SIR! YES YOU, SIR! The gentleman with the splendid moustache! Have you considered preserving such a  finely modelled work of art from the all pervading perils to be found in an innocent cup of tea?

Oh yes, in dampness danger lurks. A prettily painted china cup may be your whiskers' nemesis. The rising steam from your boiling brew may well play untold havoc when the wax of your manly tusks then melts. One moment of sloppy slurping. Many hours of soggy, drooping tache, not to mention the embarrassment of subsequent mockery aroused.

BUT WAIT! There is an answer. A simple, but ingenious device to preserve your facial hair from stain and to keep it stiff from dawn till dusk. 

We bring you the moustache guard cup ~ invented by the English potter, Mr Harvey Adams ~ a porcelain object so finely wrought as to grace the most gentile table top. And the only effort required in use is to settle your whiskers on the ledge, then sip away to your heart's content; to enjoy an unsullied cup of tea.

Now, sir...will you pour, or shall I?



In Endsleigh House hotel there are some glorious examples of early nineteenth century wallpaper that date back to the time of the house's construction. Shown above are some views of the birds that adorn a room on the ground floor.

But there is also a bedroom with the most lovely hand-painted walls, and here the VV was lucky enough to be able to sleep herself when staying at Endsleigh last weekend ~ when she was able to capture these truly stunning images ~

There will be a great deal more on a bedroom with dark green painted walls; one adorned with exotic birds, with trees and flowers and butterflies which provides a somewhat sinister venue in the VV's forthcoming novel ~ The Goddess and The Thief.


The VV has recently visited Endsleigh House Hotel in Devon. The house overlooks the River Tamar and is situated in Milton Abbot, on extensive grounds that once belonged to the nearby Tavistock Abbey.

The structure (which is rambling and could easily accommodate several families) was originally called Endsleigh Cottage, and was built for as a private residence for the Duke of Bedford early in the nineteenth century. 

It was then situated in over 300 acres of wood and parkland, with 20 acres of gardens and lawns that sloped down to the river. The total cost of building the house was in the area of £4,000 ~ quite a significant sum at the time.

The design follows that of the picturesque movement, in the form of a romantic cottage ornĂ©, and has been preserved as a Grade 1 listed building since 1967. 

For those who might prefer more privacy than a hotel can provide (though Endsleigh is very calm and quiet) the Swiss Cottage with its thatched roof is now owned by the Landmark Trust and can be hired separately – as can the Dairy Dell which overlooks a pond and the Holy Well, which was once used as a baptismal font by the Abbots of Tavistock.

But of particular interest to the VV is the shell house at Endsleigh which was built for the display of fossils, crystals, minerals and shells which have been embedded in the walls. Here is a very brief Youtube fim to show the shell house’s interior ~

For more on the subject of grottos, please see the VV’s posts on the Margate Shell Grotto, the truly magnificent and mysterious place which inspired a very vivid scene in her novel, Elijah’s Mermaid.



The cover of Heap House, written and illustrated by Edward Carey

I’ve always been fascinated by the declarations in Victorian advertisements, from the Carbolic Smoke Ball that cures everything from snoring to ‘throat deafness’, to a medicine called Judson’s Hygiene, a combined and effective Disinfectant! Antiseptic!! And Deodoriser!!!

So many of them boast of strange objects that have disappeared today and so many are about health, in some way battling the great FILTH of London. Reading these advertisements, you feel you’re reading alongside Victorian people and have a hint of what their lives were like. The Victorians so loved THINGS, they were obsessed with objects, they crowded their homes (the middle class that is) with so many THINGS and so many of those things were gloomy and cumbersome and forbidding to more modern tastes. There’s a wonderful heaviness about all that clutter. And it always felt to me as if so many of those Victorian objects in so many Victorian homes were breathing too, that they had little lives of their own. That, and the fact that distant relatives of mine went by the unlikely name of Iremonger, and reading Henry Mayhew’s extraordinary London Labour and the London Poor, really made we want to write a book about a large and grim Victorian family who thrived and were made very wealthy by all the rubbish made by Victorian London, by all the broken and unwanted things. 

Edward Carey's illustration for Heap House

I wanted each member of this family to have certain objects that they kept with them always, that they were given at birth by the family’s deeply despising grandmother. This matriarch hands out to one poor infant nothing more than a pencil shaving, to another a toothpick, to yet another a diamond tie pin. These objects in some cases describe the characters, in others defy them, or even in some cases bully them. 

Here are a few ~

Pinalippy Iremonger and her doily (I’ve always hated doilies, I find them enraging), so I gave this rather displeasing young lady one.

Some object are very common place, Mary Staggs and her wooden toothpick. 

Or, the heroine of the novel, Lucy Pennant with a box of matches.

But some objects threaten, here’s Uncle Idwid Iremonger and his Nose Tongs.

And some are just rather unpleasant. Here’s Umbitt Iremonger and his personal cuspidor (for him to spit into, only his own spit mind, this is no communal spittoon).

The hero of the book is called Clod Iremonger and he holds, mournfully, a universal bath plug which he thinks he hears whispering to him. The bathplug only ever says its name, it says, according to Clod, that it’s called James Henry Hayward.

In the Foundling Museum in London it is possible to see some of the objects left by mothers when they relinquished their new born child. These objects left asmementos, were all that the child could have known of their family (and I believe the Foundling hospital stored them very carefully but never gave them to the child) they include: a thimble, a label with the single word GIN, a button. They have about them the weight of a soul, they are truly heartbreaking. It is almost as if those unhappy mothers had tried to pour all love into those objects, to store it there, so that in some impossible fairy-­‐tale ending the love and the relationship between parent and child might suddenly burst out from it like the Jinni from the lamp. Of course they never did, but those objects still speak to us, still move us.

EDWARD CAREY is a novelist, visual artist, and playwright. His debut novel, Observatory Mansions was sold in 14 countries and was described by John Fowles as 'proving the potential brilliance of the novel form.'

The somewhat more lowly VV simply says of Heap House: 'I was entranced by the gothic lure of this novel. It reminded me of Philip Pullman, of Dickens, and of Vivan Stanshall's wonderful Sir Henry at Rawlinson End. Edward Carey has created one of literature's most dysfunctional families.' Please see his brilliant website for more amusement and inspiration.



Following last night's viewing of the wonderful Victorian ~The Art of Revival at the Guildhall Art Gallery in London, the VV's sights have now been fixed on a series of 'Victorian' themed films to be screened by the Department of History of Art at Birbeck College in London.

All screenings are free of charge, and will start on October 22nd, and then every subsequent Tuesday (until November 26). Each event will commence at 2pm, at the Birbeck Cinema ~ 43 Gordon Square, London, WC1H OPD.

The VV wonders if you can guess which one of these six splendid films ranks among her all time favourites?

THE PIANO (1993) - October 22, with an introduction by Lynda Nead

THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY (1945) - October 29th, with an introduction by Cora Kaplan

THE PRESTIGE (2006) - November 5th, with an introduction by Ann Heilmann

GONE TO EARTH (1950) - November 12th,  with an introduction by Ian Christie

THE ELEPHANT MAN (1980) - November 19th, with an introduction by Roger Luckhurst

ANGELS AND INSECTS (1995) - November 26th, with an introduction by Lisa Mullen



From this Saturday, September 7th until Sunday, December 8th, an exhibition entitled 'Victoriana - the Art of Revival' will be held at the Guildhall Art Gallery in the City of London.

Dan Hillier's 'Mother'

Hailed as the first ever exhibition in the UK to offer a major examination of Victorian revitalism in all of its forms, this show will feature graphic design, film, photography, ceramics, taxidermy, furniture, textiles and fine art, all of which is 'Neo-Victorian' having been created over the past 20 years.

Detail from Nightingale's Nest by Chantal Powell

Every display will highlight the influence of the Victorian era -  of empire, of exploration and industrial expansion, of social and economic change, of architecture, film and literature - as well as many allusions to the uglier truths of the demimonde.

Drink More Gin by Stephen Kenny

Such a wealth of Neo-Victorian work is said to range enormously from the macabre to the quaint, the sensational to the surreal. There will be corsets and tattoos. There will be heroes and villains aplenty. There will be interpretations of Victorian classic literature, as well as the growth of the graphic novel.

'Octopus Portrait' by Yumiko Utsu

Twenty-eight major contemporary artists will have work on display in this show. They include Yinka Shonibare, Grayson Perry, Paula Rego, Dan Hillier, Paul St. George, Rob Ryan, Kitty Valentine and Jake and Dinos Chapman.

'Whisper in the Midst of Silence' by Patrick StPaul

Opening times are Monday - Saturday 10am-5pm, or Sunday, 12 noon-4pm. Tickets are available on the door. Full price £7. Concessions £5. Children under 16 free - as are City residents, Friends of the Guildhall Art Gallery and Art Fund members. For guided tours please contact the gallery on: 02073323700 or email:guildhall.artgallery@cityoflondon.gov.uk.