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The horse-world of London by William John Gordon delivers again. The description of an American fire hall during the late Victorian era is superb and would greatly enrich any visit to an historic site dedicated to Firefighters.
His descriptions of the maneuvering of coal in London from the rail yards to domestic domiciles will turn any walk through contemporary London into a Victorian stroll.
The language is quaint and mannered. There is an evangelical aspect – not surprisingly as the original publisher was the Religious Tract Society. Don’t overlook those aspects, enjoy them. Think of them as the musical soundtrack to the movie that will be your tour of London.
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The University of Michigan Library reprints public domain books, creating “reading copies”. You do not have to be a UML student to purchase a copy. I have one at my side right now – The Horse-world of London by William John Gordon. it was originally printed in 1893 by the Religious Tract Society, complete with illustrations.
Chapter VII captured my attention this morning – The Queen’s Horse. It begins:
In the horse-world of London, the highest circle, the most exclusive set, so to speak, is that housed at Buckingham Palace.
The accompanying illustration is of the “The Queen’s Creams” pulling a state carriage attended by liveried hostlers.
Gordon takes his reader on a tour of the Royal Mews, physically describing the space, comparing the generous square footage of the stalls to others in London. He relates a humorous tale of preparing the horses – actually failing to prepare the horses – for a state occasion. The Queen to whom he refers is not HM Queen Elizabeth II, but Victoria, she who gave her name to an era.
I toured the Royal Mews in June 2010, long before I acquired a copy of “The Horse-world of London.” Fewer horses are stabled there now, yet the stalls are still as spacious. The vaulted ceilings still exist. The tack is still on display. Even some of the state carriages mentioned in the book can still be seen.
My DIY Travel Tip
Don’t rely on the content of modern books, and youthful tour guides who deliver standard patter. Root through the stacks at your local library for antique books – or reprints – with descriptions of the building, area or country you plan to visit. Had I toured the Royal Mews with the knowledge I’ve gleaned from it, an extra dimension would have been added to the experience. I could have imagined the bustle and sounds of a stable when mechanical vehicles did not exist – and so could you travel in the past with some inexpensive effort.
The freeze and thaw we’ve been experiencing this winter ruined my windshield wiper blades. In the past, I’ve paid to have them replaced – an investment twice the cost of the blades. However, ruining a manicure is also costly…it was an economic trade off.
Yesterday, I ditched the girly-girly routine for a DIY project. At the Canadian Tire Store I pushed the button to start the electronic buying aid. How simple a solution, I think. I knew my model, make and year. That was the easy part.
The list appeared – with simple English words such as passenger, driver, all and lengths 18, 22 (They were inches, which I really appreciated). The words might as well have been Chinese. I can’t even blame the context.
What I didn’t have was a fundamental understanding of windshield wiper principles. A helpful parts person, introduced me to the concept of different length blades based on passenger position. The driver’s blade is frequently longer than the passenger blade. Hence the listing of two lengths, and the need to push passenger or driver on the electronic aid.
The third basic need-to-know was how the blade was secured to the arm. I knew this, because I had watched the installation the last time I replaced the blades. What I missed is that the way the blade secures is a subset. It wasn’t enough to purchase an 18″ passenger side blade, but I needed an 18 (1).
I’m not recommending a beginner use the electronic aid. I recommend you ask a person in the parts department when you want to replace your blades. Oh – one last thing – if your blades are a (1) you will ruin your manicure if you try this yourself.