Sunday 31 May 2015

Bruce Robinson Resurfaces! Jack the Ripper is coming...

Photo sourced here

The Independent on Sunday has a brief new interview with Bruce Robinson today, which you can (and should) read in full here.

In it, he confirms that his decades-in-the-writing non-fiction book about Jack the Ripper is finally being published, this September. You can pre-order it here. You can read more about the project, and SPOILERS a *possible* candidate for the person Robinson is going to unveil as the Ripper, in my previous blog entry here (which is one of the most-read posts this website has ever published...).

Bruce sounds on good form, and gives good quote, as always. The author of the piece mentions that the Robinson household is hard to find nestling in its remote valley in the Wales borders, but that doesn't seem to have put off hardcore fans making a pilgrimage. Bruce says:

“I found a guy drinking my vintage port in the kitchen at 7am a few days ago. This guy put down a whole bottle of port, ate a bowl of cornflakes and fucked off. I still don’t know who he was.”

Thursday 28 May 2015

Was that a Withnail reference in Game of Thrones?

Just a quick one (while a longer post on another topic is being prepared), but I think it's worth recording that TV phenomenon du jour Game of Thrones included what has to be a sly shout-out to Withnail and I last week (season 5, episode 7: 'The Gift').

In a delicious scene between Jonathan Pryce, as the 'High Sparrow' and Diana Rigg, having a whale of a time as Olenna 'Queen of Thorns' Tyrell, Dame Diana comes out with the line:

"You live among murderers, thieves and rapists, and yet you punish Loras for shagging some perfumed ponce?"

Perfumed ponce, eh? I think we can safely put down David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, show runners of Game of Thrones and writers of this particular episode, as Withnail fans...

Sunday 17 May 2015

Blowing Up Trains: A Lawrence of Arabia Relic

May 19th is the 80th anniversary of the death of T. E. Lawrence of Arabia. His fateful motorcycle crash was actually six days earlier, putting him in a coma from which he never recovered. (If he'd been wearing a crash helmet, he probably would have walked away from the accident, but that's another story.)

To mark the occasion, I thought I'd spotlight a little piece of history which has been sitting quietly in the Little Shop since it opened...

It doesn't look like much, but it's connected to this...

Blowing up a train on the Hejaz railway, David Lean style.

A recent photo of the remains of an actual train, blown up by the actual T. E. Lawrence.

The unassuming bookend features a piece of the railway track that was blown up by Lawrence and his Arab guerrillas.

The inscription reads:
'A sectios [sic] of railroad track destroyed by Lawrence of Arabia to prevent the Turkish forces from controlling the Arabian Peninsular, 1917. Recovered by Boy Scouts of America, Red Sea Troop 1, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, 1970.'

I bought it a few years ago, and while it didn't come with any solid provenance, I've no reason to doubt that it's the real McCoy. It's obviously got some age to it, and it would be a strange, not particularly obvious, and rather time-consuming thing to fake. There's also this learned article about the chemical composition of the Hejaz railway tracks of the time, which features a cross section photo which matches the piece on the bookend:

Boy Scouts or not, I imagine it would by frowned upon these days to go around nicking bits of the remaining track, not least because there is ongoing archaeological research into the period, headed by GARP (the Great Arab Revolt Project). You can find out more about them here.

As Lawrenciana goes, it's an interesting and presumably unique piece, but who knows what its value would be. Whatever the right collector is willing to pay for it I suppose.

I like it too much to sell it though.

2017 UPDATE: This link to the National Trust's collection of item's at Lawrence's cottage Cloud's Hill features a familiar-looking object... more proof that this piece is the real McCoy...

Tuesday 5 May 2015

Coming up in Croglin: Mary Ware's Legacy in Watercolour

I'm out and about dahn Sarf this week and into next, so here by way of a blog is a plug for a rather special upcoming event in Croglin, the little Cumbrian village where I live (when I'm not in the Little Shop...).

Mary Ware’s Legacy in Watercolour

Croglin village hall to host sale of original art and Sunday afternoon tea in aid of the Cystic Fibrosis Trust.

On Sunday 17 May 2015, Croglin village hall will throw open its doors to visitors from far and wide for a sale of beautiful original works by artist J (Jean) Mary Ware, accompanied by a delicious afternoon tea. 

Though she had sketched throughout her life, Mary Ware (1915-2012) only really began to pursue her art once she entered her 70s, making both the quality and proliferation of her work all the more astounding. With an eye for finding beauty and interest in everything, Mary’s subjects range from stunning Lakeland landscapes and the tranquillity of beach scenes to the minute detail of wild flowers and the intricate elegance of architecture. As local artist Madge Shaw says, ‘Mary’s legacy in watercolour is a delight for us all to share.’

In this, her centenary year, many of Mary’s previously unseen original pieces will be offered for sale at the event. There will also be a raffle for an individual piece of framed artwork, as well as the opportunity to buy greetings cards featuring Mary’s artwork and an indulgent afternoon tea as provided by the local residents. All proceeds from the event will go to the Cystic Fibrosis Trust to aid the continuing battle against a disease suffered by Mary’s beloved granddaughter, Alena. 

The village of Croglin – once the site of an ancient Viking settlement – is no more than five miles from Kirkoswald beside the Eden river, yet is so tucked away in the foothills of the Pennines that visitors rarely find their way to its unspoiled environs. Featuring a church sketched by Alfred Wainwright MBE and lending its name to a waterfall immortalised in poetry by William Wordsworth, it is the perfect destination for a Sunday afternoon drive and stop for tea – combined, perhaps, with the moderate circular walk on the fell above the village to take in the magnificent vista of the Eden Valley and the well-preserved remains of the village’s lime kilns. 

·      17 May 2015, 2pm-4pm
·      Croglin village hall – CA4 9RZ
·      Art sale and afternoon tea in aid of the Cystic Fibrosis Trust