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TE Lawrence camera Oxford

Sexing up the camera

Within the collection of the Museum of the History of Science in Oxford are a number of objects varnished with the patina of past celebrity. Here are Elizabeth I’s astrolabe, Lewis Carroll’s photographic developing kit, and a blackboard, its chalk-inscribed equations intact, used by Albert Einstein. Read More

Stoke Mandeville old village

A neglected spot

Perhaps in this neglected spot is laid
Some heart once pregnant with celestial fire;
Hands, that the rod of empire might have sway’d,
Or wak’d to ecstasy the living lyre.

(‘Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard’ – Thomas Gray)

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Hardy Tree

Human jam

Because the poet had stood in the churchyard
and watched, by flarelamps, the graves unearthed,
watched each night the unclaimed bodies
packed away, the graveyard cinch and cinch
its boundaries so—why?—so trains might pass;
because the poet had scanned the sky,
the belfries and steeples, dark against
a paler dark; because he had heard
a fox bark, sonorous and long—
three barks, horn-like
but melancholy,

the young man wanted the same churchyard,
the same gradually darkening, quiet sky.
Along the railroad berm, sparse clumps of heather
twitched and stilled. Twitched and stilled.
Gritty semaphores. Then he stood in the churchyard
where Hardy once stood. There was the ash tree,
and there—in memoriam perhaps?—
the upright headstones placed in rings
around its trunk. Just three or four
evenly spaced, concentric rings.
But no,

that was eighty years ago. Now the ash tree’s roots
had nudged the rings into a jumbled cluster,
had tipped, in little groups of two and three,
some stones together. One and one
and two and three. Is that a code?
Nature’s logarithmic shrug?

(‘The Hardy Tree’ – Linda Bierds)

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Old Sarum OS monument

Mudge’s buried cannon

Anyone visiting the Iron Age hill fort at Old Sarum in Wiltshire is likely to miss the weathered, lichen-speckled monument opposite the entrance, on the other side of the main road into Salisbury. The inscription on this irregular block of stone is very difficult to decipher, not just because of its age but also because of its unusual (perhaps even unique — certainly, I have seen nothing in this style before) lettering. Read More

Cupid in Fitzrovia

Cupid in Fitzrovia

Flying through Fitzrovia, Cupid collided with a drone. He fell to earth in New Cavendish Street, landing in a bin filled with fast-food detritus. By the time he got himself out, his wing feathers were so tacky with grease, ketchup, and mayonnaise that he couldn’t fly. Read More