An unusual item found among the archives at Jot HQ the other day is an eighteen page Xeroxed typescript bound in cloth and illustrated with rather poor Xeroxes of various art works. Entitled Diverse paths lead diverse folk to Rome, it narrates a fortnight’s vacation in the Eternal City during May 1955. This particular copy was presented to the author’s travelling companion, the eighty year-old ‘Nell’ Hill.
The author, who identifies himself at the end of the narrative, was M. T. Tudsbery (‘Tud’), formerly the BBC’s Civil Engineer, and the man who in 1932, with the architect George Val Meyer, was responsible for Broadcasting House, the iconic BBC HQ in Langham Place. The other companion on this trip was Alan Campbell Don (1885 – 1966), who was Dean of Westminster at the time. Nell was his cousin.
It goes without saying that for the Dean this was not his first visit to Rome. However, for Nell the occasion was a double first —it was her debut flight and her first trip to the Italian capital. Not so unusual for someone born in 1875. What is far more astonishing is the fact that this was also Tudsbery’s first visit. It would seem that this civil engineer, who must have studied the history of architecture, had never deemed it necessary to explore a city of such amazing and significant buildings –which included one structure, the Pantheon, which had been built by Hadrian himself, and had survived totally intact.
Tudsbery’s previous lack of exposure to the wonders of Rome may go some way to explaining his childlike enthusiasm for everything he encounters–from the Colosseum and the Pantheon to the paintings of Fra Angelico, Carravagio and Raphael. In contrast, as a civil engineer he was quick to notice all the inadequacies of the various ‘modern’ buildings in the city although he also admired scale of the main railway station. Tudsbery also had a good ear for the amusing anecdote. At the Colosseum he overheard an American tourist express amazement at the extent of the bomb damage inflicted by German aircraft on this ancient building! Continue reading →
On 4thJuly 1957 our gardening civil servant and his wife Madge left London for their fortnight in Austria and Italy. Rather unusually ( but perhaps not so unusual for 1957 ) the couple cycledto town, deposited their rucksacks at the Air Terminal ( was this near Victoria coach station back then?) and then left their bikes at his place of work. They then caught a bus to London Airport, from where they flew by Swissair Metropolitan to Zurich, arriving at dawn. From here they took a train on a very hot day to Innsbruck and by early afternoon were settled in their hotel, the Weisses Kreug.
Being British our gardener devotes time to recording the weather ( from ‘Hot—jolly hot’ to ‘rains all morning’ and ‘rains slightly in afternoon’) , praising good meals and complaining about not so good meals, briefly mentioning sights visited and photos taken. Most of the holiday was spent among the mountains of northern Italy—in places like Cortina, Vigo di Fasso, and Bolzano, where they exalt in finding a restaurant that offers ‘ 2 courses incl. meat for 360L’. One of the main reasons for choosing this part of Austria and Italy is the prospect of locating Alpine flowers to photograph. They do find ‘ a fine meadow of alpine flowers ‘ and later our gardener leads Madge up Mount Marmolata in search of Entrichium, but fails to locate any. However ‘we do find other nice plants to photo…’ They also bump into the Olympic stands that were used in the previous February for the ‘Cresta Run’ and skating. Continue reading →
In London recently buying a small collection of books near Palace Gate I spotted three Bentley Bentaygas parked casually along the neighborhood streets. The one pictured can reach 190 mph and will leave little change from £150K. The ultimate SUV, 4 by 4, ‘Chelsea tractor.’ On showing this photo to a colleague, something of a ‘petrol head’,he informed me that there were certain areas of London that (young) tourists visit just to see rare and expensive supercars in the flesh – Mayfair, Chelsea, Belgravia mainly. He said that the visitors sometimes encourage the owners, often young Middle Eastern guys, to rev them up. In one instance the driver forgot he was in gear and shot forward into another supercar wrecking both. I blame Jeremy Clarkson..
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. Continue reading →
Found in Baedeker's Guide to Southern Italy and Sicily ((9th Ed., Leipzig 1887) a loose flyer/2 sided handout, entitled To Tourists. Baedeker's are often a repository of travel ephemera and this one yielded an opera ticket for the Metropolitana in Siena and a map of Naples supplied by the grand looking Parker's Hotel, also a dinner menu that notes the hotel had formerly been known as the Tramontano*. The leaflet, in perfect English and by one GPB, attempts to lure visitors to the ancient town of Baiae (now known as Baja.) Baedeker is rather dismissive of it (see below) so it may have needed some publicising. The leaflet reads thus:
The concluding 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).The appendix has a wealth of information, much of it aimed at the long stay vacationer and the expat or 'remittance man' (similar to the trustafrian of our time). The address and name of the British Consul in Monte Carlo (G W Hogg) the address of the British Library and the Anglo-American Library (in the Grand Hotel building.) There was even a weekly paper for the British abroad,The Cote D'Azur,that came out on a Friday. There is good advice for those who 'winter abroad' -- Hyeres is suggested for those who like it quiet, Monte Carlo for those who want it lively (but the bathing is poor). Also invaluable advice for the journey there, that might still hold true:-
"Don’t trust the time-tables as to there being a restaurant-car on any train southward from Paris (except the Calais–Méditerranée); bring a tea-basket with you and be prepared to grab things from the buffets at the Gare de Lyon and at Marseilles, or you may go foodless."
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.
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'...you 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.'
We are putting up an entire book on Jot101, a fairly early book on the Riviera. Very much of its time with local prices, information about the weather and sports facilities and recommendations for hotels and cafes and cabarets. Here are the first 4 chapters...
HOW TO BE HAPPY ON THE RIVIERA
BY ROBERT ELSON
First published in August, 1927
Printed in Great Britain by J. W. Arrowsmith Ltd., 11 Quay Street, Bristol