Saturday, April 2, 2011

Humber-Rare cars of Royalty and politicians...

What Humber-dingers: The amazing collection of vintage cars... owned by potato merchant from Hull

Last updated at 1:28 AM on 3rd April 2011

While more than 80 per cent of all the Rolls-Royces ever built can still be traced today, fewer than one in 100 Humbers has survived

Allan Marshall's collection of 55 Humbers; in the centre is the 1951 Pullman
Allan Marshall's collection of 55 Humbers; in the centre is the 1951 Pullman
They were once loved by the British Army, prime ministers, and kings and queens alike. Humbers were known as the poor man’s Rolls-Royce.
But while more than 80 per cent of all the Rolls-Royces ever built can still be traced today, fewer than one in 100 Humbers has survived. Even more surprising, the largest collection in Britain isn’t kept in a national museum but belongs to a potato merchant from Hull.
The bonnet of a 1951 seven-seater Humber Pullman, with 30,000 miles on the clock; the badge is a snipe, a game bird famous for being fast and agile
The bonnet of a 1951 seven-seater Humber Pullman, with 30,000 miles on the clock; the badge is a snipe, a game bird famous for being fast and agile
Allan Marshall, 55, keeps 27 Humbers in a 10,000 sq ft building next to his lorry depot. 
‘My father, Reg, bought his first one 51 years ago for £90. It was a 1954 Pullman built for Baroness Rothschild. She used it in London and kept the car garaged at Claridges hotel. Once I took the back seats out to deliver spuds to fish and chip shops. I’ve even used it to tow a 16-ton lorry from York to Hull.’
The future King George VI took delivery of his first Humber in 1935. He was so impressed by the limousines that after the war he ordered 47 to be sent to British embassies around the world. Every prime minister of the day arrived at Downing Street in a Humber; Winston Churchill boasted a fleet of five Humber Pullmans.
The car’s robust build quality and reliability attracted the attention of the Army too. Specially modified Super Snipe models were turned into field cars during World War II. 
The most famous, staff car No M239485, was used by Field Marshal Montgomery from the D-Day landings until the end of the war. His 4.5-litre model covered 60,000 miles around Europe in less than a year. The car  is still affectionately known by the nickname he gave it, Old Faithful.
Humbers fell out of favour in the late Fifties. With thirsty, six-cylinder engines they guzzled fuel at just five miles per gallon. The Suez Crisis and rising oil prices meant owners couldn’t haggle a part-exchange – not even for the new, fuel-efficient car of the era, the Mini. The last of the large Humbers were finally sold in 1968.
The English-made Jaeger speedometer
The English-made Jaeger speedometer
Marshall and his team of enthusiasts restore all the cars in the collection themselves, often working up to two years on each vehicle, at a cost of £10,000. 
‘Some of the cars might be worth £40,000 or more now but money isn’t the point. I’ve never sold a Humber and if people want to come and see my collection it’s free. The only money I make from them is by hiring them as wedding cars.’
Despite Humbers being seen in TV series like Heartbeat, Open All Hours and the latest Upstairs, Downstairs, Marshall refuses to rent his vehicles to film companies or lend them to other museums for fear of damage.
The dashboard of an unrestored Humber Original Connolly leather seats are still fitted, with rugs and a glass division between driver and passengers
The English-made Jaegar speedometer (left) and the dashboard of an unrestored Humber (right)
‘I’ve never had to go looking for a restoration project either. People just phone up or bring them to me. Humbers are like a faithful labrador. My wife Barbara says it’s like an RSPCA for old cars round here.’
The highlights of Marshall’s collection include: a Pullman Landaulette, built for King George VI (the King died before it could be delivered); a 1952 Super-Snipe MK3, which was owned by the Queen Mother and kept at Castle Mey in Scotland; and a 1967 Imperial saloon that appeared in The Big Sleep.
Rusting Humber Hawks await restoration
Rusting Humber Hawks await restoration
His favourite Humber, however, is the biggest wreck of all. It was found in a Somerset scrapyard, remains covered in dust and has yet to be restored. 
'The 80bhp Snipe dates back to the Thirties and was used by Edward VIII and Wallace Simpson as an unofficial Royal car. They used it to get around London unseen. It just has a small window in the back, so you can’t tell who is travelling inside.’ 
Humber engineA car radio from a later model
A car radio from a later model (left) and a Pullman engine (right)
The 1932 Humber Snipe used by Edward VIII and Wallace Simpson awaits restoration
The 1932 Humber Snipe used by Edward VIII and Wallace Simpson awaits restoration
A 1955 Humber Super-Snipe - this rare example featured a three-speed automatic gearbox
A 1955 Humber Super-Snipe - this rare example featured a three-speed automatic gearbox

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Royal wedding cake takes the biscuit...

Royal cake takes the biscuit...

Secrecy and security surrounding the alternative wedding cake is, discovers Iain Hollingshead

Paul Courtney  has the enviable job title of
Paul Courtney has the enviable job title of "cake design and development head chef". Photo: Gabriel Szabo/Guzelian
On Monday it was revealed that, in addition to an official fruitcake created by Fiona Cairns, McVitie’s has been commissioned to make a chocolate fridge cake from Rich Tea biscuits. A childhood favourite of the Prince’s, this “groom cake” – a Victorian tradition now almost obsolete here but still popular in America – will contain nearly 40lb of chocolate and 1,700 biscuits: more than enough to feed 600 guests at the canapé reception, especially now that John Prescott is no longer deputy prime minister.
So far, so open. But a visit to McVitie’s factory reveals the lengths to which it is going to protect its cake – and recipe.
Paul Courtney, a jovial, genial 46-year-old from West Yorkshire, has the enviable job title of “cake design and development head chef”. A former pastry chef, who trained at the Savoy and worked in a number of restaurants before marrying (he had a more traditional fruit cake at his wedding), starting a family and looking for a less hectic career, he is honoured, and a little bit nervous. But trying to tease information about his cake is harder than getting an interview with Thomas Pynchon.
What will it look like? Can’t tell you. How big will it be? Can’t tell you. Where does the chocolate come from? Can’t tell you. Will it be possible to eat it with a fork? Probably. Where will it be made? Can’t tell you: it’s a security risk. Will it be tiered? Maybe. Maybe not.
Courtney received the phone call from a director of McVitie’s one Friday evening in January. “You’ll never guess what…” he started. Courtney, however, already had an inkling. In 2007 he’d helped with the baking of the official cake (fruitcake and marzipan) for the diamond wedding anniversary of the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh. McVitie’s also baked the cake for the marriage of George V to Queen Mary back in 1893, and for the Queen’s wedding in 1947 (it was 9ft tall and 4ft in diameter).
That January phone-call led to two visits to Buckingham Palace, and one to Clarence House, where Courtney met the royal pastry chef and the royal head chef. “For a member of Joe Public like me, it was very exciting,” he says.
The brief was fairly broad – the dark chocolate could come from anywhere – but it specified that they had to use Rich Tea biscuits (somewhat to Courtney’s surprise, as this sort of cake is more often made with digestives, HobNobs or even, according to a letter to The Daily Telegraph this week, with stale Red Cross biscuits sent to PoWs during the Second World War).
“Rich Tea are perhaps not the most glamorous biscuits in the world,” says Courtney. “And now they are taking a starring role in the royal wedding. But they’re quite crisp compared to a digestive, and so they’ll contrast well with the softness of the chocolate.”
Courtney produced a shortlist of four or five different recipes (“Okay,” he relents, “I can tell you that the chocolate we considered came from Ghana, the Ivory Coast, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador and Madagascar, but I won’t tell you which one they went for” – perhaps in case it causes a diplomatic incident and William Hague has to expel some more people).
Courtney is not sure if the couple themselves tasted the samples (although one imagines that if, as reported this week, Kate wants to put on weight to fill out her dress, this would have been as good a way as any). The Palace duly chose their favourite (“not the one I expected”) and let McVitie’s know.
The real fun, however, starts now with the security measures around the cake(s). Courtney is actually making “at least two” in case something goes wrong. “You can’t just say, sorry, we don’t have it if, God forbid, there is a accident en route to London,” he says.
So there will be two cakes? “There will be at least two,” he says. Three cakes, then? “At least two,” he repeats, resolutely on message. And then he gives the game away slightly by saying that the one which isn’t used will probably end up displayed in head office.
Ten people from McVitie’s will be involved, although Courtney promises to be “standing at the front, doing as much as I can, blocking out the light”. There has been no shortage of offers from others on the factory floor to help with the tasting. While in reception, the security guard amuses himself putting off less intrepid journalists by telling them he hasn’t heard of any royal wedding.
After the first stage of the cakes is finished they will be sent away to a laboratory to be analysed and tested for yeast or mould (or, presumably, poison, in case an anarchist has snuck into the factory).
“If someone nicked the cakes, that would be a tragedy,” says Courtney, displaying his culinary skills in a room which may, or may not, be used for making the cakes. “They will be locked away under several keys in any case. But if someone did something to them after they’ve been tested, well, it doesn’t bear thinking about. At that stage, the cakes might have bodyguards. Or maybe just me, sleeping next to them.”
You certainly wouldn’t want to mess with Courtney. Or get between him and his cakes. Yet despite his confidence in being able to deliver what the couple wants, he admits, rather like the groom himself, to a few sleepless nights of late. “If you’d told me 12 years ago when I started here that I’d be doing this, I would never have believed you. It’s a whirlwind. My five minutes of fame.”
The cake, however, isn’t technically difficult to make, especially compared to a fruit cake, as there’s no baking involved – just some time in the fridge. And he’s confident of being able to deliver what they want.
They will be made about a week before (“You want it to be as fresh as possible, without the biscuits having a chance to soften”) and then taken down to London by a man in a van – although one hopes that they’ve thought of sending out a few decoys as well. Courtney will accompany them, “never letting them out of my sight”.
Once there he’ll decorate one with “contemporary, modern and elegant chocolate display work” and return home to watch the wedding on television, with a glass of something and maybe, he admits with a smile, a cheeky slice of history he’s kept back for himself.

Rare steam train restored to former glory...

Rare steam train King Edward II restored to former glory in 20 year labour of love

A rare locomotive was revealed to the public on Saturday after enthusiasts spent twenty years restoring it to its former glory.

A rare locomotive was revealed to the public yesterday after twenty years spent restoring it to its former glory.
Image 1 of 2
The renovated King Edward II steam locomotive is revealed to the public Photo: LNP
The King Edward II steam engine was first used by Great Western Railway in the 1930s, pulling trains between London Paddington and the west of England.
However, it had been left to rot in a scrapyard in Barry, Wales, until it was saved for preservation by the Great Western Society.
No 6023 King Edward II is one of only three surviving locomotives of its class, built by GWR in 1930 for taking express trains over the steep banks of South Devon.
In the latter years it was used to pull trains between Paddington and South Wales or Wolverhampton, before being withdrawn in the early 1960s when diesel locomotives were introduced.
The locomotive was stripped of all her valuable components, even painted with the words ‘we can’t save this one’, but was displayed to the public yesterday at the Railway Centre in Didcot, Oxfordshire, England.
Originally painted in green, with a copper chimney and brass bonnet, the locomotive was gleaming in royal blue on Saturday, a colour previously used on 6023 for a brief period in the 1950s.
Roger Orchard, the manager at the Didcot Centre, said: “For the volunteers, their dream of bringing a scrap locomotive back to running order has been realised after 20 years of hard work and dedication.
“Restoring King Edward II has become an obsession for some and in one or two cases has almost caused divorces, because it took over the men’s lives and relationships suffered.”

Friday, April 1, 2011

Top 10 April Fool's Day hoaxes 2011

Top 10 April Fool's Day hoaxes 2011

A collection of the best April Fool's pranks we have found on the internet this morning.

The mock-up Royal Wedding crest on the Guardian website.  The latin motto roughly translates as
The mock-up Royal Wedding crest on the Guardian website. The latin motto roughly translates as "Calm down, it's a joke." 
The Guardian today set up a 'Royal Wedding Live' blog in attempt to show 'full throated support' for the British Monarchy.
The tongue-in-cheek feature launched at 7:30 this morning and has vowed to give 'committed, unrivalled coverage' of the preparations for this year's big Royal wedding. At 10:11AM news of the wedding cancellation hit the site.
At 11.38, however, the updates were apparently forced to stop after they received "a communication from Buckingham Palace suggesting that some of the contents of [the] blog could contravene the Treason Felony Act of 1848."
Groupon, the vouchers website, claims to have purchased the April Fool's Day intellectual trademark, and giving it the official new title of Groupon Presents April Fools’ Day™.
Explaining its actions, Groupon say it "gives consumers more choices and better options" and that "You'll never again be confused by other corporations' April 1 pranks, since Groupon will be taking friendly, but swift, but hostile, legal actions against any nonlicensed April Fools' Day™ joke."
You can also see the Cease and Desist letters it has served to YouTube and others that are performing 'illegal pranks'.
To see exactly what it was that YouTube did to anger groupon's legal department you merely need to go to their homepage.
With the logo changed to infer that the website was founded in 1911, users are given the choice to change the look of videos to make them silent and sepia-toned.
A collection of spoof videos from that year that mimic popular viral videos of today was also posted
In case people are fooled by this, Groupon helpfully point out, "nearly all technology necessary for or any other video website to function including the Internet, computers, speakers, and video sharing software were invented far after the purported advent of"
Google have found a way of combining your webcam and Gmail to dispense with outdated technology such as a keyboard and a mouse. By standing a safe distance from your computer, you will be able to issue commands by using different body shapes.
With a helpful motion guide, Google say that "movements are designed to be simple and intuitive for people of all skill levels". Leaning to your left will go to your inbox, while bringing your right arm up to your head with a closed fist will reply to the email.
Unfortunately, if you click to try Gmail motion, you get the message, "Gmail Motion doesn't actually exist. At least not yet... "
Sir Richard Branson today released information about Virgin's latest tourism-based business venture. Virgin news announced that the company has bought Pluto and will attempt to have it reinstated as a planet.
Sir Richard said: "Virgin has expanded into many territories over the years, but we have never had our own planet before. This could pave the way for a new age in space tourism."
The company have even created a special vehicle - due to be launched this time next year - which they hope will be capable of 're-structuring' Pluto by leaching on to asteroids and 'bulking up' the planet in order to reach the required planetary mass.
IGN have created a trailer for an upcoming TV show that shows the gritty side of the Harry Potter universe. Called "The Aurors" it is about an elite unit of wizards fighting the most dangerous magical criminals across America.
IKEA Australia today announced their latest product as the ‘IKEA Hundstol’, also known as a highchair for dogs.
News of the product hit IKEA Australia’s facebook page, complete with a link to a Youtube video where an IKEA designer discusses the safety features of the 'aesthetically pleasing' chair.
British company ‘Micro Scooters’ announced their latest product to be the ‘Micro Zimmer’. This zimmer-frame-meets-skateboard is purposely built for adrenaline-seeking pensioners. The Micro scooter can allegedly reach speeds of up to 10MPH and is capable of preforming basic skating stunts such as the ‘bunny hop’ and ‘ollies’.
Designers took the needs of their target audience very seriously by building in useful features such as ‘a loud horn’, ‘glasses holders’ and ‘shopping bags’.
Qualcomm, an American wireless telecommunications research and development company, is behind viral Internet videos which surfaced this week appearing to show incidents of severe butterfly attacks in various locations across the USA.
The videos confront witty reports that their own prototype of Mirasol display is responsible for triggering aggression from the insects.
In acknowledgement of the upcoming royal wedding, BMW have announced a special Royal Edition of the BMW M3 Coupe which will apparently be available at BMW dealerships throughout the country from today and for one month only.
The special edition motor is available in three colours - Regal Red, Bridal White and Imperial Blue. This clever little prank is quite easy to fall for after seeing some of the quirky Royal Wedding memorabilia which has surfaced in the run up to the April event.
As can be seen in the press release, the classic M3 logo has been turned upside-down to read "Will"
Anyone interested in the car was asked to contact BMW via email at
Of course, if you hadn't guessed already, you can read The Telegraph's own prank here.

18 carat gold mobile phone sells at £37,000

The ultimate in bling? Gold mobile phone can be yours for a cool £37,000

Last updated at 2:54 PM on 1st April 2011

  • Despite its high price tag, the Æ+Y isn't a smartphone
With mobile phones increasingly seen as status symbols, this is one handset the jetset won't want to be seen without.
The Æ+Y phone is made from 18 carat solid gold and costs a staggering 42,000 euros (£37,000 / $60,000).
But don't plan on throwing away your iPhone just yet.
Status symbol: The Æ+Y phone is made from 18 carat solid gold and costs a staggering 42,000 euros
Status symbol: The Æ+Y phone is made from 18 carat solid gold and costs a staggering 42,000 euros
Despite its exceedingly high price tag, the Æ+Y isn't a smartphone and so has no Internet access.
It was created with simplicity in mind by designer Yves Béhar, who decided to opt out of the technology race with the Æ+Y.
    He said: 'In an age when the industry seems to think that phones aren't for speaking anymore, I wanted to focus on the idea of voice, clarity and simplicity.
    'The Æ+Y champions the idea of craftmanship in an age that's obsessed with more and making last year's products obsolete.
    'Instead, we propose better and long-lasting as our starting criteria.'
    Æ+Y phoneÆ+Y phone
    Slick: But, despite its exceedingly high price tag, the Æ+Y isn't a smartphone and so has no Internet access
    More affordable? The stainless steel version retails for 7,250 euros
    More affordable? The stainless steel version retails for 7,250 euros
    The limited edition device, from Copenhagen-based manufacturer Æsir, is currently available for pre-order and is expected to be released in Europe this summer, while customers in the U.S., Hong Kong and China will have to wait until the autumn.
    Those of you on a budget may want to buy the stainless steel version which retails for a more modest 7,250 euros (£6,400 / $10,250) and is available to pre-order now.
    The Æ+Y phone may seem ridiculously expensive, but it's a long way from being the most expensive mobile phone.
    An iPhone 4 wrapped in 500 individual flawless cut diamonds totalling 100 carats last year sold for £5million ($8million / 5.7million euros).
    British designer Stuart Hughes, 38, of Liverpool, was commissioned to make two of the bespoke handsets for a mega-rich Australian businessman.
    Each one featured two interchangeable diamonds which fit over the 'home' button - a single cut 7.4 carat pink diamond and a rare 8 carat single cut flawless diamond which are together worth more than £4million.

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    Thursday, March 31, 2011

    24-carat fools had their gold car towed away by police-China

    • 30 March 2011, 11:19

    Gold-plated own goal

    Confiscated /Europics
    Store bosses ended up looking 24 karat fools when they created a gold-plated car to promote a new sales gimmick - and it was towed away by police.
    The motor had been parked on the street to stop shoppers in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, eastern China, in their tracks.
    But sharp-eyed police towed the gold-blinger vehicle away when they spotted it had been parked on a public road without a licence plate or road tax.
    "The owners have 10 days to pay their fine. If they don't it will be sold or crushed," said a police spokesman.
    Police were called when angry motorists complained that the streets around the store were blocked by cars and pedestrians trying to get close to the car.
    "I just wanted to get close to touch all that gold," said one shopper.
    "They were causing a public nuisance and had no permission for a public show. Then when an officer noticed the car was unlicensed, it had to go," added the police spokesman.