Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Swing for Skin this Saturday, Get in!

This Saturday I am going to this. Well what could be better? A forties do with all the attendant music and lovely dancing peeps, plus a raffle, plus it is on a BATTLESHIP, well the HMS Belfast to be precise. Finally it is being held for a worthy cause, to raise money into research and support on a difficult and challenging skin condition. I know some readers of this blog are tourists and some are Soho die hards but this night deserves your support. There may be tickets on the door but I'd get in and buy some here: Swing for Skin.

These ladies look glamourous, if only! I'm not sure what to wear and am torn between a simple 40's US rayon dress or something more dressy. The only definite will be the appearance of the evil victory rolls! mind you I am also wondering whether my 49/50 WRVS uniform will fit, as I don't have a WREN one:

But however I look the view will be wonderful, the Thames at night is always decorative but Tower Bridge always looks gorgeous: 

For the environment, the history, the music and entertainment this is a very good deal and for a good cause, I hope to see you there, if you spot me come up and say hello! Redlegs. x

Friday, 27 May 2011

Frisky and Mannish at Udderbelly.

Frisky and Mannish.
Off to the South Bank last night in the eye of a raging storm. We were off to see Frisky and Mannish at Udderbelly. We see a lot of cabaret which makes us a bit jaded and somewhat fussy.  I had heard good things about this pair and enjoyed the show. Frisky is the lady of the duo, curvy,schoomistressy and plummy she has a stonking voice. Her partner, Frisky, is slight, provides musical accompaniment and apt comment. There is no ‘straight’man, the couple are very much performers in tandem. The performance itself is high camp and barbs directed at the world of pop and delivered using the pairs comic timing, Frisky’s voice and some audience participation.

It helps to know your pop music but barbs were well delivered and the victims deserving. I am not a fan of Florence and the Machine and enjoyed the deconstruction of her ouvre immensely. Other highlights included a music hall version of the Pussycat Dolls and a performance encompassing all the ‘ages’ of Madonna. 

I liked the purple cow tent, inside it was an intimate space and all the seating was close to the performers.  Outside there is a mini-pleasure garden with small wooden pagodas, heated seating, a connect four game, table football and a bar. A much nicer place to wait for entry than queuing on the street or being shoehorned into a theatre bar. It was curious watching the performance with such a 'vanilla' crowd but they were really responsive, the suits were not lager louty and some seemed to be repeat viewers of the performers so it was fine.

Frisky and Mannish are on again at Udderbelly on the 7th June, 

Redlegs has a suggestion for a nice night out on the South Bank, especially sans thunderstorm:
Early dinner at Canteen under the Festival Hall.
Quick wander around the Festival of Britain display in the Festival Hall.
Quick drink in the Udderbelly  Garden.
Performance at Udderbelly.


Thursday, 26 May 2011

I hate this photograph...

Very few can have failed to notice the Obama circus travelling through Europe. I’m not a fantastic Obama fan. Yes it is nice that someone with partial non-white ancestry was elected. It was nice that a woman became Prime Minister here, except that sadly it was Margaret Thatcher. I still feel that Hilary Clinton would have been more able, efficient and less glib. Still at least he is not a Republican.. Politics aside though a particular photograph has been annoying me to bits.

                                                                            Photo Copyright  White House

Why on earth are the wives pictured sitting on a sofa in front of a kitchen? Michelle Obama is a Harvard educated lawyer, Samantha Cameron the daughter of a Baronet and an executive for a high end fashion accessory company. Both are married to their nation’s political leaders.  So why are these women sat in front of pots and pans? How about showing the men standing in front of a lawn mower with a shed in the background? or in front of a garage, tools on the wall and the bonnet of a Volvo open? Because it would be frankly ridiculous and actually this photograph of Michelle Obama and Samantha Cameron is also ridiculous, the only reason for this being less blatant is simply sexism.

I’m not denigrating women who are housewives or raise children, nor am I having a pop at gardeners or mechanics. It is true that both women are mothers and I imagine they can run up an omelette. Possibly the men are both handy with a black and decker drill and can change a nappy. I accept that the women are in the limelight because of their spouses rather than their own merits. But that is just it, they are in the limelight.  And no matter how shiny the pans, or artfully middle middle class that room is the fact remains that they are pictured in the natural casually assumed realm of women: the kitchen, the domestic, the constrained.  This is just the environment women have fought to have the choice to distance themselves from and these two women have chosen to identify themselves with it.  Mind you it may be a result of the Cameron’s continuing doomed efforts to hide their silver spoons and here, literally and metaphorically, replace them with ordinary pots and pans. The Obama’s may not have designed these photo opportunities.  Certainly when I saw Michelle Obama with the London schoolgirls at Oxford her entirely admirable admonishments to achieve and declaration of her ambition for her own girls sat ill with this mimsy photo-opportunity.

Bright women like Michelle go to University to avoid being identified with the kitchen. An education, profession and independence give women the opportunity to choose when and with whom to procreate, to be able to pay for childcare and to be able to see the kitchen and domesticity as a pastime or something actively chosen.  The poor and ill-educated woman often ends up chained to the sink, baby hanging from the boob and facing a life of domestic boredom.  The women’s realm is not the kitchen, unless that woman is a professional chef or cook or it is an interest/hobby. Nor are we are not brood mares to be kept in little domestic cells no matter how streamlined or gadget filled.

I loathe this neo-conservative put on a Cath Kidston pinny and fantasise about domesticity thing that is burbling away culturally. There was that bloody awful John Lewis advert, this obsession with putting older women down and an obsession with frivolity and girlishness.  The medias ideal woman today is part seven year old, part Katy Price and part deliriously happy help mate. It is a lie. Children, kitchens and housework are toil, necessary but basically physical labour. The people that can make the home a decorous fantasy hobby have Olga doing all the real work, a cleaner, a highly paid job and a good education. Hardly any of them bother with the full time business of homemaking and child raising. Why should they?  I admire women who achieve in fields outside domesticity, because to be blunt, domesticity requires labour, common sense and determination. I can cook, am very efficient at cleaning and can manage a home, not through choice  but because of my gender and background.  It does not require imagination, verve or education*  and it is these qualities I want to see being reflected in photo opportunities, this environment simply makes these two women look vapid, dull and unimportant.  It also makes them look like liars, as this is simply, not the kind of life they lead or have led as women.

This is my personal opinion, have any pictures/ads/images annoyed your feminist soul recently?

* I'm not saying women with these qualities may not choose domesticity because babies or the home are their thing, although they seem rare. Nor am I ignoring the frankly huge number or women with these qualities who are trapped due to low expectations and poor educational opportunities.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Accomplice: Interactive theatre from Menier Chocolate Factory.

I spent yesterday participating in ‘Accomplice’ an interactive theatre experience organised by the Menier Chocolate Factory theatre.  Part performance, part walk, part treasure hunt it involves actors playing characters from a heist, the solving of clues, some drinking, some walking and and not a few cellars. I can’t really go into great detail as it would spoil the experience of anyone planning to take part but Cilit Bang and pole dancing play a part.

Initially the experience feels somewhat stilted, but as you go on and you get used to the process it becomes more enjoyable.  The clues are not particularly difficult however our group had its dim moments, but there is help (you are monitored) and receive help should you become lost, tardy or just misplace your brain cells along the way. Having worked in London Bridge for a while and being a Sarf Londoner I knew the places visited but it doubles as a tour of some of the South Banks more obscure corners. 

This would be an excellent start to a hen or stag night (pre booze binging) or birthday celebration as you can book in teams of ten. Although not much walking is involved it set us up nicely for our meal (at Pont de la Tour) afterwards. 

Minn x

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Retro themed cafe in Selfridges.

Well kind of, because it is more a space, or a concession but quite a fun one. For some time now there has been a cafe in the lower ground floor of Selfridges. At the bottom of the escalators and surrounded by chi chi home wares it is not a bad place to grab a cuppa and people watch. Because of this it has always been good when you are on a solo shopping spree. Staring at things and people is good when you are alone.

Menu example.

I sometimes despair of big old department stores. They homogenise deco/victorian/edwardian interiors under acres of graphic board and false ceilings. They become overcrowded with bits and bobs until they resemble souks. Thats why I like John Lewis' on Oxford Street, for it's clarity and feeling of space. Selfridges is a beautiful building and in parts we get to see this, in others not. It is nice that they have therefore themed their new cafe in line with the store's heritage. And a rather risque one at that. 

Cafe area.

It has been called Dolly's after the Dolly Sisters, Hungarian tandem dancers who were mistresses of the stores ebullient founder Harry Gordon Selfridge in 1918: both of them. It was scandalous then and would be scandalous now. It is a shame they don't theme a dessert, a menage a trois of choux buns perhaps. To match the racy image the floor is tiled black and white, the waitresses wear smart black and white nippy type outfits (the manager said they try to encourage their staff to look 'period') and the table settings boast vintage silver sugar bowls and (nice touch) heavy fabric napkins. To be frank thats about it but there is not a lot you can do in an escalator stair well. 

But it is quite a nice stairwell.
The menu is more 'English' than it used to be, or perhaps I am imagining it but basically consists of tea, coffee and cakes although they also serve alcohol. I did notice that they do a full afternoon tea with essential cake stand. The cakes did look very nice. I had a latte, not very English, but decent enough coffee and a nice texture. The whole point of a latte is that foamy unctuousness, I find capucinno froth watery and vapid. It did not cost much more than a Starbucks coffee. I think institutions like Selfridges that make an effort to capitalise more on their heritage and individuality are wise. So if you are in the area and fancy elevenses (which includes a large slice of cake in my book) it is a good option.

When Starbusks gives me proper cutlery I might go..

Minn x

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Bare face chic?

A while ago the Daily Telegraph ran an article on going make up free : http://fashion.telegraph.co.uk/beauty/news-features/TMG8454043/Bare-faced-chic.html. It caught my eye because a few conversations with others recently revealed how minimal my approach is. Certainly I am typing this with nothing on my face apart from a morning dab of moisturiser. I probably only wear foundation twice a month and even then I dab, more a concealer than anything else. Recently I have developed a dislike of mascara, my little stubby eyelashes don’t really benefit much. If I do go out it is a case of eyebrows, a brief lick of eyeliner top lash only and lipstick. In truth my make up habit is simply a bright red or pink lipstick and this is the only place my money goes.

I actually like the Elizabeth I, Karen Elson look of strong lips agains a pale face with just definition on the brows and perhaps a lined eye.  It is simple, strong and exaggerates the personality of the wearer. That’s not a make up free look but it is minimal,  I was therefore interested in the article.
Fantastic simplified make up.

One thing that struck me and the only person to comment on-line when I first read it, was a suspicion that these claimed exponents of ‘bare faced chic’ looked rather high maintenance. Also some of the exemplars had marvellous bone structure and were models. Otherwise they have fashion jobs and access to skincare. Skin care costs a heck of a lot more than cosmetics, as does a stress-free privileged life, regular hair maintenance and expert eyebrow plucking.  Apply your make up well and you can distract from hair in a scarf and compensate for uneven eyebrows. Go bare and you cannot. There’s potentially a nasty little bit of class snobbery creeping in there, makeup is a help to the harried, working and low-income.

Of course we are over-sold cosmetics and we can see the young and gullible falling for a corresponding over emphasis on looks. This isn’t new. Young women wear lots of slap as its when you experiment and establish your identity. I’m less annoyed by this than I am with the obsessive declarations that as you age your make up must become ‘natural’, it goes with custard coloured hair and beige,,ooops, I mean’t to say sand or sable or toffee or whatever new word for beige is fashionable. I'd rather look interesting and my age. The argument that the media impels women to wear make up they don’t need really kicks in as you are older  rather than younger as your income and insecurities kick in. As a teen Miners and Rimmel were fine, now I head for Chanel and Guerlaine and I need so many more items for an age specific 'youthful' look. However it seems an extreme response to advocate no makeup. It is one of our many privileges as secular, economically active women to be able to paint our faces. To advocate being bare faced as a fashion statement makes me uncomfortable.  I can understand not being bothered with the stuff, I really loather those low-brow gossip magazines that match some poor starlets red carpet maquillage with a badly lit gurning papparazzi picture and a strap line that they are 'just like us' (ie gurning, splotchy and looking crap). Time to stop beating ourselves and others up.
Tilda rocking the bare with lipstick look.

On the other hand  I have always suspected that foundations, eyeshadows, blusher and mascara are probably a bit crap for your skin. The women in my family have never ever worn foundation or blusher, it’s an alien item to us. Putting on a full face in a busy world is a faff for some, but for others it is a cherished ritual. I fall into the faff camp (although I find hair far more of a faff) and the article addresses this, but then posits a facial as an alternative. In what world is making an appointment for a facial quicker that putting on a bit of lippy? A strange world, I’ve never had a facial. Again I don’t trust them at all. This ‘they look bad initially but get better’ thing is unconvincing. You’d get the same glowing effect from a scouring pad and baby lotion. As I read on I grew more frustrated, what next? Perfume is not green enough so we ditch it and all arrange for a small beautician to dab us with distilled water and lemons every morning?
This 'natural' look is extremely hard work.

What I particularly disliked was the inevitable obsession with ‘greenness’ and the resulting evangelical tendency which is what you get in any beauty article in the middle-class press.  I’m happier not to have things tested on animals and I don’t want to coat my face with dangerous chemicals but I don’t mind harmless miniscule traces of things.  My favourite piece of stupidity  in the article was this quote from the founder of steam cream “'I remember stumbling upon a study that proved that eating lipstick would be better for you than putting it on your lips. That way you at least have the digestive enzymes to help absorb it.'  Yeh, but if you eat it your lips won’t look pretty and red. Once I read that completely daft comment I knew where the article was going and inevitably it did. It managed to mention Kate Middleton (everyone has to at the moment, it’s the beauty editor’s rools) and finished with some ridiculous vitamin/oxygen treatment that costs £600 quid and is injected into your face (euww!). Personally I’d rather eat my lipstick…. or even wear it.

Any feelings on this subject? please share! xx

Monday, 16 May 2011

The vintage shopper's lament.

Killer moths, visceral niffs and stains and a million holes,
Vintage dealers hoarding Horrockses with prices beyond the proles.
Dispirited and rummaging amongst vast mountains of retro tat,
Crepe de chine, far from clean and wool that smells of dead cat.
I wail and weep I just want to look as good as my old nan.
Not sporty and drab or young or natural  or just like a man.
I demand pale skin, a painted face and set and rollered hair,
In a world of fake tan, nude lips, ironed hair and tattooed derriers.
Low-slung, natural blonded, blue jeaned and Topshopped,
Completely smocked it’s jerseying me  into utter and complete despair.
Vainly Ebaying to oblivion for the perfect mint forties dress,
Arrives with a smell of death and torn to bits causing more distress.
In desperation, last chance station, forced to forage in Brick Lane,
Hipster retro, thoughts of murder; swear never to do it again.
Even shoes are too dainty, buttons are missing and hats have lost their pins.
Blouses won’t do up over boobies, those ladies were rationing-thin.
Where’s my time lord? Or my trust fund or my magic charity shop?
Because to be honest I’m beginning to smell of moth balls,
And I think, I may have, to, stop.


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