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White water-lily

The white water-lily (Nymphaea alba) is a favourite plant for owners of ornamental lakes and large ponds, although it grows wild throughout Great Britain and is native to Europe. It may have been introduced to Britain by the Romans. Water-lilies are typified by being rooted in the beds of ponds and lakes but exhibiting their […] More

The Battle of Solferino, 1859

The Battle of Solferino was fought on 24th June 1859 between imperial Austria and a combined force of French and Piedmontese troops. It was an exceptionally bloody affair but one from which a lasting and unexpected benefit accrued. In March of that year King Victor Emmanuel II ofSardinia/Piedmont saw an opportunity to renew the campaign […] More

Wood anemone

The wood anemone (Anemone nemorosa) is a familiar plant to anyone who walks though deciduous woods virtually anywhere in the British Isles. It provides a low carpet of green leaves up to 12 inches (30 centimetres) high, out of which spring stalks bearing white flowers (March to May). The stalks bear a ring of three […] More

Meadow buttercup

The photo (one of mine) is of a field in Wensleydale (North Yorkshire) that is yellow with meadow buttercups (Ranunculus acris). This is the most prominent of the three buttercup varieties that are commonly found in Great Britain, the others being the creeping and bulbous buttercup. The meadow buttercup can grow up to 36 inches […] More

Sir Peter Ustinov: a much-missed entertainer

Peter Ustinov was a writer, actor, director, raconteur and more, who delighted audiences on stage, television and film screen with his ready wit and larger-than-life character. He was born on 16th April 1921 in London, the only child of Jona von Ustinow and his wife Nadezhda. His ancestry was extremely mixed, including Russian, German and […] More

A dinner with Attila the Hun

Priscus, a 5th century Romano-Greek diplomat, wrote an account of meeting Attila the Hun that conveys a different impression from the generally accepted view of a bloodthirsty tyrant who brought the Roman Empire to its knees.  Priscus and Attila The name Attila the Hun usually conjures up an image of a savage barbarian from central […] More

The treasure of Loch Arkaig

Some people believe that there is a hoard of gold that was buried somewhere near Loch Arkaig in the Scottish Highlands in 1746. However, the chances are that it disappeared a very long time ago! The background This is a story that begins with the Jacobite uprising of 1745, when the “Young Pretender” Charles Edward […] More

The wreck of the Torrey Canyon, 1967

The wreck of the Torrey Canyon on 18th March 1967, off the coastof Cornwall, brought home to the British public the risks that are involved in the transport of huge quantities of oil by sea in giant supertankers.  The Torrey Canyon Although the Torrey Canyon, at 120,000 tonnes capacity, was one of the largest crude […] More

William McGonagall: the greatest bad poet of all time

The world is full of very bad poets, so the crown of the “best” of all time (or should that be the “worst”?) has to be bestowed with care. However, there must be few people who, having been introduced to his poetry,would deny that honour to William McGonagall. William Topaz McGonagall To be truly bad […] More

The Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

The Serengeti National Park, in northern Tanzania, is an amazing natural resource that is, not surprisingly, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  The Park occupies nearly 15,000 square kilometres that comprise treeless savannah plains and the magnificent Ngorongoro Crater (which has a diameter of 27 kilometres). At the eastern edge of the Serengeti is the Olduvai […] More