Friday, May 28, 2010

Victorian people

What I like about London, and it's something I sometimes 'forget', is just how many weird and wonderful events there are every single night. Gigs, viewings, cinema showings, sport events and talks.

I love a good talk about interesting, off-the-beaten track things. Last year I went to a great one given by two BBC wildlife camera man, and last night I went to see Daniel Maier, who writes for TV Burp, give a talk about "Ideas Man" Sir Francis Galton.

Galton was a strange chap, a quintessential Victorian who spent his life trying to measure the world, exploring the world, and inventing all manner of weird and wonderful things. He was very much into statistics, and Maier's explanation of how Galton had decided to work out if his new house could hold all the world's gold, was fantastic. Galton also had a terrible track record with animals, usually killing them, to put it blunty.

The final section, on how Galton had devised the perfect way to cut a cake was hysterical, with the Victorian gent landing on the perfect solution to stop the sides of cakes be left exposed in order to prolong its life, but all the time working to measurements of cake that made the need to keep the cake for more than one day irrelevant.

It was a very enjoyable, interesting and quirky way to spend an evening and if Maier does the talk at other times then it could be one to catch.

For the record, one of my favourite Victoria / turn-of-the-century figures is Emily Hobhouse, a Cornish woman who came before many of well known heroines of that age, who helped improve the diabolical conditions for the displaced in the Boer War, mainly women and children, and caused such a stir with her protestations, that she helped advance the peace talks between the British and the Boers.

She helped inspire Ghandi with her form of peaceful protests, so much so he called her "one of the noblest and bravest of women" while Lord Kitchener found her meddling so irritating she was known as "that bloody woman". This was the title of a book written about Hohouse recently, the author of which I interviewed for an article about a year ago in Cornwall Today.

In South Africa she is a well-known figure, with states and submarines named after her, and her story taught in schools. It seems a huge shame she is so unknown in the UK, and even in Cornwall, her county of birth.

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