Electrify That Tree

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Last night I went to the switching on of the lights on the massive Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square for the first time.  On hand were the Salvation Army Band (you can hear a snippet here) and the choir of St. Martin in the Fields to provide carols as well as the Lord Mayor of Westminster and the mayor of Oslo who did the switch on.

Dignitaries

Every year since 1947 the people of Oslo Norway have donated the tree as a gift to the people of Britain for their help during the Second World War.  This particular tree stands 75 feet  high and is 80 years old.

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Thankfully it didn’t rain and the weather was cool and crisp, just perfect. For some more photos, head over to Flickr.

Magic Lantern is Magic

The British Museum have an exhibition on now about the beginnings of photography in the 19th century called Points of View.  Along with the (free!) exhibition there’s all sorts of talks and events.  A few weeks ago I went to a fantastic talk about revealing the truth behind ‘Spirit Photography’, which was rather popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  Today was more Victorian entertainments in the form of a magic lantern show.

The Show Begins

The lantern used by Professor Heard, the chap doing the talk/show, was pretty neat looking.  Upon seeing it the first thing that popped in my head was steampunk. It was half traditional magic lantern magic show while discussing the techniques used in the presentation and its history. The slides can be rather intricate, both mechanically and artistically. Each one is hand painted or in the case of photographic slides, hand tinted. Some later Victorian slides were even a mixture of photographic and hand drawn elements. Pretty neat.

Magic Lantern and slides

I think I recall that the lantern used today was from 1860 and was purchased at a shop in the Strand. It’s been refitted to work with electric lights and modern dimming switches. The original ones ran from gas light that required bags of oxygen and hydrogen to be set up beneath the lanterns. Needless to say, magic lanterns caused the odd fire or three.

Like a double mini-canon

He ended off the show with what was the most popular magic lantern slide produced; The Rat Swollower –

The Rat Swoller lantern slide

It had two moving parts: one that moved the man’s mouth open and shut which was a simple lever and another than was turned to make rats run up the side of the bed and into his open/snoring mouth. All done with three plates of glass.

There are a few more photos over on Flickr for those inclinded.

A Weekend Jam Packed with Standing

Last weekend was the annual Lord Mayor’s Show in the City of London and Remebrance Sunday at the Cenotaph in Whitehall.  I made it to the Lord Mayor’s Show last year.  Pat and I had a fantastic spot right by Mansion House, the Lord Mayor’s residence.  This year I decided to stake out a place by St. Paul’s.  Wasn’t quite the same without the company of a well hat’d gentleman, but I soldiered on.

Got a nice spot right across from St. Paul’s where the new Lord Mayor’s coach would be turning in to the front of the cathedral. The parade started at 11 o’clock down the street at Guild hall and made it to St. Paul’s a few minutes after. The forecast for Saturday was heavy rain. I was really hoping that wouldn’t be the case. At first it wasn’t, but as the show rolled on, the heavy rain made it’s presence known. It was so bad I even put the camera away. Miraculously, just as the Lord Mayor’s Coach was arriving, the rain stopped and the clouds even broke up a bit. No soggy cloaks for the Lord Mayor while he get his blessing on the steps of the cathedral.

Gentlemen Onlookers

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