I was very pleased to find a review of Lord of Strange Deaths by Rosemary Herbert - 'King of Pulp Exotica' - in this week's Times Literary Supplement. Maybe Secret Tunnels of England may also appear there one day.
Yesterday, as I was in the vicinity, I managed to get to Eland Road in Battersea, south west London, to take a photograph of the house which in 1928 was home to the mysterious 'Battersea Poltergeist', which garnered considerable publicity at the time and drew large crowds to the street. It was investigated by Harry Price and his account appears in his book Poltergeist Over England - it's available online here, so I don't have to go into further detail. A photo of the house in 1928 and in 2005 can be found here. Interesting that the poltergeist appeared keen on throwing soap, a feature of the Borley 'poltergeist' sixteen months later, in which Price also played a major role.
The remarkable activity that greeted the arrival of Price at an investigation is also commented on in an extract from SPR files about the Battersea case, written by Dr V J Woolley assisted by a Mrs Brackenbury, reproduced in The Haunting of Borley Rectory (1956) pp.73-4:
'Mr Price accompanied by two reporters had paid them another visit ... Their story is that he and his friends were shown into the front sitting room to wait. There was not much furniture in this room but on the mantel shelf there were two metal figures of children. Mr Price and his friends were taken all over the house and finally into the kitchen. The two reporters turned to leave, Mr Price was behind them with Lilla and Mrs Perkins standing near him, when suddenly something dropped to the floor, they say it fell with a heavy thud. They all hunted but could find nothing until Mr Price picked up a shoe and found inside it one of the two little metal figures that had been in the front room on his arrival ... After he left they asked me if I thought he was a medium and attracted things to him. I said it was not probable. They complained things always seemed to happen when he was there.'
If I manage to keep my job I'm hoping to organise some talks and walks for the spring and summer. More news will appear here.
Sunday 22 January David Torn - Son of Goldfinger, with Tim Berne and Ches Smith. Guitarist who's played with David Bowie, been meaning to check him out for years, but he doesn't play in this country very often. At the Vortex. I did manage to get there - online review here.
Friday 27 Jaga Jazzist Roundhouse. What We Must is a stupendous record and I saw them at the Astoria in London around that time - haven't really been keeping up, but the latest record sounds great.
Tuesday 28 February Hastings Fat Tuesday. I really enjoyed last year's bash when The Membranes were the main attraction, but there's plenty of opportunities to check out local talent (sets only last 20 minutes). The refurbished Albion is one of the best venues. Details here.
Tuesday 7 March Oxley/Meier Guitar Duo Jazz Hastings Club. Nicholas Meier is in Jeff Beck's band.
I was shocked and upset to hear of the death of Mark Fisher last Friday - he had a lot of important things to say about the present human condition. I met him on a couple of occasions and he was a lovely stimulatingly philosophical man. There have been a number of pieces about him in the links column opposite in the last couple of days - for example herehere and here.
Christopher de Hamel Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts (2016) A Christmas present. Slowly making my way through - each chapter is devoted to a particular ancient manuscript and the library in which it is housed. The author, Cambridge academic and librarian, is an expert in his subject and creates the impression that the reader is looking over his shoulder as he carefully turns the pages of these manuscript masterpieces and imparts his wisdom about the materials, history of the document and its possible producers and owners, and the iconography. Lavishly illustrated, although maybe should have been a larger format. Highly recommended.
Guy Halsall Worlds of Arthur, Facts & Fictions of the Dark Ages (2013) Written by a professor of history at York University, the title is rather misleading as 'King Arthur' is relegated to a very minor role and pretty much dismissed as a historical figure and the author is more interested in putting forward theories about the 'Dark Ages' and Anglo Saxon invasions. Also I was disappointed with his promised examination of the 'lunatic fringe' literature, which I feel is often worth examining for some of the insights into the authors' mentalities or the zeitgeist, despite their negligible worth as historical research. Worth reading together with King Arthur Myth Making and History (2002) by N J Higham, another modern sceptical analysis of the Arthurian legend.
Paul Morley Earthbound (2013) One of a series of books commissioned by Penguin themed around the London Underground lines by a variety of authors (I wonder how much they got paid?), this one is ostensibly about the Northern line, but is of course mostly about Paul Morley. His claim to be possibly the first person in London with a Sony Walkman should be treated with caution, I feel. Quite entertaining none the less, and can be read in a single sitting. Clever cover picture.
Leonard Cottrell The Bull of Minos (1966) Pan paperback hagiography of 'archaeologists' or maybe that should be 'diggers' Heinrich Schliemann and Arthur Evans, which I imagine has been thoroughly discredited by more recent research. An easy and stimulating read however.
John Mortimer Rumple Forever A compilation of stories of Rumple of the Bailey. I never saw the television series with Leo McKern and have not previously read any Rumple stories, but I needed some relaxing bedtime reading. Some of the humour is a bit strained, but pleasant enough reading. At this rate, my middle-aged self may well finally get round - after years of resistance - to Jeeves and Wooster. Rumpole's first television appearance in the hugely important Play for Today BBC series can be seen here.
Author of Subterranean City, Beneath the Streets of London, London's Coffee Houses, Decadent London, The Folklore of London, Subterranean City (Revised and Expanded Edition), Netherwood, Last Resort of Aleister Crowley, Lord of Strange Deaths, the Fiendish World of Sax Rohmer; Secret Tunnels in England, Folklore and Fact