Thursday 31 October 2013

Hallowmas... What's That?

Arthur Rickman (Image source)

Did you know that the festival of Hallowe'en forms part of a series of three days in the Christian calendar, dedicated to remembering the dead? Anyone who knows that Hallowe'en is an abbreviation of All Hallows Eve would have guessed something was up, that it must be the day before something... And most people would know of the Day of the Dead, made most famous by the Mexican festival. Personally, I knew of All Souls' (or All Hallows') Day and All Saints' Day, but had assumed they were the same thing, and hadn't much thought any much further about it to be honest. But I've opted for a quiet night in tonight, instead of going out for Hallowe'en high jinx, and I decided to sit down and do some reading.

Arthur Rickman (Image source)

All Hallows' Eve comes first in the series of days, and is the time when it is believed that the veil between this world and the next becomes thin, allowing departed souls to pass back into our world. The tradition of wearing masks, which has lead to the costumes of today, is derived from the belief that disguising your face would prevent you from being recognised by any malicious spirit that might be out to do you, personally, harm.

All Saints (Image source)

All Saints' Day, beginning as the new day dawns after the potentially perilous night of Hallowe'en, is (as the name implies) the celebration of all the saints, 'both known and unknown', with a particular focus on those without their own dedicated days (such as St George, St Patrick, etc). The traditional colour of this day is white, and all who attend a church service (as everyone would have once upon a time in medieval England) will still see the altar table and clergy dressed in said colour.

All Souls' Day by Jakub Schikaneder, reflects the respectful, quiet nature of the day (Image source)

All Souls' Day is the final day in the series, and expands the act of remembrance to not just the saints, but to all 'faithful departed'. The particular focus of this day is family and friends who have passed away, rather than the famous, somewhat distant saints. In addition to attending church, people traditionally visit the graves of people they have known, to lay flowers, light candles, and offer prayers. On this day, churches are traditionally festooned in the richer colour of purple. In England, centuries ago, the poor would go 'souling', walking from door to door to collect food, money and 'soul cakes' from the well-to-do...

So that's where all this modern malarky of costumes and trick-or-treating comes from, then. Not that I have anything against all this modern malarky - au contraire! But it's interesting to find out more about the sober, spiritual and rather quite beautiful origins.

I hope everyone's has a great Hallowe'en, however you spend it. May you pass the night without harm from any wayward spirits, ghouls... or earthly beings!

Sunday 27 October 2013

Pumpkins, Leaves and Halloween

It's finally time to embrace Autumn. The properly brisk weather has been slower to come this year (as have the leaves along with it) but that has made for some cosy days of knits and scarves without worrying about winter coats yet. I was standing around outside a pub in the evening last week, perfectly comfortable in just a light jacket. The only thing that moved us inside was a brief downpour of rain. As for rain, there has been some, but none of it persistent, and there have been quite a few of those beautiful days of crisp air and clear skies, that are just perfect for walks. And now, today, the clocks have turned back an hour and the nights will be drawing in... As I've written about previously, I love the weekend when we switch back to Greenwich Mean Time, and not just for the bonus hour of sleep.

Dress: Second-hand, picked up by my mother, and passed to me
Cardigan: Hand-made by my mother
Boots: Beyond Retro, London
Scarf: Second-hand, can't remember where
Brooch: Fabhatrix, Edinburgh

But the backdrop to this particular post is actually my visit to Kew Gardens last weekend. Yes, I've been back again already, as part of my aspirations to see it in every season and in as many months as possible. And my seasonal visits will, naturally, be accompanied by seasonally appropriate dress. Unlike my previous visits to Kew, this time I went solo, but was able to get some shots of my outfit by befriending one of the oak trees there. I hung my camera off him and went for a wee dance under his boughs.

As I said, there hasn't been much need for proper coats yet so last weekend I was comfortably able to show off my hand-knitted cardigan and velvet dress without fear of freezing, even after a long walk through the gardens. I partnered my dress and cardigan with two-tone brown boots and an unmistakably Autumnal scarf and brooch, as seen in the picture below (taken alongside another friendly, colourful tree).

And wait, what's this I found? A dark, dark, almost black pumpkin?

Well, I picked him up from the selection on sale, which included some of the many varieties in the wonderful display at the Waterlily house. Did you ever see so many pumpkin varieties in your life??

I also considered taking one of the blue ones but they were bigger and it would have been heavier to carry home with me. And I was happy with my wee Kabocha and his dark tones.

Following the pumpkins, I went on further explorations of the gardens, to enjoy the leaves and spot what other things were out and growing or flowering or changing.

I also took some time to enjoy the Rose Garden Tea Party, which finishes up next weekend...

So, a successful and fun October visit to Kew Gardens. I certainly learnt a lot about pumpkins and the multitude of varieties. 

I leave you with some Halloween-appropriate painted pumpkins. Less than a week to go!

Wednesday 23 October 2013

The Last of the Season's Roses...

... and a French manicure with a peppermint twist.

The next post will introduce more seasonal colours, I swear. But my silver nail polish and my pastel green nail polish caught my eye the other evening so I thought I'd do some fun experimentation.

And then I went for a weekend wander, on the hunt for autumn leaves, but late roses caught my eye instead, still heavy with rain drops after an Autumn shower.

Friday 18 October 2013

Frankie Fever

Recently, I've been infected with Frank Sinatra fever, which I have subsequently passed onto The Cat. One of the symptoms of this fever is that we have spent the last four weekends watching Frank Sinatra films. Not the whole of each weekend (I'm not sure there's that many) but one a week. I've also just finished reading a big fat tome on Frank. The combination of these things makes me appear pretty unhealthy. Oh, and the other symptom is, obviously, breaking out in songs from the films, which is highly infectious, so there's been a few cases of duets of New York, New York and My Kind of Town happening in our household.

Another type of Frank Sinatra fever, back in the day (Image source)

The film-watching started with Anchors Aweigh, which we both thoroughly enjoyed. One of the extras on the DVD was a preview for On the Town, which advertised itself as 'Twice as gay as Anchors Aweigh!' Our excitement at this prospect was palpable. On the Town became the following weekend's essential viewing.

And, oh boy, was it twice as gay! Actually, that was an underestimation, it was more like ten times as gay! So. Much. Fun!

It was rather a ridiculous film, I'll be the first to admit, with light plot and a whole lot of silliness and singing. But sometimes that's just what you need. It was, of course, in fabulous Technicolor, and it looked pretty damn spiffy, particularly the ladies in their lovely, bright outfits. Here's just a few screen shots to whet your appetite, should you be looking out for a film for a night in, particularly as Autumn draws in.

I'm actually in love with the green dress below. It was definitely my sartorial highlight of the film. I was in love with it even before she started dancing and I caught a glimpse of the matching lining to the skirt... Do you think I could duplicate it? Perhaps that should be an Autumn project for me, to crack out the sewing machine... between watching more Frank Sinatra films, of course.

I rather liked the yellow, black and white ensemble below too. Well, if it's good enough to impress Frank Sinatra (he's not singing to her, he's obviously singing to the dress) then it's good enough for me.

The costume designer was taking full advantage of the wonders of Technicolor, with bright yellow, pink and green (even if the sailors had to stick to white).

So, if you're not going 'on the town' tonight or tomorrow, then why not settle in with this fabulous film? You may well find yourself inspired to go out after watching it, embracing the following 24 hours in the manner of these sailors on shore leave. How can you not be roused by this song?

Monday 14 October 2013

Thelma Goes to Hollywood

This is rather a special post, even if I do say so myself... Something both inspiring and full of glamour for the first day of the working week.

The background story is that my mother is friends with an amazing lady named Thelma, who lives just down the street in their town. Back in the 1930s and 1940s, she worked for the art department of Hoyts, a big cinema chain in Australia. Her job was to watch the new films and then visit the different cinemas to paint a relevant and inviting picture to entice the audiences in.

Recently, when my mother went to visit, Thelma pulled out some of her old sketch books, filled with her wonderful drawings. My mother was thrilled and asked if she could take photographs of them, which she then shared with me. Equally thrilled, I asked if I could share them with my readers on my blog, to which Thelma gave her blessing.

See if you can spot some of the glamorous stars from Hollywood's golden era:

I'm sure Thelma didn't always see her job as particularly glamorous, when she was rushing from cinema to cinema to meet deadlines and covered in paint, with aching arms and back. But to me, it's like the next best thing to my mother being friends with a Hollywood starlet from the period. And when you think about what other young women were doing at that time, if they were even working at all and not stuck at home while the men went out to earn a living, it is pretty damn awesome and inspiring.