Special Thinkers' Dinner - Nowhere to Hide

This page relates to the Thinkers' Special sponsored by Callcredit, Public Sector Solutions held on 15th September 2011

As always discussions ranged widely with some of them touching on our theme in various ways. Did I steal your phone?

We did a 'call-my-bluff' style quiz in which pre-briefed guests presented explanations likely and otherwise for some pictures which in fact show the foolish thief of a mobile phone who gave himself nowhere to hide by taking pictures of himself with it only to find them posted to the internet photo account of the phone's owner.

Round two gave us some unlikely explanations for failing to pay a TV license taken from the licensing authorities nowhere to hide enforcement campaign.

In the final round we were to find that even the most improbable excuses were all true examples gathered from the government's nowhere to hide benefit fraud enforcement scheme.

As usual we looked at this-day-in-history and found some interesting things to examine, some of which had a relationship to our theme, albeit in some cases rather a tenuous one.

One of the earliest items came from 1613 when poet and courtier Sir Thomas Overbury was poisoned while imprisoned in the Tower of London in what the 1911 edition of Encyclopaedia Britannica describes as One of the most sensational crimes in English history

The events of WWI have featured regularly at Thinkers' and it is well known that trench warfare left thousands dead every time soldiers went over-the-top and found nowhere to hide from the opposing machine-guns. On the 15th September 1916 an attempt was made to change that when tanks were deployed for the first time. They were not initially very successful but rapidly improved in effectiveness until today they are an essential part of any ground offensive.

In 1978 The Bulgarian defector, Georgi Markov, who was stabbed or shot in the leg with an umbrella as he stood at a London bus stop four days before, died in hospital on the 15th September of ricin poisoning. The tiny pellet recovered from his leg is on display in the Crime Museum at New Scotland Yard, the so-called Black Museum. His death was surely a demonstration that there was nowhere to hide from the forces of the Soviet block.
Balloon_Corner, Welham_Green

An unplanned sub-theme for our discussions on this occasion turned out to be vehicular transport, beginning with a look at the first hydrogen balloon flight in Britain in 1784 by Vincenzo Lunardi, secretary to the Neapolitan Ambassador. The flight went from the Artillery Ground in London's Finsbury some 24 miles to Welham Green, where a stone still commemorates the event, and on to Standon Green End in Hertfordshire.

In 1830 the world's first passenger railway line is opened, the Liverpool to Manchester. The Chambers Book of Days of 1864 had this to say about the event: One of the ‘red-letter’ days in the history of railways, a day that stamped the railway-system as a triumphant success, was marked by a catastrophe which threw gloom over an event in other ways most satisfactory.

Opening_of_the_Liverpool_and_Manchester_Railway Northumbrian

The catastrophe mentioned in the Victorian Chambers is the death of William Huskisson, MP for Liverpool, in the second of two accidents that happened that day, when Huskisson attempted to talk to the Duke of Wellington at the door of his special train the Northumbrian while they were stopped and found himself with nowhere to hide from the oncoming Rocket which was pulling another train on adjacent track. He was gravely injured and died later that day. The expression 'in other ways most satisfactory' ignores the first accident - the world's first passenger train-on-train collision - several breakdowns and near riots in Manchester where the crowds tired of waiting for the trains to arrive became hostile and invaded the tracks.

In 1831 the British built locomotive John Bull operates for the first time in New Jersey on the Camden and Amboy Railroad - the first passenger railway service in the United States. 150 years later on 15th September 1981 the John Bull becomes the oldest operable steam locomotive in the world when the Smithsonian Institution operates it under its own power outside Washington, D.C.
The John Bull c1893 John_Bull_operating_in_1981

In 1966 the UK’s first Polaris missile submarine, HMS Resolution, was launched by the Queen Mother as reported on Pathé news at the time.

I shall close off this review of the evening with a nice conjunction that brought together Thinkers, our theme and the date: on 15th September 1902 the poet Rainer Maria Rilke becomes private secretary to the sculptor Rodin in Paris. Later, on Rodin's instruction Rilke will visit the Jardins des Plantes to observe the animals. Legend has it that he spent 9 hours gazing through the bars before writing The Panther, which remains a paradigm of the object poem a form invented by Rilke through the influence of Rodin. A more eloquent and beautiful expression of having nowhere to hide would be hard to find indeed.

This Thinkers' Special themed Nowhere to Hide was held at one of our regular venues The Private Rooms on Buckingham Gate.

Table favours for guests this time were a copy of the Folio Society edition of The Spy's Bedside Book with a magnetic bookmark produced by our sponsors.

The sponsors generously covered all the costs and the venue did a fine job providing us with an interesting menu and we were lucky enough that the weather permitted us to foregather on the terrace above the award-winning St James's Court courtyard.


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