Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Chapter 10 “Now you have completely ruined my plan by choosing to accompany him!”

Reggiori's Restaurant, King's Cross

This Post provides background notes on Chapter 10 of The Lust World: A Sexual Odyssey, our erotic adventure story set in 1912.

Sir Isaac Pitman

The opening of this chapter involves Mrs Challenor taking some Pitman's shorthand.  This was invented by Sir Isaac Pitman (1813-1897) in 1837 and is the most popular form of shorthand used in the UK.  It is getting increasingly difficult to find secretaries in Britain who can do shorthand.  I always made sure mine did, as I always found it better to dictate meeting notes and minutes than type them out.  The unusual dictating experience depicted in the story is based on an incident with one of my former personal assistants (she was a very personal assistant) many years ago when half way through an intimate session in a London hotel one lunchtime I realised that I needed to dictate a letter that day and I was not going back to the office.  My PA was, however, so she took shorthand notes in the manner depicted, in fits of giggles for most of the time.

Edith mentions that she attended Somerville Hall in Oxford.  In 1878 it was proposed to set up a women's college at Oxford but those suggesting the idea argued over whether it should be a specifically Church of England establishment.  As a result, the group split and Lady Margaret Hall was set up as an Anglican institution whereas, in 1879, Somerville Hall (named after the Scottish mathematician and proponent of women's suffrage and equality, Mary Somerville) was set up as somewhere open to all women.  Renamed Somerville College in 1894 (after Edith would have left), it only became possible for women students to matriculate to the university, and therefore gain a degree, in 1920. When Triple P went to Oxford in 1979 it was the first year that most colleges went mixed.  Three of the four women's colleges held out and Somerville (which was where Margaret Thatcher went) only took its first male students in 1994. When I was there I had some disreputable friends whose aim was to 'score the four' which meant sleeping with a student at each of the four women's colleges. However, this disgraceful target disappeared the year before I matriculated, as Lady Margaret Hall, the first women's college, also went mixed in 1979.  I would not have been involved in anything as demeaning and scurrilous, of course, although I did, in fact, score the three., coincidentally, of course.  Somerville had an entertaining rule that if the girls had male guests in their rooms after 6.00pm they had to put their mattresses in the corridor.  You can imaging how successful that was in stopping hanky-panky.  My girlfriend there had a nice thick sheepskin rug. 

Fleet Street at the time of our story

Edmund Molloy leaves the offices of The Courier to walk to the Charing Cross hotel, a distance of just under a mile.  Fleet Street, which saw its first printing activity in 1500, was the headquarters of most of Britain's major newspapers and periodicals for many years until 1986, which saw the beginning of an exodus to cheaper parts of London.  Today the only nespaper located there is the free daily, Metro, although the term 'Fleet Street' is still used in the UK to refer to the press.  Walking west, Fleet Street becomes The Strand, the location of the Charing Cross Hotel, near Trafalgar Square.

The Charing Cross Hotel, where Edmund meets Edna Somersby, which fronts Charing Cross station, was opened in 1865, just a year after the station itself.  The entrance to the hotel is on the left.  Triple P visits quite regularly as it a good place to have relaxed business meetings, in their pleasant bar on the first floor.

Today the hotel has lost its original French chateau style roof.  I took this photo from the churchyard of St Martin-in-the Fields just before Christmas. I took a girl there once for a night (at her suggestion) back in the late eighties.  However, once she got inside the room she admitted that she couldn't go through with anything sexual as a previous (much older) lover use to take her there and it reminded her of him too much.  Still, we had a nice dinner!

This chapter concludes in Reggiori's restaurant at 1 and 3 Euston Road, in King's Cross, a short walk from the Great Northern Hotel, where Edith and Edmund are conducting their affair.   The rather splendid restaurant, with its tiled, mirrored walls and mosaic floors, was owned by Swiss-Italian brothers Pietro and Luigi Reggiori,  The food they served was solidly British, rather than Italian, with a table d'hote meal costing about three shillings at the time. You can see Reggiori's at the left of this 1904 picture, with two entrances off the street, either side of A.Baker.  The Great Northern Hotel is invisible but is off to the right across the Euston Road, with the Gothic magnificence of St Pancras railway station in the background.

The restaurant opened in the 1880s and survived into the 1960s.  In 1897 the enterprising Reggiori brothers, catering to the new trend of supper followed by a trip to the theatre, bought a small neighbouring theatre so they could make money from their customers through the whole evening.  The restaurant was a favourite of novelist Edgar Wallace, whose book Sanders of the River was published in 1911, a year before our story takes place.

The one story building, somewhat altered, is still there today with not much else having changed in this recent photograph.  1 and 3 Euston Road are now a gaming arcade and a solicitor's office.