German Musings about Manners and England

I recently watched a documentary about the late Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother whom I revere. It was well made, but the most poignant part was, to me, a brief interview with the actress Mia Farrow who had once asked Her Majesty what she considered the most important part in bringing up children. The Queen Mother was silent for a moment and Farrow, startled, realized that she may have made a mistake. One doesn't ask royalty questions. But the old lady was just pondering and then replied: "Manners."

Meet William Hanson. He can boast an ubiquitous online presence as etiquette expert. Whether he really has a claim to any "leading" etiquette expert status I don't know. To me, he is.

Some of his information seems, to me as a foreigner, a bit marginal at first glance, though interesting and by no means irrelevant (it IS more elegant and thus nicer to watch one's opposites to stir their tea as he suggests) which brings us to...

...the very non-marginal bits. As William says:
Good manners are all about other people, they are self-less, not self-ish...
...which is the essence of good manners. (I recommend watching the entire video.)

But what I most like about WH are the vile reactions he triggers from the chip-on-the-shoulder-brigade. They don't understand the essence and meaning of manners, they don't understand the dry wit and the tongue-in-cheek-aspect and they are all - I bet - frightf'ly lower middleclass. One of my many pet theories is that one can draw a fine line between the working and the lower middleclasses by looking for that chip. The lower middleclasses have it, the working classes don't. (The same applies, by the way, to the line between the middle and the upper middle and upper classes. The former adore Princess Diana, the latter don't. Try it!)

The most frightening bit for me was that they are coming across as so embarrassingly German and aren't we Germans, after all, a very, very lower middleclass country shaped by upstarts from the lower middleclasses.

However, all that is just based on my very personal empirical value and I may be wrong.

I first became intrigued in (or with - oh those pesky prepositions!) the English class system when I read Jilly Cooper. I had come to England first in 1983 (or had it been 1984?) to meet the people to whom I was going to lend my Trakehner stallion for their up-and-coming stud. A lifelong friendship ensued and I spent all my free time in County Durham and North Yorkshire from then on. And after a while, having by then read "Class: A View from Middle England" (1979), I came to the understanding: "My God, I KNOW all those people!"

Not really topical but too handsome to be missed: Fernando, Trakehner premium stallion by Flugwind out of Freude II* by Gazal VII (Sh.Ar.) with yours truly in the early 14th century. (Photo Betty Finke.)

Fernando with my dear friend Freda during his time in England.
I know I get carried away, but he was just SO handsome (and a great performer and character to boot). He founded a small but quality stallion line in England. (Photo Sabine Burre.)
However, I digress - I couldn't help it. Back to manners.

When I first came across William Hanson and his videos I was amazed at what seems to be necessary of teaching those Brits. I come from two very German working class families. My father's was of the (as Jilly Copper put it in "Class") "rough and friendly", my mother's of the "tight lipped, respectable one on the verge of middle class" sort. My father did well in business and politics, we had live-in staff, I grew up with dogs and horses. When I was five I knew how to eat artichokes and, so they told me later, a great communicator with guests. When I watch those idiotic videos at YouTube (not WH's) which regale us with what oh-so bizarre, absurd, daunting, browbeating rules for "manners" dear poor darling Meghan now has to follow, I can't say but: "But that's the kind of behaviour any civilized family and their members would stick to, irrespective of class".

In England, I had very upper-classical friends who used to hold an almost ersatz-parental status for me (long not with us anymore) who briefed me before any dinner party about the background of the guests and about what not to talk. Not that I would have anyway, but it showed me what manners are about. Not so much about holding knife and fork correctly, but about not hurting people and that my parents were right in my upbringing.

Whatever, back to WH! I like that man. I like his dry wit and sense of humour, I like how he's using being camp as a "stylistic device", I'm sure he knows that he is probably the oldest looking man in his late twenties in human history, and I'm sure he doesn't give a damn. Enjoy this video and the two following ones where he makes mincemeat of his detractors.

I don't know William Hanson personally and I won't get any kickback for this. But maybe you'll enjoy his book as much as I did.

For me, it's not about being a social climber. I am not. But it's witty, funny and interesting. If you hate it, you're very probably lower middleclass. If not, you're not.

Addendum: I just came across this video...

... and I admire William Hanson's self control. I would have smacked that horrible woman.

"Please don't swear. I am not sitting here surrounded by expensive wallpaper for you to swear".
Best putdown in the history of human communication!

For the Long Winter Evenings

I strongly recommend this wonderful documentary from 2008. I just finished watching all three instalments and I'm greatly impressed.

Excellent footage expertly cut, no insufferable self-appointed "royal experts", invariably female, from the gutter media with their smug, self-satified mugs and trite armchair psychology (you know who you are), just ultra-respectable contemporary witnesses, including members of her own family.

May God Save the Queen!

The Secularisation and Banalisation of the Royal Family

The story is quickly told. Nth in the line to the throne and granddaughter to the Queen wedded nice young upper class man in October, no political aspect, no African-American pageantry. Boring.

However, every time a royal weds, the media reactions are more, well, let's call it "inspiring" than the event itself. No, dear press ragtag, the groom wasn't a waiter. No rags to riches story here. He is sheer and undiluted upper class and comes from more than one titled family.

Then there was the gushing over the bride and her dress. And no again, dear media mob, although she comes across as very nice, not even her best friends would call her beautiful or her appearance "stunning". Get a bit more creative with your vocabulary.

Out of respect for the bride, here is the most flattering picture I was able to find.

Then there was the usual parade of glossy magazine scum and some highlights, mostly, but not exclusively, from the royal family. I confine myself for once to the nicer aspects of such a pageant, because there are more important things to come later in this entry.

Her Majesty in powder blue, dignified and beautiful as always.
I like her pastel outfits best.
The Princess Royal with her husband Vice Admiral Sir Timothy Laurence.
I admire her for many things. Her dress sense is not among
them. However, this is much less awful than her usual choice of
wedding guest attire.
This is Lady Sarah Chatto, first cousin, once removed to the bride.
And no, scum shmoks, she's not Her Majesty's "favourite niece". She is
her ONLY niece. (And one of the nicest members of the royal family
who always keeps a low profile and who is a "working girl".)

The Duchess of Cambridge, best dress, best smile, ray of sunshine, as usual.
Mother and sister (and maid of honour) of the bride with the little bridesmaids and pageboys.
Children are always "cute" (a word I hate), but here, the long trousers for the boys are a big
no-no and deplorably middle class.
Oh look! A scene from "Roots"!
The well-connected, stylish and beautiful
Cressida Bonas, former girlfriend of Prince Harry.
The younger branch of the Greek royal family.
Couldn't be better.
Poppy Delevingne, another well-connected young
woman, model and actress in Oscar de la Renta.
Absolutely stunning dress, pity for the daft "fascinator".
Zara, Mrs. Michael Tindall, the Queen's granddaughter, with
her rugger star husband.
Nobody would neither her nor her mother accuse of being particularly
well dressed, however, she is, like her mother used to be 40 years ago,
one of the best three-day-event-riders of her generation and makes
a living from it.
Chelsy Davy, another one of Prince Harry's ex-girlfriends,
and although she DOES come across as  a bit, well, common,
at least she's a lawyer now and not some tinpot American actress.
Don't get me started about those breast appliances.
No, dear glossy magazine gutter scum, this is NOT Sofia Wellesley,
the grand-daughter of the 8th Duke of Wellington, with some singer
as her armpiece, this is James Blunt, an officer, gentleman and
close friend of Prince Harry, who happens to be a singer now, with his wife
Sofia Wellesley.
Lovely dress for a autumn wedding, perfectly turned out couple!
Undoubtedly the best-dressed attendant.
I love it!
That's it. I spare you the many other "celebs", they are either well-preserved but tend to hit their staff with bejewelled communication devices, depress me because they are my own age group but decrepit, or unknown to me. Let's talk instead a bit more about the efforts of the media hacks.
Magic Meghan was attenting as well
Imagine my surprise! Absolutely sensational! Shiver down my spine. Her husband is, after all, only first cousin to the bride.
Elitist Eugenie set strict rules for the wedding and had the cheek to even let them be known
Well... it WAS a royal wedding, wasn't it?
Demonic Duchess of Cornwall didn't attend because she had a tiff with "Fergie" in the early 14th century
Liar liar pants on fire!

It's a symptom for the zeitgeist, that it is impossible or almost impossible to find photos of the extended royal family who attended, for example the Earl and Countess of Snowdon, first cousin, once removed to the bride, the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, the bride's first cousin, twice removed and his wife, the Duke of Kent, the bride's first cousin, twice removed, or, from the Mountbatten family, the Marquess and Marchioness of Milford Haven, the bride’s third cousin and his wife. I came only by chance across the photos of Lady Sarah Chatto and the Greek royal family.

Too straightlaced? Not vulgar enough? Good God, some of them are even seriously working for their living (the Duke of Gloucester for example is an architect). How boring! I am hatching the pet theory that the mainstream (media and public) are only interested in royalty now if they are connected with glossy magazine scum. That would, too, explain the maniacal interest in the tinpot actress with a long history of riding the cock carousel who recently married into the family.

In an earlier entry I wrote:
This gushing approval of everything that goes against tradition, established, proven and tested values, dignity, common decency and good taste, THAT is the frightening bit.
Some of my regular readers may wonder why I spared the mother of the bride. The explanation is easy. I am tired of shooting sitting ducks.

Much, MUCH more interesting in this context is a look back at the past. During my research I came across the video below and was amazed how likeable and genuine the young Sarah Ferguson comes across in the pre-nuptial interview early in the video (13:41 - 16:43). But that's an upper class young lady for you who has attended finishing- but not "acting school", whatever hash she may have made later of her marriage.

Yes, nobody can deny that she is upper class. At that time she seemed the ideal choice as the wife for a son of her Majesty the Queen. At that time, too, the first doubts about the Princess of Wales had gathered at the horizon. Sarah Ferguson was "worldly", yet a country girl with many common interests with many members of the royal family. Her father was Prince Charles' polo manager. She was goodlooking in a rather tomboy-ish sort of way, yet didn't have a smidgeon of the Princess of Wales' fateful star quality, all of which spoke for her.

I couldn't resist and watched most of the video, which was an eerie experience for somebody like me who isn't all that laid back about growing old. We saw a young-ish and beautiful Queen, we saw a dashing young Prince Charles, we saw a Prince Edward with a head still full of hair and an amazingly well dressed Princess Anne, we saw a mischievous Prince William (who hadn't quite the star quality his son George shows now) as a page boy and we saw the toddler Prince Harry on his mother's arm, we saw Lady Sarah Armstrong-Jones (Chatto) and Zara Phillips (Tindall) as girl bridesmaids.

A bit of a comfort was to see that others age as well.

We saw those who are not with us anymore, the beloved Queen Mother, a very young and beautiful Princess Diana, Princess Margaret Rose, yet not quite so obviously marked by illness, and many more.

 I re-played "God Save The Queen" at least three times.

And we saw what a nice young man Charles Althorp, now the Earl of Spencer, used to be. He co-commented the footage for an American station. (The fabulous hair seems to go in the family.) Alas, nobody would call him a nice old man now.

Just a final thought about the disastrous marriages of two of Her Majesty the Queen's sons, whose wifes had been, again in the eyes of the gutter press, "victims" of the oh-so-cold royal family, which they, adulteresses both, had left for a "more honest" life. Btw, both girls knew the royals and life in the royal family from an early age, both were only too happy to marry into it.

Methinks they were victims of quite a different sort of agents.

Sarah Ferguson, then thirteen, and her sister were dumped on their father when their mother bolted to marry an Argentinian polo playing grease ball, whereas the mother of Diana Spencer left her husband and her four children for the heir to a wallpaper fortune when Diana was four or five. The then Viscount Althorp eventually won a bitter custody battle over his children, in which his mother-in-law, Ruth Lady Fermoy, lady-in-waiting to Her Majesty the Queen Mother, testified against her daughter.

I rest my case.

The Neverending Pilgrimage of Hermann Buhl

Mount Everest may be the highest point on earth, but Nanga Parbat, conquered just 36 days later, ninth on the list of highest peaks, is known as one of the most treacherous climbs in the world with a death toll of 31 at the time it was finally ascended for the first time. On July 3, 1953, after a Herculean 18-hour climb, its conqueror Hermann Buhl survived a solitary night just below its summit, staying alive by swallowing stimulant pills to keep awake.

It was Buhl's extraordinary physical and mental stamina -- developed from an early age by death-defying trips in the Alps, then in the Himalayas -- that let him survive to tell his tale.

Hermann Buhl was born on September 21, 1924 in Innsbruck/Tyrol as youngest of four children to poor parents. After the death of his mother he spent his first years in an orphanage. In the Thirties, the boy, who was considered sickly and over-sensitive, went on his first mountaineering tours in the Tuxer Alpen and the Karwendel. 1939, he joined the Innsbruck section of the DAV and soon improved his skills and performance. Soon he mastered the most diffcult climbing routes up to grade VI.

After leaving school, Hermann Buhl was apprenticed to become a forwarding merchant. In 1943, he joined the army and spent the war as mountain infanteryman in Italy, where he took part in the Battle of Monte Cassino. After release from American war captivity, he returned to his native Innsbruck and took on odd jobs. In the late Fourties, he trained to become a mountain guide. During the following years he mastered, in spite of almost nonexisting funds, spectacular ascents, some of them first ascents, in the Alps.

In March 1951, Hermann Buhl married Eugenie Högerle from Ramsau near Berchtesgaden in Bavaria and became father of three daughters. The fact that the renowned sports goods retailer Sporthaus Schuster in Munich employed him as a salesman and advisor for mountaineering goods helped him out of his difficult financial situation.

In 1953, Nanga Parbat, the mountain in Northern Pakistan that had already cost so many lives, became again subject to German and Austrian interest. Even Mount Everest, the world's highest mountain, had been ascended before this ice-covered and avalanche-prone giant.

Hermann Buhl ascending the eastern ridge of the Nanga Parbat.

The initiator for the 1953 German-Austrian Himalaya expedition was Dr. Karl Herrligkoffer, whose organisation and preparation hadn't won the trust of the major alpine organisations, so he had difficulties hiring renowned mountaineers. Eventually he found a couple of climbers with high altitude experience in the Himalayas: Aschenbrenner (a veteran from an ill-fated expedition in 1934) and Frauenberger. Last but not least he managed to engage a famous duo from the Alps, Hermann Buhl and Kuno Rainer.

A base camp was established during the end of May. Camp I - IV were consecutively put up and supplies and equipment were taken up there. Heavy snowfall and uncertain weather rendered all attempts at reaching greater heights impossible. On June 30, Herrligkoffer ordered everyone back to base camp.

Suddenly, on July 1, the weather changed. Buhl, Kampter, Frauenberger and the cameraman Ertl were still in the higher camps. They had refused to retreat after a discussion via radio and had managed to get their way. On July 2, Buhl and Kempter established Camp V at the col on the ridge below the Silver Saddle at 6,900 meters. Ertl and Frauenberger returned to Camp IV. The weather seemed to be stable. Buhls plan was to reach the Silver Saddle at 7,450 meters and then the big plateau above. From there he could either ascend the preliminary summit or the Northern Summit.

Picture taken by Hermann Buhl on the summit of the Nanga Parbat. In 1999, the ice-axe was retrieved by the Japanese mountaineer Takehido Ikeda and given to Eugenie Buhl.

At 01.00h on July 3, Buhl left Camp V heading upwards, Kempter had difficulties leaving his sleeping bag and followed one hour later. The snow conditions were good and the night was clear with the moon lighting up the mountain. At 05:00h, when Buhl reached the Silver Saddle, the sun rose. The plateau spanning three kilometer taxed Buhl's strength. The heat was almost overwhelming and the air stood completely still. At the end of the plateau, Buhl had some tea and left his pack behind, which enabled him to move more easily. Kempter had reached the plateau as well in the meantime, but Buhl was moving too fast and was way ahead. Realising he would never catch up, Kempter turned back and reached Camp V safely.

Buhl reached the col below the summit (7,800 meters) at 14:00h. He still had the technically most difficult part of the whole climb ahead of him and the last 300 meters didn't look inviting. After an inner struggle, he decided to continue. He took a dose of Pervitin (a stimulant) and went on. At 18:00h Buhl reached the shoulder and one hour later the summit. It was dead calm and perfectly clear.

The chapter Nanga Parbat was closed for the lonely man on the summit.

Down below, Kempter had reported that Buhl had continued alone towards the summit, and from each camp the men looked up to the Silver Saddle hoping to see Buhl on his way back. But nothing was to be seen. Frauenberger had returned to Camp V during the day and spent the night there together with Kempter. They could, however, not sleep, thinking what might have happened to their companion.

Hermann Buhl returning from his solo ascent to the Nanga Parbat to camp V on July 4, 1953 at 19:00h, 41 hours after he took off. The Siver Saddle in the background.

While Buhl was still at the summit, the sun went down. He drank his last tea and planted his ice-axe with the Pakistani and the Tyrolean flag there and took a few pictures. Night was falling fast as he started his descent.

Above 8,000 metres, at a tiny ledge below the shoulder, he was forced to emergency bivouac -- without a sleeping bag or warm clothes because he had left his pack at the plateau. Standing on a piece of rock between 21:00h and 04:00h, he spent the night up in Nanga Parbat's "death-zone". The wind was calm and the night clear and he was loosing all the feeling in his feet. At dawn, he continued to descend. He eventually reached the plateau and found his pack, but was in no condition to eat or drink anything. Haunted by hallucinations he struggled on downwards across the plateau in the burning sun. His thirst became overwhelming, some more Pervitin mobilised his last strength and at 17:30h Buhl reached the Silver Saddle.

The most famous picture of Herman Buhl and probably the most famous picture in mountaineering history. It was taken by Fritz Aumann on July 5, 1953, between camp III and II.

At the time this picture was taken, Herman Buhl is 29.

Meanwhile, while the men at camp V where making plans to go and find out what had happened to their companion the next day, they suddenly saw a small dot on the Silver Saddle moving downwards. It was Hermann Buhl! His happiness at being reunited with his friends was indescribable.

Buhl was lucky to return from the Nanga Parbat with just a few frostbitten toes, lucky to return at all. If anyone at this time could manage such an ordeal and survive -- it was Hermann Buhl. Also, he was possibly the first mountaineer to apply 'Alpine Style' climbing techniques to the great peaks in the Himalaya.

Four years later on Broad Peak, Hemann Buhl and his companions proved that, without any help from native porters, a small team could climb an 8,000 metre peak. But it was Buhl's last summit. Some days later, attempting Chogolisa together with Kurt Diemberger, he fell through a cornice to his death. His body was never found.

Top picture:
The Chogolisa North Face, 7654 m, today

Picture below:
The Chogolisa North Face 1957
The arrow at 7200 m marks the point where Hermann Buhl fell to his death.

"Mountaineering is a relentless pursuit. One climbs further and further yet never reaches the destination. Perhaps that is what gives it its own particular charm. One is constantly searching for something never to be found."

- Hermann Buhl

My main sources were Die Hermann Buhl Homepage and a mountaineering site, JERBERYD.COM.

This is an entry from "Roncesvalles", dating back to 2006. However, I think it deserves a place here as well.

What Do You Guess Turned Ordinary People into Ragtag

The Grand National is a National Hunt race (a race "over sticks") held annually early in April at Aintree Racecourse in Liverpool. First run in 1839, it is a handicap steeplechase over 4 miles 514 yards (6.907 km) with horses jumping 30 fences over two laps. It is the most valuable jump race in Europe, with a prize fund of £1 million in 2017. The event is prominent in British culture and popular amongst many people who do not normally watch or bet on horse racing at other times of the year.

By most accounts, the first steeplechase race was held in 1752 in County Cork, Ireland, where a horseman named O’Callaghan challenged Edmund Blake to a match race, covering approximately 4 1/2 miles from Buttevant Church to St. Mary’s Doneraile, whose tower was known as St. Leger Steeple. Church steeples were the most prominent — and tallest — landmarks, and thus the sport took its name. History did not record the winner of the O’Callaghan-Blake match, or if either of them completed the cross-country chase.

It ought to be mentioned that National Hunt racing is "posher" than flat racing in the sense that one won't see hardly any glossy magazine scum or Sheik Mohammed Al Whatshisname there, but rather the "country set". The value of the horses is neither as exorbitant as that of flat racers, nor are the stud fees, and the price money is — comparatively — moderate. The sensation lies in the sport itself.

The same applies, even more so, to steeplechasing's little sister, the point-to-point.

Steeeplechasing, too, has never attracted much followers outside the UK, Ireland and France.

The eminent horseman John Hislop wrote about the sport:
Steeplechasing has about it rather more glamour and excitement than the flat, a trace of chivalry, a spice of danger, and a refreshing vigour that the smooth urbanity of flat-racing lacks. The atmosphere is less restrained, more friendly, more intimate and more sympathetic. It gives the impression of being a sport and not primarily a business, for though it seems impossible to preserve any present-day pastime from the tarnishing influence of Mammon, the majority of those who patronize steeplechasing do so from a true love of its qualities, rather from what it yields materially.
This majority includes Her Majesty the Queen and used to include Her Majesty the Queen Mother.

During the course of some research for a different topic I came across the phenomenon of the "ladies' day" at Aintree (a ladies' day is part of every major racing event in Britain) and an article in the Al Guardian, so catty, malicious and vile (and, worse, dumb) that only a woman could have written it.’s [the ladies 'day] always portrayed in the media as much worse than it actually is. There’s undoubtedly a condescension there, a sense that it’s tacky women trying to ape the upper classes and missing the mark; but... this ignores its tongue-in-cheek nature.
That Ladies’ Day continues to hold such fascination says much about our class system. People like to look down on the women of Britain, with their drinking and their miniskirts and their refusal to adhere to society’s expectations of them to be ladylike. But what they miss is that this is a national female solidarity movement. Much like your average Saturday night out, Ladies’ Day isn’t about pleasing men, but about girls having a good time, and that is in actual fact quite a powerful statement.
It is indeed.

So according to that sordid little bit of bitchiness some may think that those women are aping... THAT?
The Princess Royal with a slightly bedraggled
looking husband in a very apropos battered Barbour in tow.
The Princess Royal with her daughter Mrs. Mike Tindall
who is, like her mother used to be, an accomplished rider
and among the world elite in her chosen field.
I am sure there are a lot of women who will find the style of the Princess Royal a bit stuffy and stick-in-the-mud. (I don't, but I don't blame them either.) However, there are many ways to dress apropos to the occasion, weather and time of the day, yet a bit sparkish and adventurous as well.

Nothing I would ever wear, I'm more of the tweed and loden sort,
but those ladies got it SO right.
This would be equally fine, weren't
it for the skirt, which is too short
for a woman of that age, and the
platforms, which are very common.
But whatever. Gorgeous suit!
 Let's have a look back at the history of the sport:

This is how the average racegoer, not the upper classes, used to dress for such events. Neat, complying with the weather conditions and the time of the day and, above all, dignified. And no, they didn't try "to ape their betters", they just had their own understanding of dignity, rules and decency, as good people, irrespective of class, do have.

So the ladies day is always portrayed in the media as much worse than it actually is? Try it! Do a Google picture search for "aintree ladies day". Those photos spring up everywhere and, more, they are more often than not enthusiastically lauded by disgusting lower middleclassisms like "girls having fun", "fashionable fillies", "cheeky" or "dress to impress" (which is, in a sense, true).

What intrigued me most was, that among all that depraved exhibitionism there is not a single woman visible young enough to make the sight of her exposed flesh at least bearable. It's a gigantic cellulite and sagging or fake tits pageant with tattoos thrown in. If you HAVE to to it, you women of that ...denomination, don't do it anymore when you're past 25. Biology 101. Trust me!

This isn't working class, this is plebs.

And no, it's certainly not about "pleasing men" either. That's an outmoded concept anyway. The new "national female solidarity movement" is female-on-female tits-and arse-grabbing, French kissing and getting as pissed as newts and passing out in public. Women unbridled by rules of class, gender roles and common decency.

It was bound to happen. Thank you, feminism!

But men will still have to "please" THEM, to help them out of the hedges and to hold them over the ground to let them eliminate so that they don't pee their knickers when they're ratted out of their skulls.

For me, this holds a sort of Old Testament justice, which I enjoy enormously.

I'd enjoy even more an end to this "white knighting" by men. But fat chance! Millenia of human evolution can't be reversed in a couple of decades, but it would make me very, very happy!