Tag Archives: uk

First recorded trainspotter was a 14-year old girl

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.

Source – Northern Echo,  27 Aug 2014

 

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Concerned Clowns Call For End To Copycat Crime wave

Britain’s clowns fear their good name has been tarnished after police forces around the country revealed incidents of people in costume scaring members of the public.

The copycat craze – believed to have been started by a man known on Facebook as the Northampton Clown – involves people dressing as clowns to surprise passers-by in public places.

Several police forces have issued warnings after reported sightings and now details released under the Freedom of Information Act have revealed the extent of the trend.

These include reports to Derbyshire police of a clown carrying a knife and incidents in South Yorkshire of a clown staring through the windows of people’s homes. Those two forces recorded 29 and 28 clown-related incidents respectively.

Tony Eldridge, secretary of Clowns International which represents the entertainers in Britain, said the situation had escalated beyond harmless fun. 

Eldridge, whose clown name is Bluebottle, said: “This is doing clowning no favours and is harming society.

“The people behind it might see it as a bit of a laugh, but for the victims it can be a horrible experience.

“The fear of clowns – coulrophobia – is a real thing and some people will react very badly to this. Not to mention people who are elderly or vulnerable.

“This has nothing to do with clowning, it’s a small group of people with stupid views and it spoils the fun for everybody else.”

Most legitimate entertainers followed a code of clown conduct which included not wearing their costume in public, he said.

“We have to reclaim clowning as a positive thing which brings happiness.”

The trend first emerged when the Northampton Clown rose to prominence over the summer, gaining nearly 200,000 “likes” on Facebook.

The person responsible posts photos of himself in public places. He most recently uploaded a photo taken outside a brewery in the town on 13 December.

He defended his behaviour, writing on Facebook: “Yes, there have been copycats, but that’s not me.”

The craze has spread with police in Lancashire reassuring the public after speculation about sightings involving a Stephen King-style clown.

A force spokesman said: “We have had no first-hand reports of any incidents of violence or intimidation.”

Last month Norfolk Police told members of the public to ignore clowns in the street after a number of sightings around King’s Lynn.

These included a person in a “full clown outfit” with a red suit and red hair chasing members of the public.
Superintendent Carl Edwards said no one had been injured or assaulted.

Dressing as a clown was not illegal, he said, but the force would offer those behind the make-up “strong words of advice”.

Sally Beadle, also known as Crazy Bananas, works as a clown in the King’s Lynn area.

She knows somebody who was chased by a clown in Downham Market, Norfolk, and said they were left shaken by the experience.

“Before this happened I would pop into the petrol station in costume on my way to a job but now I can’t do that,” she said. “Even my own children who grew up around clowns have been scared by this.

“It’s more than just a job, it’s something we love, but people’s reaction to us has changed – I was getting messages on Facebook asking if I was responsible for scaring people.

“This is my business and I don’t like frightening people.”

Responding to the freedom of information request, South Wales police confirmed it had received a report of somebody acting suspiciously while wearing a clown mask.

Derbyshire police received 29 reports of clown sightings after social media claims that a man in the Nottingham area was dressing up and carrying balloons and a knife.

One report read: “Caller scared as someone had tried to get in to their house – posted on Facebook that a clown had been going around village trying door handles.”

Another said: “Caller reported having received numerous calls from concerned parents about a clown going up to the windows of houses brandishing a gun and knife frightening the residents.”

South Yorkshire police recorded 28 incidents involving people dressed as clowns.

These included a clown standing in a park, jumping out at somebody in the street and staring through the window of a house.

Other police forces also recorded incidents involving people dressed as clowns, although not all were linked to the craze.

Sussex police received reports of three incidents involving the characters, including a speeding offence involving a motorcyclist in full clown costume.

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MPs banned from touching statues

Historic statues of Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher could be cordoned off to prevent MPs from touching their feet for luck.

The tradition of politicians touching images of former prime ministers as they enter the Commons chamber is a gesture believed to bring good luck. But the parliamentary authorities have warned that the statues of Winston Churchill, Clement Attlee, Margaret Thatcher and David Lloyd George are now “seriously under threat” from the repeated wear and tear.

A “do not touch” sign will be put permanently on display and new MPs will not be informed about the tradition.

The House’s deputy curator, Melanie Unwin, told the cross-party Works of Art Committee: “Four statues (Winston Churchill, Clement Attlee, Margaret Thatcher and David Lloyd George) in the Members’ Lobby are seriously under threat due to the tradition of touching the toes of the statues for good luck.

“There are now cracks and small holes on the surface of the Churchill statue and substantial loss of surface texture on other statues.”

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Anti-Thatcher T-Shirts Upset Right Wing

T-shirts bearing messages anticipating the imminent (hopefully) demise of  Margaret Thatcher have been removed from sale outside the conference hall hosting the TUC Congress, in Brighton, amongst accusations of being “tasteless”. They were being sold to raise funds for the Derbyshire Unemployed Workers Centre.

One features a white cross on a grave with “Thatcher” across it, and the words: “A generation of trade unionists will dance on her grave”.

Another  has an image of Mrs Thatcher’s spitting image puppet, with the words “Hey ho the witch is dead”.

I’m sorry, but that’s just wrong.

It should be “Hey ho the wicked witch is dead”.  And even that is questionable , as it defames by association practitioners of witchcraft.

A much better wording would have been  “Hey ho the wicked bitch is dead”. Maybe I should have a few made up…

Of course there’s been condemnations from Tory people and some Labour people (who are pretty much the same in these days of a new political class of interchangeable men  – and women – in suits and bad haircuts), but I dont think they realise the depth of hatred that Thatcher still inspires. Most of the UK’s problems today stem from her government’s policies.

Apparently we’re supposed to be sorry for her now that she’s suffering from dementia… all I can say is that the diagnosis came 30 years too late. There always seemed to be a taint of madness around the woman, and I recall the height of her power as a pretty frightening time, when  even a nuclear war seemed possible… along with her equally demented pal Ronald Reagan she seemed quite capable of starting one. In the event she just let him park his weapons of mass destruction here, and concentrated going to war with Argentina over a few rocks in the South Atlantic no-one knew were “ours” anyway.

But in any case, this current manufactured outrage about anti-Thatcher t-shirts is old hat. They were around in the 1980s, at the height of her dismantling of the welfare state, NHS, mining, shipbuilding, steel industries, public transport, council housing, etc. I had one and wore it with pride. It’s long gone now of course, but the same design was also produced on badges, and I still have one of those.

Here it is – a genuine piece of popular political comment from back in the day.

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Incidentally, if you want to keep up with her current status, check out  isthatcherdeadyet.co.uk

http://www.isthatcherdeadyet.co.uk/

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