To mark the Guardian’s bicentenary, we are running a competition for readers. We have selected six stories that have appeared over the past 200 years. There is a link between them, but just to make it a little spicier we will not be telling you what that link is.
The first five stories were reprinted in the Guardian on 7, 14, 21 and 28 May, and on 4 June. The final one is below along with the other five alongside a form for entries. You must guess the date that each of the stories appeared. The first 10 randomly chosen readers who correctly identify the dates (or got closest to them) will receive prizes, including a ticket to a Guardian Masterclass of your choice, a ticket to a Guardian Live event of your choice, and merchandise packs of commemorative gifts to mark the 200th anniversary. All entries will need to be received by 2 July. The results and a list of winners will appear on 16 July. If more than 10 people get all six right, the winning names will be drawn from a hat (possibly metaphorical).
Here is the sixth and last story, along with the other five. All entries will need to be received by 2 July. The results and a list of winners will appear on the website on 16 July. Good luck!
The ghost of Truro
During the last week, the inhabitants of Truro have been amused, astonished or alarmed, according to the different degrees of nerve and judgment possessed by each, by the mischievous freaks of a ghost, whose pranks have excited no small degree of interest; and which has hitherto eluded every attempt to discover its retreat, or detect it in the exercise of its vagaries, though numbers of persons have been on the watch for that purpose.
Near Carelew Street, a part of the town lately built, a house has been hired as a depot, in which the arms of the militia regiment of Royal Miners are deposited. On the evening of Wednesday se’nnight, the person who resides in a part of this house, and who takes care of the arms, was alarmed by the breaking of the windows. He ran to the door, but could not discover the spot from whence the stones proceeded. Still the missiles continued to fly at intervals, and several panes of glass were demolished, not only in the depot but in the adjoining house, which is inhabited by the sergeant-major of the regiment, named Candy.
This continued for some time, and the affrighted armourer and sergeant-major applied to the officers resident in the town, who repaired to the spot. But though they saw the stones strike the houses and break the windows, and were occasionally struck themselves, every attempt to discover the person who threw them, or the precise spot from whence they came, was unavailing.
This continued through the night, and the people in the neighbourhood insisted that the stones were directed by no mortal hand. At length the Mayor was applied to, who, with the active constables of the parish of Kenwyn, Messrs Clemence and Brown, hastened to the place, accompanied by numbers, eager to witness the proceedings.
The scene of attack was now changed from the front to the rear of the houses, and thought the stones continued to fly, and the civil power was on the alert, and the scouts were sent out in all directions, no discovery was made. The ghost appeared to enjoy the confusion it had excited, for both his Worship and his assistants were struck with stone whilst endeavouring to unravel the mystery.
After the activity of the scouts and the ingenuity of the constables were exhausted, sentinels were placed at various points; some of the cavalry in the barracks which adjoin the spot were engaged to assist, and the magistrate and constables withdrew. Still no detection took place, though the stones continued to be thrown occasionally, and in utter hopelessness of wearying the invisible assailant, the windows of both houses were barricadoed on the outside with boards.
As the sport has been so long continued, we should think it very probable that the ghost will overact its part, so as finally to lead to detection. At all events, it appears to be susceptible of fatigue, for its attacks are only resumed at intervals, and but one stone is flung at a time.
The houses attacked are open both at the front and rear. On the one side are several newly built and uninhabited houses, and on the other are the barracks, from which two troops of the 16th Lancers have marched this week. None of the adjoining premises have as yet been attacked. More recent accounts state that the stones still continue to be thrown; and every effort to detect the offender has hitherto been fruitless.
A recap of the first five stories
Article one from 7 May: Norway takes a pointless record
Britain won the Eurovision Song Contest with a song originally written to cheer up the Samaritans. Ireland, which has won four times in five years, was runner-up and relieved. Turkey, a 100-1 outsider, came third with a subliminal belly dance so good that even Greece voted for it.
Norway scored nil points for the fourth time; this is a world record. It was, said Terry Wogan, the kind of song during which you began to notice the set. As Harry Cohn, the Hollywood mogul, once told his set designer: “If they start noticing the fireplace, we’re fucked.” However, in the spirit of our song, We’re All Gonna Shine A light Together, let’s give everyone a prize. Here are the results of the Nancy jury:
• Best pigtail on a baldie: Italy
• Most boring costume colour: black. After two black hours, I would have voted for anything in pink knickers.
• Most gifted musician: the man playing a bunch of grapes for Greece.
• Best, indeed only, glimpse of knickerbockers on a conductor: Sweden.
• Jolliest fat lady by a long chalk: Russia.
• The Poirot award for the most Gallic moustache: France.
• The George Robey Chuckle Cup for a comic song: Denmark. The singer – who, judging by his trousers was a bit of a wag – was in love with directory enquiries.
• The Golden Backscratcher for favours given and received. Winners: Greece and Cyprus, who awarded each other 12 points. Runners-up: Russia and Slovenia.
• The Bunch of Bastards award for only giving us one point: Malta.
• The Miss Whiplash award for doing the splits while wearing black PVC corsets: Iceland. This blondes-in-boots erotic routine was the last song and we all thought we’d dropped off. “Are you sure”, said Wogan, “this isn’t Channel 4?” Curiously the song (“I Walked the Wide and Golden Road Blinded by Love”) gave no hint of the PVC corsets, and therefore qualifies for the Surely Something Lost in Translation award.
I was impressed to see that Jerry Hayes, so recently booted out of Harlow, had got himself another job as technical coordinator at RTE. An example to us all.
Germany’s singer was Bianca from EastEnders, and Bosnia-Herzogovina’s was Alma from Coronation Street. Look, if you want facts, read the football results. “Colin Berry! It’s his 81st birthday today!” lied Wogan as the veteran British spokesman appeared.
Wogan has been treating the Eurovision Song Contest like Dallas the Musical for 17 years. “A pleasing baritone. Cuts her own hair,” he said, introducing Russia’s diva, Alla Pugacheva. For Wogan, the Chris Who? award.
Article two from 14 May: The absinthe drinker
The Pall Mall Gazette has a curious paper on absinthe drinking in France. The writer says: The indulgence in absinthe which already prevails to a great extent among all classes of Frenchmen threatens to become as widespread in France and as injurious there as opium eating is in China. If a visitor to Paris strolls along the boulevards from the Madeleine to the Bastille some summer’s afternoon between 5 and 6 o’clock – which is commonly called the “hour of absinthe” – he can hardly fail to remark hundreds of Parisians seated outside the various cafes or lounging at the counters of the wine shops and imbibing this insidious stimulant. At particular cafes, the Cafe de Bade for example, out of 50 idlers seated at the little round tables, 45 will be found thus engaged.
But it is not on the boulevards alone that absinthe is the special 5 o’clock beverage. In most of the wine shops in the faubourgs, in the “Quartier Latin”, and round about the Ecole Militaire, you may see at that particular hour workmen, students, soldiers, clerks, charbonniers, chiffoniers even, mixing their customary draughts of emerald-tinted poison and watching the fantastic movements of the fluid as it sinks to the bottom of the glass, wherein it turns from green to an almost milky white, at the moment when the perfumes of the various aromatic plants from which it is distilled disengage themselves.
After the first draught of this poison, which Dr Legrand, who has studied its effects, pronounces to be one of the greatest scourges of our time, you seem to lose your feet, and you mount to a boundless realm without horizon. You probably imagine that you are going in the direction of the infinite, whereas you are simply drifting into the incoherent.
Absinthe affects the brain unlike any other stimulant; it produces neither the heavy drunkenness of beer, the furious inebriation of brandy, nor the exhilarant intoxication of wine. It is an ignoble poison, destroying life not until it has more or less brutalised its votaries, and made drivelling idiots of them.
There are two classes of absinthe drinkers. The one, after becoming accustomed to it for a short time, takes to imbibing it in considerable quantities, when all of a sudden delirium declares itself. The other is more regular, and at the same time more moderate in its libations; but upon them the effects, though necessarily more gradual, are none the less sure.
Absinthe drinkers of the former class are usually noisy and aggressive during the period of intoxication, which, moreover, lasts much longer than drunkenness produced by spirits or wine, and is followed by extreme depression and a sensation of fatigue which is not to be got rid of. After a while the digestive organs become deranged, the appetite continues to diminish until it is altogether lost, and an intense thirst supplies its place.
Now ensues a constant feeling of uneasiness, a painful anxiety, accompanied by sensations of giddiness and tinglings in the ears; and as the day declines hallucinations of sight and hearing begin. A desire of seclusion from friends and acquaintances takes possession of the sufferer, on whose countenance strong marks of disquietude may be seen; his mind is oppressed by a settled melancholy, and his brain affected by the sort of sluggishness which indicates approaching idiocy.
During its more active moments he is continually seeing either some imaginary persecutor from whom he is anxious to escape, or the fancied denunciator of some crime he dreams he has committed. From these phantoms he flies to hide himself, or advances passionately towards them protesting his innocence. At this stage the result is certain, and dissolution is rarely delayed very long.
The symptom that first causes disquiet to the habitual absinthe drinker is a peculiar affection of the muscles, commencing with fitful contractions of the lips and muscles of the face and tremblings in the arms, hands and legs. These are presently accompanied by tinglings, numbness and a distinct loss of physical power; the hair falls off, the countenance becomes wan and sad-looking, the body thin, the skin wrinkled and of a yellowish tinge – everything, in short, indicates marked decline.
Simultaneously with all this, lesion of the brain takes place; sleep becomes more and more disturbed by dreams, nightmares and sudden wakings; ordinary illusions, succeeded by giddiness and headaches, eventually give place to painful hallucinations, to delirium in its most depressing form, hypochondria, and marked impediment of speech. In the end come entire loss of intellect, general paralysis and death.
Paris actually has its clubs of absinthe drinkers, the members of which are pledged to intoxicate themselves with no other stimulant, and even to drink no other fluid – the only pledges, it is believed, which they do not violate. They assemble daily at some appointed place of rendezvous at a certain hour, and proceed to dissipate their energies and their centimes in draughts of that fatal poison which fills the public and private madhouses of Paris.
These absinthe-drinking clubs are certainly not numerous, but liquor shops abound in all quarters of the city where absinthe may be said to be the staple drink; and lately several have sprung up which, to attract the youth of Paris to them, dispense the insidious beverage at the hands of pretty women.
In the French army drinking of absinthe of the cheapest quality, and as a matter of course the most deleterious of all, used to prevail to such an extent that both military and medical commissions were appointed to report upon the practice and the effects resulting from it. The facts that came to light were so alarming that the government not only formally interdicted its consumption, but made every endeavour to keep it beyond the reach of the soldiers.
In Paris and other garrison towns, these efforts were not particularly successful; but it fared hard with any camp followers of expeditionary corps in Algeria, or at Châlons or other parts of France where temporary camps were formed, who chanced to be detected in supplying absinthe to the troops. In the French navy its consumption is rigidly prohibited, not merely to the common seamen, but to the officers as well.
Article three from 21 May: The unwanted artist
In the unemployment figures, which refer only to men and women eligible for state relief, no mention is to be found of the fact that in England today there are increasing thousands of artists who have nothing between them and destitution but the unwanted skill of their hands, and are without even the faint encouragement of a large organisation to put forward their case.
Artists are not a gregarious class, and since few of them belong to organisations of any kind it is impossible to state the actual number of those face to face with distress. Something of its growing magnitude, however, may be guessed from the fact that in London alone over 2,000 young men and women painters and sculptors are being turned out by the schools and colleges of art every year, the bulk of them craftsmen of considerable gifts, well trained in hand and eye, though not so surely equipped for grappling with a world in which people seem no longer to have the mind or the money for pictures or sculpture in their homes.
The only body in England which exists for the purpose of helping artists in distress, the Artists Benevolent Institution, is facing the situation with a disquiet that is easy to understand, since during the past 12 months it has had to draw £2,000 from reserves to help its weaker members over hard times.
Sir William Llewellyn, PRA, the president, at the Institution’s last annual meeting, hinted that a time was coming when art students would have to look in another direction than picture-painting for their living. “People are not buying pictures,” he said simply. “They have other interests.” And though the nation, with scholarships and bursaries, supports the artist while he is a student, when he returns home he returns in most cases now to poverty.
The artist has been attacked from two sides. He is the victim of hard times: once-generous patrons, instead of buying new pictures, are doing their best to sell the old ones already on their walls. He is also in a sense the victim of the modern architect and interior decorator: a world in which more value is demanded for less money has forced them into designing smaller and smaller rooms, in which pictures have little or no place in the scheme of decoration, and a vase of metal flowers on a table made from steel tubing is often the only relief, real or suppositious, in the monotony of bare surfaces.
If there is a picture hung over the fireplace it is more often than not one of those startlingly realistic reproductions of a Van Gogh or a Cézanne, costing only a couple of pounds or so, which the architect has taken as the keynote of his scheme of decoration, and which, like the “clock and ornaments” of the Victorian parlour, is not meant to be added to or subtracted from.
The fashion is all for plain surfaces and few pictures, if any, and as long as the fashion lasts artists will have to look elsewhere for their living. What can be done with these unwanted artists; or, rather, what can they do? For the most part they are young people of taste and a certain standard of technical equipment and discipline. The fact that they have undergone three or four years’ training in a government school at least indicates a certain desire to improve their gifts.
Conversations with the principals of schools of art, with the heads of firms which deal in pictures, fabrics and decorated wares, and with artists themselves disclose a situation that is at once clearly defined and contradictory, at once hopeful and full of despair.
It was suggested to one maker of fine furniture and fabrics that many unemployed artists could be absorbed in the industry by employing them as designers and giving their talents for decoration full scope; or that, failing that, their good taste could be put to profitable use by employing them as buyers of fine fabrics who, in matters of taste and design, would be able to encounter the arguments of the travellers with greater authority.
The answer was: “We have tried experiments of that kind over a period of years, but so far they have met with little success. In fabrics, furniture and pottery the artist, whether he is a designer or merely a buyer, must have an intimate knowledge of materials and technical details of the processes of manufacture, and to acquire this he would have to give himself up to studying them at first hand for three or four years or more. How many artists could afford such time or such study?”
There is, however, a general feeling among teachers who come into close touch with industry that British industrialists are at last waking up to the importance of the artists. At present nothing more definite can be said than there is a “feeling in the air”, and that trades in which design was formerly the smallest item of costing in the manufacture of a new fabric or a new article of furniture are now engaging well-paid designers from the art schools and giving them a free hand to devise what they choose.
The position of the artist at the moment may be described as a between-stage, and he will have to have courage and even more patience if he is to occupy a position in affairs to which he is entitled.
What practical results the forthcoming Design and Industry Exhibition at Olympia will have no one can say, but the mere fact that such an exhibition is being held at all, and that it is the first “trade” exhibition to encourage the artist and the first exhibition in England in which the committee are going to have a free hand, is an indication that industrialists in this country are at last beginning to realise, under pressure of bad times perhaps, that, far from being unable to afford designers and artists, they cannot afford to do without them.
Article four from 28 May: The moving staircase
The moving staircases on the Underground, which began at Earl’s Court and then extended to Paddington and Liverpool Street and Charing Cross, are now being installed at Oxford Circus, and in a short time they will probably be in working order at Baker Street as well.
At Oxford Circus, as at the other stations, they are to replace the lifts altogether, and so far as one can see the present policy of the Underground management is to install them at all busy stations or at any rate at all those where the tube is not too deep down to make the system difficult.
It does not seem, however, to have been realised that these stairways make the use of the tubes impossible for elderly or infirm or even markedly nervous people. A lame person could not use them nor can very many women, especially those over middle age, nor is it likely they can ever learn to.
The lifts, on the other hand, were possible for all, and if the moving stairways were at all generally introduced there would, I think, be a good deal of dissatisfaction. Even for able-bodied people they reduce considerably the possibility of carrying any bulky hand luggage.
Article five from 4 June: Beatles may help newspaper in difficulty
Nicholas de Jongh
Apple, the Beatles’ business company, will today consider whether to give £2,000 to International Times, the underground newspaper. “Something’s got to be done,” Mr Derek Taylor, the Beatles’ spokesman, said last night. But he emphasised that he was only able to make recommendations to the Beatles.
The paper needs the money to cover possible legal expenses of their printers, Sharman’s of Peterborough, which might result from police action. A similar letter has been sent to OZ, another underground newspaper, edited by an Australian, Mr Richard Neville, and also printed by Sharman’s. Mr Neville said yesterday that OZ was unable to send the money, and he did not know whether he would be able to find another printer.
Mr John Sharman said last night that he had sent the letters as a result of legal advice. Two policemen, who did not have any warrant, had visited his works nearly three weeks ago and had seen a copy of OZ, which he was about to print, and the latest issue of International Times. Several changes were subsequently made to OZ, though Mr Sharman denies that this was a result of anything the police had suggested.
Mr Neville said that he objected “on principle” to paying the £2,000 and to the idea of the police being able to look at the magazine before it was published. But legally, even though the police did not have a warrant, there is nothing to stop them from visiting a printing works and asking to enter, although the owner is entitled to refuse admittance.
The police visit to Sharman’s was followed a few days later by the raid on the London office of International Times, when several policemen entered with a warrant under Section 3 of the Obscene Publications Act and confiscated about 2,000 copies of the last six issues, and a number of replies to small advertisements in the newspaper’s columns.
IT says that there has been some criticism of their small advertisement columns, but retort: “We run these ads to bring people together. We check our small ads to see if they’re real.” The editorial board feels that there are numbers of lonely people who can use the column as a method of communication rather than be exploited by more doubtful magazines which charge vast sums of money. The editors say they do not make a running profit from the advertisements – “we regard them as a service”.
If IT is charged under the Obscene Publications Act, it will probably be notified within two or three weeks. Otherwise the police must return all materials which were originally seized, although no record was made of what was taken.
How to enter the competition
You can submit your entry by filling in the form below. Your responses are secure as the form is encrypted and only the Guardian has access to your submission.
The competition closes on Friday 2 July at 9am BST and is open to UK residents aged 18 or over. You can read the terms and conditions here.