mcgillianaire: (Union Jack)
[ Originally posted 21 October 2013. Last updated 16 July 2016. ]

In the hagiography that greeted Mrs T's death, other politicians of her era emerged out of the woodwork. I was intrigued. How many of these old fogeys were still knocking about? The oldest I was certain of was Tony Benn (88). I also knew
Peter Tapsell, Douglas Hurd, Shirley Williams, Norman Tebbit (all 83), Dennis Skinner, Nigel Lawson (both 81),
Roy Hattersley and Michael Heseltine (80), were still alive. But who else? My findings threw up some interesting names...

Read more... )
mcgillianaire: (Default)
A new collection of data maps of London reveals a city heaving with information.
mcgillianaire: (Union Jack)

And wot would an entry about the British fourth estate be without one of my favourite comedy moments making yet another appearance on this blog:

mcgillianaire: (Geetopadesham)

mcgillianaire: (Geetopadesham)

I never knew such a memorial existed in this country. Seems obvious now. I hope to visit it one day.

According to Wikipedia, "Over one million Indian troops served overseas, of whom 62,000 died and another 67,000 were wounded. In total at least 74,187 Indian soldiers died during the war."
mcgillianaire: (Union Jack)

Keen listeners of this delightful programme would not have been surprised to hear the contents of the recorded conversation between Thatcher and Reagan from 1983 that has just been released. The Radio 4 programme was broadcast in August last year, and we learnt from it via the Downing Street note of the conversation, that Reagan initially tried to defuse the situation, by suggesting he would first throw his hat into the room if he was in London, before walking in. We also learn that Reagan used the phrase 'zero hour' before he could do anything about it. Exactly as it is in the recording. If you've got 8 minutes, it's worth listening from about 3:40 to the whole section on Grenada from the UK Confidential episode. It includes a brief interview about the declassified documents with Lord Owen (former British Foreign Secretary) and an American diplomat who was working in the US Embassy (in London) at the time. It is rather instructive that the American diplomat had dinner with Geoffrey Howe (the then British Foreign Secretary), the night before the invasion, and yet neither knew anything about it! It is also worth noting that the American diplomat refers to the 1983 Beirut barracks bombing, that killed nearly 300 American and French servicemen just a couple days before the invasion, as a tragedy so severe that it may have resulted in the invasion as a diversion.

On the recording, Reagan says he wanted to inform Thatcher of the invasion before some rogue informant did, but in an interview with the US President's authorised biographer on the wireless last night, this was quickly dismissed. The biographer was convinced Reagan was fibbing and had intentionally delayed informing her before it was too late (about 8 hours). However, the biographer also added that on two counts, Thatcher was somewhat embarrassed. One, was not responding to the situation in Grenada, having been requested (along with the French) to do so by their government, and two, she found herself in a similar situation to that of Reagan after Britain's own invasion of the Falklands, a year earlier. Yet despite these two foreign policy setbacks, they still seemed to share a politically intimate relationship. A point driven home by the biographer's final anecdote about a poster* Reagan kept in his stable, recreating the famous Rhett Butler-Vivien Leigh pose from Gone With The Wind, with the two of them on it instead. The biographer asked if he had shown it to Thatcher, to which Reagan said no-way, she'd get upset. The biographer apparently told him, on the contrary, I think she'd rather like it, mischievously adding that it was probably her ultimate fantasy... 

I also found it interesting that the biographer seemed to suggest that the Americans were justified in their actions on the pretext of protecting the 500 or so American students on the island. In contrast, Lord Owen suggests that the students didn't seem worried at all, lending credence to alternative theories. Either way, the release of the recording has thrown further light onto an important episode in the history of Anglo-American relations. One just wonders what else will be released to us in days, weeks, months, years...even decades to come, 

(* I don't think the picture above is the exact poster. This seems to be some anti-war poster from the 1980s, but I suspect it looked something like this.)

mcgillianaire: (Union Jack)

mcgillianaire: (Default)

Some time ago, I picked up this gem of a second-hand coat-pocket-sized book at my local market for the magical price of £1.25, a steal from the original RRP of £8.99 for a 2007 publication. Packed within it are 128 pages, including over 100 photographs of notable inn signs, and short insights to the stories behind them. The ideal companion to the history-loving, trivia-obsessed tipple-quenching Londoner. Can you think of anyone...?

Here are some of my favourites:

The Assembly House: (Kentish Town Road NW5)
The name refers to the fact that travellers gathered here before making their journey to the north across Hampstead Heath hoping that as a group they would avoid being attacked by highwaymen.

The Barley Mow: (Dorset Street W1)
Dates back to 1791 claiming to be the 'oldest pub in Marylebone', and it probably did serve farmers who came to the village of Marylebone from what was then countryside surrounding London. Many of its original features are intact including small snugs and a private bar. The name is more often attached to country pubs as a 'mow' is a stack and as barley is an ingredient of beer, the barley mow sign merely indicated that beer was sold in the house.

The Black Friar: (Queen Victoria Street EC4)
This pub, built in 1878, remodelled by H. Fuller Clark 1903-05, and refurbished in the early twentieth century, is a miraculous survival of art nouveau decoration. The area takes its name from the Dominican friary, which was situated here from the thirteenth century until its dissolution in 1536. The friars, founded by St Dominic in 1216, were known as the Black Friars from the colour of their robes. The trial of Catherine of Aragon, wife of Henry VIII took place in the Blackfriars Hall. The whole facade and interior of the pub is ornate with friars imbibing drink or having other connections with beer. The vaulted back room was added after the First World War to provide extra seating space.

The Blind Beggar: (Whitechapel Road E1)
The Blind Beggar was Henry, son of Simon de Montfort who was killed at the battle of Evesham in 1265. Henry was left for dead but escaped by assuming the guise of a beggar. The sign shows him accompanied by a nobleman's daughter who is said to have married him in the east of London. The event was recorded in a play, The Blind Beggar of Bethnal Green, first performed in 1659. General Booth of the Salvation Army 'opened fire' in the pub with his first sermon in 1865. The pub was also the site of the murder of George Connell by the rival gangster Ronnie Kray in March 1966. Connell greeted Kray with the words, 'Well, look who's here' before being shot through the forehead.

The Cannon: (Cannon Street EC4)
The sign shows a trooper by the sign of a cannon, which he is about to fire. Though the name is taken from the street, Cannon Street was once Candelewrithstreet, where candlewrights had their shops.

Cat & Mutton: (Broadway Market E8)
This is a splendid Victorian pub with a sign showing a cat running away on hind legs waving a leg of mutton in its right paw being chased by a furious butcher. There has been a pub on this site since at least 1680 when the building stood on the Porters' Path, a drovers' road leading to Smithfield Market. John Rocque's map of 1745 identifies it as the Leg of Mutton and it has also been known as the Shoulder of Mutton.

The Dublin Castle: (Parkway NW1)
The pub shows a castle purporting to be that in Dublin. The name dates from the time when the main railway line to the North West from Euston was being driven through Camden Town and Chalk Farm. Navvies from all parts of the British Isles dug the line, but this often led to violence between the national groups. To try to stop the fighting separate pubs were built in the Camden area. The Dublin Castle was the base of the Irish navvies, the Windsor Castle served the English, the Edinboro Castle the Scottish and the Pembroke the Welsh. As the pubs were placed far apart this strategy seems to have kept the peace.

The Flask: (Flask Walk NW3)
Dates back to 1663. The sign shows a thirsty soldier drinking from his flask. The pub was originally called the Thatched House then the Lower Flask. There was an Upper Flask, which has now been demolished. Mineral waters, which were discovered in the vicinity, were exploited for their presumed medicinal qualities and flasks of this mineral water could be bought at the pub. The present building dates from a rebuilding of 1874 intended to serve the local workers and at one time had separate bars dividing the gentry from the working class.

The Hand & Shears: (Middle Street EC3)
The pub stands on the site of a twelfth-century alehouse which served the monks and guests of St Bartholomew's Priory. The sign, which is the guild sign of the Merchant Tailors' Co., commemorates their role in the Smithfield Fair or St Bartholomew's Fair held at Michaelmas every September and one of the largest in London. The officials of the company checked the cloth to ensure that the cloth was sold with the right measure. The Lord Mayor opened the fair, first recorded in 1133, by cutting the first piece of cloth, which seems to have given rise to the tradition of cutting a piece of tape to open an event. The last Cloth Fair was held in 1855. The pub claims to have provided refreshment to those who wished to watch the prisoners leave Newgate Prison for their execution at Tyburn.

The Jerusalem Tavern: (Britton Street EC1)
This is a small building dating back to 1720, through having the sign of the head of St John on a platter, has reference to the Knights Templar who protected pilgrims on their way to and from the Holy Land. The Templars were suppressed in 1314 and their duties were taken over by the Knights Hospitallers, the Knights of the St John of Jerusalem, whose priory was close by.


May. 12th, 2014 11:05 pm
mcgillianaire: (Did You Know?)
1620s, "white," from Latin candidum "white; pure; sincere, honest, upright," from candere "to shine," (see candle). In English, metaphoric extension to "frank" first recorded 1670s (compare French candide "open, frank, ingenuous, sincere"). Of photography, 1929.

SOURCE: Online Etymology Dictionary
mcgillianaire: (South Park Me)
For reasons of privacy, I've decided to take this journal away from the prying eyes of the public. If you'd like to add me, simply leave a comment and there's a good chance I'll add you back.
mcgillianaire: (Ministry of Sound)
Three-and-a-half years ago I "decided to embark on an ambitious project to bring myself up-to-speed with music. I thought it would be a delightful idea to compile a DVD (the one with the highest capacity, 9GBish I think) with the world's greatest music of all-time." That's what I wrote here then and today I'm proud to report back to you the fruits of that labour. Before I do, a major round of thanks to everybody who contributed their feedback with tracks and artists I couldn't leave out from a "greatest-ever" list. I think you'll each find something to your liking, even if several other inclusions raise an odd eyebrow or few. In a project like this it's impossible to please everybody. Ultimately, this is my compilation and it caters to my tastes.

The playlist encompasses over seven decades of English (pop) music. The oldest songs are from the 1930s, the most recent is from 2009. I haven't included anything since then because frankly, the majority of them haven't stood the (arbitrary) test of time yet. The playlist is also incomplete so don't be surprised to find tracks missing in it. It's a work-in-progress and will remain so, as long as time doesn't stand still. But there's enough to bring back memories and create new ones. I just happened to have reached the 1000 song milestone.

Unfortunately, I cannot make a DVD of this compilation because quite simply, I do not own CDs or records of most tracks. At the time of making the original post, I intended to download all the MP3s and burn them onto a DVD. I've since realised the importance of copyright infringement and decided to keep the whole thing legal. To my good fortune, I was introduced to Spotify less than a year after making the original post. It's fair to say Spotify is the only reason this project came to fruition. Less than two months of using it for free, I recognised the benefits of a premium subscription. For just £10 a month, I had unlimited access to every Spotify track available in the UK. I can't stress enough how amazing this was for a music lover.

Spotify has its limitations but that's the price you pay for staying on the right side of the law. Artists like The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Metallica and Oasis are not available due to lack of licensing agreements. But hopefully that will change in the future. Even so, there's still so much else to choose from. I've even managed to compile a 1000 greatest-ever tracks!

So without further ado, I present you The Best English Songs of All-Time. You can view and play it in Spotify. Or you can view the playlist in a Word document, with links to Spotify.

Please continue leaving your feedback about tracks and artists that I've left out. In the meantime, enjoy!
mcgillianaire: (South Park Me)
If you wondered what happened, I got busy working the end of last year, and mixed with a convenient dose of laziness once I flew to Oman, failed to post the list for these two months. I've also decided to lump January's with February, so expect them early March.

01. Vitreous toilet
02. Be quids in
03. Ringpiece
04. Trumping
05. Neophyte
06. Cinque ports
07. Fanuary
08. Counting sheep
09. Shop-soiled
10. Breach of promise
11. Twat tax
12. Prevaricator
13. Autre temps, autre moeurs
14. Tikkun olam
15. Putting on the Ritz
16. Freemium
17. Verisimilitude
18. In clover
19. Docker's thumbs
20. Silly season
21. NEET
22. Laga kitnabhi payega dhokha
23. Busman's holiday
24. (Old) crumblies
25. Last Train to Clarksville
26. Prolixity
27. What the Dickens?
28. Rooting
29. Glenda Slagg
30. Aperçus
31. Bromide
32. Wednesday witches
33. Jugaad
34. Tendentious
35. Digital inheritance
36. Ostler
37. Athenaeum
38. Lazyweb
39. Po-faced
40. Pen pusher

Only the last three words are from December. As usual there's a handful of non-English entrants: including French (13) & (30), Hebrew (14), Hindi (22) & (33) & Latin (37), but not (6) which hails from Norman French and is actually pronounced "Sink ports".

[Poll #1817758]
mcgillianaire: (Hooka Pipe)
There's no doubt the highlight of my trip to Oman was spending time with dad's 7-month old pooch. He's grown quite a bit since dad brought him home three months ago. I grew very attached to him and it took me at least a week to get over him after flying back to London. Even though dad, sis and I loved dogs, mum never let us keep one. She used to say we'd all go off to work/school, leaving her to look after the dog. Then years later our best friends left their Japanese spitz with us for one weekend. I remember mum telling me that looking after the dog wasn't such a terrible experience. She was never fond of dogs but I'm sure she would've grown to love Nero. He's such an adorable puppy, even if he refused to obey me most of the time! But like dogs in general, he never failed to follow my every movement. That's one thing everybody loves about dogs, loyalty. Wish I'd smuggled Nero out with me!

3 More Pics of Nero )
mcgillianaire: (Changing Guard London)
Following the first snowfall of the winter, London woke up to a gorgeous white blanket yesterday morning. Having missed last winter's snowfall (while preparing for exams in Oman), there was no chance I'd miss out on capturing this weekend's main event. It pays to wake up early, esp on a Sunday!

A panorama of Enfield Chase Green, complete with an Englishman and his dog. [Taken: Yesterday morning around 9am]

Enfield Chase Green is a five minute walk from my flat. And because it was a Sunday, most of it had remained untouched even at 9 in the morning.

Usually, trees like these in winter appear lifeless and somewhat haunting, but all it takes is a coating of snow to make them look beautiful again.
mcgillianaire: (Royal Coat of Arms)

Now that I'm the owner of an iPhone again, it only seemed appropriate to use the device's Autostitch app to create this panorama of Durham Cathedral. Founded in 1093, it is regarded as one of the finest examples of Norman architecture and is part of an UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The two western towers of the cathedral rise up 44m and were built in the early 13th century.

5 More Snaps )
mcgillianaire: (Hooka Pipe)

A photostitch of the exquisite interior of Muscat's new Royal Opera House.

Best buddies from high school.
Beach-side shisha cafes.
Gorgeous weather.
Home-cooked food.
New "family" members.
Indian satellite TV.
Dinner parties.
Chilled-out badminton sessions.
Bargain-priced new clothes.
Cheap nights out.
Swan Lake by the Mariinsky Ballet in Muscat's new Royal Opera House.

Remind me, what is it about London that trumps all of that?!
mcgillianaire: (Ari G)

Last night's New Year Party theme was Tangerine.

Lose weight, eat less, get a training contract, date more girls, manage my money better... bloody hell, if I'd not known better I'd say it's just like 2011 all over again. Here's to less of more of the same. Hope you're all well and wish you the very best in 2012!
mcgillianaire: (Ministry of Sound)
I've decided to embark on an ambitious project to bring myself up-to-speed with music. I thought it would be a delightful idea to compile a DVD (the one with the highest capacity, 9GBish I think) with the world's greatest music of all-time. It's going to take a while but I've set out a little time every week to work on it so hopefully it will be finished by the end of the year. Unfortunately, my knowledge of good music is very weak. I'd like to think I know a lot of good music but the truth is, I don't. Which is where you guys come in. All you need to do is list songs which deserve to be part of the compilation. Don't worry if others have listed the same before you. And don't limit yourself to just a few tracks. More than 1000 songs are going to make the final cut and if it turns out there's enough for two DVDs, all the better. It's amazing how much cheerier life has become now that I find myself listening to nothing but incredible music. And of course, any of your contributions that make the final cut, will be suitably acknowledged in a special custom designed album cover. To help you find this entry easily, I've post-dated it to 31 December 2011 so it will always be the first one to appear when you view my journal home page. Don't limit yourself to just English music. I want stuff from all over the world. I don't care if it's just a beat. If you think it's good, share it. Even if it doesn't make the final cut, it'll still make a great addition to my mediocre collection of music. I love being introduced to great new music. Tonight alone (8 Dec 08) I've discovered one of the greatest opera singers of all-time, Enrico Caruso. His stuff is so good it's convinced me to buy a gramophone once I start earning again. So get in!

EDIT 1: Gramophone (well a USB-emboldened laser record player) added to collection, Feb 2009.
EDIT 2: 30+ vinyls and growing. Thanks to everybody who has contributed to my budding collection. :)


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