Wednesday, 29 December 2010

The Maddening, Unregulated Wikipedia

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

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

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Brains and Beauty: Dolores Del Rio

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

Monday, 27 December 2010

John Rigby & Co

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

Monday, 20 December 2010


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

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

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

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

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

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

How Top Boots Got Their Tops

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Book III

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

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Fred Astaire and the scarf around his waistband

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

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

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

Friday, 17 December 2010

107 Camden Road, London NW1

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Burlington Bertie

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

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Page view counter

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

Monday, 13 December 2010

Anonymous Posters

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

And Another Thing

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

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

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

Saturday, 11 December 2010

This Picture Rocks

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

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Patey Hats II

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

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

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

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

The Complete Smoking Suit

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

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

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

D R Harris's Pick-Me-Up

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

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

Tuesday, 7 December 2010


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

"America, America..."

Think about it.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Safari Suit

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Statues of Dr Johnson and Hodge

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

The Spirit of Commemoration

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

Dorothy L Sayers

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