Saturday, 5 November 2011


That chain was probably made in Cradley Heath in the Black Country
                I went to see the SS Great Britain recently – if you have any interest in ships, or Brunel, you shouldn't miss it.  I don't think I've ever seen a recreation-cum-museum done better.
          It's an homage to Isambard Kingdom Brunel, one of the great engineers of the Industrial Age, and his ship The Great Britain  – the first iron ship, and – then – the largest passenger liner in the world.  It was probably built by iron-workers from my own Black Country because, at that time, if you wanted iron-workers, that’s where you found them.
                I admit, I was quite teary-eyed as I watched the videos telling how Brunel’s great ship was rescued from the Falklands, where it had been abandoned and left to decay, and towed home to Bristol, finally floating up the River Severn and passing beneath its creator’s great Clifton Suspension Bridge as thousands cheered, and even scattered rose petals onto the ship from the bridge.
                Coming from the Black Country, I was raised on the romance and brutality of the Industrial Revolution.  My ancestors only met because of the Industrial Revolution – the industry of the Black Country drew them together from Ireland, Wales and the English countryside.  (All we were missing, for the complete set, was a Scot, so I went out and found a Fifer.)
Sydney Padua
                The Industrial Age was often brutal – but I can’t help admiring the great engineers of the day: Brunel, Telford, Brinley, Stephenson, Watt, Boulton, Murdoch.  How can you not admire somebody who says, ‘I know!  We’ll get lots of men with shovels and wheelbarrows and dig a big ditch from here to Manchester, fill it with water and float boats on it.  We could take it up hills, with locks.’  And then they did it.
So when I came across Sydney Padua’s 2D Goggles, I couldn’t have been more delighted.  It’s industrial history.  It’s jokes.  It’s beautiful, just beautiful drawings.  It’s scholarly notes – and more jokes.  It’s steam-punk, alternative history, beautifully written – it’s just heaven really.
Padua's Brunel
          The drawings!  I could study them for hours.  I have studied them for hours.  Figures, engines, horses, tigers – there’s nothing the woman can’t draw, and all with grace and energy.
          I love the playfulness.  Padua could obviously write a straight historical novel (or comic) if she wanted to – but instead she delights in rewriting history and her heroes and heroines, and making them all dance to her tune – and dance they all do, in a hugely entertaining way.  Brunel is metamorphed into a muscular bit of rough trade – as one of the comments puts it, ‘a sexy beast!’ – and I’m sure that, wherever he is, he secretly approves.  And if he doesn't, who cares? - He had his fun.
          2D Goggles - Just go straight over there and enjoy it!

And here's Blot - in 'COSTLY'


madwippitt said...

I'm not into Brunel, or ships, and I positively loathe the Industrial Revolution ... but I did visit the SS Great Britain over 20 years ago, and it was excellent (even with a hangover)- well worth a visit even if it isn't normally your sort of thing. Thanks for the link to 2Dgoggles too - brilliant!
PS Upgrade Blot to 'Assistance Dog' and he'll be allowed pretty well anywhere ...

Joan Lennon said...

Drag Chains! Okay, maybe anchor chains, but the same gigantic links - I got drag chains as my object in the 26 Treasures project (National Museum of Scotland) and, most bizarrely, I am now seeing them EVERYWHERE! I love that photo.

Will definitely look out for 2D Goggles - sounds great!

Love to Blott - cheers, Joan.

Sue Purkiss said...

I was so taken with the ss GB that I wrote a book set on it, Emily's Surprising Voyage. Which, oddly, the ship's shop doesn't seem to stock - even though they were incredibly helpful when I was writing it, and even though it got long-listed for the Carnegie, and even though it's got gorgeous pictures featuring the ship! Oh well - there you go!

Anonymous said...

Oh my! I just read that Ada Lovelace comic on 2D Goggles and I am already in love! Thank you so very very much for the recommendation. Brilliant art, very funny and sneakily educational. (It reminds me a little of Kate Beaton in that combination of things... are you familiar with Hark a Vagrant? )

Susan Price said...

Hi Elsie! - I didn't know Hark! A vagrant, but I've bookmarked it now! Love that title - it's like, 'But soft - !'
Loved the Jane Austen and Bonnie Prince Charlie cartoons - she got him right! Thanks for the tip!

Susan Price said...

Hi Elsie! - I didn't know Hark! A vagrant, but I've bookmarked it now! Love that title - it's like, 'But soft - !'
Loved the Jane Austen and Bonnie Prince Charlie cartoons - she got him right! Thanks for the tip!