Saturday, 29 December 2012

New Year's Barbie Doll

Now, unlike many of my readers, I don't ever tend to shop for clothes online. I think I can recall only one time that I bought an item of clothing online, and that was because I was desperately looking for a green dress suit for my Birds costume last year and I thought my chances of finding something so particular in the real world was very, very slim.

However, I am on the Beyond Retro emailing list and I generally tend to have a quick, idle browse of their online shop whenever an email comes in. You never know. Today, I came across this amazing item:

1960s peachy pink dress at Beyond Retro

Oh. My. Goodness. It's literally like something Barbie would wear. Something classic Barbie would wear. At first I had in my head the chiffon and sparkles of Day-to-Night Barbie's evening outfit:

Day-to-Night Barbie (Image source)

But then, in looking for images of Day-to-Night Barbie, I came across pictures of Peaches 'n' Cream Barbie, another one from my personal childhood collection. With her peachy, fluffy stole, you just need to change her ballgown-length skirt to a mini and that dress is her outfit:

Peaches 'n' Cream Barbie (Image source)

I can't deny that the dress had me very, very tempted... Especially with New Year's Eve but days away. However, even if I'd ordered it today, it wouldn't have made it in time for that. Besides, I think it might be a tad too small for me. And it's not my colour at all...

Still, the temptation of being able to transform into one of my childhood Barbies by slipping on this dress leaves me unable to put it completely from my mind. I'm still toying with the idea of ordering it up, trying it on, and taking advantage of the returns policy if it ends up being completely wrong. Naturally, the Cat thinks I'm completely mad. 'Why would you want to be dressed like Barbie?', he asks. Pfft, what do boys know?

Anyway, let's just pretend for a moment that I do have that dress, it fits perfectly, and I have lots of spare cash to turn it into a complete Barbie doll New Year's Eve outfit:

Diamond necklace by Harry Winston, found here;
Jimmy Choo clutch and peep-toe shoes, found here and here

Perfect! There's my dream New Year's outfit sorted.

Now I just have to think about what I'm actually going to wear in reality... But really, that shouldn't be too much of a problem. It's not like I needed that dress because I was short on items or anything. In fact, I have an overabundance of party-appropriate dresses in my wardrobe vying for a night out on the town.

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Christmas Day and After

All dressed up for Christmas Day: white crocheted dress made by my wonderful grandmother for my birthday this year, red tights from M&S or similar such place, patent leather and gold t-bar shoes given to me by a friend, and a black and gold ribbon in my hair.

Hope you all had a wonderful Christmas. Mine was lovely and very relaxed, begun at church with the midnight candlelight service, followed by lovely presents opened upon waking up in the morning, phone calls to loved ones, and tasty food consumed in good company.

Today, a reinvigorating bicycle ride took me to Regent's Park for a stroll. I love going for a walk on Boxing Day - it's always such a relaxed and friendly atmosphere as everyone has gone into slow motion after Christmas Day feasting and napping.

Boxing Day aside, I just love Regent's Park in winter. It always feels wonderfully Victorian to me at this time of year. I especially enjoy it on the bitterest of days, when you have to walk briskly to keep out the cold and you can feel the redness growing in your cheeks. Or when it's misty and atmospheric and you truly expect to hear the clip-clop of horse hooves behind you or to pass mysterious men in capes and top hats. Even on relatively mild days like today, the season brings a distinct calm, stillness and quiet to the park, which feels like stepping back into another time...

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Let It Rain, Let It Rain, Let It Rain

Kensington Palace's Advent calendar, based on Queen Victoria's diaries

Well, the Christmas forecast is frightful
But London will be delightful
 As I don't need no train
Let it rain, let it rain, let it rain...

Fortnum & Mason Christmas windows

This year I'm spending Christmas in London, which is just wonderful. There's been lots of rain here in the UK, causing a wee bit of chaos, but I don't have to fret about any travel plans or crowds because I'm staying put. Everything is wrapped up (literally and metaphorically) so I can just spend the next few days relaxing, go to my regular church for the Christmas services, cook up a simple Christmas lunch on Tuesday, and enjoy the peacefulness that descends on the capital over the break, perhaps partaking in a cycle around its empty streets on Boxing Day, weather permitting.

I got the final grocery shop out of the way yesterday so today I enjoyed a visit to Kensington Palace to see their Advent calendar installation, on the last day before they close for Christmas. Against my expectations, I have come to adore Kensington Palace, after discovering it when they had the Enchanted Palace installation during recent refurbishment works. It recently reopened in all its glory and has maintained the fairytale element. A full post to come on that...

More installments in the Kensington Palace Advent calendar

When I was kicked out at 5pm, I went for a walk and ended up passing Fortnum & Mason, so naturally stopped to look at their Christmas display. Sadly, it was slightly disappointing when compared against last year's offering. The main windows, fronting Piccadilly, recount the tale of Dick Whittington, but the figures looked a bit cheap and kitsch to me - like a bad local history museum. The backdrops in the Duke Street windows seemed similarly tacky and obvious. While some of the displays of food and beverages was quite beautiful and artfull, I definitely preferred last year's displays, which were more like the window display version of an editorial fashion shoot, in which the products almost seemed an incidental element in bewitching and abstract scenes.

Still, even for someone who isn't generally seduced by gratuitious displays of food, there were definitely some appealling moments:

Anyway, I hope that you, my lovely readers, all have a wonderful Christmas, however and wherever you choose to celebrate. And I hope that those people who are travelling to be with loved ones have safe and undisrupted journeys, come rain, snow or shine.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Choo, choo!

In a couple of hours, I'll be at Euston Station, preparing to depart on the sleeper train up to one of the UK's best cities...

No, I'm not starting my Christmas holidays early. I'm actually heading up to Scotland on a work assignment, to hopefully uncover lots of archival treasures and solve architectural mysteries...

Me and my dad in Glasgow late last year

Best stop mucking about and go pack then!

Saturday, 15 December 2012

I, Anna: Starring... the Barbican

Speaking of London on film, as I briefly did in my last post, on Monday night, the Cat and I wandered off to the Barbican cinema to see the film, I, Anna.

I have to confess that I don't generally keep abreast of current film releases (my film-viewing is mostly spent catching up with the decades of films that have come before us...). So this probably wouldn't have even been on my radar if not for going to see James Bond last week. It was the subject of one of the previews and it quickly grabbed my attention with this shot:

I gasped, thinking 'was that the Barbican?' Sure enough, the next shot showed the unmistakable tunnel that is Beech Street.

The preview unfolded, revealing the story line to be a noirish tale involving a murder, a detective and an elegant and mysterious woman. All, seemingly, set in and around the Barbican.

'Oh, my goodness', I thought. 'What a genius use of the Barbican's strangely sinister qualities. How come no-one has done this before?'

Naturally, I had to see it. And, naturally, I had to see it at the Barbican cinema.

Sitting in the darkened cinema the following week, I could feel myself eagerly anticipating the appearance of the Barbican as I sat through the opening scenes. I felt kind of like my teenage self, enticed into seeing a movie because it starred an actor I fancied, and waiting for the moment for them to appear on screen.

And the performance of the Barbican did not disappoint. It formed the perfect backdrop for the murder that is the catalyst for the rest of the film. Its desolate and eerie qualities are brought out and connected with the characters who collide there: three middle-aged, separated adults (the male murder victim, the female stranger last seen with him, the male detective). The loneliness and dissatisfaction of the woman and the deep exhaustion of the detective were highlighted by the cinematography which emphasised the coldness and oppressiveness of their surrounds - the un-ornamented, bleak, concrete Barbican complex, along with other parts of London, from the neighbouring 1950s Golden Lane Estate to Peter Jones in Chelsea.

I'm definitely glad I went to see the film and would certainly recommend it. Even the Cat, who only came as a favour to me, liked it. It was awfully bleak but utterly gripping, as the wonderfully alluring and dignified Gabriel Byrne and intriguingly reticent and sophisticated Charlotte Rampling drew you into their world. The Cat and I were still mulling and talking it over the next evening, after we'd had more of a chance to let it all sink in. I would like to see it again some time, not least because (I don't think it's spoiling it to say) there is a twist/revelation at the end, which makes me want to go back and look out for the clues along the way...

(All images in this post are screen shots from the I, Anna preview)

Monday, 3 December 2012

Random Reasons to Love London #8

Image source: Ewan-M via Flickr

Last night, the Cat and I went to see James Bond at the Curzon in Mayfair. Yes, as the chap behind the counter informed us, we are probably the only people left in London who hadn't seen it yet. But it was worth the wait. It was freaking awesome. I'm not generally an action film kind of girl but James Bond is my exception to the rule. And this was a particularly good one. I was riveted the whole time, gasping and exclaiming and probably bothering the people behind me... But I wasn't chatting inanely, it's just that now and again I found I couldn't contain my enthusiasm. I especially enjoyed the fact it was mostly set close to home. The Shanghai scenes were awesome, with all those crazy buildings and neon lights, and Turkey was wonderfully exotic, but I just love seeing London and other parts of the UK on film. It makes them all so sparkly and exciting again. And it's fun to spot places at a glance and think "oh, oh, oh, that's Smithfield Markets!" etc, and then to see all the secretive spy world that the recognisable London scenes are hiding.

Emerging from the cinema afterwards, I confess I was perhaps a little bit hyperactive, bouncing about in my excitement over the movie. Not being in our usual neck of the woods, we had to stop to determine the best way to the nearest tube station (after the Cat turned down my suggestion of cycling, citing the frostiness and drizzling rain...). As we paused to take out our A-Z, a man approached us to ask if we could spare some money for him as he was homeless. I have to confess, I don't always help out people who approach me in the street but I was in a good mood and, weighing up in my head the fact that I had just spent £30 on cinema tickets plus drinks besides, I figured it was just plain mean not to help him out. So I pulled out my purse and gave him a few pounds. He thanked me politely and then walked off.

Once the Cat and I had worked out the most direct route to the station, we headed off up the street, running over our favourite parts of the movie. Further along, we passed a cafeteria and, as I glanced casually into it, I saw the homeless man at the counter, placing an order. I was so happy to see that my few pounds had taken him directly to get some warm food! The general population are so cynical about giving money to people in the street, saying that you never know what they're going to spend it on, often saying that it will probably go on drugs or alcohol. It's true that you don't know, and sometimes I'm sure that it doesn't get spent in the best way, but it's terrible to make that presumption about everyone who's unfortunate enough to have to beg for money.

Not only was it nice to see my change making an immediate difference to someone, it was so reaffirming to see that this man had been honest and was simply after some nourishing food. I look forward to being able to pull this story out the next time someone makes some sweeping accusation about the misguidedness of giving money directly to people in need. I just hope the poor chap went on to find somewhere safe and warm to spend the night...

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Love Letter from ... Old Gippstown

As usual, life ploughs on much faster than my blog can keep up. I have scores of photos and tales from Australia that I was intending to share but I keep getting distracted by events and thoughts in the present moment. But I'm going to be strict with myself now and present a few bumper Aussie posts before doing anything else...

And so I bring you Old Gippstown Heritage Park! This requires a post all of its own because I had such a great time there. My mum and I spent several happy hours exploring and being ridiculous, but there was just so much to see that we were kicked out at the end of the day, still not having seen anywhere near everything.

Old Gippstown High Street

Old Gippstown is located in the town of Moe in Gippsland, the beautiful southeastern corner of Australia. It brings together historic buildings from all around Gippsland to create a mid-Victorian township, including the high street with all its shops, a church, a school, theatre, town hall... I don't know how many buildings in total but, as I said, we didn't come even close to seeing everything.

Old Gipptown Church - lots of the churches in Gippsland are timber buildings that could just be picked up and
moved if the early settlements didn't flourish

One of the wonderful things about it is that you can go into every building and there's lots of things to poke and prod and play with. Really, you could spend a couple of days there, if you wanted to properly take it all in... and take multitudes of photos, like we did.

I don't recall there having been a lot in the way of interpretation at the park. And what there was, I haven't really held in my head so I don't have much information about the buildings to repeat here. As such, I think the best approach is to just inundate you with photographs, interspersed with only a few words of explanation...

The ingenious church windows, which could be opened in such a way as to allow some
ventilation whilst preserving the look of the stained glass windows

And the ingenious, reversible pews! In which the back could be pushed forwards to that sitters could face the other way
without the massive effort of actually shifting them around  

Note the dressed-up country look of my outfit (as opposed to my horse-riding country outfit). It was the first outing of the skirt, which my mother gave me, purchased from American Graffiti, a vintage shop on Melbourne's South Bank. The earrings were also a gift from my mother, cardigan from Benetton, jacket from Rokit and scarf from Beyond Retro. Mum thought we should wear heels but we quickly swapped them for more sensible shoes when we stepped out of the car into mud... Mine are EOS, purchased from a factory outlet in Melbourne.

Presumably people weren't exhumed to be re-buried at the heritage park...

Trying my hand at the water pump...

... and the wringer. Mum whipped off her slip so that we could have a proper go at it

All-Australian dunnies

I may have squealed when I saw the classic old ute - unfortunately, I couldn't get in behind the wheel

Look at the colour and details! It could do with a clean though...

Behind the counter at the cobbler's shop. I loved that you could not only go into all the buildings, but even get in
behind the counter and play shop...

Wonderfully rustic, colonial log house, complete with tree bark shutter on the window

It was the end of the day and the dressmaker's shop was all locked up by the time we
found our way to it, sadly... We could peer in the windows though and admire the signage

Enacting the audience of a thriller in the cinema....

... and a weepy

So, we had an awesome time, as you can hopefully see from these pictures. If you ever happen to be really randomly passing through Moe in rural Australia, I highly recommend checking it out.