Jenny Kane: Coffee, cupcakes, chocolate and contemporary fiction / Jennifer Ash: Medieval crime with hints of Ellis Peters and Robin Hood

Tag: end of month

End of the Month Blog from Nell Peters: Amazing April

It’s that time again! Nell Peters is here, and she has produced another corking end of the month round up for us.

So, pop the kettle on, settle down, and have a read!

Over to you Nell…

Hello, possums!

That cringe-worthy Dame Edna intrusion was unsubtly included so I could link to something that caught my eye, while I was researching 30th April events – ergo, a New Zealand racing driver called Possum Bourne died on this day in 2003, while driving non-competitively.

Possum! My imagination soared into flights of fancy about the possible monikers of other family members – maybe dad Giraffe, brothers Weasel and Aardvark, sister Panther (better than Cougar!), and Granny Meerkat, to name but a few – before I Googled him and found to my great disappointment that Possum was in fact a nickname for the rather more prosaically named, Peter Raymond George Bourne. Drat. Peter became Possum after he crashed his mum’s car, while trying to avoid a possum in the road. How deflating – hopefully not literally for the daredevil possum. Incidentally, there were three children from Possum’s marriage to Peggy (boring!) – Taylor (meh), Spencer (meh) and Jazlin (much better!)

Winging back to Barry Humphries’ alter ego, my late father-in-law was Australian and when he married and settled in London (for about a decade, before the family upped sticks for Johannesburg) his mother, Marjorie, decided to follow (possibly the reason the rest of the family fled the UK for SA) – leaving her second husband to contemplate his navel in Sydney. Marjorie was Dame Edna personified – complete with the glasses – and her accent could grate cheese (not to mention nerves) from a distance of several thousand yards. She was a strapping Sheila and mega pretentious – slightly incongruous in someone whose dress ‘style’ was not so much shabby chic, as thrift store reject. The abandoned husband was called Horsfield (the first spouse having expired at an early age, possibly from embarrassment and/or burst eardrums) and predictably the OH and his siblings called their grandmother Gee-Gee, which Marjorie romanticised to Gigi. Most ridiculous of all, ‘Gigi’ used to colour her hair (or mane) the darkest shade of unnatural brown, because she was ludicrously vain and lied outrageously about her age. Actually, she lied outrageously about everything – quite an interesting psych study, if you like that sort of thing. I think I’ll stick with serial killers. Gigi was in her seventies when I first knew her and her face was deeply lined and wrinkled, presumably from the Australian sun, so that she looked every minute of that – and beyond. Not even the most gullible myopic would have been fooled by that OTT home dye job, but her egocentric nature would never let her contemplate as much.

Ray Polhill – My brother in law

Enough of the loony in-laws – though I do have enough material for several books, so watch this space. To be fair, however (and to the best of my knowledge) none of them have ever been banged up for murder – unlike actor Leslie Grantham, of Dirty Den/EastEnders fame, who celebrates his seventieth birthday today. It was while he was serving a ten stretch in Leyhill Prison, that Grantham became interested in acting as a career, after appearing in several inmate plays. On release, he studied at the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art – my ex brother-in-law went there too, but not at the same time. (The ex-b also appeared in EastEnders briefly – as a barman, plus he was footballer Wayne Farrell in Corrie. I’ve played footie with him in the garden and he’s rubbish! He’s perhaps best known as the biker in 2.4 Children.) I’ve only ever seen EE twice – Christmas specials when one of the daughters-in-law was staying and insisted that everything stopped so that she could watch the box. Cheeky! As I remember, it was guaranteed that a character or two met a grisly end, which doesn’t truly embrace the Christmas spirit.

Sharing the birthday are Merrill Osmond (1953) – yes, one of those Osmonds, New Zealand film director Jane Campion (1954) and Canadian actor, Paul Gross (1959), who played RCMP Benton Fraser in Due South. On the very same day, Stephen Harper was born in Toronto – he grew up to be the twenty-second Canadian Prime Minister from 2006-15. When I lived in Montreal, Pierre Trudeau was PM – now it’s his son, Justin. Good grief, I’m ancient!

Talking of leaders – OK, dictator in this case – Adolf Hitler picked this day to commit suicide by gunshot in 1945, ten days after his fifty-sixth birthday and shortly before Germany’s unconditional surrender in WWII.

His new wife, Eva Braun also committed hara-kiri by munching a cyanide capsule – I wonder if she had a choice? Quotes from the megalomaniac include, ‘Those who want to live, let them fight, and those who do not want to fight in this world of eternal struggle do not deserve to live.’ Plus, ‘If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed.’ And finally, ‘He alone, who owns the youth, gains the future.’ All of which are horribly prophetic.

Poignantly, Anne Frank’s diary was published in English on 30th April, 1952, initially entitled The Diary of a Young Girl – an account of a Jewish teenager living in hiding with seven others, all fearing for their lives in occupied Holland. The book first came out in Dutch in 1947, under the title Het Achterhuis (The Secret House) courtesy her father Otto, who survived the concentration camps – but as we know, Anne died before her 16th birthday in 1945, in Bergen-Belsen.

1492 is a year that should ring bells with anyone who has ever opened a history book, and on this particular day, Italian maritime explorer, Christopher Columbus was given permission to equip his fleet of three ships – the Santa Maria, Pinta and Nina – after signing a contract with the Spanish to set sail for the ‘Indies’, in an attempt to find a western route to Asia. Born a Scorpio, (30th October, 1451) and if you believe astrological profiles, CC was a good choice for the voyage of discovery, being passionate, decisive, assertive and determined. If typical of the sign, he should also have been a good leader, who researched until he found the truth. Scorpio is a water sign – just as well, for someone who navigated the oceans blue.

En route for the New World, the fleet docked in the Canary Islands before sailing on to island-hop around the Caribbean, discovering all sorts of places that are now exotic holiday destinations, having failed to spot Florida when they changed course. Well, no one is perfect – perhaps the Sat Nav was playing up. On Christmas Day 1492, the flagship Santa Maria ran aground and sank on Hispaniola – perhaps not the gift from Santa they were hoping for – and on Boxing Day (though it didn’t yet exist and was merely 26th December) Columbus founded the first Spanish settlement in the New World, La Navidad (now Möle-Saint-Nicholas.) This was the first of his four expeditions to the New World; the last cast off in 1502, four years before he died in Spain, on terra firma.

The Watergate Affair (see what I did there?) began in June 1972, when five men were arrested in the early hours, breaking into the Democratic Party’s Watergate headquarters in Washington. They were caught with photographic equipment and bugging devices, and during the following months connections between several of the suspects were made to parts of the Republican power structure. This day in 1973, Richard Milhous Nixon (President, Republican, and aka Tricky Dicky) took full responsibility for the operation but denied any personal involvement. Well he would, wouldn’t he, to slightly paraphrase Mandy Rice Davies of Profumo Affair notoriety. In a speech broadcast to Americans he vowed to get to the bottom of the matter, famously saying: ‘There will be no whitewash at the Whitehouse.’ Nice one, Tricky!

There were resignations and sackings galore, culminating in Nixon’s own resignation in August 1974 – which saved him the embarrassment of being impeached. God bless America … Oh, thought I’d just mention here that the Vietnam War ended on 30th April 1975.

Staying across the pond, while Nixon was the 37th President of the US, on this day in 1789 George I-Cannot-Tell-A-Lie Washington was inaugurated as the first, at Federal Hall in New York City – which was at that time the capital. Descended from English gentry, George was born in colonial Virginia to Augustine Washington and his second wife, Mary, who were wealthy owners of tobacco plantations and slaves. He followed a glittering military career before turning to politics, and was unanimously selected for the presidency by the Electoral College. He swore the oath ‘I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States and will, to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States,’ and then ad-libbed the words ‘so help me God.’

Washington was privately opposed to slavery and introduced The Slave Trade Act of 1794, which restricted American involvement in the Atlantic slave trade – upon his death (Dec 1799), his will made provision for the manumission (freeing) of all his slaves. Of countless tributes paid to him, his likeness is one of only four carved in stone at the Mount Rushmore Memorial, and the 554’ iconic Washington Monument obelisk stands in the now-capital, Washington DC near the White House – plus, he remains the only president to have a whole state named after him. I think Donald Trump might struggle to emulate the honour, failing to score even an eponymous hillbilly town, let alone state. Apart from any other consideration, who wants to live somewhere that pays homage to the bodily expulsion of gaseous waste? 

President Franklin D. Roosevelt (32nd) gave an official address on 30th April 1939 – just four months before WWII began – when two hundred thousand visitors attended the opening of the New York World’s Fair. The speech was not only heard over radio networks, but was also shown as the first ever television broadcast. I hope FDR was wearing his best suit. The theme of exhibits was ironically ‘The World of Tomorrow’ – General Motors went for ‘Futurama’, Philo T. Farnsworth displayed TV sets, AT&T debuted its picture phone, and the IBM pavilion featured electric typewriters, plus a new-fangled machine called the electric calculator, that used punched cards to enter information for a computer to calculate results.

Never the shrinking violet, Salvador Dalí designed a pavilion called Dream of Venus, built by architect Ian Woodner. It had a facade full of protuberances – including crutches, cacti and hedgehogs – very vaguely echoing the Pedrera building by Antoni Gaudí, and the main door was flanked by two pillars representing female legs in stockings, wearing stilettos. Perhaps Damien Hurst isn’t so bizarre … Through openings, visitors could see reproductions of Saint John the Baptist by Leonardo da Vinci and The Birth of Venus by Botticelli, while once inside, they could watch aquatic dance shows in two pools, with sirens and other items designed by Dalí. Believe it or not, organisers had insisted on major modifications to the artist’s original blueprint – the mind boggles.

OK, I’ve made quite enough of an exhibition of myself, so with thanks to Jen for having me and readers for dropping by, it’s ‘G’day’ from Gigi and ‘Adios’ from Salvador!




Another blogging triumph! Thanks Nell!

Happy reading,

Jenny xx 


End of March madness from Nell Peters

It’s that time again…I’m handing over to Nell Peters for her end of the month round up. Hope you’ve got a cuppa on standby…

Over to you Nell…

Oh hi! It’s you again! Nothing better to do? Well, you’d better come in, I suppose – but you’ll have to make your own tea, because I’m involved in matters of national importance. Not all of that is true …

So, did March come in like a lion, go out like a lamb? Rather depends upon where you live, I imagine. The saying is obviously based on northern hemisphere weather variance at this time of year, originating from times when the land dominated peoples’ lives and bad weather could trigger food shortages, putting whole communities at risk. It was believed that bad spirits could affect the weather adversely, and so everyone watched their Ps and Qs, trying not to upset the little devils.

March can be a changeable month, in which we experience a huge range of temperatures and conditions, but it’s also a month that hints at spring turning to summer and better weather to come. I’m always thrilled to see daffs in Tesco, with at least the promise of those and other bulbs’ brave green shoots raising their tips above the parapet of soil, where they’ve snoozed over winter. Lambs frolic in lush green fields (cue ooh-ah sounds, or maybe ooh-baa?) and baby birds hatch in their nests, beaks ever-open demanding food from their poor overworked/underpaid mothers. All in all, a hopeful time of year, especially after the vernal (spring) equinox – Monday 20th in 2017. Apart from lion/lamb lore, lesser-known predictions are: Dry March and a wet May? Fill barns and bays with corn and hay. Or: As it rains in March so it rains in June. Then we have: March winds and April showers? Bring forth May flowers. Genius.

There are two saints’ days in March; David (1st) and Patrick (17th), plus Mothering Sunday/Mother’s Day (26th in the UK 2017, the fourth Sunday in Lent) – and, occasionally, Easter; but not this year. Far more interesting though are National Peanut Butter Day and National Pig Day (perhaps referring to those who scoff more than their fair share of peanut butter?), celebrated on March 1st in the USA – where else? – and they follow that up with National Crème Pie Day (3rd), National Peanut Cluster Day (8th), National Crab Meat Day and National Meatball Day (9th), then National Blueberry Popover Day on the 10th. After that, there’s a bit of a digestion-resting lull, when any self-respecting American books on SAS (Scandinavian Airlines, not the scary military lot) and nips over to Sweden for Waffle Day on the 25th.  Then it’s back home to wash down all that junk food on the 27th, National Whiskey Day. Good grief, I have enough trouble keeping up with all the family birthdays, let alone anything else!

Apart from being the third month of the year in both Julian (who he?) and Gregorian calendars, March is a Fenland market town and civil parish in the Isle of Ely area of Cambridgeshire, situated on the old course of the River Nene. It was the county town of the Isle of Ely (which was a separate administrative county from 1889 to 1965) and is now the administrative centre of Fenland District Council. Don’t say I don’t tell you everything you need to know to get on in life.

In the nineteenth century, March grew through becoming an important railway centre and like many Fenland towns, it was once a Billy-no-mates island, surrounded by marshes – the second largest in the Great Level. As the land drained, the town prospered as a minor port, a trading and religious centre – but now it’s a market town, administrative and railway centre and a popular port of call for those messing about on the river in pleasure boats.

This day in 1596, René Descartes was born in La Haye en Touraine – now Descartes, Indre-et-Loire, France – how neat to have the town where you were born re-named after you! (I wonder if Wimbledon would do the same for me?) Though every schoolboy could probably quote Descartes’ observation, ‘Cogito ergo sum’ – ‘I think, therefore I am’ – the ‘Father of Modern Philosophy’ also said: ‘It is not enough to have a good mind; the main thing is to use it well.’ Plus: ‘The reading of all good books is like a conversation with the finest minds of past centuries.’ And: ‘If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things.’ Descartes was certainly no slacker in the fields of mathematics and science, either – a real Smarty Pants.

Sharing his birthday, we have German composer Johann Sebastian Bach (1685), the eighth and youngest child born into a musical family, as was Austrian, Franz Joseph Haydn (1732). Quite a few composers were born on this day, but since Feb’s blog leant heavily into the musical side of things, let’s move on to a couple of chemists. First up, German Robert Wilhelm Eberhard von Bunsen (1811) – absolutely no prizes for guessing he invented the Bunsen burner – and sporran-wearer Archibald Scott Couper in 1831. Archie came up with an early theory of chemical structure and bonding, clever chap.

American actor (George) Richard Chamberlain (1934) appeared in Dr Kildare (which even I would struggle to remember), mini-series Shogun in 1980 and The Thorn Birds in 1983. I wonder if he met Japanese actor Dokumamushi Sandayu (1936, and don’t ask me what he’s been in!) while filming Shogun, assuming at least some of it was shot on location. Another American, Christopher Walken, was Ronald Christopher Walken at his birth in 1943, and is perhaps best known for blowing his brains out while playing Russian roulette in the film The Deer Hunter. Don’t try that at home.

Fans of the Partridge Family may recognise the name of actress/singer Shirley Jones, who is eighty-three today. In the musical sitcom, she played David Cassidy’s mother and is in real life his stepmother, having been the second wife of actor/singer/director, the late Jack Cassidy. Cassidy Snr was bipolar (manic depressive), an alcoholic and bisexual – quite a combination. He sadly died aged only forty-nine, when he nodded off on a sofa after a boozy night out and set light to it with a cigarette.

David C has had his own, well-documented trials with alcoholism and more than one trip to rehab. But before that and the more recent shocking revelation that he is suffering from dementia, he spent many years, first as a teen idol and then a popular singer/actor who managed to evolve from child star to adult entertainer. I was never a fan of the young DC, but a friend, author/journo Allison Pearson most certainly was – with bells on. Her second novel, I Think I Love You (I wonder where she got the title from?)  is written in two parts, the first about two young girls, Petra and Sharon, living in 1970s South Wales. Their lives revolve around their shared crush, David Cassidy, and so to a certain extent the story is autobiographical.

The book – I believe the only one ever printed with my (real) name included in the Acknowledgements – was launched in June 2010 and the OH and I toddled along to Cambridge for a lavish party, to join a huge number of people gathered under the marquee to be fed, watered and entertained – I rather doubt I could fill the garden shed. But the road to finished MS was a very rocky one for Allison (and everyone who knew her!) Amongst other things, Miramax threatened to sue over delayed delivery (it was due in 2005, which is impressively late in anyone’s book!) and her agent, Pat Kavanagh, tragically died of a brain tumour. Incidentally, since we’re a bit low in the unusual names department this month, can I just mention that Allison was born Judith Allison Lobbett … Pearson comes from her ex-husband, Simon Pearson.

Right. What else? Anyone interested in knowing that on this day in 1996 actor and director Clinton (aka Clint) Eastwood (then 65) married news anchor Dina Ruiz (30) in Las Vegas – that’s what you call an age gap! The marriage lasted until 2014 – eons by Hollywood standards. Clint was named after his father – imagine the senior version being asked his name, ‘Clint Eastwood.’ ‘Yeah right, very funny buddy – now what’s your real name?’

Nipping forward to 2011, Italian Canadian singer Michael Bublé (my auto-correct keeps insisting that should be Bubble – I do see its point) aged 35, tied the knot with actress and model Luisana Lopilato (23) in Buenos Aires. Not such a happy day one year before though, when Dawson’s Creek actor, James Van Der Beek (32) and actress Heather Ann McComb (33) divorced after almost seven years – an almost-itch. At least we’ve collected a few more contenders for the dodgy name competition – my money is on Ms Lopilato so far. Has a nice ring to it.

Historically on 31st March, in 1657 English Parliament made the Humble Petition to Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell and offered him the crown, which he declined. Gold not his colour, perhaps. Quebec and Montreal were incorporated (1831), and keeping a tenuous French connection, in 1889 the Eiffel Tower – designed by engineer and architect Gustave Eiffel – officially opened in Paris. It was built as a gateway to the Exposition Universelle, and at 300m high retained the record for the tallest man-made structure for 41 years. The tower usurped the Washington Monument for the title and was itself knocked from the perch when the Chrysler Building in New York City was finished in 1930.

In 1903, a dude called Richard Pearse flew a monoplane several hundred yards in Waitohi, New Zealand. The plane resembled a modern-day micro light and witness accounts controversially suggested he flew before the Wright brothers took off into the wide blue yonder – claims which were subsequently discounted. Fast forward eleven years and the bi-planes flown in WWI were not a great deal more substantial than these pioneering aircraft.

My paternal great grandmother, Rose, was born in Kingston upon Thames workhouse in 1876 – as was her mother (also Rose) before her. It’s almost impossible to comprehend the levels of poverty and deprivation they would have endured in those dark, patriarchal days of extreme inequality during the Victorian era. (There is a point here, loosely connecting Richard Pearse and my ancestors – I promise. Bear with me. Or bare with me, if you prefer; I won’t look.) Younger Rose must have been made of pretty stern stuff, because she pulled herself up by the bootstraps and married a wealthy landowner – way da go, Rose! That level of social mobility was almost unheard of then. One of their sons, my grandfather Wilfred, lied about his age to join up as a pilot with the Royal Flying Corps, twenty days before his seventeenth birthday in August 1914. (Got there in the end!)

There are quite a few anecdotes surrounding Wilfred’s flying career – one of my favourites is when he formed the airborne escort for the King of Belgium. Inevitably, they came under attack from German aircraft and once Wilfred had run out of ammo, he soared above the enemy plane and threw his toolbox down on the poor pilot, who – if he didn’t die of heart failure – may have had a bit of a headache thereafter. Apparently, there was no official recognition of his quick-witted act of bravery – not even a new toolbox. My grandmother once told me that when Wilfred asked her out before the war, she turned him down flat because he looked too young. It seems that his service years aged him a little (unsurprisingly!) because they got together immediately upon his return. Lucky for me.

Now it’s time for me to fly (so sorry!) Thanks once again for having me, Jenny – now stop eating those hot cross buns! A moment on the lips …




Another triumph Nell – thank you so much!!

(As if I’d over eat Hot Cross Buns…hides crumbs quickly…)

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny x 

Goodbye February: Nell Peters’ end of month round up

Where did February go? Have you got it? I could have sworn we were only halfway through the month…

Still… the plus side of the days dashing by is that it’s time for Nell Peters to pop along with her end of month round up. It’s another cracker…

Hello! Let’s start with a straw poll – hands up all those being sued by their postman, for back/shoulder injuries sustained while delivering your many sacks full of Valentine cards … Nope, me neither.

The end of February means we can take a short breather from family (ergo horribly expensive) birthdays – ten between 24/12 and 20/2. TEN! So far this year we have had two first birthdays, two ninetieths and one fortieth amongst the more run of the mill anniversaries, including two daughters-in-law who were both born on 11th January.

What are the chances? I don’t know, but it should most definitely not be allowed! During March, there are just two card-only relative birthdays, in April three close family celebrations – all lulling us into a false sense of security before May hits the bank balance right between the eyes once more. Two sons, a grandson and a niece all chose to turn up during the ‘merry’ month (although not so merry for us!), plus a whole array of other family and friends. Please remember to send food parcels and wine at that time.

A bit of a grasshopper post this month, going boing, boing, boing all over the place – so listen carefully, I will say this only once. Speaking of which, about a hundred years ago, I used to know Stuart H-C, brother of the actress (Kirsten H-C) who played that part in Allo, Allo – I wonder what he’s doing now … probably not being a grasshopper, or even going boing. He never did strike me as much of a boinger.

28th February has been a musical day over the centuries: in1728 George Frideric Handel‘s opera, Siroe, re di Persia (Siroe, King of Persia – now Iran) premiered in London, followed ninety-one years later by the first performance in Vienna of Franz Schubert‘s song, Schäfers Klageleid (Shepherd Song Suit – perhaps something gets lost in Google translation? Suite I could understand, but suit?) Poor old Franz was only thirty-one when he died (I’ve got jeans older than that!), by which time he had composed more than six hundred pieces; that’s an awful lot of bum notes and treble clefs. Also in Vienna, in 1828, Franz Grillparzer’s Ein Treuer Diener (A Faithful Servant) was first performed, but in1862 Charles Gounod bucked the trend and chose gay (can you still say that?) Paris to unleash his Grand Opera La Reine de Saba (The Queen of Sheba) upon the world. Slipping ever so slightly downmarket, the first American vaudeville theatre opened in Boston, Massachusetts in 1883.

Sticking to a musical theme for a moment, now your toes are tapping and you are discreetly la-la-ing, an awful lot of composers have been born on 28th February – step forward and take a bow Kaspar Förster (1616); Justin Morgan (1747); Juliusz Zarebski (1854); Gustave Adolph Kerker (1857); Viliam Figus (1875); John Alden Carpenter (1876); Sergei Bortkiewicz (1877); Artur Kapp (1878); Richard Heinrich Stein (1882); Roman Maciejewski (1910); Vladimir Sommer (1921); and sharing a date of birth, we have Seymour Shifrin and Stanley Glasser in 1926. Charles Bernstein rocked up in 1943, Stephen Chatman in 1950, with William Finn spoiling his poor mother’s day two years later, and Junya Nakano bringing up the rear in 1971. A cast of thousands – and a few strong candidates for this month’s weirdo name competition. I wonder if Artur Kapp has any remote connection to Andy Capp? I’m thinking anglicised name … no, perhaps not. Forget I spoke.

On the world stage, this day in 1933 Adolf Hitler banned the German Communist Party (KPD), and not to be outdone, German President Paul von Hindenburg abolished free expression of opinion (except his own, I expect) – the slippery slope to dictatorship and WWII. But two years before war was declared, came the Hindenburg Disaster – the airship LZ (Led Zeppelin; not the rock band) 129, which was presumably named after the president who had died in 1934 while still in office, came a right royal cropper. I don’t know about you, but the thought of trusting my luck to an inflated pillow case with an engine attached doesn’t appeal too much.

The Hindenburg left Frankfurt on the evening of May 3, 1937, on the first of ten round trips between Europe and the US scheduled for its second year of commercial service – American Airlines had contracted the operators to shuttle passengers from Naval Air Station Lakehurst to Newark for connections with conventional air flights. Except for strong headwinds massively slowing progress, the Atlantic crossing was unremarkable, until the Hindenburg attempted an early-evening landing at Lakehurst on May 6. Although carrying only half its full capacity of passengers (thirty-six of seventy) and sixty-one crew of which twenty-one were trainees on the outward flight, the return flight was fully booked. Many of the passengers with tickets to Germany were planning to attend the coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth in London the following week – choosing to travel in comfort and style, much like an ocean liner only quicker.

As the pilot tried to dock, the Hindenburg caught fire and quickly became engulfed in flames. It had a cotton skin covered with a finish known as ‘dope’ – no, not the recreational drug or idiot person, but a plasticised lacquer that provides stiffness, protection, and a lightweight, airtight seal to woven fabrics. In its liquid forms, dope is highly flammable, but the flammability of dry dope depends upon its base constituents. One hypothesis for the cause of the accident was that when the mooring line touched the ground, a resulting spark could have ignited the dope in the skin – goodnight Vienna (which is getting a pretty good airing in this blog). Other theories favoured sabotage, even naming the crew member they held responsible, but since he’d died in the fire, the poor chap couldn’t defend himself.

Best of all, it was suggested that Adolf Hitler ordered the Hindenburg to be destroyed in retaliation for Hugo Eckener’s (former head of the Zeppelin company) anti-Nazi opinions. Whatever the cause, thirteen passengers and twenty-two air crew died, plus one ground crewman – but if you see the speed with which the craft burned, it’s nothing short of a miracle that anyone walked away.

Let’s cheer up! On this day in 2016, the 88th Academy Awards ceremony (aka the Oscars) was held at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, Los Angeles – not being much of a cinema goer, I haven’t seen any of the films nominated. My only real interest, to be honest, is to gawp at the posh frocks; not too much Primani on show as a rule, but then if you know 34.42 million people in the US alone are going to be tuned in, casting a very critical eye over your choice of clobber, you’d make a bit of an effort, I guess. Even so, some make amazing fashion faux pas in their effort to be noticed. In the unlikely event that I ever get an invitation, I think I’ll play it safe with my usual Tesco super-skinny jeans and some grotty top – to make my entrance incognito as one of the cleaners, so I don’t have to have my photo taken.

Just in case you were wondering, Spotlight won two awards, including Best Picture, and Mad Max: Fury Road won six, the biggest haul of the evening. The Revenant earned three, including Best Director for Alejandro G. Iñárritu and Best Actor for Leonardo DiCaprio. Brie Larson won Best Actress for Room, and Mark Rylance and Alicia Vikander won supporting actor Oscars for Bridge of Spies and The Danish Girl, respectively. And the Oscar for the most difficult to pronounce name goes to …

Major General Quincy Adams Gillmore was born on this day in 1825 in Black River (now Lorain County), Ohio – that’s unless you believe Wikipedia, which gives his dob as 25th Feb. But who believes Wiki-p? Call me suspicious, but I think he was named after the 6th President of the US, John Quincy Adams, who was voted in by the House of Representatives earlier in February. 1825 was the same year that the idea to store food in tin cans was patented; the first detachable shirt collar was created; the first hotel in Hawaii was opened (I wonder if it was a Travelodge?); Charles X became King of France and the Stockton to Darlington railway line was opened.

The Maj Gen must have been something of a Smarty Pants because he graduated top of his class at the US Military Academy at West Point in 1849, and received a commission in the Corps of Engineers. He helped build forts until 1852, taught at West Point from 1852 to 1856, and was the head of the Engineer Agency in New York City from 1856 to 1861, when the American Civil War began. He was noted for his actions in the Union Army victory at Fort Pulaski, where his modern rifled artillery pounded the fort’s exterior stone walls – an action that essentially rendered stone fortifications obsolete – and he earned an international reputation as an organizer of siege operations, helping to revolutionize the use of naval gunnery. Not much of a pacifist, then.

Four racing drivers born on this day are Belgian Eric Bachelart (1961), Brazilian Ingo Hoffmann (1953), and Italian-America terrible twins Mario Andretti and his much lesser-known brother Aldo (1940), who gave up his fledgling career after a serious accident in 1959. Rising from a background of extreme poverty in Europe and moving to the States when very young, the boys really lived the American Dream – as well as every schoolboy’s dream of driving a racing car. Speeding like a lunatic must either have been learned behaviour or in the genes, because both Mario’s son, Michael and grandson Marco, also became racing drivers.

Who remembers mention of Stuart H-C at the beginning of this twaddle-fest? OK, you get a prize. His dad, Miles (known as Bill) was a test driver/mechanic on the team of racing driver Tommy Sopwith, whose own father – also Thomas – was the aviation pioneer who built the Sopwith Camel aircraft in 1916/17. (My paternal grandfather probably flew one as a pilot in the Royal Flying Corps during WWI.) Ironically, Miles H-C was tragically killed in a road traffic accident when his children were very young, and they grew up not really remembering him. But at least he was driving an E Type Jaguar when he crashed, as Kirsten once said.

Unlike the aforementioned Andretti brothers, Benjamin Siegel (nickname Bugsy, ergo a definite contender for the weirdo name contest) – born in Brooklyn on this day in 1906 – wasn’t so keen on doing an honest day’s work to get ahead. A gangster with the Luciano crime family, he was one of the most infamous and feared gangsters of his day and a driving force behind the development of the Las Vegas Strip in Nevada. Nowadays, the tacky area is packed with casinos and hotels – fourteen of the world’s twenty-five largest hotels (by room count) are on the Strip, with a total of over 62,000 rooms. That’s a lot of beds to make.

Bugsy’s career met a premature end in June 1947, when he had an argument with a bullet and the bullet won – those who live by the sword … And on that point (snigger) I’m gone – thanks again for having me, Jenny!




Always welcome hun – another wonderful blog! Thank you xx

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