A great book… the life and times of Louis Bazalgette…

It’s strange how one thing leads to another… here is a chain of events…

  1. I went to a lecture on local history and learned that a hero of mine, Joseph Bazalgette not only visited Weston-super-Mare where I now live, but had an input into the local drainage and sewerage system which was being constructed at the time of his visit
  2. I was so thrilled by this that I wrote a blog about it
  3. I was further thrilled to be contacted by a direct descendent of Sir Joseph with some interesting links to where I could find out more
  4. the direct descendent of Joseph, Charles Bazalgette, had, I noticed, published a book about his more distant ancestor Louis Bazalgette who was tailor to the Prince Regent, who became George IV
  5. Although I have no particular interest in Regency England, I was intrigued to find out more about Joseph’s ancestor
  6. I bought Prinny’s Taylor: The Life and Times of Louis Bazalgette (1750-1830) by Charles Bazalgette
  7. I have become absolutely engrossed in this book!

Even if like me you have no interest in the period, or in the Prince Regent, or in fashion and tailoring, I really recommend you read this book – it’s a fantastic and all-encompassing exploration of the life of an immigrant from France at a time when fashion and the fashion industry was as big business and as influential as it is today.

This is what the blurb on Amazon says about the book:

THE PHANTOM TAILOR
The Prince of Wales, later George IV, is probably the most written-about of all British monarchs, and his excesses, his debts and the huge sums that he expended on his wardrobe are legendary. It is therefore strange that the man who was the Prince’s tailor for over thirty-two years, and his principal tailor for over half of that time, should have been named, and then only in passing, in just two other books.
The reason why Louis Bazalgette has been a shadowy figure until now is that the relationship between the two men was discreet and almost clandestine. This biography presents a detailed picture of an extraordinary man, of humble origins, whose influence on gentlemen’s tailoring, and upon the Prince himself, must have been far-reaching.
This fascinating story presents a new angle on Georgian and Regency life, as seen through the eyes of a little French tailor who by his own efforts became a very wealthy propertied merchant. There is also a great deal of information on gentlemen’s tailoring of the period, a subject sparsely covered in other publications, and we are regaled in detail with the clothes that were made for Prinny, when and where he wore them and how much they cost.

The story starts, as you might imagine with Louis’s life and family in France; what I particularly enjoyed about this background detail was the research which had been done to find exactly who was related to whom in the days when there were only parish church records and several people had the same given name. I am trying to puzzle out to tell my own family history and much of it is unknown so I found Charles reasoned speculations very interesting – and gave me some ideas on how I might approach telling my story.

Although there are many characters, the way the book is written makes it clear who they are – and there are helpful reminders. Some writers mention a name once and then use a nickname or only the forename, and it can become quite confusing – not in this case. Charles slips in extra little details so reading is not interrupted by having to look up footnotes or end notes, it’s all there in the text.

Louis the tailor moved from France to London, and eventually became tailor to the Prince Regent. These days the media is obsessed with fashion, celebrity and patronage; so it was then and Charles includes reports from the newspapers of the clothes worn by the court. However, it is not only what was observed at the receptions and balls in Brighton and London, we are given the background to the actual outfits – how they were made, what from, where the fabrics and accessories were fabricated and how they were accessed, and the eye-watering amount they cost.

I mention ‘how they were made’ – there are whole chapters on the processes of making clothes pre-industrialisation – how the young apprentices learned their different trades, the brutally hard labour they endured, the sometimes crippling effects of doing the work, sitting cross-legged on tables for hours and hours.

The sheer extravagance is as repulsive as it is today – comparing the prince who squandered money on more clothes than he could possibly wear, running up bills of thousands of pounds (in today’s money £1000 from then would be nearly £125000 now) leaving his creditors unpaid, flaunting his extravagance while the ordinary people were often struggling to find work or enough to eat or somewhere to live…

All through the accounts of the clothes Louis made and the business he did, is the story of his life; the death of his first wife, the birth (and sometimes deaths) of his children, his second wife who may not have loved her step-children as much as perhaps she should have, and where he lived, and how he lived…

Here is a link to where you can find out more about Louis:

https://prinnystaylor.wordpress.com/

…and here is a link to the book –

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01ATSWXFM/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1

I hope you enjoy it as much as I am!

Here is a link to my books:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=lois+elsden

 

From Brighton to Great Yarmouth

A couple of days ago I confided here that I had got myself in a bit of a pickle with the book I am writing at the moment. I suddenly realised there was a great flaw in the family history of one of the characters; I’d made a bit of a blunder and written a whole series of episodes based on a premise which was wrong in various ways… it doesn’t matter what the ways were, the point I was pondering was what I should do.

I do a lot of thinking about my writing when I’m doing other things, driving somewhere, waiting for something or someone, in the hour or so before I fall asleep and a similar amount of time as I wake up the next morning. So, I stared at the screen a lot, reread the thread which would have to be rewritten, played about with various history sites and a few genealogical ones too… then this morning I got it!

I must admit I thought it would be a massive rewrite and lots of checking, but in fact, I’ve managed to rescue quite a lot… The scene changed from Brighton to Great Yarmouth and a couple of places in Norfolk; a convalescent home which became an asylum, and then a home for soldiers wounded in WWI, then a school, then another convalescent home for WWII soldiers and then a complex of fancy apartments (yes a complex thread!), became a tuberculosis sanatorium which was then bombed in WWI (yes, Norfolk and other east coast places were bombed in the first world war); details of the patients, the doctors and nurses, the neighbours who lived near the sanatorium also had new identities… and I think these changes have made the story better, more interesting, and with a greater scope for intriguing story lines and plot twists.

Much greater writers than me have had disasters, losing manuscripts, servants burning them, leaving them on trains etc… nothing a dramatic or disastrous for me, but I have realised that sometimes out of things going wrong, things going very much better can happen! … actually that’s a bit like life really!

Here’s a link to my novels… I’ve had to do a few rewrites on them too, I can tell you!!

https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=lois+elsden

 

Pier

As children we went to the east coast to visit the seaside; days out along the Norfolk coast, Snettisham was a favourite and my sister and I always called it Snetchibum which obviously we found hilarious! For the last week of the holidays, which was usually the first week in September we would go to a holiday camp – if you have ever watched ‘Hi-Di-Hi’ you will have an idea of what the Constitutional Holiday Camp at Hopton near Yarmouth was like.

I can never remember being taken on a pier, but now we live near Weston-super-Mare where there are two piers, albeit that one is gradually falling into the sea, being let rot by its negligent owner. The Grand Pier which is a splendid and very popular tourist attraction was opened a year after they started to build it, in 1904. it has caught fire twice, the most recent time in 2008. The other, older pier is a grade II listed building; it is the only pier in the country connecting an island to the mainland, and it was built in 1867 and it is an utter disgrace that is being allowed to fall to pieces and disappear into the sea.

Visiting Brighton last week, we went on the pier there; The Brighton Marine Palace and Pier was opened in 1899 having taken eight years to build. It is not the oldest pier in Brighton however, The West Pier was opened in 1866 and closed in 1975, and is now a skeletal ruin, out at sea. neither of these piers is the oldest, the 1822 chain pier was originally constructed to meet ships coming from France, and local entrepreneurs soon started selling refreshments and souvenirs, along with fortune tellers and the popular silhouette artiste.

BRIGHTON 2015 (44)

Along with all the holiday makers, we strolled along the pier, all 1772 feet of it, and having just had dinner we weren’t tempted by the ice-cream, hot-dogs and every other sort of take-away-and-walk-eating food you could imagine. There is a concert hall, and a massive fun fair at the end. I remember going on some exciting rides at a fairground at a different holiday camp we went to, but the thought of it now makes my stomach churn just the thought of it!

PIER BRIGHTON 2016 (15)

http://brightonpier.co.uk/

Pub gossip

We went to the pub this evening, our usual night for wandering down – it only takes us five minutes. There had been a music event on this afternoon, the last ever gig of a very good local band. We’d popped down to hear them, came home for an umbrella when it started to rain and then went back.

Now, this evening, all was quiet in the car park where the gig had happened, but inside it was busier than usual, left-overs from the fun afternoon. We chatted to some friends then took our drink through to the area which is between the two bars (traditionally the public and the saloon or lounge) in what in our pub is called ‘the cross benches’. There was a chap we recognised at the bar with wife and two doges, one of which was very yappy and snappy, a friend with her silent little dog, maybe intimidated by yapper-snapper, and Terry who used to be in a band with my husband… and plenty of other people in various stages of cheerful intoxication. The cheerful Canadian barman Tom served us, and we left him being chatted up by two rather inebriated but funny ladies.

At home we are both really busy with our ‘stuff’, me writing, my husband painting, drawing, practising his drums, so it’s lovely to come down to the pub and just chat to each other.

So topics tonight, which I can remember –

  • the character development in my books
  • rock and roll
  • Brandon Flowers
  • someone I used to work with who now ignores me
  • pouring beer
  • dogs in pubs
  • careers advice in school and what advice my husband received  – ‘If you have anything at all about you, go into the army, if you haven’t go into the Church of England’
  • the Proclaimers and their hits and their enduring appeal
  • the rather nice champagne I bought for son’s girlfriend’s birthday
  • being a session musician – as my husband has
  • our children
  • Brighton and the gay scene
  • how to cook fish fingers
  • the Dolphin barmen
  • people we know called Ferrari
  • London and visiting London
  • the strange shape of a lady at the bar
  • how annoying it is for taxi drivers when they turn up and their fair has disappeared
  • the Fallen Apples last ever gig – an excellent local band who played in the pub this afternoon
  • The Moor: Lives, Landscape by William Atkins
  • dogs rather less endearing habits

… and much,  much more which the ProclaimI can’t now recall! That’s the great thing about pubs, such a lot of chat!

Street art

Graffiti is fascinating and divisive… Some people love it, some hate it, some people only like it if it’s ‘good’, it can be enhancing, annoying, offensive, beautiful, and it’s worth or value is definitely in the eye of the beholder – no doubt the ‘artist’ is convinced of its worth anyway. Brighton, a most colourful city, has even more colour from its graffiti… or should they more rightly be called murals?

I had a fleeting and mainly unremembered visit to Brighton about twenty-five years ago; last year we visited and stopped over for a night and the weather was lovely and the sea was sparkling. We visited again a couple of days ago and had a good old wander, along the front, through the Lanes, round the Pavilion… a lovely couple of days! The city was bright and colourful, and we found lots of interest and lots to intrigue. Prior to this, my chief images were from the 1947 film, Brighton Rock, based on the 1930’s novel by Graham Greene…. I must reread the book and re-watch the film!

GRAFITTI BRIGHTON 2016 (1)In conventional art galleries there is often a little card with information about the work and the artist – and sometimes a little explanation too… Here most people just have to guess what it might mean!GRAFITTI BRIGHTON 2016 (4)

… and here… a game of living chess, but who is the grand master? Or is he just a cypher? I admire it but I can’t say I actually like it

GRAFITTI BRIGHTON 2016 (14)

Without knowing any more about this than the other images, I just like this one!

Mr Miller

BRIGHTON 2015 (30)Max Miller was born in 1894 in Brighton and he was one of the big names in variety theatre and music hall, but he was very much of his time, and by the time he died when he was sixty-eight, already that style of comedy was waning… or was it? There are aspects of comedy today, the risqué jokes, humour pushing the boundaries, the collusion between comic and audience – I think there is a lot he would recognize.

He was born into a poor family, and his name was Thomas Henry Sargent; his wife suggested his name change to Max Miller and after a journalist called him a cheeky chappie, the nick-name stuck. Although he died relatively young, and although the old style musical acts and variety performances were dying too at that time, he has had a profound influence on comedy ever since.