Posts Tagged ‘jules verne

22
Oct
09

Victorian Steampunk

     I probably should reveal a few things that have hitherto, remained latent. I do have a penchant for the days of yore. Not particularly for sentimental reasons; although inevitably there is a modicum of that. It seems perhaps inevitable that an island such as Old Blighty, not emasculated by her (wink) loss of Empire should have a yearning for the former glory.

Mappa Tuesday

Mappa Tuesday

     However, the zeitgeist of the day is cheap and cheerless – the land of the miserable shopper. Our £1 lands have replaced our Woolworths. Yes cheap tat and proud of it. Brunel would be spinning in his grave.

     But let me take you back to a land that served a purpose with style. You just have to think of the Crossness pumping station.

     Yes indeed, the Victorians even ensured that their turds* travelled in style, albeit to end up washing up on the sandy shores of bathers at Southend-on-Sea. It is true, however, that their wives and children fared well they could not bear for any of their fine erections to be looked down up.

it's a shitehouse

it's a shitehouse

     Wot ho! It was indeed, as old Charlie would say the best of time & the worst of times. In fact it had a hint of the Curate’s Egg about it, albeit encased in a Faberge suit. It was a time when a gentleman would toss his cape into a geographically inconvenient Dr. Foster, and hang the bill the Chinese laundry man would threaten him with. Exactly why the Chinese crossed half the world to stir steaming tubs of shirts, well, that’s another story….

     It was a time when a gentleman would dress for dinner, and after he had retired to the Smoking Room, (as opposed to sitting on the back porch and hoping an Easterly didn’t send wafts of aromatic Arabian tobacco back into the sitting room for fear of the asthmatic cat having another attack,) and gazing out at the gas lit pea-souper. Conversation would fall on affairs of state, the Empire and, of course the latest invention that one was tinkering with. Yes, for dandyness, etiquette and style aside, it was at least a time when one could have a stab at inventing a unique contraption with out possessing several degrees in advanced Squibullery. A time of crystal phials and shining brass. A time of sparks, whirring engines, and – by God – proper noises. A gentleman could travel from King’s Cross to Edinburgh in a proper mode of transport, a Steam-powered train. The sort of vehicle, that one could well imagine, could at any point leave the tracks and end up Le Voyage dans la lune.

     The Victorian Age was the Age of Invention. The zeitgeist of boundless optimism and achievement, where anything is possible. Of course, you had to be rich enough to benefit from it, but then I’m sure the Great Pyramid wasn’t that impressive if you spent all day shoving tons of granite up a slope all day. As the bard has it, “it’s the rich wot gets the pleasure, and the poor wot gets the pain.”

     Please, give me a little indulgence fair reader of a time when at least you knew where you stood, even if that meant with both feet in raw sewage, dying of typhus. Look at use now; gone is the age of Oak, of Iron, the MFI age is our day. Can you imagine the Swedish selling wood to us, for cripes sake.

     Let me end today’s entry with a few places to visit to recapture that certain style.

Hey Ho. It’s time I should be winding my collection of crystal chronometers.

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14
Oct
09

Everything’s going down the tubes

     It all started during the course of a rather baffling conversation about the dark art of the lawnmower. Dr. Brunel was, of course, the interlocutor in question. Pork pies aside, he was explaining the invention of the Telectroscope. The subject was as foreign to me as the contents of Lady Jennifer’s handbag. A mysterious and baffling region, inhabited by dragons and badly mangled coathangers. I listened with interest.

Dr. Brunel grandfather, yesterday

Dr. Brunel grandfather, yesterday

“Of course, as you well know,” he continued. I didn’t; the fiend had the edge on me here. “The Telectroscope was opened last year. I’m surprised that you were not on the VIP list.” image003

His was possibly not pregnant, but certainly had been given a good seeing to. It seems that recently disclosed MI5 documents had revealed that a tunnel had been drilled under the Atlantic Ocean, just after World War I. It seems that it was built so that England could use small pockets of New York as an East of Ealing overspill. The papers were originally leaked by one Paul George, who happened upon a packet of dusty papers in a trunk in his grandmother’s attic. On further inspection he discovered that they had been the property of his great-grandfather, an eccentric Victorian engineer, Alexander Stanhope St George. Paul began to read through the papers and discovered a veritable treasure trove: diaries, diagrams, correspondence, scribbled calculations, and even one or two photographs. At first, Paul felt a detached interest in this first hand account of social and cultural history. But as he read on, he became more and more absorbed, until, with a sudden thrill, he realised that these papers could have a greater significance than was at first apparent. The notebooks were full of intricate drawings and passages of writing describing a strange machine. This device looked like an enormous telescope with a strange bee-hive shaped cowl at one end containing a complex configuration of mirrors and lenses.telecdiagramf

 Alexander seemed to be suggesting that this invention, which he called a Telectroscope, would act as a visual amplifier, allowing people to see through a tunnel of immense length… a tunnel, the drawings implied, stretching from one side of the world to the other. The idea, it seems – this was the real breakthrough – was to employ the “suppression of absence.”

     How I missed out on this peculiar technological innovation, I don’t understand. Surely intercontinental travel should cost mere pennys. Someone’s raking in the loot I’ll be bound. Could it be that as we step onto the plane, jetting off to such dream destinations as the airports of our allies, that they’re secretly drugging our G&Ts, and posting us off down the telectroscope? I’ll get to the bottom of this.




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