P is for Nickolai Poliakov

When I was a boy. an annual treat was the Christmas visit to Belle Vue Circus and of all the acts – the lions and tigers, the trapeze artists and horse riders – my favourite was Nickolai Poliakov, also known as Coco the Clown.

Poliakov was born in Latvia in 1900 when it was part of the Russian Empire. His parents worked in the theatre and Poliakov began earning a living by busking from the age of five. Read more ›››

Sunday Round-up

Say cheese: There were some fab photos in the 2018 Wildlife Photographer of the Year awards like this one by winner Marsel van Oosten.

Bin it: Kleenex has dumped their Mansize tissues after an ‘increase of complaints on gender concern‘. They will now be known as Extra Large which doesn’t really cut it for me. How about Pinnochio Size Tissues? Or would that be cartoonist? Read more ›››

O is for Annie Oakley

Having been to the premiere of Peter Jackson’s They Shall Not Grow Old last night – a film I thoroughly recommend – it seemed appropriate that my offering this week should have a connection to World War One.

You may not know the name Phoebe Ann Moses, but you will recognise her by her stage name – Annie Oakley, sharpshooter and star of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. Read more ›››

Sunday Round-up

Sharpen up: A pencil obsessed man in Pakistan has set a world record for crafting the largest swing made entirely of pencils.

Tasty: Looking for a fun day out for all the family? Try the Disgusting Food Museum in Malmö, Sweden, which includes mouth-watering exhibits such as spicy rabbit heads, three penis wine and a goat kid’s rennet cheese described as tasting of gasoline and ammonia mixed with wax. Read more ›››

N is for Horatio Nelson

Rear Admiral Sir Horatio Nelson is a great national naval hero, at least in the UK, probably less so in France, but famous though he is, many of the things we think we know about him are wrong.

Where to begin? Well, he didn’t hold a telescope to his blind eye at the Battle of Copenhagen and say: ‘I see no ships’ as is often quoted. What he actually said was: ‘I really do not see the signal’ when he chose to ignore the recall signal issued by Admiral Parker. Read more ›››

Sunday Round-up

Back to the ’50s: Teresa May’s plans for a Festival of Brexit Britain echoing the 1951 version did not meet with universal approval and prompted graphic artist Richard Littler to reimagine the original poster.

What a lovely bunch: Police in Rome blew up a suspicious bag only to discover it contained nothing more than a bunch of coconuts. Read more ›››

M is for Jean Joseph Merlin

Jean Joseph Merlin

Those ever so smart comedians are quick to poke fun at famous Belgians, or rather the lack of them – conveniently overlooking the likes of Eddie Merckx, Audrey Hepburn, René Magritte, Hergé and Rubens.

But my own personal favourite Belgian is the inventor, horologist, father of the roller skate and genius in the art of the clockwork automata Jean Joseph Merlin. Read more ›››