My 2012 in Pictures

My 2012 in pictures:

Early months…



Churchill-Bedroom Map-Room-phone

100th Anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic – and my greatest blog post of the year:

titanic wreck

Trolleybus Anniversary




Ferris Wheel

View over Business Park from Ferris Wheel

Queen’s Jubilee – my father lighting the beacon at Whitstable

Queen's Jubilee

My first oyster at the Whitstable Oyster Festival

first oyster

Whitstable Harbour Oyster Festival


The Olympics 2012

Olympic Flame Relay

Brad wiggo

Summer days

Camden Market


 Holiday in Portugal





Larry Graham in concert

Larry Graham

Felix Baumgartner’s Stratos Jump – I was obsessed with this event – read here


Bonfire Night

Bonfire Night

Talk with Olympic and Paralympic athletes at work

Olympic and Paralympic Talk

The Thomas Hardy tree

Thomas Hardy Tree

Secret Cinema – The Shawshank Redemption

Secret Cinema November

Christmas 2012

Christmas Tree

A death in the family

Papa passport 3

Christmas party at the Tower of London

Tower of London Christmas Party

Christmas Day on the beach

Christmas Day on Beach

Whitstable Oyster Festival 2012

This year I went to the Whitstable Oyster Festival’s opening weekend (I do every year). I took lots of pictures. Here they are (unfortunately I missed the Morris dancers this year):

On my stroll to meet my sister, thought I’d take a picture of Slaughterman’s Cottage down Skinner’s Alley (formerly known as Slaughterman’s Alley, and Ship Alley before that).

This was an abattoir for a previous butcher, hence the curved tiles on the roof necessary for air ventilation.

Onwards to the beach by the harbour’s West Quay looking towards the Isle of Sheppey:

Beyond Sheppey, Southend can be seen…

Newfoundland dogs demonstrating how they rescue people. They have webbed feet which helps them swim. Funny – their heads are shaped a bit like a seal’s and they bark similarly to them too – well, I think so anyway. Quite a potent smell though when they all get together.

Whitstable’s excellent drumming band Samba Pelo Mar in the lead up to the blessing of the oysters. In the background is the boat Emmeline, built in 1904 and which became the last shrimping boat. It was lost and then found in Spain in the early nineties, before being brought back to Whitstable.

Looking towards Tankerton:

The oysters arrive to be blessed. Most of the oysters used at the festival aren’t native, as this time of year they’re spawning. The reason it is held at this strange time of year is because it is the traditional down season when fishermen used to hold their festivals – even dating back to Norman times. Whitstable’s native oysters are generally harvested in the months containing the letter “r”. See Tipping the Velvet for more information on this…and a whole lot more on other stuff.

Walking down through Harbour St to watch the parade – quite a crowd to get through!

 A quick German pint at our annual spot outside the Ship Centurion…

 And then the Oyster Parade:

I learnt my lesson – should have filmed in landscape mode. Oh well.

Later on that day – a view of “The Street” at Tankerton slopes. When the tide goes out in Tankerton, a long path of pebbles and stones goes far out to sea, known locally as “The Street”.

The Street on a 1924 postcard:

The next day at Whitstable Harbour:

And finally, we come to the picture of my first ever fresh oyster:

How is that your first oyster? I hear you say, considering I was born and raised in this town as a fully qualified shellback. Well, I’ve tried them tinned, smoked. But my parents never really bought them fresh, so I never tried one. When I was younger, there were a couple of things that happened which meant they were harder to get – red algae outbreak was one thing. I even had to ask the lady on the stall how to “do it”. Squeeze of lemon, bit of Tabasco…it was really nice. Gave me the taste for them. Next time I might try them without the Tabasco as I think it wiped out the actual flavour…and maybe I’ll even chew it next time.

Interesting to know:

– oysters contain arsenic – so don’t trough too many

– oysters used to be the working class person’s food in the 19th century

– some types of oysters can grow to around three feet in length

– Colchester also holds an Oyster Feast each year in October where festival goers enjoy the town’s native oysters

So, there is my collection of pictures from my weekend at the Whitstable Oyster Festival. Hope you enjoyed them!

Olympics Through the Ages

Yesterday, I read in an article in The Guardian that the  winner of the men’s 5000m race in the 2008 Beijing Olympics would have beaten the winner of the men’s 1500m race in 1908. They took this fact from a report created by researchers in the House of Commons, which also said that the winner of the women’s marathon in 2008 would have beaten the winner of the men’s race in 1908 by half an hour.

Interesting stuff.

It seems we are becoming superhuman – or godlike, if you will, like the Ancient Greeks. We (and I use the word “we” as opposed to “they” when I reference athletes as it makes me feel good about myself) just keep getting faster and stronger and breaking each other’s world records. We can’t help but push ourselves. So how did we get like this, and why weren’t we like it in the past?

A number of reasons:-

– money. People didn’t have the money for training regimes – especially women for obvious reasons in the past (on a side note, women have only been allowed to compete in all categories at the Olympics for the first time this year – the final sport being boxing. Strangely, there are still some sports that don’t allow men, such as synchronised swimming. Also, in the old days, people not deemed to be of a civilised origin had to compete in separate events i.e. in 1904, those from colonies such as Africa, out of fear of later revolts against the dominant world leaders and empires, were only allowed to compete in so-called “athletic events for savages”. Fast forward to the black power salute of the 1968 Olympics, and even to today with such programmes as Survival of the Fastest and race and genetics still play a very prominent role in modern Olympics).

– two world wars got in the way. Ducking bombs whilst out jogging is obviously too distracting.

– regarding jogging – although the term jogging has been referenced since Shakespeare’s day, with a slightly different meaning of “slight, quick movements”, it never really took off until the 1960s/1970s and in those days was called roadwork, something mainly used by athletes. My point is that the idea of keeping fit – jogging regularly being a main part of modern day fitness regimes – wasn’t really a habit of the general public until the second half of the 20th century. Yes, people did exercise, but it generally consisted of flapping your arms and legs around.

(Club swinging – a discontinued Olympic event)

Fitness regimes of athletes were probably not as hardcore as today’s athletes either, and they didn’t push themselves like others today. The idea was to ease your body into fitness, not pummel it into it. For example, you can chart the progression of the star jump – originally a simple stretch waving the arms up and down in the Victorian times, through to the Edwardians where the movement had progressed to doing the same action but holding weights as well, and finally towards the twenties and onwards where jumping becamed involved – forming the star jump. So in the old days, people did not have as deep an understanding of the human body as we do today. Nor did early modern Olympians have the same kind of diets. Or drugs. Or rather sport enhancing drugs we use today – past generations were also known to have taken drugs as I will describe later.

In terms of overt fitness or muscle tone, muscle-building is one thing that has been around since the late 1800s, promoted by the likes of Prussian Eugen Sandow with his Grecian Ideal, but his look was probably considered that of the other, and was not the norm. Yet, the Victorians and Edwardians did generally get into more outdoor sports and leisure activities, like cricket. This led to such games in the 1908 Olympics as the popular sport of pedestrianism.

This was basically long distance walking brought about by the Victorian love of the great outdoors. But we aren’t talking a simple 3-hour race. Though they loved the great outdoors, this sport was gruelling and repetitive, as outlined in this article stating how one six-day pedestrianism race took place in one sports ring. Six days! That meant walking round and round and round and round… In fact, some people found the exercise so physically challenging, they often cut their thighs to relieve muscle tension. It’s easy to see why even Victorian athletes took drugs for pain relief in those days. As pharmacies were more relaxed during Victorian times, and were generally still experimenting themselves with many types of drugs, athletes would chew coca leaves, and take cocaine, strychnine and alcohol. However, this was all banned by the 1908 Olympics.

But still, the muscles we see in the Olympics today were a little less recognisable in the old days – a bit more deflated and, well, flabby. Roll back the clock to the Ancient Games, and there is an obvious difference.

1896 saw the first modern Olympic Games in Athens. The Ancient Olympics didn’t actually take place in Athens, but in Olympia, beginning in 776 BC and continuing every four years (known as an olympiad) around the time of the summer solstice. Any free man from any country and state could compete as long as he spoke Greek, but women couldn’t attend. There were a few differences between the Ancient Olympics and the modern Games of around the turn of the 20th century. My first point regards muscles. Look at these Ancient Classical Greek artefacts:

The Ancient Greeks tried to model themselves on the Olympic Gods in body and in mind – hence their gymnasiums and games such as the Olympics, and also through studying all different subjects. The Olympics was a religious event dedicated to the gods – mainly Zeus and Hera. Of course, we can’t expect that every Greek looked like the two bronze Riace Warriors above (not least because elements of these figures just don’t make sense: muscles are over-defined, and they are actually missing their coccyx bones. Though they seem highly realistic, they are still works of art and emphasize the supposed perfection of the Ancient Greek body), but perhaps many of the athletes did.

I always remember my Classics teacher at school telling us that when sculptures like this were first discovered, the people laughed at the muscle definition, simply because they didn’t realise these muscles existed.

Ancient Greeks did also compete in the nude, if not to prove they were men and legible to enter the Games, but also to show off their fine physiques. In the old days, there were fewer events, but these included things like the 192m sprint race, which involved contestants running down a straight, or a stade as it was known – the length of the stadium, round a wooden stake, and back down the straight they came down to the starting line.

On this vase, showing such sprinters, there is obvious muscle definition, so we can only determine from all of these artefacts – regardless of artistic licensing – that they must have been very fit in the Ancient Games.

Another event was the pankration – a fighting sport with an anything goes kind of attitude, except it didn’t allow biting or eye-gouging. These men were obviously bulkier.

And of course chariot racing – dangerous and bloody. Prizes for the various Panhellenic Games, which the Olympic Games were a part of, involved a gift of whatever was the symbol for that event (for the Olympics, it was an olive wreath, known as kotinos), and a lot of public recognition – and much partying!

One event I always found intriguing was the ancient technique for the long jump, part of the pentathlon.

They did it from a standing position (even in the original modern day Olympics they did the long jump from a standing position) and held weights, swinging them backwards and forwards before taking a leap. Apparently the weights pulled them further forward and steadied their landing.

Here are some modern games that are no longer practised:


Yes, the tug-of-war. A very British game, which would explain who came first in all three places in 1908: Gold went to the City of London Police, Silver to the Liverpool Police, and Bronze to the Metropolitan Police “K” Division. I wonder if this event would ever have made it to the Games if Rome had in fact held them as intended, and not Britain who stepped in when Mt Vesuvius erupted on April 7, 1906. As of this year, Britain will be the only country to have held a record of three Olympic Games – 1908, 1948 and 2012. At the 1948 Olympics, Germany and Japan were strictly prohibited from entering.

I did a tug-of-war once with loads of other local children, and I remember being pulled forward along with the rest of my side so fast that I tumbled over onto a topless man with a massive beer belly who was lying out on the floor. I lost my balance and sat on his beer belly twice. Yes, tug-of-wars remind me of sunny, summer days – not that we’ll apparently see much of that at this year’s Olympics, which will be another record for Britain: it is due to be the wettest Olympic Games in history (most events will be wet t-shirt competitions – wahey!).


In this picture, we see the British women’s archery team who won all lead position. This may have been due to the fact that Britain was the only nation to have a women’s team…

The Plunge/Swimming Obstacle Race/Underwater Swimming

The Olympics used to feature a whole host of swimming events which you can see being relived here by Sports Relief on the BBC. My favourite is the obstacle race which involved such things as swimming under a boat and climbing up and down a pole.

Delivery Van Driving

In the 1900 Olympics in Paris, this was an unofficial event as part of the World Fair. In fact, there were all forms of motor racing at this event, including a taxi race, 7 seater car race, 2 seater car race… the list goes on.

And a few more  that have gone out of fashion over the years:

Live pigeon shooting

Rope climbing

Long distance horse jumping

Poodle clipping

Solo synchronised swimming

Club swinging (as pictured above)

Hot air balloon racing

It seems the older modern day Games had a much more lighthearted feel. I for one am going to propose a slippery pole competition for this year’s Games – if it’s not too late.



History Summer Summer Summer Time

These are sunny days, and whether you are lucky enough to be spending them somewhere fitting, like by the sea in Whitstable, or camping in a field in Cheddar – wherever you are, I thought I’d give you some interesting historical facts to do with the summer. Just to bring the chilled out feel down a notch. Nah, only joking – I’ll try to keep things light.

1. The bikini was released in May 1946 by Louis Réard. Shockwaves rippled through many nations at this two piece bathing suit. The two-piece had already been around for a while, and was labelled “the world’s smallest bathing suit”. The thing that made the bikini different was that it revealed much more of the torso, including the belly button and so was less repsectable than its predecessor. It therefore became known as “smaller than the world’s smallest bathing suit”. In fact the only woman who would model it was the lady below, Micheline Bernardini, a nude dancer.


The bikini was named after Bikini Atoll, an island in the Pacific Ocean that is part of the Marshall Islands. This was a picturesque island – until 1946. This was the year when America decided to detonate an atom bomb there, and on its fellow islands in a series of tests named Operation Crossroads. They moved all the indigenous islanders to another local island and tested a bomb on their homeland of Bikini Atoll. When they moved everyone back, people began to get ill, so the island was deemed uninhabitable. The bomb test occurred on July 1st, 1946. The bikini garment was unveiled four days later.

So, not too mood dampening so far (just ignore the bit about islanders getting ill and their homeland being written off). It may or may not surprise you to know that Operation Crossroads is not the only nuclear testing America has done. Nor is it the only country to have done it. Watch this video, if you have the stomach for it:

2. BOY: I didn’t ask for any sauce.

ICE CREAM VENDOR: I didn’t put any on it.

Lines from my all-time favourite comedy The League of Gentlemen (the scene is where an ice cream vendor has a nosebleed over a boy’s ice cream).

I typed in “the best ice cream in the world” into Google, and it gave me the above picture. It also gave me a couple of other pictures, but I don’t think I should post them on here. People with children, you may have to up your internet censorship for your children, by including “ice cream”. Seriously.

So, who invented ice cream? Wihout even researching, I thought the Romans. Must be. Or the Greeks, then the Romans copied them and made ice cream a big hit. One source suggests that ice cream has been around since the 4th century BC, indeed with the Roman Emperor Nero ordering ice from the mountains and then topping it with fruit. So when did the “cream” bit get involved? 600 years later, King Tang of Shang in China is known to have mixed ice and milk together in various ways. Obviously these are noted examples, because it was the leaders that ate these ice related foods, but it may have been more common than that in those archaic days.

Since then, ice cream has been developed in terms of its ingredients and flavours all over the world, with the Americanised “ice cream” (previously “iced cream”) becoming the most prominent in the Western world. I’ve had ice cream in various places around the world: on Lido, the beach-goers island by Venice, there is an ice-cream vendor (or properly termed gelato – it’s made differently) on every corner. With all different flavours. I managed to get one down my throat whilst trying not to pass out from the heat (Mid-August is NOT a good idea for holidaying in Venice if you are allergic to the heat like me. My half Mauritian blood doesn’t help. As I tell people, I am half Mauritian, but I am also half white Londoner); in Berlin, they make flowers out of ice cream:

and in Barcelona, they expect a tip.

3. Pimm’s

Pimm’s has become synonymous with the British summer. This was a gin-based drink mixed with herbs and quinine in its earliest form, and is now a brandy based drink (the difference being that gin is either distilled from juniper berries, or distilled alcohol grain mixed with flavourings and herbs, and brandy is distilled from wine.) This early form of Pimm’s was made by James Pimm as an aid to digestion. Alcohol, along with other drugs, were often used for medicinal purposes up until the first part of the twentieth century. Nurses would often administer brandy to patients in hospitals in the old days. James Pimm was from Newnham in Kent (go Kent!), the son of a farmer, and he moved to London where he became a shellfish monger and the owner of an oyster bar, which led to a chain called Oyster House.

Today, we associate Pimm’s No. 1 with the sunny weather, and the company obviously markets this product towards barbecues and beach parties. There is also a Winter Pimm’s Cup that is drunk hot with apple juice, and indeed, there have been various “cups” developed over time, some of which have been phased out due to low demand (see above image). Interesting how the company directly generates its revenue through marketing its products to fit a particular season.

4. Finally, I cannot write about the summer without commenting on Whitstable, the once scruffy seaside town where I was born and bred. I was literally born there in my parents’ house; you don’t get much more shellback than that.

Whitstable is a very old fishing town. Not as much fishing as there used to be, nor as many boats in the harbour. It’s famous for oysters, though the Whitstable Oyster Festival always occurs in July, which is strange as the oysters aren’t in season that time of year (only in the months with the letter “r” in the name), so instead they bring over a load of Irish oysters. Still, the festival is great. If you like nothing more than salty shellfish, singing bearded men, blacked up morris dancers and big smelly St Bernard’s dogs then Whitstable Oyster Festival is the place. Whitstable is known to have had the first passenger train line, and the first train bridge though other places have claimed this. The line was called the Canterbury and Whistable Railway, but often nicknamed the Crab and Winkle Line. Today, the Crab and Winkle line is a footpath/cyclepath that follows much of the original route between Canterbury and Whitstable.

People say the best thing about Whitstable is the sunset on the beach in the summer. Some also say the sunrise, though I’ve never actually seen the sunrise on the beach – just in the street after very late nights.

And here is the Old Neptune – an old pub on the beach that was a filming location for the film Venus featuring Peter O’Toole. Neptune, a Roman god, was known as Poseidon to the Ancient Greeks, and was the god of the sea. He was father to Polyphemus, the cyclops that Odysseus and his men, held hostage by the one-eyed giant, famously blinded with a giant stake.

And there I finish – with a photo of a sunny evening night. No doubt the sun would have just dipped beneath the horizon in sunny, old Whitstable as I post this. If you’re there, enjoy it for me.

No 1

This is my first post, on The History Post. And as my first post I will talk about something relevant to me – relating to “posts”.

There was a landmark, a “hwitan stapole” or white staple in the old days – staple meaning ‘pole’ – that stood on the East Kent coast. A landmark. It was probably pretty much salty marshland in those days. It was also a local meeting landmark, as Wikipedia and many Wiki-lifting sites will have you believe. I’m not about to prove anything different, but I do need to do some proper research into this (and everything else I read on Wikipedia for that matter. Which reminds me, I need to sign up to the Britannica for the sake of later posts). Anyway…

Years after this “meeting place” was recorded in the Domesday Book, roughly 1000 years, during which time Witenstaple became Witstapel,  Whitstapel, and eventually, Whitstable, and went from strength to strength using it’s salt, fishing – especially oyster harvesting – and finally, kebab shop industries, I was born. Today, the kebab industry is still going strong. I help it out a little.

I was born in my parents’ house in Regent St, making me a “shellback” – a person born and bred in Whitstable. These days, I no longer live there so I’m not sure if I’m still entitled to the term. I’m now maybe what the locals call a DFL – Down From London. I never really used to think about my claim to the town when I was younger…until Whitstable got cool. This was during the arty revolution of the late 90s, when Londoners discovered this gooooorgeously quaint, little seaside town (it wasn’t at the time – paint was peeling everywhere – but soon it got a face lift with the influx of these rich inhabitants). So now I’m like, “Fnah, fnah, I was born in Whitstable ladeeda.”

As a first post, on a Friday night, I think I should leave it there. I will no doubt return to historical Whitstable topics later, as well as lots of other aspects of the past. I’m not going to focus on one particular aspect as there’s too much I’m interested in, and please don’t think I’m going to pretend to be any more highbrow than I am. In short, I dig history, and I just want to write about it.