Thursday, 30 June 2011

Velvet Collar on Dress Coat

I have heard people wonder whether a velvet collar on a dress coat is correct. It is but it is not obligatory. The picture is of Rex Harrison in a still from the ball scene in the film of My Fair Lady.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

The Thing Is About To Happen

The Thing that I have been dreading is about to happen. There is a stretch of rolling countryside, running between the outskirts of my home town and the coast; punctuated by woodland, copses and coverts of oak, ash, beech, hornbeam and hazel: overhead, in high summer, the larks sing. Walking up through there, on a fine day, is about as good as it gets. But now developers are after it. The designations of 'Green Belt' seem to have no meaning any more and so, offering blandishments of 'services to the town', they will soon be sending the bulldozers in - a town where little happens, beyond the execution of the functions of the local authority and the activity in the supermarkets, which have stripped all the vitality out of its heart. Then it will all be gone and the uglification of that quiet corner will be complete.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Margaret Tyzack CBE

Actress Margaret Tyzack, CBE has died aged 79. Who could forget her perfect performance as the long-suffering wife of Monty Dartie in the 1960s' TV adaptation of John Galsworthy's The Forsyte Saga; especially the scene in which it emerges that Monty has taken the pearls that he gave her (and for which her father eventually had had to pay) and given them to a South American dancer:

"O! No! Monty, not my pearls!"

Monty runs off with the dancer for a brief spell, before returning, penniless with his cracked shoes, to seek and find forgiveness; thereafter more or less towing the line.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Sir Edward Elgar Bart., OM, GCVO 1857-1934

Sir Edward Elgar was the composer of many pieces which are famous enough without listing them here and, during his brief spell (which he disliked), as a Professor of music, he gave the world the dictum, principally aimed at the state of English musical composition of the period:

"An Englishman will take you into a large room, beautifully proportioned, and will point out that it is white, all over white, and somebody will say: "What exquisite taste". You know, in your own mind, in your own soul, that it is not taste at all; that it is the want of taste; that it is mere evasion."

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Economic Meltdown

So Cameron's Government of Goons (once thought of by me as led by a 'safe pair of hands' - Ho! Ho! Ho!) thinks that, by keeping the UK out of any direct cash subsidy for Greece, it will maintain its own status quo when, in fact, the shock waves from Greece's predicament are inevitably going to affect all the countries which are locked together in the rictus-grinning death-grip of the 'Europe Union'. All that refusal to participate will do will be to maintain the UK as the nastiest smell in the Union.

Moreover, the current British Government has not yet cottoned on to the fact that, when Garden Broom bailed out the British banks with public money, he was (in a phrase that a friend used about it recently) just pushing the car wreck around the corner out of sight) and a veritable storm is gathering overhead on that account alone. But the Goons in Government just sit around, as usual, navel-gazing.

Maybe, part of the trouble stems from the haemorraghing of public money on foreign 'campaigns', such as that in Afghanistan (and British blood too), and in paying developers, through the corrupt 'RDAs' - 'redevelopment' agencies - sums such as £58m spent in one south western town, to create an asset that is now for sale for £28m. Where did the other £30m go - ah! mostly into the developers' back pockets, after they had bribed various officials.

And Brazil and Pakistan are mocked for their corruption. My word.

Today's picture is from Albrecht Durer's Four Horsemen of The Apocalypse.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Hubert Gregg

Hubert Gregg (1914-2004) began his stage career at the age of 14 years, with a part in George Bernard Shaw's play St Joan and at 18 years he played Hamlet. A lifetime packed with stage and screen work (acting and directing) followed, as well as presenting, for 35 years, the wonderful BBC Radio 2 programme Thanks For The Memory. However, Hubert Gregg is undoubtedly going to be best remembered for writing two songs I'm Going to Get Lit Up When The Lights Go Up in London (1943) and Maybe It's Because I'm a Londoner (circa 1946). The second, as well as becoming one of the folk anthems for Londoners, was also the original signature tune to the popular television series Dixon of Dock Green, starring Jack Warner, who also recorded the song.

Hubert Gregg had the additional, curious distinction of having been put on one of Hitler's black lists, on account of his perfect German, used to broadcast propaganda to Germany during WWII.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Amaryllis Fleming, by Augustus John, 1949

Apparently, she was, as she looked: a fiery, gypsy-like figure with a unique, infectious, smokey laugh.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Prime Minister David Cameron and 'Family Values'

Let's just hope that, when 'Dave' Cameron came out, all guns blazing, in support of all those heroic single Mums, on the issue of 'family values', he had two things in mind: first, that he is descended from King William IV who, after a twenty year concubinage with an Irish actress, called 'Mrs' Dorothy Jordan, and by whom he had ten children (including Cameron's ancestor), cast her aside, to marry a Princess (in order to curry Parliamentary favour, for the paying off of his considerable debts), and caused 'Mrs' Jordan to flee the debtors' prison and to die, impoverished, in France. Secondly, he should recall that the last Tory PM to proselytize about the importance of 'family values' (Sir John Major K.G.), was soon caught, with his trousers down, having shagged the fragrant (and discreet), Mrs Edwina Curry, while they were both married to other people. Tory PMs never learn the lessons of history, do they?

Book III Announcement

Book III in the trilogy (!) History of Men's Etiquette: A Short Guide To The Sporting Life is now available for pre-order from amazon and book depository and, maybe, other sources too.

Wilton's Restaurant Tie

Wilton's Restaurant in Jermyn Street has brought out a splendid tie (made by Harvie & Hudson) in four different colours, each of which incorporates their famous lobster logo. They are available from the restaurant, at a very reasonable price:

Left click to enlarge the picture. There is a link to the restaurant website in the righthand sidebar.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

A Thought For The Day

"Had tall Achilles lounged in tent
For aye, and Xanthus neighed in stall,
The towers of Troy had ne'er been shent,
Nor stayed the dance in Priam's hall"

[A T AQuiller-Couch].

In today's picture is a depiction of the silver-gilt rendering of Achilles' shield, as described in the 18th Book of Homer's Iliad, designed and modelled by John Flaxman RA, and made by Philip Rundell, of Rundell, Bridge & Rundell, Goldsmiths and Jewellers to King Geo. IV, for his coronation banquet. It is in the Royal Collection.

Friday, 17 June 2011

James Abbott McNeill Whistler

And then there was the American James Abbot McNeill Whistler 1834-1903 ('A Farthing For A Butterfly') too> This is A Symphony in White No 1:

Dame Alice Ellen Terry and George F Watts RA

I did say that Augustus John was, probably, the greatest English portraitist of the 20th Century but George Frederick Watts RA (1817-1904), just surviving into the 20th Century must, according to this portrait of the actress Dame Alice Ellen Terry, have run him close. She is smelling the glorious, red (but scentless), camellia but (almost as a metaphor for our modern age), tenderly holding in her hand a bunch of scented violets:

It is in the National Portrait Gallery and well worth a visit in its own right.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Augustus John

This post has been delayed as I have been correcting the final proofs for Book III and compiling the index (a terrible bore) as well as starting to write a 'thriller'. This post comes by special request.

Augustus John OM, RA was probably the greatest English portrait painter of the 20th Century and painted nearly everyone of note from WB Yeats to TE Lawrence and even Tallulah Bankhead. He also fathered numerous children, by both his wives and several other women, including one by Ian and Peter Fleming's widowed mother, Eve:

[Eve Fleming].

Amaryllis Fleming grew up to be a famous cellist and music teacher, even mentioned, as "Amaryllis somebody", in Ian's short story The Living Daylights, for the elegant way in which she managed to play that difficult instrument, and the concert hall of the Royal College of Music was recently renamed in her honour as the Amaryllis Fleming Concert Hall. According to her friends: "Men fell at her feet" but she never married:

[Amaryllis Fleming].

Now I really am off with Tristram Shandy's Uncle Toby and must also mention that Jamaica recently renamed the former Boscobel Aerodrome in St Mary's Parish the Ian Fleming International Airport, as it was the airport that he used when flying to and fro' Goldeneye.

Augustus John was born in Tenby, West Pembrokeshire, in 1878 and, despite a lifetime of various excesses and Bohemianism, lived until 1961. As a youth he and his sister Gwen attended The Slade School of Art on the north side of the main quad. of University College London and he won the Slade Prize for his painting Moses and The Brazen Serpent:

He also remarked to a friend that "we are the sort of chaps that our fathers told us to beware."

His sister was just as Bohemian as he and even became the alternative lover of his mistress, Dorelia (whom he later married as his second wife). Brian Sewell remarked that John: "was driven to draw the women that he bedded and bed the women that he drew". This is one of his most famous portraits; of (T E) Lawrence of Arabia:

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Laurence Sterne's A Sentimental Journey

I have been re-reading Laurence Sterne's A Sentimental Journey which is a rich source of wise aphorisms, such as "When the heart flies out before the understanding, it saves the judgment a world of pains." That sentence alone is worth more than many a whole modern novel.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Alexander Pope and Beau Brummell on Fashion

Alexander Pope (1688-1744), the great poet (illustrated above) wrote:

"In words, as fashions, the same rule will hold,
Alike fantastic if too new or old.
Be not the first by whom the new are tried,
Nor yet the last to lay the old aside."

Later, (George) Beau Brummell (1778-1840), would say:

"If people turn to look at you in the street, you are not well dressed, but either too stiff, too tight or too fashionable."

In these days of fast forward fashion; all the marketing hype and mumbo jumbo, it is worth remembering these things.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Style Icon XLII: Clark Gable

He came a long, long way from the beginning (and the time when Gloria Swanson thought that he looked like a truck driver) - to this still from GWTW.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

'nother Titfer

Herbert Johnson (whose name has faded since it merged with Swaine Adeney Brigg) still sells the Poet fedora, as supplied to Harrison Ford, as Indiana Jones.

Friday, 3 June 2011


It seems that hats are back 'in' for at least one modern Hollywood star: Johnny Depp, who bought this fedora from James Lock & Co.