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Thursday, 23 June 2005
War of Words

war of words

It seems the real bogie men didn’t come from Mars after all, but from France.  The press is often critcised for the negative image they project about foreigners, so it is good to see some visiting French tourists being given a warm and sunny welcome for a change.

The BBC has a webpage about words of war, describing some of the words we use to describe war. They seem to have avoided the most sinister euphamisms, such as friendly fire and rendition. Still it addresses some of the funnies, like cheese-eating surrender monkeys which it tells us is

a stock epithet for the French in certain US circles. Derives from a Simpsons episode in which Groundskeeper Willie was substitute French teacher for the day. The Times reported that France had responded with “an arch shrug, adopting a tone of superiority precisely calculated to send the Americans into even blacker fury”.

For his part Thomas Jefferson, former US President said

Every man has two countries, his own and France.

Meanwhile the French ambassador to France has a page on the shared cultural heritage of Britain with her closest neighbour.  He even has a photograph of our illustrious leaders in happier days.

These are some of the things I ponder on as I approach a one week holiday in France.

Posted by bigblue on 23/06/2005 at 10:28 PM
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Wednesday, 22 June 2005
Interplanetary travel


This is a shopfront in Woking, Surrey, once the home-town of science fiction writer HG Wells. It’s an interesting juxtoposition of place, shop name, and snack advertisment.

The opening paragraph of HG Well’s famous novel, War of the Worlds is as follows:

No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man’s and yet as mortal as his own; that as men busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinised and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinise the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water. With infinite complacency men went to and fro over this globe about their little affairs, serene in their assurance of their empire over matter. It is possible that the infusoria under the microscope do the same. No one gave a thought to the older worlds of space as sources of human danger, or thought of them only to dismiss the idea of life upon them as impossible or improbable. It is curious to recall some of the mental habits of those departed days. At most terrestrial men fancied there might be other men upon Mars, perhaps inferior to themselves and ready to welcome a missionary enterprise. Yet across the gulf of space, minds that are to our minds as ours are to those of the beasts that perish, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded this earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us. And early in the twentieth century came the great disillusionment.

In the musical by Jeff Wayne, Richard Burton narrated:

No-one would have believed, in the last years of the nineteenth century, that human affairs were being watched from the timeless worlds of space. No-one could have dreamed that we were being scrutinised, as someone with a microscope studies creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water. Few men even considered the possibility of life on other planets. And yet, across the gulf of space, minds immeasurably superior to ours regarded this earth with envious eyes; and slowly, and surely, they drew their plans against us.

While in Spielberg’s new film this becomes:

  No-one would have believed in the early years of the twenty-first century, that our world was being watched by intelligences greater than our own. That as men busied themselves about their various concerns, they were being observed and studied.

  With infinite complacency men went to and fro about the globe, confident of their empire over this world.

  Yet, across the gulf of space, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic regarded our planet with envious eyes. And slowly, and surely drew their plans against us.

If you are a fan of WOTW, you may be interested in the following internet comic version which is being released in weekly installments: Darkhorse’s War of the Worlds.

Posted by bigblue on 22/06/2005 at 07:54 PM
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Tuesday, 21 June 2005
War of Worlds

War of the Worlds

This is a public statue of a Martian Fighting Machine which can be found in Woking, Surrey. It was commissioned in 1998 for the centenary of HG Wells famous novel War of the Worlds. HG Wells lived in Woking for several years and was based here while he wrote the novel. The aliens landed at Horsell Common outside the town.  When a radio version of the book was broadcast it caused mass panic.

HG Wells was a contemparary of DH Lawrence, and Lawrence visited him at his home, after which he remarked

He is a funny little chap; his conversation (is) amusing, but not expansive.

Besides being the founder of the modern alien invasion genre, HG Wells is considered the father of war games having written the first rules for a miniture war game using toy soldiers.

Posted by bigblue on 21/06/2005 at 08:54 PM
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Monday, 20 June 2005
Lynncroft Street

Lynncroft Street

The plaque on the side of this house, obscured by the rusted yellow lorry, reads:

This house, built on the steep hillside of Lynncroft, was the fourth Lawrence family home, where Mrs Lawrence died in 1910.

It represented success to her in her constant struggle for social and material improvement. Not only was it higher up the valley, but it was the only one of her homes to be semi-detached, and it had a garden with a field at the back.

Whilst living here, Lawrence worked as a pupil teacher at the British School in Albert Street, and trained at Ilkeston. Later he qualified from Nottingham University and left Eastwood for a post in Croydon in 1908.

There is another sign near the house which, under the heading It is finished, also mentions that Lydia Lawrence had domestic help when she lived in this house, and that she died here in 1910:

leaving a bereft Lawrence without his love of loves.

In his novel Sons and Lovers, completed after his mother’s death, Lawrence dealt with the Iokaste/Oedipus theme of his own life. There is a short synopsis of this here. As I mentioned on Friday Lawrence gives one account of a difficult romance he experienced in this book, Sons and Lovers.  The Into the Breach website gives another perspective on this relationship, from a descendant of the Chambers family.

Posted by bigblue on 20/06/2005 at 10:51 PM
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Sunday, 19 June 2005
Another view of Walker Street

Walker Street

This is a another view of Walker Street, where the famous author, artist and poet DH Lawrence lived for 12 years.  The view has been enhanced by the prose of a less distinguished local resident.  In 1925 Lawrence wrote

Nothing depresses me more than to come home to the place where I was born

yet, as I raised yesterday, he elsewhere referred to the area around Eastwood as the country of my heart, and he returned to it time and again in his novels. He clearly had ambivelent feelings, perhaps becoming more sentimental towards his home county in his latter years.  He died in a sanatorium in Venice on 2 March 1930.  The obituaries were not complimentary. The BBC World service has an interesting synopsis of his life, here, and there is an interesting article at BBC Nottinghamshire, entitled Lawrence in Notts.

Posted by bigblue on 19/06/2005 at 10:43 PM
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The view from Walker Street

Walker Street view

This is the view over the valley from Walker Street in Eastwood.  According to the DH Lawrence heritage sign at this spot:

The countryside around Eastwood held a special fascination for Lawrence and influenced many of his works. As he later expressed in a letter to a friend from abroad, the view from Walker Street meant a great deal to him:
“Go to Walker Street - and stand in front of the third house - and look across at Crich on the left, Underwood in front - High Park Woods and Annesley on the right. I lived in that house from the age of 6 to 18, and I know that view better than any in the world… That’s the country of my heart.”
The settings for nearly all his local stories could be seen from Walker Street.

On the bottom of the sign, someone has scrawled in felt-tip pen: #### you A.S.G.f.y. BiTch. This blog software censors swearwords by replacing them with asterisks, but I think you get the general drift. Today the houses in Walker Street seem to have an air of neglect.

Posted by bigblue on 19/06/2005 at 12:32 AM
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Friday, 17 June 2005
The Congo

The Congo - Eastwood

This mini-supermarket marks the site of the former Congregational Chapel in Eastwood, Nottinghamshire. According to the plaque on the side of the supermarket, it was:

often attended by the Lawrence family. In the late 19th Century Eastwood had a wide variety of churches and chapels. They each offered religious, social and educational support to the community, such as Sunday services, social events, lectures and Sunday School. The chapel was demolished in 1971.

It was at the Congo that D.H. Lawrence first met Jessie Chambers of Haggs Farm. They had a complicated relationship, a version of which was told to the world in Sons and Lovers through the characters of Paul and Miriam.

Immediately behind the chapel was the British School where Lawrence often went to ‘penny readings’ as well as meetings of the literary society. Then from 1902 - 1905 Lawrence taught at this school, which he described later as three years savage teaching of collier lads.

Eastwood today seems to be a mixture of red-brick Victorian buildings and terraced mining houses and flat-pack architecture such as that in the photograph above.

I am coming down with a cold or flu, so am somewhat relieved to have lined up this DH Lawrence special some time in advance.  I have some photos and stories on Lawrence and Eastwood to take me through to 20 June.  Of course Eastwood is probably more famous around these parts for the Ikea store.  The posts I am doing on DH Lawrence were prompted by a Radio 4 Open Book program marking the 75th anniversary of the death of this author.  You can listen to the program for a few more days by following the program link, and selecting listen again.

Posted by bigblue on 17/06/2005 at 09:16 PM
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Thursday, 16 June 2005
Victoria Street

the flat fronted red brick house in Victoria Street

This is the DH Lawrence Birthplace Museum in Eastwood, Nottinghamshire. The plaque on the wall contains the following words:

This is the original mining cottage where D.H. Lawrence was born on 11th September 1885, fourth child to Arthur and Lydia Lawrence. He later referred to it as, the flat fronted red brick house in Victoria Street. It was the first of the Lawrence’s four Eastwood homes and fairly typical of the period. As you continue the trail, you will notice how the Lawrence family’s progress through the houses of Eastwood reflects the ‘improvement’ of their situation.

Lawrence was born into a town that was dictated to by the coal mining industry. It is inspiring to think that a coal miner’s son became one of the greatest writers of the 20th Century. Although he lived much of his adult life abroad, he never forgot his roots and the contrast of beauty and ugliness of the area he had been born into. Eastwood and the surrounding countryside were a source of inspiration throughout his life.

Perhaps I am wrong to discern a patronising tone in the wording used. In Lawrence’s day, in England, the children of coal miners were not considered worthy of a proper education. One might suggest that miners’ children didn’t need inspiring examples, but educational opportunity and that this only started becoming available in the late 19th Century.

Posted by bigblue on 16/06/2005 at 08:55 PM
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