Sunday, 31 October 2010
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."
Posted by NJS at 15:01
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.
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.
Posted by NJS at 09:02
Thursday, 28 October 2010
Boss & Co
Boss & Co can trace its origins to 1773, when William Boss began his apprenticeship in Birmingham. In the late eighteenth century he moved to Joseph Manton’s firm in London and his son Thomas Boss was apprenticed to Manton. When Thomas finished his apprenticeship in 1812, he started his own firm in St James’s Street, where he began making Best Guns only. This policy is still applied, prompting King George VI to say:
“A Boss gun, a Boss gun……bloody beautiful, but too bloody expensive!”
It is true to say that they are still, unashamedly, amongst the most expensive new guns in the world.
A Boss gun was such a favourite with Papa Hemingway that he used one to end it all.
The firm does, by popular demand, also make a more economical model, called the ‘Robertson’, named after John Robertson, who bought the firm in 1891 and devised the Boss single trigger in 1894, the Boss ejector in 1898 and their own over-and-under in 1909.
After a few moves around the West End, the shop and the workshop are now at Kew Bridge. A selection of shots of a fine pair of Boss & Co side-by-side shotguns is shown in the picture, courtesy of Boss & Co.
Posted by NJS at 12:23
Tuesday, 26 October 2010
Another excerpt from Book III (coming up):
All formal hats - for example, toppers, cokes and hunt caps - are properly worn to sit more or less straight on the head but, in the case of toppers and cokes, tilted slightly forward - but not at a rakish angle, which might be appropriate to soft felts, panamas and tweed hats and caps. On the subject of soft felt hats: the trilby hat is named after George du Maurier’s late 19th Century novel and play, Trilby; because one of the protagonists, Little Billee, is ‘discovered’ wearing such a hat. The heroine, Trilby O’Ferrall, an artist’s foot model, was mesmerized by the evil, controlling Svengali. George Palmella Busson du Maurier (1834-1896) enjoyed a youthful career as a Bohemian artist in Paris, before he settled in Hampstead, North London. He worked as a cartoonist for Punch and his most famous cartoon was True Humility (1895) above, from which we get the familiar expression ‘a Curate’s egg'.
The caption is:
Bishop: “I’m afraid you’ve got a bad egg, Mr Jones!”
Curate: “Oh, no, My Lord. I assure you! Parts of it are excellent.”
George was the grandfather of the even more successful novelist, Daphne du Maurier.
The higher-crowned, broader-brimmed fedora hat is also named after a fictional character: the heroine of Victorien Sardou’s 1882 play, Fédora.
Posted by NJS at 21:47
Friday, 22 October 2010
Overnight I had an interesting offer. Sometime ago, I had signed up to undertake editing work with a particular agency and had had no offers of anything, until this morning. The 'editing' offered was to undertake a doctoral thesis in its totality on a specified subject and to deliver it by April 2011. The fee offered was £2,000. So, for £2,000, prospective Dr X buys a high academic qualification and I am asked to be an accessory to this cheating and, for what it matters, a cheap accessory at that. Looking into the subject of academic cheating assistance, the internet is rife with crooks hiding behind fancy academic-sounding names and openly offering theses and 'model answers' for cash. Why is nothing done about it? Surely, it is a serious threat to the fabric of society? What happens if, say, medical and architectural qualifications come to be 'awarded' on the basis of cheating, by people who are incompetents? It does not bear thinking about. In an age in which small details of daily life are highly (and, arguably, over) regulated, it utterly beggars belief that the prosecuting authorities overlook this tawdry racket and that academia is too limp-wristed to stamp it out. It is bad enough that students no longer have to memorize anything, even the basics of their subject, and are allowed to turn in work that is seldom done in true examination conditions but I suppose that it is all a consequence of there being so many so-called 'universities' and the notion that just about anyone can be a graduate.
Posted by NJS at 10:38
Thursday, 21 October 2010
Conscious of my defalcations in entering posts here and, more importantly, out of booze and cigs, I strode the mile or so of beachfront road into Sleepy Hollow Centro last night, at about 11 pm. The bank ATMs were all closed and little else was open. The Village of The Damned came to mind: just big, dead leaves, drifting crisply across the road. Defeated in my main objective and, the moon being around about full, I decided to return along the shoreline. The lights in a rather run-down, seaside kiosk attracted my attention and there, beneath, in the half-light, I saw a Kiplingesque maiden, right out of The Road To Mandalay smoking "a whackin' white cheroot". Not one to intrude upon the smoking habits of others in these illiberal times, I proceeded, in an orderly fashion, along the tideline, enjoying the blown spume and the flung spray of the South Atlantic Ocean, in my own quiet way; still wondering how I would make up the missing days' posts on here; wondering, wondering, wondering: until this moment. There is no picture for this post, as my moble 'phone camera does not work in the gloaming.
Posted by NJS at 18:28
Today is, of course, Trafalgar Day and there will be the traditional dinner onboard HMS Victory and the toast to Nelson. Above is a copy of the ledger, relating to Nelson's hat, of the design worn at the battle, complete with green eyeshade. He needed this since he lost most of the sight in his right eye from a bursting shell and sandbags during the siege of Calvi. It is a myth that he had an eye patch, as such. The eyeshade was designed between Nelson, hatter James Lock II and his foreman on 11th February 1803 and Nelson probably took two of these fine hats onboard HMS Victory with him as he sailed off to crush Boney's navy. One of them is preserved on Nelson's wax effigy in Westminster Abbey.
Posted by NJS at 10:18
Sunday, 17 October 2010
I walked along the beach a couple of days ago and saw: vultures feasting on a dead dog and a dead penguin; a pair of sea eagles, several albatross; South Atlantic skuas and sandpipers. The sea was rough and the wind was high. I saw no one else along a mile stretch and it certainly cleared my head. The photo shows the view of the beach from the church promontory.
Posted by NJS at 11:38
Thursday, 14 October 2010
There used to be The City Golf Club in an ancient lane leading down to St Bride's Church, off Fleet Street. Of course, it was just a members' drinking club in the times when the Fleet Street boozers were closed to the Fourth Estate in the afternoons.
There was also, strangely, a golf shop in New Bridge Street too. Don't forget that Blackheath was (is, although relocated), the first golf club in England. The City Golf Club was a members' only boozing club with walls decorated with (token) old hickory-shafted clubs and wot-not -just like the old Wig & Pen: a refuge for all-day Fleet Street topers (who worked between 8-00 am and 11-00 am), until El Vino's re-opened in the evening, for its short hours, and then it was off to: The Wine Press; The Printer's Pie; Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese; The Bell; The King & Keys; The Tipperary How could I forget the Tipperary! Guinness and Green King IPA and those Beaujolais Nouveau breakfasts. The hours that I spent in there. There was also The Popinjay (the old 'firing' pub - if a journo was taken in there by his editor, it was sacking time, apparently); The Punch: The Cock; all ending up at Spaghetti Opera (an Italian restaurant which employed opera singers to entertain); The Temple Bar Tandoori (one of the best Indian restaurants in London); The George, or Daly's. Ah! I remember it well! All long before that pretentious Olde Bank of England nonesense: these were places where you went to get slaughtered. And if you weren't slaughtered by the time that your bladder-bursting frame got off the homeward conveyance, then, unless you were "Fleeter of foot than the fleet-foot kid", you were definitely slaughtered just as you walked through your own front door. On one occasion it was a hatpin and, on another, a carving knife in the arm, which, besides necessitating a couple of stitches, more irritatingly, totalled a perfectly good hopsack suit.
Was ever an area better served for pubs? I am sure that it has all changed but it probably isn't just because the journos and printers have gone so much as because of changes in attitudes: the insidious, increasing, puritanical up-tightness of modern Britain: getting hammered even just on Fridays; maybe getting hammered at all, is probably a disciplinary offence now, let alone getting hammered and then disappearing in a thick, blue cloud of Turkish tobacco smoke! All the light-heartedness of working life has gone and been replaced by a Cromwellian bleakness and dutifulness, well, apparent dutifulness. They'll never know that there is no better state to write up a piece with a bit of a kick to it than three sheets to the wind: warm glow in the belly and trembling fingers, mind racing and coffee spilt.
Posted by NJS at 09:08
Wednesday, 13 October 2010
Friday, 8 October 2010
Thursday, 7 October 2010
Hugh Cecil Lowther, 5th Earl of Lonsdale (1857-1944) (centre of the picture, wearing a black coke (or bowler) hat, a gardenia and smoking a cigar), was a great sportsman and extravagant eccentric who had run away as youngster, joined a circus as an acrobat in Switzerland and then travelled to the USA to be a cowboy; even holding up the Denver stage coach, as a prank. He was known as the ‘Yellow Earl’ because, according to Time magazine for 18th June 1934, ‘Yellow are the racing colours, the motor cars and the silk hats of footmen in the service of the Yellow Earl, Britain’s beloved sporting peer the Earl of Lonsdale.’ Apart from racing and hunting, the Yellow Earl was keen on boxing and the National Sporting Club, of which he was patron, introduced the Lonsdale belts in his honour. These are the oldest championship belts in boxing and date from 1909. Originally a belt was awarded to each champion of each weight division. A winner could keep it if he won it and defended it twice. Sir Henry Cooper (born 1935) was the first to win three outright. Muhammad Ali (then called Cassius Clay) said on television of Cooper’s knockdown of him at their non-title fight in 1963 that Cooper had hit him so hard that his ‘ancestors in Africa felt it!’ Now you have to win and defend three times. The first heavyweight belt was won by Bombadier Billy Wells in 1911. He defended it thirteen times. That belt is made of 22ct gold and enamel and is now kept in the Royal Artillery Barracks at Woolwich in South London. Later Billy Wells was, later on, one of the men to strike the gong at the beginning of J Arthur Rank films.
Posted by NJS at 08:43
Wednesday, 6 October 2010
We are constantly reminded not to squander money but what of our time? After all, money may be replaced. Time flies:
Stanza XXXVII from the 1st edition of Ed. FitzGerald's translation of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam:
Ah, fill the Cup! What boots it to repeat
How time is slipping underneath our feet.
Unborn Tomorrow and dead Yesterday
Why fret about them if today be sweet?
So how do we avoid squadering our time? First of all, there is much to be said for Rudyard Kipling's suggestion to "fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds' worth of distance run" and to make sure that you fill it usefully - and by that I do not mean just with work; constructive or recreational leisure will do just as well, thank you very much.
Even resting up in a hammock and listening to the waves break will do, provided that it is not overdone.
Posted by NJS at 08:35
Tuesday, 5 October 2010
I walked into the town centre today (about a mile) and went along the sea road which is outside our gates (the view is as in the photograph, except that it stretches one and a half miles to the headland to the east and twenty miles to the next headland to the west). I walked back through the breaking waves. The sun, the sand and the sea were warm but there was a stiff south westerly blowing in: just a glorious day and the sun burned my face.
Posted by NJS at 17:40
Monday, 4 October 2010
Saturday, 2 October 2010
Anon has come back to me and said that if it weren't for anonymous comments then who would bother at all and do I want to talk into a black hole? The fact of the matter is that I have got a readership across the globe. This I know because I have a statistic-tracking system that tells me. For example I know that one constant reader has recently moved from Braintree to Colchester. So I am not talking into a black hole and just because most people do not comment does not mean that this blog is pointless. Moreover, Anon, you are not bound to tune in if my views annoy you as much as they seem to.
Posted by NJS at 10:33
Friday, 1 October 2010
I have said before and I repeat that I don't object to anonymous posters and I do not intend to ban expressions of points of view that differ from my own but, since there seem to be various anonymous posters, I again encourage the use of some distinguishing feature. This is because this blog is generally available and such features of distinction assist all readers of this blog. Thank you.
Posted by NJS at 21:30
This is not, except in so far as it promotes my books, a commercial site but there is a small business, run along traditional lines, that I have known all my life in Cornwall, which is about to close. Amongst other things, it supplies excellent, traditional snuff handkerchiefs, in the pattern and colours shown in the picture. They really are up to Jermyn Street standard: generous, nicely finished, twenty two inch cotton squares and ideal for use as handkerchiefs or, if you had a mind for it, as a neckerchief of the kind that Cary Grant wore in the film To Catch A Thief. The red ones need to be separately rinsed through as the red dye bleeds on the first wash. They are very reasonably priced and I have asked for the current price. Obviously any relevant postage would have to be added. I expect that, if they got enough orders, they might continue to supply them even after closure. I have set inquiries in motion, so watch this space. The only thing in this for me is to keep open a valued supply of these great handkerchiefs.
Posted by NJS at 17:42
Normally, the posts under this heading are of the living but recently I came across a drawing by D G Rossetti of his sister Christina Georgina. Before I had only ever seen pictures of her as an older woman to whom time had not, through illness and sadness, been very kind. Here is the drawing and it shows her to have been very beautiful as well as the wonderful poetess who gave us poems such as Uphill, Goblin Market, Remember and Last Prayer; not to mention being the very person who started FitzGerald's translation of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam on its road to fame and so helped to give it to the world.
Posted by NJS at 14:34
Well there is a rose, dating from 1944, called Mrs Miniver. I thought that there might be. I cannot find a picture of it for sure but it is described as cupped, large and fragrant; scarlet-crimson in colour. It also seems to be difficult to find. My thanks to Peter Beales and his staff for this information.
Posted by NJS at 10:49