diamond geezer

 Friday, September 23, 2005

While I've been writing about Open House and ITV's 50th, a number of other notable events and anniversaries have slipped under the radar. Here's a few that I missed...

  Sunday, 18 September, 2005   Fifty years ago Britain officially annexed the tiny islet of Rockall, a remote rocky outcrop located 287 miles west of mainland Scotland. Back in 1955 a Royal Navy helicopter lowered two sailors onto the island's only narrow ledge where the Union flag was raised in a shamelessly political attempt to extend British territorial waters. And then they left. An SAS chappie lasted five weeks on Rockall back in 1985, but the only current inhabitants are a few squawking seabirds. When listening to the shipping forecast I've always wondered... (etc etc)

  Monday, 19 September, 2005   Dr Thomas Barnado died 100 years ago today. He's famous for his pioneering children's homes, the first of which opened in 1870 just down the road from me in Stepney. When I was a kid living in cosy suburbia I had a Barnardo's collecting box shaped like a little cottage, in which I (occasionally) used to collect a piddling amount of small change. Every year all of the cottage-fillers in my village were invited to a big garden party at which our boxes were ritually opened and copious thanks showered upon us. Unjustly, in my case, I suspect. I threw a pound coin into a Barnardo's collecting bucket at my local tube station tonight, and I had a nasty feeling that this single donation was larger than everything I'd ever managed to contribute to this fine charity in the past. Next year maybe I should... (etc etc)

  Monday, 19 September, 2005   Everybody's favourite sitcom Fawlty Towers was first broadcast thirty years ago tonight. I remember sitting down and watching it as a curious ten year old, and loving it. Not that the case of Lord Melbury's mistaken identity was the best of the twelve episodes ever made, but all that farcical class snobbery we grew to adore was present right from the very start. John Cleese probably never topped... (etc etc)

  Thursday, 22 September, 2005   We don't have libraries in Tower Hamlets any more. Libraries are old hat. Not even historic Whitechapel Library, the famous intellectual refuge which opened back in 1892 bringing books and culture to the poor undereducated masses of the East End. A huge collection of Jewish texts was built up, overtaken more recently by an even larger set of Bengali books, inspiring several generations to academic greatness. But 21st century locals don't want musty shelves any more, they want internet terminals and beanbags, so this remarkable building finally closed to the public last month. Its replacement is a shiny glass 'Idea Store', up the road next to Sainsbury's, and it opens today. It's the only way to inspire the borough's youth, I know, but I can't help feeling that the Whitechapel Idea Store won't have anywhere near as significant a legacy as its eradicated counterpart... (etc etc)

  Thursday, 22 September, 2005   The London Olympics open in precisely 2500 days time. Not long when there's a stadium or seven to build and an industrial wasteland to eradicate. So far almost nothing tangible has changed on the Stratford Olympic site, but what has changed is that even the tiniest non-event around here is now news. Potential killer turtle spotted; mini nuclear reactor uncovered; giant hogweed on the loose - everything hits the headlines now, however minor. But there's still approximately 500 days to go until the media can report the rather more newsworthy headline 'Olympic demolition starts'. Come visit while you still can... (etc etc)

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