Leopard Lust

Alexander McQueen Leopard Print Goat Jacket

 Despite the fact that my love for Alexander McQueen waxes sempiternal, I have yet to own anything from the legendary label.  This spectacularly glorious coat would redress the balance nicely.  An investment piece to treasure, I adore the luxe draping which manages (and I never thought this could be achieved) to bring a fresh, artisan perspective to the ubiquitous leopard-print.

A sumptous slice of old school glamour: yours to the tune of £6,195.  I think this one temptation that will have to remain just that…

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Happy Birthday, Capote

  Truman Capote, flamboyant author of Breakfast at Tiffany’s and In Cold Blood, made a name for himself, in his literary and social heyday, in more ways than one.  Indeed, I don’t immediately think of his stories when I consider him.  I’m more familiar with the film Breakfast at Tiffany’s than the slick little novella it was based on, having watched Audrey onscreen about, oh, thirty four times, and only read Capote on the page once.

 

It’s Capote’s character, and private, or not-so-private-life, that absorbs.  His name  is rather a catalyst for a steady drip-drip of associations that come slowly swirling about one, like confetti or the measured skitter of the snow.  And it’s a heady concoction of Warhol,  murder cases,  Marilyn and Audrey, TV chatshows, feuds,  the glorious, iconic  Black and White Ball at the Plaza,  60s Hollywood, debauchery and meanness,  Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones, and  Studio 54.

And then finally, wonderfully New York:

 “…as we watched seaward-moving ships pass between the cliffs of burning skyline, she said: ‘years from now, years and years, one of those ships will bring me back, me and my nine Brazilian brats, because yes, they must see this, these lights, the river– I love New York, even though it isn’t mine, the way something has to be, a tree or a street or a house, something anyway, that belongs to me because I belong to it.’ And I said: ‘Do shut up,’ for I felt infuriatingly left out– a tugboat in a dry-dock while she, glittery voyager of secure destination steamed down the harbor with whistles whistling and confetti in the air.”

Read this fascinating Telegraph article about Audrey, Capote and the film here http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/film/classic-movies/8032801/Breakfast-at-Tiffanys-50-years-on.html

Joy To The World! Calling all underdogs…

I really really want Joy to win this year’s Britain’s Next Top Model.  It’s been the first series I’ve followed in a long time, largely due to the new judges (Lisa Snowdon infuriated me in a million ineffable ways).  Elle McPherson is alien perfection on a long bronzed stick, and I love Grace Woodward.  I love her work, her wardrobe, and her deep, throaty big-sister-meets-bespectacled-fairy-godmother-voice, and the bizarre and brilliant catchphrases it issues forth.

Julien McDonald is cunningly cast as the villain; shinily grotesque,  lisping  in satin shades of magenta and puce, and nobody can really bear to look at him.

The competition is traditionally a farce; none of the girls selected are really model models, just pretty girls with bitchy put-downs riding the hamster-wheel of reality television.  The prizes leave something to be desired.  Yes, Company is a magazine, and yes it is printed on glossy pages, but it’s not exactly Vogue Nippon or i-D.  It’s fashion for the mumsy masses.

Anyway, I’ve cast down my cards and displayed my colours:  Joy to win!  She’s the blatant underdog of the competition: the shock transformation, chrysalis-like, from ugly duckling to gamine swan.  The judges well up with pride every time they look at her lately, as if she’s some sort of geeky fashion offspring that has newly discovered net-a-porter (which she kind of is). 

We are supposed to warm to her; the shy gawky outsider with the hunched shoulders, spiky teeth and a gravelly voice that belongs to someone’s emphysemic Yorkshire grandma.  Indeed, I love her for all these reasons.  I think she’s hilarious, adorable and ethereally stunning.  But something’s wrong, because everyone else I’ve spoken to HATES her.  With vim and vitriol and Miltonesque avenging fury.

The Amazonian Alisha, with her impossible body and brash, garrulous camera-manner, is the out-and-out favourite.  No one really bothers to pass comment on Tiff, because they can’t understand her when she talks, and her roots need doing and no one’s had the decency to tell her.

The favourite, Alisha

But Joy!  Never has someone so beautiful been so hated, presumably not since Helen of Troy, or the spawn-of-succubi Angelina.  I like her so much I almost don’t want her to win, so she can pass up on the commercial contracts and get stuck into something more high-end and edgy.  But I’ll be rooting for her, and her weird Gollum-gremlin brand of beauty, to triumph all the same.

What Price, Inspiration?

Inspiration: a fickle friend. A mighty puzzle. A maddeningly elusive golden snitch that many of us would like to clasp a good deal more firmly. Why are ideas so scrappily born out of threads and flotsam and lint; like torn up confetti-shreds of blotting paper that must be jigsawed together with fuss and the sour sting of labour pains?

Why can’t they fly in, swooping owl-like out of the jet-night, fully-formed and pendulous as a suspended tear-drop, a prism of contained sense-making? Why fore blindness, the dreaded think-block and the agonising scrape-scrape of pen?

For many the ideal (or only) writing conditions are learned solitude; the resin-creak of a mahogany desk, in a panelled library with sunlight streaming onto the page. It seems ideal to be hemmed in by cheerful, huddled tomes of infinite cleverness. The very numerousness and dry, crisp tangibility of these silent paper cheerleaders surely affirm that your quest is a valid, a noble, and an intelligent one?

Personally, libraries, when there is seriously writing to be done, are hell. They contain myriad millions of smug, completed volumes that crowd and jostle upon the shelves in order to jeer and boo. A most disquieting experience that can mortally wound id, ego and total word-count alike.

And then there’s the oft-peddled conceit of the great outdoors, its bowers, glades and peaks providing optimum conditioning for creativity. It is here, Wordsworth intimates, that sublime communion with nature, and the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings, can be achieved and properly channelled. Surely a world post-Romantic, post-post-modern, and post-the height of summer will be caught, fatally, in a sticky urban web and even stickier cynicism of spirit, before attempting to deposit a tentative foot over the threshold?

So what are the ideal conditions for harvesting the mind’s ambrosial nectar, the manna of the muses, or even an artist’s bread and butter? Stephen Fry, beatific benchmark, to my mind, for anything vaguely intellectual in enterprise or proper in manner, requires seclusion, silence and early bed-times.

The great Anna Piaggi, who equally deserves elevation into the dizzy, cherub-spattered pedestals of my esteem, can get nothing done without her red 1969 Olivetti typewriter.

 Agatha Christie collated her thoughts and plotted her fictional intrigues whilst eating apples in the bath. Though not, I fear, elect of this gilded circle of true luminaries, I too have honed my own habit of craftsmanship, whilst at university, submitting a 4000 word essay each fortnight. But it’s no cavalier apple-gazing; silently shooting the breeze amid the candyfloss flurries of the hot and cold taps. No, I strongly suspect that it is a method shared with many of my nearest, dearest contemporaries.

 

For me, it’s bed-ridden, muscularly crippled in my prolonged supine state, propped up by fat pillows like some arthritic seaside aunt. I can only write in bed; cocooned, festering in a vocabulary pea-fog of perspiration. I go for long stretches of the clock without sustenance. The starvation alternative is constant sugar, in the form of chocolate usually, though I do fear I’ll resort to a drip soon, if only to rid myself of the distracting rustle of wrappers strewn, like so many shed skins, as I shift my (probably ballooning) bulk.

Solitude is unnecessary. I entreat those around me, enlisting them in serving up the countless cups of tea, black as mud, I imbibe with feverish belief in its powers, as if some genius-giving potion lurks in the grainy, cinereous dregs. I bark orders like some wounded general. Those brave enough to refuse are soundly cursed as enemies of culture, of literature and all things noble.

I don’t simply burn the midnight oil; I erect great bonfires; fashioning zero-hour pyres and huge conflagrations that involuntarily yield charred and twisted new compounds of ash and glue and feathers. If I periodically surface and arise, Triton-like, from the depths, hobbling bleary-eyed and pillow-faced into the kitchen on sloshing sea-legs, I expect a certain hushed deference from those I encounter. Courting an awed appreciation for the Herculean sacrifice I have undertaken, I deign to make the odd rare appearance (it’s actually a quest for toast), delivering solicitous salutations and zoned-out stares. When my reception is less than reverential, and comments submerged in irony are bandied forth, I am forced to affect an injured air, and gravely withdraw, (unwashed) head held aloft, to my quilted cave.

Of course, the doom and gloom and damp of the bat-bunker isn’t exactly a method embraced and endorsed among literature’s cognoscenti. We all know Keats composed his most famous poem under a plum tree one morning in glorious spring. Wordsworth matched the scansion of his metre to the earth-timbred beat of his walking boot upon the Lake District’s peaks and plains. And Eliot got a grip on The Waste Land whilst drinking deep of the clear mountain air of Lausanne.

I may remain mummified in a duvet-shroud for protracted spells, but I do crave diversion; variety; to dip my toe into the dirty pool of pop-culture. I embrace Twitter, YouTube, Grazia Daily and countless other virtual hubs of mass procrastinators to whom I proffer an apathetic hand across the ennui-void.

Procrastination as the thief of time has long been the bone in the craw of many illustrious writers; Samuel Johnson was near-phobic of this very human flaw. It haunted Virginia Woolf and spurred on Shakespeare, who as usual has the wisest of counsel: ‘Defer no time, delays have dangerous ends.’ (Henry VI)

And yet as Keats’s Odes can testify to, there is a poetry in muggy stillness, a spark of inspiration submerged in the blurred dream-states of idle contemplation, amid ‘evenings steep’d in honied indolence’. But I cannot chase Keats down his daisy and violet tunnels, or trace the elevated paths of his leaps from contemplation to creation, and neither, probably, can you. His is a philosophy few can emulate. And, let’s be honest, there is nothing remotely magical or exquisite, or divinely solipsistic, in the streaming of Britain’s Next Top Model at 2am when a deadline is looming. (Though there is something of the ethereal in my favourite contestant, Joy – a pale Madeline or stricken Lamia, perhaps? – but I digress.)

So although tearing oneself away from the honey-trap of viral distractions is as difficult and distressing as snatching a kaleidoscope from the eye of an enraptured child, tear and wrench and yank I must. Necessity is, after all, the mother of invention…

Romancing the Crown: The Accidental Royalist

 

Growing up, I never paid much attention to the monarchy.  Naturally, I was more interested in fairytale kingdoms and mythical palaces than their real-life counterparts.  The Queen, nevertheless, has always been a reassuring figure, omnipresent on currency and correspondence; something of a kind and distant aunt, well-regarded, but rarely thought of.  It was a happy indifference that, I suspect, I shared with many other subjects of Her Majesty’s realm.  But it was not to last.

It all started with the Olympics.  I was watching a medal ceremony in which Britain had won gold.  The national anthem struck up, and the winner beamed deservedly from a podium.  Reader, I was affected beyond words; first welling up, and then breaking down entirely.  This unexpected show of feeling has arisen periodically ever since, whether it is upon seeing the Queen wave from the royal carriage at Ascot, or simply hearing ‘God Save…’ belted from the terraces at football matches.

From that moment on, I was inexplicably impregnated with a joyous affection for our royal figurehead.  I know I’m not alone.  The Americans love her, frequently crossing the ocean to crowd the palace gates (and crucially swelling the coffers of tourism as they do so).  Agyness Deyn is rumoured to be a fan.

Without an English passport, I’m technically a foreigner, and have no right to be such a romantic royalist.  But I can’t help myself, and what I lack in dry documentia I more than make up for in patriotism of spirit…

Consequentially, I have begun to quietly and obsessively amass royal memorabilia.  Her Majesty’s face peers from teapots, tea-towels and tobacco tins, to the consternation and despair of those forced to beat a path through the monarchist impedimenta littering my home.  I’m gripped by a compelling need to defend the ageing sovereign from slander, criticism and general treason.

I find her astonishing, iconic, inspiring.  Never expected to be Queen, she slipped seamlessly into a role she has performed with grace and guts, and not a single day off, since.  She knows when to be vocal (Diana, Iraq) and when to stay silent (wayward grandchildren). 

Her wardrobe is unfailingly, enduringly chic, whether she is resplendent in rainbow hues and gobstopper jewels, or sporting the well-loved, oft-imitated regalia of headscarf and Barbour.  In all her 83 years on earth – 58 as queen, 62 as wife and mother – she has devoted her life, in public and private, entirely to others.  To those who deem her anachronistic, an elitist and undemocratic relic: would you really advocate replacing her with some anonymous head of state?  Give up the fun and pomp and pageantry for a sterile and bloodless succession of dusty MPs?  Where’s our imagination, our romance?  Who doesn’t smile nostalgically at the changing of the guard, inwardly squeal at the prospect of a royal wedding, or thrill to the sight of those crown jewels?  The Queen has the unspeakably fabulous privilege of owning the largest pink diamond in world, whilst Parliament is in solemn possession of a rusty budget box and some musty wigs.

 Royalty, history, family, are worth preserving.  I’ve long since abandoned fairy princesses and towering turrets on the far-off shores of childhood.   But forsake the queen?  Never: Ma’am, it’s been a pleasure.