‘Headless body found in topless bar’ is one of the best-lnown headlines in newspaper history. Written by Vincent Musetto for the New York Times in April 1983 it reported a gruesome Brooklyn muder by 23 year old Charlie Dingle; whilst snorting cocaine he killed a bar owner, took four hostages, raped a dancer, and then discovered that one of the hostages was a mortician. So he got her to cut off the bar-owner’s head with a steak knife (to get rid of the bullet that would tie the shooting to his gun). Hence ‘Headless body found in topless bar’.
An over-the-top declaration of love from an older man to his younger companion. In a nineteenth century style. Oscar Wilde is the inspiration. He was arrested at the Cadogan Hotel in 1895 (in room no. 118). He was found guilty of ‘committing acts of gross indecency with other male persons’, and served two years hard labour.
The battle of Thermopylae took place in 480 BC when 300 Spartan warriors held the pass for three days, to delay the invading Persians. In fact, the 300 Spartans were only part of a larger Greek army of a few thousand, but it is the fighting valour of the Spartans that has proved immortal. They stood and died in a ‘glorious’ delaying action. For those three days they held the gap between two narrow cliffs, until they were eventually outflanked when the Persians were told of a goat path around the cliffs. The music includes extracts from the theme music of the 2006 cartoon film (which was, in turn, based on a 1990’s comic series). There are numerous books on the battle of Thermopalae but ‘Gates of Fire’ by Steven Pressland is an acclaimed faction novel – highly recommended.
A fantasy: at Michaelmas, all the animals on the South Downs get together for a party. The hedgehog is playing the violin, the owl is signing in an operatic voice, and there is dancing around the old oak tree. Animals that normally enemies are playing and talking together. All is harmony – as long as Man will keep away! Michaelmas is traditionally 29 September (the end of the farming year).
I like the mystery of the opening line (‘Quiet flows my blood tonight’). But it is a story of undergoing major surgery 10 years ago, and being alive because of the blood donor – and medics in the NHS - who made that surgery possible. So it is a celebration of 10 borrowed, special, years. And the choice of Puccini as the accompanying music is super-corny….
We all love social media – it has transformed our lives. But, as always there are some weirdoes who misuse it and who seem to have lost the plot ('sad losers, nutters and trolls, venomous posters, simply lost souls'). Why aren’t the the likes of Facebook doing more to control these people (they have got the money; they have got the resources) and maybe they should be made more accountable?