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Since January 2008 I have been ever so fortunate to work for Middlesbrough Council as a casual museum assistant, education assistant and gallery assistant at the Dorman Museum, Captain Cook Birthplace Museum and Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art. It has been one of those rare jobs to marry both my enthusiasms, abilities and need for encouragement. With excellent managers at those venues I have been able to grow my experience, dabble in different areas of my passion for history and help wherever I could. One of my most regular duties is covering lunch at the Museums shops and today at the Dorman Museum we had a visitor I thought I would tell you about.

One of our venerable elder gentlemen from the community had been on one of his regular walks through the fantastic Albert Park beside the Dorman Museum recently when he had stumbled across a dull coin sticking out of the ground. On closer inspection, holding it to the light, it turned out to be a Penny coin from the reign of Queen Victoria and minted in 1898. This was of interest to the man as he had recently read an article on the spectacular fountain in the center of Albert Park which he thought had been presented in 1898. After getting home I’ve since found that it was actually presented in 1869 by Joseph Pease but that does not undermine the coins discovery at all.

Whilst it may not be linked to the fountain, the coins discovery beside a tree and lack of damage suggests that it had indeed been planted with the tree over a century ago. Sitting there under the ground, unchanging whilst all around changed with the decades, the two world wars, the refurbishment of the park. Completely undisturbed until the roots of the tree it had been buried with finally pushed it up out of the dirt. It is a rather nice potential narrative of the coin and one that ties it to the local history of the area. Someone buried that coin for a reason, maybe for luck, maybe for remembrance.

The supposed burial of the coin, if it indeed happened shortly after it went into circulation will have coincided closely with Queen Victoria’s Diamond jubilee, the Empress of India had been on the throne for sixty years and had surpassed George III as the longest reigning British monarch in 1896.  A possible alternative is that the coin was buried under a tree after the death of Victoria in January 1901. Whatever the reasoning, the coin laid undisturbed for at least a century, a suitable tribute befitting a monarch of such longevity. It has now been kindly donated to the Dorman Museum by the gentleman, which will make a decision on whether to keep it in their collections.

Do you have any memories of Albert Park you would like to share in the comments below?

And if you have not been to Albert Park in recent years, take advantage of this good weather and go enjoy an afternoon there now!


Late last week I informed readers that I worked the fancy boots opening talk by artist Anish Kapoor and engineer Cecil Balmond at the MIMA for their new sculpture called TENEMOS.

I promised I would provide a few photographs for you all to see what the great hubbub was about. After I finished teaching on Monday the weather was so wonderful I decided to take a walk around Middlehaven and snap a few photographs and take a little video. Tenemos looks big from a distance, and its scale is rather overwhelming when you get under it and look up. Just as the Angel of the North has been accepted, I think this might after a period of scepticism by the locals. It is certainly a structure that needs to be experienced and not just judged on a few photo’s. So pop along and take some time to consider it.

Note: video was too large to upload on blackberry. Will add it when I have internet access from computer

Just a short belated note on the passing of the MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Ashok Kumar on March 15th 2010.

In an age of disenchantment with distant expenses flouting politicions, Ashok was someone who was very real in my familys life.

When the NHS tried to sack my father for being unable to do his job a short time before his retirement date (he had suffered from illness and does to this day), we wrote to Ashok as our local MP. He wrote a letter expressing his dissapointment in what the NHS were trying to do and expressing his support for my father. Soon after, attempts to sack him ceased and he was able to take early retirement.

Ashok Kumar was a labour politicion. My father said to him that he was a fine man and would have happily voted for him except for his politics. He helped my Dad regardless. Ashok lost my dads vote because he could not support Tony Blairs government. As a man, Ashok will always have our vote.

Have any of you had any experiences of Ashok Kumar? Share them in the comments below.

Photo by Graur Razvan Ionut


Something odd has been happening near Casa Vysocina. It appears that, if I’m not mistaken, a terrorist organisation is trying to eliminate my family. It’s not paranoia when they’re really after you.

I was waiting by the bus stop on Thursday, waiting to go to college for the theory part of my Post Graduate Certificate in Education at Middlesbrough College. While I’m stood there contemplating how best to teach to constructivist learners without ignoring the odd humanist in the class (yeah right…), something grabs my attention.

A loud explosion.

Now there was no panic. Shopkeeper Dean emerged from his, uh, shop to look in the direction of the boom and I took a few steps to look down the alleyway. Fairly normal grass, birds, dog covered pavements…

And here come a gang of chavs running out of an estate, some of them laughing. One of them, well he fell flat on his face and didn’t move afterwards. I was going to go over and find out what happened and if they needed help. They could have set of a firework, a car could have backfired, maybe they had messed with an aerosol can. I even would have went over convinced it was a gunshot I’d heard. That’s what decent people do – help the idiots of this world.

But my bus came round the corner. And I went to college.

Hey we all have priorities. When I finished I found out from Shopkeeper Deans wife that the lads had built themselves a bomb from a YouTube video apparently and blew off two fingers belonging to one of the prior mentioned idiots. It’s not bad of me to feel pleased by this is it? Bleeding heart liberals may not want to face the fact that people exist who are just too dumb for words. You build a bomb, its your own fault what happens. What annoys me is the blood stains were still on the floor when the kids were leaving school. The police could have forced the gang to scrub the path clean.

The events of an eventful week don’t stop there. My dad, a retired RMN (Registered Mental Nurse) was heading off to work on saturday night to the care home he earns a booster for his pension. On the bus (he’s eco-friendly!) he had his own bang moment.

Somebody took a shot at the bus.

The back window was shot out. Apparently an air rifle according to the bus driver. He stopped the bus and wanted everyone to get off initially – which everyone was thrilled about with a gunman out there. However he changed his mind, taped off the back seats and pulled the window out entirely so no fragments could hurt anyone.

I do live in Middlesbrough, England right? Not Detroit, Not London, Not Baghdad, Not L.A, Not Rio. So why are we seeing bombs and shootings?

Atleast I can end this post saying nobody was hurt. Except the chav and his two fingers.

Themes of Interest

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