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Friday, June 18, 2010

Theophilus Carter came round for tea!

I know that most of you have absolutely no idea who Theophilus Carter is, or I should say was, so for that reason alone, let me educate you with the answer to the most unlikely pub quiz style question you're ever likely hear.

Mr Carter lived in Oxford somewhere around the end of the 19th century. He was the epitome of an English eccentric, a furniture dealer and an inventor. But what did he invent I hear you ask? You'll never guess so I'll tell. He invented an alarm clock bed, which tipped up at the required time and threw the sleeper into a tub of cold water. So bizarre was his invention that it was exhibited at the Great Exhibition at Crystal Palace in 1841. Just let me squirrel for a moment.....

The Great Exhibition was a thing to behold. Crystal Palace was built especially for it and it looked like an enormous greenhouse. At the time it was considered a bit of a folly (in much the same way as the millennium dome *has* I suspect) but it won the hearts of the nation in the end (in much the same way as the dome *will* I suspect). The exhibition ran from May to October 1851 with a whole range of different entry fee's from a shilling (about a fiver in today's equivalent, for the day) towards the end of the parliamentary session right up to 3 guineas (about 275 quid now - again for a single day) at their peak. It was all anyone talked about in the country for the 6 months it was open - a heady time.

There were around 13,000 exhibits in total which included....
  • The first Fax machine or copying telegraph machine as it was known.
  • Mathew Brady's Daguerreotypes, (Photography to me and you) which won him a medal in the awards.
  • The Tempest Prognosticator, a barometer using leeches.
  • The America's Cup yachting event began.
  • George Jennings' first public conveniences in the Retiring Rooms of the Crystal Palace, for which he charged one penny.
  • The Koh-i-noor: the world's biggest known diamond at the time of the Great Exhibition.
  • C.C. Hornung from Denmark showed the 1st european single-cast iron frame for a piano.
  • and lest we forget.... Alfred Charles Hobbs's demonstration of the inadequacy of several respected locks - Thrilling stuff.
As an aside - Squirrel - I reckon there's a great book in this that could easily become a movie. Clearly a Jewellry Heist with the theft of the Koh-i-noor, stolen by Alfred Charles Hobbs who had no trouble with the lock and hidden within C.C.Hornung's piano for transport back to Denmark and out onto the european black market for diamonds - possibly with a yacht chase, daguerreotypes of the stolen Gem telegraph-copied backwards and forwards across the channel and a quick stop to spend a penny on the way! Magic stuff. Starring Sean Connery, Donald Sutherland and Leslie Anne Down.... or am I thinking of the First Great Train Robbery - bugger!

So back to the exhibition - A third of the population of the country visited the Great Exhibition and the £186,000 (£16 million today) profit which was surplus was used to found the Victoria & Albert museum, the Science museum and the Natural History museum, all of which thrive today and are well worth a visit if you happen to be in London. After it had all finished, the Crystal Palace itself was taken apart and moved from Hyde Park out to, what was then, Sydenham Hill. There it languished playing several different roles. During World War I it was a naval base for example. Sadly, on the evening of November the 30th, 1936 a fire broke out. Within hours the Palace was destroyed and as Winston Churchill put it at the time "This is the end of an age". More of that can be seen at the Crystal Palace Museum which is worth a click just to look at the photo's.....

....none of which gets us any closer to the question. So here is the gem we've been mining for: Theophilus Carter (erstwhile inventor and furniture dealer) was drawn by Sir John Tenniel (who was the illustrator of Lewis Carrol's Alice stories) to represent the character of the "Mad Hatter" in Alice in Wonderland. Ta-Dah!!! - You'll never need to know it, but now you do.

I got here because I've recently seen the NEW Alice in Wonderland film starring Johnny Depp in the role of the Mad Hatter. It's a great version, I loved it, I'm not going to review it any further than that - besides - Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be too late! - Oh my ears and whiskers, how late it's getting!

Toodle-pip old bean.

I should add - great result for the French last night... bye bye. But not such a great result for me this morning as BBB has flown off to Spain to "pick up his van" and I got the dubious pleasure of taking him to the airport at 4am (that's what mates are for). Strange coincidence that the lads are just up the road from his apartment playing golf this weekend.  I'm sure he won't be getting involved ;-)

Oh and finally finally, I note from today's Lifehacker that Wordpress may be the blogging tool of best practice.  Am considering a migration....
 

Where is Golfyball?

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