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Saturday, September 24, 2016

A TOUR GUIDE IN ENGLAND: DAY FOUR - PART THREE: DINNER AT SIMPSON'S IN THE STRAND






You may recall that in Part One of our Day Four post Diane, Jo and I had gone on a London Walk of the Covent Garden area that included a stop at Simpson's in the Strand restaurant. I told you then that there would be more about this venerable and much loved eatery to come and so there shall be. Now.



From the Simpson's in the Strand website:

Originally opened in 1828 as a chess club and coffee house - The Grand Cigar Divan - Simpson's soon became known as the "home of chess", attracting such chess luminaries as Howard Staunton the first English world chess champion through its doors. It was to avoid disturbing the chess games in progress that the idea of placing large joints of meat on silver-domed trolleys and wheeling them to guests' tables first came into being, a practice Simpson's still continues today. One of the earliest Master Cooks insisted that everything in the restaurant be British and the Simpson's of today remains a proud exponent of the best of British food. Famous regulars include Charles Dickens, George Bernard Shaw, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (and his fictional creation, Sherlock Holmes), Benjamin Disraeli and William Gladstone.





Known for it's joints of beef wheeled tableside on huge, steel trollies, Simpsons has always been a favourite of those with a literary bent. From Wikipedia In E. M. Forster's Howards End, Henry Wilcox is a devotee of Simpson's. P. G. Wodehouse devoted several paragraphs of Something New to the restaurant, and in his novel Psmith in the City, his two heroes dine there: "Psmith waited for Mike while he changed, and carried him off in a cab to Simpson's, a restaurant which, as he justly observed, offered two great advantages, namely, that you need not dress, and, secondly, that you paid your half-crown, and were then at liberty to eat till you were helpless, if you felt so disposed, without extra charge." Simpson's is also featured in Wodehouse's "Cocktail Time" as the restaurant that one of the characters, Cosmo Wisdom, chooses to lunch at after leaving Prison. Simpson's also features in the Sherlock Holmes stories. Watson joins Holmes there during the story "The Illustrious Client" the detective is sitting "looking down at the rushing stream of life in the Strand."


The window in the upstairs bar at Simpsons. Possibly the window Holmes himself had gazed out from. 

So you see, it's not unusual that I should have chosen Simpson's as the scene of this evening's dinner party, for a party it was to be and, as Diane and I had some time before the rest of my guests arrived, we headed upstairs to Knight's Bar for a cocktail. Wodehouse would no doubt have approved. 

Literary connections aside, Simpson's has also been the site of a Royal intrigue or two, the most widely known being that Simpson's, this very bar no less, was used by King Edward VII to secretly meet with his mistress, Lillie Langtry.

Lillie Langtry and King Edward VII


Diane and I took a table by the window, which gave us a direct view of the table and mural, above. This was Edward VII's table, as it stands by itself in a corner alcove, away from prying eyes. The mural disguise's a hidden door, through which the lovely Lilly would slip in order to sit beside her Royal lover. 



And so Diane and I sat with our cocktails and waited for the rest of the party to arrive. Can you guess who they were? A member of the Royal Family, perhaps? Much better - my guests this evening were some of the fabulous guest speakers and guides who will be part of Number One London's 2017 Tours.



From left to right: Diane Perkins (Diane Gaston), Kristine Hughes Patrone, Ian Fletcher, 
Nicola Cornick and Melanie Hilton (Louise Allen)

Oysters, dinner, wine and a grand time were had by all!


Full Details Regarding Number One London's 
2017 Tours Coming Soon!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

GUEST POST BY AUTHOR ABIGAIL DANE, PART ONE

From Victoria:  Abigail Dane has undertaken an ambitious project, a trilogy, of which the first book is now available.  Welcome, Abigail!


Author Abigail Dane


My books are  set during the English Civil War.  I have immersed myself in the history of the period, and I can make the case that this conflict changed England forever and set the stage for all that followed—in England and in the colonies of the Indies and America, as well.  In brief, as much as Henry VIII’s war against Catholicism and as much as Luther’s calls for reformation of the church, Charles’ claims of  “the divine right of kings” and Cromwell’s radical Puritanism forged the times, creating the spurt in colonization of the New World and fueling calls for religious freedom and independence that followed.  Basically, WITHOUT THIS, NEVER THAT.

The Battle of Worcester (September 3, 1651) ended the third phase of the long and costly English Civil War conflict (1642-1651). The exiled Charles II (then the crowned King of Scotland and son of the beheaded Charles I) invaded England with 16,000 troops, mostly Scotsmen. They originally intended to storm London and retake the throne, but Cromwell learned of the invasion and sent a superior troop (2:1) to meet them. The armies met at Worcester and the fight ended with a mere 200 of Cromwell’s troops dead, compared to 3,000 dead and 10,000 taken prisoner from Charles’ forces.  In the aftermath, Cromwell spent six frantic weeks scouring the countryside for the fugitive king, and Charles spent six perilous weeks evading capture in a bid to make his way to France.



 I believe the following paragraph, from the “Prologue” of my first novel in the series, The Pirate and the Virgin, captures the spirit of the conflict between Charles I and Cromwell:

To the bloody end in 1649, Charles held to his claim of divine appointment and divine right to rule as he willed. No need to consult Parliament or the people since he, the Sovereign appointed by God, was responsible only to God for his actions. Charles’ stubbornness about this was outmatched only by Cromwell’s implacable belief that kings served the people and, thus, served at the will of the people. In the end, the king submitted to the axe rather than concede his principles, and Cromwell laid the king to the axe rather than concede his.


Battle of Worcester and its Aftermath
Part 1 of 3


The people in the neighborhood appeared so ignorant and careless at Worcester that I was provoked and asked “And do Englishmen so soon forget the ground where liberty was fought for?” Tell your neighbors and your children that this is holy ground, much holier than that on which your churches stand. All England should come in pilgrimage to this hill, once a year.   —John Adams, April 1786

     This admonition was written by John Adams on the occasion of his visit, in company of Thomas Jefferson, to Fort Royal Hill—scene of the Battle of Worcester, which ended the English Civil War. Adams was deeply moved by the place, and deeply disappointed that locals knew so little about the battle and its significance. If Adams’ words sound a bit like a lecture, that may be because he intended them to be just that. One assumes he might have been thinking of the recently-concluded American Revolution, which ended at another bit of “holy ground” and pilgrimage site: namely Yorktown, scene of Cornwallis’ surrender to the Americans on October 19, 1781.
     The Second English Civil War—or perhaps more accurately the second phase of the English Civil War—ended with the execution of King Charles I at Whitehall, London, on a cold and blustery January 30th 1649. Two years later, on September 3rd, 1651, the third and final phase of this “war without an enemy” ended when Cromwell’s army routed Charles II and his forces at Fort Royal Hill in Worcester.

The Battle of Worcester, 3 September 1651
by Thomas Woodward (1801-1852)
Worcester City Museum

     Charles, while in exile as King of Scotland, had rounded up a force of 16,000 men—mostly Scots—and raced toward London to retake the British throne. His had army trekked 150 miles in a week, finally earning a bit of rest on August 8th. Charles had decided against a direct march on London, instead detouring to the Severn Valley in hopes of recruiting greater numbers for his army from this area where support for his father had been so strong. Perhaps because his was mostly a foreign army, and likely because people were simply tired of war after so long, the level of support fell far short of his expectations. Pressing on despite this, Charles II arrived in Worcester on August 22nd, prepared for battle after five days of rest.

     That delay would prove fatal.

Source: “Historical Notes: Battle of Worcester and its Aftermath,” in The Baron and the Lady, book two in the “Whitleigh series” by Abigail Dane.  http://TransitionsUnlimited.biz, AbigailDaneRomance@gmail.org.

Abigail Dane's post continues next week.