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toucana
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Of Castles, Solars and Green Rooms
   April 4th, 2017, 8:04 am

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Of Castles, Solars and Green Rooms


Not long ago I found myself spending a few days of holiday down near Southend on the Essex coast. One afternoon we climbed up the hill to visit the ruins of Hadleigh castle which stands overlooking the railway line and the Medway marshes of the Thames estuary. Built in 1215 by Hubert de Burgh in the reign of King Henry III, the castle was substantially rebuilt a century later by Edward III as part of the Medway defences against the French during the Hundred Years War. Edward III in fact made it his principal residence outside of London for much of his reign.

Little remains of Hadleigh castle today. It was built on an unstable outcrop of London clay and developed an unfortunate habit of collapsing at unexpected moments. Large quantities of the fallen stonework were sold and carted off in the Tudor period, you can still see the tiled hearth where the wreckers melted down the valuable window leads. John Constable painted an atmospheric...

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Last edited by toucana on April 4th, 2017, 9:07 am, edited 3 times in total.
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Not long ago a chance remark overheard in a BBC Radio 4 history program sent me to the computer to check a detail on the reign of King James I of England (James VI of Scotland), the first monarch of the Stuart dynasty and the only son of Mary Queen of Scots. Try as I might, I couldn't remember his exact dates, nor the circumstances of his death either, even though I had once studied the period in detail at school.

I soon discovered that James I had died at the age of 59 in 1625. The surprise was that one contributory factor in his demise was described as 'tertian ague'. This was a wholly unfamiliar term, what on earth could it be ? An ague I knew was a type of shivering fit associated with a fever, it comes from the Latin 'acuta febris' - (acute fever). I recalled reading of Sir Walter Raleigh defiantly puffing his pipe on Tower Hill and saying "It is the hour of the day when my ague comes upon me..."

So, a fever fit that appeared with clockwork regularity...

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Last edited by toucana on July 7th, 2012, 5:23 pm, edited 4 times in total.
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Reports of gridlocked traffic and mud bound chaos at this weekend's festival on the Isle of Wight invoke happy childhood memories for me. My mother's family came from Newport Isle of Wight, and we spent all our childhood summer holidays there with our extended family and grandparents back in the 1960s.

The Isle of Wight is a tiny rhombus shaped patch of land just 23 miles wide and 12 miles deep located off the south coast of England. It has always been the very first port of call for any sea-borne invaders of our shores, including the Romans who called it Vectis, yet it has also ever been a traditional sleepy hollow. They say that the clocks go back twenty years when you step off the ferry at Cowes.

Between 1968 and 1970 the Isle of Wight improbably played host to three of the most famous rock music festivals ever held in England, and I watched all of them unfurling at a distance from the perspective of a local child, rather than as an invading 'grockle'. Many...

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Today 6 April 2012 marks the start of a legal ban in UK against the display of tobacco products in retail outlets with a floor area larger than 280 square metres (3014 sq ft). Smaller convenience stores and newsagents have until April 2015 to figure out how to make cigarettes, cigars and pipe tobacco vanish out of sight below the counter.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-17626133

The change in law has been championed by official government health spokespersons and also lobby groups like ASH (action on smoking and health) who claim that banning retail displays of cigarettes will help prevent children from taking up smoking, and also encourage existing smokers to abandon the habit. Advocates of such bans justify them in part by insisting that most smokers secretly wish to give up anyway.

As a former smoker who gave up smoking 18 months ago after 37 years of smoking I am not so sure that all of the assumptions in play here are valid. People...

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Not long ago I bought a cheap and cheerful digital watch, a Ravel WR30M manufactured in China. While at work the other day, I accidentally scrambled all the settings while playing with the stop-watch function.

The instructions weren't to hand, but it seemed to be a trivial task to reset the watch. How hard could it be ? I quickly discovered that one of the four buttons was a cold-light switch which meant that all the display programming was done on a three switch logic. Some while later the time, date, stop-watch and hour chime functions were all correct, but the toggle to reset the watch from 12 hour to 24 Hour Military Time display mode was proving elusive. After another hour of pushing and holding buttons in different combinations I somehow did it, but had no idea how, as I'd gone completely maze blind by that point.

When I got home, I unearthed the manufacturer's instruction slip enclosed with the original packaging and went in search of enlightenment. The Chinese instruction slip...

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