In 1948 the Grey Walls Press in London published a book, edited by S. L. Locker, called ‘The Nature Diaries and Notebooks of Richard Jefferies’.
For Saturday 16th October 1878 Richard is in Surbiton, Surrey and records a fascinating scene: ‘Wasp and very large blue-fly struggling, wrestling on leaf. In a few seconds the wasp got the mastery, brought his tail round, and stung once or thrice; then bit off the fly’s proboscis, then the legs, then bit behind the head, then snipped off the wings, then fell off her leaf, but flew with burden to the next, rolled the fly around, and literally devoured its intestines. Dropped off the leaf in its eager haste, got on third leaf, and continued ‘till nothing was left but a small part of the body – the head had been snipped off before.
This was one of those black flies – a little blue underneath – not like meat flies, but bigger and squarer, that got to the ivy. Ivy in bloom close by, where, doubtless, the robber found his prey and seized it.
Now, I spend a reasonable amount of time in my garden, and watch all kinds of birds and insects, but have never seen anything like this. Perhaps it’s the fact that I’m watching and writing in 2017. The book was published in 1948 and this recorded event took place in 1878. Do you think that if I watch in my garden in 2018 I may see something similar?
It was Tuesday 14th October 1969 and a new 50-pence coin sparked confusion among the British population. The seven-sided 50p coin had come into circulation to replace the 10-shilling note but had received a mixed reception. It was the third decimal coin to be introduced into the British currency – a currency that was scheduled to go totally decimal on Monday 15th February, 1971 – day to be known as D-Day!
The British public had already got accustomed to the new 5p and 10p coins that had been introduced in 1968. Today’s new arrival was made of cupro-nickel and was, according to Lord Fiske, the chairman of the Decimal Currency Board, the only heptagonal coin in circulation in the world.
However some shopkeepers, bus conductors and members of the public were complaining that, in spite of its distinctive shape, it is too easily confused with the 10-pence coin or half crown. One Londoner told the Evening News that he had accidentally left a 50p coin in a saucer full of 10ps as a tip for a waiter. “Fortunately the waiter was dead honest and told me. But I suspect there’ll be a lot of cases where that doesn’t happen,” he said.
The Decimal Currency Board had stockpiled some 120 million 50-pence coins at banks around the country ready for this day’s introduction of the coin, making it the largest ever issue of a new coin. Lord Fiske said the reason for this was to replace the 200 million ‘ten-bob notes’ as soon as possible and added that the issue would eventually save the Treasury money.
He said that “the note is being replaced primarily on economic grounds. A 10s note has a life of some five months and the costs of distribution and withdrawal are comparatively high. Although a 50p coin will cost more to produce initially, it should have a life of at least 50 years and the metal will subsequently be recoverable.”
None the less, many people were unhappy with the new addition to their purses and pockets. There was also still three coins left to come – the 2p worth 4.8d, 1p (2.4d) and half pence (1.2d). No doubt we’ll come to these in due time.
Wednesday 12th October 1938: George Orwell writes to Jack Common who was looking after his cottage:
‘I hope the hens have begun laying. Some of them have by this time, I expect, at any rate they ought to.
We’ve bought the hens for our house, which we’re moving into on Saturday. The hens in this country are miserable little things like the Indian ones, about the size of bantams, and what is regarded as a good laying hen, i.e. it lays once a fortnight, costs less than a shilling. They ought to cost about 6 pence, but at this time of year the price goes up because after Yom Kippur every Jew, of whom there are 13,000 in this town, eats the whole fowl to recompense him for the strain of fasting 12 hours.’
I think I would be very happy to be offered a British chicken!
In writing this I have discovered something new (to me) about George Orwell – he was actually named Eric Arthur Blair!
Christopher John Tarrant was born on Thursday 10th October 1946; was educated as a boarder in Choir House at the King’s School, Worcester where he represented the school at hockey and cricket. He briefly became a researcher for the Central Office of Information before becoming a newsreader on ATV Today. It was in 1974 that things progressed. For 8 years between 1974 & 82 he hosted the ITV children’s television show Tiswas. Two years later – in 1984 – he joined Capital Radio and was host for 20 years. He is probably best remembered, though, for his 16 years on the ITV game show ‘Who wants to be a Millionaire?’
In March 2014 he suffered a stroke at 39,000ft on a work flight from Thailand to London. Doctors at Charing Cross Hospital, London, told him he’d had a stroke, and did emergency surgery to remove a blood clot from his right leg. Chris recalls: “They were brilliant. I’m always aware that if I hadn’t gone I could be in a wheelchair. What happened makes me want to enjoy my life. I take medication and pills. I keep pretty active. I’ve got a big rambling estate in Berkshire so I walk around hills as I can’t stand the gym. I think I’m mentally fit, too.”
Yesterday evening we left Queen Victoria, her husband Albert and their ‘team’ settling down to sleep after far from exciting food yesterday. So what did Wednesday, 9th October 1861 bring forth for the Royal couple? Queen Victoria tells us that…
It was a bright morning which was charming. Albert found, on getting up, that Cluny MacPherson, with his piper and two ladies, had arrived quite early in the morning; and, while we were dressing, we heard a drum and fife – and discovered that the newly-formed volunteers had arrived – all indicating that we were discovered. However, there was scarcely any population, and it did not signify. The fat old landlady had put on a black satin dress, with white ribbons and orange flowers!
We had breakfast at a quarter to nine o’clock; at half-past nine we started. Cluny was at the door with his wife and daughters with nosegays, and volunteers were drawn up in front of the inn. They had all assembled since Saturday afternoon.
We drove as we did yesterday. There was fine and very wild scenery, high wild hills, and no habitations.
We’ll leave the pair now as they enjoy the Scottish landscape,
It was Tuesday 8th October 1861 and Britain’s Queen Victoria, and Albert her husband, are in Inverness-shire, Scotland and heading for their evening abode. She writes in her diary:
It became cold and windy with occasional rain. At length, and not till a quarter to nine, did we reach the inn of Dalwhinnie – 29 miles from where we had left our ponies – which stands by itself, away from any village.
Here, again (as yesterday), there were a few people assembled, and I thought they knew us; but it seems they did not, and it was only when we arrived that one of the maids recognised me.
She had seen me at Aberdeen and Edinburgh. We went upstairs: the inn was much larger than at Fettercairn, but not nearly so nice and cheerful; there was a drawing-room and a dining-room; and we had a good-sized bed-room.
Albert had a dressing-room of equal size. Mary Andrews [a wardrobe-maid] who was very useful and efficient and Lady Churchill’s maid had a room together, every one being in the house; but unfortunately there was hardly anything to eat, and two miserable starved Highland chickens, without any potatoes! No pudding, and no fun; no little maid [the two there not wishing to come in], nor our two people – who were wet and drying our, and their, things – to wait on us! It was not a nice supper; and the evening was wet. As it was late we soon retired to rest.
Mary and Maxted [Lady Churchill’s maid] had been dining below with Grant, Brown, and Stewart [who came, the same as last time, with the maids] in the ‘commercial room’ at the foot of the stairs. They had only the remains of our two starved chickens!
I wonder what the morrow will bring.
It was on this day – Saturday 6th October 1962 – that a film of the book launched the James Bond saga across the world.
‘Doctor No’ was the sixth novel by author Ian Fleming to feature his British Secret Service agent James Bond. He had written the novel in early 1957 at his home in Jamaica and it was first published in the United Kingdom by Johnathan Cape on Tuesday 31st March 1958. The novel centred on Bond’s investigation into the disappearance in Jamaica of two fellow MI6 operatives.
Sean Connery – agent 007 – had to battle with the mysterious Doctor No – a scientific genius bent on destroying the whole U.S. space program. As the countdown to disaster began James Bond headed for Jamaica. There, surprise surprise, he encountered the beautiful Honey Ryder (played by the beautiful Ursula Andress). Together they have to confront a megalo-maniacal villain in his massive island headquarters.
Created on a one million dollar budget, the film box offices returned just short of 60 million dollars!
Monday 4th October 1976 saw a new high-speed train go into service for the first time. Powered by two diesel engines the trains were capable to a top speed of 140mph which, at that time, made it the fasted diesel powered train in the world. It is recorded that, on this first journey it arrived 3 minutes early at Bristol!
So what was involved in creating this new wonder? Well British Railways was creating and introducing the Inter-City 125 trains so as to provide a regular high speed service between Cardiff, Bristol and London. This was the first traveler but British Rail planed to extend the HST service to other major cities over the following two/three years. Powered by two diesel motors the Inter-City 125 had already recorded a top speed of over 140mph in trial runs, making it the fastest diesel-powered train in the world.
It was recognised that most other countries had developed electrically powered high-speed trains but the cost of electrification on Britain’s network was considered, at the time, to be prohibitive. The diesel-powered 125 was a new product from existing technology and was a reasonable stopgap. The absence of an official ceremony by British Rail to mark this initial occasion meant that few passengers on the trip were aware they were making history on the morning when the 08.05 train left Paddington on time and headed west.
However, it dose appear that most of the travellers did appreciate some improvement in comfort – the carriages featured aircraft-like seating, with sliding electric doors at each end. Not only was this comfort welcome – hot food could be promptly served from an on-board kitchen with the aid of a state-of-the-art microwave oven!
It is Tuesday 2nd October 1849 and Dorothy Wordsworth is in Grasmere in England’s Lake District. It would appear to be a semi-planned time as she writes into her diary:
‘A very rainy morning. We walked after dinner to observe the torrents. I followed William to Rydale, he afterwards went to Butterlip How. I came home to receive the Lloyds. They walked with us to see Churnmilk force and the Black quarter. The black quarter looked marshy, and the general prospect was cold, but the Force was very grand.
We also find an interesting conversation regarding the manners of the rich of the country. These are described as avaricious and greedy for gain while having the effeminacy, unnaturalness and the unworthiness of their kind.
I don’t think Dorothy liked the upper-crust of Britain’s rich!
October has arrived and the world is changing. The awareness and observation of this change has been noted, and recorded, and described across the world. Here in Britain the Chambers Book of Days for 1864 describes the country:
The woods never look more beautiful than from the close of last month to the middle of October, for by that time it seems as if nature had exhausted all her choicest colours on the foliage. We see the rich, burnished bronze of the oak, red of many hues, up to the gaudiest scarlet; every shade of yellow, from the wan gold of the primrose to the deep orange of the tiger-lily …. and all so blended and softened together in parts, that like the colours on a dove’s neck, we cannot tell where one begins and the other ends.
The term October – October is now the tenth month of the year but in Roman times it was the eighth month on the calendar. So where did the name come from them? Nowhere, actually, the word ‘Octo’ in Latin meant ‘eight’.
By now, summer was sinking into a memory – but winter was still a few weeks away. In Anglo-Saxon times this time was ‘Wyn-monath’ – the month for treading the wine-vats. In Domesday Book the vineyards are perpetually mentioned.
At this time the grain harvest would normally be safely gathered in and attention changed to preparing the ground for next year. One of the pieces of advice – or was it instruction? – says: ‘In October dung your field, and your land its wealth shall yield’.
Another proverb refers to the all-important production of malt for beer and whisky. That says: ‘Dry your barley in October or you’ll always be sober.’
I think I may take notice of this last one!