04 March 2008

Squeezing the Oranges

I'm off to London tomorrow -- or at any rate I shall be flying to the ludicrously-named London Stansted, an absurdity akin to arriving in Dublin Mullingar -- for a few days in and around the metropolis with family and friends.

It seems fitting then that just today I've finished reading Tim Moore's Do Not Pass Go, an amusing and enlightening guide to London inspired by the classic British 'Monopoly' set. I started reading NMRBoy's copy of it a year-and-a-half back, but returned it to him just before we left Manchester; it was only a few days ago that I finally got stuck into my own copy.

Anyway, it's definitely worth a read, not least for some strategic tips about the 'Monopoly' board; it seems that 'Jail' is the space most-commonly landed upon space, whereas -- as the more astute among you may have noticed in your youth -- no set is as landed upon as frequently as the oranges. In fact, it seems that they're the most productive set on the board by quite a long way, a fully-developed orange set netting on average £24,619 over a game, as opposed to £14,835 for the dark blues.

Yes, don't tell me that visiting this site is a waste of time!

The oranges are an odd collection anyway, as it's difficult to see why such obscure streets were chosen for the game. Bow Street is an inoccuous enough street by Covent Garden, home of the famous Bow Street Runners. There isn't a Marlborough Street in central London, though the game's makers presumably meant Great Marlborough Street, where a famous magistrates' court sat till a few years back. And Vine Street? Vine Street is an obscure alley off Bond Street, where a police station was once located, and with just one notable anecdote attached to it, though Moore concedes that it's a gem. Ahem.
The only story the street had in its locker (admittedly it's a cracker) concerns the encounter that took place there between Frantisek Kotzwara and Susannah Hill on 2 September 1791. Then sixty-one, Kotzwara was one of Europe's greatest double bassists and the noted composer of fantasias with a military bent -- The Siege of Quebec; The Battle of Prague. Bohemian by birth and nature, he was a regular in the bagnios and fleshpots of Georgian London, and on the night in question found himself in the company of the aforementioned sex worker at her room at No. 5 Vine Street.

Nothing if not a gentleman, Kotzwara suggested a meal before the main business of the evening, furnishing Susannah with two bob for a substantial and well-lubricated spread of victuals. Some people like to round off a good meal with a smoke or a snooze, but Kotzwara was made of different stuff. 'After a dinner of beef, porter and brandy,' read one studiously sober account, 'he asked her to cut off his genitals.' perhaps unwilling to bite the hand that fed her, as it were, Hill refused, but interestingly agreed to assist Kotzwara in fastening a ligature first round the doorknob and thence his neck. Five minutes later, the kneeling, trouserless maestroeagerly conducted himself to a breathlessly memorable finale -- tantalisingly uncertain, even at the end, whether he was coming or going. Arrested and charged with murder, Hill was acquitted after the judge accepted her testimony. The court records were withheld to keep the precise and shocking details from the public domain, but the case still remains a landmark for suicidally adventurous perverts and bored law students alike.
Barring an outdated legal connection, all that Moore could imagine that might link the three streets was that nowadays, 'alone amongst the Monopoly groups, its three streets couldn't muster a single McDonald's between them.'

No comments: