Thursday, 24 December 2020

A Merry Christmas to you...

Can't believe it's nearly here -  time to break out some seasonal piccies.  

I do love the beautiful work of the artist and designer known as Erté.  Born in Russia but moving to Paris in the early 1900s, he became known for his stylish visuals in many fields - not just illustration but also fashion, jewellery, theatrical set and costume design, and interior decoration.  What a talented man.  Seems quite a character too, if you ever get chance to read more about him.

So here are a few of his gorgeous Christmas designs  - such fantastic graphic style...   

Wishing you the best one possible in these crappy old times and here's to better days for everyone 'soon'....

And here's the man himself (looking not unlike Dave Gahan / Marc Almond!)

Thanks as always 


Saturday, 12 December 2020

Musical notes

Little scraps of paper abound in my Shedio, where I work all day with only the radio for company.  Scrawled words on torn off corners, hurriedly written, barely legible in magenta or turquoise or 2H pencil or whatever’s closest to hand.  All sorts of apparently random words and names.  Maybe they look like coded messages to a stranger’s eyes, yet to be deciphered, but once revealed they will disclose a dangerous secret.

I mean, a note I made just last week scribbled in purple diagonally across a ripped sheet reads:




Of course, I'm just being a fantasist, this is nothing as intriguing as a secret code, but for me it does point to something exciting.  My frantically scribbled notes (I'm very analogue!) are all aides memoires for songs I hear which make my ears prick up (I’m sure they actually do, like a cat’s, if only you could see them).  Songs that make me stop what I’m doing, artists who definitely warrant further investigation.

A little further investigation reveals that the artist in question here, Iraina Mancini, is a singer, actor, radio host, model and DJ, born into a musical family – her father is Warren Peace, a childhood friend of David Bowie, who also co-wrote songs with the great man and provided backing vocals for him.   Oh, imagine having a dad like that!

Iraina has already written her first solo album, but sadly there’s not a lot to hear from her out there just yet, however ‘Shotgun’ is her latest single release and I really hope it stops as many other people in their tracks as it did me the other day...  I think it’s gorgeous - sultry, darkly sensual and cinematic.

It probably comes as no surprise on listening to this to read that Iraina’s musical inspirations include French ‘60s cinema and Ye-Ye, Northern Soul, Serge Gainsbourg, and psychedelia... (right up my street!)

Iraina Mancini: Shotgun

Sunday, 15 November 2020

Somewhere Elsa

Sorry it's been so long!  Posts may be sporadic on here until at least the end of the year but I am still around...  just a little too bogged down with work.

However, there is a strange and fanciful other-world which I’ve been visiting lately, just sometimes when I get chance to briefly press pause on the repetitive cycle of mundane reality. We must each have our own other-world, I’m sure - or many. They may be trips back in time, or forwards perhaps. Dreams, daydreams, places where regrets are addressed or fantasies fulfilled… Nothing is out of bounds. 

In this one, I’m of non-specific age in an indefinable location, but it's a weird and wonderful artistic illusion where the me who lives inside my head slips comfortably into her groove. Here in this safe space, feeling uncharacteristically confident, vibrant and eternally youthful of course (it is a figment, after all), I will pour myself elegantly into a Lobster dress...


and go to a party where maybe I’ll be introduced to Salvador Dali and Frida Kahlo. Perhaps it will be in Paris?

In my version of events, of course, I won't be pathetically dumbstruck (I mean, I can't even think now what on earth I'd say!) -  and there will be none of the dark, nightmarish backdrop of  war or insanity...  or pandemics.   I'm doing 1930s Lite.  But it's the fashions of  designer Elsa Schiaparelli  which are drawing me in.   A slight obsession with her led me here. I bought a little book a while back; fell in love with her cutting edge ideas and was intrigued by her extraordinary life (definitely worth reading about.  Her personality was so adventurous that even as a child she had quirky ideas - she once threw herself out of a window with an umbrella in the belief that it would act as a parachute, only to land unceremoniously but uninjured in a heap of manure... )  

Her imaginative, playful collaborations and creations (although she objected to the word 'creation', thinking it pretentious)  and her eccentric style are just the escapism I crave, even if it is only to be in my head. Maybe it's spurred on by the simple desire to dress up and venture out somewhere special, something I suspect none of us have done in a verylong while.... 

So, just for now, when I could really do with a little taste of  alternative reality (or should that be surreality) far, far away from 2020 for obvious reasons, it may be one in which I would happily get away with wearing these gloves:

this hat

(not sure of the date - 1950s?)

 these shoes


these glasses


 this brooch 


this coat

this bra!


and carrying this bag


All thanks to Elsa.

Where would you go right now if you could?

Saturday, 10 October 2020

Eight arms to hold you

What has three hearts, nine brains, eight legs, blue blood and a beak? I feel sure there’s a joke in there somewhere about the royal family and a pet parrot…. but I think you probably know the answer and it lies, not in the soil, but in the sea. 

There is something slightly surreal and beautiful about the octopus and I’ve rather fallen in love with this remarkable creature. Apart from having an overabundance of hearts and brains, octopuses (octopi?) are amongst only 1% of animals which use tools, they are notorious escape artists, they can change colour, texture and shape in an instant, and even regenerate missing arms at will. Once you start reading and learning about them it just gets more and more fantastical.  I've long believed that there's a lot more going on in the animal kingdom than we can even begin to comprehend, no matter how much scientific research takes place.

My affectionate admiration towards them really came to the fore last year after watching, quite by chance, a documentary which focused on the intelligence and behaviour of one particular individual and her extraordinary relationship with humans. In ‘The Octopus In My House’ a professor and his teenage daughter bond with their cephalopod protegée called Heidi. In return, she shows them how she can solve puzzles, distinguish between different people, pass memory tests and use planning strategies. She even watches TV with the family from her huge tank inside the house, moving to the edge to be closer to the screen. I find myself wondering what she’s thinking, but I’m happy just to wonder and not to know. 

There is, inevitably, a darker side to their lives too - and they don't live for very long.  Once a female has laid eggs, it effectively spells the beginning of her end. She stops eating, becomes listless and wastes away - the female octopus in captivity even seems to go on an active suicide mission – she's very unlikely to make it through to see her new young emerge.  Nature being what it is, there's no need for her to do so - they'll fend for themselves, and thus it seems octopuses are never going to have a population problem.

But putting that grimness aside, I’ve discovered a whole new form of therapy to help soothe away some of the worries of life in 2020. The other evening I'd been stupid enough to catch up on the news before I was about to go to bed and I needed something to offset all the doom and gloom...  so I tuned into youtube and watched some octopuses.  Octopuses swimming, octopuses playing, octopuses hiding in shells, octopuses interacting gently with the sweeter variety of human, octopuses solving problems, octopuses shape-shifting: job done.  Kittens, watch out.

The obvious choice? Syd Barrett:  Octopus

Wednesday, 16 September 2020

Spitfire bird

 “… The nearest thing to having wings and flying yourself,” said Joy.  “Gorgeous!” was the word Mary used.  I never thought I’d be writing about it here,  but having found myself unexpectedly drawn in by a BBC Four programme on Monday night, I too found myself  enamoured with a tiny single-seater fighter ‘plane, the wonderfully named Spitfire.  I was also enthralled by its pilots.

Joy Lofthouse and Mary Ellis, who both died in the last few years aged 94 and 101 respectively, were among a particularly unusual group of women who piloted ‘planes during WWII as part of the 'Air Transport Auxiliary'.   Bearing in mind that this was at a time when it was thought odd that women would even want to fly a ‘plane, you realise just how special a job this must have been and how much it defied convention.  These ‘Attagirls’, as they were known, flew thousands of warplanes, usually delivering them from factories to RAF air bases, solo and without compass or radio help, navigating only with maps and following railway lines or rivers.  Although not involved in combat, they still faced danger daily from enemy attack or collision with the huge barrage balloons that were deployed as anti-aircraft obstacles.

And as for the male fighter pilots – I find it hard to imagine just how they handled it, many of them aged just 18 or 19, cooped up in a cockpit so small that they had to get into it sideways, tasked with intercepting, outwitting and shooting down enemy aircraft.  There they were, alone in a lightweight metal killing machine that could reach a speed of nearly 400mph - feeling the fear, knowing it was “them or us” – as anyone in a direct conflict situation surely must.  Several of these surviving pilots appeared in the programme and, in voices weakened by the intervening decades, solemnly expressed their hatred of war.  But their love of the Spitfire was indisputable.

As with classic cars, especially the small, sleek, sportier ones, I think there's something about the Spitfire which is aesthetically pleasing.  I like its scale and simplicity. Seeing them in flight is like watching swifts; graceful, wheeling, fast, intrepid.  Maybe my love of birds and the excitement I feel when I witness their aerobatic displays is linked, I don’t know.  Whatever, although aeroplanes aren’t exactly my thing, I can absolutely understand the appeal of this diminutive yet high performance model.

Mary Ellis was particularly fond of the Spitfire and one day, on delivering a new one from the factory, she signed her name on it.  The airplane in question was never used in combat and survives today - along with her youthful signature.  On being asked, just before her 100th birthday, why she'd done that, she said with a gleam in her eye that it had really just been a romantic thing; she’d hoped that perhaps a dashing young airman would see it and get in touch.  At that moment I think I knew just how Mary felt.

Public Service Broadcasting: Spitfire

The BBC Four programme 'Spitfire' is currently available on iPlayer:

Saturday, 5 September 2020

Just postponed

I feel I can’t let this weekend slip by without a little acknowledgement of something very special which should have taken place but which has sadly had to go by the wayside for obvious reasons.

A few of us would have been waking up this morning in an Edinburgh hotel room (presumably not the same one…) ready to greet a couple of days full of who-knows-what exactly, but I suspect it would have involved exploring the Old Town and The Royal Mile, diving into coffee shops, smiles and food and laughter, soaking up both culture and wine, and lots and lots of talking.   A lovely 'mini bloggers’ meet-up' was on the calendar;  one that wouldn’t be too overwhelming for those of us who are less comfortable with big groups and new faces, but perhaps a precursor to more.  For me it would have been both a reunion and an introduction, and my first trip over the border into Scotland too, I was looking forward to everything about it.  Huge thanks to John for getting the ball rolling and making it happen at least as far as it did – that is, of course, until this year's unprecedented events overcame us all.  But it’s just postponed, not cancelled, and I hope some time in 2021 we may be talking about it retrospectively.

In the meantime this presents an excuse to indulge in a perfect post-punk single by a great band who take me back to my youth and who hailed from Edinburgh, plus a lovely video, very much of its time, featuring some of the sights from the city (as well as lots of scarves and slippers...)

To next year and the friendship of bloggers...

Scars: All About You (1981)

Saturday, 29 August 2020

In stitches

 A fantastic stash of vintage magazines came into our possession recently.* Well, I say fantastic... They're fantastic if, like me, you find there's nothing like a little tackiness to bring some brightness to a gloomy day.  

Tackiness comes in many forms but you can't beat a bit of kitsch knitwear, can you?  There's plenty of it to be found within the pages of 'Pins and Needles' and it seems only apt that I ended up with the condition of the same name after unwisely kneeling on the floor to browse through them.  But, oh you know how it is, you see a 1963 article on how to crochet a doily and you're hooked.  (No pun intended.)

Anyway, I can't keep them all to myself!  Let me treat you to some of the images and ads from that bygone age when the sound of our mothers' knitting needles clacking away was loaded with a strange sense of doom for us children of the '60s.  We just knew we might end up looking something like this... 

Life wasn't so great for our mums, either.   40-22-35?  "Where do you fail?"  Ffs!

There's nothing like a disembodied dog's head on a trophy shield to give you nightmares...

...oh, other than a wild-eyed, demented Gonk who wants to lick you.  Lucky?  I think not.

Still, if you seek something a little more sophisticated, you could always install a quilted cocktail bar:

- and invite Eric and Ernie over to compare sweaters

"What do you think of it so far?"


He'll grow out of it...

Magic ones?

More creepy ideas to scare the children

The ultimate in suave

And finally, is it a dress?  Is it a tablecloth?  It's both!

* With many thanks to Pete.

Saturday, 22 August 2020

Super Mario

 Oh, I do love an interesting face!

What is it about some faces that just draw you in? Especially when they’re not conventionally beautiful.  I must stop inadvertently staring at people…. I forget where I am sometimes and find myself becoming preoccupied with the features of strangers – men and women, young or old - on trains, in waiting rooms, at the local curry house – one of these days it’s sure to land me in trouble.  (Maybe the wearing of face coverings is good thing in that respect too right now...)

How would I explain myself?  “I was just admiring your extremely large nose” or “I can’t take my eyes off your luxuriously bushy eyebrows!”   It might just be because I spend so much time drawing and I think my brain has got stuck in that mode – absorbing angles and curves and proportions, kind of sketching them out with my eyes like virtual portraiture, but, hmm - how would you tell that to the target of your unwelcome observation without sounding incredibly creepy?!  It would be sure not to end well.

Thankfully I’m safe to share my thoughts on this particular face without judgement here.

It is the wonderfully compelling countenance of Mario Fabrizi, a comedian and actor who is probably familiar to anyone who's seen The Army Game or (as in my case), when he was working alongside Tony Hancock in Hancock's Half Hour and his two films, The Rebel (I love this - see clip below) and The Punch And Judy Man.

I had to look up a bit more about him and was sad to read that he died very young (in his late thirties); in fact it would have been only a short while after filming The Punch And Judy Man in 1963 and, according to Wikipedia, his death was due to a ‘stress-related illness’.  This sounds particularly tragic and perhaps poses more questions than it answers, especially given that just a week prior to his demise he had apparently announced he would be leaving showbusiness.  I am so sorry that we could not  witness more of his talent and his marvellous appearance, both of which I'm sure would have aged magnificently.

However, and I hope you agree, you cannot help but feel joy when you see his lovely unconventional face in its prime.  It’s just so full of character.  Those laughing eyes, his long Roman nose, that slicked back hair - and that massive moustache!   

 "No froth?!"

(A fondly remembered Mario Fabrizi featuring alongside Tony Hancock and Liz Fraser in a brilliant scene from 'The Rebel')

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