Sunday, 30 December 2007


Two thousand dead, nine thousand injured: the biggest man-made pre-nuclear explosion occurred ninety years ago this month, when a munitions ship blew up in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Elegant slumming

Peter O'Toole and Ronald Fraser re-interpret the Spice Girls:

Hiss, crackle

Among the 38 voices in The Poetry Archive's historic recordings are some we're not used to hearing, such as Rudyard Kipling, Hilaire Belloc, W B Yeats, Edith Sitwell, Walter de la Mare and - the real jewels in the crown - Alfred Lord Tennyson (recorded in 1890) and Robert Browning (1889).

Lost anything?

An unexplained object is washed up in the Western Isles.

Update: it's a beer fermentation tank. Funny thing is, no-one's reported it missing - so now's your chance...

250,000 ex-teachers

Natalie Haynes was glad to escape.


Far too soon, the Telegraph obituary of the man who re-invented the concept, Hugh Massingberd.

Hugo Vickers and James Fergusson have more to say in The Independent.

Been dipping into his memoirs (reviewed by Paxo here) with much pleasure.

Arise, Sir Christopher (stake permitting)

An online petition requests a knighthood for Christopher Lee.

End of the Mustard

Oxford's tap-dancing busker dies at 97.

Monday, 24 December 2007

Merry Christmas To You All

Place yourselves in the capable hands of Messrs Grayson and Cholmondeley-Warner:

Tidings of joy

Since most visitors to a blog don't bother to view the blogger's profile, and few have any reason to view it more than once, it's encouraging to find my own profile has already been viewed 269 times.

Only seventy people have been told this blog exists, so it's clear Webside Gleanings has found a hefty audience beyond my own circle.

Thank you, folks. Hope you continue to find something here to amuse or interest you.

[prepares to sing wacky modern version of 'The Twelve Days of Christmas', but is coshed into unconsciousness]

Dissing the patient

Doctor slang - chiefly irreverent abbreviations - is dying out.

SF from HG

Finally read The Time Machine the other day. After 112 years, it still works well:
I seemed to see a ghostly, indistinct figure sitting in a whirling mass of black and brass for a moment - a figure so transparent that the bench behind with its sheets of drawings was absolutely distinct; but this phantasm vanished as I rubbed my eyes. The Time Machine had gone.

Working life in Britain

A helpful graphic:

Try again, chaps

The Library of Congress downgrades Scottish literature.

Update: they saw sense.

Sunday, 23 December 2007

Yuletide spleen

A full and frank round-robin from Roger Lewis.

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Half A Hundred

Fifty years ago today, I was born. (A day or two earlier, justifiably disinclined to share the universe with me, Dorothy L Sayers suddenly died.)

Not sure why, but Satchmo feels appropriate:

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Such Darling Dodos

A compilation of Parky's encounters with Dame Edith Evans and Commissioner Catherine Bramwell-Booth. Truly, they don't make 'em like that anymore…

The Look

Not generally a fan of baby videos, but this character could disarm Herod:

Getting rid of a hangover

Seasonal tips.

Monday, 17 December 2007

Effing Forest

A young Polish plumber responds to last week's Question Time (which featured Hazel Blears, Piers Morgan and Kirsty Allsopp).

Sunday, 16 December 2007

Well suited

Aldous Huxley's remarkable widow survived him by 44 years, dying last week at the age of 96.

Website profile / Independent obituary

Long may she reign

A small salute to Gwyneth Dunwoody, who this month overtook the late Barbara Castle to become Labour's longest-serving female MP.

The man who retired at 100

Hryhoriy Nestor, thought to have been the world's oldest person, dies at 116. "He didn't find himself a mate because he was a short man and never had money." Ah.


Actor and ex-Senator Fred Thompson, a candidate for the Republican Presidential nomination, takes part in a debate with his rivals - and some unsporting little rascal edits together all his hesitations. Oddly hypnotic:

Still with us

Ninetieth-birthday reflections from Arthur C Clarke (9 minutes):

Friday, 14 December 2007

Genius, fraud or both?

John Cornwell (in 2005) visits the offbeat Anthony Burgess Foundation in Manchester and mulls over Little Wilson's career and reputation.

Give us a twirl

Lib Dem acting leader Vincent Cable dancing with Alesha Dixon:

Dances I'd like to see him do:

tango; black bottom; limbo; hokey-cokey; medieval dance of death; L'Apres-midi d’un Faune.

Come on, Vince, you don't want us to think you're an amateur, do you?

Dance I wouldn't like to see him do:

seven veils (except with a very early blackout).

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

My kinda guy

Murder victim Allan Chappelow was an 86-year-old Cambridge-educated millionaire recluse who made his infrequent trips to the shops by motorbike, wearing a leather helmet and an old RAF mac tied with string. In 1950 he took the last photos of Bernard Shaw, about whom he later wrote Shaw the Chucker-Out: a Biographical Exposition and Critique and Shaw the Villager and Human Being. The despair of Camden Council’s planning department, he mended his roof of his mansion with Selotape and plastic bags. He sounds a treasure; my sympathy to those who mourned him. More here and here.


Martin McGuinness and Ian Paisley grin merrily at the opening of Ireland's first Ikea.

Portents of doom

Massive rent hikes for traders in Oxford's Covered Market are proposed - and so is a daunting rise in the cost of a Scottish pub licence.

Could Gordon be jailed for unveiling a statue?

"Making a crap law does not exempt you from its provisions" - Mark Thomas seeks to enmesh the PM in the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005.


The marvellous Smirnoff ad in which the sea gives up the treasure and wreckage of centuries:

Bad news

The one and only Terry Pratchett has Alzheimer's:

We are taking it fairly philosophically down here and possibly with a mild optimism… Frankly, I would prefer it if people kept things cheerful, because I think there's time for at least a few more books yet :o)
Sir, imagine this blog as sending you a sort of Mexican wave of goodwill.

Bones of a Bonaparte

France wants us to give Napoleon III back.

Trashing Kant

If philosophers were treated like US political candidates:

Monday, 10 December 2007

All who sail in her

A six-thousand-volume library, an 830-seat theatre with West End-style boxes, and a whole room devoted to the life of Queen Victoria. Sounds like the ideal home for me, but in fact it's Cunard's latest liner.

Stjoodents carnt rite

So attests the Royal Literary Fund. (The Fund's own summary of its report is here.)

Mind the gateau

Q: What can you do on a Tube journey, other than plug in your iPod or whatever, browse the discarded newspapers and hope the bloke opposite isn't going to stab you?

A: You can give a dinner party.

Monday, 3 December 2007

Can't-do culture

Reasons to be tearful at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office.

Apart from the earthquake

What holidaymakers liked least.

Easy in our beds?

The US claims the right to kidnap British citizens.

One's Husband and One

Andrew Pierce and Vicus Scurra on sixty years of a royal marriage.

Constructive criticism

A wee gem from the appraisal culture.

Mysterious ceramic heads

They're popping up everywhere.

(Is Eva McIntyre to blame?)

How do you do?

The best reply, thought Douglas Woodruff, is the classical Chinese one:
"I am trying to diminish the number of my failings, but I have not so far been successful."

K is for KATE who was struck with an axe

It's a brevis old vita for The Gashlycrumb Tinies.

The first science fiction film

…was A Trip to the Moon, directed by George Méliès in 1902. Whimsical and at first slow-moving, it is, I think, much enhanced by the electronic music of Justin Herndon. It's presented here in two parts of six minutes each:


Mick Hall deplores the dwindling numbers of working-class MPs.

Sunday, 2 December 2007

Floreat Swinesend

Re-live all that time-honoured, character-building, picturesque starvation and torture at The Crap Public Schools Association.

Divas, icons & Gracie

The scene in Little Voice where the incomparable Jane Horrocks channels Shirley Bassey, Marilyn, Marlene, Gracie Fields and Garland, while Brenda Blethyn, Jim Broadbent and Michael Caine look on in amazement:


Wouldn't normally link to a Simon Heffer anecdote, but this Harriet Harman vignette is diverting.

How to argue

Learn from a master.