Thomas Cook

Thomas Cook

The collapse of Thomas Cook and Sons seems a good opportunity to remember the founder of the company and the age of excursions which he helped initiate. When he founded the business in Leicestershire in 1841 it was for local visits only.  Package tours which included whole UK itineraries, including steamer travel, and trips abroad came later. A cabinet maker and Baptist preacher, he wanted […]

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Author Interview

I was recently interviewed on the American website nfreads.com. Follow the link: Interview With Author Stephen Lycett

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A History of Lost Sensations 4

A History of Lost Sensations 4

The painting is Life at the Seaside or Ramsgate Sands by W.P. Frith. By modern standards these seaside tourists of 1853 look horribly uncomfortable because they look horribly over-dressed. That it’s a hot is obvious from the number of parasols. But why, we ask ourselves, the bonnets and shawls, the bowlers and top hats, the neckties and the waistcoats? Why is no-one, apart from the […]

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A History of Lost Sensations 3

A History of Lost Sensations 3

The olfactory world of the Victorians was ranker than ours. Let’s start with sewage. Most people know about the Great Stink of 1858, when a heatwave acting on the raw sewage in the Thames produced a stench so overpowering that Parliament was forced to close. Among the reasons for the sewage pollution in the river were the well-meant reforms of the 1830s and 40s which […]

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A History of Lost Sensations 2

A History of Lost Sensations 2

In the last blog I offered soundscapes from the present, from fifty years ago and from 1533. What about a hundred and fifty years ago? We think of the modern world as a noisy place and, if you live under the Heathrow flight path, no doubt it is, but I think we’d be surprised by how noisy life in Victorian cities really was. Thomas Carlyle […]

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A History of Lost Sensations 1

A History of Lost Sensations 1

Here’s a modern urban and domestic soundscape: – Unsilenced motorcycle exhausts, burglar alarms, lorry reversing beepers, pings and buzzes from your mobile, other people’s ring tones, humming of fridges, music from builders’ radios, clang of scaffolding poles being loaded and unloaded, rasp of garden strimmers, creak of cooling radiators, rip of opening Velcro, rumble of trains on bridges, drone of microlights, chimes of ice cream […]

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The Retrospective Destinator

The Retrospective Destinator

The Retrospective Destinator   If you follow the link you will find an audio file of The Advertising Copywriter’s Tale (Part One). It takes about fifteen minutes to listen to. The story concerns two men who advertise themselves as follows: ‘Retrospective destinators – Messrs Hancock and Breeze offer a discreet service as makers and menders of damaged or incomplete reputations.’ The idea was suggested by […]

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Joseph Paxton and the Crossley Family – A Tenuous Link, but a Personal One

Joseph Paxton and the Crossley Family – A Tenuous Link, but a Personal One

The photograph at the head of this blog is of the ‘peach cases’ at Somerleyton Hall in Suffolk, which I visited last week. They were commissioned in the 1840s by Samuel Morton Peto, the railway entrepreneur, and designed by Joseph Paxton, then head gardener at Chatsworth House and future architect of the Crystal Palace. One of the wonders of the age, the Crystal Palace outlived […]

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The Waltz

The Waltz

One of the Mr Blackwood  proof readers queried both the appearance of the waltz and the use of dance cards in The Corporal’s Tale, which is set in the year of Waterloo. After further research I replied to her as follows: You’ll be pleased to know that I’ve incorporated all your amendments – bar one. And that, of course, is the waltz. I thought you […]

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A Napoleonic Postscript

A Napoleonic Postscript

Although Mr Blackwood’s Fabularium is set in 1851, some of the stories are set in earlier periods. One of them is The Corporal’s Tale. Corporal Costello is a veteran of the Peninsula War and Waterloo. He was also in the army of occupation in Paris, which is where the events of his tale take place. I found this very hard to research. It took me […]

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