Sunday, August 26, 2012

scouse girls

Liverpool Scouse girls

a scouse brow
Curlers in your hair, shame on you! Wasn't that the ad for ... Clairol back in the 70's?! Well now in the 10's, they are raging. In Liverpool, anyway.

The fashion report on the BBC about the Liverpoolian Scouse girls I saw was amusing to say the least, and so much less toxic than how American television would make it out to be (I can just picture a reality show based on scouse ... maybe we already have it ... Jerseylicious? Jersey Shore? oh dear). Yes, they walk around town wearing curlers in their hair ON PURPOSE! Crazy girls! Then, they went on to show the other trend that is part of the look ... eyebrows. And I'm not talking about a Brooke Shields' brow either! I'm talking ... well, look at this one here.

UK Vogue September 2012
UK Elle September 2012
Now, I wouldn't have thought of this again unless I was relating the knowledge to a friend once back home, tucked safely in a world where only a drag queen would walk outside with a brow like that, or a woman running an errand with a head scarf wrapped safely around curlers that were taming a mane for a party later in the day ... but on the flight home yesterday, I sat perfectly happy on a many houred delayed flight in the glory of the September editions of all of my UK favorites and found this editorial picture from UK Vogue. OK, it's a menswear look ... she's being styled man. I get that ... but then there's this ad for H&M ... she's rather pretty, don't you think. She looks very English to me ... the stuff of mersey, almost Charlotte Rampling-esqe.

And just Google 'scouse' and it all comes up ... and what is most, revealing, is the following:

What's worse than Scouse Brow itself is the fact that it appears to have spread outside the confines of Merseyside, and has even been spotted on the streets of Chelsea and at the altar of Westminster Abbey. We've said it before and we'll say it again: The Duchess of Cambridge will live to regret her decision to do her own make-up on her wedding day. If not only for the heavy-handed result, but for the fact that wicked whispers point to Kate's bridal maquillage as the possible inspiration for the whole Scouse Brow movement.
As Kate's great, great, great, great grandmother-in-law would say: We are not amused. (

I knew it! As I sat in my fancy dress, watching the wedding with a group of girls also in fancy dress, I thought ... love the dress, but her make-up looks like a ... drag queen's! But how could it be??? She's Kate! She's getting married to a Prince! She's on television for millions to see! What was she thinking? Man, she dodged the bullet by taking the curlers out, Pippa must have had to wrestle them away from her!
I have to be honest though ... whenever I kohl my eyebrows, which are quite substantial in their own right, though don't look it to the uninformed see-er as they are golden hued, but I kind of like it. They appear so dramatic ... and they make my eyes pop and seem so very blue. Oh, what would it be if I took the chance, was bold, and walked outside with charcoaled brows .... and a roller or two in my locks.

Do they sell curlers anymore? Must check it out so that I too can scouse-up too. I'll start the trend here. As it was very obvious that the girls picked up on my look from, oh, 20 years ago when I visited the UK last ... yeah, I was rocking the tights and denim short look. I have a picture of myself kissing the Blarney Stone with that look. And this visit, I saw it everywhere. It took that long for the look to latch. I don't know if I have the desire for scouse to take as long to ... hook.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

the ghost in me

Home from the tramp across England and Scotland ... and I picked up a ghost. Yes, I am committing it to print, and I don't mind if you, dear reader whoever you may be, think that I'm just makin' it up ... or imagining it for the sake of the story. But I am not. And even though I mulled over it for days, even still, I am so ... full of it ... that I have to tell it one more time.

After a long day of driving, which I love doing ... but is challenging when on the other side of the road, which in and of itself isn't bad, but for the fact that the gear shift is on the left and it is my right hand that is rote with the motion ... and the winding roads up and down mountains ... made me tired. After dinner and a pint, my head hit the pillow and I was out. I was in a twin bed next to my mother, also snug in her twin.

At some time in the night, I awoke, sat straight up and a huge force escaped my diaphragm ... I grunted, not screamed. Light after the leaving, I fell back down, turned to my mother and gasped, 'did it come through the window?' I should confess that I have been known to sleep walk and talk and have vivid, sometimes horrifying, dreams ... my mother has seen it all out of me and so yeah, yeah, yeah'd me and went back to sleep.

But what was it? Who was it? It felt like it left ... where did I pick it up. But I wonder if it came in through the window ... did it come and then leave? I have so many questions, and I really do wonder.

It didn't scare me though ... I didn't get up to close the window.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

westminster abbey

Westminster Abbey hasn't changed much since the last time that I visited in ... oh, 1991. Oi, has it been that long? Yes, it has been that long and from what I remembered of it, it didn't cost 16 GBP. I imagine the cost to keep the place up is dear ... I don't mind supporting it.

This time 'round, rather than just rambling around inside of antiquity, I signed up for a tour ... only 4 GBP for 90 minutes with a verger, a guy that's only job is to know what's for and change the linens (he told me that!).
We had to battle the crowds, but he'd get us in a small group and give us more that we could handle. My mind was numb with trying to keep up with the lineage, the Kings, the Queens ... she had 16 children?Worth the numbness ... first, we were allowed to sit in the choir loft ... well, it's not a loft. You've seen the pictures ... the row of seats very near to the alter. The best seats in the house with the most light ... the little red lanterns were adorable. As we sat there, he spoke about THE wedding ... as we had walked up the main aisle to the choir, I couldn't help but think of Kate and the trip that she made up it. She had a long road to go to get to her man at the end ... more ways that one I imagine. Sitting there, I gazed up at the side doors and wondered what went on as the group moved to the back to sign the registry on the wedding day. I don't have to imagine ... because he took us up a little side step and through a door to the room behind the altar where among dead Kings, Queens, and a saint, William and Kate signed their marriage into the books. So super cool.

Our verger was an odd sort, swirling his black cassock around as he led us from one point to the next.
As we moved forward, he pulled up next to me and said, 'Where are you from?' I told him. 'First time to London?' No. 'First time to the Abbey?' I slapped him with my map as in no silly, 'I was here for the Wedding.' To which he wrinkled up his snout and clasped his hands together, 'Oh! I was here for that!'

I wonder what that verger does when no one is around?

Sunday, August 19, 2012

seal island

On the northwestern corner of the Isle of Skye in the Hebridian sea lies the island of seals. On a very Scottish sort of day ... overcast, cloudy, and brisk, we set out on a motored dinghy to see these seals for ourselves. Not five minutes out as cold sea air sprayed the six of us on the small craft, we began to see the speckled rocks ... move. Incredibly the color of the seaweed rocks that the seals were sprawled on  lived seals, who lazily looked our way. Some of the blubber'd beasts  looked  me right in the eye and ... blinked in recognition.

The man steering us through the sea had been doing so for thirty years so knew the creatures well. And they were unfazed seeing their old friend. The others on the dinghy had a lot of questions about the lives of the seals, but what I wondered most ... do the Scots believe that some of them might be selkes? Our boatman turned to me, silkies? And the Spanish woman on the boat asked, what is this? Mermaids, he said solemnly . He was the expert, but from what I know of selkes, a mermaid doesn't fully explain the creature. And so I explained to the woman that the selke was a creature caught between land and sea. They are content to live among the other seals, but given the chance, they will go ashore, take off their seal coat, and stretch their limbs. If a young man comes upon a seal who has taken her coat off (yes, they are women and so the idea of mermaid comes into play), he can claim her for his wife. He must, of course, hide her seal coat so that she does not return to the sea. The selke makes for a good wife and makes her man happy as long as she lives near the sea, but it is the sea that constantly calls her back. If she finds her coat, and she will look for it, she will return to the sea with a ... heavy heart. I explained to the woman that this was the Irish legend; to which the boat man said to all, quite heartily ... well, if it's what the Irish say, then it must be true!

Of course the legend of the selke may have its root in what I found in a line at the castle where we boarded the boat ... there, fairy magic was built into the legend of the castle's clan's history. And some one noted, given the long lineage of persons inhabiting the castle, that 'fairy stories are difficult to relate to fact; they often substitute for forgotten fact.' If that isn't true of an Irishman, I don't know what is. Some say that the legend supports how the dark ones came to be on the island (Ireland). And it is the dark ones that are as at home on the land as sea. Of course it is likely that the dark ones are the progeny of what was the mix of Irish and Spanish blood ... and the sea? The Spaniards sailed into the island and ... never left. I am of Irish heritage ... with a Spanish surname. I think that I know of this legend ...

Several years ago, on a trip through Ireland, I determined that my sister was a selke. Oh, she is not dark ... but she was absent as I stood on the mount that the fairy queen had done battle looking out over the sea. On the path down, one brown cow looked me dead in the eye and I recognized ... her. And so the legend of my sister, the cow-selke. Anywhere I travel, and I find myself close to a herd of cows, if there is a brown one in the mix, all that I have to do is call her name, and she looks right at me. Many might find it ... distasteful that I call my sister a 'cow.' But she isn't a cow, she's a selke. She is a legend and understands it.

And here, in the highlands, she was here. As I called her name out over the green pasture, she turned ... and like the seal on seal island who looked me dead in the eye ... my sister found me.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Haddon Hall

Here's an exterior view of Haddon Hall from the gardens. I am hundreds of miles away from it now ... on the Isle of Skye in Scotland, but I was immediately transported back to this place that should be mine by a lovely woman who sat down next to me at a table and started a chat. She and her husband were in the area for a wedding from their home in the Peak District. She had offered this after she had asked where we had been in our travels. When I told her that the jewel of that shire was Haddon Hall, she exclaimed that I had got it spot on. And she went on to explain that she loved Chatsworth, had taught the Duchess's children, but Haddon was her favorite too. And during college, she worked in its' ticket booth, toured groups, and when the Lord was in town, nannied his children. How remarkable. How remarkable that one, she just picked up a conversation with me; and two, she was from where I had just been.

We stayed a long while at Haddon Hall ... and only left as they bolted the front door. On the way out along the path, we passed the tea shop and several families were lingering over their afternoon tea. I kind of did a double take ... is that ... Rubert Graves? One of my favorite British actors? Nah, seeing things I am after having spent an afternoon with the ghosts of the Hall! We stopped at the little gift shop to look 'round. I picked up a few post cards and waited for my mom to finish her look 'round and I heard ... his voice! It was him! And as I went to the door, mom in the way, I whispered emphatically ... get out of the way mom! He and his two companions were heading toward the car park ... I was going there too as luck would have it! The boys were taking turns jumping stone fences. They were rather high ... and Rubert was having a laugh at them. He turned toward me with a look of familiarity and I said, 'oh, they must've just been in the Olympics with those jumps!' And he really took me in and gave me a smile that melted my knees. And as quick as that, they jumped into the little Jaguar convertible and were off.

I think it was him?! How could that not have been. I was at Haddon Hall. And I promise, the place was magic.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

the Peak District

The Duchess of Devonshire and her Chatsworth home is what drew me to the Peak District in England. Landing in Heathrow, we immediately took off to this lovely area north west of England to check it out.
the Duchess ... with a chandelier glittering in her hair
Years ago I had read the biography of the Duchess of Devonshire by Amanda Foreman. This Duchess was a contemporary of Marie Antoinette. She led an interesting sort of life ... married to a man that she did not love, he not to her either and actually moving his mistress into the house. She had a passion for politics and gambling. She also had an elicit affair, which produced an offspring that she was not allowed to raise. I imagine that there was renewed interest in her at the time the biography was written as Princess Diana is a descendant. That alone wouldn't have brought me to Chatsworth, but the very living Dowager Duchess, Deborah, is something of a force. I've read many articles, mostly in British magazines, which has chronicled her life. Having visited now, I understand the huge amounts of money that must be necessary to keep the estate going. I don't know how many years ago at the moment, but the family decided to open up the house to the public, and create a marketing plan to sell Chatsworth ... from fowl to figs in order to sustain the heritage of the area. The lawns were full of visitors ... stopping at the house yes, but more were there with their families enjoying the grand lawns and gardens.

I have to say, the house was nearly overwhelming. It is chock-full of stuff! And for the most part, for ten British pounds, one has the run of the place. The most surprising fact ... photographs were not prohibited. Centuries old tapestries, paintings, furnishings ... at the mercy of hundreds, if not thousands, of flash bulbs a day.Goodness.

In one tiny, corner chamber, on display was about 50 drawings by the Masters. And I do mean Masters ... Rembrandt et al. They hadn't been on display for over one hundred years. They were quite spectacular ... I didn't dare take a photograph. I wouldn't want my flash to dull one line of the work.

As it is Queen Elizabeth's Diamond Jubilee, artifacts of her Coronation were displayed as well. The Duchess of Devonshire is the 'keeper of the robes' or some such thing, so the house played a role in it. At the entrance to the house, the first exhibit is of the carriage that the family rode in for the Coronation. I loved the horsemen ... they were ghostly! The carriage was not as grand as I've seen in London before at the Queen's Mews, but it would do in a pinch. The actual dress that the Duchess of Devonshire wore for the Coronation was also displayed ... her cape was trimmed in what I believe to be is ermine fur.

Time to push on ... the size of the house and all of the things to see was becoming too much. We decided to go down the road, round the sheep ... the drive was quite literally through the pasture and instead of moving away as more visitors came, they seem to come closer so that they could get a good look. Bleating by, we headed to Haddon Hall on the other side of the village where we were staying. A Tudor home of a wealthy family ... what would be there?

looking down at the approach to Haddon Hall
Haddon Hall has been in the family of the current owner for 800 years. Can you imagine? The family entertained royalty, but was not themselves royal.  I fell in love with Haddon Hall and if I do not return to life as you know me to live in, you'll find me in residence with the ghosts of the Hall. Perhaps it was just that it was quiet and my imagination could really open up to what life might have been.The Hall, which was occupied up to maybe 60 or 70 years ago, has in it only some furnishings (most medievally aged), no apparent facilities, and since it has wonderfully abundant gardens, vases full of lovely flowers fresh cut each day.

The buildings, connected rooms, were built around a courtyard. Lovely roses grew wildly in the cracks of the old brick and mortar. The chapel was large and the stained glass had really lost a lot of their color through the ages. Bats were not in the belfry, rather they lived up in the rafters and were left. A sign posted said as much.

the dining table at Haddon Hall
The room that I really loved was the dining hall ... it was cozy and dark ... though not in any wrong way. The long table was original to the house and many meals were served there. In one room, a DVD played of the taping of a re-creation Tudor feast. One of what must have been nearly 50 dishes was a peacock meat pie. The chef carefully skinned the bird and put it aside. Made the pie. Then carefully shaped the carcass of the bird over the pie as ornamentation. I don't know about that! I think that when I'm there with my ghosts friends, I'll make a more contemporary feast ... not quite so revealing and apparent.

I do have more of a story of Haddon Hall. But I will have to save it for another time. I also have to tell of the inn keeper called Vince at Fold Farm where we stayed! But this entry has taken me FOREVER with what is limited technology and my fingers on a very small keyboard. I hope to report more as I sit here sipping tea ... imagining my supper with my friends at Haddon Hall.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

boys should be boys

Vogue August 2012
Oh Marc Jacobs! I know that you love to wear a dress, but ... really?! You look like a dork. I am not by any stretch of the imagination a prude, but I just like dudes, any dudes, to wear pants, unless it's a kilt. I love that Seth Meyers wore the same dress to the Met Ball, and that he couldn't fit his big man feet into the ladies shoes that Marc wears with his ensemble. Maybe Marc is ... jealous of Tom Ford's handsomeness. Oh, one would not see Tom Ford in a dress. Ever. 

Marc Jacobs tries too hard. It's like the Juergen Teller photographed advertisements for Marc Jacobs. Not one has popped for me. And honestly, I don't think that it shows his work well. And isn't that the point? Yes, there is such a thing as brand. And establishing a point-of-view, but with his ads, I always sense that it's an inside group working together, making the joke, and I'm so left outside of it. I don't think that he intends to have his customer outside of the circle. Or maybe it's meant for his customers to feel like they are a part of it all? I'm always ... like, whatever.

But I can forgive Marc all this because of this:
Vogue July 2012
Wow! Look at those buckled shoes! He isn't wearing those when he's got a dress on. The editorial for this piece was volume. I showed the Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen a few posts back ... and a lot of it bordered on cartoonish, but Jacobs, his outfit is divine. Volume? Yes! But the peter-panned school girl blouse, and sculpted bodice balances the expanse of the hips to a wearable proportion. I bought on a splurge, Vogue's Fall look publication. I was busy on the phone when I checked out and it wasn't until I was a block from the store that it occurred to me that my bill was awfully high. And wouldn't you know, the look book was $40! I might have rethought it if I had known, but I had walked away ... must be meant to be mine. In it was two pages of this Marc Jacobs' collection. It was one of the strongest showings in the book. Not only are the designs exquisite, but the fabric ... especially his use of leather was one of the best.

Oh Marc, put some big boy pants on because, sweetie, you're the man.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

the sparrow

Vogue August 2012
Isn't this dress divine? Alexander McQueen. His spirit is definitely alive and well is this world that he has left behind. Thank goodness. The dress is a whisper of THE dress with its fitted bodice, lace, and full-tulled skirt. I'm not so sure about the styling with the shoes having the buckle shackles around the ankle. But I suppose with the rest looking so airy that it could cause Marion to float above the rest of us ... she needs to be tethered and buckled down.

Vogue August 2012
Another look that I love is this coat (it's also on the cover). I don't want to call it purple, that's not a word that sounds extravagant enough for the beauty of this color.  And in velvet! When I was a kid, we had tickets to a taping of the children's show, Bozo's Circus. I wanted to look my best for the chance that the camera would catch me in the crowd. I owned beautiful crushed velvet culottes with shiny golden buttons sewn on the front like sailor's trousers. To top it off, I had a sweet cotton blouse patterned with little violets. The sleeves were piratous and a 70's floppy dog eared collar framed my chubby face. Naturally I wore white knee socks and my scruffy brown school shoes. They may have been buckled?! My hair was Mary Janed, and all of my freckles were at attention. I was ... in my best. Odd that I was just thinking of cleaning out my closets and wondered what I would give away that I would regret giving away later ... like the purple velvet vest that I had several years ago. oh, that was a vest. Not that I owned many, and I bought it solely because of its' color and the luxuriousness of the fabric. Why did I give that up? Wouldn't it be great if I could make this coat as one of my fall purchases! My own dark violet (better than purple, no?!) velvet trilogy: culottes, vest, coat. All together, too much. But one at a time ... perfect.

I also love that it is Marion Cotillard who wears these fabulous frocks. She is so quintessentially French. And I love all things French ... I first saw her, as did many Americans, in the film La Vie En Rose for which she was awarded an Oscar. That movie ... that movie. I saw it with a couple of friends and I was so moved by Cotillard's performance that I was literally frozen in my seat. They were ready to drop their popcorn boxes and go, and was mesmerized. I so deeply felt the story that was told that I was ... overcome with grief, I suppose. Of course I've seen many biog films that were moving, but this transcended movement. It wasn't only in the story of Edith Piaf, but in how Cotillard was able to capture her. Piaf was called the sparrow. I read that a sparrow is a small, plump, brown-grey bird with a short tail and stubby, powerful beak. Yes, Edith Piaf was not a magnificent bird to look at, but she certainly had the powerful beak, her voice. Cotillard, who is a so pretty, gave a magnificent performance as she transformed into that small, unremarkable bird, who could sing so commandingly.

I haven't seen the new Batman. And her face on the cover of Vogue is married to her part in the movie. I watched the last release and, quite frankly, I couldn't get help but giggle whenever Batman talked. What was that strange whisper all about? Yeah, the Joker, Heath Ledger, was scary as heck, but Batman's voice ... was really distracting. Ah, but Marion Cotillard stars in it ... I may have to see it.

What will the woman who became the sparrow bring to the bat?