Wednesday, 29 December 2010

The Maddening, Unregulated Wikipedia

Wikipedia is poisonous because of its many errors and where it is accurate it has simply stripped information out of accredited sources (such as the Encyclopaedia Britannica), in acts of plagiarism and naked piracy. The couple of attempts that I have made to correct errors (e.g. the false assertion that Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch came from Polperro, when he came from Bodmin and was famously associated with Fowey: his grandfather Jonathan Couch lived in Polperro)have been rejected by the editors. As an idea, maybe Wikipedia is a good one but it must have irreducible minimum standards and rigorous threshholds for assessment of accuracy - ah - Jimmy.

Moreover, because of all of the above, Wikipedia does not deserve to be top of the page for every internet search that one makes. Make it accurate and consistent and reliable; otherwise: bin it or ban it.

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Brains and Beauty: Dolores Del Rio

Dolores Del Rio (1905-1983), was a star whose career straddled the silent and the 'talkie' eras and ranged from Hollywood to her native Mexico. She is one of the less remembered stars of the Golden Age of Hollywood.

Monday, 27 December 2010

John Rigby & Co

Here is an excerpt from Book III:
As they say of themselves: “Warranted by monarchs, borne by adventurers”: this firm, founded in Dublin in 1735, is famous for its superlative big game rifles but makes stalking rifles and fabulous shot guns too. It developed a London presence in 1865 and during the 1880s supervised the development of the legendary .303 military rifle at Enfield. Bearing in mind their reputation for dangerous big game guns, they maintain that every part of their guns “…is made as though your life depends on it; as, indeed, it might”. In 1900 they became the agents for Mauser and were behind the development of the Mauser magnum bolt action system, which they are still using. They make single shot stalking rifles, bolt action big game guns and double rifles as either sidelocks or boxlocks. The big game guns come in various calibres: .375 Holland & Holland; .416 Rigby; .450 Rigby; .458 Winchester; .458 Lott and the .500 Jeffrey. The firm’s head office is now based in California.

Monday, 20 December 2010


Across the Board from Doctors to Bankers to Lecturers to Shopkeepers
And Around the Globe

I have learned that there is a serious market for a simple, short, punchy primer called something like 'Better Dressing For Men At Work'. The books that there are and the online 'guidance' lack specificity; everything seems be aimed at a man, of unknown age, with unknown education and qualifications, who does an unknown job, at an unknown level, in some office in London or New York and, for some reason, many people want him to wear brown shoes.

However, nobody is going to want to buy in to a book that covers every other job, level, age and location, as well as his own. Therefore, the primers are going to appear as articles which may be down-loaded from a site (it may be this one or a different one).
The articles will cover:
the whole range of practising professionals, from lawyers to vets and architects and civil engineers, teaching and research academics;
the whole range of bankers, financial dealers, commercial agents, and auctioneers;
the whole range of categories of skilled trades, from tailors and cabinet makers to butchers, chefs, blacksmiths, gunsmiths, goldsmiths;
the whole range of unskilled workers, from shopkeepers to general traders to labourers;
different age groups and the relevance of seniority at work.

And it is not going to delve into history: just down-to-earth, contemporary suggestions, with an eye to appropriate cost, on how to be dressed to the nines, in your particular circumstances, in the office or other workplace, without feeling self-conscious or frightening the horses in the street.

The picture above is included for humour and is not evidence of what is going to be offered!!

But it is not going to start until the New Year. Watch this space. The first offering will be a sample article.

How Top Boots Got Their Tops

Despite the fact that the ape is nearly naked most days (well, it is about 30'C here), it's about time that he started at least talking about getting dressed and if, owing to his normal, general nakedness, it is just all talk, there is no audience to pick up and despair at the clash between his aspiration and his practice. But the material that I have, excess to any publisher's willingness or ability to publish it all, should not be allowed go to waste; for, already:

"Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,
And waste its sweetness on the desert air.

Top boots are hunting boots and are worn by members of the hunt who have earned their colours that is to say the right to wear the hunt's buttons and a coloured hunt coat. Top boots are worn with the coloured frock hunt coat or a black frock hunt coat (both with the hunt buttons). But how did top boots get their tops?

The likeliest explanation is that, once, riding boots reached over the knee at the front, as the above picture of members of the Household Cavalry demonstrates (in their cases, these boots are still like this).

When these boots were worn in the mud and rain they became soiled and so, on entering a house, the wearer would turn the tops down to cover the mud around the tops. This exposed the lighter lining of the boots and, gradually, as boots lost their extended tops, the coloured ornamental tops were adopted as one of the more enduring fashions, echoing the older style.

The second picture shows some splendid top boots in the WS Foster and Henry Maxwell collection. Henry Maxwell has held warrants as bootmaker, from every sovereign since George IV to Elizabeth II, and has always been accredited as one of the very finest bootmakers in the world.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Book III

I have just delivered most of the illustrative plates for Book III and the script should go off tomorrow. As always, a point of relief but also of loss: of letting something go.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Fred Astaire and the scarf around his waistband

Fred Astaire is in the top picture (with Bing Crosby). Astaire is wearing a scarf around his waistband and is often suggested as having introduced this jaunty touch.

But the second picture puts paid to that idea: it is an 1889 Spy cartoon of Hylton 'Punch' Philipson (1866-1935), a renowned sportsman of the time, wearing his Oxford 'Blue' as a scarf around his waist. University, school and club 'colours', especially 'Blues' and their equivalents (London University awards 'Purples')as awards for sporting prowess were once much more sported on the field than they are now and would often be worn as Philipson is wearing his.

Part of the reason for the current absence of 'colours' from the sporting field is that sport has ceased to be played, for the honour of representing an institution or country and for the love of the game and has become Big Business, so that we are forced to watch professional players wearing the logos of the corporations to whom they have sold their souls.

Friday, 17 December 2010

107 Camden Road, London NW1

When I went up to University College London I stayed for my first year in Ifor Evans Hall of Residence at 109 Camden Road, London NW1, from where it was perfectly possible to walk in to college; taking what we used to call the 'scenic route' (down through Somers Town). There was a fellow in my corridor who wore a beard and a tweed coat and seemed not to socialize much. One evening, some way into the first term, the students' bar (which happened to be at the end of my corridor)was becoming extremely noisey and there was a knock on my door. I shouted out "Enter!" and this fellow came in. He told me his name 'EB' and explained which room he was in and I said "So that's who you are." I think that he laughed at this. Anyway, he wanted to raise support to complain about the noise and asked whether I would join forces. Of course, I did and a complaint succeeded in bringing a return of peace. Gradually, I got to know EB, who was a philosophy student, and he told me this story about the derelict house next door to the Hall of Residence at 107 Camden Road.

EB's paternal grandfather had been a dentist and had lived and practised at 107 Camden Road. He had died an early death and left the house to his wife. In the garden there was a workshop/laboratory where the dentist had done his work. After he died his widow had let this building to none other than star of stage and screen Jack Hulbert, who had used it to house his model railway. Not only that, but his grandmother, left somewhat short as a result of the early death, took in a female lodger who was a mid-wife and, on the day that the present Prince of Wales was born the house was surrounded by the press because she delivered the Prince of Wales.

Backing on to the house are school grounds and a scheme was devised to extend the school out to the road but 107 Camden Road was in the way. A compulsory purchase order was made and the local authority took possession of the house for demolition.

Thirty years later it was still there and, for all I know, it still is.

Today's picture is of Camden Town Underground station from the Kentish Town Road side.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Burlington Bertie

I have just noticed that my post Burlington Bertie - Or Tramp For A Night has been by far the most popular and so I need to go through my unpublished memoirs and see what else I am prepared to be published while I am still alive. At the moment, though, I am struggling to meet an extended deadline for delivery of the script of Book III and so the next post will be delayed. In the meantime, I thank all those who have written to me encouraging me to continue the blog.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Page view counter

I have installed the site's page view counter at the end of the Home page and it shows that, after about five months, there have been nearly 25,000 page views. I know that they have come from nearly all over the world and some regular readers check in to see what is going on. Yesterday, I was seriously thinking of closing the Blog but a few messages demonstrating that some people come in here to have some light relief have dissuaded me from taking that course. So: onward and upward.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Anonymous Posters

When any anonymous comment is now notified through e-mail, I have the option, without reading it, of publishing or deleting it. I have just deleted the first one to arrive after I mentioned that anonymous posters are unwelcome. This is the last time that I'll mention it but, frankly, it is time for you to find something better to do with your time.

And Another Thing

From today, all anonymous comments will be deleted unread.I don't have the time, even if you do. Farewell 'Anon'.
I have received some amazing and extreme personal abuse as a result of the last post: some of it is bent towards support of the mob (the so-called protesting majority) and some of it is bent towards support for Chas 'n' Camilla (as Private Eye put it Chas: "married at last" - The Queen " - yes - and to each other!") and one individual even uses it as a pivot on which to spin remarks that have the post as a starting point and a criticism of my life in Brazil as the butt end of nastiness. This morning's first correspondent suggests that I am the backend of a horse and spells the crux of the suggestion as though I were merely a donkey. I just will not be intimidated into giving up my blog and to those of you who come in here to express hatred, spite and bile and even to write obscenity, I say: find something better to do with your time; it is also worth mentioning that the law relating to harassment (the criminal law and the civil law), both probably apply to intervening abusively in personal blogs.

I still like the picture of Chas 'n' Camilla because it perfectly captures a moment and shows us the real faces of people who otherwise progress through life with faces like frozen cod: whether it is a good or a bad moment is beside the point. The world is a better place because it has on record photographs of the relief of Belsen and Auschwitz and the other death camps. They are not nice to look at but they tell us something and warn us of the power of utter evil.

One correspondent (an identifiable 'Anon') mentions that Charles' clothes are "right up my London street". This is nonsense. I think the fact that Chas's skimpy ties are always tied so tightly, in those miserable little hard knots, suggests a serious uptightness and any Prince of Wales (with the millions a year from the Duchy of Cornwall) who could not be tolerably well-dressed (even the thick-headed Dook of Windsor) would need to have his donkey kicked.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

This Picture Rocks

The paparazzo who took this photograph deserves some kind of medal or reward. It just rocks. On whether they deserve to be as loathed as they seem to be, I express no view because I am pretty much indifferent to them. But I am amazed that they do not realize what many people think of them (and I do not say this as a supporter of the memory of the late, last Princess of Wales, as I am not).

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Patey Hats II

Patey Hats, established in 1799 are, as I have mentioned before, the only gentleman's bespoke hatter left in the UK. They now have a new shop in Connaught Street, London, W2 2AZ, telephone 0207 706 7632 or see

Headed-up by two former senior James Lock & Co employees, Janet and Patrick, they also stock RTW hats in a range of town and country and seasonal styles.

The fact that they have established a shop in a prime area of London suggests that the hat is not yet defunct.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

The Complete Smoking Suit

I have just received a selection of patterns of Italian super jacquette (19% silk), from Henry Poole in 9 great colours and, in my dreams, I shall not be able to resist a smoking suit in one of them ere long; unless, still in my dreams, I go for the Churchillian romper suit.

I suppose that Mr Patey will have to make the hat and Mr Foster or Mr Maxwell the slippers; on which I shall certainly have all my initials intertwined in a gold-threaded monogram. Come to that, why not have the same on the front of the hat too? It will not be brown. 'Marron', maybe. But never just brown.

The 19% silk and 81% cotton mix is, apparently, the best velvet now available.

D R Harris's Pick-Me-Up

On the east side of St James's Street there is an old chemist shop called D R Harris and in the shop's opulent (but welcoming) space there is a chair (maybe more than one, I forget) up by the top counter, where customers may sit and order a D R Harris Pick-Me-Up. I have no doubt that it was formulated to blow the cobwebs away, on the morning after 'dining well' and there must be thousands of men (in succeeding generations too) who have sat in that chair and blessed the memory of D R Hariis and his secret formulation. It does not take long to prepare in the shop but when the glass is brought "With beaded bubbles winking at the brim", drink it straight down for maximum effect, place the empty glass on the counter, leave your £1 (or whatever it may now be), bid them a hearty "Good Day!" and be off about your business with a spring in your step!

This must be one of the oldest and the best chemist shops in the world and, besides being friendly and helpful, how many other chemists still prepare a potion for their customers' immediate consumption?

Tuesday, 7 December 2010


I said a couple of posts back that I am no fan of the Wikileaks' founder but I cannot see that the USA does itself any favours when US representatives start baying for the Wikileaks' founder to be executed. Presumably, they would have a trial first? Or just lynch him? Or just bang him up untried in Guantanamo Bay? The image today is of the lynching, by prominent members of the community, of Leo Frank, less than 100 years ago in Georgia, USA:

"America, America..."

Think about it.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Safari Suit

Maybe, it's about time for at least something more on dress. Here is a titbit from Book III, on the Sporting Life:

Safari suit
A safari suit, in a traditional, pattern is terrifically comfortable for wearing when travelling. The best cloth for this is undoubtedly Ventile, which is a proprietary name for a type of waterproof cotton, with an interesting history. In the Second World War, the British ran short of linen for making fire hoses and so an alternative cloth was developed from cotton. It was so successful that it was also used to make flying suits for the intrepid pilots of expendable fighter airplanes that used to escort the North Atlantic convoys until the ‘planes ran out of fuel. These pilots then had to ditch their airplanes in the freezing ocean and take their chances of being picked up by the convoy before they froze to death. The advent of Ventile flying suits undoubtedly saved many of their lives.

You just match your safari suit up with a pair of comfortable, elastic-sided, slip-on shoes, which will expand as your feet swell. If you are going somewhere hot, take a sola topee or a panama hat; if somewhere cold, a heavy overcoat, a pair of gloves and a good felt hat.

In the picture is contemporary explorerColonel John Blashford-Snell in his 'Explorer' suit, made by Norton & Sons.


I have not been following the disclosures very closely but they appear to me largely to comprise candid exchanges of views between politicians and diplomats who are all on one side about politicians and diplomats on another side. It would be impossible for government to work if there were not a realm of communications such as these that are generally kept confidential. Moreover, there is no general public interest whatsoever in the disclosure of the material that I have seen. There is no 'whistle-blowing' about the exercise; although it is disappointing to read that Cameron, Hague and their cohorts (secretly)see themselves as Children of Thatcher and embarrassing to read about them puckering-up quite so obsequiously to the USA and being ridiculed for it. The exercise is neither in the realm of education or entertainment and the perpetrators should be dealt wih decisively for breaking the laws relating to computer security.

The whole exercise is simply a cynical attempt to express vindictiveness and find notoriety (and, presumably, somewhere along the line, a deal of hard cash). I would not be at all surprised if those Dark Forces, which the Queen mentioned to Butler Burrell, eventually showed some interest in the matter and more 'penknife suicides' turned up in the woods. There could then be more cover-up (so-called)Public Inquiries, chaired by chaps happy to pucker-up to the governments of the day.

I shall have to go and see what Jeff Archer makes of it all on his blog...

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Statues of Dr Johnson and Hodge

Here is the Fleet Street statue of Dr Johnson and also the statue of his cat, Hodge, in Gough Square.

The Spirit of Commemoration

No race on earth celebrates the spirit of commemoration as the British do: all the plaques and statues: even Beau Brummell in Jermyn Street: the whimsicality of it all. I have just put up the statue of Dorothy L Sayers and here is the statue of Sir John Betjeman, staring up at the roof that he helped to save at St Pancras station. A couple of great British characters; indomitable and utterly unforgettable. It is also amazing what a talent exists for placement: consider the statue of Dr Johnson set to look down Fleet Street on the eastern side of St Clement Danes.

Dorothy L Sayers

Here is the statue of Dorothy L Sayers, mentioned by Anon. I very much like the daring inclusion of the fag between her fingers (she chain-smoked Senior Service cigarettes) - and also the moggy; delightful creatures. I recommend the biography of her: A Careless Rage For Life, by David Coomes.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

44 Mecklenburgh Square

This house, in Mecklenburgh Square, London WC1 (named after Queen Charlotte, of the house of Mecklenburg-Strelitz), bears a privately erected blue plaque to an obscure American writer, called Hilda Doolittle. In fact, her friend D H Lawrence once stayed in the house and also wrote part of a book here. Later on, Dorothy L Sayers lived here for a while, and it is probably where she invented Lord Peter Wimsey. In her novel Gaudy Night, she makes it home to her heroine, Harriet Vane.

The large Grade II listed garden in the square itself is reserved for residents of the square (including the students in London House and Goodenough House)and was laid out as part of Thomas Coram's Foundling Hospital between 1810-1812. Samuel Pepys Cockerell and Joseph Kay were responsible for its design which includes many plantings from New Zealand. I have happy memories of tennis on the court in that sheltered, leafy place.

High Summer

While parts of the northern hemisphere are snow-bound and heading for Arctic conditions, I am sorrry to say that it is high summer down here and yesterday was in the late 20s'C with just enough ocean breeze to sway the palms and be thoroughly agreeable.

Friday, 26 November 2010

View From Hawker's Hut

This is the glorious view from Hawker's Hut. It was also from here that Hawker could see sea storms arising and render assistance to those in peril on the sea and even, at his own expense, bury those killed at sea and washed up on those shores.

The Wind in The Willows

The copy of Kenneth Grahame's famous book The Wind in The Willows, shown above and inscribed "To Foy Felicia Quiller-Couch from her affectionate friend Kenneth Grahame. Oct. 1908." was auctioned at Bonhams in March and, at £32,400, fetched ten times its estimate after 'fierce bidding'. Maybe it is not that surprising because it is one of the world's best loved children's books and the inscription is to the daughter of Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch who is supposed to have been the inspiration for the character Ratty. Indeed, the whole book was conceived in boating trips up and down the River Fowey and its harbour, because Kenneth Grahame spent a fair amount of time there and was even married in the parish church of St Fimbarrus; although it is fair to say that Kenneth Grahame's home life at Pangbourne on the River Thames also provided some inspiration.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Thanksgiving and Its Roots

Happy Thanksgiving to those of you who are celebrating it today. It is a pity that its origins (with the Pilgrim Fathers in 1621) in the British Harvest Home, Harvest Thanksgiving, or Harvest Festival are less celebrated in Britain than they used to be at the time of the Harvest Moon (at the Autumn Equinox). Although there is evidence of such celebrations stretching back to pagan times, The Rev. Robert Stephen Hawker of Morwenstow in north Cornwall was responsible for bringing the celebrations into the churches, which used to be decorated with flowers and harvest produce. There used to be services of thanksgiving, and the singing of hymns, such as We Plough The Fields and Scatter and All Things Bright and Beautiful. Unfortunately, with the understandable fall in church attendance (owing to the useless, wishy-washy leadership of the Church of England), everyone now thinks that Thanksgiving is an American and Canadian invention.

Largely gone in Britain too are ceremonies such as 'Crying The Neck' to mark the reaping of the last neck of corn and making a corn dolly out of it as a charm until the next harvest home.

In the picture is Hawker's church of St Morwenna on the cliffs of Morwenstow. Hawker was also a remarkably good poet and hymn writer and used to sit out in a little hut, which he built out of driftwood, on the high cliffs, overlooking the ocean, to compose his verse. The hut is still there, and it is the smallest building preserved by the National Trust.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Miss Joan Hunter Dunne

When he died they said that Cary Grant was not supposed to die (in a sense, I suppose that he never will) and when Joan Hunter Dunne died, her obituary in The Independent newspaper said that she should never have existed; she should have been just a made-up name in a poem but the fact of the matter is that she did exist and John Betjeman became infatuated with her when he met her in her war work in the Senate House of the University of London and wrote the poem A Subaltern's Love-song about her. He even presented it to her over lunch and she was delighted as it relieved the tedium of the war and also accurately reflected the type of life that she led: she was even (as Betjeman had supposed), a doctor's daughter from Surrey (although not "Furnish'd and burnish'd by Aldershot" sun)but Farnborough. Joan Hunter Dunne (1915-2008) is in the photograph. She did marry after the war and had a family.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Book II Cover

Here, at last, is the front of the dust cover for Book II. I am very happy with it, even if the images in the bottom right (aside from the cigarette case) were not my personal choice. 'History' is in the main title again; although I might say that the sub-title is a better description. However, there are, as before, interesting historical titbits, including the fruits of my latest researches on the history of the DJ-Tuxedo, which probably go further than anyone else has gone so far. I feel that I should issue a humour warning: if you cannot read what I have to say with a pinch of salt, then buy a more earnest book, of which there are many. Otherwise, you are likely to be left spluttering with indignation, here and there. However, there are not many books which cover all the ground that is covered here.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

The Voice of the People

I see that the gutter rag The People, read by the 'intellectually challenged' has conducted a poll of 'Britons' which suggests, they say, that a majority would favour Prince William becoming the next king. But this all rests on a fundamental misunderstanding: kings are born and not made and if the 'people' of Briton really want a choice in their head of state, they should bring about a revolution: otherwise, editors of the rag The People keep your unhelpful opinions to yourselves.

Ripping Yarns

Yesterday I watched the BBC television adaptation of Unpleasantness At The Bellona Club and today there is Murder Must Advertise. This set me thinking about the order in which I came to enjoy ripping yarns and I concluded that it was in this order: first, Enid Blyton's Famous Five books; secondly, Arthur Ransome's Swallows and Amazons and Captain W E Johns' Biggles; thirdly, Ian Fleming's James Bond books, together with Leslie Chateris's The Saint books and certain individual works, such as Baroness Orczy's The Scarlet Pimpernel; fourthly, H Rider Haggards's books such as She and King Solomon's Mines (and never mind that the real mines were probably copper mines rather than diamond mines!); on then to the thrillers of Dorothy L Sayers and, finally, moving onto further individual books, such as Wilkie Collins' The Lady in White and Erskine Childers' The Riddle of The Sands. Of course, The Holy Bible and the Works of Shakespeare also contain many 'ripping yarns' too but that is axiomatic. But I cannot help thinking that modern boys, addictively locked into pointless computer games, are missing out on some thrilling tales.

The Mayflower Compact

On this day (according to the Gregorian Calendar) in 1620, the Pilgrim Fathers ('the Pilgrims' in the USA), signed the Mayflower Compact (a transcription is shown above) and in this they covenanted and combined in a Civil Body Politic of self-government, whilst maintaining allegiance to King James. The other picture is of the memorial at the Barbican in Plymouth, Devon, from which they embarked.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Dorothy L Sayers and the BBC

Over the last two days, I have been renewing my acquaintance with the BBC serializations, in the 1970s, of a couple of the television adaptations of the Lord Peter Wimsey stories: yesterday it was Five Red Herrings and, today, it has been Clouds of Witness. I am sure that there is a boxed set of the whole lot, produced by the BBC, available from the BBC shop and on-line, from the usual suspects. I hope so. For: casting (importantly the casting of Ian Carmichael as Lord Peter and Gyn Houston as Bunter); acting; wardrobe; direction; atmosphere; props; manners; suspense; drama; romance and pace: moreover, because it was all, probably, achieved on a shoestring budget, they are brilliant entertainment. I doubt whether the BBC has produced anything better recently and it brings to mind the terrible shame that the earlier Ian Carmichael and Dennis Price televison versions of The World of Wooster seem to have been lost to the world by virtue of re-use of the recording tapes. It also brought to mind a charming BBC radio series that Ian Carmichael made of the life of Jack Buchanan, in which he recounted Jack Buchanan (a stage hero of his), walking into his dressing room after one of Carmichael's own early stage successes and introducing himself with the line: "Hello, old boy, I'm Jack Buchanan" and then congratulating him on his show; an act of gratuitous encouragement to a young beginner, who went on to achieve his own place in the very heart of the nation.

Ian Carmichael, star of stage and screen 1920-2010, pictured above, in a still from the Wimsey series, with Glyn Houston as Bunter.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Prince William of Wales's engagement

All the world congratulates Prince William and Kate Middleton on their engagement but the Prince's choosing to give her his mother's engagement ring strikes a discordant note, bearing in mind the publicly miserable marriage that it presaged the first time around and, surely, something made especially for her would have been more appropriate. Even giving her the late Queen Mother's ring would have been better. Is it just a private matter? No, it isn't, because these people are public property.

But then there are stories of how economical members of The Firm are!

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Monarchies and Republics

I was thinking more about the relative merits of monarchies and republics and it seems to me that there is some force in the argument that monarchies, set within a democracy, have a great deal going for them: the nation is just about guaranteed a leader who will be well educated and who knows how to behave in an international setting. They might not always be the brightest or the most morally upright but monarchs are bound to a duty to which they are born; whereas every President has clawed his way to the top in the thirst for power and prestige. I know which I prefer. Moreover, having a monarchy means that the UK will never end up with some ghastly screwball as a head of state: President Mandelson or First Lady "Our Cherry" Blair.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Day of The Proclamation of The Republic

Today is the holiday called after The Day of The Proclamation of The Republic on 15th November 1889, when Marshal Deodoro da Fonseca reluctantly fell in with a plot by republicans to depose Brazil's last Emperor, Dom Pedro II. The Emperor's Own 1st and 9th Cavalry regiments seized control of the buildings housing the government and a bloodless coup and the proclamation were made. This must have seemed a cruel reward for the making of the Golden Law, abolishing slavery, on 13th May 1888, and for lengthy periods, Brazil struggled under dictatorships, before it emerged into the age of democracy and its current prosperity.

I won't bring my voice to cry out 'Long Live The Republic' but I will definitely shout 'Floreat Brasilia!' And I shall enjoy the fireworks!

The picture is of Dom Pedro II.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Kathy Kirby

I mentioned Kathy Kirby in the last post and at least somebody else remembers her - so why not a little more? Her recording of the late fifties' song I Wish You Love by Chauliac (English lyrics by Albert Beach) is now in the Youtube bar below. Having listened to many other recordings of this, including those by Dusty Springfield, Frank Sinatra, Marlene Dietrich, Dean Martin and Gloria Lynne, it is definitely my favourite. Kathy Kirby is one of those sometime big stars who has been forgotten by the world. Yet her voice (with perfect pitch) is beyond compare with most of the modern singing celebrities, with their tuneless, clanking, regional accents and overall (sorry to say) pig ignorance, who distract the audience from the fact that they can't sing, can't dance, by shakin' it. There is about her performance an ineffable grace and it brings a most pleasurable comfort.

Friday, 12 November 2010

If You Were The Only Girl In The World

This song was written by Nat Ayer with lyrics by Clifford Grey for a show,starring Violet Lorraine and George Robey, at the old Alhambra Theatre, which used to stand on the east side of Leicester Square. Great though the Odeon Leicester Square is, maybe it is a shame that the world could not have kept both of these buildings. As for the song: it was praised by Sir Edward Elgar, who called it a perfect melody and it has been recorded by many artists across the years and one of my favourite recordings is that made by Gertrude Lawrence and Noel Coward but I also enjoy the Stanley Holloway version and the recording by the rather forgotten Kathy Kirby. Besides those there is the piano roll recording by 1930s pianist Frank Milne. I have put links in the Youtube bar at the foot of this page but whether they work externally I cannot say. If they do not, it is easy enough to find them on Youtube.

The photograph is Stanley Holloway in a still from the great film The Titfield Thunderbolt.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Retirement of RN's Aircraft Carrier

The government's decision to scrap its remaining aircraft carrier and the Harrier jets flown from it has been attacked in The Times today by retired senior naval and military figures. Those in service are not, for obvious reasons, permitted to make comments on government decisions. The warning that these fellows have given is reasoned and based upon their substantial experience. The UK's government of the day includes many neophytes who should, undoubtedly, listen to the voice of experience. The signatories to the letter warn that the scrapping of the carrier (not to be replaced for several years) could open up the real possibility that Argentina could successfully invade the Falkland Islands and inflict a national humiliation on a par with the loss of Singapore. Surely, any government worth its salt would take every measure to prevent any such thing?

The picture is an artist's impression of the two replacement aircraft carriers which, some say, will not be fully operational for many years.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

The Demon Drink

In this age of what I have heard described as 'body fascism' to defend the consumption of alcohol at a level beyond the rather feeble levels 'set' by 'authorities' such as the British Medical Association is unfashionable. By the way, of all the people that I have dealt with in my life, I have never come across a group with more out-and-out, hopeless and reckless drunkards than the medical profession: one that I can think of used to have so much to drink, on a daily basis, that help was needed to get her into a cab which was to take her to the train station and so back to home and beauty, after a drive, at the other end, in her large Mercedes.

However, back to my onions - or is it sheep - George W Bush admitted to alcoholism, the American people did not think that this disqualified him from being their President and he did what he had to do. Charles Kennedy, on the other hand, sometime leader of the Liberal Democratic party in the UK, was caught napping a couple of times, after the habitual over-indulgence in the Parliamentary bars (which is as generally traditional as the over-indulgence to be witnessed in the bars frequented by the legal profession in central London) and, for being caught,was censured by other, more purse-lipped, Scotch members, and then got the heave-ho plus many lectures from various, self-righteous journalists (another group renowned for their liking for the products of the grain and the grape), on the perils of the Demon Drink.

For my own part, with Omar Khayyam:

"I often wonder what the vintners buy
One half so precious as the goods they sell."

I doubt whether many great people would have been the same without their addictions: from Tallulah Bankhead to Winston Churchill and from F E Smith to John Huston. What a pale little age we live in, populated by bullies and the bullied, because the kill-joys have taken control.

But they are not taking control of me.

Today's picture is of a bottle of over-proof, pre-1915-French-ban Absinthe, courtesy of

Monday, 8 November 2010

The Marvellous City

Off into the Marvellous City today and will seek out some snuff, scented with a phenolic essence from the Imburana tree (snuff was born in Brazil and the early European manufacture favoured Brazilian tobacco for snuff as it has always favoured Cuban tobacco for cigars). Also need some more proper tea. After that, it's off to meet our friends for a snack and a chat and then homeward bound. It is about two hours there and two hours back, as the road winds through the mountains, but it is only fifty miles in distance. Above is a view of the mountains from Sampaio Correa.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Norman Parkinson IV

Of course Parkinson always photographed women in a way that brought out their - shall we say - their warmth; whereas Cecil Beaton's photographs (especially the Garbo photographs of her dressed as a Pierrot) lack that warmth and appeal. Of course, no where is this warmth and appeal more apparent in Parkinson's work than in his Pirelli Calendar work.

Friday, 5 November 2010

Remember, Remember, The Fifth of November

Bonfire Night in Britain is the celebration for the deliverance, in 1605, of James I and his Parliament from a plot to blow up the House of Lords by Guy Fawkes and twelve other papist conspirators, who had rented vaults under Parliament where they stored their gunpowder. Tipped off by an anonymous 'grass', Fawkes, who had been sent to guard the gunpowder, was captured and dragged off to the Tower of London, where he was tortured for the names of the co-conspirators. He eventually gave the names of seven others. They were rounded up and all tried for High Treason in Westminster Hall. Found guilty, they were sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered, which means that they were to be taken down before they were dead and have their genitals cut off and burned before their eyes and then have their guts drawn; finally being quartered with the parts being distributed around the kingdom as a deterrent to other would be traitors. In fact Fawkes managed to kill himself on the way up the scaffold by jumping off it but they still cut him up.

The Good Old Days.

Anyway, all those of you back there in Blighty, enjoy the bonfires and the fireworks tonight.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Norman Parkinson III

Just so that we are clear that Norman Parkinson had an eye for contemporary art and fashion, see the above picture of a model in a Philip Treacy hat. Still pretty though.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Norman Parkinson II

Here is another great shot by Norman Parkinson. There is always something magical in the composition of his pictures; something whimsical and alluring. This shot is taken in the nineteen fifties/sixties and yet the attitude that it portrays could be a hundred years back from now. Tub-thumping? Yep, that's right and if, Jed, I am a grumpy old man, I am proud of it.

Norman Parkinson

I just saw this advertisement, for an exhibition of the work of Norman Parkinson, on Jeffrey Archer's Blogspot ("We Authors", don't you know!) and thought to myself that I can actually remember when women dressed like that but where did they all go - or, where did it all go wrong?

I mean, one minute, we are the greatest civilization on earth and the next we have become, roughly in order: beatniks, hippies,rockers, mods, punk rockers, goths and street rappas: each incarnation of 'pop' being lower and more vile than the last; thanks to idiots such as the walking corpse Andy Warhola and those 'artists' who: exhibit corpses; pile up bricks; or tin and label 'the artist's excreta' or, in the case of Tracy Emmins, scrunch up their dirty linen, for us to stare at in 'art' galleries. And it all takes place to a brain-damaging, wall-thumping, cacophany, called muzac, given to us by talentless, breast-wiggling, pelvis-grinding, near-naked female tarts and a host of scruffy, male plonkers, selected and promoted by money-grubbing morons on gutter-level 'telly' programmes.

What a shame that we 'lost it'.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Homeward Bound

And so back safely,at what I can describe only as just the other side of midnight as these events do not take place in earth time. However, there was nearly a Galactic Highway pile-up on the Mars Home Straight on the journey home. Tiredness, I suppose, induced a little wandering of the attention by the fellow in front; his broomstick wobbled, he braked too hard and he nearly lost his Familiar. Fortunately, mine was able to reach out and grip her before she fell right off and the situation was saved. We pulled over for a break after that: a cup of tea for me and a saucer of milk for Flash. Unfortunately, I am not permitted to give an account of the proceedings at the venue and, indeed, I received something of a censure, from the most senior member of the coven, for having mentioned the proceedings at all. Still, there we are.

What hat did I wear? The hunting-weight Cambridge, of course.

Flash is in the top picture.

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Here we go then!

As can be seen, my broom is at the ready and all I need now is to find my cloak and hat, wand and Flash the Cat (my Familiar-in Chief), load the hamper and set out. Back in the morning. A very good night to you all. Chocks away... Here we go...

Tonight's The Night

Tonight's the night. I have to convene with my Cornish coven at the Equator, in mid-Atlantic at midnight so I shall have to get my broom all shaken up and ready to rustle. It doesn't take long to get there but I am unsure of the principal objective of this year's proceedings. However, we will, as ever, begin with:

"When shall we three meet again?
In thunder, lightning or in rain?

When the hurlyburly's done,
When the battle's lost and won.

That will be ere the set of sun.

Where the place?

Upon the heath....

Fair is foul and foul is fair:
Hover through the fog and filthy air.


Twickenham Stadium (also known as ‘Twickers’) is the home of rugby football and is in Middlesex. The Stadium was built on ground formerly used as a cabbage patch and so, sometimes, it is also called ‘Cabbage Patch’. The first game there was on 2nd October 1909 between Harlequins and Richmond. The first international was on 15th January 1910 between England and Wales. Rugby football is supposed to have been invented by a bored schoolboy at Rugby School. A plaque in the school reads:

This stone commemorates the exploit of
William Webb Ellis
Who with a fine disregard for the rules of football
As played in his time
First took the ball in his arms and ran with it
thus originating the distinctive feature of
the rugby game.
AD 1823.

Rugby School is in Warwickshire and was founded in 1567 by the will of Lawrence Sheriff, originally to educate the poor of the area. It is now one of England’s major public schools. Its most famous headmaster was Dr Thomas Arnold (1795-1842) who introduced enlightened reforms in education; emphasizing sport, self-control, reliability, steadfastness and taught the assumption of responsibility which, altogether, proved a combination that has since been adopted in education systems throughout the world. Suggestions for dress to spectate are set out in Chapter 11 of History of Men's Fashion.