Blog of the week & Mexico City


I’m still completely absorbed by Sybille Bedford’s A Visit to Don Otavio, and these passages (dinner; setting up a hotel) show why. If it fuels your fever, you really must see Ben Pentreath’s blogs here and here. Normally I dial in to Ben’s pastoral idylls on Mon mornings, but these posts from his travels carry some heat.

False Chronicles! BAD.

A twitter account that relocates Donald Trump to Anglo-Saxon Mercia, satirising his wilder utterances. The name Donald the Unready is particularly witty since, as all historians know, Unread was the Anglo-Saxon word for ill-advised. Here are a couple of gems:

Twisty lying monk Bede writes his History of the English-speaking peoples IN LATIN. HYPOCRITE! Can’t trust the mainstream Chronicles. Sad.


Sad loser monks saying I’m unstable. Total lies. We’ve got the greatest stables in Mercia. They’re HUGE. All the horse, so many. Clip clop.


Sad false Chronicles and mainstream bards keep lying. Gonna set the tapestry straight. Court wenches will embroider THE TRUTH. Gonna be great!

Nothing on but a pair of shoes and ivy


The thing that drives me wild about bad historical fiction and biopics is how static everything is. Every character is well-behaved and understandable in modern terms, but with a carefully dropped coating of period detail to “place” them.

A bright young secretary in a 1930s pastiche novel will of course have a tortoiseshell hair clip and yearn for cocktails like Garbo and a flat with curved white walls, whilst the scientist is always a tortured genius who was just unlucky enough to be born before Silicon Valley taught us to appreciate him. In reality, the secretary probably lived in an Edwardian maisonette with hopelessly outdated Victorian furniture in it, and ate cabbage and tripe more often than she drank cocktails, and the scientist would have political, social and racial views that would shock us today.

This fizzy and witty book, full of the most fantastic anecdotes about Bath life, is a great reminder not to assume the past was as dully homogenous as we like to think:


Noble madness

Marie Louise Otte’s paper shoes were a discovery on Instagram and I can’t decide if they’re more macabre or beautiful, or maybe both. Ghosts of Marie Antoinette, and they also remind me of the old violins bought by Rita Lydig to form shoe horses for her dancing slippers. If this inspires you, there is more of Rita’s excess (and emeralds) here.