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Saturday, 21 April 2018

REPOST: The Royal Parks of London (1) St James Park

I've been a bit busy lately so I'm re-posting this from five years ago. It's one of my favourite places in London.

The Royal Parks of London (1) St James Park

A magical view  across the lake in St James Park, London
St James Park is the second smallest of London's eight Royal parks at 57 acres. These parks were originally owned by the Crown and used for sport, mainly deer hunting. In 1532 Henry VIII purchased some marshland owned by Eton College in an area that had formerly consisted of a female leper colony and pig farms and he enclosed it to create a hunting park on his door-step. Successive monarchs improved the park until Charles II, upon the restoration of the monarchy after the English Civil War, had the park laid out in the way he had seen in France during his exile. Today the park is pretty much as improved by the architect and landscape designer John Nash in 1827. It's full of the most charming range of trees, shrubs, flowers and wildlife.
In 1664 the Russian Ambassador presented a pelican to the Court of St James (any Ambassador or High Commissioner to the United Kingdom is officially "Ambassador to the Court of  St James") this began a tradition of presenting pelicans as gifts and today there is an island of rocks in the lake, especially for them. There are also Egyptian geese, Greylags, Wood Ducks and many other beautiful birds. At one end of the park is Horse Guards Parade famous for the ceremony of Trooping the Colour and at the other end the best view of Buckingham Palace is to be seen.

Monday, 9 April 2018

My Heroes (43): Sir Roger Bannister

The passing away of Sir Roger Bannister last month has recalled a time when post-war Britain was very different than it is today. The breaking of the four-minute mile barrier was as much psychological as it was physical. The whole event, which took place at the Iffley Road track in Oxford where Sir Roger was a student doctor, was very low-key in a way that would seem amateurish today. Sir Roger had specifically targeted breaking the four-minute barrier. Seven athletes were scheduled to race but one of the runners forgot his shorts so could not take part in the race! 
The concept of breaking that barrier was challenged by some who said no human could do it. However, Roger Bannister thought "why not, why would the barrier be at exactly four minutes?"
He ran a mile in three minutes and 59.4 seconds and, as if to prove his point, the record was quickly broken again by Australia's John Landy and then many times over the next few months. It seems that once the psychological barrier was broken, it became relatively easier. He had been assisted in his efforts by his two pacemakers, Christopher Chataway and Chris Brasher who both became very successful middle-distance runners themselves.
I love this charming quote from Sir Roger on his retirement: "I'd rather be remembered for my work in neurology than my running. If you offered me the chance to make a great breakthrough in the study of the automatic nerve system, I'd take that over the four minute mile right away. I worked in medicine for sixty years. I ran for about eight."[
I'm listening to Dion singing one of my favourite rock songs, Ruby Baby. Listen here.

Monday, 2 April 2018

Painting of the Month (81) April 2018: Peter Blake

Peter Blake, born 1932, is a British artist who was a leading figure in the Pop Art movement in the 1960's. He is most well-known for co-creating the sleeve design for The Beatles album Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band in 1967 and this post is really about that.
 Blake's iconic sleeve design for Sgt Pepper
Probably the most well-known album design ever made.
Io Herodotus's explanation of the people featured on the sleeve. 
Here is a list of those people followed by a list of some who were left out. You may notice that there is not a perfect correspondence between the two pictures because changes were constantly being made:
Top row
(1) Sri Yukteswar Giri (Hindu guru)
(3) Mae West (actress)
(6) W. C. Fields (comedian/actor)
(8) Edgar Allan Poe (writer)
(9) Fred Astaire (actor/dancer)
(10) Richard Merkin (artist)
(11) The Vargas Girl (by artist Alberto Vargas)
(12) Leo Gorcey (image was removed from cover, but the space remains between "The Vargas Girl" and "Huntz Hall")
(13) Huntz Hall (actor)
(14) Simon Rodia (designer and builder of the Watts Towers)
(15) Bob Dylan (singer/songwriter)

Second row
(16) Aubrey Beardsley (illustrator)
(17) Sir Robert Peel (19th century British Prime Minister)
(18) Aldous Huxley (writer)
(19) Dylan Thomas (poet)
(20) Terry Southern (writer)
(21) Dion DiMucci (singer/songwriter)
(22) Tony Curtis (actor)
(23) Wallace Berman (artist)
(24) Tommy Handley (comedian)
(25) Marilyn Monroe (actress)
(26) William S. Burroughs (writer)
(27) Sri Mahavatar Babaji (Hindu guru)
(28) Stan Laurel (actor/comedian)
(29) Richard Lindner (artist)
(30) Oliver Hardy (actor/comedian)
(31) Karl Marx (political philosopher)
(32) H. G. Wells (writer)
(33) Sri Paramahansa Yogananda (Hindu guru)
(34A) James Joyce (Irish poet and novelist) – barely visible below Bob Dylan(34) Anonymous (hairdresser's wax dummy)
Third row
(35) Stuart Sutcliffe (artist/former Beatle)
(36) Anonymous (hairdresser's wax dummy)
(37) Max Miller (comedian)
(38) A "Petty Girl" (by artist George Petty)
(39) Marlon Brando (actor)
(40) Tom Mix (actor)
(41) Oscar Wilde (writer)
(42) Tyrone Power (actor)
(43) Larry Bell (artist)
(44) David Livingstone (missionary/explorer)
(45) Johnny Weissmuller (Olympic swimmer/Tarzan actor)
(46) Stephen Crane (writer) – barely visible between Issy Bonn's head and raised arm
(47) Issy Bonn (comedian)
(48) George Bernard Shaw (playwright)
(49) H. C. Westermann (sculptor)
 (50) Albert Stubbins (English footballer)
(51) Sri Lahiri Mahasaya (guru)
(52) Lewis Carroll (writer)

Front row
(54) Wax model of Sonny Liston (boxer)
(55) A "Petty Girl" (by George Petty)
(56) Wax model of George Harrison
(57) Wax model of John Lennon
(58) Shirley Temple (child actress) – barely visible behind the wax models of John and Ringo, first of three
ppearances on the cover
(59) Wax model of Ringo Starr
(60) Wax model of Paul McCartney
(61) Albert Einstein (physicist) – largely obscured
(62) John Lennon holding a french horn
(63) Ringo Starr holding a trumpet
(64) Paul McCartney holding a cor anglais
(65) George Harrison holding a piccolo
(65A) Bette Davis (actress) – hair barely visible on top of George's shoulder
(66) Bobby Breen (singer)
(67) Marlene Dietrich (actress/singer)
(68) Mahatma Gandhi was planned for this position, but was deleted prior to publication
(69) An American legionnaire[2]
(70) Wax model of Diana Dors (actress)
(71) Shirley Temple (child actress) – second appearance on the cover

People excluded from the cover
(12) Leo Gorcey – was modelled and originally included to the left of Huntz Hall, but was subsequently removed when a fee of $400 was requested for the use of the actor's likeness.[5][6]
(54A) Unidentified laughing figure - barely visible
(56A) Sophia Loren (actress) - behind the Beatles waxworks
(57A) Marcelo Mastroianni (actor) - behind the Beatles waxworks
(65A) Timothy Carey (actor) - was modelled and originally included but largely obscured by George Harrison in the final picture
(68) Mahatma Gandhi – was modelled and originally included to the right of Lewis Carroll, but was subsequently removed According to McCartney, "Gandhi also had to go because the head of EMI, Sir Joe Lockwood, said that in India they wouldn't allow the record to be printed".
Jesus Christ – was requested by Lennon, but not modelled because the LP would be released just over a year after Lennon’s Jesus remark.

(C) Adolf Hitler – was modelled and was visible in early photographs of the montage, positioned to the right of Larry Bell, but was eventually removed when his inclusion was considered offensive.