This is old news now, as they say about anything that’s more than one news cycle old. However, before I forget, I need to acknowledge that a couple of weeks ago Jimmy Wales, the man who founded Wikipedia, spoke in my current home city, Bristol.

That’s the British Bristol, by the way; I know that several other cities around the globe share our name.

We were honoured in that, though his UK visit was to mark the tenth anniversary of Wkipedia, this was the only public talk he gave on the trip. The event was co-hosted by Bristol University, the Bristol Festival of Ideas, HP Labs and Bristol City Council; predictably, the venue was`packed to the rafters.


Like millions of others I am a regular user of Wikipedia. Years ago people used to joke about the assumption that “anyone could post stuff” and thus the accuracy was not to be taken for granted. However, I’ve read in an impartial source that on scientific matters, for example, it’s said to be as reliable as the Encyclopedia Britannica.


What I didn’t know was the size of the worldwide volunteer community of both writers and editors: 100,000 all told. 83% are men and the average age is under 30. The requirements to be a volunteer were said to be “intelligence, obsession and spare time” – but if the first two were present, the people find the time, even if it’s at 2 a.m.

Wales’s vision was of  “a worldwide force for free learning and general education, run with modest resources, engaging communities worldwide.”  To have achieved all that in ten years, providing all that information in 200 languages, with no corporate sponsorship and with a payroll that is still only 50 (” I worry if we’re getting bloated”) is remarkable.


“Broadcasting House” is one of my favourite radio programmes and I always make time for it. (0900 every Sunday on BBC Radio 4, if you haven’t got into it yet)

Time was a central theme in one of the first items last Sunday, 13 Feb. A character’s obsession with “the quickening pace of time”, as he grows older, is the central theme of a stop-motion film “The Eagleman Stag”, a 9-minute short nominated for a BAFTA in the “short animation” category. The film’s director Mikey Please was interviewed; the BBC website tells me that he is a freelance animator who graduated from the Royal College of Art last year [only last year and winning a BAFTA? Impressive!]. He has directed several music videos and title sequences as well as making his own short films.

By the way, through watching the award ceremony later that day I now know that Mikey’s film won the BAFTA. Do the people at the BBC know something that we don’t know? Was his selection as an interviewee a lucky or a smart choice? Or did the editors at “Broadcasting House” have a time machine?

Alvin Toffler

The quickening pace of time as one gets older is, of course, not a new theme. I remember reading Future Shock and The Third Wave, Alvin Toffler’s remarkable books of 1973 and1981 respectively. Toffler was very interesting on this phenomenon. He suggested that one solution was for retirees to live in enclaves where clocks ran slower. He was totally serious, of course. Although I haven’t retired, I qualify, age-wise; I want to move there now.

An anecdotal, non-scientific illustration of the time-speeding-up phenomenon came from the late Tony Curtis, when interviewed in his 80s.

Interviewer: “Could you give us a thumb-nail sketch of your movie career?”

Curtis: “Well, I arrived in Hollywood as a very young man with very little money. So I checked in to the cheapest motel I could find. I had a shower and put on a clean shirt; then I came down here to meet you.”

Which proves the point rather neatly.

Stop-motion and “The Wind in the Willows”

Back to that interview about animated film “The Eagleman Stag”. Paddy O’Connell, the host of Broadcasting House, said: “from Wallis and Gromit onwards, the UK has a hold on stop-motion”.

I love Wallis and Gromit to bits (and I live in Bristol, where Aardman Animations is based), but I really must dispute the idea that the UK’s hold on stop-motion started with them. Paddy is maybe too young to remember, or he didn’t have young children in the 80s, as I did, but in 1983 there was a wonderful feature film version of “the Wind in the Willows”, followed by more than one TV series. They were produced by Cosgrove Hall and voiced by wonderful British character actors such as David Jason and Michael Hordern. Both the feature film and the TV series were, according to good old Wikipedia, “sometimes misidentified as being filmed in claymation, which is incorrect. The method used by Cosgrove Hall is a stop-motion animation process using scale model sets and pose-able character figurines.”

Best version

A review of the 1983 feature, on Amazon, says: “Before it became a Wallace-and-Gromit ghetto, model animation was pioneered by Cosgrove Hall – and this is arguably their magnum opus. Beautifully produced, lovingly detailed, with a great vocal cast and classy score, it has the nerve to stick closely to the book. As a result it is the best screen version by miles and, in my opinion, likely to remain so.” To which I can only say “hear, hear!”