Tag Archives: history

Robert Hughes: What democracy is for…

Robert Hughes died recently. I liked reading his work.

This is what he said about democracy and art – from an editorial in the Guardian newspaper:

The late Robert Hughes wrote his own epitaph in his 1993 polemic Culture of Complaint, where he inveighed against the banal politicisation of art and championed instead the importance of quality.

“Some things do strike us as better than others – more articulate, more radiant with consciousness,” Hughes insisted. “We may have difficulty saying why, but the experience remains.”

Democracy’s task, in the field of art, he believed, was to make the world safe for elitism, not to outlaw it. He believed passionately – in Hughes’s case the adverb is redundant – in an elitism that was not based on class, wealth or race, but on skill, imagination, high ability and intense vision Continue reading

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So that’s what happened to the KGB

The KGB? They haven’t gone away you know.

But they’ve ended up in the most unexpected places. You’ll never guess Continue reading

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Filed under politics

The missing slaves of Belfast

Olaudah Equiano - one of Belfast's more famous visitors.

Question: What have Liverpool, Bristol and all sorts of other places got that Belfast hasn’t?

Answer: A corporate history of slave trading.

Hurrah! One shameful pursuit into which we did not dive. Continue reading

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Filed under D - Loose Bloggers Consortium, friends, history, life, Music

Titanic Town fever

It must be catching, this Titanic fever. There’s no escaping it on telly or in the news. Here’s my contribution…

In other words – enough already. We built it. It crashed. It sank. Continue reading

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Filed under history, life

Bye bye BBC Bush House

After 70-odd years, the BBC has begun to leave Bush House, home of BBC World Service radio. Some buildings have character. BBC Bush House has… had. This gives a flavour of it.
Video about Bush House and the World Service

For a while I worked, drank and watched the fish inside Bush House.

I was particularly fond of the Outlook programme – partly because they paid me for stories from Africa. But also because you could climb out a window from their office to a flat roof with satellite dishes. From there a metal ladder led up to another roof level. Then a second set of rungs provided a route to the very top and views over most of the rooftops between Bush House and the Thames.

I sometimes wandered past the rooftop water tanks to the front of the building and out onto the canopy over the grand entrance. In my mind’s eye we sat and contemplated our eyrie above the throng. I lay back and surveyed the clouds. Maybe one of us smoked. I remember the roof as curving – with the slight risk of sliding off to plummet to street level, but it looks more angular in the slide show. Memories can be tricky.

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Huh! Kids those days…

Young people theose days… Out of control… No respect… Not like when I was a lad/lass… And here’s the evidence!

Your roving reporter met* a specially selected cross section of the population** who shared their own experience and opinions from the sharp end.

  1. “We live in a decaying age. Young people no longer respect their parents. They are rude and impatient. They hang around pubs and have no self control.”
  2. “When I was young, we were taught to be discreet and respectful of our elders, but young people today are disrespectful and out of control.”
  3. “What is happening to our young people? They disrespect their elders, they disobey their parents. They ignore the law. They riot in the streets… Their morals are decaying.”
  4. “The young people of today think of nothing but themselves. As for the girls, they are forward, immodest and unladylike in speech, behaviour and dress.” 

I blame the parents – the great great great great great …etc… grandparents, that is.

So what’s with this sudden display of concern for society going to hell in a handcart? Just a pretext really, to show you these clever drawings by Hark, a vagrant – and her lovely, clever, zany blog and book. History as it really/never was.

Continue reading

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Filed under art, blogs, history

Thank you Culture Northern Ireland

Thank you Culture Northern Ireland for giving me a £100 Amazon voucher (for winning a writing competition completing a survey). And thank you Gerry Anderson and politician Gregory Campbell for helping me spend it. Well, to be more precise – they had a row. But Continue reading

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There’s more to Belfast than peace walls

Arthur Magee - Ambassador of the humane to humanity

How could you not love a face like that? It’s playwright and tour guide Arthur Magee. He has a bee in his bonnet about the type of tourism that goes on in Belfast – sometimes called “terror tours”. You know the sort of thing – here’s the Falls Road, here’s the Shankill, here’s where he was shot and she was blown up.

Anything wrong with it? Maybe not. Can be educational, even respectful. And it’s clearly part of the history and undeniably internationally known. I’ve even done it myself in an informal way for foreign mates who, to my surprise, had studied Northern Ireland at college. Odd to think of yourself as a laboratory specimen.

But though Norn Irn’ers have been known to revel in their notoriety and believe – or demand – that the world revolves round them (“Never mind the fall of the Berlin Wall – what about the Apprentice Boys wanting to march across the Ormeau Bridge!?!) – you can imagine that it can become tiresome to feel that visitors see you solely in the context of the Troubles. A bit like being in a zoo too. In the cage.

Brendan Deeds - writer

Which is why Arthur Magee has come up with an alternative Continue reading

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Lively ladies

Lilian Bland preparing for take off

Lively ladies sounds so much more alluring than likely lads, doesn’t it. Smacks of cancan and Toulouse Lautrec. But in this case it’s paint and engine oil.

Lively lady No.1 – Lilian Bland

Lilian comes courtesy of Grannymar, who tells a lovely story about the first woman to design, build and fly her own aeroplane. The pioneering aviatrix (1877-1972) was originally from the south east of England, but she spread her wings in, round and over Carnmoney in County Antrim in the north east of Ireland.

This excerpt from Grannymar’s post gives you a flavour of Lilian Bland’s character:

She was so keen to fly that she came over to England to pick up the engine and took it a back on the train with her.   Once home in Ireland, there was no petrol tank so she used an empty whiskey bottle and her aunt’s ear trumpet Continue reading

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Uninvited guests – welcome and unwelcome

I've had some grief from Grannymar in the past about gratuitous swimsuitery - but surely this must count as editorially justified. And gorgeous. (Phoarr.)

It’s summer. It’s sunny. So the bad news is that it’s time to dredge up your swimming cossies.

Eek! I know.

I’m sure Well Done Fillet is not the only one battling with left over winter padding. But never fear, the Good Greatsby has a wonderful list of ways to overcome any embarrassment or shyness you may feel. There’s bound to be an answer that suits you.

But the good news is that it’s time for another guest post from Pam, who lives down the street from me in our village.

You may remember her first guest post about the rabbit lady, the evacuees, the rat catcher and how it was When no one locked their doors on my street.

Well, Pam’s back with a summery account of uninvited guests and how to treat them way back when- featuring foxes, hikers, horses and hunters. So, over to Pam, with more tales of a southern English village:

Although it was before my time, I was told by a neighbour, Mr Ben Batting who lived at No.37, that originally, before the road was built, the oak tree at No.17 used to be on the corner of three fields. When there was a fox killed by the hunt, it used to be nailed to this tree. Before World War Two fox hunting around the woods and fields was a common sight.

One day a Continue reading

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