Eccentric England: The Headington Shark

Headington Shark
Henry Flower

Once again, I’m back in Oxford for my annual summer working holiday. I love this place. This quintessentially English city offers beautiful colleges, the world’s coolest museum, even the chance to bump into the Queen.

But all this pales in comparison to the sight of a giant shark crashing into a roof.

The Oxford suburb of Headington is a bit dull, so local resident Bill Heine at 2 New High Street decided to commission sculptor John Buckley to create a 25-foot shark to adorn his roof. It was put up on August 9, 1986, the 41st anniversary of the Nagasaki bombing. As Heine explained, “The shark was to express someone feeling totally impotent and ripping a hole in their roof out of a sense of impotence and anger and desperation … It is saying something about CND, nuclear power, Chernobyl and Nagasaki.”

The clipboard Nazis in the local council were not amused. They tried to have it removed as a pubic hazard. When their engineer said it was perfectly safe, they tried various other excuses. Much legal wrangling ensued.

Decades later, the naysayers are all gone and the shark is still there. It’s a much-loved local landmark, a modern folly. I see it every time I come in on the bus from London and enjoy pointing it out to newcomers. There’s even a Headington Shark Appreciation Society on Facebook with more than a thousand members. So if you’re coming to Oxford, pop on over and see the Headington Shark.

Don’t Burn Toilet Paper While Camping, Experts Say

camping, toilet paper
Wikimedia Commons

Camping is a fun summertime activity, and everyone who cares about the outdoors wants to reduce their impact on the environment as much as possible.

That’s why many people burn their used toilet paper. Dirty toilet paper is ugly and unhygienic. It takes a long time to decompose too, and in the meantime the rain turns it into an unsightly mass as shown here.

Burning your bog roll may not be the best way to spare Mother Nature, however. The Mountaineering Council of Scotland has issued a warning not to burn your toilet paper because it increases the risk of wildfires. Scotland had several bad wildfires earlier this year, and the annual wildfires in the United States have caused widespread destruction.

With dry summer conditions, even a stray spark can cause a major conflagration if it isn’t caught in time. The organization also warns of the dangers of campfires. Fires can often smolder undetected along root systems, flaring up hours after campers have doused their campfire and left. The organization suggests using cooking stoves and packing out your used toilet paper.

Fascinating Map Of London By Stephen Walter


Stephen Walter has a way of creating complex and obsessive art — specifically, maps. His maps of various areas in England are often enlightening, but he has himself beat with one of his latest creations: a fascinating map of London and its underground. The map was commissioned by the London Transport Museum and while doing his research for the project, Walter uncovered legions of undiscovered facts about London and began incorporating the eerie history beneath the surface of London into the map itself. The map isn’t all historical facts, though. Interjecting his own imagination with fabled stories and general lore alongside the facts, Walter created a map like no other — it transports you into a magical, parallel universe of London, where hearsay is marked and remembered.

[Thanks, Intelligent Life]

London Waterways Development for London 2012

Scuba Diving Amid The Imperial German Fleet At Scapa Flow, Orkney (VIDEO)


The Orkney Islands off the north coast of Scotland offer an amazing variety of things to do, from visiting prehistoric monuments to bird watching and traditional music in cozy pubs. Orkney is also a popular spot for scuba diving thanks to it being the site of the sinking of the Imperial German Navy in World War I.

After the Armistice ended World War I, 74 German naval vessels were taken to the bay of Scapa Flow in the Orkney Islands. The ships were moored in the bay under the command of skeleton crews of German sailors under the command of Rear Admiral Ludwig von Reuter. Reuter decided he didn’t want his fleet to be reused by the British so in defiance of the Armistice agreement he scuttled every one.

Since the German sailors were already prisoners of war, there was little the British could do but fume. In later years most of the ships were salvaged for scrap but there are still several impressive vessels on the bottom of the bay to explore. Several dive shops in Orkney offer tours.

This video is a compilation of several dives along with some cool music. Sit back and enjoy!

Archaeologists Continue To Explore Richard III’s Burial Site

Richard III
University of Leicester

Archaeologists stunned the world four months ago when they announced they had discovered the remains of King Richard III beneath a parking lot in Leicester, England. The site was once the Franciscan friary of the Grey Friars and now the same team has reopened the excavation to explore more of the building and its burials, the University of Leicester announced.

Already they’ve discovered more of the building, as well as some of its decoration such as these medieval tiles.

The excavation will last four weeks and a viewing platform will allow the public to watch as the archaeologists look for the friary’s foundations as well as the tomb of a 14th-century knight who records show was buried there. Sir William Moton was interred there in 1362 and during the dig for Richard they found the edge of what might be the knight’s stone coffin.

Richard III was the last of the Plantagenet line and fought the Tudors during the War of the Roses for control of England. He was killed at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485. Support for the Plantagenet line crumbled and soon Henry Tudor was crowned King Henry VII.

A museum about King Richard III and the discovery of his remains will open in Leicester next year.