This England: The Newsreel! January 11 2019


On This Day: “One good deed may sometimes lead to another, but it is certain that an evil one will almost inevitably breed its fellow.”

Said historian and writer, Ernle Dusgate Selby Bradford, who was born in 1922


Rats find some reprieve

It’s received wisdom that rats and their fleas were responsible for the Black Death of the 14th century, as well as two other plagues in our history: The Plague of Justinian in the Byzantine empire during the 6th century; and the Third Pandemic, which is believed to have originated in China in 1855 and spread to Glasgow. However new evidence has come to light that in the Third Pandemic at least the much maligned rats played no part.


As reported in The Times, a review of historic sources led by Katherine Dean of the University of Oslo suggested that when the Glasgow authorities searched for infected rats in 1900 they found none; hundreds of the rodents were trapped at the time but none tested positive for the plague. Instead it was concluded in Royal Society Open Science that the outbreak was “likely to be the result of human-to-human transmission” with ectoparasites, the fleas and body lice that feed on us, to blame.


Still don’t go petting a rat just yet. There’s no such pardon for the other plagues, so they haven’t quite cleaned up their act.



Treasure island


The promise of a week’s holiday in a muddy English field is unlikely to fill even the most ardent anglophile with joy. Unless your American, that is.


News has it that friends from across the pond are paying thousands of pounds to trudge through our countryside with metal detectors in search of Roman coins, buoyed by the BBC comedy series Detectorists and reports of glittering hoards. It’s certainly not for the faint hearted; to maximise their odds of finding ancient and medieval objects outings are conducted in all weather and for as long as 10 hours!


Not everyone is buzzing about this, of course. Some archaeologists consider private detectorists to be plunderers though our rules on metal detecting are much less restrictive than say in Greece or Italy where the hobby is banned or heavily regulated.


Robbers or finders’ keepers? We may well need a detective to solve this one.



Commuters left huffing and puffing


The new year didn’t get off to the best start for train passengers. Hit with fare increases of 3.1%, this now means that train fares have risen almost three times faster than wages since the start of the decade.

Adding to the misery of 2018 with delays, overcrowding and strikes, it’s left many wondering what they are paying for and us at This England hankering after the golden age of train travel. With dining cars, porters and luxurious interiors, yes, everything was a bit slower in the late 18th, early 20th century, but what style!



The art of sharing

It seems the National Gallery doesn’t just lead with its art but its principals too. The great British institution has agreed to lend its most beloved painting, Vincent Van Gough’s Sunflowers to Japan in 2020 for seven and a half months – apparently such is the public’s fascination with the painting that the patch of floor next to it is the most worn spot in the entire gallery! Sunflowers will also be on loan at Tate Britain as part of their exhibition Van Gough and Britain (27 March – 11 August).


It would seem that Italy has much to learn from our comradeship. After agreeing to lend its stock of Leonardo’s to the Louvre for the latter’s blockbuster exhibition on the artist to mark the 500th anniversary of his death this October, they have now backpedalled owing to a change in government. “There are museums here that may want to do their own exhibitions”, a source in Italy’s culture ministry said yesterday. Perhaps this is just the sort of thing that the Mona Lisa was smiling about.  



A perfect Brexit?

Evening Standard reader John Allen was appalled that London’s 1930s penguin pool at London Zoo could face demolition, even though architect Berthold Lubetkin’s daughter seemed happy to suggest that it should be blown ‘to smithereens’. The concrete that lines the pool leaves the penguins with sore feet so it can no longer be used – though original designs specified rubber.


George Osborne couldn’t help but politicise the issue in his reply: ‘Your observation that the original plan, if followed, would have been more animal-friendly reminds me of plenty of projects in politics that on paper look perfect but in practice are a fiasco. Brexit, anyone?’ Helpful George.



Question time

Fiona Bruce navigated some thorny debates on her debut last night with Labour’s Emily Thornberry and Conservative’s James Cleverly coming to blows over… well you’ve guessed it.


Both looked like fish out of water while discussing what happens after Tuesday’s meaningful vote with Cleverly admitting it looked unlikely that Teresa would win and floundering while attempting to articulate any sort of Plan B. Thornberry meanwhile loquaciously managed to not say much at all. Exasperated she finally landed a good point which made us all realise why we’ve been going round in circles for so long: ‘What was David Davis doing on all those trips to Brussels? Buying Toblerones!’ Ah, now it makes sense.



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