Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Hopeless hopes for 2011..

I'm not a big resolution fan but like everyone else I have hopes for the coming year. 2010 was a mixed bag of a year for me, good professionally but a bit ropey towards the end due to ill health. I decided to publish a list of things that I would like to see in the coming year. I'm not including the big philosophical things as I presume that those who know me would be aware that I want less war, poverty and suffering. Nor am I going to dwell on the personal although somewhere of my own to live and decorate would be nice oh God of lottery wins... Here's my list. Do you agree/disagree and what would you add?

1.  Waistlines the waist. Enough of bundling seams under our boobs so we all look either pregnant or like a reject from the 70's.

2.  Please please please don't let the seventies become the fashion wheeze of the year. The Horror, the flares, the tabards, the bad hair.

3.  Could people stop using Hackney and Dalston for events. Somewhere less skanky with better transport, please?

4  Cheryl Cole, Holly Willoughby, Fearne Brittain, Kerry Katona to disappear. Katie Price can stay.

Basher Cole.

5   Some strange genetic quirk to make my fringe grow double quick.

6   Rap, grime and whatever to be dropped in favour of old school hip hop.

7  The government stop penalizing me for working, paying taxes, not claiming benefits and not breeding.

8  That people stop showing me babies and turn up with puppies instead.

9  Suddenly sleeves and skirts below the knees become fashionable.

10  It is realized that years of study, chartership and membership of a professional body makes Librarians closer to Doctors, Lawyers and Architects rather than being a fixer of peoples crap computers or a customer service operative.

11  Queueing becomes fashionable and even London's more exotic residents see the sense of it.

12  Marc Almond has a hit single.

13  A major building project is announced that requires carving, mosaics and gilding rather than concrete, glass and crap sculptures.

14  People stop sniffing bloody cocaine and start drinking cocktails.

15   A big exhibition of Edward Burra paintings is announced.

16   Kate gets married in scarlet silk.

17   We get a new bank holiday for Trafalgar day.

18   That we all keep well, avoid financial disaster and have a bit of a giggle!

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all! 

Thursday, 16 December 2010

HIX Albemarle in Browns Hotel.

Gave this place a spin last night after some last minute last minute Christmas shopping. Expensive, yes but very tasty. It is in Brown's Hotel. I'm fond of Donovan's bar in the same hotel, especially for their discretion in picking up women who slide off their leather pouffy things, by that I mean seating not some louche chap. Browns is also basically London's oldest extant Hotel and thus has, technically, the Capital's oldest restaurant. Due to the festive season the bar was packed with strange braying post-office types and the staff had the demeanor of  soldiers manning Rourke's drift. We opted to have our drinks in the lounge area where I was rewarded by the pianist smiling at me as he launched into a twinkly version of 'nature boy'... is there something I am not getting?
Brown's Hotel Albemarle Street.
Hix has taken over the dining room, you can tell because it is full of slightly silly art, which is of course supposed to be cutting edge. Browns is full of Paul Smith designed Christmas decorations including a lot of pine rabbits and at least one Christmas monkey, good silly. Otherwise what you have is a classic hotel dining room with classic attentive service.

Donovan's Bar minus Yahoos.
 The food is English and fairly typical of Hix, I had the Morecambe Potted Shrimp, nice but not really potted (should stand in stiffened butter with a bit of mace and look a bit brown) more a slightly solidified tasteful prawn cocktail. The bearded one was very happy with his cured British meat and soused Alexander starter. Soused Alexanders turned out to be burdocky veg in vinegary stuff and very tasty. For main courses we went for venison and for me, mallard. Both dishes were excellent, really tender, properly cooked and...what a pleasant surprise, actually came with veg and potatoes. This was lovely savoury gamey Winter fare. I felt what the food delivered here was plenty of taste, great big mouthfuls of it. The wine we had (Arg chardonnay, NZ Pinot Noir) both very good.
Interior of Hix Albemarle.
 Wasn't cheap but the food was filling and well served. Mayfair doesn't have as many good eateries as it should so Hix is welcome. Being in such a well run hotel you leave to a parade of uniformed staff saying good night, putting your coat on and opening doors for you. The feeling of civilised well being lasts all the way to the...Victoria Line.

Monday, 6 December 2010


I am starting this with a warning *rant alert* that I may be about to be unkind to a minority. I am about to be elitist, non-inclusive and down right prejudiced but I am afraid I just cannot help myself. It is just that I hate fake moustaches.
Most ladies cannot grow moustaches so fakery is unavoidable.
There is generally a smattering of them at Chap magazine events. Fortunately a minority. The splendid in many ways Night of a Thousand Waistcoats Chap Anarcho Ball last weekend again saw an outbreak of this irritant. It is not that I have a problem with artifice. For example uniforms. An army brat myself I don't object to people wearing reproduction army uniforms, it is a form of homage, looks rather smart and most young chaps after all have not had the opportunity to fight in the Napoleonic wars or fly Spitfires.  And one cannot assume that the chap in uniform would not volunteer should the need arise. Medals I would object to but even then if they belonged to grandad, it is good they get an airing and their stories get told.    The small number of nylon faux flapper costumes that always appear are kind of cute.  However the line has to be drawn somewhere and I am drawing it above the upper lip, in an unnatural shade of brown.

The offending articles.
I loathe that habit of wearing fake moustaches. I mean, FFS, it is not as if they are difficult to grow. All men can produce one of their own, they don't cost any money and there is, in this writer's opinion few things finer on a gent than some some well tended facial topiary. But no. A small minority think that if they sling on an ill fitting tweed jacket, wear a hat, glue a gruesome bit of scratchy nylon on their phyzzogs and hurl themselves around yelling 'I say', 'What ho!' and 'Old Chap' they are the bees knees. It is very undergraduate, really annoying, deeply unattractive and irritates the bejesus out of me.  If they are interested enough to fork out for a ticket they can surely avoid a shave for a fortnight. They irritate me more than rahs, although I suspect a bit of crossover there.
Puppies look perfectly charming with moustaches.

To qualify this, I don't mind completely insane fakery such as the mad huge black fake beard a chap wore last year. It was inconvenient, original and made him look quite insane: all commendable. Or the Olympiad Champion, a Victorian strong man whom I know in his day job is not shy of facial hair.  But the popular variety seems to be the cheap joke shop type, not even the thespian variety which at least display a little effort.  But what is behind this reluctance to grow a moustache? Is it the fear of being individual, thought eccentric or facing ridicule? The ability to face all of these things is admirable, but if an individual is worried, nervous or sadly does not have the features to suit a tache he needn't have one.  And he needn't have a fake bloody moustache... there are other options such as side burns after all. Additionally as 'Movember' has just finished the grower of a temporary face embellishment can blame it on philanthropic motivations, in fact the cad could go just go around demanding 'donations' and never have to pay for a drink all night.

The other, not entirely generous element to my disdain for the counterfeit moustache is that it reeks of fancy dress, stag night high jinks and rag collections.  At a party full of devoted dandys, chaps, wastrels and stylish flotsam why would you do that? Because you are a tosser thats why.  The only fake moustache that looked good was one that was removed and placed by someone on the delicious Jenni's back. The original owner obviously thought better of his faux pas and had started to allow his inner bounder to escape!  What about you? Do you share my urge to pull fake moustaches off or am I being harsh! Because at Chap events I really hate 'em! I'm thinking of putting on a cape and a mask and becoming the Tache Avenger!

Friday, 3 December 2010


I spent several years without Christmas, quite literally. In Japan Christmas Eve had been moulded by retailers and caterers into an alternative Valentine’s Day where young men are expected to feed their beloved overpriced meals. Kentucky Fried Chicken have craftily persuaded the rest of the population that a festive bargain bucket is very close to what we eat in the West. There is ‘Christmas Cake’; white sponge, synthetic cream and imported strawberries which at least has a festive colour scheme. Mind you to most Japanese ‘Christmas Cake’ refers to the cruel sexist maxim that like Christmas Cake, an unmarried Japanese girl becomes stale after the age of 24.  The day after this travesty all the tack tinsel and Santas are immediately pulled down in anticipation of the real event there: New Year. It is even a working day and that felt just downright wrong (my kind employers usually sent me home because I looked so glum).

Now these chaps look happy.

As a result of this perhaps, I love Christmas.  I hear the complaints about costs, commercialism and hassle. But really, it is only stressful if you allow it to be. And for most of us it is at least a much needed break after a tiring few months. I’m sympathetic of grinchiness if displayed by retail staff at Harrods or those who find themselves alone or lonely. Otherwise I just ignore the buzzing noise that is the yuletide whinger.
A Christmas Tree you can hang your hat on!
 Mind you I think Christmas is becoming fashionable again after a couple of decades where public indifference was the thing. But it is a very middle class recycled ecological home made kind of Christmas. I blame Jamie Oliver, Kirsty Allsopp and Hester Blumenthal and his 100 quid a pop Christmas puddings on ebay. It’s all crafty and earthy and dull and expensive.  Kind of a lets do the folklore thing but pay a fortune for it or to make it. That is unless you have a great big garden in Dulwich that has half a dozen holly bushes and a  Polish cleaner to come in and clear up all the crap afterwards. A kind of Harry Enfield ‘I saw you coming Christmas’. There is more joy in a Poundland glitter garland.

Oh no, please don't make me!
To be fair though, people should do what they want, not my place to dictate. Christmas is indeed  a delightfully moveable feast, apart from the fact that it is actually on the 25th.  I’m not a Christian and it is not surprising that therefore most of my pleasures are derived from its lively, boozy, convivial and to be frank licentious aspects. It is a good excuse for a party, and in its true pagan form that is what it is. A bit of a jolly up in the bleak midwinter. I am not saying I dislike the religious embellishments, I like some of them, all the glittery angels, fat men in red and hymns. In fact yuletide has not arrived for me until I have heard the mournful tones of the Salvation Army brass band playing ‘O Come all ye faithful’. The Sally Army are always my Christmas charity, and indeed my all year charity of choice. So it is not that I am not fond of traditional things…

A traditional thing..
It is just that I don’t think there is such a thing as a ‘vintage’ Christmas in spirit because in truth most aspects of Christmas are vintagey. No doubt you could make a good period 30’s, 40’s or 50’s themed  one. The latter would be best I suspect because it would include the requisite amount of tack. This for me is the problem with a tasteful Christmas and the vintage ‘retro’ Christmas being peddled by magazines and stores is pushing some kind of Notting Hillesque taste upon us ( a bit too noblesse oblige for my tastes). All this home made marzipan, real trees and hand stitched gifting is also a huge nuisance. So would a real period Christmas be. I would hate to be without working electric fairy lights (until recently the blasted things didn’t work), I prefer artificial trees and I love glitter, sparkles and silly songs.  I don’t want to play board games and charades in front of a fire. I want to drink Baileys in front of the fireplace of a local hostelry and watch Doctor Who on telly.  I also want to wham my pre-made M & S Christmas dinner in the oven and end up with no washing up.  Christmas tea consists of cheese, after dinner mints and more Baileys. and then more cheese.  The only thing I want to stuff over Christmas is myself. 

Vulgar but nice.
I also like office parties, secret santa (now that is a brave thing to admit to), Christmas quizzes, meeting my friends and eating mince pie flavoured brandy butter (I don’t really like the mince pies but what the hell). I like being nicer to people and I don’t mind Christmas shopping that much either, as long as it is not in Croydon and I can reward myself with a nice drink at the end of it, preferably  champagne. But that’s me and that is just the point. I don’t think if I tried to have a vintage Christmas it would work. This is because this time is such an accrual of things; people we have loved, things we always do, things we shouldn’t do but always do, novelty, new memories and sheer indulgence. It has always been a mash of old colliding with new which is why it is also such a good time for telling ghost stories.
The reality for most of us...thankfully!
To be frank, and you won’t find me apply this to many things I am much happier with whatever Christmas the 21st century throws at me than one anchored in the past.  I’d drop the Nigella Lawson family in favour of the Royle Family any day.  So lets buy the cheap Christmas crackers, the bottles of cava and open the box of cheese balls and look forward to a good Christmas. 

What do you think? do you hanker back to a Christmas past rather than a Christmas now? I would love to know.. 

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Red heads under the bed (and everywhere else......)

Lily Cole brunette and light red hair.

Recently Lily Cole swapped her trademark copper tresses for a dark brunette shade. Being an inveterate hair hue shifter myself I realize you get bored of the same old colour. Some don’t feel this way and happily leave their hair to its own devices. Not a bad idea, au naturel naturally matches skin tone and everything else. Some dye their hair and hang on to the same old shade of blonde forever. This is a little more difficult to understand, if you already zap your hair the condition is whatever any stylist tries to sell you, kaput. Condition is highly overrated; it’s the way it looks that matters. So if you hair is coloured how do you resist the temptation to then tinker with it?

There is no other thing (short of amputation which seems a bit extreme) that overhauls your appearance as effectively. I have personally been just about every shade some of which were ill advised. Jet black or rather Recital blue black was my default in my youth. Then it set off my pallor and I had the youthful patience to paint on my Goth warpaint every morning but I cannot really carry it off now or rather I can’t be bothered. I have had all kinds of blonde from the light and brash (which I liked )to some ill advised ‘classy’ high lights (yawn), I lived in Bath and I think I was trying to match the architecture. Brunette is my natural shade, in my case a darkish chestnut the same hue as fenland soil. I have had lighter browns and personally I like mouse brown. A true mouse brown should be more fairly labeled sable or mink, a lovely tone I wish I had. Currently it is a coppery red but this has veered from marmalade to pinkish in the last year alone.  I do understand Lily Cole’s motivation but the change has somehow or the other managed to make a very tall slim woman with unusual features look duller. This is probably because red hair is so flamboyant, like black and peroxide blonde you can’t escape from it short of wearing a large wooly hat or being decapitated (what is it with me today? I have a very bloody turn of phrase).

Red haired Rita

Brunette Rita
Blonde Rita...

There seems to be a kind of pecking order with hair colour changes. Blondes reverting to their natural brunette works well if the blonde is the high maintenance ‘natural’ type. The brown hair brightens eyes, improves skin and just makes people look more interesting.  A peroxide blonde or that incredibly rare creature the natural blonde can however risk becoming heavier and older; swamped by the brown hair. Somehow or the other moving from red to another colour always seems to involve a kind of ‘giving up’. Moving from a vibrant bright unusual colour into a kind of monochrome. Last time I moved from red back to my natural brown the reaction from many was of dismay. My claims that I needed to save money and time were not sufficient to make up for losing the red tresses which I had become identified with.
Kristen McMenemy's beautiful grey hair.

I’m not always sold on my red hair, my colourist is one of the best in London but when tired or manic I have the suspicion that I resemble Vivien Westwood in one of her stranger moods. Red can be brassy, like black and peroxide blonde it demands some cosmetic effort and it does stand out. It has the advantage of being associated with positive values in a woman: fieriness, passion, strong character  and independence. I also like it's associations with celts, pre-raphealites, jewish proto godesses and romantic heroines. Also it can  absolutely sing when combined with particular colours in a way that blonde never can. Blonde can only be complemented. Lily Cole has been red for a long time and the quiet more mysterious image of the pale skinned brunette must be fun to play with, I would be surprised if she maintains it for a long time. This natural brunette may revert to her brown hair but cannot help thinking that after fiery locks  brown  alone may not be enough and a silver/white streak bleached through the front may be required.  I had to go blonde to go red, and peroxide blonde was tempting for a mad moment but I doubt I'll ever go for a tasteful blonde again.

Of course a white 'mallen streak' might might age me, but that is one of the advantages of styling yourself for yourself; I don’t feel the need to look youthful. I’d rather aspire even if I invariably fail, to look distinctive.  I have also discovered people being surprised by my advanced years recently, I suspect this is because the fake tanning, hair highlighting, figure hugging jersey and modern jewellery default of looking more youthful is perversely becoming ageing. Or maybe it is just down to my immature personality.or dressing like people's grannies. Of course talking of grannies, white and silver tresses are the last frontier of hair colour and if I am fortunate enough to turn a nice shade of pale grey or silver white I may finally hang up my hair dyeing hat forever.  I  am particularly inspired by model Kristen McMenemy's fantastic wintry locks but suspect by the time I get these I may have stopped bothering!
Comments are welcome, especially if you have just had or are planning to change your hue. How about you redheads, how do you feel about your flame coloured tresses?


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