After the poll revealed the ‘Boaty McBoatface‘ is clearly most popular there was debate as to whether it should be adopted or if somethng “more sensible” should be.

It’s a serious debate. It’s a balance between suddenly getting full national publicity and a following in schools or having a more worthy name that no one can remember. There were suggestions of a weekly cartoon with fluffy toy boaty boats that small children could have as they then grow up to be great polar explorers. Wouldn’t get that by being sensible.

I think the giveaway though of how this may go is that even MPs have started to refer to ‘Boaty’:

In other news, as we have been looking far and wide, we can say that H.G. Wells is right and the martians have landed:

Photo 13 of 13.

Tried sending it to ‘‘ but they don’t have any means on their page to accept offerings. They have a page for it, but it doesn’t work. So you’ll just have to enjoy it instead.





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Burning bridges

Apparently burning things cleanses and forms a break with the past. So, partly to move on, partly to free up space and partly to keep warm, we used a different fuel source in the last fire we had.

After years of staring at boxes, I was finally in a physical and mental state to go through the various drafts of my thesis. I have kept one paper copy of each, as I know that electronic copies eventually corrupt, but now the rest are being used as kindling.

And the main fuel is the bench that my parents bought when they married. Dad said he’d reached the point after years of varnish and creosote that it had become so thin in the winter damp that he couldn’t trust it to take his weight. So he has bought a new one, with metal supports, and chopped up the old one which we are burning piece by piece.

It’s upsetting to see them go, but they’re building up dust and beginning to decay – hopefully the photographs and memories won’t.

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Historic coincidences

Been taking an interest in Richard III lately. I read ‘Daughter of Time’ by Josephine Tey a while ago. Now I’ve finished reading ‘Searching for Richard’ which sadly does highlight how well-written so many other things are. But it does put forward many good points and from it I’ve re-watched the documentary about whether Richard could have really charged into battle. This is of interest as history is written by the winners, there’s a lot from the Tudors about how appalling he was, yet York came out immediately on his death saying “King Richard, late mercifully reigning over us, was through great treason . . . piteously slain and murdered, to the great heaviness of this city” which given that there was a new King to urgently cosy up to, was brave of them and showed that they really did miss him.

The Tudor historians reduced Richard’s height and abilities in their writing, while at the same time speaking of a man who was bravely leading cavalry charges and fighting to the last. Whether they were attempting to be honest or to show how brave Henry VII was to beat him is unknown, but what is known is that a man who’s bent double and walks sideways is not going to be able to put on a ‘normal’ full suit of armour, see where he’s going on a horse, stay on that horse, lead cavalry charges and until Bosworth win every battle he was in… which is what Richard is recorded as doing.

Physical built is something I’m interested in as I’m the height of “The average Roman”, of Henry VII, of James I and of Charles I (with his head still on). This made studying the Romans, in particular doing ergonomic assessments of what they were actually capable of, much easier than it otherwise would have been. I also find it interesting going round castle and being the only person not to bang their head on doorframes.

QI challenged the ‘scuttling spider’ saying that actually he did everything normally. Then he was found and it was noted he really had had something different with his spine. This horrified the ‘pro-Richard’/’pro-reassessment’ brigade who were worried that the Tudor ideas would be swallowed unchallenged. It was found that he’d had scoliosis, which had appeared in adulthood but the effect of this was unknown. So it was time for a documentary where someone actually attempting it could be filmed. A volunteer who happened to be a medieval re-enactor who spent time at Bosworth Field leaping about with swords was found to have scoliosis of the same type as Richard. This is wonderfully coincidental, but as the medical doctors involved commented, the really unusual bit wasn’t that, it’s that anyone else in the modern era would have had it treated – it was never mentioned why this bloke hadn’t.

Richard’s legs and arms were normal (if gracile, which is a bit odd for someone trained to heft swords about). He wouldn’t have been bent double, but his lungs were beginning to be compressed and it would have been visible if he naturally bent forward without any clothes on, something Joe Public wouldn’t have seen until he was dead. He had a full range of mobility. If he had armour specially made fo him (which all armour was more or less) the outer plates would have covered the back plate and he’d have looked normal. The Tudor idea that Richard approached Bosworth as a panic was unfounded – the records showed he’d prepared for months and had some serious artillery lined up.

But what the book, the documentary and my own experience and training showed was that even if Richard had won Bosworth, his battling days were numbered. Richard knew that he had to look and act the part of king to remain king. The glorious medieval method of battle, which Richard adopted, coincidentally was the one best suited for his physique: on horseback he sat straight and could manoeuvre, on the ground he was quickly out of breath. He’s reported to charge great lengths into battle, fight close quarters, haul a 6ft8 giant in full armour off his horse. Henry VII in contrast is reported to be off a horse so he could hide behind his hired muscle (something even the Tudor historians reluctantly admit). But at Bosworth for whatever reason he ended up on the ground and died soon after.

But as revealed by later tests, Richard was already dying from Kingship. After all, Henry VII died of natural causes at 52, probably a stroke. Richard had to be seen to eat copious meat, he drank two litres of wine daily, he had intestinal worms, which not only would have given him a cough but would also have led to anaemia, something not helped by having compressed lungs. Eventually he’d have had to do all his ruling sat quietly on a throne. Henry VII famously hired more lawyers than anyone (in Europe) before the modern era and only favoured those in court without legitimate children of their own. Richard established a reputation of being fair, loved and worth defending, which should have led to a ripe old age, but until he was properly established as the only king anyone could think of, how long would he have lasted? Cromwell’s death led to a second civil war as he died too soon.


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Moral photography

Had a moral ponderance yesterday. Took the photo anyway, but it won’t be appearing online. Now, here’s the issue…

Years ago, in an era before vapid multi-shots on selfie sticks, as I toured Poland with friends from university, one of them got stroppy when I went to take a photo of a church. This revealed a difference in culture and upbringing – I had been taught that you do take photos of beautiful buildings so that they can be shared with people who are unable to travel there to see them for themselves in the present day and as a record for those that come after you. She had been taught that it was disrespectful to photograph anywhere religious. Comments about God being everywhere and therefore all photos being blasphemous and how she’d been taught to share His beautiful creation with others meant nothing and did not strike her as remotely hypocritical. So in the end I didn’t get the photo and although I can still see in my mind’s eye the beautiful gold and green, I have no way to share it and no way to pass on that image to people who may never see the original.

It’s in this way that some of the most meaningful images become lost – if everyone feels it’s ‘disrespectful’ to record, then the original is destroyed, it will soon be forgotten.

So yesterday, as the household has to take its ‘days off’ where it can, I finished a morning shift and then we got in the car (Dragon needed a good scampering) and set off for a collection of English Heritage sites. We saw a burial mound with the tunnels still intact, which we explored in the pouring rain.  We visited Nunney Castle, which has got to win some sort of aware for the most unlikely thing to be found in a duck pond. (Seriously, look up some photos. It’s HUGE). We saw the Bratton Camp and White Horse which we saw in the dark. Then as someone was feeling energetic we climbed Cley Hill on the way back and got a panoramic view of Wiltshire.

But first we visited Farleigh Hungerford Castle. The inside of the church has been stripped out but is light and bright in a way that historic churches usually aren’t. I don’t remember having seen painted tombs before. The lad had to be convinced that the tombs were old – the marble looked fresh, the carved lettering was in English and easy to read. The wall paintings were bright. But the ‘Madonna and Child’ altar back had been broken off and stolen, with only a drawing and a story that it had originally existed at all. In the modern era a photograph could have allowed a better understanding of what had been lost or even a (suitably identified) replica to be made. It is only one small artefact, but how large or famous does an artefact have to be before it’s important or a loss when it is destroyed?

The contraversial part is that at Farleigh Hungerford is a set of coffins in a crypt. They are made from lead (now oxidised lead), sealing in the occupant. Over time these have sagged either due to weight of the lead or due to the vacuum caused by the decaying occupant. There are adults and two children, all of which can be identified. The remains themselves cannot be viewed. My studies involved understanding the properties of lead so, of interest and as a means of recording as I’d not seen this before, I took a photo of the coffins in situ.

It is ‘normal’ to have stone tombs on display and to photograph them. People pay respects and touch the wooden coffins of venerated strangers. But what about the lead coffins that have obviously warped to the shape of the body? That, like some Egyptian mummies, have stylised faces added to the surface?

The treatment of human remains is of interest in culture and law. Finding Richard III highlighted this. An author wanted his remains venerated before he was identifed and, rightly, the osteologist was horrified saying that it’s all or nothing – venerate everyone that was found, equally, or not at all.  It was reported that the licence stated the individuals were unidentified. It should have been rewritten the moment one was identified as Richard: what happens to his remains, including tests and final resting place is partly decided by the relatives. When I was still working in this area the rules were also that regardless of identification the remains should be redeposited in a manner in keeping with the beliefs of the person, hence Richard III is now entombed in a Church of England Cathedral, but had a Catholic Mass said over him beforehand.

Arguably to unwrap an identified Mummy for the sake of conservation is in keeping – the ancient belief was that to enter the afterlife the body had to be whole and couldn’t be allowed to rot – there was nothing emphatic about where that pickling and upkeep took place so long as it happened. But what of the lead coffins at Farleigh? They are where they were laid to rest, they were placed somewhere to be viewed, but is it right to photograph them? The remains aren’t visible, but have clearly warped what is. But without a photograph how much information would be lost when one day they become just a story?


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Currently working nightshifts. Working out how many extra I can do without falling over.

In the meantime, to have proper ‘downtime’ in between the sleeping, and as I’m not awake enough to do anything constructive without messing it up (I’ve tried), I’m reading at a voracious rate.

Unravelling Piltdown‘ by John Evangelist Walsh is good. He does make some sweeping statements, although given the size of the evidence without them the book would fill several wheelbarrows. Being a fan of Sherlock Holmes I was able to appreciate his comment that in contemporary writing it can be seen that various Sussex antiquarians of the time could see something wasn’t right, but couldn’t prove it either way: as he notes, Conan Doyle, who lived in Sussex, was interested in archaeology and was even suggested as a co-conspirator, has Sherlock naming all the promient discoveries of the era but ‘forgets’ to name Piltdown. Having read all of the Sherlock Holmes stories I can support this. It doesn’t strike you at the time because the outcome is so obvious now, but at the time it should have been named, as it was in The Forsyte Saga, written by the contemporary John Galsworthy, apparently with no links to Sussex.

Currently I’m reading ‘The King’s grave: the search for Richard III‘. Written before he was reburied it covers the finding of Richard. Throughout there are repeated accounts of the author “knowing he was there” because of “feelings” she was getting.

It puts into stark contrast the book I have just finished reading that I am still finding haunting due to the injustice of the unsaid: Philomena. Philomena’s son Anthony was taken from her and adopted in the US, eventually becoming the government’s Chief Counsel. As he was taken so young, his name was changed and the records blocked it was virtually impossible that he and his mother would find each other. What is surprising isn’t just his life or that he was found, but what he used as the trail of breadcrumbs to lead to himself.

In other news, had a chat with our local Church of England Vicar. She was horrified I had been appointed a Godparent without being Christened. It’s not allowed in the Church of England. Instead, what is allowed, is the appointment of Godparents who aren’t present because of “more important” things like darts matches and not being bothered. So long as they jumped through the hoop and have the bit of paper, that’s all that counts, regardless of what they’ve done with it since.I’m not the only one unimpressed with this stance.

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Walkers’ changing opinions

Just been listening to ‘The Now Show’ in which Zoe Lyons talks about the obesity problem in the UK. She notes that moving children from ‘screens’ to ‘outside’ could be the way forward.

Recently I was looking through backcopies of the Ramblers magazine ‘Walk’ and feel there’s a further underlying problem. There’s a letter to the inhouse medical doctor asking if it’s safe to take children walking. It’s not specified whether the writer wants them to go walking or is looking for a reason to keep them at home.

The doctor, possibly through gritted teeth and to make sure that as many people read this as possible before they pick up the same notion, explains clearly that as the NHS says that under 5s should have three hours of exercise a day and that over 5s should continue to have at least 60 minutes daily (p83 Autumn 2012), walking should be encouraged. While elsewhere in the magazine (p70 Winter 2010) it’s recognised that the logistics and strain on everyone involved would mean that taking a toddler backpacking across the coast-to-coast could be ‘over-ambitious’, suggestion is made of the flatter, shorter and with-baggage-carrying-service Hadrian’s Wall walk or Dales Way.

This reminds me of a parent years ago attempting to stop their child doing ‘gymnastics’ at school “because [they’ll] damage [themself]”. This wasn’t Olga Korbut level movement and impact, but attempting forward rolls on mats when the child was ready to. How the child was ever expected to develop gross motor skills without movement wasn’t stated.

[Although coincidently there was negativity expressed at any other idea that allowed the child to leave the house and not remain staring silently at a screen under supervision. After all, if outside without parental supervision, a child might begin to say all sorts of things about what’s happening behind closed doors, can’t have that now…]

And perhaps that’s the answer? That children are so removed from danger that any potential harm is rated the same and as extreme. Not spotting dangers means parental irresponsibility, so some must be found. The idea that sunlight and lactose are dangerous has led to increasing numbers of children with rickets (BMJ 2010) as they have insufficient sunlight, exercise and dietary vitamin D. And now the danger has come full circle – if there’s nothing out there except the child, the child is a danger to themselves.

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Saga complete

Right now it really hurts.

But it’ll wear off, so that’s ok.

And when it does I can grin again. Not that I stopped grinning before. But this time I can’t pass wool thread through the gap in my teeth.

At an advanced age, the Tooth Fairy has revisited me, and this time did not take a tooth and leave sixpence. I have regrown a tooth. Literally. The crown is porcelain, the root is titanium, but the skull it is sat in is all mine now, after my own bone grew through a graft. I have an embedded titanium root with its own blood supply.

I can see that it all looks a bit extravagant, but given the size of the hole on the x-ray after the abscess blew out and an argument about structural integrity of everything around it, I decided that the 21st century option of growing back the missing bone was going to win over a denture every time. I had said years ago that due to where it was I wouldn’t have an implant done, but then I wasn’t expecting the infected hole to come out in three places or any of the aftermath that followed.

So now I’m waiting for the gum to heal back up and then it’s complete. Even if it got infected now, my bone can’t reject my own bone.

It must be looking fairly good – people keep asking how they get theirs done.

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