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?

Monday, 2 January 2012

Practical Resolutions

My resistance against temptation is a breached wall; a crumbling bastion; a deserted trench.

Besides, I like smoking. However, readily available, truly great cigarettes (such as Sullivan Powell; B&H Cairo) have gone forever and nothing will bring them back. The cigarettes here are either so strong that they induce a coughing fit or so weak that you smoke twenty in a row and look at the empty packet, wondering what that was all about, and so last night I made a practical resolution: I shall keep to a pipe; cigars and snuff from now on (on New Year's Eve I did try a pinch of an American guest's  snus, which did nothing at all for me and, frankly, I just don't see myself taking it up). The trick will be to avoid inhaling too much of the stronger smoke because anyone who has ever blown pipe of cigar smoke through a white hankerchief will tell you that inhaling it too much is not a great idea and simply defending smokers' rights is no reason to follow John Ford, Ava Gardner and Tallulah Bankhead to the need for an oxygen concentrator.