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.

Chapter 3 “You are like a Japanese woodcut come to life!”: Chapter Notes

A Favourite Custom by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1909)

This Post provides notes on Chapter 3 of The Lust World: A Sexual Odyssey, an erotic adventure story.

This Chapter takes place entirely within the Babylon Exploration Society which we discussed in our notes to Chapter 2.  The physical appearance and first name of Madame Nathalie are based on a French lady Triple P had a brief thing with about five years ago.  We met her in the Tate Gallery and struck up a conversation while looking at Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema's A Favourite Custom, an artist Triple P knows something about; giving him the opportunity to show off!  

The very bottle!

Inexplicably impressed, it was the lady who proposed a late lunch, which was fortuitous, as the Tate has quite the best restaurant of any gallery I have ever been to (and I have been to a lot).  It is most famous for its amazing wine list and I chose a bottle of Château Prieuré-Lichine 1995 which went down very well, especially with her, as she had expected an Englishman to order "some 'orrible New World wine".  At the time of our story the wine would have simply been called Château Prieuré; it only got its new name when it was bought by the Russian born wine writer Alexis Lichine in 1951.   I had Madame Nathalie come from Bordeaux as a nod to this vinous introduction and the connection with Rugby (it is the centre of the game in France).  Sadly, the difficulties (not to say the expense) of conducting an affair between London and Paris brought the episode to an end but we still see the lady when she visits London and we always have lunch at the Tate.  We know she is following our story and is amused to be a Madam.  "English men think all French women are prostitutes!" as she rather unfairly maintained.

Untitled by Chōbunsai Eishi (c. 1800)

A Favourite Custom was already on display at the Tate in 1912, the year our story is set, as it was presented to the gallery in 1909.  Even in 1909 it would have been considered rather tame but the pictures that surprise Molloy in the Babylon Exploration Society were examples of Japanese Shunga prints.  Before men's magazines in the seventies gave young men detailed photographs of women's genitalia there would have been no way for men to know what a woman looked like down there, unless he had seen some French postcards, which were not in wide circulation in Britain.  Hence ,Molloy's surprise at the graphic representation of sexual parts in the Shunga prints.

From Eight views of Omi by Utagawa Kuniyoshi (c. 1833)

We used Shunga prints, in particular, as erotic pictures on the wall of the salon in the Babylon Exploration Society, not just because of their graphic nature but also because of the the fact that Molloy's chosen girl was Japanese.  In addition, the courtesans of seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth century Japan (many of whom were illustrated in Shunga pictures) were as celebrated as their Parisian equivalents in the nineteenth century; both being treated like today's film actresses or pop stars.  The more innocent portraits of Japanese beauties, which Molloy recalls seeing in a London gallery, were very likely famous courtesans.

From The Poem of the Pillow by Kitagawa Utamaro (1788)

Some of the Shunga pictures featured brothels and their ladies as a sort of advertising device, others were pillow books, given to newly wed couples.  Unlike erotic art in the west this was produced by the very finest artists of the day.  Indeed, it was discovered in the west in 1878 when a Japanese imperial official, in Paris to supervise the Japanese pavillion at the 1878 Universal Exposition, showed the writer Edmund de Goncourt Utamaro's The Poem of the Pillow and Young Pine Shoots by Hokusai.

Summer from the Four Seasons by Tsukioka Settei (c. 1770)

Apart from the woodblock prints, which were widely distributed in town and country, the really wealthy could buy paintings, often done on silk and put on screens to display in the home.  There was no shame about sex in Japanese society with regular festivals venerating the phallus and competitions in temples, conducted in front of women, to see who could keep an erection longest.   Japanese homes had paper walls, so sex was rather open amongst the family and as they indulged in mixed bathing the naked body was not a source of shame either.  In fact one of the main reasons that the figures in Shunga paintings are usually clothed is that the naked body held little erotic charge for the Japanese.