Secrets and Lies

Langley Bradley – clockmaker

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Langley Bradley was a clockmaker born in 1663. At the age of 23 he was apprenticed to Joseph Wise, and after being freed in 1694, he worked in Fenchurch Street at the Minute Dial. In 1720 he was appointed Assistant of the Clockmakers company and was master in1726. From 1748 he was working as a clockmaker in Mile End.  Best know for the commission from Sir Christopher Wren in 1707 for the clock for St Pauls which was criticised by a government commission led by  Sir Isaac Newton, whose own clockmaker won the right to replace the Bradley piece.

However, despite this set back Bradley’s career did not suffer too badly. Wren tried to get him appointed as official clockmaker to Queen Anne, but the Lord Chamberlain’s office blocked the appointment. So when this failed Wren helped the clockmaker win the commission for the new clock at Hampton court.

My interest in Bradley Langley results from a visit to London. We do the Open London weekend and last year visited the Old Admiralty building. And there we found “Langers”. It’s a grandfather clock,  which was made in 1697 and came  from the offices of the Navy Board. Stately as all clocks should be, this time piece has witnessed a lot of history – wars declared, ships lost and careers made and destroyed. Obviously, as the Old Admiralty building is a secure area, we were unable to take a photograph of the piece. However trawling the net to help with my description of the cabinet’s HQ (for book 3) I found this picture of the table. And there – lurking in the background is the Langley Bradley. Gorgeous, isn’t he?

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Dear Future Godchild

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Dear Future Godchild,

I was pleased to make your acquaintance today when your Mum sent a picture of your 12 week scan. I look forward to meeting you properly later this year and getting to know you over the years.

Today, I would like to promise you several things. Firstly I would like to promise you my love. You have that unconditionally and for as long as I am on this planet with you.

I promise you that I will do my utmost to be as good a godparent to you as my Mum and Dad have been to my god-brother Anthony, his wife Kate and their son Vaughn. You see the responsibility your Mum is giving me (whether she has you christened or not) doesn’t end with you. I will remember  birthdays, Christmas, Easter (and a couple of un-birthdays in between);  laugh with you; wish you good luck; fight in your corner …and be a shoulder for you to cry on.

I promise you that I will do my best to help you identify and deal with injustice, intolerance and inequality. I hope I will enable you to deal with each of these thing appropriately and where possible with humour. I also hope that while I teach you the ways in which  the pen is mightier than the sword, that I will also help you  know that there are times when you need to stand up and be counted. That sometimes you will need to throw stones at dictators and man the barricades and say: “Not in my Name.”

Whilst I will rely on your Uncle Ollie to teach you the finer points of baking and the right way to complain to big business: know now, that I will see to it that you understand the importance of watching Doctor Who from behind the Sofa. You will affirm that Tom Baker is the greatest of all the Doctors and the Brigadier the greatest of all companions.

I hope I will give you a love of reading and history. I aim to give you a love of learning that will last you throughout your life. And I promise you that you will be able to wield a sword with the best of them and know truly why the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.

Above all, I will be in your corner, from the moment you breathe your first to the moment I breath my last.

Annual Wash your Toy Dog Day – Day 2

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It’s a long process – drip drying.

 

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Annual wash your Cuddly Toy Dog Day

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In our house, it’s annual wash your cuddly toy dog day. The toy dog in question is Lankey. He’s 45. Some would say we should let it be. He’s made of fabric; his ears need changing. And despite a restuffing earlier in the year, another one is required – post haste.

This is why he needed a wash

DSCN0018Dirty… wasn’t he?

We couldn’t “LET IT BE.”

Action was required. A brief dip in soapy water, a couple of rinses.

Then drip dry time. Up on a high shelf and – as you can see – we wait.

 

 

He may be drip-drying some time…

 

Lucy’s Admiral

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To coincide with the publication of the 1949 Affair, The History they Tried To Suppress has asked me to reblog an entry from Mark Birch’s blog – Modern Day Pepys – in the hopes that if it’s here, it will be visible to all. (It doesn’t show up on his blog – unless you access it from their offices apparently). So here goes…

From Mark Birch: Modern Day Pepys

Thoughts on Lucy’s Admiral…

Don’t get me wrong, Lucy’s my mate. We’ve known each other since the first day of primary school and I’ve really despaired at the way all the so called popular kids have picked on her over the years. They call her geeky. In my book that’s jealous for clever so and so who gets good marks and does her homework. Well what’s wrong with that? Luce was always confident that the only way you got off Canvey and stayed off was by getting good grades, going to college and all that stuff. That of course was before that day trip to Southend Pier!

Now we’re off Canvey for good! And although I ain’t said nuffin’ to Luce, I’m pretty sure we aren’t ever going to get back to our world. Well in our reality: Lloyd George died in a carriage accident in 1909. In the world we’ve ended up in, he became the Great War Prime  Minister and key force at Versailles in 1919. So I’m pretty much guessing that even if we could get back to Southend and 2013 – it sure ain’t going to be the one we left. No surree bob as my grannie used to say! Still I’m not sure that’s a bad thing!

This time travel lark’s altered us too. There’s me – hob nobbing with politicians, and spies and the likes – getting beaten up like I’m some kind of young James Bond or that Biggles bloke and you’ve got to admit, even with the black eyes – being a real life adventurer’s got to beat being 18 and doing a college course. And then  there’s her – gone from geeky to gorgeous faster than you can say – Aldwych Strand.

I know what you’re going to say: I’m jealous. No I’m not. Nor do I fancy her. Luce is my mate.

But I’d be lying if I said I liked  all this attention she’s getting: and from all these “players”.  Lloyd George, Marconi, Walter Nicolai. Least they was respecting her. This admiral? This Valentin bloke? He’s like an octopus. Or at least he would be if he touched her. And he don’t; which if you asks me is weird. Oh it’s not he don’t touch her: he don’t touch anyone! Not without his gloves on.  But  what I don’t like is the way his eyes follow her around a room. And he stands just close enough to let the whole world know she’s his. Of course she’s too naive to see what he’s up to. She’s says he’s just being kind and an … avuncular.

Oh Luce get a grip!

This bloke sure ain’t no Hercule Poirot.

He’s hiding something and it’s going to all end in tears one of these days – you mark my words.

Why do I say that? Simple.  There’s more to this admiral of hers than meets the eye. Apart from being a murdering, lying scumbag nazi? O heck yes. She can’t see it though. I can. I’ve seen his handy work at first hand. I’ve seen him kill.

But what I really don’t like it the way this guy  knows too much – about her, me; our world (the one we’ve come from, I mean). He knows about things a bloke from the early twentieth century shouldn’t. And every time you asks him to do something – to help out; he says it’s more than his job’s worth. There’s also the way he commands a room. Now I’ve watched Hitler on those film clips, and I’ve seen how he can hold a crowd in the palm of his hand. But this Valentin bloke. He really knows what power is. Like he’s ruled the world or something.

Still no doubt it’ll all sort itself out. When we leave 1949 and head off for our next adventure. He’ll just be a memory, and time will have returned to normal. Because if it doesn’t…

 

 

Character Profile: Mordecai Gold

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Meet another player in the Symington Byrd mysteries: Mordecai Gold, a man who “dances on the edge of the criminal world.”

Mordy (as he is known to his friends) runs a jewelers -come- pawnbrokers. He is a hard nosed businessman, with an eye for a bargain.

But I didn’t want him to be the stereotypical Jew of literature. When Walter Scott created Isaac of York he made him an extreme – the complete antithesis of his beautiful daughter Rebecca; while both George Du Maurier and Dickens created wholly evil criminal masterminds – who looked and acted in an immediately identifiable caricature.

There’s far more to Mordy than that. Tall, white haired – grandfatherly – this is a man who will admit to being 50 but not a day older. Having escaped the pogroms of Eastern Europe, Mordy  made his home in Whitechapel. Using his connections Mordy has built up a reputation as an honest criminal.  He is the soul of discretion  who (trusted by the highest born and the lowliest of beggars)  will ensure the best deal is achieved for all (though obviously the house will always win). But you cross him at your peril. Fail to keep your word and retribution is swift.

A man who always has sweets in his pockets, Mordy is at the centre of his community: respected, loved and feared in equal measure

When he first encounters Emily, the lonely little girl who spends at least ten minutes of her walk home from school staring into his shop window, Mordy sees an outsider – just like himself: a mystery inside an enigma. After her father’s death, when her mother brings trinkets to pawn to pay for the funeral, Mordy finds himself  being wrapped around the finger of a 7 year old girl who has wisdom beyond her years and an innate ability to identify rough diamonds. Intrigued  and sensing there is more to Emily and her mother than meets the eye, Mordy makes her mother  an offer  that will ensure that as Emily grows up she becomes the Pawnbroker’s apprentice.

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Enter the “Gentleman” Detective

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Crime Fiction would be lost without the detective, whether it be the hard-nosed kind found in American crime novels – like Mike Hammer and Philip Marlowe, or their British counterparts – Sherlock Holmes, Lord Peter Whimsey  and Hercule Poirot.

European fiction tends to  favour a gentleman detective; who comes from the educated classes; is at home in a world that we like to think existed  in the years prior to the Great War and ended just after the Second World War, and who has an unusual (if not downright eccentric) manner. They are gentleman if not by birth, certainly in the way they behave; and they are members of what the Georgian world called the Ton (the top 100 families). Their detecting takes place in a cozy world – known as the locked room; their suspects are all flawed and ( for the Marxist among you) degenerate representatives of a dying and parasitic class. Not only does the detective battle against a closed society; they also clash with the professional police who are presented as dim witted, lower class fools. This is apparently a backlash against the bungled investigation into the Ripper Murders of 1888, and the popular misconception that the police were incapable of detecting crime because they were not intelligent or educated enough.

Each detective is accompanied by a companion – usually male – who acts as a sounding board. They are not always from the same social class, but their skills complement or even augment the central character.

Bizarrely the first Gentleman detective was not British – but French – and created by an American, albeit an anglophile. This detective was Edgar Allen Poe’s  C. Auguste Dupin. Making his appearance in 1841, in the Murders in the Rue Morgue (the first of three cases) Dupin was not an immediate  success and underwent quite a few changes in his  modus operandi.  But he was a Chevalier in the Legion D’honneur, and he was obsessed with collecting books. He started out as an amateur detective who would visit the crime scene and take an active part in the investigation – but only when called upon by the authorities. In book two, he had become introverted rarely leaving his rooms – the epitome of the armchair detective, and only after appalling reviews (for this second book – The Mystery of Marie Roget -1842) did Poe make the changes allowing Dupin to become what readers would now recognise as the gentleman detective (The Purloined letter (1844).

Intriguingly, Poe did not believe his character to be successful and moved away from crime fiction. Yet, Poe’s initial concept blossomed in English literature. The first English Amateur detective (Franklin Blake) appeared in 1866 – in what aficionados of this genre regard as the first English Crime Story – The Moonstone. He was followed by a character whose name is synonymous with crime fiction: Sherlock Holmes. And should you care to compare Dupin and Holmes closely, you will see why it is possible to argue that Doyle did not create his detective, he simply lifted him from Paris and planted him in London. In temperament, intelligence and bravery he is the equal if not the mirror image of Dupin.

After that the floodgates open: Wimsey, Campion, Alleyn, Poirot and Marple (from the Golden Age); with Dalgleish, Lynley, Makepeace (of Dempsy and Makepeace fame) Jonathon Creek and even -possibly – Professor Layton representing the modern era.

Until Marple –  society would have us believe that women detectives were conspicuous by their absence,  and yet, the first female detective, Mrs Gladden,  appeared in 1864 some 23 years before Holmes. In many respects her techniques are those of Holmes. She is an active detective: visiting the crime scene, using disguise to protect herself from discovery by the criminal classes, as well as treating the police with the correct level of disdain.

Given the public’s insatiable appetite for the detective it is probably that had she been male her fame would have been equal to (if not greater than that of Holmes). But female detectives – while not isolated –  were not the staple of popular fiction.

Why?

According to Dorothy L Sayers it is because they are so “irritatingly intuitive as to destroy that quiet enjoyment of the logical which we look for in our detective reading.” Sayer’s  main complaint, however, is that the female detective “tends to be too young, too beautiful and too interested in marriage.” In addition, her “propensity” to “walk” into “dangerous situations”  interrupts the male ability to “solve crimes.”  She may have a point: until Marple – female detectives were 40 or younger. Mrs Paschell who works for Colonel Warner is 40 and in need of  a job; Hilda Serene is 25, while Kate Goelet is only 23.

Perhaps another reason for the failure of the female detective is the fact that they were all created by male writers. Indeed, it was not until 1897 that Amelia Butterworth was created by Anna Katharine Green.

The development of the proto feminist movement of the 1890’s, with its focus on the idea that women could be financially independent of men, allowed more female detectives to come to the fore. Dora Myrl, the Lady Detective (1900) is the daughter of a Cambridge Don; Joan Mar, Detective (1910) created by  Marie Connor Leighton is the first female for whom marriage is not a consideration. However,  even at this time, these female detectives were expected to conform to the stereotype. Indeed Molly Kingsley in  Hazel Campbell’s Olga Knaresbrook, Detective (1933) eschews the life of the detective upon marriage.

And so to Miss Marple – who first appeared in 1930 – a woman who remained 65 for the fifty years she appeared in print. Returning to Sayer’s condemnation of the female detective ( intriguingly forgotten when she came to write about Harriet Vane), it is possible to argue that Miss Marple’s success resulted not from her age, but from the fact that she while she had a phenomenal intelligence, it came from the observation of the world around her – in a homespun, almost absent minded way.