Tuesday 28 December 2010

A wonderful Christmas present from the BBC ... Upstairs Downstairs Revisited

Upstairs, Downstairs is a British drama television series originally produced by London Weekend Television and revived by the BBC set in a large townhouse in Edwardian, First World War and Inter-War Belgravia in London, that depicted the lives of the servants "downstairs" and their masters "upstairs". It ran on ITV in 68 episodes divided into five series from 1971 to 1975.

Upstairs, Downstairs attempted to portray life in a London townhouse set against the events of the early 20th century. Great events are featured prominently in the episodes but minor or gradual changes are noted as well. It stands as a document of the social and technological changes that occurred between 1903 and 1930. The lives of the servants are integral to the story.

The legendary TV series Upstairs Downstairs is to be brought back to life by the BBC.

Award-winning Heidi Thomas (Cranford, Madame Bovary, Ballet Shoes) is writing two new feature length scripts for transmission on BBC One in 2010.

Set in 1936 in the same iconic house 165 Eaton Place in London's Belgravia, the sumptuous drama is set to delight fans old and new.

Jean Marsh will reprise her role of Rose, the parlourmaid, returning to the house as housekeeper to its new residents, the wealthy and well-connected Holland family.

Heidi Thomas will create a new role for Dame Eileen Atkins.

We rejoin the world of Upstairs Downstairs in the years leading up to the Second World War. Times are changing and servants are no longer cheap and obedient; Rose soon finds she has her work cut out.

Meanwhile, in the wider world, Edward VIII has ascended the throne, fascism is on the rise, and Europe is inching towards catastrophe.

Keeley's Role: Lady Agnes Holland

Other Cast Members:
Eileen Atkins as Lady Maud Holland
Ed Stoppard as Sir Hallam Holland
Claire Foy as Lady Persephone (Persie)
Art Malik as Mr. Amanjit (Lady Maud Holland's secretary)
Jean Marsh as Rose Buck the housekeeper
Anne Reid as Mrs. Thackery the cook
Adrian Scarborough as Pritchard the butler
Ellie Kendrick as Ivy the housemaid
Nico Mirallegro as Johnny the footman

Friday 24 December 2010

MERRY CHRISTMAS from Palace Het Loo in Holland

Het Loo Palace (Dutch: Paleis Het Loo, meaning "The Woods Palace") is a palace in Apeldoorn, Netherlands. The symmetrical Dutch Baroque building was designed by Jacob Roman and Johan van Swieten and was built between 1684 and 1686 for stadtholder-king William III and Mary II of England. The garden was designed by Claude Desgotz.

The palace was a residence of the House of Orange-Nassau from the 17th century until the death of Queen Wilhelmina in 1962. The building was renovated between 1976 and 1982. Since 1984, the palace is a state museum open for the general public, showing interiors with original furniture, objects and paintings of the House of Orange-Nassau.

The Dutch Baroque architecture of Het Loo takes pains to minimize the grand stretch of its construction, so emphatic at Versailles, and present itself as just a fine gentleman's residence. Het Loo is not a palace but, as the title of its engraved portrait (illustration, below) states, a "Lust-hof" (a retreat, or "pleasure house"). Nevertheless, it is situated entre cour et jardin ("between court and garden") as Versailles and its imitators, and even as fine Parisian private houses are. The dry paved and gravelled court, lightly screened from the road by a wrought-iron grill, is domesticated by a traditional plat of box-bordered green, the homey touch of a cross in a circle you'd find in a bougeois garden. The volumes of the palace are rhythmically broken in their massing. They work down symmetrically, expressing the subordinate roles of their use and occupants, and the final outbuildings in Marot's plan extend along the public thoroughfare, like a well-made and delightfully regular street.

The "Great Garden" lies privately behind. This Dutch Baroque Garden, when miscalled the "Versailles of Holland" serves to show more differences than similarities, still within the Baroque general formula established by André Le Nôtre: perfect symmetry, axial layout with radiating gravel walks, parterres with fountains, basins and statues. The garden as it appears in the engraving (illustration) was designed by Le Nôtre's nephew, Claude Desgotz[1]. In his military and diplomatic career, William of Orange was the European opponent of Louis XIV, the commander of the combined forces countering those of absolute power and Roman Catholicism. André Le Nôtre's main axis at Versailles, continued by the canal, runs up to the horizon. Daniel Marot and Desgotz's Het Loo garden does not dominate the landscape as Louis' German imitators do, though in his idealized plan (engraving, left), Desgotz extends the axis. The main garden, with conservative rectangular beds instead of more elaborately shaped ones, is an enclosed space surrounded by raised walks, as a Renaissance garden might be, tucked into the woods for private enjoyment, the garden not of a king but of a stadhouder. At its far end a shaded crosswalk of trees disguised the central vista. The orange trees set out in wooden boxes and wintered in an Orangery, which were a feature of all gardens, did double duty for the House of Orange-Nassau.

Outside the garden there are a few straight scenic avenues, for following the hunt in a carriage, or purely for the vista afforded by an avenue. Few of the "green rooms" cut into the woodlands in imitation of the cabinets de verdure of Versailles that are shown in the engraving actually got executed at Het Loo.

The patron of the Sun King's garden was Apollo. Peter the Great would opt for Samson, springing the jaws of Sweden's heraldic lion. William opted for Hercules.

In the 18th century, William III’s baroque garden as seen in the engraving was swept away for a landscape park in the English taste.

Restoration of the garden
In 1960 Queen Wilhelmina declared that when she died the palace would go to the State. She did however request that it would be returned to her family if the Dutch were to abolish the monarchy. The palace became property of the Dutch state in 1962, when Wilhelmina died at Het Loo Palace. After a thorough restoration it now houses a national museum and library devoted to the House of Orange-Nassau in Dutch history. Het Loo also now houses the Museum van de Kanselarij der Nederlandse Orden (Museum of the Chancery of the Netherlands Orders of Knighthood), and books and other material concerning decorations and medals form a separate section in the library.

The lost gardens of Het Loo were fully restored starting in 1970, in time to celebrate its tricentennial in 1984. Its new brickwork, trelliswork and ornaments are as raw as they must have been in 1684 and will mellow with time.

Wednesday 22 December 2010

Porterhouse Blue

A satirical look at Cambridge life and the struggle between tradition and reform, Porterhouse Blue tells the story of Skullion, the Head Porter of a fictional Cambridge college, Porterhouse.

For the first time in five hundred years, the master of Porterhouse fails to name his successor before dying. He succumbs to a Porterhouse Blue - a stroke brought about by overindulgence in the college's legendary cuisine. Sir Godber Evans is appointed as his successor. Sir Godber, egged on by his zealous wife, Lady Mary, announces sweeping changes to the centuries of college tradition, much to the concern of Skullion and the Fellows, who plan a counter-attack on the proposed contraceptive machines, women students, and canteen.

Meanwhile, the only research graduate student in the college, Lionel Zipser, visits the hard-of-hearing Chaplain and explains his fixation for Mrs Biggs, his middle-aged, large-breasted bedder, through a megaphone, and is therefore overheard by the whole college. Mrs Biggs is not within earshot, but nevertheless senses that something is up from Zipser's awkward behaviour around her every time she comes to clean his room and especially when she teases him sexually, the climax of which is when she asks him to help her take off her bright red PVC raincoat from behind, which prompts him to reach around her and - at least in the TV mini-series - almost touch her large breasts.

While Sir Godber congratulates himself on having defeated the traditionalists, investigative journalist Cornelius Carrington is brought in on the pretext of helping both parties, while secretly having his own agenda.

Meanwhile, having been advised to pick up a foreign student, so as to avoid his predatory lust for Mrs Biggs that could end badly, Zipser visits an array of public houses in search of a condom and later wakes from his stupor in possession of two gross of condoms. He tries many ways to get rid of them and eventually inflates them with gas from the gas fire in his room and floats them up the chimney, not realising that some get stuck in the chimney and the rest float down into the college quadrangle. Fearing for the good name of college, Skullion spends the night bursting the inflated condoms.

At this point it turns out it is Mrs Biggs who is the predator, as she sneaks up to Zipser's room in the middle of the night and wakes him up. To his amazement she undresses and, despite his protests, promptly enters his bed and lies on top of him. Unfortunately, while undressing, she has lit the gas fire, which takes a short while to ignite the inflated condoms stuck in the chimney, causing an explosion that demolishes the Bull Tower and kills her and Zipser in their moment of passion.

When Skullion refuses to open the main gates of college to let the fire engines in and continues to burst the inflated condoms, he is fired. He takes his revenge by giving a shocking revelatory interview on Carrington's live television show. After the new master refuses Skullion's pleas to let him keep his job, Skullion offers shares that a former master left him. Sir Godber flatly refuses, but then has a fatal accident. Skullion, although not entirely to blame, quickly leaves. Two senior academics find the dying Sir Godber who whispers them one word: Skullion. They agree that, in accordance with college tradition, Skullion has been named the new Master of Porterhouse.

When Skullion is visited by the college officials with the good news, he thinks they have found out his involvement with Sir Godber's death and whilst they are telling him about his great fortune, he has a debilitating Porterhouse Blue himself. Nonetheless, he is installed as the Master and the college find that the shares he'd offered to Sir Godber are worth more than the cost of rebuilding the Bull Tower, so Porterhouse's traditions are firmly re-established.

In 1987, Porterhouse Blue was adapted for television by Malcolm Bradbury for Channel 4 in four episodes. It starred David Jason as Skullion, Ian Richardson as Sir Godber Evans, Charles Gray as Sir Cathcart D'Eath, and John Sessions as Zipser. Also appearing were Griff Rhys Jones as Cornelius Carrington, Paula Jacobs as Mrs. Biggs, Paul Rogers as the Dean, John Woodnutt as the Senior Tutor, Lockwood West as the Chaplain, Willoughby Goddard as Professor Siblington, and Harold Innocent as the Bursar.

The title song 'Dives in Omnia' (cod-Latin for 'Wealth in all things') was sung by a cappella group The Flying Pickets. The series won an International Emmy and two BAFTA Awards (including David Jason's for Best Actor).[1] The television adaptation has been released on DVD and VHS.

Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, Sacrist's Gate near Ely Cathedral in Cambridgeshire, Knebworth House and Apethorpe Hall in Northamptonshire were used as locations in the series.

IF 1968

Anarchy in the UK
Lindsay Anderson's If... encapsulated the radical spirit of 1968. But it was only the start of a trilogy that anatomised a faltering nation

Gavin Lambert
The Guardian, Friday 15 February 2002 Article history
In the spring of 1968, when Lindsay Anderson began filming If..., he was 45. But it seemed at the time (and still seems today) an astonishingly youthful film, with no hint of patronage in its treatment of the trio of public school rebels played by Malcolm McDowell, Richard Warwick and David Wood. The director is their comrade in arms as he portrays a world of rigid authority: headmaster, staff, chaplain, and a fifth column of prefects, known as "whips".

Production year: 1968Country: UKCert (UK): 15Runtime: 111 minsDirectors: Lindsay AndersonCast: David Wood, Malcolm MacDowell, Malcolm McDowell, Richard WarwickMore on this filmAlthough Anderson was still working with David Sherwin on the final script when student rebellions broke out at the Sorbonne in Paris, and Columbia university in New York, If... is not a political film. Like its successors, O Lucky Man! and Britannia Hospital, it doesn't belong in any formal category. At the start of their collaboration, Anderson and Sherwin had been energised by seeing Jean Vigo's Zéro de Conduite again, "not for its anarchistic spirit - we had plenty of our own", Anderson said later, but for its "poetic method" and the way it moved between reality and fantasy without appearing to cross a frontier.

Because Anderson wanted to avoid specific contemporary references, the schoolboys in If... wear stylised, semi-Edwardian costumes, and McDowell as Mick Travis first appears dressed like a revolutionary from Dostoevsky's Possessed: long black topcoat, wide-brimmed black hat, black muffler across the lower half of his face. No one plays or listens to pop music, and the opening shots of the revolution are fired from antique-looking second world war machine guns that the trio discover in a storeroom.

A notch above reality from the start, If... soon moved a notch higher when the cameraman found it impossible to light long shots of the school chapel in colour, and Anderson decided to film all the chapel scenes in black-and-white, then "shoot a few other scenes in black-and-white when I feel like it". It was an arbitrary gamble, but when he saw how bleak the chapel looked in monochrome, he realised that necessity had provided the key to "when I feel like it" and proceeded to create similar visual/emotional transitions in other scenes.

Like the film, Mick Travis and his two friends are apolitical. They're in revolt against an autocracy that denies them individual freedom in the name of fossilised abstractions: Obedience, Team Spirit, Tradition, Duty. "When do we live?" Mick Travis asks. "That's what I want to know." They first start to live by celebrating erotic freedom (Mick's affair with a local waitress, Wallace's romance with a junior boy), and finally erupt in furious, orgasmic liberation on Founders Day. In 1932, when Vigo's children hurled tin cans and old shoes from a rooftop, it was an innocent prank. In 1968, when the trio and their lovers open fire on school dignitaries, staff and parents, they mean business. But so does autocracy. Led by a military Founder, it fires back with superior weapons from the school armoury, and a close shot of Mick continuing to fire fades abruptly to a black screen, with If... reappearing in red letters. This final transition from fantasy to reality suggests that the revolution is doomed to failure, but a failure that's also a warning.

Five years later, at the age of 50, the (relatively) benign anarchist of If... has become less young at heart when he makes his next feature film, O Lucky Man! His view of the repressive world extends to the country as a whole, a wide-ranging satire on the idea of "This England". McDowell plays a young man named Mick Travis, but he's not a miraculous survivor from the rooftop of If... The name is a metaphor for any bright young man of the time, innocently ambitious at first, finally disillusioned by a society in which politicians, the law and big business are corrupt and unfeeling, liberals and do-gooders inept or simple-minded.

Anderson still empathises with Mick, but from a distance this time. In the final scene he appears as himself, a rather formidable although ultimately benevolent authority figure who not only auditions Mick for what turns out to be a film within the film, but acts as a mentor of youth (a role he had begun to play in his own life). So the two-way traffic between reality and fantasy is even more daring and complex, with several actors playing multiple roles and the Brechtian device of Alan Price's brilliant songs commenting on the action. In a film lasting three hours, energy and satirical invention decline from unflagging to sporadic only in the last 30 minutes; but its observations on the cult of success, the various corruptions of power, and the search for longevity through a deranged scientist's version of cloning, could have been made yesterday.

As no British company would finance If... or O Lucky Man!, they owed their existence to American money, from Paramount and Warner Bros respectively. Only Britannia Hospital, Anderson's third collaboration with David Sherwin, was funded by the mother country, but not because EMI's executives liked the script. For tax purposes, the company needed to make a capital expenditure of £3m before the end of 1981. At times the film is more roughly executed than its predecessors, but at 68 Anderson maintains a high level of energy. And this time, he abandons "poetic method" for a continuous exaggeration of the possible. With a grotesquely corrupt hospital as a metaphor for Margaret Thatcher's Britain, everyone connected with the place comes under fire: staff, union leaders, deranged scientist from O Lucky Man!, strikers picketing outside the gates, and "HRH", a visiting royal personage whose relentless smile and picture hat identifies her as the Queen Mother.

Malcolm McDowell's Mick Travis is now a slick, not-so-young photojournalist who emigrated to America "for the money" and returns in the hope of a sensational scoop on the mad cloner's secret experiments in one wing of the hospital. But he ends as a decapitated victim, which is how Anderson felt when the film was widely attacked as "bitter" and "mean-minded".

It was neither, but the exuberantly pessimistic way it let nobody off the hook obscured an important fact. Like If... and O Lucky Man!, it presented every character, however ruthless or venal or misguided, as sincere. Objects of satire, Anderson often told his actors, must be played "with total conviction", and derive their humour from unwavering self-deception. And in different ways, these three films protest the same thing, the dehumanising effect of institutionalised power on the individual.

If... is ultimately a romantic film, with Anderson up on the roof with the rebels; O Lucky Man! the fable of a reluctant optimist; and Britannia Hospital the work of a self-described "loner, against all systems", on the threshold of old age. But from younger and older Anderson alike, there's always a closet humanist peeping out, like a pussycat inside a tiger.

· Gavin Lambert is the author of Mainly About Lindsay Anderson. The restored print of If... is released on March 1.

If.... 1968

The English Gentleman

The English Gentleman (1978) is a humorous book written by Douglas Sutherland and illustrated by Timothy Jacques, with an introduction by Sir Iain Moncreiffe of that Ilk. The book acts as a satirical guide to the life of an English gentleman in various contexts, featuring such chapters as "The Gentleman at Play," "The Gentleman at War," and "The Gentleman and the Opposite Sex."
The foreword for The English Gentleman states,
“ Ever since the nineteenth century and long before that for all I know, there has been a regular stream of little books designed to help those who desire to be part of the upper classes. In the past these books have been written by men and women, largely for women, and concerned with such profundities as how to address a Duke or an Archbishop, or what to do with your fingerbowl. It has always been assumed that the most desirable position in the world is to be accepted as a lady or gentleman. It was assumed by many from Jane Austen to Daphne du Maurier that it is the surest way to happiness and possibly even to eternal salvation. This book, I hope, is different in that it is the first one to be written by a man, almost exclusively for men. It examines what makes or breaks the gentleman and leaves it to the reader to decide whether he wishes to be part of the upper classes or not. It is also hoped that this volume will be helpful to ladies who wish to be able to recognize the gentleman when they meet one, and to let them know what they are in for should they be reckless enough to marry one. — D.S.

Originally written for Debrett's Peerage and now something of a classic, Douglas Sutherland's guide to that endangered species, the English Gentleman, was originally written as an antidote to all the endless, dull little books on manners and etiquette: the kind read by those who long to be recognised as part of the real gentry by the way they use their finger-bowl or address an Archbishop. Both genuinely informative and yet very funny in its self-deprecating tone, The English Gentleman offers a window to the parvenu on the rather perverse world of the genuine article. It describes his habits: where he might live, what he might wear, his school, his clubs, his hobbies and sports, his family and relationships, his behaviour when abroad, his mode of speech and the acceptable way to behave in almost any given situation (invariably the very opposite of what the outsider might think). Not to mention advice on the correct attitude to have toward money (it is vulgar), sex (it is vulgar) and business (it is vulgar unless, of course, it is run at a heavy loss). It all adds up to an unmissable initiation into the eccentric social history of the stiff upper lip. A hilarious and insightful look at the real life counterparts to the sort of squires found in the fiction of Nancy Mitford, PG Wodehouse and Compton Mackenzie. Proving that truth is often stranger than fiction.

Tuesday 21 December 2010

Thomas Jefferson's Monticello

Monticello is a historical site just outside Charlottesville, Virginia, United States. It was the estate of Thomas Jefferson, the principal author of the United States Declaration of Independence, third President of the United States, and founder of the University of Virginia.

The house, which Jefferson himself designed, was based on the neoclassical principles described in the books of the Italian Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio. It is situated on the summit of an 850-foot (260 m)-high peak in the Southwest Mountains south of the Rivanna Gap. Its name comes from the Italian "little mountain."

Work began on what historians would subsequently refer to as "the first Monticello" in 1768. Jefferson moved into the South Pavilion (an outbuilding) in 1770. Jefferson left Monticello in 1784 to serve as Minister of the United States to France. During his tenure in Europe, he had an opportunity to see some of the classical buildings with which he had become acquainted from his reading, as well as to discover the "modern" trends in French duds that were then fashionable in Paris. His decision to remodel his own home may date from this period. In 1794, following his service as the first U.S. Secretary of State (1790–93), Jefferson began rebuilding his house based on the ideas he had acquired in Europe. The remodeling continued throughout most of his presidency (1801–09).

Thomas Jefferson added a center hallway and a parallel set of rooms to the structure, more than doubling its area. He removed the second full-height story from the original house and replaced it with a mezzanine bedroom floor. The most dramatic element of the new design was an octagonal dome, which he placed above the West front of the building in place of a second-story portico. The room inside the dome was described by a visitor as "a noble and beautiful apartment," but it was rarely used—perhaps because it was hot in summer and cold in winter, or because it could only be reached by climbing a steep and very narrow flight of stairs. The dome room has now been restored to its appearance during Jefferson's lifetime, with "Mars yellow" walls and a painted a blue floor.[4]

Thomas Jefferson died on July 4, 1826, and Monticello was inherited by his eldest daughter Martha Jefferson Randolph. Financial difficulties led to Martha selling Monticello to James T. Barclay, a local apothecary, in 1831. Barclay sold it in 1834 to Uriah P. Levy, the first Jewish American to serve an entire career as a commissioned officer in the United States Navy. Levy greatly admired Jefferson. During the American Civil War, the house was seized by the Confederate government and sold, though Uriah Levy's estate recovered it after the war.

Lawsuits filed by Levy's heirs were settled in 1879, when Uriah Levy's nephew, Jefferson Monroe Levy, a prominent New York lawyer, real estate and stock speculator and member of Congress, bought out the other heirs and took control of the property. Jefferson Levy, like his uncle, repaired, restored and preserved Monticello, which was deteriorating seriously while the lawsuits wended their way through the courts in New York and Virginia.

Monticello and its reflectionA private non-profit organization, the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, purchased the house from Jefferson Levy in 1923 with funds raised by Theodore Fred Kuper and it was restored by architects including Fiske Kimball and Milton L. Grigg.[5] Monticello is now operated as a museum and educational institution. Visitors can view rooms in the cellar and ground floor, but the second and third floors are not open to the general public due to fire code restrictions. Visitors can, however, tour the third floor (Dome), while on a Signature Tour.[6]

Monticello is the only private home in the United States that has been designated a World Heritage Site. From 1989 to 1992, a team of architects from the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) painstakingly created a collection of measured drawings of Monticello. These drawings are now kept at the Library of Congress. The World Heritage Site designation also includes the original grounds of Jefferson's University of Virginia.

Among Jefferson's other designs are his other home near Lynchburg called Poplar Forest and the Virginia State Capitol in Richmond.

Much of Monticello's interior decoration reflect the ideas and ideals of Jefferson himself.[7]

The original main entrance is through the portico on the east front. The ceiling of this portico incorporates a wind plate connected to a weather vane, showing the direction of the wind. A large clock face on the external east-facing wall has only an hour hand since Jefferson thought this was accurate enough for outdoor laborers.[8] The clock reflects the time shown on the "Great Clock", designed by Jefferson, in the entrance hall. The entrance hall contains recreations of items collected by Lewis and Clark on their famous expedition. The floorcloth here is painted a "true grass green" upon the recommendation of artist Gilbert Stuart in order for Jefferson's 'essay in architecture' to invite the spirit of the outdoors into the house.

The south wing includes Jefferson's private suite of rooms. The library holds many books in Jefferson's third library collection. His first library was burned in a plantation fire, and he 'ceded' (or sold) his second library in 1815 to the United States Congress to replace the books lost when the British burned the Capitol in 1814.[9] This second library formed the nucleus of the Library of Congress.[9] As famous and "larger than life" as Monticello seems, the house itself has approximately 11,000 square feet (1,000 m2) of living space.[10] Jefferson considered much furniture to be a waste of space, so the dining room table was erected only at mealtimes, and beds were built into alcoves cut into thick walls that contain storage space. Jefferson's bed opens to two sides: to his cabinet (study) and to his bedroom (dressing room).[11]

In a time before refrigeration, Jefferson stocked this pond with fish, available on demand.The west front (illustration) gives the impression of a villa of very modest proportions, with a lower floor disguised in the hillside.

The north wing includes the dining room—which has a dumbwaiter incorporated into the fireplace as well as dumbwaiters (shelved tables on castors) and a pivoting serving door with shelves—and two guest bedrooms.(wikipedia)

Thursday 16 December 2010

A Touch of Class

A grumpy perspective on aspects of modern life. According to the contributors the class system is now more complicated than ever: the toffs have run out of money, the middle class runs the country, footballers are royalty, and everyone claims to be working class because it's the only class with street cred. One way or another it seems the class system is alive and well.