‘The Statue’ by Eden Philpotts and Arnold Bennett


The Statue (1908) by Eden Philpotts and Arnold Bennett links in a way to the ‘Future War’ fiction of the pre-1914 era, since the plot is overshadowed by the possibility of crisis and conflict between France and Germany. Both countries are vying to provide a huge loan to the Sultan of Morocco, with a rivalry so intense that it could lead to war: Read More »

Celebrating Mrs Dalloway


Elaine Showalter in the Guardian makes an excellent case for celebrating today as Mrs Dalloway Day (or ‘Dallowday’).

Joyceans have their Bloomsday on June 16th, so why not make a thing of Mrs D. on June 13th (the likeliest date for the party, though Woolf is a bit vague about dates – and a few other things)?

So perhaps we should at least each go out and buy the flowers ourselves today, or maybe just meander on a stream of consciousness for a while. But any readers who are in London today might like to be reminded of the account I wrote several years ago of the day when Marion and I followed Mrs D’s steps from Great College Street to Old Bond Street, and then took up Septimus Smith’s trail from there to Regent’s Park.

Elaine Showalter does point out that retracing the steps of Leopold Bloom gives the pilgrim a very good reason to pop into several pubs along the way. Indeed, the  first known set of literary pilgrims to do the walk (including the poet Patrick Kavanagh and that terrific writer Flann O’Brien ) never made it round the whole circuit for reasons not unconnected with alcohol intake.

Mrs Dalloway offers fewer opportunities of this kind, but you can always pop into Fortnum and Mason for a cup of tea, or into Hatchards for a book.

I’m a long way from  London today, so shall celebrate instead by reading part of the novel. And trying to forgive V.W. for the harm she did to the reputation of Arnold Bennett.

Arnold Bennett and Friends – at Stoke


I had a very good day yesterday at the Arnold Bennett Society conference at Stoke-on Trent. I haven’t been to one of these annual shindigs since 2009 (I described that visit on this blog). Since then I’ve often wanted to return, but the conference date has clashed with other events where I have had standing commitments. No problem this year, so along I went.
The theme was Arnold Bennett and his Friends and Acquaintances. A good subject, because the variety of the friends discussed clearly demonstrated how wide were Bennett’s interests and talents. Read More »

Aircraft Repair Depot

(c) IWM (Imperial War Museums); Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

(c) IWM (Imperial War Museums); Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Above is a painting of an Aircraft Repair Depot towards the end of the war. Not No. 3 Western depot in Gloucestershire where my grandfather was stationed, but No.1 Southern Aircraft Repair Depot, South Farnborough. The painting is by Graham Glen, and shows  ‘Women’s Royal Air Force at Work on Aeroplane Salvage’. Click it to see a larger version. Read More »

My grandfather

Thanks to those who helped clear up the ‘ T.F.’ mystery. I’m more used to reading novels than Army records. Maybe readers could help me a bit more…

I’ll start by telling the story of my grandfather’s Army service, so far as I know it, which isn’t very far, in the hope that someone might elucidate some of the  puzzles.

My grandfather’s name was George Simmers. Yes, I was named after him, but that doesn’t make me all that special. During my father’s time at sea he had variously a dog, a cat, a canary and a chameleon, all named George. My sister was almost called Georgina, but my mother put her foot down.

He was born in Aberdeen in1868, son of Jonathan Simmers, a Police Sergeant, and Ann (née Jamieson), who had been a domestic servant before her marriage. He probably left school at twelve, since the 1881 census lists him as ‘messenger’. Read More »


At the National Archives last weekend, I did a little more research on my grandfather, and will post about it soon.

Meanwhile, I am puzzled by an abbreviation in the London Gazette :


What does T.F. mean? I bet there’s someone out there who knows.

Arnold Bennett, and the English and the French


I spent Saturday at the National Archives in Kew, taking a look at, among other things, Arnold Bennett’s activities when in charge of British propaganda to France in 1917-1918.
Bennett’s notes and memos are rather impressive – crisp, sensible and decisive – as he deals with a multitude of issues. Read More »

The Whicharts and the War

I’ve just blogged on the Reading 1900-1950 site a review of The Whicharts (1931), Noel Streatfeild’s first novel (and a prototype, grown-up and slightly seedy version of Ballet Shoes).  here I’ll just add a couple of notes about Streatfeild’s mentions of the Great War in this book. Read More »

We all live at Number 24

I’m reading Ernest Raymond’s The Jesting Army (1930).

The army   is near Gilban (in Egypt), heading towards the Battle of Romani (August 1916). The soldiers are singing:

…certainly not Tipperary, which had been discarded immediately the newspapers made it into the Soldiers’ Song [….] but in high chorus they invited someone to wash them in the water in which he washed his dirty daughter, that they might be whiter than the whitewash on the wall; or they proclaimed that they all lived at number 24, and at number 24 there was a knocker on the door; or they announced to the stragglers of Gilban that they were the New York swells, and they were respected wherever they might go…

I don’t know the ‘Number 24’ song. Can anyone help?
Judging by the words alone, it sounds oddly like ‘Yellow Submarine’… Read More »

A decade of blogging

I woke this morning to an email congratulating me to the fact that this blog is ten years old today. I really hadn’t realised.

Occasionally I get fed up with commemorations and anniversaries, but here is one that I suppose I ought to mark.

Ten Years. Quite a while. Read More »


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