A discursive look at Napoleonic & ECW wargaming, plus a load of old Hooptedoodle on this & that

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Summer Prize Competition 2015 - Results

Well, I received some wonderful, well thought-out and often very entertaining entries. Out of a total of 19 entries, 7 identified the Amalfi area in Italy. Winner is Steve Curry, who produced a near-flawless answer:

Righto Foy, you bastard, this is driving me crazy. I've wasted three days on this puzzle already and if I don't send an entry I'll go mad picking at it.

Thanks to your clue in the follow-up post I believe I've got it:

The photo is taken from within the grounds of the Villa Cimbrone, looking down onto the town of Ravello, which is on the Amalfi Coast not far from Salerno, the target of Operation Avalanche.

The Villa Cimbrone is a mock pile built by the rather brilliant Ernest Beckett, 2nd Baron Grimthorpe, described by Michael Holroyd as 'a man of swiftly changing enthusiasms ... a dilettante, philanderer, gambler and opportunist. He changed his name, his career, his interests and his mistresses quite regularly.' I would love to have met him, but not to have lent him money!

No doubt among many other connections between Ravello and Whitby, the towns were both visited by Wilkie Collins, the author and great friend of Charles Dickens. He visited Ravello as a child with his father the painter William Collins during their two-year stay in Italy (and about which he wrote in a memoir). Dickens introduced Collins to Whitby, where he stayed in 1862 while working on his novel No Name.

More importantly, Whitby is a sister city of Porirua, New Zealand, where I was born (and which is also famous for being the site of New Zealand's first McDonald's restaurant).

I can sleep now.

PS I may have omitted the key fact that Ernest Beckett was the MP for Whitby between 1885 and 1905, during which time "his name was rarely mentioned in Hansard", suggesting that if he ever bothered to show up it was only to sleep off a hangover.

Very nice, Steve – if I ever used words like “awesome”, this would be the time to use them.

My photo is taken looking over the handrail of the last terrace at the Villa Cimbrone, Ravello.

Ravello is a remarkable town, it is about 1 km inland from the astonishing Amalfi Drive, along the Northern shore of the Gulf of Salerno, and is also about 350 metres above sea level, so the road to get up there is, shall we say, interesting. I have visited the place since then, but my photo was taken in 2000. We are looking straight down the gorge towards Atrani, where the road up to Ravello leaves the coast. Atrani, these days, is just the eastern end of the ancient town of Amalfi. The terraces and the twisting road are apparent – meeting the local bus on this road when driving a car is not recommended. I have, let it be said, walked down this same valley – I am delighted to say I came back up by bus.

Down at the edge of the sea you can see one of the old Martello-type towers which were built to watch for the approach of the Saracens, Turks, Greeks, Normans, Carthaginians, or whoever the enemy of the week was. This is the garden of Europe, my friends, and it has been open for pillage since the dawn of time.

As Steve has identified, the link with Whitby is Lord Grimthorpe.

Ernest, 2nd Baron Grimthorpe, sometime MP for Whitby
Ravello, of course, was also where DH Lawrence wrote much of Lady Chatterley’s Lover and where Wagner finished off the production details for Parsifal, but that’s all a bit cultured for this blog – I’ll leave that for other, more worthy poseurs.

Here's a picture taken 10 years later, looking the other way along the coast - with
the terrace of the Hotel Palumbo in the foreground, we are looking towards the
resorts of Minori and Maiori - Salerno and the invasion beaches are somewhere
away in the mist round the headland
Steve, if you can send me a comment with your postal address, I won’t publish it and I’ll get your parcel away to you forthwith.

The shortest entry came from Vance, who simply asked, "Is it a photo of Whitby?"

Among the “special mentions” are Jacko, who tells me that he visited the area a few years ago, in part to see the area where his grandfather was seriously wounded during WW2, and, most especially, Chris Grice, who got the place entirely wrong, and in support of this included a piece of what he dismisses as doggerel, but which by the standards of this blog is a very significant piece of high art:

“I’ve up and writ this story,” the Yorkshireman declared,
“’bout blood and bats and big black dogs. It’s sure to leave thee scared.
But I need a place to set it.” Bram Stoker then imparts.
“There’s no scary names in Yorkshire like they ‘ave in foreign parts.

I’ve wandered round the continent, ate foreign food and such,
but I found no inspiration ‘mongst the Belgians and the Dutch.
I even thought of Chateau Foy to set my tale of blood,
but the French said they pronounce it fwa, so that’s no bloody good!

At last I’m in Romania, atop a gret big ‘ill,
wi’ a castle that’s just perfect! In fact I think I will
use this very same location as the setting for me tome.
Pray tell to me, your countship, what t’name is of your ‘ome.”

“It’s Cetatea Poenari,” said the nobleman with pride.
“It has been mine for centuries, well, since my father died.”
The Yorkshireman, crestfallen, grunted, “Bugger, that’s a shame.
I’d never sell me novel if I used THAT for the name!

So perhaps I’m back to Whitby as the place to set my plot
but I shall ne’er forget thee and t’reception that I got
at thy castle on a mountain, wi’ a vista so spectacular.
I’ll even name t’book after thee, my dearest Count Vlad – what was your name again?”


Thanks again to everyone who took part, including those who did not send an entry, but restricted their input to abusive/helpful comments. I had a lot of fun with this – I hope you found it interesting!


  1. Bloody hell, that was a top answer! I knew it was the Amalfi coast, but as for naming the actual house the photo was taken?!?!?!

    1. Top answer indeed - and he achieved this from Australia, no less. This is more than just awesome, it's frightening. [Mind you, there are those who say that he has contacts on - you know - the Dark Side.... I don't want to say any more, I am looking nervously over my shoulder, which is why the typing is a bit jkhsjgdcbciqh]

    2. It's easy when you know how, however there is the expense involved in securing the live goat and each time one loses ten years of life, but it was so worth it.

  2. Well, speaking as an honest man (?) I was nearly there, having forged a strong Whitby link via Captain Cook and the RN. I was only a few hundred miles out, but the Allied invasion fleet did sail fairly close to where I thought it was - certainly closer than, say, New York. Anyway, congratulations to Steve and commiserations to Ray who undoubtedly made it all up after he'd read the correct answer.

    A generally cracking post which cheered me up no end. You must do another comp Tony, but not until my headache's gone . . . .

    1. Gary - it sounds as though you had the complete thing - well done. I have thought of doing these photo quizzes periodically without offering a prize, but I'm not sure anyone would go for it, and anyway there is a noble blog tradition of giving stuff away. Maybe I can sell the idea of a loftier kind of comp, without the tacky materialism etc. It would need work...

    2. Cook was a tempting place to start. I wasted a whole day chasing him around hoping he'd made a handy landfall in Spain (I thought the photo had to be Spain). Just assuming it was Spain or Portugal (cos of Foy's interest in the Peninsula business) wasted another day. If it wasn't for the extra clue I'd never had had an inkling.

  3. Steve Curry is a smart chap to be sure. Sorry I mussed this contest but there's no way I would have known the answer.
    Fortunately, no live goats were harmed in the typing of this answer.

    1. Very smart chap - too smart, maybe - my people are onto it.

  4. In my defence, I should point out that my entry was formulated in the waiting room of the casualty department of Rotherham Hospital. From the viewpoint of those surroundings, I think I was surprisingly close.
    (She's torn a tendon in her shoulder, by the way.)

    1. Not from any other viewpoint, sadly. However, the poem really was much appreciated - I enjoyed that very much. I know in my heart that your comment here is not a belated attempt to score extra sympathy points, so please do give your poor wife my very best wishes. My own Contesse has recently been convalescing from a fractured bone in her shoulder, and it is a tricky area to ignore - I hope Mrs G recovers quickly and comfortably.

      And thanks again for the great entry :o)

    2. Chris, your entry needs no defence. The poem will endure as a work of art in its own right long after my Google-driven smart-arsery has faded from view. If it weren't for Foy's sentimental attachment to principles such as correctness and following the rules you would have won on aesthetic grounds.
      Hope your good lady is feeling better, but it's a God-awful injury.

    3. No, actually I was trying to pretend that, in other circumstances the poetry would have been better.
      This is, of course, a lie, and I am now ashamed of the pretence.
      However, on the bright side, at the moment Herself can't give me a clip round the ear for using her as an excuse.

    4. Under the circumstances you would have been forgiven for producing something much worse, e.g. "There was an old man called Stoker, ..."

  5. If you'd said the link involved a bloke called Ernest Beckett who was the 2nd Baron Grimthorpe, I'd have jumped to the wrong conclusion that the east coast town was not Whitby but Cleethorpes. Ernie Becketts is famed as a purveyor of fine fish and chips in the towns of Grimsby and Cleethorpes (Grimthorpe?).

    1. Good lord - you don't think...? This is very interesting. I had a quick squint on the Internet Thingy to work out what "Grimthorpe" referred to, in the context of the Baronial title conferred upon Ernest's dad (Edmund). There was a Grimthorp Manor mentioned in Domesday Book, in the East Riding hundred of Warter, but I don't see any obvious connection. There is, of course, Grimethorpe, near Barnsley (of colliery and brass band fame, but that's not relevant either - I'm none the wiser.

      The 1st Baron appears to have been a lawyer by profession who somehow became involved in architecture, and he is noted as the man who designed the workings of Big Ben. He is also commemorated in the transitive verb, "to grimthorpe", meaning to restore or renovate an old building without appropriate care and sensitivity, and ruin it in consequence. His work on St Albans cathedral is the most famous of a number of controversial make-overs. Having seen his photo, I must add that he had a very strange hairstyle, which maybe owed something to his architectural style.

    2. Suspect it's purely co-incidental but I'm up there at the weekend and I'll see if there are any local history types who know the origins of the chippie's name.

      Interestingly the Wiki page for Baron Grimthorpe states "It was created in 1886 for the lawyer and architect Sir Edmund Beckett, 5th Baronet, with remainder to the heirs male of his father. He was succeeded according to the special remainder by his nephew, the second Baron. He had earlier represented Grimsby in Parliament. ". but there are no Becketts in the list of MPs for GY. Maybe it was the nephew who was the MP for GY?

      Again probably purely co-incidental and a long way from Ravello but who needs the Amalfi coast when you can look out over the Humber mudflats?