Thursday 31 January 2013

The New English Dandy by Alice Cicolini‏.

At once a fashion handbook and a treasure trove of ideas tailored to the modern male or metrosexual, this book is destined to be the bible of men's dressy style, its accoutrements and lifestyle accompaniments. Six chapters define six takes on the 21st-century dandy, each featuring a specially commissioned 16-page fashion shoot, and eight pages of bespoke inspiration, instruction, interviews and insight. The New English Dandy sets the standard for today's new man about town.

Just in time for the return of the suit comes this bible of men s dressy style, its accoutrement and lifestyle accompaniments: a fashion handbook and treasure trove of ideas tailored to the contemporary male or metrosexual.

The contemporary Englishman and the designers who design for him stepped into the international style limelight when journalists at Italian Menswear Fashion Week proclaimed that the noughties were the decade of British tailoring. Fusing classical principles with today s sensibilities, the book celebrates the return of the well-dressed man. Each thematic section features a specially commissioned fashion shoot by a rising star of fashion photography and a text of bespoke inspiration, instruction, interviews and insight. A reference section provides a tailor s glossary and contact information.

The New English Dandy sets the standard for today s new man about town

The chapters:

-The Gentleman
-East End Flâneur
-Celebrity Tailor
-Terrace Casual
-New Briton

The last pages of the books feature:

-Tailor's Glossary
-Patterns For Knitted Tie And Plus-Fours
-Guidelines For Bespoke
-Picture Credits

261 illustrations, 100 in colour.

 Alice Cicolini‏

Wednesday 30 January 2013

Chatsworth House feels the Downton Abbey effect...

The BBC Documentary about Chatsworth was shown again on Sunday 13 January 2013 and episodes 2 and 3 will be Shown on BBC1 at 3.25pm on Sundays 20 and 27 January 2013.

The three-part series by the BBC followed the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, the Dowager Duchess and colourful characters among the 700 staff. Filmed over the entire 2011 'season', the documentary camera crews were given unprecedented access to the 30,000 acre Peak District estate and the people who live and work in a world visited by many but known to only a few.

Over the three episodes, 'Chatsworth' explores the relationships, dynamics and tensions of modern life in a stately home and across the wider estate, including the garden, farmyard, shops, holiday accommodation, pubs, restaurants and much more.

As one of Britain's favourite attractions Chatsworth draws more than one million visitors each year and the series includes stories from the people who live in the local community, those who work and look after the estate, the businesses that are run on the land and the important role the family and the house play in the area.

Episode 1
Three-part documentary series detailing life of the new aristocracy over Chatsworth's entire 2011 season. For the first time ever, the palace of the peaks, Chatsworth House in Derbyshire, has opened its doors to the cameras for a whole year. It is a unique opportunity to take an in-depth glimpse of life upstairs and downstairs in the 21st century.

The first programme joins the 12th duke and duchess as the house is being prepared to open to the public. It is the busiest time of year for the house staff and everyone has a role to play - even the duke and duchess, as they join the annual litter pick around the estate.

2011 sees the six month probation period of the youngest and very first female head guide, Heather Redmond. Will she win over the 60-strong guide team, some of whom have worked at Chatsworth since before she was born, and get the job for keeps?

Chatsworth's award-winning farm shop is presided over by manager Andre Birkett. Man and boy he has worked for the family, starting in the kitchens of the house. He is now responsible for 120 staff and an annual turnover of over five million pounds. But there are always new challenges for Andre, and it is a first for him as he has to deal with a pair of discarded underpants in the cistern of the farm shop toilets.

As winter turns to spring it is lambing season on the estate's 62 farms, and farm manager Ian Turner, who has 32 years service under his belt, takes us on a tour of the farm, where we get to see first-hand a sheep adopting a rejected lamb.

For four and a half centuries Chatsworth has been owned by one family, and for one year we have been there to bring you an exclusive insight into the real-life Downton Abbey.

Episode 2
This episode follows the duchess at the highlight of her social calendar, Chatsworth International Horse Trials. This year there is extra pressure on the duchess and course designer, Ian Stark, as the event is an official qualifier for the London Olympics, and everything must meet the governing body's exacting standards.

The 2011 season sees the third annual Chatsworth flower festival, Florabundance. But there is a problem blooming in the gardens as the unseasonably warm spring weather is making the tulips flower ahead of schedule, leaving floral designer Jonathan Moseley 5,000 blooms short just days ahead of the grand opening.

Chatsworth is one of the country's leading tourist destinations, which is a source of pride for the duke, duchess and their 700 staff. It is their attention to detail that pays dividends, but there are some serious problems that need ironing out when the public start complaining about the table setting in the grand dining room.

Episode 3
Summer arrives, bringing with it wedding season at Chatsworth, but there is a veil hanging over proceedings and it does not belong to the bride. For the entire 2011 season, the famous south and west wings have been covered in scaffolding as part of a massive renovation; but it could spell disaster for their burgeoning wedding business and the all-important wedding photographs. However, ever-resourceful events manager Kay Rotchford has some Photoshop magic up her sleeve. And after a year of being hidden behind scaffolding, Chatsworth's 14 million pound renovation is finally revealed, and the great old house is ready to face the future.

We meet 23-year-old Lewis Leybourne, up from London and starting to climb the career ladder. He's a newly appointed trainee catering supervisor, but is thrown completely out of his comfort zone when he has to model as Mr Bingley in Chatsworth's very own version of Pride and Prejudice for their 2011 wedding brochure.

A passionate patron of the arts, the duke's taste is brought into question when the visitors take exception to his latest exhibit - a Damien Hirst sculpture of the flailed St Bartholomew currently residing in the Chapel.

And after a year of being hidden behind scaffolding, Chatsworth's 14 million pound renovation is finally revealed, and the great old house is ready to face the future

Genre Documentary
Written by Patrick Uden
Directed by Mark Henderson
Fiona Mellon-Grant
Faye Ryan
Narrated by Max Beesley
Composer(s) Paul Farrer
Country of origin United Kingdom
Language(s) English

Chatsworth House feels the Downton Abbey effect
The fortunes of Britain’s country houses have benefited from the “Downton Abbey effect”, according to the Duke of Devonshire.
By Anita Singh 12 Mar 2011 in The Telegraph /

The popularity of ITV’s Edwardian period drama has reminded the public of the beautiful stately homes in their midst, said the Duke, whose family seat is Chatsworth in Derbyshire.
Launching Chatsworth's new visitor programme, the Duke said: "There has always been a lot of interest in historic houses - you look at the huge success of the National Trust - but Downton Abbey is another reason for people to say, 'Oh, instead of going shopping on Saturday, let's go to Chatsworth'.
"I think that's very much helped by Downton Abbey. It's a brilliant programme in a beautiful house, and people will surely pick up on that."
The television series is filmed at Highclere Castle in Berkshire, home to the Earl and Countess of Carnarvon. Its dramatisation of the 'upstairs, downstairs' nature of country houses is something that Chatsworth is evoking with a new attraction in which a guide will pose as a lady's maid unpacking her mistress's clothes for a glittering Edwardian house party.
"We're sort of playing that tune a little bit and I'm sure it will be very popular," the Duke explained. "People always love to see the big, grand rooms and the collection but they are also interested to see how it was for people staying there - and perhaps even more interested in the people working there. So we are doing a bit of that.
"The guides who will be dressed up will know a lot about the life of a lady's maid, from what they were paid to what they ate. It's something we don't really connect to except through costume dramas on the television."
The new programme begins tomorrow and runs until December 22. Highlights include a display of the Duke and Duchess's favourite belongings, from a David Hockney painting - Le Parc des Sources, Vichy, 1970 - to a a boxwood rosary made for Henry VIII.
For the first time, visitors to the gardens will be able to visit the greenhouse built by the 11th Duke and the Dowager Duchess, which houses the famous Cavendish banana.
The 12th Duke, known to family and friends as Stoker, inherited the title in 2004. Chatsworth is the most popular attraction in the Peak District, visited by over 700,000 people last year.
Asked to explain the secret of Chatsworth's success, he said: "There are two main reasons. The first is that we have the most wonderful people here who are brilliant at welcoming visitors and going the extra mile to make their visit really special.
"And the second reason is that the house and the garden and the park create a wonderful, peaceful, beautiful landscape where people can come and perhaps forget other things and have a quiet walk around and a sit-down and a cup of tea. The peace and beauty of the place calms them and recharges the batteries a bit.
"This year we have got lots of new things and I hope people will be as excited to come to Chatsworth as they have for years.

In Memoriam ... Ronald Searle.


Ronald Searle obituary
Artist and cartoonist best known for St Trinian's and Molesworth
Michael McNay
The Guardian, Tuesday 3 January 2012 /

The artist Ronald Searle, who has died aged 91, will always be associated with St Trinian's, the anarchic girls' boarding school he created in pen and ink in the 1940s, which inspired a long-running series of films. Searle and St Trinian's go together like Petruchio and Kate; except that Searle created his own shrews and lived with their reputation for the rest of his life.

Before he left for second world war service, during which he would be held captive in Changi jail, Singapore, Searle posted off several cartoons to Kaye Webb, the assistant editor of Lilliput magazine. One of them showed a group of schoolgirls clutching hockey sticks gathered around a noticeboard; the caption read: "Owing to the international situation, the match with St Trinian's has been postponed." This is only obliquely about St Trinian's, but is always known as the first in the genre and has some of the characteristics of the mature version: flesh showing between the girls' black stockings and tunic, specs, pigtails, pointy noses. Searle thought no more about it until he picked up a tattered copy of Lilliput on a street in Singapore as the Japanese were invading and found his cartoon in it.

The first full-blown St Trinian's cartoon in Lilliput came after his release from Changi and was based on a real school (now defunct), St Trinnean's, in Edinburgh, which Searle had heard of when he was posted to Scotland during the phoney war. Much later, he turned down an invitation to stand for rector of Edinburgh University because, he said, he had done enough damage already to the city's academic reputation.

Searle was born in Cambridge, the son of a railwayman. He left full-time education at Cambridge central school at the age of 14 and started work as an office boy with a firm of solicitors. Doodling on legal documents proved a retrograde career move; Searle was sacked, but his new job packing boxes at the Co-op brought a handsome advance in salary with which he was able to pay for evening classes at Cambridge School of Art. Later, he won a scholarship and became a full-time student. He was 15 when the cartoonist of what was then the Cambridge Daily News left for Fleet Street, and Searle immediately sent in some drawings on spec; the editor was taken with the boy's talent and took a cartoon a week from him at half a guinea a time.

They were much better than the average evening newspaper cartoon, quite edgy about local politics and its pomposities, but there was nothing to suggest Searle's blazing graphic talent. In the April before the war broke out, Searle, who by now added commissions from the university magazine Granta to his growing experience, joined the Territorial Army.

Called to the colours with the Royal Engineers on the outbreak of hostilities in 1939, he spent a relatively relaxed period in Norfolk as a camouflage artist and then Kirkcudbright before embarking on a troopship to an undisclosed destination. The voyage took the Engineers, including Sapper Searle, filling sketchpads all the way in an already totally mature graphic style, to ports of call in Cape Town, Mombasa and the Chagos Islands in the Indian Ocean. Finally it became clear that they were bound for Singapore. They arrived just as General Yamashita's Japanese army came pouring down out of the Malayan jungle and across the straits to Singapore island. With calm obliviousness to his situation, Searle drew the new imperial conquerors even as they arrived in tanks, armoured trucks and cars, and on motorbikes and sidecars. It was the start of an astonishing enterprise.

From Changi, Searle embarked with other PoWs on a forced march to work on the death railway in Siam (now Thailand). He suffered variously beri beri, dysentery, ulcerated skin, and repeated bouts of malaria not much helped by a Japanese guard who drove a nail attached to a pickaxe handle into his body. A fellow PoW, the Australian writer Russell Braddon, remarked that they would only have known that Searle was dead if he had stopped drawing. "If you can imagine something that weighs six stone or so, is on the point of death and has no qualities of the human condition that are not revolting," Braddon wrote, "calmly lying there with a pencil and a scrap of paper, drawing, you have some idea of the difference of temperament that this man had from the ordinary human being."

The sketchbooks Searle brought home from Changi constitute a remarkable document of survival in the face of the grossest inhumanity and are probably the best visual record of war in the Imperial War Museum; they formed the basis for a book, To the Kwai and Back: War Drawings 1939-45 (1986). His mastery of the fine balance between description and expression was by now fully achieved. He had become, almost incidentally, one of the finest topographical artists of the century.

If success seemed to come easily to him after his return to Britain, no one could begrudge it. Searle had drawn the second St Trinian's cartoon in Changi ("Hands up the girl who burnt down the east wing last night"); it was published in Lilliput in 1946 and established the school as a home of little monsters, wicked as sin.

Webb was still at the magazine, and soon Searle and she married. St Trinian's became a national institution, to the point where Searle began to hate his creation. He said later that he had never drawn that many St Trinian's cartoons but that the impression was abroad that he did little else. In fact, after the popular success of the novel The Terror of St Trinian's (1952), Searle balked at producing another in the sequence and instead, with his friend Geoffrey Willans, a BBC journalist, he devised Nigel Molesworth, semi-literate antihero of Down With Skool (1953) and its sequels; the gentler humour (some said whimsical) seemed to suit Searle better and his public lapped it up.

Other magazine work followed and Punch became his bread and butter; he repaid it well by helping to move the magazine on from the 19th century with covers of controlled extravagance, such as a clever birthday tribute to Picasso in October 1954. Then there were the Lemon Hart rum advertisements dominating the hoardings.

Searle himself was on his way to becoming one of the first media stars, but success became cloying as he found himself being drawn into appearances on television shows such as This is Your Life, so he threw it all up and went to start again in France. The decision was moved along a bit by a chance meeting in Paris with a pretty divorcee, Monica Koenig, later the second Mrs Searle. This gave him the steel to leave Webb when she was away with the children one weekend.

There was an angry divorce, in 1967, which probably confirmed Searle's decision to return to Britain only for visits to his ageing parents. In France he worked for Le Figaro Littéraire, and there were constant commissions from the US, where the fine glossy magazine Holiday and Henry Luce's Life competed for his work. Life opened the way to reportage with commissions to illustrate the John F Kennedy 1960 presidential campaign and to cover the trial in 1961 in Israel of Hitler's henchman Adolf Eichmann.

And then Searle accomplished a long-held ambition, to work for the New Yorker. Some of his fans saw a decline from now on, and it is true that there was a rococo prettiness about some of his work, though its manic qualities eschewed cosiness. He graduated in the 1960s from cartoons to colour covers such as the one of a man alone on a beach with his head buried in a newspaper as a sun rises, gorgeous as a Tiffany lamp; and there were his pet cats, as pampered, avaricious, ugly and dissatisfied as their owners. This work retained to a high degree a sense of poisonous unease which was his legacy from the war, and which he had felt in danger of losing at the Punch round table.

In 2004 he was appointed CBE and in 2006 was made a chevalier of the Légion d'honneur. Monica died in July 2011; he is survived by his son John and daughter Kate from his first marriage.

Stephen Moss writes: In 2000, to mark his 80th birthday and a new Penguin anthology of his drawings, I visited Ronald Searle at his home in the gorgeous hill-top village of Tourtour in Provence. He hadn't been interviewed for years, and said most people in Britain thought he was dead or retired, even though he was still cartooning regularly for Le Monde. He disliked the insularity of Britain and rarely returned, but his house was full of carefully alphabetised videos of films and television programmes, as well as innumerable books his agent sent him, so I assumed he wanted reminders of home.

We ended up conducting the interview over two extended lunches at a nearby Michelin-starred restaurant, which he adored and where his adoration was reciprocated. We were joined at lunch by his garrulous wife Monica and Eamonn McCabe, the Guardian photographer, who had come to do the portrait for the article. I ended up with almost seven hours of tape, though Monica did about 90% of the talking.

The interview appeared in early December 2000, and a few weeks later a Christmas card arrived drawn by the great man, with Christmas and new year wishes in three languages inside, written in Searle's spidery script. He had added a PS: "Since your article appeared, both our letterbox and fax have overfloweth with enthusiastic reactions." He was surprised to find how much he was still admired and loved.

• Ronald William Fordham Searle, artist, born 3 March 1920; died 30 December 2011

The Belles of St. Trinians - Original theme tune - Malcolm Arnold

Monday 28 January 2013

Carmina Shoemaker ...

 In 1866, Matías Pujadas opened a small workshop in Inca, Majorca, where he began crafting tailor-made shoes. A generation later, his son Mateo Pujadas followed in his footsteps, and in 1905 he opened one of the first factories of Goodyear-stitched shoes in the Balearic Islands.

 In 1961, José Albaladejo Pujadas, the founder's great-grandson, continued the family tradition when he created one of Spain's largest shoe companies. In the 1980s, this firm turned out a total of one million pairs of shoes.
In 1997, after a downturn in the market when the demand for luxury shoes dropped dramatically, José Albaladejo decided to create a new company together with his wife and some of his sons in their native Majorca. The new business was called Carmina Shoemaker, and its goal was to create some of the world's best hand-crafted shoes.
In the few short years since its inception, Carmina Shoemaker has established eight shops (in Paris, Barcelona, Bilbao, Valladolid, Palma de Mallorca, and three in Madrid) and competes in some of the best shop displays in Europe, Japan and the US against the most distinguished English shoemakers. Carmina Shoemaker shoes are Goodyear-stitched with the same techniques, consistency and perfection as their English counterparts – the only difference being that it crafts them for women as well.

Bals: Legendary Costume Balls of the 20th Century, by Nicholas Foulkes,

Bals: Legendary Costume Balls of the 20th Century
by Nicholas Foulkes in
Reviewed by Jeffrey Felner | Released: September 21, 2011
Publisher: Assouline (307 pages)
“If you are still a believer in the tangible book then this is the Harry Winston of treasured books.”

Nicholas Foulkes has flawlessly told the history of an event that started way before many of us were born or had the technical ability to trace our lineage. The event in question was the fancy dress ball (bal), and event that no longer occurs in our society except for the occasional and rare debutante and high society soirées—bals at Palazzo Labia, the home of Paul Poiret; at the Hotel Lambert; and of course, the Truman Capote Black and White Ball at the Plaza.
The beginnings of the event began, in Mr. Foulkes’ telling, in Tsarist Russia. This is the Russia of Catherine the Great, the Romanoff Family, and Fabergé. Usually one does not conjure up images of luxury when one thinks of the Russians but my, my, my—how they indulged! Their costumes, which were more or less based on their native apparel rather than those based on fantasy that we see later in the book, may not have been the most stylish, but they are beyond luxurious.
These garments were sewn with real gold thread and embellished with real gemstones; their owners carried little trinkets, which may have commemorated the event, made by Fabergé especially for one night. This was all to be accessorized with unbelievable amounts of jewelry adorning both the men and the women.
The Russians started the telling of the “event,” but the story of the bal obviously does not stop there. Mr. Foulkes weaves a cloth that drapes us in a time of unimaginable wealth and social influence—both of which were to become a very distant memory after the late 1970s. To his credit, Mr. Foulkes provides us with so much information and proof that these were indeed the moments of greatness within the world of high society and those who were part of it as well as the hangers on.
This is a book that will inform you, pleasure you, engage you and most likely transport you to a “search of lost time,” to quote the venerable Marcel Proust. It is he who attended many of these events and it is he who was honored on his 100th birthday with probably the last of the great bals ever undertaken. This was given by Marie Helene and Guy de Rothschild at their home, Chateau de Ferrieres, outside of Paris. This was and will probably always be held up as the sine qua non of bals.
If you have any interest of what money and ego and social standing can do for you, it is a strong suggestion that you run, do not walk, and get a copy of this treasure. This is a source of unrivaled beauty and storytelling of what once was.

Available exclusively at Assouline NYC or online at
Reviewer Jeffrey Felner is a columnist  in The Examiner and Woman 2 Woman Magazine: Fashion by the Rules, and continues a long and successful career in jewelry and fashion design and merchandising.

Van Cleef & Arpels, bals de légendes.

Sunday 27 January 2013

In search of the real Blandings Castle ... Tonight the third episode / BBC One

 Home linked to P G Wodehouse's Blandings Castle up for sale

A Grade II listed stately home believed to be the inspiration behind P G Wodehouse's Blandings Castle is up for sale for £1.75m.

By Alastair Jamieson Nov 2010 in The Telegraph /

Apley Hall, overlooking the River Severn in Shropshire, was visited by the creator of Jeeves and Wooster in his teenage years and was even rumoured to be Hitler's intended home if Germany had defeated Britain in the Second World War.

"For fans of Wodehouse wanting to imitate the life of an aristocrat, this house would do very well indeed," said Colonel Norman Murphy, former president the UK P G Wodehouse Society.

Despite its association with the antics of turn-of-the-century blue bloods, the six-bedroomed property now has modern facilities including a cinema room and a shared swimming pool.

Wodehouse, who died in 1975 aged 93, never revealed the identity of the home of absent-minded Lord Emsworth, his siblings and a pig called the Empress of Blandings. The search for the true Blandings Castle has preoccupied the author's followers ever since.

In 1896, when Wodehouse was a teenager, his parents moved from Surrey to Shropshire and lived a few miles away from Apley Hall, where they were regular visitors. The author once wrote that his "happiest days as a boy were spent near Bridgnorth."

Clues from the books include references to a boating lake, the River Severn running nearby, a 45-minute drive to Shrewsbury at 1920s speeds and a view of The Wrekin, the highest point in Shropshire.

In 2003, two geographers at University College London claimed computer mapping technology pinpointed Apley Hall as the real Blandings Castle using these clues.

However, Col Murphy, who wrote a 1981 book 'In Search of Blandings', believes the real inspiration was a fusion of two locations: the grounds of nearby Weston Park, on the border of Shropshire and Staffordshire, and the building at Sudeley Castle near Winchcombe, Gloucestershire.

Built in 1811, it was used as a prep school between 1962 and 1987 then lay empty for so long that it became vandalised and was placed on the English Heritage Buildings at Risk Register.

In 1997 it was bought and renovated and the main building was split into five separate three-storey residences, of which the one for sale is by far the largest.

Its current owner, property company director Paul Stroud, 40, said many Wodehouse fans had turned up at the gates asking for a look around the 10 acre communal grounds.

"It has been a real privilege to live there," he said. "I haven't read the books but my PA is a big fan," he said.

In Search of Blandings: Tom Sharpe on PG Wodehouse

By Tom Sharpe 13 Jan 2013in The Telegraph/

On the eve of a new six-part adaptation of the Blandings stories by BBC One, author Tom Sharpe tells of his love for the stories of PG Wodehouse.

PG Wodehouse began writing stories about the fictional Blandings Castle, country seat of Lord Emsworth and his family, in 1915, and was still writing them at the time of his death in 1975. Here, on the eve of a new six-part adaptation of the Blandings stories by BBC One, the comic novelist Tom Sharpe – a patron of the Wodehouse Society – whose works include ‘Porterhouse Blue’ and ‘Wilt’, describes his search for the real-life model for Blandings Castle.

I met PG Wodehouse once, in 1973. He immediately struck me as a shy, private and thoroughly decent man. In spite of the social whirl so acutely depicted in his stories, he loathed any sort of social life and would always disappear from parties to go and work at the kitchen table.

There is a mystery, then, with Wodehouse; a gulf that seems to separate the novelist from the world he wrote about. Where did he find his unique, wonderful characters? Did he simply create them from his imagination? Perhaps this absence of any reference to real life is the reason that the world of Wodehouse is often regarded as artificial and his characters as creatures of pure fancy. Indeed, he told me when I met him that his writing was musical comedy without the music, that he ignored real life altogether.

Yet despite this unreality, Wodehouse always liked to use real places as the settings for his books, and anyone who invited him to stay was likely to find their home appearing in print. When he became a regular visitor to Hunstanton Hall in Norfolk in the Twenties, the moated ancestral home of the eccentric Le Strange family, it appeared in a Jeeves and Wooster short story within 18 months.

Rather less obvious is the setting for the Blandings books. This is of particular interest to me as I’ve always felt very close to the world of Lord Emsworth, Lady Constance, Beach the butler and of course, the Empress, Lord Emsworth’s prized pig.

But pinning down this miniature world is hard as Wodehouse always maintained that Blandings was a mixture of places he remembered. Many years ago, I travelled around England with Norman Murphy, looking for the sites that might have inspired Blandings. Murphy would later go on to write A Wodehouse Handbook and we spent many happy hours learning about the world the Blandings books evoked: how to run a large estate, the importance of looking after your timber, and the bitter rivalry among landowners showing their animals at the county show.

One place to inspire Wodehouse was Corsham Court in Wiltshire where, as a boy, he took tea with his aunts in the servants’ hall and skated on the lake in the park. This aside, however, there is little else at Corsham to remind us of Blandings.

A more likely candidate is Weston Park in Shropshire. Wodehouse and his elder brother, Armine, would often accompany their parents to the estate. It was home to the Countess of Bradford whose oldest friend married Wodehouse’s uncle, the Reverend Frederick Wodehouse. Another uncle was rector of the parish in which Weston Park stands. Those familiar with Blandings will recognise many elements there, from the picturesque cottage in the wood that was ideal for concealing stolen necklaces or purloined pigs, to the magnificent cedar tree with its hammock, assiduously claimed by Lord Emsworth’s ne’er-do-well brother, Gally.

As for the actual castle, there is much to suggest that Wodehouse was inspired by Sudeley Castle in Gloucestershire, now, famously, home of the Dent-Brocklehursts. In 1902, Wodehouse’s parents moved from Stableford in Shropshire to Cheltenham and some time afterwards P G walked up Cleeve Hill and looked down on Sudeley. He would never forget that first sight of the great building – Cleeve Hill is, I believe, one of the few places in England where you can look down on a castle.

The research that Murphy undertook for A Wodehouse Handbook provided material that reached far beyond the range of any biography. I feel that the genius of Wodehouse is best left a mystery; that way his idyllic world created in Blandings and other works remains intact.

I first read Wodehouse 42 years ago. The book was Performing Flea, a collection of letters to William Townend, his friend from his school days at Dulwich College. But I have regularly gone back to Wodehouse and remain a great admirer. Some critics have been kind enough to call my writing Wodehousean, but I think that my work is unlike his.

Certainly I write faster than Plum ever did. Shortly before he died in 1975, he wrote me a very flattering letter, wondering how I could write 6,000 words a day when he managed far less in that time. But unlike for me, writing consumed him; at the time of his death he was writing a new Blandings book, the 11th in the series, from his hospital bed. It remained unfinished and was published two years later as Sunset at Blandings. When he wasn’t writing, he was thinking about writing and liked nothing better than to talk of plots and sub plots. He was the master of his craft

 Sudeley Castle