A colour photo taken over a century ago of one of my relatives

This remarkable photo dates from 1903.

I recently encountered it at BabelColour, which I follow, and where I learned who it was:

It shows Rear Admiral William Acland (1847-1924) & was taken by his sister Sarah 117 years ago using the Sanger Shepherd process.

Follow the first link above for a bit more about the Sanger Shepherd process.

This got my attention in quite a big way because I am distantly related to this Admiral Acland. He wasn’t a direct ancestor, or I don’t believe so. But the maiden name of my grandmother on my mother’s side was Acland, and she was the daughter of someone just like this Admiral. I possess a book entitled “Aclands and the Sea” which I acquired when my mother died and I cherry-picked the books in the family home where I grew up, and in any case I recall that my mum’s family were related to various Aclands, including, for instance, this guy. Although I couldn’t find in this Aclands and the Sea book any references to Aclands and their daughters, it’s the sort of book you only have if there’s a family connection. Not quite, so to speak, a real book. So, that Admiral Acland is like a first or second cousin of mine, about five times removed, or some such thing.

I haven’t linked to where I confirmed that my granny’s maiden name definitely was Acland, because, well, because I didn’t. What I will say is that one of the many things the internet does is tell each of us, as and when we ever get interested in such things, lots of stuff about our forebears and relatives, without anyone having to spend weeks grubbing away in libraries. That’s quite a change. I don’t know what it means exactly, but surely something.

On reflection, it may be more significant that we can, should we wish to, research the relatives of people we bump into and get curious about. That never used to be easy but now is. We now live, that is to say, in a world where uncongenial relatives have become that little bit harder for us to forget about being related to.

A rearrangement

Around three days ago, GodDaughter2 and I fixed to meet up, face to face, for the first time since Lockdown began, and before she disappears to the South of France for a month. We agreed on: Royal College of Music, 2pm. I would have preferred somewhere different, like somewhere nearer to where she’s been living over the summer (Acton), because I like having reasons to journey to and photo new places, and because the College is a bit of a walk from South Kensington tube and a walk I’ve now done many times. Also, a couple of hours later would be better, because I’m a lazy old bastard. Plus, I don’t mind long train journeys because I can sit and read a book, undistracted by the Internet, which I don’t do nearly enough of. But what the hell, RCM 2pm it is.

But, this morning, an email from GD2 arrives. She’s running a bit behind, and could we possibly (grovel grovel xxx) make it Acton Central Overground Station, 4pm?

Yes. I can do that. No problem. It’ll be fine.

Whatever I say in such circumstances will sound like a polite lie and a big old sacrifice, even though it’s nothing of the kind. Sometimes, when your Jewish Mother says to you: “Don’t you worry about me, I’ll be fine”, what she really means is: “Don’t you worry about me, I’ll be fine.”

No sport and strange sport

It is becoming clearer and clearer to me that one of the weirdest features of what you might describe as “classic Lockdown”, Lockdown when Lockdown was at its most Lockeddown, was the complete absence of professional sport for a sports fan like me to be keeping half an eye on. Nothing. Whole months would go by with nothing of a sporting nature distracting me, either in the morning (cricket), in the afternoon (soccer), in the evening (soccer again), or in the night (cricket in faraway places). A lot of the reason why this blog accelerated around then was this total lack of sport to distract me.

Now, almost equally weirdly, we are having a spell of professional sport with no studio audiences present, but with all the electronics going strong and telling the likes of me about it all.

This morning I tuned in to the final day of test match cricket this summer, the radio version, and of course it was, as predicted, rain stopped play. So instead, they were replaying that amazing last wicket stand between Stokes and Leach that won the test match against Australia at Headingley. This was apparently exactly one year ago today. At first, they introduced this, and then everything stopped. It took me a while to work out why. It was because I can’t stand listening to cricket commentaries where they have spliced in an “atmosphere” backing. I just want to hear what they’s saying with no blatantly fictional crowd noises bolted onto the back of it. And that was why the commentary from a year ago wasn’t working. The default setting for TMS includes the fake atmosphere, and only when I switched to that did the commentary from a year ago kick in.

And I listened to that whole last wicket stand. Having already watched it a while back, on YouTube. I really like radio commentaries. And I find that I get surprisingly little more from actually seeing it on television. Oh, I do get some more, but not as much more as you might suppose. And when it came to this unique passage of play, exactly one year ago, listening to the radio version, which was what I did first time around, proved at least as gripping as watching it on TV.

I think this could be the consequence of my childhood, when radio was an option, and only later in my childhood did the telly cut in. From about six to around ten, all I had was radio, and I loved it.

Something similar happened to me with classical music on the radio. That started even younger, with my mother controlling the radio nobs, not me in my baby chair. But presumably she kept it on because I seemed to like it, and also because it is universally understood, by the sort of person my mother was, that classical music is Good For You, like green vegetables and like the ancient latin and ancient greek I was made to do at school, despite the lack of moral uplift supplied by classical music to the likes of Hannibal Lecter and Adolf Hitler.

A funny and informative tweet

Ben Sixsmith:

Don’t have anything funny or informative to say but have to post something because I’ve told my loved ones that if I don’t post for 24 hours it means I’m in danger or dead.

And as a result of having to tweet something, while not having anything funny or informative to say, he nevertheless said something funny and informative, about the relationship between himself and his loved ones.

There is a lot more to social media than just screaming abuse at political enemies.

Incoming from Amazon

All of these arrived today, from Chateau Samizdata, where nobody cons their way past the front door and nicks stuff:

Looking forward to reading this one especially. It has been warmly received.

The C.S. Forester one I never knew existed, until Tom Hanks made a movie based on it. I wonder how it’ll compare with The Cruel Sea. Both central figures and commanders in these books had German sounding names, Krause in the Forester, and Ericson in The Cruel Sea, I recall some German trying to make a joke about Ericson’s name. Ericson was not amused. I wonder if Krause will be subjected to similar banter. Guess: yes.

The Blitz book is because I’ve always wanted to know more about that. John Ray’s book on the Battle of Britain was a very interesting read, so this one made good sense. And I seem to recall it having been very cheap, what with it having been published a while ago.

Following the chat we had yesterday about France and its various armies, Patrick Crozier and I will be discussing the Industrial Revolution. My core text will be the book on this subject by Steve Davies, but I’d be surprised if Ridley’s book on innovation doesn’t also get several mentions in our conversation.

The education book is by this guy.

Neema Parvini is someone I’ve been noticing for a while now. That’s because he’s a classical liberal and a humanities academic. Such persons must be cherished. Also, I do love Shakespeare.

Civilised disagreement works better face-to-face (therefore cities have a future)

The present dose of Plague History we’re having has caused much pessimism concerning the future of big, densely packed cities. Being an enthusiast for big city architecture, especially the seriously big and eye-catching sort, I am now more than ever on the lookout for people saying things about why cities confer, and will continue to confer, an advantage upon all those who live and work in them.

So, I particularly noticed this Bo Winegard tweet, when I encountered just now:

It depresses me how quickly a person on twitter can go from disagreeing with you to cursing and insulting you. Strikes me that there’s probably an evolutionary mismatch because almost all of our interactions were face-to-face. People are much nicer when they have to look at you.

I think that captures a key advantage of face-to-face communication, which is that it makes it more likely that those face-to-face communicating are that bit more likely to do it like ladies and gentlemen rather that like loutesses and louts.

I think people on twitter shout, so to speak, partly because they can. But also, maybe, because they feel they have to, to get their point across. If you do one of those oh-so-gently meaningful and very politely phrased criticisms, on Twitter, or for that matter during a conference-at-a-distance, you are liable to fear that your point will get lost. Your iron fist will be completely smothered by the velvet gloves you chose to wear. Face-to-face, you can literally see and hear and feel your point getting across. Or not, in which case you can politely rephrase it.

Being able to disagree in a civilised manner, in a way that doesn’t leave lasting scars or permanent feuds, is fundamental to the successful functioning of any organisation.

My dad was a barrister, in American: a trial lawyer. British barristers are always careful to call each other “my learned friend”, and the more fiercely they are quarrelling, the more they are careful to scatter these words upon all the insults they trade. That always used to amuse me, when my dad talked about it. But an important point was embodied in such drollery, not least because dad often spelled it out explicitly. When arguing, be polite. The more fiercely you argue, the more important politeness becomes. Twitter seems to make that harder. Face-to-face communication makes it easier.

So, cities will survive. Face-to-face communication is now one of their core purposes.

Roz Watkins “in the front rank of British crime writers”

About three weeks ago, I mentioned the latest DI Meg Dalton book, and its author (also my niece) Roz Watkins.

The Daily Mail just gave Cut To The Bone, which comes out this month, this glowing review:

TWO years ago, I warmly welcomed DI Meg Dalton in Watkins’ debut. Now in her third outing, she has developed into a memorable detective with attitude, pounding Derbyshire’s Peak District with commendable fortitude.

A young social media star — famous for cooking sausages on a barbecue wearing only a bikini — goes missing from her job at an abattoir on a summer’s night.

Traces of blood and hair are found in one of the pig troughs, but there is no sign of the victim. Has she been killed?

Even more importantly, what on earth was she doing working in an abattoir in the first place?

Have animal rights protesters harmed her, or is there something more sinister at work? Has she fallen prey to the ghost of the Pale Child who, legend has it, announces death if once seen?

Subtly plotted, and with a delicate sense of place, it confirms Watkins in the front rank of British crime writers.

Strong stuff, especially that last bit.

Roz Watkins talks about her latest book – and about animals

Crime writer Tony Kent does a fifteen minute video-at-a-distance interview with fellow crime writer Roz Watkins. Roz is my niece, which is partly why I keep mentioning her here. But the bigger reason I keep on about her is that she is very good at what she does, which is not just writing the books she writes but also selling them. She’s an excellent public speaker, and a very personable interviewee. So, if you want to know more about what sort of person Roz is, and also about the idyllic yet sometimes spooky place she lives in (the Peak District), as well as about her books, tune in here.

Animals figure prominently in this interview. Starsky the dog makes an appearance near the beginning. They talk about killing animals in crime thrillers and about how that upsets people far more than killing mere people seems to. Also, animals are a big part of the background of Roz’s latest book, Cut To The Bone, number three in her DI Meg Dalton series. A missing girl has got on the wrong side of animal rights activists, and traces of her blood and hair are found in an abattoir. That kind of grizzly thing. It’s due out in hardback in a month’s time, and, unless I have misunderstood things badly, is already readable as a computer file.

My favourite quote from the interview is when, 4 minutes 20 seconds in, Roz says: “Everyone wants to kill all the lawyers.” Very dramatic.

BMNBQotD

Emily Yoffe:

After 25 years of marriage, my husband and I are getting to know each other with a depth that is best avoided.

The comments vary, from the laughter of recognition to the usual Twitter denunciation of strangers on the basis of wildly insufficient evidence. Was she just joking? Very possibly. Lots of fine marriages seem to work all the better for them not spending all day together.

I’m okay. My new tabletop freezer just arrived this morning. Soon, I will start getting to know it in depth.