Thursday 26 September 2013

The Right Trousers

OK, I think I've kept you all in suspense for long enough.  Time to reveal The Main Present that was given to me on my 30th birthday back in August.  Only a couple of weeks ago was it completely finished and finally delivered into my hands and now I have had the chance to take some suitable photographs for inclusion in this, a rare outfit post.  Outfit, I hear you ask?  Yes indeed, for it is... an authentically cut pair of fishtail trousers, plus braces, from Darcy Clothing (courtesy of mother - thanks Ma)!

Here they are modelled properly by Darcy Clothing's own man:

Fishtail back trousers from Darcy Clothing

And here they are modelled less professionally by the author(!):

Having had my eye on a proper pair of traditional trousers for some little time now and with the products in high street shops coming up woefully short in general style, comfort and fit (literally), not to mention quality it was agreed that an authentic pair of high-waisted trews would be mater's present to me on my thirtieth.  Bowing to my superior knowledge(!) and after much deliberation, a pair of Darcy's fishtail back trousers was decided upon and ordered.  (Other traditional outfitters were considered, as was the idea of locating an original vintage pair of slacks, but Darcy's won through in the end and I was reminded of my previous musings when it came to trying to locate an original pair.)

Forgive the sea of creases.  I'm really a pedantic ironer (and I enjoy
it, too!) but once it's all on, and with braces, well, it doesn't take long...
(The chain cuff links a present from my aunt & uncle in the USA)

Arriving promptly (and well-packaged) along with the requisite pair of proper button-on braces, the unfinished trews were handed on to mother for adjustment (cue much umm-ing and aah-ing, consulting of YouTube videos, measuring and remeasuring etc.).  And so it was a couple of weeks ago that they found their way back to me, properly (and professionally thanks to the master sewer of the family) finished to the right length, complete with turn-ups.  Earlier this week I took the opportunity to wear them and take some long-overdue photographs.

The fit and comfort, I should add, is first rate, with a perfect rise (an important requirement for a chap with long legs and a short body!) and a fine waist (Darcy's waist sizes are always on the conservative side, which is only a good thing as far as I'm concerned - getting the measurements right is the most off-putting aspect of buying online, I find).  The quality is more than acceptable; I chose a cotton fabric, although it is also possible to get them in harder-wearing corduroy or moleskin, and it is lightweight and well put together - as one would expect from a hand cut authentic pattern.  There was much deliberation on colour - being only trousers I wanted to get ones that matched the majority of my existing clothes (particularly jackets) - and here was the one area where Darcy Clothing's website could come in for some criticism as they don't currently give full descriptions of every colour choice (of which there are many).  "Gold", "tan" and "bottle green" are all clear enough but "colour 7", "colour 8" and "colour 11" aren't all that helpful and leave you staring at a computer screen trying to work out the shade for yourself.  (I suppose if you really wanted to be sure you could always telephone them and ask.)  Eventually we crossed our fingers and went with "colour 9 brown cotton herringbone" but I think you'd agree that from some angles there's more than a hint of grey in the image.

With the beige wide herringbone shirt from this post, an old tie from
goodness knows where (probably a charity job), brown pinstripe
waistcoat from British Home Stores (from a time when BHS had
clothes worth buying) and my late maternal grandfather's fob chain.

Thankfully when they arrived they were most definitely brown and just the right shade too - enough that they near-as-makes-no-difference go with my brown waistcoat, and will doubtless go with at least three of my jackets plus many more jumpers besides.  Now I am that much closer to a full-on vintage[-style] ensemble and, having successfully bought high-waisted trousers online, keen to continue adding to my wardrobe (as my wallet permits, of course!).  Who knows, maybe by the time I'm 35 I'll have a whole outfit(!)...

To top off this little rig, and because by this time I was getting quite caught up with the look (what right thinking chap wouldn't?) I dug out my Christy's trilby and was more than a little pleased with the result, if I do say so myself.

Well I hope you've enjoyed seeing all these pictures of my latest sartorial acquisition as as much as I have wearing it and I trust it was worth the wait too?  It certainly was for me - I think I'll have a job getting on with most modern trews now that I've experienced the comfort of these high-waisters!  It may also seem a silly thing to say but I feel another step further along now in reaching the vintage look I've always aimed for.  I'm looking forward now to getting a lot of wear out of these, day to day and - who knows? - maybe at the odd event or two!

Sunday 22 September 2013

The Great British Moan Off

As I sit here waiting for the Great British Weather to make up its mind as to whether we're going to have an Indian Summer or not, it strikes me that now is as good a time as any to respond to the latest "blogger tag" that has been bestowed upon by that fine fellow of the North, G.M. Norton.  Less of an award and more of a sharing experience, it involves the somewhat different - albeit typically British - trait of moaning.

Mr Norton has highlighted three things that he would consign to his own personal Room 101.  Good manners, or rather lack thereof, naturally makes it to his list and can also be found amongst the gripes of others who have been tagged and quite right too.  The three I have chosen could be said to encompass common courtesy, but all I think share a similar thread.

Insularity and the death of community

Like it says on the top right...
If there's one thing guaranteed to make me miserable, it's walking to the shops or around the local park and trying to engage with people I pass on the way.  I should know by now that it will usually end in disappointment.  The local uniform of grey jogging bottoms and sweatshirts, the grim faces, the downward/straight ahead look - they should all tip me off that saying "hello", "good morning/afternoon" is a waste of breath.  Yet, ever the optimist (this post is certainly not my usual fare) I still do it.  Although to be honest these days it's more often a mumbled "hiyathereyouallright", which I always mentally kick myself afterwards for the slovenly cop-out it is.  Still it's better than nothing, I suppose.  And heaven forfend I should ever smile and nod at someone for I seem always to be met with a look of shocked disgust and confusion, as if I'd just slapped them round the face with a wet kipper.  Try keeping eye contact for more than 3 seconds and you can almost hear "How dare you look in my general direction, you strangely well-dressed man?!  Weirdo."  (As a single man, who may appear to others as being slightly differently dressed, the spectre of being thought a sinister deviant is always at the back of my mind, especially when it comes to children, which is a sad indictment of modern society in itself).  Occasionally you'll be gifted with the odd person(s) who will respond positively (and I can bet they generally won't be younger than the Baby Boomer generation, who seem the last to have been brought up to recognise this courtesy - present company excepted, of course!) and when it happens it truly does feel like a special occasion, a day-maker, so rare is it otherwise.  And that's the beauty of passing greetings on the street - it shows you recognise the equal importance of the other party (not to mention simply acknowledging their very existence) and have good will enough to pass the time of day with them.  Better that than the attitude of suspicion that seems to pervade most places these days.  This, then, is my first moan - the demise of day-to-day community spirit and the insularity of modern society. 

Apathy and the death of personal responsibility/common sense

Take it to the tip yourself or call the council, before someone
comes along and sets fire to it...
To use a personal example - so, Mr Fellow Resident, having gouged lumps out of the newly-plastered walls in the communal entrance hall with your clumsy removal skills you're now just going to leave your old sofa dumped outside, eh?  Not your problem anymore, I suppose?  The refuse workers will just pop it in the dustcart with the black bags, you think?  Even after it's been out there for three weeks?  The fact that someone else nearby did the same thing and then had their house burned down when arsonists came a-calling doesn't bother you, I imagine?

There, then, is a microcosm of an epidemic that has swept the nation - the abdication of personal responsibility and an apathetic attitude to others (and even, I would venture to suggest, themselves - it would certainly help explain the appearance of some I see around here).  How can these people not have even a twinge of conscience, of selfless thought to do what would often be the simplest action to make things better for everyone?  It is left to the authorities and the likes of you and me to do what they will not, which in the long run can only compound the problem ("someone else'll do it").  It's a thorny issue with no quick fix but something needs to be done to rid these folks of their apathy.  In the meantime I continue to shake my fists at them in frustration.

Swearing in front of children

Even I might utter the odd oath under my breath from time to time, but only when provoked and never in company.  Swearing in public in general is a particular bugbear of mine and I have nothing but admiration for those people with the courage to speak up to the perpetrator.  But one aspect that makes my already steaming blood boil is when people do it in the presence of children (e.g. on the bus, in shops etc.).  And within that aspect is another...

Now I don't usually get involved much on the subject of modern parenting; being a single chap myself I know I'm not particularly qualified - any observations I make still tend to be along the lines of "when I was a boy...".  Generally it is up to the parent to bring up the child as they see fit and to their credit most do a good job of it.  Bad parenting on the other hand is a wide-ranging issue and the subject of many a social commentary or government policy, if not worse.  I won't attempt to cover the whole issue here but only one small, particularly irksome aspect which I'm afraid I sometimes encounter.  I really do hope any responses to this will be along the lines of "I don't know what you mean, Bruce" or "Nope, never come across that before".  I refer to those parents who walk around with three or four children in tow, double buggies etc., smoking like chimneys and swearing like sailors.  My overwhelming feeling upon encountering these groups is utter pity, mixed with helplessness/hopelessness (plus a little extra antipathy for the parents), for these poor children who will grow up thinking that is the norm.  "There's another generation lost", I can't help but think, and there are times I've even wondered how far the child cruelty laws extend...  As mentioned earlier the whole subject of proper, healthy parenting can be a hideously complex issue, encompassing both personal responsibility and government provision.  I won't even begin to go down that road here; I think I've gone on quite long enough as it is!

As is often the way with rants, I seem to have ended up writing a mini essay - apologies!  If you've made it this far, well done, and I hope you've nodded in agreement at least somewhere along the way.  I won't pass this on, if you don't mind - I think I've spread enough doom and gloom with this as it is, things that Eclectic Ephemera was expressly set up to banish, but do feel free to add your own thoughts and pet hates here if you want.  Let me end on a happy note by wishing you all a happy and frustration-free week!

Friday 20 September 2013

Birthday tripper

So, I do believe I promised a little while ago an account of my doings on my birthday last month and now all the photos are gathered in here it finally is!  Actually this will be one of two posts, the other to feature The Main Present that I've been teasing you all with and which has just recently made it's completed appearance following some final adjustments in the skillful hands of mater - that's the only clue you'll get until the big reveal!  I could have lumped everything together in one post but it would have been very picture heavy and probably a bit of a snore after a while so here's the day out first, with the gift post to follow shortly.

My original plan had been to attend the Barrelhouse Stomp 1940s Weekend at Battlesbridge, as mentioned previously here, but as my health was (and still is) playing Lucky Dip with me come that weekend I didn't feel that I would do the event justice (and as it also turned out the local railway branch line that would normally have taken me there was closed for engineering work!) so I went with the consolation prize of a day trip to nearby Old Leigh on the Thames Estuary.

Leigh Creek and some of the fishing fleet, taken from the quay.

Old Leigh is a quaint little fishing village that sits on the banks of the Thames Estuary in Essex, a couple of miles west of Southend and roughly opposite the Isle of Grain in Kent.  While the main town of Leigh-on-sea has evolved into part of the London commuter belt, albeit still very much with a small seaside town flavour (although in recent years a little bit of "yuppyness" has crept in as evidenced by the types of some high street shops and, I'm afraid, prices in a few of the charities) and some lovely history, Old Leigh has remained very much as it was at the turn of the 20th century.  True it does play up its heritage a bit for the tourists these days but it is still a wonderful place to visit for us locals too and is best known for its seafood, which remains the village's prime industry (as you can probably tell from the first picture).  Cockles, winkles, crabs, all sorts of fish - it's all available at Old Leigh's many seafood merchants!

Very windy on the quayside!!

It was a lovely warm albeit sometimes cloudy Sunday in August when mater and I went there and more than a bit breezy at certain unprotected points!  The place was also heaving with people, quite the busiest I'd seen it in a while, as everyone made the most of the late summer weather.  We did two lengths of the old high street, taking in the splendid old fishermans' houses (many still private dwellings), the novelty shops, the two museums/galleries, and the many cafés, restaurants and fishmongers which litter the place (and all of which were packed!).  We eventually found ourselves back at Osborne's Café, which was busy (busier than in the photo below!) but still had a few seats free.  I had a couple of crab rolls (yummy!) and mother had a crab roll, a cheese & onion roll and some rollmops.  Rollmops, in case you're wondering, are pickled herrings wrapped around sliced onions/gherkins/olives etc.  Not so yummy in my opinion (!) - I like my herrings kippered personally ;).

After lunch we decided to burn it all off by walking from Old Leigh into Leigh-on-sea town centre, via the intimidatingly long and steep Church Hill.  Starting a little way above the shoreline it runs all the way up to Leigh Broadway (the high street).  In its present location it dates from 1838 and the church at the summit, St Clement's, can trace its construction back to the 1400s (although there is evidence of a church on the site from as early as 1248).

Church Hill runs for about 520ft and blimey, is it steep!  We stopped a few times, not only to rest but to take photographic advantage of the rewards such an old route provides!

This is actually someone's back gate!

Quite apart from the historic nature of the hill and its immediate surroundings, there are fantastic views of Leigh Marshes and the estuary to be had on the way up.  The people living on the terraces that branch off either side are lucky blighters and no mistake!

Just starting off...

The top at last!  Long way, isn't it?
At the top there are more rewards to be enjoyed in the form of Leigh Library Gardens on one side of the summit and the aforementioned St Clement's church on the other.  We got our breath back in the gardens before having a look around the churchyard.

The entrance to Leigh Library Gardens

You'll have to excuse the decidedly non-vintage sunglasses and drinks bottle!

St Clement's Church, Leigh-on-sea

By the time we reached Leigh-on-sea town centre proper the afternoon was fast drawing to an end and most of the shops were closing up, so we didn't bother perusing anywhere but instead made our way home.

All in all it was a smashing day out and a very nice way to spend my birthday weekend in the end.  [Old] Leigh has always been one of my favourite day trip destinations and I will no doubt return there again soon; if you're ever in the area I can certainly recommend visiting!

Tuesday 17 September 2013

Lancaster bomber roars over Worcestershire as part of Defford Airfield Heritage Weekend


Lancaster bomber roars over Worcestershire as part of Defford Airfield Heritage Weekend

I've mentioned before how indebted this blog is to the news feeds & alerts that I'm signed up to in helping me to find vintage news and events near and far and this article is a classic example.

"A picture of a Lanc, and a Heritage Weekend?  I'll have a look at that", I thought to myself - with an eye to putting it on here - when the e-mail alert popped into my inbox yesterday.  And I was not disappointed as I read the splendid article to see the few remaining RAF Bomber Command servicemen who served at RAF Defford gathered together to share memories, the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Avro Lancaster gracing the event with a few flypasts over the gorgeous Worcestershire countryside and the whole weekend generally being a rip-roaring success.  It's always heartwarming to see such an important piece of history as the the sole airworthy Lancaster in Britain appearing at events like these and it all certainly seems to have given a well-deserved boost to the new Defford Airfield Museum.

Then I clicked through the accompanying pictures.  Got to the fifth one.  Hang on a minute, that's...!  (Imagine me now doing a double take, taking off my glasses, squinting, putting them back on again etc.)  Yes, fellow blogger Tickety Boo Tupney was in attendance, suitably and immaculately dressed as ever and no doubt helping to lend the event an authentic 1940s air.

So this news item that I might otherwise have missed ends up having it all - a popular Heritage Weekend, pleasant scenery, a Lancaster bomber and another vintage blogger - and earns a place on Eclectic Ephemera!

Sunday 15 September 2013

Agatha Christie sleuth Poirot to return in new novel

Poirot set to return in new novel

In the last few years there has been a spate of new stories featuring beloved literary characters brought back to life by modern-day authors, all with the blessing of the original writers' estates. James Bond was the first to be resurrected, by Sebastian Faulks in 2006's Devil May Care and then Jeffery Deaver's Carte Blanche in 2011. Anthony Horowitz was approached by the Conan Doyle estate to write a new Sherlock Holmes novel and he happily obliged with 2011's The House of Silk, with a second sequel story due be published in October 2014. Even the great P.G. Wodehouse's two most famous characters, Jeeves and Bertie Wooster, have not been immune to this latest vogue with the Wodehouse estate officially announcing earlier this year that Sebastian Faulks would be writing a new Jeeves novel for publication in November.

Hercule Poirot:  Belgian sleuth back from the grave in new book

Now it seems that the Agatha Christie estate has jumped on the bandwagon by commissioning a new novel featuring everyone's favourite Belgian 'tec Hercule Poirot, to be written by crime novelist Sophie Hannah.  The as-yet-unnamed story will be set in the 1920s (or "vaguely in the 1920s" according to the press blurb - hopefully this just means there won't be much reference to dates or age-defining elements and not some attempt to "bring Poirot into the 21st century" with strange modern influences) and I'm told, sadly, will not feature Captain Hastings (boo! to that, although we have to remember that we have been spoilt by Hugh Fraser's wonderful portrayal of the character in the Poirot TV series and that in actuality Captain Hastings only appeared in eight of the 43 Poirot stories).

Personally I'm rather ambivalent about these modern interpretations - I will probably read all of the above at some point but am in no real hurry to do so.  In most cases there's more than enough of the original author's canon to keep me happy.  Plus I've often found that when reading another writer's interpretation of a beloved literary character no matter how close they promise to be to the original source there will always be an element of their own writing style, their own views on how the protagonist should act, which invariably means that the story feels all the more emulative to me.

Still, good luck to Miss Hannah with her Poirot novel - I hope she does a good job of it.  Likewise Messrs Horowitz and Faulks.  Obviously the main motivator behind these officially-sanctioned books is money - these estates don't run on air, after all - and in the case of this latest Poirot news in particular it is no doubt to keep interest in the character high (especially as the David Suchet Poirot series is about to come to an end this year - boo! again) but anything that ensures such deservedly long-lived fictional heroes remain popular must be good news.

Saturday 7 September 2013

Vintage Adventurer aims to set new world record in U.S. ocean to ocean challenge


Vintage Adventurer aims to set new world record in U.S. ocean to ocean challenge

Just over one year ago I featured the story of Australian "vintage adventurer" Ron Wade and his intention to drive his 1930 Ford Model A from Beijing to Paris in the Peking-Paris Rally, then across the continental U.S.A. and finally from London to Cape Town - and trying to break world records into the bargain!

Now Mr Wade and his car have made the news again and I'm delighted to see that they are on the verge of embarking on the second stage of their around-the-world adventure - the "Ocean 2 Ocean America Challenge" - having successfully completed the gruelling Peking-Paris Motor Challenge in a remarkable 33 days earlier this year!  I never doubted that they would do it and the old Model A has proven to be a sturdy motor car I knew it would be.  (Incidentally if you ever get the chance to read the account of the original 1907 Peking-Paris race by Luigi Barzini Jr. - son of the journalist who travelled with the winning car - I can highly recommend it.)

The next challenge for Ron Wade and his Model A begins, fittingly enough, on Columbus Day (the 14th of October) when they begin the Ocean 2 Ocean challenge - to drive across the U.S.A. from the Atlantic coast to the Pacific (and, in a nice touch, Mr Wade will carry a bottle of water taken from the Atlantic Ocean and empty it into the Pacific upon his arrival!).  Here they hope to break their first record - to undertake the journey in less than 60 hours!  Will they do it?  Well, you can follow their progress on the Vintage Adventurer website; I for one am sure they'll manage it.

I'm equally certain they'll beat the London-Cape Town record too, although that attempt has yet to be confirmed.  No doubt we will hear of Ron Wade and his Model A again when it is; in the meantime, good luck to him in the Ocean 2 Ocean and "good on yer, cobber!" for being such a gentlemanly good sport all in the name of charity and "vintage" adventure.

Sunday 1 September 2013

Squads & Shirts

Hello-ello, remember me?!  I wouldn't blame you if you don't!

Once again I feel I must apologise for the lack of activity hereabouts; certain factors have meant this poor little blog has been awfully neglected recently.  Until things pick up, here's the first of two or three posts related to my 30th birthday a couple of weeks ago on the 19th August - a short presentation(!) of some of the things I got that are of a vintage bent.

Beige wide herringbone classic fit from Charles Tyrwhitt

Although not properly vintage as in "old", men's shirts can have a timeless quality to them particularly if one is discerning with the cut, style and colour (no bright colours or cutaway collars here!) and as my wardrobe needed refreshing some brand spanking new ones made their way to me in the week following the 19th.  A chap doesn't turn 30 every day so I decided to treat myself with some birthday money to four shirts from Charles Tyrwhitt, one of the newer (but no less worthy for that) names on London's famous Jermyn Street.

Light yellow wide herringbone classic fit from Charles Tyrwhitt

The herringbone shirts are easily equal to the two from Ede & Ravenscroft and Hawes & Curtis (both bargainous £3.95 charity shop finds from last couple of years!) that already grace my wardrobe and the poplins aren't far behind either.

Cream poplin classic fit shirt from Charles Tyrwhitt

I kept largely to plain, simple shades to maximise their use (and, of course, because they suited my taste!).  I fancied a bit of a pattern for at least one, though, and the red and blue check caught my eye.  The beige shirt has also has hints of pink to it in some lights, which is a bonus.  I'd love to have been able to show you some pictures of them as worn, or at least at chez Partington-Plans, but my ancient digital camera chooses not to show them in all their glory regardless of the ambient lighting so I'm afraid you'll have to make do with these borrowed images.

Red & blue grid check classic fit shirt from Charles Tyrwhitt

Likewise with the two new cravats I got from Tom Sawyer Waistcoats - two new colours/designs to add to my growing collection. 

Aubergine & mauve circles day Cravat, Tom Sawyer Waistcoats

Both should go well with most of those shirts, don't you think?  I hope to be able to bring you a proper outfit post or two (with my own, better pictures!) featuring combinations of them all, plus an extra-special surprise clothing present that is still in the final stages of completion.  You'll just have to wait and see what it is!

Richmond check day cravat, Tom Sawyer Waistcoats

Finally for this post, a new DVD (one of four but the only one set in the 1940s) - Gangster Squad!

I had really wanted to see this at the cinema back in January but alas it coincided with a hospital stay so it had to end up on the DVD list.  I had seen nothing of it beyond the trailers and of the four films I got this was the one I had the least expectations of, so I was more than delighted to discover that it really is a very good film that could easily stand comparison with the likes of The Untouchables and L.A. Confidential.  I would certainly recommend it and, if I get my act together, it may one day feature on the currently dormant Film Friday gangster series of blog posts.  Maybe.

That's it for now, though, but I hope to be back before too long with the aforementioned extra birthday posts plus more usual fare.



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