Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky: OMG clothes

The Yorkshire Grey in Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky

Grange Langham Court in Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky

Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky by Patrick Hamilton is hands down the best book I’ve read this year, and I’m really sad that it has taken me so long to read it. Wasted years.

It’s actually a trilogy of short stories all revolving around a pub called The Midnight Bell and, spoiler alert, it’s really bleak. Anyone who has read this blog and monitored my reading habits will roll their eyes to hear that the first story in the trilogy was published in 1929, when Patrick was just 24. Two more stories followed in 1932 and 1934 and here they’re all bundled together – you’d never guess they weren’t originally published as one story – the mood and tone just flows so perfectly.

This is, perhaps, because it’s basically Patrick’s own story. The trilogy follows barman Bob, pub waitress Ella and ~~lady of the night~~ Jenny and while Patrick might not have been a barman, he was hopelessly in love with a prostitute and spent a lot of time loitering in Fiztrovia pubs observing life’s comings and goings – and getting his heart broken.

I’m not sure if it’s because I used to live in that area – and work in a pub there – but after about ten pages I became obsessed with the idea of a film adaptation of the books. My potential screenwriting career didn’t get very far though, because the BBC beat me to it. The TV adaptation was broadcast in 2005 with Bryan Dick as barman Bob, the beautiful Zoe Tapper as Jenny and Sally Hawkins as Ella.

I really urge you to read the book but you should also watch the adaptation beacause it’s absolutely brilliant and completely true to the original. By which I mean, again, it’s really bleak. On the plus side, the clothes are dead good – so here they are.

(First things first – the TV adaptation sees one of my favourite London pubs, The Yorkshire Grey, stand in for The Midnight Bell. Check it out above – and the beautiful Grange Langham Court opposite.)

Sally Hawkins as Ella in Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky

Ella is my least favourite of the three characters because the tragic elements of her story feel a bit more her own fault, although I guess it’s down to her insecurities more than anything else. She’s played by Sally Hawkins in the adaptation which caused a bit of grumbling online – Ella is supposed to be quite unattractive; you understand why she has reached her late 20s and is single and sorry for herself, whereas Sally is obviously quite attractive. Here she is dolling herself up in the opening scenes, ready for a day in the bar.

Sally Hawkins as Ella in Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky

But wait, what’s this? We pan out to see she has a glossy black bob. I didn’t really have Ella down as a flapper, despite the era. The fact she’s a bit dowdy and uncool definitely didn’t lead me to expect this snazzy hair, so interesting move BBC. All we get from the book is that she has short hair – “her hair was dark, and, to be ‘in fashion’, she had it shingled” – and that her regulars at the bar berate her for it. I kind of imagined her to have more of a frizzy helmet like this than something so sleek.

Sally Hawkins as Ella in Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky

Pleased to see, however, that they hadn’t fallen down the Gatsby route of making her an all-caps FLAPPER with pearls and fringing and all that jazz. She’s wearing a lovely, non-fussy, 1930s dress with a relatively dowdy print and girlish lace collar. This is quite clearly not a sexy outfit, which I guess helps to mask some of Sally’s natural prettiness and make her more Ella-ish.

Sally Hawkins as Ella in Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky

Uh-oh, it’s creepy Mr Eccles! I’m not going to spoiler this little plot device, but this dress that Ella wears on their visit to Lyons is another pretty, serviceable number…

Sally Hawkins as Ella in Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky

… as is this one she wears on another visit. It’s almost tragic how girlish all of these dresses are – Ella’s a grown woman and all she wears is overgrown toddler outfits, all with lace collars and floppy bows. OH ELLA. I like the fact she’s wearing the same hat though; she’s supposed to be a fairly broke barmaid in a backstreet pub and yet she’s in a different dress every day. And it’s not like she’s the kind of gal who’s frivolous with her spending. Maybe she just invests in classic pieces like hats and coats and fills in the gaps with cheap and cheerful bits. Am I overthinking this?

Zoe Tapper as Jenny in Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky

Here’s Jenny before she goes off the rails. How presentable! Not too into her hat and weird collar coat, but that’s a personal thing – she certainly looks like a respectable 1920s young woman who doesn’t have a drink problem, doesn’t she? If I was the lovely old ladies who hired her as a maid, I’d be just as delighted as them with her cheery presence.

Zoe Tapper as Jenny in Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky

Life going wrong for Jenny step one; waking up in a strange man’s house. Still, she’s still in her old gear and looks quite at home and presentable in her red paisley dress – that sailor bow collar almost looks like something Ella would wear. See also (except you can’t in this picture, soz) her big drapey cardigan.

Zoe Tapper as Jenny in Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky

Fast forward a few months and Jenny is now working on the streets in London. On one of her first dates with Bob she wears this dead nice optical print snug-fitting jumper and a little hat. Note the difference in hair colour; peroxide = fallen woman, that’s how telly works.

Zoe Tapper as Jenny in Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky

Zoe Tapper as Jenny in Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky

Here’s Jenny and one of her mates winding up Bob in the pub. I am crazy about this outfit, which looks like something I’d like to wear right now; the tight-fitting gold top, the giant bracelets, the wavy blonde bob, the sulky face. Also into her mate’s pink dress and hat combo – exactly what I want to be wearing right now, as per my previous post.

Zoe Tapper as Jenny in Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky

Zoe Tapper as Jenny in Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky

Zoe Tapper as Jenny in Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky  

I have less of a hard time with Jenny’s multiple outfits, fur coats and fancy hats; she often refers to clients buying her nice outfits so there’s none of the mystery of Ella’s giant wardrobe. This hat in particular is a dream, isn’t it? I don’t know if that’s supposed to be a bunch of grapes or what but it’s suitably attention-seeking regardless.

Bloody love Zoe Tapper as a bombshell blonde – here she is with natural hair. Babely, sure, but not such a knockout as with the peroxide barnet.

Sorry for the lack of focus on Bob; my lack of interest in menswear even extends to 1930s stuff.

Have you read Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky? Have you watched the TV series? I’d love to know your thoughts if so, my @furcoat bookclub might only exist online for now, but I’m all for discussion.

Lyons Corner Houses in Literature

lyons

I read so many books about the interwar period that Lyons Corner Houses have become part of my day to day life, despite the fact that they ceased to exist in the 1960s. For those that don’t lead such a thrilling life as me, let me fill you in.

Lyons was a tea and food manufacturer that opened up a series of tea shops in the 1800s. They had their fingers in many pies (and sold many pies too undoubtedly) but most exciting of all were the Lyons Corner Houses that infiltrated London’s West End. Slightly more upmarket than their cafes and canteens, the first golden temple of tea and cake opened in 1907 and the last one shut its doors in 1977 – you can see a map of where they once stood on this excellent fan site.

Designed in the art deco style (*FurCoat bingo*) these Corner Houses sprawled over multi-storey buildings throughout the West End, housing food halls and bakeries as well as several restaurants and cafes. Some of them were 24 hours and pretty much all seemed to feature live orchestras to make your cheap and cheerful snack a bit more of the latter even though it was definitely the former. Staffed by the infamous Nippies, they seem entirely romantic to me – despite the fact they were probably an interwar equivalent of Starbucks in terms of their presence and pricing. I’m afraid to say that this takes none of the romance away from their gold deco interiors and cheap cake and sausage rolls to me.

The exhibition that’s just opened in Eastbourne looks at Lyons lithographs – art that was comissioned by the chain when wartime austerity meant that they couldn’t kit out the restaurants in quite the same grandeur as previously. Read more about it here – I hope I can squeeze in a visit.

I can’t pretend to know much about Lyons Corner Houses (thanks Wikipedia for your help on the above), but once I started reading all of this interwar fiction it became apparent that they were being dropped in to just about every book I picked up. I had meant to start a list but that never materialised and it wasn’t until I started reading Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky recently – where Lyons pop up liberally – that I thought about the idea again.

Too late now, and I don’t really ever re-read books, but here we go – it’s a start. If you come across any Lyons Corner House references in your books any time soon, holler at your girl!

A-LYONS-NIPPY-MISS-HIBBOTT-1939-1-C28124

I Capture the Castle, Dodie Smith

“… I remembered that there is a Corner House close to Piccadilly and that Topaz had once told me it keeps open all night… I drank cup after cup of tea – the last one was so weak that I could the lump of sugar sitting at the bottom of it. Then the waitress came and asked if I wanted anything more. I didn’t feel like leaving so I studied the menu carefully and ordered a lamb cutlet – they take a nice long time to cook and only cost sevenpence each.

“… Then the lamb cutlet arrived surrounded by a sea of white plate and looking smaller than I believed any cutlet could. I ate it as slowly as possible, I even ate the sprig of parsley they threw in for sevenpence. Then the waitress put my bill down on the table and cleared away my plate in a very final way, so after a long drink of free water I felt I had better go.”

wolfgang suschitzky lyons corner house tottenham court road london 1934 another london limited

Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky, Patrick Hamilton

“They were seated opposite each other at a table for two on the basement floor of Lyons’ Coventry Street Corner House. The time was about half-past nine. The orchestra was playing, drowning Mr Eccles’ voice; and nearly every table in this vast, marble, subterannean Versailles for London’s hungry and teeming nondescripts, was engaged.

“Ella had at first been a little disappointed that he should have brought her to the Corner House; for she had been before of an evening, and after the terrific splash he had made at the theatre, and with Army people and one thing and another, she had somehow got it into her head that when he spoke of Dinner he had in mine somewhere a little more intimate, original and exciting – one of those little restaurants in Soho, say, which she had so often wondered about. But she at once reproved herself for greed in pleasure, and was in a way relieved to be on her own ground, where she knew how to behave and where she was suitably dressed.”

Allinson_Drawing-580x600

The Winds of Heaven, Monica Dickenson

“… Louise, who could not afford to buy clothes for herself, had then walked about and looked in shop windows, until the truculence of the untiring wind had driven her into the universal haven of Lyons.

“It was that hour in mid-afternoon when those who are on the early lunch and tea break come forth among the exhausted shoppers to get themselves a bite of something to keep them going until five-thirty. When she had stood in line and paid for her cake and cup of tea, Louise could not at first see anywhere to put down her tin tray. Being a Londoner, she did not mind holding a tray among a crowd of people with similar trays laden with unlikely food for the hour of day, and women stacking dirty dishes and wiping off tables with damp cloths.”

[Pics: After You’ve Gone; Chris Beetles Fine Photographs; Persephone; Persephone]

The Lady Vanishes: OMG clothes!

The Lady Vanishes BBC1 costumes

As a self-confessed film dimwit, I don’t feel capable of commenting too much on the BBC’s recent adaptation of The Lady Vanishes. I know a lot of people think remaking Hitchcock is a no-no and that questions were also raised about the shunting of this drama from high-profile Christmas big-hitter to middle-of-March nothingness… but what do I know? My favourite film is Detroit Rock City which centres around KISS and slices of pizza, so I have no  right to judge.

The Lady Vanishes is, as I’m sure all real adults who know about films are aware, an adaptation of the 1936 novel, The Wheel Spins, by Ethel Lina White which Hitchcock took to the big screen in 1938. It centres around a beautiful, spoilt bright young thing called Iris Henderson (played in this version by the amazingly-named Tuppence Middleton) who basically lols around in Europe in the sun having a smashing old time annoying all the stuffy old hotel guests and looking lovely. When she gets the train home back to London, things take a turn to the dark side when Iris’s train companion vanishes. The clue’s in the name with that one, huh?

It was the perfect Sunday night viewing for me after a weekend of moving all of our belongings from South London to Sheffield before we go on hiatus, so I didn’t focus quite so much on the plot as the costumes. Who am I kidding? I would have always focussed on the costumes. Dimwit.

Top pic – Iris and pals in full make-up and hair sets, drinking champagne in a lake. Isn’t this the most blissful sight you’ve ever seen?

BBC1 The Lady Vanishes costumes

Iris mulls by a lake in an absolutely dreamy silk bias cut maxi dress. Pretty sure that if you’re making a film/TV show set in the early 30s the heroine has to wear a fabulous backless bias-cut gown.

BBC1 The Lady Vanishes costumes

Iris answers the door in some of the silkiest pyjamas you ever did see. I urge you to watch the show on iPlayer for the sole purpose of seeing how those move – poetry in motion, frankly. I’m currently on the hunt for pyjamas to take travelling and while my head is telling me that an old t-shirt will suffice, my heart is telling me I need an ivory camisole and wide-leg trousers. Take note too of the luggage packed up to the side of the dresser – is that an LV trunk?

BBC1 The Lady Vanishes costumes

BBC1 The Lady Vanishes costumes

Iris’s adventuring outfit. Atta gal. See, you can go walking in stupid outfits (ref: every post I’ve ever made about the great outdoors). I love this sailor collar and culottes combo and combined with chunky hiking socks and boots, gives me confidence that I can climb volcanoes in Hawaii without losing any of my usual impractical style. OK, so Iris did fall down a cliff in this scene but that’s resolutely not the outfit’s fault.

BBC1 The Lady Vanishes costumes

This is the last we see of Iris before she boards the train – and I don’t like her train outfit, so it’s a good place to stop. This black bias-cut gown (yep, another one) gets a smart little update with that white collar – pretty much obsessed with that rick-rack trim and the garçonne feel it adds to what could be just another column dress.

You can watch The Lady Vanishes and admire Andi Bencsik’s costumes on the BBC iPlayer until Sunday 24 March.

Furcoat Christmas: 1920s bore

This year’s Christmas gift suggestions are based around the varying facets of my personality – because I’m sure that everyone can find a bit of @furcoat inside them if they look hard enough.

Today’s topic; the 1920s. Because I think we all know my feelings on that. So then, presents for modern day flappers and those equally obsessed with the era of gin, jazz and Fitzgerald.

1920s themed gifts

1. International Hygiene Convention Print, £11, Culture Label – actually dates from 1911 but that navy and gold and big ol’ eye still do it for me.

2. Vintage Flask, €8, Etsy – again this actually is dated 1977 but hell, that pattern is pretty deco  and secret booze is basically the point of my 20s obsession.

3. Art Deco London by Colin Hines, £9.99, English Heritage – like an I-Spy book for art deco obsessed adults.

4. FEW Standard Issue Navy Strength Gin, £36.95, Whisky Exchange – it wouldn’t be a 1920s Christmas without gin.

5. Butter London Nail Lacquer in Jack the Lad, £12, Harvey Nichols – moss green with gold flecks is way cooler than red for Christmas, don’t you think?

6. Sagaform Shot and Decanter Set, £24, Heal’s – see number 4.

7. Brooch Bandeau Headband, £10, Topshop – turbans are top, especially when they are the same colour as your hair. This would also come in handy when you’re trying to wash your face at someone’s house and you resort to using your t-shirt pulled back over your head.

8. Whistles Taylor Statement Earrings, £30, ASOS – geometric design, gold, black stone = winning combination for a wannabe flappery type.

9. Pompon Slipper, £29.99, Zara Home – slippers are another Christmas essential I reckon and these fluffy pompoms are more sophisticated than the leopard-print woolly boot things I’m currently wearing. I mean they’re basically UGGS. What am I? A monster? These are much more stylish and imagine how smashing they’d look with some proper pyjamas and that turban. IMAGINE.

10. Rose Embroidered Kimono, £58, Topshop – I have the blouse version of this and it looks so fancy IRL. This could probably do with some fringing to look really 20s, but otherwise it pretty much looks the part. The kind of thing that magazines would describe as being the perfect way to dress up jeans. I would never say such a thing but you can draw your own conclusions.

11. Cat Mask, £7, V&A – I went to a party at the splendidly art deco London masonic hall once wearing this. The cat’s pyjamas of dressing up options.

12. Art Deco iPhone Case, $20, Etsy – what any self-respecting flapper would protect her iPhone with, were she transported to 2012.

13. The Parade Tarot Cards, £55, Hermes – because I reckon Lita from Twilight Sleep (Edith Warton, 1927) would want them.

14. Charlotte Olympia Lunatic Leather Clutch, £395, Net-A-Porter – if anyone fancied blowing their load on me this Christmas, I would like it blowing in this direction.

Bryan Ferry’s Jazz Age

THE-JAZZ-AGE-1

I love Bryan Ferry, I love the 1920s (no wait what really? etc) and I even love novelty albums to some extent. Pretty sure Bry wouldn’t describe his new album as a novelty record but, well, concept album sounds ludicrous doesn’t it?

The Bryan Ferry Orchestra’s Jazz Age album basically sees Bryan and his pals doing jazz cover versions of some of his and Roxy Music’s biggest hits, and it really isn’t as awful (or Mike Flowers) as that sounds.

Timed to coincide with the big man’s 40th year in the industry (REALLY?), it’s basically big band Bryan and although some of it borders of lol, most of it is just brilliant and kind of just passes for tootly twenties jazz until you hear a riff you recognise and remember. Honest, put one track in a mixed bag playlist and put shuffle on and you’d totally forget and be all like, ‘what is this awesome track that I had the good sense to add? God I have the BEST taste in music when I’m drunk and in charge of Spotify and no-one can argue with that.’

Anyway – Bryan is a big ol’ jazz fan, the Guardian tells us, in a feature which also allows you to stream the whole album.

“I started my musical journey listening to a fair bit of jazz, mainly instrumental, and from diverse and contrasting periods.

“After 40 years of making records, both in and out of Roxy Music, I thought now might be an interesting moment to revisit some of these songs, and approach them as instrumentals in the style of that magical period, bringing a new and different life to these songs – a life without words.”

And why not, eh? I’d also add that the cover of the album owes a lot to the Jeeves & Wooster credits which were so marvellously rendered by Animation City. Dance little jazz men, dance!

Jaw

See? There’s a little preview of one of the tracks below and if that takes your fancy you can listen to the whole thing here on the Guardian.

Just another thought on trains

[Picture: Alexander Turnbull Library]

Just came across this picture of a civilised-looking 1920s journey.

One of those happy coincidences – that probably isn’t really a coincidence, but more the fact that I’m thinking about trains a lot at the moment and thus the universe is sending trains in my direction… not literally, of course.

Seeing this picture reminded me of a quote from a book I read at some point last year, which made me hate commuting even more;

By 1900… commuting was not such a chore. Trains were luxurious; seated in upholstered easy chairs one was served with tea or alcoholic refreshments by uniformed attendants. The railway companies sought to make long journeys as painless as possible, providing civilised restaurant cars, commodious toilet compartments, perfumery and shoeshine facilities. A person would hardly know they had left home.

Among the Bohemians: Experiments in Living 1900-1939 by Virginia Nicholson

Sounds way more fun than standing on a platform for an hour waiting for a Southern train to show up and whisk you away to Sutton!

Paris, Je t’aime – Vogue US, September 2007

A timely revisit to one of my all-time favourite editorials.

Can you guess why?

lol

As well as the flapper vibe, this editorial feels just as relevant to me today as in 2007 because of the Louis Vuitton glamorous train journey vibe and Edwardian/Downton hat business in that last shot.

I actually don’t think that they are on a train at any point, but in that second-to-last picture at least the curves of the wood and the through-the-window-view certainly make it feel that way.

Definite vibes of an elegant waiting lounge anyway – just like my favourite drinking place at home in Sheffield and new favourite drinking place in London.

Really quite content that I can go from one gloriously restored bit of station at one end of my journey to another gloriously restored bit of station at the other – the train part might be punctuated with M&S gin-in-a-can but at least either side of the trip you get to go somewhere nice.

Paris, Je T’aime first appeared in Vogue US in September 2007

Photographer: Steven Meisel

Stylist: Grace Coddington

Models: Agyness Deyn, Caroline Trentini, Coco Rocha, Gemma Ward, Guinevere van Seenus, Sasha Pivovarova

[Pictures: Trendstalkers.com]

Gatsby on Film: 1926 to now


Finishing off a Gatsby-packed birthday week, here’s the trailer for Baz Luhrmann’s Great Gatsby – which I’m sure you’ve all enjoyed already.

I’m still not convinced that we need to see it in 3D – and I’m still not convinced that Carey Mulligan is right as Daisy – but otherwise it gets a double thumbs up from me. For what it’s worth, I think Leo is perfect for Gatsby.

The 1974 adaptation (which I blogged about here) is pretty poor overall, but I do think that Mia Farrow fits unhinged Daisy pretty well – at least in terms of how I imagined her. Her acting, we can ignore. Something about that 1970s washed-out, sun-drenched camera work just adds to the feeling of restless rich people.

The two earlier adaptations are a lot harder to find in full, alas. The 1949 version seems to start with a mega spoiler, although I suppose it serves the morality lesson. I do like Alan Ladd at Gatsby – he actually has a look of Leo at times. I (sort of) like the story that Gene Tierney was thrown off the production because her beauty was TOO MUCH! No such thing as too much beauty where Daisy is concerned, in my opinion.

The 1926 (silent) version is considered a lost film as no full copies are known to survive. The above snippet of a trailer is a tantalisingly tease though – it looks completely fantastic, doesn’t it? The fact it was made just one year after the book’s release no doubt helps with the authenticity – the costumes are the best I’ve seen, even in that tiny clip. I particularly enjoy the tagline of ‘The Great Gatsby is Great’. Lois Wilson is a beautiful Daisy too – I just wish there was more footage of her in action in the role.

There was also a made-for-TV movie in 2000, featuring none other than Paul Rudd as Nick Carraway. What casting! I don’t quite understand Mira Sorvino with her ridiculous hair as Daisy – I’m not saying she needs a shingle to make a point but really, really? Toby Stephens? Really? And Nick’s house is way too nice. Still, it’s a diverting enough way to spend an hour or so.

Lucy Danziger-inspired lingerie from Fox & Rose

I started to watch 1920s epic Boardwalk Empire on a plane a couple of years ago – I watched three episodes and although it was obviously right up my street, the combination of a few gins and a holiday meant that by the time I got back to England, I somehow lost interest and never got round to watching any more.

Pleased to report that I got the box set for my birthday and am now getting up to speed – five episodes in two nights, almost as good as my Wire series one consumption rate. I can’t tell you how much better it is watching the series on a laptop in bed – sitting on a plane you’re very conscious that Paz de la Huerta’s magnificent chest is kind of in everyone’s face and all that foot-stamping-face-action is hard to hide from.

When I got an email from Fox & Rose this morning about the new 1920s-inspired lingerie from Shell Belle Couture, it was Paz – or rather her character, Lucy Danziger –  that I thought of. She spends most of the show lounging around in silky step-ins, robes and gowns – often purchased from little old nervous Margaret Schroeder. Imagine being Kelly Macdonald and spending hours with your face in Paz’s crotch helping her get into her knickers?

The range comprises some beautiful short suits, cut-out gowns with deco-inspired panels and lots and lots of beautiful lace. Just add a heaving bosom and feathered headband and you’re all set to sit on Nucky’s lap and drink some moonshine.

[Boardwalk Empire pictures from TVGuide, FanPop and Vermilion Style]

Book club: Arabella Boxer’s Book of English Food

This week I received an unexpected treat in the post, in the form of a book from my dear friend Harriet. Love books, love cookery books and especially love cookery books that are related to the 1920s so thumbs up, Reuter Hapgood, for ticking all of the boxes.

Let’s take a minute to breathe in the press release:

If you were Wallis Simpson and had a king coming round for supper, what would you have cooked? Or if you had a stunning estate in the country and were throwing a party for all your friends, what might you have served as canapés? Which cocktails would you have sipped?

That’s EXACTLY the kind of thing I spend my time thinking about!

Arabella Boxer’s Book of English Food: A Rediscovery of British Food from Before the War was first published in 1993 and is a celebration of English food in the 1920s and 30s – a pretty interesting time for food, actually. At one end of the spectrum you had Edwardian-style dinner parties and stately home nursery teas still very much in abundance, but there was also the added excitement of the American influence (from people like WALLIS!), French influence (from smart society deciding that’s where the best chefs were from) and more exotic influences from the Bloomsbury set who liked to travel, a lot, and bring their new-found tastes back with them.

I haven’t had the chance to make anything from the book yet, but here’s the jist. There’s a really interesting opening section which I have read, which covers a bit of history of the era and how food fits into that. It’s then broken down into sections by courses, with the all-important ‘Picnics and Shooting Lunches’ as well as, obviously, ‘Drinks’. Each of these sections opens with a bit of context about that specific course and how it fitted into life and social occasions, what was popular and why, and who was responsible for its popularity. The answer should always be: Wallis Simpson.

You’ve then got a bunch of recipes, which have been compiled from all sorts of sources ranging from country house cooks’ records, family memories, old issues of things like Vogue and lots and lots of historical recipe books.

As I said, I’ve not had the chance to cook anything just yet, but here’s a delicious-sounding cocktail instead;

Wine Cup

This recipe came from Justerini & Brooks, one of the leading wine merchants in the inter-war years, by appointment to King George VI. Justerini & Brooks were established in the 1750s, and are still going strong. This is a most delicious cup, pale pink in colour. It is slightly too sweet for drinking at a meal, but perfect for a pre-lunch drink, or at a party, on a summer day.The original recipe called for maraschino as well as brandy, but this is very hard to find nowadays, so I leave it out.

1 bottle of good vin rosé

75ml brandy

450ml fizzy lemonade

450ml soda water or sparkling mineral water

a few slices (unpeeled) of green apple, oranges and lemons

a few strips of cucumber peel

Serve very cold.

This isn’t the only book I own that covers historical cooking, and cooking for high-society. Clearly it’s something I do regularly, so I like to stock up. Arabella Boxer’s Book of English Food has an utterly fantastic bibliography too, so I’m sure there’ll be plenty more to add to the list. However;

The Duchess of Devonshire’s Chatsworth Cookery Book is the most famous of this genre, I guess. Famously she opens it with the words, “I haven’t cooked since the war,” but should you fancy salmon gravlax and cheddar terrine with beurre blanc sauce for 48 people, this one’s your best bet. Sticking with Chatsworth, I also love Rachel Green’s Chatsworth Cookery Book which isn’t quite so ridiculous and mostly covers cooking quick and easy meals with seasonal ingredients – but it mentions Chatsworth so it must be a bit fancy, and plenty of the recipes are historical. Finally, another new(ish) addition to my collection: Kitchen Essays by Agnes Jekyll. A Persephone publication, it rounds up Agnes’s recipes and food writing from the 20s with such categories as ‘entertaining bachelors’ and ‘dinner before the theatre’ – a delicious slice of inter-war life, for a certain sector of society anyway.

Arabella Boxer’s Book of English Food goes on sale 26 July and will be priced at a very reasonable £20. The above is clearly a review copy, hence the spiral-bind. For your twenty quid you’ll get a lovely hardback.

FUN FACT! Arabella Boxer’s grandson runs Frank’s Campari Bar in Peckham.