Friday, 3 January 2014

particles of batter

A few days have passed, I find. They have not been wasted. I've been a bit businesslike on here for a while, with too few dead earls and so on. I will try to be better. If I'm not, console yourself with this dog. I know funny dogs are just funny dogs, but this is a really funny dog.

I have been looking at old newspapers. I was pulled in by a headline about Prunella Stack, a fitness and women's rights pioneer Britain's 'perfect girl' who gave talks and lectures between the wars and whose aristocratic husband was shot down and killed over France in 1944. The headline ran: Prunella Stack Weds As Police Tackle Mob, and it was in the Montreal Gazette. Apparently 20,000 gawkers turned up to see PS, who usually wore shorts, marry the fourth son of the Duke of Hamilton, Scotland's premier peer and the police had to use regulations designed for football fans to deal with them. (She didn't wear shorts. She wore a gown of parchment velvet with a five yard train.)

One of the things that makes these old pages brilliant is that editors didn't leave space. They did the typesetting and then did all kinds of idiosyncratic things to fill the gaps. On the Stack page is a story about James Mollison, the Australian airman who had flown with and been divorced from Amy Johnson and who was marrying for a second time. His new wife, Mrs Hussey, was the owner of plantations in Jamaica. Under this titbit was a gap before an advert. The Montral Gazette cast around and filled it thusly: For a rye-bread sandwich spread, try cottage cheese combined with chopped dills.

After the PS article, the gap is filled: Particles of batter should be removed from the waffle iron while it is hot. A small wire brush is ideal for this purpose.

Prunella Stack's obituary in the Telegraph, as so often, is brilliant. If you can't turn the following into a good novel, you aren't much of a novelist:

Douglas-Hamilton took Prunella Stack climbing in the Alps and introduced her to his future best man, Prince Ernst August of Hanover, whom he had met when both men were undergraduates at Balliol College, Oxford, along with Adam von Trott, the Prussian aristocrat who would be executed in 1944 for his part in the conspiracy to assassinate Hitler.

...

All contacts with Germany ceased, however, when war was declared six months later — although the Douglas-Hamiltons’ ties with Germany were possibly what led the deputy Fuhrer, Rudolf Hess, to fly to Lennoxlove, the Duke of Hamilton’s ancestral Scottish home, in 1941 in a doomed attempt to end the war.

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