Monday, 31 January 2011

Dot Cotton : Unlikely Style Icon

Yes folks. I am an Eastenders fan. I might as well just get it out there. I have watched it for too long now to ever leave it's side. Through the fab and the drab story lines, I have watched. And of late, I have come to love Dorothy Branning , aka Dot Cotton, more and more. Being one of the only original characters, she has remained mostly unchanging through the years. Fag in hand, tomato juice at the Vic (a Sherry for medicinal purposes) and perish the thought she should gossip -  she is one of my favourites.

But it is her clothes that I seem to be admiring most at the moment. Nay, getting inspiration from. I seem to be studying her, when she is not wearing a tabard at the Laundrette.

Although Dot was not a young woman in the 1940's (she was evacuated from Walford during WW2, which was ample opportunity for the Beeb to do a spin off about her life as a girl) she dresses in a decidedly 1940's way, I think.

Always in a skirt or a dress, hair always done, nails always painted. My kind of woman. She has a delightful fur-trimmed coat. She drives, well shuffles in, my dream car -  a Morris Minor. With wooden trim.

So, is this a confession, that actually -  I would quite like to be Dot Cotton when I am grown up? I have a suspicion that it might just be.

My wardrobe is so close to her's that recently I thought about going as her to a TV themed fancy dress party. The only thing I would have needed to complete the outfit, and to show I was in character and had not just decided to go as myself, was a bible.

And as for the actress, June Brown MBE, she seems a wonderful lady, who at 83 is still going strong.

Born in 1927, evacuated during The Blitz and in the latter years of WW2, serving as WREN, she then classically trained as an actress. She has been in Eastenders since 1985, taking a break in 1993 and returning for good in 1997.

The year I started watching full time.

Friday, 28 January 2011

Dress Down Friday - outfit post

This is something that I dread. I know that I should look forward to Fridays. And I do.

But I struggle with what to wear. Some times I go out and out 40's. In fact a couple of weeks back, a friend, in the middle of one of those sarky-i'm-being-rude-to-you-with-a-smile-on-my-face convo's that you have with work chums, said to me:-

"Haven't you got rations to be dishing out to an evacuee somewhere?".

I told him JLS had called and they wanted their clothes back. Oh how we laughed.

The only thing actually vintage about this outfit is the cardigan which I picked up for a steal in Brighton.

I was off to the pictures to see The Kings Speech, and I needed to have curly locks in the morning. So, I decided to do what any self respecting Land Girl would have done. Rolled my hair and covered it with a headscarf. Sorted.

I am thinking "Damn, how dusty is that light? "

I did get some looks when the lights went up. The Beard commented that people were staring.
"How nice for them" said I. And then tripped up the step, nearly dislodging my headscarf (and possibly a couple of teeth).

Thank goodness I always listened to my Dad when he used to tell me tales of woe involving "hands in pockets" and "stairs", or the gawpers would have had a right laugh at me rollers. And that will never do.

Have a  super weekend folks -  bundle up warms!

Some Sunny Day by Dame Vera Lynn - Review

The blurb...
"The remarkable autobiography of the last great wartime icon. Born Vera Welch on 20 March, 1917 in the East End of London, Dame Vera Lynn's career was set from an early age - along with her father, who also did a 'turn', she sang in Working Men's Clubs from just seven years old. She had a successful radio career with Joe Loss and Charlie Kunz in the 1920s and '30s, but it was with World War II that she became the iconic figure that captured the imagination of the national public. Her spirit and verve, along with her ability to connect with the men fighting for their country and those left behind praying for their loved ones, made her the 'Forces' sweetheart'. Performing the songs that she will always be associated with, such as 'We'll Meet Again' and 'Yours', Vera toured Egypt, India and Burma to entertain the troops and bring them a sense of 'back home'. Her career after the war flourished, with hits in the US and the UK, but Vera was never able to leave behind her wartime role and was deeply affected by what she had seen. Still heavily involved with veteran and other charities, this is Dame Vera's vivid story of her life and her war - from bombs and rations to dance halls and the searing heat of her appearances abroad. Epitomising British fortitude and hope, Dame Vera gives a vivid portrait of Britain at war, and a unique story of one woman who came to symbolize a nation."

I may be about to lose friends and alienate people -  but as some of you know - I am not a fan of her music and am baffled as to why she was as popular as we are lead to believe. I know she is a "national treasure" -  but something doesn't sit right with me.

I bought it a while ago and really wanted to give it a go. As I said -  I am not keen on her music, but I was really hoping that learning a bit more about the woman behind the legend would warm me to her a little more. I listened to this as an unabridged audio book whilst making a patchwork quilt and have to say that I am pleased the whirring of my machine went some way to drowning out this rambling drivel. It might be the way in which it was written , and then read (by the authors daughter) -  but the story of her musical career is very much "look at me, look at me and my amazing success!". I know this is possibly how is should be -  she was incredibly successful as a recording artist after all. But the references to it made me raise an eyebrow and yawn dramatically on more than one occasion.

Perhaps that is just my preconceptions carrying through to how I listened to it? I guess I was hoping for a little more grit - but it would seem that real life either didn't happen to DVL -  or she has chosen to omit it from her memoir. Which is a real shame. I cannot believe that everything was rosy and perfect as the tale would suggest. Or maybe, due to her age, this is just the way she remembers her life -  in a very matter of fact fashion? Or perhaps she is just incredibly pleased with her lot and conveys it as such?

 I am glad that I know a little more about this lady -  but only due to the fact that it has confirmed my personal opinion. I do get cross with myself for being such a downer on someone who's songs I have seen give such joy to many a veteran or 80+ year old at various events I have been to in the past, just as they lifted the troops and the nation at the time.

A disappointing 3/10 from me

Edited to add...

Now - I am not changing my initial opinion. But I am reviewing it. I have just watched an interview with this lady - and I have come to the conclusion that I did, in fact, listen to this audio book with a preconception, linked to my dislike. In the interview, DVL came across as as an incredibly genuine lady. It's not the songs I don't like. I love other versions of "We'll Meet Again", for example . It's her voice - and in particular, the stuff from her early career - the stuff that most people associate with her. Her tone did change a lot in the 60's - much deeper and a lot less shrill. And its that which makes me switch off.

When it comes to Forces Sweethearts, I am much more of an Anne Shelton kind of gal.

I would love to know what other people thought of
this if they have read/ listened to it?

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Holocaust Remembrance Day

Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day

On this day, over 60 years ago, the horror that was Auschwitz was liberated by Soviet troops and the reality of what had been happening behind the fences started to seep out into the world

I read so many history books about the era, to not mention it would seem disrespectful in some way. The people who suffered and were murdered is the most horrific chapter in the pages of WW2.

As much as I read about this sort of thing, about the Third Reich, about Dunkirk, about The Blitz, nothing shocks me more or stays with me as long as something about The Holocaust. I could live for a thousand years and never be able to get my head around why. I have come to various conclusions as to how. It is the why that I shall never understand. Not on a political or a religious level. Not even on a prejudice level.

On a human level.

It used to bother me how many pictures and film reels that exist, documenting acts of evil against innocent people. But now I am older, I realize that these images serve as a reminder to the future of what can happen when humanity counts for nothing.

I shall be keeping a candle on tonight in their memory and trust that, although they suffered, they suffer no more.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Curly Land Gurly

This is how I look most mornings at about 6.30am. Minus the smile. I made an effort for the photo. I doubt such a sunny grin could be repeated on a regular morning basis, even if I tried. I am normally too focused on how much I loathe my upcoming commute. And I look rather sweaty. This is on account of always over heating when I am getting ready for work. I don't know how or why, but it happens every morning.

I'm grinning. But through my gritted teeth I am saying "Crap in a hat -  it's early. I want to cry I'm so tired"

I set my hair the night before, using a little mousse and foam rollers. Medium sized ones, I think. They are bit manky now, I really should buy some new ones. I apply about 10 mins worth of heat, once I have finished rolling whilst watching TV and then cover up to stop fluffiness. I am a bit of a fidget in bed, so I have to try and limit ruining the curls before they have had a chance to set.  

See.. the smile is already starting to wane

Now. I convince myself that they only take about 5 mins to take out and style. But it is a bare faced fib. Unrolling takes about 10 mins, and about 5 mins to style. Depending on what I want to do with it. I don't brush out (very un 40's of me, I know .. I know) because I only end up looking like an electrocuted badger. Not cool. So I tend to leave them to naturally drop throughout the day. I wish they would stay this length all day -  but my hair is pretty thick and heavy, so I can only dream.

 I have tried setting lotion, which does work, to a degree. But it does not give me anywhere near as good a hold as mousse. I am also prone to using Studio Fixing Spray by L'oreal. But I find that I have to use that accompanied by a mirror -  or I spray myself in the eye.

(yep -  theres the brown skirt. Again)

And this is me at the end of the day. You can see how much it has dropped.  Despite being tied up when I go to bed, this will go straggly over night. There would be no chance of me getting away with a "down" do the next day -  which is where my love of curly "up" do's has come from.

 A couple of pins and I'm off! 

Over and Out :)

Monday, 24 January 2011

Singled Out by Virginia Nicholson - Review

The blurb...
"In 1919, a generation of young women discovered that there were, quite simply, not enough men to go round, and the statistics confirmed it. After the 1921 Census, the press ran alarming stories of the 'Problem of the Surplus Women - Two Million who can never become Wives...'. This book is about those women, and about how they were forced, by a tragedy of historic proportions, to stop depending on men for their income, their identity and their future happiness"


This is a full on factual book, collated and delivered with finesse.

I saw this whilst on my WW1 expedition with my Dad last summer and was hooked from the cover alone. The write up on the back of the book sealed the deal and I sourced it when I got home.

From the first page I was enthralled. It took a while to get into the authors style of writing, but once there, the book flowed and educated me. I had not really thought much about the real legacy of  WW1 before I went to France, and even less about the role of British women in it. To that effect, I had not really pondered their fate when near on a million men failed to return home.

"Youth in Mourning" by George Clausen

This book changed all that and gave me a whole new outlook on that stalwart image of "the spinster with all the cats". These women had to help rebuild not only a grief stricken nation, but their own personal lives. In amongst all this - many (but not all) were liberated - long before the 60's and 70's -  from the lives they had been "born" to lead.
If you are interested in women's history -  then this book is a must.

An 8 out of 10 from me!

Clairol Nice'n'Easy Foam Dye - Review

I must admit that when I saw the advert for this on the TV the other night, I might have "shushed" The Beard so that I could take it all in. What a rude Landgirl I am. I did apologise though and all was well.

After the "ooh-lets-dye-my-hair-red" debacle, closely followed by the "no-lets-go-back-to-brown" witterings, I thought that I could handle the red still showing through. Turns out I am a big fat fibber. I have a sneaking suspicion that using a semi-perm colour, whilst being easier to put on, has the staying power of chalk in the rain. And I only wash my hair, at the very most, twice a week.

So. I decided to go permanent dark brown, using the above. And I am extremely pleased with the result. This product goes on with ease and gives a good even colour. There was no flicking about of colour as I shoved my head upside down to get to the back of my neck. No dripping. And no stench of hair dye. Because this is a perm colour, there is the odd lung full of ammonia (nice!) to be had,  so I would advise an open window, but the conditioner provided completely eliminates the smell.

The only criticism I have is that sometimes squeezing the bottle with a dye-soaked gloved hand can make it skitter away from you (and into the bath in my case -  accompanied by some "woah...whoooopp... oh no!!" type noises from me) so perhaps a grip on the base of the bottle would be of benefit.

This is on offer at the moment in Superdrug for £4.99 as opposed to the usual £6-ish. I have longish thick hair and 1 bottle was ample cover. It also has a handy line on the bottle to tell you how much to use if you have shorter hair.

I think this might just be my go to product from now on!

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Land Girls - BBC - Series 2 - Review

Now. I was honest in my review of the first series. I liked it - but I was not in love with it.

However, I was besotted with series 2. I could not wait to get home and watch it on catch up. I loved the grit that seemed to have been added by the writers since the story began. The last episode had me on the edge of my seat. And I think I would quite like to be the fabulous Connie Carter played by a debuting Seline Hizli. I certainly need to channel more of her gumption.

There are twists and turns in this series, which features a Nazi on the run and Italian POW's. Much more realistic, in my eyes. And the fashion and hair are all back in abundance. I must get some decent dungarees and cardigans.

Most of the original cast returns, which I was pleased to see, including Becci Gemmel as Joyce. I had a poke about on the interweb and found this interview by her about the character.

I thoroughly enjoyed this second series, which was a bit Foyle's War meets Heartbeat. Not a bad thing to give you eye time to for 45 mins.

I could not decide if it ended on a cliff hanger or not. I hope so -  because I, for one, would love to see a 3rd series. Minus the whinging Bea. Eugh. But I did quite like her hair do throughout the show.

This aired on BBC1 from 17th-21st January 2011  -  and will be on BBC iPlayer for the next 7 days, and is scheduled to be released on DVD within the next few months, I'd imagine. Or perhaps a boxset that includes series 1.

A wonderfully upliftin' 8 out of 10 from me, Guv!
(see - I'm channelling Connie already)   

Friday, 21 January 2011

This is how I see the world....

... when ever I am .. well.. anywhere touched by either World War I or II . Which for the most part, is London. I often wonder what it would have looked like before, during and after The Blitz.

I found out about the below artist through a quick post by Out with the New, In with the Old. If you have not checked out this delight,  I urge you to do so.

Although the below pictures are not England, the ravages of war are no different. I love the way that Sergey Larenkov has brought to life the way that I sometimes see the world. I have had a look through his live journal -  which is in Russian/English. I am hoping that the above link has translated it for you.

But -  to see some from the UK, Retro Chick posted about Nick J Stone on her FaceBook page. I would love to see some of London at some stage.

On with some of my choice picks by Sergey Larenkov... all pictures are copyright of his LiveJournal site.

This is one of my favourites.

And these 2 left me speechless. And chilled. So simple, but so very, very clever.

 I applaud Mr Larenkov for his eye for detail and absolute vision when it came to bringing the past very much into the present. I am in the process of interviewing him for the blog - post to follow shortly.

And for enabling me to show The Beard how I actually look at things. It has gone some way to enabling him to understand my history geek-ness.

If anyone else knows of pictures like this that were taken in London, then I would love to know about them. I can then sit at my computer for even longer saying "Oh my God -  this is what it was actually like there once...."

Sergey Lavenkov's LiveJournal does advise at the beginning that he hopes to show you that "..the story often hides a very scary page, and the return to the present is much more pleasant  [than] to travel into the past." 

I for one relish travelling into the past. It makes me acknowledge where I come from, what my family and ancestors went though. It is not something that it ever very far from my mind. I could not dress the way I do and have it any other way.

Over and Out.   

(all images used with the artist's consent)

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Nella Last's War - Nella Last - Review

The blurb...
"When war broke out, Nella's younger son joined the army while the rest of the family tried to adapt to civilian life. Writing each day for the "Mass Observation" project, Nella, a middle-aged housewife from the bombed town of Barrow, shows what people really felt during this time. This was the period in which she turned 50, saw her children leave home, and reviewed her life and her marriage - which she eventually compares to slavery. Her growing confidence as a result of her war work makes this a moving (though often comic) testimony, which, covering sex, death and fear of invasion, provides a new, unglamorised, female perspective on the war years."


I bought this a while ago and it has been languishing in my "to be read" pile. On the way out of the door one morning (in my usual "bloody-rollers-take-longer-than-5-mins-to-take-out-AND-style" rush) I grabbed it and I am SO pleased that I did.

Mass Observation is something that has interested me for a while now -  being a diarist (is that a word?) myself -  I like to read what others chose to comment on. I have a whole book of excerpts, from the study as a whole, somewhere to plough through at some stage too.

Nella Last is a typical housewife matriarch who holds her boys in dear esteem and who sees her daily life and routine changed by the beginning on WW2. I found this book fascinating. Not only to see how her life was altered -  but also to see her grow as a person.

Her reactions are at time stoic-  and at others alarmingly depressing. She comments not only on life inside her own head and the 4 walls of her house -  but also her social circle, the political aspect  -  even the weather (which I loved as it helped me paint a picture in my head of how things actually were in her world) She oddly does not comment on bigger events on the days that they happen. For example. she notes Dunkirk only briefly.

If you want to dip onto the past through the eyes of a mother who witnessed and remembered with clarity "The Great War" -  only to send her own sons into the foray 20 years later -  this is the book for you.

If you don't want to read it -  this was dramatised by ITV with Victoria Wood starring as Nella Last -  called "Housewife, 49".

A superb 8/10 from me.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Burgandy & Brown outfit post

Having written the title  -  I realise that it must sound like a post about a strange cocktail involving wine and ale. Which, I am sure you will agree, would be vile. I am hoping you shan't think the same of my outfit.

Bolero, shirt, shoes -  high street. Skirt - charity scrum for £4   

I must confess to loving this outfit. II think it is suitably 40's-esqe and tres comfortable. There are some clothing combinations that make me feel like a lady. A dress usually instantly does the trick, but I do like to be able to throw an outfit together. I had a lot of work chums saying to me "Ooh -  you are so co-ordinated!". Which means I went the same colour as my top and mumbled "thanks". I am able to co-ordinate because I own too many clothes.

I need to step away from the charity shop door.

But.... they could have something wonderful in there...... quick look can't hurt...

....can it?

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Pre Fab's not so Fab no more...

I know that we have to move on. I know that we need more housing. I know that they are out of date and that they are, well, shacks, by today's standard's.

But, to me, they have become a part of our cultural history. A testament that when you are beaten, bombed and bedraggled, you can make a home out of wood and install it with a heated towel rail and a gas oven, with hob, on which to make your tea.

I am aware that this type of house building has become popular again, but is a lot more "health and safety" passable. And warm I am sure. Relatives of mine have attested to the chilliness of such structures. Not in a whinging way. In a "you-needed-2-duvets-socks-and-a-jumper-and-a-hat" kind of way. But it was always said with affection.

Although they had been around for an age, long before they became a staple in the cities across the UK after Luftwaffe had done their best, mainly for the housing of military personnel. It was only after WW2 that they were marketed to families.

And, by all accounts, people were incredibly proud of their little patch. They made them as lovely as they could. Lest we forget, we are a nation who had a penchant for decorating our Andersen Shelters. Nothing a marigold in bloom can't brighten, eh?

But, now it would seem that it is time to relegate this stalwart of roof and walls, carpets and picture frames, gardens and bathtubs - home -  to the consignments of history. There are some that I am sure shall remain inhabited, not be bull dosed from memory and their residents moved on.

However, the majority are set to be flattened and the land re-used, if they have not already. Museum pieces - such as The Universal House at Chiltern Open Air Museum - shall still be around, so they shall not be completely lost.

Alas, for the Excalibur Estate in South East London, it seems sure to be the end of the "temporary" pre-fab solution. Such a shame, especially when you see the people who live there now and read how they feel about the place they call home.

So, a salute to the pre-fab's and the shelter they provided for those in need, whether that was for 65 days or 65 years.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

The King's Speech - Review

I have long awaited the release of this movie, ever since I found out about it in October. I cannot tell you how many times I have longingly watched the trailer. Saddo.

I am a lover of royal history, so to see a practically unknown story told on the big screen is something that excited me muchous **

Colin Firth plays Kings George VI

Firth is flawless as Bertie, soon to be George VI. But I shall be honest. I was not expecting to be as swept up in this story as much as I was. I am not a fan of Colin Firth. Actually, that's a bit of a fib. A whopper in fact. I am not a fan of Bridget Jone's Diary (gasp!) and this is all my feeble mind associated him with.

I didn't think he was a very deep actor. A bit wooden. I was so very, very, VERY wrong. And a bit of a knobber for not looking past a 2 film deal and further into his extensive career. I am now going to do just that.

Helena Bonham-Carter plays Elizabeth Bowes-Lyons.

Helena Bonham-Carter. What can I say? What is there to say? As a huge fan of all her work, each scene with her was a delight. And she endeared me to find out more about the dear old Queen Mum.

I have heard whispers that she was a bit of a cantankerous old moo. But it would seem with due reason. She was a pillar of strength for her husband through his stammer and the bullying he suffered at the hands of the alpha's of the family.

A constant support for the Prince who was not meant to be King.

Geoffrey Rush plays Lionel Logue

And one of the ways she supported her husband was to carry on when he has ceased to care about the stutter he has developed. She sourced Lionel Logue, an unconventional Australian speech therapist, to help him when he believed himself to be beyond it.

Geoffrey Rush is monumental in this role. I loved every minute of watching him bring this footnote of history to life.

It is not really a fashion movie, not for us lasses anyway. But, it is wonderful in other ways for a history girl such as myself, with a keen eye for detail.

The fact that Queen Mary makes a regal and stately appearance, for example. Wallace Simpson, who seems to adequately slide and slither her way across the screen. A harrowed looking Neville Chamberlain and a bold Winston Churchill, made up for the lack of frocks.

I found out that having suffered from a stammer himself as a child and listening to King George VI on the radio, the writer David Seidler investigated how this seemed to all but disappear. Research in hand, he had to ask permission of the Queen Mother, who requested that it not be written in her lifetime as the memories remained too painful. This was duly respected.

The result of his exploration is a heartwarming, uplifting, anger inducing, tear jerker, laugh out loud movie.

I am beyond pleased that David Seidler followed his dream to write this story. He has given a historical treat to us all that otherwise would have remained untold.

A top drawer 10 out of 10 from me.

** -  what did not excite me was the fact that whole way through the movie a young girlfriend was asking her older boyfriend what was going on. And who was who. Namely "Who is Winston Churchill?". My brain could not compute. And my right eye started to twitch. I didn't know if I wanted to hit her or cry. In the end I decided that, should the opportunity arise, I would congratulate the boyfriend on his patient, whispered knowledge, as he knew his stuff. And then I would hit her. With a history book.


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