Saturday, 31 July 2010
It occurred to me this morning that, a few centuries ago, I might have been burned at the stake as a witch, because my mother knows various charms or spells, for things such as calming burns and scalds, banishing warts (and one or two other things too) and they do work. Some of them she has passed on to me, as permiited, but she was forbidden from passing them on to my sister; just as I may pass them on to my daughter but not to my sons and always subject to special conditions. So, although I am not terribly proficient at wrinkling my nose or telekinesis, I am a witch and will soon turn my daughter into one too.
Posted by NJS at 13:30
Thursday, 29 July 2010
Many sites have tribute pages to the loveliest ladies of yore but there is much to be said for those whose blood is still coursing through their veins and when we place in 'reserve' the many pretty faces, who do not amount to much beyond that (even though some of them claim that they can sing), we are left with such as the glorious Inés Sastre (born in Castile, in 1973, and educated at the Sorbonne), whose most widely known role to date is probably as Aurora in the wonderful film The Lost City, opposite Andy Garcia as Fico Felove, in a tale of loss resulting from the Castro Revolution of 1959.
Posted by NJS at 14:21
Ray Milland (1907-1986) was born Alfred Reginald Jones, in Glamorgan, Wales. After a youth which included summer work on a tramp ship steamer during which he acquired tattoos (including a snake emerging from a skull on his upper arm), he entered the Household Cavalry but bought himself out and started in British films in 1929, taking the stage name Spike Milland from the millpools where he had played as a boy. He also undertook stage work and made his first Hollywood film 'Son of India' in 1931, marrying Malvina Weber in the same year (a marrige ended by his death). 'Bolero' in 1933 marked the beginning of a twenty one year association with Paramount Studios, resulting in films such as 'Arise My Love'; 'Reap The Wild Wind'; 'The Major and The Minor' and 'Ministry of Fear'. During the Second Wolrd War he was a flight instructor with the US Army.
His greatest film was, undoubtedly, Billy Wilder's 'The Lost Weekend' (playing a talented writer lost in alcohol), for which he received an Academy Award for best actor; although nearly as memorable is his performance as the murderous husband in Hitchcock's 'Dial M For Murder'. Later, he played roles as an elder statesman figure, notably Ryan O'Neal's father in 'Love Story' and the sequel, 'Oliver's Story'. A consummate actor, albeit with a comparativley narrow range, he is often overlooked in favour of Cary Grant whose acting talent was restricted, (as he said) to "one part...playing myself. But I play it to perfection." Ray Milland was a better actor than that and held the stage as well as CG. I think it a shame that his films are not aired more often. Milland also wrote short stories and enjoyed shooting. He and his family eschewed the glamour of Hollywood society in favour of a quiet home life, which might account for his relatively low profile twenty five years after his death.
Posted by NJS at 09:03
Wednesday, 28 July 2010
Rudolph Valentino (born Rodolpho Alphonso Rafaello Piero Filiberto Guglielmi 1895-1926) was one of the first great stars of the (silent) screen; starring in films such as The Four Horsemen of The Apocalyse (1921); in which he danced a slow tango magnificently with Alice Terry, in fact introducing that dance to a North American and European audience; completing its journey from the slums of Argentina. What makes the scene so remarkable to watch is not just their consummate mastery of the dance but the fact that Alice Terry, young though she was, tragically died before the film was even released. The other famous films are The Sheikh and Son of the Sheikh. Although they are all over-acted in a wide-eyed, over-demonstrative way and even though the footage is black and white and old and crackling, it is still possible to see the star that briefly shone. Rather like Cary Grant, even now, most people have heard of Rudolph Valentino and even recognize him. The suggestion that his voice was unlikely to have carried him into the age of the talkies is wholly unsupported by the recordings that exist of it, including him singing A Kashmiri Love Song in a pleasing baritone. The feverish, on-screen adulation which he inspired was not reflected in his personal life. Twice married and twice divorced, he did not seem to find and keep any woman; indeed, he said: ‘Women are not in love with me; I am just the canvass upon which they paint their dreams.’ When he died, at 31, of peritonitis, following an operation for a gastric ulcer, the public mourning was great and the streets of New York were lined with hundreds of thousands of weeping mourners; albeit that this outpouring was encouraged by the studio, which had yet to release his last film. The anniversary of his death is still marked at the mausoleum where he was entombed in a vault originally reserved for the husband of his friend June Mathis. The vault was, at first, ‘borrowed’ and later quietly bought by his estate. Legend has it that he was buried still wearing the platinum slave bracelet and watch given to him by his second wife, set designer Natacha Rambova. For many years, following his death, a mysterious ‘lady in black’ used to appear at this annual ceremony.
He was not, in fact, originally, the poor Italian boy of popular fancy but the son of a veterinary surgeon. Owing to his French mother, he spoke French as well as Italian and also learned English and Spanish and had some knowledge of German. The catalogue of the sale of his effects, following his death, shows that he had an extensive library and many valuable, even museum quality, antiques - especially furniture, doors, paintings, arms and armour (which he brought from his European tours), as well as the latest motor cars and four Arabian horses. Everything was sold off for a song to pay debts, following his death. His life was a far cry from following the cult of ignorance which governs the tastes and values of most modern celebrities. His former house (in a Spanish style) Falcon Lair, above Beverly Hills, has, fairly recently, been stripped of most of the cladding materials and the site will probably become a ‘condo’ - in the best modern taste.
In the photograph, he is shown with a swooning Vilma Banky. The dance scene from The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse is available on You Tube but don't make the mistake of thinking that the dancing in the opening of the scene is Valentino!
Posted by NJS at 08:45
Tuesday, 27 July 2010
Co-respondent or Spectator shoes seem to be everywhere at the moment, and so making something of a comeback. They never completely went away as, suitably studded, they have always been golfing favourites. However, they are back 'in' for summer wear. Above is a pair that I have, from R E Tricker (left click picture to view full image). There is no reason why the colours should be limited to black or brown and white and these are, in fact, blue calf and off-white 'nubuck'.
Posted by NJS at 12:49
Generally, only classic cars have radiator cap 'mascots' and, probably the most famous of these is those found on Rolls Royces: the 'Spirit of Ecstacy' (known in the USA as the 'Silver Lady' or the 'Flying Lady') and the 'Kneeling Lady' (which made a brief appearance, after its introduction in 1934). The original mascot was designed by Charles Sykes and represented a Spirit of Ecstacy figure, modelled on the features of Eleanor Thornton, secretary and mistress to Lord Montagu of Beaulieu (of the family of great motoring enthusiasts), and this figurine had a finger pressed to its lips; called 'The Whisper', it was symbolic of the secret love of Montagu and Thornton. The more familiar mascot (still modelled on Eleanor Thornton), was introduced in February 1911 and, scaled down, is still to be found on modern Rolls Royces. They were made through Sykes at first and then by the firm of Lejeune, before Rolls Royce eventually took over the manufacture.
In the 1920s and 1930s Jack Buchanan liked to substitute the Bonzo mascot (pictured above, by courtesy of Louis Lejeune), made by Lejeune, which also made the Queen's motor car mascot of St George slaying the dragon and also makes others too. Bonzo was a cartoon dog, created by George Studdy. JB even put them on the above magnificent machine (left click picture to view in its entirety): the last big road car made by Bentley before it was subsumed in Rolls Royce; the 1931 8 litre Bentley. The restored model pictured had actually belonged to JB and the photograph is by courtesy of Michael Daly of the School Garage. Louis Lejeune still make car mascots, including Bonzo.
Posted by NJS at 09:37
The post Burlington Bertie or Tramp For A Night has been mentioned to me a number of times and this prompts the thought that I might write my memoirs, maybe entitled From Cornwall to Rio de Janeiro, via Camden Road and St James's Square...Still, it's not going to happen today because I need to do my 500 words on Book III and the house and garden need attention too. However, I'll try and put another longer post up here later on.
Posted by NJS at 08:34
Monday, 26 July 2010
This is Pont Pill, a tidal creek off Fowey Harbour in Cornwall. There is a cluster of cottages, a farmhouse and a larger house, as well as the remains of lime kilns and a quay for the loading of barges. It is perfectly possible down here to forget time; at least for an afternoon. Moreover, here grows an apple tree from which I once picked the juiciest and most delicious, sun-warmed apple that I have ever tasted. Just up the valley, beyond the stream, is the church of Lanteglos-by-Fowey, in which there are ancient memorials (including an image of a knight in brass), to the family of Mohun (pronounced 'Moon'), who lived at what is now Hall Farm, nearby; after the first of them to settle in the area followed his hawk into the garden of Hall Farm and met the daughter of the house, whom he married.
Posted by NJS at 12:06
All formal hats - for example, toppers, cokes (bowlers - derbies) and hunt caps - are properly worn to sit more or less straight on the head (as in the portrait of Lord Ribblesdale, left) and, 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), from which we get the familiar expression ‘a Curate’s egg’; the cartoon will be reproduced in Book III.
George was the grandfather of the even more successful novelist, Daphne du Maurier.
The broader-brimmed fedora hat is also named after the heroine of Victorien Sardou’s 1882 play, Fédora.
Posted by NJS at 09:38
Sunday, 25 July 2010
When I was a child, we lived in a house which was separated from one of the neighbouring properties by a fence and a corner of a field, which had been bought, long before, by public subscription, for the use of the local hospital board, to raise money, by fetes and so forth. In the middle was a bandstand, which I never remember being used and long, overgrown grass that was mown once a year and stored in an eerie old barn at the bottom of the field. Down across this field led a well-worn path, which wound around a beautiful old oak tree. Up in the corner was a stile that led up into our neighbour's orchard. This was nearly as overgrown as the field and had within it a derelict chicken coop and precarious Edwardian hothouses, where our neighbours, 'Dolph and Mary, grew smouldering, scented tomatoes and big, twisted, seedy cucumbers, which they let me have sometimes. Very often in an afternoon or an evening, I used to wander up through their garden and either find them there for a chat or go on up to the house and ring the bell-pull outside. I cannot recall that they ever turned me away at once and I used to spend many happy hours talking to them. He died in 2005, at ninety three, so that would make him forty seven years older than I was and so when I was eight, he'd have been fifty five. Mary was a little younger. I recall many things that they told me but one thing has relevance for a blog concerned (however obscurely and nearly half a century later), with style: they cautioned against the use of ballpoint and felt-tipped pens and said that a man's character should be allowed to shine through his handwriting and that this was possible only when he used a lead pencil or a dip or fountain pen. I have to say that, in the pace of modern life, (for which the computer is the usual tool, aided by notes scribbled with anything to hand), I have often neglected their good advice. But I have never forgotten it and, for any significant document or letter, I should always employ it. In the photograph (courtesy of Penfriend) is a vintage Parker VP Lapis (circa 1906).
Posted by NJS at 12:05
Noel Coward worked for British Intelligence, during the Second World War, gathering information. Churchill apparently then told him to go and entertain the troops and so he devised a cabaret act for this purpose, which went down very well and he continued it to great acclaim, afterwards; first at the Cafe de Paris and then in Las Vegas. The critic Kenneth Tynan wrote of the Cafe de Paris act:
"He padded down the celebrated stairs, halted before a microphone on black suede-clad feet, and upraising both hands in a gesture of benediction, set about demonstrating how these things should be done."
It is difficult to think of many modern entertainers who could, alone, hold a sophisticated audience like that for an entire evening and it is good that his plays and (mainly amusing) songs are still being performed.
Posted by NJS at 11:32
Saturday, 24 July 2010
One of the most famous and most desired motor cars ever built by Bentley was the series of four door Continental saloons, built from 1957, which attracted the name the 'Flying Spur'. The name was the idea of H T Johnstone, managing director of the coachbuilder, H J Mulliner. In fact the flying spur (as shown in the photograph) is the heraldic crest of the Johnstone clan in Scotland; by legend, awarded to them for helping Bonnie Prince Charlie escape. The idea for this motor car began with the 1954 R Type Continental, two door coupe, made by coachbuilder H J Mulliner of lighter aluminium and incorporating other modifications for a faster machine. H J Mulliner and Park Ward continued to make these cars in the two door style into the S Type Continental, which had a larger engine. It was then considered that such a long car could easily be given four doors, without sacrificing the sports' styling and, in 1957, the Bentley Flying Spur four door Continental was born. Between 1957 and 1965, there were eleven variations, including two different engines. Coachbuilder James Young also produced a very sleek version of the S1 Continental and many regard this as the best of all Flying Spurs; only twenty two were built, although some of these may have had two doors. Production continued into the S3 series, made by H J Mulliner and James Young and there were also Rolls Royce versions produced but these were not really Flying Spurs, as that name was officially applied only to Bentley versions. The name is again in use for a modern Bentley model. But given a choice of the James Young model in the photograph and one of the modern cars, I know (despite the advantages of 'all mod cons'), which I should choose.
Posted by NJS at 09:16
Friday, 23 July 2010
Here are some notes for part of Book III:
"Bristol cars had begun production after the Second World War, as a result of a down-turn in the need for airplanes which the Bristol Aeroplane Company had produced to that point; including the Brisfit, the Blenheim and the Beaufighter. Their Olympus engine, originally designed for the Vulcan bomber, was later famously modified for Concorde. The first Bristol motor car was the Type 400. However, the car division became a wholly owned subsidiary of the main company in 1956. It was taken into private hands in 1961 by Sir George White and Mr T. A. D. Crook (Mr Crook is the owner of Bristol Cars Ltd still) - and this independent, British motor car company continues to this day; producing (and selling, direct, with no dealerships), a small number of handmade, elegantly under-stated, performance touring cars; the latest of which are the Blenheim 3, 3S and SG but there is also the sports Bristol Fighter, which began production in 2004 and reaches approximately 210 mph with a V10 7,996 cc engine and has an acceleration from 0-60 in 4 seconds. There is also the more powerful Fighter S. There must be worse ways in which to spend well over a quarter of a million pounds. The Bristol Fighter T is also now in production, with a claimed top speed of 270 mph.
Zagato-bodied Bristol motor car: the Bristol 406 (some with coachwork by the Italian coach-maker Zagato) was the last Bristol motor car to carry the 2 litre Filton-built engine (stretched to 2.216 litres). There were six special-bodied saloons and one coupe on which Zagato made the coachwork.
Bristol Blenheim Speedster: this is a modern interpretation of a 1950s prototype sports car, known as the Bullet. The original was never put into production. However, the car was used for tests until the 1970s, when it was laid up and forgotten. Re-discovered in the 1990s, it was restored. Bristol Cars will make a small number of up-dated reproductions to special order. The price is not advertised. Like so many great things, if one needs to ask the price, one probably cannot afford it. The new car is called the Speedster and is based on the Bristol Blenheim chassis and drive train. The car carries a 5,900 cc V8 engine, accelerates from 0-60 in an impressive 5 seconds and has a top speed of 160 mph. The photograph shows the Fighter T and is a Bristol Cars' photograph"
Posted by NJS at 09:31
Thursday, 22 July 2010
This is, actually, the picture that I had in mind, when I posted on this subject a few days ago: NC at his home, Blueharbour, in Jamaica (which has just opened as a holiday resort). His other house, Firefly, on the hill above is open as a museum; he is buried, on a slope overlooking the ocean, there.
Tricker's used to do these slippers readymade in post box red. Now you have to go bespoke or special order on a standard last for that colour.
Posted by NJS at 10:37
I have just received the cover design for Book 2 and it is much more interesting than Book 1. Browsers who wonder about the cartoon of the fight will have to look inside! As before, although some history is included, in this book, it is really a guide to what's what for Men About Town and it also covers more than just watches, colognes, cufflinks etc., and, amongst several other things, goes into: tobacco of all kinds, drinks, matching food and drink; sweets (candies) and chocolate; teas and coffees and even has a couple of whimsical chapters too. So there is no point in complaining about the title this time. The fact of the matter is that my publisher is a history publisher and that is why the main titles have 'history' in them; they have kindly given me much freedom in the subject matter and allowed me to cover things that the modern puritans frown upon, so the main titles are a small price to pay.
Posted by NJS at 09:23
Wednesday, 21 July 2010
Habanos SA has just introduced three new cigars, under the elite Cohiba brand, that was originally created for Fidel Castro in 1966 and only made more generally available in 1982. They were originally made in secret and under high security, for the President, to avoid sabotage as some of Castro's enemies had the idea of blowing his head off with an exploding cigar! Castro also gave these cigars to heads of state and, according to Simon Chase at Hunters & Frankau, the UK consignment used to end up with the Prince of Wales, who (being a non-smoker), often handed some on to disc-jockey and TV host, Sir Jimmy Saville. Presumably, now, the young Princes, who appear to smoke, will be on the bandwagon but, somehow, I doubt whether their courtiers will advise them to smoke big Havana cigars infront of the paparazzi, for fear of fomenting republican feeling. There has to be an irony in that. However, points to the Princes for smoking at all and, for doing it in public, they deserve a gold cigar case each.
'Cohiba' is the old Cuban word for 'cigar' as smoked by the Taino Tribe. The new range, called 'Behike', is named after the priest or medicine man who led the ritualized smoking of the tobacco leaves. The new cigars come in new vitolas (configurations) and include unique ring gauges (the cigar's diameter, measured in 1/64ths of an inch; although the lengths are measured in millimetres): 52 (119mm long), 54 (144mm long) and 56 (166 mm long). These cigars include the rare Medio Tiempo leaf which comes from the very top leaves of some sun-grown plants (and not all plants produce it). Of course, these cigars come at a premium price but they are held out as the best of the best, in terms of modern Havana cigar production.
Posted by NJS at 11:10
Tuesday, 20 July 2010
A. L. Rowse's hankering after Trenarren House, nestling in splendid gardens and woods, at the head of a magical coombe, leading down to the sea and a little beach at Hallane, dated from his boyhood and his father predicted that one day the boy might live there. In fact, it wasn't until 1953 that he took a lease of it, but he lived there until he died. The top two pictures show Trenarren House, which he never owned outright.
As a youngster, Daphne du Maurier went on holiday with her parents to Cornwall, to stay in Ferryside at Bodinnick by Fowey, a former boathouse in imitation of a Swiss cottage, which her actor-manager father, Gerald, had bought with the proceeds of one of his plays. She never really left. For some years she then trespassed on land belonging to the Rashleigh family and discovered the deserted Menabilly and hankered after it, until the owner granted her a twenty year lease of it, in time for Christmas 1943. This house is shown in the lower two pictures. Most famously, it was the setting for her novel Rebecca and the long winding drive and the beach cottage in the book, exist in fact. But, just the same as A.L., she never owned the house, to which she brought such fame and, when the Rashleighs wanted it back, she moved into the dower house, Kilmarth, where she lived until she died.
Posted by NJS at 12:15
Here is a short excerpt from Book II about the Rob Roy cocktail:
"Rob Roy -
This is a variation on a Manhattan, which is made with Scotch whisky and named after the Scottish folk hero Rob Roy MacGregor (1671-1734). Adding Drambuie to a Rob Roy makes it into a Robbie Burns (1759-1796), named after the celebrated Scottish poet, author of many poems including Auld Lang Syne, whose birthday is still marked with celebration on 25th January ('Burns' Night'). At the supper, a large sheep sausage (traditionally cooked in a sheep's stomach), called a haggis, is piped to the table and 'addressed' in a poem called Address to a Haggis. Scotch whisky is the usual accompaniment!"
As a footnotoe, neeps (turnips) and tatties (mashed potatoes), are both traditionally served on the plate .
Posted by NJS at 11:09
Monday, 19 July 2010
An exchange on a forum reminded me of something that I read in A. L. Rowse's autobiographical A Cornish Childhood. When he was a boy, he bought a secondhand book in St Austell Market House. It was "The Clouds" by Aristophanes. When he got it home, he realized that it bore the initials of a previous owner "A.T.Q.C." - Arthur Thomas Quiller-Couch ('Q'), later to be his mentor, in his fight and journey to Oxford. A. L. must have treasured this book very much. On one occasion, when there was an evening in his hometown of St Austell, to help raise funds to supplement his scholarships, a local tradesman handed up a note to Q (who was speaking on A. L.'s behalf), and the note read "Do you realize that the boy is a socialist?" and Q read it and tore it up, as he stood there, and continued. A. L.'s later academic and literary career is a matter of record that fully vindicated Q's confidence in him. When A. L. died, I remembered the mention of this book (which probably, also, bears the initials A.L.R.) and strove to find out what had happened to it. Alas! too late. Apparently, the book had been wholly disregarded as anything of especial note, and sold to a general book-dealer. I tracked him down but it had already been sold on. I just hope that the new owner fully appreciated its significance. Given a choice between a splendid motor car and that little book, I should choose that book.
The picture is A. L. R. in Trenarren House.
Posted by NJS at 19:41
Blackheath Village, on the southern rim of London, near Greenwich, is a delightful place and one of the few true villages to have retained its separation from all the suburban sprawl. It is helped in this by the existence of Greenwich Park and the heath itself, which is famous for several things: the first golf course outside of Scotland; the first hockey club; the selection of the first English rugby team, in the Princess of Wales pub, for the first rugby international (between England and Scotland) in 1871; and the Cornish uprising of 1497, in rebellion against taxes that violated the rights of the Cornish Stannary Parliament. It was almost certainly also along the ancient Watling Street, which stretches across the heath, and on to the Dover Road, that Beau Brummell fled in his carriage on the night of 16th May 1816. The Pagoda, dating from 1775, was one of the first houses built here (for the Duke of Buccleuch), before the village became a dormitory for London workers on the coming of the railway. It was built as a summer house for Montagu House, which formerly stood next to the Park Ranger's House, and was probably designed by Sir William Chambers. It has a steep pagoda roof and is altogether in a Chinese style. It is a private residence and may be viewed only from the outside. It became, for a time, the refuge of Princess (later Queen), Caroline, after the Prince Regent banished her in 1799, until she moved to Montagu House. She was followed by scandal in both of these places, as well as in Italy, leading up to the Trial of Queen Caroline, under the guise of the Pains and Penalties Bill of 1820, by which George IV (as he had become) sought to divorce her and deny her the title of Queen. The Bill made the King even less popular and the Queen was cheered in the streets. The Bill was withdrawn, after the taking of evidence and debate in the House of Lords, where it was passed by a slim margin, as the government realized that the chance of its passing in the House of Commons was remote. By this time, Caroline had left Blackheath and the Prince Regent had ordered Montagu House to be demolished in 1815. However, the delightful Pagoda remains and, if you are in the area, is certainly worth a visit; as is The Paragon, a glorious crescent of houses, dating from 1807. The Paragon is shown in the top picture and The Pagoda in the second.
Posted by NJS at 12:48
Sunday, 18 July 2010
Having mentioned slippers, in a recent post, here's a mention of Noel Coward and his: they were made by R. E. Tricker. The illustration shows him (in a scene with Lilian Braithwaite), wearing a pair, in the Grecian style, in a shot from his play The Vortex which, staged at the Everyman Theatre in Hampstead in 1924, marked the beginning of the rise of his star as a playwright and a performer. His dressing gowns were made by Sulka, which is set to be reborn; although the timetable, according to the current owners of the name, is unfortunately hazy. There is a pair of Coward's slippers (monogrammed in needlepoint), and a monogrammed dressing gown on show in the old Theatre Museum collection, now at the Victoria & Albert Museum.
Posted by NJS at 22:02
It is late and I am tired. But not so tired that I cannot seethe with rage at watching a programme on the TV about one of the new breed of tycoon-gangsters, who buys readymade suits and shoes, from a Continental 'Designer', for up to £15,000 a time! Bearing in mind that you can get a top Savile Row bespoke suit for in the region of £3,000 and a pair of bespoke shoes from one of the great makers for around £2,000, one begins to wonder how some men simultaneously have the ability to make the kind of megabucks that they can blithely throw away on TAT and have absolutely no comprehension of quality goods or how to dispose of their hard-earned cash sensibly. One equally wonders how on earth they retain their vast wealth when there are so many oleaginous charlatans out there, willing and able, to strip them of it.
Posted by NJS at 20:40
I had a conversation yesterday about free association of thoughts, which results in ''streams of consciousness' writings and decided that I could never inflict such stuff on my readers and there are very obvious routes by which one gets from sleeping-in to Carmen Miranda's funeral.... However, as I stayed up until the wee small hours discussing this point, today is a lite-bite (and even liter than usual bite), on here! Normal service will be resumed tomorrow.
Posted by NJS at 15:55
Saturday, 17 July 2010
Are you an easy victim of that desire for "just five minutes more" when you wake up? The five minutes becomes ten and then fifteen... twenty minutes, what's the urgency? Then you drift off back into proper sleep and an hour later wake with a start, guilty over the fact that you should have been up and doing? Yes, even though I did not come to Brazil to be woken by an alarm clock; even though I don't have to disappear down into an underground or The City Drain, to fight my way to work, I am still afflicted with the Puritanical Work Ethic. But now it's time for the first Pina Colada of the day and a bowl of olives. After breakfast, it will be time to get back on to Book III.
The landscape picture, above, is of a view from the Sugarloaf Mountain in Rio. On one of its sides is a delightful enclave called Urca and one of the houses on its winding road bears a plaque: to the memory of Carmen Miranda and was her Brazilian house at the height of her fame. It is now owned by the sister of a friend of mine and so I got to see it inside and stand on the front verandah. There is also a museum to Carmen Miranda's memory in the centre of the city (Museu Carmen Miranda); which is well worth a visit and displays costumes and jewellery and posters and other memorabilia,and plays recordings. When she first returned to Rio from Hollywood, she was hurt at the cool reception for having (as the Brazilians saw it) sold out (she became one of the biggest earning Americans of the time), but when she died an early death from a heart attack, such was the affection for her that half a million Brazilians turned out on to the streets for her funeral. The other picture, above, is, obviously, of her. I, I ,I ,I, I, I...
Posted by NJS at 08:15
Friday, 16 July 2010
I put up this little excerpt from a section in a chapter in Book III concerned with roses and rose-growing. I have just had the nod of approval over its contents from Peter Beales, of Peter Beales' Roses, a great authority on the subject:
"There are different growing styles: standard roses (on one main stalk), shrub roses, climbing roses, rambling roses, and miniature roses; there are heavily scented roses and roses in just about every colour, including darkest of dark crimson, near-black, but excepting green.
The scent of roses is known to most of us and I can distinctly recall pushing my infant face into the dewy heads of big, velvety, crimson rose blooms of the then fairly new Josephine Bruce, inhaling deeply and wondering at the marvellous scent of them. For long, people have cultivated roses for their appearance and their natural perfume (as well as their precious, essential oil, attar of roses); their medicinal and their nutritional properties, to be found in their growing shoots, their petals and their hips. The Romans lay and dined under pergolas and in arbours of roses, when secrets might be disclosed in confidence and things said "sub rosa" are still treated as confidential. The remembered expression is the Latin for "under the rose" but there is also evidence to suggest that the Greeks observed the same convention, deriving from Aphrodite's gift to Eros of a rose as a prompt to the reign of silence over the indiscretions of the gods. The ancients also floated rose petals in their wine and scattered rose petals on the floor at feasts; to maintain good humour and seemly behaviour and Cleopatra's palace was habitually carpeted with rose petals. Amongst others, the Indians scatter rose petals before a bride and over the marriage bed.
Roses may adorn any occasion, from a joyful engagement to the wedding, on then to a birth; the Christening; birthdays; anniversaries, and, as symbols of the hope and joy of the resurrection, they even lighten grief and sorrow on the deathbed and at funerals. In short, of all flowers, roses are never, the world round, out of place, misunderstood or unwelcome." In the picture is a Chloris rose.
Posted by NJS at 16:16
This morning I had the rare privilege of conducting the Boston Pops Orchestra in a Henry Mancini arrangement of It's Three O'clock In The Morning I was not sure whether I was quite ready for it yet but it all went off very well and I greatly enjoyed taking the strings way up, just to cascade down in that characteristic Mancini way, as well as bringing out the best of the piano in this slow Waltz classic. My abilities in this regard have been a secret even from my family and my oldest friends. I arrive at the point of sharing it with the world because it is not fair that only the local delivery van driver should know about it; having spent several minutes, staring through the railings at me as I tore at the air with one of Mr Rowney's pencils, mouthing to himself, just as I turned to see him "Gringo louco!" ["Mad Gringo!"].
Posted by NJS at 15:47
Thursday, 15 July 2010
If you like nice clean lines in your suits, and wish to explore tailors in the best traditions, apart from the very old established names, check out (in alphabetical order), Byrne & Burge and Henry Bailey; both 'Savile Row' makers (exact contact details are easily found by searching their names on the internet). The coat in the top picture is by Henry Bailey and that in the second is by Byrne & Burge.
Posted by NJS at 21:06
As mentioned by amendment to My Profile, www.bookdepository.com (and associated sites) seems to be offering the best current deal to buy this book, with worldwide free shipping. This blogsite will not accept the complete link in My Links.
Posted by NJS at 16:14
Shoemaker Peal & Co (1565-1965) were especially famed for their slippers. The head lastmaker at W S Foster and Henry Maxwell is Terry Moore, who was apprenticed at Peal & Co. Here are some examples of the slippers that these firms are still turning out. Photograph by courtesy of Wolf Media.
Posted by NJS at 14:51
Sky are re-showing one of my favourite films: the 1967 version of Barefoot in The Park "Sharma sharma" and "My teeth feel soft"; "I'd like to die in my own bed"; "I didn't say 'stuffed shirt' but you are very proper and dignified"; "You will stay here and fight to save our marriage"; "I can't make a fist" etc., etc.. If all depressives were simply prescribed this film, I am sure that the world would be a less gloomy place. Not only are Robert Redford and Jane Fonda superb but so too are Charles Boyer and Mildred Natwick. Now it's down tools here to watch this sharply observed, witty, wistful, whimsical and wonderful film!
Posted by NJS at 14:03
On this day 1815, Napoleon I surrendered to Captain Maitland onboard HMS Bellerophon (coincidentally mythical Bellerophon, riding Pegasus, slew the monster Chimera), and was taken, in great secrecy, to Plymouth. Of course, word broke out that 'Boney' was there and crowds of sightseers appeared in boats but were not allowed to approach. Ironically, Napoleon wished to be given political asylum in Britain and, although this was never a serious possibility, the British government took nearly a month to decide what to do with him. On 7th August, he was transferred to HMS Northumberland, which took him to St Helena. The records of Fribourg & Treyer, snuff chandlers (est 1720), at the top of Haymarket until around 1982, 'at the sign of the rasp and crown', show that, besides supplying George IV (from the time that he was Prince Regent) and Beau Brummell, they also sent their Robillard blend of coarse ('rappee') snuff to Napoleon in exile. He was reputed to have used this at the rate of seven pounds (in weight) a month.
A 'rasp', as mentioned in the old shop shingle, was a file for shaving tobacco plugs (called 'carottes') to procure the snuff powder. The shop is still there, a splendid architectural survival (although now a tourist shop). Thankfully, their snuff is still made, according to the original receipts, and still sold under the Fribourg & Treyer name, by Wilsons of Sharrow. (who also make their own great range).
Posted by NJS at 09:50
Wednesday, 14 July 2010
Good new rubies are very hard to find. But this is one from Burma: it is a good clean claret colour, nicely cut, has no visible internal flaws ('inclusions') and is around half a carat in weight; neatly set in 18 carat gold, it is easily my favourite pin. It is true that it has been heat-treated to improve the colour but most of them have.
Posted by NJS at 11:12
Bastille Day marks the beginning of modern France. For her there were yet to come many changes of direction (revolution, restoration, followed by more revolution, wars, occupation, resistance and liberation). But on this special day for France, I always think that Englishmen should spare a thought for Sir Percy Blakeney and his League of The Scarlet Pimpernel. They were the creation of Baroness Orczy, and, under the heavy disguise of useless foppery, Sir Percy was, in fact, the template for every modern action hero, from Captain W E Johns' Biggles to Ian Fleming's James Bond and even of Marvel Comics' Spider Man. In her autobiography Links in The Chain of Life (Hutchinson, 1947), she tells us of his creation or, more accurately, his arrival.
After having been to see a newspaper editor in Fleet Street about the writing of a romantic story, she made her way homeward to Kensington, feeling slightly depressed:
"It was a dreary, foggy day in November - in fact a typical London day. My way lay by underground and presently I found myself on the platform of the Temple Station, waiting for my west-bound train......You came to me on that dreary, dismal afternoon in November, out of the London fog and fumes of the underground railway. You walked along the platform, looking about you through your quizz-glass. You had on your magnificent coat of many capes and billows of exquisite Mechlin lace showed at your throat and wrists. And I heard your voice, the voice that once called to nineteen English gentlemen to risk their lives at a word from you to save the weak and innocent from persecution and from death, and I heard your funny, inane laugh which, more than a hundred years ago was the clarion call to heroism and self-sacrifice."
Since I read that passage, Temple Underground has always seemed to me to be bathed in glamour and what boy's childhood is complete without reading The Scarlet Pimpernel and seeing Alexander Korda's 1934 film of the book, starring Leslie Howard; Merle Oberon and Raymond Massey?
"They seek him here, they seek him there,
Those Frenchies seek him everywhere:
Is he in Heaven, or is he in hell,
That demmed illusive Pimpernel?"
Posted by NJS at 10:17
Tuesday, 13 July 2010
The 'lakes' are in fact gigantic, sea-fed lagoons, of which there are several along this stretch of coast. Here are a few more pictures, which I have been asked to put up here. Starting with the lowest and working up, the first is the town church, on a promontory in the ocean: Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Nazareth, dated 1603.
The next is the view of the sea infront of the house. The beach is unbroken between the rock where the church is (a mile to the east) and Ponta Negra (Black Head Point) over fifteen miles away to the west. The usual high tide mark is forty metres from the garden wall but there is often sea spray swept over the house and this corrodes everything that it touches. The waves here are good enough for the next beach along (Itauna), to host world surfing championships. The third picture is the view of the rooftops and mountains, from the top back verandah. The fourth picture is a view out over the lagoon and the mountains from the church.
Posted by NJS at 09:21