After months of relative solitude on an island off Northumberland, Wesley Davies has just set off for London.
He is delivering a hide with character, which shelters wardens on the RSPB reserve of Coquet Island off Amble during 24-hour watches to guard against egg thieves.
The hide, which will be re-erected as part of a London festival, mimics the appearance of the lighthouse on Coquet Island.
It was made by award-winning blacksmith Stephen Lunn, from Red Row in Northumberland.
The 6ft by 6ft structure includes a metal wood-burning stove in the shape of a clam shell, also made by Stephen, who is a volunteer on the island.
It replaced a stove in the shape of a puffin, called the puffin puffin.
Since it was built in 2005, the hide has gathered eccentricities, such as a lighthouse top and a glass disco ball.
This reflects the light at dusk and dawn to signal the start and end of the overnight watching shifts.
An old paraffin lamp completes the decor.
The 24-hour watches during the seabird breeding season are necessary because the island is home to the only Roseate Tern colony in the UK.
The hide, which was erected after roseate eggs were stolen nine years ago, is taken down in the autumn and stored until next spring.
But for 11 days it will be a feature of the Migration Festival at The Forge arts and music venue in Camden in London.
One of the festival events will see 11 artists producing work on the theme of extinct birds.
Visitors will be invited to sit in the hide to observe the artists as they create in the Ghosts of Gone Birdsevent.
Wesley, assistant warden on Coquet Island, said: “What began life as a basic shelter has gradually developed its own unique character and evolved into a work of art. I think it will look very at home in the Forge.
“It’s a miniature version of the lighthouse and its character had grown.
“Going to London is a wonderful journey for the hide to go on. It is going to be fascinating for people in London to see it, and hopefully they will love it.”
Chris Aldhous, curator of Ghost of Gone Birds, said: ‘“The Live Art Studio at the Forge offers visitors the perfect opportunity to immerse themselves in the Coquet Island experience, while watching the Ghosts artists in their natural habitat, breathing life back into Gone Birds.”
Charlotte Caird, artistic director of the Forge Venue, said: “The Camden Migration Festival is an exploration into the migration of birds and people through the arts, celebrating cultural expansion but also considering its environmental impact, particularly on bird extinction.
“The bird hide represents the positive impact that man can have on bird populations, as well as being an interesting and rather beautiful piece of furniture, full of weather-beaten stories and a real-life connection to migratory birds and those who choose to protect them.”
The hide’s journey from Coquet Island to Camden has been partly funded by Northumberland Tourism.
It has been a good season for the breeding birds of Coquet Island. The 93 pairs of roseate terns was a 19% increase on last year.
Arctic Terns with 1,464 pairs were also 19% up, and the common terns total of 1.196 pairs was an increase of almost 15%.
“It’s been a very good season, with good food supplies and weather, and no disturbance,” said Wesley.
It may come as a shock to most people’s preconceptions – but it seems the very first trainspotter belonged to an age when the anorak hadn’t even been heard of.
In fact the modern stereotype of a true ‘spotter couldn’t be further from the origins of the oft-maligned hobby, according to research by experts at the National Railway Museum.
As the York museum prepares for a special Trainspotting season, its team has come across a reference to a trainspotter that dates back as far as 1861.
And the person who was recording locomotive numbers as they passed a station in London, was not a man clad in an anorak, but a teenage girl named Fanny Johnson.
The 14-year-old’s notebook about Great Western locos passing Westbourne Park station in 1861, is referenced in a 1935 article in the GWR magazine, and is the earliest evidence found to date of trainspotting, the collecting of locomotive numbers.
Associate curator Bob Gwynne said: “This is exciting because trainspotting is perceived largely to be a 20th century hobby for men, although railway enthusiasm has existed as long as the railways itself.
“This mention of a notebook titled ‘Names of Engines on the Great Western that I have Seen’ turns this stereotype on its head.”
He added: “The hobby of taking numbers is often thought to originate with the ‘ABC books’ first printed in 1942. However it is clear that ‘spotting certainly started much earlier than that. We would just love it if someone had Fanny Johnson’s journal and was prepared to show it to us.”
The researchers came across the reference in advance of the museum’s Trainspotting season, which will run from September 26 to the beginning of March.
It will explore what was once a very common hobby. Among those involved is Yorkshire-based poet and broadcaster Ian McMillan.
“Trains are my second home and my office space, my thinking room and my window on the world, so I’m really happy to be associated with this wonderful project,” he said.
With trainspotting being firmly lodged in the nation’s psyche as an activity for men clutching notebooks on station platforms, the museum plans to challenge people’s perceptions through a full programme of events and activities.
A new art commission by acclaimed artist Andrew Cross will use a blend of personal and archival material, revealing trainspotting histories which “connect time, place and memory” while a major new filmwork will feature footage from the UK, America and mainland Europe.
The medieval Black Death led to better health for future generations, according to an analysis of skeletons in London cemeteries.
Tens of millions of people died in the epidemic, but their descendants lived longer and had better health than ever before, a study shows, survivors benefited from rising standards of living and better diets in the aftermath of the disaster.
The improvements in health only occurred because of the death of huge numbers of people, said a US scientist.
It is evidence of how infectious disease has the power to shape patterns of health in populations, said Dr Sharon DeWitte of South Carolina University.
The Black Death killed 30-to-50% of the European population in the 14th Century, causing terror as victims broke out in lumps and black spots, then died within days.
The elderly and the sick were most at risk of catching the bacterial infection, which was probably spread through sneezes and coughs, according to the latest theory.
The outbreak had a huge impact on society, leaving villages to face starvation, with no workers left to plough the fields or bring in the harvest.
However, despite analysis of historical records, little is known about the general health and death rates of the population, before and after the disease struck.
Dr DeWitte investigated how the deaths of frail people during the Black Death affected the population in London after the epidemic.
She analysed nearly 600 skeletons buried in London cemeteries to estimate age ranges, birth rates and causes of death for medieval Londoners living before and after the epidemic.
Samples dating several hundred years after the Black Death suggest survival and general health had improved dramatically by the 16th Century, with people living much longer than before the epidemic broke out.
The study, published in PLOS ONE journal, highlights the power of infectious diseases to shape patterns of health and population levels across history, said Dr DeWitte.
“It really does emphasise how dramatically the Black Death shaped the population,” she told BBC News.
“The period I’m looking at after the Black Death, from about 200 hundred years after the epidemic. What I’m seeing in that time period is very clear positive changes in demography and health.“
She said although general health might have been improving, the aftermath of the epidemic would have been “horrifying and devastating” for those who survived.
“Those improvements in health only occurred because of the death of huge numbers of people,” Dr DeWitte said.
“This study suggests that even in the face of major threats to health, such as repeated plague outbreaks, several generations of people who lived after the Black Death were healthier in general than people who lived before the epidemic,” she added.
The bacterium that caused the Black Death, Yersinia Pestis, has evolved and mutated, and is still killing today.
According to the World Health Organization, the modern day disease is spread to humans either by the bite of infected fleas or when handling infected rodents.
Recent outbreaks have shown that plague may reoccur in areas that have long remained silent.
A species of foreign snakes that are said to be capable of crushing small children to death are on the loose in North London.
Over the last few weeks, 30 Aesculupian snakes, which can grow up to two metres in length, have been spotted up trees, rooftops and climbing up the drains of houses around the Regent’s Canal area.
The snakes that are thought to originate from the former Yugoslavia have been known to attack small dogs and their numbers now seem to be growing in the capital.
Tales of snakes being spotted around the Regent’s Canal area began in the 90s, but it was not until the head keeper of reptiles at London Zoo spotted one that they were confirmed as the Aesculupian.
Since then there have been a number of sightings across and these have increased in frequency over the last couple of months.
This has led to some residents fear that they could start entering houses and causing distress.
Mum-of-three Sylvia Taylor, 33, told the Daily Star: “If they are capable of killing small animals then surely they could constrict small children?”
Aesculupians are known for loving milder temperatures than most other reptiles and usually find their homes along river beds or streams, making Regent’s Canal the perfect place for them to live.
There are many theories as to how the snakes first got to living on the banks of Regent’s. One popular tale is that they were released on the quiet by the Inner London Education Authority as part of a secret scientific experiment.
Secret scientific experiment or not, since being introduced to London they have succeeded in making the capital their home and their numbers continue to grow.
While the large snakes have been known to attack small dogs and occasionally babies, they are more adept at feasting on small rodents and birds – so London’s pigeons and rats watch out.
1381 – Wat Tyler murdered. A leader of the 1381 Peasants’ Revolt, he marched a group of protesters from Canterbury to the capital to oppose the institution of a poll tax.
While the brief rebellion enjoyed early success, Tyler was killed by officers of King Richard II during negotiations at Smithfield in London.
1785 – Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier and Pierre Romain became the first-ever known casualties of an air crash when their hot air balloon exploded during their attempt to cross the English Channel.
After making some progress, a change of wind direction pushed them back to land some 5 km from their starting point.
The balloon suddenly deflated (without the envelope catching fire) and crashed near Wimereux in the Pas-de-Calais, from an estimated height of 1,500 feet.
A commemorative obelisk was later erected at the site of the crash.
1878 – Eadweard Muybridge, an English photographer, took a series of photographs to prove that all four feet of a horse leave the ground when it runs; the study became the basis of motion pictures.
1381 – The Peasants Revolt led by Wat Tyler entered London and, joined by many local townsfolk, attacked the gaols, destroyed the Savoy Palace and the Temple Inns of Court, set fire to law books and killed anyone associated with the royal government.
1884 – Gerald Gardner born. English Wiccan, as well as an author and an amateur anthropologist and archaeologist.
He was instrumental in bringing the Contemporary Pagan religion of Wicca to public attention, writing some of its definitive religious texts and founding the tradition of Gardnerian Wicca.
1184 BC – Trojan War: Troy was sacked and burned, according to calculations by Eratosthenes.
In Greek mythology, the Trojan War was waged against the city of Troy by the Achaeans (Greeks) after Paris of Troy took Helen from her husband Menelaus king of Sparta.
The war is one of the most important events in Greek mythology and has been narrated through many works of Greek literature, most notably through Homer’s Iliad and the Odyssey. The Iliad relates a part of the last year of the siege of Troy; the Odyssey describes Odysseus’s journey home.
Other parts of the war are described in a cycle of epic poems, which have survived through fragments. Episodes from the war provided material for Greek tragedy and other works of Greek literature, and for Roman poets including Virgil and Ovid.
1936 – The International Surrealist Exhibition opened in London, from 11 June to 4 July 1936 at the New Burlington Galleries.
The exhibition was opened in the presence of about two thousand people by André Breton. The average attendance for the whole of the Exhibition was about a thousand people per day.
During the course of the Exhibition, the following lectures were delivered to large audiences:
June 16 — André Breton — Limites non-frontières du Surréalisme. June 19 — Herbert Read — Art and the Unconscious. June 24 — Paul Éluard — La Poésie surréaliste. June 26 — Hugh Sykes Davies — Biology and Surrealism. July 1 — Salvador Dalí — Fantômes paranoïaques authentiques.
Dali’s lecture was delivered whilst wearing a deep-sea diving suit. Nearly suffocating during the presentation, Dali had to be rescued by the young poet David Gascoyne, who arrived with a spanner to release him from the diving helmet.
1963 – Alabama Governor George Wallace stood at the door of Foster Auditorium at the University of Alabama in an attempt to block two black students, Vivian Malone and James Hood, from attending that school.
Later in the day, accompanied by federalized National Guard troops, they are able to register.
323 BC – Alexander the Great died. King of Macedon, a state in northern ancient Greece.
By the age of thirty, he had created one of the largest empires of the ancient world, stretching from the Ionian Sea to the Himalayas. He was undefeated in battle and is considered one of history’s most successful commanders.
Alexander died in the palace of Nebuchadnezzar II, in Babylon, aged 32.
1884 – Leone Sextus Denys Oswolf Fraudatifilius Tollemache-Tollemache de Orellana Plantagenet Tollemache-Tollemache born.
English soldier, here solely because of his name. He died on active service in 1917, though of influenza rather than a bullet.
1910 – Howlin’ Wolf born. American blues singer, guitarist and harmonica player.
With a booming voice and looming physical presence, Wolf is commonly ranked among the leading performers in electric blues; musician and critic Cub Koda declared, “no one could match Howlin’ Wolf for the singular ability to rock the house down to the foundation while simultaneously scaring its patrons out of its wits.”
A number of songs written or popularized by him —such as “Smokestack Lightnin'”, “Back Door Man”, “Killing Floor” and “Spoonful”—have become blues and blues rock standards.
At 6 feet, 6 inches (197 cm) and close to 300 pounds (136 kg), he was an imposing presence with one of the loudest and most memorable voices of all the “classic” 1950s Chicago blues singers. Sam Phillips once remarked, “When I heard Howlin’ Wolf, I said, ‘This is for me. This is where the soul of man never dies.'”
1940 – Marcus Garvey died. Jamaican political leader, publisher, journalist, entrepreneur, and orator who was a staunch proponent of the Black nationalism and Pan-Africanism movements, to which end he founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League (UNIA-ACL).
He founded the Black Star Line, part of the Back-to-Africa movement, which promoted the return of the African diaspora to their ancestral lands. The Rastafari movement proclaims Garvey as a prophet
.Garvey died in London in 1940 after two strokes. Due to travel restrictions during World War II, his body was interred in London and he was buried at Kensal Green Cemetery. In 1964, his remains were exhumed and taken to Jamaica, where the government proclaimed him Jamaica’s first national hero and re-interred him at a shrine in the National Heroes Park.
1946 – Jack Johnson died. American boxer.
At the height of the Jim Crow era, Johnson became the first African American world heavyweight boxing champion (1908–1915). In a documentary about his life, Ken Burns notes that “for more than thirteen years, Jack Johnson was the most famous and the most notorious African-American on Earth.”
Johnson died in a car crash on U.S. Highway 1 near Franklinton, North Carolina, a small town near Raleigh, after racing angrily from a diner that refused to serve him.
Miles Davis‘s 1971 album entitled A Tribute to Jack Johnson was inspired by the boxer. The end of the record features the actor Brock Peters (as Johnson) saying: “ I’m Jack Johnson. Heavyweight champion of the world. I’m black. They never let me forget it. I’m black all right! I’ll never let them forget it!”
1837 – Joseph Grimaldi died. English actor, comedian and dancer, who became the most popular English entertainer of the Regency era.
In the early 1800s, he expanded the role of Clown in the harlequinade that formed part of British pantomimes, notably at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane and the Sadler’s Wells and Covent Garden theatres, and became so dominant on the London comic stage that harlequinade Clowns became known as “Joey”, and both the nickname and Grimaldi’s whiteface make-up design were, and still are, used by other types of clowns. He also originated catchphrases such as “Here we are again!”, which continues to feature in modern pantomimes.
In his last years, Grimaldi lived in relative obscurity and became a depressed, impoverished alcoholic, dying at home in Islington in 1837, aged 59.
1872 – W. Heath Robinson born. English cartoonist and illustrator, best known for drawings of eccentric machines.
In the UK, the term “Heath Robinson” has entered the language as a description of any unnecessarily complex and implausible contraption, although it is perhaps more often used in relation to temporary fixes using ingenuity and whatever is to hand, often string and tape, or unlikely cannibalisations.
Its popularity is undoubtedly linked to Second World War Britain’s shortages and the need to “make do and mend“.
1996 – Timothy Leary died. American psychologist and writer, known for his advocacy of psychedelic drugs.
During a time when drugs such as LSD and psilocybin were legal, Leary conducted experiments at Harvard University under the Harvard Psilocybin Project, resulting in the Concord Prison Experiment and the Marsh Chapel Experiment.
Both studies produced useful data, but Leary and his associate Richard Alpert were fired from the university nonetheless because of the public controversy surrounding their research.
Leary believed LSD showed therapeutic potential for use in psychiatry. He popularized catchphrases that promoted his philosophy such as “turn on, tune in, drop out” (a phrase given to Leary by Marshall McLuhan); “set and setting“; and “think for yourself and question authority“.
He also wrote and spoke frequently about transhumanist concepts involving space migration, intelligence increase and life extension (SMI²LE), and developed the eight-circuit model of consciousness in his book Exo-Psychology (1977).
During the 1960s and 1970s, he was arrested often enough to see the inside of 29 different prisons worldwide. President Richard Nixon once described Leary as “the most dangerous man in America“.
His death was videotaped for posterity at his request, capturing his final words. During his final moments, he said, “Why not?” to his son Zachary. He uttered the phrase repeatedly, in different intonations, and died soon after. His last word, according to Zach, was “beautiful.”
Seven grams of Leary’s ashes were arranged to be buried in space aboard a rocket carrying the remains of 24 others including Gene Roddenberry (creator of Star Trek), Gerard O’Neill (space physicist), and Krafft Ehricke (rocket scientist). A Pegasus rocket containing their remains was launched on April 21, 1997, and remained in orbit for six years until it burned up in the atmosphere.