Thursday, 13 October 2016

Chapter 9: “The dinosaur chasing journalist!"

The Rope Walk at Albany

Part of this chapter takes place in the exclusive London apartment complex the Albany (or just Albany as some have it.  How it is referred to by its residents varies according to time and fashion) on Piccadilly.  Originally the large house of Lord Melbourne, built in the early seventeen seventies, in 1802 it was sold and converted into 69 apartments (or sets as they are known) for bachelors by adding two long wings in what had been the rear garden. A covered walkway named the Rope Walk links these buildings.

Albany courtyard 1903

These days you do not have to be a bachelor (or even a man) to live there but no children under the age of fourteen are permitted to reside there. Residents are forbidden to whistle, make a noise or talk about the place, giving it a uniquely secretive cachet as a London address.  Residents have to be approved by the trustees and the secretary and on the very rare occasions a set comes up for sale it will cost in the region of £3 million.  Around half of the sets are owned by Peterhouse College, Cambridge.

Triple P had tea with a resident there once and we actually found it easier to get in for tea with the President of Colombia than past the porters at Albany.  Famous past residents include poet Lord Byron, actor Terence Stamp, conductor Sir Thomas Beecham, three previous British prime ministers, singer Brian Ferry, pioneer photographer William Fox Talbot, writer J,B, Priestley, art historian Sir Kenneth Clarke, novelist Georgette Heyer, playwright Terence Rattigan and even, briefly, Greta Garbo.

Auguste Renoir After the bath (1888)

Inside Lord Hoxton's set Edmund Molloy is impressed by his lordship''s collection of nudes.  Lord Hoxton shares a similar taste in art (amongst other things) to Triple P. His Renoir, we imagine, is something like this one which is Triple P's favourite of the artist's work.

Hoxton also posesses a Degas something like this one.  We were introduced to Degas' nudes by a (red head) girlfriend when at university.  She also bought us our first pastels so we could immortalise her form in similar style.

The picture that becomes part of the wager is a Boucher drawing similar to this. Boucher certainly did, as Hoxton observes, produce erotic drawings of his wife to sell to collectors.  "Prostituting his own wife" as the philosopher Diderot said of Boucher. 

Beja woman

Hoxton notes the beauty of women from the South Seas but also Zulu and Beja women.  The Beja people of Sudan are the dreaded Fuzzy-Wuzzies of Kipling's poem about the Sudan War in 1884 (where Lord Hoxton served as junior officer). Some of the women are stunning.

Winchester 94 30-30

The Winchester model 1894 30-30, which Hoxton presented Molloy with, was a popular hunting rifle, eventually selling over 7,000,000 units. Production only ceased in 2006, it was so well thought of.  Whether it will stop a dinosaur remains to be seen!

Molloy's own shooting experience is confined to a Lincoln Jeffries air rifle.  This is Agent Triple P's Lincoln Jeffries and belonged to our grandfather.  It dates from about 1906.  For an air rifle it is quite potent and its .177 pellets could easily pierce a wooden fence. We did shoot a bird with it once (by accident when we shot it into a tree and a thrush fell out onto the grass).  We were very upset but fortunately we had only knocked it off its perch (the surrounding branches and leaves seemed to have slowed the pellet) and it shook itself and flew away.  We could never go hunting (or fishing); we are too sensitive!

Buses in Piccadilly Circus in 1912

Molloy catches the number 14 bus from Piccadilly, where he met Lord Hoxton, back to King's Cross to meet Mrs Challenor. The Number 14 still runs from Piccadilly to Warren Street, near King's Cross.   At this time horse drawn buses had only just been withdrawn by the London General Omnibus Company and there were still some steam powered buses in service.  Many of these motor buses would be taken across the English Channel to move troops during the Great War.  Although eventually converted and painted khaki, originally they served in their red livery.

Type B buses in World War 1

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Chapter 8: “What luxury to have such a beautiful woman attend to me in such an intimate manner!”

A glass harp

Molloy is annoyed at Edith's making musical notes from her filled water glass and refers to the glass harmonica.  In fact, what he describes is really a glass harp, a predecessor of the glass harmonica invented by Richard Pockrich in the 1740s.  Using wet fingers on the rims of glasses filled with different quantities of water to make musical notes was a technique known since the Renaissance. 

A glass harmonica

Having seen one of these glass harps played in Cambridge (England) Benjamin Franklin invented, in 1761, a vertical arrangement of glass bowls rather than using the horizontally placed glasses and called it the glass armonica.  Incidentally, this use of the word harmonica predates the mouth organ by some sixty years. Mozart, Beethoven and Saint-Saens (the Carnival of the Animals contains a part for glass harmonica) all wrote music for the glass harmonica.  The instrument pretty much disappeared after the end of the eighteenth century, probably because it could not generate enough noise to be heard in large concert halls.  There were also (unfounded) rumours that playing it made people go mad because of the plaintive sound the instrument made or that (equally unfounded) that the lead in the glass poisoned the players.

The Royal Academy's Hanging Committee

Edith Challenor's idea of having a committee to assess which inhabitants of London may parade naked on the streets is likened to the Hanging Committee of the Royal Academy.  When it was established in 1768 one of its key objectives was to provide an annual exhibition and the first exhibition took place the following year.  Any artist may submit works to be judged by the committee and today about 10% of those paintings submitted are accepted for display in the exhibition at the Academy in Piccadilly.  Agent Triple P had a picture accepted some decades ago!  The idea of an attractiveness committee was also suggested by the fact that three towns on the Italian Riviera, in 1993, banned fat women from wearing bikinis and enforced an arbitrary vital statistics measurement to ensure unpleasant figures didn't spoil the beaches!

Molloy worries about the cost of his hotel bill at the Great Northern but relaxes when he is given £100.  A set menu lunch or dinner at a London hotel at the time would have been about three shillings (twenty shillings to the pound) a head.  A room at a really top hotel like the Ritz would have been about £3 a night. A lesser domestic servant or an office clerk would have earned around £250-£350 a year.  The five pound notes he is given had not changed in appearance very much since they were first issued in 1793 and continued in circulation until as late as 1961.  These were very large notes; 212 mm in length and 134 mm in width (about nine by five inches).

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Chapter 7 "I see that you have brought your drawing things!"

The Great Northern Hotel circa 1900

This chapter is almost entirely set within the Great Northern Hotel at King's Cross, London.  Opened in 1854 it was the first purpose built railway hotel in the world. It was designed by civil engineer Lewis Cubitt (1799-1883), the younger brother of Thomas Cubitt, London's principal contractor in the second half of the nineteenth century. His other brother was Sir William Cubitt, the chief engineer of the Crystal Palace.  Lewis also designed adjoining King's Cross station but spent much of his career building bridges in South America, Africa and Australia.

Lewis Cubitt

King's Cross (so called after a monument to George IV demolished in 1845) was built in 1851-52 and Cubitt's elegantly simple design was partly modelled on the Moscow Riding Academy.

King's Cross Station 1852

King's Cross today

For many years the original facade was obscured by a modern (1972) extension but this was removed in 2012, revealing Cubitt's original design once more.

The Great Northern Hotel (far left) and King's Cross Station (centre) in about 1910

The Great Northern Hotel today

The Great Northern Hotel recently was extensively renovated to top five star standards and looks, from the outside at least, very much as it did in 1912 when our story is set.

The first en suite bathrooms at a hotel appeared just two years before our period, in 1910, with the opening of the Goring Hotel in London. Flush toilets only started to appear in the 1860s and all toilets and bathrooms were shared.  Hotels had to employ an army of staff to provide hot water in jugs and empty chamber pots regularly until en suite bathrooms became the norm in the 1930s   Hotel rooms would have been equipped with washstands, usually with marble tops on which sat a ewer (a large jug of water) and a bowl for washing.  Triple P has stayed in French provincial hotels equipped like this as late as the early eighties.  

Underneath would be a cabinet which held a chamber pot for use when a visit to the toilet outside the room was not convenient.  After use pots would be put back in the washstand with the lid on (nearly all antique chamber pots for sale these days are missing their lids) to be collected by the maid the next morning.

Friday, 1 July 2016

Chapter 6 “This journal contains the most amazing things you will have ever heard!”

The Natural History Museum at the time our story is set

All of this chapter is set in the Natural History Museum in South Kensington.  This is somewhere Agent Triple P has been visiting ever since he was five years old.  Mainly, of course, because of its collection of dinosaur fossils, although we also liked the giant model of a Blue Whale when we were younger.  Today, we often meet up with people in its cafe, particularly our friend A, who has a friend who lives near by.  By the time of our story the museum, designed by Alfred Waterhouse in Romanesque style, had been open for just over thirty years.   In the excellent BBC adaption of The Lost World (2001) the lecture takes place at the Natural History Museum (although the actual lecture theatre was another location) but they depict the Diplodocus as being in the main hall.  Triple P wanted to put the dinosaur where it would have been in 1912.

The Reptile Hall in 1905

Professor Challenor's lecture takes place in the Reptile Hall, which was the original home of the museum's famous Diplodocus skeleton, nicknamed Dippy.  The skeleton is actually a copy of an original discovered in Wyoming in 1898.  It was acquired by Scottish-born millionaire Andrew Carnegie who wanted if for the museum he was building in Pittsburgh.

Dippy is unveiled in 1905 and also gives us an idea of what Professor Challenoir's lecture would have looked like

While Carnegie was staying at his Scottish Castle, King Edward VII saw a drawing of the Diplodocus and said it would be good to have one for the Natural History Museum.  Carnegie spent £2000 of his own money to have a cast made of all 292 bones and presented it to the Museum, where it was put on display in the Reptile Hall in 1905, ironically before the American original was on display in Pittsburgh.  The 105 foot long skeleton was so popular nine other casts were made for other museums around the world, making it the most viewed representation of a dinosaur skeleton.

The main hall of the museum in 1910

Today, it is in the main hall of the museum where it has been since 1979.  Next year, controversially, it will be replaced by a skeleton of a blue whale, suspended from the roof.  At the time of our story, in 1912, the main hall of the museum was dominated by a large stuffed African elephant.

The main hall (now called the Hintze Hall) of the Natural History Museum today

Dippy has been repositioned, with his tail held horizontally and no longer depicted dragging along the ground as when he was first assembled.  The Reptile Hall today is used for the Human Biology gallery and almost nothing of the original hall. as seen in the picture at the top of this post, is visible, although it is all still there beneath the modern hoardings.

Interestingly, considering our story, one of the current exhibits in the Human Biology gallery is this!   

The leaf of an extinct plant which Challenor brandishes during his lecture is that of glossopteris, a large prehistoric tree which flourished across the southern hemisphere.  It was the discovery of the fossils of glossopteris in South America, South Africa, India and Antarctica which was one of the first indications that the earth's continents had moved apart from one large land mass.

Owen's iguanodon at Crystal Palace

Chgallenor's description of the iguanodon, illustrated in Waring Blanc's journal, reflects the changes in interpretation of the fossils over the years. Iguanodon was the second ever dinosaur named, in 1825, by Gideon Mantell, based on a few fragmentary fossils found in 1822.  Initially, Mantell thought that the creatuire was a quadruped but as more bones turned up he changed his mind when he saw that the forelimbs seemed to be much smaller.  However, his more influential rival, Richard Owen, saw the creature as a lumbering quadruped and when he supervised the installation of a life sized model of the creature at Crystal Palace that was how the iguanodon was depicted.  Famously, the horn he put on its nose turned out to be the creature's thumb.

One of the Bernissart skeletons under reconstruction.

In 1878, however, a massive find in a coal mine at Bernissart in Belgium unearthed the remains of 38 separate iguanodon skeletons.  It was now apparent, with these much more complete skeletons, that the creature was, as was thought, bipedal.

So in 1912 the view of the iguanodon was that it was a creature that sat upright, like a kangaroo, using its tail to support it.  As was the case with all dinosaurs at the time (and in fact until well into the second half of the twentieth century) it was depicted as dragging its tail along the ground like a crocodile.

The interpretation of Iguanodon today

It wasn't until 1980, when David Norman re-examined iguanodon, that he pointed out that this tripod pose would have been impossible and the tail would have had to have been broken to achieve the kangaroo pose.  A more horizontal pose made much more sense given the hip bones and the formation of the legs.

The smaller but powerful forelimbs suggested that it spent a considerable time on four legs as well as two and that as the animal got older and heavier (it is now believed that dinosaurs grew constantly throughout there lives) it would have become, perhaps fully, quadrupedal.  

Chapter 5 “All out for the morning!”: Chapter Notes

Chateau La Tour Blanche

This Post provides notes on Chapter 5 of The Lust World: A Sexual Odyssey, an erotic adventure story.

Molloy and Britten drink the Sauternes Chateau La Tour Blanche with their fois gras which, despite Molloy's surprise at having a sweet wine, ir a classic combination. La Tour Blanche is unique amongst the classed growth vineyards in that is is owned by the French State, to whom it was left in 1907 on the basis that it become a college of agriculture.  The La Tour Blanche college of viticulture and oenology was opened in 1911 and continues to this day

They follow this up with an 1899 Chateau Latour (Britten has excellent taste in wine!) which can still be drinkable today.  Triple P thinks he has only had Latour once, on our thirtieth birthday when we had a bottle of the 1976.

Then and now the restaurant hasn't hanged at all

They drink their wine in the spectacular dining room of the Ritz hotel in Piccadilly, which opened in 1906.  The hotel appears a number of times in the story as it is Triple P's favourite London hotel.  Molloy is rather alarmed at the three guineas a night price but when Triple P stayed there for a night in a suite with a lady in the early nineties it cost him £440 (and that was with a discount!).  We have had breakfast, lunch and dinner in the restaurant and enjoy the theatricality of the place.

Tunbridge Wells in 1910

When Molloy visits Mrs Challenor, she tells him that her butler has had to go to "Tunbridge Wells, much to his disgust".  The rather attractive town of Tunbridge Wells in Kent got a reputation for stuffy reactionary behaviour, as noted by EM Forster in a Room with a View (1908).  It became something of a joke to refer to people who wrote to newspapers with a sense of moral outrage as "disgusted of Tunbridge Wells" and the phrase was used as a joke in radio programmes.  In fact, when BBC Radio 4 introduced their listener feedback programme in 1978 they actually called it, Disgusted, Tunbridge Wells (much to the annoyance of the town's inhabitants, who still resent the use of the term).  The butler would certainly be disgusted by Mrs Challenor's behaviour, so Tunbridge Wells seemed a good place to send him.

The sexual encounter in this chapter is based on an incident that happened to Agent Triple P in Rome in the nineteen eighties.  Triple P visited, with some colleagues, a lady businesswoman at her house for lunch one Friday (no work being done in most of Rome on Friday afternoons).  It being August and extremely hot we had been told to take our swimming things as the lady liked to ask her guests to join her in her plunge pool.  Agent Triple P, at twenty four, was very much the youngest guest there.  The head of our Italian office was in his sixties (he did not swim), our other colleagues from England were in their late fifties and the lady in question was in her early forties.  

After lunch, which was taken outside by the pool, she did encourage us all to join her in the water.  She removed her sun dress and then her bikini top and slipped straight in.  She had a fine, curvy figure and certainly didn't look her age.  We went inside her house to change and a very welcome twenty minutes was spent cooling off, as it was well over a hundred degrees.

We all got changed to leave soon after but Triple P could not find his watch which we must have dropped in the house inside.  She informed Triple P she would get in contact if she found it and that evening she contacted our hotel and informed Triple P that she had done so..  She suggested we come and pick it up the following morning (Saturday), which we did.  Events proceeded in very similar fashion to that related in this chapter from the bath to the joint masturbation session. We later discovered that she had had her maid remove Triple P's watch  from our pile of clothes while we were in the pool.  Unlike our hero in The Lust World, however, it was several days before we emerged, drained, from the clutches of this Italian water spider.

Chapter 4 “Every circus lion has a tamer!”: Chapter Notes

British Museum station as it was.  Note the distinctive white tiling.

This Post provides notes on Chapter 4 of The Lust World: A Sexual Odyssey, an erotic adventure story.

Molloy travels on the Central Underground line from his flat in Shepherd's Bush to Bloomsbury to visit Professor Challenor's house and alights at British Museum Station.  British Museum Station was opened in 1900 to serve the Central Line.  However, it was only 100 yards from Holborn station, which served what are now the Northern and Piccadilly Lines. To change lines you had to ascend to the surface, walk the hundred yards to the other station and descend again.

British Museum Station as it is today. The white tiles are clearly visible on the right. The platform has been removed (right) as is usual with disused London Underground stations

In 1933 British Museum station was closed and a Central Line platform was created at an expanded Holborn station making it, as it remains, the connection between the Central, Northern and Piccadilly lines. The building hosting British Museum station was demolished in 1989 but the station itself remains, underground.  You can glimpse it when travelling between Tottenham Court Road and Holborn stations on the Central Line.

The Challenors house is in Bloomsbury Square, one of the oldest squares in London, which contains a formal garden in the centre.  None of the original 17th century houses remain although there are some handsome eighteenth and nineteenth century ones.  It looks rather different today than it did in 1912 due to the construction of the large Victoria House office building, built for the Liverpool Victoria Friendly Society (today one of Britain's biggest insurance companies) on the eastern side of the square in the nineteen twenties.

Ammonites on the beach at Lyme Regis

Professor Challenor asks Molloy to identify some of the fossils in his display case.  Lyme Regis, which Molloy supposes is the source of the ammonite fossils, is a town on the south coast of England and is part of the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site, famous for its fossils.  It was along the cliffs at Lyme Regis that Mary Anning discovered. among other things, the first properly identified ichthyosaur fossil and the first fossil plesiosaurs.  Being a woman Anning never received the recognition she should have during her lifetime even though her work was important.  In 2010 the Royal Society named her as one of the ten most important British women in science.  Triple P has collected ammonite fossils himself from the beach at Lyme Regis where they, and other fossils, are regularly revealed by land slips.

The second fossil Molloy correctly identifies is the trilobite which he refers to as the "famous Dudley bug.”   The Trilobite (similar to the modern horseshoe crab) was a Silurian water dwelling arthropod.  Many of these were unearthed at limestone quarries in Dudley in the West Midlands from the eighteenth century onwards and the miners called them the Dudley bug.

The Dudley coat of arms with its trilobite (below the castle)

Today eighteenth and nineteenth century discovered examples from Dudley are very sought over by collectors because of their quality.  The town of Dudley even put a Dudley bug in the centre of their coat of arms.

Carcharadon Megalodon tooth

The fossil Molloy mis-identifies as an Iguanadon tooth is actually the tooth of Carcharadon Megalodon (named in 1843) a giant (fifty foot plus) prehistoric shark.  Although this will have made Challenor suspicious, he does not say anything at the time.

Camisole and drawers from around 1912

The incident with Molloy finding Mrs Challenor's draws on the floor after she and the professor have obviously been having sex was suggested when we went to visit an Italian lawyer in his legal studio in Rome.  When we were admitted to his office we found a young lady looking rather pink in the face while the lawyer sat behind his desk looking completely innocent.  It was then that I spotted a pair of silk knickers on the floor next to his desk.  The lady bent down, picked them up and stuffed them in her handbag before departing and giving Triple P a withering look on the way out.  It would have been rather more difficult to stuff a pair of early twentieth century drawers into a handbag!

The Redpath Museum at Mcgill University, Montreal

The pivotal character of Waring Blanc is a nod to Conan Doyle's Maple White.  We have always thought that Maple White was a very odd name.  White was an American but we wanted a Canadian to keep our Canadian readers happy.  Blanc attended McGill, Canada's finest university, in Montreal, as did our friend S.  She took me on a tour of her old haunts there once.  I clearly remember her saying things like:  "This was where I had lectures", "this is the library," "this was where my room was", "this was where I first took it up the ass" etc.

As a Canadian from Montreal we made his last name 'Blanc' and as Maples was a famous furniture company in Britain we took another famous furniture company, Waring & Gillow, and used the first part of the name as Blanc's first name. Maples and Waring & Gillow were both operating at the time of our story and they merged in 1962.

Compton Beach with Freshwater Bay (the dipped area at left) in the distance

Mrs Challenor admits to sunbathing naked under the cliffs near Freshwater Bay on the Isle of Wight, somewhere Triple P knows very well.  Just along the coast is Compton Beach, also mentioned in the story later on, which is another one of the best sites in Britain for fossils.  There are a number of dinosaur footprints in the rocks here and the first example of the carnivorous allosaurid, Neovenator, was discovered on adjoining Brightsone beach in 1978.  Like Lyme Regis, regular cliff falls make this a mecca for fossil hunters.