This church is on fire

Teh intertubes just reported there is a huge fire in the Carolus Borromeus church in Antwerp (again). More later.


Dutch fraudsters con athletes with loopy scam

Ah, yes, I've not talked about all the superstition in sports before.
A lot of players have 'rituals' they do before their games. Not just preparing or psyching themselves up for a match. No, they actually have to do the exact same things every time. This is where the special pleading comes in. If they lose, they can sort of blame it on the ritual.

This a posteriori woo woo has now disguised itself in the form of some 'high tech'-accoutrement athletes need to wear to enhance their performance. And we're not talking about Lazer swimsuits or Blade Runners here.

According to an article in De Telegraaf, that well know source for reliable, interesting and solid reporting, (infuse this comment with a pinch of sarcasm), two Dutch brothers have been conning pro's with a scam so ludicrous even a baboon would see right through it.

According to the article written by Johan van den Dongen, they have managed to secure a 200,000 € deal with a Greek football club so they can have the privilege of training in the jacket for ten days.
Red flag nº 1: 200K?

So what are they selling? According to the product description: Some kind of jacket that contains minerals that filter IR from sunlight and then beams it through to the body. The vibrating and rotary effects of this radiation would stimulate blood circulation what would lead to a better aerobe intake and a quicker deposit of lactic acid and other waste.
Red flag nº 2: techno babble

Of course they have no scientific data or studies to back up their claims.
All the evidence they provide is purely anecdotal as usually is the case, by using testimonials.
Red flag nº 3

Alas every single online news outlet, even the Dutch U2 fanclub, have copy-pasted it into their news feeds.
"Ook U2-drummer Larry Mullen mocht er een concert lang aan ruiken." To bad the U2 concerts are in the evenings when the sun has already set. And the IR radiation coming from the gas discharge MSR Gold™ FastFits in the lighting units won't be giving off much either.

It is pathetic, it's not even a good scam. But if you can find the gullible idiot that fits the shoe, so be it.

Maybe the Panathinaikos players left the magic jackets out on the field after their training session and the InfraRed radiation started the huge fires that are grilling Athens right now...


The sound of hoofbeats 'cross the glade

For the gazillonth time two of Mr Disastrous Farmer's™ horses escaped from the corral behind our house.
I parked my Mini across the drive way, hoping to block their passage to the street. Fat chance of course, my wee little car didn't even block half of it.
They snuck by it, in their horsey fashion, as they do and made it out onto the street.
I got on the phone to our local sherrif. By the time I was talking to the inspector, they'd been let in into another field by Mr Disastrous Farmer's™ girlfriend. Apparently she was woken out of her lethargy by the sound of hoofbeats 'cross the glade (and on the street).
When Dr Livingstone went with her to look at where exactly they'd escaped, the two horses were on a rampage again and had trashed the other fences too and were out again.
It finally dawned on her they are not capable of looking after the animals.
She kind of went all apologetic on us.

Oh, and two weeks on, their letter box is still on the ground.


Flemish Minister of Environment Schauvliege is a chemtrail believer

I knew it all along. Our country is being run by a bunch of idiots.
It may not come as a surprise to many, but the evidence keeps piling up with every minute that our silly little planet continues to orbit the Sun. And not just because of silly legislation or the omnipresent corruption scandals. Some have really lost touch with reality. And they're in our government.

Two days ago a little piece appeared in the paper about an ex mayor of Evergem, Peter Vereecke, who filed a complaint with investigating judge Claeys about chemtrails. What are they? The short version: According to several paranoid conspiracy theorists, chemtrails look like contrails but they are intentionally created by unknown people to poison us with unknown chemicals for some unknown reason.
Alas the complaint he filed cannot be ignored and has to be investigated because there needs to be a ruling by the Raadkamer. So some more taxpayers’ money will be squandered by having to deal with the likes of Vereecke who holds these deranged beliefs.

This guy has been popping up with the regularity of a Swiss cuckoo clock.
He got a piece in Het Nieuwsblad in March of last year.
A couple of days ago he wrote a piece on some other nitwit's site. This from the first page: 'The Latest News about the change in consciousness every human on earth is going to experience and the global official announcement of the Worldwide Universal Contact are the themes that dominate a lot of the news on niburu.nl. We also inform as much citizens as we can about the health risks they run by different causes which can be found on this site. We can help nearly everyone with advice to keep these dangers at a minimum.' (Also check out the crop circles, UFO's, Atlantis,...the works).
So he's kinda preaching to his proverbial own parochial crowd. Before I forget, he also lumps the chemtrails together with his horror for vaccination and somehow seems to tie that in with the financial meltdown. "Chemtrails zijn geen geïsoleerd fenomeen. Nu al wordt duidelijk dat we in het najaar afstevenen op een mondiale vaccinatie tegen de vermeende pandemie van Mexicaanse griep. Ook daar valt heel veel over en vooral tegen te zeggen. En er is de financiële en economische crisis."

This was picked up, to my astonishment, by another national newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws, the thing that triggered my interest.
How this kind of bullcrap makes it into the paper is beyond me, but it did. Maybe the paper is being run by a bunch of monkeys while the subs are on holiday.
Anyway, apart from crappy reporting, this man should be treated. He needs help. Obviously he has mental issues. I cannot believe he is given such a platform to spread his nonsense. It only re-enforces his delusions.

Alas he got an even bigger puff piece of publicity in De Gentenaar. Two pages, complete with colour photographs. Click here for the original scan of the article. Click here for a bad translation. Even the jesting and ridiculing was just slight, the journalist didn't even try.

In case you don't want to read the whole thing, Vereecke's most spectacular revelation is that

-wait for it-

Al Gore is a member of the Illuminati secret society.

If you think that's bad, you ain't seen nothing yet. We have another permanent resident of Cloud Cuckoo Land. And she's in the government.
Who could this be, you might ask? Step forward Joke Schauvliege, the new Flemish minister for Environment, Nature and Culture. And worst of all: Schauvliege is a chemtrail believer too.
Last year, on July 8th 2008, when she was still an 'ordinary' MP she even posed a question (nº 829) about chemtrails to the then minister for Environment Hilde Crevits. Question and answer are on the site of the Flemish Parliament here.
Crevits' answer to her query was level headed, clear, short and sweet. A few highlights:
1) There are no scientific studies which prove or study chemtrails. ('Er zijn ook geen wetenschappelijke studies beschikbaar die het bestaan van chemtrails aantonen of bestuderen.')

2) The specialists in my administration do not believe in the danger and existance of chemtrails. Through Google you can surf from one site to another with all kinds of theories that are non-scientific. Every time the same words are being used and one site has even more spectacular explenations than the previous one. (De deskundigen binnen mijn administratie hechten weinig geloof aan het bestaan en gevaar van ‘chemtrails’. Via ‘Google’ surf je van de ene naar de andere site met theorieën die wetenschappelijk niet onderbouwd zijn. Telkens worden dezelfde bewoordingen gebruikt en de ene site heeft al straffere verklaringen dan de andere.)

3) There have been no health complaints which point to chemtrails as a cause. ('Er werden echter geen gezondheidsklachten ontvangen die werden toegewezen aan “chemtrails”.')

4) As soon as the international scientific community points to the necessity with convincing arguments we could consider to have an investigation. ('Zodra internationale wetenschappelijke literatuur de noodzaak hiertoe met passende overtuiging aantoont, kan overwogen worden om onderzoek ter zake uit te voeren.')

Schauvliege is a lawyer. But she looks like the kind who presents a case without even considering the evidence or lack thereof.

And she isn't exactly deemed to be the brightest crayon in the box. Not only because she obviously has no clue as to what things are considered scientific and what is complete and utter nonsense, she has also demonstrated her complete contempt for that other bit of governing she is responsible for: Culture. Go here for the embarrasing clip when he was being grilled, lightly, by a couple of 'journalists'.
When asked what the last book was she read the response came there none. Well, to be fair she actually replied: 'I have kids.'
Oh yeah, how silly of me to forget. When women have kids every time they give birth to one a part of their brain dies with them.
Being asked what her last contact with the performing arts had been was: 'Some play or other by an amateur company in my village about six months ago.' I share Erwin Mortier's view.

Perhaps she'd been watching Vereecke's monologue on his chemtrail scaremongering. Last spring he was touring local communitiy centres with some rant he had written about how the world has changed and how we should all start giving off positive vibes. He has had some kind of nervous breakdown, chucking in his job, severing family and social ties and quitting politics. And where does Schauvliege enter into all of this? He is after all the ex-mayor of Evergem and she was on the council during the years when he was holding that office.

They must know each other from other party affiliated activities.
You know, they're in the same political party, the CD&V: the Chemtrails, Delusions & Voodoo science party.


The Castle of Gaasbeek

I'd been longing to visit the castle of Gaasbeek for ages and this week the moment had finally come. It was a very bright and sunny day, not too much traffic on the roads around Brussels.
The area, the Pajottenland, where it is said Bruegel worked all these centuries ago, looked very paintable indeed. The view from the surrounding gardens over the fields is breathtaking. We'll definitely be back to have a walk in the adjoining park.

Gaasbeek houses a wealth of artistic treasures, and as any self respecting castle should, has secret passage ways. There are guided tours which last about an hour and worth the while if there aren't too many people in the group. Sometimes it is a bit of a squeeze, a lot of the rooms are very small. Unfortunately we got stuck in a big group. The guide said they were allowed to take up to thirty people in one go, but you can't see half of everything and it is not very safe for all the art work on display. Dr Livingstone remarked he found it very disappointing. Then our guide tried a little harder. She stopped talking to the kids in the childish like manner and got on with it. I don't mind her adapting the tour a little because there are kids present, but there are limits. Talking in a patronising way can be very annoying to others. Myself included.

The history of the building, the surroundings, the people who lived there are fascinating. Lamoraal, Count of Egmont is undoubtedly the most famous resident. He bought the castle in 1565, three years before his dramatic execution.
The last owner of the castle, Marquise Arconati Visconti, had a soft spot for history (she studied at the Sorbonne) and liked to dress up as a man in Renaissance clothes.

She restored the castle and had it refitted from 1887 to 1897 to the neo-styles that were all the rage at the turning of the century. She employed the architect Charles Albert for the reconstruction work. The exterior bears some resemblance to the Chateau de Pierrefonds restored by Viollet-le-Duc.

You do not have enough eyes to see all of it in one go. The heart of the collection dates back to the Scockaert de Tirimont family and remained in the family by inheritance. However, most of the collection was purchased by the Marquise, who intended to turn the castle into a museum of the Renaissance. The pieces she obtained therefore date mainly from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.The mass of objects on display is overwhelming. After her husband died she took up with an antiquarian who was bided to scour the markets for pieces that would embellish the castle's interior.

The thing that fascinated me most were some statuettes in the Ridderzaal. They are of special interest to me. In September the Leuven city museum M will reopen after its refurbishment (by Stéphane Beel) and the first exhibition staged will be about Rogier van der Weyden. Curator Professor Dr Jan Van der Stock gave us a sneak preview of all the things that are going to be in the exhibition.
Among the most 'novel' things on display will be the gisant of the funeral monument of Isabella of Bourbon, wife of Duke Charles the Bold of Burgundy. It was erected in the abbey church of St Michael near Antwerp in 1476 and was robbed of most of its decoration in the 16th or 17th century. Originally the tomb was surrounded by 24 bronze statuettes of noblemen and women standing in niches.

The bronze effigy of Isabella was later moved to the O.-L. Vrouwekathedraal (Cathedral of Our Lady) in Antwerp, where it remains to this day. Nothing more of the tomb furnishings survives, with the exception of ten statuettes in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. For this exhibition it will be reunited with 10 of the original pleurants which flanked the tomb. Isabella's mausoleum is based on two almost identical tombs which no longer exist. The models for the statuettes are presumed to have been made by Jean Delemer around 1476. They probably closely resembled wooden ones polychromated by Rogier van der Weyden in 1459 which were part of the tomb of Johanna of Brabant (now destroyed).

So although they will be part of the exhibition they have not been 'made' by the master because he had passed away in 1464.
What struck me as odd is why they didn't borrow the ten statuettes that are in Gaasbeek to use in the exhibition. They're the same ones! It guess it would have been cheaper to exhibit these. It is hardly a well kept secret the statuettes are there.

In the museum shop Dr Livingstone bought some throat lozenges from the Officina Profumo- Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella, a Florentine pharmacy founded by Dominicans in 1221. The perfumes and other scented products are still being made today following the centuries old recipes, all based on natural herbs and oils of the highest standards, grown in the hills around Florence.


The Bell in the Fog & Other Stories

I read Gertrude Atherton's The Bell in the Fog & Other Stories.
I'm a bit surprised at how unfulfilling the shorts seem to me. The first two, The Bell in the Fog and The Striding Place, start off very promising, a nice set up, story coming along nicely, tension builds (not tremendously, but it does one way or the other). And just when things start to get interesting, the story is finished. In most cases the protagonists take their own lives or the other characters are dead.
The first one I liked was the The Dead and The Countess. Talking dead people always do the trick and it had a light-footedness about it which lacked in some other shorts.
I suppose Gertrude's stories are just not supernatural or horrific enough for me. I've read some serious gothic horror novels over the years where blood and goo was oozing from the pages.
But she does paint a good atmosphere and focusses more on the psychology and internal struggles of her characters.
Good job on the sentences though. With little words she can do so much.


Separating science from fiction in the lab

Yesterday I finished Dr Paul Coremans' treatise on Van Meegeren's faked Vermeers and De Hooghs.
I found it unusual how he suddenly pleads for the connoisseurs at the end: 'Here too -at least in so far as the Disciples is concerned - the blame does not lie with the historical experts.'.

But then in the following sentence he does slap them on the wrist: 'It would have been advisable, however, in the interests of prudence, to have submitted this painting to a laboratory examination, prior to concluding the purchase.'


Another very good part in his conclusion: 'I am glad to say that, in this case, historical documentation has produced evidence even more valuable than scientific proof, since it can be understood by all, whereas the latter is fully appreciated only by a small minority and might not convince the general public.'

And more on the subject of science: 'Natural sciences can undoubtedly provide a more objective view than aesthetics and history of art, thus helping to solve certain artistic problems. However, the merit of results obtained - as is the case with all so-called exact sciences - is in proportion to the precision of the method and the sensitivity of the apparatus used, as well as dependant on the degree of accuracy in the interpretation of documents. Moreover - and this is the basis of all scientific reasoning - all partial results must converge to the same final conclusion. The correct answer is subject to a genuine appreciation of the various factors. Yes or no is therefore frequently replaced by the more prudent possibly or probably.'


The skies are full of falling stars and absconded rubbish

The most peculiar thing happened last night.
Dr Livingstone and I were outside stargazing, enjoying the Perseid meteor shower, when we heard a car pull up to the front of the house.
It left its motor running.
We strolled over to the street side to look what was going on (it had already gone eleven). When Dr Livingstone got there, the car sped off.

Now for the strange part: Our two bin liners full of rubbish were gone!
I'd put them out not too long before and they were stolen!

Why would anyone steal our rubbish?
I know there's talk of crisis and so on but this is a bit freakish to say the least.

There is something you, dear reader, should know before I go on.
Our council has abolished rubbish tax this year. It used to be 30€. Now the idea is you buy the special bin liners with the village name printed on them and add a 1€ sticker. If the sticker is not on the bags, the men who collect the trash leave it outside.

Dr Livingstone has a few theories as to why someone would scarper off with our flotsam and jetsam:

1) They want the stickers.
In my suspicious mind that wouldn't make sense. Why would anyone steal two bags to put stickers on their own liners? They'd have to get rid of two extra bags without stickers on them. They might just as well save themselves the trouble of collecting ours and dump their own straight away. It's only 2€ for pity's sake.

But Dr Livingstone says I mustn't overestimate the criminal masterminds around here.

2) Somebody wants to frame us for some crime
Mr Disasterous Farmer™?
3) Someone needs a random person's address to throw them off a lead.
A mass murderer is stealing random bags to hide body parts in?
4) There's going to be a break in, they're sifting through our rubbish to see if we've bought something worthwhile to steal.
We're not Mr and Mrs Rockefeller-Rothschild.

Now these last three seem like they could be part of a story line to a detective novel. It has literary potential.

And one of my online friends told me it could have been aliens using the meteor shower as a distraction.
I think the other worldly visitors might be in for a little disappointment when they anally probe the bin liner.

We called the police anyway. I don't want to receive a littering fine from some nearby council if our rubbish should turn up somewhere.


Everybody's faking

I just finished Edward Dolnick's The Forger's Spell: A True Story of Vermeer, Nazis, and the Greatest Art Hoax of the Twentieth Century

I enjoyed it thoroughly. Very well written, it stands head and shoulders above the previous publication I digested about the Venus de Milo. And it was a better translation too (same publisher). Alas, on page 24 a humongous error appeared which caused all the hairs on my arms to stand upright. The kind of error Dutch people tend to make because they are inclined to write down words more phonetically and mispronounce them differently from us Flemings.
But the book itself it very balanced, has a broad scope and never gets tedious or dull at any stage. It captures some of the spirit of the times (including some 30's and 40's jokes).

I got it as a present for my birthday along with a book published in 1949 by Paul Coremans who was involved in Van Meegeren's trial and gave evidence as an expert witness. It is called Van Meegeren's faked Vermeers and De Hooghs and I'm starting on that one today.
I will probably pick up another book written by Mr Dolnick. I believe he has written on the subject of the stolen The Scream by Edvard Munch.
Funny, as Dr Livingstone was staying in an Osloan hotel just across the road when the painting was in the unfortionate process of being nicked.

In January I heard a lecture given by Jonathan Lopez, also on Van Meegeren, in the National Gallery of Art (the lecture is available online via iTunes). He was introducing his book The Man Who Made Vermeers: Unvarnishing the Legend of Master Forger Han van Meegeren. He has a different approach to Van Meegeren. Dolnick concentrates more on the ultimate Göring dupe and the lead up to the arrest of Van Meegeren. Lopez talks about the other fakes (among others the Greta Garbo Vermeer), the English connection, his nazi sympathies and more.


A night at the museum

Yesterday evening we spent a night at the museum. Well, several musea.
Antwerp, one of the cities I love to hate, held its annual Museum Night. For a small fee you can visit most city musea between 7 pm and 1 am.
We decided to make a night ou ton the town of it and started with some chinese food just across from the Royal Museum of Fine Arts. Alas they seemed to forget our 2nd course, we were waiting over an hour, so time was slipping by. First we went of to the Photo Museum, the little guide book said there'd be a special exhibition on spy camera's. It was a bit of a disappointment. Two small cabinets with just a couple of A2's with some general info.
There was a very nice exhibition of some British photographers on display. I liked Tom Hunter's work best.
On the top floor some very good work from Geert van Kesteren and his work while he was embedded with American troops in Iraq.
I think it was the most successful edition so far, I've never seen so much people. It looked like I was in the Louvre or something.
In the RMFA it was very hot and sweaty. the hygrometer graphs showed there was nearly a 7% change in the humidity in the exhibition rooms, not good at all for the masterpieces on the walls.
Dr Livingstone accompanied me and he help up pretty well considering he doesn't like (most) art very much.

Dr L: I don't like it
Mrs B: Why?
Dr L: You can't see their faces
(He was looking at Two springs by Gustave van de Woestyne)

Dr L: I don't like it
Mrs B: Why?
Dr L: It's got crosses and holy men and all that crazy religious shit in it
(About 2/3rd of the museum's collection)

Dr L: (upon entering a room) Ugh, this is ugly.
(Proceeds to quick march down to the exit of the Rubens room)

Dr L: Now this I like
Mrs B: Why?
Dr L: It's got all these monsters in them, it gives me something interesting to look at and discover. Shame about the religious stuff in it.
(He was looking at The Temptation of St Anthony by Maarten de Vos)

Dr L: This I like too
Mrs B: Why?
Dr L: I've heard of this guy, I've seen some of his work, he's not a bad painter. Pitty about the religious mumbo jumbo.
(For the record: Dr Livingstone was talking about Jan Van Eyck)

He did really enjoy the behind the scenes look in the Museum's Art Depot and the ongoing restoration of Memling tableaus.
It was too crowded to look at leisure at any paintings, Dr Livingstone needs space and room to manoeuvre. I can't blame him.
The night was a runaway success for Antwerp. Shame the musea never seem to attract a throng of people in the same way through the rest of the year.
We wanted to also see the Museum Mayer van den Berg and the Middelheim but we were short on time. Ah well, a late night culture snack is never bad.


The Steve McQueen donkey™

Well, it finally happened. The animals in the field had an extra curricular activity shall we say. One of the donkeys used the hole in the fence to seek out some greener pastures.
I was standing by with a camera, just in case it would wreak havoc. But it didn't. The Steve McQueen donkey™ couldn't consolidate its escape to the fullest, I think Mr Disastrous Farmer™ saw it and under an hour all the donkeys were put in another field where the fences are in a less deplorable situation then the ones bordering on our drive way and garden.
In any case, he still hasn't mended the rest of the enclosure. He knows if it happens again he'll be in big trouble.
I gather he's not on speaking terms with us anymore since we called the council to have the horse removed.
I really cracked up yesterday when we drove past his house and his letter box was on the ground too.


A translation at arm's length

Yesterday I finished Disarmed: The story of the Venus de Milo by Gregory Curtis.

Curtis does a good job of describing the events of the finding of the sculpture and what happened to it and who was involved, but somewhere half way he gets focused on the sexual deviations of some of the figures (e.g. Winkelmann and Reinach).
It doesn't really add anything to the history of the Venus. After a few paragraphs you start to wonder when he's going back to the sculpture. It is always nice to read about some of the interesting figures of early art history research and about the attitudes of the 19th century, but it starts to drag somewhere.
The last chapter of the book is unimaginatively titled 'The Last Chapter' and should really have been omitted. And the second to last one, about the different types of Veni and iconography should have appeared somewhere in the beginning of the book.
You can tell Mr Curtis is not a historian and tends to drift off in an unguarded literary moment, but all in all the history on the handling of the statue and the people involved with it is reasonably ok. So a good read for the lay person, some interesting items for the amateur, and some titbits for the pro.
On one item I absolutely agree with Curits: the way he has a go at the departure point and some methods feminist art historians employ in their research and writings (p 246 in my translation). It goes along the lines of my blog post 'A critique on feminist contextual approach of Art History'.

I own a Dutch translation of Mr Curtis' book (by Guus Houtzager) and it is absolutely awful. It is riddled with hideous spelling mistakes (e.g. 'verast' where it should have been 'verrast': verast = cremated, verrast = surprised) and some very badly translated words (or rather: badly chosen ones). Sometimes it seems as if the translator was not at all familiar with some words and has just plucked the most fancy sounding one out of a dictionary.


Harvest then and now

Surprising how little has actually changed over a period of 450 years.
Since Pieter Bruegel painted the corn and hay harvests around 1565 and how farmers harvest today.
Only the means of harvesting have changed. Where people in the sixteenth century would spend a day scything wheat, bundling it and threshing it, now it only takes one machine about an hour to mow & thresh and another to make bales.
It only looked impressive to me for the first time this year because I had the Bruegel paintings in the back of my head.
Makes you a bit nostalgic. Farmers don't loiter about in the shade sipping beer anymore. Well, not in my neighbourhood anyway.
And there are no haystacks about anymore. So no frolicking about with the milking maid either.
Or needles lost to be searched for.
But lying about on hay makes you come out in a rash anyway. It is teeming with things that make you itch and sneeze and isn't soft at all. It's a bit like carpet burns. You never find out how bad it is until some time after. Sorry if I've burst someone's romantic bubble.


Someone got cubed

I got bogged down in the book on Florence and the Medici by J.R. Hale. A great read, but a pocket containing pure history does not make good speed reading material. To occupy my wandering mind I resorted to my long forgotten Rubik's cube. A pretty good challenge. My dad used to own a little book on some quick and dirty tips how to solve it. I think my mother threw it out when they got divorced.

Anyway, the Rubik's cube was one of my first methods of duping my parents into thinking I was somewhat special.
Those things were all the rage in the eighties and my father had left one in the living room, not being able to solve it.
When I was alone, I peeled off all the stickers and re-glued them accordingly, all the same colours on one face of the geometrical object.
My mother had left me alone for about a quarter of an hour and was astonished to find, upon her return, I had 'solved' the cube.
I must have been five at the time. I didn't say anything. She just went: 'Did you solve the cube' and I went: 'I made it into what it looks like now'. I never said I'd solved it by actually turning the bits around. And I clearly remember I couldn't actually believe she really fell for it. So I went along with it.
Until the moment had come she'd been bragging all over the place I had solved the cube, then I revealed the secret I had been saving for the opportunity of making her look like a complete ass.

After that my parents thought I was more cunning than special and left it at that.


Another Brand New Donkey

The equestrian nursery has another addition. There are so much animals about these days I didn't even notice Badly Shorn Sheep™'s owner (aka Mr Disastrous Farmer™) has had yet another small donkey added to his collection.
The pater familias jack has fathered this new foal with its two year old daughter.
So it's become a grandfather as well as father.
I didn't notice the littl'n until today, when it was frolicking about with the one that was born at the end of June.

The other animals in the field are beginning to become desperate for food. Mr Disastrous Farmer™ has been away on holiday for nearly two weeks now and his daughters are obviously not looking after the animals (or I should say: Looking after them in the same fashion their father has). Remember the dead horse I blogged about two weeks ago. We had to call the council to have the carcass removed. Rendac, the firm of food crisis fame and the company that carts away and processes animal remains, was closed till the 22nd because of our Independance Day on the 21st. We didn't think a dead horse left lying in the field from Thursday up to Wednesday in this kind of heat was very good for anyone's health. Not for the animals, nor for us. We had a word with the farmer living next door to Badly Shorn Sheep™'s owner, he was really glad we called them, he is terrified his healthy animals might contract something. And because he doesn't have to balls to ring himself.

The horses have resumed the trashing of some fences to get to greener pastures and I don't think it'll be very long now before they end up chewing away at our garden (again).
Mr Disastrous Farmer™ has done nothing to mend his shabby fences. Even though the police told him to last time we called them when four horses were roaming around in our garden. If they really do start munching on our patch, I'll let them and won't even bother telling him about it. Just one call to the sherrifs should do the trick. After they've trashed the garden and we can claim some compensation on him and hire a gardener to do some maintenance.
Last time we called on Mr Disastrous Farmer™ to tell him his goats were out and about on the street he said: 'No they're not, they're inside'. Yeah right buddy. We were standing right next to them with someone on horseback who had notified us of the goatesque escape.


Kensal Green Cemetery Open Day 2009

On the 4th of July I curtailed my sight seeing activities, sallied forth and headed toward Kensal Green Cemetery. Not to negotiate the vending of some cheesy comestibles, but The Friends of Kensal Green Cemetery had their annual Open Day.
The oppressive heat of the previous days had waned, the temperature was most agreeable.
It had been well over a decade since I last visited Kensal Green and from what I could vaguely recall, it looked very different indeed.
Last time I entered from the North Gate, this time I entered through the main entrance at Harrow Road.
There was not much activity on this side of the necropolis, so I walked towards the Anglican Chapel.

The first glance of Open Day activities I caught was a vintage Ford hearse. The very same one as used in the straight to DVD 2009 horror spoof Lesbian Vampire Killers .
There was a coffin placed at the end of it, the boot was open. A stuffed crow was tied to the roof. Nice detail.
There was a good crowd gathered outside the Anglican Chapel, I’d just missed Louis Theroux opening the festivities.
I got talking with the Chairman of the Friends who showed interested visitors the entry page in the original 19th century Company Register for the Brunel plot.

He introduced me to a gentleman who was a Byron expert.
I asked him why Byron had become so unpopular and people tended to take more of an interest in his biography than his work.
People today don’t want to put any effort into reading him’ he explained ‘Byron is a lot of hard work and they can’t seem to be bothered anymore’. Byron isn’t buried at Kensal Green, one of his mistresses is however. I believe she is buried in the catacombs.
Ah, it would be very interesting to open up the coffin of Byron. How wonderful it must be to gaze upon the face of Agamemnon again.’ continued the gentleman.
Then he went on to complain about how the Times had really gone downhill the last couple of years and went off to eye some Goths dressed in Victorian mourning clothes.
More poetry ensued when a fresh faced young man recited some excellent Shelley and G.B. Shaw.

Later on I strolled over to the plot where Harold Pinter was laid to rest last December, just behind the massive memorial monument to the famous Harley Street Quack John St John Long. There is talk of putting up a memorial for Mr Pinter, but it is early days yet. For now the burial site is marked with a simple shiny metal plaque.

I resolved to have a cup of coffee and eat some delicious chocolate sponge cake before going on any of the tours.
Around midday I joined a guided tour along the cemetery with a very nice guide who couldn’t think of the words ‘The Good Death’. Of course I couldn’t resist helping him out a little. It was a very informative walk and talk. The gentleman spoke on the Cemetery’s history, the people who were buried there, the Victorian customs of dealing with death, how the plots are kept,…
I had just finished Catherine Arnold’s book Necropolis: London and its dead, so this was a nice intermezzo before I start with James Stevens Curl’s The Victorian Celebration of Death and Pat Jalland’s Death in the Victorian Family . Both books have been staring at me for a couple of weeks now and are screaming blue murder to have me turn their pages.
Our guide had to speed up his talk, it was only supposed to last about an hour, I had to hurry back to the Anglican Chapel because my Catacombs Tour started at two.

The Catacombs: very special indeed. It was everything I expected it to be. Dark, moist, unhealthy air, nooks and crannies filled up with coffins from ground to ceiling.
By the time I emerged from the vaults it had gone three and I resumed my stroll, by now my back playing up so much I had to lean on my cane.

I conversed with a gentleman who was chiselling some words into a slate slab. I asked him about the various building materials used on the cemetery, he pointed me to an interesting chapter in a publication by The Friends written by Eric Robinson on the geology of Kensal Green Cemetary.
A steal at only 20 quid, I couldn’t resist.
I had enquired where the grave of Wilkie Collins was, he offered to accompany me to it, he knew its exact location. Or so he thought. It is so inconspicuous one cannot find it. I must have passed right by it, when I looked it up it was in the vicinity of the place the engraver thought it would be.
Around five-ish I decided to head back to the Tube and call it a day. My weary legs no longer able to carry me.
I got back to my hotel and watched someone else do the running. Ladies singles final at Wimbledon.