Sunday, December 29, 2013

I once met Alec Guinness

In a former incarnation I worked as a TV critic on the short lived London listings magazine Event. It was owned by Virgin and one of Branson's minions sent me to the BBC at White City to review Smiley's People. This was 1982. There was a showing and then a small reception with canapés and wines at which point they wheeled out the star Alec Guinness who with an assistant 'worked the room' - making critics feel good and hopefully thus obliged to write well of the TV series. It was actually very good ,and Guinness was the perfect Smiley.

At one point he was introduced to me and I said I liked the show. I had been an admirer of one of his directors, Robert Hamer, and mentioned him. His face brightened and he said he had been thinking about him that very morning. He did not seem to know that Hamer was something of a poet and asked me to send him some examples. I had vague ideas of publishing his work in a (very) slim volume. Guinness moved on and later, having received the copies of the poems he wrote from his house near Petersfield to thank me.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Photography and poetry

In a world of cellphones with cameras as powerful as Leicas, sites like Flickr, Instagram, Pinterest etc., the problem still remains - what shall I shoot? This advice is from The New Illustrated Universal Reference Book (Odhams, London 1933.) The book called itself 'the book of a million facts' covering 'the main interests of humanity…no essential subject is left out.' Much of the technical stuff is highly out of date, the language even more so, but the advice is still good. A good photograph comes from the heart...

The world is crowded with things calling to be photographed when a man first goes forth with a camera. Indeed, he is so overwhelmed with the thousand and one things to take that he frequently returns home with only half his roll of films exposed.He is so confused and confounded by the wealth of possibilities confronting him in the end he cannot see anything worth taking.

The man with the camera should ask himself what class of subject naturally interests him…Let him focus his mind on something before he attempts to focus his camera on anything… every picture that is worthwhile arouses some feeling; wonder or sorrow, peace or joy, fear or distress, or any one of the many emotions which move the human heart.

Luigi Ghirri

Melly on Savile 1980

George Melly jazzman, writer and critic wrote about the now disgraced DJ Jimmy Savile in the book The Media Mob (Collins 1980) which was illustrated by Barry Fantoni. Melly was no fool and even something of a cynic but this encomium shows just how deeply Savile duped everybody...

He doesn't really do anything, he just is. The lock of inappropriate dyed hair over the craggy, patently heterosexual face, the eccentric but meaningless clothes, the cigar, the parrot cries of 'Howzabout about that guys'n gals', the flat Yorkshire accent:  none of it should add up and yet somehow it does. The reason, I believe, is that Savile  is that rarest of all human creatures, genuinely good right through, a kind of bizarre saint. He is genuinely odd, too, with big cars and his job as a hospital porter and his passion for physical endurance tests. But his goodness is manifest; people respond to it automatically.

At the same time George has this to say of the astronomer Patrick Moore for whom there was an outpouring of sentiment when he left the planet last year...

  ...tie awry, hair crackling electricity, he sprays out words at the speed of light as though attempting to bridge the vast and silent interstellar spaces which are his province..he reminds me of a werewolf just beginning to feel the effect of the full moon… I have never read a kindly word about [him].

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

St. Francis the second Son of God

From the now rare book Elizabethan Demonology (Chatto, London 1880) by Thomas Alfred Spalding, this piece about an attempt to deify St. Vitus and, more importantly, Francis of Assisi. The book, which is dedicated to Robert Browning, mainly deals with mystical allusions in Shakespeare but has a certain amount on polytheism including this:

...the Roman Catholic form of Christianity, representing the oldest undisturbed evolution of a strictly monotheistic doctrine, is undeniably polytheistic. Apart from the Virgin Mary, there is a whole hierarchy of inferior deities, saints, and angels, subordinate to the One Supreme Being. This may possibly be denied by the authorized expounders of the
doctrine of the Church of Rome; but it is nevertheless certain that it is the view taken by the uneducated classes, with whom the saints are much more present and definite deities than even the Almighty Himself.

It is worth noting, that during the dancing mania of 1418, not God, or Christ, or the Virgin Mary, but St. Vitus, was prayed to by the populace to stop the epidemic that was afterwards known by his name...

The posthumous history of Francis of Assisi affords a striking illustration of this strange tendency towards polytheism.
This extraordinary man received no little reverence and adulation during his lifetime; but it was not until after his death that the process of deification commenced. It was then discovered that the stigmata were not the only points of resemblance between the departed saint and the Divine Master he professed to follow; that his birth had been foretold by the prophets; that, like Christ, he underwent transfiguration; and that he had worked miracles during his life. The climax of the apotheosis was reached in 1486, when a monk, preaching at Paris, seriously maintained that St. Francis was in very truth a second Christ, the second Son of
God; and that after his death he descended into purgatory, and liberated all the spirits confined there who had the good fortune to be arrayed in the Franciscan garb.

Spalding cites Maury, Histoire de la Magie, p. 354 as his source for this.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

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.  

I once met Borat’s cousin

His name is Professor Simon Baron-Cohen, and he is based at the Department of Psychology, Cambridge University, where he is a world authority on autism.
In fact, I’ve interviewed him twice—firstly in 2000 at his rooms in Trinity College, and a few years later in his Department on the Trumpington Road. With a name like Baron- Cohen , and at a time when Ali G was beginning to do his famous TV stunts, I could hardly fail to ask him the obvious question. He didn’t flinch from the truth.

He’s not as tall as his cousin and doesn’t resemble him facially. He is very softly-spoken and, like many academics, was very precise and deliberate in his responses to my questions. On the first occasion we talked about the advantages and disadvantages of having Asperger’s Syndrome, which back then wasn’t the fashionable condition that it now is. He revealed that many high-achieving academics, most them mathematicians, engineers and physicists, functioned perfectly well in their chosen fields, although quite a few had problems in wider society. He argued that though those with Asperger’s Syndrome were often regarded as odd or unusual by their neural-normal colleagues and friends, it was wrong to demonise them. On the contrary, society should celebrate the fact that their abilities, which included often excellent memories, especially for facts, a liking for repetitive or routine work, and strong interests in systems analysis, were in high demand in the modern world. If all these positive attributes inevitably came with some negative aspects, most notably, a lack of social skills, including a sometimes shocking lack of tact and a brutal honesty, together with occasional disabling physical sensitivities, then that was a price society should be able to pay.

Thirteen years on, and two best-selling books later, Borat’s cousin has become a major academic guru in the field of autism studies, which has grown into a little cottage industry (see the catalogue of the publishers Jessica Kingsley and numerous online sites). Today, the annals of British achievement in the arts and sciences is being retrospectively raked over---with Bertrand Russell, Patricia Highsmith and Jonathan Swift-- emerging as Asperger’s candidates. Baron- Cohen’s most controversial book, The Essential Difference, which argues that male and female brains are wired differently, and that therefore it is possible for a female to have  a man’s brain, and vice versa, is required reading for anyone interested in transgender politics -- not an issue about which Borat himself would have had anything useful to say. [Thanks H]

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Alphabet of Dead Writers

This was entered for a New Statesman competition in 1944. It may have won a prize but its author Edward Marsh notes that it wasn't a first prize. The poem is reprinted in a collection of his poems called Minima (London 1947). Sir Edward Marsh is now mostly remembered as a friend and promoter of Rupert Brooke, although he served as Churchill's private secretary for 10 years. Wikipedia have him listed mainly as a polymath (which he may have been) and note '...he was a discreet but influential figure within Britain's homosexual community.' He was also something of a poet and poetaster editing 5 volumes of Georgian poetry and in 1918 his late friend Rupert Brooke's Collected Poems.

This alphabet is fun (X is always a problem) and it is likely that in 1944 most or all of the references would have been picked up by New Statesman readers, but I have added a couple of notes for these fallen times...the question marks are Marsh's.

Alphabet of Dead Writers
Edward Marsh
with Churchill in Africa 1907

A is for Addison, model of prose
B is for Lord Byron, parading his woes.
C for young Chatterton, splendidly lying,
D for old Dyer, whose Fleece wanted dyeing.
E is for Emerson, star-waggon-hitcher,
F not for Beaumont, but only for Fletcher.
G for John Gay, whom his Beggar made rich,
H for Tom Hood with his Song of the Stitch.
I is for Ireland*, in forgery far-gone,
J for James Joyce with his Jabberwock jargon.
K is for Charles Kingsley,that Christian so muscular
L for poor L.E.L**., so pale and crepuscular.
M for Kit Marlowe, whose line was of might,
N for Newman, the pilgrim of light.
O is for Otway, Preserver of Venice,
P is for Pope, friend and foe to John Dennis.
Q for the quaint emblematical Quarles,
R for Lord Rochester, friend of King Charles.
S is for Sterne, a divine somewhat shady,
T is for Tate, coadjutor of Brady.
U for Nick Udall, who wrote Roister-Doister,
V for the Ven'rable Bede in his cloister.
W ? Wainewright, both critic and crook,
X for the bards of the Exeter Book.
Y for Jeames Yellowplush, alias Thackeray,
Z ? Israel Zangwill - I wish he'd been Zachary,
  Neatly to finish my little gimcrackery.

* William Ireland(1775 -1835) forger of Shakespearean documents etc. also Gothic novelist and poet.

**Letitia Elizabeth Landon (1802 –1838), English poet and novelist, better known by her initials L. E. L.

John Dyer (1699-1757) was a Welsh poet and painter and Thomas Wainewright (1794-1847) was a writer, critic, artist and serial killer (poison). Nahum Tate and Nicholas Brady were 17th century hymn writers and psalmists -their version of Psalm 34 'Through all the changing scenes of life' is still regularly sung today. John Dennis (1658-1734) was a critic and dramatist (admired by Dr. Johnson) who was attacked in a venomous pamphlet by Pope...

Friday, December 20, 2013

Grocer’s sign---late Georgian style

Sent in by a loyal jotwatcher, writer and collector of ephemera. Look out for Shillibeer bus tickets!:

Rarer than a copy of Oscar Wilde’s Ravenna or W. B. Yeats’ Mosada ? It’s a Shillibeer bus ticket or a Georgian price sticker.

You are unlikely to find either of them - unless you’re incredibly lucky when you go through the papers of your great great grandfather who had lived in London in 1829, or discover them down the back of a chest of drawers that belonged  to your great great uncle, who was a grocer in Bristol. I haven’t found a Regency bus ticket, but I do have this early 19th century grocer’s sign. I found it doing service as a protective card wrapper around a book of heraldry from the 1770s. A third of it is missing, which poses some intriguing questions. Is the grocer inviting his customers to enter his ‘Cheap Sh(op)’ and buy White Wine Vinegar, Common (Vinegar) and G(inger ) ? Or could the second word be ‘Shelf’ and G(inger) Grains of Paradise ? Another question relates to the card itself. Was it removed from the book for use in a shop, or did the shopkeeper use the placard as a book protector after the grocery promotion ?

These are two puzzles that perhaps only a social and economic historian could solve. So I found one. Jon Stobart of Northampton University, an acknowledged authority on domestic consumption trends in Europe, recently published Sugar and Spice, an excellent analysis of the English grocery trade in the long eighteenth century. I had actually reviewed this book, so I knew I had the right man for the job.

It turned out to be a pretty useful e mail exchange. Stobart was initially overjoyed that such a piece of ephemera had survived over two centuries. In fact he confessed that he had never seen such an item before. He agreed that the probable date was late Georgian, though he rejected my suggestion that the second word might be ‘shelf’ on the grounds that in the early nineteenth century condiments were sold loose rather than in bottles or jars. He too thought that the G word was ginger.

I am not exaggerating when I say that this is an extraordinary find, and Stobart had every right to be excited. It is probably even rarer than Shillibeer bus tickets, since these may have been retained as souvenirs by keen Regency travellers. There is no reason whatsoever why a grocer operating c 1808 should keep a piece of card that he once used to advertise a cheap line in condiments----unless, of course, he could use it as a temporary book cover. [RMR]

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Reverend E. E. Bradford / Love in Earnest (Norfolk)

A rare photograph of the Reverend Doctor E. E. Bradford, devotee of 'Lads Love', posed outside his very humble Fenland church at Nordelph near Downham Market, Norfolk. Alas, admirers of such gay poetic classics as Passing the Love of Women and The Romance of Youth, failed to save the structure, built in 1865, which Pevsner dismissed in less than two lines as 'E.E. with a fleche between nave and chancel.'

In 2010 it was demolished, seemingly with hardly a protest, which is a great shame. Thankfully, the Rectory survives.

Bradford was a genuine eccentric of English letters, who published his innocuous verse, not imagining, or perhaps not caring, if it provoked loud laughter from the likes of Oxford sophisticates like Betjeman and Auden , to name but two. Actually, in 1935 Betjeman visited the poet, then aged 75. He found a lonely, 'saintly' man, isolated for want of a car, a modernist who believed in sexual freedom and birth control, but who was also fond of ritual. Betjeman’s recorded impressions of the man showed sympathy for his predicament:-

Vicarage hall, dark, grim…Terribly poor. Bradford hurried out of room in dressing gown.’ Quite safe in here, only other side of house is falling. I’m not bothered’. High voice, like Cottam’s. Talks a lot and v. fast. Sit on hard kitchen chairs. I sat by fire in arm chair. .likes conversing in French…Various reproductions of Tuke and Millais’ ‘Princes in the Tower’. Pictures everywhere. All very neatly docketed…

Bradford died in 1944. It’s a wonder that no-one has written a biography. Stephen Fry lives just a few miles away. Not a busy man, perhaps he should give it a go. [ETH]

Sunday, December 15, 2013


Found in A.E. Waite's Occult Sciences (1891) between Belomancy and Capnomancy (divination by smoke) this method of detecting witches and sorcerers and also using a Bible for prediction etc., Belomancy, by the way, is divination by arrows...

Occasionally the forms of divination exceeded the bounds of superstition, and passed into the region of frantic madness. There was a short way the sorcerers which was probably the most potent discoverer of witchcraft which any ingenuity could devise. A large Bible was deposited on one side of a pair of weighing scales. The person suspected of magical practices was set on the opposite side. If he outweighed the Bible he was innocent; in the other case, he was held guilty. In the days of this mystical weighing and measuring, the scales may be truly said to have fallen from the eyes of a bewizarded generation, and to have revealed " sorcery and enchantment everywhere." 

Bibliomancy, however, included a more harmless practice, and one of an exceedingly simple character. This was the opening of the Bible with a golden pin, and drawing an omen from the first passage which presented itself. Books like the Scriptures, the "Following of Christ," and similar works, abound in suggestive and pertinent passages which all men may apply to temporal affairs, but declares that he had recourse to it in all cases of spiritual difficulty. The appeal to chance is, however, essentially superstitious.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

I once met Anton Mosimann

Another 'once met' jot - this from tireless jotter RMR. He reminds me there was anthology of such meetings edited by Michael Ondaatje (with David Young and Russell Banks) called Brushes with Greatness (Toronto, 1989). Many of the contributions are Canadian but there are one or two superstars (John Lennon, Muhammad Ali, Dalai Lama, Jayne Mansfield). They solicited contributions for a second volume but so far it has not been published.

Anton Mosimann

It was just before Christmas 1998. The brilliant Swiss chef had recently opened a swanky new restaurant in the heart of Belgravia . I wanted to see this, but, I was more looking forward  to discussing with him the six thousand cookery books he had amassed —one of the finest collections in private hands—and most of which had recently installed into his Mosimann Academy in trendy Battersea. And there was always the chance of a free meal….

Some hope. There was no food on offer, but I did get a coffee, which was very, very good. I sat in the restaurant drinking it while waiting for Mosimann to turn up. While I sipped I gazed up at the framed menus from around Europe that adorned the walls from top to bottom. I waited, and waited…

Eventually, the great man arrived and he showed me into what looked like a board room. On the table were a dozen or so of his favourite books, which included one dated 1507,the oldest cookery book ever printed. The actual interview was less interesting. Before we began he made it known that he could give me only twenty minutes. Mosimann seemed less than happy talking in English and I had to lead him a little in his responses. There were too few nuggets to chew on, but two stuck in my mind. The first was his determination to try out many of the recipes from his antique books and manuscripts, including a 1737 recipe for cheesecake, which he revealed came from Germany, rather than America. The second was his conscious decision not to decorate his restaurant with pictures, but to frame his huge archive of menus, which had accumulated over many decades, and stick them on the walls instead. The latter I considered a stroke of genius.

The twenty minutes flew by. Looking back at what I had actually recorded, I knew that there wasn’t enough, so I turned to his autobiography and amplified some of his answers to my questions.

In fact, this interview was the shortest I’d ever done—some of the others have gone over the three hour mark. But I’m glad I did it. How often can one boast of having handled a cookery book printed in 1507?

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Wheatley - a motley collection

Two press cuttings about a sale of papers belonging to  Dennis Wheatley (1897-1977) writer of thrillers and occult novels. Dated 5th August 1984. The reports, which mention the sum of money (£1100) as if it were a fortune, differ in emphasis and depth. One reporter, Cowdry, seems to have gone through the lot himself. He also seems to suggest that the secret lover had become a 'difficulty', requiring the services of a private detective.

Riddle of an author in love
By Phillip Jordan

Dennis Wheatley prided himself on being the writer who put sex into English thrillers.His middle-class heroes and heroines used not only to battle the forces of Satanism, but also to go to bed with each other even when they were not married.
Yesterday, seven years after Wheatley died, a mystery worthy of his own pen developed – over his love life.
The clues came from an auction in Bournemouth of 15 boxes of the author's personal papers. They included a bundle of about 100 letters and notes from women.
The mystery is over seven letters posted to him in 1926, three years after he married his first wife Nancy.
One thanks him for 'last night'. Another says: 'You must know, darling, I would do anything to be with you.' All are signed lovingly, 'Gwen'.
But the correspondence ends abruptly in the first week of December, 1926. And alongside the letters in Lot 464, which fetched £1,100, are a series of reports from Thomas P. Cox, private investigator.These, headed 'G.M.L.,' give details of how detectives followed a woman from the same address in Ashley Gardens, London, which was at the top of the letters from 'Gwen'. 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

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.

The poems will be in the places described in London on Sunday, February 11, 1973. The copies will be in boxes on doorways, fences, against walls and under bridges. Since there's no way to leave poems around at Speakers' Corner at Marble Arch I'll be there with copies of the sixth poem for part of the day. The poems and I will be there even if it's raining. I don't know if anybody will get around to all of the places - or even want to. It will take a while, but it will be good exercise and you'll see a lot of London,

If anybody does do it - or goes around to find any of the poems why don't we all meet later? The last place I've described is a pub in Hampstead - and I'll be there in the evening with extra copies of poems that anybody couldn't find, If anybody does find all of them I'll cheerfully buy him or her a drink.

Samuel Charters

This will be the only publication of "From A London Notebook."

The Poems -
There are fifteen of them - this is where you look to find them.

1. Start at Piccadilly Circus, go up Shaftesbury Avenue to
Great Windmill Street, up to the left two blocks to
Brewer Street, Hertz Car Rental at head of street) turn
right and cross over to 18 Brewer Street - behind Lina
Stores in Green Court - poem on doorway of Calder and Boyars.

2. On Charing Cross Road just down from Shaftesbury Avenue - on east side of road across from Dobell's - there's an entrance to Sandringham flats No. 75-169,

Coloured pyjamas in Alassio

From Gone Abroad (London 1925) by the somewhat forgotten travel writer Douglas Goldring. The chapter 'In Liguria' has much on the beach resort of Alassio at the time much favoured by the English. However according to Goldring they tended to leave at the beginning of June when the heat was becoming too much, to be replaced by native Italian tourists. Goldrings notes on fashion are interesting, portraying a lost world of men and women walking around the town in coloured pyjamas and screaming Italian bathers with exotic swan shaped rubber rings:

Then follow the two months of its "grand season," when prices are nearly doubled and the town makes more money than during the whole half-year of the English occupation. On July 1st, from Milano and Torino, comes the first train-load of holiday-makers, and from then onwards till the end of August the town is gradually packed to suffocation with Italian business people and their wives and families. The transformation is amazing. As if by magic the sands become covered with bathing-tents and thronged with bathers, from Santa Croce almost to Laigueglia. The sea is studded with little white-sailed yachts, canoes and motor-boats. Inside the town, caffés one had scarcely noted during the winter blossom out with bands and concerts and are filled with visitors eating gelati, spumoni and cassate, or drinking their "caffea espresso." The narrow Via Umberto Primo—nicknamed by the English "'the main drain "—swarms with young men in brilliantly coloured pyjamas. The shops are freshly stocked, and many of them display fantastically shaped bathing bladders of red india-rubber, some in the form of fishes, others fashioned like swans. And everywhere one sees pyjamas—purple pyjamas, blue pyjamas, pink pyjamas, striped pyjamas. So attached are the Italians to this form of costume that, despite the entreaties of the hotel-keepers, they often wear their pyjamas at dinner, and even dance in them afterwards. . . 

  To the traveller familiar with a French or English plage the bathing at Alassio, from the spectacular point of view, is depressing. Anyone expecting to find dark-eyed houris tripping

Interview - What's the Big Idea?

  Interview with the jot101 team 

Q. Where did the idea of jot101 and 'jotting' come from?

A. Back in the 1980s I knew a guy called Linus in Bedford Park, London. He was a great collector of esoterica, folklore and myth, writings of mystics and seers. He had made money in stock speculation and lived the life of a Victorian gentleman scholar. He used to write notes and comments about his reading which he referred to as his 'jottings.' They contained much wisdom and knowledge and he kept them in a sort of commonplace the time the web came along he had died and his books and notes had gone to the four winds. They would have been ideal for jot101 and he would have been a great contributor. Knowledge like this is still being lost forever.

Q. So you would like jot101 to be a place where people archive research and notes from their readings?

A. Yes, but also information that they have come across in their work, in travel, from friends, in anecdote, in their family and in old books, periodicals, pamphlets and letters, manuscripts, notebooks and ephemera. Also obscure data synthesised from the web and media, eyewitness reports, documents, photos, snapshots, press cuttings, diaries etc., People are sitting on terabytes of information.

Q. How does it differ from Wikipedia?

A. Much of the material is outside of the scope of an encyclopaedia, and it is not peer reviewed. For example in my trade I come across rare books by authors with Wikipedia entries where the book is not listed in the author's works and I go in there and add it. However there is no good place to record an anecdote about the author from someone who had met them, or a manuscript or letter from an author discussing their life or work and adding to our knowledge and understanding of them. Such items get sold and enter private collections where they are lost for decades, centuries - or for good. This is the kind of thing ideally suited to jot101 and we have recorded  letters, original writings and accounts of meetings.

Rather than Wikipedia, jot101 is nearer to a mix of YouTube and the Victorian journal Notes and Queries. YouTube in the way that people simply upload things they have found which are then in categories and searchable, and Notes and Queries in its dogged curiosity and thirst for knowledge - however abstruse. Mass Observation with its eyewitness reports is another influence. On our home page we have used the original motto of the early issues of N & Q, spoken by Captain Cuttle in Dickens' Dombey & Son - "when found, make a note of..."

Q. Why is jot101 just a blog? Have you considered building a website and attracting contributions?

A. It's early days. Festinare Lente. We already have a few contributors and have been going less than a year. We are feeling our way. The long game etc., I am surprised at the amount of stuff worthy of posting. If I didn't have to make a living I could probably do 30 postings a week. It is inexhaustible. My California based tireless tech support in this enterprise, Soren Wagner, is looking at building a site for people to contribute 'jots'. Where people seamlessly upload new information that they have found without having to create a website or a blog. Back in Europe I am raiding our endless expanding archives for more material. Every posting here is a form of 'jot.'  See our concise definition using actor Terry-Thomas as an example. [Interview to be continued] Nigel Burwood + Soren Wagner

Monday, December 9, 2013

What is a jot? The Terry-Thomas explanation.

Using the much loved British comedy actor Terry-Thomas as an example we show what is, and what is not, a jot.

Terry-Thomas was born in 1911 Thomas Terry Hoar Stevens at 53 Lichfield Grove, Finchley. 

NO. Common knowledge.

Terry-Thomas's favourite drink was champagne. My father had a bar in Majorca and in the early 1960s Terry-Thomas holidayed there. He claims that T-T met Belinda Cunningham his third wife in his bar.It was called El Garito and catered for a louche Bohemian crowd. Terry-Thomas always called for champagne.

YES. Slight, but new information.

Terry-Thomas with his gap toothed smile and permanent cigarette holder always reminds me of my Uncle Derek who was thrown out of the Army in 1955 for stealing the mess takings. He was a 'bounder' too! 

NO. Irrelevant information, adds nothing.

Terry-Thomas who everybody thought was such a 'bounder' and so terribly funny never made me or anyone in my family laugh. I think he was pretty lame.

NO. Opinion, and no new information. Also hard to believe...

I met a guy who had worked on a movie with Terry-Thomas. It was being shot in one of the hardest parts of Glasgow and after filming T-T insisted on dragging him and the crew to an exceptionally thuggish hardcore pub. T-T was in fine form, loud and posh and full of the joys of life and celebrity. He didn't change his style one iota for the local hard nuts. The guy thought there would almost certainly be a punch up but strangely the locals thought he was great and admired him for being exactly who he was and not changing his style. 

YES. Good story, hopefully true and new information. As the Italians say se non è vero, è ben trovato... If it is not true, it is well conceived. A few more facts like the date, the name of the movie and the name of the pub would be even better.

So a jot adds new and original information, it is not totally irrelevant and it is not opinion. Every single posting on jot101 is a jot.

Case Study on Arcturus IV (MIT 1950s) for the year 2951

A rare object, just catalogued...

Case Study on Arcturus IV (Product Design 2.734)

Massachustes Institute Of Technology ( Department Of Mechanical Engineering) Circa 1952-1955 First Edition. Wraps., 1955. 4to. About 100 pages printed recto only. A curious production with the printed monogram of M.I.T. on the cover and stapled at the spine like an official report or script. It is a collection of memos, missives and communication from the years 2951 and 2952, mostly about the Massachusets Intergalactic Traders and concerning opportunities for export business with the newly discovered planet Arcturus IV (in the Methania galaxy 36 light years away). There are diagrams, an illustration of an Arcturus native ('Sub Human type') and detailed plans for a food mixer suitable for 'Methanians' (also a carriage incubator and other machinery. ) 

America is no longer mentioned, addresses end 'Terran', presumably Earth was now one country.

The fantasy of the fantastic trade opportunity is sustained throughout. The cover reads 'Pre Publication Copy - Not to be Reproduced.' No copy located at WorldCat or any other world library database. There is precious little about this project on the web (an article by Katherine Pandora) but it was the SF brainchild of MIT professor John E Arnold to encourage design creativity among students. It had good coverage in LIFE magazine and prompted a 1952 article in Popular Science. It was also praised by SF supremo John W Campbell, Jnr of Astounding Science Fiction. A fascinating and very scarce item in very good shape. 

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Mortimer on British Class System 1969

A typed signed manuscript with ink corrections by Raymond Mortimer and a typed signed letter of rejection from the then Sunday Times editor Harold Evans.

Mortimer's article is now somewhat outdated, although a class system still exists in Britain. 'The Nobility' has now been largely replaced by celebrities and there is now, as in America, a much greater emphasis on money. It seems at the time the Sunday Times was running a series of articles on class by well known writers.

April 18th, 1969

Mr. Raymond Mortimer, CBE,
5 Canonbury Place,

Dear Raymond,

  I'm sorry that I agree with you that I don't think it is quite pointed enough. I think it would need to have some specific symbols of class. The Snowdon observation about class and motoring is the sort of thing I mean:

Saloon car with two husbands in front, their two wives behind = lower class.

Ditto with mixed couples in front and back = middle class.

Ditto with no one in back, husband and somebody elses wife in front = upper class.

  I leave it to you whether you feel you want to do any more work - I'm sure there is a piece here - and I'm grateful for you response. Your sincerely Harold Evans. Editor. 

[Mortimer article]  "Why, " I was asked by a friend half my age, "Do you say that there are at least nine classes in England?" Well, I also denied the existence of any frontiers between them, and it might be nearer the mark to say eighteen, because each class can roughly be divided into those who were born in it and those who were not. The subject in any case has become a joke and an embarrassment, as sex was in the Victorian Age. We avert our eyes when class "rears its ugly head"-- and may even believe that distinctions of class no longer exist, apart from differences in education, occupation and income. This seems to me wishful thinking, although the young today are not nearly so class-conscious as their grandparents.

  The various classes are difficult to define or enumerate, because they often depend upon social habits-- tastes in food, drink, dress and pastimes, for instance, and ways of speech, both in vocabulary and accent. The ninefold division (derived from social historians, biographers and novelists, not from sociologists,) cannot be trusted because it is mainly based upon rank or occupation. All reserves made, here are the nine. A. Royalty; B. The Nobility; C. The Landed Gentry; D. The Upper Middle class; E. The Solid Middle Class. F; White-collared workers. G. Lower Middle Class (small shopkeepers, for instance); H. Skilled Workers; I. Unskilled Workers. (That use of the words "worker" or "working class" is unhappy, because it implies that other classes are idle.) Each of these classes merges into others.

  Members of A. marry into B., C, or even D.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

It's Time you Knew

From a 1944 book It's Time You Knew - a sort of Ripley's 'Believe it or Not' book produced by Bulova and, it seems, given to customers in American watch shops. This copy has the stamp of one Jack Conner, a jeweller from Oroville California.  The answers are below - in the case of Errol Flynn the Bulova answer is wrong- this was a piece of fake publicity dreamed up by the Hollywood studios in the 1930s that seems to have stuck. He was not an Olympian (also he was Australian.)


It is approximately 186,000,000 miles to the Sun and back again.

66 men flew non-stop across the Atlantic Ocean before Lindbergh. Sir John Alcock and Sir A. Whitton-Brown flew from Newfoundland to Ireland, in 1919. Later the same year, the English dirigible "R-34," with 31 men aboard, crossed from Scotland to America and returned. In 1924, the German "ZR-3" flew from Friedrichshafen to Lakehurst, N.J., with a crew of 33 men–totaling 66 men, who flew the Atlantic before Lindbergh, and making Lindbergh the 67th man.

Watch-rate variation recorders, used to test every Bulova Watch upon its completion, take 30 seconds to tell how fast or slow a watch would run in 24 hours.

Errol Flynn represented England, as a boxer, in the 1928 Olympics at Amsterdam.

More jests old and new

More jokes from Jests New and Old collected by W. Carew Hazlitt etc., ( Jarvis, London 1886). These are some of the better jokes from a list of 600 or so. Not exactly rolling in the aisles material but probably pretty rib-tickling in their day. We published a few a week back and they proved popular.

A man went out rabbit-shooting, but could not get any sport. "So," said he, "I lay down where they could not see me, and made a noise like a turnip."

A lady begged of her lover to give her his picture to hang at her breast. Said he, "that would at once let your husband know of our amour."–"Ah," said she, with naiveté, "but I would not have it drawn like you."

A worthy gentleman, living at Vauxhall, had the bell-wire of his door cut one night by some inebriated persons returning from the Gardens. To prevent the recurrence of a similar outrage, he ordered the bell-hanger to place it out of reach.

Sydney Smith spoke of a lady's smile being so radiant that it would force a gooseberry-bush into flower.

Friday, December 6, 2013

A manuscript page of Max Beerbohm

A good example of the appearance of Max Beerbohm's journalistic copy. About 250 words, part of an article published in The Academy and Literature in February 1902. An essay called 'A Needed Noun' (Max wanted a word for 'a writer of prose.')  The large jet black corrections are the most striking element. In the book Some Piquant People Lincoln Springfield describes this style thus: 'A mere crossing out was not enough. Everything to be taken out, whether it was one line or thirty, was obliterated to utter annihilation by deluges of ink, put on apparently with a brush giving his MSS the look of islands of words in the midst of seas of blinding blue black.'

The article itself (never reprinted) is a plea for more lyrical prose - he mentions Pater, Ruskin, Stevenson and Newman but feels that 'the full glory of prose as a medium for beauty was not realised by them...' The article is amusing and is the product of 'intercalary reflections' or, as it turns out, browsing Mr Nuttall's dictionary looking for a word that defines a writer of prose.  He rejects the word 'proser' and the nearest word he can find is a 'prosaist.'  Nuttall defines this as 'a prose writer' but, to the divine Max's chagrin, adds: ' who cannot rise above prose.'

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Denis Healey the artist

Thanks for sending this in RMH. Trunks of family papers often yield treasures fit to share and even research further...Et tu Healey!

Found in a trunk of family papers, this water colour depicts a churchyard somewhere in the Yorkshire dales. The artist is elder statesman Denis Healey, now Baron Riddlesden, and the sketch dates from around 1934, when the 17 year old Denis was cycling around the countryside of his adopted Yorkshire capturing its essence. The palette and style suggests that he was influenced a little by Paul Nash, and later he was to claim Ethelbert White as an inspiration.
Denis was encouraged by some pretty good local artists in his late teens, but he gave up painting when he went to Oxford, and later took up photography instead. ‘I was good’, he later admitted,’ but not that good’. I think he had genuine gifts, but then I’m biased. Judge for yourself. [R.M. Healey]