Following my Italy Journal
WASHINGTON - For two months Prince Alexis Karageorgevitch, pretender to the Servian throne, has been in Boston. He is greatly enamored of Miss Mabel Swift, a very pretty young girl who is the daughter of one of the great meat kings. Mr. Swift opposes the match and threatens to disinherit his daughter if she marries the prince. The diplomatic corps is watching the prince's wooing with considerable interest. A pretender to the Servian throne with a morganatic wife might add still further complications to the Balkan situation.
NEW YORK - A record has been established at Coney Island. One day last week there were no arrests and no liquor raids. Neither were there any rescues from drowning. One "lost" boy broke an otherwise perfect record.
And from NEWNES:
Well, that's over with! What I mean is that I have closed the door on Italy. A little past lunch time I flew to Heathrow and took a cab to The Dorchester.
Do you remember when I was worrying about connecting at my Milan hotel? You know, the place where I couldn't get a dial tone. I had chalked that experience up to a dumb hotel phone system…and by giving my own modem a minor lobotomy I was able to reach mental parity with it. Then things worked.
The Dorchester has an in house phone system that functions on the other end of the bell shaped curve. It is all digital ... it just ignores the analog screams of my computer modem. The only way to get it to play right is to return it to the dead language dictionary. Then things will work.
NEWNES feebly chirps:
But, then brightly discovers:
Dear Reader, this day is actually an important anniversary for me: thirty years ago today (September 22, 1969) I enrolled as a law student at The University of London. This morning LONDON WALKS offered me a convenient vehicle for retracing some of my footsteps: "Legal London - The Inns of Court". The author of the walk describes it this way:
The Inns of Court - habitat of the wigged and gowned English barrister - could pass for a collection of Oxford and Cambridge colleges right in the heart of London. They are a warren of cloisters, courtyards, and passageways set amongst some of the best gardens in London. So: ancient rites and customs, high drama, colourful characters, and matters of life and death amid delightful surroundings. It's a rich confection, making this the prettiest and most historical of our central London walks.
Though I've taken this LONDON WALKS offering at least a half a dozen times during the past fifteen or twenty years, every time I walk through the various Inns I learn something new. Perhaps the guide has just made something up ... or maybe it's something long buried; in any case it is always interesting. There is a lot of history in these few acres. I think every lawyer (especially ones with roots in the Common Law) should walk among the legal ghosts who live between High Holburn and Fleet Street.
The place hasn't changed very much since I was a student at Kings and the LSE. Wildy's Book Shop is still where it always was ... though there does appear to be a new branch of it on Fleet Street. W.H. Smiths on Kingsway now carries CDs and DVD's, as well as still boasting the best newspaper and magazine selection in town (I couldn't resist buying this month's LOADED). The pubs are pretty much in the same places. Most curious: the students still look like they did thirty years ago.
This afternoon Hyde Park got soaked. I can only assume that it also rained on the other parts of the city, as my hotel room view was pretty much restricted to what was happening to the immediate west. What got London wet today probably was the very tail end of Mr. Floyd. That bloody storm has been haunting me for two weeks.
Tomorrow morning I'm off to Bristol. To see the new balloon. I'm going to shoot for the 10:15 out of Paddington. With luck I can be back in London by the late afternoon. There is a "Ghosts of the West End" walk that I don't want to miss.
LILLE - A thwarted love affair is believed to be the cause of a double suicide in the Scheldt at Valenciennes. The two young lovers, Joseph Larcin, 20, and Augustine Delsart, 18, bound together by a scarf, threw themselves into the river and were drowned.
NEW YORK - Mme. Elsa Schiaparelli conceded that American men had won the battle for the hemline. She said she was cutting her skirts two inches shorter than the "going" American length, and she had not a doubt that women will buy them. "We appeal to men first," said the Parisian dressmaker. Skirts will be fifteen or sixteen inches off the floor. She said, "I think American men feel so strongly about this question that that is what they want. What they want is what women will want." She said that even the man who looked at her passport at LaGuardia Field wanted to know about her skirt lengths. She told him the good news. He said, "Well, thank God."
NEWNES scraped with:
Then cockily added:
This morning I did take the 10:15 Great Western to Bristol Temple Mead. Followed by a short cab ride to St. John Street, Bedminster.
This was my second visit to the Cameron Balloon factory in as many months. Both visits have been needed for progress peeks at Corkscrew Balloon #3: the first time, when the work was just getting under way, and now, when the balloon is about to be wrapped and shipped. You know I really should come up with a proper name for this balloon…for that matter, all of my balloons should have something other than numbers to identify them. But, that mental wandering belongs in a footnote.
"Do you want to see the pretty ladies?" The woman at the Singer was apparently proud of her work.
The balloon was lying bumpily on the Bedminster sewing floor. Almost all of the machine work had been completed; there were only a couple of seamstresses hemming here and there. Also needed were the ganglia of internal ropes and wires that give the balloon its "life". In my previous visits to the Cameron factory I have never seen one of my balloons in such an advanced stage of birthing. In the past they have been just loose pieces of colored fabric and shadows of paper templates. But today it was all very different. Christen and Denise, the corkscrews and the bundles of grapes all seemed ready to go. A couple of hundred thousand cubic feet of hot air is all that they asked for.
It was raining again when I got back to Paddington; so hard that the queue for a taxi was 12 minutes long. As it was only a 40-minute walk to my hotel I went by foot. It was uncharacteristically stormy. While I was dodging traffic and puddles, a huge bolt of lightening struck a tree near my walk. Two young women of "Far Eastern origin" were killed. Since less than half a dozen people are killed by lightening a year in Britain, today's figures will go a long way to bump up the average. It is amazing that lightening does not kill more people.
The Webmaster at LONDON WALKS had this to say about what I did later this evening:
More than any other, this is the walk to finish the day in style. The neighbourhood is a must see, a movie set corner of London. It's Upstairs-Downstairs land, profoundly English but also exotic. Into the bargain, it's home and hearth to the very rich and famous - including Mrs. Thatcher, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Omar Shariff. And because we're going to see it through the peep-hole - threading our way through its cobbled little lanes and mews - past secret escapes and vistas of sudden surprise - we'll make some wonderful discoveries. For good measure we'll call in at a couple of pubs that are small masterpieces - the haunts of those who know. (Food is available.)
"Everywhere outside their houses are the citizens' gardens, side by side yet spacious and splendid and set about with trees. There are also in the northern suburbs of London splendid wells and springs with sweet healing, clean water…[where]…crowds of schoolboys and students and young men of the City take the air on summer evenings…The only plagues of London are the immoderate drinking of fools and the frequency of fires."
- William Fitzstephen, Preface to the Life of Thomas a Becket, c. 1180
NEWNES modestly leads in with:
SHANGHAI - The withdrawal of his men on the southern side of Lake Tihu by General Lu Yung Hsing, the isolated military governor of Che-Kiang, had an immediate result today [Sept. 23] when the opposing Kiang-Su forces were able to cut the important railway line from Shanghai to Hangchow by blowing up the bridge just south of Kangshing. Pilots of the army of Chang-Tso-Lin, the Mukden war lord, who is fighting the Peking government for the control of China, are dropping bombs every day on Shan-Hai-Kwan, the important fortified seaport at the end of the Great Wall. All the foreign colony has taken to the seashore and is camping in primitive fashion on the beach. The fall of Chao-Yang is confirmed officially and the Mukden chief forces are now centered on Jehol. If Jehol falls, the capture of Shan-Hai-Kwan is planned.
NEWNES, vainly attempting to catch up, reports:
Someone hates Mellisa. Someone hates her enough to tear her photograph.
Someone hates her enough to rip her photograph into little pieces.
Someone hates her enough to stomp a hole through her photograph, apparently with a pointy high heel shoe.
Someone hates her enough to kick her photograph into the muddy street after scribbling on her with a pen.
Could someone hate her because of her looks ... because of her nationality? In Mellisa's own words: "I'm half English and half Puerto Rican, 19 years old, with beautiful olive skin, long brown hair, 36-24-36 figure, 5'5" height."
Perhaps. Perhaps not. Mellisa is just one of the hundreds of women who niche-market their services in London telephone booths. While mainstream service providers stick to such standard message carriers as billboards and window displays, the Mellisas decorate the otherwise drab interiors of phone kiosks with their tart cards. Some of these invitations to negotiate are vague and only suggest what is on the other end of the line. Others jump right ahead and promise the standard missionary approved sacrament. Further afield: many tart cards unashamedly tender a deep cafeteria of bewildering stimulations that employ tools such as "bondage benches," "internals," "racks," and "chattering dwarfs."
Even though President Clinton, just days ago, dumped a dozen Puerto Rican terrorists back onto the streets of New York, it's not likely that Mellisa's enemy is a distant victim. So, her lineage probably did not get her into this round of nuisance.
That leaves either a dissatisfied customer or the wife of a satisfied customer. The former can be ruled out. The British Trade Descriptions Act gives the British consumer adequate legal redress in the event that the product that he purchases or the services that he pays for are not up to snuff. Enough said there.
So, we are left with an unhappy wife. Either she has sniffed her way back to where her husband started, or she has discovered the offending tart card in his pocket. It's now quite simple. The only thing left in her life is to pass each and every day patrolling West End phone booths doing damage to Mellisa's advertisements.
Luckily for the history of advertising, I found one complete Mellisa.
As long as I was walking the streets of London looking out for tart memorabilia there was no reason why I couldn't do two walks at the same time. Thus:
And now for the real gold - narrow streets, secret courtyards, and superb, old-fashioned shops - hidden away behind all the tinsel of the West End. The ingredients speak for themselves: the "Embassy of the Republic of Texas"!; a hideaway where the last duel in London was fought; Henry VIII's cowshed; Princess Diana's ancestral home; Christopher Wren's only West End church; the capital's finest Georgian shopping arcade; the Queen Mother's handsome old mansion; London's swishest, oldest and most exclusive gentlemen's clubs (including the one that boasts the most stirring American association in London); a splendid old stables and wine vaults; the "Queen's own grocers"; 18th-century shops lost in a time warp (but still trading); the Square that launched the West End. And that's not to mention London's most intimate palace. But don't expect the peerage - or the royals - to be on their best behaviour: the route is peppered with scandal!
NEWNES reminds us that September was a bad month in Norwegian history:
As since its foundation The Times has always been distinguished among English journals by its regard for the purity of our language, and as therefore we feel that we have a sort of right to appeal to you on such a subject, may I venture in your columns to enter a protest against the latest hideous importation from American journalism? The monstrous word 'electrocute,' for kill by electricity, is now of regular occurrence, and bids fair to become part of our language. When we have the legitimately formed word 'electrocide' at our service why should it not be adopted and so detestable a solecism as the word referred to be repudiated?
I am, Sir, your obedient servant,
J. CHURTON COLLINS
March 29, 1906
['To electrocute appeared inevitably in the first public discussion of capital punishment by electricity.' - H. L. Mencken, The American Language, New York, 1919]
NEWNES rakes up an even more tragic death:
Dear Reader, Alan is a former croupier who now prefers guiding people through the dark and eccentric bits of London. He likes Oscar Wilde and murders. When you next come to London go straight away to your concierge and get a brochure for LONDON WALKS. Immediately look up the walks on which Alan is listed as the guide. Show up for those walks, even if you have to leave your luggage with the porter.
These are the two that I did today. Alan brilliantly led both.
London. The 1890s. Gaslit streets echoing to the rattle of hansom cabs and the tinkling laughter of stagedoor Johnnies and their chorus girls. The London of Whistler, Beardsley, Shaw, Lillie Langtry, and Gilbert & Sullivan. Above all, though, the London of Oscar Wilde. Oscar - of all writers, the best company. Oscar - at the height of his fame as dramatist and wit, amusing and outraging Victorian Society by turns. Oscar - refulgent, majestic, ready to fall. And fall he did. His life came crashing down ... mired in scandal and broken in three of the most celebrated trials of all time. We follow in Oscar's footsteps...tracing his triumph and tragedy in the very places where the drama unfolded, bringing to an end the Naughty Nineties.
Strong stuff this. Tonight we tread the paths of infamy ... walk in the footsteps of the wicked. Murder at the Savoy, death at the Café Royale, a body found in a trunk at a left luggage office, a killer identified by a blindman, a woman found holding a smoking pistol over the body of her lover, the "silk stocking murders," the Krays and a world champion boxer's "suicide" ... welcome to the nightmare factory ... welcome to the dark side of "the most civilised city" on earth. Good night Ladies. Good night Gentlemen. Sweet dreams!
Tomorrow will be my last full day in London; on Monday I am going to return to Florida. From there and then I don't know what will happen. Perhaps I'll go on to the Orient. I have not been in Shanghai for a few years ... and I do like that city. If I go there I'll probably spend some time in Hong Kong and Bangkok, as well. Is anyone reading this part of the journal? If so, send me a quick e-mail at email@example.com or at firstname.lastname@example.org. I don't like to travel alone. As the amount of e-mail that I received for the well-publicized Alpine hot air balloon trip was "modest" I'd be amazed if I hear from anyone about this one.
Anyway, back to tomorrow. Loads of Sunday walks are offered. There is THE BEATTLES MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR in the morning. For the afternoon THE UNKNOWN EAST END looks interesting.
Sliding away from my traditional sources of anniversaries and news, I'd like you to read this worthwhile piece that was provided by Andy Page [Mr. Page has been a long time correspondent of mine since the early forum days of CompuServe]. But, to get on with the meat: obviously Christie's sometimes has things other than corkscrews to offer its clients, as you'll see.
Polar explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes today spent nearly £4,000 on the remains of a biscuit which was found next to the frozen body of Captain Robert F Scott after his doomed South Pole mission.
The Huntley and Palmer's biscuit, which had been estimated to fetch around £1,000, sold for a total of £3,910.
Sir Ranulph, 55, bid by telephone from his home on Exmoor for the biscuit which was among mementoes of Scott's ill-fated 1912 Antarctic mission which were sold at Christie's in London.
He said afterwards: "I bought it to stop it going out of the country. I ended up paying £300 more than I had planned, but in the long run I am happy.
"I could not believe that anyone would be going that high -- it must be the most expensive biscuit in the world. On the other hand you hear about footballs being sold at auction for £55,000 and it is a lot more worthwhile than a football."
He will give the biscuit to the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust based in Cambridge which will decide where it should be displayed.
"I would love to keep it myself, but it needs to be kept in preservative, otherwise it will crumble."
Sir Ranulph, renowned for his Arctic and Antarctic adventures, including the first pole-to-pole circumnavigation, said: "Scott is very much a hero of mine.
"I would have liked everything to stay in this country, but this is the item which meant most to me in the sale.
"If I had been him I would have eaten anything that was edible."
The National Maritime Museum also bid for the biscuit but decided not to spend more than £2,000.
Instead, the museum bought Scott's snow goggles for £20,700 and also a watch. The goggles had been estimated to fetch between £3,000 and £5,000.
Last night it arranged to buy Scott's silk flag and a compass used by Sir Ernest Shackleton from the explorers' families for an undisclosed price.
The museum's partners at the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust bought Scott's sledging satchel, which went for £3,680, parts of his stove, which went for £27,600, and eight ration bags, which fetched £10,925.
David Spence, the museum's exhibition projects director, pledged that a Royal Standard flag, presented to Shackleton on board the Endurance in 1914 by the Queen, should not be allowed to go abroad.
He said the flag had sold for £56,000 and vowed to "stop any export licence to give the museum a chance to save it."
Among other lots were a large Union flag which sold for £25,300, another of Scott's silk sledging flags sold for £34,500 and two of Scott's pipes which went for £8,625.
The 31 lots of Scott memorabilia raised a total of £313,348, Christie's said.
NEWNES, anticlimactically, acknowledged:
My morning e-mail was bare. Apparently no one had read the penultimate paragraph in yesterday's journal; or, if someone had, it carried no interest for her.
The two walks that were at the front of my mind last night weren't there this morning. As the day dawned sunny for a change, the Victoria Embankment looked particularly inviting. This route along the Thames River leads almost to the Tower of London and it is nearly free of traffic; it is quite pretty when it is not raining. Almost by accident I fell into:
This is a jolt of the pure stuff ... the best sort of London Walks alchemy. The alchemy that results when you mix alleyways that tourists never find with London history that would do the Sorcerer's Apprentice proud. Here we're in an urban enchanted forest, a place where 13 knights performed three deeds of bravery - one above ground, one below ground, and one in the water. A place where there's a centuries-old peep hole - still there - to keep nuns safe from prying eyes. A place of a Maypole and 11,000 beheaded virgins and the most spectacular statue in London and a show-stopping garden with a fountain whose waters mimic the tail feathers of an ostrich. Let alone Bedlam, an outrageous prioress, Bluebell Girls, black magic, Geoffrey Chaucer and traitors' heads.
Sue, a water-colourist and a self taught expert on the Fleet River runs this walk. It's her creation. Her hauntingly sexy laugh bubbles up when she hits upon the good parts: whacked off heads, exploding bodies, vole and frog burial sites, lesbian prioresses and whores in nuns clothing.
What famous man was so delayed on the way to his own funeral that his body expanded to the point where even his orifices became so pinched shut that they were not up to the task of venting his poisonous gases? What famous swollen body exploded in the abbey causing the mourners to be showered with body parts and smelly fluids? What famous body parts and sticky puddles were so lost among the pews that only the thighbone made it back into the ruptured casket? Ask Sue.
NEWNES tells us:
Everything in life is just a mixture of fact and fiction. And there is no better place to enjoy it all than in the movies. I will bet you a weeks holiday in Shanghai that today's Virgin Atlantic flight back to Miami has at least one of these films on the entertainment menu. Only girls can win this bet.
FAVOURITE BRITISH FILMS OF 20TH CENTURY
Here is the complete list of the British Film Institute top 100 films:
1 The Third Man (1949, Carol Reed)
2 Brief Encounter (1945, David Lean)
3 Lawrence of Arabia (1962, David Lean)
4 The 39 Steps (1935, Alfred Hitchcock)
5 Great Expectations (1946, David Lean)
6 Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949, Robert Hamer)
7 Kes (1969 Ken Loach)
8 Don't Look Now (1973, Nicholas Roeg)
9 The Red Shoes (1948, Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger)
10 Trainspotting (1996, Danny Boyle)
11 The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957, David Lean)
12 If... (1968, Lindsay Anderson)
13 The Ladykillers (1955, Alexander Mackendrick)
14 Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960, Karel Reisz)
15 Brighton Rock (1947, John Boulting)
16 Get Carter (1971, Mike Hodges)
17 The Lavender Hill Mob (1951 Charles Crichton)
18 Henry V (1944, Laurence Olivier)
19 Chariots of Fire (1981, Hugh Hudson)
20 A Matter of Life and Death (1946 Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger)
21 The Long Good Friday (1980, John Mackenzie)
22 The Servant (1963, Joseph Losey)
23 Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994, Mike Newell)
24 Whisky Galore! (1949, Alexander Mackendrick)
25 The Full Monty (1997, Peter Cattaneo)
26 The Crying Game (1992, Neil Jordan)
27 Dr Zhivago (1965, David Lean)
28 Monty Python's Life of Brian (1979, Terry Jones)
29 Withnail and I (1997, Bruce Robinson)
30 Gregory's Girl (1980, Bill Forsyth)
31 Zulu (1964, Cy Endfield)
32 Room at the Top (1958, Jack Clayton)
33 Alfie (1966, Lewis Gilbert)
34 Gandhi (1982, Richard Attenborough)
35 The Lady Vanishes (1938, Alfred Hitchcock)
36 The Italian Job (1969, Peter Collinson)
37 Local Hero (1983, Bill Forsyth)
38 The Commitments (1991, Alan Parker)
39 A Fish Called Wanda (1988, Charles Crichton)
40 Secrets & Lies (1995, Mike Leigh)
41 Dr No (1962, Terence Young)
42 The Madness of King George (1994, Nicholas Hytner)
43 A Man for All Seasons (1966, Fred Zinnemann)
44 Black Narcissus (1947, Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger)
45 The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943, Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger)
46 Oliver Twist (1948, David Lean)
47 I'm All Right Jack (1959, John Boulting)
48 Performance (1970, Nicholas Roeg, Donald Cammell)
49 Shakespeare in Love (1998, John Madden)
50 My Beautiful Laundrette (1985, Stephen Frears)
51 Tom Jones (1963, Tony Richardson)
52 This Sporting Life (1967, Lindsay Anderson)
53 My Left Foot (1989, Jim Sheridan)
54 Brazil (1985, Terry Gilliam)
55 The English Patient (1996, Anthony Minghella)
56 A Taste of Honey (1961, Tony Richardson)
57 The Go-Between (1970, Joseph Losey)
58 The Man in the White Suit (1951, Alexander Mackendrick)
59 The Ipcress File (1965 Sidney J Furle)
60 Blow Up (1966, Michelangelo Antonioni)
61 The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1962, Tony Richardson)
62 Sense and Sensibility (1995, Ang Lee)
63 Passport to Pimlico (1949, Henry Cornelius)
64 The Remains of the Day (1993, James Ivory)
65 Sunday, Bloody Sunday (1971, John Schlesinger)
66 The Railway Children (1970, Lionel Jeffries)
67 Mona Lisa (1986, Neil Jordan)
68 The Dam Busters (1955, Michael Anderson)
69 Hamlet (1948, Laurence Olivier)
70 Goldfinger (1964, Guy Hamilton)
71 Elizabeth (1998, Shekhar Kapur)
72 Goodbye, Mr Chips (1939, Sam Wood)
73 A Room with a View (1985, James Ivory)
74 The Day of the Jackal (1973, Fred Zinnemann)
75 The Cruel Sea (1952, Charles Frend)
76 Billy Liar (1963, John Schlesinger)
77 Oliver (1968, Carol Reed)
78 Peeping Tom (1960, Michael Powell)
79 Far From the Madding Crowd (1967, John Schlesinger)
80 The Draughtsman's Contract (1982, Peter Greenaway)
81 A Clockwork Orange (1971, Stanley Kubrick)
82 Distant Voices, Still Lives (1988, Terence Davies)
83 Darling (1965, John Schlesinger)
84 Educating Rita (1983, Lewis Gilbert)
85 Brassed Off (1996, Mark Herman)
86 Genevieve (1953, Henry Cornelius)
87 Women in Love (1969, Ken Russell)
88 A Hard Day's Night (1964, Richard Lester)
89 Fires Were Started (documentary, 1943, Humphrey Jennings)
90 Hope and Glory (1981, John Boorman)
91 My Name is Joe (1998, Ken Loach)
92 In Which We Serve (1942 Noel Coward, David Lean)
93 Caravaggio (1986, Derek Jarman)
94 The Belles of St Trinian's (1954, Frank Launder)
95 Life Is Sweet (1990, Mike Leigh)
96 The Wicker Man (1973, Robin Hardy)
97 Nil By Mouth (1997, Gary Oldman)
98 Small Faces (1995, Gillies Mackinnon)
99 Carry On Up the Khyber (1968, Gerald Thomas)
100 The Killing Fields (1984, Roland Joffe)
Dear Reader, if any of you know the whereabouts of Norma Louise's evil twin sister please tell me. I am still looking for a traveling companion to the Orient. I understand that Shanghai has a wonderful piranha aquarium. So says Mr. Paul Fjelstad.
Up next: Seattle, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Bangkok ...