Friday, 31 December 2010

Calling Paul Temple [DVD]

This is more like it! Although there was only two years between the release of Send For Paul Temple in 1946 and Calling Paul Temple in 1948, the two films feel as though they come from different ages. This one feels more like a complete film, whereas the latter felt like a series of set pieces.

Thursday, 30 December 2010

Crinoline Robot's Vintage Year

2010 isn't quite over, but I'm anticipating being up to my elbows in flour tomorrow in preparation for a New Year's Day meal so I thought I'd look back over my year in vintage now.

I've always had a love of old things, which I think I get from my mum, but it really came to the fore this year in a big way. When I was more of a goth, I was a very bad goth (I even wore a 1920s dress to go clubbing in and would swap 1920s mixtapes with a friend at the club). Now I am more vintage but I'm quite poor at that, as you'll still find me dressed from top to toe in black from time to time and I still love the music I used to go dancing to, even if I do listen more to stuff from the 1920s-40s on a day-to-day basis. I've watched black-and-white films, worn old perfumes and read golden age crime novels for most of my adult life. Even my wedding dress was vintage!

What really rekindled my love of vintage was going to the launch party for Vintage Gifts to Knit, chatting to a very nice lady and realising that actually, I could have a little vintage loveliness every day, even if it was just a dab of beautiful perfume each morning. Crinoline Robot, which I started mid-year, is a way of sharing that everyday vintage, not the glamorous or expensive stuff, but the sort of thing we can all enjoy. Books purchased secondhand for a couple of pounds, DVDs you can find cheaply, things you can knit yourself for not too much money so it doesn't matter if you can't afford real vintage (or, like me, fit into very much of it).

I went to a couple of events this year. Dig For Victory was, after that launch party, the most important one for me, but for more personal reasons: my grandmother broke her hip and was in hospital, and I'd hoped to be able to take her to DFV in a wheelchair to hear the music. Instead I spent her last night in hospital playing her some fab swing CDs; even though she was out of it on morphine, Glenn Miller got her twitching her eyebrows, and I hope it took her back to the time when she was a beautiful WAAF. Going to DFV and watching people dance was, in a way, more important to me than the funeral, because it helped me remember her as a young raven-haired hottie, not as someone worn out and in pain.

So, I have met online some fab new people, and discovered loads of really enjoyable blogs. It's great reading about different people's take on vintage, and how they incorporate it into their daily lives. The generosity of people has astonished me – I have some wonderful magazines and books now because people know I'll give a good home to stuff they don't want but can't bear to throw out. I wish all those bloggers and non-bloggers alike (that's you, that is!) a wonderful 2011.

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Jean Patou (perfume)

One of the things waiting under my tree this Christmas was a bottle of Jean Patou Divine Folie. Formulated in 1933, it was one of a dozen Patou scents released in the 1980s as 'Ma Collection' and then discontinued again. I already had two of the twelve, Colony, a fantastic pineapple-laden chypre, and L'Heure Attendue, a woody beauty designed in celebration of the end of the Second World War, so it is wonderful to be able to add another bottle to ma own collection. When I use them, I always feel a slight sadness because it's unlikely these fragrances will ever be released again. Modern regulations on ingredients and general stinginess in mainstream perfume manufacture will see to that. (Seriously, the liquid in the average bottle of perfume costs a few pennies to make; big firms seem ever more reluctant to use high-quality, but pricy, equivalents.)

A lot of older perfumes appeal to me much more than modern ones. I don't know if it's because with old bottles there's more likely to be a higher percentage of natural ingredients inside or simply because, like clothes of a certain era, perfumes of a particular age have a style in common, but my personal tastes definitely cover the start of the 20th century up until 1940. There's a smoothness to 1930s fragrances, like bias-cut satin in bottles. Divine Folie has a clove-like spiciness, hinting at carnation, then an underlying sweetness and warmth, and I feel very lucky to own it.

I know Mr Robot got my bottle from Rei Rien because a few days before Christmas he confessed he was going to have to try to get his money back from PayPal as the parcel hadn't turned up after a month and they weren't answering his emails. Anyway, after Paypal got involved he was finally given a tracking number and then the parcel arrived, but their customer service was dreadful. I've used Rei Rien in the past and think their stock and prices are excellent and will order from them again, despite the poor service, but if you do order from them, be prepared to wait quite a while for your parcel to arrive – and don't order if you need delivery by a set date.

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Send For Paul Temple [DVD]

Sorry it's been a while since I last posted – I was both ill and snowed under at work, so by the time I got home each day I was too worn out for blogging (or cooking, or anything else remotely useful). Anyway, I must've been an awfully good girl this year, because on Christmas Day among the goodies under the tree were DVDs of three vintage Paul Temple films.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

On Broadway [books]

Wiseguys, small-scale bookies, broken down beauties and sassy young dolls are the characters who populate this collection. Three books of short stories, all from the late 1930s, by newspaperman Damon Runyon make up this volume. It's not about the big shows, but the bars and streetlife around Broadway. The really unusual thing about it is the way it's written, in the first-person singular, present tense. For example. "He gets to thinking of how he will relish a soft, gentle, loving hand on his brow at this time, and finally he makes a pass at one of the nurses, figuring she may comfort his lonely hours, but what she lays on his brow is a beautiful straight right cross…" (Go on, tell me you didn't read that to yourself in a 'Noo Yoik' accent!)

The stories mix good humour with violence and pathos. My favourite story, 'Little Miss Marker', about a child abandoned with a miserly old bookie in lieu of a debt, isn't violent but it is a heartbreaker. They're all proper short stories – I've read some lately for work, and I do wish authors would realise a short story is not the same as a vignette they couldn't quite work into one of their novels. These stories have proper beginnings and endings, with carefully chosen words so each is a well-polished gem.

You can't get this volume any more, but one with a different cover is available on Amazon right now. Penguin do have Guys and Dolls, an earlier collection of Runyon's stories in print.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

The Affair of the [books]

The Affair of the Bloodstained Egg Cosy, The Affair of the Mutilated Mink and The Affair of the Thirty-Nine Cufflinks are all currently available in one paperback volume. I got mine from my local Waterstones as part of a three-for-the-price-of-two deal, and have to confess I probably wouldn't have picked it up to buy alone. This is simply because many modern crime novels set in the past never really ring true, especially in the attitudes of the characters.

As it turns out, I really enjoyed …Bloodstained Egg Cosy because it doesn't take itself too seriously. Anderson doesn't try to make any great social comment on the status of women or servants, nor does her shoehorn in lots of references to historical events and brands. (It's very annoying when some writers do that; I always feel they ought to put 'I DID MONTHS OF HISTORICAL RESEARCH FOR THIS NOVEL, WORSHIP MY AUTHENTICITY' on the frontispiece and be done with it. No, …Bloodstained Egg Cosy is a country house murder mystery with an entertaining batch of characters, several of whom are not quite who they claim to be. There's a politician, a foreign diplomat, an American millionaire and his wife and several others as well as the titled family who live in the house. When I try to think of what I could liken it to, the television programme Jonathan Creek is what springs to mind. It has the same unrealistic-yet-fun feel.

The two subsequent books are set in the same house, with several characters, not just the detective, Inspector Wilkins, reappearing in each story, and while it would be a nice gimmick and add to the charming, slightly tongue-in-cheek feeling of the individual books if you came across them months apart, reading them one after another does get a little monotonous. If you did buy this, read one, then put the book away for a month or two. You'll enjoy the second and third stories better that way.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Hey, good looking

What you got cooking?

I'm doing steak and mushroom pudding. It was supposed to be steak and kidney, but Mr Robot missed the kidneys when he was emptying the rucksack yesterday, and there was no way I was going to cook with offal that had been unrefrigerated for a whole day.

I do like traditional British food. I also like foods from pretty much anywhere else you'd care to name, although the food I ate in Cuba wasn't outstanding. Apart from British, French, Indian and Spanish are probably my favourites. This book here is a little gem, The Complete Hostess by Quaglino, one of my Oxfam bookshop treasures. Quaglino's restaurant still exists in London, and they have pictures of this book on the wall in part of it, but the food was not what I had hoped for when we ate there. (Note to chef: it's polo mints that have holes in the middle. When your soufflé has a hole at the centre, it's not fit to send out…)

Quaglino's was one of the restaurants to eat at in the 1930s, and the intro to The Complete Hostess makes it plain that this is a book to give to one's cook. The ladies who bought this would not be the ones making the dishes. (Seven courses of them in the case of the dinner menus.)

No quantities are given, you are expected to be able to judge such things for yourself, and in many cases one basic recipe is followed by variations, exchanging one ingredient for another. I've made a few of them, and enjoyed them very much, and find this book does enable me to make dishes that look and taste very special while actually being extremely simple. While Quaglino was Italian, the recipes strike me as closer to the French style, with meat and fish in sauces, and most dishes much lighter than traditional British fare. No steak and anything pudding here!

Do you like old recipe books or traditional food? Christmas is coming, the one time of year when virtually everyone takes a step into the past.

Friday, 10 December 2010

A brief guide to vintage perfumes: 1940-1959

Finally! The second part of my rundown of perfumes released in past decades and still available today. As with the earlier post, I've tried to note when fragrances have been reformulated heavily, but all will have been tweaked to some degree. There are a lot of Carons on here – Caron is probably my favourite old perfume house – and the list is by no means exhaustive.

Rochas Femme (1944)
 I had a hard time deciding whether this should be on the list at all as it has been given an industrial grade makeover. In this case it’s been sandblasted with cumin, giving the impression of a perfectly lovely scent contaminated with curry paste.

Robert Piguet Bandit (1944)
Probably the most difficult scent on my list. It’s gone through a number of incarnations, and there’s a lot of debate about which of the recent ones is closest to the original – the current one, which I own, is supposed to be closer than some slightly older versions.

This is LEATHER. Peppery, sharp, leathery leather. Some leather perfumes smell like an old handbag, with a hint of suede mixed with face powder and other feminine things. Not Bandit. Bandit is all leather. To be honest, I’m never sure if I like it, but it’s definitely distinctive.

Jean Patou Adieu Sagesse (1946)
A modern version of this has been released; I've yet to see reports on how it compares to the original. I own a bottle of the original and find it a little challenging, though I find a lot of fragrances from this period strike me as very angular.

Caron Farnesiana (1947)
Gorgeous blend of heliotrope and mimosa. Not at all of its time, it smells more Edwardian to me, especially when smelled alongside Bandit or Miss Dior.

Balmain Vent Vert (1947)
Was reformulated in 1990.

Christian Dior Miss Dior (1947)
 Classic chypre with galbanum, oakmoss and bergamot, a green scent for a chic lady. If you can get the vintage, do – I don’t have much experience of Miss Dior, but perfumistas reckon the current version is not as good as the older ones.
EDIT 24/2/12: Miss Dior Cherie has been renamed Miss Dior now, and if you can find it, Miss Dior has been renamed Miss Dior Originale. Confused? If it's pink, it's what used to be known as Miss Dior Cherie. If it's yellowish, it's some version of the Miss Dior originally formulated in 1947.

Balenciaga Le Dix (1947)

Robert Piguet Fracas (1948)
Never one to do things by halves, Germaine Cellier, creator of Bandit, produced another fierce beauty for Piguet, this time a floral bombshell. In Nana, Emile Zola comments on how like human flesh tuberoses smell. Well, Fracas is full-on tuberose, voluptuous and glorious and possibly too much for some people. Dangerous, curvy dames, stop here!

Christian Dior Diorama (1949)
Robert Piguet Visa
Heavily reworked, I’m not sure if the current Visa counts as a reformulation or a completely new perfume under an old name (like Lanvin Rumeur). However, the current one is jolly nice, a fruity floral that manages not to smell like it should go with a tango tan and jeggings.

Caron Muguet de Bonheur (1952)

Balmain Jolie Madame (1953)
 No-nonsense leather mixed with ladylike violets – I’ve seen it described as a fragrance for Emma Peel, and as Bandit’s softer, younger sister. To me there’s something of the Hitchcock blonde about it. Has been reformulated, so buy vintage if you can as the newest version is reputed to be quite toned down.

Estee Lauder Youth Dew (1953)
Rich and spicy, perhaps a little boozy in quality. Not to be confused with the modern Youth Dew Amber Nude.

Guerlain Ode (1955)
Reissued, but only for the Guerlain flagship shop on the Champs-Elysees. According to PerfumeShrine, in the Bond novels, it’s worn by the one woman Bond fell in love with. I didn't see it when I visited the boutique in September 2015, so they may have discontinued it again.

Molinard Nirmala (1955)
Has been reworked a bit. I haven’t sniffed it, but by all accounts it can be quite shouty if you put too much on.

Christian Dior Diorissimo (1956)
 Lily of the Valley, Dior’s lucky flower. As with all the Dior scents, buy vintage if you can.

Givenchy L’Interdit (1957)
The version currently being sold is a major reformulation, not the scent inspired by Audrey Hepburn. As though anything inspired by Audrey needed changing!

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Fab Steampunk 'tea cards'

I'm pretty sure everyone who reads CR is familiar with the sort of collectable cards that were popular from the Victorian period onwards. The came in packets of cigarettes, German meat extract (those ones are larger) and PG Tips tea, among other things. I can remember PG ceasing their tea cards, so those at least were produced until the 1980s. My favourites were always the acresses or the cricketers. Flowers, birds and the like are all very well, but people fascinate me.

SF blog/website IO9 had a news story that illustrator Chet Phillips has produced a set of vintage-style cards all about 'The Union of Superlative Heroes', complete with picture on the front and biography on the back, just like real tea/cigarette cards. My favourites of the ones shown on his site are 'Superlative Miss' and 'Gentleman Mint'. His Etsy shop has sold out, but he's going to get more in. If you know someone looking for little decorative accessories for a steampunk home, they'd be just the thing.

Note: I have no connection with IO9, Etsy or Chet Phillips. As usual, I'm just mardling on about cool things I like, no payment!

Sunday, 5 December 2010

I don't like cricket, oh no…

I love it. I really do love cricket. The only thing I'm not enjoying about the current Ashes tour is the fact that all the matches are in the middle of the night, and even on nights when I don't have to work the next day I invariably fall asleep before the coverage starts.

I love cricket for its variations – the quick thrill of a limited overs match, the strategy and tension of a five-day one – and its wonderful inclusiveness, with teams from all over the world playing this fantastic game in largely friendly circumstances. (At an England/West Indies match in Bristol, I sat happily chatting with a Bristol West Indian chap and an Indian one who worked in the United States but had fitted in some cricket while visiting family.) I've been to ladies' games, charity matches, county cricket, even one overseas Test match… it's all good, and all are welcome. And because I love all those things, I love cricket for its history too.

There are things about cricket that I feel will appeal to lovers of vintage. Although there have been changes to the game and grounds over the years, it is a sport well aware of its traditions and one that remembers its heroes, so the past is always present. Bowlers who take five wickets in an innings or batsmen (I'm including female players in that term) who score a century get their names put on the ground's honours board, there for all time. You can take a picnic. Depending on the ground, champagne or Pimms may be for sale. (I have to say, I also love cricket for the opportunity to spend the whole day drinking while watching 22 fit young men run around, and while I always take a picnic and my own wine to Lords because it's so bleedin' pricy to buy food and drink there, at other grounds I usually make a beeline for the curry van and beer tent.) Test Match Special is simply fantastic; even if you don't like cricket I recommend trying listening to it. At first you may wonder who all the people commentating are, but eventually you'll get to know them and their quirks and it really is addictive – and rarely is it always about cricket.

Pimms by the pint
Cricket whites (mmmm, crumpet!)
MCC blazers
Listening to Test Match Special on the radio
Taking a picnic to Lords
The fish cutters (fried flying fish rolls) at Kensington Oval, Barbados
Buying curry from a van at most other grounds
Being surrounded by people with pretty good manners, even when completely bladdered.

Those wretched pyjamas teams wear for one day games. There's modernisation of the game and then there's idiocy.
The glaring white fleeces England wear instead of proper cream wool jumpers (see above).

Images are: Jim Laker, who took all ten wickets for 53 runs in the fourth Ashes test in 1956 – Anil Kumble is the only other bowler who has managed to take all ten in an innings since.
The 1882 Aussie team – the first ones to win the Ashes.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Those magnificent men…

Movember is over, so say goodbye to it for another year with this BBC article on the airmen at Lyneham, who grew moustaches for Movember and then posed in 1940s uniforms for a group photo. It would appear the Station Warrant Officer was the man to decide what sort of moustache breached RAF regulations… and he was a participant himself.

You can see all 12 dashing chaps - plus vintge Dakota aeroplane - in more photos at this Zimbio page.

Better than a chocolate in your advent calendar, eh?