Dancing statues

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For bank holiday weekend fun, why not head over to the village of Burrough Green in Cambridgeshire, where, according to the Paranormal Database, on this night every year the two statues that stand above the door of the school come alive and dance on the village green. Should definitely be worth seeing.

Deckchair Day

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Inspired by the recent enforced quiet in Britain caused by the volcanic ash, I have come up with a suggestion. One day a year when the whole world switches off its phone and lounges quietly in a deckchair at home. No planes, no cars, no DIY. Lazy people manage this quite well already, but their fun is always spoilt by busy types, banging or sawing or travelling about even when they don’t have to.
Allowable noise: birdsong, children playing (within reason), tea-sipping, page-rustling, bees buzzing (no wasps), cork-popping, chuckling at a remembered joke. No loud snoring, keyboard-tapping or annoying conversation – preferably no speech at all, apart from a whispered ‘thank you’ if someone hands you a piece of cake.
We’ll all be better for it, I promise. I suggest July 12, the birthday of Henry David Thoreau, a master of peaceful living. Let the preparations begin!

A Happy Nightmare

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“The pure nonsense they invented was a holiday of the mind; one of the few things, like Gothic architecture, that had really never been done before. It was something to create a happy nightmare; it was something more to create a thing that was at once lawless and innocent… It was the avowal of a sport or enjoyment to which the whole mind of the people must already have been tending. The Victorian Englishman walked the world in broad daylight, a proverbially solid figure, with his chimney pot hat and his mutton-chop whiskers. But something happened to him at night; some wind of nightmare blowing through his soul and his subconsciousness dragged him out of bed and whirled him out of the window, where he rose into a world of wind and moonshine… with his whiskers waving like wings.” GK Chesterton on Carroll and Lear

Rural Brixton

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The Lambeth Landmark site is full of images from an amazingly pastoral Brixton, like this farm on Coldharbour Lane, above.
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The cornfields are sadly vanished from Brixton Hill, although the windmill is still there.
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Some of them, like these cattle on the corner of Clapham Park Road, or the sheep grazing in Brockwell Park, really don’t seem that long ago.
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Brixton also has a long tradition of theatrical/strange modes of transport: until recently a bright pink tank often used to drive up and down Brixton Road (what happened to that?) and a very striking man with long dreadlocks occasionally rides a white carthorse bareback past my house. But that was nothing compared with music-hall artist Mr Gustav-Grais’s zebra chaise, stabled in Brixton in 1912.
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Ness Battery

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I came across these pictures of a visit to the abandoned Ness Battery on Orkney at BBC Scotland’s Island Blogging section. Blogger Stromness Dragon and a group of artists got to go inside this crumbling WWI military installation, where, among the rusty sheds and concrete bunkers, they came across these extraordinary paintings all over the walls of the mess hall, possibly done by the soldiers, depicting Arcadian scenes of rural English life: children in a forest, a gypsy caravan, a pub, a tea shop. The BBC Scotland site seems to be defunct now, but you can follow Stromness Dragon and the further story of the Battery here.
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Happy Birthday Ronald Searle!

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Ronald Searle is 90 this week and to celebrate, the Chris Beetles gallery in St James’s in London is showing an exhibition of his work, from rum adverts to Molesworth. Go if you can: you can only really see the beautiful intricacy of his illustrations when they’re full size.
If you want to see more, there’s another exhibition at the Cartoon Museum until July.
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This Profession Is Not Crowded

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Popular Science has put its 137-year archive online (found via BibliOdyssey), which means hours of harmless fun searching for old pictures of space travel for us all. This February 1920 edition features some very of-their-time issues:
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But what I’m really fascinated by, among all the cures for bow-leggedness and stammers, are the many ads for money-making schemes, which have some excellent career suggestions:
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You can also find Big Profits in Vulcanizing, and Get Bigger Pay through Electricity. Most promising of all is The Police Key, which “opens almost everything”. “Every householder should have one”, they innocently suggest.

Lucy the Chimpanzee

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A fascinating episode of Radiolab this week, focusing on the strange and sad story of Lucy the chimpanzee, who was brought up by psychotherapist Maurice Temerlin (shown above) in an experimental attempt to see how human she could become. Some of the moments where the human/animal boundary gets very fuzzy in this programme will make your hair stand on end – particularly the bits dealing with Lucy’s, er, interest in pictures of naked human males.
Listen to the end to get an update from the Great Ape Trust, where the attempts to teach the apes language seem to have taken a surprising turn: a researcher insists that one of the bonobos has started actually speaking in gruff English. Although his colleague sounds a little less convinced. One thing is certain: if a bonobo threatens to bite you if you don’t do what he says, you’d better listen.

Let Cake Month Begin

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According to the Venerable Bede, February, or Solmonath, was the “month of cakes” for the Anglo-Saxons, when they offered cake to their gods.
Some people seem to translate it as Mud Month or something to do with sprouting cabbages but we won’t worry about that.
So, off we go – a month of cakes, starting now. Why not start by baking this Betty Crocker Colorvision cake from the Fifties, above, which seems to be made of spam.
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