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  • Writer's pictureCarl Plummer

Pelham's world: H.P. Sauce, Charters & Caldicott, Werther's Originals...and more

Some notes for Chapters 14 and 15 as your hero, Pelham Hardimann, settles aboard RMS Queen Mary.

H.P.. Sauce

Our odd couple, our Charters and Caldicott type, chat on about what they will miss once having left English shores. One of them – HP Sauce a spicy brown sauce, named after London's Houses of Parliament. Since its first appearance on British dinner tables in the late 19th century, HP Sauce has become an icon of British culture. It was the best-selling brand of brown sauce in the UK in 2005.

It is used as a condiment with hot and cold savoury food, and as an ingredient in soups and stews. Splattered across a full English breakfast is great, but in my view – for my tastebuds – nothing better than a bacon sandwich with a walloping dollop of HP Sauce.

The original recipe was invented and developed by Frederick Gibson Garton, a grocer from Nottingham. He registered the name H.P. Sauce in 1895. Garton called the sauce HP because he had heard that a restaurant in the Houses of Parliament had begun serving it. For many years the bottle labels have carried a picture of the Houses of Parliament. Garton sold the recipe and HP brand to Edwin Samson Moore for the sum of £150 and the settlement of some unpaid bills.

HP Sauce became known as Wilson's gravy in the 1960s and 1970s after Harold Wilson, the Labour Prime Minister. The name arose after Wilson's wife, Mary, gave an interview to The Sunday Times in which she said: "If Harold has a fault, it is that he will drown everything with HP Sauce."

In May 2006, Heinz announced plans to switch production of HP Sauce from Aston to its European sauces facility in Elst, Netherlands, only weeks after HP launched a campaign to "Save the Proper British Cafe".

The announcement prompted a call to boycott Heinz products. The move, resulting in the loss of approximately 125 jobs at the Aston factory, was criticized by politicians and union officials, especially as the parent company still wanted to use the image of the House of Commons on its bottles. In the same month, local Labour MP Khalid Mahmood brandished a bottle of HP Sauce during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons as part of a protest against the Heinz move. The Aston factory ceased production on 16 March 2007 and demolished in the summer.

HP Fruity is a milder version of the Original brown sauce, using a blend of fruits including oranges and mango to give a milder, tangier taste. This variety has been renamed "HP Chicken & Rib" in Canada and the US, HP Bold is a spicier variant in Canada. HP BBQ Sauce is a range of barbecue sauces, and is the UK's best-selling barbecue sauce.

Werther’s Originals

Werther's Original, a brand of caramel candy (sweets), is named after the town of Werther in Westphalia, where the company was founded in 1903. From 1969, the sweet was marketed under the brand name Werthers Echte. The brand name Werther's Original was adopted in the 1990s for the international market. They are now manufactured nearby, in Halle (Westfalen).

The original Werther's Echte was a hard candy. Later variants included chewy toffees, and a soft, waxy form which melts easily inside the mouth called "butterscotch-melts."

Well-known TV advertisements in Germany and the United Kingdom from around 1991 featured an older man offering Werther's butterscotch to his grandson. The grandfather in the first UK adverts spoke with an American accent but was later localized to Received Pronunciation.

One British advertisement consisted of a montage of the grandfather and grandson bonding together (for example, pointing at animals out of train windows). The lyrics of the song which accompanied this ended: "When one who loves you says to you: You're someone very special too."

Charters and Caldicott

Just your author having a bit of fun here. As Pelham goes to the top deck for a breath of fresh air and a look out across the docks and down to the gathering throne as RMS Queen Mary prepares to depart – once the laggers are aboard – he muses about life, about traveling, and about his fellow travellers. He does not name Charters and Caldicott, but they a recognizable pair: old-fashioned, rather chauvinistic Englishmen who blather on about the cricket and all things English, before they are in foreign fields to moan about the service, the toilets, and the beer. A bit of leg-pulling here.

Charters and Caldicott are supporting characters in the Alfred Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes (1938). Created by Frank Launder and Sidney Gilliat, the pair stoic and stiff-upper-lipped cricket-obsessed duo were played by Naunton Wayne and Basil Radford. Owing to their charming popularity in the film, they appeared in subsequent films and in BBC Radio productions, such as Night Train to Munich (1940, starring Margaret Lockwood).

They also appeared in two BBC radio serials, Crook's Tour (1941, also made into a film later that year) and Secret Mission 609 (1942). Wayne and Radford also appeared in stage a performance: Giving the Bride Away by Margot Neville (pseudonym for Margot Goyder and Anne Neville Joske in collaboration with Gerald Kirby). The play opened on December 1, 1939 and ran for 57 performances.

Hammer films' 1979 remake of The Lady Vanishes made a re-appearance for our chums with Arthur Lowe as Charters and Ian Carmichael as Caldicott.

A BBC television series of Charters and Caldicott was produced in 1985 – set in modern day – with Michael Aldridge playing Caldicott and Robin Bailey as Charters.

Burlington Arcade

Fans of P.G. Wodehouse will well recall poor old Bertie being commissioned by his Aunt Dahlia to go and sneer at a silver cow creamer, cast aspersions, and accuse the vessel of being modern Dutch: where else but in Burlington Arcade?

Built in 1818 to the order of George Cavendish, 1st Earl of Burlington, who had inherited the adjacent Burlington House, on what had been the side garden of the house. His aim: to prevent passers-by throwing oyster shells and other rubbish over the wall of his home., while some argue built so that his wife could shop safely with other genteel ladies and gentlemen away from the dirty, and crime ridden open streets of London. Burlington Arcade, a precursor of the mid-19th-century European shopping gallery and the modern shopping mall, runs east of Bond Street from Piccadilly through to Burlington Gardens.

Opened in 1819, it is an elegant and exclusive upmarket shopping venue, stuffed with luxury goods. The original arcade was a single top-lit walkway lined with small 2-storey units. Some units are now combined, reducing the number of shops to around 40. The Piccadilly façade, with sculptures carved by Benjamin Clemens, was added in 1911.

Burlington Arcade is patrolled by beadles, wearing traditional uniforms that include top hats and frockcoats. The original beadles were all former members of Lord George Cavendish's regiment, the 10th Royal Hussars. The arcade maintains Regency decorum by banning singing, humming, hurrying, and behaving boisterously. Present tenants include a range of clothing, footwear and accessory shops, art dealers, and antique dealers, and the jewellers and dealers in antique silver for which the Arcade is best known.

Laying out dining table

Pelham, aboard HMS Queen Mary, dines with Hammer – mixing with the hoi polio for a while as the great ocean liner is preparing to embark. Is Pelham a snob? Maybe not, but he does have standards, and if often disappointed by the lack of standards and decorum displayed by those who profess to have them while looking on down on those who supposedly do not. Knowing which knife and fork to use – bad enough with side knife, butter knife, soupspoon and dessert cutlery thrown in – is a bit of a minefield. And thank goodness we no longer mess about with passing the fish knives, Norman.

I shall leave you in the good hands of

How to Set a Table for Formal Events

1. Begin by laying out a crisp tablecloth. Then place the dinner plate in the middle of the setting. (For a more traditional table setting, place a charger plate beneath the dinner plate.)

2. Next, add the salad plate on top of the dinner plate.

3. The bread plate should be placed above and to the left of the dinner and salad plate. The butter knife can be placed horizontally on the bread plate.

4. The dinner fork goes to the left of the dinner plate and the salad fork goes to the left of the dinner fork.

5. Place the knife to the right of the dinner plate and then set the spoon to the right of the knife.

6. The dessert spoon should be placed horizontally above the dinner plate.

7. Water and white and red wineglasses go in the upper right corner or the place setting. The water glass should be closest to the guest (since hopefully they drink more water than wine), and the red wineglass goes just behind the white wineglass.

8. Fold the napkin (or use a chic napkin ring) and place it on top of the salad plate.

9. Add a place card above the dessert spoon. Write the guest's name on both sides so they can find their seat and the guests on the other side of the table will know who they are talking to.

10. The coffee cup and saucer can be set below the glasses with the dessert course.

Eggs Benedict

I am not averse to some Eggs Benedict now and then, especially with smoked salmon, although for breakfast I prefer kippers followed by toast and Cooper’s oxford Marmalade. Your hero, Pelham Hardimann is an Eggs Benedict man, perhaps picking up an American habit and preparing for New York. A common American breakfast or brunch dish, Eggs Benedict consists of two halves of an English muffin, with Canadian bacon, a poached egg, and hollandaise sauce.

Delmonico's, New York.

There are conflicting accounts as to the origin of eggs Benedict.

Delmonico's in Lower Manhattan says on its menu that "Eggs Benedict was first created in our ovens in 1860." One of its former chefs, Charles Ranhofer, also published the recipe for Eggs à la Benedick in 1894.

In The New Yorker in 1942, the year before his death, Lemuel Benedict, a retired Wall Street stock broker, said that he had wandered into the Waldorf Hotel in 1894, hoping to find a cure for his morning hangover. He ordered buttered toast, poached eggs, crisp bacon, and a hooker of hollandaise. Oscar Tschirky, the maître d'hôtel, was so impressed with the dish and put it on the breakfast and luncheon menus, substituting ham for the bacon and a toasted English muffin for the toast: basically tarted it up, you could say.

In 1967 Montgomery wrote a letter to then The New York Times food columnist Craig Claiborne which included a recipe he said he had received through his uncle, a friend of the commodore. Commodore Benedict's recipe—by way of Montgomery—varies greatly from Ranhofer's version, particularly in the hollandaise sauce preparation—calling for the addition of a hot, hard-cooked egg and ham mixture.

There are other variations of Eggs Benedict:

· Eggs Blanchard adds Béchamel sauce for Hollandaise.

· Eggs Florentine adds spinach. Older versions of eggs Florentine add spinach to poached or shirred eggs. (Eggs and spinach popular world-wide, I think – and one of my favourites).

· Eggs Atlantic, Eggs Hemingway, or eggs Norvégienne (also known as eggs royale and eggs Montreal in New Zealand) adds salmon, which may be smoked.

· Huevos Benedictos adds sliced avocado and/or Mexican chorizo, and is topped with both a salsa (such as salsa roja or salsa brava) and hollandaise sauce.

· Eggs Hussarde substitutes Holland rusks for the English muffin and adds Bordelaise sauce.

· Eggs Cochon, (a touch of old French) a variation from New Orleans restaurants which adds slow roasted pork shredded in its own juices and replaces the English muffin with a large buttermilk biscuit.

· Avocado Toast Eggs Benedict substitutes toast for the muffin and adds sliced avocado.

Sent to Coventry

To send someone to Coventry: to deliberately ostracize someone by not talking to them, to avoid their company and act as if they no longer exist. Victims are treated as though they are completely invisible and inaudible. To deem somebody as persona non grata.

The origins of this phrase are unknown, although it is quite probable that events in Coventry in the English Civil War in the 1640s play a part. In The History of the Rebellion and Civil Wars in England, by Edward Hyde, 1st Earl of Clarendon there is an account of how Royalist troops that were captured in Birmingham then taken as prisoners to the Parliamentary stronghold of Coventry, where the troops were not warmly welcomed. Some argue that the idiom derives from the ostracism dished out to Coventry's legendary "Peeping Tom".

An early example of the idiom is from the Club book of the Tarporley Hunt (1765): Mr. John Barry having sent the Fox Hounds to a different place to what was ordered was sent to Coventry, but return'd upon giving six bottles of Claret to the Hunt.

By 1811, the meaning of the term was defined in Grose's The Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue: To send one to Coventry; a punishment inflicted by officers of the army on such of their brethren as are testy, or have been guilty of improper behaviour, not worthy the cognizance of a court martial. The person sent to Coventry is considered as absent; no one must speak to or answer any question he asks, except relative to duty, under penalty of being also sent to the same place. On a proper submission, the penitent is recalled, and welcomed by the mess, as just returned from a journey to Coventry.


Cahoot is used almost exclusively in the phrase in cahoots, which means in an alliance or partnership. It describes the conspiring activity of people – usually people up to no good. Cahoot may derive from French cahute, meaning cabin or hut (perhaps a combination of cabane and hutte), suggesting the image of two or more people hidden away working together in secret.

RMS Queen Mary

The RMS Queen Mary sailed the North Atlantic Ocean from 1936 to 1967 for the Cunard-White Star Line and was built by John Brown & Company in Clydebank, Scotland. Queen Mary, along with RMS Queen Elizabeth, were built as part of Cunard's planned two-ship weekly express service between Southampton, Cherbourg and New York. The two ships were a British response to the express superliners built by German, Italian and French companies in the late 1920s and early 1930s.

Queen Mary’s maiden voyage was on 27 May 1936 and she won the Blue Riband that August. she lost the title to SS Normandie in 1937 and recaptured it in 1938, holding it until 1952 when it was taken by the new SS United States. With the outbreak of the Second World War, she was converted into a troopship and ferried Allied soldiers.

Following the war, Queen Mary was refitted for passenger service and along with Queen Elizabeth commenced the two-ship transatlantic passenger service for which the two ships were initially built. The two ships dominated the transatlantic passenger transportation market until the dawn of the jet age in the late 1950s. By the mid-1960s, Queen Mary was ageing and was operating at a loss.

After several years of decreased profits for Cunard Line, Queen Mary was officially retired from service in 1967. She left Southampton for the last time on 31 October 1967 and sailed to the port of Long Beach, California, United States, where she remains permanently moored. The ship serves as a tourist attraction featuring restaurants, a museum and a hotel.

Among facilities available on Queen Mary, the liner featured two indoor swimming pools, beauty salons, libraries and children's nurseries for all three classes, a music studio and lecture hall, telephone connectivity to anywhere in the world, outdoor paddle tennis courts and dog kennels. The largest room onboard was the cabin class (first class) main dining room (grand salon), spanning three stories in height and anchored by wide columns. The ship had many air-conditioned public rooms onboard. The cabin-class swimming pool facility spanned over two decks in height. This was the first ocean liner to be equipped with her own Jewish prayer room – part of a policy to show that British shipping lines avoided the antisemitism evident at that time in Nazi Germany.

Some of Pelham’s time – his more dangerous times – are spent in the Verandah Grill on the Sun Deck at the upper aft of the ship. It was an exclusive à la carte restaurant with a capacity of eighty passengers and was converted to the Starlight Club at night. Also on board was the Observation Bar, an Art Deco-styled lounge (where Pelham has his drink with Laura – or is it Milly?) with wide ocean views.

In August 1939, Queen Mary was on a return run from New York to Southampton. The international situation led to her being escorted by the battlecruiser HMS Hood. She arrived safely and set out again for New York on 1 September. By the time she arrived, the Second World War had started and she was ordered to remain in port alongside Normandie until further notice.

In March 1940, Queen Mary and Normandie were joined in New York by Queen Mary's new sister ship Queen Elizabeth. The three largest liners in the world were idle for some time until Allied commanders decided that all three ships could be used as troopships. Normandie was destroyed by fire during her troopship conversion. Queen Mary left New York for Sydney, Australia, where she, along with several other liners, was converted into a troopship to carry Australian and New Zealand soldiers to the United Kingdom.

In the Second World War conversion, the ship's hull, superstructure, and funnels were painted navy grey. As a result of her new colour, and in combination with her great speed, she became known as the Grey Ghost. To protect against magnetic mines, a degaussing coil was fitted around the outside of the hull. Inside, stateroom furniture and decoration were removed and replaced with triple-tiered (fixed) wooden bunks, which were later replaced by standee (fold-up) bunks.

During the war Queen Mary carried British Prime Minister Winston Churchill across the Atlantic for meetings with fellow Allied forces officials on several occasions. He was listed on the passenger manifest as Colonel Warden.

Cross the Rubicon

Julius Caesar's crossed the Rubicon river on January 10, 49 BCE and precipitated the Roman Civil War, which ultimately led to Caesar's becoming dictator and the rise of the imperial era of Rome. Caesar had been appointed to a governorship over a region that ranged from southern Gaul to Illyricum (but not Italy).

As his term of governorship ended, the Roman Senate ordered Caesar to disband his army and return to Rome. He was explicitly ordered not to take his army across the Rubicon river, which was at that time a northern boundary of Italy. Caesar brought the 13th legion across the river, which the Roman government considered insurrection, treason, and a declaration of war on the Roman Senate. According to some authors, he is said to have uttered alea iacta est — the die is cast—as his army marched through the shallow river.

Today, the phrase crossing the Rubicon is a metaphor that means to pass a point of no return.

Madame Defarge

Madame Thérèse Defarge is a fictional character in Charles Dickens’ 1859 novel A Tale of Two Cities. She is the of the tricoteuses, a tireless worker for the French Revolution, and the wife of Ernest Defarge. Some historians have suggested that Dickens based Defarge on Anne-Josèphe Théroigne de Mericourt, a revolutionary who played a key role in street demonstrations.

She is one of the main villains of the novel, obsessed with revenge against the Evrémondes. She ruthlessly pursues this goal against Charles Darnay, his wife, Lucie Manette, and their child, for crimes a prior generation of the Evrémonde family had committed. Defarge may represent one aspect of the Fates: The Moirai (the Fates of Greek mythology) used yarn to measure out the life of a man and cut it to end it. Defarge’s knitting secretly encodes the names of people to be killed and she symbolizes the madness and cruelty of the Reign of Terror during the French Revolution in which radical Jacobins engaged in mass political persecution of all real or supposed enemies of the Revolution.

Anderson and Sheppard

Aboard HMS Queen Mary, Pelham awaits the arrival of his new clothes – ordered they previous day from Dunn & Co. near Southampton docks. Pelham advises you – dear reader – that he would prefer the arrival of his favourite and trusted tailors Anderson & Sheppard a bespoke tailor on the world famous Savile Row, London. A&S, if I may take the liberty, was established in the in Savile Row in 1906, although it moved 99 years later to Old Burlington Street.

Fret not, they still measure you up while offering old style ready-made (off the peg) menswear from its 'haberdashery' shop premises in nearby Clifford Street. They move with the times; you can buy online. Get measured up and shop at A&S and you will find yourself in good company; former devotees have included Fred Astaire, Gary Cooper, Noël Coward, and Bryan Ferry. Even Prince Charles chose Anderson & Sheppard for his double-breasted suits.

And should you not be in the bespoke league (your favourite author is far from such a league, but he still dreams in his lonely garret), it is still worth a look at their website. Worth it just for a decent hat.

Noel Coward

Your hero, Pelham Hardimann has a few encounters with Noel Coward – on the train and then on RMS Queen Mary, where loose ends are slowly being tied together. By 1939, Coward was already an international figure, and English playwright and composer known for his biting wit, flamboyance, and chic.

Noel Coward with Gertrude Lawrence.

At the outbreak of the Second World War Coward volunteered for war work, running the British propaganda office in Paris. He also worked with the Secret Service, seeking to use his influence to persuade the American public and government to help Britain. Coward won an Academy Honorary Award in 1943 for his naval film drama In Which We Serve and was knighted in 1969.

Not much chance of Coward being a spy – despite his friendship with Ian Fleming. Coward was just too well known.

That said, I could not resist him playing a part in Pelham on Parole and using his ‘cameo’ to add a few jokes and the odd homage to the film world; movie fans should pick up on the nod to Casablanca during the shoot-out scene aboard RMS Queen Mary.

There will be more about Noel Coward later, as we set eyes upon the suitcase for which Pelham has been searching.

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