Friday 30 December 2011

Hackney Empire Panto

Kate Moss as classic swimsuit siren in French Vogue 2010 (Image source)

You may be wondering what Kate Moss has to do with the Hackney Empire?  Well, I went to see the panto for my work Christmas party a few weeks ago and this divine lady just happened to be in the audience!  Unfortunately, word of this didn't get around to me until we were in the pub afterwards so I didn't see her myself.  But perhaps that was a good thing as I just would have ended up distracted and starstruck instead of enjoying the show.  As regular readers have probably picked up through my lack of talking about modern fashion or celebrities, I'm not generally that bothered by modern-day models but Kate is a special case.  I think her just utterly fabulous and was rather overexcited to hear she's been in the audience at the same performance as me.

That aside though, I'd recommend the Hackney Empire panto for anyone looking for some fun, silly entertainment.  I thoroughly enjoyed myself, getting into the whole panto experience with my workmates, singing along and joining in with the fun.  It's on until 8 January, so there's still a chance to catch it if you're in London.

Saturday 24 December 2011

Christmas Wishes

Image source

Happy Christmas, dear readers!  Hope you all have a wonderful day tomorrow with friends, family and whoever else happens along...

In the immortal words of Tiny Tim in A Christmas Carol, "God bless us, every one!"

Lisa Marie x

Wednesday 21 December 2011

Sooty (and Sweep) Nostalgia

Last Sunday, my mum, my sister, The Cat and I all went off to see The Sooty Christmas Show at the Garrick Theatre.  I thought this merited a mention on here because (a) we all had a good old-fashioned fun time and (b) the show is, when you think about it, a vintage gem and classic.

I will transcribe for you the brief history of The Sooty Show as included on the label of the Sweep puppets my sister and I purchased (because, as anyone who's anyone knows, Sweep is totally cool):

In July 1948 Harry Corbett was on holiday with his wife, Marjorie, and children, David and Matthew.  While walking on The North Pier, Harry spotted a teddy bear puppet in a gift shop.  For the pricely sum of 7s6d, Harry purchased the little bear and introduced his new partner into his amateur magic act.  Such was his success, a BBC TV producer asked Harry to make an appearance on screen.  Sooty's antics instantly captivated the nation and won him a place in television history,  New members joined the Sooty family including the lovable spaniel Sweep and Soo the helpful panda.  In 1976, Harry's son Matthew took over as Sooty's right hand man, followed in 2000 by Richard Cadell.

Of course, being a child of the 80s, it's Matthew Corbett's guardianship of the three puppets that I remember.  So I'll leave you with a classic 80s scene.

Sooty's Busy Christmas (Image source)

Saturday 17 December 2011

Love letter in the New York Times

Photo by Tomas van Houtryve for The New York Times

I've been awfully busy of late so not had much time for blogging BUT I just had to come by to tell you that my post on Oscar Wilde's tomb has been quoted in a New York Times article!  You can imagine my surprise and delight when I discovered this!  A couple of my lovely readers' comments were quoted as well, namely the lovely Superheidi who blogs over at The Swing of Things and the fabulous Miss Rosette Brune.

Also this week, I hit 50 followers, which is great news as well!  Thanks to all of you who read along and comment and who make the whole blogging lark so enjoyable.  Special thanks to Wendy over at The Butterfly Balcony for being the first brave lass to follow me!  Also to Betty Boots, who is the latest to join in the ride.  But you're all great and I look forward to (hopefully!) continuing to entertain you with my wee blog and to hearing more thoughts and comments from you.  I should have a think about a doing a special 50 followers/Christmas giveaway too...

Lisa Marie x

Saturday 10 December 2011

Christmas Truce (and Christmas Gifts)

"An Historic Group" (Image source)

I still distinctly remember learning about World War I at school.  I would sit in class blinking back tears as we heard about the sheer numbers of lives lost, often due to the sheer stupidity of the military powers, and as we read personal accounts from people on the front and those left at home to wait and wonder.  The third battle of Ypres, otherwise known as the Battle of Passchendaele, is well known as being one of the bloodiest battles of the war.  But Ypres is also the place where one of the most beautiful and affirming events of World War I occurred - that is, the Christmas Truce of 1914.  

Thousands of British and German troops were involved in an unofficial truce beginning on Christmas Eve that year.  It reportedly started with the Germans lighting candles, singing and calling out Christmas greetings to the British soldiers.  The British soldiers begun to respond and eventually troops from both sides emerged from their trenches and crossed No Man's Land to exchange gifts with one another.  It's such a wonderful story, a perfect Christmas message of peace and humanity and trust and vulnerability.

Here's a lovely wee website where you can read transcripts of some of the letters from people who were involved in the truce.

And if you're stuck for Christmas gift ideas, there's a sweet-looking book about it at the Imperial War Museum shop.  

They've got a whole selection of nice things, in fact, including lots of vintage-inspired items, prints and books.  And, as a bonus, you'll be supporting them if you buy from there.  Which means they can continue to grow their museum collection and educate people about the historic and continuing impacts of war on society and individuals everywhere.

Here's an idea of some of the things they have on offer:

This book sounds really interesting too:

Life in Britain changed dramatically as the war progressed; the annual celebration of Christmas provides fascinating yearly 'snapshots', illuminating the changes over six years of conflict.  What was the weather like? What was on the wireless? What were the popular records and sheet music of the time? What films were showing at the cinema? What about the pantomimes, shows and concerts? Parties, decorations and trees? Gifts and food are discussed with a look at the presents available, and in vogue. As shortages really took a hold, the various make-do-and-mend solutions are described, and insights are gained into how people adapted food recipes to cope.

Hope I've inspired you!  Either with goodwill towards man or gift ideas, or maybe even both!

Monday 5 December 2011

Mid-Century Feel (A Visit to Royal Festival Hall)

Dress: Inherited from a friend.  Not my usual style or hem-length but so fun!
Beret: Inherited from a (different) friend
Scarf: Gift from The Cat's mum
Gloves: Southbank Vintage Fair 2011
Boots: Jones Bootmaker
Bag: Beyond Retro

On the weekend, I took The Cat to the aquarium for his birthday.  He's a big fan of water and fish, and neither of us had been to an aquarium in years and years so it was a fun treat.  We enjoyed watching all the different fish (and penguins!) swimming and bobbing about.  We also got to go on a behind the scenes tour.  They are introducing these next year and there will be an entrance charge when they do, but they are currently doing some free trials just to get feedback.  We happened to be in the right place at the right time (for the record - by the stingray lagoon, bemused by the stingrays' strange behaviour).  A staff member approached us specifically (perhaps as some of the few adults without kids attached...) to ask if we were interested in seeing how the aquarium operates and seeing some creatures not usually on view.  Of course we were interested!  So we got to see cute baby fishes amongst other things, and learn about how everything works and how the fishes are monitored and looked after.  There's a lot more involved than you realise, I can say that!

Afterwards, we stayed on the Southbank for dinner and then I took The Cat into Royal Festival Hall.  He's not particularly interested in mid-20th century architecture but I'm trying hard to teach him its merits.  I think this one surviving remnant of the 1951 Festival of Britain needs to be seen from the inside to be understood.  This is what I found from my own personal experience and happily, he was reasonably won over when I took him in.  Hurrah!  Perhaps now he will see it as a positive architectural piece contributing to the riverside?  I doubt he'll ever rank it above the Palace of Westminster but he may view it slightly more kindly at least.

I didn't take any external photos because I think I would have struggled with my wee camera at nighttime, but I did try to capture some of its lovely internal lines and feel with a few photos which I'd like to share with you, my dear readers.  We went in whilst a show was on in the theatre so there weren't too many people in the public areas, hence the somewhat muted and melancholy vibe of the pictures.  But still so warm and beautiful, in my opinion.  I was particularly taken with the abandoned balloon on the stairs towards the end...

Saturday 3 December 2011

Laundry Room Pop-Up

If you're out and about in East London this weekend...

Yesterday afternoon for school, I went on a walk around Spitalfields with my class, and we got to stick our heads into the Georgian house where this pop-up shop is appearing.  I didn't want to leave.  It was a beautiful house, beautifully restored and, for this occasion, filled with beautiful, beautiful objects and art which you could walk out with (after handing over some money, of course).

At the moment we walked in, there was a buzz of people as they finished up preparations for the private opening that evening.  The wine glasses were out, there were pretty girls fluttering about making finishing touches, and older architectural historian gentleman-types dressed in tweed were lighting candles in chandeliers.  My heaven, in other words!  (Apart from the lack of pretty young men in tweed, of course.)  I should have jumped into a cupboard and waited to gatecrash the party but instead, I'll just have to head back on the weekend when the shop is open to the public for those two days.

It's well worth a look if you can make it, especially with Christmas around the corner.  Also on in the area over the weekend are the East London Design Show at Shoreditch Town Hall (Saturday and Sunday), Judy's Affordable Vintage Fair at Old Spitalfields Market (Saturday only) and the Vintage Furniture Flea at York Hall in Bethnal Green (Sunday only).  Whew!

Thursday 1 December 2011

Winter Personified

Happy December!  As promised in this previous post, I'm returning with Eugene Grasset's Winter months.  December and January are lovely indeed, but I think February might have my heart, personally.  Only in terms of the images below though because in terms of real months, I'm very much looking forward to lots of things December has in store...

So, which is your favourite lady this time round?  

Sunday 27 November 2011

Oscar's Tomb (A Case of Misguided Conservation)

Oscar Wilde's tomb, Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris (Image source: Wikipedia)

As an architectural historian, a Romantic, and a lover of Oscar Wilde, I'm not quite sure how to react to reading an article that reports that Oscar's tomb in Père Lachaise Cemetery has been cleaned and restored, and is now going to be protected from devoted fans by a glass barrier.  I understand the desire to protect a memorial to a great writer (which also happens to be the work of a great sculptor, Jacob Epstein) but I am rather skeptical about the chosen approach.

The tomb is (or was, until the cleaning) famously covered in the lipstick of thousands of fans, who have been showing their devotion through kisses for years.  Although this is an absolutely fabulous tradition, it has apparently been causing damage to the stone, further exacerbated every time the stone is cleaned.  Now, any good conservation architect will tell you that, in many instances, dirt-ridden stones shouldn't be cleaned as the dirt may have formed a protective coat for the stone and exposing the surface again by cleaning will often make it more vulnerable to erosion.  Countless monuments and buildings have been irreversibly damaged due to this lack of understanding and the implementation of insensitive cleaning approaches.  Of course, the situation varies from stone to stone, and I can't say I know much about the effects of lipstick on whatever stone this tomb is made from.  Perhaps cleaning has been a strong necessity and was carefully and expertly carried out...  To me, however, it sounds as though they should never have attempted to clean off the kisses in the first place because that's where the problem really started.

The wonderful Oscar Wilde himself (Image source: Wikipedia)

I guess some may see the lipstick as being a vandalism of the work of Epstein, or a sign of disrespect to Oscar, as it has ultimately degraded his memorial.  But I have to disagree.  I'm a fan of Epstein's work generally, and therefore keen that any of his sculptures is treated appropriately and cared for.  But in this instance, in my view, the continued devotion of Oscar Wilde's fans more than 100 years after his death, represented by those lipstick marks, enhanced the impact of Epstein's bold, modern memorial, making it an even more fitting monument to a great decadent and aesthete.  Cleaning them off, and putting the tomb behind a barrier seems to be missing the point.

The visceral, impassioned, rebellious tradition created by Oscar's fans was beautiful and appropriate for the man.  My gut reaction is that an untouchable, pristine tomb which can be only politely viewed from behind a screen - I don't care how transparent or discreet it is - risks rendering the tomb clinical and cold.  

Saturday 26 November 2011

So, It Begins

I've not posted in over a week!  I think this may officially be my longest absence since I started blogging.  It was a hectic week at work, including an overnight stay up in Birmingham.  Was pleasantly surprised by Birmingham, it must be said.  My only experience of the city to date was an hour's transit in the bus depot when I was about 19.  Not the best impression to have of a place but let's be honest, you don't hear the nicest things about Birmingham either.  However, I discovered that there are some lovely buildings and streets in the centre.  Perhaps more on that one day...

But for now, I'm just here for a quick post to break my blogging silence and to remind everyone that tomorrow is Advent Sunday - the first day of the season leading up to Christmas.

Christmas in the Peak District last year - Ilam Church under snow

My plans for the day: a wander around the National Gallery before the evening carol service at St Martin-in-the-Fields.  I'll also look in their shop to see if I can pick up an Advent Calendar there, or potentially an Advent Candle.  I always consider the candle option - where it's marked down the side and you burn it to get it down to the right line each day - but I just know I'd probably get distracted and wander off and come back to find it down to the 24th on the 3rd or something!  Calendars are a bit of an all-round safer option, really...

Friday 18 November 2011

Shrimp and Kitty Love

Weekend!  And I particularly need it this week...  Been working especially hard...

As a special treat, here's an adorable picture of the gorgeous Jean Shrimpton which I stumbled across recently.  I didn't make note of where I found it, I'm afraid, so hopefully I don't enrage anyone by having stolen their picture.

Have a great weekend, lovely readers, be it a restful or a raging one! 

Monday 14 November 2011

A Royally Botanically Autumnal Afternoon

I'm back from a weekend in Liverpool, but until I upload and sort my photos, I thought I'd share with you my adventures from the weekend before. I headed out west to the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew for a relaxed Sunday afternoon, to enjoy perambulating amongst the colourful autumn leaves.

This is what I wore...

Layers!  Gray singlet: Bennetton; Blue shirt: hand-me-down from years ago;
Waist coat: charity shop; Shorts: Beyond Retro; Necklace: gift from my sister

Hat: Fabhatrix, Edinburgh; Jacket: Rokit; Shawl: somewhere on Chalk Farm Road;
Boots: Jones Bootmaker

Here are some of the buildings I saw...

The Temperate House - or part of it - as viewed from the treetop walk.  Largest surviving Victorian glasshouse
in the world, apparently, and Grade I listed.

Detail of the Temperate House, opened officially in 1863 but not completed for another
four decades due to funds running out!

Inside the Temperate House - spiral stairs and climbing plants.

The Temperate House - some of the ironwork designed by ironfounder, Richard Turner.

Detail of the Palm House - also Grade I listed, constructed 1844-1848

More of the Palm House - the design was ground-breaking in terms of engineering,
and borrowed a couple of tips from ship-building.

Museum of Botany, opened to the public in 1848.

And here are some plants and wildlife, featuring autumn colours and funny purple berries...

This was my first ever trip to Kew Gardens and I really need to go back!  There's so much there and I hardly got to see any of it, really.  Perhaps I'll go back once a season for the next year, so I can see it in all its colours and lights whilst exploring the rest of the buildings and landscaping and gardens?  And perhaps I'll wear furs in winter, florals in spring and floaty white in summer?

Friday 11 November 2011


I'm heading to Liverpool this weekend for a girly "City break" with friends.

Diagram of Mersey Tunnel - looks to be contemporary with its 1920s-30s construction! (Image source)

We're staying in a hotel which was described in a review as "Isambard Kingdom Brunel meets Carrie Bradshaw".  As one of us is a structural engineer, one of us is a surveyor and one of us is an architectural historian, and as we're fully intending to be drinking cocktails and being stylish as always, we decided that it was the perfect place for us!

But before then, and in honour of Remembrance Day, I thought I would share some details from the Cenotaph in Liverpool. (Image source can be found here)