Twelve Miles from a Lemon

img_1366-624x380Found in a bound volume of The Idler Magazine (Chatto & Windus, 1892. Volume 1, February to July. pp 231 – 232) this piece by regular contributor Robert Barr. The Idler was edited by Barr with  Jerome K Jerome. It ran from 1892-1911. This piece was found in the always interesting section ‘The Idler’s Club’, fairly heavy on the whimsy but never unamusing– see an earlier jot  where, among other things, Barry Pain proposed that ‘..amateur dramatics would be much improved if performed in total darkness and thus they would also be able to avoid paying a licence fee…’ This piece by Robert Barr has a curiously modern feel about it (if you substitute the internet for the telegram) and the idea of being 12 miles from a lemon echoes the current city dweller’s fear of being more than ‘four miles from a latte..’

Some years ago, somebody* wrote a book entitled ‘Twelve Miles from a Lemon’. I never read the the volume, and so do not know whether the writer had to tramp  twelve miles to get the seductive lemon toddy, which cheers and afterwards inebriates, or the harmless lemon squash, which neither cheers nor inebriates. I think there are times when most people would like to get twelve miles away from everything – including themselves. I tried to put a number of miles between me and a telegraph instrument, and flattered myself for a time that I had succeeded. I dived into the depths of the New Forest. The New Forest is popular in summer, deserted in winter, and beautiful at any season. I found a secluded spot in the woods, and thought I was out of reach of a telegram. I wish now I had not got so far away from the instrument. The boy came on horseback with the message. It was brief, coming well within the sixpenny range, and it stated tersely that the printer was waiting for these paragraphs. The boy said calmly that there would be fifteen shillings and sixpence to pay for the delivery of that yellow slip of paper. Continue reading

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Barry Ono—collector extraordinaire

barry-ono-pic-001Barry Ono (1876 – 1941 ) was both a comic ( in the Music Halls) and a collector of comics. This photo from the Collector’s Miscellany of August 1936 shows him lecturing at the ‘Barry Ono Penny Dreadful Exhibit ‘at Selfridge’s Hobbies Exhibition.

In a short article for the same magazine a trawl by Ono through the ‘ For Sale ‘ and ‘Exchange’ adverts in the Boy’s Standard of the 1880s recalls his own early triumphs as an avid collector of Penny Dreadfuls.

“There was a little shop in the Waterloo Road, London, that had stacks and stacks of the Chas. Fox publications when that firm passed out, 6d a vol. mint in wraps. “Spring Heeled Jack”, “Sweeny Todd” , “Turnpike Dick” and all the lot, plus quarterly divisions in wrappers of the Boy’s Standard, Boy’s Leisure, and Boy’s Champion at 3d each. At another second hand shop, also in the Waterloo Road, a shilling used to be my limit for such items as “The Boy Detective, or The Crimes of London”, “Gentleman Clifford”, etc, etc. Seems incredible now, and all a fantastic dream. Yes, my £20 would have gone quite a long way then, wouldn’t it? And many now completely unknown and unheard of rarities would have been saved. Well, since I acquired belated wisdom, many a tattered only derelict have I rescued from that oblivion it was hastening to, midst unfeeling and heedless vandals, carefully have I doctored it, gorgeous has been the half-calf overcoat in which I have had it arrayed, and now a more careful posterity I am thinking will least honour it on my demise as ‘Curiosa’. I am thinking I have been the ‘Scarlet Pimpernel’ of the ‘bloods’, rescuing not from the guillotine, but from the flames and the dust bin. Continue reading

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An early poem on the thrill of flying

airplane-wright-brothersRescued from a copy of The Odd Volume, a one-off literary miscellany published in 1910 to raise money for the National Book Trade Provident Society, is the following poem by Norman Davey entitled “Aerial Survey (no 3498 K).”

Back from Sahara’s sun-scorched sand,

With its dome of shimmering blue:

Back from beyond Van Dieman’s Land

Where the pack-ice breaks the view :

Back from the glow of the sun-kissed snow

On Fuji Yama’s crest;

We have fled from the grey of the dawning day

—Fleeter than falcon for its prey—

Home to the winsome West,

       My Boys!

Back to the winsome West! Continue reading

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Shipboard Games

img_2161Found in The Ocean as a Health-Resort (A Handbook for Tourist and Invalids) by William S Wilson (London 1880) this guide to shipboard games. The author start by saying that study on board a ship is nigh impossible and recommends light reading. Is Cricket still played on cruise liners? Certainly there will no longer be shooting or climbing the rigging…

Those who expect to be able to study in the sense of reading hard will almost always be disappointed. There is something in a sea life that seems to be antagonistic to work of this kind, and it is generally seen that those who started with high resolves in this respect very soon subside into light literature or idleness. There are of course exceptions, but they are rare. The prevailing inability to study is, however, scarcely to be regretted in the case of invalids, who cannot do better than provide themselves with a supply of light literature, and direct all their energies towards deriving the greatest possible benefit from their voyage.

 
There are several open-air games which can be played on board ship, and which furnish a capital means of obtaining that exercise, the want of which is one of the drawbacks of being shut up within such narrow limits. Continue reading

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Gramophone inventor Emile Berliner on ‘Immortality’

Found- a copy of Conclusions by Emile Berliner published in Philadelphia, img_2160by the Levytype Co., in 1899. Berliner was the inventor of the gramophone and the gramophone record and exceedingly wealthy. This book presents his philosophy and may have been a vanity project, this copy is marked complimentary and limited to 500. He appears to have been something of an agnostic and his views, especially his faith in science,
are somewhat ahead of his time:

On the Doctrine of Immortality

The confident belief of mankind in a personal immortality is a positive drawback to human progress.

The possibilities of earthly happiness are so vast, the dread of early death so natural and pronounced, that if mankind would but rationally divorce itself from its over-confidence in a life hereafter, it would work out its earthly Salvation in a very short time.

The time will undoubtedly come when most people will live to a hale old age, when they will be free from the hypocrisy, the intolerance, and the morbidness of our so-called civilisation, when food will be pure, when sound sanitary science by universally recognised, when life will be simple and free from sham, when love, in all its phases, will be less restrained, and when all parents will know that their children are and will be the incarnation of their combined thoughts and impressions.

Then, having tasted life from an overflowing cup, and having drunk the last drop at a ripe old age, man will gradually have become wearied and tired, and will be glad to lie down, expecting nothing, and leaving the future in serene resignation to take care of itself.

Prayer

The futility of prayer was never better emphasised than at the time of Garfield’s sickness and death, when some hundred millions of people earnestly and sincerely prayed for his recovery. What an absence of mercy!

But had Garfield been shot twenty years later Science would probably have saved him, prayers or no prayers.emile_berliner

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King Kong – a poetic film

kingkong33newposterFound– a one page ‘flyer’ put out by a surrealist group in Leeds for a season of ‘Surrealists go to the Cinema’ held at Bradford cinemas in November 1994. It reprints a 1934 review of the 1933 King Kong directed by Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack. The review was by Jean Ferry a French writer and later ‘pataphysician’ who saw it as a poetic film ‘heavy with oneiric power’ but, curiously, he does not attribute this to the makers of the film… It reads:

I had so definitely given up the idea of seeing a poetic film that, beside any attempt at criticism. I cannot help reporting the appearance of that rare phenomenon, greeted as you would expect by howls of derision and contempt. I hasten to add that what gives this film value in my eyes is not at all the work of the producers and directors (they aimed only at a grandiose fairground attraction), but flows naturally from the involuntary liberation of elements in themselves heavy with oneiric power, with strangeness and with the horrible. … It appears, finally, that the tallest King Kong, for there were many of them, as you may have guessed, was but a metre high. But you see we knew it already. And this is why I think the inept laughter of the public is only a defence mechanism to force itself to think that this is only a mechanical toy and, having succeeded in this, to escape the feeling if unheimlich, of disquieting strangeness, that we cherish and cultivate, for our part, so carefully, and which nothing brings to life as readily, and rightly so, as being in the company of automata. I think that the film would be no less moving, no less frightening, if it was not about a supposedly living beast but an automaton of the same height making the same movements. In any case, whether the monster is real or false, the terror he provokes takes on no less of a frenzied and convulsive character through its very impossibility. Continue reading

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How to Speak American

Found in the 1919 volume of the British literary miscellany Today is a beetle3bfascinating disquisition on the American use of English by the journalist J.M.C. Hampson, himself an American Anglophile. He begins his piece with a fragment of American dialogue followed by its translation:

“ Well, Dana, how do you stack- up this morning? “

“ Oh, sickabed.”

“Is that so? What’s on your system?”

“Oh, had a row with the Vrow; and look at that.” He pointed to the calendar on the wall in front of him, on which appeared in bold figures “Friday, 23.”

“Good Lord! 23—-skiddoo! Ugh! No wonder. Well, so long, I must be on my way. See you later.”

This being translated into English means that I called in at the office of my friend Dana Howard, said “Good morning “ , asked him how he felt, was informed that everything was all wrong, and that the proper place for him was in bed, that he had started the morning by an argument with his wife, and that he had just realised that it was Friday the 23rd. Be it understood that to an American 23 is the zero mark, and when it crops up all one can say is “skidoo”, meaning “get out of here”, or “away with it “; and if Friday falls on the 23rd it is even worse than Friday the 13th.All good Americans of the cities, at any rate, walk very warily before the Lord that day and pray that nothing untoward will happen . “So long “ as a substitute for au revoir is, of course, frequently used in England. Continue reading

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An apology for the large breweries

allsopp-beer-picHere’s another extract from T.Earle Welby’s The Dinner Knell of 1932. This time the epicure voices an opinion which in the seventies era of the Almighty Keg would not have been accurate but which, thanks to the influence of CAMRA and other campaigning groups, may possibly ring true today.

‘Beer abides and the best of it now is as good as English beer ever was. This is not a fashionable thing to say. For years the air has been full of the moanings of those who imagine a golden age for beer, and suppose it to have been destroyed by the wickedness of the great breweries. The truth of the matter is that, until the nineteenth century was pretty well advanced, most small brewers and vendors, secure in local monopoly, adopted the most vicious methods with beer.

As late as 1824, the author of The Private Brewery wrote: ‘It has seldom been my fortune in a great number of years to taste unadulterated purchased ale, whether brewed in the metropolis or in the brewing districts of the country’. For years before that date and for some years later an extremely harmful and highly intoxicating drug, the Indian berry ( coccollus Indicus) was freely used in beer ; and willow bark, walnut leaf, quassia, gentian, aloes, entered into the production of what was sold in hundreds of establishments and more particularly in the abominable beer-houses produced by the Duke of Wellington’s Act. Continue reading

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A right hanky-spanky ad, and no mistake !

harriss-slap-up-shop-advert-001Discovered in that garden of visual delights, The Saturday Book (1960 ) is this quite extraordinary advert concocted by a working man’s outfitter by the name of Harris sometime in the mid nineteenth century. The copy is almost entirely composed of contemporary slang and cant terms. Harris’s three shops were all in central London   locations, which might suggest that some of the colloquialisms were Cockney rhyming slang, or at least slang that was restricted to the capital and its environs. A few of the terms have survived to this day ( ’ slap up ‘, is excellent, as in slap up meal; ‘no-go’, as in not accepted ; cords, for corduroys; ‘grabbed the chance’; ‘out and out ‘; ‘tick’ for credit; ‘crib’ for home; ‘swag’ for booty), while others have been lost for ever. Who the hell are Tea Kettle Purgers and Head Robbers? What was the Swan Stream and the ‘Melton Mowbray style ‘? Something to do with fox hunting, perhaps? Are ‘Trotter Cases’ shoes?

Some items of clothing advertised are self-explanatory ( moleskins, doeskins ),but others must be hunted down. I almost gave up on ‘broady’ until I found it online as meaning broadcloth. My reprinted Dictionary of Buckish Slang, University Wit and Pickpocket Eloquence (1811) was slightly more useful. The word ‘Quid ‘, meaning a a sovereign, dates from around 1688; to a Regency buck, however, it was a guinea, as was a ‘canary’ ; a ‘bob’ was a shilling and a ‘kick’ was a sixpence, though pluralised it meant breeches or trousers, as did kicksies. But the Slang Dictionary made no mention of Mud Pipes, Box Cloths, Plushes, Pilots, and Upper Benjamins. Perhaps these were of Victorian or purely Cockney origin. [RR]

 

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The Dinner Knell (1932)

free-vintage-color-illustration-of-cabbage-image-2Found, The Dinner Knell, the book published just months before his death aged 52 by prolific journalist and fin de siecle expert T(homas ) Earle Welby, (1881 – 1933). The premature demise of Welby, who was known to his New Statesman readers as ‘Stet’, may have had something to do with a love of food that informs much of his writing, including this particularly lively excursion into the world of gastronomy.

Reading The Dinner Knell, one is reminded not so much of a modern restaurant critic such as Michael Winner or Giles Coren, but of a cook with rather conservative tastes, like Elizabeth David or Jane Grigson, who has practical knowledge of traditional food and culinary skills and is apt to bemoan the general decline of standards to be found in shops and eating establishments. Take this giant-sized slice of diatribe on the topic of the humble cabbage:

“The ‘cut from the joint and two veg’ is indubitably the basis of something or other, whether it be the British Empire or of British dyspepsia; my own belief is that we are a cabbage-clogged nation, and the slowness of out mental processes is due to the ingestion day by day of enormous quantities of that soggy and damnable and compulsory article of diet. Continue reading

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Stuntmen- a ‘respected heavy’

IMG_1966Found in Spotlight’s Register of Stunt Performers and Stunt Arrangers: 1991-93 this entry on the ‘respected heavy’ Michael Crane. A fascinating book, mostly men, some listing the equipment that they can provide (Abseiling equipment, Air Bags, Fire Suits etc.,) Michel Crane, a formidable figure, also worked as a bodyguard in those inevitable resting periods in the life of a stuntman…minding Heads of State, Royalty, Pop Stars- the usual crew. His entry reads:

Michael Crane.

Height: 6ft 7in

Weight: 25st

Chest: 55in

Credits: 

Stunt Arranger: Henry Rawlinson’s End.

Stunt Performer: Brannigan, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Legend, Defrosting the Fridge.

Capabilities: Driving Stunts, small arms expert, boxing and all general stunt work.

Acting Experience: twenty-five years experience playing small parts, heavies, giants, monsters, pirates, Scotsmen, Blacksmith etc.

Continue reading

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Mullard sees into the Future

Lilliput looks into future pic 001Discovered in an April 1946 copy of Lilliput magazine is this full page advert for Mullard, the big name in ‘Radio Valves and other Electron Tubes’. In a peep into its future Mullard envisages a time when Mr Futura and his son Johnny will be able to see the news via an  ELECTRONIC TELEPRINTER NEWS RECEIVER attached like a watch to Mr Futura’s wrist.

This is a prescient advert. Six months after the end of WW2 Mullard, as Britain’s chief manufacturer of electronic valves, was doubtless looking forward to cashing in on the forthcoming restoration of TV broadcasting following a hiatus of over 7 years. By suggesting that such a ‘far-fetched’ idea as a watch-sized teleprinter might be feasible in the future Mullard put itself forward as the electronics company most likely to develop high quality valves for TV receivers when the broadcasting service was resumed.

The truth is, of course, that the only possible way in which Johnny Futura and his Dad might receive news through a watch-sized device would be if the unwieldy Mullard valves were replaced by transistors and some sort of miniature ariel was incorporated into the device. However, until Dr William Shockley and two colleagues at Bell Labs invented the transistor in 1947, and then went on to perfect it for general use, there was no chance of this happening for a decade or so.

However, the advert is equally interesting inasmuch as it anticipates the IT technology that produced the smart phone and the Apple Smart Watch. Is it possible that as early as 1946 the boffins at Mullard were somehow aware of what Dr Turing and other pioneers of IT were helping to develop and that a future dominated by miniaturised computers might not be too ‘far fetched ‘ ? [R.M.Healey]

 

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The 1971 Bookbang—a damp squib?

The_Sacred_Mushroom_and_the_Cross_coverHalfway through its run Guardian journalist Alex Hamilton visited the much vaunted Book Bang (see earlier jot)  in Bedford Square and discovered many disappointed people . One of these ( presumably a writer ) had scrawled on a litter-bin: ‘ Publishers are rich, writers poor, people poorer’. A bookshop owner called Eddie Pond complained about paying good money to be bombarded with promotional shows. There was much else to complain about, according to Hamilton:

‘You can’t see work from the private presses, because their shows start elsewhere on Monday. You can’t be drawn by Felix Topolski for £3 because he has now gone back to his studio under the arches. You can’t see underground gigs because the Bedford Settled Estate would not permit a concrete base to be sunk in their turf…You can’t smoke in the tents. You can’t drink till six, because the square businessmen objected to the echoes of saturnalia they caught on the breeze…You can’t see many heads of the publishing industry, because they have bigger fish to fry, and didn’t all want the Bookbang in the first place…’

In fact, so lukewarm were the bigger publishers that two of them underwrote the Bookbang to a derisory extent—Penguin and Weidenfeld both donated a measly £250. Nor did the book industry help much with staffing. Those few staffers who did arrive were grossly overworked. A frustrated Bookbang supreme Martyn Goff was quite willing to admit to Hamilton that ‘of all the publishers who promised me help, only one turned up’. Continue reading

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Homo — the periodical (1901)

Homo magazine cover 001Found on the front cover of the Boston- published bibelot The Cornhill Booklet of July 1901 is this advert for ‘HOMO, A Periodical for Men and the Women who look over their shoulders’. The advert tells us that the magazine was issued once a month at one dollar for the twelve numbers of the year and that the address in all cases was HOMO, BEVERLY, NEW JERSEY.

That’s it. The advert tells us nothing about the nature of this new venture—whether it was literary or otherwise—or who the contributors might be. The Net is quiet on the subject too, apart from informing us that the magazine lasted no more than a year, which speaks volumes, one supposes. So here’s a challenge to all in the Jotosphere. Would anyone who has seen a HOMO please report back to JOT 101 HQ with a full description of it?  [The word did not have pejorative overtones at this stage, Partridge in his Dictionary of the Underworld dates its use as ‘homosexual’ from 1937.]  RR

 

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Edward Newman, poet of south-east London

Edward Newman picChristopher Adams’s miscellany entitled The Worst English Poets (1958) is a disappointing volume. Though the author may have decided to exclude the universally execrated McGonnigal for reasons of space, there can be no excuse for omitting the work of Amanda McKittrick Ros, arguably the worst poet and the worst novelist in the English language. She was never as prolific a versifier as the Scot.

Still, Adams has managed to include a number of bad poets who were new to me. One ( but by no means the worst ) is Edward Newman, a noted entomologist, whose collection, The Insect Hunters, was undated when a second edition of it appeared around 1855. Here is an extract from the title poem:

Take my hat, my little Laura,

Fix it by the loop elastic;

Let us go to Haddo Villas,

Passing by the church and churchyard,

Now so bright with shortlived flowers,

Apt mementos of the buried;

Passing hand in hand together,

Passing, old and young together,

Gravely walking, gaily tripping,

Continue reading

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The Ragtime Postman

Edwardian postmanFound in a scrapbook of clippings and manuscript material dating from c 1914 – 1930 and entitled ‘Gags ‘ is this written down ditty called ‘Ragtime Postman’. We are informed that the first verse should be sung ‘ by 4 with movement ‘.

Morning, noon & night you’ll always hear

Rat a tat Rat a tat Rat a tat

Then the ragtime Postman will appear

On his back in a sack he’s got letters in a stack

For you and me

And all of us get a move on post man do

Letters with kisses from other fellows’ misses

All of want to see what’s in them

(enter comedy postman & sings chorus) Continue reading

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J.B. Morton – ‘..one of the greatest English humorists of all time’

IMG_1914The Daily Express  celebrated the 80th birthday of the humorist J.B. Morton (aka ‘Beachcomber)  on 7 June 1973 with a long article and a tribute from Spike Milligan. Chesterton had described Morton as “a huge thunderous wind of elemental and essential laughter” and Evelyn Waugh wrote that he had “the greatest comic fertility of any Englishman.” He was certainly an inspiration for the Goons and subsequently Monty Python. Spike wrote:

I have met him once, though I have been a Beachcomber addict for a million years

It was a dinner the BBC gave to launch the television version of his column.

For years, when I was young back in Australia, I had collected all his stuff and stuck it in a book. I didn’t realise I had a sense of humour-myself until a discovered this man.

I didn’t know what to expect. But when he arrived he was just like his writing. There were lots of grey people there, and they did not know what to make of him. He kept launching into fantasy world. Continue reading

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Advice from an editor

Holbrook_Jackson picFound in a copy of the literary periodical Today for August 1919 is this advice for aspiring authors from its editor, Holbrook Jackson (pictured):

  • Typewrite your copy or handwrite it clearly
  • Write you name and address clearly on the back of last page of typescript or manuscript.
  • Enclose not a loose stamp, but a stamped and addressed envelope
  • Don’t write a letter of explanation to the Editor. But if you do write—
  • Don’t tell him your stuff is good—he won’t take your word
  • Don’t tell him it is bad —bad writing needs no bush
  • Don’t tell him your friends like it—he doesn’t care
  • Don’t say that another editor advised you to send it along—that would make him suspicious
  • Don’t say you want to earn money by writing—he is not out to help you, but to edit his paper and pay those who help him.

Continue reading

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Barbara Lea – a forgotten Fenland poet

IMG_1875

Found – a copy of The Urgent Voice: and other poems by Barbara Lea  (Fortune Press, London 1948.) She lead a short but productive life and is unknown to Wikipedia or any online database apart from Peerage.com who have a good factual entry* on her as, unusually for a Fortune Press poet, she was an aristocrat. The foreword is anonymous and it is just possible it is by Reginald Caton, the founder of the press but is more likely to be by a friend or family member. We append a good East Anglian poem by her after the foreword.

Barbara Lea (nee Pell) was born at Wilburton Manor in the Isle of Ely in 1903. She never lost her early passion for the Fenland, nor for the house in which she was born; indeed, she loved houses and places, before people, witness her poems ‘East Anglia Revisited’, ‘In Time of Trouble’, ‘First Visit’.

She married in 1924 and had five children, the last being born in 1934, and in spite of all the ties of home life, she became increasingly interested and active, in politics and the Women’s Institutes.

When the war started in 1939 she was on the Executive Committee of the National Federation of Women’s Institutes, as well as the Worcestershire Committee, and Chairman of the Woman’s Land Army in Worcestershire; a member of the County War Agriculture Committee, and was occupied by a large number of less onerous activities, such as Justice of the Peace, Guardians’ Committee, Parish Council, Parochial Church Council, District Nursing Association, and others too numerous to mention. In 1943 she was awarded the O.B.E. Continue reading

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Anti Coronation satire 1953

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Found – a 1953 Communist Party booklet criticising the amount of money being spent on the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. The figure of 20 million pounds is probably about a billion now but it may not be totally accurate. The name Beavermere is a compound of the two major Press Barons of the time-  Beaverbrook and Rothermere. The style is that of a contemporary gossip column:

Lord and Lady Beavermere will be staying at Claridge’s during Coronation week. Claridge’s will be more than usually expensive because there are so many people like Lord and Lady Beavermere competing for room. The reason why they are stopping at Claridge’s is because the Beavermeres, like the others, have let their town mansion. Living in Lord  Beavermere’s house is the Rajah of Muddlecore who is paying £1000 for the week so as to be on the Coronation route. So, despite the expensiveness of Claridge’s, the Beavermeres can afford to do themselves well. Continue reading

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