Thursday, 29 September 2011

The Royal Ballet at London Fashion Week

At last week's London Fashion Week, one designer took the idea of staging a catwalk show to a whole new level. Jayne Pierson (who has worked for the likes of Alexander McQueen and Vivienne Westwood before launching her own label) decided not to use models, but dancers from the Royal Ballet instead. As they strutted out onto the catwalk, they brought a new level of dynamism to the show.Their athletic physiques lent both elegance and edginess to the clothes; their poses creating striking shapes on which to showcase Pierson's designs.

The Royal Ballet's First Artist, Nathalie Harrison
Soloist Eric Underwood
First Artist Olivia Cowley
Hayley Forskitt
First Artist Tara-Brigitte Bhavnani
 Images by Steve Osborn, courtesy of The Guardian.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life With John F. Kennedy

If you are as fascinated as I am by the gilded enigma of the Kennedy dynasty, then you'll be interested to learn that last week saw the long-awaited publication of historian Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.'s interviews with Jacqueline Kennedy. Entitled Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life With John F. Kennedy, the book transcribes a series of conversations which Mrs. Kennedy held with Schlesinger only months after her husband's assassination.

These particular interviews have not been released since their recording in 1964, and have now been published with the approval of the Kennedys' daughter Caroline, not only to mark the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy's presidency, but also as a way of putting Mrs. Kennedy's opinions on the historical record.

I've often thought that behind that soft, well-polished voice there had to be a wealth of choice opinions on the many and varied people Jacqueline Kennedy encountered, and Historic Conversations confirms this. Public opinion is, even after all these years, strongly divided on the former First Lady, but I've always felt there to be so much more to her than the popular image of a serene (but long-suffering) clothes-horse. 

As the President's wife, Mrs. Kennedy was naturally expected to be charming, supportive to her husband, and above all to maintain a smilingly diplomatic approach to all public matters. Yet as her conversations with Arthur M. Schlesinger show, she held privately strong opinions and made thoughtful - and sometimes acerbic observations. Of herself she said, " know, everybody thought I was a snob and hated politics." Of President Kennedy's successor, Lyndon B. Johnson she retells a remark her husband once made to her - "Oh, God, can you ever imagine what would happen to the country if Lyndon was president?"

The interviews are intimate and chatty in tone - conveying a strong sense of place and time, as well as offering hitherto unheard insights into the Kennedy's lives. Mrs. Kennedy asserts that theirs was a marriage in which very traditional roles were maintained - even going so far as to say that all of her opinions came from the President, yet historian Michael Beschloss urges us to "...take that with a warehouse of salt." 

Friends of Mrs. Kennedy have commented that the Jacqueline of the interviews is not the woman she was in later years, and it's certainly an interesting conundrum. However intimate the interviews seem, they were still exactly that: interviews, not a tell-all. No reference is made to President Kennedy's alleged infidelities, nor is his death discussed in any way. Mrs. Kennedy is articulate and charming, but rightly maintained her right to keep some matters strictly private. The interviews must be taken within the context of the time, too - coming as they did only months after her husband's murder. In many ways, she was still Jacqueline the First Lady (however many "Presidential" moments are relived), and more importantly, she was a grieving wife. This was Jacqueline before Jackie O, and before the respected career in publishing she would later have.

We will never know all that Jacqueline Kennedy was, but at least with the publication of Historic Conversations, we can get a glimpse into her fascinating world.

For audio clips and images, go to the New York Times story, here.

Image courtesy of

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Saying Goodbye to Summer

It's been so long since my last post, and yet time has flown. There have been busy times, but also a lovely, relaxing holiday - and a fittingly balmy goodbye to the summer. No, it wasn't spent in England (I'm not going to start on our none-event summer), but by the seaside in Spain.

We met fearsome creatures with a penchant for sea-bathing...

...admired sweet-smelling Bourgainvillea...

...viewed the world from the shade of an umbrella...

...and swam in sea as warm as bath water.

A great end to the summer.

NB - If you're dreading the impending autumn months, then read this blog post by Deanna Raybourn. Autumn is my favourite season anyway, but she extols its virtues so beautifully, I'm already itching for the leaves to turn...

Photos by me.