Thursday, 29 April 2010

Timelessness (Part Two)

I'm still bleary eyed today and my body is yelling at me that it's Eastern Standard Time and I should be asleep right now. To counteract this, I've been drinking large mugs of builders tea and it seems to have done the trick for now. As well as this, I've been looking over some old photos in my emails. I had emailed these to myself via my parents' computer a few weeks ago. Since discovering the treasure trove of images my Dad has scanned, I promptly disappear to email myself a few more everytime I visit!

I wrote about the timeless quality of certain very special photographs a little while ago here, and here is another that fits beautifully into that category too. I can only give you an educated guess as to the date this was taken, because Idon't really know a huge amount about the photo itself. What is known is this: Seated on the front row second from the right is my grandmother, and I think this was taken sometime in the mid to late 1940s. The place is the mill where she worked prior to marrying my grandad, and there's obviously some kind of celebration in progress. Quite what that maybe, I have no idea, but I think this is a wonderful image all the same. The curled hair, the paper hats, the drinks and the smiles are enchanting, while the presence of the loom on the left side of the picture shows that this was a break in an otherwise hard day's work.

Added to all that is the fact that it's black and white. Somehow photos take on another magical dimension when they are black and white...

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Toronto: More Pictures

I'm home and very tired! I suspect that I wouldn't be so tired if I had been able to get a little sleep on the plane, but it was not to be. For me and the very nice couple sat next to me, the best we could hope for was that the three women behind would desist in their swearing marathon for more than five minutes (which only seemed to happen when the duty free trolley duly arrived and they all bought 800 cigarettes apiece). I'm not going to turn this into a tirade about rude fellow passengers, but I will end my travel-tale with this: imagine my expression as I returned from the Ladies' to discover the smelly bare foot of the person behind me resting very comfortably on my own arm rest. I can tell you that this is an occasion when having bony elbows has benefits...

The real reason for this post was not to be grumpy (sorry), but as promised, I wanted to share some photos of Toronto, and hopefully show you what a wonderful time was had...

Canada Malting Company Plant.

This is such an interesting building. It's virtually crumbling away; there are metal stairs leading to nowhere and smashed and darkened windows. It's totally fenced off, but you can take a walk around the perimeter and admire the austere, industrial beauty of it. Maybe it will be transformed at some point, but I think I prefer the old plant like this.

 RMS Empress of Ireland Memorial and view towards CN Tower.

Not far from the derelict malting plant is a haunting series of roughly sculpted figures in various attitudes of despair. These are memorial statues to the victims of the Empress of Ireland, a liner that sunk after collision with another ship in the foggy St. Lawrence river in 1914. This particular statue cries out to the city in the distance.

Empress of Ireland Memorial.

Of all the memorials we've seen, this struck the strongest and truest chord for both myself and my boyfriend. We were mesmerised.

Canadian Ranger docked at Toronto Harbour.

Finally, I wanted to share the beautiful colours and glittering lights of the city and of Lake Ontario by night.

More photos and normal service to be resumed very soon.

All photos taken by my boyfriend, courtesy of his very brilliant eye. :)

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Holiday Postcard

Toronto Skyline From Ward's Island, by my boyfriend.

Apologies for the lack of posting this week, but I hope you'll forgive me! Here I am in Toronto, and have been for the past week, managing to craftily avoid the cloud of volcanic ash currently causing chaos back home. Whether or not I manage to do so when I'm due to return is another matter entirely, but nevertheless, I'm very happy to be here enjoying the sights in the city and the beautifully sunny weather. 

This isn't my first visit, but I can safely say that it's the first time I have felt so at ease here and not so overwhelmed. By that I mean the sheer scale of the buildings downtown and the noise and commotion (I mean this in the nicest possible way, seeing as for the most part I live out in the country!) Of course, there is noise and commotion to be found in every city and I'm no stranger to it, but this hubub is a very different experience altogether.

Toronto is an amazing city with a very unique voice and it's a pleasure to walk around and take it all in, eat well and drink proper beer (as my boyfriend tells me). So far, my favourite spots are The Distillery District (an old and very elegant part of town) and more or less anywhere down by the lakeshore, where you could be forgiven for thinking you were at the seaside.

I hope to post more photos soon, and until then, hope you are enjoying whatever it is you're up to!

More soon...

Monday, 12 April 2010

Eye Candy For A Monday Afternoon

It's Monday once more, and if your eyes are tired or bleary, then I hope this will be a pick-me-up for the afternoon. I wrote about personal style last week, and in the comments section, made reference to a very high pair of black patent peep-toed shoes...and here they are! My boyfriend took this gorgeous photograph as well. I'm very lucky because I can say that he is wonderfully talented, and we had brilliant fun putting this "skiving secretary" shoot together (including messing around with that brilliant old typewriter). :)

Photo by André

Friday, 9 April 2010

Thank You!

Thank you Karen for creating me such an incredible ice-cream licking penguin! For any suggestions as to the direction Karen should venture in next, see here, and add your two pence worth to the discussion...

Thursday, 8 April 2010


Henry Robert Morland, The Fair Nun Unmasked, c. 1769

If I could be magically dropped into the eighteenth century, I would ask to be deposited right in the middle of a masquerade ball. This painting by Henry Robert Morland was first displayed with the title of A Lady in Masquerade Habit, but later became known as The Fair Nun Unmasked. If you're wondering just what kind of nun dresses that way, I can tell you that it isn't the kind of nun who teaches school children or lectures on the finer points of renaissance art. Comically subversive costumes of all kinds were very popular at masquerades, as this smiling lady shows with her "demure" veil and cross pendant. Public masquerades like those held at Ranelagh and Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens were also overrun by enticingly dressed courtesans; nun being a popular and sarcastic term for a prostitute.

A lady of questionable virtue she may well be, but The Fair Nun is a really beautiful and detailed painting, and it conjurs up images of fantastical masquerades in candle lit gardens on summer evenings.

"...we went to Ranelagh. It is a charming place and the brilliancy of the lights, on my first entrance, made me almost think I was in some enchanted castle or fairy place, for it all looked like magic to me."

Frances Burney, Evelina, Vol. I, Letter XII.
First published in 1778.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Welcome to the Peep Show

It's a funny thing, personal style. By that I mean that I've been wondering about just what triggers our brains into making choices about our clothes and shoes. At the risk of sounding dull, I've found that upon closer examination of my wardrobe, I definitely have more than slight leanings towards certain colours, styles, shapes and patterns. That's not to say that I don't enjoy new trends, but even within seasonal fashion changes, my brain seeks out what I find the most appealing and interprets them to suit. 

Polly at Sotto Voce has written about her own wardrobe choices on a number of occasions, and Deanna Raybourn has recently been pondering personal style versus fashion. Maybe I'm an essentially nosy person, but I do enjoy a peek into other people's wardrobes as it's like a snapshot of a person's mind. 

Clothing choices give a glimpse into personality, but there's also more to it than that. Are the choices we make associated with a particular happy memory? Is it because the shape flatters or the colour suits us? Or is it because that pair of jeans or that dress just make you feel really good, make you smile and give you an extra spring in your step? My boyfriend, family and friends all have their own quirks and preferences that transcend current fashion, yet still manage to be part of it, and it's a wonderful thing. From a weakness for garish socks to a penchant for a Hello Kitty alice band; from huge knitted jumpers to stitching and embellishment...even a studious shunning of bright colour, each of them has something to say, and it's said through their clothing.

Peeptoe shoes are among my perennial choices, because there's something about a high heel and that hint of brightly painted toenail. They make me want to dance, and I think that if the clothes you buy make you feel brilliant, then they've already paid for themselves a million times over...

(NB- The pair of beautiful nonsense shoes above are from Shoe Missy who make retro style shoes and deliver in boxes covered in brown paper :) )

Photo by Me. 

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Happy Easter!

Have a lovely Easter weekend everyone, whatever it is that you do. I hope you find time to relax, maybe somewhere where the light is as lovely as this and there are books to be read, where there is tea to be sipped and scones to be scoffed down in abundance...

...and I also hope you get chance to escape into the fresh air, blow out the cobwebs, get mud all over your shoes and enjoy spring.

Happy Easter!

Photos taken at Thoresby Hall, Notts, by me :)

Friday, 2 April 2010

Elite Syncopations

The first ballet I ever saw on stage has stayed with me for a long time. I was eight years old, and my ballet teacher took a group of us to see the Birmingham Royal Ballet perform a trio of one-act ballets. And so it was that the first real, live point shoes I ever saw skating across a stage were part of a ballet called Elite Syncopations.

Created by the celebrated Royal Ballet choreographer Kenneth Macmillan, Elite Syncopations was first performed in 1974, and set to the ragtime piano music of Scott Joplin.

There is no specific story, but rather a series of sketches, as each dancer takes a turn either solo, as part of a group or for a short pas de deux.

I had no idea at the time that this short, funny little ballet would stay with me. My ballet teacher passed me a pair of opera glasses too big for my face, smiled and pointed at the stage as the curtain rose. "Watch," he said to us all. And we did.

From the second the lilting, drunken piano music began, I was hooked. On a bare stage devoid of backdrop or set pieces, a group of dancers sat around on wooden chairs and crates. They then watched one another as they took their turn in a series of short, wonderful dances. I remember being dazzled by the beautifully bright costumes; the pom poms, the stars and stripes, the top hats and coloured shoes. 

And then there was the choreography. I marvelled at how the sinuous, effortless movements perfectly matched the music. I don't think the opera glasses left my eyes, even for one second. It was perfect poetry in motion; at times serious and sad, and then ridiculous, witty and joyous. Into a forty minute piece, my eyes took in a calvacade of colour and movement, my ears drank in the music and in my little dancer's heart, I felt magic.

Elite Syncopations (Highlights) by the Tulsa Ballet, 2009.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Things to See: Photographing Fashion - British Style in the 1960s

Old or new, I love fashion photography. Done well, it can be edgy and avant-garde, or beautiful and elegant. I can never decide which I prefer, because I enjoy looking at it all, but I do have great respect for photographers, stylists and models who manage to combine technique with the ability to tell a wonderful story through their images.

Twiggy with Plait (1966) by Barry Lategan
Beautiful images like this one of Twiggy, by Barry Lategan, are iconic to me because they stay with me. The lighting is perfect, and Twiggy's huge eyes are completely mesmerising. Even a simple image like this tells a story and has a magical permanence.

The Fashion Museum in Bath is currently exhibiting a number of their 1960s pieces from designers like Mary Quant and Jean Muir, along with less well known and obscure fashion houses of the era. Together with the clothes, they are also displaying iconic images of 1960s British style (through fashion photography) from the Ernestine Carter Collection. Carter was Associate Editor of The Sunday Times throughout the 60s. It's a pretty safe bet that Twiggy will appear in a few of these photos!

Bath's Fashion Museum has undergone something of a revamp in the past few years, concentrating less on historical costume and more on twentieth century and modern fashion design. The rethink has caused a little upset amongst those who feel that the museum should continue to focus more upon historical costume, because it would be more in keeping with the architecture and feel of Bath.

I confess that when I heard that the museum had downscaled their pre-twentieth century displays, I was a little sad, but at the same time, I'm really interested to find out what's going on there now, as it's been a few years since my last visit. 

British Style in the 1960s runs throughout 2010.

Image courtesy of the BBC.