Song of the Football Cup (Eton 1890)

Found- a rare pamphlet Song of the Football Cup (Ingalton Drake, Eton 1890) by R. Carr Bosanquet, with music composed by Joseph Barnby. The whole song goes thus:

Mustering under the old red wall, less than year ago
(The sky that day was sullen and gray the frost lay hard below,)
Each of us vow'd he would conquer or fall, facing the friendly foe;
Our hearts we steel'd as we took the field, and felt our pulses glow.

Mustering under the old red wall, less than year ago etc.,

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French bicycle poster – Durex ‘en vente ici’

Found! Actually the gift of an American colleague and dealer in ephemera- this hanging wall card for cycle parts from the French company Durex. Probably from the early 1950s, the company appears to be now defunct.... This poster may amuse some Brits as Durex is the pre-eminent maker of condoms in Britain. Durex is practically synonymous with condoms there in the way Hoover is with vacuum cleaners.

In the USA it is Trojans which, although not unknown in Britain, is also the name of several different companies on the sceptered isle including an electronics company, an arms dealer ( Trojan Group) and a timber crating company.

The arms dealer Trojan sells assault rifles  with this quote from Voltaire: 'God is not on the side of the big battalions but  on the side of those who shoot best.' Exactement.

How to be Happy on the Riviera 3

The penultimate part of Robert Elson's 1927 book dealing with indoor and outdoor amusements and of course gaming. There is a good description of a Gala dinner which has the authentic 1920s tone:

 "A gala dinner may be ...a more elaborate entertainment indistinguishable from a fête, the room being decorated for the occasion–sometimes in a really artistic manner–and a good programme of show-turns provided. There are sure to be surprises–toys to make noises with, balloons, etc. The peculiarity of surprises is that they are always the same. Occasionally really attractive gifts are distributed, or prizes given in connection with dancing or a tombola (raffle). If you are in an appropriately happy-go-lucky mood, a gala is usually quite enjoyable. It is good to play the fool sometimes, pelting and being pelted by the occupants of neighboring tables with little coloured balls, and trying to hit people at a distance with harmless projectiles. Also, you never know what may come of it. A happily-married lady of my acquaintance first made her existence known to her husband by hitting him on the ear with a flying sausage; he asked her to dance, and the thing was as good as done."

Such goings on would have been vieux jeu by the 1940s. Interestingly many fetes described have gone - The Venetian Fete at Cannes has been replaced by a film festival, car shows and uphill car racing at Monte Carlo has become the Rally, but the Burning of the Boat still goes on and the Battle of Flowers - so all is not lost.

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How to be Happy on the Riviera 2

The second part of a posting of a complete book How to be Happy on the Riviera by Robert Elson W. (Arrowsmith Ltd., 11 Quay Street, Bristol, 1927). There is plenty on food and restaurants (including menus and tips on coffee, ice cream and liqueurs) and some good descriptions of gamblers in Monte Carlo - 

"Little old women in Victorian black silk dresses and bonnets; others attired in the fashions of twenty or thirty years ago; exotic-looking young women, wearing extravagant parodies of the fashions of to-day – some exactly like cinema vamps; women like men, and girls like boys. A duke who is a frequent visitor summed it up neatly: 'There are always a lot of queer wild-fowl about' may see incredibly ancient men; wild-looking men with immense manes of hair; gaunt men with sunken cheeks and bony hands who might have come out of a novel by Mrs. Radclyffe, unnatural-looking young men who might have been created by Mr. Michael Arlen; people who impress you as half crazy, others who look as if they had been dead a long time, only they don't know it.'

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Gentlewomen skiers in Edwardian Chamonix

Sixteen years before the first Winter Olympics was held at Chamonix on Mont Blanc the ladies in this press photo of 1908 were learning to ski on the slopes near the town. A note on the back of the photo tells us that the women were undertaking a ‘course de ski pour dames‘, which may indicate that back then etiquette demanded that ladies be taught in single-sex  groups. The numbers they wore may also suggest that they were formally scored by their instructor for their prowess on the snow. The three older women, including the grand dame with her flat hat and head-scarf, appear to relish their situation, while the little girl bearing number 9 seems utterly terrified.

The heavy-duty winter clothes of the men operating the horse-drawn sleigh in the background contrast remarkably with the dress chosen by the women skiers, which seems more fitted to a ‘promenade‘ around the town.

The Grosvenor House Ice Rink

Best known as the venue for the most prestigious antiques fair in the world, the Great Room of London’s Grosvenor House Hotel (opened 1929) began life as a vast ice rink, where the rich and famous refined their skating skills. It is said that in 1933 the present Queen learned how to skate here. She must have been around the same age as some of the little girls being taught the basics by their elegantly dressed coach in this press photo dated 18th September 1931.

Unfortunately, under pressure from rival (and probably cheaper) establishments in the metropolis, the Grosvenor House Ice Rink was forced to close in 1935, after just six years of use. The space was then used as a grand ballroom, and afterwards as a conference venue. However, all the refrigeration machinery was left in situ underneath the present floor, where it can still be inspected.

The Art of Swimming 1819

From a book published in Venice in 1819 L'Arte del Nuoto: Teorico Pratica this plate of a man swimming with a horse. The first plate is fairly self explanatory with the swimmer leading the horse through water with a bridle. The second less so - according to the text it is probably about using a  horse in water if you cannot swim...

Chiunque, non sapendo nuotare sarà costretto di passare con un cavallo in un'acqua non gaudiosa, quand'il cavallo  sia mansueto o gia accostumato deve piutosto entrarvi con esso lui (Fig. 26) tenendolo per la criniera colla testa appogiata all'inietro sull'acqua accanto all sua, evitando dal fissarlo in faccia perche avanzi e così lascerassi in balia di un animale dalla natura dotato di una facoltà che il solo studio puo sviluppare nell'uomo. Che se poi il cavallo ricusasse di avanzare in tale positura puossi anche starsene sul suo dorso, avvertendo di tenere la testa più vicina che sarà possibile a quella del cavallo.

Google translates this thus - Anyone, not knowing to swim will be forced to go with a horse in the water is not joyful, quand'il horse is meek ​​or already accostumato piutosto must enter it with him (Fig. 26) holding the mane with his head on appogiata all'inietro 'water next to her, avoiding the stare in the face because leftovers and so lascerassi at the mercy of an animal by nature endowed with a faculty that study alone can develop in humans. What then if the horse declines to advance in this posture one can, also sit on its back, warning to keep his head closer than it will be possible to that of the horse.

Sports that didn’t quite take off

Number 9, Roller Tennis

This snap of a doubles match shows that along with previous sports in this series, which included Naked Petanque, Championship Dwarf throwing and Crown Green Tiddlywinks, Roller Tennis just lacked the appeal of Roller-skating or….Tennis.

First there were the health and safety concerns. How, for instance, did competitors prevent themselves from being garrotted by the net if they failed to stop in time? Also, experts contend that death may be averted if a vehicle travelling in an urban area hits a person at thirty miles an hour or less. They didn’t say anything about doubles players wielding rackets sustaining serious head, arm or leg injuries colliding at high speed while going for the same ball.

The photograph, which was rescued from a press archive, comes with no explanatory information. It probably dates from the 1930s, when someone fuelled on Pimms thought it might be a rather spiffing idea. Thoughts of popularising the new sport  might have ended  following the first fatality, but a very recent You Tube amateur video shows a doubles match somewhere in Europe in which a blonde looking suspiciously Swedish talks to camera about having fun playing tennis on roller skates.

If players can avoid falling into the net while attempting a drop shot, perhaps the sport does have a future. But don’t hold your breath.

A Treasure Hunt in London 1973

Samuel Charters was a London based American writer on the Blues and ethnic music. He was also a poet and on Sunday, February 11, 1973 he decided to publicise his latest book of poetry with a treasure hunt around London where people found the various poems. This is a transcription of the leaflet he distributed about the hunt. In the case of Speaker's Corner he writes 'I'll be near fence by Park Lane from 11 to 2. I won't be arguing with anybody and will be wearing poems. If it's really raining I'll leave about 1.' At the end of the day Charters would be at the Holly Bush pub in Hampstead from 7:30 onwards with extra copies of poems. A merry enterprise, one wonders how it went...London has changed a bit since then.


Instructions for the treasure hunt

A Note

Most of these poems were written while I was going from place to another place in London over the last year and a half. Sometimes I finally got there, sometimes I just stood around looking at something else and never got there at all, Sometimes I was just getting out of a pub or just going to a pub. Somewhere early in the time this started I bought a notebook in a stationer's in Camden Town, and the poems were scribbled into it as I went along. Since I wrote the poems in so many parts of London it seemed most natural to publish them by scattering them back across London again, in the places where I'd written them, The place where they were written and the poems themselves, in a way, were too closely bound together to be separated.

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NIM – the first Computer Game (1951)

Sold this item about 10 years back for $500. Possibly worth a whole lot more now. The game is the same as the match-stick game being played in the movie L'Année Derniere a Marienbad and is said to have originated in ancient China where it was known as Tsyanchidzi the 'picking stones game.' The match game can now be played online at the Archimedes' Lab site. Good luck if you can beat your computer there!

Computer manual. Original booklet from The Festival of Britain, 1951 with the words "FASTER THAN THOUGHT." on cover with the Festival's symbol.

Revealed to the public as part of the Science Exhibition at the Festival of Britain in 1951, the Ferranti Nimrod Computer was the first ever computer game - a machine built exclusively for the purpose of playing a computerized version of the logical game of 'Nim'.

(From the booklet) The game is for two players, being played nowadays with matches. At the beginning of the game one of the players arranges the matches in any number of heaps in any way he chooses. The players then move alternatively taking any number of matches from any one heap but at least one match must always be taken. In the normal simple game the player who succeeds in taking the last few matches wins but in the reverse simple game the player who takes the last match or matches loses.

Nimrod could play all the variations of the game and at the exhibition members of the public were invited to play against the machine; at the end of each game the computer would flash up the message 'COMPUTER WINS' or 'COMPUTER LOSES'. When the famous British scientist and ENIGMA codebreaker Alan Turing played it he managed to beat the computer, although witnesses were amused by a malfunction whereby Nimrod 'changed its mind' from 'COMPUTER LOSES' to 'COMPUTER WINS' and refused to stop flashing.

The booklet, which was sold at the exhibition for a shilling and sixpence, is a detailed guide to the machine and how it plays the Nim game, preceded by a more general introduction to the emergent sciences of computing and artificial intelligence. As an indication of how early the language is, it could be noted that the term 'memory' is mentioned only as an alternative to the preferred term 'storage'. Rare -  so elusive that it is not listed by Hook and Norman in their compilation of the most exhaustive bibliography of computer literature to date, The Origins of Cyberspace.

Two Windmill Girls play Nim at the Festival of Britain

James Bond and the origins of the skateboard

Sent in by an avid jotter just retired at 50 and spending his time in browsing his vast library (mostly acquired in the purlieus of Charing Cross) and sharing it with a waiting world. Just like a Victorian gentleman scholar or, say, Casaubon himself. Good to see the mountaineering writer Arnold Lunn name-checked. He was,with Alfred Noyes, a great favourite of supercollector Jimmy Kanga…

James Bond and the origins of the skateboard 

Some skateboard historians will tell you that the invention came about almost by accident in the early fifties when surfers wanted to practice their surf moves on land. Before long, a firm in LA was making them and the basic board was modified in the next two decades. No actual inventor is named…until now. I can now with confidence say that the photo ( from an archive of sport-related press photos) shows the inventor, Hannes Schneider (1890 – 1955), hitherto known for his pioneering work in popularising skiing, demonstrating a pair of skateboards to the amusement of some Japanese onlookers.

The problem is that Schneider isn’t road testing two skateboards, but a pair of ‘Roll-Skis ‘.All the evidence suggests that the photo was taken in the early fifties, when Schneider would have been in his early sixties. Also, the roll-skier is definitely Schneider himself. The man’s features resemble those on earlier photos and who else but the inventor would be demonstrating sports kit bearing his name?

Schneider had a long association with Japan going back to 1930, when he was invited by the Japanese government to teach schoolchildren to ski. The new craze caught on and the Japanese love for skiing is totally down to Schneider’s influence and teaching there. It makes sense that he chose Japan to road test his new invention, the Roll-Ski, which was supposed to give skiers the opportunity to practise their sport in summer, when many pistes had thawed.

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Fancy cycling 1901

A splendid work lent to Jot101 by a visitor: Fancy Cycling : Trick Riding for Amateurs / by Isabel Marks.[Sands, London 1901]

From Ms Marks preface:

In the following pages it will be my humble endeavour to give an account of the many graceful, daring, and altogether fascinating feats which may be accomplished by any rider possessed of an ordinary amount of nerve, the virtue of determination, and a few spare moments secure from the rude intrusion of unsympathising spectators.

It may safely be assumed that this same practice of trick riding does not diminish the zestful country excursions, nor the pleasures and pains of the annual tour, for to the cyclist no side of the sport is devoid of interest, and among the most ardent the merry trickster prominently figures. More especially are such riders fitted to cope with the difficulties presented by those mountainous regions whose charms appeal so strongly to the lover of beautiful scenery; to them ascents present no difficulties, to them descents are naught.

Very pretty it is to see two ladies ,secure in the knowledge of each other's skill, confident with the trust born of tried experience of each other's capacity, coasting side-by-side,  their hold of handle- bars relinquished, their bicycles moving as one,  their figures gently swaying in graceful unison,  their fingers lightly touching each other's shoulders, their eyes  bright with the joy of motion  and with the pleasure of congenial comradeship.

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