Pre-Christmas Roundup

The Financial Times has a review of a new book about country houses that opens with this reference to Evelyn Waugh who was something of an expert on the subject:

Evelyn Waugh wrote Brideshead Revisited in the early 1940s as a requiem for “the atmosphere of a better age”, one that celebrated the rituals of the English country house. In retrospect, Waugh realised that his lament was premature because the country house proved more resilient than he imagined. Indeed, great houses reinvented themselves in the second half of the 20th century, either by becoming more entrepreneurial, like Woburn and Longleat, or by being rescued through the efforts of the National Trust and the Heritage Lottery Fund, like Kedleston Hall and Calke Abbey.

The book is by  David Cannadine and Jeremy Musson and is entitled The Country House: Past, Present, Future,

In another reference to Brideshead, an article in Country Life magazine by Annunciata Elwes lists her 6 favorite nannies in literature. Among them is Nanny Hawkins:

‘Nanny did not particularly like to be talked to. She liked visitors best when they paid no attention to her and let her knit away, and watch their faces and think of them as she had known them as small children; their present goings-on did not signify much beside those early illnesses and crimes.’ Generally adored and sporadically visited in her quarters at Brideshead, this sweet figure is a symbol of lost innocence for the grown-up Flyte children of Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited.

Others listed include Mary Poppins and Madame Doubtfire.

The Independent has a story by Martin Chilton on the rather unhappy background of the film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. The story begins with the book  on which the film was based:

In April 1961, Ian Fleming, who was a heavy smoker and drinker, had a heart attack at the age of 53 and was ordered to convalesce. It was around this time that his eight-year-old son Caspar told him: “Daddy, you love James Bond more than you love me!” The author decided to show his affection for his only child – whom he nicknamed “003-and-a-half” – by writing in longhand a series of children’s stories he first called The Magical Car.

Fleming’s tales were about a flying car restored by Caractacus Potts, an inventor and retired naval commander. The title was later changed to Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang, which was based on the real cars Chitty-Bang-Bang 1, 2, 3 and 4 built by the eccentric motor enthusiast Louis Zborowski in the 1920s.

Fleming suffered another heart attack on 11 August 1964, following a long lunch at Royal St George’s Golf Club in Kent. He died the next morning, on his son’s 12th birthday. Fleming never got to see the printed versions of his children’s stories, which came out in October that year.

The death affected his son deeply (“Caspar hates me and talks of little but matricide. What shall I do?” his mother Ann wrote to novelist Evelyn Waugh). On 2 October 1975, aged just 23, Caspar committed suicide, taking an overdose of barbiturates at his mother’s home in Chelsea. A forlorn note in his pyjama pocket read: “If it is not this time it will be the next.”



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