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très embarrassant

Hunt called off.

The tiger – at first described as a large maneater, then as a 70kg young tiger, then as a lynx, and then as a European wildcat – may now be nothing more than a fat house cat.

To be fair, I think this picture is a piss take.

Good weekend folks!

November 14, 2014 — 8:45 pm
Comments: 16

Mon dieu!

So, there’s a tiger on the loose near Paris. After puss had been spotted by several people, they brought in specialist trackers. From the prints, they reckon it’s a young adult, a year and a half or so old. They’ve tracked it to a small wood near Montevrain, where they are lying in wait with tranq guns.

It’s a little strange they haven’t worked out where it came from. They’ve ruled out a circus that blew through town, but they mention a big cat park nearby. What’s so hard about *ring-ring* “‘Allo, are you meessing a poozycat?”

Spare the poor beastie a thought tonight. It might be reduced to eating Frenchmen to stay alive.

Another one for your browsing pleasure: the East Sussex Records Office has a new, awesome state-of-the-art facility called The Keep. Among their toys is a giant copystand for digitizing old maps and big books. Anyway, searchable database, lots of things online. Enjoy!

November 13, 2014 — 9:25 pm
Comments: 7

Ut oh.

It is never a happy thing to capture the attention of the Daily Mail.

The effigy burned at the bonfire every year — the Guy, as it were — is usually a satirical portrait of one of that year’s numero uno pains-in-the-ass. Burning the figure is a two-fingers-up to the pope or the prime minister or whoever got on local society’s collective tits that year. Rye goes one further and generally starts the bonfire by blowing up the guy with a grand, window-rattling boom.

This year, Rye Bonfire Society decided to do something else. Instead of an effigy, they made a large three-poppy display on the front of the bonfire, in commemoration of the WWI centenary. They didn’t blow it up, they burned it in what I imagine they thought of as a sort of grand and honorable Viking funeral.

Unfortunately, burning, snatching, crumpling and otherwise disrespecting poppies has become the Brit equivalent of flag burning, so the display hit some people wrong. They — the organizers — should have seen the likelihood it would be so.

Still, I am an unfan of the Mail, a shit-stirring rag. It’s pretty lousy to make a big deal of this; Rye is the last place that would deliberately disrespect the Great War. I’d hate to see ‘our side’ become as tetchy as the opposition about unintended slights.

November 12, 2014 — 9:19 pm
Comments: 9

Welp, I’m about to steal your evening

Okay, the Portable Antiquities Scheme is one of the bestest British things ever. They set it up in ’97 when they realized metal detectorists were finding all kinds of historically important stuff in the field, and almost none of it was being recorded. Treasure — which has a very specific legal description — has to be reported to the authorities by law, but the ordinary run of amateur finds don’t classify as treasure and were legally just walking away.

So, instead of stomping in with heavy government boots and strong-arming the finders into compliance with more restrictive rules, the government set up a totally voluntary scheme. You find something, you report it, they identify it, photograph it, feed it to the database and hand it back to you. Very high compliance rate, because — why not? Not only do you get your stuff back, but they can help you validate it and sell it on if you like.

The scheme was introduced right about the time I discovered I’d be moving to England, so I followed it from the beginning. Uncle B bought me a metal detector almost first thing. I didn’t turn up anything interesting in our garden (it’s been dug over so many times in the 20th C) and our closest detector club closed down and…I just back-burnered it, I guess.

Tonight we went to a talk by our local Finds Officer. Boy, have things grown since I last checked in! The Scheme is now overseen by the British Museum and the database has just logged its millionth object. She said the things they’ve learned from these small finds have widened the view of the history of this area considerably. (In passing, have you ever noticed how new finds in archaeology always, always, always show our ancestors were more, not less, sophisticated than we had believed?). Nobody else is building anything like it.

For your geeking pleasure, here is their searchable database. Dates, places, materials. Maps. Photos, free to use. Yay, another timesuck!

November 11, 2014 — 11:01 pm
Comments: 4


We did go to the bonfire in Rye on Saturday. We usually watch the fireworks from a ways down the road to avoid the crush of traffic, so this was my first (second?) time seeing the procession through the town.

It was awesome! Rye is quite small and hilly, with ancient buildings and little twisty cobbled roads. The parade winds through the town twice before ending in a field by the river for bonfire and fireworks.

It’s all drums and fire and spooky costumes. So much noise. So much fire. I’m amazed nobody goes up like a Christmas tree — all the crews are carrying proper torches, the kind with oily rags on sticks. They throw them down in the road when they’re spent and light new ones, and men with loud rattly metal carts come last, picking up the torches and making bonfires in the carts. Tons of pyrotechnics they let off in the town as they wind through.

Oh, and THIS GUY. The dragon. I was unprepared for him. His head turns side to side, fire shoots out his nostrils, he opens his mouth with a hiss and more fire comes out his mouth. Beautifully done. I’m in love. I circled back around to get video of him, but they dropped him off before the final lap, so no good pictures.

And then the bonfire and the fireworks and it rained like a bastard and we got soaked walking to the car. The end.

November 10, 2014 — 9:47 pm
Comments: 15

Shoo, ye witches!

You might have seen this story floating around this week. They’ve been doing some work on Knole House, the enormous Grade I listed pile in Sevenoaks, Kent.

They were renovating a room that had originally been remodelled for a visit from King James I and found these crude gouges in the wood on the beams under the floorboards and around the fireplace. Specifically, they found straight lines and crosshatches and V marks cut deep in the wood. Experts say these are apotropaic marks — folk magic intended to ward off witches and other evil.

What’s interesting about them is they’ve done tree ring analysis on the wood and they reckon they can pin the beams down to 1606. That’s just after the Gunpowder Plot. So, they figure, these marks were made to keep evil away from the King at a time he had just survived an assassination attempt.

Actually, I’m lying. That’s not the most interesting thing about them. The most interesting thing is, the picture above isn’t from Knole House, it’s from this house. That carving is on an exposed ceiling beam about ten feet from where I’m sitting right now. We always assumed they were just marks the workmen made to tally something or identify the piece of wood, but they look exactly like the marks at Knole.

No wonder the witches never come to visit.

How impossibly cool is that?

Good weekend, all!

November 7, 2014 — 10:20 pm
Comments: 26

Burn the pope! Again.

Well, Bonfire Night in Lewes went off well enough, so I understand.

I’m sure I’ve explained in years past, Sussex takes bonfire night very, very seriously. But not just on November 5. Local celebrations are staggered so the various crews can march in each other’s processions. This means there are big marches and firework displays from September right through November, one village after another.

But Lewes is the big one. Biggest one in the country. Everyone saves November 5th in deference to Lewes. It’s gotten so big, they beg people to stay away because it gets out of hand sometimes, and there have been injuries. They burn multiple effigies every year, including — I’m pretty sure they’re the only one that still dares — the Pope. (Nice selection of past effigies here).

This is because Lewes not only commemorates the Gunpowder Plot on this day, but also the seventeen Protestant men of Lewes burned at the stake during the Marian Persecutions. They are serious as a heart attack about it.

This year, two of the effigies were of Alex Salmond, the Scottish First Minister who led Scotland’s attempt to break away from the UK. This caused a Twitter storm of protest and the bonfire societies who sponsored the effigies promised not to torch them. And then they blew them up anyway, or one of them at least. The Sussex police are investigating, because butthurt is a police matter here.

Oh, also thousands of unemployed trustafarian kids wearing V masks descended on London and other European cities to protest austerity, whatever that is in this context. This caused such an enormous sensation that I’ve had difficulty finding articles about it in the major papers next day, even though there were arrests and shit. That utter moron Russel Brand was there. ‘Nuff said.

Anyway, I think we’ve gone to all the main bonfires in our area at some time or other. Lately, we’ve taken to watching the displays from a distance. To be honest, I get a little freaked stuck in the middle of huge, jostling crowds. I think we’ll go to one.

November 6, 2014 — 9:38 pm
Comments: 14

Well done, everyone!

Did he ever have that stupid press conference this afternoon, or what?

November 5, 2014 — 10:52 pm
Comments: 16

Y’all get out there and make me proud

Makes me nervous, all this chest-thumping and taking of victory laps. Particularly when the legacy media starts saying how well the GOP is gonna do. They aren’t our friends; they must be up to something. I’m worried that anything less than an absolute history blowout for the right will be spun as a kinda sorta defeat.

It ain’t over until all the fraudulent ballots are counted.

So please get out an vote today. Unless you’re a lurky leftie, in which case…dude, it’s an awful lot of trouble and you guys are just going to lose anyway.

November 4, 2014 — 3:28 pm
Comments: 23

Weaselface, yourself

It’s Garbage Day, callooh callay! The happiest day of the week!

Eh. Not really. Between the two of us, we’re one saved cardboard box and a jam jar from being hoarders. Just…not tidy people. But tonight we made an effort to round up some junk and pitch it. I was most surprised when this thing fell out of an envelope.

This thing. This drawing. It’s a nice reproduction of a master drawing by Charles Le Brun (1619–1690), the dude Charles Louis XIV called the greatest French artist who ever lived.

Yeah. Some endorsements are not so good for your rep. (Ask Wagner. Or don’t; he’s dead).

Le Brun’s paintings are exactly the kind of pompous rubbish you can imagine the Sun King eating up with a spoon. But his drawings had an influence on art for a century or more — mostly his notions of conveying emotion on the human face.

This thing, though, is a part of a series of drawings — a philosophy, I suppose — known as le Brun’s Physiognomy. He’s trying to relate people faces to animal faces. With absolutely no success, if you ask me. They all look like creepy genetic experiments.

Anyway, these are the weasel faced ladies. When it turned up, Uncle B exclaimed, “I wondered where that got to! I bought that for your birthday. Or Christmas. I don’t remember; it was years ago.”

It was in the current bills-to-pay pile. Ladies and gentlemen, my housekeeping.

November 3, 2014 — 9:40 pm
Comments: 12