Children Playing On The Beach At Guernsey

Guernsey is one of the UK’s Channel Islands, sitting there out in the ocean on the way to France.  Here it is seen from the air:

And that’s Renoir’s “Children On The Beach At Guernsey,” which you can see bigger here or here:

(That’s the Barnes Foundation in Philly).  But wait, here also is another picture of that same name?

With less prominent children?  What is Renoir up to?  Forgetting how to draw kids, looks like.  That second one’s in a private collection.

In 1883, Renoir spent the summer in Guernsey, creating fifteen paintings in little over a month. Most of these feature Moulin Huet, a bay in Saint Martin’s, Guernsey. Guernsey is one of the Channel Islands in the English Channel, and it has a varied landscape that includes beaches, cliffs and bays. These paintings were the subject of a set of commemorative postage stamps issued by the Bailiwick of Guernsey in 1983.

“small as a whorehouse beer”

from the Paris Review interview with James M. Cain:


Were there other signs [that you were going to be a writer]?


Well, when I went to Baltimore to work for the gas company, the first of the meaningless jobs I held when I was just out of college, I kept going down to this whorehouse on Saturday nights. I never did go upstairs, though twice I wanted to. One night I met this girl who was awful pretty, and she had pretty legs. I badly wanted to go upstairs with her, but I was afraid because of the disease which I imagined she had. (In Paris during the war I bumped into a girl, and I was horribly lonely, didn’t particularly crave her physically, but she approached me, and asked me to spend the night, and I’m glad I didn’t because I think she would have had my wallet with everything else.) But during this six months I worked for the gas company, I kept going down to that area around Josephine Street. At one of these places you could buy a bottle of beer for fifty cents. “Small as a whorehouse beer” was an expression then. They’d serve them up in glasses so small that thimbles were twice as big. For that fifty cents you were welcome to do anything, downstairs—get along with the girls, stick around—I was just eighteen years old. I listened a lot downstairs. Upstairs was another matter. I was a potential customer, of course. I guess the things you didn’t do . . .

It seems like there’s more to the story, but the interview moves on.  Later Cain claims that Alice In Wonderland is the greatest novel in the English language.


Cain on Chandler’s The Big Sleep:

That book about a bald, old man with two nympho daughters. That’s all right. I kept reading. Then it turned out the old man raises orchids. That’s too good.

The Field of Blackbirds

Larry McMurtry in Hollywood: A Third Memoir describes Peter Bogdanovich at the 1972 Oscars:

he sat in his tux looking like a Serbian martyr – the only survivor of the Field of Blackbirds, perhaps.

The Field of Blackbirds refers to the Battle of Kosovo of 1389, which was indeed a bad time for everyone involved.  The Prince of Serbia at the time was Lazar Hrebeljanović.  Here he is with wife Milicia:

The Ottoman Empire, meanwhile, was led by Mulad I:

The Ottomans decided to invade Serbia, and the two armies met on the Field of Blackbirds:

Wikipedia describes the grim scene:

The bulk of both armies were wiped out in the battle.

Both Mulad and Lazar were killed.

The Ottomans conquered Serbia, and Milicia had to send her youngest daughter Olivera to the harem of the new Ottoman Sultan, Mulad’s son, Bayezid I.

Before the battle Prince Lazar issued the “Kosovo Curse”:

Whoever is a Serb and of Serb birth,

And of Serb blood and heritage,

And comes not to the Battle of Kosovo,

May he never have the progeny his heart desires,

Neither son nor daughter!

May nothing grow that his hand sows,

Neither red wine nor white wheat!

And let him be cursed from all ages to all ages!

Today it’s inscribed on a pillar at the battlefield:

Peter Bogdanovich:

Photo of Greenland

From this NY Times slideshow, credited to Andrew Testa:

Marc Isambard Brunel

Marc Isambard Brunel was Isambard Kingdom’s father.  He was born in France and served as a naval cadet, during which service he built a quadrant for himself.

During his stay in Rouen, Brunel had met Sophia Kingdom, a young Englishwoman who was an orphan and was working as a governess. Unfortunately he was forced to leave her behind when he fled to Le Havre [because of the French Revolution] and boarded the American ship Liberty, bound for New York…

…Sophia Kingdom remained in Rouen and during the Reign of Terror, she was arrested as an English spy and daily expected to be executed.

Meanwhile, in New York, Marc was sick with worry:

In 1798, during a dinner conversation, Brunel learnt of the difficulties that the Royal Navy had in obtaining the 100,000 pulley blocks that it required each year to fit out its ships. Each of these was being made by hand. Brunel quickly produced an outline design of a machine that would automate the production of pulley blocks. He decided to sail to England and put his invention before the Admiralty. He sailed for England on 7 February 1799 with a letter of introduction to the Navy Minister

Back in London, Marc was joyfully reunited with the now-freed Sophia.  They had a son, Isambard Kingdom.   Marc went to work on an idea for a tunnel under the Thames.

Marc’s helper in this project was 18 year old Isambard.

I’m stealing all this from Marc’s wikipedia page, which in turn seems to be stolen from a book called The Greater Genius? by one Harold Bagust.  Q: is that the perfect name for the biography of a father?

A good way to remember the Brunels is the lyrics of Irish traditional song “The Humours of Whiskey,” found here.

Come guess me this riddle, what beats pipe and fiddle,

What’s hotter than mustard and milder than cream?

What best wets your whistle, what’s clearer than crystal,

What’s sweeter than honey and stronger than steam?

What’ll make the lame walk, what’ll make the dumb talk,

What’s the elixir of life and philosopher’s stone?

And what helped Mr. Brunel to dig the Thames Tunnel?

Wasn’t it whiskey from old Inishowen?


Glad to learn this word.

Isambard Kingdom Brunel

In 1843, while performing a conjuring trick for the amusement of his children, Brunel accidentally inhaled a half-sovereign coin, which became lodged in his windpipe. A special pair of forceps failed to remove it, as did a machine devised by Brunel to shake it loose. At the suggestion of his father, Brunel was strapped to a board and turned upside-down, and the coin was jerked free.