Writing Greenwood Tree – and more


It is a shame Benoist didn’t turn up sooner … but still, we get to compare with the oil paintings – all in all, they do tend to compare well. The Fascination of the Macabre – gets me every time… 🙂

Making History Tart & Titillating

If you want accurate likenesses of eighteenth century aristocrats, don’t rely on painted portraits.  If you must insist on versimiltude, I have two things to say:  “Goodnight and good luck” and “Wax Portraits!!”

Before yesterday, I had never heard of such a thing.  Wax figures like Madame Tussaud’s?  Of course.  But small, uncomely representations of monarchs, mistresses, noble folk?  I am fascinated.

Somehow in the two times I visited Versailles I missed Louis XIV’s 1706 wax portrait.  Too distracted by the gilt, no doubt.  What’s peculiar about this buste is what’s most obvious.  Apart from the fact he looks dusted with flour–an ill omen caused by bad reproduction–he’s got pockmarks, a five o’clock shadow, and age spots.  If you can’t see them in the first picture,  my lack of HD quality has dashed the clarity (Super clear and creepy whole bust here).

Louis-XIV by Antoine Benoist 1715

Benoist Louis XIV eye and nose

To be fair, Antoine Benoist molded…

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Donestre - British LibraryWhilst researching mythical creatures for the second Moon Stealer book, I came across a small piece of information about a creature called a Donestre, as well as a couple of pictures. I was looking for a fearsome creature that would make a formidable warrior for the Faerie Queen.

In ancient times, they were thought to have been found by the Greek, Alexander the Great and appeared in various medieval manuscripts (Bestiary’s) including the Wonders of the East. They were reported to be monsters that greeted unsuspecting travellers in their local tongue. They then killed and ate them, leaving just the head which they sat and wept over.Donestre

My Donestre are bounty hunters employed by the Faerie Queen. They are skilled Polyglots (able to speak in different languages, including dead languages). They have excellent senses and are athletic runners, on all fours as well as two legs. They are commonly between…

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Gin, glorious gin …

I do like the cover on this – the sort of notebook I would end up scribbling anything in other than gin notes- more likely plots for Julia Warren novels….

The London Gin Club

So, you’re at the London Gin Club trying some gin, with tonic perhaps or a cocktail or maybe the tasting menu and you notice all the wonderful flavours each gin has…dry, floral sweet, citrussy…but, come tomorrow will you remember which was which…or which was your favourite?

Never fear we have come to the rescue with the ‘Gin Notes’ booklet where you can record all the characteristics of each gin you try.

There are 28 pages to fill out and a section at the back to list your top ten ‘Hit list’

Fresh from the printers yesterday they available either on-line (from Monday 21st Jan) or at the bar from tonight! Yours for £1.50 and a great way to keep a record or your gin research.

example page


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The London Gin Club

Happy 2013 everyone…we’re really looking forward to a New Year of gin and I have a feeling it will be an interesting one.

Already new on our list is Gilt gin…a single malt gin from Scotland which we have been ‘experimenting’ with. Expect some delicious cocktails with this one!We’ve tried it as an Old Fashioned and it works amazingly well!

We have two new tasting menus for january which are:

BROKERS: Sicilian olive

SIX O’CLOCK : orange peel

LITTLE BIRD : grapefruit



7 DIALS : Sicilian olive

G’VINE NOUAISON: juniper& cinnamon

BOTANIST: Thyme & lemon


Come by and give them a try!

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‘La Rose Mal Défendue’: Debucourt’s Reply to Garnier

How deliciously naughty…

Making History Tart & Titillating

I owe this post in its entirety to the kindly gentleman @Dezilvereneeuw who sent Philibert-Louis Debucourt’s reproduction work of  ‘The Poorly Defended Rose’ my way.  This version, ‘La Rose Mal Défendue’, dates from 1791, the year Michel Garnier painted ‘The Letter’, his follow-up work to ‘The Poorly Defended Rose’.

The fantastic thing about Debucourt’s ‘Rose’ is the spin he’s put on the vignette.  What’s different?  First off, the lovers have been transported to the bedroom.  The seduction appears to have been a fevered pursuit–our (anti) gentleman is practically yanking off the lady’s shawl.  But–and this is so lovely–the lady is in possession of the rose.  Is she going to give it away freely?  Or will the gentleman overcome her?  I do wonder; she has a coy expression.  Methinks this lady doth not protest enough!

Debucourt’s foreground also mirrors Garnier’s.  Almost every prop is in disarray, from the tipped chair and…

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Yum ….

The London Gin Club

chophousefood copyThe Gin Shop and Chop House Menu

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In denial memoriam …

You’ve left the building.

You didn’t let us know you were going.

I was hoping to see you do another Moliere, another Plank, another something unexpected.

Don’t mistake me, I hardly saw you in half the stuff you did – but the little I saw, I remember with affection and a wish to see more; that quirkiness, that sense of surrealism – something quietly trotting by, like a genteel tabby cat which suddenly stands up and tickles you under the chin, saying: ‘There, you weren’t expecting that, were you?’ before padding on its way, turning half-way down the road with backward glance to see if you’ve caught on.

As they say, the eyes have it. And it’s never over-played. Add to that, the sheer devilish delight in surrealism for the sake of it, a ceaseless creativity… and a cross-word puzzler to boot. Now why doesn’t that surprise me?

‘Desperate charm of a con-man on the run’

‘King of the visual gag’

‘Angel of the Age’

You’ve heard it all already.

I am just grateful they showed that programme about you – with some choice excerpts from your works. There’s an early black and white clip from that series you did with your ‘identical twin sister’ – you were the driver, she the conductress – only in this episode, you’d had your bus taken away from you. Undaunted, you both went out, and collected your passengers, the conductress tingling the bell at each stop, all walking in unison, greeting and saluting the commuters as they hopped on and off on their three-hour walk – staunch in the face of obstruction and petty bureaucracy, nothing was going to prevent them on their morning ritual, however long it might take. A brief clip, but immediately evocative of classics such as Passport to Pimlico; – that impishness, born of an untrammelled imagination, combined with a sense of quiet, civil anarchy that comes naturally to a nation which has seen its own evolution pass through both civility and anarchy in fairly recurring circles over several centuries. You managed to encapsulate all that in a few seconds of film. How? How did you do that?

But never mind how, – just keep it up, I would say – only …

You’ve left the building.

Without a word.

Without so much as a by-your-leave.

Some of us were only just getting to know you. More, I hope, will get to know you. Was it interval-time at the theatre? An unfinished game of golf you had suddenly remembered? I hope you had sandwiches ready-packed. And a full thermos-flask.

So, happy tee-off, in your lunch break. Mind, we shall expect you back soon, somehow.

Meanwhile, many happy chuckles of the day to you, wherever it is you have gone. (What did happen to the goldfish, I wonder? Oh, and the cuckoo clock ….You see? So many questions left unanswered ….)

The Georgian Bawdyhouse – the book!

Dear old Smollett . . .have neglected him too long . .

Thehistoricfoodie's Blog

In 1766, Tobias Smollett published an account of his family’s time spent in France some few years earlier, and rather than give the reader a long interpretation of what he found, the author will, instead, pass it on in his words (and in his spelling) for the truest picture of what he experienced.  The article is a continuation of blog articles on influences of foods prepared in French Louisiana prior to the French and Indian war.

I have likewise two small gardens, well stocked with oranges, lemons, peaches, figs, grapes, corinths, salad, and pot-herbs…It is very difficult to find a tolerable cook at Nice.  The markets at Nice are tolerably well supplied.  Their beef, which comes from Piedmont, is pretty good, and we have it all the year.  In the winter, we have likewise excellent pork, and delicate lamb; but the mutton is indifferent.  Piedmont, also, affords us delicious capons…

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These are a few of my favourite things . . . Hellfire Club living it up . . .

Making History Tart & Titillating

They were devils who played near the banks of the Thames at Medmenham Abbey as monks with their nuns.

They were blasphemers whose amusements occasioned mock sermons to cats and arcane rituals in the names of Bacchus and Venus.

They were known as the Order of the Friars of St. Francis of Wycombe, Mad Monks of Medmenham, the Brotherhood, and lastly, simply, a hell-fire club helmed by Sir Francis Dashwood and his 12 disciples.

The Club’s Origins

The genesis of Sir Francis Dashwood’s club may be lost to the bowels of history, but the intermingling of Satanism and sex, of profane intellectualism and creaturely delight was hardly a new idea.  The Duke of Wharton’s hell-fire club of 1719 satirized religion, encouraged equality of the sexes, and expressed an intent to rankle the zealous.  Active until 1721, the club was a hiccup, driven out of existence by George I’s Order of…

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Of changelings, foundlings and ferals …

…or, A Question of Identity

Couldn’t resist re-blogging this fascinating, intriguing and ultimately mysterious account from the Georgian Gentleman‘s blog :

“Throughout the 18th Century I have come across stories of people suddenly appearing in a remote village, and no one can work out where they came from or why. Perhaps it is an indication of how little the population moved around, that strangers stood out in this way. There are echoes perhaps in the modern era with stories of children emerging from a forest claiming to have amnesia and uttering nothing but grunting sounds. You can bet that the red-tops will run with stories of ‘feral children being raised by wolves’ or whatever. They are generally found to be fakes…

Here then is a variation on that theme – as evidenced in a letter which my ancestor Richard Hall received some time in the 1780s. It is undated, so I cannot be more specific, but it appears to be in response to a query by Richard for information. Presumably he had gleaned some facts, and was intrigued to know the full story…”

Continues at Mr M.Rendell’s Blog

On reading the above I was reminded  of a couple of those more famous feral or ‘wild’ children from the late 18th and early19th centuries: the case of the wild boy, ‘Victor’ of Aveyron, who was found digging up roots and grunting, unable to communicate with humans, and the mysterious business of Kaspar Hauser who appeared out of the blue in 1812 in Nurnberg with an unsigned letter. Kaspar’s case differs from the Victor in that he was not, as initially assumed, living out in the wild; he could actually speak (two sentences), yet had difficulty walking and using his fingers. However, once he had learnt to speak more fluently, his story was no less mysterious than Victor’s – his earliest recollections were of living in a cell, visited by one human being who brought him water and bread (as a consequence, Kaspar could eat nothing else). There was never a light in his cell. Finally he was taught to say his name and taken outside where the fresh air and light made him faint. When he came to, he found himself in Nurnberg with the letter.

Victor of Aveyron, who was found digging up roots and grunting

In Victor’s case, two men who had lost sons in the French Revolution, travelled to see if he could be the missing heir; neither of them claimed him, however. Kaspar likewise caused some debate concerning his origins – to the extent that he was heir to the Baden principality, switched at birth by an ambitious relative. There are some interesting details connected with his story, including the manner of his death, but his claims remain unproven.

The idea of snatching a child at birth, either for profit or in order to save it from danger, is an ancient one, dating to prehistoric times, linked over time to the concept of the ‘changeling’ : the human child stolen away by faeries and replaced by an ugly homonid or goblin. Unpleasantly suggestive of people’s response to children born with defects, or simply not up to what had been expected – and also  a convenient cover for those born on the wrong side of the blanket.

To finish off this little trio of foundlings, changelings and ferals is the story of Karl Wilhelm Naundorff. The time: 1833. His claim was simple : he was the Dauphin, son and heir to Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI who had been so careless as to lose their heads during the French Revolution. Another twenty-seven men or so had already laid claim to the title during the interim since Napoleon’s downfall in 1815. What set Naundorff apart was the evidence he put forward.

In 1795, Louis Charles de Bourbon, youngest child of the French Royal Family, was supposed to have died while in prison awaiting his fate. Yet rumour had it the child had in fact been swapped for another. Certainly the boy changed considerably in health in seven months according to General Paul Barras (hardly surprising though, given the circumstances) – what did spur on rumours however was the size of the coffin used for the funeral of the heir apparent; people wondered that such a large coffin was used for   such a young child. Twenty years later, the rumours were further fuelled by a death-bed confession from the Dauphin’s female gaoler: that she and her husband had substituted a boy for the Dauphin. “My little prince is not dead,” were her last words on the matter.

The Dauphin was supposed to have died in the Temple when he was ten

Various officials had visited the Dauphin in prison – far from the robust ten-year-old, they encountered a deaf-mute, a ‘pitiable creature’  – indeed, when the new gaoler was engaged, he immediately asserted that the Dauphin was an imposter. General de Barras organised a nation-wide search for the child.

According to Naundorff however,  Barras was complicit in the plot to save the boy by having him smuggled out on the day the substitute died, then moved to Italy, thence to Prussia.

Naundorff began a civil court action to support his claim, was expelled from France and went to work in England where an attempt was made on his life. He died nine years later in Holland – reputedly poisoned. Enough people believed in his claim to erect a tombstone to him inscribed with ‘Louis Charles de Bourbon, son of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette’. Whether he was imposter or not, the story of substitution acquires more substance yet in the year 1846, when the presumed Dauphin’ s body was exhumed. Two doctors pronounced the bones to be those of an older child – a boy of fifteen or sixteen. In 1894 the bones were re-examined; this time, the age was set between sixteen and eighteen. In either case,speculation continued to murmur that the child in the coffin could not be the Dauphin. A quick perusal of Louis XVII, the Unsolved Mystery by H. G. Francq is suggestive – of botched mixed burials from hasty autopsies as much as anything else.

And what of the heart ? That sorry, pickled, much travelled heart on which DNA tests were carried out in 2000? Whose heart was it ? Certainly it belonged to a relative of Marie Antoinette (which Naundorff, likewise through DNA,was proven not to be) – but was it the Dauphin’s? Even there, the mystery continues.It certainly gave Baroness d’Orczy plenty of plot material . . .

How on earth did I get here? What links all of these cases, including the poor man from Leicester is that of identity – personal, individual, human. It lies at the heart of the human psyche, and operates at all levels of our lives. No wonder there is a constant absorbing interest every time a mummy is x-rayed, or Mozart’s skull is re-examined, or another portrait purporting to be of Shakespeare comes to light – are they who we thought they were?  And are we who we thought we were? Every time we suggest doubt of a person’s identity, past or present, we take a step towards challenging our own identity – understandably, passions run high. We take sides and perceive insults when academic and scientific clash with our favourite legends and prove them hollow and worthless.

The story of individual identity continues to appeal, attract, absorb and mystify, testifying as it does to our life-long, centuries-long obsession with who we are, where we come from, where we are going….

(Shall I finish with *the* quote? Or will you ?)

Related links of interest :


Eldorado by Baroness d’Orczy

What are these flowers ?

Thomas: What are these flowers ? And why here?

Edward: By the heavens, what is this distemper? They are but the wild flowers from without, that Arabella did always desire to have in the house.

Thomas: There is the stench of death about them.

(From Ungentle Sleep)

Yes, Arabella is rather keen on flowers, and while I was listening to M.R.James’s  The Rose Garden on BBC 4 Extra I suddenly noticed the rose facing me on the desk. I think she would have liked it…wonder if I shall find she has strewn the petals about the place while I am asleep tonight . . .

That’s also why there are falling rose petals in the trailer . .

Happy Birthday Mr James (or, A Note to the Curious)

Today I was reminded by chums on Twitter that it is the birthday of one of the great raconteurs of the British traditional ghost story : M.R.James. Over the course of the day I have suggested adding quotes, visiting this or that site, posting about it here and there in those places you would most expect to find him in. Yet there is little ‘noise’ about him, birthday boy though he be. But then, generally, his is a quiet influence, something left subtly behind with his passing; almost without comment, quasi intangible. He thrilled and continues to thrill a wide gamut of readers, and has inspired and influenced writers and film-makers. Scarcely a Yuletide passes without some version of one Jamesian tale or other being televised or played out on radio. Yet try to establish exactly what it is that attracts his audience, and the responses tend to vary : is it the setting? the academic detail? the dry wit and humour that add further edginess to the horrors to come ? Surely it is a bit of all of these, the sum of parts resulting in classics such as The Stalls of Barchester, Mr Humphreys and his Inheritance and a particular favourite of mine, Casting the Runes.

It was with the centenary in mind that I suggested to some author friends earlier this year that we put together an anthology of our own ghost tales –  a sort of ‘in memoriam’ . There was immediate response, and with any luck, the anthology will  launch around Hallowe’en. In the meantime, a small effort of mine(barely even a novelette, but too long to be a short story) will be launching soon from Captive Press. While the publication is not on the day of his birth, I can at least post the trailer for it now as a sort of salute.

Happy Birthday, M.R.James.

Related links :

Papergreat : with a lot of nice links

Master of the Ghost Story : a more in-depth look at the writer’s life and works

Spooky Isles : a special, erudite post in honour of M.R.James’s birthday

A Podcast to the Curious  (minute, detailed discussion of M.R.James’s tales)

Thin Ghost (I particularly like this elegant site, in particular the illustrations for the tales)

Dark Media City for all things spooky

And if you fancy sporting a ribbon in the world of Twitter in memory of the great man : http://twibbon.com/join/MRJames-Centenary

I am celebrating the centenary for the whole of this year, so I am hanging on to my Twibbon.

Now, where’s that punch bowl . . .

Making History Tart & Titillating

As I am wont to do, I was recently digging around a volume of The Gentleman’s Magazine when I discovered a fictionalized account regarding the first brave soul to don natural hair après the periwig fashion and the row that ensued.  Dare I say this is a version of Gentlemen brawlers, bandying over hairstyle supremacy? Victor Hugo, if only it were true!  I would be most amused.

From ‘By Order of the King: A Romance of English History’ by Victor Hugo

“Lord David held the position of judge in the gay life of London.  He was looked up to by the nobility and gentry.  Let us register a fact to the glory of Lord David.  He dared to wear his own hair.  The reaction against the wig was beginning.  Just as in 1824, Eugene Deveria was the first who dared to allow his beard to grow, so in 1702 Price Devereux dared for the…

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Gin, Julia and Mary Pickford

The clock in the corridor outside chimed seven. Drinks. And then dinner.  Julia snatched a dress out of the wardrobe.

‘. . . so Dawton’s bought it up, lock stock and barrel . . .’

‘. . . make it a going concern. . . .’

‘. . . I thought it in particularly bad taste, and then she said . . .’

‘ . . . last of the Gorgons, that woman, don’t you think, Isobel ?’

‘. . . I have never actually had a conversation with

her myself. . .’

‘. . . pass the potatoes will you, old bean ?. . .’

‘ . . . more gravy, sir ? . . .’

‘Now then Julia, stop hiding behind your glass, old girl, and tell me about the plot. How many murders are in it this time?’ Cousin Richard was sitting next to her, so she could not very well evade his cheeriness with social deafness; not that she wasn’t fond of him, but any talk about a book of hers, especially one she had not yet written, was apt to be a little wearing. Perhaps other writers suffered the same. She had never asked. Talking to other writers was even more wearing than talking about one’s own unwritten novel.  ‘I don’t know yet.’ She turned impish. ‘Do you feel like being murdered ? I’m sure I could find a nice spot for you in there somewhere.’

‘Oh, why not. Who does me in, then – the butler ?’

‘Shuush, you’ll upset him. He’s trying to serve the duck.’

‘Nonsense, Haughton’s always ready to oblige, aren’t you Haughton ?’

‘Sir ?’

‘I mean, for the purposes of Miss Julia’s next best-selling novel -’

‘Don’t talk nonsense, Richard  . . .’

‘  . . . would you be prepared to do me in, and thus supply her with the plot ?’

‘As you wish, sir.’

‘There you are.’ Richard turned to Julia. ‘Now you can get started.’

‘I fear Miss Julia might find your suggestion less acceptable, however, sir.’

‘Yes, I certainly would.’

‘Oh ? How so ?’

‘Lack of motive, sir. Gravy, miss ?’

‘Hah! That’s you dealt with.’ Julia hit Richard with her napkin.

‘Ouch. I hope, little cousin, you will not come to regret this, in years to come, when people come up and say “Have you read ‘What the Butler Did’ by Richard Crewe? Stunning stuff, isn’t it ?” and you are obliged to reply “Yes. I wish I’d thought of it first. But you see, he offered me the plot, and I turned it down – silly, wa-” ’ He interrupted himself with a squeak as Julia gave him a hard pinch. ‘Now I really wish I was sitting next to Anne,’ she commented.

‘The writer’s secret. Always sit next to your fan to keep your spirits up.’


‘Well, at least I don’t deluge you with flattery and requests for autographs. You’d really detest that.’

‘That reminds me – somebody on the train -ۥ

‘Don’t tell me – he asked you for a signature, and was most put out when you turned out not to be Mary Pickford.’

From Greenwood Tree, chapter 10

Mary Pickford as photographed by Alfred Cheney Johnston in 1920

After re-blogging the previous post from the Gin Club, it occurred to me that a post on cocktails and flappers might be apposite . . .

Nellie Melba and Pavlova  inspired desserts, Garibaldi a biscuit, Wellington a sturdy piece of beef in pastry and . . . Mary Pickford, – a cocktail : rum, pinapple juice, grenadine and maraschino liqueur. Which noxious combination may well have done the rounds in the London night clubs of the time, but I fear would have left Julia unmoved. Her tastes are I believe of a simpler nature, and where others might be rushing to the bar for novelty to refresh their jaded appetites, Julia is more likely to be seen sitting  behind a palm sipping occasionally at a plain, simple G&T. If she is feeling particularly adventurous, she might allow some Angostura Bitters to be added . . and I could add she might well be interested in perusing the Gin Club’s Newsletter now and then . . .

“Where there’s smoke there’s fire” by American artist Russell Patterson 1920s

And yes, she does have a dress or two in her wardrobe  like the one above – although she might wear a more toned-down version for a country house. But the one pictured above would do for cocktails and the odd formal dinner. The Flappers meanwhile appear soon after in GreenWood Tree. Loud, cheerful, rumbustious, probably rather noisome. Certainly Aunt Iz felt the strain after a little while and sent them off on long walks across the countryside . .  well, after watching the following, what would you do with them ?

A few links of possible interest to the curious :



(includes several cocktail recipes associated with Miss Pickford . . .)

http://www.angostura.com/Brands/AngosturaBitters (the main page asks date of birth to establish that you are of drinking age – both impertinent and pointless; anybody could type in anything . . .;))

And this looks rather fun if you have a Singer machine to hand and are of a couturier-like turn : http://www.1920-30.com/publications/fashion/?hop=pagecat

Hmmmm ….now Julia Warren might not be averse to the odd gin & tonic – it’s some of the other beastly cocktails she couldn’t abide . ..

The London Gin Club

Hopefully you know by now we try to deliver the best gin experience we can here at the club, which also includes offering the newest and best gins we can find.

Well, we found 4 more for you to try. Masters of Malt, the creators of the wonderful Bathtub, Old Tom and cask aged  Bathtub have created Origin, a single estate juniper only gin, allowing you  to explore the effects location, climate, soil type and myriad other conditions have on theed the juniper and therefore the final gin.

No other botanicals are added so you can experience the pure juniper flavour.
There are 4 gins so far in this range from Italy, Bulgaria, Albania and the Netherlands.

We will be offering these four gins as another tasting menu so you can compare the four spirits together. The tasting menu will consist of 4 single serves with Fever Tree tonic for…

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Georgian court dress by Dr Lucy Worsley (the Warren sisters were unlikely to get as far as court, but they would have followed the court fashion avidly . . . )

Must have been the life and soul of the party.*Who to invite to my next Salon…* 😉

A wondrous mechanism…just what I want on my Wishlist….

Jane Austen's World

This beautiful marquetry table transforms into a desk with a turn of a key. This short animated film shows you how it operates and how an elegant French lady in the 18th century would have used it. Enjoy.

Read about metamorphic furniture (which is different from mechanical furniture) at this link.

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A touch of the old WHR…mad inventivity from the 20s…

Not quite W.H.Robinson, although one or two of the transport ones could qualify… in fact I think I recognise one of them.

I could almost envisage Charlie driving Julia home from the station in the very first ‘machine’ shown in the film below; it is the sort of insane contraption that she would, I believe, relish getting to grips with.

They went through the station to the other side. A sleek primrose vehicle sat purring and spluttering almost in the middle of the road, apparently devoid of family chauffeur.  ‘Where’s Brenton ?’ inquired Julia apprehensively.  ‘Brenton ? Don’t need him I can drive he taught me says I’m getting on fairly more comfy in the front in you go there you are – all right ?’

Julia’s worst fears were realised as Charlie slithered into the front seat and looked about briefly for the gears. Julia’s hand moved discreetly to the strap and held on to it in a vice-like grip. Charlie’s foot came firmly down on the pedal.

Charlie’s method of driving, like her ability to communicate, put Julia in mind once more of nursery days and trolleys, to which only two rules had ever seemed to apply; one, never to go round an obstacle if you could go through it or over it, and two, never to control the speed at which you hurtled across the ground. As a result, by the time they arrived at Frobisher Hall, Julia’s right foot had lifted off the car floor in a state akin to rigor mortis, causing her shin to ache, while her left was stuck down onto the boards as if with insoluble glue. Her jaw relaxed in relief as the engine coughed to a halt and she saw Uncle Rex the Colonel on the steps with Haughton. ‘Well well,’ said the Colonel, as Haughton heaved the cases out. ‘Well, well. Comfortable journey, then ? Good, good. I think Miss Isobel wants tea or something in the conservatory, Haughton. Ask Cork to deal with the er, the er, those.’ “

(GreenWood Tree, chapter 9)

Such fun . . ..1920s style . . .

Dancing the Night Away . . .

Another little nugget I came across from British Pathé:

‘There were gladioli in Aunt Izzy’s garden, they would be coming into bloom soon: she could picture the late afternoon sun falling across them, turning them a soft apricot gold, and she wanted to be transported back to it at that moment, that very second. There was a brilliant blue sky today; she decided to go back to her flat by tram, climbing deliberately to the upper deck just so she could sit away from crowds, and enjoy the trees lining the avenue. She craned her neck up and gazed at the leafy branches passing by, and for a moment imagined herself back at home. Finally all those little scraps of dreams that had been hiding away all day returned tenfold to delight her, butterfly-like, with colours and warmth – the walks, the glades, the running hare and cheeky sparrow, the slow-witted blackbirds, sunning themselves in the middle of the lanes; all the whirling memories of the past crowded into her mind and she decided she had stayed away too long. What had seemed a pretext now became necessity; London was stifling her with its relentless gaiety, misery and recklessness.’

Greenwood Tree, Chapter 3

One of my favourite excerpts . . .

Eighteenth-Century Reading Room

Full Title:  Miscellanies.  By Dr. Swift.  The Eleventh Volume.  London:  Printed for C. Hitch, C. Davis, C. Bathurst, R. Dodsley, and W. Bowyer.  MDCCLIII.

RULES that concern All Servants in general.

 When your Master or Lady calls a Servant by Name, if that Servant be not in the Way, none of you are to answer, for then there will be no end of your Drudgery:  And Masters themselves allow, that, if a Servant comes when he is called, it is sufficient.

When you have done a Fault, be always pert and insolent, and behave yourself as if you were the injured Person; this will immediately put your Master or Lady off their Mettle.

If you see your Master wronged by any of your Fellow-Servants, be sure to conceal it, for fear of being called a Tell-tale:  However there is one Exception, in case of a favourite Servant, who is justly hated…

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1927 in colour : the Ashes, roasted Peanuts, Rotten Row . . .

I can’t resist it : this is a rare 1927 film of London in colour : the year before Julia goes home to Lichfield in Greenwood Tree and ends up unravelling mystery upon mystery.


“Now came a rustling, a pattering, and finally a bird’s squawking that softly exploded into the distant sound of a car horn. The pattering turned back into the clopping of a well-worn charabanc, wending its cautious way through increasingly motorized traffic, while the rustling had surely been caused by the maid pulling the curtains back.  Julia’s head slumped back into the pillow. The world outside with its traffic, its noise and bustle, its deadlines and publishers could wait while she sought a few minutes more of her comforting dream of forestland and empty skies.”

Greenwood Tree, Chapter One

Excerpt on blogspot

On Authonomy