Birmingham, then and now…

“Birmingham Then and Now” at Never Yet Melted.

And, sadly, the vandals usually slip away un-named and un-remembered.



New in The Sentinel, ‘The coal man and the bread man have gone for good’ – how things have changed in Stoke-on-Trent since the 1960s. Memories of Goldenhill, an isolated hilltop part of Stoke-on-Trent.

Mind you, such things lasted a long time in parts of Stoke-on-Trent. In the early 2000s when I lived in Middleport, you could still see coal-deliveries being made to pensioners, with coal-sacks trucked by hand up back-alleys and into coal-sheds. The distinctive ‘annnyyy-oll-irroon!’ call of the rag-and-bone man could still be heard, maybe once every six weeks, although his horse had long gone. And the milk-float man still made milk-bottle deliveries, and you could get a pre-ordered loaf of bread delivered with the milk. Of course, it’s all gone now — flattened into brick-dust by Commissar Nevin and henchmen.

Megalithic sailors? A new paper in PNAS

There’s a fascinating new paper on ancient sea-travel routes in northern Europe, and a resulting coherent diffusion of stone-circle building… “Radiocarbon dates and Bayesian modeling support maritime diffusion model for megaliths in Europe”.

Now we have to be a little sceptical here, because… i) it seems increasingly easy to get questionable headline-grabber papers past peer-review and into the PNAS journal, judging by other recent examples; ii) the study is partly based on computer-modelling and statistical re-shaping, a method which has its own inherent problems; and iii) stone circles in remote coastal areas are far more likely to have survived into the historical record.

That said, the new paper does present an intriguing prehistoric proposition and has good evidence to support it…

“We argue for the transfer of the megalithic concept [of stone circles] over sea routes emanating from northwest France, and for advanced maritime technology and seafaring in the megalithic Age.”

Tolkien biopic release date

Ah, at last we have a release date for one of the forthcoming big Tolkien biopic movies. One of them has to be good, we can hope, and respectful to the material.

“Fox Searchlight is releasing Tolkien in cinemas in the UK on 3rd May 2019. Tolkien explores the formative years of the orphaned author as he finds friendship, love and artistic inspiration among a group of fellow outcasts at school. This takes him into the outbreak of the First World War…”

The cast looks good, though the writers have a somewhat worrying leftist slant in their track-record.

The Cracks of Doom: Untold Tales in Middle-earth

The Cracks of Doom: Untold Tales in Middle-earth. This new book is available now, and is a side-project from my larger scholarly Tolkien book. It should be of interest to RPG players, as well as to fan-writers of Tolkien stories.

The Cracks of Doom is a fully annotated and indexed list of ‘Untold Tales’ in Middle-earth, pointing out the ‘cracks’ where new fan-fiction might be developed. There are 125 entries and these usually lightly suggest ideas for story development. It will also be useful for scholars seeking to understand what Tolkien “left out” and why, or those interested in ‘transformative works’ and fandom.

1. Introduction: “On Untold Tales in Middle-earth”.

2. Writing guidance: “Faith, Duty and Fun: plan and style in Middle-earth fiction”.

3. The list: ‘Openings, Gaps and Cracks’. 125 entries. Note that this is only for LOTR, inc. the Appendices. It also draws on Unfinished Tales, books in the History series, and for one item I also reference the Letters. It does not, of course, cover the vast amount of material in The Simarillion.

PDF sample with index. The full book has 64 pages, about 22,000-words, and a full name and place Index. The book is wholly unofficial, and very respectful of Tolkien’s vision.