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')

Sunday 2 August 2020

A paean to pondlife

Most of the time my mum used the large Pyrex dish for baking Apple Crumble but as Spring turned to Summer and long yellow days stretched out ahead of us, the pie dish took up residence in my bedroom.  Sometimes on the windowsill - or if it got too hot there, I'd move it out of the sunlight and make space for it between my felt tip pens and Puffin books on the little white desk.  There in this modest container each year the magic would take place.


What a way to learn about life...  To get up each morning and wonder how many of the funny little black beans with nostrils and diaphanous tails might have started to sprout tiny limbs during the night.  Hind legs first, then front ones -  I could almost, almost watch them grow in front of my eyes, I'm sure.  

What a way to learn about death, too... occasionally having to scoop out a lifeless body, the unfortunate weaklings which were never going to have made it into froghood.   But the rest - I was fascinated at each stage of their development, watching them gulp down the goldfish flakes with mouths which seemed to open almost mechanically, like those of a ventriloquist's dummy.  Mesmerised by the way they swerved and darted about just below the surface.  Excited as the weeks passed and legs got longer, tails got shorter and newly recognisable frog features began to form.  Alchemy!

I don't think my mum ever made an Apple Crumble during the Summer; the tadpoles took priority.

Eventually they were ready to liberate - the timing was important, it needed to be just before there was any risk that they'd crawl out of the pie dish and end up inside the vacuum cleaner. We'd take them into the garden where the tortoises feasted on the dandelions in the lawn and where we had two small ponds.  Neither was fancy; in fact one was simply an old-fashioned washing-up bowl sunk into the clay soil, but both were full of what seemed to be the most alien life-forms imaginable.  Twitching, wriggling mosquito larvae with fan tails... wonderfully named Water Boatmen propelling themselves with oar-like limbs... and freshwater snails in tightly coiled transparent shells grazing on viridescent algae.

Some of the froglets may inevitably have been eaten by our cats, or the blackbirds, or a visiting hedgehog, but others would survive out there with the pondskaters, caddisflies and newts, growing into big bulky adults with beautifully long toes and inky speckled backs.  

I'll be forever grateful to my arty, free-spirited (and occasionally clinically depressed) mum and her Pyrex dish for teaching me to grow tadpoles in my bedroom.  And for her Apple Crumble too, of course, once the frogs were out in the pond...

L7 - Bite The Wax Tadpole
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