Posted in books, films & DVD, music

Tribute to H.G.Wells

If anybody mentions Science-Fiction to me I get very excited, so I thought I would pay tribute to English author, Herbert George “H. G.” Wells who was born 21st September 1866 in Bromley, Kent. He is best known for his work in the science fiction genre but also wrote contemporary novels about, history, politics and social commentary, as well as textbooks and rules for war games. Together with Jules Verne and Hugo Gernsback, Wells has been referred to as “The Father of Science Fiction”. His most notable science fiction works include The War of the Worlds, The Time Machine, The Invisible Man and The Island of Doctor Moreau & his earliest specialised training was in biology, and his thinking on ethical matters took place in a specifically and fundamentally Darwinian context. He was also  from an early date an outspoken socialist, often (but not always, as the beginning of the First World War) sympathising with pacifist views. His later works became increasingly political and didactic, and he sometimes indicated on official documents that his profession was that of “Journalist.” Most of his later novels were not science fiction. Some described lower-middle class life (Kipps; The History of Mr Polly), leading him to be touted as a worthy successor to Charles Dickens, but Wells described a range of social strata and even attempted, in Tono-Bungay (1909), a diagnosis of English society as a whole. Wells also wrote abundantly about the “New Woman” and the Suffragettes.A defining incident of young Wells’s life was an accident in 1874 that left him bedridden with a broken leg. To pass the time he started reading books from the local library, brought to him by his father. He soon became devoted to the other worlds and lives to which books gave him access; they also stimulated his desire to write. Later that year he entered Thomas Morley’s Commercial Academy, until 1880. From 1880 to 1883, Wells had an unhappy apprenticeship as a draper at the Southsea Drapery Emporium, Hyde’s, this later inspired his novels The Wheels of Chance and Kipps, which portray the life of a draper’s apprentice as well as providing a critique of society’s distribution of wealth.

In October 1879 Wells joined the National School at Wookey in Somerset as a pupil-teacher, a senior pupil who acted as a teacher of younger children. After a short apprenticeship at a chemist in nearby Midhurst, and an even shorter stay as a boarder at Midhurst Grammar School, an opportunity was offered by Midhurst Grammar School again to become a pupil-teacher; his proficiency in Latin and science during his previous, short stay had been remembered aand enabled him to continue his self-education in earnest. The following year, Wells won a scholarship to the Normal School of Science (later the Royal College of Science in South Kensington, now part of Imperial College London) in London, studying biology under Thomas Henry Huxley (Who was an English biologist (anatomist), known as “Darwin’s Bulldog” for his advocacy of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution) where He soon entered the Debating Society of the school. These years mark the beginning of his interest in a possible reformation of society. At first approaching the subject through The Republic by Plato, he soon turned to contemporary ideas of socialism as expressed by the recently formed Fabian Society and free lectures delivered at Kelmscott House, the home of William Morris. He was also among the founders of The Science School Journal, a school magazine which allowed him to express his views on literature and society, as well as trying his hand at fiction: the first version of his novel The Time Machine was published in the journal under the title, The Chronic Argonauts. After teaching for some time, Wells found it necessary to supplement his knowledge relating to educational principles and methodology and entered the College of Preceptors (College of Teachers). He later received his Licentiate and Fellowship FCP diplomas from the College. It was not until 1890 that Wells earned a Bachelor of Science degree in zoology from the University of London External Programme, In 1889–90 he managed to find a post as a teacher at Henley House School where he taught A. A. Milne.


Wells’s first non-fiction bestseller was Anticipations of the Reaction of Mechanical and Scientific Progress Upon Human Life and Thought and Some of his early novels, invented a number of themes now classic in science fiction in such works as The Time Machine, The Island of Doctor Moreau, The Invisible Man, The War of the Worlds, When the Sleeper Wakes, and The First Men in the Moon. He also wrote realistic novels that received critical acclaim, including Kipps and a satire on Edwardian advertising, Tono-Bungay. Wells also wrote dozens of short stories and novellas, the best known of which is “The Country of the Blind” (1904). His short story “The New Accelerator” was also the inspiration for the Star Trek episode Wink of an Eye. Wells also wrote non-fiction including, The Outline of History, A Short History of the World, The Science of Life and The Work, Wealth and Happiness of Mankind. Wells also wrote a number of Utopian novels including A Modern Utopia,  which usually begin with the  rushing to catastrophe, until people realise a better way of living, such as abandoning war (In the Days of the Comet) or having a world council of scientists taking over, as in The Shape of Things to Come, which was later adapted for the 1936 Alexander Korda film, Things to Come. Men Like Gods is also a utopian novel. Wells also contemplated the ideas of nature versus nurture and questions humanity in books such as The Island of Doctor Moreau, In which an unfortunate chap finds himself trapped on an island of animals being vivisected unsuccessfully into human beings, and after eventually escaping he finds himself unable to shake off the perceptions that his fellow humans as barely civilised beasts, slowly reverting to their animal natures.

In 1936, Wells called for the compilation of a constantly growing and changing World Encyclopaedia, to be reviewed by outstanding authorities and made accessible to every human being. In 1938, he published a collection of essays on the future organisation of knowledge and education, World Brain, including the essay, “The Idea of a Permanent World Encyclopaedia”. Seeking a more structured way to play war games, Wells also wrote Floor Games followed by Little Wars which is recognised today as the first recreational wargame and Wells is regarded by gamers and hobbyists as “the Father of Miniature War Gaming”. His most consistent political ideal was the World State, which he considered inevitable. He envisioned the state to be a planned society that would advance science, end nationalism, and allow people to progress by merit rather than birth, Wells also believed in the theory of eugenics and Some contemporary supporters even suggested connections between the degenerate man-creatures portrayed in The Time Machine and Wells’s eugenic beliefs. Wells also brought his interest in Art & Design and politics together when he and other notables signed a memorandum to the Permanent Secretaries of the Board of Trade, which led to the foundation of the Design and Industries Association. In his last book Mind at the End of its Tether he considered the idea that humanity being replaced by another species might not be a bad idea. He also came to call the era “The Age of Frustration”.

During his final years he began to be particularly outspoken in his criticism of the Catholic Church, he was also a diabetic, and in 1934 co-founded what is now Diabetes UK, the leading charity for people living with diabetes in the UK. On 28 October 1940 Wells was interviewed by Orson Welles, who two years previously had performed an infamous radio adaptation of The War of the Worlds, on KTSA radio in San Antonio, Texas. In the interview, Wells admitted his surprise at the widespread panic that resulted from the broadcast, but acknowledged his debt to Welles for increasing sales of one of his “more obscure” titles. Wells sadly passed away on 13 August 1946 of unspecified causes at his home in London, aged 79. In his preface to the 1941 edition of The War in the Air, Wells had stated that his epitaph should be: “I told you so. You damned fools”. He was cremated at Golders Green Crematorium on 16 August 1946, his ashes scattered at sea. A commemorative blue plaque in his honour was installed at his home in Regent’s Park.

Posted in Events, locomotives

Severn Valley Railway Autumn Steam Gala 2012

This years Severn Valley Railway Autumn Steam Gala takes place September 21st 22nd 23rd 2012, Visiting Locomotives in steam this year include:

  • The sole surviving Ex-LNWR Coal Tank 0-6-2 No.7799 – Built in the late 19th century to a design by Chief Engineer, Francis W. Webb. Courtesy of Bahamas Locomotive Society and Owned by the National Trust.
  • The sole surviving Ex-LSWR T9 4-4-0 No. 30120 – Built in 1899 to a Dugald Drummond design. The class were nicknamed ‘Greyhounds’ on account of the speed they could achieve. Courtesy of the National Railway Museum & Bodmin & Wenford Railway
  • Ex – SR ‘Battle of Britain’ 4-6-2 No. 34053 ‘Sir Keith Park’ – Withdrawn from service by British Railways in 1965. This is “Sir Keith’s” first season of operation since restoration. Courtesy of Southern Locomotives Ltd
  • Richard Maunsell Designed Ex – SR Class U 2-6-0 No. 31806 – From an original K class ‘River’ tank locomotive (A806 River Torridge), the loco was rebuilt in 1928 to a U class 2-6-0 Mogul. The term U-Boat was due to their ‘go anywhere’ ability. This will be the first Southern Mogul to appear on the Severn Valley Railway. Three other examples have been preserved on two heritage railways in the south of England. Courtesy of the Mid Hants Railway.

The home fleet includes

  • Ex – GWR/BR Class 1500 0-6-0 Pannier Tank No. 1501 – which recently returned to service following overhaul at the Severn Valley Railway works at Bridgnorth, in a brand new lined black livery.
  • GWR 51xx Class 2-6-2 Large Prairie Tank no 5164
  • GWR Small 2-6-2 Prairie Tank no 4566
  • BR Sandard class 4 no 43106 (A.K.A The Flying Pig)
  • GWR 78xx Manor Class No 7812 Erlestoke Manor
  • LMS Stanier Mogul 2-6-0 no 42968
  • GWR class 28xx 2-8-0 No 2857 which also recently returned to service following overhaul at the Severn Valley Railway works at Bridgnorth

Other attractions include a Railway Book Publishers Fair at The Engine House featuring Ian Allan, Haynes Publishing, Kingfisher Books, Pen & Sword Publishers & Silver Link Publishing, Bachmann Model Railways: sales stand at Kidderminster and a’Real Ale’ beer tent at Bewdley. During the event a Special timetable will also be operating, which includes all-night operation and Goods Demonstrations. In addition the The Severn Valley Railway Engine House visitor and education centre will also be open at Highley.

Posted in music

Happy Birthday Liam Gallagher

Liam Gallagher, former front man with English Rock Band Oasis was born 21st September 1972. Formed in Manchester in 1991, Oasis were Originally known as The Rain, the group was formed by Liam Gallagher (vocals & tambourine), Paul “Bonehead” Arthurs (guitar), Paul “Guigsy” McGuigan (bass guitar) and Tony McCarroll (drums, percussion), who were soon joined by Liam’s older brother Noel Gallagher (lead guitar and vocals). They have had eight UK number-one singles and eight UK number-one albums, and won fifteen NME Awards, nine Q Awards, four MTV Europe Music Awards and six Brit Awards, including one in 2007 for outstanding contribution to music and one for the best album of the last 30 years as voted by the BBC Radio 2 listeners; they have been nominated for three Grammy Awards. As of 2009, the band have sold an estimated 70 million records worldwide. The band were listed in the Guinness Book of World Records in 2010 for “Longest Top 10 UK Chart Run by a Group” after an unprecedented run of 22 top 10 hits in the UK. The band also holds the Guinness World Record for being the most successful act in the UK between the years 1995 and 2005, spending 765 weeks in the Top 75 singles and albums charts.

Its members were signed to independent record label Creation Records and afterwards released their record-setting debut album Definitely Maybe in 1994. The following year, the band recorded (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? (1995) with their new drummer Alan White in the midst of rivalry with Britpop peers Blur in the charts. The Gallagher brothers featured regularly in tabloid newspapers for their sibling disputes and wild lifestyles. In 1997, Oasis released their third album, Be Here Now, and although it became the fastest-selling album in UK chart history, the album’s popularity tapered off quickly. The band lost members Paul McGuigan and Paul Arthurs as they went on to record and release Standing on the Shoulder of Giants in 2000 and were replaced by Gem Archer and Andy Bell who joined the group for the tour in support of Giants. The band found renewed success and popularity starting with 2005’s Don’t Believe the Truth.In August 2009, Noel Gallagher announced his departure from the band after a backstage altercation with Liam before a festival appearance The band, comprising the remaining members of Oasis and led by Liam Gallagher, decided to continue working together under the name Beady Eye, while Noel went on to form his solo project Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds.

Posted in books, Fantasy, films & DVD, Television

The Hobbit

The Hobbit by J.R.R Tolkien was Published on 21 September 1937 to wide critical acclaim. Although Tolkien himself never expected his stories to become so popular, but by sheer accident a book called “The Hobbit” which he had written for his own children, came to the attention of the London publishing firm George Allen & Unwin, who persuaded him to submit it for publication, and it went on to attract adult readers as well as children, and became popular enough for the publishers to ask Tolkien to produce a sequel.

The Hobbit is Set in a time “Between the Dawn of Færie and the Dominion of Men”, and follows the sometimes dangerous, but at all times exciting quest of home-loving hobbit Bilbo Baggins who joins the Wizard Gandalf and a company of thirteen dwarves led by Thorin Okenshield on a dangerous journey to the Lonely Mountain, to reclaim the kingdom of Erabor and the many treasures which have been stolen by the dragon Smaug. Along the way they encounter many hazards including Cave Trolls, Giant Spiders, Hordes of Orcs and Imprisonment by the Elves of Mirkwood Forest, as if that wasn’t enough something decidedly dodgy is also stirring in the Fortress of Dol Gulder, to the South-East of Mirkwood. The story reaches its climax during the Battle of Five Armies, where The men of Dale, The Elves of Mirkwood, The Dwarves of Erabor, Hordes of Orcs and the Eagles all try to reclaim the treasure stolen by Smaug.

There is also a forthcoming film adaptation of The Hobbit, which Director Peter Jackson’s has decided to turn into a trilogy. This stars Martin Freeman as Bilbo, Sir Ian Mckellen as Gandalf, Sylvester McCoy as Radagast, Richard Armitage as Thorin Oakenshield, Hugo Weaving as Elrond, Cate Blanchett as Galadriel and Barry Humphies as The Goblin King (I can just imagine him dressed like Dame Edna and looking like the Transgender Gremlin in Gremlins Two 😀 ). They have managed this by including some of the related material in the appendices of The Lord of the Rings and Unfinished Tales, in order to tell more of the tale of Bilbo Baggins, theDwarves of Erebor, the rise of the  Necromancer and the Battle of Dol Guldur.

However Some are worried that while The Lord of the Rings which consisted of three parts totalling 1,008 pages could be adapted into three separate films, The Hobbit, on the other hand, is only 310 pages long and may require rewriting and the addition of new scenes and characters in order to stretch it over three films. Personally I Think it’s a great idea I’m also hoping that Howard Shore does the Movie Theme Music, and they use Alan Lee’s Concept art as well. The first film in the trilogy, ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,’ will be released December 14, 2012, with the second film on December 13, 2013, and the third film will be released summer 2014.