The Edmondson Blog

Take Care As You Do Business In Great Waters*

*107th Psalm: They that go down to the sea in ships and do business in great waters; these see the works of the Lord and His wonders in the deep.

In 1984, Rationis Enterprises, Inc. of Panama, the owners of the ship MSC Carla contracted with Hyundai Corporation to lengthen the ship by 15 metres. This was accomplished by cutting the vessel into two and welding in a lengthening module. On 24th November 1997, en route to Boston from LeHavre, the MSC Carla encountered heavy weather and broke apart along the line of the aft weld. The forepart sank over a period of five days. The stern was towed to Spain where it was scrapped.

Hey Joe

On May 1, 2006, 1,572 guitarists gathered to play the classic song Hey Joe simultaneously in the town square of Wrocław, Poland, to break a Guinness record.

On May 1, 2007, 1,881 guitarists returned to Wrocław to play Hey Joe to break their own record.

On May 1, 2008, 1,951 guitarists again played Hey Joe in Wrocław, setting a new Guinness record.

I wait with anticipation for May 1, 2009.

PS probably the most atmospheric lines of any modern song are these from Hey Joe:

I'm going down to shoot my old lady
You know, I've caught her messin' around with another man
Huh, and that ain't too cool.

Still Crazy After All Those Years

In 1967, when Christine Orchard, age 16, discovered she was pregnant, it caused a scandal and her mother said she could only keep the baby on the condition that she never saw Chester Locke, the baby's father again. So Chester was told never to contact Christine or their daughter, Tracy. And he never did.

Forty years later, Tracey, now with her own children, set out to find her long-lost father and brought him to meet her mother. Despite their long separation, Christine and Chester - who were both divorced - soon fell in love again and are due to marry on 27th September.

Explain this to your Insurance company (reprise)

Hovis adverts

The adverts for Hovis bread have always been carefully crafted to emphasise the special nature of the product. The most recent advert, at 1 minute 27 seconds, is the longest TV advert ever produced in the UK and is clearly meant for both TV and internet viewing.

The nation's favourite advert is the Hovis advert from 1973, directed by Ridley Scott before he was famous. It shows a small boy pushing his bike, laden with loaves of bread, up a steep cobbled street to the strains of Dvorak's "New World" Symphony, arranged for brass band. Interestingly, the inference in the advert is that the street is somewhere in the north of England, when actually it is Gold Hill in Shaftesbury, Dorset, which has consequently become something of a tourist attraction.

Inevitable Comparison With 1929

In actual fact, although there are superficial similarities, there is little to compare the present ups-and-downs in the financial markets with the Crash of 1929 and the following Depression.

However part of the problem at that time was that Britain was ruled by a weak Labour government that was eventually undone by growing questions about economic policies.

Hmmm. Sound familiar?


Many a true word spoken in jest...

Imagine, if you can, an unemployed black man sitting on a crumbling porch somewhere in Alabama in his string vest and a chap comes along and says, "Would you like to buy this house before it falls down and why don't you let me lend you the money?"

Then this mortgage is bought by a bank and packaged together on Wall Street with a lot of other similar debts. Somehow this package of dodgy debts stops being a package of dodgy debts and starts being what we call a structured investment vehicle.

I buy it and then I will ring up somebody in Tokyo and say, "Look, I've got this package, do you want to buy it?" and they say, "What's in it?" and I say, "I haven't got the faintest idea" and they say, "How much do you want for it?" and I say "A hundred million dollars" and then they say, "Fine" and that's it. That's the market.

Super-finance according to John Bird and John Fortune.

Story Time

You've read the tale of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in your childhood picture book, you've seen Disney's animation, so now here is the latest version, brought to you in glorious dominos. Hmmm.

Mr. Wickham's Nightmare

One of the East End of London's major department stores was Wickhams, completed in 1927, on the north side of the Mile End Road.

When the old row of shops were being acquired to build the store in the early 1900s, Speigelhalter's, a jewellers owned by Christian Moravians from Germany, refused to part with their premises at any price. This led to the odd situation in which the new store was built around the jeweller's shop which continued to trade when Wickhams opened on both its sides!

Interestingly, the two parts of the Wickhams building form part of a greater design, anticipating the eventual purchase of the jewellers and its incorporation into the whole. As can be seen from the photographs, the facade of the building is complete right up to the boundary either side of the jewellers with even the column immediately to the right of the jewellers having a flat side, waiting to be completed once the Speigelhalters land had been bought.

On close inspection it can be seen that the central block with its tower would not have been in the centre of the completed building - with the jewellers in the way, the central block has been shifted to the left and the completed building would have had seven windows in the wing to the left of the central block and nine to the right. I wonder if the stonework had been ordered before it became apparent that the Speigelhalters would not sell and the solution was to erect the right wing shifted to the right by the width of their land. This would explain why the two side wings look very similar, with the central raised feature of the entableture (the piece running over, and supported by, the columns) positioned over the forth window on both sides (once the jewellers had been replaced it would not have been central on the right hand wing) Hmm - we'll probably never know.

Completion of the grand design was never to be. The Speigelhalter brothers had the last laugh for when the era of the independent department stores waned in the 1960s, Wickhams sold up. The jewellers changed hands in 1988 becoming an off licence.

View From The Breakfast Table

Some quotations, even when heard out of context, are immediately understandable. Here's a beauty from today's Sunday Times:

" Churchill might have put it, never in the field of political conflict will so many be glad to see the back of so few."

Citizenship In A Republic

It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.

Speech by Teddy Roosevelt at the Sorbonne on 23rd April 1910.

A Father's Warning

Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups.

Down-Hill Cycling

After I was given my first bike as an adult, I rode round on it for a year or so, and although it was reasonable fun, it didn't seem as much fun as it could be. Eventually, I sat down and de-constructed the entire cycling experience to understand what parts I enjoyed and what parts I didn't. I very quickly realised the problem was I didn't like riding up hill. So I resolved never to do so again.

This decision might seem restrictive, but it was, in fact very liberating. A little bit of school-boy geography (such as all rivers run down-hill) and I was away. It was easier to figure out how to get home from the bottom of a far away hill than to cycle back to the top. My local station, Orpington, is 400 feet above sea-level and with Charing Cross only 42 feet up, a whole new world beckoned. I can park at Orpington, cycle into London, 18 or so miles - the journey drops about 18 feet per mile - and get the train back. Fabulous. I've really enjoyed my cycling ever since.

Memorable Lines From Songs

Lyrics considered sufficiently memorable that the particular song can be easily recognised:
Goodbye, Norma Jean.

Hope I die before I get old.

Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command:
Your old road is rapidly agin’.

We skipped the light fandango*
Turned cartwheels cross the floor.

East Coast girls are great,
I really dig those styles they wear.

Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme.

And did those feet in ancient times?

Picture yourself in a boat on a river.

I don't think that I can take it,
’Cause it took so long to bake it,
And I'll never have that recipe again.

Give me a home where the buffaloes roam.

Well, it winds from Chicago to LA,
More than two thousand miles all the way.

If her daddy’s rich, take her out for a meal,
If her daddy’s poor, just do what you feel.
Useful insight into how to be irresistible to women
(according to Mr. Mungo Jerry).

You’re drunk, you’re drunk, you silly old fool.

Scaramouche, Scaramouche, will you do the fandango?*
*The dance, the fandango, is, as far as the Editor can tell, mentioned in only three pop songs – the third being Bob Dylan’s song Romance In Durango (not an easy rhyme, to be sure).

Technical Explanation

Professor Stanley Unwin extolling the benefits of an Amstrad computer.

Unsung Song Titles

Sixteen songs where the title does not appear in the lyrics:
  • A Day In The Life – The Beatles.
  • Astronomy Domine – Pink Floyd.
  • Battle Hymn Of The Republic.
  • Bohemian Rhapsody – Queen. This song was the 1975 Christmas no. 1 (nine weeks at no. 1) and has the distinction of, although not mentioning its own title, mentions the title of the song that followed it in the hit parade, Abba with Mamma Mia.
  • Country Honk – Rolling Stones. The lyrics of this song are, of course, very similar to those of Honky Tonk Women.
  • Fifth Dimension – The Byrds.
  • Lover’s Concerto – The Toys.
  • My Back Pages – Bob Dylan, he was so much older then, he’s younger than that now.
  • New York Mining Disaster 1941 – The Bee Gees.
  • Seven Drunken Nights – The Dubliners.
  • Subterranean Homesick Blues – Bob Dylan.
  • The Ballad Of Bonnie And Clyde – Georgie Fame.
  • The Ballad Of Lucy Jordan – although originally recorded by Dr Hook, the best known version is by Marianne Faithfull.
  • The Weight – The Band.
  • Unchained Melody – originally written as the title song for Unchained, a film about life in prison, but the lyricist, Hy Zaret, refused to include the word unchained in the lyrics. Recorded by over 300 artists.
  • White Rabbit – Jefferson Airplane.

Why You Should Wear A Crash Helmet

(Only the first 15 seconds are worth watching.)

Newfangled Idea

"That it will ever come into general use, notwithstanding its value, is extremely doubtful; because its beneficial application requires much time and gives a good bit of trouble both to the patient and the practitioner; because its hue and character are foreign and opposed to all our habits and associations."

The London Times in 1834, reporting on the invention by French physician Rene Theophile Hyacinthe Laennec of the stethoscope.

More Remarkable Names

Garnish Lurch, train driver for Jamaica Railways. He was at the throttle when his train derailed killing 178 passengers and injuring several hundred more. As reported in The Daily Gleaner, 1957, Kingston, Jamaica.
A. A. A. D’Artagnan Umslopagaas Dynamite Macaulay, as reported in The Times.
Serious Misconduct, from Welwyn, Hertfordshire.
A. Moron, Commissioner of Education, British Virgin Islands.
Marshall Outteridge, the Editor’s late uncle. Family lore maintains that he was named after Marshal Foch, the French commander during the Great War. Marshall’s mother thought Marshall was Foch’s first name (which was actually Ferdinand), not realising that Marshal was a French military rank.
Sir Edward Pine-Coffin, a Poor Relief Commissioner during the Irish Potato Famine.
Plummer and Leek, plumbers of Sheringham, Norfolk.
Hugh Pugh, landscape gardener of London.
Cupid Rash, father of nine, who managed to get eleven years behind in his rent before being evicted from his council house, as reported in the Western Morning News.
Mrs. Screech, Singing teacher, Victoria, British Colombia.
Sir Basil Smallpiece, sometime Chairman, Cunard Line.
Lee Bum Suck, sometime South Korean Foreign Minister.
Tetley Ironsides Tetley-Jones, sometime Chairman, Tetley Tea Company, London.
Pleasant Titty, baptised 3rd April 1768, Margate, Kent. She was named after her mother, so there was a pair of Pleasant Tittys in the family.
Lyulph Ydwallo Odin Nestor Egbert Lyonel Toedmag Hugh Erchenwyne Saxon Esa Cromwell Orma Nevill Dysart Plantagenet Tollemache-Tollemache, resident of Bentleigh, Otumoetai, Tauranga, New Zealand.
Hannibal Toto, when, at a wedding in Rome, he was requested to fire a salute using his shotgun, he injured the groom and twelve guests. As reported in The Daily Mail.
Aristotle Tottle, pirate from Falmouth.
Mr. Vroom, motorcycle dealer, Port Elizabeth, South Africa.
Miss Wang married Mr King, Kensington and Chelsea, 1997.

Take Care On Icy Roads!


As a society, we are fabulously wealthy. In the hundred years from 1907 to 2007, inflation, measured by the Retail Price Index (or its equivalent from before the Retail Price Index), has increased prices by about 70 times. That is to say, £100 of domestic goods bought in 1907 would now cost about £7,000.

Set against that, wages have increased 380 times – an annual wage of £100 in 1907 is now equivalent to £38,000.

So, for equivalent wages we can now buy over five times more than a century ago. Although this sounds excessive, it is the equivalent of wages increasing faster than prices by about 1.6% each year – almost so small as not to be noticeable year-to-year, but compounded over a century gives the dramatic result.

In actual fact, in a properly running capitalist society there is constant competitive pressure to at least keep prices low, if not to reduce them, so the benefit has come partly from increases in wages and partly from real prices falling. Low or falling prices sometimes manifest themselves as improvements in value-for-money: for example, a generation ago, a heater was an optional extra in many cars, whereas air-conditioning now comes as standard in equivalent models.

In Oscar Wilde’s comic play, The Importance of Being Ernest, first staged in 1895, Lady Bracknell asks Jack Worthing if Cecily Cardew has any little fortune. Jack’s reply is, “Oh! about a hundred and thirty thousand pounds in the Funds.” In the 113 years since then, with inflation, this would be about £9.2 million. No wonder that Lady Bracknell goes on to comment, “A hundred and thirty thousand pounds! … Miss Cardew seems to me a most attractive young lady.


George Orwell, the author, writing about swearing in the 1930s:

Swear-words change, or at any rate, they are subject to fashions. For example, twenty years ago the London working classes habitually used the word bloody. Now they have abandoned it utterly, though novelists still represent them as using it. No born Londoner (it is different with people of Scotch or Irish origin) now says bloody, unless he is a man of some education. The word has, in fact, moved up in the social scale and ceased to be a swear-word for the purposes of the working classes. The current London adjective, now tacked on to every noun, is [fucking]. No doubt in time [fucking], like bloody, will find its way into the drawing-room and be replaced by some other word.

The whole business of swearing, especially English swearing, is mysterious. Of its very nature swearing is as irrational as magic – indeed, it is a species of magic. But there is also a paradox about it, namely this: our intention in swearing is to shock and wound, which we do by mentioning something that should be kept secret – usually something to do with the sexual functions. But the strange thing is that when a word is well established as a swear-word, it seems to lose its original meaning; that is, it loses the thing that made it into a swear-word. A word becomes an oath because it means a certain thing, and, because it has become an oath, it ceases to mean that thing. For example [fuck]. The Londoners do not now use, or very seldom use, this word in its original meaning; it is on their lips from morning till night, but it is a mere expletive and means nothing. Similarly with [bugger], which is rapidly losing its original sense. One can think of similar instances in French for example [foutre], which is now a quite meaningless expletive.

The word [bougre], also, is still used occasionally in Paris, but the people who use it, or most of them, have no idea of what it once meant. The rule seems to be that words accepted as swear-words have some magical character, which sets them apart and makes them useless for ordinary conversation.

Words used as insults seem to be governed by the same paradox as swear-words. A word becomes an insult, one would suppose, because it means something bad; but in practice its insult-value has little to do with its actual meaning. For example, the most bitter insult one can offer to a Londoner is bastard – which, taken for what it means, is hardly an insult at all. And the worst insult to a woman, either in London or Paris, is cow; a name which might even be a compliment, for cows are among the most likeable of animals. Evidently a word is an insult simply because it is meant as an insult, without reference to its dictionary meaning; words, especially swear-words, being what public opinion chooses to make them. In this connexion it is interesting to see how a swear-word can change character by crossing a frontier. In England you can print Je m’en fous without protest from anybody. In France you have to print it Je m’en f—. Or, as another example, take the word barnshoot – a corruption of the Hindustani word bahinchut. A vile and unforgivable insult in India, this word is a piece of gentle badinage in England. I have even seen it in a school text-book; it was in one of Aristophanes’ plays, and the annotator suggested it as a rendering of some gibberish spoken by a Persian ambassador. Presumably the annotator knew what bahinchut meant. But, because it was a foreign word, it had lost its magical swear-word quality and could be printed.

One other thing is noticeable about swearing in London, and that is that the men do not usually swear in front of the women. In Paris it is quite different. A Parisian workman may prefer to suppress an oath in front of a woman, but he is not at all scrupulous about it, and the women themselves swear freely. The Londoners are more polite, or more squeamish, in this matter.

From Down and Out in Paris and London, George Orwell's semi-autobiographical account of living in poverty in both cities, first published in 1933. In the original published text, Orwell replaced the words in square brackets with dashes - with not even an initial letter to give a clue - to give the novelty of a discussion on swear-words without identifying the particular swear-words being discussed. George Orwell was the pseudonym of Eric Arthur Blair who published under his assumed name to avoid embarrassing his family with the account of his life that he describes in Down and Out in Paris and London. Blair left the final choice of his pseudonym to his agent and his publisher, giving them the alternatives P. S. Burton (a name he used when he was a vagrant), Kenneth Miles, George Orwell, and H. Lewis Allways.

Explain this to your insurance company.

(Notice how the cameraman is fascinated by the tyre and almost forgets to record the three-wheeler crashing.)

Stunningly Interesting Fact

St Johns Wood is the only London Underground station to share no letters with the word mackerel. (You read it here first.)

Remarkable Names

Reverend Canaan Banana of the African National Congress.
Mr. Bell married Miss. Bottoms, Chester-le-Street, Durham 1912.
Silence Bellows, Editor, The Christian Science Monitor.
Charles Adolphe Faux-Pas Bidet, Commissionaire de Police, Paris.
Mr. Venus Bonaparte, as reported in The Times.
Iona Victory Bond, resident of Victoria, British Colombia.
Original Bug, resident of Liverpool, from Liverpool Echo.
Henry Will Burst, as reported in The Times Literary Supplement.
Reverend Christian Church, active in Florence, Italy.
Mr. Cock married Miss Prick as reported in The Times.
Pafia Pifia Pefia Pofia Pufia da Costa, from Brazil, as reported in the Financial Times. Note that the names are not in alphabetical order.
Welcome Baby Darling, as announced in the local paper, Greenwich, Connecticut.
Any Day, 1871 census for Crawshawbooth, Lancashire.
Christmas Day, baptised Lowestoft, Suffolk, 27th December 1762 (clearly born two days earlier).
Godfrey Armistice Day, born 11th November 1923.
Lucky Day, born 1859, Blything, Suffolk.
May Day, died 1842, Axbridge, Somerset.
Time Of Day, born 1899, Hoo, Kent.
Valentine Day, born 1842, Leeds, Yorkshire.
Winter Day, born 1845, Romsey, Hampshire.
Doctor Dotti, psychiatrist and second husband of the actress Audrey Hepburn.
I. P. Frilli, garage proprietor, Florence, Italy.
George Fuchs married Alice Allott, Thurmaston, Leicestershire, 1764.
Lettice Goedebed, resident of Johannesburg, South Aftrica.
Primrose Goo, resident of Hawaii.
Mary Hinge, born Clutton, Somerset, 1846.
Miss. Horsey de Horsey, intimate friend of Lord Cardigan.
Fanny Hunnybun, died 1975 aged ninety-seven, Devon.
Buster Hymen, as reported in the San Francisco Examiner.
Female Jones, born at the University of Maryland Hospital, Baltimore, Maryland. A surprisingly common name, bestowed by hospitals in the absence of a parental decision. It is often pronounced fee-mar-lay or fee-malay.
Dick Licker, born Oldham, Lancashire, 1845.
Messy Licker, born Chorley, Lancashire, c. 1803.

© 2007 The Edmondson Blog