Thursday, November 30, 2006

Mysteries of computer from 65BC are solved

Couldn't resist this report from the Guardian about a complicated bronze object found in a wreck. Now known to be an astronomical calendar, it's reckoned that other such machines did not survive due to being melted down for scrap.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Mulled wine

This Mulled Wine was being served in the Small Museum over the weekend (and will be served there for the coming three, or so, weekends):

1 box cheapest red table wine (aka vin de plonk)
Half a 75cl bottle of fruit wine; damson or elderberry seem to do very nicely (see Lindisfarne Fruit Wines)
Whole jar of 340g honey, plus a bit more, to taste
3 sachets of mulled wine spice, eg. Schwartz

Heat gently till nice and warm, then drink! I scaled it down for home, with 1 bottle red wine 75cl, around 1/3 honey, 1/3 bottle of Damson fruit wine and one mulled wine sachet. Had a nice time slurping it, and offered some to Batman when he came home from work. He even had seconds, so it must be nice. Most of of the alcohol was 'burnt' away, so we didn't get too tipsy :-)

Monday, November 27, 2006

Seeing Dr Who anew

There are currently some repeats of Dr Who on BBC4. These are the old ones; the ones I grew up with. Only, I saw them in black and white, for the most part. So watching them, I get a feeling of familiarity, but they seemed different some how. It took me a while to work out that it was the colour differential (duh). I didn't get a colour tv till the early 1980s. The early Dr Whos were not much repeated, so it's great to see them again. The latest repeat is one of Tom Baker's - The Ark in Space, complete with Sarah-Jane and Harry.

The series is part of the Science Fiction Britannia season, the highlight of which, so far, is The Martians and Us which is an exploration of British SF, including the likes of H G Wells, George (1984) Orwell, and John (Triffids) Wyndham. I'm also looking forward to seeing The Cult of ... Star Cops. I remember this short-lived series quite well, so will enjoy a look at its making.

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Saturday, November 25, 2006

Christmas Shopping is officially upon us

Well, in York it may have started last weekend. Last Saturday was very busy in town, and even the Small Museum had a rise in visitors. And I also observed a rise in what one volunteer calls The Lookie-Lus - namely people who come into the museum shop just looking for presents. They are not interested in coming into the museum per se. So they look, occasionally purchase a trinket, then go. Apparently, the major shops last Saturday all reported a sudden up-turn in customers which had the shop workers running ragged, and certainly Stonegate was packed when I went down it. It was even worse today.

Last Thursday was the official start of York's Christmas season, with a city centreYuletide Fayre, which goes on till tomorrow. Consequently, I'm putting extra hours in at the Museum to help out, as it too is part of the Fayre, and there's a drinks bar that needs staffing. And there will be a weekend bar there until well into December, so I suspect that's where I will be frequently found.

And next Thursday, late night opening will commence. Arragh! At least I can avoid it :-)

Pannier update: It was indeed Batman's pannier, and the College intends to return it to York for him some time next week. Very kind of them, and they will be getting a thank you card, and some nice chocs in appreciation


Thursday, November 23, 2006

Batman's wandering pannier

Over a week ago, Batman set out to a local society meeting on his bike. He put one pannier, containing useful meeting documents in it, onto the bike. As he cycled near Cemetery Road, somehow the pannier came loose and fell into the road. He stopped to look back, couldn't see it and was stumped. Stumped until a passerby pointed toward Fulford and said he'd seen the pannier, attached to a car's wheels, zooming away. Weird. Why didn't they stop? Perhaps they didn't realise.

Anyway, we thought that was the last we'd see of it. Batman has bought new panniers - ones which attach themselves more securely to the bike this time :-) But today, I got a phone call from a local private school asking to get into contact with Mr Batman as they have had some of his lost property handed in. Could it be???? Indeed what else could it be? All kudos to the school for bothering to try and track him down.

I'm waiting to hear back from Batman, but if it is the wandering pannier, that's strange. The school is just off the A59. Where we live is just off the A59; I often see the school's van going to and fro to the station. Did the car that picked up the pannier do a loop past the Novotel rather than going to Fulford, but effectively taking the pannier back past us and on the way to Harrogate? Blimey, if I'd known, I would have jumped out in the road and haled the car down on that evening ... ;-)

Monday, November 20, 2006

Beta Blogger

Humph. If I'd known I wouldn't be able to comment on non-Beta Blogger blogs, I doubt if I'd have changed over. So, those of you are currently being neglected by me: I am reading, but I can't comment :-(

Changing over to Beta Blogger was very easy. There is an option for keeping your current template, so you won't lose your front page and any adjustments you may have made. It's good to have the indexing facility. I'm sure there's other new stuff, but I haven't had a chance to explore them.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

100% English?

Take eight people - all of whom are convinced they are 100% English. Then submit a sample of their DNA to a series of state-of-the-art tests... Lord Tebbit, Garry Bushell and Carol Thatcher are among the participants who have agreed to place their genetic make-up under the microscope.

Channel 4 is airing a programme called 100% English tomorrow. Should be highly amusing, as those who think they have purely English ancestry give a sample of their DNA - and find out that they are nothing of the kind. When I did a little bit of Family History, I was pretty sure I'd easily find some people who had come from overseas (especially as some of my lot lived in London). I was delighted to find that one was Italian, given my Roman interests :-) And I'm sure I'll find more ancestors who did not originate on the island. That's fine by me.

Friday, November 10, 2006

HNS Editors' Choice Titles - November

Just a quickie: The Historical Novel Society have posted the Editors' Choice selections for November 2006 on their website. This is in advance of the Historical Novels Review coming out later this month. And I note that the Historical Novels Reviews Online, which covers selected electronically published, self-published, and subsidy-published novels has also been updated for November. This section often gets put up unannounced.



I shan't be blogging for a couple of days as I get my head down to sorting out some teaching. Got to get my slides together, re-jig my lecture, and then clean the house as one of the speakers is staying with us. And then I've got to teach all day, not my forte by any means. I just want it all over with, and then I can settle down to write my own academic stuff and muck about making leather shoes.

I find teaching all to panicky. I'm unsettled about it for months in advance. Soon I'll be asked by the univ if I want to teach anything for the year 2007-8, but I think I may pass on that again. I really don't get much out of it, and feel that I let the students down in some way. It didn't help last time in that I had this woman in my class who had a constant look of disapproval on her face. I'm pretty sure she was the one who moaned on her evaulation form about me sometimes referring to my notes (which I had to do especially when it was dense information regarding historical detail; I have not head for remembering that sort of stuff). All in all, teaching is not enjoyable. I haven't the right sort of temperament for it.


Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Opening sentences and first pages

Gabriele has an interesting blog on perfect beginnings. Interestingly, a week or so ago Michelle Styles also touched on this subject, where she analysed the first page of her published book, explaining why she chose to write what she did. Most illuminating.


Monday, November 06, 2006

Shackleton quote

Got to the bottom of the Scott/Amundsen/Wilson/Shackleton quote, courtesy of Antarctic Circle website.

There are two versions, one of which I came across in Cherry-Garrard's biography recently:

"... For a joint scientific and geographical piece of organization, give me Scott; for a Winter Journey, Wilson; for a dash to the Pole and nothing else, Amundsen: and if I am in the devil of a hole and want to get out of it, give me Shackleton every time ... " [Apsley Cherry-Garrard. Vol I, Page viii, Preface, Worst Journey in the World, first edition.]

"Scott for scientific method, Amundsen for speed and efficiency but when disaster strikes and all hope is gone, get down on your knees and pray for Shackleton." [Attributed to Raymond Priestly but appears in essence elsewhere including in Cherry-Garrard's Worst Journey in the World]

Both of which neatly sum up my general impression of Antarctic exploration in the early 20th century century.


Sunday, November 05, 2006

Maximus visits Verulamium

Good grief, I didn't realise that Maximus Decimus Meridius visited my home town ... He seems to have some strange ideas about the Roman theatre though ;-)

In truth, John Culshaw does his excellent Russell Crowe on Dead Ringers, shown in a clip put on YouTube. Unfortunately, my favourite Dead Ringers tv sketch is not on You Tube :-( However, the script is on the Internet. It's where Simon Schama and David Starkey literally battle it out to be the top British TV Historian. Priceless. There's even an appearance by Time Team.



My friend who lives in Bishopthorpe says that Thorpe on Ouse is a very old name for the village. Sorted :-)


Saturday, November 04, 2006

The Lost Luggage Porter by Andrew Martin

I'm currently reading The Lost Luggage Porter by Andrew Martin. It's a detective story, set in York in 1906. The narrator is one Jim Springer, who has just taken up a position as a detective with the North Eastern Railway Company. It's told in first person, with no frame (eg. he's not obviously writing his memoires) which is great. I don't see why 1st person narratives need frames. The Ripley book below had almost believable frames - in that one was writing a history (and ... no, I shouldn't give it away) and the other was being interviewed by someone who was really wanting to know about Agricola, and turned out to be Tacitus (Agricola's son-in-law). But mostly, the 'I am writing this in my dotage' is used too often to be entertaining. Why not just jump right (write?) in and tell the story? Jim Stringer does just this.

Somehow, Andrew Martin's got a very authentic voice. For example, he only ever refers to his wife as The Wife. I only got to know her name (Lydia) because his Dad called her by her name. The author knows about trains, and his settings feel right. As a York resident, I haven't come across any quibbles as yet. I'm certainly very familiar with some of the buildings and roads mentioned :-)

Jim lives in Thorpe-on-Ouse. Not being a local, I'm not sure, if this is a resident's name for Bishopthorpe (I have a friend who lives there, I shall ask her tomorrow), but it certainly is that part of York. It's interesting to note that there is a stern disclaimer about there being no intent to refer to anyone who either worked on the railways, lived in York or Paris at the time. I guess that is the hazard of writing a story set in relatively recent times. I remember an author talking about a book she had written about the Sunken Island in Holderness. Though it was set in the 19th century, she was very careful to ensure that she didn't use any current family names in the area, just in case.

I've not finished The Lost Luggage Porter yet, but it's compelling stuff. It's actually the third in the Jim Stringer series, and I certainly wouldn't sniff at reading the other two. He has a light touch, using historical detail deftly. I remember the first one, The Necropolis Railway getting very good reviews, and now I have a hint as to why.

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Thursday, November 02, 2006

Those bloomin' short stories again ...

I'm now in a quandary. I've typed out a long email explaining what went on regarding my comments on the short stories. Something in my head is saying Never apologise, never explain. Actually, I think I'll leave it at that.

Those who think I'm a nasty person can go on thinking that if they wish, though I will point out that no-one was named, and it's a fact no-one died either. Those who know and trust me, know where it all came from (i.e. my good intentions) and will continue to speak to me without any fear.