I’m sure there are plenty of action movies where the Sergeant shouts at his troops to “GO, go, go, go, go!”? That’s increasingly what the process behind shoots for this blog resemble - entirely thanks to the weather. The first time my mum and I attempted to take photos of this vintage dress, we emerged from and scurried back to the car three or four times as squalls passed overhead. The foul conditions resulted in the first ever scrapping of a set of photos (the only one deemed useable can be found at the bottom of the text). The ones pictured above were the result of trying again today, after suddenly remembering the perfect spot with a made-for-photos Morris Minor backdrop that we could dash off to. Of course the recently arrived vintage grey boots found on eBay only served to re-inspire the outfit, and luckily we were spared any puddles that might have ruined the heels. It was a distinctly more successful experience than the previous attempt.
Rain and drizzle have permeated the last few months. This year our New Year’s Day walk involved stubbornly tramping up the bracken-dusted side of a local beauty spot, with wellies and two anoraks apiece. It was amusing to observe how many other families were as hardy as we – the car park was packed, and the hill dotted with the bright circles of umbrellas. And yet, there was a sense of achievement in standing at the top of the slope, balancing on slippery rocks as the wind gusted. Even the heavy clouds didn’t detract from the rippling view of fields. As we shared out rather meagre rations of chocolate, I was reminded of one of my favourite memories of recent years…
A few summers ago, tired of complaints about the endless damp, my friend Ellen and I decided to pursue an alternative approach. We embraced the previously moaned-at rain by bundling ourselves up in cardigans and raincoats (a full-length holly green one in my case), slipping on boots and heading out for a rainy picnic. We had a backpack between us, stuffed with flasks of hastily made tea, crisps and half a packet of biscuits. We had no specific plan of action other than to wander, coats pulled tight, until we found a suitable spot to sit and enjoy our treats. After skirting the edge of a field and debating the suitability of a bridge, we instead settled under the shelter of a large oak tree. There we sat, letting the tea burn our lips while we talked. It must have been rather chilly, but I can’t remember much beyond the sound of the rain drumming like fingers on our umbrella roof – although I can distinctly recall the nasty feeling of pulling off damp jeans after we jumped in every single puddle we passed on the way back.
But, nice as the rain was then, I don’t have much patience the rest of the time (yes, I'm really fulfilling the British stereotype here!) Especially not when I’ve got all dressed up – from hair to heels – and driven to the top of the hill behind my house for some quick photos. It's invariably likely that, even if it has been mild all day, the drops will begin to descend the moment my mum pops off the lens cap. Either that, or the carefully thought out hair will suddenly acquire a halo of frizz thanks to the wind. Another element to add to this unpleasant scenario is the cold. I typically like to romanticize winter during the summer – thinking of the swans that huddle together on the sequinned ice of the nearby lake; of the temporary suspension of normal life when snow falls; of the glow one feels in the warm living room while reading. Do you know what none of those pleasant images takes account of? The seeping cold - not the crisp type associated with snow, but the lurking chill that means you're never quite wearing enough layers. And at the other end of the spectrum there's the heat of the fire, which although comforting to begin with, can lead to sluggishness that leaves motivation lacking. I think we often like to pine for other seasons - with very selective memories – picking the choicest moments to recall. For me, winter is encapsulated in a walk my dad and I took two years ago where the frost was as thick as fabric, transforming each tree into a scribble of white lines.
However, at least winter allows for unashamed imagination and dressing up (vintage accessories galore!) – with my ‘look’ here being a kind of Venn diagram between Twiggy, sixties girl-about-town and Jean Shrimpton. I’m looking forward to seeing ‘We’ll Take Manhattan’ (a dramatization of the relationship between Shrimpton and the photographer David Bailey) on the BBC later this week.
(Only useable photo from the first attempt a couple of weeks ago, in which I decided that I should never wear my hair in a ponytail ever again)