Archive for the ‘history’ category

We shall remember them, 11/11/11

November 11, 2011


The lads in their hundreds to Ludlow come in for the fair,
  There’s men from the barn and the forge and the mill and the fold,
The lads for the girls and the lads for the liquor are there,
  And there with the rest are the lads that will never be old.
There’s chaps from the town and the field and the till and the cart,
  And many to count are the stalwart, and many the brave,
And many the handsome of face and the handsome of heart,
  And few that will carry their looks or their truth to the grave.
I wish one could know them, I wish there were tokens to tell
  The fortunate fellows that now you can never discern;
And then one could talk with them friendly and wish them farewell
  And watch them depart on the way that they will not return.
But now you may stare as you like and there’s nothing to scan;
  And brushing your elbow unguessed-at and not to be told
They carry back bright to the coiner the mintage of man,
  The lads that will die in their glory and never be old.

From A E Housman – A Shropshire Lad.  Housman’s poems were published in 1896 and referred to the Boer War, but they were seen as prophetic of the Great War, and many a soldier carried a copy into the trenches.

(I know I have posted this before, but we can never have too many reminders of what Remembrance means to us on this day.)

Here is a setting of this poem by George Butterworth (1885-1916), who died on the Somme. 

(Sung by Christopher Maltman, from a BBC Music Magazine CD):


Facel Vega HK500 — again

September 18, 2011

Here’s the Facel Vega I spotted on the M25 in July — as promised in my previous post on the subject (and following on from my earlier posts on The Most Beautiful Cars of All Time  and The Most Beautiful Cars… Part 2).

Beautiful!  Do you recognise yourself?  Would be interesting to hear from you.  There are evidently a lot of Facel Vegas lurking in the UK!  I have yet to see one at a Classic Car Show, but perhaps we don’t go to the right ones 🙂

Facel Vega HK500

July 4, 2011

Following on from my previous posts about The Most Beautiful Cars of All Time  and The Most Beautiful Cars… Part 2, it was nice to come across a picture of a 1958 Facel Vega HK500 in Saturday’s Telegraph.  Here’s a link to the article:

Oddly, the picture in print on Saturday — a pretty daffodil-yellow car — was not the same as the one shown online (and above).

Strange that the car is expected to fetch only £20,000-£30,000 at auction.  Perhaps it’s a rust bucket?  I would have thought its rarity value is such that any example would have made more.  Perhaps it will!

Bouncing Tosca — urban myth?

January 17, 2011

Anyone who works in opera dreads the moment when a non-operatic person says ‘I know a good story…’ and it always turns out to be the one about the time when Tosca did her suicide leap from the battlements at the end of Puccini’s opera, only to reappear to the audience’s sight as she bounced up again on a trampoline.

This is re-told in so many books of musical and operatic anecdotes, without attribution, that one naturally assumes it is an urban legend (along with the elephants falling through the stage in Aïda, or that awful pidgin-English synopsis of Carmen).

However… the other day, I met a distinguished gentleman (while waiting for the long-delayed start of the dress rehearsal of The Barber of Seville at the Royal Opera House – but that’s another story).  He started telling me his Tosca story, and my heart sank… until he said he had actually been there.  Heaven knows when it was – 1950s, I’d guess – but it was at the Vienna State Opera, the Tosca in question was soprano Ljuba Welitsch (‘not a small lady’) and the conductor was Herbert von Karajan (‘who was not at all amused’).  Whether it was a natural bounce or some disaffected person had substituted a trampoline for the regular pile of mattresses, history does not relate.

So now you know.  Next time someone starts telling you the old Tosca story, you can say, ‘Yes, I know.  It was…’

For remembrance: Forever Young, a song for Wootton Bassett

November 10, 2010

Wootton Bassett is a small town in Wiltshire, England, which happens to be near the military airfield where British solders killed in Afghanistan are flown home.

A tradition has arisen among the townspeople of turning out to line the streets in respectful silence as the coffins are driven past.

Here is a video of a song written in celebration of this spontaneous expression of appreciation.

On this Remembrance Day, may we remember all victims of war, past and present.

The song and video have been created to raise money for the charity Afghan Heroes.  For more information and to make a contribution, follow this link:

Thank you.


for Remembrance Day

November 11, 2009


Wilfred Owen:  Anthem for Doomed Youth

What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries for them; no prayers nor bells,
Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs, —
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
And bugles calling for them from sad shires.

What candles may be held to speed them all?
Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of goodbyes.
The pallor of girls’ brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.

for Remembrance Day

November 9, 2008


Andrew Motion read this poem on BBC Radio 3 this morning.

Lest we forget.

Wilfred Owen — The Send-off

Down the close, darkening lanes they sang their way
To the siding-shed,
And lined the train with faces grimly gay.
Their breasts were stuck all white with wreath and spray
As men’s are, dead.
Dull porters watched them, and a casual tramp
Stood staring hard,
Sorry to miss them from the upland camp.
Then, unmoved, signals nodded, and a lamp
Winked to the guard.
So secretly, like wrongs hushed-up, they went.
They were not ours:
We never heard to which front these were sent.
Nor there if they yet mock what women meant
Who gave them flowers.
Shall they return to beatings of great bells
In wild trainloads?
A few, a few, too few for drums and yells,
May creep back, silent, to still village wells
Up half-known roads.

picture from photo archive — thanks