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  • Acapulco teapot

    Magic portal teapot

    A visit to the Santiago house of poet Pablo Neruda. Known as the Chilean ‘Shakespeare’ and revered as that nation’s conscience, Neruda was a collector of really interesting stuff, which is on display in his former home, now a museum, in Chile’s capital city Santiago, which we visited in 2011. Guided from room to room, we admired the eclectic architecture,

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  • To Kill A Mockingbird

    Harper Lee publishes To Kill A Mockingbird – 11 July 1960

    “…Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit ‘em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” That was the only time I ever heard Atticus say it was a sin to do something, and I asked Miss Maudie about it. “Your father’s right,” she said. “Mockingbirds don’t do one thing … but sing their hearts out

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  • Joseph Nicéphore Niépce

    Joseph Nicéphore Niépce and the first photograph

     Look at the camera and say ‘cheese’ and ‘thank you’ to Joseph Nicéphore Niépce who died on this day in 1833, for it was Niépce who changed the way we view the world. Born in France 1765 into a middle-class family Niépce was well-educated and comfortably off and from 1801 ran the family estate. He became a ‘gentleman of science’

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  • The extinction of the Great Auk – 3 July 1844

    The Great Auk (Pinguinus impennis) was once a common and magnificent sight in the sparkling waters of the North Atlantic. About 30 inches (80cm) tall and weighing in at a whopping 11lbs (5kgs), this handsome bird was the northern equivalent of the penguin. Its closest living relative is the razorbill which has a similar range to the Great Auk. The

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  • Dr John Alexander Tomlinson: obituary

    Plant pathologist, virologist, saviour of the British watercress industry, BSc, MSc, PhD, DSc My father, who died on Tuesday 12 June 2012, was born into a working class family in Birmingham in 1927. What he lacked materially in early life was made up for in brains, courage and determination. He was the son of Ellen Mary Mackie, from Worcester, and

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  • The Pill first becomes available to American women – 9 May 1960

    “No woman can call herself free until she can choose consciously whether she will or will not be a mother” – Margaret Sanger The most revolutionary and liberating act for women is surely the availability of The Contraceptive Pill. Before The Pill contraception was a messy, hit-and-miss, often outlawed business. Women in the Ancient World fashioned vaginal tampons from a cocktail

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  • The death of Captain Robert Falcon Scott – 29 March 1912

    In the 1960s space was the final frontier. But just 50 years earlier, the final frontier was the South Pole. One hundred years ago today, his two companions lying frozen to death next to him, 43-year-old Captain Robert Falcon Scott, died in a tent in Antarctica, sheltering from a blizzard which had raged for nine days. Yes they had made

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  • The death of Marie Stopes – 2 October 1958

    “I have some things to say about sex, which, so far as I am aware, have not yet been said … things which seem to me to be of profound importance to men and women who hope to make their marriage beautiful.” When my grandmother married in September 1918, she knew nothing about how babies were made. She thought perhaps

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  • Emmeline Pankhurst

    The death of Emmeline Pankhurst – 14 June 1928

    Today, we remember one of the most important British women of the 20th century who died on this day, 1928. Sisters! If you have ever voted in an election, thank Emmeline Pankhurst. And if you have ever decided not to vote in an election, you can thank Emmeline for having that choice. And Brothers! You can thank Emmeline too: for freeing

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  • Joan of Arc

    The burning of Joan of Arc – 30 May 1431

    “Whatever thing men call great, look for it in Joan of Arc, and there you will find it.” – Mark Twain Five-hundred and eighty years ago today the English tied a 19-year-old French peasant girl to a pillar in the square in Rouen and burned her alive. Her executioners were so afraid of relic-hunters they reduced her body to ashes

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  • Rush live at the NEC

    I first saw Canadian rock band Rush live back in October 2007. We were fortunate to see them again last night at the NEC in Birmingham, this time from the third row from the front.  This allowed my husband to indulge his passion for photographing the bands he loves. The  three gentlemen that make up Rush, Alex Lifeson – guitars,

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  • The beheading of Anne Boleyn – 19 May 1536

    Four-hundred and seventy-five years ago today, Anne Boleyn knelt upright on a scaffold in the Tower of London on the orders of her husband, King Henry VIII (1491 – 1547). Looming over her was expert swordsman Jean Rombaud who had been especially brought over from France for the occasion. A single stroke from Rombaud’s weapon sliced her head from her

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  • Meena Keshwar Kamal

    Remembering Meena Keshwar Kamal

    In 1989, as a 26-year-old, I first truly understood what it was like to be disrespected because I am a woman. Although I was modestly dressed, I had dared to walk down the street on my own in a village in the mountains near the Khyber Pass. I was spat at and had stones thrown at me. I felt powerless,

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  • audubon_carolina-parakeet-

    Audubon’s Birds of America

    “With the exception of the mockingbird, I know no species so gay and frolicksome” Audubon wrote of the red-headed woodpecker (Picus erythrocephalus). Yesterday a copy of John James Audubon’s  (1785-1851) epic Birds of America sold at auction for more than £7.3million.  It’s the most expensive book in the world. And arguably the most beautiful. Only 119 complete copies of the

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  • Listen to the music of the Doobie Brothers

    The Doobie Brothers have been making music with various line-ups since 1969. They combine elements of hard rock, rhythm and blues and boogie with elements of country to create a very distinctive guitar-based sound all their own. You’ve probably heard of the Doobies, but if you can’t remember exactly let me remind you: “whoa, whoa whoaaah, listen to the music…”

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  • We and Jimmy Page spellbound by Roy Harper

    It’s three years ago since I first saw Roy Harper, the singer-songwriter folk rock guitarist. The man’s a genius. As well as being very witty. We upgraded our tickets at London’s Jazz Cafe so we had seats in the balcony restaurant. Moth and I found ourselves sitting at the table next to Jimmy Page, Led Zeppelin’s guitarist, who is both

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