Saturday, April 28, 2007

In Your Face, Ahmadinejad!

I recently installed the free StatCounter software on my blog, so that I could see how popular it is, and where people are viewing it from. The results were surprising. I'm predictably popular in Britain, although I'm not sure who keeps viewing from Birmingham. I've had views from as far away as Brazil and Mexico, too. What pleased me most, however, was the two visits I'd had from the Islamic Republic of Iran. What they made of it is anyone's guess.

The software also allows me to see what search-engine keywords have brought people to the blog. My favourite was the person who was looking for "Ladyboys of Bangkok in Nottingham". I can only assume that they were disappointed with what they found.

Monday, April 23, 2007

The House That Jack Built

Battlecrease House, Aigburth

In many ways, it's amazing that it didn't occur to me sooner. Some of you may remember, about 15 years back, that a man in Liverpool claimed to have found Jack the Ripper's diary, implicating a Liverpool cotton merchant named James Maybrick as the murderer.

It occurred to me to wonder where Maybrick lived in 1888, and it turned out that it was at Battlecrease House, just up the road from where I live now. So on Saturday I went to take a look (Yes, I felt that finding the house of a possible Victorian serial killer was a perfectly normal way of spending a nice spring afternoon. Why do you ask?).

The diary, of course, is a fake. However, we can be certain that one Victorian murder case did involve Battlecrease: Maybrick's wife Florence was convicted of poisoning him with arsenic in May 1889, in one of the most famous murder trials of the era. As Alan Moore noted in From Hell, Maybrick being the Ripper would be like Sharon Tate turning out to be the Boston Strangler.

Of course, the diary being fake doesn't rule Maybrick out as a suspect, and while there's nothing to place him in London at the time of the murders, there's also nothing to establish that he wasn't. There are also a couple of curious details.

A few years back, interviews with elderly Liverpool residents indicated that, in the early years of the 20th Century, children used to run past Battlecrease and shout "Look out, look out, Jack the Ripper's about!". An urban legend about Maybrick may go back quite way.

There's also a detail of a letter that Florence Maybrick sent to her lover shortly before James' death, in which she reports that he is "Delirious...perfectly ignorant of everything", before going on to say that "The tale he told me was a pure fabrication and only intended to frighten the truth out of me."

There is, however, no indication as to what that tale was.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


So, a list of names of terrorist suspects is being used by banks and car-dealers to vet clients, and is causing problems for people who have names similar to those of terrorist suspects.

Look, having things from William Gibson novels come true is one thing, having things from Brazil come true is quite another.