Bletchley Park – part 3

Here we are back at Bletchley Park, inside the mansion this time, as you can see from the hallway it’s very Victorian.

Bletchley Park Mansion entrance

There’s a lot of oak panelling in the library below, in fact there’s a lot of oak panelling all over the house.

Bletchley Park Mansion Library 1

I have no idea what happened to the original books, possibly they were sold off in the 1930s when the house became government property. The shelves have been filled with book club books and a lot of what I suppose can be called domestic fiction. No doubt it’s very down market compared with what was originally on the shelves but if these books had been for sale, I would have been very happy to give some of them a new home!

Mansion Library, Bletchley Park, codebreaking, WW2

Mansion Library  books, Bletchley Park, codebreaking, WW2

Bletchley Park Mansion Library 4

I think the room below is the brightest and prettiest room in the house, from what we were able to see anyway. It’s done out as an office but must have been a sitting room or drawing room when the house was a home.

Bletchley Park Mansion room & ceiling

There are quite a few very ornate ceilings in the Victorian style.

Bletchley Park, Mansion ornate ceiling

Including the lovely glass ceiling below in what must have been a garden room or consevatory.

Bletchley Park, Mansion glass ceiling

If I’m remembering correctly the room below was the ballroom with its linenfold panelling, not as large as I expected it to be, I calculated that you might be able to fit in four sets of Scottish country dancers for reels, with six people in each set, but it would be plenty big enough if dancers were just waltzing. Rather worryingly this room smelled of damp, I didn’t notice that anywhere else. I noticed in the news last night that Bletchley Park had been awarded over a million pounds, I know where some of it should be spent!

Bletchley Park, Mansion wood Panelling

Bletchley Park was a great day out.

Cloak of Darkness by Helen MacInnes – Readers Imbibing Peril XV

Cloak of Darkness cover

I still regard Helen MacInnes as a Scottish author as she was born and grew up in Scotland and graduated from The University of Glasgow, however she married an American and moved to the US in 1937.

Cloak of Darkness by Helen MacInnes was first published in 1982 and it was the author’s second last book, she died in 1985. Despite being in her 70s by then this book was just as full of suspense as her earlier books and as there’s not much chance of travelling right now it was good to travel vicariously with most of the action taking place in Switzerland.

Robert Renwick is an American ex-CIA man who is now working for Interintell which is an anti-terrorism organisation peopled by agents from various western countries. Renwick is in London with his young wife Nina when he receives a cryptic phone call telling him to go to a particular London pub. There he is given a list of names, it’s a list of targets for assassination, and his name is on it.

So begins an adventure full of suspense and mystery as Renwick takes on a group of illegal arms dealers who have friends in high places. He also has the added worry that they will target his wife given half the chance, he just doesn’t know who he can trust.

I’m so glad that I still have a lot of Helen MacInnes books left to read.

imbibing

Bletchley Park – part 2

Here we are back at Bletchley Park, the World War 2 codebreaking centre. The photo below is of a sentry box which would have been manned or maybe womanned I suppose (or maybe not) by some one asking you for your papers before you could get past the gate.

Bletchley Park Sentry Box

Below is a corner of Alan Turing’s office, all of the offices are very dark, I don’t think they had any windows which would make sense when you’re keeping things secret but must have made working there even more claustraphobic.

Alen Turing's Office, Bletchley Park, codebreaking, WW2

As ever, click the photos if you want to see them enlarged. I find it so sad that Alan Turing was so badly treated by the powers that be – after the war. He certainly didn’t get any thanks for his efforts at winning the war.

Alan Turing's Office, Bletchley Park, codebreaking, WW2

Below is a fairly recently made statute of Alan Turing, it seems to have been constructed using pieces of slate piled on top of each other, it’s quite effective though.

Alan Turing Statue, Bletchey Park

The main codebreakers seem to have lived in estate cottages close to the huts and the mansion house, you can’t see inside them but they look very cute from the outside.

Bletchley Park Cottages

Bletchley Park Cottages,

Bletchley Park Cottages

I like the design of the leaded glass windows, presumably this was the bathroom.

Bletchley Park Cottages window

At least they didn’t have to travel far after a long shift of calculations and code wrangling.

Bletchley Park Cottages

Bookshelf Travelling in Insane Times – October the 11th

I’m still Bookshelf Travelling in Insane Times, do join in if you feel the urge! Last week I was actually travelling – and buying books, so I didn’t get around to doing this. This meme was hosted by Judith at Reader in the Wilderness but I’m gathering the blogposts at the moment.

Books Again

This week the bookshelf is in the main guest bedroom again. It’s inhabited mainly by crime fiction, Ngaio Marsh (not a favourite,) Gladys Mitchell who is okayish in parts but I can’t understand why she made her detective Mrs Bradley so ghastly, Patricia Wentworth’s Miss Silver is much more likeable in fact I think I prefer her to Miss Marple – is that blasphemy?

The Alfred Hitchcock book Murder Racquet is a collection of short stories and amazingly I haven’t heard of any of the authors which might be why I haven’t got around to reading it.

I love Louise Penny’s Three Pines books but I usually borrow them from the library, I can’t remember why I felt the need to buy Still Life.

Landed Gently by Alan Hunter is unread, I don’t think I’ve read any of his books but this one is apparently a whodunit in the classic tradition and even has a floor plan at the front, published in 1957 it sounds right up my street.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote, not vintage crime but I love the film and enjoyed the book too although it is a wee bit different.

Are you bookshelf travelling this week?

A Bluestocking Knits

A Son of the Rock

Bitter Tea and Mystery

Bletchley Park

When we drove down south last week for our first time away from home since Covid appeared our first day was entirely taken up by a visit to Bletchley Park, the World War 2 codebreaking centre, it’s close to the new town of Milton Keynes. There was a lot to see. Below is a stitched photo of the country house the building of which began in 1883, originally owned by a financier and politician, by the time he died in the 1930s nobody in his family wanted the house and it was eventually acquired by the government and so became a centre for secret war work. The location was ideal as it has great transport links for London and there was plenty of space in the sprawling estate to accommodate the 8 or 9,000 people who ended up working there. The workers were mainly farmed out to any local people who had a spare bedroom – whether they wanted a lodger or not. The stars of the show though were given estate cottages to live in. At one point there was a queue of people at the right hand door, waiting to go in for their afternoon tea, sadly that had to be booked so we couldn’t partake. We made do with soup and bread from the cafe.

Bletchley Mansion Stitch

There are still lovely trees and a lake on the estate although obviously lots of the land was built on.

Bletchley  Park Lake

There are ‘huts’ and buildings all over the place, but there are loads more waiting to be refurbished. That’s not going to be cheap going by the amount of ‘danger asbestos’ signs we saw!

Bletchley Park Building

Inside the huts are spartan, I don’t think they would have been very comfortable to work in, I felt quite claustrophobic just walking through them for a short time.

Bletchley Park Hut Corridor, WW2 codebreaking

Bletchley Park Hut Poster , WW2, codebreaking

Of course they not only had to break codes but also had to translate them from numerous languages such as Japanese as well as German.

Index Cards Japanese, Bletchley Park, codebreaking ,WW2

They managed to do that using the enigma machines such as the one below, it’s smaller than an old typewriter, there are lots of machines on display.

enigma machine, WW2, Bletchley Park, codebreaking

enigma machines, Bletchley Park, WW2 ,codebreaking

We took lots of photos but I’ll keep those for future posts. Almost more amazing than the work that went on in this area is the fact that the Germans never had an inkling of its existence which is incredible when you think of the thousands of people who worked here and all the people who lived nearby. It was all ‘hush hush’ and it stayed that way until someone wrote a book about it in 1974. There must have been no spies at the local electricity plant as the amount of power used here to work all the machinery must have been enormous. I can’t imagine people keeping ‘mum’ in that way nowadays.

The 1956 Club – The Man Who Japed by Philip K. Dick

 The Man Who Japed  cover

The 1956 Club is a meme hosted by Simon at Stuck in a Book and Karen at Kaggsy’s Bookish Ramblings.

The Man Who Japed by the science fiction writer Philip K. Dick is such an echo of the time it was written in – 1956. The year is 2114 but there had been a devastating nuclear war in the 20th century. General Streiter had headed up a revolution in 1985 and the society he formed is strict and puritanical, named Moral Reclamation (Morec). Neighbours are encouraged to spy on each other, sex is more or less outlawed, certainly outside marriage and there are weekly denunciations in apartment buildings with people being accused of ‘vile enterprise’ which was generally sex. But there are also punishments for using very mild swear words such as damn. There are also robot spies.

There are several other planets where people strive to produce food and there’s a rehabilitation planet which people who don’t toe the line are sent to. There’s a museum to the 20th Century where the most popular exhibit is a 20th century house, the exhibit is titled The Age of Waste and people are mesmerised by the opulence of it all.

Allen Purcell lives in Newer York with his wife Janet, they feel lucky to have a teeny room to themselves, inherited from Allen’s family. The bathroom is communal so you have to queue up for it in the morning. But Allen has an important job and is later given the position of Director of Entertainment and Propaganda. The statue of General Streiter has been vandalised and has been hastily boarded up, but it’s rumoured that the few people who saw the damage had laughed at it, it’s the beginnings of revolution.

As this book was written in 1956 the American author was obviously heavily influenced by the McCarthy era which was just beginning to break down by then. I’m sure if he had written it ten years earlier Dick would have been hauled in front of some sort of committee and accused of Un-American Activities and would have been lucky to come out of it with a viable career as publishers would have been too scared to touch his books.

It seems that revolutions always begin with the statues!

This was an enjoyable read, and I always find it amusing that science fiction dates so much faster than any other type of writing. It was funny that despite the fact that there is interplanetary travelling in this book, if you want to make a phone call you’ll have to use a phone in a street phone box.

# 1956 Club – some I read earlier

At the moment I’m reading a science fiction book which was published in 1956 – The Man Who Japed by Philip K. Dick, it’s not my usual reading fare but I didn’t have any unread 1956 books of my own in the house so I had to resort to Jack’s books. It’s good to swerve off to pastures new every now and again anyway, but below are some of the 1956 books that I’ve blogged about in the past.

Guest in the House by Philip MacDonald

The Towers of Trebizond by Rosa Macaulay

Wildfire at Midnight by Mary Stewart

The Silent Pool by Patricia Wentworth

The Long View by Elizabeth Jane Howard

Peterborough Cathedral, Cambridgeshire, England

Last week I scheduled a couple of blogposts prior to going down to England for four days. It was a delayed trip that we had planned to take way back at Easter but of course we were in strict lockdown then and only allowed to travel to get food. We swithered about leaving our area of Scotland which had had very low Coronavirus rates, journeying south seemed chancy. On the other hand the Peterborough area that we were travelling to also had fairly low infection rates so we decided to go, armed with masks and plenty of sanitiser.

We went to the big (mainly outdoor) antiques fair at Peterborough, but it was a bit of a disappointment as so many of the stallholders weren’t there, actually I was surprised that it hadn’t been cancelled. On the plus side I did manage to get some Christmas/birthday presents for Jack that I couldn’t have got elsewhere. My Christmas shopping is mainly finished!

This time around we made sure that we had plenty of time to visit Peterborough Cathedral. I wanted to visit where Katharine of Aragon was buried and the spot where Mary Queen of Scots had been buried, before her son the Scottish King James VI or James I (England) had her disinterred and reburied at Westminster Abbey in the Lady Chapel.

Peterborough Cathedral is interesting, has some wonderful ceilings and floors and has quite a warm and friendly atmosphere which you can’t say for all of these places. As ever I compared it with my favourite Saint Magnus Cathedral on Orkney – it’s still my favourite.

When Katharine of Aragon died she was at Kimbolton Castle in Cambridgeshire. King Henry VIII had her buried at Peterborough Cathedral because it was closest and presumably the cheapest way of doing it, he was obviously glad to be rid of his first wife and was only interested in marrying Anne Boleyn as fast as possible.

Katharine's Tomb

Katharine’s personal emblem was a pomegranate which signified fertility, sadly she didn’t have much luck with her pregnancies, but I’m sure the fault lay with her husband. It’s quite touching that someone has laid a couple of pomegranates on her tomb.

Katharine of Aragon's Tomb

Mary, Queen of Scots was originally buried not far from Katharine but now there is just a stone memorial where she lay.

Above Mary's Former Tomb

Mary's Former Tomb

There’s also a much more modern memorial to the World War 1 nurse Edith Cavell who was executed by the Germans, they claimed she was a spy.

Edith Cavell, Peterborough Cathedral

The cathedral has lovely mosaic marble floors.

Patterned mosaic floor, Peterborough Cathedral

Below is the stained glass in a side chapel.

Stained Glass , side chapel, Peterborough Cathedral

Beautiful ceilings.

Stone Vaulting, Peterborough Cathedral

The main ceiling is painted wood which is very unusual I think.

Wood vaulting, Peterborough Cathedral

Stone altar, Peterborough Cathedral

Stone altar,Peterborough Cathedral

The photo below was taken two years ago when we first visited Peterborough, but that time we didn’t manage to see inside the cathedral as it was shut, as you can see though – it was a golden evening.

Peterborough Cathedral

Prior to going Peterborough we visted Bletchley Park, the WW2 codebreaking establishment which was strictly ‘hush hush’ until the 1970s when someone published a book on it which horrified so many who had worked there during the war as they were sworn to secrecy. But that’ll be another post – soonish.

Prefects at Springdale by Dorita Fairlie Bruce

 According to Queeney cover

I think I had been looking at Angela Brazil books when this author’s name popped up. I had never heard of her, but was interested to see that her books are mainly set in Scotland. Although Dorita Fairlie Bruce was born in Spain – hence her nickname Dorita – her name was actually Dorothy, she was really Scottish and apparently second only to Angela Brazil in popularity where school stories were concerned. Her books are set in Scotland, I recognised the area as being Ayrshire, the other side of the River Clyde from where I was brought up and quite a bit south. At one point some of the girls go on a jaunt with Dimsie to Arran which is a place I’ve always wanted to visit and intended to do it this year – but we all know what happened to that plan.

I don’t think it was just the setting that led me to enjoy Prefects at Springdale, which was first published in 1936, more than any Angela Brazil books that I’ve read. Somehow the schoolgirls seemed more authentic to me. Unfortunately the books can be quite expensive, there are seven books in this Springdale series and I inadvertently started off with the sixth one. Well, I was amazed to find this book in a pile at an antiques centre, the books are usually really expensive but obviously the seller didn’t rate this author highly as it was priced at £5, I snapped it up.

Anne is preparing to go back to Springdale School, packing her trunk when her sister Peggy tells her that she has received a letter from Diane, also known as Dimsie, a Springdale old girl who is now 23. She’s going to be working there as a temporary games-mistress until a permanent replacement can be found. Peggy is worried about Dimsie and wants Anne to look out for her. It’s going to be a bit of an awkward situation all round as some of the younger girls had rather idolised Dimsie when she was a senior girl.

This was a great read which seemed quite before its time with one of the girls being keen to become an archaeologist and another one being determined to train as a museum curator and luckily they both get a chance to get some hands on experience. There’s a bit of an adventure and a smidgen of romance and this one was an enjoyable trip back in time and place. I also like the rather stylish 1930s design of the book cover.

When I opened this book I discovered that a previous owner had left a wee cache of bits cut out from pop magazines, from the 1970s. I suspect that she wasn’t allowed to stick posters on her bedroom walls so made do with small ‘photos’ cut out. She was a fan of Gilbert O’Sullivan, Rod Stewart, Slade and two mystery chaps that I don’t recognise. I’ll try to take a photo of them and add it here later, maybe someone can enlighten me.

Whose posters did you put on your bedroom wall? I was devoted to Marc Bolan and T.Rex. I’m not even sure if teenage girls still do things like that nowadays.

All the Books of My Life by Sheila Kaye-Smith

 All the Books of My Life cover

I must admit that I hadn’t even heard of Sheila Kaye-Smith when I spotted her book All the Books of My Life in a secondhand bookshop in Rye, Sussex last year. It was a book about books though so I decided to buy it anyway. Sheila Kaye-Smith was (according to the Sheila Kaye-Smith Society) counted as one of the leading novelists of the first half of the twentieth century. Her books were set in rural Sussex and Kent and at least one of her books became a best seller. She seems to be just about forgotten now though. This book was published in 1956.

I found it to be an interesting read, despite not having heard of a lot of the authors mentioned. As you would expect she begins with the books that she read as a child, and she was lucky in that she and her sister inherited the books of their much older step-siblings as both their parents had been married before. Quite a few of the books mentioned are French as she learned French from a nursemaid they had (she sounded like a nightmare and had tantrums!) but they did learn French, I doubt if many readers would know of those books. But I did discover – or was reminded – that Hans Christian Andersen wrote about a Gerda and Kay which is presumably why the author Rose Macaulay called the son and daughter in her novel Dangerous Ages by those names.

One of the chapters is titled Sad Pageant of Forgotten Writers and I was interested to see that she names May Sinclair as possibly being among them. I assume that Sheila Kaye-Smith would have been very surprised if she could have zipped forward 64 years and seen that the British Library had just re-published one of May Sinclair’s books.

Anyway, this is an interesting read although the chapter towards the end titled Speaking Personally wasn’t of much interest to me as it was about the religious books she had read which had culminated in her converting to Roman Catholicism. Bizarrely when she stopped reading the Bible and started reading books about saints by Catholics she ‘turned’.

In the chapter titled Gaps on the Shelf she talks about Ivy Compton-Burnett, a writer I have never been able to get on with. Kaye-Smith felt the same for years but she eventually came to love Compton-Burnett’s writing. I think I’ve only read one of her books and I was so annoyed that the whole thing seemed to be dialogue, I don’t think I will bother to persevere with her as I need locations and descriptions too.

All in all this is an interesting read, one of those books that add to any reader’s growing list of authors to try – not that we need to add any more! At least I will give Sheila Kaye-Smith a go if I ever stumble across any of her novels.