Football’s left home and doesn’t look like it’s coming back

April 27, 2014

There are just 45 days to go until the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Any list of favourites will surely include Brazil, Spain, Italy, Argentina and Germany. England are not on many pundits’ lists. Why does the country which gave the world football as we know it, not considered a serious candidate? This is normally fodder for the sports pages, but I recently heard an academic analysing this issue. Anthony King, Professor of Sociology at the University of Exeter recently appeared on BBC Radio 4’s Thinking Allowed to give sociological perspective on the English national team’s repeated failures at international competitions. He looks at five different causes of the English malaise:

1) The FA

By dint of being the first national football federation of its kind, English football’s governing body has the kudos of being called the Football Association (FA). However, being first does not mean that you have a God-given right to success. King is particularly damning in his criticism of the FA:

“… but there is a clear pattern throughout FA’s post-war history, accelerating in the last 20 years, of administrative amateurish, inconstancy, inadequacy and even incompetence. The organization has been unable to administer the national team effectively by appointing, directing and supporting an appropriate England manager. In this way, the FA has contributed to the consistently poor performance of England in international tournaments.”

King argues that the Premier League, which was created in 1992, has undermined the FA’s position. He believes that we need a more centralised system like they have in France and Germany. He may be right, but given what he says about the amateurish nature of the FA, would they be the right people to wield all this power?

2) The managers

King looks at the perennial problem of finding English-born managers of international standard, a problem which seems to have got worse over the last twenty years. Traditionally managers were chosen from the First Division with Alf Ramsey, Don Revie,            Ron Greenwood and Bobby Robson being chosen in this way. But even in this period there were a lot of managers from Scotland Matt Busby, Bill Shankly, Alex Ferguson and Kenny Dalglish were all born and raised in a small area of Glasgow. Given the limited talent pool the FA have sought talent abroad, the first being Sven Goran Eriksson in 2000. However, these foreign managers have failed to bring the desired results. This is particularly so in the case of Capello, a consummate professional with a fantastic record in international club football. What went wrong? It might be the language or maybe he wasn’t attuned to English sensibilities. It will be interesting to see how he does with Russia. While the FA could appoint a Swede, an Italian and in one failed attempt a Brazilian, it would be impossible to have a Scotsman at the helm.

For me the greatest injustice was not appointing Brian Clough, who did not fit in the profile the FA is looking for. We do not know if he would have been successful, but he was a man with u unique footballing brain capable of winning two European Cups with Nottingham Forest. He may have a drink problem, but give me a drunken Clough over a sober Taylor or McClaren any day of the week.

3) The media

The British media, or more particularly the tabloid press, are another key factor. The Leveson Inquiry was not about football, but the kind of behaviour that tabloid journalists engage in was very much relevant in football. The papers have been especially brutal with the figure of the England manager. It’s easier to remember Graham Taylor being pilloried by The Sun after England were knocked out the 1992 European Championships in the qualifying stages by Sweden: “Swedes 2 Turnips 1.” The front page, which featured a large photograph of Taylor’s head half-transformed into a turnip, was accompanied by this headline: “That’s your allotment; turnip Taylor turns up his toes”. When England failed to reach the finals of the same tournament in 2008 Steve McClaren became “the wally with the brolly“. Bobby Robson, who was the last manager to take England to a World Cup semi-final, was often treated very harshly between 1982 and 1990.  Dubbed “Plonker” by the Sun, Robson was very unpopular after a disastrous 1988 European championship, in which they went home after losing all three matches. Later that same year they could only manage a draw with Saudi Arabia in a friendly match and the knives were out Robson. The Mirror’s headline was “Go, In The Name Of Allah, Go”, while the Sun went with “England Mustafa New Boss”.

Capello was “the prat in the hat”. The current incumbent Roy Hodgson’s speech impediment was the cause to lampoon him: “Bwing on the Euwos! (We’ll see you in Ukwaine against Fwance)”.

This could be seen as a bit of harmless fun, but there are other more egregious examples of press activity. Sven Goran Eriksson, whose phone was hacked into by the News of the World and the Mirror, was also the victim of a sting operation, in which the Swede was filmed having a meeting with an individual, impersonating a wealthy Arab sheikh who claimed he was going to buy Aston Villa and wanted to hire Eriksson as its manager. His private life was also subject to relentless scrutiny. A serious candidate for the England position has to think long and hard whether it is worth submitting yourself to this kind of attention.

4) The players

For me the principal problem with the England team is the players. Here I totally agree with King. I am a believer in free trade and competition. I don’t buy the idea that the players are being blighted by the competition from foreign players. Maybe they are just not good enough. It is undoubtedly true that the Bosman ruling has facilitated a massive influx of foreign players in English clubs. However it has not stopped English footballers plying their trade abroad. British players can play in any EU league. The problem is that English players have been incapable of taking advantage of the opportunities afforded by Bosman. They were alone in all the teams in the 2012 European Championship to field a squad in which no one played in a foreign league.

It is true that British players don’t tend to travel very well. King cites that infamous Ian Rush quote after he had failed to set the world on fire at Juventus at the end of the 1980s:

It was like living in a foreign country”.

Michael Owen could not get into the Spanish way of life during his brief sojourn at Real Madrid:

“I missed my family, my house, my old team mates, the golfing, my dogs, the whole English package, even the rain.”

It is easy to poke fun at the insularity of these two players, but there is little evidence that globalisation and multiculturalism have had any significant impact on this provincialism. The FA and the clubs show no interest in teaching them foreign languages, even though many of their teammates speak French, Italian, Spanish or German. King also cites the work of Kuper and Szymanski who identify the low level of education of English footballers as a critical reason for the national team’s failure. They note that most English footballers leave school at 16 with almost no qualifications. the clubs’ academies actively discourage education; ‘all the boys we met there, bright or otherwise, were sent to do the same single GNVQ [General National Vocational Qualification] in Leisure and Tourism to fulfil the academy’s minimum education requirement’ Even the slave drivers of Barcelona’s infamous La Masia sweatshop encourage their players to get an education.

5) The fans

King refers to the writing of Brian Glanville, who argued that British fans had a certain animosity to skill, preferring a fast pace and determination. What seems to have happened in recent years is a king of resigned fatalism. It is an attitude reflected in the song Football’s Coming Home by David Baddiel and Frank Skinner. Thirty years of hurt is now fast approaching the half century. Yet, there is something strangely comforting in identifying with failure, a point I covered in my post about baseball.


This stoicism is probably more realistic. However, it fails to address the technical shortcomings. I am not sure King has added very much to the debate. Any solutions will have to be long-term and there is no guarantee of success. There are other sports where you can throw money at the problem and you can achieve immediate results. Football is just so competitive and there is only one team who will win the World Cup. I certainly never foresaw Spain’s recent run of success. I probably could have written a similar article 45 days before the 2008 Euros explaining why Spain were underachievers and all the things wrong with Spanish football. What I do think is that the FA could do a better job. And English players should take advantage of the opportunities that the Bosman ruling has provided. I would love if England did win it. This would mean that my two countries would have won the last two tournaments. If not, we’ll always have 1966.

Top Ten England National Football Songs Ever

April 27, 2014

A treat for all you music lovers.

Tattoos: from Özti the Iceman to David Beckham

April 19, 2014

Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put marks on yourselves. Leviticus, 19:28

Tattoos are like stories – they’re symbolic of the important moments in your life. Sitting down, talking about where you got each tattoo and what it symbolizes, is really beautiful.Pamela Anderson

My body is my journal, and my tattoos are my story. Johnny Depp


There is no doubt that tattoos have become more mainstream in the last decade or two, becoming perfectly acceptable among both women and the middle classes. Before this they had traditionally been associated with men – sailors, lorry drivers and criminals. Celebrities such as Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan and David Beckham are all famous for having being inked. Yet, you might be surprised by some historical figures who bore tattoos. Czar Nicholas II, Thomas Edison, Dorothy Parker and George Orwell are all reputed to have had them. When England’s Harold II was killed at the Battle of Hastings in 1066, his allies were able to identify his body using a tattoo.

The word “tattoo” is actually Tahitian in origin, meaning to mark. The first written reference to the word, “‘tattaw ” appears in the journal of Joseph Banks, the naturalist aboard Captain Cook’s ship the HMS Endeavour, in 1769. Tattaw may well be an onomatopoeic word. ‘Tat’ refers to tapping the tattooing instrument into the skin; ‘aw’ to the cry of pain from the person being tattooed.

The birthplace of the tattoo will never be known, but the practise goes back a long way. In 1991 Özti the Iceman, a 5,000-year-old hunter was found between Austria and Italy. Discovered in a glacier, the remains were so well preserved that scientists were able to make out 57 different tattoos on his body, including a cross on the inside of the left knee, six straight lines 15cm above the kidneys and a series of parallel lines on the ankles. The positions of the tattoos, which correspond to the position of acupuncture points, suggest a possible therapeutic use. Egyptian mummies dating back to 2000 BC have also been found with tattoos. In ancient Greece, spies used tattooing as a form of communication, while the ancient Romans tattooed slaves and criminals and some early Nordic people bore tattoos of their family crests. The Chinese, Japanese, and many African peoples also used this type of decoration on their skins. Tattoos are and have been a human universal.

I was looking to get an idea of this phenomenon in the contemporary world and the best information I was able to find were these statistics from the reputed Pew Institute about tattoos in the United States:

Tattoo Statistics

Annual amount of U.S. spending on tattoos $1.65 Billion
Total percent of Americans (all ages) who have at least one tattoo 14 %
Percentage of U.S. adults 18 – 25 who have at least one tattoo 36 %
Percentage of U.S. adults 26 – 40 who have at least one tattoo 40 %
Total number of Americans that have at least one tattoo 45 million
Number of tattoo parlours in the U.S. 21,000
Average cost of a small tattoo $ 45
Average cost of a large tattoo $150 / hour
Percentage of U.S. population who have covered up a tattoo with another tattoo 5 %
Percentage of people with tattoos who claim they are addicted to ink 32 %
Percentage of people who have some regret after getting their tattoo 17 %
Percentage of people with a tattoo who are getting or have had one removed 11 %
Factors Considered When Getting A Tattoo
Percentage of people with tattoos who think the reputation of tattoo artist or tattoo studio is the most important factor 49 %
Percentage of people with tattoos who think price is the most important factor 8 %
Percentage of people with tattoos who think a tattoo with a personal meaning is the most important factor 43 %
How People Feel About Their Tattoo
Total percentage of people with tattoos who say their tattoo makes them feel rebellious 29 %
Percentage of people with a tattoo that say it makes them feel more sexy 31 %
Percentage of people with tattoos who say their tattoo makes them feel more intelligent 5 %

I am going to look at the effects of sporting a tattoo. Is having one an obstacle to a professional career? According to Forbes Magazine companies are embracing diversity. And what they are really interested is in hiring the best person for the job. Nevertheless, a 2011 study by CareerBuilder shows that 31% of surveyed employers ranked “having a visible tattoo” as the top personal attribute that would dissuade them from promoting an employee. We also need to consider the social connotations of some tattoos. Lower-back tattoos, pejoratively referred to as tramp stamps or slag tags, are a form of body art that became popular among women in the 2000s are usually associated with low-rise jeans and crop tops. These negative perceptions, undoubtedly tinged with sexism, are very widespread. In 2008 Alex Blimes made these outrageous generalisations in the Daily Mail:

Show me a girl with a tattoo and I’ll show you a girl who spends far too much time looking at paparazzi pictures of starlets falling out of minicabs, updating her Facebook page and voting via text message in television talent shows“.

Celebrities are an important element in the rise and rise of the tattoo. Of course we do not know how much they are behind it and how much they are merely reflecting societal change. What cannot be denied is that they are often prone to ill-advised body decoration, often some vacuous Eastern philosophy. A few years back Marina Hyde did her top ten of dodgy celebrity tattoos:

10. Eminem’s stomach tattoo of divorced wife Kimberly Anne Scott’s open grave above the words “Rot in Pieces”*

9. Robbie Williams’s “Elvis, Grant Me Serenity”

8. The paw prints on rapper Eve’s breasts

7. Billy Bob Thornton’s “Remember the Alamo”

6. Kerry Katona’s Winnie the Pooh and honeypot

5. Lachlan and James Murdoch’s faux-tribal effort

4. Janet Jackson’s copulating Mickey and Minnie Mouse

3. Britney Spears and Kevin Federline’s matching pairs of pink and blue dice

2. James Brown’s eyebrows

1. David Beckham’s Hindi triumph, “Vihctoria”

Many celebrities later regret their impulsiveness. Angelina Jolie spoke from bitter experience after her divorce from Billy Bob Thornton: “I’ll never be stupid enough to have a man’s name tattooed on me again.” Pamela Anderson had Tommy, in honour of the Mötley Crüe drummer Tommy Lee Bass, tattooed on her wedding ring finger. When the marriage hit the rocks, she had the tattoo modified to read “Mommy.” Johnny Depp commemorated his break-up with Winona Ryder by changing his “Winona Forever” tattoo into “Wino Forever.”

But sometimes you can’t do what Pamela and Johnny did. You have to actually remove them. This is currently quite a complicated process and so think before you ink is sound advice. Until the beginning of the 1990s a tattoo would have to be cut out, leaving a scar. If the tattoo was large, more drastic techniques were called for – a skin graft or superficial burning techniques. The results were not generally pleasing on the eye and they often left residual tattoo. Then came laser, which revolutionised the process. Nevertheless, tattoo removal is expensive because, although the cost of a single procedure is similar to actually getting a tattoo, you need far more sessions. I heard one dermatologist saying that on average after 15 treatments only 75% of tattoos are cleared. In the future there may well be more efficient techniques. One such treatment is known as picosecond technology. It may be more expensive, but it can often get results in just three or four sessions. So some clinics are saying you can now ink before think.

However, I don’t think I’ll be rushing out to get a snake above my butt crack or on any other part of my body. I don’t do body decoration. I have never had anything pierced. Nor do I wear any jewellery; I wore my wedding ring on the day I got married, but off it came the next day and I haven’t worn it since.  Each to his own. I don’t find them attractive in any way, but I refuse to use this as a proxy for classism or sexism.

* They would later remarry but it only lasted four months. I’m sure nobody saw that divorce coming.

Tattoo trivia

April 19, 2014

Here is some more trivia I found on the web while he was researching this week’s post:

Tattoo enthusiasts may refer to tattoos as “ink”, “pieces”, “skin art”, “tattoo art”, “tats”, or “work”; to the creators as “tattoo artists”, “tattooers”, or “tattooists”; and to places where they work as “tattoo shops”, “tattoo studios”, or “tattoo parlors”.

First-time receivers of a tattoo are known to tattooers as “Freshcuts.”

The Japanese word irezumi means “insertion of ink” and can mean tattoos using tebori, the traditional Japanese hand method, a Western-style machine, or for that matter, any method of tattooing using insertion of ink. The most common word used for traditional Japanese tattoo designs is Horimono. Japanese may use the word “tattoo” to mean non-Japanese styles of tattooing.

Anthropologist Ling Roth in 1900 described four methods of skin marking and suggested they be differentiated under the names “tatu”, “moko”, “cicatrix”, and “keloid”.

Early Christians often had the sign of the cross tattooed on their bodies, particularly their face or arms. Such tattoos were seen as a permanent mark of the believer’s faith. However, around AD 325 the Emperor Constantine outlawed tattooing of the face because he believed that the face was in God’s image and should not be disfigured. In AD 787, a council of churches renounced all forms of tattooing and sealed the fate of the practice in the eyes of the Christian church once and for all.

The severity of pain experienced when being tattooed depends on the location of the tattoo. The most painful areas are those where the skin is very close to the bone, such as the ankles, elbows and knees. It is less painful to be tattooed on more fleshy areas such as the chest or upper arms. Pain was an important part of tattooing for Polynesian societies. In Tahiti, the chief’s son was watched closely as he was tattooed for signs of pain. In Samoa, it was often said that tattooing was the equivalent for men of the great pain a woman endured when giving birth.

In the late-18th and early-19th centuries collecting tattooed Maori heads became so popular in Europe that many Maoris were murdered to supply the trade. The Maori people in New Zealand tattooed their heads (moko) and buttocks by chiselling a design into the skin and rubbing ink into it. If one of their chiefs died, they would remove and preserve the tattooed head, keeping it as a treasured possession. Europeans considered these heads to be curiosities and before long a trade sprang up, with the Maori exchanging heads for firearms. Soon the Maori began to trade the heads of their enemies killed in battle, but when demand started to exceed supply, men began to be murdered in cold blood for their tattoos. In some cases, slaves were tattooed so that their heads could be cut off and sold. In 1831 Governor Darling of New South Wales took steps to outlaw the practice.

Lucky Diamond Rich of New Zealand is the most tattooed person in the world, and after running out of space, has started putting lighter tattoos on top of the darker ones, and vice versa.

The longest tattoo session lasted for 50 hours and 10 minutes was achieved by Dave Fleet who tattooed James Llewellyn (both UK) at the Grosvenor Casino, Cardiff Bay, UK, on 27-29 October 2011.

Dave runs Abracadabra parlour in Blackwood. James had tattoos of of scenes from the Bible and classic works of literature, including designs on both legs based on The Fall of Man, described in John Milton’s poem ‘Paradise Lost.’ They raised £2,300 for Cancer Research Wales.

The world’s most tattooed person is Tom Leppard from the Isle of Skye, Scotland, who has 99.9 per cent of his body covered with a leopard-skin design. Guinness World Records states that the only parts of Tom’s body that remain untattooed are the skin between his toes and the insides of his ears.

73 year old Isobel Valley, the world’s most tattooed women, has every square inch of her body tattooed, except her face, and also has fifty piercings, 15 of which are visible. The majority of the piercings are below the belt because she wants to jingle when she walks, she says.

A pig tattooed on one foot and a rooster on the other were said to protect a seaman from drowning. Neither animal can swim and it was thought they would help get the sailor swiftly to shore if he fell into the water.

Other popular tattoos amongst sailors are also attributed with particular meanings:

A full-rigged ship shows the seaman has sailed round Cape Horn

An anchor indicates he has sailed the Atlantic Ocean

A dragon denotes that the bearer has served on a China station

A shellback turtle shows the sailor has crossed the Equator

‘Hold’ tattooed on the knuckles of one hand and ‘fast’ on the other were said to allow the bearer to grip the rigging better.

Urine was sometimes used to mix the colouring matter of early tattoos. Early colouring materials for tattoos included soot or ink for blue-black and brick dust for reds. To work, these needed to be bound together by a mixing agent. Often the tattooist used his own spittle to mix the colour but occasionally urine was used instead. Until 1891, when the first electric tattooing machine was patented by Tom Riley, all colours were applied by hand. Early tattooing tools were rather like pen holders with a number of needles set into them. The tattooing machine is based on the design of the doorbell. The quick poking action of a tattooing machine, which injects the ink into the skin, is driven by an electric circuit very similar to that which operates the household doorbell. Modern tattoo artists work with a number of tattooing machines, each reserved to inject a different colour. The number of needles set in the machine and their fineness depends on what the machine is being used for. Finer needles are used for outlines, while coarser needles are used for filling in or for shading.

Digital photography and the age of narcissism

April 6, 2014

The Metropolitan Police are to replace safety cameras with Japanese tourists. The Commissioner said “There’s already a Japanese tourist taking a picture on every street in London, sometimes more than one. They’re low-maintenance, polite, reliable and already there. From in 2007

This satirical piece reflects a widely held stereotype about Japanese tourists. However, I would argue that we are all Japanese now. In the digital era we are all photographers. It’s all a far cry from the mid 1820s when Joseph Nicéphore Niépce took the first permanent photograph. It certainly wasn’t point and shoot; the exposure time was about 8 hours! For many years photography was the preserve of the wealthy. The kit was very expensive, and unless you could afford to have a darkroom in your house, you had to pay for printing. It was Kodak that did much to popularise photography, making it affordable for the masses. But it has been the digital revolution that really has really transformed our behaviour. Kodak, which did so much to democratise the taking of pictures, was a victim of the creative destruction that capitalism is wont to wreak, although reports of its death are greatly exaggerated – bankruptcy is not the same as disappearance.

Nowadays there is virtually no cost to taking thousands of pictures. Before when film was expensive and it to be developed people would be more selective. You wouldn’t take a picture of a plate of meatballs. Actually, that’s not strictly true. I remember my wife complaining on our honeymoon in Thailand that I was taking more photos of the food than of her!

The digital revolution then has led to a massive increase in the number of photos we take. We hear those factoids like 10% of all the photographs in the world were taken in the last 12 months or that there are 10,000 times as many photographs on Facebook as there are in the US Library of Congress.

What are the effects of this frenetic activity? We now take so many photos that we probably never see most of them again. I do get the impression that some people are more interested in taking the photograph than actually living the experience. I don’t see the point of taking a picture of a work of art. There are even studies that those who take pictures of them actually remember less of what they saw. Sometimes it feels that if the event isn’t captured on camera, it hasn’t taken place.

The digital revolution has given us a number of new words. One obvious example is the use of photoshop as a verb meaning to alter a digital image with Photoshop or another image-editing software designed to distort reality often for deliberately deceptive purposes. The camera never lies has become a meaningless expression. In the past airbrushing photographs was something done by governments. Now though it has become available for the masses.

Adobe are none too pleased about this development and issued a press release a few years ago:

The Photoshop trademark must never be used as a common verb or as a noun. The Photoshop trademark should always be capitalized and should never be used in possessive form or as a slang term. It should be used as an adjective to describe the product and should never be used in abbreviated form. The following examples illustrate these rules:

Trademarks are not verbs.

Correct: The image was enhanced using Adobe® Photoshop® software.

Incorrect: The image was photoshopped.

Trademarks are not nouns.

Correct: The image pokes fun at the Senator.

Incorrect: The photoshop pokes fun at the Senator.

Trademarks must never be used as slang terms.

Correct: Those who use Adobe® Photoshop® software to manipulate images as a hobby see their work as an art form.

Incorrect: A photoshopper sees his hobby as an art form.

Incorrect: My hobby is photoshopping.

But there is another word which totally captures the zeitgeist of the era of digital photography. I have a feature in my blog where I make a selection of neologisms from the Wordspy website. In February last year I featured selfie. I had no idea what would happen with the word. Last year it was the OED’s word of the year. Events like Nelson Mandela’s funeral and this year’s Oscars have catapulted it into public consciousness. It has even come into Spanish. According to Wordspy the first citation back to 2002. And in 2010 the term ugly selfie, a deliberately unattractive photographic self-portrait, was coined.

The selfie has become the symbol of the age of digital narcissism. The media used to about taking people into fictional worlds, often of the rich and famous. Then it all changed. In the 1990s we got reality television, which showed “ordinary” people on 24 hours a day. But with social media we can now all broadcast our lives. Of course most social media users are not narcissistic. However, there is no doubt that it is a golden age to be a narcissist. Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, a professor of business psychology at University College London characterised our age thus:

Yet, social media is to narcissists what crack is to crack addicts: the more narcissistic you are, the heavier your social media use is. Indeed, scientific studies have shown that the number of status updates, attractive selfies, check-ins, followers and friends, are all positively correlated with narcissism, as is the tendency to accept invites from strangers, particularly when they are attractive. The reason for these correlations is that narcissistic individuals are much more likely to use social media to portray a desirable, albeit unrealistic, self-image, accumulate virtual friends and broadcast their life to an audience. Klout* is a better measure of narcissism than of social reach.”

So this is my quick tour of the world of digital photography. What conclusions have I come to? As I said I am generally positive about this brave new world. It’s great that photography is not restricted to the well-off. And is it so bad that we are the protagonists of Life: The Movie? Having said that, I do think that it is a revolution that has passed me by. I don’t have a camera and my mobile doesn’t take photos. Maybe it’s a reaction against the ubiquity of photography. But I do have a blog, and so I’m all in favour of allowing people to express themselves in the way they choose.


* From Wikipedia: Klout is a website and mobile app that uses social media analytics to rank its users according to online social influence via the “Klout Score”, which is a numerical value between 1 and 100. In determining the user score, Klout measures the size of a user’s social media network and correlates the content created to measure how other users interact with that content Klout launched in 2008

Photography trivia

April 6, 2014

To avoid being caught on film by a speed camera, you would have to be travelling at

28,000 miles per hour.

The first aerial photograph was taken from a balloon during the Civil War.

The Loch Ness Monster – Then, in 1934, a photograph allegedly taken by a British surgeon named Robert Wilson presented the image of a huge animal with a long neck This supposed “evidence” fueled the argument for Nessie’s existence, but a relative of Wilson’s, Marmaduke Wetherell, confessed on his deathbed that the photograph was a fake, admitting that it was a photograph of clay mounted on top of a toy submarine and that Wilson didn’t even take it

The most expensive camera ever sold was a rare 1923 Leica camera, which went for $2.8 million at auction in Vienna.

The largest photographs in the world are made by stitching smaller images together. The largest seamless photograph in the world is of a control tower and runways at the US Marin Corps Air Station in El Toro, Orange County, California. It measure 32 feet high and 11 feet wide. It was taken in a decommissioned jet hanger, which was turned into a giant pinhole camera. The ‘film’ was a 32 feet x 111 feet piece of white fabric covered in 20 gallons of light-sensitive emulsion. The fabric was exposed to the outside image for 35 minutes. Print washing the image was done with hire hoses connected to two fire hydrants.

The first photo to be uploaded on the World Wide Web was of an all-girl parody pop group called Les Horribles Cernettes (“The Horrible CERN Girls”)). It was uploaded on the web in 1992. The initials of their name, LHC, are the same as those of the Large Hadron Collider which was later built at CERN.

Cameras and guns share a common history – in the early days of cameras being manufactured, some dry plate cameras were explicitly modelled on Colt revolver mechanisms, and the design of cinema cameras was modelled on machine guns. Closer still, when William Walker and George Eastman of Kodak developed a new paper negative, it used guncotton. This was expanded upon by a French inventor who created a gelatinised guncotton that could be cut into trips, which in turn permitted the first modern smokeless fun powder. Later on, amyl acetate was added to this, as well as nitroglycerine and acetone. So essentially, at the time, cameras and guns both contained the same sort of chemicals in their cartridge.

There are 12 Hasselblad cameras on the surface of the moon. They were left there after the moon landings to allow for the extra weight of the lunar rock samples to be brought back.

Amusing photographs of cats with captions quickly became (and remained) viral on the internet. Apparently this is nothing new. One of the first photographers of cats in amusing poses was English photographer Harry Pointer during the 1870s. He began his career taking natural pictures of cats, but soon realised that his photography had more success when the cats were in ridiculous poses. He even added captions to the images, such as ‘Happy New Year’, ‘Five o clock Tea’ and ‘Bring up the dinner Betsy’ as he found this made the images more successful still.

The largest collection of cameras in the world is held by Dilish Parekh of Mumbai, India. He has a collection of 4,425 antique cameras which he has been collecting since 1977.

Also in 1839, the term “photography” was coined by Sir John Frederick William Herschel, a British mathematician and astronomer (side note: his father, Sir Frederick William Herschel, also a famous astronomer, discovered the planet Uranus!)

Finally in the UK it’s “Say cheese”, but this is what they say in other countries to get people to smile:

In Bulgaria, “Zele”, meaning “Cabbage”

In Brazil the phrase is “Olha o passarinho” (“Look at the little bird”) or “Digam ‘X'” (“Say ‘X'”) (the name of the letter “X” in Portuguese sounds a lot like the word “cheese”).

In China, the word used is 茄子, meaning “eggplant”. The pronunciation of this word is notably similar to that of the English word “cheese”.

In Croatia, the word used is “ptičica”, meaning “little bird”

In Czech Republic, the word used is “sýr”, meaning cheese in Czech.”

In Denmark, “Sig ‘appelsin'”, meaning “Say ‘orange'” is often used.

In Finland, “Muikku” is the word often used by photographers to make people smile.

In France and other French-speaking countries, the word “ouistiti,” meaning marmoset, is often used.

In Germany, food-related words like “Spaghetti”, “Käsekuchen” (cheesecake), Wurst are used, mainly to make children laugh for the picture.

In Hungary, the photographer says Itt repül a kis madár [here flies the little bird], but also the English “cheese” is used mostly by younger people.

In India, they say “paneer” (Hindi: पनीर).

In Iran, the word used is سیب (saib), meaning “Apple.”

In Israel, the word used is תגיד גבינה (Tagid Gvina), meaning “say cheese”.

In Japan, “Sei, No…” meaning “Ready, Set!” is often used. Also チーズ (chïzu), meaning cheese, is used.

In Vietnam, they often say “2…3…Cười lên nào!!!”.

In Korea, one says “kimchi”.

In most Latin American countries, the phrase used is “Diga ‘whiskey'” (“Say ‘whiskey'”).

In Nigeria many photographers prompt the subjects of their photographs to say “Ode” which can be translated to mean “dumb person”

In Russia, they say “сыр”, pronounced seer, which means “cheese” in Russian. The pronunciation is extended, to lengthen the time the “smile” is on the face.

In Serbia, the word used is “птичица” meaning “Little bird”.

In Slovakia, the word used is “syr”, meaning cheese in Slovak. The pronunciation is extended, to lengthen the time the “smile” is on the face.”

In Spain, the equivalent form is “di/decid patata” (“say potato”). An alternative command when taking a picture is “mirar al pajarito” (“look at the birdie”), intended to make people look directly at the camera.

In Sweden, “Säg ‘omelett'”, meaning “Say ‘omelette'” is often used.

In Turkey, “Peynir”, which means cheese, is often used.