history

Things are looking up.

Well, the last re-incarnation was a bit of a flop but I think I’m going to be okay this time.

I’m an Archduke! I’m called Franz Ferdinand (just like the band)!

Best of all I’ve escaped an assassination attempt so surely I’m in the clear!

Earlier this morning I was out with my dear wife in our chaufer-driven limousine, enjoying the sights of Sarajevo when some fool threw a grenade at us. Luckily his aim was not true and he ended up detonating the poor couple in the car behind!

Naturally, we continued on to the soiree at the Governor’s house. Great fun. My wife insists that we should go and visit the survivors of this morning’s attack at the hospital so it’s back to the car we head now…. I suppose we should let the bodyguards know about the changed itinerary but I’m sure everything will be fine without them.

Auf wiedersehen, Freunde!

20140212-224252.jpg

Loyalty to the crown

I worked up quite a sweat breaking through the wall to the priest hole and have discovered a fourteen foot (4.27m) suare room with a strange construction (see below) in the middle of it.
So it looked as though the tales of a priest hole and escape tunnel were a complete fabrication.
20130423-225001.jpg
At this point I decided to do a little more research into the construction of the house and was lucky enough to come across a pile of papers belonging to Sir Henry Killkaties who built the old place.

The original house was built in 1509 right at the start of the reign of King Henry VIII. A receipt exists for additional building work performed in 1537 shortly after the start of Henry’s priest-killing ways.

Further work was completed in 1553 upon the coronation on Queen Mary, a catholic queen. We can only assume that the priest hole was no longer needed at this point.

So tomorrow we will be investigating the escape tunnel…
for now, here is a rare photograph of King Henry VIII taken with a Nikon D7000. This was of course long before people were in full colour, hence the bizarre painted-on look of the photo.

20130423-224729.jpg

Historical mystorical

Looking more closely at the photo in yesterday’s post it stuck me that there was something “not quite right” about it. Then it struck me- there is no room inside that the house that doesn’t have a window in all it’s exterior walls!

So, I dug out the original blueprint for ” Killkaties Hall” and it seems that there was originally a secret priest-hole dating back to the Reformation, which had a tunnel leading to another safe house somewhere nearby. I believe I may have identified the location of a secret room behind the wall of the games room.

Tomorrow, armed with a sledgehammer, I aim to investigate.

PS still no sign of Uncle Frank

20130422-215504.jpg
NB for those not entirely au fait with English history, the Reformation was a period when each new monarch set up a brand new religion, burned anyone who adhered to the old religion, stripped it of it’s treasures and then died, leaving the incoming monarch to do the same. That’s why our current queen is Head of the Church of England and is an unbelievably rich old lady.

Jetsons, Judge Jeffreys and King James

Today I was torn between the Jetsons and Judge Jeffries, the hanging judge. As a compromise, I’ve drawn a Jetsons picture and I will tell you a little about Judge Jeffreys.

20130116-221158.jpg
judge Jeffreys was of the panel of judges chosen to preside over the Bloody Assizes.
Following a thwarted Rebellion against King James an army of thousands of rebels was imprisoned and so they Assizes were convened to speed up the Judicial process.
Under their remit, thousands were shipped off and sold into slavery,many hundreds were imprisoned but very very many were sentenced to death. Many were hung until dead and many more were hung, drawn and quartered, their body parts being displayed in a Grand Tour to discourage any would-be rebels.
As a reward for his devotion to duty (he became known as the hanging judge), King James appointed him as the kingdom’s youngest ever Lord Chancellor.

As an aside, I used to work for the Lord Chancellor (not Jeffreys, obviously) and am pleased to be able to tell you that he is a corking good employer. 🙂

Peasouper Man

Today we have another fact filled post… If that’s not what you want, scroll down, my friend.

This week marks the 60th anniversary of the great smog of London.

In 1952, London was an industrialised, coal-powered city. December was a cold month. Cars were becoming more prevalent as a means of transport.

The cold weather meant that people began to heat their homes. This was done using coal fires. British coal for household use was the lower quality sulphur rich leftovers once the high grade coal had been sold for export.

London was famous for its pea-soup fog from Victorian times, named for its yellowy black thick, soot filled air. Londoners were born and raised to breathe the stuff. But 1952 was different.

The freezing cold weather trapped the noxious fog at ground level and continued to thicken for almost a week. Visibility during ‘daylight’ was around 1 metre. When night fell, the street lamps in use at the time failed to penetrate the smog, leaving pedestrians blind.

Driving became impossible. All ambulance services in the capital were cancelled, leaving the sick to make their own way to hospital. Public transport was cancelled (although the Underground managed somehow to maintain a service) but there was nowhere to go anyway as the smog penetrated theatres, concert halls and movie theatres which were all closed down due to the appalling visibility levels in the stalls. All sporting events were cancelled too as people began to feel the effects of the smog

London became a silent and still place, with only the explosion of railway warning charges breaking through the calm (as a footnote, these charges were placed manually by engineers at all signal posts and detonated beneath train wheels to give drivers an audible warning when approaching invisible junctions).

For the first time, Britain began to see that air pollution was not something to accept and ignore.

In one week, hundreds of thousands of Londoners were stricken with respiratory illness caused by the smog which had slipped its toxic tendrils into people’s homes, managing to kill some 12000 people by modern estimates.

Eventually, the weather broke and rain rinsed London clean, taking streams of odorous poison away with it. London got up from its knees and did what it does best, passing under-powered legislation such as the Clean Air Act and the City of London (Various Powers) Act, neither of which were enough to prevent more deaths 10 years later as similar weather trapped the pollution once more. Luckily the Beatles came along to save the world and everything was fine and dandy.

To leave some kind of positive note amidst this depressing post, these events kick-started environmentalism in the UK and lead to a new awareness of the dangers of air pollution.

Personally every time I return to London after a stay in my home pastures of the Staffordshire Moorlands or a holiday stay near the salt marshes of Norfolk, I can feel the London air seeping into my lungs as we drive back into the capital. It’s good to clean the air filters now and then but London is still a vibrant living city.

Having by now destroyed you with a tedious history lesson, I can reward those who have made it this far with the truth about the Great Smog.

The Great Smog was a super-villain of epic proportions. Think of him as The Joker and Victorian London as Gotham City. His evil plan? To turn the air from a gas into a solid. He would’ve gotten away with it too if it weren’t for those pesky kids (TM Hannah-Barbera) and Britain’s first superhero, the vaguely derivative and slightly tenuous Pea Souper Man.

20121206-141313.jpg