thinking outside the tank

Posts Tagged ‘New York

Spirit of St Louis departing Roosevelt Field

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A short video introducing Charles Lindbergh’s flight across the Atlantic in the Spirit of St. Louis.


Written by netkingcol

December 16, 2013 at 4:06 pm

Anglo-Saxon Roots

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I have started making regular visits to the refurbished Central Library in Liverpool. Outside it still has its Victorian façade, but inside is a vast atrium which has echoes of the Guggenheim in New York. I haven’t explored all of it yet, so my favourite room is currently the original Picton Reading Room – a vast circular space lined on three levels with books from floor to ceiling – it’s a cylinder of words.

Through random browsing, I came across the text: Complete Old English (Anglo-Saxon) by Mark Atherton. It’s in the Teach Yourself series, an earlier form of For Dummies, but less jejune. On impulse, I borrowed the book and scanned through it on the bus home. What a surprise when I reached Chapter 10 and saw the heading: These are the bounds of the pasture at Hazelhurst. It turns out that, in 1018, King Cnut granted some land called hæselersc to archbishop Lyfing. That land is in a place that is now called Lower Hazelhurst in Sussex. I know that my name is spelled differently (Hazlehurst), but its origin is surely the same.

This is a transcription of part of the charter, penned in my neatest Chancery almost-but-not-quite-cursive:


Being a reactive sort of a person, I have thrown my time into studying Anglo-Saxon and letting it spill over into another current pastime: bookbinding. After a lifetime of computer programming, I find that traditional craft gives me a level of satisfaction that I used to get from coding. Even so, my first act was to search for and download an Anglo-Saxon font; I chose the Junius font, as recommended by the University of Virginia.

Using this font, my first bookbinding project was a copy of Beowulf in Anglo-Saxon:


I thought this would give me something to translate as my Anglo-Saxon wordhoard grows. I also found, courtesy of the Gutenberg Project, the text of Henry Sweet’s Anglo-Saxon Primer. I bound this as a hardback book:


but immediately found errors in it (mine not Henry’s), so I have on my to-do list to knock this book into shape.

All in all, like Jethro Tull, I’m happy, smiling, and living in the past.

Copyright © Colin Hazlehurst, 2013

or, to put it another way:


Joshua Slocum in Google Earth: Antigua to Newport

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Follow Joshua Slocum’s Sailing Alone Around the World at:

Slocum sails from Antigua on 05Jun1898. He shapes a course for Cape Hatteras in about 35°N with the intention of coasting along past Chesapeake and Delaware Bays up to New York; a grand finale to the voyage.

The sun passes directly overhead on 08Jun1898 when he is in the latitude of 22° 54’N.

Many think it excessively hot right under the sun. It is not necessarily so. As a matter of fact the thermometer stands at a bearable point whenever there is a breeze and a ripple on the sea, even exactly under the sun. It is often hotter in cities and on sandy shores in higher latitudes.

Several degrees further north Slocum finds the Spray becalmed in the region of the North Atlantic known as the Sargasso Sea. The Sargassum seaweed bunches together into a vast mat around the sloop. For day after day, he can only sit and read and wait for the wind. The smooth and monotonous sea lasts for eight days when a strong south-westerly gale springs up and carries the Spray into the Gulf Stream.

Parts of the sloop’s rigging begin to fail including the peak halyard-block used for controlling the gaff mainsail. More seriously, on 20Jun1898 the jib-stay breaks away at the masthead. This stay is used to carry the jib, but its main function is to hold the mainmast in place. The stay, with the sail attached, falls into the sea but Slocum is able to retrieve it; without the stay the mast sways about ‘like a reed’, but he must climb to the masthead to rig a gun-tackle purchase¹ to secure the mast. He is able to rig a reefed jib to this improvised stay which once again “was soon pulling like a sodger.”

Slocum is now growing weary of the relentless thumping of the waves and the squalls throwing the Spray about. On 23Jun1898 he is pelted by hailstones and subjected to continuous lightning flashes, but there is worse to come; what he calls the climax storm of the voyage:

By slants, however, day and night I worked the sloop in towards the coast, where, on the 25th of June, off Fire Island, she fell into the tornado which, an hour earlier, had swept over New York city with lightning that wrecked buildings and sent trees flying about in splinters; even ships at docks had parted their moorings and smashed into other ships, doing great damage. It was the climax storm of the voyage, but I saw the unmistakable character of it in time to have all snug aboard and receive it under bare poles. Even so, the sloop shivered when it struck her, and she heeled over unwillingly on her beam ends; but rounding to, with a sea-anchor ahead, she righted and faced out the storm.

After the storm, Slocum finds he is closer inshore and, sighting the land, discovers he is some miles to the east of Fire Island. The plan changes; Newport, Rhode Island, is the new destination; he heads eastwards along the coast of Long Island, rounding Montauk Point in the early afternoon. By nightfall, Point Judith is abeam and soon the Beavertail promontory is passed.

The only obstacle now remaining is that the entrance to Newport harbour is mined, owing to the war with Spain. Slocum steers close inshore, hugging the rocks, reasoning that it would be better to have an argument with a rock than with a mine.

Flitting by a low point abreast of the guard-ship, the dear old Dexter, which I knew well, some one on board of her sang out, “There goes a craft!” I threw up a light at once heard the hail, “Spray, ahoy!” It was the voice of a friend, and I knew that a friend would not fire on the Spray. I eased off the main-sheet now, and the Spray swung off for the beacon-lights of the inner harbour. At last she reached port in safety and there, at 1.a.m. on June 27, 1898, cast anchor, after the cruise of more than forty-six thousand miles round the world, during an absence of three years and two months, with two days over for coming up.

The section of Joshua Slocum’s journey reported here opens Chapter XXI of Sailing Alone Around the World, and this post is a trailer for the adventure that I am retelling in Google Earth at:


1. A gun-tackle purchase is a simple system of two pulley wheels and a rope.

Copyright © Colin Hazlehurst, 2012

So I says to Fay I says

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On Thursday, 07Oct2010, I attended a prize-giving lunch in Kensington in the company of the three judges: Fay Weldon, James Buchan, and Deborah Moggach. My entry to the Mail on Sunday novel competition had come third. This earned me £200 in book tokens or £1.37 for each of the 146 words I submitted. Also present were the other five winners and a handful of literary agents and commissioning editors.

Talk about dance of the the trolls in the hall of the mountain king. In this literary landscape we winners were the foothills sitting between mighty peaks of writing achievement – small fish in a big pond. The lunch was excellent, as was the generosity of the judges all of whom gave their advice and encouragement freely. All my illusions about my ability to write were reinforced.

Since hearing of this success in August, I’ve stretched those 146 words to 79,000 which is only 1000 short of the minimal entry length for submission to the Terry Pratchett Prize. The writing was described by the judges as: ‘a quite grand idea, an alternative universe, done most elegantly’.  Here it is:

The Gates-Guggenheim Museum on the Upper East Side of New Manhattan, Antarctica was a faithful copy of the building that had once stood at the southern end of Museum Mile in New York City. Frank Lloyd Wright would have appreciated its unexpected harmony with the new setting. It was a small step from his Prairie Style to this building which stood in the bleak landscape like a great slab of ice at the nose of a glacier, seemingly about to topple into the sea. Its pale, outward sloping exterior, emitting a bluish pearlescent light, evoked memories of building-sized floes breaking away from the ice-shelf that many New Manhattanites had seen and feared towards the end of their difficult journey south. In the imaginations of some, the curved lines brought to mind a trapped cruise ship with decks tilted, crushed and creaking in the grip of the freezing winter.

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