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The Edwardian Cloakroom

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Giant genitalia exhibited in former Bristol toilets

The Edwardian Cloakroom is a former toilet block that has been turned into a creative space

A former public toilet in Bristol is to be occupied by giant black velvet genitalia in the name of art.

People are invited to have their photo taken with the two sculptures at the Edwardian Cloakroom, which has been turned into a creative space.

These pictures will then be displayed on the surrounding walls.

Artist Claudio Ahlers said he hopes to tour the country with the exhibition – Portraits of Private Perception – which starts on Monday and lasts six days.

Mr Ahlers, together with Tilly May, Virginie Noel and Ellie Gray, will photograph visitors interacting with the 2.2m (7ft) tall sculptures – one in the former ladies’ toilet and one in the men’s.

‘Reflect intimate emotions’

“The exhibition will grow with each contribution from each sitter,” said Montpelier-based Mr Ahlers.

“While being photographed with the sculptures participants will be free to pose, sit and engage with the each sculpture in whatever way they like.

“The resulting photographs should reflect intimate emotions, playful interactions, personal perceptions and most importantly the depth of feelings towards the opposite sex and as well as feelings about one’s own gender.

“It is hoped that the honesty, beauty and intensity of the final photographs will reveal genuine insights into how we as women and as men view ourselves, our sexuality, our bodies as well as the opposite sex and more specifically the ones we fall in love with.

“Whatever is uncovered by each photograph will hopefully go beyond ideas and clichés as embodied by, for example, swear words, derogatory language or sexualised comedy and will instead be explored in the spirit of joy, affection and celebration.”

Each participant, who must be aged over 18, will receive a digital file of their selected photograph for personal use.

Visitors can also choose not to be photographed.

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Essex woman finds eggs of world’s most venomous spider in her shopping

Abby Woodgate was told to burn anything that had come into contact with Brazilian wandering spider eggs found on bananas

Brazilian wandering spider venom causes loss of muscle control and breathing problems, paralysis and asphyxiation. Photograph: Apex Photo Agency/Rex

The Brazilian wandering spider – perhaps the world’s most aggressive and venomous spider – is a rare visitor to these shores, but has recently been turning up in shipments of bananas, most recently in Colchester.

Such is their fearsome reputation that a woman who found its eggs in bananas she bought from Tesco on Monday had to incinerate her vacuum cleaner after using it to clean them up.

Abby Woodgate, 30, was told by pest control experts that she would have to burn anything that had come into contact with the spider eggs, as the arachnids are highly venomous. At deadly concentrations, their venom causes loss of muscle control and breathing problems, resulting in paralysis and eventual asphyxiation.

The Brazilian wandering spider has a tendency to hide in banana bunches or plantations and is occasionally found as a stowaway within shipments of bananas, hence its other name – banana spider.

Although its venom is highly toxic, it is being studied for use in erectile dysfunction treatments. The spider’s bite can cause an erection that sometimes lasts for up to four hours.

Woodgate first thought the bananas had mould on them after noticing a white lump when they were delivered to her home. When she poked it with a toothpick, a cocoon opened, revealing dozens of tropical eggs.

She immediately threw the fruit in the bin, but a few eggs dropped on her kitchen floor, which she vacuumed. She called Tesco’s Highwoods store, which had delivered the shopping to her home and it said it would collect them. She then received a call to say pest control experts would call round instead.

“The pest controllers asked where the eggs were and I told them the bin and they said: ‘Right, we’ll take that’,” Woodgate said. “Then they asked had anything else come into contact with the eggs, and I told them about my vacuum cleaner, so they said: ‘We’ll have to take that too’. All they could tell me is they thought they were tropical spider eggs.”

Tesco has offered to replace her bin and the cleaner.

Source: TheGuardian Read more

 

The most important battle you’ve probably never heard of

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Exactly 800 years ago on Sunday, in a field next to what is now the airport of Lille, a battle was fought which determined the history of England.

Today few people in the UK have heard of Bouvines. It has none of the ring of an Agincourt or a Crecy. Probably that is because England lost it. But the battle of 27 July, 1214, was just as significant as England’s later victories over the French. Maybe more so.

“Bouvines is the most important battle in English history that no-one has ever heard of,” says John France, professor emeritus in medieval history at Swansea University.

“Without Bouvines there is no Magna Carta, and all the British and American law that stems from that. It’s a muddy field, the armies are small, but everything depends on the struggle. It’s one of the climactic moments of European history.”

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The Caribbean colony that brought down Scotland

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As Scotland prepares for an independence referendum I decided to look back at the late 1690s when an independent Scotland launched an ambitious but ultimately doomed plan to create a colony in what is now Panama.

We landed near the border with Colombia, close to where the Isthmus of Panama is at its narrowest, on a little airstrip wedged between the blue sparkle of the Caribbean and the green intensity of an impenetrable forest, and boarded a little fibreglass boat with a single outboard motor.

We made our way west, parallel to the coast, bouncing roughly in the surging surf, until we came to the island that is still called Caledonia.

“In the time of our forefathers,” a village elder told us, “white people came here – Scottish and Spanish people. We liked the Scottish more than the Spanish, for the Spanish attacked us and drove us inland away from the coast and the Scots did not. But there were battles and many ships were sunk”.

The story of the ill-fated Scots colony at Darien survives in the oral history of the Kuna Indians, who are the only people who have ever settled successfully in this inhospitable place.

In 1698, a fleet of five ships sailed from Leith docks near Edinburgh carrying 1,200 settlers to found a colony in Panama.

It was a place where the poet John Keats would later locate “stout Cortez” gazing at the Pacific for the first time, “and all his men looked at each other with a wild surmise, silent upon a peak in Darien”.

The Scots found a large sheltered harbour with a supply of fresh water. They went ashore and built a fort they called Fort St Andrew.

Three centuries on, we hacked our way through the forest and found a trench they had dug to provide the fort with a defensive moat.

It is a wide gash, filled with sea water, cut through solid coral rock by 17th Century hands – the first canal in Panama, possibly, built by Scotsmen under a punishing tropical sky. It is pretty much all that is left of the colony they named Caledonia, and the town they called New Edinburgh.

For even before they made landfall, the colonists had begun to die.

Tropical diseases – malaria, yellow fever, something they called the bloody flux – cut them down even faster on land.

Somewhere beneath the tangle we hacked through, there is a Scottish cemetery with hundreds of graves. No-one has ever found it.

The forest is too dense. Within nine months of setting sail from Leith, on a wave of national euphoria, most of the colonists were dead. A second fleet sailed in 1699, not knowing that the colony had already been attacked and burned to the ground by the Spanish, and abandoned by its few survivors.

Allan Little: “Scotland is rethinking the lessons of the Darien disaster”

The disaster helped end Scotland’s independence. For the colony had been funded by public subscription – an early example of a financial mania.

Public bodies, town corporations, members of parliament, landed gentry, and thousands of private citizens – sea captains and surgeons, apothecaries and ironmongers – sank their life savings into the scheme.

Between a quarter and a half of the available wealth of Scotland was spent, and lost.

A record of all the investors was kept

And it was the role of England that was most bitterly resented.

Scotland, though an independent country, shared its head of state with England.

King William was monarch of both kingdoms. English merchants and the English parliament saw the Scottish venture as a threat to the trading monopolies they enjoyed.

King William issued a decree to all the English colonies from Canada to the Caribbean: there was to be no trade with the errant Scots and no assistance – not so much as a barrel of clean water was to be offered to them.

Few of the 3,000 Scots who went made it home. Those who did found an impoverished country which, within a decade, accepted union with England.

The Treaty of Union of 1707 included a clause in which the English government agreed to pay a sum of money to the Scots, to compensate the Darien investors for what they had lost.

The sum of money England paid to the Scots was known in the treaty as the Equivalent, or the Price of Scotland.

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Amesbury in Wiltshire confirmed as oldest UK settlement

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Amesbury – including Stonehenge – is the UK’s longest continually-occupied settlement

A Wiltshire town has been confirmed as the longest continuous settlement in the United Kingdom.

Amesbury, including Stonehenge, has been continually occupied since BC8820, experts have found.

The news was confirmed following an archaeological dig which also unearthed evidence of frogs’ legs being eaten in Britain 8,000 years before France.

Amesbury’s place in history has also now been recognised by the Guinness Book of Records.

David Jacques, from the University of Buckingham, said: “The site blows the lid off the Neolithic Revolution in a number of ways.

“It provides evidence for people staying put, clearing land, building, and presumably worshipping, monuments.

“The area was clearly a hub point for people to come to from many miles away, and in many ways was a forerunner for what later went on at Stonehenge itself.

“The first monuments at Stonehenge were built by these people. For years people have been asking why is Stonehenge where it is, now at last, we have found the answers.”

Mr Jacques said the River Avon, which runs through the area, would have been like an A road with people travelling along it.

“They may have had the equivalent of local guides and there would have been feasting,” he added.

“We have found remains of big game animals, such as aurochs and red deer, and an enormous amount of burnt flint from their feasting fires.”

The dig unearthed the largest haul of worked flints from the Mesolithic period

Previously, Thatcham in Berkshire, 40 miles from Amesbury, held the record for the longest continuous settlement in the country.

The dig in Amesbury also uncovered 31,000 worked flints in 40 days as well as animal bones such as frogs’ legs.

Mr Jacques said our ancestors were eating a “Heston Blumenthal-style menu”.

The find was based on a report by fossil mammal specialist Simon Parfitt, of the Natural History Museum.

Andy Rhind-Tutt, the founder of Amesbury Museum and Heritage Trust, said there was “something unique and rather special about the area” to keep people there from the end of the Ice Age, to when Stonehenge was created and until today.

“The fact that the feasting of large animals and the discovery of a relatively constant temperature spring sitting alongside the River Avon, may well be it,” he said.

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New pound coin designed to combat counterfeiting

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The Royal Mint is introducing the new coin as it believes 3% of existing £1 coins are fake

A new £1 coin, billed by the Royal Mint as the “most secure coin in the world”, is to be introduced in 2017.

The move comes amid concerns about the 30-year old coin’s vulnerability to counterfeiting, with an estimated 45 million forgeries in circulation.

The new coin is based on the design of the old threepenny bit, a 12-sided coin in circulation between 1937 and 1971.

A competition will be held to decide what image to put on the “tails” side of the coin.

The Royal Mint, which believes 3% of existing £1 coins are fake, said the move would increase “public confidence” in the UK’s currency and reduce costs for banks and other businesses.

The new coin has been modelled on the old threepenny bit

 

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UK in the Limelight

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Northern Lights illuminate the UK

The Aurora Borealis – better known as the Northern Lights – has been giving rare and spectacular displays over parts of the UK, from the north of Scotland to as far south as Essex and Gloucestershire.

The lights have also been clearly visible in places such as Orkney, Norfolk and south Wales.

The display, which is caused by electrically charged particles from the Sun entering the Earth’s atmosphere, led to scenes such as this one at the Stonehaven war memorial, Aberdeenshire.

Mark Thompson, presenter of the BBC’s Stargazing Live, said he had not been expecting a display as spectacular as it was in places such as Wick, in Caithness.

More brilliant photos

More brilliant photos

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