Sunday, 29 January 2012

Through the Looking Glass

How do you escape winter? Maybe you're one of those people who just chooses to enjoy it. Congratulations. I'm not worthy of your zen acceptance.

Short of going to a Carribbean island, if you're looking to be bathed in light, warmth and humidity, go to the glasshouse (or greenhouse, if you're North American).  

This glasshouse (at Waddesdon Manor, in Buckinghamshire) sells pretty mirrors set in reclaimed windows. They make one's gaze feel more dreamy.  

 A close-up of the sculptural orchid behind me in the earlier photos.

The photo below is more than a little tense and intense- my apologies. It's just the only one taken that shows the entire dress. I loved its simple lines, which emphasise the shouting red colour. Inevitably, I've destroyed its perfect minimalism with accessories, but I don't really like to leave things alone.

Outfit: Dress, Next; necklace and belt from charity shops; Spats to inspire some jazz hands, Asos. 

What cheers you up on a gloomy day? Baking? The Beach Boys?

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Incognito in Oxford Blue

Oxford is a the quintessential English university town for a reason. It's hard not to feel more clever/inspired/cynical/disdainful of contemporary architecture when you're surrounded by stone, spires, columns, clever students and bicycles. Not wanting to become one of the minions of tourists/aspiring students on university tours, I had a plan to go incognito. A hat. A detective's hat to go unnoticed. Philip Marlowe and Inspector Morse would have understood it perfectly.

The Oxford blues would also help the disguise, coupled nicely with the tan ribbon camouflaging itself against the sandy coloured Cotswold stone. Struggling to see myself through the intense camouflage, there needed to be some colour added, like a light reflective jacket for running at night. Clashing pink earrings, orange brick lips and a turquoise scarf seemed to suffice.

As you can see, the hat and the gold and pink accents make an otherwise classic/boring work outfit a little more interesting/bizarre. 

Outfit: Hat, earrings and necklace, Accesorise. There ares still all sorts of hats and Art Deco-ish necklaces in the sale; blue pea coat, gift; blazer, from Korea; Oxford blue striped top, Marks and Spencer; navy trousers, Next.

Monday, 9 January 2012

Admiring The Artist

The Artist (directed by Michel Hazanavicius) tells the story of George Valentin (played by Jean Dujardin), star of the silent screen. The film begins just before the rapid extinction of silent films and tracks George's demise. The downward trajectory of George is opposite to the rapid ascent of the new sweetheart Peppy Miller (played by Berenice Bejo). Valentin, in fact, gives the energetic Peppy her start, impressed with her dance moves and flirtations. She becomes the star of the talkies as Valentin is rejected by the studio that wants fresh meat for the talkies.

Image from

Even though the film is entirely silent and the story is set in Hollywood with English titles, the film is quintessentially French. Hazanavicius delights in physical humour, a stylish eye for detail and charming characters who create a joie de vie. Although Valentin's wife leaves him and he ends up in squalor, there is a sense that each of the characters are ultimately good and innocent. None of the characters have really done anything wrong, they are just victims of situations and history. The end of the silent films coincides with the beginning of the Great Depression and George's personal descent.

Ultimately, this is a French romantic comedy and the audience waits for the destined lovers to find one another. This is a cute, funny, simple film perfect for a date or evening with a girlfriend.

Image from

I just feel sorry for Berenice Bejo, the female lead. She is given the most exquisite art deco dresses and looks effesvescent and entirely charming throughout. I'm sure she's stunning in real life, but unless she sticks to period dramas, will she ever look quite as perfect?

Similarly, Dujardin becomes a French hybrid of George Clooney and Fred Astaire. His comedy has a wink and a sparkle to it. I dare him to find many roles 1/10 as precious.

Summary: Great, light film to see. Pity the actors. 3 1/2 stars out of 5.

Friday, 6 January 2012

Music from 2011 I Might Actually Listen to in Five Years

I've seen a lot of the 11 best of 2011 or 12 for 2012. I'm not that knowing. But I would like to sell you some decent music from 2011 that I may actually listen to in five years time. With luck, you might listen to it once or twice.

1. The Noah and the Whale album Last Night on Earth. These guys aren't rockstars, but the songwriter, Charlie Fink, is very good and their melodies and lyrics are catchy yet teetering on profound. Last Night on Earth has been called a concept record (oh no) and I guess it is, if you consider the idea of songs addressing similar themes as a "concept record." Don't worry, this isn't a prog rock concept album.

It's an album about the youthful desire to escape the small town or the suburbs. It's about the formative experiences of becoming a musician. Think of it like a pop rock Blakean Songs of Innocence and Experience. For example, the song Just Me Before We Met tells the story of sitting with a current girlfriend looking at old photographs as she laughs, 'At all the bad hair cuts and smoking cigarettes/ A lustless romantic trying hard to impress.' You do get the sense of young Charlie Fink nostalgically remembering the traumas of youth and wanting to be a musician, but trying hard not to make it seem too contrived a path. 

In short, if you didn't buy it in 2011, consider buying the album in 2012. 

My song of 2011 is by Glen Campbell. I wouldn't have predicted that the rhimestone cowboy himself would come into my heart, but alas, his bleak lyrics yet upbeat song is oddly life-affirming. The song is about a man, Glenn perhaps, in the twilight of his life, reassuring others not to worry about him. He declares:
     Don't pin your own hopes
     Don't pin your dreams
     On misanthropes
     And guys like me

If you can listen to Lana Del Rey's Video Games than you can more than handle Campbell's Any Trouble. I hope you'll love it in a 'is this one of the saddest yet warm songs I've ever heard in my life?' sort of way.


Edited Cover of the Year. It's from a terrible 1980s song. I do the 1980s shuffle dance when I hear or think of the original- think Rick Astley style dancing. This cover of Higher Love is featured in the LOVE FILM advert, and I am fascinated by this unexpected rendition. Listening to the entire song was disappointing (slow and horrible dripping sensitivity), but edited for the commercial, it's amazing.

Bonus clip of Rick Astley in his finest hour of dancing like a hipster. The denim on denim was also a look.

What music has surprised you this year? Any that you think you might listen to in five years?

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Walking in a Winter Wonderland, English Style

Around this time of year I get jealous of the winter wonderland photos from people in Canada, the United States, the Alps and whenever these lovely winter cliches come from. The winter wonderland in England isn't quite the same. Instead of peaceful, fluid drifts of snow and diamond-like icicles, there is typically windswept grey and mud. Think of men trudging through the muddy trenches and you're not far off.

Short of a military fatigues, green and brown is about the most fitting English winter wonderland outfit.

The walking boots before they became too muddy. They're not quite Kate Middleton or the Queen style riding boots, but they are the equally English Marks and Spencer.

Note the clenched fists, a sign of emerging cold. The landscape looks quite peaceful, but believe me, if I was facing any other direction, you would see my face shrivelled up, trying to shield itself from the biting wind, and my hair looking more 'spontaneous' e.g. odd and generally dishevelled.

Outfit: Brown printed turtleneck from a charity shop or my sister's closet about 10 years ago; green necklace, Accesorise; yellow belt, charity shop; green skirt, Marks and Spencer; brown biker boots, Marks and Spencer girls' section.

P.S. Mum, I only had my coat, sweater, scarf, hat and gloves off for about two minutes. Don't worry, I'm looking after myself.

Are you a winter lover or winter hater? What gets you through it? My Mum appreciates knitting and Bailey's in cocoa. A cream cabled sweater and a blanket seems to be this year's medicine for me.