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A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Champs-Elysées
 
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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in Shezan's LiveJournal:

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    Monday, September 22nd, 2014
    7:36 pm
    More Lord Ed. Cecil. He may not always be very palatable on foreigners, but he's PURE GOLD on women.
    "...Mrs. Delaporte Stokes, who is preparing at this moment to put her partner into the first bunker, talks only to the best official set, if possible about the Peerage. She naturally passes much of her time alone.

    When young Bloggs of the Public Instruction, who is a frank and refreshing bounder, got fever at Assiout in the midsummer, ' Mother Delstock,' as we profanely call her, packed up her bag without a word, and went and nursed him like a mother till she pulled him through. She even discovered a peerage connection for Bloggs, to that worthy's huge amusement, which has made social intercourse on a limited scale between him and Mrs. Delaporte Stokes possible.

    Mrs. Bollinger, whose propriety is as pure, cold, and disagreeable as driven snow, and who cuts any one as ' fast ' on the slightest provocation, took that little idiot of a Mrs. Dewar, when she got into a real mess, into her house, and kept her there under the aegis of her driven-snow reputation until the storm had blown over, and Dewar could be induced to believe a benevolent and highly improbable explanation of the whole affair.

    Of course, with brilliant exceptions, no doubt the women are to a certain extent second-rate ; their conversation is not brilliant, and they are inclined to keep up appearances at the cost of comfort. Their personal appearance is rarely pleasing — climate and anxiety have seen to that; and their clothes, well, all that can usually be said of them is that in the daytime, at all events, they are amply sufficient for the requirements of decency.

    Their qualities that matter are on a different plane. For genuine kindness, real warmth of heart, noble uncomplaining devotion to their husbands and children, they are as a rule above criticism. Poor things, many of them, military and civil, have never had a home of their own since they married ; the climate, which is unpleasant for the man, means sickness and pain to them. They must leave the delicate child they love at home, and too often must watch those they love with them wither because they are too poor to send them away. Their very bread depends on the often frayed and slender thread of their husband's life, and their daily existence is one long struggle to make the two ends meet. And yet they face it all bravely with a smile, keep Jack or Joe going, hearten him up for the long ladder climb, and are as cheerful and fond of amusement as their sisters anywhere else[....]

    No, I admit you 're not much to look at. Ladies, and you don't shine at Home, but I take my hat off with my deepest bow to you all the same. And, all things considered, if your conversation is dull, it is rarely empty. You don't talk clever to talk clever. You have had far too much experience of the real pain, trouble, and sorrow of life to play at it. You have often seen a good deal of the world with its good and bad. You have lived real lives, not sham ones, and your views and thoughts are the result of actual experience, and not made up in a hothouse by electric light..."
    7:09 pm
    The English Imperialist in all his glory, bless his soul


    Am re-reading (I had entirely forgotten it, save that I liked it very much the first time, when I bought it in a tourist shop in Luxor in happier days) Lord Edward Cecil's "The Leisure of an Egyptian Official". It is utterly magnificent. Short extract:

    An Official Correspondence: 1916

    January 1st. F.O. to Cairo
    101. Greek Prime Minister wishes to import grain. Can you do this?

    January 4th. Cairo to F.O.
    416. Your 101 not understood. Where does he want to import? Is it into Egypt?

    January 8th. F.O. to Cairo
    103. Greek Prime Minister wishes to import grain into Greece. Can you do this?

    January 11th. Cairo to F.O.
    420. Your 103. We have done it several times.

    January 12th. F.O. to Cairo
    108. Regret copy mislaid. What is gist of my 103? If possible, repeat.

    January 14th. Cairo to F.O.
    Regret copy to your 103 mislaid here. Believe it concerned Greek Prime Minister.

    January 16th. F.O. to Cairo
    108. Greek Prime Minister wishes to import grain into Greece. Can you do this?

    January 19th. Cairo to F.O.
    428. Your 108. We have imported grain into Greece several times. It was believed to go to the German Army.

    January 22nd. F.O. to Cairo
    112. Your 428. If you import grain to Greek Prime Minister, can you suggest measures to prevent its reaching the German Army? Would Prime Minister's personal guarantee be sufficient?

    January 24th. Cairo to F.O.
    430. Your 112. Which Prime Minister's guarantee do you suggest? Prefer M. Briand, if still in office.

    January 27th. F.O. to Cairo
    114. Your 430. We alluded to Greek Prime Minister. Please let me have your views as soon as possible, as matter is urgent and delay to be avoided.

    February 8th. Cairo to F.O.
    435. Your 114. To avoid delay, suggest the personal guarantee in writing of Greek Prime Minister countersigned by British Consul at Piraeus, with documentary assent of British Government and approval of Director General Customs Administration, Alexandria.

    February 10th. F.O. to Cairo
    118. Your 435. Have agreed to accept joint and several guarantee of King of Greece, Archimandrite and Greek Prime Minister, countersigned by leading British merchant at Piraeus, Mr Carl Sonnenschein. How much can you send?

    February 13th. Cairo to F.O.
    440. Your 118. Will reply as soon as possible, but some delay inevitable, as uncertain what Department of the Egyptian Government deals with these questions. Have so far unsuccessfully inquired of Main Drainage, Public Instruction, War Office, Agriculture, Public Works and Wakf. Will wire again later.

    March 23rd. Cairo to F.O.
    150. Regret delay answering your 118. Matter very complicated. Your 487. Naval authorities object export of seed, as many seeds contain oil suitable for submarines. Can you arrange with Admiralty.

    March 26th. F.O. to Cairo
    495. Your 150. Have arranged with Admiralty. Seed will be escorted by two destroyers.

    March 28th. F.O. to Cairo
    499. My 495. Have ascertained seed question less important than at first considered. Greek Prime Minister has written explaining seed is needed for his favourite parrot, who is of great age and delicate. Two pounds of selected will be sufficient. Please obtain and send. Admiralty consider escort unnecessary under circumstances.

    March 31st. Cairo to F.O.
    161. Your 499. Am obtaining seed at once. Can you inform me of approximate size of parrot, as understand from inquiries that there is a direct relation between size of birds and size of food seeds.

    April 7th. F.O. to Cairo
    506. Your 161. Stop seed.

    April 8th. Cairo to F.O.
    165. Your 506. Seed stopped

    April 12th. F.O. to Cairo
    510. Your 165. As information has reached me that the Greek Prime Minister's parrot died last week of indigestion, no further action in matter is necessary.
    Sunday, September 21st, 2014
    2:45 am
    Quelle surprise. "Amazon’s fan-fiction portal Kindle Worlds is a bust for fans, and for writers too"
    "...five quiet, clean, polite children carefully playing together while helicopter parents hovered overhead … Whatever Amazon has created there is no life in it...."

    Heh. You want to regulate something that's by definition freeform, that's what'll happen to you. (Licensing what can happen to characters? FOAD.)

    Amazon’s fan-fiction portal Kindle Worlds is a bust for fans, and for writers too — Tech News and Analysis
    Monday, September 15th, 2014
    9:35 pm
    Internet Catnip Extraordinaire.
    "Benedict Cumberbatch, Internet Catnip Extraordinaire". Yeah, I'd say Vanity Fair wins all the Internet kittens this morning.

    Sub headline: "Ben Addiction". They're on a ROLL.
    Saturday, September 13th, 2014
    11:41 pm
    Grrrrrrrrrrr.
    So, I turn my back for FIVE MINUTES, and bang, my nice old ‪#‎Franprix‬ on rue de Laborde has been changed into an À2Pas ‪#‎Auchan‬ mini-market, all mood lighting and shiny fixtures and the saddest array of veggies this side of Moscow in 1990. They have nothing of what I want, but glass case after glass case of Auchan brand frozen meals with fancy names. Let me tell you, I am a rabbit of seriously negative euphoria right now*.

    * Rabbit of negative euphoria = Not a happy bunny. (© John Finnemore.)
    Monday, September 8th, 2014
    7:00 pm
    Friday, September 5th, 2014
    1:31 am
    Sunday, August 24th, 2014
    8:03 pm
    Thursday, August 14th, 2014
    9:55 pm
    The Great We're Not At Worldcon Sale!
    Reposted from jo_graham:  Jo Graham, author of Black Ships, Hand of Isis, Stealing Fire, The General's Mistress, The Order of the Air, and more, says:
    I'm not at Worldcon in London! Neither are some of my favorite authors. So we decided to have a sale just because.

    Today through Sunday the ebook of The Emperor's Agent is on sale for $.99 through my publisher! If you've been wondering if you'd like my non-Stargate books, or if you've been reading the Order of the Air but haven't dipped your toe into my other historical fantasies, now is the time to give it a try. At $.99 how can you lose? 

    Courtesan, actress, medium -- spy.

    1805: Europe stands poised on the brink of war. 

    Elza is content with her life in the demi-monde, an actress and courtesan in the glittering society of France's First Empire, but when her former lover is arrested for treason, Elza is blackmailed into informing on her friends and associates. She has one alternative -- to become the secret agent of the most feared man in Europe, Napoleon Bonaparte!

    France's invasion of England is imminent, but a spy in the camp of the Grand Army threatens the secret plans. Taking the Emperor's commission to catch the spy means playing the deadly game of spy versus counterspy. However, this is no ordinary espionage, but backed by the power of the witches of England determined to hold England's sea wards against invasion. Only an agent who is herself a medium can hope to unravel their magic in time -- with the life of the man Elza loves hanging in the balance. 

    From the theaters of Paris to the sea cliffs that guard the Channel, from ballrooms and bedrooms to battlefields corporeal and astral, Elza must rely on her wits, her courage, her beauty, and her growing talents as a medium for she must triumph -- or die!


    Here are all the other great books on sale this weekend, including works by Robert Slater, Melissa Scott and Lisa A. Barnett, Don Sakers, Amy Griswold, Geonn Cannon, Steven H. Wilson and Blair McGregor. Each day of Worldcon I'll be focusing on a different book that's on sale, as this list has some favorites of mine.

    So give Elza a try! If you like the Lodge magic in the Order of the Air, you'll be fascinated by this Lodge a century earlier.

    I'll add that the Elza series, which started with "The General's Mistress" but which you can dive straight in with "The Emperor's Agent", offered here, is a fantastic adventure romp set in Napoleonic France, with dashing heroes, military prowess, cross dressing, love, treason, and a strong heroine based on a real woman which all of early 19th-century Europe nicknamed The Female Casanova. How can you not love her?
    Tuesday, August 12th, 2014
    4:36 pm
    Baaaa! Baaaaaa!
    A book meme, borrowed from selenak & jo_graham!

    Give me a letter and I will hold forth on one of the following topics:

    A. Author You’ve Read The Most Books From
    B. Best Sequel Ever
    C. Currently Reading
    D. Drink of Choice While Reading
    E. E-Reader or Physical Books
    F. Fictional Character You Would Have Dated In High School
    G. Glad You Gave This Book A Chance
    H. Hidden Gem Book
    I. Important Moments of Your Reading Life
    J. Just Finished
    K. Kinds of Books You Won’t Read
    L. Longest Book You’ve Read
    M. Major Book Hangover Because Of
    N. Number of Bookcases You Own
    O. One Book That You Have Read Multiple Times
    P. Preferred Place to Read
    Q. Quote From A Book That Inspires You/Gives You Feelings
    R. Reading Regret
    S. Series You Started and Need to Finish
    T. Three Of Your All-Time Favorite Books
    U. Unapologetic Fangirl For
    W. Worst Bookish Habit
    V. Very Excited For This Release More Than Any Other
    X. Marks The Spot (Start On Your Bookshelf And Count to the 27th Book)
    Y. Your Latest Book Purchase
    Z. ZZZ-Snatcher (last book that kept you up WAY late)
    4:31 pm
    I was on Usenet when you were still using fountain pens, Buster
    Internet connection back to normal after 48 hours of being patronised by various men at Reception and Housekeeping, along the lines of "technical things too difficult for you to understand, little lady, have you entered your password?" Finally threw an almighty strop, told them I knew the difference between a modem, a router and Ethernet connectivity, and had done so for 20 years. New wifi router installed in room by sheepish tech. End of crisis.
    Thursday, July 24th, 2014
    12:07 am
    So I've been dipping a toe into Instagram
    ...and what do you think I got photographing, hmmm? SAY HELLO TO GASTON THE CAT!





    Gaston is very young, and he purrs loudly. I didn't steal him from the friends with whom I was staying, but it was a close thing.

    Not that you should think I think less of dogs. This is Willoughby, who took me for walks:



    She was very patient with me.
    Monday, June 30th, 2014
    7:58 pm
    On my way to work this morning....
    ...I passed the Caron shop on Place Beauvau in front of the Elysée Palace, and snapped this. You don't really see the pretty pretty scent bottles, since my iPhone decided to go all artistic on me but it did come out nice, yes?

    Sunday, June 29th, 2014
    4:51 pm
    REC: AJ Hall's Queen of Gondal series. You need this NOW.
    I'm amazed that so few people seem to know this fantastic, detailed, 15-part (so far!) AU by the great AJ Hall, which crosses Sherlock with the imaginary late 17th century kingdoms dreamt up by the Brontë children. (And you get the odd character from Cabin Pressure and Life On Mars thrown in on occasion, too!)

    The Queen of Gondal series is Sherlock meets The Prisoner of Zenda meets every Errol Flynn/Douglas Fairbanks, Jr movie you can dream of. It is witty, swashbucking, romantic, funny, dramatic, action-packed, incredibly erudite, and did I mention funny? The latest instalment, The Cock o' the North, has just been published, but you really need to start at the beginning, The Crown Princess of Gaaldine.

    This is the author's introduction to the series:
    This is a quasi-historical AU of the BBC Sherlock series set (more or less) in three fantasy kingdoms devised by the Bronte children.

    The time period is roughly the late seventeenth century and readers should bear in mind that this saga contains the doings of a set of supremely dysfunctional more-or-less European Royal families steeped in the "divine right of kings" ideology of monarchy, filtered through an early nineteenth century Romantic/Gothick sensibility and then depicted using the freedom of expression afforded by the early twenty-first century internet.

    Furthermore, if the Greek myths contemplated it, some member of the Royal houses of Gondal, Angria or Gaaldine has probably put it into practice somewhere.

    Gentle reader, consider yourself advised accordingly.

    Short for my taste at 170,924 words, this is, fortunately, far from finished, although each story is an individual novella with its own resolution.

    The Queen of Gondal series (170,924 words) by AJ Hall

    Summary for the first episode, The Crown Princess of Gaaldine: The dying King of Gondal lays a solemn trust on John Watson, court physician; at all costs to keep the fourteen year-old Crown Princess Charis out of the clutches of the corrupt Heir of Gondal. Which means arranging her marriage to Sherlock, heir to the neighbouring throne of Gaaldine, Gondal's traditional enemy. John escorts the Crown Princess to her wedding, acutely aware of the pressure of history and unspoken - unspeakable - secrets which he had thought buried forever.
    Monday, June 23rd, 2014
    1:33 am
    She can write! She can draw! Go check out amisplacedlonelyheartsad AT ONCE!
    One of the recs communities here directed me to amisplacedlonelyheartsad's Tumblr, and I was enthralled by her portraits of Sherlock & Mycroft. But that's nothing next to her writing, at the AO3 under the same name. Sherlock-Mycroft, and, in one story, Sherlock/Mycroft, which is something I normally don't touch at all. Well, it's all about the talent, as usual: goegeous. GO READ. GO LOOK.



    Sunday, June 22nd, 2014
    11:33 pm
    Saturday, May 24th, 2014
    4:29 pm
    Did Piketty Cook His Numbers? Stay Tuned...
    Data problems with Capital in the 21st Century | Money Supply

    It sounded just about as well as an Alastair Campbell-sexed-up Iraq report... for good reason. Best news of the week-end.

    (No, seriously. Even you left-wingers should be happy that the world isn't, in fact, such an unequal place.)
    Saturday, May 10th, 2014
    4:30 pm
    The making of a perfect spy
    Have started on Miranda Carter's magnificent Anthony Blunt biography, thanks to emily_shore who mentioned it in a discussion of her terrific Cambridge Spies fic, Penitent Impenitent, and I can see why this is regularly ranked as one of the finest biographical efforts of recent years. Carter's savage portrait of Blunt's maternal grandmother nevertheless manages to make the point, en passant, that her officious do-goodness won a true advance for shop assistants in Wimbledon in the 1880s.
    In the opin­ion of her el­dest [grand]son, Wil­frid, who wrote two vol­umes of wit­ty and can­did au­to­bi­og­ra­phy, Gertrude [Master] was a bit of a mon­ster: 'of a dom­ineer­ing dis­po­si­tion, my grand­moth­er had been glad enough to leave home to mar­ry a man whom she could dom­inate to go to live in a coun­try where there were plen­ty of na­tives to bul­ly'. As a mem­sahib in the In­di­an famine 1876-8 she had poked the bellies of starv­ing chil­dren to check if they might be suck­ing them in to fake star­va­tion. As a grand­moth­er she forced her grand­chil­dren to in­gest ev­ery last vile piece of gris­tle on their plates: 'If you had seen what I have seen, you would nev­er waste food again.' Her hus­band, John, a kind­ly, mild-​man­nered man who stuffed Har­ro­gate tof­fees in­to his grand­chil­dren's hot lit­tle hands and took them out boat­ing, was ban­ished to the small­est, dark­est room in the house and co­erced in­to giv­ing up the soli­tary bot­tle of beer he drank at lunch be­cause she thought it would cor­rupt the staff. If her friend the Duchess of Teck failed to an­swer her let­ters by re­turn, she would send a ser­vant to White Lodge with a pencil and pa­per. The two wom­en shared 'the same brand of evan­gel­ical piety and the same sense of so­cial du­ty', and to­geth­er en­gaged in a per­pet­ual stream of phil­anthropic projects. 'To­geth­er they blud­geoned the shop­keep­ers of Rich­mond in­to pro­vid­ing stools for their em­ploy­ees . . . to­geth­er they waged a cease­less war against drunk­en­ness and cru­el­ty and vice.' This did not stop Gertrude renam­ing her own ser­vants if she thought their re­al names too preten­tious. She spent the last thirty-​three years of her life lame be­cause af­ter a fall in 1891 she re­fused to let a doc­tor near her coc­cyx.
    You can nevertheless see how earnestness might not be seen by her grandchildren as the primary virtue to attain in life.
    Friday, April 25th, 2014
    11:11 pm
    10:29 pm
    Tinker, Tailor... (emily_shore will like this one.)
    Remarkable LRB review of Andrew Boyle's A Climate of Treason - the 1979 book that led to Anthony Blunt's unmasking as the Fourth Man - by Neal Ascherson, complete with account of Ascherson's attempted recruitment by SIS at Cambridge in the late 50s or early 60s.
    "...British Intelligence, in Boyle’s chronicle, remains as weird a community as ever, in spite of all the author’s new information and captures of confidence. Amateurism, class prejudice and what Boyle calls ‘the sad pleasures of sodomy’ composed its peculiar flavour. The circumstances of my own unhappy brush with the service only confirm it. My background was ‘right’, and I was duly recommended as a likely lad by a Cambridge don (Boyle rids us of the myth that Cambridge tutors recruited assiduously for Russia, but does not add that they recruit assiduously for the home side). There followed a lunch at the Reform Club, where this 23-year-old ass received the proposal that he should go to the new Communist state of Betelgeuse in order to write a biography of its ferocious leader. An argument about where Betelgeuse was had to be settled by a visit to the Times Atlas, dated 1910, in the Club library. My real assignment, they said, was to approach leading Betelgeusians and ‘get them round to our point of view’. Uneasy, I objected that I knew nothing of the place or its language. ‘Old D. will put you in the picture,’ they chortled, returning to their port. A few days later, I was summoned to meet D. in his home. After a silent but delicious dinner, D. asked me to sit next to him on the sofa. I supposed that I was at last to be put in the picture, but D. merely grasped me tightly and wordlessly by the penis. I extracted myself and ran away, and after some days of great confusion, wrote to say that perhaps I was not mature enough for this service.

    An outfit like that – and these events took place years after the ‘flight of the diplomats’ – deserves everything it gets. I suppose there was a wild brilliance about the Betelgeuse project, which would almost certainly have cost me my head. But what most impresses me, in retrospect, is their sublime confidence that after that lunch and dinner I would still be their loyal man and true. This was a service which, even then, still assumed that people of our sort didn’t let us down...."
    To anyone shocked by what would be warned against at the AO3 as not-so-internalised homophobia, recall that this was written in 1980, of a time previous still when such advances were solidly illegal, and therefore perfect blackmail material for an enemy agent.

    I happened upon this terrific piece because of emily_shore's excellent, if inaccurate - Blunt's unfinished autobiography, released in 2009, makes clear he did not have an affair with Burgess - Cambridge Spies fic, Penitent Impenitent, in which she referenced Miranda Carter's 2001 Blunt biography in glowing terms. While hunting for it, I came across references to the Boyle book. I had, in fact, bought it in paperback at the time: the second edition edited to include Blunt's real name. Later, my one brush with the most magical story of postwar British journalism and literature came when Graham Greene told me, for a story in the newspaper I work again for, of meeting with Kim Philby - who'd been his colleague and friend in SIS during the war - a quarter century after his defection, in Moscow, where Greene had accepted Gorbachev's invitation after decades of refusing to go there.

    Still recommend Boyle's Climate of Treason: picked up almost three decades later, with hindsight and as a very different person from who I was then, it still is insightful and comprehensive. Also, do they still write as well as this at the LRB? And I include the commenters below the piece, taking erudite issue with some of Ascherson's views.
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