Thursday, 30 September 2010

Omar Khayyam Rose Bush

Here is the grave of Edward FitzGerald in Boulge churchyard, Suffolk. The head of the grave is to the left and by this is a cage containing the famous rosebush, the history of which is described in History of Men's Fashion . To the right, at the foot of the grave, are some more rosebushes, given by the government of Iran in 1972. The photograph is by Laurence Mann. Left click to view.

Showing Cuff

The passage in my History of Men's Fashion on showing shirt cuff caused a little argument here and there. One thing is for sure - H. J. Tennant MP (as drawn, above, by Spy), was not a very good judge of showing cuff!

Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

In 1859 Edward FitzGerald paid the London publisher Bernard Quaritch to publish two hundred and fifty copies of his paraphrase translation of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, a Persian mathematician, astronomer and poet, who lived between 1048 and 1131. Quaritch priced the book at five shillings but it did not sell and after a while he put the books in a discount box at a penny a copy. The legend goes that the great English poet A. C. Swinburne bought a copy and lent it to the Rossettis. Christina was much taken with it and put the word about.

One hundred and eleven years later it is one of the most translated and printed poems of all time and in any language. Dozens of other translations exist (including more literal ones) but FitzGerald's five editions of his translation remain matchless. Only fifty copies of the first edition are known to have survived and, unsurprisingly, change hands for enormous sums:

Quatrain XIII
Look to the Rose that blows about us -"Lo,
Laughing, she says, into the World I blow:
At once the silken Tassel of my Purse
Tear, and its Treasure on the Garden throw."

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

A Rose For Mrs Miniver

In his stirring wartime film, Mrs Miniver (MGM 1942), starring Greer Garson in the title role, William Wyler includes in the storyline the naming of a rose after Mrs Miniver, as a symbol of steadfastness. Even after a little research, it is not clear to me whether any real rose was ever called this in tribute but I have a source that will know and then, if the rose exists, also what it looks like. I have seen a suggestion that there are some roses called this planted outside the Imperial War Museum. Until the matter is clarified, the above is an artist's impression of this rose (artist Irina Ohl).

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Summercourt Fair

Summercourt is a sleepy village in central Cornwall, in the parish of St Enoder. For eight hundred years there has been a Michaelmas fair held here (now centred around 25th September each year), founded on an ancient royal charter. I remember my first visit, when I was about four years old. My mother and I were walking near our house when my grandfather appeared in his car on his way to the fair. Apparently, my grandmother was not interested in it. Anyway, I asked whether I could go too and so off we went. I recall enjoying my first toffee apple and how I wanted a goldfish too. We stayed until after twilight and I sensed, for the first time, the strange spookiness of fairgrounds and then he took me home. Eight years later, on 25th September 1972, my sister came to me in the garden to tell me that my grandfather had died that afternoon. This is one date that I will never forget.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

No Sex Please! - We're British!

I remember that, as as fresher student in London, I went to see a godanged awful, tripe of a farce at Vaudeville, called well called the title of this post. It was so godanged dreadful that it was memorable. Sadly.

Years later I bought a copy of Eric Kroll's magnificent Fetish Girls. It is suggestive. It is not pornographic. Artistic, certainly. I put it on the coffee table in the waiting room at work. One particular colleague thumbed through it, sniggering (and shaking). Everyone else (except some clients from Charleston, South Carolina), left it well alone and, eventually, I was prevailed upon to remove it. I think that the word 'inappropriate' was used (through thin, well-pursed lips), along the way. So, you see, it is true: No Sex, Please! We're British! Another reason to live in Brazil.

Too Pre-occupied With The Vanity of The World

As if I were not usually pre-occupied enough with the vanity of the world, the last few days have seen me over-stretched: termites eating the basement; too many cats (as if there could ever be too much pussy); watering the dusty garden and things like that. It all set me thinking or remembering of when I had time to sit in a tree and memorize the poems of W B Yeats and John Donne. No Yeats today. And don't buy any of my books today either. This is not a Jeffrey Archer marketing ploy. I don't drink pina coladas on the beach either and the Sunday Times does not equate me with Alexander Dumas. Jeff says that's what they say about him. I'm just surprised that the old windbag can even spell 'Alexander Dumas'. Still, Tally-ho! d'Artagnan. I expect that Fragrant Mary helps him with the old spelling.

Don't even log into one of those blogs that you always hope will answer the question: "Does my bum look big in this?" or (as you stand there, frozen in an unnatural pose, in a joke of a suit), answer the question "How do I look?" other than with the answer: "Very pleased".


Instead, today, revisit John Donne: Go and catch a falling star and all that jazz or even just tune in to his Hymn to God The Father. You'll feel much better for it and don't miss the pun on his name:

Wilt Thou forgive that sin where I began
Which was my sin, though it were done before?
Wilt Thou forgive that sin; through which I run,
And do run still, though still I do deplore?
When Thou has done, Thou hast not done,
For I have more.

Wilt Thou forgive that sin which I have won
Others to sin, and made my sin their door?
Wilt Thou forgive that sin which I did shun
A year or two but wallowed in a score?
When Thou hast done, Thou hast not done,
For I have more.

I have a sin of fear, that when I have spun
My last thread, I shall perish on the shore;
But swear by Thyself, that at my death Thy Son
Shall shine as he shines now and heretofore;
And having done that, Thou hast done;
I fear no more.

Offered the Deanery of St Paul's Cathedral (old St Paul's), he agonized over whether he was fit for the post. Imagine a modern British C of E cleric doing that (bunch of wimps). They'd be tripping over their beards for the post and stabbing each other in the back (and even the front), as the glass-shattering voices of their wives urged them on...

One of the few things to survive the Fire of London is John Donne's monument preserved in the Wren Cathedral. Worth seeing.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Colman and Garson

Somehow, from the list of the greatest romantic films, in August, I missed out Random Harvest, starring Ronald Colman and Greer Garson (MGM 1942). The central character played by Colman is a shell-shocked WWI soldier suffering from amnesia. At the end of the War he slips out of an asylum in the midlands of England and finds himself in a tobacconist where his halting speech gives him away and, as the shopkeeper goes to call the police, a stage-performer in a travelling troupe - "Paula", played by Greer Garson, enters the shop and suggests that he shouldn't hang around. He latches on to her and she decides to help him, calling him "Smithy". Eventually, she takes him off to a village in Devon to recuperate and he starts writing and even sells some articles to a newspaper in Liverpool. They get married and have a child (who later dies) and, on the day after the birth, he is summoned to Liverpool for an interview with the paper. Knocked down in a road accident, Smithy remembers who he really is and forgets his recent life, except that he finds the key [to his house in Devon] in his pocket. Suspended disbelief has to extend to the fact that he would probably have had a return train ticket and the letter from the newspaper, inviting him to interview, showing his recent name and address. But, maybe, this is a small point. He then remembers that he is a member of a rich family and goes to his original home. There then follows a period during which he cannot quite marry someone else and Paula becomes his secretary. After he becomes an MP she becomes his wife but each of them exhibits the loneliness of the losses that they have sustained; only Paula knows the truth but is advised to keep it from him. After a series of coincidental journeys and meetings, Smithy finds himself back at the Devon cottage, opening the squeaky gate and moving aside the blossom-laden cherry-tree branch to get to the front door, where he opens the door with the key just as Paula arrives and calls out "Smithy". Of course he then recognizes her and all is obviously going to be well. Mawkish? Maybe. Effective as cinema? Certainly. Those old Hollywood makers, aided and abetted by the music composers, knew how to hit the mark. The picture above is a still from near the beginning of the film when they are in the tobacconist. The film wa snominated for seven Oscars and although it did not win any, that year Greer Garson won the best actress Oscar for her stirring performance as Mrs Miniver.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Ironmongers and Snuff Chandlers And Our Language

Beyond any naval or military conquest or any adventure in the nature of trade, probably the greatest enduring, human impact in the world is the spread of the English language, providing a ready lingua franca, especially between speakers of different minority languages and it has been moulded and has evolved with differences from the original in all the countries around the world where it has been adopted as the main or the official language. All of this is to be welcomed. But I do not understand why it is that a British journalist, writing in a British Sunday paper today needs to refer to a 'hardware store' when he was brought up to say 'ironmongers'. Next we will be putting our trash cans out for the garbage men on the sidewalks or visiting the snuff store instead of the snuff chandlers and the nation's school masters will be putting on their sport coats to teach math.

Please! Let us keep our own version of the original language alive and well and let it not be overwhelmed by the slight variation current in America (or anywhere else, for all that). God bless Uncle Sam! but it was he who wanted independence and he got it. British independence and identity are important too. In this age of increasing commercial 'globalization' and movement of people, they must be jealously guarded.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Advice On Dress (as requested) For The TUC March

Anyone going on the TUC march against the UK government cuts, should go dressed in one of the ways suggested by the above photographs. The first is a picture of les sans culottes et les tricoteuses around Madame Guillotine and the second is of the Jarrow marchers. Take your pick and I hope that it pelts with rain because, of course, in these times, cutbacks are a necessary medicine.

No Brown In Town

I have just seen a statement in another blog which bluntly asserts that what the blogger calls "the rule" No Brown In Town "has pretty much no relevance in London today". In Book III I mention 'rus in urbe' and, although it is a tag that is normally applied to gardens, I recognize that there are times and places in town when a relaxed attitude might be taken over dress when out and about.

However, so far as the blogger's heedless generalization is concerned: First of all, No Brown In Town is not a general "rule" but often a carefully observed custom, in such places as certain places of work and the better clubs. Moreover, even though evening dress has disappeared as everyday wear, there are many who would take a dim view of a man pitching up to the opera (or to a funeral) in brown shoes. Sometimes, it is an actual rule (e.g. advocates appearing in a Court are still instructed to wear black shoes).

Just because the threads of our civilization are being unravelled by barbarians and its remaining customs are being rent asunder by just about all those who can grab a a corner of them, are not reasons to hasten the process with gratuitous exhortations to destroy perfectly reasonable, established customs on the (implied) false premise that they are oppressive "rules" imposed by an overtaken elite, whose customs are being disregarded in the free-fall, free-for-all scrum of The Common Man in modern Britain; which, incidentally, Blair, Garden Broom and Mandy did not invent; as Thatcher laid the foundations for the rot setting in with her statement that "There is no such thing as Society".

The photograph is a still from the film My Fair Lady of Audrey Hepburn, Wilfred Hyde White - and Rex Harrison an example of rus in urbe but he wouldn't have been likely to get into the opera in that rig "Not in them days Guv'nor!"; even if, within the confines of the phantasy of the film, he does get into the royal enclosure at Royal Ascot, dressed in tweeds.

Friday, 17 September 2010

Here's a Wonderful Surprise

In 1969, Prince Karim, The Aga Khan (a leader of Islam), gave the Aga Khan's Palace in India to the Government of India as a memorial to Mahatma ("Great Soul") Gandhi and his philosophy. He even provided for the Mahatma's tomb, as this picture shows. Left click to enlarge. As maniacs travel the world today, killing for religious and political differences, maybe the modern world should learn a lesson from this splendid celebration of greatness.

The Ultimate Acceptance

Clark Gable (1901-1960) was married five times. Marriages one, two and four ended in divorce. His third wife, in 1939, was Carole Lombard who was killed in a 'plane crash while on War work. Apparently, his devastation was considerable and there is little doubt that he had been happiest with her. When he died still married to Kay Williams in 1960 (the fiftieth anniversary of his death is on 16th November 2010), she showed incredible understanding and acceptance in entombing him next to Carole Lombard in Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery; although she later had herself (buried as Kathleen Gable), stowed away near by. Elizabeth Peters (mentioned on the photograph), was Carole Lombard's mother who was also killed in the crash. Left click to enlarge the photograph.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Regeneration of England's Towns

I have just read a news report (well it passes itself off as 'news') that claims that, according to some 'researchers' Cambridge offers the 'blandest' shopping experience in England; even though there are many clothing shops, food shops, even a couple of tobacconists left, as well as tailors and shoemakers. For Goodness' sake, Cambridge is one of the very few towns in which you can still buy decent snuff and separate, stiff collars.

Moreover, these 'researcher' chaps obviously haven't visited one of the towns that have recently been 'regenerated'. This 'regeneration' entails ripping down the perfectly serviceable fabric at the centre of places and chopping down trees which are (sometimes) subject to preservation orders and even demolishing listed buildings. The reality is that this is all done for the sake of Mr Barrett and Mr Wimpey and (as John Betjeman described them in his poem on Slough and to paraphrase him)- all the other bald, fat men with hands so used to stroke their double chins. It certainly is not done to benefit towns or the people of the towns - such as St Austell which is full of mobile 'phone shops, estate agents, banks, building societies and charity shops. There is not one greengrocer. There is one off-licence. The last decent newsagent/tobacconist and sweet shop has gone. Even the old Odeon cinema was sacrificed upon the altar of gerry-builders' gain. The development that has gone up there is guaranteed to last for twenty five years - so much for each generation leaving its mark - as those born now will be rebuilding their town before they are thirty. Ironically, it has been named after the nickname for the river that flows through the town - 'White River Place'. By one of life's little ironies, the river has not been 'white' for around twenty years, as the discharge of clay waste into it was stopped as it was pollution and had stripped the river of all living things for a century. But these goons want to celebrate that fact.

Now it seems that, by implication, such morons would like to get their hands on Cambridge (illustrated) too. Really, I'd believe - and fear - anything at the hands of these people. Watch out Cambridge! Here they come!

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

The Lost Martini

Last night I mislaid a Martini. It could not have been the first. The first one to have been mislaid, I mean. That is to say, mislaid in the history of the Martini. Even though its history, as a cocktail (wherever cocktails come from), is conflicted and, therefore, uncertain. However, I am sure that they must have been mislaid before. Well, as sure as I am of anything. Anyway, this morning I found it on a windowsill outside and there were several large (and once-formidable) ants floating in the glass. They were dead but they were smiling and I could just tell that they had died very,very happy, after their little festa.

Monday, 13 September 2010

Hours in The Day

I am going to have to try to find a twenty fifth hour in the day, to do all that I have to do. At the moment I have to complete the general index for Book II, which is not difficult but very time-consuming. Then I still have to complete Book III and ease into Book IV. Book IV is going to involve some trawling through the National Archives; even though the book is hardly going to involve any full biography of anybody, I dislike the idea of just cadging other people's research. Anyway, all this means that it is going to be rather becalmed here for a few days but I shall try to make a useful entry a day.

Friday, 10 September 2010

Secret Agent

Another subject of Book IV will be British Special Operations Executive agent Krystyna Skarbek-Granville, an aristocratic Polish volunteer for behind-the-lines work in many countries, including with the French Resistance, involving amazing action and escapes, all executed with supreme confidence and dash, resulting in her receiving the George Medal, the OBE and Croix de Guerre Avec Palmes. After the War, she found difficulty in finding work and ended up as a stewardess on a ship, where she met a man who, rebuffed as her suitor, stabbed her to death in the foyer of a cheap hotel.

Book IV

I am very pleased to be able to announce that my publisher has agreed to publish my fourth book for them on the subject of some Great British Adventurers; and, although I have not yet completed Book III, I have set out the template for this further work. Dealing with this is part of the reason that this blog has been uncharacteristically quiet for the last few days. In the picture is one of the subjects of the intended book, John William Colenso (1814-1883) 1st Anglican Bishop of Natal, known to the Zulus (whose cause he championed) as Sobantu "The Father of the People". The original portrait was by Samuel Sidley.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

The Original Purpose-Built Crockford's Club House

The picture is of a steel engraving of the original, purpose-built, Crockford's Club building (from 1828) which, modified, still stands at 50 St James's Street. Left click to enlarge.

In 1827, William Crockford was the subject of St James's: A Satirical Poem in Six Epistles to Mr Crockford, which included the lines:

All this, which Crocky, entre nous,
Comes every day within my view,
Still needs that charm which to my mind,
We only at thy table find.

Monday, 6 September 2010


I should just like to thank the many people who have linked to my blog and publicized it on their own blogs and websites. I daily get 'hits' from all over the world and this is certainly gratifying enough to keep me blogging away. I did say, at the outset, that there might not be any discernible form to it all but it seems to be hanging together after a fashion.

Sports' Heroes and Feet of Clay

The commercial reality (because of sponsorships and all the advertizing and media payments) demands that sports' heroes are paid a king's ransom - a week - whereas forty years ago, they were paid a living wage, tied to that of a master artisan. To my mind, the amount that they now earn bears no relationship to any proportionate value in what they actually do and gate money (from which they used to be paid),is probably insignificant. These men have often left school at sixteen and their main accomplishment is participation in a game. I simply do not know what their IQs are but, judging by the interviews that they give, it probably isn't often much above 100. They are not priests or medical men or lawyers or any men in whom the world reposes trust or, except in relation to their skills in their games (when they truly have them), men who should be regarded, in any other sense, as role models.

It is hardly surprising that, burdened with much more money than sense, they are sometimes caught with their trousers down and exploited by some wicked lady who sees more advantage to herself in a quick sale to a newspaper of a 'story' than repeat business. But why is it that British newspapers in particular are blessed with prurient editors who, in these circumstances, purse their lips into a round 'O' and mimic the late Frankie (Up Pompeii!) Howerd in the line "Ooooh! Mrs!"? (The first picture is a photograph of a typical British news editor. He has just paid the prostitute for her story about a celebrity's monkey business and is preparing to deliver a public exegesis on morality. A still from Up Pompeii! is shown second above).

Moreover, why is it that some men 'get away' much more easily with being caught with their trousers down, than others? No one ever spilled any beans on JFK but it now seems clear that he had an interesting social life, whereas poor old Bill Clinton was virtually strawberry-jammed by the likes of Kenneth (Up Pompeii!)Starr. After John Major and Mrs Curry stopped banging each other into another dimension and she spilled the beans, not much was said and the useless article was made a Knight of the Garter; Alan Clark wrote diaries detailing some of his exploits with the fair sex, including his seduction of a Judge's wife and his two daughters. After that the voters of the constituency of Kensington & Chelsea voted for him to represent them in Parliament - but Tiger Woods, John Terry and Wayne Rooney are regarded as letting the world down and are endlessly excoriated. Is it just about selling newspapers? Does the public really care about the morals of their heroes of the games' field? Does it have any legitimate interest in the subject? If so, why? Why? Why? Why? It seems moronic to me.

But, maybe, it is partly because the twisted values of modern Britain idolize mere games-players above worthier men.

Brains and Beauty

Nigella Lawson is a graduate of Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford and a successful journalist, cookery writer and television presenter, with an especially suggestive approach to gastronomy...

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Michael Wilding

Michael Wilding (1912-1979) was known for being one of Elizabeth Taylor's husbands (1952-1957) and for making a string of films, often co-starring Anna Neagle, under direction of her husband Herbert Wilcox. The most famous of these is Spring in Park Lane (1948). He also had a prominent role in In Which We Serve (1942). Moreover, he appeared in several television programmes but had a less successful Hollywood period. Tall and elegant, without forfeiting manliness, Wilding (especially when paired with Neagle), exemplified the dignity and grace of a former age.

The picture shows Wilding and Neagle in a film poster.

Lunch on the Lagoon

Today is another day off from toil; well, it is Sunday, after all. Marco and Ornella are 'having us for lunch' at their lagoon-side house - although I hope that they just mean that they are feeding and watering us. They normally turn out something very good; last time it was stewed oxtail, which takes hours but it just fell off the bone and was delicious. They have just come back from seeing their children in Blighty so I think that today they might just make pasta - but pasta made by Italians is worth having.

They have promised to report on the state of the nation, which they found to be worse, this trip, than they were expecting. I dare say that it will take some time for recovery to set in after the policies of the last thirty years.

Meanwhile, here is another lagoon shot,not taken from their house, although it might as well have been.

Buon appetito!

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Great Expectations

Often, I think, our expectations of acquisitons and events let us down. We dream of perfection. We expect too much. But, sometimes, what just turns out to be a perfect afternoon, in a lush, green place, as today's, can free us of all the baggage of expectation and desire and let us just enjoy the moment. A nice drink or two, a perfectly accomplished BBQ and good company: what more can we really ask. Just let it happen and remember Hilaire Belloc's fine lines:

"From quiet homes and first beginning,
Out to the undiscovered ends,
There's nothing worth the wear of winning
But laughter and the love of friends.

The BBQ took place on the mountain just to the right of the centre of the photograph, which was taken from the far side of one of the town lagoons.


Today we have been asked to a BBQ birthday celebration. This is also the weekend that Brazil celebrates its independence from Portugal (7th September). The venue is not quite up in the far interior of Brazil but it is about twelve miles away and still within the same municipal district which makes one reflect on just how much space there is in this country. Greater London covers about the same amount of ground as the Sleepy Hollow but the normal population here is 60,000 people (swelling to 250,000 during holiday periods), whereas the population of Greater London is about 7.5 million.

A Brazilian BBQ is quite a different affair from the British version. The British version entails buying one of those little BBQ trolleys from Homebase DIY store on a Sunday afternoon, grilling mountains of big steaks, sausages etc. for six people, so that it all arrives to be piled up on each plate at the same time, washing all this down (plus trifle and cream) with pilsner beer, getting mild sunstroke and waking up with a headache.

The Brazilian version is quite different. For a start, no real BBQ worth its name (actually churrasco) takes place other than in its own large space, often a covered area with grill and chimney, plus a minimum of twenty guests. The food comes at you slice by slice: everything from steak to chops, sausages, maybe fish and then grilled pineapple. There may be a token salad but it is more for decoration than anything else. This is all washed down with weak beer and everyone has the good sense to sit out of the sun. The invitation might be for 2pm. This means that it will start at about 6pm and go on, to the beat of increasingly loud music, and thoroughly good humour, until 3 am.

Anyway, this BBQ is the reason that I am not going to find the time today to cry 'Shame!' that Tony Blair was pelted with eggs and shoes in Ireland yesterday...

Friday, 3 September 2010

In The Footsteps of Colonel Percy Fawcett

Colonel Percy Fawcett, his son and a friend of his son disappeared in the interior of Brazil in 1925, looking for the 'lost city' called 'Z'. One theory was that some locals had them for dinner (in the Hannibal Lecter sense). Anyway, Peter Fleming went with a group to retrace Fawcett's footsteps in 1932 and failed but had a whale of a time, which he then wrote up in the extremely funny book A Brazilian Adventure (Alden, 1933). Here I am ready to go and have another look.

Anonymous Comments

There have just been a couple of closely posted anonymous comments and it isn't clear whether they are from the same person. There is absolutely nothing wrong with basically anonymous comments but, maybe, some combination of letters (even if not real initials) would help (in the future), to see which comments belong to a single person.

The Post Without A Name

I think that (despite the witchcraft), I really must have a Guardian Angel because I just lost a long and outspoken post that I had drafted on Blair, Brown and Mandelson (Modern Britain's very own Three Bankrupteers), in the wake of the latest of their very smug books. Rather than dredge it all up again, I am going to have some breakfast instead. You, gentle reader, also have a Guardian Angel.

Nice cartoon though: I just do not believe that Garden Broom would wear red braces and that Bendy Mandelson would wear co-respondent shoes. Dog garn 'em!

Blair and Broom eventually went bespoke (Blair with Paul Smith and Broom with Timothy Everest, not sure about Mandy) but all that they managed to do was to confirm that we really have known government by a rabble called The Drab.

I know, I know, I said before that I would keep this blog clean but these people are so fascinatingly detestable that I just cannot resist the occasional salvo.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

A Certain Magic

Because of their provenance or associations, some things have a certain magic about them. One thing that I always think this about is a certain snuff box that was amongst the property that was sold by auction as "The Property of A Gentleman Gone Abroad", following Beau Brummell's flight in 1816. It had been a special commission and, inside was a note to the effect that it had been made for the Prince Regent, who would have received it, had his conduct towards Brummell been different. I wonder what happened to it? It would, with the note intact, probably be worth a fortune now; being such a strong link with a legend and a celebrated enmity ("Who's your fat friend?" and so forth). I would have a similar regard for Brummell's brown umbrella, with a handle fashioned in the form of the Prince Regent's head, which accompanied him into exile.

Another item of a similar kind, for me, is Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch's pen, which he mentioned once had been the pen with which he had taken his degree and been awarded a second class rather than a first class. He decided then that he would make good with it at last, and everything that he later wrote he wrote with that pen, which became patched and mended over the years. I saw this once on display in Fowey Museum, a battered and insignificant looking little thing, until you realize what it is and think to yourself that, even if they let you, you wouldn't really want to touch it.

Then, of course, there are the familiar props left to us by those that we have loved; watches, cufflinks, pins, pens, rings, books; losing any of which leaves us with a sense of wretchedness.

The photograph, taken by Kenneth Lim, is of the Brummell statue in Jermyn Street, by Irena Sedlecka.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Favourite War Films

These are a few of my favourite war films: In Which We Serve (1942) was written, starred in and co-directed by Noel Coward (co-director David Lean). Produced right in the middle of the War, it tells the story of HMS Torrance (Mountbatten's HMS Kelly lightly disguised), her battles and of the lives of her officers and men and then her loss in battle but, despite suffering this fate, it must overall have been a wonderful morale-booster for a beleaguered nation. Secondly, there is Angels One Five, (1952), starring Jack Hawkins, John Gregson, Michael Denison and Dulcie Gray about a second World War fighter pilot and his fate. The Cruel Sea 1953) is an adaptation of Nicholas Monsarrat's novel, starring, amongst others, Jack Hawkins, Donald Sinden, Virginia McKenna and Moira Lister, about the destructive effect of war on relationship. Then there is The Colditz Story (1955), with a strong cast, headed up by Eric Portman and John Mills, about the high security prisoner of war camp in Colditz Castle, reserved for those officers and men of the allies who endlessly sought to escape. Next is the stirring Battle of the River Plate (1956), commemorating the famous confrontation between the battle cruisers HMS Achilles, HMS Ajax and HMS Exeter (under the Command of Commodore Henry Harwood) with the German pocket battleship Admiral Graf Spee (commanded by Captain Hans Langsdorf) outside the River Plate in December 1940. Lawrence of Arabia (1962) introduced Peter O'Toole in his first starring role, as T E Lawrence in his Arabian campaigns in the First World War. The Great Escape (1963) included Steve McQueen and a star-studded cast, and depicted the ingenious escape from a prisoner of war camp and its aftermath. Zulu (1964)starring Harry Andrews and Michael Caine, depicts the incredible stand made by a small detachment of the 24th Regiment of Foot at Rorke's Drift Missionary station in 1879, against thousands of Zulu warriors. As a result of this stand eleven Victoria Crosses were awarded; a record for a single engagement that still stands. Two other favourites are Charge of The Light Brigade (1968), starring Trevor Howard, John Gielgud and Vanessa Redgrave, about the bungled orders resulting in a cavalry charge in 1854 during the Battle of Balaclava, right into the face of the Russian artillery, and The Battle of Britain (1969), with another star-studded cast, including Laurence Olivier, Ralph Richardson, Harry Andrews and Michael Caine, about the crucial Battle of Britain in 1940.

The above film still is from this film.