Scott meets Lucille wellsort of


Inger Sheil

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Have long been looking for ways to tie polar exploration in with the Titanic (besides obvious comparisons between the disastrous end of the Scott expedition in March 1912 and the Titanic's fate). Limb and Cordingly in their magnificent biography of Captain L.E.G. Oates drew an explicit comparison between the two events:

He probably still wanted to get to the Pole. He probably felt his luck would hold and enough sheer grit would get him there and back. His courage was Titanic - but so, alas, was his destiny. When the Norweigans' flag appeared in the snows and they knew they had lost, it was a struggle even for the overt Christians of the British party to be entirely graceful in defeat. But for Oates the sportsman it was easy.

The recent release of a new Oates bio by Michael Smith, I Am Just Going Outside (which brought it home to me that the more I read about Oates the more I like the bloke) had me pulling Apsley Cherry-Garrard's The Worst Journey in the World off the shelf again (Cherry-Garrard was the youngest member of Scott's last expedition).

First published in 1922, the following lines - set at the time of the 'Winter Journey' of Bill Wilson, 'Birdie' Bowers and Cherry-Garrard that gave the book its title - were clearly written for Randy:

It was Birdie's picture hat which made the trouble next day. 'What do you think of that for a hat, sir?' I heard him say to Scott a few days before we started, holding it out much as Lucille displays her latest Paris model. Scott looked at it quietly for a time: 'I'll tell you when you come back, Birdie,' he said. It was a complicated affair with all kinds of nose-guards and buttons and lanyards: he thought he was going to set it to suit the wind much as he would set the sails of a ship.

As Cherry-Garrard went on to write, 'Anyway, Birdie's hat became improper immediately it was well iced up.'
 
Mar 20, 2000
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Well thanks for that Ing. That is definitely a reference I haven't come across. You see, I told you the lady turns up everywhere! Lucy would have cringed at the misspelling of her name though that was and still is a common mistake.

But Ing I'm not quite sure on the set up here. Birdie was a man, right? What was he doing with a "picture hat?" Surely that is a jocular reference. (Or should we continue this conversation off-list?!
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Inger Sheil

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Yah - should have put a [sic] after Cherry-Garrard's spelling! Definitely a touch of 'Cherry's' humour in the reference to a 'picture hat'. As he explained:

We spent a long time with our housewifes before this and other trips, for everbody has their own ideas as to how to alter their clothing for the best. When finished some looked neat, like Bill: others baggy, like Scott or Seaman Evans: others rough and ready, like Oates and Bowers: a few perhaps more rough than ready, and I will not mention names

In terms of the hat becoming, as Cherry put it with amusement, 'improper', Bowers was to write that 'my helmet was so frozen up that my head was encased in a solid block of ice, and I could not look down without inclining my whole body.' As a consequence, he slipped into a crevasse, left dangling over a seemingly bottomless pit held only by the sledge harness.

I imagine Lucile would have been fairly amused by Birdie's eccentric jury-rigged hat being displayed like one of her creations, Hmmm?
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Mar 20, 2000
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Oh, I think she would have gotten a huge kick out of it. She had a great sense of humor and took ribbing as well as she dished it out. She was asked once by Lord Lonsdale, the famous horseman, how she might improve on the riding habit. She replied that she had better not attempt it or "your hunts would resemble some strange luxurious circus." He laughed, "Yes, I thought so. I was trying to imagine riding boots set off with lace frills! I know you could not resist it!"
 

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