Thursday, 25 February 2010

RAF Lyneham's Vulcan Cold War bomber is saved

RAF Lyneham's Vulcan Cold War bomber is saved

I wrote recently about the Avro Vulcan bomber and in particular XH558, the last airworthy example. There has been much concern in aeronautical circles recently that a lack of funding for the volunteer trust would lead to it being grounded indefinitely but I am overjoyed to see that a supremely generous philanthropist has stepped into the breach and donated the money necessary to keep this amazing machine flying. Well done to you sir, whoever you may be!

It is important that these fantastic technological achievements are kept functioning and not just relegated to the corner of a dusty museum. They are so much more exciting when seen doing what they were designed to do, rather than sitting impotently on an airfield apron. A whole new generation of pilots, engineers and designers can now be inspired to create and fly ever more wondrous machinery, should they ever be lucky enough to see this incredible machine in the air.

Railway memorabilia from the golden age of steam

Railway memorabilia from the golden age of steam

Some truly evocative images here, from what is rightly called the golden age of railway travel. It is easy to forget in these days of over-running engineering works, rail-replacement services and leaves on the line that before Dr Beeching's cuts in the 1960s the railway network reached every corner of the country and was the predominant mode of transport for the British holidaymaker.
These posters that this fellow has spent a lifetime collecting hark back to a long forgotten Britain. Somehow I can't see that style of advertisement working today with our modern trains, more's the pity!

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Why the ukulele is enjoying a comeback

Why the ukulele is enjoying a comeback

The oft-maligned ukulele is sometimes seen as a rather limited instrument, occupying a small musical niche all of its own. This video of the increasingly-popular Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain and the accompanying B.B.C. article should go some way to overturn that particular theory and prove that the humble uke deserves its place in the wider world of entertainment. Yet it is also an instrument that, as the B.B.C. piece suggests, anyone can learn to play. Why, even I might have a go!

Not only is the ukulele a much more versatile piece of kit than it is given credit for, it is also produces and extremely uplifting sound. Indeed, studies have shown that learning to play the ukulele is effective in combatting the symptoms of depression. What better reason could there be for learning to play the ukulele than to brighten your day with some jolly, yet easily learnt, strumming music? Isn't it grand?!

Dorset man claims to be world's oldest paperboy

Dorset man claims to be world's oldest paperboy

On now to a delightful article about one chap's life-long enjoyment of a simple profession. Indeed it could be said to have long ago ceased to be a profession and instead taken on all the hallmarks of a beloved hobby. Here is a man who has been delivering newspapers to probably generations of people in his village. He is an institution in the very best sense of the word. It is always nice see someone take so much pleasure in something that they continue to do it for almost their entire life. One wonders how much such relishing of a past-time goes in keeping the person healthy and active well into their old age. Good luck to the gentleman, say I, and I hope he fulfils his wish of delivering 'papers for years to come.

Monday, 15 February 2010

Palace Hotel owners honour Laurel and Hardy

Two of my all-time favourite comedians, nay actors, are Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. I have been a fan of them since I was 9 years old. Together they made some of the funniest films the world has ever known and their wonderful humour is as fresh and accessible today as it was at the height of their powers.

So I was pleased to see this small acknowledgement of a visit they made to my local town, Southend, when they were touring the British variety theatres back in the early 1950s. The Palace Hotel was where they would have stayed while performing at the local theatre and it is heartening to see this fact appreciated as part of the hotel's renovation.

The joy and laughter given to us by Stan and Ollie has never diminished in the 80 years since they made their best pictures and this little story just goes to prove that their work will continue to be well-regarded and enjoyed for as many years (if not more) to come.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

First postal order sold at auction

First postal order sold at auction

In this age of chip-and-pin, online banking, electronic money transfers and the like it is all too easy to overlook the humble cheque and its relation - the postal order. Here we have the very first postal order, which has defied the odds and survived intact for almost 130 years thanks to the man who originally drew it out and subsequent generations of his family who recognised its value to future collectors. Now that value has been realised and, perhaps unsurprisingly, it is far in excess not only of its original sum of 1 shilling (approximately 5 pence in today's money) but also the guide price put on it by the auction house!

I have no doubt that, despite the price paid, the new owner will be more than happy to have such an important piece of monetary history in his collection and I am sure that the original drawer of that postal order would have been pleased to see appreciated still.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

'Spitfires of the sea' saved for the nation by £580,000 grant

'Spitfires of the sea' saved for the nation by £580,000 grant


More good news for those of us with a fondness for [military] history. These boats and the stories of the actions they took part in during the Second World War can now be preserved rather than consigned to the junk pile of the past. If it helps to keep alive the memories of the courage and skill of the men who commanded them (and it will) and preserves historical machinery so that people today and in years to come can appreciate it then it is money well spent.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Photo exhibition shows life in China in 1870s

Photo exhibition shows life in China in 1870s

News here of a fascinating-sounding exhibition that is being run up in Liverpool. Fascinating because it chronicles a landscape and way of life that has long since vanished and preserves it for our (and future generations') enjoyment and edification. It is also interesting to read of the way in which the photographer went about capturing his images. All too often when we see or hear of stories involving Victorians visiting foreign countries we automatically envisage some form of evil imperialism; the subjugation of the native population, the stripping of natural resources and so on. But here is a pleasant reminder that it was not always like this and that the photographer treated his subjects and their country with respect and admiration, which makes the pictures all the more enjoyable in my opinion.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

40 wild birds play a Gibson Les Paul guitar

40 wild birds play a Gibson Les Paul guitar

I have always found the absurd and the bizarre very amusing; the Goons and Monty Python are just some of the comedy acts that have made me laugh over the years. The concept of Dadaism as an art form, whilst something of a closed book to me hitherto, has an appealing sound to it and I may just have to find out some more about it. This story is about what would seem to be a classic example of the genre and immediately tickled my funny bone. I think it is a gloriously comical yet accurate take on so-called "modern art" and an inspired idea, as so much absurdism is. Is it art? I will leave that for you to decide. Is it music? I've certainly heard worse!

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