Sunday, May 30, 2010

The awful truth

Ok, confession time - and I am most truly ashamed and embarrassed to say this...

I had noticed that my hair had become a bit knotty so I decided to give it a thorough combing. Now I have to say that I'm not wildly keen about looking after my hair. I love my curls and think it's fabulous to have such thick hair - but it gets so terribly knotted, can take a good 40 minutes to wash and even longer to dry, and then it ends up in one monumental afro boof! It all seems a bit 'oh the drama' so I don't spend much time bothering with maintenance. Until now...

Soon into the combing I realised that I had a bit of a problem. The knots were extremely painful to get out and it didn't take me long to discover the awful truth - I had dreadlocks! Yep, great big matted, knotted clumps of hair. I begged Mr C to help me. He was reluctant to get involved in something that would hurt me but seeing as I was already hurting myself I didn't really care. It took an hour or so of careful combing (and not so careful pulling and tugging) to get the worst of it out. By that stage I looked like Diana Ross in one of her enormous wigs. I'm pretty sure this isn't a 1940s style!

Oh dear

So it turns out that I am not responsible enough to own long hair. I've made an appointment to have it cut and was quite excited about the thought of having more easy-care locks. Except now I'm getting a bit worried and frightfully attached to my hair. I'm scared! The big question is should I maintain my Victory Rolls or get it cut even shorter??? What do you think?

My new hair cut?

It's always a bit of a gamble with my hairdresser - never sure exactly how much she follows my instructions! And I'm never entirely sure how the curls are going to behave. Still, it will be nice to have a bit of a makeover, particularly to get my hair dyed and no longer have depressingly grey locks peeking through. I am so vain.

Snappy dresser

My dad came over from Western Australia for the footy this weekend. We hit Batch for breakfast both yesterday and today: avocado and feta mountain with sausages, potato and spinach hash with corned beef, omelette with chorizo and goat's cheese, field mushrooms stuffed with basil and ricotta. Yummo! And I picked up a loaf of their sourdough to take home. Absolutely stuffed full and don't think I'll need to eat again for a long, long time! He always brings over something fancy in a jar and some chocolates, so it's a bit like getting a treat in rationed times. Our fridge becomes full of Italian smallgoods, relishes, pastes, chutneys and pates.

I also had the good fortune to be taken shopping - so now I'm fully provided with stockings and a beautiful pair of woolen high-waisted trousers from Anton's. I had the added bonus of getting a (belated) birthday present from my sister - a lovely lavender skirt and a spearmint green wrap top, both made to 40s patterns. I think I'll try and get the top made in an Hawaiian print for summer, if my sister has the time! She also sent over some wrap dresses, perfect as house coats. So lots of wardrobe action this weekend.

So feeling very spoilt and lucky to be looked after so well by my family.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Happy camper

There's been a decided lack of glamour around here lately. I've not watched any films and I've hardly read anything over the last two weeks. What with the Giro d'Italia, the Tour of California (cycling races for the rest of you) and Masterchef I've spent most of my time sitting in front of the telly. I finished some excellent books a while back - a few on the history of the spy novel, my ongoing project, though I think now I've spent more time reading about espionage stories rather than reading the stories themselves. Needless to say, the number of items on my 'to read' list is getting rather long. I also read a book on British propaganda films of WWII (so my 'to watch' list is also growing) and a book on the myths surrounding Britain's memories of the war. But until Masterchef finishes I can't see myself getting back to any of these topics. Not when you consider that the last season of Foyle's War has just started...

On the plus side I did receive two exciting pieces in the mail.

Sage green denim pinafore (known as a jumper in those days but that just confuses people)

Happy camper dress with bakelite buckle. Photographed in the beautiful Californian sunshine.

These are from the lovely Nudee Dudee in California, my new best friend. Made to measure, in vintage or repro fabric. Not as beautifully finished as my sister's work, but it didn't take her a year to do them (still waiting Lola!) I'm saving my pennies for some shirts for work. What do you think of this pattern?

Or this one?
There are plenty more delightful patterns for me to dream of! Seems a shame that I don't know how to sew. It is one of my projects for the end of the year, as I really would like to learn. But I might need to start with something simple, like curtains for the kitchen - which should absolutely horrify Mr C.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The first of May

Completely unseasonal for us - but I went to a funeral on Friday and gave this as a reading:

The first of May! There is a merry freshness in the sound, calling to our minds a thousand thoughts of all that is pleasant in nature and beautiful in her most delightful form. What man is there, over whose mind a bright spring morning does not exercise a magic influence - carrying him back to the days of his childish sports, and conjuring up before him the old green field with its gently-waving trees, where the birds sang as he has never heard them since - where the butterfly fluttered far more gaily than he ever sees him now, in all his ramblings - where the sky seemed bluer, and the sun shone more brightly - where the air blew more freshly over greener grass, and sweeter-smelling flowers - where everything wore a richer and more brilliant hue than it is ever dressed in now! Such are the deep feelings of childhood, and such are the impressions which every lovely object stamps upon its heart! The hardy traveller wanders through the maze of thick and pathless woods, where the sun's rays never shone, and heaven's pure air never played; he stands on the brink of the roaring waterfall, and, giddy and bewildered watches the foaming mass as it leaps from stone to stone, and from crag to crag; he lingers in the fertile plains of a land of perpetual sunshine, and revels in the luxury of their balmy breath. But what are the deep forests, or the thundering waters, or the richest landscapes that bounteous nature ever spread, to charm the eyes, and captivate the senses of man, compared with the recollection of the old scenes of his early youth? Magic scenes indeed; for the fancies of childhood dressed them in colours brighter than the rainbow, and almost as fleeting!

This is Dickens, from Sketches by Boz. The funeral was that of a long time library user, Octavio - a boarding house resident, with no friends or family save the library and the Sacred Heart Mission. With his nicotine stained beard and ornate Brazilian accent (my but the man could roll his rrrrrrrrrs!) he would greet me with old world courtesy - ah, Miss Foster, and how are you today? - and I'd help him to find a Latin text or an article on political corruption or a cd on how to teach Spanish. The gathering at the funeral was small; the staff of the boarding house, people from Sacred Heart and staff from the library, ten of us in all. Bless the staff from the Sacred Heart because they gave this lonely man a full Catholic funeral service in which we all took part, I with my reading, other library staff with the laying of the shroud and the sprinkling of holy water. Whatever you may think about other aspects of the Catholic church, I must say that they do funerals well. I've never known something to be so comforting - from lighting candles and staring at my little flame burning ever so brightly and strongly through to repeated lines of prayer, 'safe now, safe now'. I've never felt so still and calm inside. After the service, the priest walked before the hearse, right down poor, rough old Gray Street, bringing traffic to a halt. Such respect and dignity for a man who had all but been forgotten.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Whoops a daisy

Here am I feeling sheepish for having marked VE Day instead of Mother's Day. So lots of hugs and kisses to my mum and thanks for knitting me a bed jacket. Plus special Mother's Day goodness to mother-t0-be Miss Soo, who appears to be giving birth to Alfred Hitchcock. And a bunch of sweet peas to my nanna, who I love and miss.

While I was looking thriugh family photos in mum;s ols school case silly Jack cat came and pissed in it. It's ok mum! He missed nanna's bridal veil and all the photos and the list of songs Mr C wants played at his funeral (because it's best to be prepared: I've told him the joke that is guaranteed to get me out of a coma) but ruined the certificate I got for doing the Lake Taupo ride in Mew Zealand. And I know I did that because my bike has the scars from where I fell off climbing - don't know the name of it but it's Maori and I'm sure it translates as Bastard Hill. Then I cut my finger on the lid of a catfood tin when I went to throw it out and now I'm typing all funny. SIgh. Not feeling like a good cat mum.

The longest day (1962)

There were lots of elderly Russian chaps out on Carlisle Street on the weekend, their chests dazzling with medals. March 8/9 is Victory Day, marking the surrender of Germany in World War II. (I give the two dates because the Baltic and former Soviet countries celebrate it on different days.) We celebrate this as VE Day (Victory Europe). And to honour the occasion I thought I'd watch a classic war movie. Which turned out to be a particularly bad idea.

I'll be honest - I had been warned. But of course I went ahead anyway and boy did I wish I hadn't. The longest day (1962) is very very long film about the D Day invasion, the Allied invasion of Nazi occupied France on June 6 1944, which marked the 'beginning of the end' of Nazi dominance in Europe. So first up, the historical perspective: this was a HUGE undertaking involving massive amounts of people, planes and ships; huge co-ordination; complicated plotting with feints, counter-attacks and decoys - everything had to go according to plan. One of the things that makes this film appear unusual is its almost exclusive focus on strategy. There's none of this 'getting to know your characters' or the human face of war. What we have are the decision makers making decisions (and no, you won't get to know their anguish) with very little time for the average soldier, who, if portrayed at all, is portrayed as deeply, deeply stupid.

The movie posters boast '42 stars!' Which actually turns out to be a failing. Everyone is doing a star cameo so over acting is the norm. Again, not something I'd quibble about but this is SIXTIES over acting: stream of consciousness, vocalisation of thoughts etc. So it goes without saying that the script is simply rotten. Cornelius Ryan also wrote A bridge too far and The last battle so he clearly knew his stuff about war. He just didn't know too much about movie making. Dialogue is stilted, characterisation minimal (Germans = decadent fools, Americans = macho, British = eccentric). There's lots of speech making while actors stare off into the distance. (Annoyingly, all shots are framed in the same way, with the star actor facing us the audience while they have the back to other characters, their audience - just like in the soap opera!)

And another problem: John Wayne. Now don't talk to me about him bringing a resonance of the American western spirit to the film, and don't you dare even mention Academy Awards to me. John Wayne, you are dreadful. You are a ham actor in a ham film and I for one am sad your character survived. Robert Michum may have momentarily won me over as an American commander on the beaches of Normandy but the scriptwriter didn't see fit to furnish him with anyone to command so he does start to look as though he's shirking his share of the fighting. Richard Burton, you get a special prize! Not because you play your character well but because I simply don't care what you do as long as you do it in that gorgeous, gorgeous voice. Oh, and Sean Connery, you get a special award for the worst cameo of the film. Absolutely awful.

Now I have to say that I have a fairly high tolerance for rubbish films. I don't mind if my Nazis speak English - indeed, I view this as a feature of the war film that is somehow endearing. I'm a fan of musicals so implausibility isn't usually a hurdle for me - I don't need blood for a war movie. I'm also very forgiving of melodrama (Douglas Sirk and Ida Lupino I salute you!) So you see, there's a lot I can really put up with. But once a rubbish film starts masquerading as a high rent product and I can become very, very nasty indeed.

There are lots and lots of things here that I can grumble about so I'm just going to say this: it's filmed in black and white - a technique typically used to simulate veracity. Our understanding of WWII is primarily through film, and that largely black and white. It also means that they can sneak in actual war footage. I was initially seduced by the cinematography, for which it won an Oscar. But really. Pompous.

I'm sorry to say that I spent three hours of my weekend watching this bloated, over wrought nonsense. Consistently voted one of the best war films EVER and you know what film it reminded me most of in tone? Westside Story. So there you go. The sixties, my most hated era. And a happy VE Day to you too.

Monday, May 10, 2010

A good day!

Today was an excellent day. My young man started a new job today so we walked to work together, stopping off for a cup of tea along the way. We also got to have lunch together! I said I'd cook a special meal for him and, upon consideration, the special menu I've chosen for him looks like a special menu for a Katherine. Whoops.... Starting off with some Middle Eastern broad bean dip, then Persian chicken with pomegranate and honey - no pudding because we don't do that sort of thing. In a flap now because I've lost my bamix. Last seen at a friend's place. A friend who has now moved to Singapore.... Weird coming home and finding the house empty. Poor old Jack cat must have had a very lonely day. Anyway, have to go and start rattling my pots and pans!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The V of H Disaster

My what a busy week it's been! Anzac Day seems an age away. We went to the dawn service (very moving) then I met some work colleagues for a celebratory birthday lunch (pleasant but the food a bit meh). The library has been super busy: there have been a few challenges over the last few days but it only reminds me how much I love my job and how much I care about what we do. This weekend has been spent with bike friends: hanging out in bike stores, drinking lots of tea and talking cycling.

This week was also the week of the V of H Disaster! As you may recall, I snapped up a 1940s repro dress on sale at Vivien of Holloway's in London. Just what I needed to wear to my dad's wedding and a bargain too. Well the parcel arrived at work this week and I scurried to the bathroom to try it on. Disaster! They'd sent me the wrong size! I've bought many items from this store before so I know what my size is and this dress ain't it - it's absolutely ginormous! My dress maker sister has advised that it is so big that it may be too difficult to cut down and remake (something complicated to do with armholes). It's a beautiful dress, in lovely fabric and it was the last one! I'm able to return it but because of the sale there's not much to choose from as a replacement. Plus there's the drama of things going backwards and forwards between Melbourne and London. Sigh. Very disappointing.

Better news is to do with this sweet cape that I will be buying next week. Yes, I know I'm saving for gloves but I just couldn't pass this up. It's made from vintage fabric and is actually a cycling cape. It's made by a Sydney mob called Rocket Fuel. I'll be placing my order for that come pay day! I've got a few other items on the way. A lovely dark green pair of trousers that are being made up for me by Heyday in London. They're ready now so should be on their way to me next week. Big yay because I've been waiting on them for a while. I've also got a super gorgeous order being made by a seamstress in California. She specialises in vintage patterns in vintage fabrics. It really deserves a separate blog post because it really is something special! I'm so lucky that there are enthusiastic and talented people out there doing beautiful things for vintage folk.

There was another, nicer surprise in the mail this week. My mum sent me a gift from Bolwarra. She'd knitted me a scarf! It's a beautiful grey blue colour, very soft and very warm. Just perfect now that the Indian summer has finally faded. It's so nice to get a surprise in the mail - and even nicer to have one made with such love.