Category Archives: Film & TV

On holiday with Ross Poldark (2)

Last time I talked in very general terms about the main, and most obvious, sights at Botallack, a disused tin mine in Cornwall:

First, there is the enormous stone chimney, to power the pumps that maintain low water levels in the mine:

And then there is something which I have never managed to fathom out. It looks rather like Cornwall’s attempt at Peru’s Nazca lines, but constructed with stone and concrete:

In among them were two Georgian missile silos, their “Hanover” ICBMs targeted on Napoléon’s distant boudoir. Spot the photographer, by the way:

Walk a little further on to the south and there is a view of  the winding gear, the top bits of a more modern chimney, and a ruined wall. And what a sky! :

Keep walking and there is a view back towards the car park. The metal winding gear has not been used for a long time, perhaps as far back as 1900.

Again, everywhere there are ruined buildings, all of them in local stone:

At least one of the forgotten buildings was an arsenic-refining works. In areas of volcanic rock where tin and copper are mined, some nasty substances may always  be encountered such as arsenic, cadmium, lithium and even uranium.
I suspect that perhaps, over the years, the local builders and farmers have been helping themselves to many of the pre-cut stone blocks for their own walls and/or barn building or perhaps even as the hard core for country roads.

If you turn round and walk past the big stone chimney:

You can then continue for fifty or a hundred yards, until you get to the “abandoned mine engine of Wheal Owles”:

That particular disused mine is frequently used in Poldark episodes when the work force is filmed  actually working the mine. I have walked over to the Wheal Owles on just one occasion but I didn’t take any photographs. To be honest there are so many of this type of ruined pump house in this part of West Cornwall that the old adage “Seen one, you’ve seen ‘em all” comes into play.

This is the view straight ahead of the bench towards the north. There is another large ruined building and then what looks like the stump of a demolished chimney nearer to the tip of the headland.

Here’s that same view looking slightly more northwards;

You can just see the reason why the BBC people chose this site. It’s at the bottom left of the photograph above, and it’s one of the Crowns mines, the most photogenic industrial location in Cornwall and its second most photographed tourist site after the Men-an-Tol:

We’ll walk down to see  the Crowns mines next time.

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Filed under Cornwall, Film & TV, History, Humour, Personal, Science

On holiday with Ross Poldark (1)

We visited Cornwall on family holidays in every year between 1987-2012. Sometimes, the largest town, Penzance, can be really wet, wet, wet:

Overall, though, Cornwall can be a magical place:

The west of Cornwall, of course, is where the TV series “Poldark” is set.   Here is the cast without their TV make-up:

It was only in our last year in Cornwall that I realised that, on several occasions, we had visited one of the main filming locations for this popular TV series without even knowing it.
The site which we knew is near a ex-tin mining village called Botallack. First of all, this map shows where Cornwall is situated in England (although the native Cornish, it must be said, do not consider themselves to be English). The orange arrow points to the car-park for the National Trust site at Botallack:

The orange arrow, on all three maps, remember, is pointing to the car-park for the National Trust property where filming takes place. Here it is on a slightly more detailed level:

And here is the largest scale of all, where you can see just how convenient it is for filming, as both of the roads going north are dead ends, and the entrance road in the south can easily be blocked off from the public.

You’d never think that every household in the country is forced to pay the BBC an annual sum of £154.50 if they want to watch TV in this country. And that’s not watching BBC television. It’s to watch any channel at all. Hopefully,  my foreign friends will now realise that we English don’t get our TV for free.

And if the BBC programmes are good, then so should they be with an annual income in 2019 of £4,889,000,000. Incidentally, none of the roads that have to be blocked are a public right of way, so there are no legal problems:


This is the view looking away from the car park. There are lots and lots of shattered buildings, as if the demolition company one day got a better offer and just cleared off in the middle of the job:

Up near the car park is the most modern structure, a set of nineteenth century metal winding gear:

Outside the museum type building which acts as a tourist centre, there were two scarecrows, or at least, we took them to be scarecrows, rather than peasants starved by Sir George Warleggan:

As you walk down towards the mine, the first thing you see is one of the area’s two or three large stone chimneys and a ruined building. Beyond that is the mighty Atlantic Ocean and ultimately, America. Almost invisible, gannets pass by ceaselessly:

And then there is a welcoming bench, from which you can see most of the best attractions. It’s good for mother and daughter:

And for two dear friends:

Next time, we’ll take a closer look at the attractions that have made Botallack one of the hidden treasures of West Penrith, as this area is more properly called.

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“Hilarity with Heraldry” (1)

Dr Sheldon Cooper is famous for his series of podcasts “Fun with Flags”:

I have always enjoyed vexillology enormously but I would have to confess to an even greater love for heraldry, the study of coats of arms. I don’t really have the time to launch “Hilarity with Heraldry” in any great depth, but I don’t think anybody would find it particularly boring to take a brief look back at some old football, or soccer, badges.
I used to read a comic called “Tiger” when I was a boy and in one issue they sowed the seeds of my interest when they gave away, free, an album of football club badges. This was on an unknown date in 1961, so we are looking back quite a long way. Here’s the album:

The picture comes from ebay where the albums can sell for quite good prices. So too do the 1967 versions of the album, entitled “Roy Race’s Album of Football Club Badges” in honour of the fictional star of the fictional Melchester Rovers. Roy Race was Tiger comic’s “Roy of the Rovers”:

In both 1961 and 1967 the buyer was given the booklet and then in the succeeding weeks, he received sheets of paper with around 30 small badges printed on them. He then had to cut out the badges carefully and then stick them in the booklet with extreme care and glue.

Most boys couldn’t do this, which makes it extremely difficult to buy a booklet where they are stuck in straight, and are not over-trimmed, or, in some cases, they are not stuck in upside down.

This album has a pretty good start to page one. although there is a slight crease:

This is average:

I would not buy this. They are crooked and cut out wrongly. At least two are in the wrong position:

These three are shockers:

And these two badges below are simply the wrong way round. Blackpool is a seaside holiday town with seagulls and BW may conceivably stand for “Bolton Wanderers”. And if this page is like that, the other ones will all be of a similar quality:

I was at an indoor market a few years ago when I bought several colour pages of football, cricket and rugby club badges which dated from the 1950s. The badges seemed to divide into four groups. The first were obviously based on the coat of arms of the town which the club represented. This is Notts County with the tree from Sherwood Forest. Whoever or whatever holds the shield up is called the “supporters” and Notts County have the normal two, namely a lion and some other unknown mammal, possibly on otter, or perhaps a weasel. On top of the shield is the “crest” which, in this case, is a tower from Nottingham Castle. “On top of the shield” is just an optical illusion. The crest actually used to rest on top of the knight’s helmet, so a tower is, to say the least, a challenging choice for his neck muscles. The only bit of the helmet that you can see is the padding between the tower and the metal helmet, which is yellow and green and is called the “wreath” or, because it is twisted, the “torse”:

This is Nottingham Forest with the same type of thing. The supporters are stags and on the shield is a green rustic type cross with three crowns that I know nothing about, I’m afraid.

A similar badge was used for the Nottinghamshire cricket team:

In heraldry, what we would call colours, or tinctures to use the technical phrase, are divided into two groups. The first group is called ‘colours’ and the second is called ‘metals’. All of them have Norman French names. The metals are ‘or’ and ‘argent’, which are ‘gold’ and ‘silver’. The colours are red or ‘gules’ which comes from the word for the mouth of an animal, “la gueule”. ‘Azur’  is easy as it obviously comes from azure blue. ‘Vert’ is green and it has survived a thousand years into modern French, much like ‘purpure’ which is actually a very rare colour. ‘Sable’ is black and comes from the fur for coats, It’s a sort of rich man’s ferret, apparently:

There is just one rule about all these tinctures. Colours cannot go on top of colours and metals cannot go on top of metals. This is because Heraldry was designed for the purposes of identification in battle so everything has to be exceptionally obvious and visible. Here’s the somewhat over dressed queue for the fish and chip shop after a hard day’s peasant slaughtering:

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Filed under Film & TV, Football, France, History, Humour, Personal

“The Devil’s Doctors” by Dr Mark Felton (2)

Last time I was talking about “The Devil’s Doctors” by Dr Mark Felton which describes how, at Mukden POW Camp in Manchuria,  Allied prisoners of war, primarily Americans, were used to test Japanese biological weapons developed at Pingfan, the nearby headquarters of Unit 731. This is Manchuria:

The events at Mukden were not a unique series of atrocities, however. By no means:

The author relates the dreadful events which took place on May 5th 1945 when a B-29 was rammed and brought down over Japan by a kamikaze fighter pilot. Of the crew, the first fatality had his parachute lines cut in mid-air by the wing of a second Japanese fighter aircraft. A second American was attacked by a mob of Japanese civilians who came running across a field to kill him. With the six bullets in his revolver he shot five of them and then himself. A third man was shot by civilians. A fourth man was never found. A fifth was sent to Tokyo to be questioned under torture. The rest were rounded up and taken to Kyushu Imperial University where they were murdered by the medical staff who dissected them alive in the post mortem room. The witness to all this was Dr Toshio Tono, a young medical assistant at the time.

In the 1980s he wrote a book about the event which named names, most of whom were, by then, in senior posts within the university. According to the author, the dissection of the prisoners paid particular attention to the brain, heart, liver and stomach. Times and places are given. On May 17th 1945, two Americans were dissected, on May 22nd two more, on the 25th a single man and on June 2nd, the last three men died. The horror is not over yet. On June 3rd the last victim’s liver was preserved for a party that evening in the Officers’ Hospital. More than one witness has come forward to say that the meat was chargrilled, seasoned with soy sauce and served as an hors-d’œuvre to the military and civilian guests, who knew what they were eating and enjoyed the meal.

I suspect that this incident may well have inspired Hannibal Lecter.

 

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Eagle Comic (5)

On the front cover, Eagle featured Dan Dare, the lantern jawed squeaky clean hero:

He could easily dominate the whole front page:

He was always helped, and occasionally hindered, by Digby, his rather podgy sidekick:

Presumably, he was named after an extremely obscure aircraft called the Digby, which was the name given to the Douglas B-18 Bolo in Canadian Air Force service. You can see this lost aircraft in action in the Powell and Pressburger film “49th Parallel” made in 1941 with Leslie Howard and Laurence Olivier. It’s a thriller well worth keeping an eye out for, and a film which portrays perfectly the repulsive attitudes of the Nazis:

Here’s another picture of Digby:

And, yes, he is using an electric hairdryer as a weapon:

I shouldn’t poke fun, though. Some of the science was years ahead of its time. Who else had heard of nuclear fusion in 1950?:

Dan Dare and Digby had their nemesis in the extraterrestrial figure of “The Mekon”:

Dan, Digby and the Mekon caused a revolution in the unchanging comic world of Weary Willie and Tired Tim. Issue N0 2 of Eagle came out on April 21st and the comic was on its way. Here’s the top half of that second issue:

And the bottom half of the same page:

Sometimes the price of the comic was rather strange. This issue cost 4½ old pence which even in the days of a pound made up of 240 pence was an unusual price. I can’t get enough of that eagle personally:

On the other hand, there was a 4½d  stamp at the time. Here’s a special one for National Nature Week:

The Eagle went from strength to strength, with its brightly coloured, vigorous art work…

It always had futuristic machines…

Here’s that orange caption:

There are occasional monsters…

And the Dan Dare stories always had lots of alien species. Was it this type of picture that inspired the bars and cafes of “Star Wars” ?

Why, they even had girls from time to time…

 

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Eagle Comic (4)

In Eagle Comic, the sponsored stories and advertisers’ contributions were  always very interesting.  Walls Ice Cream had their ordinary run-of-the-mill  adverts:

But they also had “Tommy Walls- the Wonder Boy”. The first stirrings of product placement. The perfect planting of a brand name in young, impressionable minds. I think that lots of the young readers actually thought that this story was part of the comic itself. I know I did:

The first picture says “NEW JET LINER MAKES FIRST TEST TODAY”

The last one says “WHAT A WIZARD DESIGN” which is countered by “BUT LOOK

Clearly something has gone drastically wrong, but if you eat lots and lots and lots of Walls ice cream, you’ll be able to save the day:

It must take sacks and sacks of sugar consumed to have the strength to hold the wing and the fuselage of a jet airliner together as it flies to an airport and makes a normal landing. Where was Tommy Walls when the De Havilland Comet was crashing all over Europe?

Cadbury’s came a close second with their “Cadbury’s Corner Quiz”. Here’s the first question:And Question 2:And Question 3:

And the final question:

And, of course, there were the ordinary quarter page adverts. Television told our mothers not to forget the Rowntrees Fruit Gums. Only listen to this irritating tune if you have always wanted your brain reformatted :

As well as the commercial links between our mothers and Rowntrees Fruit Gums, ‘Eagle’ Comic also emphasised the point with a comic strip starring “Ronnie the Gumster” :

 

But what’s a “Gumster” ? Something you find in a Forrest? Like Forrest Gumster.

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Eagle Comic (3)

Last time we were trying very hard to get the Ovaltineys song out of our heads. I was trying to make the point that Dan Dare was not the only character in the comic:

Eagle had sporting personalities. I have even written myself about the first one ever to appear:

There was cricket coaching, and, thirty years before its time, and in a largely all white society, it was presented by a black man, Leary Constantine, a cricketer who achieved more in his life than most of  us do:

There were features about how to make models:

There were two written serials with solid text rather than just pictures. “Plot against the World” was the first ever to appear:

There was a half page about road safety. It was presented by Billy Steel, the famous Derby County footballer of the day:

During the 1950s lots and lots of children would be killed on the roads, because the drivers in England knew very little about how to drive safely and the children of England, accustomed to just a couple of cars a day going past, had very little road sense. Around 1963, a little boy in our class called Nigel Sparrow was killed by a car as he cycled along country lanes looking for bluebells for his mother. He was in hospital for two weeks or so before he passed away. We prayed for him every day in our school assembly but it was all in vain. He succumbed to his injuries and died. That was the first time I ever had any serious doubts about the religion I had been given. I think about Nigel regularly, poor little boy.

Billy Steel offered a lot of very good advice:

He offered advice a lot better than he played football for Derby County.

Years ago, I actually wrote about him, but only in the context of my Dad, Fred, who thought he was “a right twerp”:

“As regards football players, in the late 1940s, Fred was always less than impressed by Derby’s then record signing, a young man they bought as they attempted to stop their slow but inexorable slide out of the First Division. This was a handsome young forward called Billy Steel, whose dark tousled hair was, for Fred, his best, and probably only, positive feature. Fred was just unable to stomach how Steel would miss an easy chance to score a goal, and then merely laugh about it as if it were nothing important.”

Next time, the other features that made Eagle the best selling comic in English history:

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Filed under Aviation, Derby County, Film & TV, Football, History, Literature, Personal, Science, Writing