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Jan and Cora Gordon, 1928: Salesmanship in California

I smiled last Saturday as we found ourselves taking part in an earnest time-share sales presentation in San Diego, experiencing some insistent and misleading salesmanship, quite alien in style and content to anything a Brit would have come across at home. This prompted a recollection of the encounter between Jan and Cora Gordon and California real estate salesmen in 1928 recorded in " Star-dust in Hollywood ". The similarities are astonishing. ".. every real estate firm, in an agony of cut-throat competition, was trying to catch every 'tourist' as he arrived with his savings, to induce him if possible to invest his money in land before he could discover the real conditions. All along the streets near the centre of the town large rubber-neck wagons waited to abduct the wandering visitor. Young and often charming women pounced upon one from doors, waving prospectuses and promising free drives, free lunches and the rest ." Cora Gordon " was willing

Jan Gordon's 1917 story "The Soul Box" set in British Malaya

In addition to factual articles published in the magazine Land & Water between 1915 and 1919 , Jan Gordon also contributed a short story for the 1917 Christmas edition. It was called "The Soul Box" and was set in British Malaya, drawing on Gordon's own experiences in the area. The Soul Box The story begins with a Scotsman, Thompson, speculating about wealth to come as he sees grains of tin ore in a stream bed. His reverie ends abruptly when his servant, Ahmat, knocks him out with a blow to the head. Ahmat then ties him up securely before carrying him into the forest. Ahmat had shared the local stories of demons and ghosts with Thompson: ".. Ahmat told how Hantu Longgak had attacked his mother's sister, so that she ran through the village with foam flying from her mouth as though she were a beaten horse; of the terrible eyes of Jadi Jadian, the were-tiger; of Batara Guru, the old man of the sea ; of Sa Raja Jin, the Black King of all the Genii (or Jinn), who

"Freebooters of the Balkans" in Land & Water 1916 by Jan Gordon

Land & Water, March 16 1916 carries a piece by Jan Gordon on "Freebooters of the Balkans," a subject he expands on in the book,  " A Balkan Freebooter: Being the True Exploits of The Serbian Outlaw and Comitaj Petko Moritch . "  Here below is the text. FREEBOOTERS OF THE BALKANS. [Mr. Jan Gordon, the writer of this article, acted as engineer to Dr. Berry's Serbian Mission from the Royal Free Hospital. He was in the Balkans for six months and more, and travelled widely both in Serbia and Montenegro, taking part in the great retreat. He and his wife, who was also attached to the Mission, have just published, through Messrs. Smith Elder and Co., an account of their wanderings entitled "The Luck of Thirteen," illustrated by themselves, both of them being artists.] IN modern armies we have now discarded the freebooter, but in the Balkan States they have not yet learned that the undisciplined auxiliary is of little use in the warfare of today, and here t

The Flight from Serbia by Jan Gordon, 1915

After watching the WW1 sequences in "Tolkien" last night, I found myself revisiting some of the WW1 writings of Jan and Cora Gordon . Their early Serbian experiences in the war were documented in "The Luck of Thirteen." An interesting and appreciative review of the book appears in Land & Water, 23rd March 1916, as follows:  " Mr. and Mrs. Jan. Gordon, wandering in Serbia, have perpetuated an exceedingly inconsequent volume in The Luck of Thirteen (Smith Elder and Co., 7s. 6d. net), which is as scrappy as a feminine conversation, and at the same time thoroughly fascinating. Here and there the grimness of war stands out with startling realism, and the fate that has befallen Serbia is tragically limned in vivid sentences, then one is caught away from horrors by the femininity of "Jo," and again interested in some Serbian Comitaj or Biilky municipal dignitary. It is all "live" and full of the spirit of courage and energy in a time of utter t

The Tatler (1932) reflects on social masks and the "perfectly natural" Jan and Cora Gordon

The Tatler of Wednesday 03 August 1932 has an affectionate article about Jan and Cora Gordon , emphasising their refreshing naturalness and lack of pretentiousness. This is a quality noted by a number of their contemporaries, such as Myron Nutting . Here below is the article, in the flavour of a stream of consciousness, not originally broken into separate paragraphs, though I have done so here in order to make the text a little more accessible: " So Few People are Human. HOW seldom you meet people who are unashamedly content to be human. And how friendly and delightful they are when you do meet them! Most men and women create such fantasies around themselves. They are so very different from other people in their own estimation. Schoolmasters, parents, clergymen especially, all like to assume towards others whom fate has given into their charge, an innate superiority which they expect will be regarded as example. Even elderly people require deference on account of their age if for

Cooking and Writing: Jan and Cora Gordon give a return to London party, July 1932

In the Daily Mirror of Saturday 23rd July 1932, there is a paragraph mentioning Jan and Cora Gordon under the header " Cooking and Writing ."  " Is there something of an alliance between the arts of cooking and writing ? Miss Helen Simpson writes novels and broadcasts on cooking, and at the party Jan and Cora Gordon gave to celebrate their settling in London after many years, dishes from many lands were served, all of which they had cooked themselves. And cooked for forty people in a very small space ! Entertainment was provided by the guests themselves and by the playing of strange instruments by Mr. and Mrs. Gordon. " This return to London from Paris i s described in " The London Roundabout " (published 1933).  Over a decade ago, on April 4 th   2010, I was busy with a house move (to Oman from the Netherlands) when a copy of this book arrived in the post. The book is " a roundabout trip of London, where one may catch glimpses of the four quarters

Jan Gordon and the Dazzle Scheme Project, Demobilisation in 1919

Browsing the National Archive, I came across a fascinating record of Jan Gordon 's demobilisation from the WW1  Dazzle Scheme project . It shows notes in six different hands. He was demobilised from the 1st December 1919. The record reads:        Ty Lieut 9-11.17 [Temporary Lieutenant]      9-11-17 President for Special Service (Dazzle Scheme)      Granted technical allowance 5/-0 day      27.3.18 - 11.12.18 to be sent on leave as he becomes available pending demobilisation = 1.2.19.           President for duty with Admiralty Sub Committee Imperial War Museum (To report to D AMS office, 225 Tottenham Court Road) =       Demobilised from 1.12.19.      This officer is not to be demobilised. 2/19 Jan Gordon's demobilisation record The Dazzle Scheme Project inspired numerous articles and books, a recent example being the 2016 book by James Taylor .   Jan Gordon himself wrote about the project shortly after the war in his December 1918 Land & Sea article on The Art of Dazzle Pa

Cora Gordon opens a Charles Murray exhibition in Yorkshire, 1949

The Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer of Saturday 5th February 1949 carried the following story: " Mrs. Cora Gordon, the artist and author, will open an exhibition of recent paintings Mr. Charles Murray , at the Art Gallery, Batley.  It is appropriate that this one-man show should be held Yorkshire; for Mr. Murray, though an Aberdonian by birth, worked for years in Leeds and has been a consistent contributor to Yorkshire exhibitions. Indeed, we unblushingly claim him as a Yorkshire artist, though Aberdeen may have other views.  His reputation is now national. Twice In the past few years has had successful one-man shows in London, and work by him has been included in an exhibition sent abroad by the British Council. Those unfamiliar with the idioms of modern art may find the present exhibition startling at first sight. There is more than a hint of Picasso in some of these works; and the very mention of Picasso's name seems sufficient to start a controversy. But the open-mi