Friday 30 November 2012

One for the boys – Bond cars ...

oh - ok and Bond for the girls!

He is unmatchable when it comes to cars ... especially the Aston Martin DB5.  This year we are celebrating 50 years of Bond – and it is the cars that define their man.

Fleming, a grandson of the Scottish financier Robert Fleming (merchant banker), was a car mad expert ... he had a car at Eton in the 1920s, knew his stuff – perhaps he wasn’t an auto-head as we’d describe them today -  but he loved his cars and would have approved of many of them, perhaps not all!

The DB 5
In Fleming’s mind he would have chosen a Bentley ... that would have been his professional choice ... as a petrol-head.  However in the novel Goldfinger, under the chapter entitled ‘Thoughts in a DB III’, the car is the only one to have gadgets installed.  So in the film even though the car was changed to an Aston Martin DB5 model, the array of gadgetry was much expanded

Dr No was the first film in which a Sunbeam Alpine appeared – it was hired for twelve shillings a day - but in the process was chased by a hearse and that was that!  (As a by-line ... I had one of these way back when ... and never realised it was a Bond car!!)

From Russia With Love – another big hit, which meant the franchise could start rolling out the money-boats ... and an Aston Martin DB5 was organised for the Goldfinger 1964 movie.

Aston Martin DB III for sale

Saltzman held out for an Aston ... it was a hard nut to crack ... in the end they were leant a second-hand development car ... but could gadgetise it to their hearts content ...  (they nearly had a Jaguar ... if the Aston management hadn’t relented!)

Imagination set in – bullet proof windows; revolving number plates – evolved because the director got fed up with parking tickets at the Bond offices in central London! – sounds like a good ruse to me ... just flip the plate and drive away ... who me – parking for too long? No siree!!

Gadgets galore were added - £25,000  =  that’s a lot of gadgets – ejector seat, tyre (spelt it tire in my notes!!) shredder, smoke came via a small man in boot of car ... trouble was there was a canister leak and he nearly asphyxiated.

A schoolboy wrote in – and commented on the fact that Pirelli tyres featured in the UK ... but Dunlop tyres appeared at the Swiss petrol station ... only a geek, and a kid at that ... would notice those sort of things!

The public were mad for Goldfinger – but the DB5 became THE CAR, and had a world tour of its own!!  The registration for the original DB5 was BMT 216A ... and this registration plate was used in the next film Thunderball.

Toyota 2000 GT

You Only Live Twice, filmed in Japan, ‘demanded’ a Japanese car – front engine, rear drive ... it was beautiful and used the same wood inlay as that for a Yamaha piano ...

... the Toyota 2000GT was ranked as the 7th best car in the Bond series.  It is very rare and gorgeous and worth £500,000.  Interestingly because Sean Connery is so tall – they had to build the car with a soft-top, so he could fit in.

As the 1970s came round ... smash, bang wallop ... car carnage and Bond went off the scale ... nifty stunts were filmed – apparently a London bus driver was hired for the bus stunts in Live and Let Die.

AMC Hornet in full stunt
In The Man with the Golden Gun the AMC Hornet was driven using an Astro Spiral stunt ... the first time a stunt had been worked out in the labs at Cornell Aeronautical Laboratory before being used in the film.

To get the balance etc just right – the steering wheel had to be in the centre and the speed had to be exactly 49mph – otherwise ‘kaput’ ... and the stunt would have failed.

Trying to get the Lotus to work in
water, before a model was used

Next came the Lotus Esprit in The Spy Who Loved Me, which turned into a submarine ... the car was stuffed full of gadgets ... fish were appearing from the watertight car ... Cubby Broccoli said no worries – no-one will think about how they got into the car!  The car ended up being a model in a fish tank ... the bubbles made with some Alka-Seltzers!

The deux chevaux – Citroen 2CV – in For Your Eyes Only – was Roger Moore’s favourite ... it was cheap and tough in the chase, and could outfox the bad boys.

The Alfa Romeo GTV used in Octopussy would have made Ian Fleming happy as – he was a purist and very knowledgeable about his cars.

By the time Pierce Brosnan had come along in the mid 1990s – Bond’s sixteen movies were renowned as the best action movies out there ... spectacular action sequences ... they were the best in cinema films.

Aston Martin Vanquish
Die another Day contained ice skating scenes – the ice had to be ten inches thick ... when the Aston Martin Vanquish was pursued by the protagonist Zao driving the Jaguar XKR ... the crew felt that the ice moved like a trampoline!

Jaguar XKR with gadgets exposed
When Casino Royale was made with Daniel Craig, tougher more realistic action became the order of the day and the brutal car stunt returned ... Bond had to swerve violently to avoid Vesper.

As the DBS V12 was still in design production the DB9 was used and modified.  The car wouldn’t roll ... so the stunt driver had to use an air cannon located behind the driver’s seat to propel the car into a roll at the precise moment of impact. 

At a speed exceeding 70 mph (113 km/h), the car rotated seven times while being filmed, and was confirmed, in 2006, by the Guinness Book of Records as a new world record.

SkyFall's off road bikes

The latest SkyFall has an opening car sequence which just builds and builds – well now I know when I get to see it next week.  The Bond production team are no fans of CGi ... so stunts etc are done in an analogue way ... in the process they get through a lot of metal.

Stunts are still part and parcel of the films ... and it is possible for the action to take place, though probably at extreme limits in some cases ... the rooftop pathways in SkyFall are taken at 70 kph (43 mph) ... the stunt drivers had to get it right, or pay the consequences, as they did it without helmets. 

Ian Fleming apparently named his hero 'James Bond' after an ornithologist in Jamaica because he thought he was very boring ... and James Bond is an understated hero - well in the novels only thankfully ... 

Still Bond movies always entertain us ... even in their crazy antics and Ian Fleming certainly has created, with his books, short stories and ideas, a franchise to last.  Flash cars and amazing, if improbable, car chases have been essential elements of the Bond movies since the series began in 1952. 

While between the car chat we hear phrases such as “web-fingered baddie” (Stromberg), “triple nipple assassin” (Scaramanga), and “angry fat Fraulein” (one of Goldfinger’s henchwomen), which will never get boring – what’s not to like?!

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Wednesday 28 November 2012

Putting the House to Bed – Bateman’s ... Kipling’s House – Part 2 of 2: Managing Wear and Tear ...

Why “Put the House to Bed” ... so that the caretakers and volunteers can carry out conservation work, general maintenance and give the house a chance to recover from 100,000 visitors – this year Bateman’s had just over 82,000 and it was much easier for all concerned.
Kipling painted by
John Collier 1891
hanging in his study

The furniture gets knocked – so bits rub off, the upholstery wears at the corners ... dust settles, occasionally moth and rust doth corrupt, silver needs polishing, grates need blacking, maintenance needs to be carried out etc etc

One of a series of
plaques crafted by
Kipling senior
However Bateman’s may close its doors – after Christmas ... before that there are lots of Edwardian festivities going on ... but the gardens remain open ...

.... so a good pair Wellingtons, a waterproof to conserve our bodies to some extent against the hiemal air (hiemal = a less common word for hibernal ... so pleased this came from Jannie in Texas – see last post!) as we perambulate the landscape, before settling into the tea room.

School uniform - not John's -
but similar vintage
By closing up, Bateman’s is protected against the cold and damp ... of which the caretakers are acutely aware – but needs must and perhaps a change is in the air when the doors will be kept open next year.

One of two model ships in the Study
how they are cleaned I have no idea!

When there aren’t any visitors – it means each room can be thoroughly inspected and where necessary repaired and/or cleaned ... how they would manage with visitors around is anyone’s guess!

There are 9 agents of deterioration:
Family tennis
racquets .. not weapons
of destruction!
  • Direct physical force ... eg a backpack, handbag, elbow
  • Thieves, vandals ... deliberate action
  • Water – leaks or via a child (water bottles, though we’re asked not to drink inside)
  • Fire – as happened at Windsor Castle ... probably the most well known fire disaster ...
  • Light and heat – excesses of either
  • Chemical – pollution/contaminants  (little of that here)
  • Biological – pests and mould
  • Incorrect relative humidity
  • Incorrect temperature

Wooden toy in John's room
Bateman’s have had a Chinese bank note from the 1400s stolen; however a stolen cartoon was found in a shop in Hastings – no peace for the caretakers!  Ten years ago – two Tiffany lights were stolen .... these items might come to light over time – as they are recorded in the police annals.

Toy theatre, and rugby boot hanging
over wardrobe door

One of the Managers/Caretakers has to stay on the property at all times – and the rare and valuable items are marked up – so if disaster strikes it is ‘easy’ to quickly take them to safety, as long as no-one risks life and limb.

Each window has two blinds which are adjusted according to the light – often the beige blind is pulled a great deal of the way down keeping most light out ...

The only window I have - the Kiplings'
bathroom (without blinds)

... then when the sun streams in, the blackout blind is used.  They’re adjusted during the day as the sun moves round, and as soon as the visitors leave then the blackout blinds are pulled into place.

One of the display cases

The estimated light tolerance is 1,000 hours per annum ... that’s about 19 hours a week.  The windows are covered with a light resistant film (which lasts 8 – 15 years), while there are ultraviolet dosimeters around the house and window sills, recording the light intake.

Embroidered curtain
decoration in John's

There are tiny squares of muslin tucked away in cupboards, behind ornaments etc – which will show how much dust is being collected.  Bateman’s textiles and upholstery, where appropriate, are cleaned with a special museum vacuum cleaner ... where the nozzle-suction can be turned down very low.

John's bathroom

They hoover/vacuum through a piece of muslin, which will show how much dust is coming off and which can be checked for fabric fibres – the item will be damaged if fibres are coming away and a more gentle method must be found.

The National Trust has changed its tune, no doubt in line with many other conservators, that Careful Management of Change is the order of the day ...

Ivory Relief plaque
... so that the life of things is extended beyond their expectancy – and in the process catering for more and more of us wanting to see round these properties, while realising that society today can’t be that precious about things.

Example of Ganeshi - from
Wikipedia and not ivory
Obviously various items are ‘protected’ ... ie placed where the least damage is likely to occur and there are volunteers in the rooms overseeing the visitors as they walk round.

Different brushes are used for dusting off the more fragile items ... porcelain brush, brush for gilding – these are made of pony hair; the hall lampshades made from abalone shell are brushed off with hog’s hair brushes.

An example of  an
abalone side light
The silver, brass, bronze items are all brushed off onto a sheet with the hoover cleaning up the dust residue.

Books that need dusting and are very precious are often put into a box, through which a hoover hole has been cut out – then a muslin cloth is place over before the dust is hoovered out from the box, with the book inside.


·        Copper – has often been worn through with 300+ years of polishing ... so it is very gently wiped over with cotton wool;
·        Silver – they use silver dip and clean it off with warm water, sometimes they use a silver cloth, if the condition is not too bad.
·        Ivory – a Ganesha ... sits on the north wall – an influence from the Kipling’s Indian days.  This ivory item is pre 1947 – when the trade in ivory became forbidden.  This needs to be brushed off with its own brush
·        Pewter plates – they must only be dusted off
·        Glass – they keep the dust off as best they can; then wash with methylated spirits (denatured alcohol) and warm water
A paraffin and vinegar cloth is used to get out any excess polish.

Tapestry on stairs
Harrell’s polish – no colouration or scent in it ... and if you polish your precious item/floor for 300 years – then it’ll look just like the National Trust ones!

Kipling smoked a pipe and so the house was impregnated and occasionally still releases that pong ... from the fabrics, carpets, books etc

If a book is damaged – usually the spine – they wrap a ribbon round it, gently make a bow or two to hold it in place, which sits within the cover extensions – so it doesn’t damage anything.

The house is given a thorough clean ... without ‘overdosing’ because that can cause more damage ... spiders are mainly left – as they are the conservator’s friends!  Fire grates are re-blacked, floors waxed where necessary, and the furniture once cleaned is covered up during the house’s closure.

There are temperature and humidity gauges around the place too ... the radiators can be turned on in a hot summer – to dry out the air.  They need to keep the relative humidity at 40% - 65% ... changes are ok if they are gradual and not sudden.

Powder room off
Kiplings' bedroom

Preserving plastic ... the National Trust is now working out the best way forward ... 

The NT continues to learn as they go ... their National Trust Manual of Housekeeping is essential reading for those interested in the care of historic houses and their collections.

The National Trust is now promoting the ways in which preventative conservation measures can help reduce the need for expensive repair at a later date ... including how to strike a balance between the care and display of historic interiors and the ongoing provision of public access.

One of the 'holes in the wall' at chest
height - why? possibly for potties?
certainly not bread ovens - beautiful door

The Manual explains how the nation’s treasure houses have survived until today, and champions their future preservation, using conservation science, professional advice and environmental sustainable methods and materials.

Managing Change each year ... is the maxim of the day ...

Bateman’s has used Zenzie Tinker who is a freelance conservator for UK museums and institutions, to advise on one of the tapestries.

The Argus article (a Brighton newspaper, where she has her workshop) details her work very comprehensively ... and she goes in to explaining about the dye used for Ellen Terry’s green dress, and Keira Knightly’s gown which have recently been on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum etc etc

Fruits on winter foliage in orchard

So if anyone is keen on Spring cleaning – I’m sure the National Trust would be willing to hear from you!!  I might join you next year.

There’s all the outside maintenance work and gardening, which also needs to be done ... it’s never ending – and here are some more links as an added cleaning bonus!

National Trust - Bateman's

Argus article:  When Life Hangs by a Thread 

National Trust 'Manual of Housekeeping' - via NT shop 

To the Manor Born - is a BBC and NT collaboration tv programme looking at the process behind bringing an historic house back to life ... 500 years of history - craft and furniture making ... restoration ... 

I know this is long .. and there are lots of extra photos too - my rather dark ones - this sort of finishes that day - but I can ask questions of them ... sometime I'll do the garden, the pond and the mill - there'll be some outside shots when I get to do a Christmas posting ...

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Sunday 25 November 2012

Putting the House to Bed – Bateman’s ... Kipling’s House – Part 1 of 2: the background ...

Bateman's from lane

That’s She! The Only She!  Make an honest woman of her – quick’ was how Rudyard Kipling and his wife, Carrie, felt the first time they saw Bateman’s ... then about that ‘good and peaceable place’ ...

... Kipling wrote in November 1902 “Behold us, lawful owners of this grey stone, lichened house – AD 1634 over the door – beamed, panelled, with old oak staircase and all untouched and unfaked.”

AD 1634 over door

Frankly ... it is the most beautiful golden sandstone – and when I visited recently at times the autumnal sun warmed the stone to its light ochre colour ... coming down over the Weald the house stands as a large solid mass of sandstone in the typical English landscape ...

Back of house (right turn brings up
view below)
... the gardens surround it, the old 17th century watermill in the distance – where the Kiplings stayed in early 1914 when the house was properly plumbed (per 1914 days!) - they had had a turbine generator installed in 1902 for electricity in the house.  Talk about mod cons ...

North of house showing Oast

I’d been to visit once before with my uncle – but was very worried about his tottery legs and when there’s a morass of summer visitors we poddled around – and so looking at things was not really an option.

This time I drove down the lane, with no-one around, luxuriating in the glowing gold of the autumn leaves and was able to take in the lay of the land  ...  

Drive entrance - we park other side of
the orchard!

... I was here ‘to put the house to bed’ ... to listen to a talk about how they close the house up for the winter months – a necessary time to allow Bateman’s to rest, and for cleaning, dusting, repairing etc

The house is owned by the National Trust and they have their reference bible: ‘Historic Houses’ Housekeeping Manual’ – however as each year draws on ... new ways of care and cleaning are absorbed by the manager-caretakers – managing change is important.

Orchard, herb garden in distance -
tool shed and tea rooms here

I thought I was there to work,  but had my wires slightly crossed – so instead of getting stuck in and helping out ... we were given a talk, slide show and shown around the rooms ... pointing out various ways of cleaning the items ... then the strawberry sponge cake from the tea room --- that was rather delicious! ... with time for questions ...

View down to mill - to the left is the
formal garden ... see photo above - (too
dark and dreary for me to photograph)

Anyway as is my way, I had my notebook in hand, my iphone camera and the brain working away at questions ...

The Kiplings had bought the old farm house, surrounding buildings, 3 other farms, the mill and 33 acres (130,000 m²) for £9,300.  It might have had no bathroom, no running water upstairs and no electricity, but Kipling loved it.

When they moved in to the house – the 17th century furniture that matched the Jacobean surroundings of the house was removed so they could fill it with their own possessions  ... but the provenance of the original Jacobean furniture was lost to the property.

Kipling had the oriental rugs made specially – presumably from his connections in India and far east ...but they kept one or two pieces, while  the other furniture was ‘new-for-them’ and chosen to complement the 17th C farm house.

One of the rugs
(very dark I know!)
However much of Batemans is exactly as it was after Kipling died (1936) and Carrie (1939) – when it was left to the National Trust.

His study 

Sadly – Kipling and Carrie were exceedingly secretive and each night the servant was instructed to take his jottings, rough pages and unwanted journalings down to the Hall fire and burn them.

Then when Kipling died – Carrie, his wife, and Elsie, their daughter, burnt his diaries and all excess paper ... a great loss for us decades later  ...

They had 12 servants and a number of gardeners ... Carrie apparently ran the house, the three farms and mill and organised the servants and gardeners – leaving Rudyard free to write.
Part of the bookcase in
the study

Seemingly they were good employers ... they had a passage built from the Oast House to connect with the main house, so the servants wouldn’t get wet. 

While Kipling one night out for some air heard some clattering and found  a servant trying to get her bike over the gate – she was straddled in situ ... Kipling said ‘give me the bike’ and helped her over ... she was late back – gates had been locked and the cook was on the prowl ...

Kipling's day bed in
the study

... Kipling said ... ask the cook for a cup of tea and tell her I was talking to you for a while ... and you’ll need warming up from the cool night air - that solved that problem !

The Kiplings had previously lived in America and on a visit to the States in 1899, Rudyard and their daughter Josephine (aged 6) developed pneumonia, from which she eventually died ... they had sailed in February – not the most sensible month to travel the Atlantic!

John, their son born in 1897, was encouraged to go to join up by his father ... but failed a number of times – he had very poor eyesight – Kipling however determined he should go and fight in WW1 and it was arranged via his friend, Lord Roberts, commander-in-chief of the British Army.

War Memorial including
John Kipling's name  in
Burwash village

John was sent in 1916 into battle in a reinforcement contingent – two days later he was dead.  Kipling felt enormous pain ... and wrote “If any question why we died/ Tell them, because our fathers lied” ...

John’s bedroom at Bateman’s was kept as it was and some of his possessions remain there ... apparently to help assuage his grief over the death of his son.

 Kipling read the novels of Jane Austen aloud to his wife and remaining child, Elsie, born in 1896.

Mullioned windows at Bateman's

Elsie died childless in 1976, and bequeathed her copyrights to the National Trust, which takes us through to the present day for the care and maintenance of Bateman’s - to follow in the next post.

Part 2 shortly ...

I’ll be illustrating both posts mainly with my photos – possibly too dark, but the NT keep the blinds drawn etc to keep the light out and protect the contents, while the house itself is oak panelled throughout ... making it very dark.  Obviously we’re not allowed to use flash cameras ... fortunately I was allowed to use my camera.  And it was a gloomy November day!

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories