Wednesday 30 December 2009

Best of the best for 2009

I was very happy to be asked to participate in a joint blogging project 'the best of the best' by the lovely Helg at Perfume Shrine.

So here are my best things of the year

*Best Perfumery Trends in 2009:

*Best in Niche:
Ormonde Jayne Tiare, Frederic Malle Geranium Pour Monsier, Miller Harris Fleur De Bois, Penhaligon’s reissued Limes (though I know it was available at Harrod’s before)

*Best Mainstream:
I would say YSL Parisienne and Narciso Rodriguez Essence but I think this was a poor year for mainstream fragrance, sadly. Again.

*Best Packaging/Advertising:
Best packaging Grossmith
Best advertising Chanel No 5, YSL Parisienne

*Best in Home-Scenting:
Frederic Malle home if money was no object
I also like the Miller Harris tea range which was expanded this year. I think the idea of a perfumer working on tea is very interesting and would be interested in more doing this (which doesn’t mean I want Calvin Klein tea!)

*Notable Perfumers for their Excellence in 2009:
Always Jean Claude Elena, I really admire the man and the way he works and if I could get a copy of his most recent book it would make me very happy. It seems to be available no where at all. So if anyone knows where I can get one please, please tell me!
Bertrand Duchaufour for Al-Oud and his work at Penhaligon's

*Best Brand Revival:

*Best Inexpensive Finds (beauty & scent-related):
It was a re- find but the L’Occitane Green Tea with Mint scent saw me through some hot summer weather very well
Tesco lavender and chamomile baby wipes for the face are divine- I make special trips to get them. Everything else is a little abrasive on my sensitive skin but for some reason it drinks these up. I don't want it to be so but it is.

*Non- perfume- but still a bit scented!

*Best Reading:
Although it didn’t come out this year I read Never let me go this year and it has stayed with me more than anything else. Likewise I have discovered Cormac McCarthy this year, a bit later than everyone else, and am thoroughly enjoying his different style and poetic painting with words.
I also very much enjoyed the paperback version of Perfumes: The Guide, of course!

*Best Gift I Got:
Primrose bakery cookbook- scented cookery- Earl Grey cupcakes will be made this weekend and a rose butter cream iced Victoria sponge may follow. Most people fast in January but I seem to be going for fattening.

*Best film
Too hard. Bright Star was beautiful. Glorious 39 isn’t perfect but I’ve taken it to my heart.

There are more very interesting participating blogs on these links, please don't forget to visit them:
Mossy Loomings,1000fragrances, Smelly Blog, Bittergrace Notes, Shoes-cake-perfume,
Eiderdown Press Journal, Scent Hive, Olfactarama, Roxana's Illuminated Journal,
The Non Blonde, Notes from the Ledge, I smell therefore I am,
Under the Cupola, All I am a Redhead, Perfume In Progress, Savvy Thinker

Happy New Year everyone.

Tuesday 29 December 2009

Thoughts on New Year

I have always suspected you are either a Christmas person or a New Year person. While I love Christmas I must confess to usually having to psyche myself up for New Year- not the new start, resolutions bit, I actually find all that quite refreshing and engaging- it’s the actual eve. I love a party at any time but there is something about the enforced jollity of New Year’ Eve that I find fails- I don’t seem to have all that much fun until about 2am when everyone relaxes and the fun really gets going- then it’s great sure but it’s a party like any other.

This year though something has changed and I’m very excited about New Year. It helps that I’m doing something this year that I would bite someone’s arm off to do on any day let alone New Year- but it isn’t just that, I really want to see out this year and see next with a blast. This has mostly been a good year for me and I think it deserves a good send off. My worries are really for what happens from the 1st onwards. Next year will be a big year for me. I’m in the twilight of my twenties now and though I’m very happy with myself I am not married, home owning or any of those things.

In some ways before I go down that road I want to have really achieved something. To me that doesn’t just mean flats, cars and shoes, which it seems to mean to so many people, it means something I will be proud of later. I suppose if I am totally honest because I don't know if I am going to achieve the conventional happiness- I would like to but I don't think life ends if you don't. I really don't. Sadly some people around me do and that is starting to cause some issues. The opportunity of a fresh start is wonderful but right now I feel a bit too tired to pick everything up and be relentlessly positive about all that I do and everyone I see again. It will pass as all blue days do. The restorative nature of Christmas and some time at home with family and animals is a blessing but when you come back you come back to everything being the same but this time without Christmas to look forward to.

So thank goodness for new year- a big party to blow the post Christmas melancholy away and then onwards- going not gently into 2010.

Thursday 24 December 2009

Happy Christmas

O Come All Ye Faithful. Christmas Tree in Trafalger Square. Fortnum's windows. Borough market- mullings and turkeys and cheese oh my. Carols at Waterloo. The Royal Albert Hall. Comfort and joy. Elf. The Burlington Arcade. Happy Christmas from everyone on the Bakerloo line. Reindeer in Covent Garden. A Christmas Carol. Silent Night. Midnight mass.

Wishing everyone a very Merry, happy and peaceful Christmas.

Monday 21 December 2009

'I never love England more than when covered in snow'

Goodbye England (Covered in snow)

You were so smart then in your jacket and coat
My softest red scarf was warming your throat
Winter was on us at the end of my nose
But I never love England
More than when covered in snow

But a friend of mine says it's good to hear
That you believe in love even if set in fear
well I'll hold you there brother and set you straight
I wont make believe that love is frail
And willing to break

I will come back here, bring me back when I'm old
I want to lay here forever in the cold.
I might be cold but I'm just skin and bones
And I never love England
More than when covered in snow

I wrote my name in your book, only god knows why
And I bet you that he cracked a smile
And I'm clearing all the stuff out of my room
trying desperately to figure out
What it is that makes me blue
and I wrote in a big letter to you
And it's 22 pages front and back
And it's too good to be used
and I tried to be a girl who likes to be used
I'm too good for that
There's a mind under this hat and I
Called them all and told them i've got to move

I'm out man , it's too hard

Feel like running, feel like running
Running off.
And we will keep you, we will keep you little one
Safe from harm, like an extra arm
You are part of us.

You were so smart then in your jacket and coat
and my softest red scarf was warming your throat
Winter will leave us, left the end of my nose
So goodbye old England 'till next years snow

My favourite new Christmas song: Goodbye England (Covered in Snow) by Laura Marling.

Lyrics courtesy of Popular lyrics.

Thursday 17 December 2009

Your non-festive festive traditions

There are some things I associate with Christmas that are very normal- mulling wine, decorating the tree, reading myself the night before Christmas before going to sleep on Christmas eve. They are mostly extremely traditional, though that doesn’t make them any the less wonderful.

There are also some things I associate with Christmas that really aren’t anything to do with it- or even winter. They have become traditions over time and in some ways mean as much as singing carols but I’m not sure why or how.

So on top of testing the fairy lights, finding the end of sellotape and watching Home Alone I also think of watching I Capture the Castle after a long bath whilst eating rose and violet creams in pyjamas as extremely Christmasy- though really it isn’t at all. Likewise re- arranging my perfume collection and reading The Pursuit of Love is as festive to me as putting cloves in clementines. I can and sometimes do do all of these things at other times of year but they always make me feel the warm glow of Christmas time inside.

Are you looking forward to doing anything that isn’t Christmasy, but is?

Tuesday 15 December 2009

Nordic bakery

I seem to be having a very Nordic few days. My discovery of the word hygellig detailed below was quickly followed by lunch at The Nordic Bakery on Golden Square on Friday. I have chatted away about wanting to go to this and other Scandanavian restaurants in London for ages without actually getting round to it but a particularly bitter, grey December day seemed like the perfect day to change that.

The bakery is immediately homely despite being quite spare (as is only fitting for a Nordic themed place). The menu is perfect for this time of year, there are thick, hearty but not stodgy rye breads, good strong thick coffee, spicy, fragrant and delicious Glogg and, as I had wished and hoped, gloriously sticky indulgent cinnamon buns.

Honestly I could move into this place. I feel a strong affinity with all things scandanivian and had Swedish, Finnish and Danish neighbours as a child whose Mother's gave me a love for sour yoghurt, cloudberry jam (and later liquer) and of course the buns (recipes seem to vary from country to country).

We spend so much time chasing the cuisine and ingredients from far flung places but I think, certainly until recently, slightly ignore food from Nordic and Germanic countries here- and I don't know why because there are so many delicious things to try- and actually they are often quite budget friendly. Happily this does seem to be changing and we are all getting more adventurous. My kitchen is currently full of lots of things from the German shop at Borough market. I don't know what to with half of it but I am going to have learning.

Monday 14 December 2009


Hyggelig. Isn't that a word that makes you smile? Even before you know what it means. I discovered it reading the 'This much I know' interview with Sandi Toksvig inThe Guardian.

In the article she says a hyggelig is an untranslatable Danish term for getting together with friends and family and sitting around in a cosy atmosphere with nice food and wine and candles. Not being Danish I can only take her word for it- I have googled definitions and the general consensus seems to be something like what she is saying.

I am newly in the love with this word and keep using it to describe the current evenings of mulled wine in our flathold. I can't help but drop it in to conversations about what I'm doing, will be doing or would like to be doing- not to sound terribly clever but just because it's a fun word to use.

I adore English and while accepting I will never come close to knowing even half the words available to me within it I continue to try and expand my vocabulary. Sadly I have never been terribly gifted with other languages but the discovery of beautiful little words like this makes me want to redouble my efforts not to be the lousy linguist of London that most continental people probably imagine as a stereotype.

Perhaps I could try and learn some Danish- on the strength of hyggelig it seems like a worthwhile language to try.

Thursday 10 December 2009

Why thank- you

Miss Nightingale, she of exquisite taste at the very inspiring blog Beyond the Pale, has been extremely kind and given me an award.

I would like to pass the compliment on to five blogs who are: Metropolitan Mum, A Novice novelist, The Daily Connoisseur,
Wee Birdy and Jacob Wrestling.

Now, to each of the award winners: Pick up your award (save the picture above) and pass it along to 5 blogs of your choosing- if you choose to.

Then answer the following questions with one word & post on your blog:

My answers are:

1. Where is your phone? charging
2. Your hair? Espresso
3. Your Mother? Lovely
4. Your Father? Inspiring
5. Your favourite food? Cheese
6. Your dream last night? Forgotten
7. Your favourite drink? Champagne
8. Your dream/goal? Writing
9. What room are you in? Bedroom
10. Your hobby? Perfume
11. Your fear? Mundanity
12. Where do you want to be in six years? London
13. Where were you last night? Home
14. Something that you’re not? Boy
15. Muffins? English
16. Wishlist item? Books
17. Where did you grow up? Surrey
18. Last thing you did? Tea
19. What are you wearing? Jeans
20. Your TV? Off
21. Your pets? at parents
22. Friends? Good
23. Your life? Good
24. Your mood? Reflective
25. Missing someone? Probably
26. Vehicle? VW
27. Something you’re not wearing? Hat
28. Your favourite store? Liberty
29. Your Favourite colour? Green
30. When was the last time you laughed? Yesterday
31. The last time you cried? Sunday
32. Your best friend? Various
33. One place that I go to over and over? Waterloo (station)
34. Facebook? Yes (but against my better judgement really)
35. Favourite place to eat? Seaside

Friday 4 December 2009

Inherit the wind

'He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind:
and the fool shall be servant to the wise of heart'
(Proverbs 11:29)

I ‘sat’ high up in the Old Vic to see Inherit the Wind last night- as high as the chandelier- I could see the whole theatre and most of the stage if I stood up and lent over a rail.

You would think the restricted view would be incredibly frustrating but after a while it won me over.

Standing to see something makes you concentrate more doesn’t it? and when I think about it I would never choose to sit down at a gig- even at the monstrous 02- and not every gig I go to involves a hoedown (although happily very many do) so why would theatre be different?

Inherit the Wind was worth standing up for- and so surprisingly thought provoking for an older piece about the bible and the origin of species. Kevin Spacey was wonderful- I’m not sure he knows how to disappoint in the theatre. The silent scene at the end when he puts both books together and clasps them tightly in his hands is extremely moving, although he plays it with a lightness of touch and step. In another life he would have been a travelling player, gracing a thousand stages.

The play is directed by Trevor Nunn who takes the opportunity to insert some great country music asides which I think help the first half which is heavy on exposition. It was the second part, the tight court room drama, that I became more and more involved in. Standing high up in a dark, hushed theatre I was happily reminded of my precious freedom to think whatever I want and to clasp it tightly.

Thursday 3 December 2009


Yet more present shopping over here at Rose towers.

Aren't these mix tapes on UBS sticks a charming way of keeping an old idea alive?

With rose tinted specs on mix tapes seem like a wonderful thing we've lost. When you think again though actually there was always the fear that your beloved tape from a dear boy/ girl/ mate would be chewed by your player- and the fact that after the first 100 plays you were going to get that whirring sound at the beginning of your most loved tracks.

I still kind of miss them though. They were a 99p way of giving something really personal. The UBS stick seems like a cute way of updating the idea. Plus it's pretty good for boys/ girls. Nicer than an i- tunes gift card don't you think?

Found via The Guardian.

Wednesday 2 December 2009

Gift Guide 2009

For everyone:

A moleskin per month- all in different colours.

Keel's Simple Diary. I have one (a yellow one) so can attest that it is fun but takes the pressure off writing something every day. I know they have been around for a little while but I'm sure there are still plenty of people who don't know about them. I heard about them via Lola is Beauty.

For him:

London review of books keyboard reference mouse mat Found via India Knight's Posterous. I've ordered two- and I'm hoping someone orders one for me!

The new Star Trek motion picture. I loved it. So did everyone I know. You can watch it with the whole family too I think- except perhaps watch out for the 'Wrath of Khan' bit. Picture from all posters.

Bamboo i- pod sleeves. Don't they look good? A good alternative to the sock mine has been living in for about 6 months. Perhaps my i- pod deserves a Christmas present? (Founda via Divine Caroline).

For her:

Bright Star: The Complete Poems and Selected Letters. There are other books and editions of John Keats poetry and letters to Fanny Brawne but this cover was the prettiest. I suggest going to a real bookshop and burying your head in the various works available and picking the one you think best.

If that picture of Fanny falling into the Blubells makes your heart flutter like it does mine- or if you just want to give a themed gift might I suggest some Penhaligon's bluebell bath oil would go beautifully with the book.

The scent is delightful, it smells of the ground under the blubells as well as the woods they grow near.

Perhaps more knowing is Ormonde Woman bath oil from Ormonde Jayne. The scent is bewitching, beguiling and utterly beautiful. (Please send me some Santa).

On a tighter budget I think this retro bath oil from Boots looks and smells very good- very much the kind of thing you might get in a European apothocary- which can only be a good thing.

Also in the beauty departmentMedieval by Lipstick Queen is the colour of naturally flushed lips and comes in rather wonderful packaging don't you think. Ideal for ladies who love a bodice ripper.

If you prefer to give an experience I think the afternoon tea at the Athenaeum Hotel is sublime. I have had lots of afternoon teas but this is the best so far- and they let you take your time. It is also quiet and roomy enough in their salon to be ideal for Mother's and Grandmother's who might not like the din and excitement of some of the fast moving but lovely London restaurants that do tea. Ideally take a walk around Green Park before tea as with two rounds of sandwiches, scones, 2 choices of cake (and/ or macaroons) and crumpets you need to work up a hunger!


Glad tidings at Luckyscent where I found that Commes De Garcon are now offering actual incense sticks scented with their incense perfume range- which is much adored by myself and other perfumistas (and so scent legend says Morrissey).

Tom Ford's Black Orchid now comes in a handbag sized pen. I am actually not that big a fan of the juice- though I very much like voile de fleur- but I seem to be the only person I know who isn't and the bottle is to die for good looking.

For the men in your life I don't think you can ever go wrong with a bottle of Caron Pour Homme.

(Picture from Fragrantica).

For men and women either scent or any of the accompanying range from Acqua Di parma always brings a smile. Who couldn't like that slightly clean but slightly smoky, incense fragrance or that sunny yellow packaging?

If they are developing an interest in scent- or just like a good book to dip in and out of Perfumes: The Guide is a work of genius to me. It's also now available in paperback!

Happy shopping!

Tuesday 1 December 2009

If I was getting married I would have this invitation

Found at A Cup of Jo- obviously a constant source of inspiration and delight.

Monday 30 November 2009

Your favourite animated Disney film

I was very excited to hear my current music obsession Mumford and Sons covered ‘Not in Nottingham’ from Disney’s Robin Hood carton on Zane Lowe’s Radio One show last week. You can listen here for 2 more days!

Robin Hood was always my favourite Disney film as a child- which I recall my friends thought a little strange as it wasn’t the most well known. It used to be very hard to get Disney videos and dvds which made a TV screening of any of their films terribly thrilling- but a Robin Hood showing was extra exciting to me. I seem to remember it often being on at Christmas and Easter and how excited I was every time the Bear Little John started singing at the beginning of the film. I adored Robin the fox but really it was Prince John the Lion that made me giggle as a child- and if I am totally honest as a much bigger child-adult studying the Crusades I really could never get the image of the silly cartoon Prince John whose crown didn't fit versus the cartoon King Richard, with his billowing lion mane and grand robes, out of my head when we did Richard the Lionheart and the Third Crusade.

Luckily for many parents the world over- and some grown-up kids- Disney now make their back catalogue far easier to come by so I can watch Robin Hood whenever I feel like it- and around this time of year my head does turn to family films and regressing. So some time before Christmas- or maybe on Boxing Day- there will be a big kid with Christmas pyjama’s on singing 'ooh de lally, ooh de lally , golly what a day' to herself while she wraps/ cleans up.

What’s your favourite animated Disney film?

(Picture from Amazon).

Thursday 26 November 2009

(Red) rubber soul

Have I been very slow on the uptake? Are these red rubber soles for Louboutin's not one of the best ideas you have seen (in a shoe context)?

I am very lucky to own a couple of much treasured pairs of these shoes- saved for and bought in sales. I have to say I haven't bought any for a couple of seasons, as their popularity has increased my ability to find any in a very normal 38 or 39 has diminished. Still I have a much adored, now old enough to possibly even be called vintage, pair of purple suede boots whose soles are losing their ravishing redness- these soles seem the perfect way to put the swing back in their- and therefore my- step. I'm ordering a pair. Hopefully I will be proved very right.

Wednesday 25 November 2009

Merry Recession Christmas cards

Merry Recession Christmas cards.

They're funny and they are using their humour to help people at Christmas.

Found via Found it. Loved it..

Monday 23 November 2009

Rainy day perfumes

As I stood staring at the perfume shelf this morning I wondered, what is the best scent to wear when it’s constantly raining? Lots of scents smell of rain, or try to anyway, but few work well in the kind of typical English weather we are having at the moment.

Truthfully all I can smell most of the time at the moment is damp clothes, or clothes drying on the radiator and getting that slight burnt toast quality. I had a long, glorious bath yesterday and in some way hot baths filled with the kind of healthy, lung expanding scent of pine are the only thing I’m interested in at the moment.

Still I tend to feel most things in life are improved by a good perfume and that must surely include heavy rain- for I can certainly think of lots of scents that are charming in light, showery rain- so there must be some that are wonderful under heavy grey skies filled with buckets of angry tears.

There isn’t a perfume I love to wear when everyone and everything smells of bad dog- not very many of them ‘do well’ in those conditions. Today I decided the best bet would be something with a good dose of warming, mood enhancing, wintry oils and thought Nuit De Noel would be the best choice. Thinking on it more the more contemporary the scent the less well suited it seems to be to inclement weather- so many modern scents have a heavy dose of calone or want to be terribly ethereal and whispering and on a day like today you need a scent that is going to speak up for itself, not to be overbearing but to be quietly confident and assertive. Nuit de Noel is just that- but what else would work- would warm you up but not react badly with the damp wool smell which will inevitably prevail if you leave the house for more than a split second?

No Wet, No Cold picture from

As heard on the south bank on Friday evening:

Girl 1: but I don’t feel I’ve achieved anything in my life, you’ve done so much, you do so many things, go to so many places, I never do anything

Girl 2: but you have a boyfriend so none of that matters

Girl 3 (me): sad face

Friday 20 November 2009

Button me up

The perfect buttons for a London lover- and perhaps a good stocking filler. I am toying with the idea of using these to customise a navy cardigan, sweater or coat- they'd be cute on a bag too!

Made by Cream Rose available from All things Original.

Thursday 19 November 2009

Last minute dress

I had to look business smart with literally no notice earlier this week. I found this dress in the ever reliable Marks and Spencer (although on me it is not this short). For that moment in time I couldn't have loved them more. This was just right and only £45.

Tuesday 17 November 2009

Flat out

I have alluded to the fact that I spend a great deal of my time striding around London like one Jane Austen's heroines before (heroine in the sense that I too am ruddy of complexion after walking from the south bank to the city and also in the sense that it's because I am too poor to have the carriage/ taxi all the time).

Now while I'm a heel lover- and wearer- sense and flats shoes have to prevail a lot of the time or I wouldn't be reaching any of my destinations very quickly.

I am also a lover of all shoes and think there is no less art in a flat shoe- in fact a flattering flat shoe is something I will always pay for. I can talk myself out of bright pink stilettos- don't need 'em (well much)- but perfect, low cut, dainty flats- gotta have 'em. I need them. I might NEVER see their like again.

For some time I have been wearing Jigsaw flats from last winter that are so perfect I did what I always say I will do and never do do- I bought two pairs. Sadly both have now seen better days on account of our temperate climate forcing near constant wear and my marching about probably putting them through multiple marathons- they have done extremely well but I can't keep asking them to go on or they will be lost forever and I want to keep them as they really are perfect and as comfortable as slippers.

So the quest for more has begun. In earnest. Rupert Sanderson has some delectable brogues which I can't copy to show you but are here and are lovely, dainty yet fashionable. I need them. In all the colourways. I can't really have them- though they do have very good sales at his shop.

For now, until the sales, I have bought some pleather flats that are hurting my feet and am begging the cobbler to perform magic on the Jigsaw shoes. Why didn't I buy 3 pairs? 4 pairs?

Monday 16 November 2009

Nails: faking them and breaking them

I notice hands- and feet. I am always more attracted to a man with nice hands- which can mean anything really. I was going to say lovely clean hands but actually that isn’t true because hands covered in paint or ink are attractive. Hands that are used are so interesting as well I think- where they have been defined by muscle from their work or because they are so delicate and therefore appropriate to their work- be it playing an instrument, writing, manual work, intricate work.

We use our hands so much but I'm not sure we always treat them as well as we should.

So nails and what to do with them- it's not a weighty subject but tending to nails, like waxing, takes up far too much of a woman's time and I wish someone would just invent a method of making them always look neat and lovely forever.

I have just had my first ever set of somewhat false nails soaked in acetone and filed with an electrical device to get them off. They weren't the long scary, square kind. They were tasteful gels and were the length of my own nails- a millimetre or two of white only. I thought these were going to be a wonderful idea, goodbye to nail whitening pencils and re- touching every couple of days. Hello to always pretty hands. Not so, hello to strange peeling after just two days and no way to neaten it. Really should I have anything on me that needs removing with acetone and an electrical device (that looks and sounds like it came from the dentist) voluntarily? I'm not sure I should.

In truth what I think is nicest is really lovely, plain hands with no polish at all. Unfortunately it cannot be denied that neat hands and nails look nicer and a manicure makes your hands look better- unless you have stunning hands- and who does really. In fact I quite like my hands, but that only makes it worse- because they are quite nice they should be made the most of.

Americans are far ahead of us on this- the manicures over there really do last about 5 days. I have never had one here- including the scary removal with implements and chemicals one, that lasted more than 3 days. I can do my own manicures that last 3 days- but I don't have time.

So my hands are back to being quite English again. My lovely, real nails are just painted with some nude pink varnish and they will have to stay that way until someone invents the nail equivalent of electrolysis- although does electrolysis really work or am I just telling myself it does and that one day it will be mine to stop me from going mad as I shave/ wax/ pluck away?

Friday 13 November 2009

Santa baby

Put a Coffee + Tea Maker designed by Naoto Fukasawa under the tree- for me.

Pictures and coffee and tea maker from the Design Museum shop.


I'm obsessed with the Vionnet dresses worn by Carey Mulligan and Hilary Swank recently. Just obsessed. I know they wore them a week or more ago now but the normal acceptance that I can't have gowns worn on the red carpet just won't kick in. I want them, very much. Indeed.

For more on Vionnet past and present and for these pictures go to Grazia Daily here. There's also an exhibition of Madeleine Vionnet's work on in Paris here. Sigh.

Wednesday 11 November 2009

To the unknown warrior

I remember you.

I will go on remembering you. I wear my poppy with pride and think of you and every one of your fellow soldiers every time I adjust it.

I think you of you every time I see the cold stone of the war memorials, whether they are laden with flags and flowers as they are now or when they are bare but standing tall watching over us all.

I think of my great Grandfather, who I never knew. He was lucky enough to come back, but permanently scared, unable to breathe properly for the rest of his days but no doubt grateful for every half a breath.

I think of both my Grandfathers, Uncles and cousins who fought in the next war- the one after the war that was supposed to end all wars- and would never speak of what they saw. I think of my Grandmothers too, bombed out, bravely waiting, hoping and fighting in their own way. I think of the time they missed with each other and the consequences. I think of my friends who are fighting now, for a war they probably don’t believe in but who would never say so.

I remember you all.

Tuesday 10 November 2009

Bright Star

I saw Bright Star, the new film about the relationship between Jon Keats and his neighbour Fanny Brawne this weekend. It is absolutely beautiful. I don't fully know what to write about it that would explain except to say it makes the most of the medium it is made in- and as such it is a film to be watched, every frame, every detail. For all that it is about a man who expressed himself so enchantingly through words the joy of Bright Star is precisely in it's filmic qualities; the stroking of a cat, the tapping of a wall, the falling of snow, the sound of laboured breathe, the fluttering wings of butterflies.

I found the director Jane Campion's production scrapbook online- which is the Bright Star website. I think it's captivating, the images are fascinating and delicate and offer a way through a side window into the film without taking away any of it's magic.

From the programme at the dance.

Ben Whishaw's notes

All images from the Bright Star website here. Except Keats and Fanny in the woods from the London film festival website here and Keats and Fanny in the house from The Observer here

Monday 9 November 2009

Travelling souls

I stood on a very crowded northbound Piccadilly line train last week with my head phones in and my cross face on. I was feeling grumpy about the lady who was insisting on crouching down next to me for no obvious reason and had her head in my back and the guy next to me who kept shifting about and saying sorry for bashing me- don't be sorry just stand still I thought.

I don’t know if it was my exposure to the mystical, magical and very friendly Cornish coast recently or the wise words of Marcus Mumford in my ears but as the train driver announced that mind the doors didn’t mean hold the doors my agitation completely subsided. I realised that the tube I was on was carrying hundreds of souls and that they were probably all as difficult to know anything about from looking at their outer shell as mine was. Of course they all hated being pressed up so closely, the lady probably didn’t mean to have her head in my back and the man didn’t mean to bash me or he wouldn’t keep apologising. I felt lots of love for the hot, sweaty tube too- for carrying us to our destinations safely- so many important hearts and minds- even if those hearts or minds were only important to one other living thing- hurtling along those dark, Victorian tunnels.

These thoughts aren’t especially original. Of course it stands to reason that you cannot judge a book by his cover or a woman by her shoes. Likewise although the tube it’s at once hot and harbouring the most chilling arctic winds; it’s often closed and somewhere you might like to leave your sense of smell at the ticket barriers, it really is what gets most of the city moving to the pubs, gigs, cinemas, fancy and not so fancy restaurants, to work, home, to friends and even to far away lands. It carries us through ancient earth as it carried our ancestors before us and it will probably carry on carrying people long after us, even if it will most likely still be mostly closed all of the weekend…

Poster above from the London Transport Museum shop here.

Sunday 8 November 2009

Books vs Cigarettes

I'm reading Books and Cigarettes by the indescribably wonderful George Orwell.

At the beginning of the piece George Orwell tries to calculate the worth of his books. What struck me, what I wanted to post about, was the fact that he didn't include paperbacks! I suspect that in Mr. Orwell's day they must have been rarer or printed later but I was still so surprised- especially in the context of my recent post about only needing paperbacks to be happy- well in terms of books anyway.

George Orwell is perhaps the writer I admire above all others, especially in terms of style. He says nothing that does not need to be said and his every word, whether he is writing fiction or articles, is necessary; it's as if he's writing for me. If he didn't feel that paperbacks counted then perhaps virtually my entire book collection doesn't count. That probably isn't what he means though, I'm sure it's just a change in the times- but that's interesting in itself isn't it- that it's really such a luxury to buy a hard back nowadays- certainly for my friends and peers anyway.

The book is bliss by the way, of course; it's ideal to carry in case of extended waits for buses or friends as it's a slim volume of joy and it would be a fantastic stocking present if your mind, like mine, had turned towards parcels and you know what.


Thursday 5 November 2009

Paperbacks and postcards- An Education

An Education is a British film in every sense. Set in the early sixties with a screenplay by Nicky Hornby based on a memoir by the journalist and writer Lynn Barber. It is a dramatic film but with a lightness of touch. I had been anticipating it’s release ever since I saw some stills of the cast in costume but confess I thought it might be a triumph of style over substance initially- I was happily surprised.

Lynn Barber’s character, here called Jenny and played by Carey Mulligan, attends a private girl’s school in Twickenham. Somewhere that now feels more like London than the suburbs but back in the early sixties, in a Britain that was closer to the second world war version than the free love one we think of, Twickenham must have felt as far from London as the moon.

The film raises lots of issues. I suppose one of those is just how long the war had an effect on everyday lives; Jenny’s parents live in it’s shadow and perhaps as a consequence live somewhat vicariously through their only, beloved daughter.

For me, as the first in my family to attend University despite not being the brightest, most intelligent person in my family by some way, it reminded me just how recently it is that anyone, especially any female, could think of going to University whether for financial or other reasons- and really what a privilege it is.

I enjoyed all of the performances. Carey Mulligan is rightly being highly praised- perhaps it’s the benefit of being mostly unknown, although I don’t think so, she really ‘is’ Jenny- and she makes her likeable despite effectively being a very self- absorbed teenage girl. However this is an excellent ensemble cast with Alfred Molina and Emma Thompson being particularly pitch perfect in their roles, Thompson is suitably terrifying without being one dimensional and Molina is heartbreaking at times. I must say too that Rosamund Pike not only gets the pick of the beautiful costumes but she is very funny!

I wouldn’t wish to give anything away but there is an exchange between Jenny and her English teacher- played, again very sweetly and deftly, by Olivia Williams- later in the film which has stayed with me. Jenny remarks on how lovely her teacher’s things are and I suppose she is seeing her teacher as a person for the first time- and seeing how similar their tastes are. Jenny’s teacher replies that all her books and pictures are ‘postcards and paperbacks’ with a sigh and Jenny replies ‘that’s all you need’. Really it’s true paperbacks and postcards- and blogs and certainly tickets to the cinema- especially to see absorbing films like this- can feed your soul as much as beautifully presented hard backed volumes or oil paintings on your wall.

Picture from Wikipedia here.