"The Turk" was a turbanned, lifesize doll attached to a chessboard; an
automaton that beat Napoleon and Benjamin Franklin. Sold several times,
it was destroyed by fire in Philadelphia but not before Edgar Allan Poe
had written about how it was worked by a hidden man who'd lost his legs
in some European war. Later still, a replica Berlin suburb was built in
the Utah desert with wood from as far as Murmansk, furnished by RKO
Radio Pictures Authenticity Division who also worked on Citizen Kane.
Capital cities aren’t usually twinned but when it rained in Berlin they
sprayed the replica. They bombed and rebuilt it until they found out
which bombs were best. Old German tourists still visit the remains.
London worships its river, giving offerings of bodies and shopping
trolleys in return for a direction, a narrative. Only when it flooded or
froze was it ever mistrusted. Bridges are another matter. In 1212, when
both ends of London Bridge caught light, over 3000 died. Only a dozen or
so people died in the Great Fire which couldn't spread south because the
1633 fire had left a gap in the bridge. Pepys watched from the safety of
a rowing boat. Past St Pauls, down Hart Street there's St Olave's where
Pepys is buried and his chess set's on show. The Great Fire got within a
hundred yards of it before the wind changed, though the church had to be
rebuilt after the Blitz. Mary Ramsay's buried there too. It's said she
brought the Great Plague to London. Perhaps she was the first to die.
Somebody had to be blamed.
Those too lazy to seek explanations will burn their boats and bridges,
create rather than discover. In a 1926 spoof the BBC covered riots
breaking out all over London. In October 1938 New Yorkers thought
Martians had landed thanks to Orson Welles' radio broadcast having no
adverts. Later, they didn't believe reports from Pearl Harbour. In
1946, the Polish magazine "RSK" printed this "mate in 2" problem -
8/2Q5/4k3/8/2NB3K/8/8/8 - submitted by Karol Wojtyla. In February 2004
the Russian Orthodox Church stated that chess is not the work of the
devil. That year in the Moscow thaw they found 3028 bodies.