Thursday, 31 March 2011

The digital generation rediscovers the magic of manual typewriters

Image courtesy of MRS
The digital generation rediscovers the magic of manual typewriters

From across the Pond comes the first mainstream media coverage of an idea that is slowly gaining popularity across the United States and continental Europe since its introduction by several typewriter collectors - the type-in.  With any luck it may gain a foothold here in Britain too and I for one would certainly be up for it - it sounds like a wizard wheeze!  Sort of like an Internet cafe, only with typewriters.  What's not to like?!



The attraction is not just limited to vintage aficionados such as ourselves, either.  Judging by this particular article the so-called "digital generation" are practically lapping it up as well.  The typewriter shall not go quietly into the night, indeed!  It is more than encouraging to see the popularity of these meetings with young people who are more used to their laptops, mobile telephones and Blackcurrants (or whatever they're called) but who are obviously keen to explore the simple, tactile nature of the manual typewriter and the involvement it demands.  That alone provides a good deal of hope not only for the preservation of typing machines but also the actual enjoyment of using them.

My shamefully poor-condition 1955 production Imperial 66.   I keep promising myself I'll get it reconditioned.  Maybe someday as a birthday or Christmas present to myself.  Although even then I won't be carting it along to any type-ins (unless I've got an actual cart!) because it weighs a ton!

Of course the reaction of some young people, such as the first girl mentioned in the article, is amusing yet also befuddling.  I can still remember the time, a few years ago, when two of my nieces (then aged about 7 and 9) first laid eyes on my typewriter.  Their first question was "What does that do?" and for a moment it left me stuck as I suddenly realised I was being asked to explain something, which was so familiar to me, to two people who had never seen one before.  In the end I struggled to come up with some simplistic explanation along the lines of "it's like a computer, but the words are printed straight on to the paper".  Then, of course, they immediately wanted to try it for themselves!

It incidents like that, and occasions such as these type-ins, which prove that there is still an active interest - and what's more, a growing interest - in the good old manual typewriter and that therefore its future is assured.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Britain from the air in times gone by



Britain from the air in times gone by

A splendid series of images from The Daily Telegraph now, which highlights a project currently under way at English Heritage to digitise their extensive collection of pre-war aerial photographs - part of the Aerofilms Collection.

As you will see, these fantastic snap-shots show British landmarks and countryside from a then-new vantage point - with many aspects that today seem somehow familiar and yet at the same time have changed enormously.  In some of them we can see the beginnings of the sprawling urbanisation that is more and more prevalent nowadays and for perhaps the first time we can appreciate on a larger scale just how fresh, open and unspoilt some places once were.  Indeed one of the secondary aims of this Britain From Above project is to observe and compare building expansion and how it affects and has affected the natural surroundings over the decades.

For us it gives us the opportunity to pore over some wonderful vintage pictures, with the promise of yet more to come - 95,000 by 2014! - and think back to those pioneers of flight who instigated the idea and how amazing it must have been for people, like those in the above clip, to fly over places they had only ever seen before from ground level.  These photographs truly did (and do) give a whole new perspective on the British Isles of the 1920s, '30s and '40s.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

"Tit-Bits from all the interesting Books, Periodicals, and Newspapers of the World"; or, Eclectic Ephemera 1929-style!

I mentioned in a previous post that one of the most valued books in my library is a copy of the 1929 Tit-Bits Yearbook - a sort of annual almanac that was published by the Tit-bits periodical - and here it is!


(I had no idea of just what market the Tit-bits magazine was aimed at until I read that Wikipædia link and it made me wonder at how popular journalism has changed over the years.  Personally-speaking I wouldn't read the likes of The Daily Mail or The Sun today but looking back at the contents of this book and also copies of early "tabloids" like The Daily Sketch it's strange to see how tame and yet interesting the contents are compared to now and I can't help thinking about how some innocence and decorum has maybe been lost in the last 80 years.  Or perhaps I'm looking at the whole thing through sepia-tinted glasses and our newspapers and annuals will be seen in the same way by historians in 2091?)

Anyway, I said I'd fashion a few blog posts out of it and I'm a man of my word, so here's the first comprising the section on etiquette.  A lot of it, while perhaps slightly obvious (although maybe only to the likes of us!) could, ideally(!), still hold true today.   Some of it, however, less so.  In any case, I think you'll enjoy it.

ETIQUETTE

Etiquette is not a matter of hard and fast rules, and although we have evolved a number of accepted laws, they can be broken with impunity when common sense demands.  Good manners can be summarized as putting another person's comfort - not only comfort of body but comfort of mind - before your own.  {hear hear!}  If all the writers of etiquette books have told you that you should treat every woman as a duchess, and you meet a dear, homely soul who would think such treatment a practical joke on your part and not good taste, base your conduct on your own good sense.
Here are one or two points which are worth remembering as they may help to make the wheels of social intercourse run smoothly:
  • A gentleman is always introduced to a lady, not the lady to the gentleman.  Single girls are introduced to married women, and young men to older men.
  • When walking with a lady, do not offer her your arm unless it is necessary to help her across a thoroughfare; walking arm in arm is inconvenient to other pedestrians and often results in the lady being brushed and bumped by passers-by.
  • If you meet a lady and wish to speak to her, do not detain her, but walk with her for a short distance in the direction in which she is going, and remember always to walk on the side of the pavement nearest the kerb.  This last applies when walking with two ladies.

When Dancing

The etiquette of the dance hall has changed enormously of late years, and practically every one of the old rules has been scrapped.
It is usual nowadays to take a partner to a public dance and remain in her company the whole evening.  If you do not take a partner, you are, of course, at liberty to ask any member of the opposite sex for the pleasure of a dance, introductions or the good offices of the M.C. being dispensed with nowadays.
If your request is refused - and there is, by the way, no reason to feel snubbed, for the girl may be engaged for the dance, or is feeling tired - do not ask another girl sitting nearby, as to do so would make the first girl feel that you did not care whether you danced with her or not!
After each dance you should escort your partner to her seat, and remain with her for a few seconds, or until her next partner puts in an appearance.
Elaborate steps and "stunts" are permissible if your partner can do them, and providing that they do not inconvenience other dancers, but to "show off" in any circumstances is very bad form.
When the interval dance is over, and you have no appointment for refreshments with another partner, you should ask your partner if you can take her to the refreshment-room.  If she has a party of friends present - and few girls go to dances alone - she will probably decline your invitation, but she will appreciate your kindly thought.
If she does accept, be sure to escort her back to the dance floor when the interval is over.
You should not, if you take a partner with you, ask any one for a dance unless your friend has a partner, or unless she herself asks you to dance with another. 

At Private Dances

At private dances it is not quite the thing to have every dance with the same partner, for, obviously, it is not being sociable, but, if you are asked to bring a friend, you should see that she is not neglected.  You must, of course, reserve the interval dance for her and take her down to supper.
Be sure to ask your hostess for a dance, and, on leaving, do not omit to thank her for your evening's enjoyment.
Do not ask a lady you do not know for a dance, but seek the good offices of a friend or your hostess for an introduction.

Dining out

To most of us our first experience of dining out, whether at a public function or at a private house, is anticipated with dread rather than with pleasure.
The golden rule is:  Don't be nervous.  If you do have the misfortune to make a slip, remember that it will probably pass unnoticed unless you call attention to it by your own embarrassment.
Knives, forks, and spoons are laid in the order in which they are to be used, beginning with those on the "outside", and, as waiters serve wine, and naturally know the correct glasses, these need have no terrors.
If you do not like wine or mineral waters, ask to be served with plain water; this is quite the usual thing, and no one will think you namby-pamby.
You can talk to the guests on either side of you without the formality of introductions.
Men sit on their partner's left hand, and, when going in to dinner, should offer the right arm to the lady they have been asked to escort.
At a public dinner remain by your chair until the chairman sits, and, at a private dinner party, until your hostess is seated.
Do not smoke until your host invites you to do so.
At public functions smoking is generally allowed after the toast of the King has been drunk.

Dress

As to dress, the old rule that full evening dress must be worn when ladies are present has fallen into disuse, except in the case of very formal dinners and balls.
The dinner jacket can be worn at nearly every function where "dress" is required nowadays - at supper dances, informal dinners, public dances, the circle or stalls of the theatre, and so on.
A white wing collar and stiff shirt and black bow and waistcoat are worn with the dinner jacket.  Socks must be black, the handkerchief white linen or lawn, and the shoes patent leather (they should be of the "lace up" variety; "pumps" are very old fashioned).
With the more formal dress or "tail" coat, white waistcoat and bow are worn.
Bows must be hand tied. {quite right!}
For business wear, "morning dress", i.e. black jacket and vest and striped cashmere trousers are strictly correct, but none of us wish to appear at the office in the same uniform garments year in and year out, and so a lounge suit is worn by way of variation.
There are, however, one or two little points to watch even in less formal dressing:  Do not wear a soft collar with morning dress, but either a wing collar or a smart double collar, and a neat tie or hand-tied bow.
Black patent leather shoes are quite in keeping.  Brown shoes, in this connection, are right out of the question.
The secret to good dressing is suitability to the occasion on which clothes are worn.  It would, for instance, be obviously silly to wear a bowler hat with white flannels - an exaggerated combination which no one would think of wearing, yet, in smaller points, one sees such incongruities, spats worn with a flannel suit, gloves with a blazer, and so on.

Letter-writing

Letter-writing, simple as it would seem, is beset with pitfalls for the unwary.
The best rule is to say what you mean in the fewest possible words.
Do not use long-winded and grandiloquent phrases which can be better expressed in a couple of words.
The old business houses had a stereotyped beginning for all their letters, "We beg to acknowledge receipt of your esteemed favour."  Nowadays, however, we begin, "Thank you for your letter," which means the same, is quite simple, and saves a lot of time.
Some people imagine that stilted phrases mark them as being business-like, whereas, of course, the unfortunate person who receives the letter has to waste a lot of time unravelling verbal knots.
All business letters can begin "Dear Sir, or Sirs," and end "Yours faithfully".
There is no need to assure any one that you are their obedient servant - they probably would not believe it in any case!
For more intimate correspondence, "Dear So-and-So" is the usual beginning, and "Yours truly" or "Yours sincerely" a suitable ending.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Downton Abbey creator Fellowes to write Titanic TV epic

Downton Abbey creator Fellowes to write Titanic TV epic

Julian Fellowes is rapidly turning into a one-man period drama powerhouse.  Not content with giving us the really rather good Downton Abbey (not to mention Gosford Park, Vanity Fair and The Young Victoria) it seems that he is now turning his attention to one of the greatest dramas of the Edwardian period - the sinking of the Titanic.

I think it can go without saying that we are in for a treat, one of fantastic costumes and fashion ideas - not to mention intrigue and action spread over 6 episodes.  Some big names look to be involved and it will be a timely reminder and commemoration of the centenary of the disaster.

Mr Fellowes seems to have the Midas touch when it comes to this sort of programme so I'm sure I will not be alone in anticipating this quite highly.  The story of the Titanic is an enduring one and in 2012 it will have been fifteen years (!) since the James Cameron film, so what with that, the 100th anniversary and Mr Fellowes' recent successes this series could indeed well be "the must-see original drama", as ITV put it.

Twittering on



You may notice at the end of this and, now, all other blog posts the presence of a "share" button with a few options to pick from to aid in the dissemination of my writings.  (Although quite why anyone would choose to forward on my ramblings is beyond me!).

The omission of this function was kindly brought to my attention by the Idle Historian in my previous post and it struck me as odd, as I was sure I had the facility enabled.  After a quick rummage around in the æther, I've managed to reactive said button (I think Blogger and its templates were to blame, or something; anyway, it wouldn't have happened with a typewriter!) so if you're on the likes of Twitter or Farcebook it should now be easier for you pass on anything you see here, if you so wish.  Personally I'm involved in neither of those places; it's enough that I've got this blog what with my Ludditism!  Still, it gives me the opportunity to include the above little ditty, ably helped along by Mr Bertie Wooster, which I feel could easily be applied to a certain modern-day social network...

Thursday, 24 March 2011

The Dandy Libraryman

I've been out and about all over the place today, back and forth, hither and yon on various un-vintage errands, but this afternoon I stopped off at my local library to pick up a book I had reserved.

This was the biography of 1930s racing driver and land speed record holder Sir Malcolm Campbell (left), Malcolm Campbell: The Man as I Knew Him, which was written by his widow Lady Dorothy Campbell shortly after he died.  It looks to be a fascinating read and if it is anything like the autobiography of his contemporary racing colleague Sir Henry 'Tim' Birkin, of which I own a 1935 copy, I'm sure it will be.

While I was there I of course browsed the sale shelves but there seemed to be nothing particularly interesting and I was about to turn to go when I saw, in the corner of the bottom shelf surrounded by audiobooks and large hardback novels, a book entitled Beau Brummell: The Ultimate Dandy.  It looked like the fiction books either side of it but closer inspection revealed it to be a biography of the great man by actor/writer Ian Kelly who played the starring role on stage and in the 2006 B.B.C. adaptation Beau Brummell: This Charming Man, which I'm sorry to say I never saw - so that's something to seek out, once I've read the book!.  It might take me a while though as it's a 500-page life-to-death analysis of the man and the period (which is a little outside my sphere of interest really, but for The Ultimate Dandy I'll make an exception!), but I'm looking forward to it and at the moment I've certainly got the time!

This hefty, almost as-new tome, which was only published in 2005 and would have set you back £20 in a bookshop, was mine for the princely sum of 25p.  Twenty-five pence!  (In fact it should have been 50p, but the librarian made the same mistake as I initially did and thought it was fiction, and I didn't like to correct her!).  BARGAIN!!

This brings me to the real point of my post - here is a book barely 6 years old, which cost a not inconsiderable sum and it ends up in the sale section for next to nothing in next to no time.  What's more, the Campbell biography had to come from one of the main county library's "stack" (library-speak for the storage room, I think).  I've borrowed a couple of books from the same source over the last few years (another being the autobiography of eccentric British Army officer Lt. Col. A.D. Wintle, which only I seem to withdraw these days!) and it always saddens me that such fascinating books rarely see the light of day or are sold off by the library so quickly (although for 25p from £20 I suppose I shouldn't complain about the latter!) without being fully appreciated by the reading public.  Of course I imagine its all a matter of taste and interest (not to mention demographics - books about 18th Century dandies and 1930s racing drivers/army officers probably aren't in much demand in my part of deepest darkest Essex!) as well as the changing (and not always for the better) role of the public library, but it still seems a shame to see what people are missing out on.  When I look at the withdrawal history of the Campbell book, for example, I see that since 1961 it has been borrowed roughly once every 10 years!  I wonder what kind of people took the book home with them, what their interest was and what they took from it.  Ah well, I suppose that as long as these books are in stack I'll know where to find them, and at least I appreciate them.  Plus it frees up my bookshelf for more cut-price books!

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Victorian railway hotel restored in King's Cross

Victorian railway hotel restored in King's Cross

Just as I bemoan the lack of vintage-y things to blog about, along comes a glut of stories and suddenly I have some more ideas for posts.

To start with is this splendid news about the reopening of the former Midland Grand Hotel that forms part of the new St Pancras International railway station, which itself underwent a massive restoration a few years ago and is a wonderful British success story, managing to retain its Victorian grandeur and history while at the same time serving the modern traveller and adding the futuristic HS1 Eurostar trains to its stable.

The Midland Grand, now renamed the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel, has only just finished being renovated and - as this report indicates - is ready for opening (which will officially take place in April).  A great deal of time and money has gone into returning the place to its former glory and its certainly been worth it!  The interior is simply stunning and, like the rest of the redevelopment, successfully mixes old and new styles to provide the last word in comfort for the weary (and well-heeled) traveller.

It's a shock to realise just how far Dr Beeching was prepared to take his cuts and what a deplorable attitude there was towards Victorian architecture in the 1960s, amid the vogue for Brutalism and Modernism.  To even have considered demolishing such a beautiful building seems like anathema to us today as we have, I think, come to appreciate our architectural history.  Many 19th Century buildings were lost during the height of Sixties Mondernism, but thankfully the Midland Grand was spared destruction and will now enjoy a new lease of life as it sits adjacent to St Pancras International, for us all to enjoy looking at.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

The Fleet's Lit Up!

Things have been quiet again lately in my world of vintage; news seems to be dominated by unfortunate world events, which is not what this blog is about, and the last few days have been uneventful for me personally.  However I've got a few posts lined up for the next week or so, more on that later.


This hasn't stopped The Vintage Knitter from bestowing upon this blog a little award - The Liebster Blog Award (The Lovely Blog Award, if my A-level German hasn't failed me!), which is especially for blogs with fewer than 300 followers.  My thanks to VK for the thought, and off my own bat I choose to pass on the award to the following 10 fellow bloggers:


Speaking of followers, a hearty welcome to the latest batch who have stumbled across my corner of the Interweb and decided to stay.  It seems like only yesterday that there were 70 of you - now I'm up to 93!  Nearly at the ton, what?  A giveaway!  I promised a giveaway at some point, and by Jove I'll have one when I reach 100 followers!




I leave you with this infamous and hilarious recording from the early years of B.B.C. radio.  The "Woodrooffe Incident" or "The Fleet's Lit Up" occurred during the 1937 Spithead Review (where H.M. The King inspected the Royal Navy fleet at Spithead, off the Hampshire coast).  Lt. Commander Thomas Woodrooffe was an ex-RN man employed by the B.B.C. to present the review on the wireless.  It just so happened that HMS Nelson, the flagship from which he was broadcasting, was his old ship and he knew many of the crew.  He made the mistake of engaging in a bit of a knees-up with them prior to going on the air and subsequently, as you can hear, was three sheets to the wind when it came time to tell what was going on!  It is said that the repeated phrase "lit up" later became a synonym for "drunk"; Woodrooffe actually denied he was plastered, claiming instead that he was "tired and emotional" (another synonym, perhaps?!) being the only B.B.C. man covering the event.  He was suspended for a week but kept his job, later commentating on the 1938 FA Cup final where he stated - 1 minute from full time - that "if there's a goal scored now, I'll eat my hat".  You can probably guess what happened next..

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Captain Hastings - well-dressed man-about-town

I should've known it wouldn't take long.  Miss Retro Chick recently did a post entitled - yes, you've guessed it - "Style Icon for the Working Woman - Miss Lemon" (fair do's, of course - I doubt I'm one of her core audience!).  I must admit I might have underestimated you ladies and how short a space of time there would be between Miss Lemon-themed posts.  Still, I told you what I'd do if I read another one, so here we go:

I'm going to, where possible, cover one episode per post.  This will, if nothing else, give me enough ammunition to match any future Miss Lemon-fests (I hope!).  We therefore begin with The Clapham Cook.

Captain Hastings' wardrobe varies little over the course of this mystery, which is probably as it should be.  Even so a few fashion gems make an appearance, not least the great Fair Isle pullover!

I'm guessing the jacket is corduroy, maybe?  Classic '30s pointed collar and a patterned tie to complement the Fair Isle.  Jolly good.  You've got to love his facial expression, haven't you?
A slightly fuller view, paired with a fine and, again, complimentary overcoat.

I do like Poirot's extravagant neatness, but Hastings' more closely represents the '30s standard and I have a weakness for Fair Isle(!)
In the country Hastings' colour-coordinated ensemble knocks the spots off Poirot's rather plain look.


Speaking of Fair Isle, I find it's damned hard to come by for us chaps these days - certainly more so than for the ladies, for whom it seems to have retained some semblance of popularity.  Those that I have found are often eye-wateringly expensive.  For example:

Fair Isle Knitted Slipover, one of several
designs from Darcy Clothing, £70-£78
Polo Ralph Lauren
Navy Wool-Alpaca Fairisle
from My-Wardrobe.com -
£101 from £145 (currently sold out).
Polo Ralph Lauren
Cotton-Cashmere Fair Isle
from Mr Porter - £215
(ouch! - it's lovely, but not £215 lovely)
Back to the story, and a new day sees Captain Hastings wearing a variation on the earlier Fair Isle pullover - the Fair Isle cardigan.

Pay no attention to Miss Lemon and her patterned dress.  Look at Captain Hastings.  LOOK AT CAPTAIN HASTINGS.

I adore the tie he's wearing with this outfit - classic '30s!
This is the best shot I could get of the trousers, which are in a wonderful shade of steel blue and which contrast well with the brown jacket yet compliment the blue cardigan.
Something that is, if anything, even more difficult to come by these days.  The only thing I could find like it was this:

Knitted Fair Isle Waistcoat
from Darcy Clothing - £67.50

Of course, there are plenty of original Fair Isle patterns available from the likes of Ebay and various pattern websites but this requires someone who can knit skilfully and who has a lot of time on their hands (at least that's what my mother tells me).  My knitting ability stops at things that are short and squarish (i.e. scarves) and although mater can knit skilfully, she hasn't got the time to do fiddly Fair Isle.  So when she eventually knitted me a pullover (it took me 5 years of badgering to get it out of her, and originally I just wanted a plain white cricket jumper!) she cheated a little and used a type of wool called, I believe "creative yarn", which is somehow pre-treated so that a Fair Isle-ish pattern emerges as you knit.  It's not perfect but it's a fair approximation and a worthy alternative (I love it Mum, in case you're reading this!).

Not the best picture perhaps, but you get the idea.

So the first salvo has been fired in the Battle of Hastings (vs. Miss Lemon) ;-P.  Next time (and that time will depend on you, girls) Captain Hastings will return in Murder in the Mews.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Musical Interlude: Frankie Trumbauer & His Orchestra (featuring Eddie Lang & Bix Beiderbecke) - I'm Coming Virginia (1927)



In lieu of any vintage news (which seems to have become rather thin on the ground again over the last few days) here's another song from my Desert Island Discs list "for your listening pleasure!".

And a pleasure this track certainly is, more so, in fact.  Many students of early jazz rightly wax lyrical on the subject of cornetist Bix Beiderbecke and his fantastic musicianship.  There was a very good article by Clive James in the London Times a few years ago that does just that in comparing and contrasting Bix's style to that of Louis Armstrong's, and examines the musical legacy of both men.

I don't intend to go into detail about Bix's tragically short life here, as I could never do it justice in a single blog post, but much of what is said about Bix's playing on I'm Coming Virginia mirrors my own feelings about the song and his performance.  Clive James' assertion that "there are moments when even a silent pause is a perfect note, and always there is a piercing sadness to it" sums up perfectly how striking and complex Bix's solo is.  Words like "transcendental", other-worldly" and "haunting" are well-earned, and I can appreciate where some jazz aficionados are coming from when they say it brings tears to their eyes - because it has done the same to me.  It's one of the only pieces of music where I can close my eyes and not only be taken back in time, but also into the music itself.  When you listen to it, particularly if you haven't heard it in a while, that cornet solo just hits you between the eyes in a way that few other performances can do in my experience. 

Friday, 11 March 2011

Steam on the c2c line...and beyond

Permission to say "Hurrah!!"
Steam on the c2c line...and beyond

This is my local railway line!  One of the departure stations is my local railway station!!  One of the destinations (Winchester) is my ancestral home city, where I have always wanted to visit!!!  This was playing on my iPod when I was first reading the article (!!!!): 



This is more than serendipity; it's almost spooky!  I simply MUST try to get a ticket!!

Harry Dolman's Flying Flea housed in Bristol's M-Shed



Harry Dolman's Flying Flea housed in Bristol's M-Shed

An amusing footnote in the history of aviation gets a mention in this article from the B.B.C. now, as an example of one of the odder aircraft ever to fly is put on display in a museum at Bristol - itself a well-known location in early British aeronautics.

We may look back now at the "Flying Flea" and laugh but in the 1930s powered flight, while barely 30 years old, was big business and already looked upon as having a great future.  However that vision of the future often took the form of every man and his dog buzzing about the skies in little aeroplanes much as people did (and do) in cars and on motorbikes.  "Flying for the masses", with the aeroplane becoming as ubiquitous as the motor car, was still considered a viable possibility - hence the proliferation of aircraft like this Pou-du-Ciel.

Alas numerous stumbling blocks meant we never got to see "skyways" filled with Joe Public in his little aeroplane (probably for the best!) and now the likes of the Flea remain as static museum pieces, a tantalising glimpse into pre-war attitudes to flying and a vision of a future that never was.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Bitter Lemon, or: The Revenge of Captain Hastings

In common with almost every other vintage blogger I am, of course, a huge fan of the Poirot TV series.  Got the DVD box set; love the stories, the acting, the settings and, naturally, the fashions.

Now, I know that if I go on reading the blogs of lovely vintage ladies I'm going to come across posts about women's fashion in the Poirot series.  Quite often in fact, it seems.  In particular the fashion of a certain female character - Miss Felicity Lemon, M. Poirot's efficient secretary.

Image courtesy of Flickr

Of course I thoroughly enjoy these dissections of various episodes and the clothes featured therein, even if they come from a feminine point of view (and of course girls will quite rightly focus on the women's fashion).  I am, after all, a reasonable man(!).  But, I am a man and with the best will in the world a red wool jumper with a giant white bow on the front, while very pretty on the right person, is of absolutely no use to me whatsoever. ;-)  Therefore, spurred on by the recent glut of Poirot/Miss Lemon posts pervading the blogosphere, I intend to start my own Poirot-fashion series to counter this perceived Miss Lemon bias. 

Between Poirot's foppish fastidiousness and Inspector Japp's plain, rank-and-file look there lies the well-dressed man, the perfect male foil for Miss Lemon(!), on whom I will focus my attention - one Captain Arthur Hastings, OBE (Hugh Fraser).

So be warned, ladies, as much as I love and look forward to your bloggings - Poirot-based or not - the next time I come across a Miss Lemon-heavy post I will not hesitate to respond with a Captain Hastings one of my own. 

I CAN'T KNIT THIS!!

Monday, 7 March 2011

Forties Fashion #3: Sports & Leisure Wear 1940

I bet you all thought I had forgotten about this series, didn't you?  Well, I nearly did!

Once again though I've delved in to this fashion sourcebook and this time feature the penultimate illustrations for 1940 - that of Sports and Leisure Wear.

These first three lovely ladies are all set for a day of fun and relaxation (or as much as the war would have allowed, at any rate) and from left to right wear the following:

Holiday wear: dress in white linen patterned in red; bloused bodice from above wide shaped inset band; collar and wide lapels, short puff sleeves with padded shoulders; knee-length gathered skirt; small white straw hat with red ribbon trim, worn with red open-mesh cotton snood; white canvas shoes with peep toes.  (Speaking as a chap, it sounds very nice and something I fancy you ladies could get away with today.  There's been a string of red-and-white vintage fashions throughout the blogiverse and on television recently - South Riding anyone? - could there about to be a revival in time for Spring?).

Next, anyone for tennis?!  White cotton two-piece jumper suit consisting of hip-length collarless top with high round neckline, two small patch pockets with buttoned flaps, short inset sleeves & padded shoulders and self-fabric buckled belt; knee-length box-pleated skirt; white cotton ankle socks and white canvas slip-ons.

Still on the tennis courts the third outfit is: a knee-length white linen dress (fly fastening from under collar to hip level, tuck to hem of flared skirt), bloused bodice with welt pockets at chest-level; short sleeves and padded shoulders, self-fabric belt; large hip-level patch pockets with flaps from under belt; white leather wedge-heeled shoes with bow trim.

The final couple are obviously enjoyed a seaside break and wear, respectively: blue and white striped cotton sundress with wide plain white cotton shoulder straps matching bindings of shaped neckline and centre button fastening through hem and trim on angled hip-level shaped patch pockets; knee-length skirt gathered from waist; blue canvas sling-back, peep toe shoes with high-wedge heels.

Single-breasted beige linen-tweed jacket; three-button fastening with patch pockets and narrow lapels; straight-cut light brown flannel trousers with turn-ups; cream cotton shirt with blue and brown tie; natural straw high-crown trilby with blue petersham ribbon band and narrow brim turned up at the back; light-tan leather lace-up shoes.

(Note to self - I may have just found my ideal spring/summer wardrobe in that final outfit...!).

Roll on the warmer months!

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Spitfire celebrates 75th anniversary



Spitfire celebrates 75th anniversary

Today marks a special date in the history of aviation and, ultimately, the history of this country.  On the 5th of March 1936 at Eastleigh Aerodrome, Hampshire  (now Southampton Airport) a single-engined, low-wing monoplane fighter prototype flew for the first time.  That aeroplane, designated Type 300, became the Supermarine Spitfire - designer R. J. Mitchell's magnum opus and the aircraft that went on to define and ultimately help win the Second World War in the air.



The Spitfire can trace its roots back to the successful Supermarine S.5 and S.6/S.6B seaplanes that won the Schneider Trophy in 1927, 1929 and 1931.  Here were the first examples of Mitchell's streamlined, one-piece designs complete with (from the S.6 onwards) Rolls-Royce engines, which would eventually lead to the Spitfire.  Together with the RAF's first low-wing monoplane fighter the Hawker Hurricane, which pre-dated it by a matter of 5 months, the Spitfire became the backbone of Fighter Command in World War Two and has forever cemented itself in our nation's consciousness.

Spitfire prototype K5054, prior to its first flight, 5th March 1936.

Spitfire flight marks 75th anniversary in Southampton

As part of the celebrations the "Grace" Spitfire performed a flypast over Southampton, where Supermarine was based, and a statue has been commissioned as a permanent memorial.



But the most fitting tribute to this enduring aircraft are the 44 or so (out of total 22,500 manufactured) that still fly and perform at airshows around the world.  Perhaps more than any other aeroplane it has earned an abiding glamour that will, with luck, ensure it remains at the forefront of our cultural heritage for another 75 years.  In the meantime, Happy Birthday Spitfire!

Friday, 4 March 2011

Museum showcases America's gangsters



Museum showcases America's gangsters

More 1920s gangster-related news now, featuring two films made about a year apart - the latest from B.B.C. America and an older one I dug up on Youtube as an addition.

I'm not so sure about the B.B.C.'s assertion that '20s and '30s organised crime doesn't make it into the history books - I've certainly read and own a good few that cover that period in American history - but this is certainly the first I've heard of a museum dedicated to early 20th Century gangdom.

Yet it makes sense that there should be something like this - after all we have museums of warfare and other [sometimes unsavoury] periods of cultural significance, so why not a mob museum?  It's just as important for future generations to know about and appreciate what went on during that time and the social and political influences responsible for the rise of gangsterism.  It's also useful for tourists and foreign visitors such as myself, should I ever visit New York(!), to whom the concept of gangsters and speakeasies is interesting yet at the same time alien.

From what these clips show a museum about gangsters seems a worthy and fascinating addition to the ranks of historical institutions; I applaud Mr Otway and wish him and his museum every success.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Autocar 1928-2011: Austin 7 'Gordon England' Sunshine Saloon



One of the few periodicals I read on a regular basis is the Autocar magazine.  It satisfies my interest in all things related to modern motoring (despite my not actually having a driving licence or owning a car!) and I've been a subscriber since long before I would legally have been allowed to drive(!).  When I was last employed it was very useful for my work too (in fact, my last two jobs were found through its pages) and I hope it will be again some time soon.

Anyway, this week's copy sees the Autocar reach a very remarkable milestone.  Already laying claim to the record of the oldest motoring magazine in the world, having first been published on the 2nd of November 1895 "in the interests of the mechanically-propelled road carriage", on the 13th of April 1928 it undertook the first ever "road test" - a detailed study of a particular motor car encompassing equipment, performance and driving characteristics which has become the universal standard since then.


The very first car to undergo this examination was the Austin Seven and since then a staggering 5,000 cars have been subjected to the same test (with some improvements over the years, of course).  To celebrate this achievement the latest issue has reprinted 50 of the best road tests of the last 83 years - including, of course, the original 1928 #1 - and sportingly "re-tested" an Austin Seven to see how it might fare today.  It makes for interesting and, I'm pleased to say, not entirely ignominious viewing.  Well done to the little Austin for putting in an impressive performance and congratulations to Autocar - here's to the next 80 years/ 5,000 road tests!

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