Monday 27 February 2023

Two Epics End (well, for now...)

 Over the weekend, to my own mild surprise, I completed the book on butterflies over which I have been labouring for an unconscionably long time. This project originated two or three years ago with a considerably shorter book, more of a very long essay, in which, to my very much greater surprise, a mainstream publisher showed a genuine interest – however, reasonably enough, he wanted it longer and more coherently organised, along the lines of a social history of the British enthusiasm for butterflies. This is the version I have finally managed to complete. Why did it take so long? Too much else going on in my life, I'm afraid – the big house move and all its attendant complications and frustrations, the demands of family life (chiefly, but by no means only, grandparenthood), all on top of the usual day-to-day business that eats up so much potential writing time. Not to mention sloth, late rising, procrastination and an over-developed taste for taking leisurely strolls. However, it is now done, and after a final reread I'll be sending it off...
  And as that long-drawn-out epic comes to an end, so does another one – tomorrow all our stuff (including books and CDs, hurrah) comes out of storage and will be delivered to the Lichfield house, where all is at last in a state of readiness. And here I must put in a word for the builders and associated tradespeople of the Lichfield area. In the past couple of months we have (of necessity) had the house deep cleaned, rewired, painted (inside) throughout, floored with timber, and had various plumbing and plastering issues sorted out. Everything has happened with little or no waiting time, everyone has got down to the job with total dedication – no sharp intakes of breath, no 'It'll cost you', no disappearing half way through to see to other jobs or visit the bookies – and everyone involved seems to be so well connected in the trade that they can call in others or recommend others at the drop of a hat. The work has been done perfectly, promptly, on schedule and on budget, and everyone has been friendly and obliging. After years of dealing with London builders, this feels like going to building trades heaven. I like it here.

Sunday 26 February 2023

Onegin and Slippers

 Every once in a while, Radio 4 takes a break from being unlistenably woke and springs a welcome surprise. Last week, from Monday to Friday in the Book at Bedtime slot, it was Pushkin's Eugene Onegin, in the excellent 1990 translation by James E. Falen, which made use of Nabokov's literal prose translation but turned it back into sparkling Pushkin stanzas. What's more, it was read – by Rhashan Stone, who I discover is a black American actor and comedian settled in the UK – with a perfect balance between the drive of the action (inward and external) and the structure of the verse (and he clearly understood what he was reading, which is so often not the case with readings like this). It was a joy to hear – and you can still catch it, all five episodes, on BBC Sounds.

And another good thing. Yesterday I had occasion to buy a pair of slippers, which I did from a stall in the market place. 'They're made in England now,' the stallholder told me as he handed them over. They were very cheap, so I was surprised to hear this, but he explained that this firm used to have all its shoes made in China, but now transport costs have risen so much that they find it cheaper to make them here. This struck me as excellent news, and I hope it applies across more areas of manufacturing – it would be wonderful to be taking back at least some of all that manufacturing we cheerfully outsourced to a totalitarian country which makes no secret of its ambition to take over the world at the first opportunity. Let's hope my slippers are a straw in the wind. 

Saturday 25 February 2023

Ralph Stanley

 The great bluegrass singer and banjoist Ralph Stanley would have been 96 today. Like many, I first became aware of him thanks to the Coen Brothers film O Brother Where Art Thou? Ralph's electrifying a cappella performance of 'O Death' was one of the musical highlights of that brilliant movie – but here he is earlier in his career, with his brother Carter, performing something much cheerier: 'Mountain Dew'. 

Thursday 23 February 2023

Past and Present

 Last night I caught a TV documentary (BBC4) on the 1951 Festival of Britain. It made poignant viewing – and deeply saddening too, if one, for example, compared the joyful, imaginative and brilliantly conceived celebration on the South Bank with the dismal, aborted  'Millennium Experience' at Greenwich half a century later.  While the former was packed with content and meaning and driven by an optimistic spirit, the latter was devoid of content or meaning and driven by nothing but a felt necessity to spend a great deal of money on some kind of spectacle. Greenwich ended up as an all too vivid demonstration of the sheer vacuity of the time, whereas the South Bank – and Battersea Park, and the Lansbury Estate in Poplar with its 'living architecture' – were bursting with vitality, and projected a strong message about the state of the nation, surging back from the privations (and authoritarianism) of wartime and looking forward to a bright and happy future. Some of the most striking footage was of couples – hundreds of them – dancing (in basic ballroom style) in the open air at the Festival site: everybody danced then. And a huge crowd lustily singing 'Jerusalem': everybody sang too – 'community singing' was still very much a thing in those days. And here's another index of how much, and how much for the worse, things have changed since those Festival days: the documentary was enlivened by West Indian voices and calypso songs, all celebrating the wonders of London and the mother country and the great Festival. Oh dear, oh dear, how long ago it seems... Today we have 'drill' music and sullen, angry rap. It is hard not to conclude that in the seventy-odd years since the Festival of Britain, we have been trundling rapidly towards hell in a handcart.
  Apart from the Royal Festival Hall, almost nothing remains of the built legacy of the South Bank festival – and still less, alas, of its spirit. But at least the musical legacy survives: by chance I heard this morning on Radio 3 Vaughan Williams's  beautiful choral setting of 'The Cloud-Capp'd Towers', one of three Shakespeare songs commissioned for the Festival. What was the musical legacy of Greenwich? Was there one? 


Tuesday 21 February 2023


 Clemence Dane (born Winifred Ashton), a playwright and novelist very successful in her time, was born on this day in 1888. Despite being a prolific screenwriter, she seems to have remained (as her rather sweet features suggest) one of life's innocents. In his cheering memoir, Life's Rich Pageant, Arthur Marshall recalls her...

'The physical side of life had passed her by, together with the words, slang and otherwise, that accompany it. She had no idea at all why people laughed, or tried tactfully to conceal laughter, as time and time again she settled for an unfortunate word or phrase. Inviting Mr Coward to lunch during the war when food was difficult, she boomed encouragement down the telephone: 'Do come! I've got such a lovely cock.' ('I do wish you'd call it a hen,' Noel answered.) Asking her friend, Olwen, what she had secured for a summer picnic, she was heard to yell up the stairs, 'Olwen, have you got crabs?'... To use correctly, in a literary sense, the words 'erection', 'tool' and 'spunk' was second nature to her. When wishing to describe herself as being full of life and creative energy, she chose, not really very wisely, the word 'randy'. To hear a large and imposing women of fifty announcing to a roomful of actors that she felt randy was really something. She never cottoned on to the fact that the name 'John Thomas' had a hidden significance, and she was heard one day expatiating about the different sides to a person's nature: 'Yes, every man has three John Thomases - the John Thomas he keeps to himself, the John Thomas he shares with his friends, and the John Thomas he shows to the world.' 'Of course, Winifred,' people said, when they could speak.'

[Readers with remarkable powers of memory might notice that this is the substance of a post I put up on this date in 2010 – thirteen years ago! How long has this blog been going on? Very nearly fifteen years, I discover on consulting the archive, and this is post number 4,236. Blimey.]

Monday 20 February 2023


 As Jack Worthing helpfully explains to Lady Bracknell, 'Worthing is a place in Sussex. It is a seaside resort.'
I was there over the weekend – on family business, which meant I had little time to explore, but what I saw of the place I mostly liked. There are certainly some very attractive buildings, from elegant balconied terraces to picturesque flint-faced or colourwashed cottages, and the beach and promenade are no doubt very agreeable when not lashed with icy gale-force winds. The hotel we stayed in boasted that among its previous guests were Charles Dickens (is there a Victorian seaside hotel in which he did not stay?) and Oscar Wilde. 
  Wilde certainly knew Worthing, and he spent a long holiday there in the summer of 1894 – the last summer before his fall from grace. He was staying in a rented house (long since demolished), with his wife Constance and their two sons, and, intermittently, the troublemaking Lord Alfred Douglas ('Bosie'). In the course of this seaside sojourn, he had a sexual relationship with at least one local boy; the unhappy Constance fell in love with another man, a bookseller friend of the Wildes called Arthur Humphreys; and Oscar, in dire need of money, wrote his finest and funniest work, The Importance of Being Earnest. Bosie, typically, claimed that much of the play was written while he was sitting in the room with Oscar, and that some of its best lines were taken from his, Bosie's, sparkling repartee. 
  Worthing obviously gave Jack Worthing his surname, and an entry in the Worthing Gazette seems to have given the fictitious Bunbury his. There is more about all this in Antony Edmonds's book Oscar Wilde's Scandalous Summer: The 1894 Worthing Holiday and Its Aftermath. Edmonds also wrote a book about Worthing's other major literary connection, Jane Austen's Worthing: The Real Sanditon. Austen visited the then embryonic resort in 1805, and no doubt behaved very much more decorously than Oscar.

Sunday 19 February 2023

Mrs Bridge

 With nearly all my books in storage (not for much longer, thank G--), I'm still largely dependent on Lichfield's fine charity bookshops for my reading. The other day I spotted a Penguin Modern Classic I'd never heard of, by an author whose name was equally unknown to me. Mrs Bridge by Evan S. Connell was one source – the other being, as you'd expect, Mr Bridge – for a Merchant-Ivory film, Mr and Mrs Bridge (1990), but I had never seen that either, so I had no idea what to expect when I opened Mrs Bridge.
It was published in 1959, but is set in the Thirties and Forties. The eponymous Mrs Bridge is an unfulfilled upper-middle-class (in English terms) housewife, wife of a successful lawyer, mother of three, resident of a prosperous suburb of Kansas City. Nearly everything that unfolds in the course of the novel is told from her perspective, which, as she increasingly but haltingly realises, is too narrowly circumscribed to make sense of much that is going on around her. Though it is a tale of growing unhappiness and alienation, it's told with a deftly comic touch that makes it much more readable than most such chronicles of suburban dissatisfaction. The tone is bittersweet, mildly satirical, but at heart affectionate and sympathetic (Mrs Bridge is partly based on the author's own mother). It unfolds in a series of short vignettes, some as little as a paragraph, none more than half a dozen pages – 117 of them in a novel of 180-odd pages – and this works to turn what might, in more traditional form, have been a plod into something that sparkles with a distinctive brilliance. I've greatly enjoyed reading it, and I think it deserves its 'modern classic' status.
  The copy I have has been heavily pencil-marked, with many underlinings, circled words and marginal exclamation marks. I was intrigued to find at one point that the underliner had written in the margin 'Afternoons. Larkin'. This was linked with an arrow to a sentence beginning 'The house was so quiet that she began to think how noisy it had been when all the children had been there, how very much different everything had been...' Mrs Bridge has been pushed to the side of her own life... 


Summer is fading:
The leaves fall in ones and twos
From trees bordering
The new recreation ground.
In the hollows of afternoons
Young mothers assemble
At swing and sandpit
Setting free their children.
Behind them, at intervals,
Stand husbands in skilled trades,
An estateful of washing,
And the albums, lettered
Our Wedding, lying
Near the television:
Before them, the wind
Is ruining their courting-places

That are still courting-places
(But the lovers are all in school),
And their children, so intent on
Finding more unripe acorns,
Expect to be taken home.
Their beauty has thickened.
Something is pushing them
To the side of their own lives.

['Afternoons' was written in 1959, the year Mrs Bridge was published.)

Tuesday 14 February 2023

Tim Buckley

 It has been brought to my attention that Tim Buckley, a wonderful and still underrated singer (father of the more famous Jeff), was born in this day, Valentine's: he would have been 76 today, but he died of an overdose at the age of 28 – a sad loss and a terrible waste. Here he is, sending love from room 109 at the Islander, on Pacific Coast Highway...

Monday 13 February 2023

Two Phones and a Missing Shop

 I have two mobile phones – call me Two-Phone Nige. One is a little Nokia, chiefly for texting, and the other an iPhone, which serves as telephone and camera. Both are playing up just now, and the Nokia has completely lost sound on incoming calls (despite being on full volume), so I thought I'd pop into a phone shop and replace the Nokia with a similar model. I duly did this on Saturday afternoon and, on opening the Nokia box a little later, I discovered that the instructions were in Arabic, with no translation, and on trying to set up the phone I found that it was weirdly configured and totally baffling. So I took it back to the shop this morning (Monday) – or I would have done, if the shop was still there. It had gone, leaving behind only a shuttered shell, with a notice declaring that the lease had been forfeited and the premises repossessed. 
(I was vaguely reminded at this point of an Edmund Crispin novel, The Moving Toyshop, in which a toyshop (containing a murder victim) mysteriously disappears overnight. This Gervase Fen mystery is dedicated to Crispin's Oxford friend Philip Larkin, and takes its title from 'The Rape of the Lock': 'With varying vanities, from every part, They shift the moving toyshop of their heart.')
On the whole, I am glad that my life so often plays out as some kind of comic novel. It beats the alternatives.

Saturday 11 February 2023

Mal Waldron

 I was drifting off to sleep, with Radio 3 playing softly, when a strangely beautiful piece of music caught my ear. It was clearly jazz of some kind, but darkly coloured and angular and, with its big chords and rapidly repeated notes, it barely sounded like jazz. It was, I soon discovered, All Alone, written and played by Mal Waldron – 

Mal Waldron... the name rang a very loud bell. Of course – the brilliant closing lines of Frank O'Hara's best-known poem, 'The Day Lady Died'. Waldron was, among many other things, Billie Holiday's regular accompanist, from 1957 until she died in 1959...

It is 12:20 in New York, a Friday
three days after Bastille day, yes
it is 1959 and I go get a shoeshine
because I will get off the 4:19 in Easthampton   
at 7:15 and then go straight to dinner
and I don’t know the people who will feed me

I walk up the muggy street beginning to sun   
and have a hamburger and a malted and buy
an ugly NEW WORLD WRITING to see what the poets   
in Ghana are doing these days
                                                        I go on to the bank
and Miss Stillwagon (first name Linda I once heard)   
doesn’t even look up my balance for once in her life   
and in the GOLDEN GRIFFIN I get a little Verlaine   
for Patsy with drawings by Bonnard although I do   
think of Hesiod, trans. Richmond Lattimore or   
Brendan Behan’s new play or Le Balcon or Les Nègres
of Genet, but I don’t, I stick with Verlaine
after practically going to sleep with quandariness

and for Mike I just stroll into the PARK LANE
Liquor Store and ask for a bottle of Strega and   
then I go back where I came from to 6th Avenue   
and the tobacconist in the Ziegfeld Theatre and   
casually ask for a carton of Gauloises and a carton
of Picayunes, and a NEW YORK POST with her face on it

and I am sweating a lot by now and thinking of
leaning on the john door in the 5 SPOT
while she whispered a song along the keyboard
to Mal Waldron and everyone and I stopped breathing

Thursday 9 February 2023

Filth Update: Edward Okun

 The latest specimen of period pornokitsch to arrive on my otherwise blameless Facebook page is this, painted by one Edward Okun, bizarrely described by Wikipedia as a 'Polish art nouveau painter and freemason' (he was also a racing cyclist). The picture above is titled 'Self-Portrait with Sicilian Pomegranates' (ignoring its other eye-catching features). 
  Okun was a prominent figure in the Polish art scene, vice-president of the Society for the Encouragement of the Arts. It was in that capacity that he happened to witness the assassination of the first president of Poland, Gabriel Narutowicz, and helped to apprehend his assassin. 
  His style of Art Nouveau was decidedly Polish and somewhat – what shall we say – overheated. He seems to have been particularly (and understandably) fascinated by the patterned wings of butterflies and moths, as in this self-portrait (with his wife again) titled 'The War and Us' –

and in this weird picture, 'Night Butterflies' –

Okun lived in Warsaw during the Second World War, but after the Warsaw Uprising he moved out of the city to Skierniewice, where he was killed by a stray bullet in January 1945. 

Tuesday 7 February 2023

Theatre of the Absurd

 So, a production of Waiting for Godot has been cancelled because auditions for this all-male play (five characters, all men, as stipulated by Beckett) had not been open to, er, women. This limitation went against the 'inclusion policy' of the University of Groningen, where the play was to be staged. Since Beckett's unenlightened time, said a university spokesman, 'times have changed', and the idea that only men were suitable for these (male) roles is 'outdated and even discriminatory'. So this 'open inclusive community' has closed down the production. Donegal native Oisin Moyne, who had hoped to make his directorial debut with Beckett's masterpiece, said bleakly that his life had become 'utterly absurd' over the past few weeks. As it happens, anyone proposing to stage Waiting for Godot has no choice but to cast men only, as the Beckett estate holds the rights and insists (rightly) on the author's instructions being strictly followed. 

Sunday 5 February 2023

Tiny Forests and Rich Music

 On my morning stroll today I happened upon a Tiny Forest. I might have passed it by but for the notice which explained what it was. The Tiny Forest movement is an initiative launched in 2020 by a charity called Earthwatch Europe, and its aim is to turn tiny patches of urban land – no larger than a tennis court – into, well, tiny forests. They seem to want to encourage dense plantings of native trees, which doesn't seem a great idea in such a small space (and I'd want to be quite sure those 'native trees' were not imported). However, the Tiny Forest taking shape in Lichfield already has three mature trees at its corners (it's a triangular site), and a line of saplings along one side of the triangle seems to be the limit of the tree planting. Otherwise the emphasis seems to be on encouraging wild flowers, and thereby biodiversity, especially of insect life, which can only be good. I'll be interested to keep an eye on this Tiny Forest as the year goes on, and see how it prospers. 
   Lichfield is already a city of trees, with its acres of parkland edged with spinneys, its woodland on the edge of town, its gardens and open spaces, and abundance of street trees. As a result, there is birdsong in the air most of the time, even in winter. The parks are full of robins and blackbirds, constantly proclaiming their presence and their territorial rights, not to mention chattering sparrows and parties of foraging tits with their softer contact calls – and in the streets of the centre historique, as the French would call it, it's the thin calls of pied wagtails, now thoroughly urbanised, that prevail. The other evening, passing by the cathedral close, I heard two tawny owls conversing, and every dusk there are blackbirds singing until the last light has faded. Talking of blackbirds, here is R.S. Thomas's rather wonderful 'A Blackbird Singing' –  

It seems wrong that out of this bird,
Black, bold, a suggestion of dark
Places about it, there yet should come
Such rich music, as though the notes’
Ore were changed to a rare metal
At one touch of that bright bill.
You have heard it often, alone at your desk
In a green April, your mind drawn
Away from its work by sweet disturbance
Of the mild evening outside your room.
A slow singer, but loading each phrase
With history’s overtones, love, joy
And grief learned by his dark tribe
In other orchards and passed on
Instinctively as they are now,
But fresh always with new tears.

Saturday 4 February 2023

'No enemy but time'

 Born on this day in 1868, at Buckingham Gate in London, was Constance Gore-Booth, who became Constance Markievicz, revolutionary firebrand, Irish nationalist, socialist, suffragist, what have you. She was the first woman elected to the UK House of Commons, but did not take up her seat, partly because of her Irish nationalist convictions and partly because she was at the time detained at His Majesty's pleasure in Holloway prison, serving one of many sentences she picked up in her career, including a death sentence (for her part in the events of 1916) which was commuted to imprisonment – an act of clemency to which she responded: 'I do wish your lot had the decency to shoot me.' 
  Constance, with her sister Eva, had the great good fortune to be memorialised in one of Yeats's most beautiful short poems, 'In Memory of Eva Gore-Booth and Con Markievicz'. Those opening lines...!

The light of evening, Lissadell,
Great windows open to the south,
Two girls in silk kimonos, both
Beautiful, one a gazelle.
But a raving autumn shears
Blossom from the summer's wreath;
The older is condemned to death,
Pardoned, drags out lonely years
Conspiring among the ignorant.
I know not what the younger dreams –
Some vague Utopia – and she seems,
When withered old and skeleton-gaunt,
An image of such politics.
Many a time I think to seek
One or the other out and speak
Of that old Georgian mansion, mix
Pictures of the mind, recall
That table and the talk of youth,
Two girls in silk kimonos, both
Beautiful, one a gazelle.

Dear shadows, now you know it all,
All the folly of a fight
With a common wrong or right.
The innocent and the beautiful
Have no enemy but time;
Arise and bid me strike a match
And strike another till time catch;
Should the conflagration climb,
Run till all the sages know.
We the great gazebo built,
They convicted us of guilt;
Bid me strike a match and blow.

Lissadell was the happily named family seat in County Sligo, where Yeats often stayed. 
And here are the two girls 'both beautiful, one a gazelle' (Constance on the right) – 

Friday 3 February 2023

A Beddington Funeral

 I've just heard that the funeral of the late great Jeff Beck took place today at St Mary's, Beddington, a church I knew well from boyhood, when I was at school in the manor house next door (then an annexe of the grammar school), to recent times, when I always dropped in if I found it open, to admire the Carew chapel and the lovely William Morris organ screen. Beck grew up on the splendidly named Demesne Road, close to St Mary's. The turnout at his funeral was by all accounts the biggest gathering of stars ever seen in my old manor, with the likes of Eric Clapton, Tom Jones, Kate Bush, Ronnie Wood, Brian May, Rod Stewart, Dave Gilmour, Harry Enfield, Vic Reeves, Kirk Hammett and Johnny Depp assembling to pay their respects. Quite right too. 

Golden Codgers

 A great title, isn't it? Golden Codgers. It first caught my eye when Richard Ellmann's book of that name was published – 50 years ago now! – but I never got round to reading it. The title, however, lingered somewhere in my mind, along with the vague idea that I might read it some time – and now, after half a century, that time has come: browsing the other day in the excellent bookshop attached to the Samuel Johnson birthplace museum, I spotted Golden Codgers on a high shelf, and bought it there and then. 
  The title is from Yeats's 'News for the Delphic Oracle': 'There all the golden codgers lay,/There the silver dew,/And the great water sighed for love,/And the wind sighed too...' (from which lyrical opening, the poem works its way towards 'Foul goat-head, brutal arm appear,/Belly, shoulder, bum/Flash fishlike; nymphs and satyrs/Copulate in the foam.') Yeats's golden codgers are Niamh and Oisin, Pythgoras and Plotinus; Ellmann's are various figures ranging in date from George Eliot to T.S., with Oscar Wilde a persistent presence, and Ruskin, Gide and Joyce also playing their part in a series of essays that Ellmann calls 'biographical speculations' (the kind of biography I like – I've never read Ellmann's doorstop biographies of Joyce and Wilde). In a beautifully written introductory essay, Ellmann explores the possibilities and limitations of literary biography, concluding that 'The controlled seething out of which great works come is not likely to yield all its secrets. Yet at moments, in glimpses, biographers seem to be close to it, and the effort to come close, to make out of apparently haphazard circumstances a plotted circle, to know another person who has lived as well as we know a character in fiction, and better than we know ourselves, is not frivolous. It may even be, for reader as for writer, an essential part of experience.' Well, that could certainly be said of Boswell's Johnson, I think, if not of many other biographies...
  So far, I have read only the first of Ellmann's 'speculations', and it is impressive: in 'Dorothea's Husbands', he considers the biographical question of who was the original of Casaubon in Middlemarch, while recognising the dangers inherent in reading over directly from any real-life personage into a fictional character. In the case of Casaubon, there are various plausible candidates from among Eliot's acquaintance, but most interestingly Ellmann quotes from a magazine interview with Eliot in which, when asked where she had found Casaubon, 'she pointed to her own heart'. 'She meant by it,' writes Ellmann, 'exactly what Flaubert had meant when he said, "Madame Bovary, c'est moi." ... What must be sought is not a Casaubon, but casaubonism, and this George Eliot found, as Flaubert found le bovarysme, in herself. Casaubonism is the entombing of the senses in the mind's cellarage.' Ellmann also examines Eliot's marriage to the much younger  John Walter Cross, relating it to the inadequacy of Will Ladislaw, Dorothea's young second husband, as a character – 'a fantasy of middle age, indulged because innocuous ... his only imperfection being what is also his chief perfection – youth'.
  And now I am with Wilde and Ruskin at Oxford ('Overtures to Salome') and enjoying the ride. I'm glad that, 50 years on, I finally got round to Golden Codgers.

Wednesday 1 February 2023


 As February begins, here is some topical advice from Edward 'Ned' Ward, a satirical writer and publican who was a contemporary of Swift's. His most successful work, The London Spy, offers a panoramic account of the seamier aspects of London life at the turn of the 18th century. Ward was guvnor of the King's Head Tavern, next to Gray's Inn, an alehouse in Clerkenwell, and the Bacchus Tavern in Moorfields, conveniently close to Grub Street: 

'He who would, in this Month, be warm within,
And when abroad, from Wet defend his Skin,
His Morning’s draught should be of Sack or Sherry,
And his Great Coat be made of Drab-de-berry.'

Wise words. 'Drab-de-berry' or drap-de-Berry was a stout woollen cloth originating from Berry in central France. Speaking for myself, I have no coat of Drab-de-berry, but I have just acquired a very fine long overcoat of a wool and cashmere blend, beautifully cut (in Germany) and long enough, for a wonder, to cover my knees. It is to all appearances brand new, and I got it on eBay for a mere £30. I am well pleased.