Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Vintage as a pick-me-up

Sometimes I've just got to retreat into an old magazine...
Most of us get a bit down from time to time. I'm not talking about depression, which is a serious illness, more the sort of thing generally healthy people feel occasionally. I have to confess, when I'm in the sort of mood where I'm feeling like a failure, things like blogs and Pinterest can make me feel worse, because it feels as though everyone else 'out there' is just perfect, endlessly spurting forth creative marvels while holding down an amazing job and living in a fabulous home. No-one else seems to be fat, forty, and treading in cat sick on their way to make breakfast.



The other week I found myself mired in the glums because a friend instagrammed a shot of her gorgeous midcentury kitchen. 'Why don't I have a gorgeous midcentury kitchen?' I thought. 'Why don't I have a gorgeous deco living room?' And you know what? That was stupid. I actually have a modern but 1950s-influenced kitchen, which fits into the very tiny space and which I chose precisely because it would be easy to keep clean. It's exactly the right kitchen for my house. And I don't WANT a deco living room! The sort of house interior I've always craved is, I suppose, Victorian Explorer, packed with all sorts of interesting things from around the world, and now Mr Robot and I are able to travel more, it's what we're achieving. There are paintings from Cuba and Burma, dishes from Barbados, Italy and Spain, a vase handmade in Wales, and I love them all. Vintage, I have to remind myself, is not a competition. You don't get points for having or wearing the right things. There's no certificate. You don't pass or fail. (Apart from in the eyes of a few purists who are probably best avoided anyway.)

Not shown: kitchen chaos
Away from the internet, though, I find vintage is both a 'comfort blanket' and a pick-me-up. The first thing I see when I turn my computer at work on is Rosie the Riveter declaring WE CAN DO IT! Yes, Rosie, we can. Deadline day? WE CAN DO IT! Photoshoot needs rearranging? WE CAN DO IT! Rosie is my icon. When I want to withdraw into my shell, or am faced with a horrible task, she's there, telling me that we can do it. Me and Rosie, what a team. When there's housework to be done, Benny Goodman or Artie Shaw keep me company, their swing tunes encouraging me to adopt a more positive and enthusiastic approach to the chores. I don't think it's any coincidence that both Rosie and most of that music date from the 1940s, that was very much a 'buck up and get on with it' time.

Perhaps weirdly, I also find my magazines from the 1920s-60s quite encouraging. Maybe it's because they're distant in time from me. Maybe it's because they're magazines, whereas blogs and photos on Pinterest are made by real people now. The magazine is only ever an ideal, something to aspire to, whereas if real people can manage to live a mess-free, picture-perfect existence (even when they've got kids) it says I'm clearly not trying hard enough, or am simply rubbish, if I don't manage it too. Sinking into the magazines is a wonderful break from the real world, and when I put them down I'm ready to take on the world again, cat sick and all.

Do you have a favourite vintage pick-me-up? I heartily recommend a daily dose of Rosie, but I'd love to know what fills you with WE CAN DO IT! confidence.

15 comments :

  1. I just have to shop and it only takes £1 to buy something vintage i treasure. It picks me up every time . But i dont half buy some strange crap

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    1. Yeah, there's nothing quite like finding something great for pennies. Now I'm intrigued to know what you buy!

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  2. Your opening paragraph made me laugh, because I think I too find the glossy world of Pinterest and the blogosphere can sometimes irk me a bit at all the 'perfection' out there!! I have to say that a good black and white film will pick me up everytime. I've been loving the Saint, and Falcon films they've been showing on the BBC recently. Wrap me up in a blanket, give me a hot chocolate, and an hour and a half later I'm ready to take on the world x

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    1. I keep missing those, and it's my own fault because I can Tivo them. The Saint is brilliant, I loved in when Radio 4 Extra did readings of some of the stories, though I've never seen any of the Falcon films.

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  3. I found your blog some time back looking for information about a perfume, and I have enjoyed reading your vintage related posts. Perfection (aside from being silly) gets a bit stale after so many carefully photoshopped posts. My Internet time is limited, so I try to avoid spending it on blogs that make me feel bad about myself (I have that covered, thanks very much!).

    I can relate to, "fat and forty" but thankfully not the cat sick.

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    1. The problem with cat sick is it's *stealth* cat sick... it lurks waiting to ambush you!

      Which perfume was it? I'm always ready to talk smells!

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    2. I think it was Mitsouko. I hated the reformulation, and I've been using my old bottle sparingly, but there's hope the new one will be a bit closer to the original. Personally, I just go on the Internet and look for decants of the old one.

      I'd also agree with Miss Magpie that Tea is a great help. "Put the kettle on" has become code in our family for, "I've had a miserable day."

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    3. Ah, Mitsouko, I just bought it again, the old style bottle too I think. So heady. Good to know it is still loved. It looked so out of place with all the tacky celebrity fragrances in Duty Free.

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    4. Perfume critics have reported that the current extrait on sale in Paris is as good as the vintage stuff. I've no idea how/when that will filter down into the shops, though, or whether the EDP/EDT have also been made closer to the original.

      Mitsouko is my favourite too; one of the reasons I got so into other perfumes was because I was looking for a replacement when Mitsouko got reformulated.

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  4. This is exactly the kind of reason I made the decision not to Pinterest!

    Being fat and forty (something) myself I most often get in a funk when I see someone looking gorgeous in some teeny tiny perfect vintage frock and think 'bah'.
    I would love to own my own house and decorate at will but it's something that will never happen so I live vicariously through other people's pictures of their homes, and occasionally wish it were mine.
    My favourite pick me up at any time and for any disaster is tea, but having a browse through my vintage handbags always makes me happy.

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    1. TEA! How could I forget tea? I read on Twitter recently that 'For Brits, the first cup of tea of the day is like spinach to Popeye', and I heartily agree with that.

      The good thing about me moaning on is that the Mr and I have decided to sort some stuff out over the Bank Holiday weekend. I'm going to start by covering my boring old dining chairs...

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  5. I know what you mean. I live in a place I seriously dislike..husband's job...there's nothing to do, nowhere to go, just nothing!
    So I tend to disappear into books or period drama. I find All Creatures Great And Small particularly comforting for some reason. I could probably quote the entire script!
    For my friend it's The Thin Man films.

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  6. For me its a classic Ealing comedy such as The Titfield Thunderbolt accompanied by a pot of brewed tea and a hearty slice of homemade cake, all nicely presented in best utility china and on a 1930s tray.

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  7. I have to say that old magazines have the same soothing effect on me too, the sweet, silly beauty tips and household hints. Blogs and Pinterest can be very frenetic and seem impossible to live up to, and are best avoided at times when you're feeling delicate. I always find planning the next project very uplifting, as long as I don't think too much about all the unfinished ones! And 40s swing never fails to lift me out of my funk. (You're lucky you only come down to cat sick in the mornings. I have three cats who don't get on, so they fight over the litter box!) 'Nough said. Thanks Mim.

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  8. I know what you mean about perfection blogs but I try to remember that for every beautiful shot there will be an opposite side of the room covered in a mountain of hastily swept aside crap, the cupboards will have been stuffed full and the kids will have been bribed with chocolate and locked in their bedroom. That helps me feel better. Then I get a good cup of tea in my favourite china and browse through my knitting patterns. That always cheers me up!

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