Saturday, 27 May 2017

Love Thy Neighbour?

The strangest of things give me great pleasure. I am something of an aficionado of London's 'Blue Plaques', which tell us who lived where. In London, of course, you are never far away from the former home of somebody who either made or changed history.

And so I was delighted to find these two in Tavistock Place. The author Jerome K. Jerome lived at No. 32, whilst Vladimir Lenin, who not only founded the USSR, but also started a fashion for short Russian leaders that continues to this day, lived at 36.

Sadly their tenures did not collide, Jerome moved out in 1885, whilst Lenin arrived in 1908 and was only to stay for a year. One wonders what Jerome, whose circle of friends included H.G Wells, Israel Zangwill, and Arthur Conan Doyle, would have made of the shifty little Russian...

Tavistock Place was then an extremely affluent street, Bolsheviks never inflicted the hard struggle towards Communism upon themselves, of course.

A few years ago there was an attempt to install a blue plaque at another of the little man's London addresses, in Camden. This was blocked by local residents, something that surprised me at the time as I always perceived the locals there as being somewhat left of centre.

Interesting to note also that Karl Marx's former home above the Red Lion pub in Soho now bears absolutely no reference to his presence there. This was where he completed Das Kapital - his pal, the fabulously wealthy Engels, lived just around the corner.

The Red Lion was renamed Marx's for a time, I passed by last month and the latest name did not register with me. Such a shame, it was a pub much frequented by actors and boxers, with the photos of famous clients adorning the walls. Now it just looks ghastly.

Friday, 26 May 2017

Remembering Manchester Atrocity - RAF Style!

Its nice to know that even in times such as these the RAF has not lost its collective sense of humour - nor indeed its sense of justice.

This Paveway IV bomb was loaded onto a Reaper drone earlier this week, on its way to spoil the day for Islamic State terrorists in Syria.

An RAF spokesman confirmed that the photo is genuine, stating that "It is unlikely that the individual responsible will be disciplined."

This is how a Paveway IV works.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Today, the world is a cleaner place.

I have always hated Ian Brady and Myra Hindley. The children they murdered so brutally were of my generation, just a few years older than me.

I was absolutely delighted when Hindley died in prison just days before she was due to be released - there is true justice indeed. A life sentence no longer means 'life', but for Hindley it did.

Brady was ill for a long time, and we can but hope that he suffered agony and loneliness as he waited to go to Hell, strapped to a stretcher and force fed adulterated food. In a way it is a shame that his agonies did not go on for longer.

We all hoped that on his deathbed he would reveal the whereabouts of young Keith Bennett's body: the young lad was murdered in June 1964, and his body is believed to be on Saddleworth Moor in Yorkshire, a bleak and vast place. It was not be be, and our generation will always be haunted by the black and white image of a young child tortured and murdered

Brady and Hindley, both sexual perverts of the most disgusting kind, tormented Keith Bennett's family until the end. The young man's mother went to her grave heartbroken that she could not give her son a proper Christian burial.

It is quite probable that the reason the disgusting pair did not want the body found was that they did not want the world to know what they did to the poor boy.

One should not mock the afflicted, and Brady was a mentally ill cripple and Hindley was little more. However, their capacity for evil and the nature of their crimes exempt them from any human sympathy.

They recorded on tape the final moments of at least one of their victims, Lesley Ann Downey, aged 10.

"At their trial in 1966, all-male jurors fell silent for 16 minutes as the tape recording of Lesley Ann Downey’s terrified last moments was played to the court.
The tape was played at full volume and the chilling sounds of screaming echoed through the court before only the footsteps and soft voices in the background could be heard.
Harrowing passages could be heard including “Don’t undress me, will you?” and “I want to see mummy”. The haunting sound of the 10-year-old’s throat being slit was also played to the court."
I do not advocate capital punishment, but given the fact that pedophiles and murderers are the two groups of offenders most likely to commit further crimes after their release, and the fact that no dead man ever re-offended, we might want to consider how we, as a society, deal with scum like Brady and Hindley in the future.

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Teddy Boys Will Never Die

To be frank, if I had to choose the three worst places in the world as I have seen it, they would be the Falls Road in Belfast in the late 70s-early 80s, Beirut in 1982, and Harlow in Essex at anytime.

But how delighted I was to bump into this guy in Harlow town centre yesterday.

Black Teddy Boys are few and far between, but they are out there. I remember so well the guy who was always at the Royalty in Southgate, North London, in the late 70s and early 80s, who was totally deaf. He danced like a maniac to the beat of the music. I don't recall his name, but he was just great.

I tried to talk to this guy in Harlow, but nothing would stop him bopping.

The track, by the way, is 'Shake your money maker', by Elmore James (1961).

Friday, 5 May 2017

If it's 2500 bc it must be Cornwall.

Just a stone's throw from my brother's home on Bodmin Moor in Cornwall this gem can be found. It is a late-Neolithic burial chamber, and is in remarkably good condition considering that it is at least 4,500 years old.

There are actually lots of sub-chambers underneath where the more important members of Stone Age society were interred. The proletariat of the day were simply laid out on the big stone on the top (which weighs around 20 tons) and left for the birds, after which their bones were put underground via a chute.

This is pretty impressive stuff for people who had only access to the most primitive technology of all.

There are countless such constructions on Bodmin, along with simple stone circles, and early Christian monuments, usually dedicated to local chieftains. The latter are fairly recent additions to the Cornish landscape, being a mere thousand years old or so.

If you find yourself exploring this area, take care. There are many long-forgotten disused tin mines, some dating back to the Roman era, and people do occasionally stumble upon overgrown shafts.

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Exploring Antwerp's Nazi Bunkers

George and I like to explore, with both of us displaying equally childish enthusiasm, albeit yours truly with somewhat less energy.

And so, how could we possibly resist Second World War Nazi bunkers?

In Antwerp's City Park there are three bunkers, part of a network that made up the headquarters of the 89th Corps of the German Army.

The two rather large and ominous looking ones are 'ST 608' battle headquarters bunkers. Sadly, for us, they are sealed up. The remains of the third, an 'ST 622' twin group bunker, which I would assume was used for accommodation of troops, are accessible.

There are some interesting brick works here; I may be wrong, but I suspect that there may be the remains of what was a platform for an anti aircraft gun.

The 622 was on two levels, and a number of the underground rooms remain accessible, as long as one is prepared to overlook the somewhat murky legal area that is known as 'trespassing'.

Anybody looking to investigate this slice of history should look for a derelict cafe on the west side of the park.

Behind this there is an overgrown area which is fenced off, but the intrepid amongst us will overcome that little obstacle in moments and with little effort. There you will see some stairs leading underground - beware, the steps are very slippery and if you get into trouble down there, you are on your own.

Its a mess down there, and very dark and damp. In more recent times it appears that heating and water pipes have been routed through the bunker, presumably for the cafe.

The two 608s are also worth close inspection: the central bunker clearly took some heavy fire from the west side at some point, judging from the size of the shell marks and the grouping, clearly in threes, I would guess a .50 cal HMG.

The British 2nd Army, with the help of the Belgian resistance, liberated Antwerp on September 4th 1944, and these are certainly scars from that time. These bunkers are minutes from the centre of the city, so this would likely have been towards the end of the action.

The City Park itself is worth a visit. Small, and it has seen better days, but very peaceful, with a small lake. Its about 10 minutes walk from the Central Station, which is something of a Mecca for railway buffs.