Dick Francis – a tribute

February 15, 2010

The paperback had lost its front cover and the blurb on the back mentioned racing.

That almost put me off, but I was stuck in a cottage in rural Kent. Rain had stopped hop picking for the day, it was too wet to walk into the nearest village and there was nothing else to read.

The book was Flying Finish by Dick Francis and within a few paragraphs I was hooked.

I sought out his other books and have now read everything he’s written.

He was a champion jockey who went into journalism when he retired from the race track. That didn’t pay well, his wife suggested he write a novel and that was the start of his career as a thriller writer.

Horses and racing feature in all his books but his heroes usually have other strings to their bows. Through Dick Francis I learned more about photography, flying, the jewellery business and wine than I’d otherwise have thought I’d want to know. 

The meticulous detail which made his characters and their lives so real and believable was one of the factors which made his books so good.

He had an old-fashioned attitude to women, but  most of his books featured a strong woman and his heroes always treated them  with respect. They were also honest and upright and one of the themes in all his books was the triumph of good against evil.

His late wife, Mary did a lot of his research and some suggest she played a bigger role in the writing too. His last four books were co-authored with his son Francis.

Dick Francis’s website is here.

The Times’ obituary is here.

The Telegraph’s obituary is here.

The Guardian’s obituary is here.

Keeping Stock also pays tribute.

Update: Kismet Farma has posted her tribute too.


January 13 in history

January 13, 2010

On January 13:

1605 The play Eastward Hoe by Ben Jonson, George Chapman, and John Marston was performed, landing two of the authors in prison.

1607  The Bank of Genoa failed after announcement of national bankruptcy in Spain.

1610  Galileo Galilei discovered Ganymede, 4th moon of Jupiter.

True-color image taken by the Galileo probe

1785 John Walter published the first issue of the Daily Universal Register (later renamed The Times).

1822 The design of the Greek flag was adopted by the First National Assembly at Epidaurus.

See adjacent text.

1830 The Great fire of New Orleans, Louisiana began.

1842  Dr. William Brydon, a surgeon in the British Army during the First Anglo-Afghan War, became famous for being the sole survivor of an army of 16,500 when he reached the safety of a garrison in Jalalabad.

Remnants of an army2.jpg
Remnants of an Army by Elizabeth Butler

1847  The Treaty of Cahuenga ended the Mexican-American War in California.

 Campo de Cahuenga, scene of the signing of the Treaty of Cahuenga, January 13, 1847

1885 Alfred Fuller, Canadian businessman, The “Fuller Brush Man”, was born.

1890 Thomas William Murphy or ‘Torpedo Billy’, became the first New Zealander to win a world title in professional boxing.

'Torpedo' Billy Murphy wins the world featherweight boxing title

1893 The Independent Labour Party of the UK had its first meeting.

 Portrait of ILP leader Keir Hardie painted at the time of the foundation of the organisation in 1893.
1893 – U.S. Marines landed in Honolulu from the U.S.S. Boston to prevent the queen from abrogating the Bayonet Constitution.

1898  Emile Zola’s J’accuse exposed the Dreyfus affair.

1911  Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen, Premier of Queensland, was born.

1915 An earthquake in Avezzano, Italy killed 29,800.

1926 Michael Bond, British writer, was born.

1939 The Black Friday bush fires burnt 20,000 square kilometres of land in Australia, claiming the lives of 71 people.

1942 Carol Cleveland, English actress and only significant female performer in Monty Python’s Flying Circus, was born.

1942  Henry Ford patented a plastic  automobile, which was 30% lighter than a regular car.

1942  First use of aircraft ejection seat by a German test pilot in a Heinkel He 280 jet fighter.

1953 Marshal Josip Broz Tito was chosen as President of Yugoslavia.

1958  Moroccan Liberation Army ambushed Spanish patrol in the Battle of Edchera.

1964  HinduMuslim rioting broke out in the Indian city of Calcutta – now Kolkata – resulting in the deaths of more than 100 people.

1964  Karol Wojtyla, the future Pope John Paul II, was appointed archbishop of Krakow, Poland.

Pope John Paul II on 12 August 1993 in Denver (Colorado)

1966  Robert C. Weaver became the first African American Cabinet member by being appointed United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

1968  Johnny Cash performs live at Folsom Prison.

1970  Shonda Rhimes, American screenwriter/creator Grey’s Anatomy, was born.

1985 A passenger train plunged into a ravine at Ethiopia, killing 428 in the worst rail disaster in Africa.

1990 L. Douglas Wilder became the first elected African American governor when he took office in Richmond, Virginia.

1992 – Japan apologised for forcing Korean women into sexual slavery (Comfort women) during World War II.

1993 Space Shuttle programme: Endeavour headed for space for the third time as STS-54 launched from the Kennedy Space Center.

Sts-54-patch.png

2001  An earthquake hits El Salvador, killing more than 800.

Sourced from NZ History Online & Wikipedia.


January 1 in history

January 1, 2010

On January 1:

45 BC  The Julian calendar took effect for the first time.

1001 – Grand Prince Stephen I of Hungary was named the first King of Hungary by Pope Silvester II.

1449 Lorenzo de’ Medici, Italian statesman, was born.

Portrait by Agnolo Bronzino.

1651  Charles II was crowned King of Scotland.

1735 Paul Revere,  American patriot, was born.

 Portrait of Paul Revere by John Singleton Copley,

1772 – The first traveller’s cheques, which could be used in 90 European cities, went on sale in London.

1779  William Clowes, English printer, was born.

1788  First edition of The Times of London, previously The Daily Universal Register, was published.

1800  The Dutch East India Company was dissolved.

1801 The legislative union of Kingdom of Great Britain and Kingdom of Ireland was completed to form the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.

1801 The dwarf planet Ceres was discovered by Giuseppe Piazzi.

Ceres optimized.jpg

1803  Emperor Gia Long ordered all bronze wares of the Tây Sơn Dynasty to be collected and melted into nine cannons for the Royal Citadel in Huế, Vietnam.

1804 French rule ended in Haiti. Haiti becomes the first black republic and second independent country on the American Continent after the U.S.

       

1808  The importation of slaves into the United States wais banned.

1810  Major-General Lachlan Macquarie CB officially became Governor of New South Wales.

1833 The United Kingdom claimed sovereignty over the Falkland Islands.

       

1833 Robert Lawson, New Zealand architect, was born.

1859 Pencarrow, New Zealand’s first lighthouse, was lit for the first time.

NZ's first lighthouse, Pencarrow, lit for the first time

1860 First Polish stamp was issued.

1861  Porfirio Díaz conquered Mexico City.

1876  The Reichsbank opened in Berlin.

1877  Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom was proclaimed Empress of India.

1879 E. M. Forster, English novelist, was born.

1880 Ferdinand de Lesseps began French construction of the Panama Canal.

1890  Eritrea was consolidated into a colony by the Italian government.

 

 

 

 

1892  Ellis Island opened to begin processing immigrants into the United States.

1859 Pencarrow, New Zealand’s first lighthouse, was lit for the first time.

NZ's first lighthouse, Pencarrow, lit for the first time
 
  • 1894 – The Manchester Ship Canal,was officially opened to traffic.
  • 1895  J. Edgar Hoover, American FBI director, was born.

    1899Spanish rule ended in Cuba.

     Five horizontal stripes: three blue and two white. A red equilateral triangle at the left of the flag, partly covering the stripes, with a white five pointed star in the centre of the triangle.

     

     

     A shield in front of a fasces crowned by the Phrygian Cap, all supported by an oak branch and a laurel wreath

    1901 – The British colonies of New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania and Western Australia federated as the Commonwealth of Australia; Edmund Barton was appointed the first Prime Minister.

     

     

     

     

    1912 The Republic of China was established.

     A red flag, with a small blue rectangle in the top left hand corner on which sits a white sun composed of a circle surrounded by 12 rays.

     

     

     A blue circular emblem on which sits a white sun composed of a circle surrounded by 12 rays.

    1912  Kim Philby, British spy, was born.

    Kim philby.jpg

    1919 J. D. Salinger, American novelist, was born.

    1925  American astronomer Edwin Hubble announced the discovery of galaxies outside the Milky Way.

    1934  Alcatraz Island became a United States federal prison.

    1939  William Hewlett and David Packard founded Hewlett-Packard.

    Hewlett-Packard Company logo

    1948 The British railway network was nationalised to form British Railways.

    1956  The Republic of the Sudan gained independence.

     

     

     

     

    1958 The European Communitywas established.

    1959 Fulgencio Batista, president of Cuba ws overthrown by Fidel Castro‘s forces during the Cuban Revolution.


    Batista in 1938

    1960 The Republic of Cameroon achieved independence.

     

     

     

     Tricolor shield before two crossed fasces. Its center is an inverted red kite shape covered with a purple outline of Cameroon below a gold star, with the scales of justice superimposed. Its left is green and its right is gold. Banners with fine print are above and below.

    1962 Western Samoa achieves independence from New Zealand; its name is changed to the Independent State of Western Samoa.

     

     

     

     

    1962 – United States Navy SEALs established.

    US Navy SEALs insignia.png

    1982Peruvian Javier Pérez de Cuéllar became the first Latin American to hold the title of Secretary General of the United Nations.

    1983 – The ARPANET officially changes to using the Internet Protocol, creating the Internet.

    1984 – The Sultanate of Brunei became independent.

     

     

     

     

    1985 The Internet‘s Domain Name Systemwas created.

    1985 – The first British mobile phone callwais made by Ernie Wise to Vodafone.

    1990David Dinkins was sworn in as New York City’s first black mayor.

    1993 – A single market within the European Community is introduced.

    1994 – The North American Free Trade Agreement comes into effect.

    1995  The World Trade Organisation came  into effect.

    1995 – The Draupner wave in the North Sea in Norway was detected, confirming the existence of freak waves.

    1997 – Ghanaian diplomat Kofi Annan was appointed Secretary General of the United Nations.

    1998 – The European Central Bank was established.

    2006 – Sydney, sweltered through its hottest New Years Day on record. The thermometer peaked at 45 degrees celsius, sparking bushfires and power outages.

    Sourced from NZ History ONline & Wikipedia.


    Word lovers of the world unite

    February 19, 2009

    The gatekeepers at Collins are discombobulated because there are too many words for their dictionary so they’re seeking to cull some of those which are seldom used.

    The Times has taken up the cudgels for the words which are languishing on the list of linguistic losers –  or as it puts it, those in danger of fading into caliginosity – with a call for readers to rush to their rescue.

    If you want to save one from what  Comment Central calls the semantic scrapheap you can go there to  vote for your favourite from a list of 24 which are doomed by the designers’ desire to detruncate the dictionary.

    I can understand that there are financial and practical constraints on the size of a dictionary but I share the The Virtual Linguist’s  concerns:

    I was surprised at some of the comments made by journalists and readers, many of whom had the attitude ‘So what? There are far too many words in English anyway’.  I was reminded of George Orwell’s Newspeak in Nineteen Eighty-Four, where undesirable words were eliminated from the language and ‘reduction of vocabulary was regarded as an end in itself, and no word that could be dispensed with was allowed to survive. Newspeak was designed not to extend but to diminish the range of thought, and this purpose was indirectly assisted by cutting the choice of words down to a minimum’ (from the appendix to Nineteen Eighty-Four).

    I may not like the juxtaposition of rural and rustic with unpolished and uncouth in the definition of agrestic, but that’s no reason to vilipend it or regard it as recrement.

    Breadth and depth of language are intrinsic parts of our ability to communicate and help us not just to articulate our thoughts and feelings but to recognise them in the first place.

    Besides, if these words disappear from the dictionary where do you go to determine their definition when you come across them?

    I went to Save The Words for guidence but found it a temporary state of apanthropinization.

    Hat Tip: Jim Mora


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