Monday, December 29, 2008

Messing about at the cricket

Australia weren't the only ones messing about rather than taking it seriously today at the MCG.There were a couple in front of the scoreboard, playing bat & ball. Probably did better than some of the batsmen.

And then there was time for a moment of reflection in a corporate box. I was outside, of course.


Thursday, December 25, 2008

Our cards, calling

One of the neat presents we got this year was a selection of very special cards. These were created by Ross from our photographs; some taken on our around the world trip, others from Victorian scenes and a sprinkling of his own images.

We are torn between wanting to send and share them (some cards choose their own recipients) and wanting to treasure them 'as a set'.

They were also a great reminder of some of the best times this year. Thanks, Ross!


The weirdness that is Christmas in Australia

There's something particularly odd in importing a mid-winter festival into the middle of summer. Special pleading with the sun to return seems a bit odd in the middle of a drought. (For our northern hemisphere readers it would be as sensible as standing in the fourth month of England's summer drizzle having a street party celebrating the end of the 'dry spell'.)

On opposite sides of a street near us the full lunacy plays out. A carefully tinselled 'BAH HUMBUG' on one side, while on the other characters enough to give any kid the heeby jeebies.

Ah, well, you couldn't make it up.

Of course someone decided we need an Aussie 'Jingle Bells'. So here it is, Merry Christmas, everybody's getting burnt...

Dashing through the bush
In a rusty Holden Ute
Kicking up the dust
Esky in the boot
Kelpie by my side
Singing Christmas songs
It’s summer time and I am in
My singlet, shorts & thongs

Engine’s getting hot
Dodge the kangaroos
Swaggy climbs aboard
He is welcome too
All the family is there
Sitting by the pool
Christmas day, the Aussie way
By the barbecue!


From the BeautUtes website.

Come the afternoon
Grandpa has a doze
The kids and uncle Bruce
Are swimming in their clothes
The time comes round to go
We take a family snap
Then pack the car and all shoot through
Before the washing up


For those not fluent in Stryne, there is a translation here.

These are Utes. Pic by James in Echuca.


So simple a man could do it!

As is well known, Bev is the main cook in the household. However, on Christmas Eve, Bev wasn't feeling great, and collapsed in front of Maeve O'Meara's Food Safari and instructed the non-cook from there.

So the chunks were exactly the right size just like I like 'em.

There were two bits that didn't get photographed. One was setting the duck-breast fat on fire (ah, the joys of gas ~ no I didn't panic) and the second was the expression of deep concern on the dog's face. Clearly Toby was convinced that the wrong big-dog was cooking and would clearly screw it up. I didn't, and it was good. So this one is for Bev, who does most of the cooking, and still makes the one other night 'so simple a man can do it!'

Meanwhile in the Block Arcade, the Australian Girl's Choir were singing about figgy pudding. (Very nice, but figgy pudding was the last thing I think you'd want at 30 degrees...) The location of the view I had wasn't bad, either...

Mmm. Chocolates. We had lunch next-door at the Duomo Cafe, and Bev noted that 80% of the people walking away from Haigh's were bearing chocolate packets. The guy with the trolley was either working for others or going to be very sick. Bev's about to find out that I joined the 80% too...

Merry Christmas!


Sunday, December 21, 2008

Cricket - here and there, always surprising

Well, that was a stunning finish. There have been a few times I've barracked for the team playing Australia, and I'm not ashamed to say this was one of them - and South Africa deserved to win.

The picture I'd like to show is RSA batsman Jacques Kallis sharing a wry smile with Australian paceman Brett Lee after Kallis was beaten by a ball that skidded through after hitting a bit of rough. Both could see the funny side of the luck of the ball there, it missing Kallis' wicket by a whisker, and that's one reason I'm a cricket fan. But I can't. Cricket Australia are in dispute with Reuters and AP over rights.
In 2005, Lee triumphed over Kallis. At the WACA this game, Kallis laughed long. (BBC)

Kallis, Smith and AB de Villiers showed why the South Africans are known as tough and hard with some gritty batting, under pressure. And the fact that a Muslim (Hashim Amla - with the most amazing beard) and a black South African, Jean-Paul Duminy (on debut, or as the ABC have it; 'dayboo') were two other key players in this session is a measure of the miracle that is the modern South Africa - a country where the weight of history should have forced a racial bloodbath.

But for those in the frozen North, you don't need to miss out on the cricket experience. Let me introduce my discovery for today, Ice Cricket!

In the winter of 1879:

The Fens were sometimes deliberately flooded to allow skating, and Charles Pigg, a student at Peterhouse, challenged Bob Carpenter, a first-class cricketer with Cambridgeshire, to raise a side to play on a 20-acre site.

As expected, all players used skates. Cambridge Town batted first, closing the first two-hour day on 193 for 9. The following day, Wednesday, Carpenter and Dan Hayward added a further 132 in 70 minutes, the innings eventually totalling 326. Hayward's dismissal came about when he lost his footing, fell over and was bowled.

By the time the University batted the ice was rutted and worn, and while fielding continued to be a virtual lottery, batting became even harder. Despite this, they reached 61 for 1 by the end of the day. They extended this to 274 for 4 by the end of the third day and the captains agreed to settle on a draw.

"Fielding was delightful, and the chasing of the ball into space when it eluded you was most exhilarating," recalled Charles Boucher, whose full toss had dismissed Hayward, in a letter to the Times in 1929. "Only lob bowling was allowed and umpires were most severe on no-balls."

Then in London:

The most unusual contest took place on the ice in Windsor Park on January 9, 1879 under the light of the full moon.
...several hundred spectators turned out to watch a Mr Gage's side score 17 for 8 to defeat a team raised by Mr Bowditch. "The game caused no end of amusement owing to the difficulties encountered by the players while bowling, batting and fielding," reported Wisden, perhaps slightly unfairly.

Thanks to that numbers repository, Cricinfo. And it's not just a historical anachronism; today you too can place Ice Cricket in Estonia, as offered here...

Now perhaps Australia could meet Canada on an 'even' white, fast pitch. Spikes swapped for skates? The term 'shirtfront' could take on a new resonance, and which set of skills of two of the world's greatest sportsmen count - those of Don Bradman or those of Wayne Gretzky?

That looks like a very fast outfield to me, and we'll take our drinks HOT.


So he says....

... he says, 'No problem, World's Largest, Hairiest Spider? I've ejected it.'

And I have to be enormously grateful.

One, that he would be so good. She was a monster.
Two, that she was not venomous. (We looked her up later - eeeeeeee)

But to put her out in the garden.... That garden I'm about to sort out? Chopping back the ivy, lifting the trailing tomatoes, dealing with those old, dry pieces of wood?

I have only one thing to say to this:


James Adds: Of course making sure to check inside the gloves first...

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Gardening & Cricket connection

One of the penalties of being a gardener (I suspect - I'm no gardener) is being unable just to relax in the garden. As Bev gets the garden sorted, while I enjoy the drinks, cherries, Bev-made shortbread (not pictured, burp) and the cricket on the radio, courtesy the ABC, 'Straya and Seth Efrika.

This picture shows where I'm enjoying my cricket. Like gardening, cricket's best, I think, as a great spectator sport. ABC Grandstand have just closed a competition 'Where are you listening to the cricket?' The winners were in a great pic.

More here.

And like the commentator and ex-Aussie opener Justin Langer, I look forward to seeing the first full blood Aborigine taking a five-for in the baggy green.In the shorter term, I'm looking forward to a Melbourne cricket ritual of a day at the G for the Boxing Day test. We'll be there with three Poms and a Tassie, and here's to a good fight from the South Africans.

While I'm missing many of my Aussie cricket greats who've just retired (there's only one of each Gilchrist, McGrath and Warne) Lee's still there at top form (and we can't forget 'Husseey!'..) two guys are making their mark - Mitchell Johnson, a new Western Australian hero and Brad Hadden. And Mitchell's a left-hander, picked as a 16 year old as a 'Once in a lifetime bowler' by my boyhood hero Dennis Lillee. Neat.

Mitchell Johnson is congratulated by team-mates after claiming the wicket of Hashim Amla during the second day of the first Test between Australia and South Africa at the WACA Ground in Perth on December 18, 2008. (Tony McDonough)

There's other sports, and then there's the Ashes. Until they're on again, the South Africans are a good filler. I'm always going to be here for the bowlers, and Johnson looks like one who is going to be worth watching.

It's pretty good really.


Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Arachnid of Damocles

[Those of an arachnophobic disposition may wish to look away now.]

This morning there was an uninvited guest above our shower. She's probably not dangerous (I thought she was a Huntsman, but the proportions look wrong) but not welcome inside, either. All spiders are bigger than you want if you don't like 'em, and the stupidest thing I did this year has to be taking a shower before removing the offending guest - not quite the opening of Indiana Jones, but not comfortable either!

Safely ejected into the garden.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The writers room

An excellent audio slideshow on the BBC website at the moment features photographs by Eamonn McCabe of writers' rooms.

Much more than meeting the real person behind the novels or poetry, their rooms and bookshelves tell us a lot about them.

Eamonn McCabe, Beryl Bainbridge’s Room. From Writers’ Rooms. Archival digital print 29.5x42cm, paper size. Madison Contemporary Art, London.

A revolver on the desk is perhaps trying a little hard for the Gothic writer persona, don't you think, Beryl? I do like the ship model though (Of course it'll be the RMS Titanic, won't it...).

Some are exactly what you might expect, others surprising in other ways. Have a look at the show, and I suggest you do it with the captions 'off' first and see if you can match anyone's writing style to their room. Few seem to have too much of the 'look at me' wall, and there's a good sprinkling of inspirational objects, pictures and material tacked to walls, or spread around. Some rooms provide comfort for the natural 'floor pile filers' among us.

Eamonn McCabe. Craig Raine’s Room, from Writers’ Rooms. Archival digital print, 29.5x42cm, paper size.

The exhibition is on at the Madison Contemporary Art gallery in London.

Unlike many other professionals, such as musicians, or even sports people, writers remain people who can be their own best manager or worst enemy, the writer's methodology and technique being entirely up to them and ranging as widely as can possibly be imagined and a bit beyond. The book Writers on Writing is fascinating on the topic, while the NY Times has an online version.

It's fascinating peeking into other writer's working places. I'll never forget the photo I saw of the interior of Roald Dahl's shed. But there's a more egalitarian version online too. 'On My Desk' is a great blog, and well worth a dip into. (And a 'G'day' to our friend near the top of that one, too.)

Whichever writer said 'a writer has to write' was right. So I've got to go and do some.



Friday, December 5, 2008

Filing's tough...

...when you are a dog.

Toby takes a break in the middle of work - Bev's work, actually.

Friday, November 28, 2008

New angles on Florentine Icons

We were lucky when we were in Florence that the weather was pretty good, and the tourists were at only a 0.7 of a RK 'Seethe'TM. Sometimes the light showed a view of something that's just so familiar you just don't see it properly any more. Above is an angle that just leapt out at me when we were down-sun of the Duomo. The backlit cross and ball on the dome were magical. (But of course, not quite as good as the far more classy Lucca Duomo. One must maintain one's loyalty to one's own Italian town. Florence remains just a slumming option for a Luccese boy.)

Then again, I know I'll never look at David's knees quite the same way in future.


Thursday, November 27, 2008

The lost castle

After our visit to Trento in the the Italian highlands, we took the mountain road back to Treviso. Some of it was challenging driving, but the scenery was spectacular.

One thing we saw as we descended was this castle keep on a wooded hillside. Some of Trento's countryside looked like it hadn't changed much - this castle looked like it came complete with a sleeping beauty...

(Pic by Bev.)


Friday, November 21, 2008

Librarians hot in pursuit

Every week or so, I receive an e-newsletter from the British Library. If you're like me, I usually skip over e-newsletters until I've got a dull moment, and then quickly skim - or not - before deleting. They're not, generally, riveting or inspiring reading.

Today, I paused.

"Library Thief Convicted", the headline proclaimed. And I felt that chill touch down my back, that someone - anyone - could desecrate a library. Books, for heaven's sake. Libraries. The British Library. Oooh. Not good.

The courtyard in front of the new British Library on the Euston Road. Photo by James.

But then I read the rest of the newsletter (reproduced in full below), and I started thinking. I've got (like many) a romantic, educated and probably middle-class fondness for libraries and books. I love libraries. I love that they are free. I adore the prospect of exploration. I'm excited about how the libraries in Melbourne have recently awoken, and they're cool places to be, to socialise and exchange ideas and learn and listen and read, of course, of course, to read is at the heart. I love to wander the shelves, trailing my fingers over spines, snuffling the pages, occasionally finding bookmarks, receipts, other people's library check-out tickets.

The old British Library building in the centre of the British Museum. Who knows, the previous reader of the book could have been Karl Marx. Photo by James.

But there's another side, as ever. Books can be political. They are. Books can represent views that harm, that twist and deny events or conflicts that are of prime importance to us. That's why books get banned, burned, banished, black-listed. That's also why they get written, debated, promoted, passed around. The infinite variety in humans? Well, of course it spawns infinite variety in the books we humans write.

And so I wonder: why did
Mr Farhad Hakimzadeh steal those books and pages? Why would an academic and researcher into the Mughal Empire, take these documents? Profit or politics? Academic involvement with his subject, to an overweaning degree? What prompted it? Why?

Reading the newsletter, it soon becomes apparent that the librarians are upset about precisely the same question. Dame Brindley and her minions are on the warpath. You can almost hear them howling "But he's an academic! Why would one of our own harm our precious books?" And I don't blame them. It is - as they all immediately point out - an enormous breach of trust. And the library's promise to pursue thieves with 'utmost vigour' - while it brings to mind a rampage of librarians on the warpath - is laudable and should be supported.

I'll be interested to read more about the case. The whole newsletter is reproduced below for your interest, and there's an interesting interview with the Head of Collections.


Mr Farhad Hakimzadeh, a former British Library Reader, is due to appear at Wood Green Court today (Friday 21 November). Hakimzadeh has pleaded guilty to ten counts of theft from the Library, and asked for further charges to be taken into account. He has also admitted theft from the Bodleian Library in Oxford. Sentencing in this case is expected later today and you may have seen coverage of the case in this morning's press.

Hakimzadeh used considerable skill, deceit and determination to steal leaves, plates and maps from collection items. In many instances his thefts were initially difficult to detect. The items he mutilated are mainly 16th, 17th and 18th century items, with a lesser number of 19th and a few 20th century items. The predominant subject area is the West European engagement with Mesopotamia, Persia and the Mogul [Mughal] empire (roughly the area from modern Syria to Bangladesh), and western travel and colonisation / exploration.

Readers should be assured that theft from the British Library is an extremely rare occurrence. As Readers will appreciate, we are a library, not a museum. We are committed to making our collections available in the interests of scholarship and research, and to do this an element of trust is necessary. Hakimzadeh fundamentally betrayed this trust.

I know that Readers will share the anger we feel about this crime. The Library takes very seriously its duty to protect the collections for your use, and for the generations of Readers to come. We have zero tolerance of anyone who harms our collections and will pursue anyone who threatens them with utmost vigour.

Danger - Armed Librarians On Site.

The successful prosecution of Hakimzadeh follows a thorough and detailed investigation by Library staff and the Metropolitan Police. This led to the recovery of some of the items stolen by Hakimzadeh, and civil proceedings are now underway to recover further items and to seek financial compensation.

The Library has been heartened by the generous co-operation it has received during this investigation from a number of institutions and from other libraries in this country and abroad.

Should any Reader have a concern about the security of a collection item, please do speak to a member of Reading Room staff.

Dame Lynne Brindley
Chief Executive Officer
The British Library

Thursday, November 20, 2008


As I said earlier, there's something about a combine harvester.

Here's some lurking at the end of our driveway from when we lived in Oxfordshire. There used to be dinosaurs here (the tracks remain). I reckon they're back.


Sunday, November 16, 2008

Film Noir - Unexpected heroes and villains

We recently took in two Film Noir movies thanks to our local excellent independent video store. Both were surprising (which is, after all part of the point) one being excellent, the other thoroughly deserving the term pants*. The trick is that the awful one was a much-lauded early Hitchcock - The 39 Steps (1935 - IMDb page). Hitch is, rightly, regarded as one of the all time greats, but here he was having an off film - which has strangely garnered multiple great reviews.

I checked the box to ensure we'd got the right film, and we had. The reviewers seem to have seen another film to the one we saw. The reviewers example apparently had continuity, acting and a plot that would convince someone over six. In ours, star Robert Donat playing Hannay as a bizarre Canadian (rather than the book's South African) is 'suave' to the point of being smarmy.

Perhaps it's because the original The 39 Steps book by John Buchan is a firm favourite we were a bit more critical, but considering Hitch and the scriptwriters had thrown the entire plot into a blender that's hardly a germane criticism. The bizarre mix of location work and studio Scottish moors with papier-mâché rocks was amusing, but the nadir was speeding up the film of police chasing our hero across the moor... No, that belongs only in the Keystone Cops. The ending was risible.

These stills have been lifted from this site, that offers a stop motion version of Hitch's film. If you must waste time on it, this is a good short cut..

Who's the villain?
Tonight we had The Big Clock. 1948 (IMDB link). Not a cast you'd expect for a great Noir, except perhaps Mr Laughton (whose moustache looked like he'd had some strange injury). But they were a strong, if unlikely, ensemble. (The Bride of Frankenstein; Lois Lane running the elevator; the good commander from M*A*S*H; and the silent Elisha Cook Jr type torpedo aren't quite what you'd expect, surely?)

Nevertheless, it set up several remarkable scenarios, was well paced and had several genuine surprising shocks and twists, and a great ending.

The wardrobe was great too, the combination of the 1948 men's sharp suits and hats (didn't they cut themselves on the brims?) and women's 'robes'. (No dear, I can't believe anyone ever wore one of those - and not over that! And you aren't going to bed with that bow around your neck, m'dear.)

But as well as the titular clock (a great, bizarre piece of engineering, well used in the plot, and not the one in the publicity still - of course) the highlight was an amazing office block masquerading as the base of a publishing empire. Despite a bit of online research I've not found if it were a real building re-used, or simply a set, but it could only have been designed by Howard Roark. Allmovies says:
Additionally, the Janoth Publications building where most of the action takes place is almost a cast member in itself, an art deco wonder, especially the room housing the clock mechanism and the lobby and vestibules, all loosely inspired by such structures as the Empire State Building and the real-life Daily News headquarters on East 42nd Street.
The film is based on a book by author and poet Kenneth Fearing. It was, apparently, his big breakthrough, and made him a mint, but he signed away the film rights and drank himself to death. One quote hit a note:
People who worked with him remember that in the afternoons he would have to put his head on his typewriter and sleep.
Hmmm. A modern keyboard just won't do. Still this plot's a great legacy.

With crime, newspapers, pace and action of course one is reminded of His Girl Friday / The Front Page. (A quick newspaper film primer on the subject here.) The odd thing is while The Front Page was based on a play, The 39 Steps feels like a play adaptation, despite the many exteriors, but the claustrophobic The Big Clock, which you'd expect to feel theatrically derived, has no such restrictions.

As you'd want, from this review featuring Noir, there was a twist or two. Confess you expected the Hitchcock effort to be the success, and The Big Clock to be the fall guy!

[Surging strings and chop cut]

Shock Hitchcock error! We have some secret watchers, who
streetlight. Oh dear ~

It's 1935 amateurs again!



*'Pants': Nonsense, rubbish, bad. From the standard British English of pants, meaning underwear; also a variation on 'knickers'. E.g."The first half was pants but I stayed until the end and it was actually a great film." [1990s]


In an earlier blog I was quite rude about roses. One of my reasons for dislike is they aren't Australian natives, and as Australia has a huge array of amazingly bright and varied native flowers, the obsession with roses by many is a pity, as it displaces interesting and rarer natives from Australian gardens. More importantly, and funnily enough, the natives are more suited to Australian conditions, generally being less demanding than the aliens.

One of the greats is the Bottlebrush, formally the Callistemon. Here we see a red Bottlebrush local to us, which is just flowering. I think it's the cultivar known as Harkness.

Notice the way the buds pop open to allow the threads to streighten.

It's a splash of colour which always gives a lift.



Some kids like diggers. Some kids like dinosaurs. There's something about a combine harvester. But then, some kids like aeroplanes and don't grow out of it. This beastie's always popular with the kids.

There's a lot of history to go behind it, but we'll suffice with the fact it's the Royal Australian Air Force Museum's CAC Mustang. (The RAAF Museum is where I act as a volunteer guide about once a week.) This Mustang is flown about once a month, to an always delighted crowd.

It's still owned by the RAAF, and is the only active Mustang in Air Force (or government) ownership anywhere in the world - out of several hundred flyers around the globe.

But the main thing is it's got a cool shark's mouth. Beats a digger any day.


PS: Unfortunately the RAAF Museum's government-managed website has said the Mustang is grounded in 2005, and they just don't seem to update it. I wonder which blog reader will scribble a note-to-self to chase that up again?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Poet's Pistol

The poem, the gun, the flower, the silence and the flu.

Poppies in Oxfordshire. B&J.

In the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa, I chanced upon a small case featuring an apparently unremarkable example of the Colt Browning M1911 pistol.

McCrae's pistol. J.

It had belonged to John McCrae, a Canadian medic who, in his own words endured "Seventeen days of Hades!" working (one cannot imagine how) at a dressing station on the banks of the Yser Canal in Flanders in 1915, a year into the most cataclysmic war humanity had ever created.

After burying the remaining bits of a friend, Lieutenant Alexis Helmer of Ottawa, the following day McCrae sat down and wrote a poem, in part inspired by the poppies that were growing in the shell-tossed earth.


In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

The poem, after nearly being thrown away, and rejected by the first magazine it was sent to, was published by another. (Here is a version in McCrae's own hand.) It resulted in the use of the poppy in memoriam and for fund-raising for those soldiers in need from 1918 to today. The poppies are commonly seen across the Commonwealth, but particularity Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, and, of course, France. Both poem and poppies have gone on to stand for the terrific losses and tragedy of the Great War.

A minutes silence, and flag at half-mast at Echuca, Vic, 2006. J.

The idea for the minute's silence which is normally observed on the 11th of November, can be credited to Australian journalist, Edward George Honey, who believed it might make an appropriate remembrance of the fallen.

Honey published a letter in the London Evening News on 8 May 1919 under the pen name of 'Warren Foster', in which he appealed for a silence amid all the hoopla celebrating the end of the War. It was not adopted however, until Lord Milner forwarded a suggestion from his friend, the South African Sir Percy Fitzpatrick, to the King's private secretary for a period of silence on Armistice Day, 11 November, 1919, in all countries of the British Empire. (There is a remarkable online resource on the Great War here.)

The interior of the Royal Exhibition Building, Melbourne. Used for just about everything, since 1880, in 1918 this was an emergency flu hospital. J.

It is perhaps ironic that the doctor McCrae was to die of pneumonia in January 1918 while still serving. Many of his medical companions, weary from the Great War went on to face a far greater scourge of humanity, the great influenza pandemic of 1918. While 20 million were killed in W.W.I, estimates place the deaths in the pandemic at anywhere between 40 - 100 million. I'm not aware of a single memorial to the medical and other workers who did their best in the face of such a cataclysm.

Sadly it is now necessary for the Canadian Armed Forces (and, I'm sure all the others) to produce multiple page PowerPoint displays explaining how to wear your poppy. Likewise the Royal Canadian Legion (and, I'm sure all the others) find it necessary to produce a 59 page PDF document about how to collect for the poppy fund.

French trench with a donkey and poppies. This is the only colour photograph (one of two processes used at the time) known to show poppies on the battlefield, and was taken in 1915 by an official French war photographer.

We seem to still be able to commit war, and bureaucracy, yet winning the peace, and managing viruses seems beyond us.

And lastly, for those interested in the early colour photography of the First World War, there is an excellent selection here, and more at the Australian War Memorial site here.

These are not poppies, but Australian Frank Hurley's photo of an Australian Light Horseman picking anemones in Palestine seems appropriate.


Monday, November 10, 2008

Something to do this weekend?

Kind of sounds attractive, doesn't it? As you can tell from the prices, address and typography, we are in the 1930s. The autogiro (patented name of the Cierva company, otherwise they're autogyros) was an attempt to build a 'safe' aircraft, pioneered in the inter war period by Spaniard Juan de la Cierva. Many of the principles his team discovered went on to be used in the development of the helicopter, while tragically he was killed in the 1936 crash of an airliner - exactly the sort of accident he was trying to overcome with the autogiro.

As part of the Spanish aristocracy, one of his less savoury achievements was helping to arrange the return of a certain little general to Spain to start a war.