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November 2019: A West Country Christmas – Dorset in December

Thomas Hardy’s celebration of Christmas in Dorset in his early novel Under the Greenwood Tree is perhaps second only to A Christmas Carol (a version ...More
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Patrick Moore

The overused title ‘national treasure’ for once really applied in the case of Sir Patrick Moore, the amateur astronomer, moon-mapper and populariser of science who has just died. In him were encapsulated several of our most cherished characteristics: he was eccentric, playing the xylophone, a cricketer until his seventies and sporting a monocle; a gentleman amateur whose work annoyed a few academics but inspired untold thousands of youngsters (and was used by NASA); all who knew him acknowledged the man as generous and fun-loving; and he was enormously enthusiastic, his machine-gun delivery much mimicked. Add to that his war heroism – joining the wartime RAF by lying about his age and bypassing the physical that he’d have failed – and the phrase rounded figure fits perfectly (especially as in later life he was decidedly rotund). We can even pardon him his rather un-PC pronouncements of more recent days, and given the loss of his fiancée to a Nazi bomb we understand his unwillingness to forgive the German nation. His presence on The Sky at Night – missing just one edition from May 1957 until his December 2012 death – was a little bulwark of British civilisation that will be hard, maybe impossible, to replace.

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Why buy a book when you can join a library - Ricky Gervais
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On this day:
Blackbeard Killed - 1718, Assassination of President Kennedy - 1963, Beatles Release White Album - 1968, Cairngorm Climbing Tragedy - 1971, Margaret Thatcher Resigns - 1990, Rose West Sentenced - 1995, England win Rugby World Cup - 2003
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