Sunday, 14 September 2014

A Walk Under The River

There are three accessible pedestrian routes under the River Thames. The Greenwich and Woolwich Foot Tunnels are both well known and well used, I've been through both of them on many occasions. The third one came as a bit of a surprise to me.

Work on the Rotherhithe Tunnel commenced in 1904 and it was opened by HRH  The Prince of Wales (later King George V) in 1908. Linking Limehouse  on the north bank with Rotherhithe on the south, it was designed to provide a means for pedestrians and horse drawn traffic to cross the river without the need to travel west to Tower Bridge or east to the Blackwall Tunnel on the other side of the Isle of Dogs. Obviously, horse traffic eventually gave way to the ubiquitous motor vehicle and it is still an important, and heavily used, route from north to south but I had no idea that it was still accessible to pedestrians. According to Wikipedia around twenty pedestrians still use the tunnel each day!

So, this morning, I joined two friends, Jane and Jen to check it out for ourselves. it was a remarkably stress free journey. The pavements (on both sides) are around four feet wide and the speed limit is 20mph so, all things considered, it was probably much safer than the average country lane. The lighting was a pretty good and there were signs, indicating how far you have travelled and how far you still had to go, at regular intervals. I have to admit that air quality was not exactly brilliant but was not as bad as you might expect.

After a walk of just under a mile and reaching a maximum depth below the river surface of  approx. 75ft we emerged into the sunshine and the (relatively) fresh air of the north bank. Overall, an interesting experience but probably not one I'd care to do on a daily basis.

It is a little known fact (?) that beer is the perfect antidote to a potential exhaust fume overdose and to that end we made our way to the Old Ship pub on the delightful York Square E14 (recommended, by the way) for a pint or three. A nice way to end a nice day in good company.

By the way, it was a good job that Jane had her breakdown before entering the tunnel as we didn't have a vehicle to return to!

More photographs to follow on Flickr soon.


Monday, 8 September 2014

Jack the Ripper.....Mystery Solved?

In the 2002  book Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper Case Closed, Patricia Cornwell declared that her  conclusion was , after much detailed research, that Walter Sickert was JTR. This was not an original idea, his name had been associated with the mystery for many years. It wasn't even the first publication on the subject. In her 1990 book, Sickert and the Ripper Crimes, Jean Overton Fuller asserted that he was indeed the infamous serial killer. Earlier still, in 1976, Stephen Knight in his book Jack the Ripper: The Final Solution put forward the theory that Sickert was an unwilling accomplice to the real Jack.

Now we have a new real Jack the Ripper, well not exactly new. This one has been on the Ripper list since the time of the murders. In yet another book on the subject, Russell Edwards (no relation) names  Aaron Kosminski as quite definitely, without any doubt, the real thing. Based on the DNA profiling of samples of blood on a shawl said to have belonged to, or have been associated with Catherine Eddowes who was believed to have been the Ripper's fourth victim (and the second to die under his hand during the infamous double event of Sunday 30th September 1888).

I am, of course, not qualified to comment on the accuracy of DNA results although it does seem fairly obvious that they wouldn't stand up in a court of law (not that that is relevant here). Firstly, the shawl was obtained under what would now be considered very dubious circumstances. Apparently, a policeman took, or was given it, once it was considered to be no longer important to the investigation, to give to his wife. Although why anyone would give a bloodstained shawl as a gift to his nearest and dearest is beyond me.

Secondly, even though it survived and remained in the hands of the same family for all of these years it can hardly be claimed to have been kept in a sterile and uncontaminated condition. Nevertheless, DNA testing appears to show that the shawl was stained with the blood of both Eddowes and Kosminski (comparisons were made with samples donated by present day members of the two bloodlines). It seems to me that without some other supporting evidence, the best that can be said to explain this is that at some time Kosminski came into contact with both Eddowes and the shawl. Given that Eddowes was a known prostitute and that it was quite possible that Kosminski had been a client, it leaves any kind of statement that he was the killer, or was even present during the event, on very shaky ground.

Anyway, the upshot of all this is that we are probably no closer to knowing who dunnit. Authors and researchers will continue to reel out the name of the real JTR, usually homing in on one or other of the usual suspects. Interestingly, although the same names come up gain and again, someone once said that if you could line up all of the most "respected" Ripperologists, then throw back a curtain to reveal the man(or woman?) himself, they would all look at him (or her) and say "WHO?"

Without any doubt, the unsolved crimes of the person or persons known as Jack the Ripper are fascinating, innumerable theories and books have appeared on the subject and it's an absolute guarantee that just as many are still to come, but that fascination comes from the fact that we don't know his identity. Common sense tells us that, yes of course, the right thing is to find who carried out these horrific crimes and to close the case to the satisfaction of the law and the state............

.......but, a mystery is a mystery...........and people love a mystery!

For an introduction to the whole affair, take a look at Casebook: Jack the Ripper and the Wikipedia entry here.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Wet Feet

A few years ago the government of the day (I dont remember which government that was, not that it matters much) declared their intention of building on Britain's flood plains. Flood plains are so called for a reason but that does not mean that it is not possible to use them. Holland carries the term to an extreme as two thirds of the country is way below sea level and is not just subject to occasional flooding but would be permanently under water without the massive sea defences, permanent pumping and properly designed and maintained drainage systems. To be fair, without all of this there would be no Holland but given that their situation is different to ours in both scale and detail, they apparently only spend about twice as much as we do for all of this. Not bad value when you end up with a viable country for your efforts. 

Why is it that we always just dip our toe (excuse the pun) in to these problems. It is expensive to deal with but is there really a choice? Dealing with existing problems is a massive issue but moving on to the UK's flood plains is a whole different ball game. Without adopting the full Dutch approach it would be insane. Sadly that is the kind of financial compromise insanity that I can see our saintly politicos going for but, sooner or later, someone is going to need to bite the bullet and sign on the dotted line to make this happen. To cross our fingers and hope the problem will go away is not an option. Only a fool would take that route........but then again perhaps only a fool would go into politics in the first place.

Rant over.......for now!