Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Ava Gardner's 90th Birthday

This Christmas Eve would have been Ava Gardner's 90th birthday. Of course, she was never going to make it...

Monday, 8 October 2012

Dear Spammers Part II

A spammer  tried to comment on my last post with a link to some commercil site! I am undecided whether it was a serendipity or a deliberate piece of cheek. Either way, quite funny. Still, spammers are not encouraged.

Friday, 5 October 2012

Dear Spammers

This is not, in any sense, a commercial site. It has a small readership and spamming here is pointless for that reason alone; as well as the fact that all comments are moderated and spammers are - well - spammed.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Great British Adventurers

Apparently, it will be published on 20th September...

Friday, 31 August 2012

Sorry, Rog, You're Up The Creek

So Roger Moore jumps on the populist bandwaggon to promote his book Bond on Bond and pronounces that Daniel Craig is the best Bond yet. I would say that I don't understand it - but I do - he says it almost certainly because he thinks that this is what people want to hear. I dare say that Craig is a good actor but he looks like a bare-knuckle fighter who has had his ears boxed once too often and he lacks any dash at all in his grossly over-developed frame, which is dressed in the dullest clothes which Wardrobe could find. Quantum of Solace is actually rather a dull short story in which James Bond is simply the audience to the story of a faithless wife's downfall and the film's plot is nearly opaque. Further films will lack any original Fleming link at all apart from the regular character's names. I still remember the thrill of the first Bond film that I saw on the big screen - Goldfinger - in the dear old St Austell Odeon (now smashed down) and I just don't think that Craig can do quite the same  for the current generation of youngsters but then again, I don't think that the current generation wants more than action and violence at the level that it is now being presented - and they certainly have to do without humour.

Friday, 17 August 2012

Thank Goodness for That

I was shocked and appalled to read that The Dandy comic was closing production. It is not: it is going online instead of in print; although the annual will still be printed. My sister and I always had The Dandy and The Beano and the world would be the poorer without them.

Thursday, 16 August 2012


King Edward VII's last dog, a fox terrier, was called Caesar and he wore a collar which bore the legend ''I am Caesar. I belong to the King''. Here are photographs which show the little fellow following the King's charger (boots reversed in the stirrups), behind his coffin (right click to enlarge):

Julie Andrews as Gertrude Lawrence as Burlington Bertie from Bow

Wednesday, 15 August 2012


We have been planning a garden, with both productive and ornamental areas, for some time and have come to understand what Francis Bacon had to say about gardens; this is from the beginning of his essay on them:

''God Almighty first planted a garden. And, indeed, it is the purest of
human pleasure. It is the greatest refreshment to the spirits of man, without which,
buildings and palaces are but gross handiworks. And a man shall ever see that when
ages grow to civility and elegance, men come to build stately, sooner than to
garden finely – as if gardening were the greater perfection.''

A couple of general inspirations are the (lost) gardens at Heligan, in Cornwall:

and Sir Roy and Lady Strong's creation at the Laskett:

However, we are fairly unrestricted in what we can grow, subject to the reservation that the climate is tropical and, therefore, deciduous plants and trees need special care as the seasons are indistinct.

First, there is the need to find a suitable plot. 

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Queen Alexandra's Generosity

According to her grandson, the Duke of Windsor, Queen Alexandra's generosity was a source of embarrassment to her financial advisers. Whenever she received a letter soliciting money, a cheque would be sent by the next post, regardless of the authenticity of the mendicant and without having the case investigated, and she would dismiss protests about her heavy spending with a wave of the hand or by claiming that she had not heard. Her generosity and patronage of several charities is commemorated on June 8th each year; Queen Alexandra Rose Day.

In the picture, Queen Alexandra is at the far right, next to her mother and, on the far left, The Princess Royal.

Tobacco Packaging

It is about time that the government introduced a new, mandatory warning on the packaging of good tobacco (I have in mind especially the Fribourg & Treyer snuffs which recently arrived from Blighty):


ASH should seriously consider rebranding its prohibitionist outfit ''A ASS', which is what it is trying to make of the law with its demands for 'plain packaging' of tobacco products. Why don't they try to stamp out pornography, the drug trade, gratuitous violence, child abuse, street robbery and burglary instead - as all these things seem to be rampant in 'modern Britain'. Don't get me wrong I still love my homeland and some of its people but, in a very real sense, the England that I was born into has vanished and absurd campaigns to control people by restricting even the packaging of tobacco is just going too far: Those concerned in it should be put in the village pillory for a full twenty four hours and pelted with rotten fruit, vegetables and stinking fish. Then they might start to appreciate Liberty.

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Jardim Botanico, Rio de Janeiro

A friend from UCL days, Ron Collins, came to stay and we all went to meet Rio friends Marcelo and Eva at the Jardim Botanico in Rio de Janeiro. These gardens are like Kew with the roofs off. Unfortunately, it rained cats and dogs and we did not stay long. However, Ron took some pictures and here is a selection. 1-3 are in the orchid house; 4 is of a lake and water lilies; 5 is the pergola where Emperor Dom Pedro II often used to lunch; 6 is back at the lagoon in the Sleepy Hollow; 7 is me enjoying a pinch of Fribourg & Treyer's Macouba snuff. Ron also brought a small consignment otherwise comprising F&T Bureau (recently brought back into manufacture); Prince's Special, and Old Paris (together with Macouba, a Brummell favourite), plus a couple of tins of Rose of Sharrow, which is a nice mild post-breakfast snuff. Number 8 is a parting shot.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Gone Fishin'

I am off to build a garden. End of this nonsense! I began this blog and have blogged like hell, elsewhere, in order to promote my books; according to the diktats of my sometime agent. It has all failed; as have the books. I am off to do something worthwhile. If I can totally disable the blog, I shall do so. I have come around to the view, expressed by George IV's only direct heir that: ''The more that I see of the world, the less I want to have to do with it.''

However, I thank my half a dozen or so real followers, and wish you well. I also suggest that you all go off and do something worthwhile with the earth between your fingers.

As they say:



Thursday, 2 August 2012

Hobson-Jobson Dictionary

A tremendous find of Anglo-Indian words, deriving from British rule in India and still very much at large and alive in the world.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

The Scarlet Pimpernel

The scarlet pimpernel is a wayside flower (Anagallis arvensis)
 but The Scarlet Pimpernel (whom I have mentioned before), is the template for the modern, fictional hero and the invention of Baroness Emmuska Orczy. I recently found that the definitive film version (1934) (starring Leslie Howard as Sir Percy Blakeney; Merle Oberon as Marguerite St Just, Lady Blakeney, and Raymond Massey as Chauvelin; directed by Alexander Korda), is on Youtube and definitely worth a viewing, I remember that I saw it for the first time with my father when I was about eight years old, and the impression that it made on me.

The story was first produced as a play in October 1903, at the Theatre Royal, Nottingham, starring Fred Terry as Blakeney:

Here is a still of Howard and Oberon:

Monday, 23 July 2012


A favourite cat, Splash, died on me in the night. He suddenly became ill at midday on Saturday and I couldn't get any vet' to turn out. He got much worse over Sunday and even 'emergency' numbers were unanswered. Even just forty eight hours ago he seemed fine but, apparently, cats are adept at hiding illness. He survived a toxic shock and an operation consequential on that three months ago and I just hoped that he would pull through this but, as ever:

'Lo! some we loved the lov'liest and best'

are taken from us soonest. I buried him early this morning under an acerola tree with a red rose which, eventually, I had managed to grow in the windswept garden. I haven't felt so sad for a long time because, even fully grown, not only would he seek me out but he used actually to climb up me for attention and I shall miss him very much.

R.I.P. Splash: ''A very fine cat''.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Olympics 2012

So the Olympics are in big overspend, to the tune of several billion pounds. All construction projects started by local and national Labour and Liberal politicians seem to result in massive overspends. Often the companies involved go bust and the projects are then sold off at a mere fraction of the cost to the public purse. Presumably, the money that goes missing is stolen.

This brings me to my tu'ppence-worth on the 2012 Olympics. First, the athletes should be all amateurs and arrive at their own expense; secondly, they should be made to compete in the nude (no sponsors allowed). The events are that they run around Silverstone a couple of times; throw javelins and do the long and high jump in the middle, and the winner of each event gets a crown of laurel and they all get a fig leaf for modesty at the end. Then they can all bugger off home at their own expense. Anyone interested in watching should be allowed to do so free of charge; no cameras allowed.

Tony Blair and Alistair Campbell on one side and Garden Broom and Ken Livingstone on the other should provide the grand finale - a tug o' war across the Thames, by Vauxhall Bridge, with a rope borrowed from the River Police. The losers get drowned by the currents and the winners are drowned by the crowd.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Wombledon Men's Final

First we had tales of poor gullible fools queuing for a week to sit on Henman Hill for a screening of the finals within earshot of the football rabble's chanting inside Centre Court. Is my memory awry or was it easily within my lifetime that all that punctuated the plopping of the ball to and fro' were: the popping of corks, gentle applause for points actively won (as opposed to deriving from the opponent's unforced errors), and the voices of the linesmen and women and the umpire (additionally there was Dan Mascall's whispered commentary on BBC2).I have often complained that it is the age of the Common Man but I rather regret the observation now because the Common Man is often at least reasonably quiet. Now it is the age of the rabble. Lip-reading the Duchess of Cambridge, she thought ''Isn't this dreadful?''

Along the way, we were treated to the announcement that ''Victoria Beckham has arrived - with huis?band David, of course.'' What  has this scowling misery got to do with anything?

Then we had the spectacle of another in a long, long line of hopeful (but inadequate) Brits flailing around the court in this year's Dance of Death, including, this time, a nearly complete sommersault. We then had to witness the rabble at large and the gradual, palpable loss of heart in the latest British Wannabe, topped off with the inevitable final failure.

That wasn't quite the end though because, having lost what is after all just a game of tennis, the would-be hero couldn't contain his emotions for just long enough to congratulate the Victor and beetle-off to lick his wounds. It wasn't very clear whether wobbly chin and the tears were borne of self-pity; regret for the supporters or for Scotland the Brave. I have to say that I regard myself as a Cornishman but I am a British subject and Murray had already lost  in my book with his militant Scottishness. He didn't even pretend to represent the rest of us. He crowned it with his obvious contempt for the Duke of Kent who would probably prefer to be at home watching it on the telly like everybody else anyway.  I really don't think that I shall watch this tournament again: Henman Hill....Murray Mount....Bumbler's Bump.

Friday, 6 July 2012

Seven Men Arrested Under Terrorist Legislation

We are told that seven men have been arrested under anti-terrorist legislation. It is made to sound like a triumph; even before any charges, let alone the trial..

The car was stopped for a document check. Instead of being issued with a 'producer' (to bring the documents to a police station within seven days - the usual routine), the car was summarily impounded as the driver could not produce his insurance on the spot. The car was then intimately searched (presumably under anti-terrorist legislation that covers failing to produce insurance) and they found weapons. Therefore, we are assured, the occupants are terrorists. Sounds as though it is at least equally likely that they are just a criminal gang.  They might even be into amateur theatricals and the weapons might be fakes. But the starting point now is that we are all probably terrorists unless and until we can convince Mr Policeman that we are not.

What's with the 'routine' stop 'n' search of a car? Maybe they were at a loose end after their fish 'n' chips. The truth is that the fuzz see black or brown people in a car (Heaven help the occupants if it is a nice car), so they 'routinely' stop it - sounds like the old use of 'sus' laws under the Vagrancy Act, which Mr Policeman often used routinely to stop and search young West Indians in the street: you know, ''Oi, you'' - push them up against a wall and frisk them; then make them turn out their pockets and just hope for a flick knife.

In this case, the fuzz found weapons and, because the occupants are brown, they are automatically 'terrorists'. Step up the police powers a little more and call them the 'SS' and have bloody done with it.

If Hitler had won, how would there be more oppression than there is now? It's almost as though -

''Mr Brown went off to town on the 08.21'' -  but, one day, he just never came home.

Earlier in the week a 'bus driver and all the 'bus occupants freaked out when someone was innocently using an 'electronic cigarette' (whatever that may be - I guess that it is some modern invention borne out of drummed-up, fetishist fear of the demon weed). Why didn't someone have the sense just to ask the man what he was doing? You know - ''Aw right, mate. What's that you got there then? Not a bomb is it Ho, Ho, Ho?'' Instead they all sat there, frozen with unnecessary and manufactured fear, messing their pants like a 'bus load of incontinent rabbits, and then had a rehearsal for Armageddon with stormtroopers.

That made everyone late for work..all those people late for their jobs in the new industry which has sprung up, involving dunderheads listening in to our telephone calls and reading our work out whether we need to be hauled in to prove that we are not terrorists.

Recently it was shown that anti-terrorist legislation was being used for surveillance activities (inter alia) over parents taking their children to local authority schools (to make sure that they were entitled to send them there in the first place) - and even to regulate the clearance of dog mess from the pavements by dog owners! In another instance, a man with a video camera, in his own garden, was stormed by police who demanded to know what he was doing!

What happened to the England that I once knew? The England that had policemen and police women who saluted citizens and helped old ladies to cross the road and kept thugs off the street? There is a lot of prattling on about immigration and there is certainly some truth in the fact that the UK is vastly over-crowded but the biggest problem is not really from immigration at all, the biggest problem is the arch-enemy of Liberty: the climate of fear, which is being inculcated and fed by governments keen to impose more and more control over citizens.

It all began with the growth of white-trash culture and political pandering to the ignorant and the mean and the miserable flaccid under-belly of society, which is where governments rightly see the biggest number of votes. Politicians have come to realize that if you please the gob-smackingly thick-headed white-trash readers of white-trash papers like The Sun and The News of The World, and enact increasingly oppressive legislation accordingly, and encourage fear and hatred of brown people on the basis that they are all terrorists, you'll be voted back.

In fact, I think that it all began with that Sun headline after an IRA attack in London: ''IRISH BASTARDS'' it screamed from news stands everywhere, with a concomitant campaign to boycott Kerrygold Irish butter. One Irish girl I knew was in tears over it. The Irish are not brown but, so far as members of the white-trash under-belly of the modern English are concerned they are the next best thing - and Edmund Burke was wrong: you can condemn a whole nation.

Heil! to Tin-Hitlers everywhere! Just wait now before they impose body-searches and bag and luggage scans for train and 'bus travel. It cannot be long and no one will consider the misery of it first.

England, my England, where did you go?

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Le Coin Perdu II

There is a strong Swiss influence in parts of Brasil and here is a delightful example of it:

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

The Barclay's Scum Bank Scandal

Any views?Why are the directors not in the dock? Why does Barclay's Bank still have a licence? No, seriously?

The whole of British society is on the skids.

The EU is finished.

I'm so glad that I came here.

Dementia Patients

So John Simpson has come up with the novel idea that it were better to die by suicide before one is reduced to a husk with a pumping heart, quivering limbs, senseless eyes and the constant flow of various involuntary bodily emissions and effluxions stemmed by pads and cloths, at the hands of care home staff.

The trouble with the Simpson option is that old people are often suddenly overtaken by events and a massive stroke can rob one of the ability to think and or to act to 'end it all', yet leave one lingering for years in some twilight zone. It would, I suspect, be impossible to make an exactly-timed appointment with death, to avoid a decline into senility, after maximizing one's time of enjoyment.

It's a far better and safer idea to smoke like an engine and drink like a fish and go out with a massive coronary at around 70, while out in the fresh air, undertaking some pleasurable pursuit. The trouble is that secular, modern society nearly everywhere is all geared up to convincing people that they can live forever if they don't smoke, don't drink too much etc etc. But it's all a big 'con' because the big downside is that there is an increasing community of helpless, joyless old people, sliding around in incontinence pads, in forgotten corners of care homes: drawing pensions for years after the forecast funding has been exhausted, and spending vast sums of their own or the state's cash on the care needed, and they have been completely robbed of the mental and\or physical ability to end it all. Of course, the care home owners have a nice little industry going and growing, to the detriment of true human happiness.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

BBQ Steakhouse Pianist

Anyone know anything about this fellow? - Apart from the fact that, apparently, he plays in some BBQ steakhouse! Another reaon that the modern commercialized world stinks.

Another Nearly Forgotten British Beauty: Ann Todd

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Margaret Lockwood

When Margaret Lockwood was old, a visitor went to buy some flowers from a barrow in the street for her and, in selecting them, mentioned to the vendor that they were for her. Learning this, the vendor refused to take any money for them.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Violets as buttonhole flowers

Here is a picture of Thomas R Agar Robartes (1880-1915), sporting a buttonhole of violets; which often used to be the hunting buttonhole, as explained in my feature in The Field published on 21.06.12:

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

La Liberté

An excerpt from Great British Adventurers:
After their arrests by the Gestapo, on 10 September 1944 Noor Inayat Khan GC, MBE, Croix de Guerre and three other Special Operations Executive agents (Yolande Beekman, Eliane Plewman and Madeleine Damerment), were taken to Karlsruhe prison and, the next day, they were moved to the Dachau Concentration Camp.

During the night of 12-13 September 1944, the four women were taken outside and shot in the back of the head. A former Dachau prisoner later came forward and said that Noor was first cruelly beaten by a sadistic SS soldier called Friedrich Wilhelm Ruppert and that her last words had been to shout: "La Liberté!". As modern societies whittle away at Liberty, on any old excuse, ranging from our own health and the need to protect us from ourselves, to the need to protect us all from the vague threat of terrorism, by the ‘authorities’ treating everyone as a suspect, we might occasionally pause to consider how many people have actually given their lives to protect Liberty; which is far more precious than the ‘safety’ to be found in all the smokeless zones and all the airport body searches in the world.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Great British Adventurers

The text and plates have now gone to the publisher, just in time to meet the projected publication date. Here is part of the Introduction:


One equal temper of heroic hearts,

Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will

To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

From Ulysses, by Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

About this Book

In selecting my particular adventurers, I have had to find limits. The first has been to confine my selection to men and women who are (at least loosely), British and, even then, service and adoption have sometimes, as with Krystyna Skarbek-Granville (Christine Granville), taken the place of birth, and I have chosen to ignore such things as competing national claims for Tenzing Norgay. The second limit that I have set myself is generally to exclude heroic adventurers in battle, simply because there is (rightly), so much already written about them, but I have found place for certain (representative) female secret agents of the Second World War, whose acts (in voluntary service, beyond the call of simple duty), surely took them out of the arena of straight-forward battle and into the realm of the most individual and courageous adventure. They were, moreover, the first modern, female British warriors, not just on the front line but behind it on the enemy’s own turf, long, long before any calls on the grounds of ‘sex equality’ put modern women into battle.

The result of my decisions remains to be judged but the overall objective has been to renew interest in the lives of some of our real heroes and heroines, as representative of the many others that there are; in an age in which contemporary sporting and pop art ‘heroes’ dominate the news and provide the only readily evident ‘inspiration’, and also an age in which addiction to the computer screen nearly robs the young of memories and dreams of the high adventure; of which ripping yarns are made.

The third limit is a limit of time: this speaks for itself; otherwise how would Drake and Raleigh, Clive of India, General Woolf and Captain Cook not have found their places? There have to be such limits. The final limit has been to exclude those who are widely famed already: what more is there to say, in a book of this size, of General Gordon or Dr David Livingstone; of Charles Darwin; of Captain Robert Falcon Scott and Captain Laurence Oates; of Ernest Shackleton; of T E ‘Lawrence of Arabia’, even though what has been said should never be forgotten? Moreover, although Sir Edmund Hillary is acknowledged as the first conqueror of Mount Everest; Tenzing Norgay was there with him and what of George Mallory who, sometime before, had died, either going up or coming down?

I also cover the adventurous spirit in different degrees, just because it exists in different degrees: Sir Richard Burton’s daring in making the Hajj pilgrimage is of quite a different kind from Thomas Lipton’s gentler adventures, in the nature of trade, in seeking out sources of, and markets for, tea. Yet each made a memorable contribution to the world.

As will be seen, some of my subjects were very, very good; some of them were very, very bad; some, as I have come to know them better, I like very much and some I do not like at all; yet they all share the characteristics of: originality; a sense of self-determination, unfettered by the diktats of Tin-Hitlers; a thirst for living; perseverance and persistence, even defiance; many of them showed bravery, some of them to a truly exceptional degree and, I think, they all lived without the wish to have lived more quietly. In short, they shared a rage for life and yet also managed to see beyond themselves and the times in which they lived.

To those who might accuse me of having been at all obscure, in my choices, I just plead that my purpose has been to bring back into ready remembrance certain men and women, many of them not widely fêted now, who had great impact upon the accrual of knowledge of: other peoples, their customs, their traditions and their countries; or who have striven, often against various obstacles (including the odds), to promote exploration and trade and, sometimes, even to preserve life and liberty for others. To the erudite, who might say that I shed little new light, I plead, in mitigation of sentence, that my principal purpose has been to remind of worthy lives that might still stir our blood; and to bring them together, as representatives of our adventurous people, in one handy volume.
Finally, for the avoidance of doubt, the initials ‘RGS’ stand for ‘Royal Geographical Society’, and the initials ‘SOE’ stand for ‘Special Operations Executive’, which is first described in the entry for Krystyna Skarbek-Granville.

And here is the link to Amazon:

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Fran Sanscisco

Fran Sanscisco:

Great stuff!

Monday, 23 April 2012

Stresemann black lounge morning coat

It is often said that the black lounge morning coat (worn in place of the frock coat or the pleated tailcoat) dates from its adoption by German politician Gustav Stresemann at the signing of the Locarno Pact in 1925 (admitting Germany to the League of Nations). However, a cartoon, by David Low shows Chamberlain (centre) and Stresemann (right) in frock coats, while French representative Aristide Briand (left) is in a morning coat:

Moreover, this photograph, from 1885, shows H Rider Haggard in a black coat and lighter trousers, which were commonly worn before dittoes (matching suits) became all the rage:

Friday, 20 April 2012

Thought for the Day From Max Beerbohm

A fine ground to work upon is the foirst postulate. And the dandy cares for his physical endowments only in so far as they are susceptible of fine results.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

The Field Magazine

I have a feature in The Field magazine, scheduled for publication on 21 June.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

The Way You Wear Your Hat

I have never thought that, despite the song and everything else about him, Frank Sinatra had much of a clue about how to wear a hat. I mean, look at this:

It's just kinda sittin' there.

Compare it with these:

Robert Donat.

Jack Buchanan (holding Diana Dors).

Clark Gable (with Vivien Leigh).

Ronald Colman.

Inspiration Amid The Ruins

These ruins of the ancient chapel of the Mohuns (at what is now Hall Farm) in the Parish of Lanteglos-by-Fowey -

 as well as the church itself, in which lie monuments to them -

inspired (if that is the word) the tale that I am now writing. These places really are worth a visit if you are in the area of Fowey and, after all, the place has already inspired better stories than mine..

Monday, 9 April 2012

Robert Donat and Madeleine Carroll

Robert Donat as (Richard Hannay) and Madeleine Carroll (as 'Pamela'), hiding under the bridge on the moors, from the fake policemen who have kidnapped them in Hitchcock's 1935 39 Steps. In a little while they will be hiding under a waterfall, which ruined Donat's (own) suit. He made such a fuss about it that Hitchcock ordered another to be made by Hawes & Curtis (Donat's tailors) but with short trousers.

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Mr and Mrs Joseph Chamberlain

Today we have a couple of great paintings of Joseph (1836-1914) and Mary Chamberlain, by John Singer Sargent. Joe's picture was painted in 1896 and Mary's in 1902:

Friday, 6 April 2012


``What do you mean by ``You look suspicious``?``

Three Piece Suits

The Victorians called matching trousers and coats `dittoes`. Sometimes the vest matched too but the three piece suit seems to have become frequently adopted relatively late . It is interesting to compare these two Spy cartoons from 1904 and 1905 in which a white vest is sported with a suit in the first instance and a short black coat and cashmere striped trousers in the second. I sometimes wonder why the popularity of short black coats and cashmere stripes waned because, after all, it was possible to mix and match and even easily replace individual items; far more easily than with a three piece set of dittoes.

However, there is no reason why a light vest should not be paired up with a two piece suit or even substituted occasionally for a matching suit vest in a three piece suit.

Cyril Arthur Pearson, 1904, media mogul and founder of The Daily Express.

Major William Eden Evans Gordon, 1905.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Boo Boo Bee Doo

When Cecil Beaton took his famous shots of her

she began by kicking off her shoes and he said that her presence was so strong that he forgot the background and even what she was wearing: none of it mattered.

This presence is something that the fashionistos and style magazines and will never be able to sell to their readers.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Brasil! Brasil!

I think that it was Lord Denning MR who said that the national cricket team which one supports demonstrates national allegiance. I have to say that watching any sport (especially cricket) is to me about as interesting as eating Spam fritters with anything other than hand cut chips and Corona (in its deposit bottles). Therefore I don`t normally support any teams at all and think that modern `sport` is as dead in true sporting spirit as a sack of dead mice. However, come the World Cup, if the Brasilian team does what it should do on its own turf and they strike this one up
and I happen to hear it then I`ll join in because the idea of being associated with Rooney and his chums again stumbling over their own feet fills me with horror.

Sunday, 1 April 2012


Robert Donat first saw this film (in which he starred), with his children, in the St Austell Odeon, when they were on holiday in Polperro -

Both the St Austell Odeon cinema and the England represented in the film have long gone.

Easter Eggs

I am not sure whether to believe this or not but the UK Parliament is now (apparently seriously) debating whether, from next year, all seasonal confectionaery must be presented in plain packaging, to lessen its attractriveness and avoid over-indulgence. Presumably the purportedly, legitimate aim of a bankrupt government is to lessen the burden on the NHS of the voluntarily obese. But why should the rest of the population be so patronized. Why not, instead enact provision for the election of village committees to round up all the fatties (watch out Cameron and Clarke!), every Saturday afternoon and have them put in the village stocks for a few hours, encouraging all the village yobos to pelt them with rotten eggs and vegetables!

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Getting on with it

With two books in production (and one of them to place as well), this place has to take a back seat. However, I shall still post something as often as I can. Today, I offer this as awonderfully crafted and tremendous build-up:

What it must have been to have seen and heard them live.

Monday, 26 March 2012

A Month Off

I guess that I should just regard it as a month's holiday in Brazil. Even naked apes are entitled to holidays! It turned out that the computer wasn't quite dead after all and, after a clean it shed its shroud and stumbled, a Lazarus-in- Paradise, forth from the workshop and here we are again; although, a new computer is on the way. I had nearly forgotten what clouds were until a couple of days ago as we had had a nearly biblical forty days without rain but seeing them reminded me that every cloud has a silver lining, and the consequence of my enforced seaside holiday was not deck-chairing and hammocking with tall drinks but writing with a pen and paper (with short drinks). The result is that I have mapped out a novel with a legal mystery and greed and sculduggery and a bit of romance as the themes. It's been boiling away in my head for nearly thirty years and is the one novel that I have in me. I guess that JFK was right and the only failure is not to aim too high and miss the mark but to aim too low and hit it - and so my aim is a book in which someone might say that Peter and  Ian Fleming meet Sir Impy Biggs. But we'll see... 

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Slow Progress

It turns out that the computer is dead and another is on the way. Meanwhile: catch this exhibition if you can:

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Monday, 5 March 2012


I am told that the computer will be ready this Friday but don´t forget that, for good and ill, I live in a land where time has little meaning beyond the inescapable fact that it flows!

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Time Out

I am sorry that IO have not been here but my computer broke down before Carnaval and, needless to say, it still has not been repaired. However, here´s a nice clip:

Friday, 3 February 2012

Thinking of So Many of You and Your Brass Monkeys

Maybe, I shall never wear this coat again. That is, unless my dream comes true and we get, as well as this place, a tea plantation in the hills of Sri Lanka (with their slight night chill) and a lodge in the Himalayan foothills (with their snow)...

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Nicholas 'Jimmy Stewart' Cage

Another one dragged through a hedge backwards:

Nicholas Cage. He might even share that suit with Clueless Clooney.

Monday, 30 January 2012

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Daphne Du Maurier's Continuing Popularity

I just checked, on, the relative rankings of Daphne du Maurier's 'Rebecca' (1938) and Tony Bliar's 'A Journey' (2010) (apparently, part of the reason for his very sudden multi-million pound empire):

Rebecca: 498th in all books.

A Journey: 3,398th in all books (hardback and over 9,000th place in paperback).

Interesting, from any number of points of view and it certainly goes to show that writing a dark and sinister novelette, set in Cornwall, is the way to go.

Rebecca's Cottage

"Last night I dreamed I went to Manderley again..." Rebecca. The first Mrs de Winter. The girl without a name. A story of over-shadowing of the present by the past; misunderstanding, jealousy and hate; murder and escape. Rebecca's seaside cottage, where she held her 'midnight picnics' is always portrayed in the film adaptations of the book as a bit of a hovel, and Manderley itself as some sprawling mansion house; whereas, in fact, Menabilly (the template for Manderley) is a relatively modest Cornish manor house and the template for Rebecca's cottage is quite a big house on the beach at Polridmouth Bay, just below Menabilly on the Gribben Head (also the setting for Daphne du Maurier's story The Birds).

Rebecca's Cottage

Thursday, 26 January 2012

The Duke and Duchess of Windsor Gardening

Here's a picture, from Life magazine, of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor gardening in the gardens that they created at their house, La Tuilerie, at Gif-sur-Yvette:

Monday, 23 January 2012

Tony Bliar

So where on earth do Bliar's millions come from? How could they possibly derive from just book sales and talking engagements? Maybe it's time for those investigative journalists who hacked into the dead Milly Dowler's telephone to turn the Bliars over and let's see what a nasty little mess we will find. After all, if sometime top politicos in other European countries have been behaving corruptly (for  example, Berlusconi and Chirac), why shouldn't it happen in Britain? The fear is that Bliar took money and oil shares from Bush and his cronies to take the UK to war in the cause of the USA. Maybe Bliar should dispel the supicions by a public accounting of his assets.

Friday, 20 January 2012

Rolls Royce Silver Cloud III Four Door Continental

I thought that I had lost this picture but, fortunately, I have not. It is the Rolls Royce Silver Cloud III four door Continental, with special coachwork by H J Mulliner, originally designed for the 'Flying Spur' Bentley. Possibly one of the finest touring cars ever made and certainly one of the most stunning.

Another shot of the same model:

You Know That You're Past It When

... a forty something woman sympathetically offers you her seat on the 'bus. I am still wincing.

Today, as anyone in a Roman Catholic country will tell you, is the Feast Day of St Sebastian, heralded here, as these days always are, by fireworks shot into the face of the rising sun: bloody infuriating.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Wikipedia Goes Down

Wikipedia goes down in protest at the prospect of the enactment of anti-piracy laws to protect original works. This is not surprising because, if Jimmy Wales and his team were prevented from pillaging the works of others, Wikipedia would not exist at all. Wikipedia is remarkable only for the fact that, despite the pillage, it remains a dangerous and unregulated mine of misinformation. In a world of over-regulation in many areas of purely personal life, it is a shame that such miserable  and piratical efforts as Wikipedia, in the public domain, are not banned out-right. Wiki's argument seems to be that The People own the Internet and everything on it: this is tripe and, near as damn it, communism. No one has a right to copy or pass off the original works of others just because they can be reduced to digital technology. Go hang, Wikipedia.

Come to that, you cannot even spell 'encylopaedia'.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Ilha do Governador, Rio de Janeiro

The trip to Rio was with some friends who had to go to the Ilha do Governador in theharbour (illustrated). About half of the island is given over to the international airport and the military and the rest is a beautiful harbourside conurbation of about 600,000 people. Every famous and fantastic view of Rio is to be had from here; including the Sugarloaf and the statue of Christ. The friends introduced us to some very nice people who took us on a little trip around the best sightseeing spots, which happened to be the sites of churches. As we left the second, to return to the Sleepy Hollow, the people to whom we had been introduced gave us a little rosary from the second church as a souvenir of our day and our meeting them. Our hostess (if I may call her that) had spent 50 years living in the USA and told us that, if such a gift were made there, the "Happy Holidays' Brigade" would get very upset, as religious allusions, even to the extent of wishing someone a "Happy Christmas" may well cause offence.

I am glad to say that we are able to understand the spirit in which the gift was given and apprciate it very much.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Cha Cha Cha

Right! just push the funiture back against the wall as here is a Cha Cha Cha that is slow enough for my old bones but fast enough to get the heart racing. Now CONCENTRATE 3 - 4 and I'm off.

Off To Rio Tomorrow at Dawn see the morning star fade over the mountains and the sun rise in her sudden way - way, hey, hey!!!!

Edmundo Ros

Watching Ridley Scott's wonderful A Good Year (2006), starring Russell Crowe, Marion Cotillard, Albert Finney and a great supporting cast, I was reminded of Edmundo Ros and this:

Not everyone's cup of tea but I like it.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Brown in Town

Clearly, George V, Edward VII and, before them, the Prince Consort had, as keen sporting men, worn brown (and other colours of tweed), but it is extremely unlikely that they would have worn it when they were 'working' in town. That was an age of extreme formality and even the Cabinet and the Privy Council wore Court uniforms in the King's presence.

The predeliction for black/dark blue coats for town day and evening wear began in Brummell's time. As a result of his influence, the Prince Regent abandoned the French tailor, Louis Bazalgette, and gravitated to the likes of the more sombre Meyer. There is a famous Grego cartoon of Brummell ‘in deep convesation with the Duchess of Rutland’ in Almack’s ballroom, around 1815 and in this he is wearing a blue coat and black pantaloons; one male guest is in a brown coat but, gradually, during the following reigns, especially that of Victoria, black or blue coats became the normal town wear for the governing and professional classes at work and in the evening, declining (if that is the word) from frocks and morning coats and dress coats to short coats (strollers) and dinner jackets after WWI. Then plain blue and grey dittoes became prevalent for daytime, followed by bolder patterns and now, apparently, and in accordance with some destiny, the world is returning to brown.

A great deal is made of ‘no brown in town’ but we must not forget that black in the countryside is sometimes even more de rigueur than it is, these days, in town: formal hunt coats (apart from those in hunt colours) are black; so is the topper that may be worn with the  hunt frock coat; so too the boots, with black patent tops.

It would be wrong to say that ‘brown in town’ for town men at work is a phenomenon confined to the inter-war years  (however much revisionist history is a popular art), but the modern adventure, into colours beyond blue and grey, is arguably just a muted  reversion (in a sense), to the tastes in colour of the ancien regime.

I think that, where the Gordon Geckos of this world seek the power suit, the British look for men who tow the line of social expectation and are ‘dressed like us’; not so much in search of neutrality of dress but in search of a tribal identity, symbolizing a totem, which, after over a thousand years of miscegenation, our genes have, in reality, denied us: so, if the outer man is dressed according to tribal custom (and never too carefully), he will be safe to deal with.

The British definitely suspect the wrong clothes (Edward VII and George V had the sharpest eyes for them), and there is a very fine line indeed between being ‘dressed to the nines’ and being ‘dressed up like a dog’s dinner’.
Brummell at Almack's by Grego

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Raiding SS Titanic

I suppose that any human remains in this sea grave have long since been consumed and dispersed by the ocean. Something similar could be said of many graves on land or at sea but we do not disturb them. As Shakespeare had inscribed on his tomb:

"Good friend for Jesus sake forbeare,
To digg the dust encloased heare,
Blest be the man that spares thes stones,
And curst be he that moves my bones."

However, it seems that, where a cash profit is in view, mankind will still even stoop to grave robbery to turn a few coins. The New York auction of artefacts from the Titanic will include a lifejacket which it is claimed was actually worn by a victim, a menu and a folding deck chair. What sickening sort of people would trade in such things and what does it all say about 'western civilization'? No wonder, when asked what he thought about 'western civilization', Ghandi replied "I think that it would be a good idea."

Saturday, 7 January 2012

The Field Feature

My feature in The Field has gone on-line at the top of this page:

Old Shoes

Our feet change quite a bit as we age and bespoke shoes that originally fitted well and are our  regulars gradually change with our feet. Jack Buchanan (called by The Times in his obituary 'The Last Of The Knuts'), had Lobb shoes for decades which, according to British DJ, David Jacobs, shone like mirrors. There's nothing so fine as old tweeds and old shoes; they are memorials to the fine times that we have had in them.

Of Cravats and Daytime Bow Ties

Some people think that there is something faintly ridiculous about cravats [US:'Ascots'] and daytime bow ties; maybe, they think that they are dated or clownish. I would agree that they can strike a discordant note but that is often down to the way in which they are worn, rather than anything else. Here are a couple of examples of these items being worn well. First, the actor Leslie Philips in a cravat:

And Ian Fleming in a daytime bow tie:

However, there is no point in shrinking violets wearing these things: self-consciousness will blow them out of the water at twenty paces.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Lights Out

Maybe our souls are just part of the shared spirit of creation and, maybe,  we also know, deep down, that all living things share in it and that is why every shot bird or mammal and every landed fish touches us; even though God gave man dominion over all creatures and they provide us with food and clothing.

I also think that some inanimate objects can be possessed of what we recognize as a kind of soul: look at, say a 1931 eight litre Bentley (the last in the W O Bentley direct line and only one hundred made); or a Joseph Manton musket; or the revolutionary 1875 prototype boxlock shotgun (bearing a commemorative plate), patented by Anson & Deeley of Westley Richards in 1875; or a fragile first edition (1859) of Edward FitzGerald’s translation of the Rubiáyát of Omar Khayyám. Such things as these are also touched with a kind of spirit. It was even said of Rosa Lewis’s old Cavendish Hotel ; in a fond farewell to the old place, in October 1962, and before it went to join the Tabard  and the Mermaid Inns, The New Statesman said that the site of the hotel at the junction of Jermyn Street and Duke Street had become a ‘mysterious space-time inn at a metaphysical junction ’.

The great London tobacconists that I have been privileged to have known had atmospheres, auras, presences: Sullivan Powell in the Burlington Arcade, selling its majestic, great, tightly rolled, sweet, robust and untipped sub rosa Oriental Cigarettes, in their black and gold boxes of twenty five or a hundred, swathed in thick tissue paper; even unlit their aroma wooed the nostrils of the gods. Benson & Hedges were in Bond Street, with their elegant, oval Cairo Cigarettes, sold in turquoise boxes, and venerable Fribourg & Treyer (est. 1720) were near the top of Haymarket and in here, if you listened very carefully, you could still hear Beau Brummell’s retreating footsteps after placing his very last order of their Old Paris and Macouba snuffs.

 Alas! All gone. Mercifully, at least, the frontage of 32 Haymarket is preserved and Wilsons of Sharrow took over the Fribourg & Treyer snuff receipts and still produce their snuffs.

Sullivan Powell’s whole range of cigarettes and Benson & Hedges’ Cairo Cigarettes were the sudden victims of over-regulation by the European Union banning all cigarettes with more than fifteen milligrammes of tar. The playwright John Osborne said in an incandescent letter to The Times:

“As a schoolboy I narrowly escaped from ‘European’ bombs on my doorstep. I can forgive this eagerness, but not the compounding of the insult by dashing the tobacco from my lips forty years on”.

Fribourg & Treyer, one of London’s oldest surviving businesses, and still successful as a tobacconist and snuff chandler, was taken over, in the early 1980s, by Imperial Tobacco, which moved them out and then shut them down.

Every time that I first missed these shops, I felt the same mingled disbelief, confusion and anger that I had felt when I first found Sulka gone from Bond Street. Disbelief and confusion because it is difficult to believe that such wonderful shops, that have been an important living part of the London landscape, can just disappear without so much as a murmur of protest or a tear of regret, and then anger that they have actually gone.

In the last year at least three more great tobacconists have shut down: first, Shervington’s (formerly John Brumfitt, who popularized Romeo y Julieta Havanas) in Holborn Bars; then S Weingott & Son (where Rumpole most certainly must have bought his small cigars), just outside the Temple, in Fleet Street and now G Smith & Sons in the Charing Cross Road.  I imagine that, with the coming into force of the total ban on advertising and displaying tobacco products, most of the nation’s remaining small tobacconists (often also sweet shops and newsagents), will fall like ninepins; family businesses will be wiped out and their staff, in the midst of national bankruptcy postponed, will be put on the dole, to join the thousands already there by virtue of pub closures, in the wake of the public smoking ban, which was ostensibly introduced to protect employees from pub patrons’ smoke. Whoever dreamed up the policy for all this over-regulation lives, I warrant, either down a rabbit hole or behind a looking glass.

Those who govern the nation tell us that we live in a ‘Big Society’ of tolerance, inclusivity, classlessness and liberalism but, excuse me, I do not feel beneficially  either ‘tolerated’ or ‘included’ when I am encouraged, with so much misplaced and forcible enthusiasm,  to give up good tobacco, which John Osborne rightly described as “one of life’s few and reliable pleasures”. Moreover, I deeply resent it when this misplaced encouragement comes from ‘bullies’ who masquerade as ‘liberals’ in a society which is most notably ‘Big’ in being in economic free-fall and social decay. The legislative process has very swiftly moved from a position of tolerance (say, in decriminalizing homosexual practices) to the point at which we may now even marry our best male friend but, somehow, we may not lawfully join him in a cigar in the smoking room of a private club which was established to provide a place for men to sit around, and smoke, and drink and talk. The statute book reflects a very queer state of affairs indeed, resulting from twisted, tendentious reasoning, based on skewed or irrelevant evidence. A small, unventilated and smoke-filled bar might well present a health risk to a barman who works there all day, every day, for thirty years but show me  a Carlton Club servant who has developed a smoking-related illness as a result of the smoking room activities of its members and note, as we pass, that at least one ‘New Labour’ member of parliament wished to excuse working men’s clubs from the smoking ban; presumably because they all agreed with John Osborne that smoking is indeed one of life’s few and reliable pleasures.

Very shortly, most remaining tobacco sales will have to be conducted through internet transactions and any remaining tobacconist shops will become blank-fronted stores reminiscent of Soho’s seedy old pornographers (before they felt able to set window displays suggestive of their wares) and all remaining tobacco shop customers will feel obliged  to dart in and out of them in mufflers and macs, with hats pulled well down because, gradually, smoking tobacco is being branded a perversion; one of the many modern British taboos, dreamed up by tin-Hitlers and enforced by their jobsworths who have jumped out of the walls at us: wagging their fingers, rattling their clipboards and brandishing their regulations and cheap biros; telling us that they presume to tell us what is best for us .

What is actually best for us is to reclaim the lost land of true liberalism and true conservatism, which have been displaced by policies of commercialism and popularity-at-any-cost, developed as Thatcherism and taken to new highs (or lows) by the monstrous architects of so-called ‘New Labour’ and now the current leaders of the consensus-coalition-in-conflict. For me, reclaiming that lost land means revisiting the principles of J S Mill’s ‘On Liberty’ and understanding the basis of Disraeli’s Tory democracy, as well as understanding and accepting that we are not all created equal in this world at all. Such understanding and acceptance of the real diversity of society is the foundation stone for our mutual compassion towards this “poor, frail, fallen humankind”.

It is the rank intolerance which is behind all the banning, as well as the control- freakery, that really sticks in my craw. Who do these people think that they are? In his book “State of Fear”, Michael Crichton mentions a woman who founded a movement to ban di-hydrogen monoxide because “it can cause drowning”. A number of morons then supported her 'movement' to ban water, which very nicely suggests that those keen on banning things are not necessarily armed with any knowledge or powers of reasoning or even appreciation of all the consequences of what they are doing. It seems that they are just empowering themselves at the expense of others’ enjoyments. That sounds more like a perversion to me than does smoking tobacco.

If the fox-hunting ban bribe to the chattering classes, in return for backing Blair’s invasion of Iraq, had ever been effective as legislation, thousands of hounds would, presumably, have been destroyed (as they are not pet dogs) and all paid hunt staff would have been put out of work; all for the sake of banning one effective means of controlling a wantonly destructive pest which (most seem to agree) needs to be controlled in some way.

The fact that the tastes and values of the urban rabble and chattering classes are increasingly pandered to by ignorant and thoughtless bullies most certainly does not make modern Britain a tolerant, inclusive, classless or liberal society at all. It is time to take a real stand against all the flummery and to support organizations such as FOREST; the Countryside Alliance, and the British Association for Shooting and Conservation; otherwise, you can bet your bottom dollar that it will not be long before there are serious moves to outlaw the actual possession and use of tobacco and to ban shooting.

Why not take a leaf out of the book of the distillers and brewers? They, despite the devastation caused by alcohol abuse (ranging from alcohol-induced dementia and sudden death to vehicle accidents causing death and permanent injury to wholly innocent by-standers), seem to have done rather better (by lobbying) than just to avoid tighter controls on the purchase and consumption of alcohol and have even managed to abolish licensing hours altogether.  Where were the tight-lipped puritans then?