Thursday, 28 July 2011

Flying


I was sitting in a hospital waiting room yesterday, flicking through a mangled copy of a magazine, when I found a short interview – the type with one line questions, such as “What would your superpower be?” The answer there was “flying”.
How many of us would agree with the interviewee’s wish? The ability to take off and leave the ground below sounds exhilarating. No boundaries, no limits, no need to turn back. Maybe that’s why dreams of swooping over cities and seas are so prevalent. Flying captures the imagination. It’s something we see birds doing all the time, and yet, so far, the act of flying without technical help eludes us.
It seems that as humans, we have a longing to conquer the fourth element – air. We have swum in the sea, warmed ourselves by the fire and dug homes out of the earth. How best to immerse ourselves in what we breathe? We have spent centuries developing ways to enter the sky: hot air balloons, planes, helicopters, parachutes. Those with an urge for adrenaline might try skydiving or base jumping, while the more docile could fly a kite or let go of a sky lantern. The latter is akin to a message in a bottle; the thrill in knowing that it can soar off to another part of the world.

 
I’ve just finished reading ‘Nights at the Circus’, by Angela Carter. The main character ‘Fevvers’ is known throughout Victorian-era Britain for her illustrious wings. They have made her a star. But that fame has been tempered with suffering. Her wings have not only provided the momentum for recognition, but also set her apart from her peers. She is an outcast – simultaneously commanding majesty and mockery. The magic realism of Carter’s novel could be said to reflect the way we view flying. It is an action that we see being demonstrated by the smallest of birds, butterflies and other winged things, and yet, try as we might; we can only poorly imitate them. To us, the idea is fantasy.

Of course, the other story that comes to mind is that of Icarus – the boy who flew too close to the sun. Dating back to ancient Greek times, perhaps this tale best encapsulates absolute yearning, combined with crunching loss: the idea that one cannot have flying without falling. As the saying goes, “What must go up must come down”.
Although the physical activity is most often associated with wings, phrases such as “high-flying” and “soaring” are used to denote success. If someone is doing well, or achieves spectacularly, then they are thought of as ascending to higher levels. In comparison, if someone “crashes and burns” then they have foundered and broken.


This is sadly apt in relation to the recent death of Amy Winehouse. In some ways it seems that she was like Icarus – flying so high and so brightly, with such talent. Her voice took us with her in flight.
That is the mark of a true artist – be they singer, painter, photographer, writer or actor. Their work can elevate and transport us, taking the listener, reader or watcher out of their own lives and into something else entirely. I remember that exact feeling while recovering from surgery, and putting my entire concentration into absorbing one Kate Bush album after another, so that I could float away from pain. The sublime ‘Aerial: A Sky of Honey’ is the musical equivalent of gliding – complete with snatches of birdsong! Schopenhauer was most definitely right when he stated that we could momentarily escape suffering through the arts.


Birds and flight also provide inspiration for countless creators, such as Alexander McQueen. His S/S 2001 collection, complete with feathered dresses and taxidermy, is perhaps the best example of his extraordinary work. For him, the significance of birds could be eerie, as well as breathtaking.
Of course the one art I haven’t yet mentioned in relation to flight is dancing. What other profession allows for grand jetés, pirouettes and glissades? Watching my incredibly talented friend Choe (pictured here) spinning around the stately gardens where I took the photos made me feel exulted. She moved her limbs with grace and silence, the only sound alongside the cooing of a woodpigeon being the click of my camera shutter. As I asked her to do one leap after the other, I felt that if I looked away, then on her next spring she might just float up and up, until she was as high as the tower in the distance.


The location for the photos is very near two large lakes, which house several families of swans.  When we were being driven back, exhausted and hot after several hours of photography, I saw a large white shape flutter down onto the surface. It felt like a privilege to see that swan make the transition from air to water; a moment of ungainliness sandwiched between its usual serenity.


I styled Chloe using clothes from my wardrobe and dressing up box - a mixture of family heirlooms, charity shop bargains and vintage gems. The leotard and ballet shoes are hers. Thank you Chloe!

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Light and Dark







Weather is always unexpected. Seasons may attempt roughly to toe the line and reflect the time of year (it would be worrying if russet leaves fell from the trees in March). However, Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter, in their attempt to find some distinction or definition, are hampered by what the elements throw at them. Weather likes to wrong-foot us. Went out without an umbrella? Ha! The rain doesn’t care. Experiencing an unprecedented heat-wave? Oh, sorry.
However, sometimes it creates extraordinary scenes. In the instance of these photos (the next part of my Bertie’s styling series), it was the storm clouds creating the drama. Great banks of grey in the distance – hovering like piles of mascara-coated cotton wool - were offset by intense sunshine in the foreground; illuminating and sharpening colours.
Looking at the seemingly stage-lit scenery is like seeing a photo with multiple exposures – different weather systems layered over each other.

But isn’t that exactly like life? There’s only one planet earth, but it houses multiple ‘worlds’. London is a prime example – within the space of three streets, one can travel from extreme privilege to poverty. This sense of overlapping lives – and experiences – has been high in my mind recently.
While most of the UK news has been centred on the News of the World scandal (which I will say, I have been following doggedly), with links all the way up to the Prime Minister, other atrocities and tragedies have been occurring worldwide. First, the famine in the Horn of Africa. While the bright lights of the western world have been focused sharply on Fleet Street and the media, the rumbling thunder of empty stomachs has been presented mostly as a background image.
Reading reports on the sheer numbers involved – the children who suffer – the abject loss, is devastating. The immediate reaction, after horror, is one of absolute sympathy; of wanting to do something, anything, to help those most in need. Unicef? Medicins Sans Frontieres? Red Cross? Which one would be most effective? But then the Googling starts. The questions pile up.
When I make a donation, will it be guaranteed to reach those who most need it, rather than being appropriated by corrupt governments? What about global over-population? What other ways are there to address the crisis, rather than tossing money around? How to make an active contribution?
I don’t know enough about economics or politics to form rational answers to the queries above, and if anyone is better placed to give more informed suggestions, then I would be very grateful to hear them.

Clothes, Cameras and Coffee may be a style and photography blog, but I am perfectly aware that I am incredibly privileged in being able to indulge in hobbies and creative aspirations. I have the time to write; to hunt out second hand bargains; to while hours away reading; because I live in a country of comparative material prosperity. Things may be a little less certain than we would like, but we are not in any immediate danger of extremities such as starvation or war.

But then there are events that bring these layered, multiple exposures – snapshots of other people’s lives – closer to home. The Oslo and Utøya attacks are uppermost in my thoughts. The horror is so extreme that I can’t even begin to articulate a response right now. One of my best friends is currently on a different kind of summer camp here in the UK – comparisons are inevitable. The rise of the internet, and 24 hour news channels, means that we seem ‘battle-hardened’ to what we see happening. However, reading details of what has happened provoked similar feelings to hearing snatches about the Beslan school siege when I was much younger – queasiness, bewilderment (and sobering realisation) at the pain humans are capable of inflicting upon each other.
One does wonder though – with the prevalence of a greater world knowledge, and information only a click away – if we shouldn’t have a greater consciousness to match? In all honesty, in an affluent country, it is all too easy to switch off the computer, and retreat into a warm house; pretending that nothing exists beyond the blank screen. Often this might be simply self-preservation – it is impossible to sustain having our minds filled with tragedy 24/7. Nevertheless, one of the fundamental human qualities is compassion, and we need to keep feeling this in order to respond.

To return to the original analogy, the weather backdrop to these photos was one of extreme contrast. All these appalling events around the globe are disturbing. However, they don’t negate moments of wonder or joy either. Life is both incredible, and hard and full of hurt in equal measure – a ragged bag of grief and laughter. It’s dark and light.

The black lace twenties dress was borrowed from Bertie’s, to style. My favourite details are the pink and green hem, with scalloped edging. I styled it using a variety of accessories and garments – including a pink vintage silk skip, a pink silk shirt (with matching scarf), a vintage carpet bag, black men’s M&S brogues, second hand heels, thrifted belts, a charity shopped cardigan and family owned jewellery.

Edit: After further research and discussion, I have made a donation to the DEC appeal, which is an umbrella organisation for fourteen charities.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Bertie's Beauties



With the Harry Potter era coming to its momentous finale as the very last film is released (which was better than I had anticipated – I thoroughly enjoyed seeing it yesterday), there has been the inevitable round of memories, reminiscing and ‘Favourite bits of the series’ in the media. One detail that struck me, alongside the great service JK Rowling performed by encouraging a whole generation to read (who will be her successor? We need someone else to fill that gap – and in my opinion, it never will, and never can, be Stephanie Meyer), was the mention of platform 9 ¾ at Kings Cross station. A portal that leads to a fantastical world is something every eleven year old would kill to enter. Of course, she was not the first to put this idea into play – read the utterly magical ‘The Secret of Platform 13’ by Eva Ibbotson (one of my all-time favourite childhood authors, alongside Margaret Mahy), which was published three years prior to the Philosopher’s Stone.

We may not have Hogsmeade or broomsticks (although the ongoing News of the World scandal suggests there might be a few Voldemorts and bumbling authorities around), but there is a place I sometimes visit that bears more than a passing resemblance to that mythical train platform (and even better, it is accessible by train too!)

Whenever we get the chance, my mum and I take a special day trip to the gorgeous Bertie’s Vintage of Craven Arms. Plenty of time needs to be set aside for these excursions, because the minute one steps into the shop, off the perfectly ordinary market town Street, it is quite difficult to extricate oneself again. Like the King’s Cross platform, this shop is completely unexpected.
Escaping from the drizzle (which seems to be a pastime for us British), and being confronted with a room where a vintage mannequin greets you like the figurehead of a ship, before your eyes pick out a small changing room with magnificent gold curtains to hide your modesty, and several period glass cabinets housing forties’ snakeskin shoes and feather fans, can only be described as extraordinary. Who needs the Triwizard tournament when one can instead marvel at stacked hatboxes (and name spot – Elsa Schiaparelli anyone?), and savour the look of the elegant black hands that emerge from one gold and black wall-papered surface – the fingers nonchalantly bearing forties and fifties handbags. In the same way that Mary Poppins led her charges into a chalked picture on the paving, so this place makes one feel as though a running leap has been taken into a particularly chic kodachrome photo.




And how best to describe the feel of gently riffling through the two racks of exquisitely chosen vintage garments? I think the owner, Robert, described it best – it is “bespoke shopping” – a couture-made experience. Like the clothes, with their pin-tucked details and bias cuts, the hours spent perusing can only be thought of as ‘tailor made’. Thirties striped Katharine Hepburne-esque hand-knit sweaters can be spotted among floral fifties day dresses and the occasional breathtaking evening gown.

I currently own three items from Bertie’s (although I have my eye on a fourth) – two I carefully saved up for myself, and the other was a birthday present. The first, a two piece suit, can be seen in all its wide-collared glory here. The others are yet to grace the web-pages of this blog, but that will soon change – as I can’t wait to share my new sixties (quite Prada-ish) blue and white mini-dress with a pleated skirt.

On the back of these much anticipated sporadic visits, and the fact that Robert has now seen my blog, he recently offered a very exciting proposition. How would I like to style some of his precious dresses to demonstrate how they might be worn?
Even before he finished the sentence, I was already nodding eagerly and casting my eye around the room, like a fisherman preparing his line for a catch. Four pieces were borne away (I was terrified about anything happening to them – especially as some of the loaned items were from his personal collection, rather than stock for the shop), and have now been returned once more. The photos above are the first set of ‘styled’ looks, based around a rather delectable forties lace dress, that I had considered buying. Instead, I settled for borrowing it and dressing it in three ways – the first, a classic interpretation, complete with my late paternal granddad’s straw panama and my paternal grandma’s belt (she wore it to the Czech equivalent of Girl Guides), finished off with my beloved high heeled Carvela brogues.


 
The second two ‘looks’ were put together with the idea of ‘similarities and differences’ at the back of my mind – ergo the two sets of shirt and shorts with a hat, but presented in contrasting colour shades.

The green silk shirt was from a charity shop, along with the khaki shorts. The hat is vintage.
The pink shirt is also second hand, as are the plum coloured shorts. Likewise, the hat is vintage – even the origins match up! Shoes as before, and all jewellery and accessories are vintage, or family owned.

If you ever get the chance to visit Craven Arms (located very near Ludlow – home to the nationally known food festival), then I can’t recommend Bertie’s highly enough. There are details on his website, and the shop is rooted right in the middle of the aptly named ‘vintage quarter’ – the display window facing off the oh-so magnificent ‘Land of Lost Content’. An extraordinary museum, that houses every household item one could think of, dating back to over a hundred years. Where else would you find a whole room stuffed with vintage cameras, living alongside Beatles’ memorabilia and WW11 uniforms, all under one roof? Stella, who created the museum, is an amazing lifetime collector, and is instantly recognisable by her incredible vintage (and often bright) clothing and beautiful smile.
It is well worth a ‘day out’ to discover the delights of these two places, standing out in the town like peacocks compared to pigeons – it is accessible easily by train on the (I think) Manchester to Swansea line, and takes only one change from London. (Although, you do have to cross a busy main road and go past a cavernous supermarket before you can find it.)

I had a very wonderful and relaxing holiday, which I will talk about in another post.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

'The Woman by the Lake'


What would you do if some spotty stranger stuck their nose in your face? Would you politely cough and move away? Maybe glare at the lack of manners? Give them a shove?
Violetta had devised all these methods and more to deter the gawpers: professors with their round glasses and scratchy writing, bored schoolgirls with skirts that would make a nun blush, a housekeeper who tutted as she bustled. But Violetta could no more fulfil her angry wishes than she could skydive from Westminster Abbey. She was stuck – suspended against a background of green wispy reeds and water with more ripples than creased clothing. She sat, glum, fixed expression painted on her face.

Violetta wasn’t quite sure when she had arrived. There was nothing, a blank canvas... and then she appeared. She remembered a hand stroking her nose, shading it a dainty pink. First she was a sketch, then a defined outline, which became a solitary figure, before finally appearing as ‘Woman by the lake’. Couldn’t her creator at least have come up with a better title? She knew he worked in brushstrokes, rather than words, but it smacked of indifference.
This maker was still a mystery. Many had arrived to scrutinise the black scribble at the edge of the frame, blemishing her yellow, ruffled skirt, and failed to pinpoint him. She had been tested, analysed and evaluated. Essays had been written on her strange beauty, and critical articles published in riposte. If only these arts writers had bothered to ask, then Violetta would have happily told them her name and story – before ripping apart their waffling theories. She was not a “distressed fiancée, who watches the turbulent waters, representing her inner turmoil as she waits for a loved one” and nor did the “muted shades of her dress suggest a retiring sensibility and demure nature”.

 
Her juddering train of thought was ambushed by a movement. Approaching from the door was a bent figure, hand clenching a polished walking stick. The clicks and taps as it moved reminded her of Morse code. She could see now that it was a man heading straight towards her. He stopped and leaned closer, sucking his teeth. His upturned features were an ordnance survey map; his forehead a field and his eyes two drying ponds. Contour lines stretched out in arcs across his skin.
She knew those crumpled landmarks. Those eyes had studied her with interest, looking feverish with excitement or tense with frustration. What’s more, she was acquainted with the now wrinkled (but still stained) hand reaching out.
“Hello old girl”.
It was him alright – the cheek of it. The prodigal artist returning after all these years, only to wipe his smudged fingertips all over the clouds above her head, and smile at his work. No apologies for painting her in such an uncomfortable position that she had suffered a bad back for the last six decades. No offers of commiseration at the levels of boredom involved in being the star attraction of a drafty hall. He hadn’t even given her a shawl to ward off the chills.
As his fingers traced the line of her arm, Violetta made a snap judgement. She seized the thin wrist, dragging the surprised pensioner swiftly into the painted scenery. She felt a rush of air as she toppled backwards, and down onto a hard wooden surface. She looked up to see a canvas – her canvas – hanging on a cream wall. In one corner, a very startled looking gentleman stared in puzzlement at the floral parasol he was bearing.
Leaving him trapped like a bug on a windscreen, she sauntered off. The late afternoon threw soft squares of light through the windows. Violetta stepped out into the garden.
Spread below was a tapestry: two satin lakes, surrounded by shorn velvet fields and a grey-blue linen sky. The scene was pinned together with trees. Breathless with excitement, she made her way towards the water. Every few yards Violetta would halt to pluck up flowers, making a bouquet. Her nose twitched in delight, and the petals felt soft in comparison with their scratchy painted counterparts.

Revelling in the feel of grass under her feet, she arrived at a small jetty. From here she could turn back and study the vast building she had left.
Violetta leaned over the edge of the planks, and stretched out her hand. Her touch broke the surface – making the water hiccup. It was cold and sloppy – unlike anything she had imagined. She tried to hold the liquid, but it melted through the cracks in her fingers.
It would be so easy to walk away. She could leave the artist where he was – dangling in his own creation, puzzling visitors. She could rip off her ruffled dress (which was already splitting along the seams – not used to movement) and let it float across the lake in its fading decadence. She could offer her sash to the wind, and pull out her jewelled headpiece to give to a passing magpie. She could run.
Impossible. Violetta sat back, stroking the flowers, her fizzing thoughts subsiding. She recognised her surroundings – they had been her background for years. But what lay beyond the edges of the frame? Noise and busy lives? Or empty space?

No, easier to stay in this moment – with the scent of honeysuckle and the sound of swans. She idly picked apart her bouquet, ripping out stamens and peeling stalks in half. She busied herself with un-doing the flowers until she was left with a multicoloured mound.


Her slender frame rose; she arched her neck to see the birds darting like paper cut-outs. She flung her arms wide. A small storm of petals were let loose, the purples, pinks and yellows briefly in flight, before they were blown back towards her. They settled on her dress, on the lake. Confetti, caught in a split-second snapshot.


The sun slid towards the end of the lake. She stretched. She would enjoy the walk back, the early evening breeze, the call of roosting birds. She would slide in through the French doors, across the smooth floor. She might even have to find a chair to climb back in, and let the old man go, but she would take her time...

The next morning, the cleaner looked in bewilderment at the petals scattered in front of “woman by the lake”. Though even more odd was the painted lady – surely she had been seated before?



This is dashed - as I am writing this before heading out the door for holiday (although I should be in Spain by the time you read this!). Thanks again to my wonderful friend Ellen for assuming another persona - this time in a vintage dress from a market stall, and a sash from my dressing up box - so that I could take photos of her to accompany another photo essay.

I was overwhelmed by the thoughtful and funny responses I had to my 'Style Yourself' giveaway. I was so impressed that I would like to incorporate some of the best answers into a future post, so that everyone else can read them. However, there is only one book on offer. I used random.org to decide the winner (adding in the emails as numbers at the end), and can happily say that Catherine will be getting a package from publisher Weldon Owen soon! Please could you email me your address?

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Hand me down




How do we remember, or come to know (and perhaps even love) those who are no longer with us? It might be through the stories told to us of their escapades and fearless adventures. We hear about how our Grandma walked through a busy British town in bare feet every day, or listen in amazement to the tales of great-grandparents who fled their East European home disguised as ski tourists. Possibly we recognise their faces from old photo albums that were discovered when clearing out a house – accompanied by boxes and boxes of unsorted images, with veils of dust over the faces. If these relatives were even older there might perhaps be the occasional posed painting or daguerreotype to admire. Or, if we’re lucky then there could be some grainy footage from holidays when the Acropolis wasn’t yet a humming tourist destination, and it was still possible to imagine the Greek Gods floating over the shoulders of our then-young grandfather. All these relics from the past serve to educate us about our ancestors and build them up in our head – creating living sculptures made from papers, portraits and words.

Sometimes these scraps of memory are woven together with fabric. The final way to understand the characters of those we never knew is through looking at what they wore. My (still alive but remarkably changed) 93 year old great-grandma favoured Jaeger cardigans and dainty shoes – many of which came from charity shops in later years. My other maternal great-grandma (and great-aunts) owned a large variety of hats, gloves, scarves and bags – typical of what women of their generation wouldn’t leave the house without. And my paternal grandad, who died when my dad was little? Although we have photo evidence of him as a ‘dapper young chap’ in three piece suits or slacks, I know him specifically through a few objects dotted around our house. The first is a Stanford vest; a relic from his college days. Then there are the white rimmed fifties sunglasses – so big that I feel like a child playing dress up again, as the frames slip down my nose. And finally, hanging on a hook in the hall, I can see a straw fedora that wouldn’t look out of place on the Sartorialist.




Wearing (or even just owning) clothes that belonged to various relatives is the ultimate recycling – not only are the garments being re-used and re-discovered (where they might otherwise have been dumped), but these items can also be given a new type of life. Our own stories are added to the ones that went before them. “If these walls could talk...” is an over used phrase. However, I wonder if a more interesting saying might be “If these clothes could talk”. What we wear accompanies us all day long and our clothes are party to whatever we do or say.

Sometimes I feel as though every item my grandma has given me should have a label stitched into it, detailing its history. “This couture dress was bought in a thrift store, and worn when I was a jobbing actress in New York”, or, “I brought this sixties flower brooch with me when I moved to London”. We could scribble our own additions on to each label – “I used the seventies patchwork floppy hat to keep the sun off my face during a family picnic”.

So, in memory of my family members who are no longer with us or who do not enjoy the health they once did, here are three outfits styled (almost) exclusively with pieces from the past – handed down from great-grandmas, grandparents, aunts and cousins three times removed.




The first of the three ensembles is made up of the previously mentioned Stanford vest (and white sunglasses), worn with silk knickerbockers (used as shorts) that were discovered, still unworn, in a great-grandma’s house. The silk shirt underneath belonged to my maternal-great grandma (who has been a wonderful source of all things silk and fur related), as did the long string of faux-pearls. The silk scarf in my hair comes from the box of treasures from my other maternal great-grandma’s house.

The second has a floral dress hand-made by one of my maternal great-grandmas (she of the hats and gloves), worn under a black lace bodice that was owned by another great-grandma. The two great-grandmas on my mother’s side did not get on, and therefore it’s quite bittersweet that I am pairing their clothes together. In addition, this black lace strapless top has been worn and styled by four generations on my mother’s side – having been made by my great-grandma, who gave it to her daughter, who in turn passed it on to her daughter (my mum), who wore it, stored it, and one day found it had been appropriated by her daughter – me!
I am also wearing a velvet choker and a little belt that both belonged to a paternal great-grandma. The wedges are not family owned (but second hand from ebay), as my feet are much too big to be stuffed into vintage shoes.

The third look was very circus inspired – especially in the colour palette. The white blouse was my great-grandma’s, and the black trousers were my maternal granddad’s. I had to cinch them in with a sash, as the waistline was somewhat larger than mine – however, I love the voluminous look of the legs. The red satin evening coat worn over the top belonged to my paternal great-grandma. Most of her clothes were donated to an American theatre wardrobe department (sob), but this is one of the few pieces I have been lucky enough to receive. The brooch at the neck is Christian Dior, and was from my maternal great-grandma (along with the pearl clutch). The shoes are second hand.

All three outfits have elements of red running through them, which wasn’t planned, but seems appropriate. If we go back once again to the symbolism of colours, then red stands for courage and valour - two qualities that saturate various family stories. However, it also represents anger, which is just as apt. There have been fiery arguments, harsh words and great sadness. However here red is tempered with white; the sign of peace and serenity. Hopefully there is a dash of that in the family mix too.

I will be on holiday as of friday, and so my next post will be pre-scheduled for the middle of the following week. I have been really busy, so will announce the giveaway in that, after using a random generator - everyone's answers were too good (thoughtful, funny, reflective) for me to make a rational decision! This will gave the winner plenty of time to contact me with an address before I get back.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Past and Present






Life is full of unlikely combinations. Relationships, friends, family – oh, and colours. Pink and yellow for example. My only memory of these two clashing shades (taking place in the ‘Jarring Colours Hall of Fame’, alongside green and purple, or fuschia and red), was absolute devotion to a pink and yellow striped umbrella I owned when I was little. Its curved handle was perfect for small fat fists; the canopy large enough to shelter beneath.

Pink and yellow is reminiscent of striped candles on cakes at childhood birthday parties – of wild flowers sprawling in a protest of colour – of dressing up in the brightest clothes. Maybe that’s why I was so drawn to this dress in the first place. My smaller self would definitely have approved of the swishy skirt, smattered floral print and princess style neckline. ‘Little Roz’ would have begged her mum to buy this yellow dress when she saw it in the charity shop – and for once, I agreed with my past self.
Sometimes items catch me out like that. I itch to touch diamante and lycra monstrosities (the ones that would have been deeply desirable ten years ago) hanging between the boxy shoulder padded suits and nylon nighties. When I was younger, I was fixated with anything that had even a hint of glitter or, even better, whorls of sparkle across the neckline – resembling a synthetic night sky. My tastes have moved on, but as I have said previously, I am sure that my current wardrobe is just an extension of that beloved dressing up box.
As a six year old, my eyes would definitely have lit up at the sight of the salmon pink cardigan too (also second hand). On reflection, I don’t think my love of pink was anything to do with upbringing or peer conformity – my mum was adamantly against gender stereotypical items such as Barbies (she eventually gave in, and I spent many happy hours making clothes out of scraps of fabric for them) – but simply out of a desire to wear a ‘pretty colour’.

The link between present and past in this outfit was wholly appropriate, as this is what I wore to accompany my mum on a visit to my grand-dad. In his room, I was suddenly aware of charting the process of me and my brother’s growing-up, following the chronological sets of pictures ranged around the walls. We give my grand-dad a pin-board or canvas of family images every year (most of them now taken by me). Among the home made cards and paintings, I can scrutinise my face and see how it has gradually altered. There we all are – smiling, laughing, preserved in colour or black and white.
Maybe some elements of family life resemble the strange mixing of pink and yellow: peering in from the outside, it might look like a discordant combination of strident differences. But together? It just works.

The thing I enjoyed most about that visit was delving into my grand-dad’s encyclopaedic knowledge of British and world history. Listening to his stories of day-to-day life during WW11 reminded me once again of the detailed embroidery that is our ancestors’ history. Spinning threads loop off through different directions and times. These recent mentions of family on my blog have been stitching an idea for my next post; this set of musings being something of a muslin toile to check whether the pattern fits.

Mum took the photos on the return trip. We hadn’t planned to do an outfit post, but the views on the way back were too magnificent to pass up. The gold belt and vintage sunglasses were gifts, and the ballet pumps are old ones from Topshop. The leather saddle bag was from a charity shop.

On a completely different strand – I enjoyed watching the first episode of Mildred Pierce last night, kindly sent to me by the Sky Atlantic PR team (along with a gorgeous pair of sunglasses!) The outfits and period settings, along with beautiful cinematography (plenty of stills-worthy shots, with framing through rainy windows and the like), makes it definitely worth scheduling into your evening. Kate Winslet’s skilled acting only reinforces the idea that this is a visual feast to savour.

The giveaway winner for the Style Yourself book will be announced in the next post - the entries have been superb. I have really enjoyed reading them all. The contest is open until the 5th July.