Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Back in time!



Hello everyone!  Yes, this is the author writing - live, alive and if I do say so myself quite well!  Huzzah!

I can't begin to tell you how pleased I am to be able to say that things seem to have gone smoothly this time - so well in fact that I was kicked out of the hospital after only one week, on the day my first scheduled post was published as it happens!  I almost needn't have bothered; talk about sink or swim!

If I never see the inside of a hospital again it will be too soon and looking at the admittedly fascinating pictures accompanying one of my favourite Red Nichols/Charleston Chasers numbers above I'm as relieved as ever to be living at a time when I can be satisfactorily fixed up and continue to enjoy a good normal quality of life - something I know only too well would not have been the case 80-90 years ago. 

The song title says it all (just a dull stitch-like ache among other things, really) and the upbeat tempo chimes perfectly with my hopes and happiness for a healthier future.  It's still early days (two weeks yesterday) but it's looking positive.  I'm certainly back in the Blogosphere, although there's still one or two scheduled posts that I'm going to let run while I find my feet again. 

All that remains is for me to thank everyone for their kind thoughts, messages and comments (comments will revert to being moderated again now - I didn't get the flood of spam I expected but there were one or two and I like/find it easier to read what people have written before I hit the "Publish" button - so worry not if they don't appear right away) they really did help and mean a lot to me during my recovery.  I'm pleased to see Eclectic Ephemera continued to enjoy frequent patronisation while I was away (I had a record 1,109 page views in one day - perhaps I should leave the thing on autopilot more often!) and rest assured normal service will be resumed very shortly.

Until then and with a full heart I bid you - tinkerty-tonk!

Monday, 28 January 2013

The Incredible Captain Hastings

While my enforced absence continues, here's another post I prepared earlier(!).  Although things seem to have gone quiet on the Miss Lemon front (I knew it would eventually, ha ha!) another Captain Hastings post has been long overdue and lends itself perfectly to covering my current situation.

I know in my last Captain Hastings post I wrote that The Third Floor Flat would be the next episode to receive the Eclectic Ephemera treatment but, although it is the excellent adventure I remembered it to be, it doesn't show the dashing Captain Hastings' sartorial splendour to best effect as bar the first couple of minutes he (and everybody else) spends the entire episode in evening dress.  Likewise the next story to feature the good Captain - Problem At Sea - features only a couple of holiday outfits.  I have decided, therefore, to skip over these two episodes (returning to them at a later date, probably as a double-header) and move straight on to The Incredible Theft.


The story opens with a beautiful fighter prototype being put through its paces over an English airfield.  It looks remarkably like a Spitfire, doesn't it? ;)  For the purposes of this dramatisation, however, it is the new Mayfield Kestrel.  The Germans would love to get their hands on the blueprints of this aeroplane and company owner Tommy Mayfield, with government minister Sir George Carrington think they know who they will use - American socialite and Nazi sympathiser Mrs Vanderlyn.  Mayfield has invited her to a weekend party at his home with the intention of entrapping her, much to Mrs Mayfield's consternation.

Who could fail to be impressed with Hastings red/white striped shirt, cleverly set off
with red/gold striped tie, a beautiful red/cream/grey check-pattern cardigan and grey trews?

We find Poirot more interested in "instructing" Hastings "in the care of patent leather".  Hastings meanwhile, in his keenness to impress a young lady architect, is deep in thought about "cubic thingummies".  (Quite why anyone would have nothing to talk about with our favourite fellow - and foist them off on their mums! - I can't understand).

It's not that bow dress but one very much like it (to this untrained blogger's eye).
Some nice detailing around the neckline.  A halter neck or something, I think?

Miss Lemon is annoyed (what else? ;p) that Mrs Mayfield keeps telephoning for an appointment without giving her her name, as it messes up her filing.  Poirot chides her mockingly, so the next time Mrs Mayfield calls...

Not one but two Miss Lemon pics!  A better look at the dress.

Poirot, having spoken to Mrs Mayfield, agrees to also attend the upcoming soireé to keep an eye on things.  Off go Poirot and Hastings to the country.

(On the subject of dresses, no post on The Incredible Theft would be complete without featuring The Incredible Dress - namely Mrs Vanderlyn's silver lamé number.  We often see pictures of 1930s film stars wearing the lamé dresses that were popular at the time but the black and white photography tends to rob them of their impact.  No such problem here!).

Mrs Vanderlyn makes her entrance:

Lamé!!

Hastings doesn't.  Why wasn't he invited to the party, that's what he wants to know.  Poor old Hastings!  But Poirot wants him as his man on the outside, so it's off to the local hostelry for the Captain.

Stylish even in the dark!  Difficult to see here, but it looks like the good old Hastings
staple of grey/brown jacket/trousers, striped shirt, matching tie and sleeveless pullover.

The plans for the Kestrel are indeed stolen as feared - but not as anticipated!  In a panic, Sir George and Mayfield insist on having Mrs Vanderlyn searched - even though it's the middle of the night.

Mrs Vanderlyn looks better here than in that lamé dress, if you ask me.
With her hair down and in nightwear she presents a quite different picture.

With the search proving fruitless Inspector Japp and half the local police force turn up at Sir George's request, filling up the local inn when they're not looking for the stolen papers.  Hastings' problems just get worse and worse as he is forced to share a bed with Japp!

"Poirot my dear fellow I promise you you've never heard anything like it.  You know those boots he wears?  Bang! and the other one, crash!  When he finally gets in to bed it's worse.  He talks in his sleep.  'Now I've got you, young fella m'lad, Japp of the Yard strikes again!'  I thought I'd go mad!  Every time I managed to drop off he starts shouting.  'Stand back lads, he's got a blancmange!'.  Some of the things he was saying were enough to make a cat laugh.  I can't take much more of it, Poirot, and I've been through three days of a Jerry barrage."

A splendid country jackets partially hides a superlative Fair Isle slipover.

On the way back to Mayfield's house it becomes clear to Poirot how Mrs Vanderlyn intended to get hold of the plans.  He rushes (yes, a rare occurrence of Poirot actually running!) to find Hastings and his Lagonda so they can follow her and see where she goes but, perhaps in an effort to take his mind off Japp's nocturnal habits, Hastings has taken the opportunity to remove the spark plugs from his car to give them a bit of a clean.

A much better view of that wonderful Fair Isle

With the Lagonda out of action Poirot and Hastings "borrow" a nearby police car and the chase is on!  Put Captain Hastings in a speedy car and there's no holding him back!  He runs the full gamut of emotions and even starts telling Poirot what to do, as they dash after Mrs Vanderlyn's Rolls-Royce.

Another glimpse of the Fair Isle and also the arm bands so his shirt sleeves don't
fall in to the sump!

Alas even Captain Hastings' spirited driving is not enough to stop Mrs Vanderlyn from reaching the nearby country residence of the German ambassador, where she deposits the plans.  By the time they've returned to the Mayfield house, though, Poirot has the whole case worked out right down to the last minute plot twist - which I won't give away here - that ensures everything turns out all right in the end.

All that remains now is for Captain Hastings to drive Poirot and Japp home in his own car.  Even though it is one of the rare occasions where he has to sit in the back of the Lagonda Poirot is happy for Hastings to "drive on!" now that he hasn't got an important document and American infiltrator to chase after.

A final look at the full ensemble.

So ends another adventure for our favourite crime fighters.  The Incredible Theft ranks among my favourites of the early Poirot episodes not least because of the presence (albeit brief) of a Spitfire and, of course, Captain Hastings(!) but also the funny conversation about sharing a room with Japp and the great car chase at the end of it.  (These are all, to a greater or lesser extent, from having the likes of Clive Exton - who also worked on Jeeves & Wooster - Anthony Horowitz and David Renwick on the production team).

Once I have revisited The Third Floor Flat and Problem At Sea the next episode to get some attention will be The King of Clubs.  Until then, I leave you to enjoy the episode that has just been featured:

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Forties Fashion #7: Day Wear 1942

If I've worked out Blogger's Scheduled Post function correctly then thanks to the wonders of modern technology this post should appear while I am still laid up in hospital.  We haven't had an excerpt from the 1940s Fashion Sourcebook for a while and as it lends itself to the kind of simple, straightforward pre-planned post now would seem to be the perfect time to revisit it.

We now find ourselves in the middle of the war years - 1942 to be precise.  Restrictions on cloth allowance seem not to have quite come in yet judging by the following outfits, although they would not be much longer in appearing.  Even so basic simplicity appears ever more obvious, although fashionable flourishes still abound - as we shall see.

Top left wears: wine red wool two-piece suit comprising of a hip-length edge-to-edge jacket, fastened with loops and buttons in four sets of four from above the hemline to under the narrow stand collar and self-fabric buckled belt; two inset bands of bias-cut self-fabric from under arms to centre-front and full-length tight inset sleeves with padded shoulders; bias-cut knee-length flared skirt.  Accessorised with a red silk turban, black leather envelope clutch bag and matching lace-up high-heel shoes.  Red and black are such wonderfully contrasting colours (as anyone who has seen the film "Dick Tracy" could attest to; cf. some of Jessica's outfits over at Chronically Vintage as well), I could imagine this looking quite striking - especially if the two inset bands were black too perhaps?

Bottom right wears: Knee-length green and blue herringbone wool-tweed coat, single-breasted fastening from waist level to under wide lapels and large collar; flared from under arm to hem with long raglan sleeves, padded shoulders and hip-level welt pockets with top-stitched edges and raised & top-stitched seams.  Complemented by a blue and green patterned silk scarf, navy blue felt hat with small crown & turned-down brim and navy blue leather shoes with round toes & high heels.

Top left wears: two-piece wool jumper suit comprising of a long single-breasted turquoise jacket with large hip-level patch-and-flap pockets, the upper bodice tucked from above the self-fabric tie belt to under the high yoke seam; shirt collar in fawn with matching lapel facings, yoke, full-length sleeves under padded shoulders and a knee-length box-pleated skirt.  Finished off with brown leather shoes.  Another clever use of colours - blue and brown is an often-overlooked combination, I find.

Bottom right wears: two-piece blue and grey striped wool suit comprised of a double-breasted unfitted jacket with wide lapels, patch pockets and stitched cuffs; wide trousers with turn-ups (I'm surprised to see turn-ups and skirt pleats so far in to the war because as far as I was aware both were prohibited/restricted - by the Utility Clothing Scheme I believe - from 1942 due to fabric rationing).  White cotton collar-attached shirt with blue and silver-grey patterned silk tie.  Black leather lace-up shoes.  Quite a modern ensemble for our lone chap, blue and grey/silver being a popular combination even today.

Left wears: Cherry red wool dress with a semi-fitted bodice above a self-fabric belt with covered buckle, knee-length flared panelled skirt, black wool yoke with scalloped top-stitched edges continuing over the padded shoulders above long sleeves with scalloped pockets set vertically at hip level into panel seams.  Topped off with black high-heeled shoes with turned-down tongues.  Yet another excellent use of red and black - I bet this would look as good as the first outfit, not to mention more than suitable even among today's fashions.

There we have it then for another selection - and in my opinion one of the best yet.  Some striking designs very much in the wartime style, I think you'll agree, but also I'd like to believe rather inspirational this time.  Certainly there are if not entire outfits certainly aspects of them that could be incorporated into achievable looks today and which I'm sure I have or could easily see on several vintage blogging gals, if I may say so.  I hope you agree with me - do let me know what you think!

The next two scheduled posts should more than redress the balance for us chaps, however.  Despite no Miss Lemon fashion post from any of you ladies recently (what's the matter - suffering from bow cardigan fatigue?! ;p) another Captain Hastings-fest is on the horizon, as well as an extra-special addition to the Style Icon series.  Hopefully I'll once again be able to take inspiration from both before long, in the meantime I hope everybody's continuing to keep well!

Monday, 14 January 2013

Once more unto the breach, dear friends



Some of my readers may remember that I disappeared from the blogosphere for 4 months back in May 2011, following a hospital stay for some abdominal surgery.  That hospitalisation was meant to last no more than two weeks but quickly descended into a living nightmare as everything started to go wrong, leaving me bedridden until I was finally discharged in August essentially worse off than when I had gone in as the planned surgery had to be "undone" leaving me just as I had been beforehand but also weakened from the ordeal of it all.  I won't go into any greater (gory) detail here on a public blog but my Inbox is always open to anyone who wants to chat about such matters, as I know there are a few vintage bloggers who struggle with their health sometimes.

Here he comes again...
The reason for this sudden, frank reminder (or, to newer arrivals, revelation) of a dark chapter in my (and my blog's) recent history is because I have to tell you that the time has come for me - or rather my consultant - to have another crack at the operation that was first attempted in May 2011.  I'm back to as close to full strength as I'll ever be and although what was behind the debacle two years ago has never been satisfactorily determined various tests since then appear to show no barrier to trying again and the doc is quietly confident - so come Tuesday in I go once more.

"I'm ready for your dictation."
Of course I have no intention of being out of commission for four months this time - I continue to hope for the best outcome and the hospital will be on the alert from the start now - but the fact remains that for a few weeks at least I shan't be around to keep this blog going.  I thought it only fair to advise you all of the fact rather than have you all scratching your heads wondering where I've gone as happened last time.  However I've actually organised things enough this time that I've planned ahead and created a few scheduled posts (including this one, although I don't go in 'til Tuesday morning) that should appear automatically over the next three weeks.  I have to thank Jessica over at Chronically Vintage for her recent post about blogging schedules which inspired me to put a few posts by for when I'll be too ill to write any on the spot.  Although the majority of posts on Eclectic Ephemera are of the as-it-happens (or as-it-happened-and-has-just-been-rediscovered/celebrated/championed) variety I do like to vary things with the odd blog about personal vintage discoveries & enjoyments and it will be ones of this sort that you will have to put up with for a while, I'm afraid!

I feel a bit rotten about having written a couple of other post in January before this one - I had hoped to have one or two more articles come my way in between times but it looks like time is running out for that (watch them all flood in now I've committed that down!).  Either way rest assured that during my enforced absence I will still be following my many regular bloggers in spirit if nothing else.  I've altered this blog's settings so that comments will be published immediately so do please keep 'em coming!  It was quite a comfort to me last time to read all my favourite blogs, not to mention the comments and e-mails wishing me well - those were particularly affecting and I must thank again everyone who left them.

All that remains is for me to wish you all - visitors, readers, followers old and new - all the best for the remainder of January.  Looking forward to catching up with all your wonderful blogs will be one of things keeping me buoyant and focussed on getting over the surgery successfully this time.  Once again, I will see you all anon.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

World War I photos found inside antique camera

Photo courtesty of Anton Orlov @ The Photo Palace

World War I photos found inside antique camera

As the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War moves ever closer (a fact I still struggle to fully comprehend, cf. this earlier post) we will doubtless start to see many stories and articles commemorating the centenary.  Will we see one as fresh and remarkable as this, though?

Over the course of this blog we have seen photographs discovered in shoe boxes, in rubbish skips and in long-forgotten archives.  Now we can add an antique camera itself to that list, as this story of another blogger's discovery tells.

If I understand it correctly the glass-plate negatives found inside this 100-year old camera, picked up at an American antique shop, had previously been processed (otherwise we would not have been able to see them today) but then kept in the camera - where for all we know they may have remained ever since.  Certainly this must be the first time they have been seen for decades - maybe even the first time by people other than the original photographer.  We may never know who took them, or precisely when and where in France they were, but the fact that they have survived all these years is welcome enough news.

Photo courtesy of Anton Orlov @ The Photo Palace

Whatever the history of these pictures they couldn't have ended up in better hands. Photographer Anton Orlov, on whose blog The Photo Palace you can see the full selection of images (as well as some equally fascinating and perhaps even more historically important shots of the same vintage taken in Russia, China and Japan), is clearly a big fan of old-fashioned analogue photography. So much so, in fact, that he has purchased an old yellow school bus with the aim of touring America as a sort of mobile museum/dark room - not only exhibiting the pictures and cameras but also giving talks and running workshops on the early techniques that were used, in the hope of ensuring that knowledge of and interest in non-digital print photography is not lost but rather encouraged. 

Both these and the Eastern photos must surely rank among the top exhibits and I wish Mr Orlov every success in seeing through his endeavour to make them a part of his educational and inspirational scheme.

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Pensioners restore rare WWII bomber



Pensioners restore rare WWII bomber

While preparations continue for the excavation and repatriation of a number of Spitfires, which may eventually lead to a doubling of airworthy examples, in a small corner of Lincolnshire work continues on increasing the flyable examples of another famous Second World War aircraft - the Avro Lancaster bomber.

Currently only two of the surviving 17 Lancaster airframes are airworthy.  One is of course PA474 City of Lincoln - better known as the mainstay of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight  - the other is owned and operated by a museum in Canada.  More are in the process of being restored at various locations around the world - in France, Canada and the U.S.A.  Looking most likely to make it back into the air first though is NX611 Just Jane, which has been the star attraction at the Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre since it was opened in 1988.  The story of how the museum came in to being and how the Lanc was obtained is explained briefly in the accompanying B.B.C. article and in greater detail here.



Lancaster bomber to fly as tribute to a lost brother

Suffice to say it has obviously been a labour of love for the two owner brothers - who must have been moved in ways we can only imagine to set the whole thing up - and the team who have spent the last 25 years getting Just Jane back to near-original condition.  So close are they to fulfilling their dream that they can already offer taxi runs to paying customers but now thanks to donations they have been able to purchase four "new" Merlin engines that should, all things being well, allow the aircraft to be deemed officially airworthy!

With Just Jane on the brink of returning to the skies and 30-odd Spitfires about to be dug out of the Burmese soil 2013 is shaping up to be an extraordinary year for these special aircraft.  Whether there will be two Lancs in the air in time for the 70th anniversary of the famous "Dam Busters" raid in May remains to be seen but that these aircraft will get the chance to fly again and continue to thrill and educate new generations is wonderful news indeed.

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