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Bedtime story

Goddard Oxenbridge

This creepy dude is from the church of St George in Brede, where yesterday’s creepy box came from.

Things we know about him that are probably true: his name was Sir Goddard Oxenbridge. Known as the Giant of Brede, he was a powerful but a pious and peace-loving man. He was knighted by Henry VIII in 1509 and his daughter was the Princess Elizabeth’s governess. He died in 1531 and is buried in the church (presumably, right here under this thing).

Things we know about him that are probably not true: he was seven feet tall and he ate children. He had a crow for a familiar and was enormously strong. He could not be harmed by metal weapons.

Children from all over Sussex disappeared without a trace for years and reappeared on his table, but Oxenbridge was so powerful that no-one dared complain to the king.

So one day the children of the county took matters into their own hands. They rolled a huge barrel of mead (or perhaps beer) to the Groaning Bridge on Stubb Lane and lay in wait. The giant loved him some booze. He found the barrel, drank it up and passed out dead drunk in the middle of the bridge.

Then the children leapt out with a special saw they had made out of wood — the children of West Sussex took one end, the children of East Sussex took the other — and sawed that sonofabitch right in half. You can see the blood stains to this day.

Mmmmm…okay, it’s rust. And the story probably comes from the smugglers who used Oxenbridge’s old estate, Brede Place, to store contraband when it fell into disuse in the 18th Century. They put it about that Goddard’s ghost still haunted the place to keep people away.

But there he is in the church. And the Groaning Bridge is still there. And Brede Place is still there, and persistently reported to be haunted over many years. So hold a happy thought…

August 31, 2010 — 10:22 pm
Comments: 7

I think the vicar sleeps in it

An old chest in a church we visited today. No idea what they use it for or how old it is, though this is an old, old one. Parts of this church are apparently Anglo Saxon — the parish was mentioned in the time of Alfred the Great (848-900) — but most of it was merely Norman. Ha!

It’s a three-day weekend here in Limeyland, so today continued our rounds of the Summer festivities. In addition to village fêtes, there’s also a tradition of church flower festivals, and some villages may have both a fête and a flower festival as separate events. Today we went to a flower festival.

This is an odd one. The church picks a theme — the one we saw today was “nursery rhymes” — and the ladies (presumably) make little tableaux and flower arrangements on the topic all around the inside of the church.

You’re handed a program explaining what’s what and by whom, and you walk around the church eyeballing stuff. Then you sit in the pews and drink tea and eat cake.

The cat and the fiddle on the high altar and fruitcake on somebody’s grave.

The English are weird.

August 30, 2010 — 9:43 pm
Comments: 24

Satan’s Circus is back in town!

Okay, okay…it’s really Santus Circus. Still, it’s awfully Bradbury.

Went tonight. Loved it.

This funky little troupe tours all over Southeast England in Summer. Has done for more years than we’ve been here. We go when it reaches Rye, which is always late August. It pretty much heralds the end of Summer for us.

As the circus hardware has gotten scruffier, the acts have gotten better. It’s the opening up of Eastern Europe and the Far East, I think — they have powerful circus traditions and lots of people looking for work.

This year, the stars were a troupe of acrobats from China, and man did they earn their billing. They did, like, six different performances in between the other acts.

Adorable little monkeys. I really, really wanted to take them home as pets, but Uncle B said they eat too much.

Poor Uncle B. He’s having a shit time of it lately. This morning, he woke to find his laptop computer had fallen six inches off the foot-stool and his brand new hard drive seized up tighter’n a tick. Stone dead. That’s his second new one this month; the first was faulty. (Yeah. You remember how much fun it is to reload your operating system from scratch).

Don’t get me started about the exhaust system falling off the car.

In conclusion — SQUEEEE:

Have a good weekend, everyone! Hey, our friend Monotone the Elderish has started a blog. Go pester him for a while.

August 27, 2010 — 10:29 pm
Comments: 19

Join us, won’t you?

Here you go — courtesy of Uncle B — six minutes of our adventure on the Kent and East Sussex. All the good video editing software was on the desktop machine, so he had to cobble this together using free crap. There was much growlings and swearings.

The videos in the YouTube sidebar aren’t ours, but there’s lots of good locomotive porn in there if you’ve a mind to see more of the K&ESR.

Not into trains? No problem! How about this adorable orphaned baby stoat raised in captivity and then released in the wild?

Yes, putting in all these text links was a huge pain in the ass, but WordPress auto-embeds the video if you don’t.

Three more links.

August 26, 2010 — 9:41 pm
Comments: 23

Awesome train set is *awesome*

awesome train set

What, geeks like trains? Huh. Who knew?

It rained like a bastard all day today and we did exactly Jack and Shit, so have some more trains, Poindexters.

This here is from the Romney Marsh Model Engineering Society, which we visited last year and I somehow never got around to writing about. It is huge. They have six permanent tracks in three gauges.

On the day we visited, they were running about five of these little steam engines and one electric. Plus a bunch of tiny models on the track in the center.

The tracks are huge. Did I mention huge? Here’s a screencap from Google maps. I’m pretty sure those houses at the bottom are semi-detached (what we would call duplexes).

I was going to call it the awesomest train set ever, but this being England, undoubtedly…no.

August 25, 2010 — 9:22 pm
Comments: 20

WOOoooooWOOOO!

We went and rode the puffer-trains today!

There are “heritage railways” all over Britain. This one is the Kent and East Sussex, which runs ten whole miles, from the lovely old town of Tenterden to the lovely old castle of Bodiam.

A long drive to a short train ride — which somehow abuses the very notion of transportation — but this one is a lovely run across open fields. And we had sammiches and tea and sunnenshine and…it was very nice.

Most of the things we do for fun here are almost entirely run by volunteers. From the steam lines to the old country houses, most of the work — including the really back-breaking work — is done by armies of unpaid staff.

I wonder if that’s taken into account when they tally up which countries give most to charity.

August 24, 2010 — 9:39 pm
Comments: 29

Just trying to get some of that sweet, sweet image search traffic

Y’all know what you’re looking at here, right? Thanks to Pablo for the suggestion.

Speaking of nicking pictures off the internet (you don’t think I keep surplus day-old chicks in the kitchen, do you?), they set Shepard Fairey‘s trial date today.

He’s the dude who created the HOPE poster that went viral during the Obama campaign. Problem is, he pinched his photo reference from AP.

There’s much about this case I don’t get. Fairey sued AP first, to establish himself as the author of the work — why would he do that? — so this is the AP countersuit. In the initial case, Fairey claimed it was some other photo he used — but that also belonged to AP, so I don’t get why a) he used that as a defense and b) the fact he was wrong is a legal problem for him.

Incidentally, illustrators nick photos all the time to use as reference (and Photoshoppists live to nick photos). In the days before Google, most professional illustrators kept a clip file — thousands of book and magazine photos cut out and filed away for future reference.

I inherited the kernel of mine from the RISD library, which was clearing out some of its gigantic room-sized clipfile. Mine filled four filing cabinets in its final glory, and it hurt like a bastiche to throw it away.

You’re only supposed to refresh your memory from a file photo, though. If the resemblance of your final illo is recognizably close to the reference, the original owner has a case against you. I don’t think there’s ever been much actual suin’ going on, but it’s a sort of squidgy area of law.

Me, I cheerfully nick photos for blog posts, but never, EVER for something I’m going to sell. That’s not actual legal advice — unless you’re covered under parody or something, it’s equally illegal whether you make money or not — but I figure: no moneys, no incentive.

My general sympathies might be with Fairey on this one — and not just because we went to the same art school — but it turns out he’s a real asshole when other people copy HIS stuff. So I hope he gets his pansy ass kicked.

Final question: with a name like Shepard Fairey, did this guy pretty much have to go to art school?

August 23, 2010 — 10:01 pm
Comments: 23

Hey, they never let me take home medical waste before

Poor monkey. Now she’s down to two teeth.

See how there’s really no root there at all? That’s down to the dental resorption problem she’s had for years. The vet said it was the easiest dental procedure he’s ever done. Pop.

So they sent her home with antibiotics and instructions to let her rest for a bit. Said she’d be groggy and probably not hungry until tonight.

Sure enough, she was a bit unsteady on her feet when she got out of the carrier, but she did cry to go out, so we let her. Half an hour later, Uncle B sticks his head in the door and says, “you won’t believe this — she’s at the back door with a big fat mouse in her mouth.”

So the answer is yes — she can kill and eat mice with just two fangs. While bombed out of her skull on kitty smack.

Incidentally, August 20 is World Mosquito Day. Sir Ronald Ross of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine discovered the role of the Anopheles mosquito in the transmission of malaria on this day in 1897.

Not so long ago, malaria was endemic in our little corner of England and in the rural South of the US, where I was born. My grandfather lived with the malaria he caught in New Orleans in the 20th Century.

Worth remembering that the Third World really does have legitimate grievances against us in the Industrialized West, one of which is we won’t let them use some fucking DDT just until they can get their malaria problem under control. You know, like we did. In my lifetime.

I’m guessing if the dreaded dengue fever continues to turn up in Florida, it’ll be “second look at DDT” before you can say “Western hypocrisy.”

August 20, 2010 — 9:28 pm
Comments: 36

Ringling Brothers’ amazing weasel-stretching lady

Just kidding! Ferret hotel.

And speaking of goofy animals, my cat Charlotte broke one of her last four teeth some time between last night and this morning. It’s poking out of her face at a stupid angle.

“You just want to grab it and give it a…you know?” the ridiculously young vet said to me, making a yoinking gesture.

Not funny, though. It clearly hurts something fierce, because she’s drooling in lieu of eating. First thing in the morning, I have to bundle her off to the vet for a bit of hack ‘n’ slice. How on earth she’s been down a mouse a day with only four teeth, I’ll never know.

Now we’ll see if she can do it with three.

August 19, 2010 — 9:37 pm
Comments: 24

Forgiving.

Yeah, that bent pin? Apparently, it’s been that way for eighteen months. Yes, it’s been taking a few tries to boot all the way, but once it got up and running it was perfectly stable. (When I unpacked my desktop machine after the big move, the CPU was just rattling around in the case, so I popped it into the socket. I must have bent the pin then).

Computers are more forgiving than we have any right to expect. I bought myself a new motherboard and CPU for Christmas one year — I believe the chip was a 486-SX and the motherboard would also take a full 486. At any rate, there were more holes in the m’board than pins on the chip and — but of course — I plugged the chip into the wrong holes.

Christmas morning, watched in horror as I flipped the switch and solder hissed and bubbled out of the smoking socket. But I killed it, let it cool and got it plugged in the right way around and it lived a long and happy life. For a 486SX.

This one is finally kaput, though. I got the pin straightened and re-reseated, but I broke the thingie that holds the heat sink in place, so it overheats before it even finishes booting.

Eh. Six years. Time it crossed the rainbow bridge to live with Grandma.

Now comes the tedious business of looking at barebones systems and Googling all the components to figure out what the hell I’m looking at.

Do all motherboards come with on-board graphics now? Is the AGP graphics card socket a dead standard? Are there wifi cards for desktops, or do they assume wired LAN? And this dual/quad core thing — does software need to be written specially to take advantage of that? I mean, is any of my funky old software (particularly Photoshop) going to benefit from it?

God, I hate learning new stuff.

August 18, 2010 — 11:13 pm
Comments: 48