Springing into Friday Fun

Kicking off these week’s fun are a few more London delights. Firstly, a mental challenge for all those who consider themselves to be London aficionados – can you identify 21 London ‘landmarks’? Now, the definition of ‘landmark’ is rather broad, but it’s a diverting 5 minutes! [I scored 16 out of 21, my incorrect answers largely being the result of mis-identifying glass windows and spurious statues…]

Another challenge (or a sheer delight) are these hand-drawn maps of Westminster by Jojo Oldham, who’s embarking on a project to map each of London’s boroughs, as well as one to map the ‘people’s Britain’. So much detail…

Jojo City of Westminster 5This illustration demonstrates just how close to the Camden-Westminster border I live.

Talking of maps, there is a huge amount of (educational) fun to be had with the fabulous addition of the Ordnance Survey town plan of 1893-6 to Google Maps. Choose your location, and see it transform from 2014 to late 19th century. Utterly fascinating. Here’s a snapshot of my current parish, which on the one hand doesn’t seem to have changed much, yet really has…

Holborn, 1890sHolborn, 1890’s

Obligatory London Transport fun is provided this week by Tubographical Transactions by Yangchen Lin, a photographic exhibition on show at the Subway Gallery 14-22 March. A host of photos that take a slightly different perspective on life on the tube, including tube pants (not a photo I’m sharing here). Londonist features several of the photos, of which these were favourites:

Damian_Lewis_Covent_Garden_station-L-749x500

Oval_tube_station_spiral_stair-L-750x500

Finally, some Oscars-related fun. Amusingly, I had something in this theme ready to share last week – but when compiling last week’s Fun, I became the second person in my family to succumb to the mistake of thinking that the last weekend in February and first weekend in March were not the same thing. [i.e. this time last week, March 2nd seemed a lot further away than 2 days, what with my brain forgetting how short February is.] So, first off, here are children recreated the key plot points of each of the films nominated for Best Picture:

I particularly loved how they chose to deal with 12 Years a Slave…

As for the night itself, obviously there was the most-retweeted-tweet-ever, but for me, there were two key moments. One was obviously what has now become known as the Cumberbomb, which prompted a brilliant article about how Cumberbatch basically ‘won’ the Oscars – which a classmate showed me during Monday’s lecture, but which I now cannot find, despite scouring the internet. Trust me, it was excellent…

The other was John Travolta incomprehensibly getting Idina Menzel’s name badly, badly wrong when announcing her performance of what ended up winning Best Song (Let It Go, as featured here a couple of weeks ago). Since his gaff, we’ve been able to Travoltafy our names and Idina has soared to the level of fame she ought have had some time ago. (Some argue that this gaff will be the making of her.) She responded to interview questions about it simply by saying “Let it go…” and the Broadway production in which she’s currently starring did this:

Adele Dazeem on Broadway

Adele, sorry, Idina also went on the Jimmy Fallon show and performed the aforementioned song with him and the Roots band – it’s worth watching, it may not be quite what you expect:

Friday Fun for lovers of London

Having taken a break from the joys of London and its transport last week, this week’s Friday Fun is a smorgasboard of such delights. This morning we’ll begin in time honoured fashion with something involving the tube map…

What if the tube map told the truth?

True Tube MapI’d say some of these are pretty accurate. I particularly liked Great Portland Street’s ‘Neither Here Nor There’. So true. 

Also in the world of London themed maps are two fascinating pieces of work by Ollie O’Brien. ‘Electric Tube’ is a new take on the classic map:

Electric TubeWhile London North/South only showing properties – north of the river in blue, south in red. The parks are useful geographical pointers, meaning that I can spot my old Bermondsey flat as well as my current location.

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For fans of the history of London, this week has been a bumper one in terms of photographic fun. First up, a simply lovely collection of photos of the underground in the 1950’s and 60’s. Courtesy of Buzzfeed and my friend Becki, we have discovered that people called “fluffers” used to be employed to remove dust from the tunnels – causing Dave Walker to muse as to whether the same effect could be achieved by a vacuuming train. Dave, I repeat Becki’s request to see that in a cartoon one day!

Fluffers on the tube

the Museum of London has an app that uses its archives of images of the capital and superimposes them upon the view in your camera. [Takes a moment to download app…] If you can’t get you and your camera phone to London, here’s a taste of what it looks like:

Palace Theatre; 1958 + 2014The Palace Theatre, 1958 and 2014.

Gloucester Road Station 1868 + 2014My Monday morning destination of Gloucester Road station, 1860’s and 2014.

As if old photography wasn’t enough, some clever person have added famous paintings to the appropriate location as captured by Google Street View. The Guardian has a whole gallery of them – here’s a couple to whet your appetite:

Trafalgar Sq LogsdailSt. Martin in the Fields by William Logsdail (1888)

Westminster Abbey CanalettoWestminster Abbey with a Procession of Knights of the Bath by Canaletto (1749)

Finally, going full-circle and returning to the world of maps and charts, here are 12 helpful charts for everyone Londoner to live their life by. Their chart for the DLR is particularly helpful and, quite frankly, a rule to live by:

Where Should I sit on the DLR

While others are, quite frankly, suitable for anywhere in Britain:

Should I Take An UmbrellaThis is a rule that’s particularly worth living by in Belfast…

You know you went to an all-girls’ school when…

So, someone at the Huffington Post has done one of those lists masquerading as journalism, chronicling the ’19 signs you went to an all girls school’. I was intrigued, being the alumnus of not one but two such establishments, but sadly I could only recognise half of them – probably because the author then went to a US college and as a result, the list is rather Americanised.

But, the joys of girls’ school life came back to me in our Monday morning lecture this week, on the subject of gender. On the one hand, there’s not an awful lot a girl educated in a school where ‘Herstory’ was a thing (as opposed to History, obviously) needs to learn about the history of the feminist movement. On the other hand, it became clear that my fellow feminists (we were sat in a line along the back row) looked on with disdain as younger men in the lecture giggled over words like ‘vagina’ and ‘penis’. Hilarious. These men need to get themselves in a room with the fabulous God Loves Women, who’s usually capable of using these words within minutes of a meeting beginning. [My favourite meeting of 2013 was one such gathering, where I was sat next to one of only two men in the room. There was definite squirming and an awful lot of feminine hilarity.]

Anyway, I want to put the record straight about graduates of female-only establishments. Obviously, based on my experiences only – that of a central London CofE comprehensive & a grammar in Gloucester, just for variation:

1. Yes, you will have perfected the art of putting on tights. (Huffington Post is correct in this regard.)
However, you will have got to the end of your school days loathing them with a passion; having a belief that wearing them underneath your jogging bottoms during PE would give you thrush; knowing that wooden school chairs live to snag black opaque tights; and, as an adult, will have realised that it really is worth spending good money on good tights (M&S for preference).

2. You will not be comfortable around female nudity.
If this has occurred at all, it will have been in your late 20’s when you realised that no one in the gym cares what you look like while changing – unlike most of year 10 before and after PE.

3. You will have been taught that the glass ceiling exists so that well-educated young ladies can smash it to pieces.
References to the ‘glass ceiling’ were seemingly compulsory in my grammar school’s speech days. In my CofE school, this also came out in reference to the Church. On the day General Synod voted in favour of ordaining women as priests, a girl was sent to pass on the news to each class. They would be very proud of my current adventures.

4. You still consider wearing a black bra under a pale shirt an act of rebellion.
Now, this may be peculiar to my alma-mater, but on important occasions (concerts, cathedral services, speech days…) we were always reminded that wearing a black bra under our yellow (gorgeous) blouses was NOT acceptable. One of my best friends consistently wore one deliberately, what a rebel.

5. You don’t ‘secretly’ suspect that girls are smarter than boys – you know we are.
That’s what seven years of single-sex education gives you. Be told it enough and you’ll believe it! You’ll have a high level of respect for intelligence, and believe that men who don’t value it as a character trait aren’t worth bothering with.

6. You still wish achievements were marked with some form of enamelled badge worn on your jumper.
You may not have received sporting colours (but led a campaign for musical achievements to be marked in the same way – which never succeeded), but you did have merit badges and proudly bore the label of ‘Library Assistant’. [Just me?!?] You made up for your lack of colours in 6th form with a prefect badge, worn proudly right at the V of your regulation jumper.

7. Bodily fluids are not an issue.
Yes, you may still re-tell the story of the girl who fainted off a lab stool during a smear test video in Biology, but conversations about periods, Mooncups, pregnancy and birth will not throw you. You will often forget this when in the company of men. Male friends who know you well will learn to deal with this.

8. You will find it odd when men giggle at things unnecessarily.
See above point about this week’s gender lecture. When you’ve done sex ed without idiotic boys in the room, it comes as a shock to discover that some guys still can’t talk about body parts without some level of immaturity.

9. Male friends did not exist until university.
At school, the lack of boys meant the only friends of the opposite sex were likely not to be actual friends, but more the siblings of your own, female friends or, occasionally, the boyfriends of friends who’d managed to acquire one. At university, men were a curious, somewhat unknown breed, around which one was unbearably awkward. The effects of this absence of the opposite sex will still affect your relationships over a decade later. (Miranda Hart spoke of this in her recent Desert Island Discs – it’s a genuine thing.)

10. Male teachers were prime for crushes.
Or, at least the ones that weren’t considered ancient. You’ll have had a least one crush on a newly qualified teacher who had the misfortune of ending up at a girls’ school prior to losing their looks. You might even have tried to get sent home early from a field trip solely because anyone who did so would have had to travel with the ‘hot’ teacher. [This was not me, promise. We only wrote a parody A-level exam paper about our favourite male teacher. ‘Only’…]

11. Your knowledge of women’s role in history will be excellent.
You will have submitted extra-credit reports on Emily Davison (or again, was that just me?); looked up to Elizabeth I; frequently used women’s suffrage as an illustration of why voting at every election is important; had a lot of sympathy for the women tried as witches; and generally held the opinion that if women had been more involved, men wouldn’t have made such a mess of the world.

12. Singing tenor isn’t a problem, because you had to do it at school.
The downside of all-girls’ schools is that music becomes a little limited in the absence of male voices. One of my schools came up with the solution of teaching year 7 soprano parts; year 8 alto; and year 9 tenor. Be a low enough alto higher up the school and tenor parts would wing their way to you. (It’s just stuck me that one of my friends may have only demonstrated her skill at this so she could sit with boys at rare joint school choral events. Sly thing!) You might have got lucky and been in a joint school musical – or, you might have been banned from such a production while in 6th form because of the impact it might have had on your studies and may still be bitter about this years later because it was your only chance at ever being in a musical and you’d have been perfect as Rizzo. (Ok, yes, that may just be me.)

Year 11 RibstonObligatory poor quality photo of my school days. This would be the last day of year 11 in 1997. If you can spot me I’ll be quite impressed. Note the excellent 1990’s perms – a lot of hairspray and mousse went into those… 

Not an exhaustive or accurate list by any means – but I’d like to think that the schools I went to genuinely did a lot to build up the confidence of its girls [always pronounced ‘gals’, obviously] and set them on the road to being feminists, even if not all of them made it. Despite some of the negatives, I’m still quite a fan of single-sex secondary education – although if ever I have the need to educate daughters, I’ll be ensuring that their social activities extends beyonds the similarly gender specific Guides. I definitely wouldn’t be where I am today (good and bad) without it.

 

Finding escape…in prison

As my July bucket list explained, a key element of this month’s ‘vicar school is over – for now’ rejoicing was the reading of books that are not theological.

I do love my current life, vicar school and everything, but I really, really miss my old life’s space and time for non-educational reading. (I also miss singing. That’s a whole other issue.) Whether that’s commuting time spent engrossed in a good read, or the guilt-free pleasure of reading whatever I wanted, it’s certainly not something I have much space for these days. I commute rarely; my bag usually contains some worthy tome; reading anything not on a module guide induces guilt that my time could be better spent working towards the next essay. For a voracious reader who finds their escape in other worlds, this is a sad state of affairs.

So, in preparation for my summer freedom, I ordered a very large book. It arrived the day before my last essay was due (a Friday), so the parcel was hidden under a cushion until the essay was handed in. Saturday morning was spent on the sofa engrossed. Sunday afternoon saw a couple of hours in the sun with it. By Monday night it was finished – all 750 pages of it. Oh. Happy. Days.

Sunshine ReadingSunday afternoon perfection.

The book in question was a blow-by-blow companion to the making of Tenko – the classic TV drama set in a women’s Japanese internment camp during WW2, shown in the very early 1980’s. I’ve written about it before – most recently on how getting lost in a blackhole of its episodes inevitably results in a ‘Tenko Mentality”. It might not sound like a literary masterpiece (it’s not really) but for a die-hard Tenko fan and historian, it was a joy. All of a sudden, I had escaped a world of ecclesiology and taken refuge in mid-twentieth century history and early 1980’s television making.

In the fortnight leading up to the end of term, I’d re-watched all three seasons of Tenko (and the reunion episode) for possibly the fourth time. I’ve definitely written about the show before, it’s something of an obsession amongst the female Clutterbucks – and an reference point for many every day facts of life. (For example, “it’s so humid, my hair makes me look like an extra in Tenko”.) Watch too many episodes in one go and it’s very difficult to re-adjust to the world around you – we are not in a Japanese internment camp (thank goodness!) It’s utterly addictive too. I’m still both impressed and slightly shocked by my ability, the penultimate Monday of term, that I ran 5km and watched an episode of Tenko before I left for college at 8.30am!

It’s total escapism and it’s only struck me in the last couple of days that it seems to have become comfort viewing in times of stress – the last time I watched it all was the week I started vicar school. Like Chalet School books, the world of Tenko is an alternative universe to escape into when the real world is not all that it should be. [As a result, if you ever see me mentioning that I’m watching it, perhaps check that things are ok…]

Back to the book. It was a joy. If you’re slightly OCD about needing know why things happened the way they did; why plots evolved; how things might have happened; and how it all fits together with reality, then this is perfect. For goodness sake, it’s 750 pages long, and there are photos! It includes possible story-lines that never made it to filming, the experiences of the cast and crew, why cast changes happened the way they did and the real-life experiences of life in the camps that inspired the series. It even includes a bibliography for further reading…

…thus, three days after finishing the book, I returned home to another piece of holiday reading – Women Behind the Wire, a collection of experiences of women who lived through Tenko in reality. It really comes to something that my idea of ‘holiday’ reading now that I’m a theology student is historical stuff! Again, it’s not a literary masterpiece and hasn’t aged particularly well – what counted as ‘popular’ history in the early 80’s doesn’t compare well with that written 30 years later. It’s rather sentimental and its references to the Japanese soldiers verge on the patronising, but it does tell the stories of some incredible men and women.

Tenko was the result of the producer’s earlier job researching those honoured by This Is Your Life, specifically Brigadier Dame Margot Turner, who had been interned by the Japanese. After making the first series of Tenko, Lavinia Warner researched the stories of many of the women interned alongside her, producing a book that chronicles the experiences of one community of women throughout their internment. It’s fascinating, heart-breaking and an example of just how horrific humanity can be. At the same time, it provides an idea of where some of the Tenko storylines came from – though it’s abundantly clear than the women of Tenko had things a lot easier than was really the case!

Now, I feel I have something like closure on this episode of history. True, I still need to get hold of a copy of Paradise Road so I can watch it again (this film depicting a vocal chorus in a camp was also inspired by Women Behind the Wire) and there are one or two other books I’d like to read, but I think it’s enough for now. Next on my summer list is a few more titles from that ever-reliable stalwart of my library: Elinor M. Brent-Dyer…

Slightly horrible Friday Fun

Good morning! Apologies for the lack of blogging this week, it’s been half term and I have been up to my eye balls in fun activities – helping people renovate their new homes, having a Harry Potter marathon and hosting consecutive house guests. (More on that last one anon…) But fear not, just because I’ve been having fun does not mean that there is no fun for you!

To start, and because you’ll curse me for this earworm for the rest of the day, here’s a rather wonderful use of a piano. Yes, it’s a One Direction song, but that song (as I’ve said before and no doubt will say again) is one of the best pop songs of recent times. One of my guests this week was an 11 year old called Doris and we hummed this across London on Tuesday. The things you can do with children…

Anyway, this is lovely and I highly recommend a perusal of The Piano Guys’ YouTube channel for other classics.

When exploring your favourite city with a smaller person, you suddenly find yourself explaining things that you’ve become so accustomed to that you forget they’re interesting. Doris, ever observant, asked why there were some spectacularly ugly buildings on my otherwise rather lovely street. The answer – as you’ll no doubt have guessed – is that the ugly buildings replaced ones destroyed by a bomb in WW2. It’s usually pretty easy to guess where this has happened, but it turns out that there’s also a website that shows you exactly where bombs did fall. I appreciate that this is rather  morbid fun, but when you’re a history geek like me, it’s utterly fascinating. (And I checked, the ugly addition to Lambs Conduit St is indeed a result of a bomb.)

Bomb Sight HolbornThe bomb sites around Holborn.

Talking of history, this week has also been the week in which I’ve finally appreciated the genius that is Horrible Histories. I mean, I always knew that they were good (and I’m talking about the TV show, more than the books) but I’d never really made it a priority to sit down and watch them. As of the 5th (and final) series beginning last Monday, this has changed. Yes, I’m incredibly late to the party, but iPlayer does currently have a large cache of them to plough through and YouTube comes up trumps too. Obviously, I love anything that supplies me with new factoids to share, but what is supremely amazing about this latest series is its interpretations of classic songs/genres. Simon and Garfunkel explaining why vikings weren’t so bad after all? Charles Dickens as Morrissey, being morose? A soul inspired retelling of Rosa Parks’ contribution to the civil rights movement? All utterly inspired and quite possibly slightly lost on primary school children…

Viking Simon & GarfunkelViking Simon & Garfunkel.

Second house guest (a 31 year old teacher) shared some of her favourites with me and this boyband parody featuring the Hanoverian Georges has to be shared:

[Talking of Horrible Histories, I always intended to write one entitled ‘Miserable Missionaries’, but still haven’t quite got around to it…]

And with that, I shall leave you to make the most of your Friday, safe in the knowledge that at some point you’ll probably catch yourself humming “na-nanana- na-na-naa” to yourself and will curse me for it.