Days Like These

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The Independent Culture
22 August, 1939

CHIPS CHANNON

writes in his diary

"A historic day. I feel that a new era, perhaps the last, has opened for England and incidentally for me. It began this quiet, sunlit morning when I sleepily opened the newspaper and read emblazoned across the ever sensational Express "German Russian Pact". Then I realised that the Russians have double-crossed us, as I always believed they would. They have been coquetting secretly with Germany, even as our negotiations proceeded. They are the foulest people on earth. Now it looks like war and the immediate partition of Poland."

24 August, AD79

PLINY THE YOUNGER watchs the eruption of Vesuvius which buried Pompeii

"My uncle was stationed at Misenium, in active command of the fleet. In the afternoon my mother drew his attention to a cloud of unusual size and appearance. He climbed up to a place which would give him the best view of the phenomenon. It was not clear at that distance from which mountain the cloud was rising; its general appearance can best be described as being like an umbrella pine, for it rose to a great height on a sort of trunk and then split into branches, I imagine because it was thrust upwards by the first blast and then left unsupported as the pressure subsided. In places it looked white, elsewhere blotched and dirty, according to the amount of soil and ashes it carried. My uncle saw that it was important enought for a closer inspection. He ordered a boat to be made ready. As he was leaving the house he was handed a message from Rectina, wife of Tascus whose house was at the foot of the mountain. She was terrified and implored him to rescue her. He changed his plans, and what had begun in a spirit of inquiry he completed as a hero."

24 August, 1830

FRANCES ANN KEMBLE,

daughter of actor Charles Kemble writes in her diary on the opening of

the Liverpool-Manchester railway

"We were introduced to the little engine which was to drag us along the rails. This snorting little animal, which I felt rather inclined to pat, was then harnessed to our carriage, and Mr Stephenson having taken me on the bench of the engine with him, we started at about ten miles an hour. You can't imagine how strange it seemed to be, without any visible cause of progress other than the magical machine, with its flying white breath."

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