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A voyage to Russia in 1908 & 1965 (2)

Nevsky Prospect Leningrad 1960s
(thanks Transpress N.Z.)
This is the second part of an anonymous diary found in our archives (see part one.) It was written first by a young woman of about 20 in 1908. Here she returns in her mid 70s (by plane.) Leningrad has since become St. Petersburg and the Astoria has become very expensive...

Sunday 12th September, 1965

 Perfect flight from London taking less than seven hours including half-an-hour at Copenhagen. Wonderful cloud effects. We spent ages waiting at the Leningrad customs. On reaching the hotel Astoria unpacked and changed. We had an excellent luncheon at 1 o'clock; sprats, not unlike sardines, Chicken Kiev. Separate course of peas, (not very good) grapes. A white wine and a red wine. The latter good, the white not interesting.

 In the afternoon we went to St.lsaac's Cathedral, a monster of vulgarity - everything gilt or malachite, except two elegant columns of lapis and a wooden model of the cathedral; these were the only things that pleased me.
We had a good dinner, but oh, the slowness of the service! We went to bed early.

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A voyage to Russia in 1908 & 1965 (1)

Found- an anonymous account of a a trip to Russia on The Salsette in 1908 written by a young woman of an artistic bent. There is a certain amount about the ship, mostly at Shona's Wrecks (many thanks) which mention this voyage to Northern European cities, the Salsette's first major outing. In 1915 the ship was hit by a torpedo and lies 600 feet down off Portland Bill, now a favourite wreck for divers to explore.In 1965, probably by then in her mid 70's, our diarist flew back to Russia and remarks on the changes (to follow).

ON BOARD “THE SALSETTE”

20th August, 1908

  It has been rather rough and cold all day but for all that I have greatly enjoyed it. I was so tired after last night that I slept on till past 9 o'clock this morning, and then had breakfast in bed. All the competitions have started again, and out of the two I have played to-day I have again won one. It has been very nice and restful having another whole day at sea - one gets so frightfully tired sightseeing. Every town we have been to see so far has been paved with cobble stones, roads and pavements alike, and this, especially when one has thin soles to one's shoes, very quickly makes one's feet ache.

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Hiroshima and Nagasaki seventy years on–a naval officer’s visit to Japan in 1946/1947

To mark the terrible events of seventy years ago in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, here are some postcards bought by my late father while visiting Japan, late in 1946 or early in 1947, as a commander in the Royal Navy. They were found interleaved in the first volume of a two volume guide book entitled We Japanese, first published in December 1934 and June 1937,by H.S.K Yamaguchi, the managing director of the exclusive Fujiya Hotel at Miyanoshita, situated in the mountainous region of Hakone, eighty miles SW of Tokyo.

The first and second volumes of this four hundred page guide to ‘many of the customs, manners, ceremonies, festivals, arts and crafts of the Japanese’ were reprinted in October and December respectively. A third and final volume appeared in 1949. My father probably bought his copies while staying at the hotel, which was established in 1878 by a member of the Yamaguchi family, and today advertises itself as the oldest ‘Western-style’ hotel in Japan. He wouldn’t have met the guide’s author, who had made great improvements to his hotel in the thirties, because he had died in 1944, but he might have rubbed shoulders with some of its famous guests. During the war one of these was the loathsome ‘Butcher of Warsaw’, Joseph Meisinger, but he had been captured by the Allies in September 1945. At other times celebrities staying at this exclusive hotel included Archduke Franz Ferdinand, Charlie Chaplin, and the Emperor of Japan himself. In 1978 Yoko Ono took John Lennon here.

Today, at £133 pp per night, the Fujiya Hotel no doubt trades on its exclusive reputation, but it is still cheaper than a less famous rival nearby. If you do decide to visit it, the receptionist may let you consult the final issue (1950) of the guide to Japan that my father bought nearly seventy years ago. [RMH]

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Afternoon Tea with Sherlock Holmes – Peter Cushing interviewed

Found among the papers of Peter Haining this account by him of a meeting with the Hammer Horror film star Peter Cushing. Haining worked with Cushing on several books including Peter Cushing's Monster Movies  (9 macabre short stories  all linked to Cushing's film career) and The Sherlock Holmes Scrapbook both with forewords by Cushing. These contributions were written by Haining and then approved by Cushing (after much correspondence, some slightly  rancorous- he appears to have been a perfectionist although all his communications end "God bless you, Peter Cushing")

Afternoon Tea with Sherlock Holmes
By Peter Haining

It was the perfect place to meet Sherlock Holmes: 'The English Tea Room' in Brown's Hotel, Albermarle Street in the heart of London's fashionable Mayfair district. Long associated with the great English tradition of taking afternoon tea - served with the hotel's own blend, home-made jams and clotted cream and tasty cakes and pastries the Nineteenth Century establishment is also steeped in literary tradition and has been patronised by among others Oscar Wilde, Rudyard Kipling and Agatha Christie who actually based her novel, At Bertram’s Hotel, on Brown's. Founded in 1837 by James Brown, a former valet to Lord Byron who referred to him as the 'gentleman's gentleman,' the hotel has become an oasis of elegance, comfort and fine cuisine in the heart of the bustling metropolis. Indeed, such is the timeless style of Brown's that it is not hard to imagine the great detective paying a visit and no surprise to me that Peter Cushing, associated with Holmes for much & his acting career and a man dedicated to his afternoon cup of tea, should have chosen it as his own haven whenever he was working in the vicinity of London on stage or in films and television.
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Oliver Messel and ‘Bobo’ Sigrist in the famous Suite he created

It’s got a toilet seat shaped like a scallop shell, a grand double bedroom and more rococo swags, flat columns and baroque touches than a wealthy thespian could wish for. It’s where Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton spent their honeymoon in 1964.No wonder American A listers, like Sylvester Stallone, Tom Cruise and Michael Jackson, have demanded it. We are talking about the Messel Suite, which is all yours for a mere £2,950 a night.

This photo, retrieved from a pile of press shots issued by the Dorchester itself, shows its creator, Oliver Messel, arguably the greatest stage designer from the thirties to the sixties, sitting alongside the twenty-two year old Frederika ‘Bobo’ Sigrist, heiress to the Hawker-Siddeley fortune. It was taken on 28 June 1962 on the occasion of her mother’s marriage to British public relations chief Sir Berkeley Ormerod.

Messel and Sigrist, in an artfully arranged pose, may first have met through their shared association with the millionaires of Mustique. Messel lived in a Barbabos beach house named Maddox, which he had totally transformed and decorated to his own designs , while Sigrist  was part of the Bahamas jet-set. A year after this photo was taken, she married Irish film producer Kevin McClory, who was responsible for the James Bond films.

Messel went on from creating stage sets and hotel suites to become one of the most sought after house designers in the Caribbean. Between 1960 and his death in 1978 he designed around 30 homes on Mustique, of which at least 18 have been completed. The V & A houses a large collection of his stage and other designs. [R R]