Friday, 31 October 2014

Crinoline Robot's vintage week

Martian cake coloured orange with green tentacles
The chances of anything coming from Mars are a million to one, they said...
I've really been enjoying getting ready for Halloween this week. Last year I got back from Burma a couple of days before Halloween, but was so ill with viruses that I simply couldn't do anything for it. Let's face it, the workmates probably wouldn't have welcomed a lurgy cake. This year, it's been super just to put my terracotta pumpkin lantern in the fireplace, switch on my LED ornaments and listen to some cheesy seasonal tunes. And, of course, plan The Cake. I try to make one each year. This year I took my inspiration from 50s B-movies and made a Martian cake. I'm not great at decorating, so I went for a very easy red earth look, plus some marzipan tentacles and a fondant walker. Underneath all that orange-flavoured icing is a tasty chocolate and orange marble cake filled with chocolate fudge icing.

Monday, 27 October 2014

These Ghoulish Things: Horror Hits for Halloween

I know from my Twitter and blog feeds that I'm not alone in my love of Hallowe'en as well as vintage. This CD, which I bought from the CD stall at this year's Vintage Nostalgia show, has been on constant play on my iPod since this weekend, and if you're looking for something to play at a Halloween party I definitely recommend it.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

The look of Crimes of Passion, episodes 5 and 6

PUCK WEARS SKIRTS!
Yes, you read that correctly. In Episode 5, 'Dangerous Dreams', Puck goes to work as secretary for a Nobel-prize-winning author, and presumably has to adhere to conventional standards for professional ladies' clothes, because she wears skirts. They do suit her very well. She retains plenty of her practicality, however: when the family she is staying with are all dressed up for dinner, Puck is in a plain white shirt and beige pencil skirt. When everyone's sitting down at the table, this brings her visually in line with the men at the table, rather than the women. For episode 6, 'Tragedy in a Country Churchyard', she is free of the constraints of her job and returns to trousers, though they are looser than her lightweight, summery cropped ones from earlier episodes.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Sherlock Holmes exhibition at the Museum of London

Image (c) Kasia Wozniak, used with permission of
the Museum of London. Please don't pin/reuse!
Sherlock Holmes is having a bit of a cultural moment, so it's fitting that the Museum of London should have an exhibition on celebrating one of the English capital's best-known fictional inhabitants. It's running from the 17th October 2014 to 12th April 2015, and will explore real Victorian London as well as the world of the fictional detective and his transition from print to stage and film. Entry prices are £12 for adults, £10 for concessions and £9.50 each for 'flexible family' tickets.

Monday, 20 October 2014

The BBC's Gothic season

 In my review of the British Library's Gothic Imagination exhibition, I said I'd let you know when the corresponding Gothic programmes started on the BBC. Well, they've clearly put sod-all effort into forward publicity, because it starts tonight! (Seriously, why do they plan such good programmes and then not let people know the broadcast dates more than a week in advance?!)

So, while they might be a bit awful at putting out the schedules, here is one I've put together, for your delectation. Please note that not all schedules are complete yet, so I will update the list as more information becomes available.

Friday, 17 October 2014

The 39 Steps, John Buchan

I have a shocking admission to make: despite my love of vintage spy stories, I've never seen more than clips of the film versions of The 39 Steps, the novel that's often said to mark the start of the spy novel genre. My holiday gave me the perfect excuse to read it.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Outfit post: Sightseeing style

I'm not a great wearer of vintage on holiday. For one thing, I travel very light. I managed a fortnight in Burma last year with three pairs of trousers, two T-shirts and a couple of blouses. (I did use the hotel laundry. I travel light, not stinky!)

This year we're in Spain. If you've never been to inland Spain, know this: the Spanish dress well. And they are masters of co-ordination. The first time I went to Seville I was astonished by the accessory shops. The number of them, and the dizzying array of colours and prints... Here in Caceres it's quite rainy and all the ladies carry beautiful, high-quality umbrellas. I suspect they all own a selection to go with different coats! Spain is accessory heaven. Also, if you like marcasite jewellery, there's loads on sale in Spain, so you can get a 1940s look without a vintage price tag.

Here are two outfits from this week.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Adventures in burlesque

Exercise sucks. It's never actually finished. Like with housework, I find myself thinking, "What on earth is the point of doing this now when I'll only have all again tomorrow, so I might as well forget it for now and do it tomorrow." Tomorrow comes rather more often for housework than it does for exercise!

However, I do have to keep mobile or I start having trouble with my back and hips, which means I look for alternative ways of being active. For the past couple of weeks I've been having burlesque lessons. Dulcie Demure, a well-known local performer, is running classes in Bradford-on-Avon, just down the road. (I have even seen her dance, at Steamcheese in 2013.) Now the first rule of burlesque club is: you don't talk about people who go to burlesque club, so I won't mention the friend who invited me, nor say anything about the other attendees, except to say that they're all lovely, and all shapes and sizes and ages. It's a very inclusive club, and Dulcie is keen to ensure it's a safe space where everyone can feel free to enjoy themselves. Hence the first rule of burlesque club.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Get the look: Elisabet Matson's midcentury curtains

My final Crimes of Passion outfit post is in the works, but in the meantime, if you liked the look of the interiors, here's something you can actually buy!

I was really struck by some of the interiors in episode three, 'No More Murders', especially Elisabet Matson's curtains. Then, when I was flicking through Sanderson's website to see if they'd revived any more midcentury archive designs (they haven't, boo!) I realised that the curtains are from Sanderson. It's part of their '1950s Fabrics' range, it's called 'Seaweed', and was designed in 1954. There are four colourways, and I liked the teal/orange colourway used in the programme best. Sanderson fabrics aren't cheap, and the prints are large-scale so probably won't suit very small rooms (I couldn't use them in my little Victorian terrace), but if I had the space and the money I'd definitely buy them.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Bloofer Gent: Peter Cushing

If I were a vampire lady, I'd choose Cushing for my nemesis...
For the past few years, I've named a Bloofer Lady for October. ('Bloofer lady' being what the cockney kids in Dracula called the vampire Lucy Westenra, a childish version of 'beautiful'.) We've had Yvonne de Carlo, Elsa Lanchester and Fenella Fielding. This year, to even things up a little, I have decided we should have a Bloofer Gent, and have chosen one of my very favourite actors, Peter Cushing.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Wings [film]


Actor Richard Arlen had actually served as a pilot during WWI.
Today I went to see the film Wings at the Little Theatre in Bath. It was the first film ever to win an Academy Award for Best Picture. I've wanted to see it for years, and I loved what I saw - but it wasn't what I expected. Wings has always been billed as a Clara Bow film; the most popular film star in America at one point in the 1920s, Clara's name was top of the billing. However, it wasn't really Clara's film, and I think a big chunk of the Clara storyline could have been removed. Let me explain...

Friday, 3 October 2014

Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination [exhibition]

Georgian satires of the readers of Gothic sensation novels
The British Library's new exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination opens today. I went to the press day yesterday and it was wonderful. I love the British Library anyway, as I've used the India Office collections in the past for researching family history, and they've put on some seriously good exhibitions over the years. This one, as you'd expect, is all about gothic fiction, and it's about as comprehensive as you'd dare to hope for, moving from Horace Walpole all the way through to the present. I started taking notes on my phone because there were so many standout items on display I wasn't sure I'd remember them all, then I realised I was noting down almost every exhibit.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Haxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages [film, 1922]

It's October, and what does that mean? A month packed with things spooky, kooky and altogether, erm, vintage!

Haxan is a Swedish silent film with a good reputation, but it wasn't entirely what I'd expected. I'd anticipated a series of stories about witchcraft in different eras, and to a degree that's what it is, but it's a documentary with dramatic scenes rather than a succession of mini dramas akin to a portmanteau horror film. Benjamin Christensen based the film on his readings of historical books.