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Visiting Lakenham Lido

It’s not unknown for us to organise whole holidays around outdoor swimming. We’ll travel all round the country to visit particular lidos or to seek out a really good wild swimming spot. And, just recently, we managed to do this completely by accident, locating the site of a much-loved local swimming pool that’s been closed for more than 20 years.

Norfolk currently has, as far as I am aware, no formal outdoor swimming facilities whatsoever (I would be very glad to be proved wrong about this but I can find no evidence to the contrary). This is despite there once being a wealth of outdoor pools, at Yarmouth and Gorleston, in Lakenham and Earlham, and elsewhere in the county – see this 2013 Evening News article for more details. However, Lakenham was closed in 1992, at first temporarily, amid claims that it would need £100,000-worth of repairs. The Evening News also refers to an unsuccessful campaign to keep it open.

We lived in Norwich for a few years from the late 80s, one of us down in Lakenham for part of that time, and swimming in that pool (albeit with extremely hazy memories of where it was and what it was like). Fast-forward to the present when we decided to take a last-minute camping holiday in Norwich and booked ourselves in to the Camping and Caravanning Club site.

The former Lakenham Lido site
Now a camping field. This was probably the view from shallow to deep end
I’m a fairly obsessive person on the subject of outdoor swimming, and I was determined to discover what had happened to the pool. We knew it had to be very close to this area, probably accessible off Martineau Lane. This campsite is less than 100 yards from a little tributary of the River Yare, I would guess a leftover from the time when there was water-powered industry in this area – Old Lakenham Mill would once have been nearby. We walked along the riverside path that adjoins the campsite, expecting to come across tile and concrete ruins at any moment, only to be cut off by the railway and forced to turn back towards the site. We next checked out some rather interesting online information on the Old Lakenham Conservation area dating to 2008 – and found the proof in the maps and in the text that our tent was pitched almost precisely in the middle of what had once been a magnificent and very popular 80-yard swimming pool.

For dedicated outdoor swimmers and lido visitors, that was more than a little unsettling – not unlike being camped directly over some historic grave.

Another view of the modern site
The view across what was once the pool.
If you’d like to take a look for yourself, click on this campsite panorama link and choose the green dot that’s nearest the left-hand side of the diagram. Or compare this, and the images in this blog post, with this Norwich Advertiser image which gives the clearest comparison to the modern-day layout I have found. According to the Evening News article, the original pool was built in 1908 and fed from a nearby tributary of the River Yare. It became an important focus for the local community, hosted large-scale swimming galas, was used by both the local police and by airmen stationed nearby. According to this article charting the history of the Norwich Swans Swimming Club, the lido was isolated from the river and chlorinated in 1951. This is backed up by the planning document, which also refers to changing rooms being added in the 1930s. The pool at its biggest was an epic 80 yards long (your nearest local authority pool is most likely a rather poor 25 metres, and an Olympic-sized pool 50 metres). There are a few more references to the pool in this article on the history of the City of Norwich Swimming Club.

A telling difference in ground levels
Was this once the edge of the lido site and the start of the water meadow?
The planning document says that all traces of the pool were removed after its closure – but that’s not quite true. To the north of the camping field there’s a drain cover that stands a foot or more clear of the current grassy surface in a concrete plinth. I reckon that marks the ground level of the lido construction, and there are some more traces of concrete and a marked difference of level along the southern boundary, where the camping field meets the water meadow. Something striking about this boundary is that all the trees along it are a lot less than mature – definitely under 20 years old. Most evocatively is the entrance gate and path, in a section of historic wall. It is very easy to picture this as a swimming pool entrance, and it is the one part of the complex that stirred memories in the one of us that had been here before.

Not all the remains have gone
There is still some concrete to be found on the site
I’d like to think that these days we’d have a slightly more sympathetic approach to a historic pool – lidos are now recognised, some of the time at least, as fantastic community assets, but the history of public pools in Norwich is quite chequered. St Augustines – open for not much more than 30 years, a large, deep pool with a proper diving pit. I swam in this and, while admittedly not the most attractive venue I have ever visited, it was the real deal, a pool for proper swimming. That was closed very suddenly in 1996 leaving swimmers with the Aquapark up in Hellesdon – a pool that was fun to visit but not great for actually swimming in, with a deep end I could nearly stand up in – I am not particularly tall. This is now a private health club and the latest pool is a new facility in Riverside – which, when paired with the UEA Sportspark pool (I refuse to namecheck the sponsor), probably means the city has the best facilities it’s enjoyed for a quite a while.

But no lido. A lido is an investment in a certain set of values – affordable access to fresh air, exercise and leisure, community and public space, a rejection of exclusivity and privilege. And the site of the former Lakenham Lido is apparently still in local authority hands. The Caravan and Camping Club has a lease with less than 10 years left to run, and building on the site is forbidden. The conservation area was amended in 2003 to include the former swimming pool area.

Yare tributary
The river that once fed the pool
So what could the future hold for this fascinating site? I have to admit to immense relief that it’s remained undeveloped. To find some modern leisure pool, industrial units or (even worse) a poor-quality housing development on top of it would have been heartbreaking. It’s probably preposterous to imagine it could ever be redeveloped into a public swimming pool again. But the magic of the place at the moment is that the ghost of the pool is still present, just beyond the edge of vision. You can imagine it so clearly, find the little bits of physical evidence that are left.

We were very naïve, however, to think we had made some great discovery. At one point, when we were peering at a boundary, comparing levels and taking pictures, we attracted the attention of a camper stationed nearby. We explained what we were doing. “You’re the third person to have told me that,” he said. The campsite manager knew all about it too (obviously). Lakenham Lido was a part of the childhood of so many local people that it still looms large. People are making Facebook posts about it. There is an opportunity for the council to do something magnificent here. But I suspect the notion that they would is nothing but the dream of a hot summer day.

IFMK: Friday July 18

The Milton Keynes International Festival, run by local music venue The Stables, runs every two years for 10 days in July. We discovered it almost accidentally in 2012 – its second iteration – and found several things in the programme that seemed to have been put on especially for us. As a result we anticipated the 2014 event very keenly and were determined to get the most out of visiting, timing our summer holiday to coincide with it. Here are a few thoughts on the first day:

Architects of Air: Pentalum ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ Held in Middleton Hall, the site of 2012’s inland beach, and right in the middle of the shopping centre. The Pentalum is a giant inflatable sculpture made from translucent PVC that you can walk through. It is composed of pods, chambers and corridors and is collectively known as a luminarium. Daylight filtering through the plastic turns it into a kind of cathedral of colour and there’s soothing piped music too. You can feel its bouncy castle heritage in the seams, zips and air outlets and, as other people interact with it, the thing shifts about and adjusts to all the people moving around inside it The design is a homage to the pentagon, based on Gothic cathedrals and Islamic architecture, and the idea is to have a unique sensory experience. On its opening day in MK, the Pentalum came very close to pulling that off for us, with a stunning combination of colour, sound and tactility and the potential for a intense yet relaxed atmosphere.

However, the actual atmosphere inside was closer to a giant adventure playground for toddlers and boisterous tweens than a chill zone and as a result I came out feeling tense and grumpy rather than relaxed or closer to enlightenment (not helped by the fact that the volunteer charged with letting people out managed to hit me on the head as I passed through the door.) The artists’ purpose is to create something close to sensory overload and, with lots of yelling and the sound of relentless pounding feet added in, the luminarium ceases to be fun or to provoke wonder and becomes close to unbearable. Clearly children are going to love this, and they will get lots out of it, but the whole thing would have worked so much better for me if the boisterous families and the chill-seekers had been separated out and given (different) designated visiting times so that everyone could enjoy it to the maximum in their own way. On Friday afternoon the artists’ notion that this was a place of respite and recharging was completely off-beam. It is a difficult balancing act – at the time we visited it was out of balance and the sensory experience was compromised.

In summary, a wonderful idea, and a truly beautiful thing, which nevertheless is just slightly less than wonderful in its MK execution, perhaps inevitably given its central location – still, we remain very glad to have visited and to have had the experience. The volunteers not practising head-hitting deserve praise too, most were enthusiastic and engaged, and we were truly grateful to the kind man on the door who welcomed us despite bad traffic having made us a couple of minutes late for our timeslot.

You can see the Luminaria in action for yourself on the Architects of Air website or watch a video about their work here.

Kaffe Matthews: The Lock Shift Songs ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ This audio installation is in a shop unit not far away from the Pentalum and it was something that we had doubts about from the moment we spotted it in the programme. We should have listened to those doubts as they turned out to be spot-on accurate. But, as gongoozlers and occasional boaters in good standing, with a passion for all things inland waterway, we allowed hope to override expectation and gave it a go regardless.

That was a mistake. The installation consists of three ‘sonic beds’ for listeners to lie in and experience the 40-minute soundscape. The difficulty is that, in order to experience this artwork, you have to become part of the exhibit – literally making a spectacle of yourself. We were not terribly up for this and so, when we found that the listening experience was in a darkened room behind a shop door and not in the middle of the shopping centre, we felt relieved and decided that it was not going to make us the centre of too much unwelcome attention after all. So we gave it a go – and managed all of five minutes before the door opened and around 40 people flooded in, all wearing festival passes round their necks, and clearly on some kind of guided tour. When they started leaning into the beds to peer down at us, we decided we’d had more than enough, got up and fled out of the door as fast as we damn well could.

This was an almost comical realisation of the thing that had worried us about this whole project, or it would have been, had it not left us so disconcerted and uncomfortable. Sadly, we didn’t hear enough of the audio to find a way in, to get any sense of narrative, or to locate any site-specific qualities to the work whatsoever. And the moral of this tale is? Listen to your instincts.

You can read more about this project from funders The Canal and River Trust here.

– – – – –

So, at this point, the festival was not going as well as we had hoped, or anything like as well as our visits to the 2012 event. That was all about discovery and glorious serendipity and this was stressful and uncomfortable. We decided it was time to get out of central MK and recharge for an hour or two in the surrounding countryside in order to have the resolve to get through the two ticketed events in the evening.

The Stables Sessions ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ When we returned, and made our way to the festival site at Willen Lake, we happened across the acoustic sessions in the Arabian Bar Tent – this is a thing of wonder with a hessian floor, a fabric roof and filigree lanterns, also low couches to lounge on with tables for drinks. We caught half an hour of the opening band before it was time for us to make our way across to the Spiegeltent – recapturing a bit of the serendipity of the 2012 festival and improving our mood no end. This would probably not be nearly so much fun if very crowded, but luckily we caught it at a reasonably quiet time. And the band? OK and well worth a listen, with an interesting sound, although they needed to bring quite a lot more discipline and polish to their performance.

Casus: Knee Deep ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ Last time around we found out about the festival too late to book for any of the events in the Spiegeltent. I was totally fascinated by the Spiegeltent, to the extent that I asked a volunteer in 2012 to let me stick my head in (which she did, grudgingly). I was determined to see something there this time but, inevitably, was worried about crowds and seating. Well, I need not have been. There was lots of space and no problems – although the event was not sold to capacity and this may have helped. The show was amazing, a real discovery – absolutely everything you hope for in an arts festival. Casus are an Australian contemporary circus company comprising one woman and three men, and their signature performance is walking on eggshells – literally, and without breaking them. However, the show has incredible depth and honesty, and allows all the performers to showcase their individual skills as well as demonstrating their capacity for creating great spectacles together. I’m not sure I’d otherwise get many other chances to see this company, and this is why the Milton Keynes Festival truly does get to describe itself as international. The time flew by, and the show was immersive, beguiling and very satisfying to watch with lots of oohs and aahs of childish wonder (and a few points where people winced, but I won’t spoil the surprise). The performers project great humanity and build powerful audience rapport, so this is one I would unhesitatingly recommend, and I think I would definitely try to see this company perform again if it returns to the UK.

You can learn more about Casus and their work here. Or read this insightful Guardian review of their 2012 Edinburgh Festival performance.

Ilotopie: Les Fous de Bassin (Waterfools) ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ Our final event of the day was very disappointing, and a fairly unpleasant experience to boot. We had, foolishly, booked on the basis of being absolutely blown away with Compagnie Carabosse and the fire gardens the previous year – that was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The publicity for this event played up all the similarities – a French company, pyrotechnics, transforming a public space into something magical – but Les Fous de Bassin had none of the visceral appeal or the intimacy and intense sensory immersiveness (light/dark, sounds/music, smells, heat) of the earlier event. In fact, I felt quite silly for having fallen into the comparison trap and for trying to recreate an experience that I should have understood was a one-off.

We arrived early and spent a horrible hour waiting for the show to start as the viewing area became more and more crowded and people’s behaviour got more and more inconsiderate – despite some very good and sympathetic stewarding. (The lake was also ringed with people who wanted to view it but didn’t want to pay for a ticket – we were assured the show had a ‘narrow focus’ but I’m not convinced.) When the performance started it was far too slow off the mark, it was badly-paced and it was too far away for us to really appreciate the undoubted quirkiness and strangeness of the different elements – and we were in a relatively good viewing position. Half an hour went by and it still felt as if it had barely got going – it had left me completely cold and unengaged. By the time the pyrotechnics eventually started we realised we didn’t really give a damn how it ended and, once the thunderstorm broke 35 minutes in, we had the perfect excuse to make our way back to the car feeling very, very relieved to finally be out of Dodge.

This could well have been more successful if the performance had taken up a smaller area of the lake and had therefore offered a more intimate experience for the viewer, or if the timings had been tightened up. But, basically, it simply wasn’t anything like as good as the previous year’s showpiece public event – and a large amount of hype and a few fireworks will not make it so.

– – – – –

So, what lessons learned from a really mixed bag of events? Firstly, there was no point in us expecting IFMK 2014 to be like IFMK 2012. We went to three events last time: the fire gardens, the Lone Twin Project talk/boat demonstration and the library text/sound performance. All of these were excellent but only one was a ticketed large-scale event and, in that one, we were able to move around and escape the densest crowds rather than be pinned in one place watchng a static performance. In 2012 everything seemed new and magical and particularly serendipitous – and that can’t be recreated, you have to forge a new relationship. Where we did that – at Pentalum and the Spiegeltent event, and by visiting the Arabian tent, we had good experiences. Where we tried to look backwards we had bad experiences. We know certain things cause us problems but we didn’t heed the warnings strongly enough and so we visited two things that perhaps we shouldn’t have. We are always going to find crowds difficult so we need to take that into account in future and simply consider not going to large-scale outdoor events.

We’ll be visiting the festival twice more, once to look around all the free events and finally towards the end to take part in the Vintage Day. Hopefully we will have learned some lessons that will help us enjoy the remaining time more. The thing with visiting lots of arts events is that you are absolutely guaranteed to score some misses occasionally as well as some hits. We are generally very, very good at scouting out the stuff we like and don’t very often run into stuff that we don’t enjoy – which is why it can be a shock when it happens. But you also have to consider that, if you like everything you see, you’re not challenging yourself or stepping outside your comfort zone. So the odd “I really didn’t like that…” is not only inevitable, but also actually a positive sign.

But wait, where is the offer of untold wealth…?

And this morning, following closely on the heels of Frank Onyeachonam’s conviction for fraud, is a communication from Ms Ms Simbiso Chisirimunhu – whose situation is so desperate that she is cut off mid-sentence before she is able to offer to wire us untold millions to dispose of on her behalf.

(As usual, if you have arrived here via AN Other Search Engine, you should know that these emails are always fraudulent, should never be replied to, and are only posted here in order to publicly identify the different tricks used by such scammers. Don’t fall for it, and never engage with them. Certainly never pass on any personal details.)

Here goes:

Dear Sir/Madam,

As you read this email, the news on the air is that I am dead in United Kingdom. So be it if only that will keep me and my children alive for the world to hear my story.I am Simbiso Chisirimunhu, the second and customary law wife of late Retired General Solomon Mujuru of Zimbabwe. My late husband Solomon Mujuru was murdered and burnt in his farm house in Beatrice – zimbabwe in the early hours of Tuesday 15 August 2011 on the orders of President Robert Mugabe of Kenya and his men because my late husband was the only remaining official able to openly challenge Mugabe in high level meetings and was poised to succeed him in the next election as President of Zimbabwe. Till date the President could not establish a commission of inquiry into my husband’s death because of his complicity. My late husband first wife is Joyce Mujuru. She became the Vice President of Zimbabwe in 2004 and never wanted to see me and my two children hence we left to South Africa where my childre n were learning. Mujuru used to c
Ms Simbiso Chisirimunhu

For details on my husbands death and my purported death, please visit the following links.


Advance fee fraudster jailed

A London fraudster responsible for tricking pensioners out of their savings to fund his champagne lifestyle using advance fee fraud has been jailed.

According to the BBC Frank Onyeachonam, 38, of Canning Town, east London, oversaw the UK operation in a global scam orchestrated from his native Nigeria.

The Old Bailey heard how he extracted up to £600,000 from pensioners to fund a luxurious lifestyle. He was jailed for eight years for charges of conspiracy to defraud. Read full story here.

The advance fee fraud, or 419 scam, is characterised by emails proffering non-existent lottery winnings in exchange for bank details, desperate claims for financial assistance from so-called friends stranded abroad, or dying strangers offering to will you millions of dollars as their last act on earth.

Of course, it is nothing but a trick to obtain bank information that can then be used to drain the accounts of anyone taken in by the scam (which often includes an element of philanthropy to net those not purely motivated by greed.)

It will be interesting to see if this arrest stems the flow a bit.

Twelve Adventures – 2013

The things I’d planned to do in 2013 – and whether or not they got done.

January – Set up a writing group ≈
This, in its original form, was not a success and 2013 cannot really be said to have been a good writing year. Having identified a group of people who wanted to carry forward the momentum of NaNoWriMo I tried to set up an online group via Moodle but vastly overcomplicated the whole thing and found I didn’t have time to make it work or the spare energy to drive it forward. A classic case of an unrealistic project which duly went the way most do. October/November was also a very difficult time in work and course terms and meant that there was no chance of doing NaNoWriMo 2013 or of working further on existing stories. However, I do know that writing new stuff is not the issue – my goal remains to edit the stuff I have, possibly starting by identifying which story is most promising. I have spotted a couple of ways forward and am doing a one-off Cary Tennis workshop in December using the Amherst Writers and Artists Method. Another possibility is a Faber Academy course.
February – Go to a WI meeting ✓
This was very much a success, so much so that I went to the February meeting of my nearest WI and was a fully-fledged member by March. I had intended to try out another WI close to work but, in the event, didn’t need to. Eight months on and I have been to almost every meeting, have been taking part in the regular knitting group, going to social events and joining in with days out. Definitely looking forward to another year of membership and to getting increasingly involved.
March – Do a psychology course on OpenLearn ✓
This one was initially scuppered to an extent by the vocational MSc I’m supposed to be spending all my ‘spare’ time on. I have had some moderate success with it, however. I identified a psychology taster from the Open University that I’d really like to do and have very recently managed to complete it. In future, I think, I might like to do some fuller psychology modules with this institution. I also found that cognitive psychology was the particular branch of the discipline I was most interested in and found a further online course that covers the subject in more depth. I was also motivated to complete a proper Myers-Briggs personality test and discover what my personality type was.
April – Go on a Buddhist or Quaker retreat ✓
In April I spent three nights at Woodbrooke, the Quaker Study Centre located in the Selly Oak district of Birmingham. I didn’t do a specific course but just went along for a quiet few days. This worked incredibly well – I was able to stick to a vegan diet the whole time I was there, largely because the catering allows that option, do some Tai Chi and meditation, walk around the amazing labyrinth they have in the grounds and read a book on non-theist Quakerism I’d been trying to make time for. Oh, and also plenty of knitting and leisure reading. Definitely a successful experiment
May – Visit a naturist beach ✓
This we managed during a short break in Devon during early June. We decided to give Wild Pear Beach near Combe Martin a try, which was interesting since it takes a considerable hike along the cliffs and a steep descent to get there. The first striking thing about the visit was the sheer breathtaking beauty of the path down. It was steep and somewhat strenuous but the views of the impossibly sheer cliffs, the seabirds, the jewel-like blue of the sea and the lush vegetation were breathtaking. Of course, this is why Wild Pear is a good bet for naturism – can’t be seen from the top and it’s too far down for most voyeurs to bother. The beach had plenty of secluded spots and was populated with people mainly interested in getting quietly on with their own sunbathing and leaving others alone – so the experience was remarkably stress-free. We did get a visit from the notorious tour boat, and the beach also turns out to be popular with clothed dog-walkers looking for an unregulated spot to visit with their pets. I managed a (clothed) dip in the sea, but it was cut short of a proper swim after I spotted a common jellyfish in the surf and came over all cautious.
June – Go keelboat sailing ✘
This was a great idea that never happened – there just didn’t seem to be sufficient time, money and motivation – at least, not all together. I had been feeling a little bereft since we haven’t done any sailing for a long time. But not enough, it seems, to actually go out and get in a boat. However, we have located a very local sailing facility where you can hire keelboats by the hour and get instruction if you want it. So this is something that will be eminently practical in the future.
July – complete a wild swim ✓
This year’s wild swimming itinerary was as follows: Wild Pear Beach, Devon in early June (sea dip, see above); River Oughton in Hitchin at midsummer (river dip); Porthminster Beach, St Ives in July (sea swim); the River Cam in October (river swim). We also had a fantastic trip to Penzance in July to finally swim in the Jubilee Pool. The swim to count for the purposes of this challenge was undoubtedly the River Cam swim. Our outdoor swimming, with the exception of the River Dart, had been rather light on river swims and this made up for it. We rounded off the year in splendid style by taking part in the Cromer Boxing Day Dip.
August – bivouac in a wood ✘
This was an abject failure, but not for want of trying. The ideal would be to go wild camping on Dartmoor but this idea is not universally appealing in our household and is probably something best not attempted solo. Also it is clear that we require equipment. Our little two-person tent is serviceable on a campsite but also heavy, ancient and a very bright shade of blue. We really need a bivvy tent for this and that’s an outlay easily in three figures. We also try a local farm campsite that’s advertising wild camping but, when we try it, turns out not to be very salubrious at all. So, major rethink needed before this can go ahead.
September – go to Imber ✓
We managed this towards the end of August after the September dates we were planning were cancelled by the Ministry of Defence. With the prospect of days getting shorter, and access increasingly difficult , we decided to seize the day and just go. And it was an amazing experience. The village is situated in what must be the only area of genuine lowland wilderness in southern England and it was fascinating to see what the normally intensively-cultivated land looks like when left to go wild. There’s masses to explore, including a tank graveyard (viewed at a safe distance from the road) and the grounds of a former baptist chapel as well as the more well-known landmarks such as the church, the military buildings and Imber Court. We did some great caches and met some other cachers while we did it. A memorable day, set to stay in the imagination for months to come.
October – try a month of veganism ≈
I’m having a torrid time trying to reduce the amount of animal products in my diet – and October 2013 was a difficult month to attempt a big lifestyle change. Where I have had some success is in making sure some of the regular products we use are vegan – for instance margarine, and in managing a couple of vegan days a week, generally when I’ve not got huge amounts of exercise planned. I’m also now much more aware of what animal products I am eating and am trying to keep meals vegan when they lend themselves to it. So, not a whole month of veganism, which was far too ambitious a target, but some steps in the right direction. And some things to build on next year.
November – NaNoWriMo or go to Arvon ✘
Not a chance with this one. On October 28 I started a new job, ruling out having the leisure to complete NaNoWriMo – and that was without the study deadlines I also had to meet. We had some possible time off to go to Arvon but they weren’t running any courses that week. And then the time off was cancelled because of the new job. See? Not happening. One to pursue next year if it seems right.
December – visit Scandinavia in winter ✘
With this one finances didn’t really allow and those pesky course deadlines were also still in play. But we did identify a few things we’d love to do, including Helsinki with a side order of Estonia, and Copenhagen/Malmo (Oresund Bridge or even Ystad, anyone?) So, some nice plans to pursue in the future.

Extra adventures that were not planned for but which made the year special:

  • Staying in a yurt and going extreme caching in June, including knocking off 53 caches in one day and venturing into two mining adits, one running a considerable distance underground.
  • Going to an international cricket match at Lord’s in August – a one-day match as part of the Women’s Ashes
  • Visiting the Essex seaside village of Jaywick in October
  • Invigilating art exhibitions at Kettle’s Yard
  • Going on the Cambridge Food Tour and getting a whole new outlook on being a foodie
  • Visiting Bletchley Park
  • Finding our 1,000th geocache at Lowestoft Ness in May – and attending our first caching flashmob on the same day
  • Walking over the Hitchin Flyover before it opened to trains
  • Taking the Harry Potter studio tour
  • Visiting the UEA for its 50th anniversary weekend

Weasel words

A flyer comes through the door.

It is for a bible study course so it comes within an ace of going straight in the recycling. But there is one limited set of circumstances under which these things interest me and a second glance shows that this flyer meets them very neatly. This is a flyer for a bible study course predicated on the concept that we are entering the End Times.

Now, I love a good conspiracy theory as much as the next thriller fan. But, reading on, I realise that this flyer is a masterpiece of a certain iniquitous kind of copywriting – a kind designed to literally put the fear of God into the person reading it by a combination of suggestion, bland general statements, playing on the reader’s insecurities and flattering them for their intelligence and discernment – in other words, the hallmarks of the Barnum Effect and all its dodgy practitioners around the world.

Such a masterpiece that I thought I would share some of it with you, dear reader, to complement the advance-fee fraud emails and similar communications that sometimes grace this blog. I’m not going to repeat chunks verbatim and make it Googleable but instead discuss the techniques that are used.

A title referring to a seemingly important and widely-understood event but giving no specifics and creating a sense in the reader that everybody else knows about something that has passed them by. The notion that the news we hear is only partial, snippets from some bigger story that is being kept from us. Reference is next made to several events which are usually in the news – but, again, with no specifics or verifiable, time-sensitive details.

The rapid pace of change is invoked along with the feelings of insecurity this can reliably provoke in the calmest and most balanced individual. It is suggested that there may be no place for the reader in the changing world. It then suggests that the reader is possessed of unusually sharp critical and reasoning faculties and in a position to make a choice rather than accept events passively.

Last, but by no means least, is the offer of a powerful book that will reveal everything – showing how all this is predicted in the Bible and not comprehensible without it. Is the reader up to the challenge?

A very interesting example of persuasive writing using less than ethical techniques. Now, into the recycling with it.

Milton Keynes International Festival

We went to three fabulous events at the 2012 festival, so here are a few mementoes:

La Compagnie Carabosse @IFMKFest from Joe Barefoot on Vimeo.

The French fire artists 'La Compagnie Carabosse' visited our concrete city as part of the Milton Keynes International Festival this July. For three nights they transformed Campbell Park into a mesmerising, dream-like escape. It has to be one of the most visually captivating things I've ever seen and created an atmosphere rarely felt in my hometown.

The Music in the video is 'La Pie' by Frani52; one of the talented artists that play amongst the fire.

Shot with a Helios M44-2 58mm f2 on an Olympus EP-1.

And now for a Storify:

Here’s an Audioboo:

“Personal Fund Manager to the late President Muammar Gaddafi for many years…”

Not for the first time, a close business associate of Colonel Gaddafi has been in touch, soliciting our help with some tricky but of course strictly temporary financial circumstances. How could you think otherwise, dear kindly friend? And who could resist a SECRET CODE DEPOSIT?

• As usual, if you have arrived here via AN Other Search Engine, you should know that these emails are always fraudulent, should never be replied to, and are only posted here in order to publicly identify the different tricks used by such scammers. Don’t fall for it, and never engage with them. Certainly never pass on any personal details.

Very Urgent Kindly Respond

I’m Hendrick Marais, 52yrs, branch manager of one of the international Banks here in Malaysia. I have been the personal Fund Manager to the late Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi for many years. Total sum of Ten Million United State Dollars (US$10,000,000.00) was deposited under Escrow Account on behalf of the late president under a SECRET CODE DEPOSIT where none of his personal information was used for the deposit. This is known between two of us before his death in 2011.

And not even our bank head office has information about the owner of the fund. Now that President Muammar Gaddafi is DEAD, I can not be directly have access to this fund as an officer in our bank. So my aim of contacting you is to seek for your partnership to team up with me and receive this fund with your bank account by claiming the title holder/depositor and get 35% of the total fund as commission for your partnership.

There is no risk attached and the funds in question can never be traced. You may wish to read more about late Muammar Gaddafi’s death on the below link to confirm.

Kindly get back to me urgently so as to furnish you further details. Also, you can call me on +[redacted] for voice conversation

Mr. Marais