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23-24 September


quoted 23-9-23

“Always borrow money from a pessimist. He won’t expect it back.”

Oscar Wilde


quoted kermode 23-9-23

“It is one of the great charms of books that they have to end.”

Frank Kermode

From the archives

You could never accuse Queen of being a “retiring band”, says Tom Taylor in Far Out magazine. For their album Jazz, the group threw a launch party that earned the name Saturday Night in Sodom, and for good reason. Arriving guests were offered “complimentary oral sex”; Freddie Mercury sniffed cocaine off a “tray attached to the top of a hermaphrodite dwarf’s head”; a live act beheaded chickens on stage “with a bite”; and a 300lb Samoan woman lounged on a banquet table, in the nude, “smoking cigarettes out of various orifices”. It ended with a £200,000 bill “considered well spent”. For the release of their single Bicycle, the band hired 65 professional models to take part in a naked cycle race around Wimbledon. The band filmed the “daring dash”, airbrushed out any rude bits, and edited it into a “just-about PG” music video.

Quirk of history

Europe’s Renaissance brought innovations not just in science and learning, but beauty too, says Anna Parker in the Times Literary Supplement. Some of them don’t sound too tempting. Giovanni Marinello’s The Ornaments of Ladies (1562) recommends achieving sleek eyebrows by mixing soot from burnt hazelnuts with goat or bear fat, “and to apply the resulting paste with a fine brush”. Body hair was removed with “rhusma paste”, a noxious blend of arsenic sulphide and quicklime which could burn the skin – Italian noblewoman Caterina Sforza recommended leaving it on no longer than “the time it took to say the Lord’s Prayer twice”. But like many today, contemporary moralists were firm on the idea that less is more. In On the Beauty of Women (1548), Agnolo Firenzuola warned against make-up applied “not unlike plaster or gypsum on the surface of walls”.


The writer’s retreat

Perched high above the waves on one of south Cornwall’s “most glorious coastal stretches” is Tregiffian Cottage, “made up of a trio of former fishermen’s homes”, says Emma Wells in The Spectator. It was spotted by the late John le Carré on a walk in the 1960s; he bought it and made it his writing retreat, where novels like Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and The Constant Gardener were produced. “I can think well here,” he told a local newspaper in 2020. “I can populate the empty landscape with my imagination.” His family have put the four-bedroom property, which includes a library, conservatory, office space and an indoor swimming pool, on the market. £3m.

The seaside getaway

This beautifully converted church schoolhouse has three bedrooms, high vaulted ceilings, and exposed timber boards and beams throughout. Downstairs is a bright, airy sitting room, one en suite bedroom, and an L-shaped kitchen, while upstairs, two generously proportioned bedrooms draw in light through slim-framed skylights. The house uses a green, all-electric heating system; Margate’s bustling Old Town is a short walk away, and trains to London take 90 minutes. £385,000.