. With that as my starting point, the idea of a coalition with the Conservative Party was never something I had entertained, instead attaching my instincts in terms of coalition in a balanced parliament situation to the romantic notion of a realignment of the left and a partnership with a Labour Party looking to rediscover its sense of purpose.

I use the term ‘romantic’ quite deliberately. That sense that Labour were the natural partner of the Liberal Democrats paid scant regard to the illiberal and authoritarian reality of thirteen years of Labour government, but owed more to my admiration for the integrity of leaders such as Paddy Ashdown and Menzies Campbell who sought the prize of a realignment of the left in order to usher in a new era of liberal reforms. That emotional detachment from political reality governed many of my initial reactions to the General Election result and the truly baffling parliamentary arithmetic delivered by a cynical, angry public to the political class.

Despite an illegal war (yes, it was illegal), huge incursions by the state into our private lives, the threat to traditional British rights such as trial by jury, repeated failure to deliver on reform of the Lords and our electoral system (even though these were manifesto promises), the running down of our rural communities and the ruin of our agricultural industry, the bankrupting of the nation’s finances, and complicity in the ruin of confidence in our Parliament, Labour somehow still felt a more appropriate partner for government. However, listing these abject failures, just as I did in the pause for thought that was created by Nick Clegg’s commitment to allow the party with the greatest mandate to seek to form a government first, forced me to recognise that the political instincts of the Labour Party, still nominally progressive, are as far from my own and my understanding of my party’s as are those of the Conservative Party. More importantly, from the point of view of attempting to come to terms with the political and economic reality of 2010, the Labour Party is exhausted and broken, uncertain of what it believes or what sort of party it should become.

By contrast, the Conservative Party revealed a confident capacity to subordinate expectation, objectives and tradition to the practical necessity of negotiating with its erstwhile political opponent – qualities that had clearly escaped the observations of many commentators who saw minority government as its only route to power. If I am being completely honest, they are qualities that had escaped me, also, my ready preference to hide behind (well-founded!) tribal prejudices proving that I did not know the party I had been campaigning against as well as I liked to believe.

The outcome, a Coalition Agreement and a Coalition Government which sees Liberal Democrats at every ministerial level, is a genuinely radical attempt to confront the challenges facing the country and, in its composition, demonstrates a commitment from both the Liberal Democrats and the Conservative Party to making this arrangement work.

Knowing how many of my fellow party members share my instinct, I am proud at the way the Liberal Democrats both locally and nationally have responded to the challenge set by the electorate. That there was such considered acclaim for the agreement at the special conference convened to provide an opportunity for members to discuss the Coalition Agreement does not detract from the hard questions the party asked itself. We fully recognise that a new and tough challenge will be to promote ourselves as a party of government, making clear the very real impact that having Liberal Democrats in government will have on people’s lives.

Of course the proof of the pudding will be in its eating at the end of this Parliament and the extent to which the Coalition has delivered on its clear commitments. However, the ambition is tremendous and a high benchmark that has the potential to reconnect the public with politicians and provide a real opportunity to break open the old ways of doing things. The list on which this Coalition is determined to deliver includes things I never seriously believed I would see in the programme of a single government: fixed term parliaments to end the game-playing of sitting prime ministers; an opportunity for the country to decide on voting reform, jemmying the crowbar of preferential voting into our creaking and unrepresentative electoral system; reform of the House of Lords; an ambitious plan to green our economy; a Freedom Bill to roll back the powers of the state; huge investment in the schooling of the country’s poorest pupils; and the raising of the income tax threshold to help those on the lowest incomes.

Most of all, this Parliament provides a uniquely important opportunity for all those supporters of electoral reform: to demonstrate that pluralist politics can work and that the national interest is served by a strong and distinctly Liberal voice in government.

Despite the colourful, passionate and necessary rhetoric of the election, my own emerging understanding of this unprecedented situation is that coalition cannot be founded on our deeply-held prejudices as politicians, but instead has to be grounded in an objective assessment of how best to serve the national interest in all its iterations, however personally troubling the accompanying journey might be. I believe Nick Clegg’s Liberal Democrats and David Cameron’s Conservative Party have made just that assessment, setting aside instinctive and fundamental differences to establish a coincidence of interests to best serve a tired, cynical, yet hopeful public.

I wish them – us –  every success.

And I look forward to pressing the case for Liberal Democrat achievements in Government against robust challenges from both the Conservative Party and the Labour Party in five years’ time.

You can read the Coalition Agreement, approved by the Liberal Democrats and the Conservative Party 11th May 2010, here:

You can read the Coalition’s Programme for Government, published 20th May 2010, here:

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

Read Full Post »

More news from Eva Sajovic, who writes regarding a new exhibition for Gypsy Roma Traveller History Month, this time remembering the Holcaust against the Roma and Sinti in Nazi-occupied Europe.

Hosted at the Mile End Art Pavillion,  the exhibition promises to be a shockingly intimate and comprehensive documentation of the disenfranchisement, persecution and genocide of the Roma and Sinti communities, the photographs and personal testimonies challenging viewers to consider this episode in the context of post-war prejudice and persecution across Europe.

Lead-managed by the Documentation and Cultural Centre of German Sinti and Roma, the official launch being hosted by the German Embassy, the exhibition is intended to raise awareness of the murder of 500,000 people by the National Socialists, a fact which many forget in their consideration of the horrors of the Second World War:

The Arts Pavillion
Mile End
London E3 4QX
Exhibition open 2 – 20 June
Tue-Sat 12-6 pm
Sun 12-4 pm
Closed Mondays

Read more about the exhibition below:

Read more about the Documentation and Cultural Centre of German Sinti and Roma below:

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: