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This England: The Newsreel! January 18 2019

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On This Day: “E's not pinin'! 'E's passed on! This parrot is no more! He has ceased to be! 'E's expired and gone to meet 'is maker! 'E's a stiff! Bereft of life, 'e rests in peace!

John Cleese’s final episode on Monty Python’s Flying Circus is shown on the BBC, 1973

 

Government aims to deliver for posties

There was a rare breather for Theresa May this week between PMQs and the no-confidence debate as ten minutes were set aside to hear a proposal to ban ankle-height letterboxes. Yes, really.

 

Apparently Royal Mail had almost 17,000 absences by postmen with bad backs last year and Tory MP Vicky Ford has taken up their cause. She called for new homes to meet a European minimum height for a letterbox of 70cm off the ground.

 

‘Not all European standards are evil’, she said. ‘Would it not be nice to find one we can unite around?’ There would be no requirement to change existing doors and their letterboxes she added as ‘a lot of people are very fond of their knockers’. As The Times quipped in their diary report – very Carry On Commons!

 

 

Ruskin reaches new heights

Throughout his life the Victorian art critic and social theorist, John Ruskin was mesmerised by mountains and the natural world drawing many landscapes. This man, who wielded more power and influence over the art world than anyone before or since, never considered his work as art (modest isn’t the word) … but that’s not to say the art market agrees.

 

As Colin Gleadell in the Telegraph writes, Ruskin’s highest price at auction to date is £274,000 for a dramatic, Turner-inspired Swiss alpine view and, in the light of the bicentenary of his birth this year, prices are still rising. In fact, the highest estimate ever placed on a Ruskin has just been set: £93,000 to £140,000 for a 3ft watercolour drawing that is to be sold by Sotheby’s in New York this month.

 

Oh the irony! Ruskin was famous for saying ‘There is no wealth but life’ encouraging man to help his fellow man rather than acquire endlessly for himself. What would he have made of his current boom in market value? Still, it’s better than many modern interpretations of his life (notably the film Effie Gray) that reduce our understanding of him to little more than his unconsummated marriage. Perhaps it’s time to embrace the bigger picture?

 

Read more on Ruskin in our Historic Homes of England feature inside the Spring issue – out soon, where we visit his home Brantwood House.

 

 

Plans gone to pot

In what was perhaps a move to consolidate her position, Teresa May chose to open the week with a visit to Portmeirion pottery plant in Stoke on Trent. The city voted overwhelmingly to Leave in 2016. That said it was also brave. After all, as Patrick Kidd writes in The Times, it was a place where metaphors could be piled high and pile them high he did.

 

‘Standing amid mugs and empty vessels (earthenware, not members of her cabinet), she tried to stop us from thinking that her plans have gone to pot, her deal is an old crock and that this was a load of bull in a china shop. Her deal is a good deal, she said. “G-O-O-D”.’

 

Given the defeat on Tuesday, perhaps this visit ended up being about as useful as a chocolate teapot?

 

 

Midsomer humour

It once had the nation hooked every Sunday, has been running since 1997 and it’s lead Detective, Chief Inspector Barnaby, has solved over 300 killings. So what’s the secret to Midsomer Murder’s enduring popularity?

 

Posh people behaving badly, says Neil Dudgeon. The actor who plays the Inspector told Radio Times, “They are terribly polite… but one of them is going around garrotting people”.

 

It must be the comedy too though. From headless horsemen to apparent alien invasions, not to mention the number of murders which usually means the perpetrator is usually the only one left, house 

prices in these little Oxfordshire villages would have plummeted a long time ago. Quaint Englishness with a wild side – what’s not to love?

 

 

Frequent flyer causes chaos in the sky

One would imagine that business class aboard Singapore International Airlines is usually a rather laid-back affair with passengers sipping champagne and catching 40 winks. But not when a stowaway bird revealed itself 12 hours into a flight from Singapore to London last week.

 

The black mynah bird, part of the starling family and native to southern Asia, flew around the cabin evading air stewards’ attempts to catch it and even made itself comfortable on the back of a seat. Of course some weren’t aware of the debacle unfolding; according to The Telegraph the nearest person to the mynah was seen wearing earphones and seemingly not noticing the attempts to catch the bird. Perhaps ignorance really is bliss.      

 

 

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