Through Cheltenham’s Looking Glass?

Alice's Cheltenham Mirror

Alice’s Cheltenham Mirror

A small item in yesterday’s Daily Telegraph caught my eye, and interest. It referred to the fact that a mirror, located at Hetton Lawn in Charlton Kings, Cheltenham, has been put up for sale for £1 million, together with house in which it is located. What makes this large parlour mirror special, is that it is most likely the inspiration for Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll)’s famous children’s story of ‘Alice Through the Looking Glass’. The house was owned by a relative of Alice Liddell, the inspiration for the literary Alice, who visited regularly, including coincidentally on at least one occasion, with Charles, a friend of her father’s.

Aliceroom3

Charles Dodgson is also, coincidentally again, a very distant relative of mine (nephew of husband of 1st cousin 1x removed of husband of 17th cousin 1x removed) and a slightly closer relation of Alice Elgar who lived here at Hanover House (www.hanoverhouse.org) in Cheltenham (nephew of wife of 2nd cousin, 1x removed)!

In David Elder’s excellent ‘Literary Cheltenham’, he published extracts from the correspondence, memoirs or writings of famous literary figures concerning Cheltenham. That written as a diary entry for 4 April 1863 (at about the time Alice Elgar lived at 4 York Terrace, Cheltenham) by Charles Dodgson, referred to his visit to Alice and her relatives as follows: ‘Reached Cheltenham by 11.30am. I found Alice waiting with Miss Prickett (her governess) at the station, and walked with them to Charlton Kings…. In the afternoon we went a large party in the carriage up to Birdlip, where Ina, Alice and Miss Prickett got out, and walked back with me over Leckhampton Hill. Except for the high wind, the day could hardly have been better for the view.’  These same views can be seen today (with the exception of the M5) from Crickley Country Park, which encompasses Leckhampton Hill, and provides fantastic views on a clear day down to Gloucester Cathedral, and on to the Malverns, Black Mountains and Brecon Beacons.

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Online Booking – Help or Hindrance?

Hanover House B&B (www.hanoverhouse.org) in the last couple of years has adopted three online booking systems, one is provided by Queensborough Group and is known as ‘Q-Book’ and provides the backbone of online booking on the Hanover House website, and the others are the perhaps better-known LateRooms and Booking.com. Whereas the latter now interfaces with Q-Book, LateRooms has been dragging its feet in completing an interface, thus preventing the automatic update of the Q-Book availability matrix connected to our website. We are also in the process of arranging – on a trial basis as far as we are concerned – to have TripAdvisor link directly into Q-Book.

From the perspective of individuals checking availability and making bookings, the system has the advantages of being relatively quick and easy and avoids the requirement to get involved in lengthy telephone or email exchanges. However from the point of view of the accommodation provider it can potentially be a nightmare as we have to effectively operate several booking systems simultaneously with the increased potential for double-booking.

To explain: prospective guests can find us in a number of ways, a web browser like Google or Yahoo, through individual websites such as Alastair Sawday, Good Hotel Guide, Trip Advisor, Lonely Planet, Michelin, Fodors, Cotswoldsinfo etc, etc.; through the various hardcopy publications published by the previously mentioned websites, via Channel 4 ‘Three in a Bed’ or ‘Country House Rescue’ exposure; or through recommendations from previous guests, friends and family. Some of the accommodation requests will therefore come by telephone or email, so we can discuss exact requirements and assess whether our style of B&B would suit their needs – occasionally they won’t because of physical disablities and our preponderance of stairs, or our limitation on animals or young children, or because sometimes visitors want all mod cons such as flatscreen TVs in their rooms.

Online booking systems however bypass the personal touch and we will receive guests blindly and hope that they have looked at our website and video, read about the limitations, and that what they see fits their perceived requirements. The other problems are that until Q-Book and LateRooms are ‘joined-up’ there is a gap when a booking is taken and all systems including the manual ‘bookings book’ have to be updated to ensure that availability is adjusted to prevent double-booking. This can be time consuming and prone to error allowing the possibility of a double-booking with embarrassing consequences and a potentially dissatisfied customer. Therefore a lot more time, checking and cross-checking is required. The worst part is that commission is high – 15% + VAT on top of that, bringing the total taken by the online booking agents to nearly 20%, a significant ‘hit’ – especially when one tortures oneself with the thought that those vacancies might have been taken up by a straight caller or emailer, with no commission to pay!

The downside has of course to be weighed-up against the up. With the significantly increased exposure, we could get a lot more bookings, particularly during traditionally quiet periods, and when the booking is made, we automatically get all the guest’s details including their payment card details, invaluable in the unlikely event of a ‘no-show’ or other problem where payment might have to be extracted.

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Good Street Grammar

Good news that Cambridge – that cradle of Academia (well, not quite, as Oxford came before it) – has gone back on its avowed intent to remove the apostrophes from road signs.  This was an intention, in line with some other councils around the country, ostensibly to ‘save money’, although how much by removing one digit on a road sign is debatable.

Old St George

Old St George’s Road Sign

I have long been of the opinion that dumbing down of the English language on road signs is just another step in the downward spiral of our ever more illiterate society. Our own road in Cheltenham is just such an example. At the Promenade end (the older end) of the road, the original street sign up on the wall of the building on the corner, correctly portrays the road’s title as ‘St George’s Road’. However moving along it into the newer areas, i..e. near Western Road opposite the turn down to Waitrose, the road name now miserably displays itself as ‘St Georges Road’, meaning technically that as a bastardized version of St George it is no longer the road of St George but is actually incorrectly called ‘St Georges’. Round the corner from St George’s Road are St James’ Square and St James’ Road, which according to the street signs do not belong to St James either. Of course in this case as James ends in ‘s’ anyway, the apostrophe follows the ‘s’ standing in for the slightly more cumbersome James’s.

St George's Road Sign without Apostrophe

St George’s Road Sign without Apostrophe

 The Cheltenham Flyer departing St James' Square Cheltenham

The Cheltenham Flyer departing St James’ Square Cheltenham

Alfred, Lord Tennyson lived for five years in St James’ Square and the main Cheltenham Spa terminus of the Great Western Railway was sited there at the St James’ Square until Beeching cut it in 1965. If Alfred, Lord Tennyson had had his comma removed his peerage would have been absorbed into his name and would have been quite incorrect. I expect that if he, as a man of great letters and exponent of the English language, knew what sacrilege had been committed to English in the environs of his former home, turning in Westminster Abbeys grave, allocated to him, might be forgiven!

St James' without Apostrophe

St James’ without Apostrophe

With these policies in place, where at the very least public signs should be setting a good example to the populace, how can children learn good grammar – including the importance of the sense of sentences by the correct use of punctuation – if the everyday signs they see around them are technically incorrect?

St James' and St George's with Apostrophes

St James’ and St George’s with Apostrophes
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Rodin’s Kiss Hello to Cheltenham

The Week's Kiss

The Week’s Kiss

As blogged once before, Auguste Rodin, who had scandalized European critics with some of his risqué sculptures, came and stayed in Cheltenham when the German army invaded his homeland in 1914. His sculpture The Kiss had been exhibited and had then found a home in the Cheltenham Museum and Art Gallery for about 30 years, after the town offered to pay its transport costs, following its exhibition in Paris when it had shocked the art establishment, following which the major established galleries throughout Europe had not dared to exhibit it.

The Kiss 1901-4 by Auguste Rodin 1840-1917

The Kiss

Tastes changed and sensibilities were blunted and eventually Rodin’s brilliant, although slightly erotic, sculpture was recognised for what it was, a masterpiece, and offered a home in London at Tate Britain, to where it moved in the late 1930s. However in this centenary of both the start of World War I and Rodin’s visit to Cheltenham, The Kiss is back in the town for 6 months from late February until August, where hopefully it will prove to be a great draw. It has been on tour for some time and was in Edinburgh in the National Gallery of Scotland for the year preceding its journey to Cheltenham.

The Hanover House 'Kiss'

The Hanover House ‘Kiss’

Coincidentally, I had pre-empted the return of The Kiss to Cheltenham, by asking for a scaled down version as a significant birthday present from Veronica a few years ago, even before I knew there was a Cheltenham connection. I have always been an admirer, both of the human form but also of Auguste Rodin’s sculptures, and so was delighted when I received a bronze copy of The Kiss on the appointed day, and which has had pride of place on the dining room sideboard ever since.

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AA Gill’s Cheltenham

After a longish gap – for all sorts of reasons – I have now resumed the Hanover House B&B (www.hanoverhouse.org) blog again. Inspiration came from last week’s Sunday Times Culture section where AA Gill, while providing a biting and possibly pithy critique of Michael Palin’s ‘Michael Palin in Wyeth’s World’ (an examination on BBC2 of the technically brilliant but relatively little-known artist Andrew Wyeth, who’s unpopularity – not explored by Palin – was apparently partly due to his right-wing Germanicism at a time when portraits of old soldiers in storm trooper’s helmets didn’t go down well with American art critics).

I don’t know if Gill has ever actually been to Cheltenham, or if he has, clearly not when it’s been at it’s most vibrant; but his comments in his Sunday Times article seemed to imply that the town is a bland, rather boring metropolis, which it certainly is not! It is undeniably a predominantly middle-class town with a very high standard of amenities, shops, restaurants and activities, as well as being extremely attractive, but hardly deserves AA Gill’s comparison with the apparently uncritical Palin programme on Wyeth. I quote Gill’s comments verbatim for your own interpretation: ‘Palin’s stock in trade is to be a folksy Candide. He sees the best in everyone and everything, putting on the faux motley of a knowing simpleton, a holy fool asking simple, foolish questions and getting foolishly simple answers in return, leaving behind him the warm miasma of a hospitably well-fed fart. It is unquestionably attractive TV, but it also makes everywhere and everything look, feel and sound like Cheltenham.

I would be most happy for AA Gill to come and stay here during one of our many interesting and vibrant episodes during the year, e.g. during a Jazz, Literature or Racing festival, from where he could see a top class pre or post West End play at the Everyman, experience a world class concert by e.g. the LSO, Hallé, CBSO or Bournemouth Symphony Orchestras, visit the packed festival venues, drink coffee on the pavement of the Montpellier district (likened by some as the West Country’s Paris) or dine in a nearby 2 Star Michelin restaurant. A short stroll would take him to the newly revamped and re-opened Art Gallery and Museum (once housing Rodin’s The Kiss) or to the Racecourse station to catch a steam train up through the scenic Cotswolds. But he might find us too boring…!

Another reference to Cheltenham in recent days in the press, was an article I saw in the Daily Telegraph, commenting on the amount of money expended by the MOD on military families and civil servants’ children’s boarding school fees. Although the total runs into millions of pounds, it is a subject I feel strongly about having myself been on the receiving end for some years while serving in the Army. If the nation expects it’s soldiers to serve abroad where educational facilities aren’t always great, and have to move regularly, to enable educational continuity for their children, boarding is often by far the best solution and funding support for it is the very least that these public servants and soldiers can expect. What was not mentioned, was that the boarding school allowance only covers a small proportion of the total costs, and that most soldiers and MOD civil servants serving abroad are not paid huge sums. Like anyone else in civilian life, they have to make great sacrifices to get their children a good education – without even considering the often emotional pressures of extended separations. In this particular newspaper article, Cheltenham Ladies’ College was mentioned as one of the establishments that these ‘priveleged’ MOD staff could send their children, but I can only wish the best of luck to a serviceman or woman who can afford the huge fees due on top of the boarding school allowance to get their child the best possible education available.

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To Deal or Not to Deal on eBay – that is a Question!

I’ve recently completed a long and arduous process of trying to get compensation from an eBay deal that went wrong through the Small Claims Court system. I could wax lyrical for pages on the subjects of the difficulties, vagaries and risks of the Small Claims system, related mediation, and also on the underhand behaviour of certain ‘seller’s on eBay as well as on the behaviour of eBay itself in helping to procure justice. But I won’t – I will merely make some comments on each of those aspects.

First, if the seller or dealer is not totally legitimate or ethical and takes steps to disrupt any come-back or attempt to get fair reparation, any dispute can take a very long time to resolve. The longer it goes on the more expensive and dispiriting it becomes and more likely to fail or collapse, unless you persist. Persistence is something that can also split families when after yet another setback in the process, one party urges giving up to save on any further stress and financial loss. However, if you have a clear idea that you have right on your side, it is almost a duty to pursue a claim, if only to prevent the cheat or more devious person from getting away with an effectively immoral if not illegal act – merely through a lack of will of the injured party. Persistence is the key to success.

I have recently experienced just such a process that took 18 months, 2 court hearings, 2 attempts at mediation and a lot of time, research, preparation of documentation, detective work, outside assistance, stress and heart-searching and travel to achieve. Fortunately in my case it paid off, but in many cases, if there is any gap in the case brought by the complainant or perhaps a lack of confidence or loquacity.

eBay is a medium through which millions of transactions are made daily. The majority of sales these days are made by dealers or companies, fewer by individuals genuinely selling off personal possessions or family items. It would seem that some dealers advertise themselves as private sellers and not dealers, making out that their objects for sale are more likely to be genuine or a bargain. eBay, despite the volume of sales of some of these people do not seem to check on their sellers and ensure that they are properly described. eBay also operates a rigid disputes system with a strict time limit in which returns can be made. To some this may seem generous, but sometimes major flaws or cases of mis-selling may not come to light until after this period has expired – currently 45 days – after which eBay will give no assistance and can actually be obstructive, in that they will not supply sellers name or contact details, which are sometimes disguised by only the eBay seller nickname.

This is what happened in my case, an item I purchased in good faith turned out not to be what was advertised, with a massive difference in offer and actual values. It wasn’t picked up until I had the item examined in detail some time after delivery. Following blocking of all potential contact by the seller, I managed, with difficulty, through various means, to obtain their name and address. They were not prepared to discuss the sale and so on getting a professional valuation of the item and advice from Trading Standards I proceeded to apply for reparation through the Small Claims court. The seller, who had sold items on eBay running into many hundreds, including very similar items to the one I’d bought, supposedly as a one-off family possession, disputed the claim.

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Soccer Connections

I played soccer at my Grammar School in Leiston in Suffolk in the First XI for about 4 years, during which, being a very small school with only about a total of 70 boys in total, we lost most of our matches with other much larger schools such as Beccles, Bungay and Lowestoft Grammar Schools, Framlingham School and the Royal Naval School at Holbrook near Ipswich by scores in the double figures – but still we persisted.

LGS 1st XI Soccer 1968

Leiston Grammar School 1st XI in 1968

I haven’t seriously supported a professional soccer team since my school days, though while living in Suffolk, I did give allegiance to the local team (Ipswich Town), who swung from the old Second to the old First Divisions regularly, as they were a provincial team with a small, but mostly home-bred talent pool. Then Alf Ramsay took over as manager and everything changed – within a few years they were First Division and FA Cup champions as well as taking the Fairs (European Cities) cup. I watched them occasionally play Chelsea, a Second Division rival in those days, and local rivals Norwich (Canaries) and while serving in Rheindahlen in Germany, went to Cologne to see the second leg of the Fairs Cup Final in which they drew with FC Koln, enough to secure them the cup. Alf Ramsay went on to manage England and win the World Cup in 1966, watched avidly by my best friend Justin North and myself on my parents’ black and white TV above the Ship Inn, Dunwich bar. Alf Ramsay had been followed at Ipswich by Bobby Robson, who also took Ipswich to the top of the First Division before following Alf to the England managership.

However my interest waned to some extent, particularly after Ipswich sold all their talent and drifted down through the rankings. Then in 1983, I had returned from Germany to attend a Masters Course at the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology (UMIST) in Manchester and one day, with some RAF and Army friends attended a Manchester United v Liverpool match at Old Trafford. In the days before all-seater stadiums, the majority of the crowd stood and this was no exception with an attendance of about 90,000 – more people than in the entire British Army of the Rhine at that time. We stood in a stand behind one of the goals and the crush was so great that literally, when the crowd swayed to watch a corner taken or some play in the extremities, we were carried along in a crushed wave, our feet off the ground. I could well understand the crush problems if there had been an emergency such as at Middlesborough or Heisel. The atmosphere was electric and the language blue – miraculously faint when shown on Match of the Day on TV. The game ended in a draw, but quite an experience.

Later during my military career, while serving in Antwerp in Belgium, my Army Married Officer’s Quarter (MOQ) sat in a cul-de-sac in the pretty little Flemish town of Lier, with the Lier football stadium at the end of the road. Lier were a Belgian First Division team but attracted little interest until Nottingham Forest with Brian Clough in charge came to play them. The match was first class and in the Belgian stadium there was none of the rowdiness usual in England and many family groups attended. No bad language and the crowd ate burgers and drank beer during half time while cheer leaders and bands marched around the stadium rather like an American baseball or football match. Afterwards in the evening, Brian Clough and the players were entertained by our Sergeant’s Mess and had a good boozy evening, with our fearsome huge Regimental Sergeant Major, Jock Black, in the chair, who had played in goal for the Army team and had suffered a back injury at some point as a result. The Senior NCOs were soccer fans to a man, but the officers were mostly rugby supporters and players so it was appropriate that the Sergeant’s Mess did the entertaining.

These personal links aside I was driven to write this blog for two reasons, again because of, to me, interesting links. The first, which stimulated these words was an article on ‘Alumni in the Spotlight’ in the latest copy of the Manchester University Alumni magazine ‘Your Manchester’ in which an MU (not Man Utd) graduate Matt Smith was highlighted. Now a striker for Leeds United, Matt graduated with a BSc International Management with American Business Studies degree in 2011, commenting on particular on his two goals on 28 January this year that knocked Liverpool out of the FA Cup. What really attracted my attention however was that he had been brought on while playing in Cheltenham Town’s Academy before being talent spotted and moving to Manchester New Mills before signing for Oldham Athletic.

Matt Smith - MU and Leeds

Matt Smith – MU and Leeds

Finally, we have a family connection with the international history of soccer in that Veronica has a 2nd cousin, Herbert Kilpin, who in 1899 while working in Italy and playing as probably the first English International Player to play on the Continent, was the founder of AC Milan and is honoured in the AC Milan museum.

Herbert Kilpin was a keen footballer and played in defence and midfield for Notts Olympic in Nottingham as an amateur, where he was born in 1870. In 1891, Kilpin, a lace-maker, moved to Turin to work for Edoardo Bosio, an Italian-Swiss textile merchant with links to Nottingham lace manufacturer Thomas Adams. In the same year Bosio founded Internazionale Torino, believed to be the first Italian football club and Herbert became part of the team, in fact, he became the first-ever Englishman to play football abroad. In 1897 he travelled to Milan, where in 1899 after a drinking session in a Milanese tavern,  the Fiaschetteria Toscana, lace-maker Herbert Kilpin and five other Englishmen who missed their cricket, founded the Milan Football and Cricket Club which became AC Milan.

Herbert Kilpin became Milan’s first coach and captain, as well as the team’s star player. In the city he’s celebrated as the ‘first true Milanista champion.’ He even designed the team’s kit and is quoted as having said “We are a team of devils. Our colours are red as fire and black to invoke fear in our opponents!” The strip has now been worn by world soccer superstars like Ronaldhino, Shevchenko, Kaká and David Beckham. With Herbert at its heart the football team won their first league title in only their second season (1901).

He was actually a portly figure who played in every position and probably wouldn’t have been a top English player. However, Italian football was in its infancy and pioneers like Herbert became heroes. Amusingly, according to John Foot, in his book ‘Calcio, A History of Italian Football’, Herbert was famed for his drinking and even kept a bottle of whisky in a hole behind the goal. He claimed this was to soften the blow when the opposition scored. Despite his love of a drink, Herbert led Milan to a further two championships in 1906 and 1907. He died in 1916 and was buried in a part of the cemetery reserved for Protestants. In 1999, AC Milan paid for a new tombstone and their illustrious founder and superstar, was reburied in the Monumental Graveyard in Milan.

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A London Interlude

Having had a busy summer season so far in Cheltenham at Hanover House (www.hanoverhouse.org), we had planned a short break in London to coincide with a birthday and to celebrate another. Additionally we had received a superb joint Christmas present from the children of Afternoon Tea at Claridges, and so decided to combine tea with a show and a good hotel in London as a change.

Consequently, we got a friend (Jane, an ex EnjoyEngland Inspector) to come in and run Hanover House for us for a couple of days, booked tea at Claridges, a performance of ‘The Mousetrap’ which we hadn’t seen at all, or for a very long time (long enough to forget whodunnit) and a good theatre-break hotel close to Covent Garden.

London was warm, sunny and pleasant and there had been no hold-ups on route. A short tube ‘hop’ to Covent Garden and we found our hotel, the Kingsway Hall, left our bag then caught a taxi for Claridges. After a slightly circuitous route we arrived at our destination and then waited for a short time in the impressive vestibule. Maintaining standards, we were well dressed, me in jacket and tie and Veronica in pretty ‘posh’ frock. Although we felt comfortable and that the dress was right, we need not have bothered as anything seemed to go, open-necked shirts, sweatshirts and even a baseball cap!  Tea and the surroundings however made up for the lack of sartorial awareness of many of the other English Afternoon Tea participants – many tourists I noted, no doubt sampling this eccentric English custom.

Another taxi, flagged down by Claridge’s doorman, took us to Covent Garden, where we strolled around for a while taking in the buzz and busking before heading for St Martin’s theatre and the 26,000th performance in ‘The Mousetrap’s’ 61st year. This Agatha Christie play is the world’s longest continuous running theatrical production and still plays to near full houses. The play was excellent and on it’s conclusion, we, the audience, received the traditional admonition not to reveal to anyone the identity of the murderer. A short stroll took us back to the hotel via Covent Garden where we enjoyed a pizza, alfresco, near a heater in a cafe.

The next morning after a rare, luxuriously languid breakfast, we strolled back to Covent Garden, had a light lunch, watched some excellent busking musicians and opera singer and tubed to Green Park. There, after I’d visited the Bomber Command Memorial and Veronica had relaxed on a park bench reading the newspaper, we lay under the trees near the Buckingham Palace gate eating sandwiches until it was time to walk back to Victoria to catch our coach home.  A rare treat from the 7-day a week, continuous work linked to running a busy and successful B&B.

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Hanover House Coincidences

We recently returned from two days in London to commemorate birthdays, and on our way back to Victoria Coach Station to return to Cheltenham, we tarried in Green Park, in part to shelter from the abnormal sun and heat and also to see the Bomber Command Memorial. I have blogged on this subject before, particularly because of the Cheltenham and Hanover House connections with the RAF and bombing in general. ‘Bomber’ Harris was born and brought up a few hundred yards from Hanover House (www.hanoverhouse.org) and a family who lived in the house for a number of years had a grandson who was a founder member of the RAF and later held very senior command appointments in the Royal Australian Air Force.

Bomber Command Memorial

Bomber Command Memorial – Green Park

The connection with bombers and named historic occupants of Hanover House occurred to me when I saw a short article in the Daily Telegraph of 19 July, which covered the re-interrment of the remains of an RAF crew of a Douglas Boston light bomber shot down in Italy on  21 April 1945. The article was of general interest and then I saw the names of the crew; the pilot was a 20-year old David Raikes from Redhill in Surrey and one of the crew members was the 20-year old Sergeant Alexander Bostock. Both these names struck a chord as two families that lived in Hanover House had these surnames. First, Caroline Alice Roberts, who married Sir Edward Elgar later, lived here as a girl, her mother, Lady Roberts, was Julia Maria Raikes, of the well-known Gloucestershire Raikes’ family.

Three Douglas Boston aircraft flying

Douglas Boston Light Bombers

 The other family were the Bostocks. Mrs Mary Elizabeth Bostock, the widow of a wealthy Northamptonshire shoe manufacturer moved into 4 York Terrace (as Hanover House was then) in 1880 with her several children. One, a daughter, Mary Louisa, set up a school for girls not able to get into the prestigious Cheltenham Ladies’ College, and a son, William Masefield emigrated to Australia. His son William Dowling Bostock in turn returned to Britain to fly in the Royal Flying Corps and returned to Australia to become a founder member of the RAAF and rise to the rank of Air Vice Marshal and Air Officer Commanding of the RAAF component flying against the Japanese in the Pacific under General MacArthur.

Bomber Crew Burial 001

Although I have no information to necessarily link these young flyers shot down over the Po Valley in the last days of World War 2 with the families from Hanover House, the coincidental connection of Bomber command and their names makes, out of interest, an intriguing subject to pursue. The final, tenuous link is that the crew’s remains, in a single coffin, were buried near Padua, where Veronica’s son Timmy spent several years teaching English as a foreign language.

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Jeeves’ Cheltenham Centenary

Wooster and Jeeves

An interesting, but probably little-known Cheltenham-related fact (except to those who listened to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning) is that in 1913, almost exactly 100 years ago, PG Wodehouse came to Cheltenham to watch a county cricket match between Gloucestershire and Warwickshire. A keen cricket fan, he was in the process of writing the first of his Bertie Wooster series of stories, and couldn’t think of a suitable name for the butler who would be Bertie’s mentor and guide.

During the match, PG Wodehouse noted that one of the Worcestershire (Woostershire?) players was called Jeeves, and suddenly, it seemed like the ideal name, and he immediately adopted it. Incidentally, Bertie Wooster had originally been called Reggie Pepper but PG Wodehouse wasn’t entirely satisfied with the name. On a trip to New York, he saw a street called Wooster Street, so with the connection of ‘peppery’ Worcester Sauce he saw the opportunity to play with words in an easily-spelled version of Worcester, and so Bertie (a name used commonly at that time to mean a silly boy) Wooster was born.

Another cricket connection with literature that was mentioned in the same programme, was that Conan-Doyle used about 200 names as characters in his stories, taken directly from the members of cricket teams he encountered.

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