Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Chapter 13 “Good to see you in a place like this!”

Ferreira 1863 port

This chapter of The Lust World sets up Lord Hoxton's birthday party in Hampshire, which takes place the weekend before the expedition leaves for Brazil.  There is no equivalent in the original inspirational tale and from this point I diverge from that until we reach the plateau itself.  This enables me to indulge some of my other interests; one of which is English country houses and some of the Victorian erotic novels set in them, such as The Romance of Lust (1873).

All of this chapter is set in The Babylon Exploration Society, the inspiration for which I have already covered in a previous post.  Although this episode does not advance the main story very much it contains material whose content will become important in due course.  I have written a lot of chapters which take place before our explorers arrive in Amazonia and I was wondering whether to cut these out in favour of  a crisper narrative but I have enjoyed writing and researching them so you will get them whether you like them or not!

Lord Hoxton, Molloy and Britten drink a Ferreira port from 1863 which was the last great port vintage before the phylloxera beetle destroyed the roots of the vineyards in Portugal and just about everywhere else in Europe.   Phylloxera almost totally destroyed the wine trade in Europe and it was only by grafting vines onto American, phylloxera resistant roots that the wine industry was saved. ironically, as the beetle had come from American vines being imported into Europe in the first place.  I have never had a pre-phylloxera wine although I did once have an 1896 port at Oxford.

Molloy's embarrassment, horror and fascination mirrors mine when I first saw a friend of mine have sex with a woman in front of me in a hotel suite in Rome but that is a story for the CHronicles of Triple P in the future!  

Monday, 10 April 2017

Chapter 12: "Your mind is not engaged on the task in hand!"

The Palm Court at the Carlton Hotel, Pall Mall, London

Here are the Chapter Notes for The Lust World episode 12.

Marguerite Blanc stays at the Carlton Hotel, very much one of the top hotels in London at the time, where she meets Edmund Molloy in the Palm Court.  It opened in 1899, a dozen years before our story and was a part of a joint development which included rebuilding Her Majesty's Theatre on the adjoining site.  Designed by architect Charles Phipps (1835-1897) he died before it was completed.   The interior of the hotel was produced by Waring & Gillow, which company gives Waring Blanc his first name.

Phipps was a specialist in theatres and had designed many in London, including the Savoy Theatre in 1881, the first public building in the world to be entirely lit by electric light. The new Her Majesty's Theatre shared a facade with the Carlton Hotel on the Haymarket side, as can be seen in this elevation (theatre outlined at right).

Famous hotelier César Ritz and the world's top chef, Auguste Escoffier, had been employed by hotel owner and theatrical impresario Richard D'Oyly-Carte (who brought together composer Arthur Sullivan and lyricist W.S. Gilbert to produce a string of hit operettas at his Savoy theatre) at his Savoy Hotel.  

However, he sacked the pair in 1897 for 'financial irregularities' and they went off to set up the Ritz Hotel in Paris.  When they returned to London, they took over the lease of the new Carlton Hotel (named after nearby Carlton House, the former home of the Prince of Wales).

Carlton Hotel with Her Majesty's Theatre (belowthe right hand tower)

The hotel had 250 rooms and the suites had their own bathrooms which was very unusual at the time. Each room also had its own telephone.  Much to D'Oyly-Carte's fury the new hotel rapidly eclipsed The Savoy and poached many of its top clients, including the Prince of Wales.  Sweet revenge for Ritz and Escoffier.

New Zealand House (centre) on the site of the Carlton Hotel today, with the facade of Her Majesty's Theatre (centre right) just visible.

Sadly, the hotel had a short life.  It was badly damaged by bombs in 1940.  All the guest rooms were closed although the restaurant and bar remained open.  Much of the rest of the hotel was requisitioned by the government for offices.  It never did re-open and was sold to the government of New Zealand in 1949.  It was demolished in 1957 and the brutalist modern New Zealand House was built on the site, where it remains to this day.  However, Her Majesty's Theatre remains so you can still get a feeling for the splendour of the facade of the Carlton.

The manager of Her Majesty's Theatre was Herbert Beerbohm Tree (1852-1917) who employed the young artist's model turned actress Ethel Warwick, who Edmund thinks Marguerite looks rather like.  Ethel would no doubt have been very familiar with the Carlton Hotel and was no doubt entertained there by her theatrical friends.

The expedition's base of operations is the Euston Hotel, which was constructed adjoining Euston Station, the first intercity railway station built in London (in 1837).  From 1846 until 1922 it was owned and operated by the London and North-Western Railway, who ran the service up to Liverpool, which the expedition will have to take to reach their liner to Brazil.  The hotel was on Drummond  Street (now no longer there) and there was vehicular access actually through the arches of the hotel to the courtyard beyond,  which also housed the smaller Victoria Hotel.

Here is the other side of the hotel building with taxis coming through the hotel.  The railway station is behind the viewer in this shot.  

Sadly, unlike many of the other railway stations and hotels I have featured so far, the station, its iconic arch and the hotels were demolished in 1963 and replaced with a sixties monstrosity of such hideousness that it beggars belief and was called "one of the nastiest concrete boxes in London".  In fact, such was the outcry, that it led to the formation of the Victorian Society which spearheaded the preservation of buildings in Britain and led directly to nearby St Pancras station being saved from demolition in 1968.

Expensive prostitutes in London, who catered exclusively to rich clients, were, indeed, called 'toffers', as they serviced the 'toffs'.  These women were a long way from the street whores who would dispense "three-penny uprights" up against a wall in an alley or under a bridge. Traditionally, the higher class ones were found around Piccadilly, were often French and dressed in expensive, often white, dresses.  This splendidly turned out lady, from a slightly earlier period, is the high class French prostitute Alice Marot

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Chapter 11 “The more I think about it the more nonsensical it seems!”

This Post provides background notes on Chapter 11 of The Lust World: A Sexual Odyssey, our erotic adventure story set in 1912.  The picture used to illustrate this Chapter is one of the Strand, which Molloy walks along on his way from his office in Fleet Street (the other side of the church in this picture) to Professor Challenor's house.  This picture was taken about seven years before our story takes place, so gives a god idea of the bustle of the place.  The lack of straw boaters upon the men's heads puts it firmly in winter.  The Church you can see in the background, St Mary-le-Strand, was designed by James Gibbs with construction begun in 1714 at a cost £16,000. 

Today, very few of the buildings, other than the church itself, remain along this part of Strand and it is a very busy route in and out of the City financial district.

Molloy and Mrs Challenor enjoy a session of soixante-neuf in this episode.  It means sixty-nine, of course, in French and the first person known to have used the term for head to mouth mutual oral sex (you can see why it caught on, when trying to describe the position in another way!) was the writer and early French Revolution leader, Mlle. Théroigne de Méricourt.(1762-1817) in her Whore's Catechisms in the 1790's.   The term soon crossed the channel into Britain and sounded naughtier in French.

It is generally believed that oral sex was not nearly as common in the past (although how anyone can be sure is beyond me) but the first depiction of soixante-neuf we know of is on a first century BC Roman oil lamp.  This photograph, from the late nineteenth or early twentieth century is unusual in its depiction of the act.  Most erotica of the time showed intercourse.  Whether this reflects practice is unknown.  Given that cunnilingus is designed for female pleasure it could well be that sexual activity then was more male-centric.  Edmund Molloy, of course, enjoys giving pleasure as much as he receives it and Mrs Challenor lets him know what she wants anyway!

At their meeting Lord Hoxton suggests the use of gaberdine clothing and tents for the expedition.  Invented by Thomas Burberry in 1879, this waterproofed, close woven fabric was popular with anglers, hunters and exploreres.  Both Scott and Amundsen had gaberdine tents and wore gaberdine clothing in their race to the South Pole in 1911.  Later, explorer Percy Fawcett wore it on his expeditions to South America because of its thorn resistant nature.  Conan Doyle was inspired by Fawcett's story of a lost city in the Amazonian jungle to write The Lost World.

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.

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.