Sunday, 29 June 2014

Micah Morey's Cave

John Ptak's blog Ptak Science Books has a very useful category - "History of Blank, Missing and Empty Things"- and this handily covers a now-lost Isle of Wight cave connected with a grim story.

Friday, 27 June 2014

Across Europe and Asia, by John Milne, Esq.

In 1875, the geologist and mining engineer John Milne had to travel to Japan to take up an appointment as an academic foreign adviser at the at the Imperial College of Engineering, Tokyo. Instead of taking the obvious option of going by ship, he decided to travel overland.

Thursday, 26 June 2014


A recent post at the Ptak Science Books weblog - On the Continued Rediscovery of the Horizontal Pendulum - leads into an interesting backstory with roots in Birmingham, Japan, and the Isle of Wight.

Sunday, 22 June 2014


I always like revisionist takes on classic literature, and among various books I'm reading at present, I just read Ronald Frame's Havisham, which is a prequel and parallel text to Dickens' Great Expectations.

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Summer solstice

Click to enlarge this nice image from The Sketch, Sep 30, 1896 of an open air concert at Stonehenge: an example of how perceptions of the use/sanctity of ancient monuments has changed with time. See previously: Review: Prehistoric Wessex - Towards a Deep Map.

See also Keith Laumer's SF-Arthurian A Trace of Memory.

- Ray

Thursday, 19 June 2014

The Shapters

One of my several defences of going to the pub is the conversation; and on Tuesday I had a very interesting one about Thomas Shapter, a doctor who features prominently in Exeter history, and whether a couple of Topsham streets are named after him.

Monday, 16 June 2014

Chine at dusk

We've been to Shanklin Chine several times over the past few years, but never in the evening. From 23rd May to 7th September, it's open until 10pm, and illuminated after dusk.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Father's Day

I don't write much directly personal stuff here, but I just wanted to share a photo of my father Morris, who we saw when we visited the Island last week.

Friday, 13 June 2014

On the Medina

More from Tuesday: from Whippingham Church, we headed southward toward Newport along the east bank of the River Medina: a rural walk not without traces of industry past and present.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

"I shot Prince Albert ..."

"... but I did not shoot his architect". Further to Harriet Parr in Shanklin, I just ran into another anecdote from the memoirs of Lord Ernle (Rowland Edmund Prothero), in which he confesses to shooting Albert, the Prince Consort.

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Gawain & the Green Knight

Oh, wow! Yesterday we went to the Four of Swords Theatre's Gawain & the Green Knight in Exeter Cathedral. If you're in the region, check out out future productions.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

"Cabbages" and other parodies

Having been put off Thackeray at school, by being made to read Vanity Fair before I was able to appreciate its sharp social satire, I wish I'd read more of his works, which often go into outright parody. A reference in The Primrose Way brought me to a Thackeray piece I'd never encountered: Cabbages, a parody on Letitia Elizabeth Landon's Violets apparently written when he was 14.

The Primrose Way

Cross-posted from A Wren-like Note: Maxwell Gray's 1898 essay The Primrose Way. It's an interesting mix once you dig into the references: an evocative recollection of a lane (recognisably on the north of the Isle of Wight's downs); a treatise on flowers in 19th century poetry; an appreciation of the primrose; and an indictment of the despoliation of the flowers on the now-defunct 'Primrose Day' commemorating Disraeli's death.

Monday, 2 June 2014

Rosa Raine's wanderings

I've just been looking in more detail at  Rosa Raine's 1861 Isle of Wight travelogue The Queen's Isle. Its full title is The Queen's Isle: Chapters on the Isle of Wight wherein Church Truths are blended with Island Beauties, and it's fair to say that Ms Raine views her travels through a relentlessly religious filter:

Ups and downs

Rosa Raine, one of many visitors taking the 'picturesque tour' of the Isle of Wight in the mid-1800s, repeats a strange anecdote about the landscape near Shanklin: variable hills.

Sunday, 1 June 2014


I crashed out with a rotten cold last week, and took up Clare's recommendation to read Toast: the story of a boy's hunger - food writer Nigel Slater's acclaimed autobiographical memoir telling of his development as a food aficionado against the background of his childhood in 1960s Wolverhampton.