What was that Programme?

For no good reason I can think of, an episode of Dr Kildare I saw rattles around and resurfaces every so often in my brain, on a timescale of roughly a decade, but without the regularity that might suggest.

It rattles mainly because I didn’t understood it. I must have known about surfing – it was about a girl surfer and I don’t remember being all ‘do people actually do that?’ about it. I remember Kildare telling her she mustn’t surf any more, but I must have missed what the reason was. All I have is ’why not? What’s the problem here?’ Naturally, she went ahead and did it anyway, and it didn’t end well. Was that the reason? Perhaps I wasn’t used to seeing unhappy-endings at that age.

Anyway, this Digital Archive of Radio Times from 1923 to 2009 turned up. 1923! It doesn’t seem to give you any access to actual page images – none I can find anyway. The magazine ran advertisements, so maybe they don’t want you seeing what was available for sixpence from Cadbury in 1950 or something.

But they’ve done an awful lot of work reformatting the information for presentation – and searchability - on the web. Very impressive. Not that the text is always accurate – there are spectacular misreadings from the optical character recognition – but that’s only to be expected from machines.

There’s evidence that entries have been corrected by human staff members, just not very much. So your searches are going to miss things. Members of the public are invited to correct the text and to add further information about the entries. Such crowdsourcing means that the information will always be freely available doesn’t it (say yes).

The folk at the BBC even ask you if the program whose listing you’re looking at was actually transmitted. You may find their lack of faith disturbing, but obviously the magazines were printed in advance and you couldn’t reasonably predict things which might interrupt the schedules. Like Churchill dying or Kennedys getting assassinated or whatever. Stuff like that.

So do have a go and clog up those BBC arteries with millions of HTTP requests.

Oh yes – the Dr Kildare thing. I found the episode – two of them (it was a double) split over successive pre-watershed Thursdays, the 6th and 13th February 1964. It was called Tyger-Tyger with guest star Yvette Mimieux, the text for part 1 saying A beautiful girl defies Dr. Kildare's medical warning that she must give up surf riding. Part 2’s description says In spite of her condition and Dr. Kildare s protests, surf-rider Pat continues to take an active part in the sport. Surf-riding, eh? Interesting. Hyphens even. Is that the staid BBC or is ‘surfing’ not a thing yet?

So, on the whole, I’m none the bloody wiser. But wait - now I have Yvette Mimieux and can go to her page on IMDb and – result! Petit-mal seizures would you believe?

She drowns. Thanks, internet.


Before Grey Street and his Monument



This is part of a map of Newcastle upon Tyne, showing (one wants to write shewing) the city centre in the early nineteenth century before the grand streets were built. But not before they were conceived – you can see the markups of numerous ‘intended street’ on the plan. Those who know the city may find the absences of Grey Street, Grainger Street and the Grainger Market, quite interesting.

Only a generation later a chap would be able to say to his children “I remember when this was all fields”. Eldon Square’s there though. And Stowell Street (but without Chinatown). The blank area to the east of Newgate Street (here labelled Nun’s Field) pre-shadows the clearance, demolition and remolition which would happen two hundred years later. Most of the place is still quite recognisable though.

This is one of John Wood’s maps. He was an Edinburgh surveyor who produced 52 plans of Scottish towns and and nearly 60 (known) plans of English and Welsh ones. The Newcastle map was published in 1826 or 1827.


(Very) Public Transport

Tyne & Wear Metro are soon to introduce their smartcard system for twenty-first century travel. It's your very own personalised doodah. The privacy bit from their terms and conditions states that Nexus - a private company - holds this data about pop card holders: title, first name and middle initial if you've got one, surname, address with postcode, telephone and email (if you provided them), date of birth (maybe - it depends) and a photo, if you have a photocard.

The enthusiasm for it is positively rampant. Plonk "pop card" and tyne into google and you get pages and pages of links directly from nexus and other north-eastern business sites, the council, etc. If one didn't know any better one might suspect a bit of SEO was going on there to maybe flood out any criticisms or privacy concerns being raised. But that would be wrong.

It's not stated how much of your personal information is on the actual smart card, but if you're using it to manage payments then there must perforce be some kind of unique identifier on it. After all, they wouldn't want to be charging the wrong person.

It's used at the metro station ticket gates on both entry to, and exit from, the platforms. Thus a season ticket holder is now trackable, in a way they were not hitherto. The system knows (because it has to check if your card is valid) where and where you are whenever you pass through one of their gates. So I asked them the obvious question:

What if you don't want your boarding or disembarking times and places made available to newspapers or jealous spouses or private detectives or police or other dodgy characters? Will season ticket holders have any private/anonymous alternatives to pop cards? Only arskin', like.

Naturally, I have nothing to fear from such information being available to anyone else. Within an hour or so - they're nothing if not prompt on their own facebook page - I get the response:

Hi Paul, smart cards are no different to mobile phones and bank cards in this respect. There is no circumstance in which newspapers, spouses or private detectives – or in fact Nexus staff – could get hold of data from an individual Pop card that would allow them to track someone’s movements. It is technically possible but there are very strict rules in place from Government, framed through the Data Protection Act, that make it an offence. The police can use warrant powers to trace use of a smart card, as they can a bank card or mobile phone, in order to pursue an investigation.

Now I'm not sure how mentioning other cases of anonymity violation (over which the modern functioning citizen has virtually no choice in complying with) helps ameliorate concerns, but they did bring it up, so I'll just mention that I do know people who don't use bank cards or credit cards for precisely this reason. Such folk (I'm not one of them) must take their privacy pretty seriously to tolerate such inconvenience, but that's their choice. And as for tracking devices that let you make phone calls, it is still possible to have a life without one on your person all of the time.

And I'm sure there are strict rules about access to that information. I'm equally sure that all police are honest and that nobody could ever bribe a Nexus employee to check up on somebody. We all know that the line 'you owe me one' only ever turns up in movies, not in real life.

A few minutes later they added:

If you have concerns about this you can purchase tickets using cash from a ticket machine. Four-weekly and annual season tickets will only be sold onto personalised products, giving customers the benefit of being able to cancel and replace lost cards.

Which at least answered the question I'd asked, in a moderatley straight talkin' fashion. So I thought, as a favour, I'd respond with a concluding recap:

So the answer to "Will season ticket holders have any private/anonymous alternatives to pop cards?" is a 'no' then. Okey Dokey.

At the moment it's still possible to travel from A to B anonymously. Soon, unless you have your own private transport, it won't be. Most folk won't care. As Nexus (more or less) say, it's all just another brick in the wall.



For Sale: Collapsed Bank

There's an odd bit of business going on at Gateshead Council. As we can all see when we cross the bridge by Metro, the bit of riverbank which collapsed into the river Tyne in mid January 2011 has been left broken and untended for nearly two years now. It's nearly impossible to find out anything about it on their website though as none of the obvious search terms turn up anything at all on the matter. So as regards what's currently happening, I've no idea. That would take an FOI request and about a month.

I blogged about it last year. It has interrupted a national cycle path and nobody seems to care about it. Who is responsible for fixing it? Probably, one would think, the landowners. Who is that? The Council, again, you'd think.

But no. At least not yet.

As it happens, that particular little bit of the once delightful Pipewellgate is owned by Nexus, the very folk who carry you over the bridge by Metro. Apparently, thirty-odd years ago when they were building the bridge, they needed a couple of bits of land either side, so they bought the necessary. Well that's not quite true - the bridge was built for the original Tyne and Wear Passenger Transport Executive, before the mass privatisation of all our local services. Nexus just 'kind of inherited' the land. All these years later, it's still theirs. And now they would like very much for the Council to own it back.

Now they are - as responsible landowners providing right-of-way to public cycle-pathers - going to fix the damage. That's underway, apparently, despite any visible evidence. And this will be to the satisfaction (whatever that means) of GMBC before the title deeds are transferred to the council. So that's OK then. But they'd also like "to receive a percentage (to be agreed) of any future sale/development value".A gift that is, as yet, both unlimited and eternal. Wow. Nice.

As the report (Agenda Item 22, dated 24 November 2011, page 119 of 156 in the PDF, their page 117) says, "The area has little potential for development due to its current use as highway and footpath/cyclepath and also its location and topography." So I don't quite know why that 'consideration' is being proposed without raised eyebrows. Once they've got the land back to the council, why would they expect to have or deserve any further interest in it?

Like I said. An odd bit of business.



Touriſt of Death

One may consider the tourist of death meme modern, but the following eighteenth century book suggests it's older than we think.


A seemingly innocent travelogue by one Samuel Ireland, insouciantly recording works of art and partaking of other highbrow activities in 1789, oblivious to the the French Revolution happening stage left as noises off.

Here's the text of the title page in text (when you wrote down street names as hyphenated - it looks strange now, but it was the custom):


However, and perhaps disappointingly, Mr Ireland is not, as it turns out, quite so careless of what was going on around him at the time. A part of the preface (to the second edition) begins as follows:

Political discussions were not originally intended to form a part of this work, nor would they have been at all adverted to, but from the very peculiar and interesting circumstances that presented themselves at that moment. Those were of so extraordinary a nature as to command the attention of Europe, and more immediately that of our own country, whose existence in a great measure we have found deeply interested in the events then depending. ...

He's not going to remain silent about what was going on in France at the time. In fact the rest of that part of the preface says he's left the revolutionary discussions, those that he put in the first edition, unaltered.

His travels started in Holland, and his writings are accompanied by anecdotes. Here's the first one:

... The late King (George the Second) on his return from one of his excursions to Hanover, being detained some weeks by contrary winds, fixed his residence in one of them in preference to every other accommodation the town afforded. In one of his rambles, meeting a pretty Dutch girl on the quay, he accosted her with a Good morrow ! what have you in your basket, child ? Eyeren, Mynheer ; eggs, Sir. And what is the price, my dear ? A ducat a piece. What ! are eggs so scarce then in Holland ? No, Sir, replied the girl, but Kings are.

Tee, as they say, hee.



Big Bird Bake

Having encountered an intriguing report in the Newcastle Courant of 8th July, 1721 (taken from an earlier one, from Naples, via the London Evening Post) about an identified flying object near Messina, I found myself unable to discover anything, online, about any such volcanic eruption in that part of the world at that time. Perhaps it didn't happen. To be sure, no eruption is reported - just an alarming display - but I can't even find a modern definitive reference to Mont Gabel. Did it change its name?

Anyway, for what it's worth, here it's:

And, for the machines, the text (compleat with my emphasis, and its own long eſſes and teutonically capitalised nouns):

From the Evening-Post, London, June 29.

Naples June 3. Our Regency have thought fit to augment with ſome Companies of Militia, the Number of Troops employ'd in guarding the Coaſts of this Kingdom, in order to keep out all infected Perſons and Goods, moreover the Magiſtrates of Health cauſe the Directions they gave ſome Time ſince, to the ſame Purpoſe, to be obſerv'd with the utmoſt Punctuality. A Letter from Meſſina; of the 28th of laſt Month, give an Account that a Bird of an extraordinary Size, was ſeen on the 18th of the ſaid Month, hovering in the Air, about Mont Gabel, and that after having continued flying in that Manner for above 4 Hours, he drew nearer to the Mountain, and diſappear'd ſuddenly; 'tis conjectur'd that the Sulphurous Vapours of that Volcano ſuffocated him, that ſeems the more probable, becauſe the Day following there were ſuch prodigious Eruptions of Fire and Flame from the ſame, that the Inhabitants of the Neighbouring Towns and Villages, were extreamly frighted.




NorthEastern Population by Age, 2011


How many people there are, by age, in each of the mutually exclusive regions labeled GHD (Gateshead), NCL (Newcastle upon Tyne), NT (North Tyneside), ST (South Tyneside) and SU (Sunderland).

Spiky, innit?

Figures from an excel spreadsheet freely downloadable from a page at the ONS 2011 Census results.