Errors of the educated

Speeches and toasts 001Found in Speeches and Toasts by Leslie F Stemp ( 1952) is a chapter on ‘’certain besetting carelessnesses of dictum from which even our high-brows are not immune”.

Although none of the speeches or toasts in the book are as funny as Reginald Perrin’s alcohol induced peroration at the National Fruit Convention, or Hugh Grant’s best man speech In ‘Four Weddings’, Mr Stemp, a barrister for the Gas Board, does provide both mildly amusing and serious examples of speeches for most occasions. And although many remain hopelessly dated, as his use of the word ‘high-brow’ suggests, the advice he offers on grammatical errors remains useful today. Here are some of my favourite examples:

“That” and “which”.

It is wrong to use the relative pronouns” that” and ”which” as if they were interchangeable, and to be varied to meet the demands of euphony. Their provinces are distinct; the boundaries between them well marked. Every defining clause whose antecedent is not a person should be introduced that that, every such clause that adds new matter by which. The test of defining new clauses is: would the suppression of them render the statement untrue? If so it is a defining clause. “We have rejected all the cases that arrived sea-damaged”. Omit the clause and what remains ios a falsehood: all the cases were not rejected: the sound were accepted.” We have received your statement, which is receiving our attention.” Even if this sentence were cut short after “statement”, if would be true. The first sentence, therefore, contained a defining clause, properly introduced by “that” , and the second an added clause , preceded, correctly, by “which”. Continue reading

The Worst English Poets—number 4—Rev Edward Dalton

Jot 101 Worst poets cover 001The Rev Edward Dalton was a Victorian cleric and leading light in the Protestant Association. Here is an extract from his sublime effusion, ‘The Railway Journey’ (in The Sea, the Railway Journey and other Poems, London c1875)

The last friends part,

And off we start,

The engine pants and snorts and blows,

The carriage doorways slam and close,

The broad and ponderous wheels are rolled

By thick-set arms of iron mould,

While streaming from the sprouting side

The steam escapes in hissing tide.

Cranch, crunch, thud, rud, dubber-dub-rub.

Thudder, rubber, dub-dub-dub- a- rub-rub.


Startled at starting, for our nerves are weak,

We gasp for breath,

Grow pale as death,

As one long piercing, shrill, unearthly shriek

Rings thro’ ears, and stops the power to speak,

The cry of anguish, or vindictive yell

Of baffled imp, or vanquished fiend of hell,

The death-shriek of some monstrous beast,

We’ve smashed a million pigs at least.

Ah no! no sucking pig has lost a bristle,

The shriek was but the starting railway whistle,

Our speed increases as we rattle down

And reach the suburbs of the outer town;

And there, yes, there

On the look-our slope of the garden sward

I caught a glimpse of my darling Maude… Continue reading

Bruce Calvert—the man who cancelled Christmas

Bruce Calvert advert pic 001Found in the classified column of The New Masses for May 1927 is this advert for The Open Road, a monthly magazine described by its founding editor, Bruce Calvert, as ‘A Zinelet of High Voltage for People Not Afraid to Think’ and a cure for ‘ Mental Obstipation and Brain Fag ‘.

Calvert, who ran the operation from his home in Pequannock , New Jersey, delightfully dubbed by him ‘Pigeon-Roost-in-the Woods’, had been a hard-bitten magazine editor in Chicago and Pennsylvania before moving to the backwoods of Griffiths, near Gary, in his home state of Indiana, to take up the life of an anarchist-freethinker inspired by, among others, Walt Whitman and Thoreau. In 1908 he had brought out the first issue of The Open Road, which appeared regularly until 1915. Espousing a philosophy of ‘right thinking and right living ‘, Calvert made his magazine a fount of various heterodoxies which delighted in offending straight-laced home-loving and family-orientated Americans. In April 1911 one of the most controversial issues challenged the hijacking of Christmas by commerce—a point of view which earned him the soubriquet of ‘Indiana’s Prize Crank ‘.

By November 1911 ‘The World League for a Sane Christmas’ had established its HQ in Room 431 of the State Life Building in downtown Indianapolis. Members who paid their $10 subscription could expect their money to go towards various planned publications as well as a booklet entitled The Christmas Insanity. Moreover, each new member was obliged to sign the following agreement:

‘I will from this time forward neither give nor accept Christmas presents outside my own immediate household, and I will do all I can by distributing literature and other propaganda work to discourage the senseless practice of indiscriminate Christmas giving, to the end that true human love and brotherhood may reign in the hearts of men instead of the maudlin insanity which now disgraces the day ‘ Continue reading

The Old Codgers

s-l400Found – a cheap paperback called The Daily Mirror Old Codgers Little Black Book (Wolfe, London 1975.)  The book is billed as ‘100s of funny, curious and strange facts from the world famous Live Letters column…’ The Old Codgers  column, where readers wrote in to get answers on all manner of things, had begun in 1936, apparently the idea of the newspaper’s  proprietor Hugh (later Lord) Cudlipp. It finished in 1990 by which time The Mirror’s thrusting new editor Roy Greenslade considered its old fashioned and said it was “putting off the younger readers we are trying to attract.”

An article at the time in one of the broadsheets said that while the world went through ‘convulsive’ changes the Codgers remained in ‘a pre-war era redolent of flat caps, allotments,racing pigeons and Woodbine cigarettes…’ There was a bit of protest when it was axed but considering that the Codgers were receiving a 100 letters a day it was fairly muted. They often referred to their legendary Little Black Book that  claimed to contain ‘all information known to man.’ In the days of the web most of the questions that readers sent it could now be very quickly answered. Google is now ‘the little black book.’  The questions were often sent it to settle arguments ‘down the pub’. The most common question in the latter period of the Codgers was whether Stan Laurel was Clint Eastwood’s father. The Codgers research showed he was not. Below are two fairly typical Codgers answers to questions on  ‘Slippery Wednesday’ and the origin of the phrase ‘Mad as a hatter.’

‘Slippery Wednesday’ is another day that has stuck in older memories because of its dire conditions. A former horse carman recalled how he had to put sacks on his horses hooves and his own feet to get about, and that pedestrians were ‘going down like ninepins’, because of the ice. But he couldn’t remember the exact date, only that it was a Wednesday in the 1920s. We were able to tell him that it was December 21, 1927 when severe frost on overnight rain caused chaos in London and other parts of the country, resulting in thousands of street accidents.

‘Mad as a hatter’ dates from the days when hats were made of felt which was processed by having mercury rubbed over it. The unfortunate men who did the job got mercury poisoning which caused their limbs to shake and contorted their features so that they looked crazy.

Food and Dress on a U.F.O.

img_2634Found – a pamphlet by George King  a writer on UFOs and spiritual matters. It is called The Flying Saucers.  A report on the flying saucers their crews and their mission to earth (Aetherius Society London 1964). It deals partly  with practicalities like their monetary system (they don’t have one: ‘Every living thing has what it needs’) and their mode of dress (basically a perpetual ‘onesie’) and diet.

DRESS. The reason for the “seamless one-piece suit” which all observers of these people have remarked about, is now clear. When the Martian or Venusian comes to Earth, it is not the actual physical properties of our atmosphere of which they have to be careful. They are all adept in correct breathing methods. They could not be as advanced as they are unless this were the case. All enlightened men, either on Earth or from the other Planets, have several things in common. One of the most pronounced is the knowledge and ability to exert conscious control over the flow of the Universal Life Force through their nervous systems and subtle bodies by correct breathing. (See (See “Your Higher Self through Yoga”) It is the bacteria in our atmospheric belt against which the Space Visitors have to take precautions. The “seamless one-piece suits” protect them from the harmful effect of this bacteria. These suits are so designed as to give off a particular musical note, which drives away all bacteria from a certain area around themselves. The note or sound vibration, is quite inaudible to the human ear, possibly because of its high frequency. The benefit gained by the adoption of such a protective measure is easily understood. A Space Visitor could stand on Earth and hold a conversation with an inhabitant and be fully protected -9- from, what could be to him, foreign bacteria, without interfering  with the bacteria which is necessary to the other. It has been said by the Master Aetherius that it is possible to bring into being a similar kind of “seamless one-piece suit” which would protect the wearer while surveying the bottom of the ocean. The properties deemed necessary to afford such protective measures can be incorporated into the suit at the time of manufacture. Some of these suits are materialized by thought by their wearers. In other words, this type of dress undoubtedly forms a kind of personal protective screen around the wearer. (See Cosmic Voice) Continue reading

From the classified ads in T.P.’s Weekly, July 11th 1914

t-s-eliotBachelor, in digs.,wishers to meet gentlemanly fellow of refined tastes, bank clerk for instance, who wants chum. Walks, cycle rides, physical exercises, theatres etc. Friendship desired. Confidences exchanged. (X2, 372)

Although T.S. Eliot was studying philosophy at Oxford in July 1914, he was probably lonely in his ‘digs ‘ and may have met a bank clerk who persuaded him that such fellows were sensitive and highly cultured. This could explain why, in 1917, he himself decided to join Lloyds Bank in London. However, it’s hard to visualize Prufrock taking up cycling and other physical exercise.

The Summer School of Patriotism—–An endeavour to organise the forces working for the renascence of patriotism in England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales, to be held at Bexhill-on-Sea, August 1st to September 12th. Stamp for full particulars, Organising Secretary, 6, Melbourne Road, Merton Park, London, S.W. (X2, 315).

A bit worrying, this. A call for patriotism in mid July 1914! Two weeks later Britain was at war with Germany. What were these armchair warriors planning to do in sunny Bexhill for six weeks? And why did the Secretary not volunteer his or her name? Still, never mind, the event was probably cancelled due to you know what. Continue reading

Benson Herbert—the paraphysicist of Privett Farm

paraphysics journal cover 001If you turn left at the Pepperbox off the busy A36 from Southampton to Salisbury a rough track will take you to Privett Farm, high on Standlynch Down, with views southwards towards the little town of Downton sitting on the river Avon. It was to this isolated spot that the keen investigator into ‘ paraphysics ‘, Benson Herbert, came in 1966.

A trained physicist with a degree from Oxford University, Herbert, then in his mid fifties, was convinced that all paraphysical phenomena was caused by electricity in various forms. He had left his flat in London for a home that would allow him to pursue his research uninterrupted by unwanted electrical activity from the environment. At Privett Farm he set up the Paraphysical Laboratory, familiarly known as the ‘Paralab’, and it was here that he conducted a series of unconventional experiments, occasionally aided by leading paraphysicisal researchers from around the world. Many of these investigations were described in the Journal of Paraphysics, a photocopied publication founded by Herbert and edited by him until his death in 1991.

Paraphysics can be defined as measurable and observable physical phenomena which lie outside the realm of conventional physics. This might include telekinesis, telepathy, teleportation, ’direct voice’ phenomena, and psychotronics. Some investigators prefer not to use the term ‘paranormal’ because of its association with the discredited fields of ghost-hunting and spiritualism, but as a scientist Herbert was open-minded concerning most aspects of unexplained phenomena, including ghosts. In issue no. 4 , vol 3, of the Journal(1969), a copy of which can be found among the Haining archive, Herbert dealt with the telekinesis of objects shown on cine film, the ‘radiation’ from a finger and eye-gaze that caused floating objects to rotate on liquids, and the case of Maria Schnabel, who in 1923-4 was seemingly the cause of some extraordinary ‘poltergeist phenomena’ in Austria. Continue reading

The Greatest Invention since the Alphabet

Word and Idea Chart 001In an advert which caught my eye in the January 19th 1951 issue of John O’London’s Weekly is a description of ‘The Greatest Invention since the Alphabet ‘, the ‘Idea and Word Chart’ which ‘ gives the right word at a glance ‘. It bears the recommendation of no less an authority that ‘famous author‘ Gilbert Frankau, who declared it ‘ the best adjunct that I have so far discovered –it is not going to leave my desk.’

Unfortunately, like so many ‘adjuncts‘ this piece of kit wasn’t available to examine in shops. So aspiring authors had to send away for a ‘ free specimen… embodied in a descriptive brochure ‘.

In what way ‘ The Idea and Word Chart ‘ differed in its function from the excellent and best-selling Thesaurus of Dr Roget we are not told. We are offered a rather feint and distinctly unhelpful image of an octagon- shaped piece of card in which a pensive-looking man—possibly Mr Frankau—is depicted at the vortex of a whorl of words and concepts that includes the unfortunate juxtaposition of ‘ passageways ‘ and ‘desires’. Continue reading

Alien sightings in Pembrokeshire


Pembrokeshire UFOs 001A recent Jot about Alec Maclellan’s The Lost World of Agharti focussed on the links that one reader made between this work and the series of Seth books. But another reader, a certain J.S.A Lewis of Romsey, Hants, whose letter dated April 1986 can be found in the Haining archive, also tried to persuade Maclellan to consult a particular book. This was Ghosts of Wales by Peter Underwood, which he said confirmed Maclellan’s theory that UFOs came from his lost underground world rather than outer space.

Underwood’s story recounts ‘frightening and inexplicable ‘sightings in May and June 1977 and March 1978 of UFOs and alien figures at and near Ripperston Farm, west Pembrokeshire, the home of the Coombs family. Apparently, Mrs Coombs was driving home with three of her children when a bright light in the sky approached them with terrific speed and then, having shot over the car stopped, turned back and then followed alongside the vehicle. Mrs Coombs described the object to a reporter from Woman’s World:

‘ It was the same size and shape as a rugger ball but the colour was yellowish on top and silvery underneath, and beaming a sort of torch-like beam of light underneath it.’

The object kept pace with the car until it reached the lane up to the farm, when it rose and appeared to hover over the passengers. It was then that the car began to misbehave:

First the headlamps began to flicker and then they went out completely. The engine stopped, leaving the terrified occupants sitting in an immobile vehicle with the alien object hovering over them. The family managed to escape to their home where they found that the eldest boy who had been left there had also seen the strange object, which had sped towards the coast. Continue reading

I once met A.E. Coppard

icoppar001p1Found – a  handwritten  letter signed by E.V. Knox (‘Evoe’) to someone called Magniont asking for recollections of A.E. Coppard. This was almost certainly Dr Jean-Louis Magniont who translated Coppard into French. The letter is undated but mention of a recent BBC adaptation of Coppard’s stories dates it as 1969. ‘Evoe’ writes:

I will tell you all I can recollect about A.E. Coppard. But I fear that it is very little and perhaps not very helpful to you.

As you mentioned, I wrote a small episode, and he considerably longer one, for the Kidlington Pageant of 1931. Those were the days when pageants kept popping up everywhere. This one was arranged by Frank Evay, who lived at Shepton Manor where the pageant was held. He was a friend of mine and an eccentric. For instance, he collected tramps, gave them a meal and a the nights lodging in a barn and sent them on their way. He introduced me to A.E. Coppard whom he had first met, as he told me, when Coppard was collecting tickets at Oxford railway station.

I remember him as small, prosaic, and self-contained and perhaps determined not to be eccentric. Possibly that is an illusion of my own. I became at once a “fan.” Coppard, I think, was very little known at that time, for at a dinner of a literary club I told Desmond McCarthy, then perhaps our leading critic, that I thought that Coppard was our best English short story writer, and Desmond had not heard of him. He said however- ”Well we must try to read this Coppard of yours.”  Clearly he did. Continue reading

It’s fun finding out… about Chapman Pincher

fun finding out title page retry 001

Discovered in a box of books is this copy of It’s Fun Finding Out, putatively by Bernard Wicksteed, but actually written with Chapman Pincher, the man who was to become a true legend among spy-hunters.

Back in 1947, when the book was published by the Daily Express, Wicksteed, an RAF war hero, was an ex sub-editor who had published his first book, Father’s Heinkel in 1944. Pincher was an ex physics teacher who had recently joined the Express as a science correspondent. One day Express editor Arthur Christiansen had the bright idea of bringing the two men together to compile an exploration of weird facts something along the lines of the American Ripley Believe It Or Not books. The result was It’s Fun Finding Out.

Structured so as to reveal facts while on visits to several places, including a Zoo, the seaside, a farm, a wood at night, a river bank, the country in Autumn, a grouse moor, an art gallery and the Science Museum, the book also considers facts relating to social history, philately, the amazing physical toughness of Winston Churchill, the French view of the English and vice versa, and guppies, among many other topics. Continue reading

Hidden treasure in Epping Forest

Discovered in the Haining archive, this letter from someone called Lame Jack treasure letter 001D.L.Rolton of Ambleside, Cumbria, a fan of Haining’s The Fortune Hunter’s Guide. In ‘ gratefulness ‘ to the author for his ‘ useful and interesting ‘ book Rolton offers the following nugget of information regarding ‘ Lame Jack’s Fortune’.

I suggest you obtain ( borrow, beg or hire for one day ) a metal detector. On that fine day, try alongside the left side of the road, as one goes from Woodford to Epping —but only in the region of the fork that leads to Loughton ( diagram inserted ).

No! I am not being funny at all—I am most serious, and I don’t think you need to stray far from the side of the road. Try it !

Yours Sincerely,

D.L Rolton

It is not known where Rolton found the reference to Lame Jack’s treasure. It may be part of local folklore, although Lame Jack is not to be found using Google. It does not follow that because Rolton addressed his letter from Ambleside that he wasn’t acquainted with the site, which on the map is occupied by woodland named ‘ Reed’s Forest ‘. If any metal detectorist wishes to investigate the site, some research in the local history section of Loughton Library may yield clues. A study of W.R.Fisher’s The Forest of Essex (1887) could be also be useful. But be warned –it is over 40 years since Rolton sent the letter, and a huge amount of metal detecting has been done in this time. [R.M.Healey ]

The Golden Dustmen of Dickens’ time

Dust heap Somers TownA central character in Dickens’ Our Mutual Friend (1865) is Nicodemus Boffin, nicknamed ‘The Golden Dustman ‘ because of the wealth he inherited from his old employer John Harmon, who had made his fortune as a Dust Contractor at Somers Town. These famous rubbish piles stood where the filthy Maiden’s Lane (now roughly York Way) joined onto Pentonville Road, near where Kings Cross station now stands. Here, just about anything could be found—‘dust ‘ was a Victorian euphemism; there was more likely to be dead dogs ,cats, horses, discarded pots and pans, crockery, shoes, boots, old clothes and all sorts of debris from the surface of roads, including grit, horse dung, dog dirt, as well as the human excrement collected by the scavengers. All this so called ‘dust’, once separated, could be sold to various factory owners for large profits. Dickens, who loved exploring London, once lived in Doughty Street, which is just a mile from the famous Somers Town dust heaps, and must have known them well. He also became friendly with a wealthy Dust Contractor from Islington called Henry Dodd who, at his death in 1881, left a fortune of £111,000. It has been argued that the character of Boffin was based on Dodd.
A contemporary sketch of the Somers Town site is dated 1836, but doubtless contractors had been adding to the muck heaps for many years up this date. Scavengers are depicted clambering over the filthy heaps in search of the more valuable items to sell on, a process that still takes place in some third world countries. It is interesting to find, therefore, a London Times classified advertisement of December 6th 1820, when Dickens was a boy of eight, requesting Dust Contractors to tender for a contract in Chelsea.

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How to be larned, like what I am


Chambers Cyclopaedia 1786

The following advertisement appeared in a provincial newspaper and was sent as a curiosity by someone living in Newport, Shropshire to a reader of The New London Magazine in Wolverhampton. He in turn forwarded it to the editors, who published it in the issue for October 1786.

‘Larning has always been desired and esteemed, and it has always been a matter of dispute , and is yet amongst the abellist philosophers, wheather the earth or the sun moves, and how far distant the sun is from the earth , and how big the sun is , and also the moon and stares; and thousands of the greatyest schollors of every age, who have travelled into farin nations, and spent large sumes to get larning, and have taught and wrote the greatyest part of their life of artes and sciences , yet known of them all ever found out , or left any rule behind them, which infalabley proved, wheather the earth or the sun moved, nor how big the sun is, nor how far distant the sun is from the earth, nor the moon nor stares, yet all of them desired to know them—Therefore I, James Bagnall, of Newport , does hereby most respectfully informe the Ladyes and Gentlemen of Newport and it’s environs , and those that love the knolledge of artes and sciences, that he has from good phelosophey geometry invented sume curious geometrickal tables of the earth, and sun, moon and stares which point out and visabley shew, and infallabley prove, wheather the earth or the sun moves, and far distant the sun his from the earth; and with sume curious observations of the sun , taking the earth as such a size , with the power of figures in the mathematicks, proves the exact bigness of the sun, and moon and stares ; he also from good philosophy, gives a more perfect account of the earth, sea, rivers , wind and the different sorts of aire , and of the moon, stares and their properties, thunder and lightning, than any heretofore given. He also from good phelosophy and astrology, proves that the stares do not predestinate or influence the will of man, to make him luckey or unluckey, good or evil, and that he cannot avoid it; and therefore for their instructions and edifycations, and that those who choose it, may have the honour to see the performance of these very great and desirable and noble artes and sciences, the first time they ever wheare taught or made publick in any part of the world, by the person himself, who found out the understanding of them; therefore he has taken the market hall of Newport for five nights only, where he will go through the whole of them; and the weakest capacity, who comes the five nights to be instructed by him, will in so short a time larn more true knolledge of these great and desirable and truly eddefying artes and scinces then all the great phelosophers of the world, all put together, ever got of them, till now, with all their expence and pains’ and by these rules found out or done almost everything that can be done by figuers.

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R.M. Dawkins – The most eccentric professor (ever)

Osbert Lancaster

Found in Osbert Lancaster’s With an Eye to the Future (John Murray, 1967)– this account of Oxford professor R.M. Dawkins (1871-1955):

No eccentric professor of fiction could possibly hold a candle to the reality of Professor Dawkins whose behaviour and appearance placed him, even in an Oxford far richer in striking personalities than it is today, in a class by himself. Ginger-moustached, myopic, stooping, clad in one of a succession of suits which he ordered by postcard from the general store of a village in Northern Ireland, he always betrayed his whereabouts by a cackling laugh of great carrying power. (Once when passing alongside the high wall of Exeter, startled by this extreme sound, I looked up and saw the professor happily perched in the higher branches of a large chestnut tree hooting like a demented macaw.)

Richard MacGillivray Dawkins was an archaeologist and a scholar of classical and modern Greek. After studying  engineering, a windfall enabled him at the age of twenty-six to enter Emmanuel College, Cambridge, to read classics.  After graduating he became associated with the British School at Athens, eventually becoming its director. He studied Greek dialects and was involved in excavations in Crete, at Sparta and elsewhere. From 1916 to 1919 he served as an intelligence officer in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, in eastern Crete. In 1920 he was appointed to a chair of Byzantine and modern Greek at Oxford, and in 1922 he became a fellow of Exeter College (from which he retired in 1939, continuing to hold rooms there until his death) and an honorary fellow of his old college, Emmanuel. He had known Evelyn Waugh, Ronald Firbank and was very generous to his friend the difficult and impecunious genius Baron Corvo. He was also an early collector of watercolours by Edward Lear. Most of this info and a portrait by the British Vorticist William Roberts can be found at English Cubist. Lancaster illustrated his piece with a drawing of the professor perched in the tree.


Some tall tales

The veteran anthologist Peter Haining (1940-2007, pictured right) only managed to make a decent living by having a number of different projects on the boil at once. Although it has been estimated that he published around 200 books, not all of his ideas came to fruition. One that didn’t excite publishers was ‘Tall stories ---an anthology of boaster’s tales’, which he was hawking around in April 1991 as a potential Christmas book.

Haining’s introductory presentation to one publisher promised stories by ‘a veritable galaxy of star names ‘ in which ‘ fiction outweighed the fact ‘. Some of these stories would be presented by their authors as ’ ostensibly true ‘ while others would be ’ unashamedly fictitious’.

Some of the material that he intended to reproduce included Spike Milligan’s ‘Agent 008’, Lord Dunsany’s ‘The Electric King’, Baron Corvo’s ‘ How I was buried alive’, Charles Dickens’ ‘’The Wide-awake Club’, Tom Sharpe’s ‘ Disaster in the Deep Bed’, Fitz James O’ Brien’s ‘ How I achieved perpetual motion’, Stephen Leacock’s ‘ The iron man and the tin woman’, and G.K.Chesterton’s ‘ The Club of Queer Trades.’

I’d certainly publish a book which included those titles, but perhaps the titles were better than the stories.

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English translation howlers

From Funny or Die site (thanks)

From the Peter Haining Archive. These are taken from a collection compiled by Thomas Cook employees in Nottingham during the period 1987 – 95:

‘You are invited to take advantage of the chambermaid ‘
Notice in Japanese hotel

‘Ladies are requested not to have children in the bar’
Announcement in Norwegian cocktail lounge.

‘The lift is being fixed. During that time we regret you will be unbearable’
Notice in a Bucharest hotel lobby.

‘The flattening of underwear with pleasure is the job of the chambermaid’
Notice in a Yugoslav hotel.

‘Our wines leave you with nothing to hope for ‘.
Swiss restaurant menu.

‘Ladies may have fit upstairs’
Outside a Hong Kong tailors

‘Special today—no ice cream’
Swiss mountain inn

‘Order your summer suit. Because of big rush we will execute customers in strict rotation’
In a Rhodes tailors.

‘We take your bag and send it in all directions’
Copenhagen airline ticket

‘Teeth extracted by the latest Methodists’
Hong Kong dentist 



Literary Cranks of London– The Whitefriars Club

This was established in 1868 in three rooms at Radley’s Hotel, in New Bridge Street, Blackfriars. The authors don’t mention the fact, but  in the 1820s Radley’s was known as Walker’s Hotel and was infamous as the HQ of the generally despised Constitutional Association, the reactionary group dubbed by William Hone, the ‘Bridge Street Gang’, which harassed radical booksellers  it accused of circulating seditious libels--- usually the pirated works of Thomas Paine.

By the time it had come to house the Whitefriars ( incidentally, a humorous reference to the nearby Blackfriars) Radley’s was a respectable family business with ‘ an old-fashioned cuisine and an excellent cellar of wines ‘. Of the three rooms occupied by the Club, the one used as a dining room had ‘three windows looking out on Ludgate Hill Station, filled with heavy furniture and black horse-hair sofas of a late Georgian period’. Behind this was a smaller room dedicated to ‘smoking and writing’, which  commanded a view behind the Bridewell gaol ‘of a neglected bit of ground, on which flourished rank grass, oyster shells , and dead cats…and a row of picturesque and irregular backs of ancient houses, delightful for their finely-toned red brick, their old red tiles and their quaint chimney pots ‘. By 1900, when the history of the Club was privately published, Radley’s Hotel had been pulled down ‘for improvements’.

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The Literary Cranks of London – Omar Khayyam Club

We could find no further copies of the 1894 London journal The Sketch which in that year was running a series 'The literary cranks of London.' However the 1899 publication The Book of Omar and Rubaiyat has an essay on the Omar Khayyam Club entitled 'The literary cranks of London' by 'A Member' which is almost certainly reprinted from the series. The book shows a menu card for the society designed by the PRB artist Simeon Solomon. The other club in the series was 'The Johnson Club' - there were possibly more.
Mention is made here of 'The Ghouls' which may pay further investigation... Of the many societies that flourished then the Omar Khayyam is one of the few to have survived and still meets. There is also an American chapter.



The literary cranks of London are as the sand of the sea-shore for number, and yet they have rather diminished than increased during the last few years. The Wordsworth Society no longer collects archbishops and bishops and learned professors in the Jerusalem Chamber to solve the mystery of existence under the guidance of the great poet of Rydal, and one is rather dubious as to whether the Goethe Society has much to say for itself to-day, although in its time it has crammed the Westminster Town Hall with enthu- siastic lovers of German literature. The Shelley Society one only hears of from time to time by its ghastly bur- den of debt,a state which perhaps reflects the right kind of glory upon its great hero, whose aptitude for making paper boats out of Bank of England notes, if apocryphal, is, at any rate, a fair exemplification of his capacity for getting rid of money.And as to the Browning Society, with its blue-spectacled ladies, deep in the mysteries of Sordello, if the cash balance, which is said at Girton to have been expended in sweetmeats, had any existence, at the London centre, one knows not what confectioner at the West End has reaped the benefit. There are, however, some fairly flourishing organizations at this moment. One of them is the "Sette of Odd Volumes," another the Johnson Club, to say nothing of the "Vaga- bonds," the " Ghouls," and the latest comer, the Omar Khayyam Club.

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Richard Nixon v JFK at the 1960 Presidential election—an astrologer’s prediction

In the December 1959 issue of the British magazine Prediction is a remarkable attempt by an astrologer named Katina Theodossiou to predict the political careers of the two contenders for the imminent 1960 Presidential election.


By temperament he will be a pacifist, not a war-monger; but he would not be inclined to veto armaments, nuclear or otherwise, because of this. He has a very realistic streak blended with his well-publicized religious principles. Mr Kennedy will believe that the best way to assure peace is to remain strong.

His capacity for compromise (a Libran trait) would lie in his responding, within limits, to any concessions made by the Communist bloc, but he would not go the whole hog, nor would he initiate concessions…For all his instinctive adaptability, Mr Kennedy’s shrewdness would come badly off if any sudden crisis were precipitated upon him. Taken unawares, he would react over-hastily; the façade of strength, of imperturbability, would disintegrate; his decisions under such strain would tend to rashness…

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