Wednesday, January 11, 2012

dressSTORY: The One Sponsored by Wimbledon

For info on the dressSTORY project see here.

The One Sponsored by Wimbledon.
The facts: 2008, Oasis
Purchased: £40 in Oasis Sale in Autumn 2008

When I left the West Yorkshire Playhouse after just over three years of dealing with people projectile vomiting working in the FOH department, along with the cake and coffee and a good proportion of the vodka that could be supplied by North Bar I was presented with vouchers for Oasis. (I'm just going to throw this out there: leaving Leeds was very good in the present stakes. When else would anyone have thought it okay to gift me a tambourine?). This dress, purple and floral with a netting and thus a skirt that swirls in a pleasing manner, was bought with some of those vouchers as my first new clothing purchase in London. In those months whenever anyone complimented me on it I would say it was the dress that the WYP had bought me and this made me feel affectionate about both the dress and the theatre. See current/future employers - buy me a dress and I will feel warm and fuzzy towards you forever.

Of all my dresses this is the one that crops up most often on photos of me on Facebook. I would hazard a guess (what with the netting and it being dry clean only) that when Oasis were selling it they didn't envisage an 'everyday wear' policy. To which I say - bah! This is most definitely a dress for everyday wear when you want to look nice. And sometimes looking nice just helps.
Thus there's photos of me wearing it pottering around Greenwich, eating afternoon tea and, most recently, at Arsenal Fan's birthday. The photo above, the dress still officially in the new category, was taken at Whitby Abbey (I'd removed my coat, briefly risking pneumonia, in order to get a photo of it). It's the bright flash against an otherwise gently melancholic set of photos - melancholic because of the late Autumn of a North facing, grey stoned Yorkshire seaside resort but also, melancholic in my memory, being, as it is, the day a friend died.

But that isn't quite how I think of this dress, any more than I automatically respond now that it was a leaving present (sorry WYP, I've readdressed that here at least). There's the exuberance of the posing, giddy with wine and sparkly-camp-Eurovision joy in the middle of the West End, pulling 'boyband' poses and finding it all far too amusing.

But, most of all, this dress is getting up at 6am, catching the train to Wimbledon and joining the most civilised queue of my life in order to get ground tickets for the tennis with Surfer Girl and Charming Canadian. Something that seemed even more appropriate given that it was Canada Day and we were thus forcing
Charming Canadian into a day of the most stereotypical Englishness every invented. Strawberries and cream and tennis and a woman with a parasol (okay, maybe not the last bit, but have a parasol I do and take it with me to Wimbledon I did). Once into the grounds I procured us a prime spot at the top of Henman Hill (none of this Murray Mount crap around here, thank you), where we could see the screen and, when appropriate dip our feet into the fountain. And dipping feet became quite important because it was bloody hot. So hot that even my factor 30, parasol covered body turned the not particularly attractive colour of over-cooked skin.

What I hadn't clocked when I'd put the dress on that morning, however, was that it matches the colours of the Championships. Indeed I didn't even clock this until someone asked me if I was being sponsored by Wimbledon to sit on the hill in my dress with my parasol up. Because, it seems, in these circumstances everyone loves an English stereotype (even my burgeoning sunburn fitted in). Sadly I had to reveal that no, in their wisdom, the LTA weren't paying me (though, let it be noted, I'm not adverse to being paid to sit and watch tennis whilst wearing a nice dress if the proposal ever comes up). I think the dress subsequently contributed to the surprise around me when the tennis actually started and I began to scream loudly enough to burst eardrums.  Because caring too much about tennis is something I do in some style. And that style is loud.

Being a triumph of a day Andy Murray powered his way into the semi-finals and, in one of the matches of the 2009 tournament, Andy Roddick defeated Leyton Hewitt and I got to be one of the lone voices on the hill who wanted this outcome.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Craft #1: Kate Bush Hoop

Bit of an easy start given the fact that I am currently totally in love with hoop art and, after the ever reliable heart shaped lavender scented bag, hoop-stuff was my most gifted Christmas present.

This one was a not-mentioning-the-b-word present for @arexx. It's basically trains and a lyric from Kate Bush's "50 words for snow". Random - probably a little bit, but for a boy who likes trains and that song, also pretty cool I think.

I did think when I was making this that you could quite easily illustrate every one of the 50 words for snow in this manner (see where these things lead? EPIC projects). So - maybe one day. The thing I noticeably forgot to do with this was add some ribbon at the top so that it can easily be hung. Naturally I realised I'd forgotten this only after I'd wrapped the present and, being too lazy to undo the wrapping, I made @arexx open it before-the-day-the-present-was-intended-for and then demanded it was handed momentarily back to me - whilst a little bit drunk as it turned out - so I could attach the ribbon. Most likely in a vaguely wonky manner.

I'd like to pretend I had this project planned out in a brilliantly artistic coming together of fabric and lyric when in reality what happened was: I saw the lovely train fabric on Fabric Rehab when I was buying stuff in October in a burst of pre-Christmas-present-making organisation (don't worry, that didn't last, I ended up still sewing on Christmas Eve), bought it on a whim and then had to invent a reason to use it. So it's a good job I now know someone who likes trains. (If someone in my life would now proclaim a liking of Scandinavian birds and trees so I could buy this, that would also be good.)

2012: The Resolutions

Because I should have these out there to shame me into doing them.

1. Read Ulysses.

This was definitely on my list of resolutions in 2007 and 2008. Having failed to even read one page I put this aside for a while and then, in 2011, I concocted a plan to read 3 pages a day from Bloomsday onwards and thus I would finish reading Ulysses in a year. And y'know what? It was going well until I went to Edinburgh Fringe and along with stuff like eating vegetables and having more than four hours sleep a night the Ulysses plan fell apart. And, out of the loop, I haven't picked it up since. Now you could say (and people have said: AT LENGTH) that I should just give it up and stop worrying about not having read this. As someone who shall remain nameless has told me at least five times reading Ulysses will not make me a better person. And I know this. But it remains: back in 2002 when I was young and foolish and thirty seemed a long, long way away, I decreed that by the time the 21st January 2013 came around I would have read Ulysses. And have read it I WILL.

2. Make one crafted item a week.

I'm not going to stick too many rules on this, just CRAFT CRAFT CRAFT because it makes me happy. I'm going to stick them up here as I go along too. Even the ones that go horribly wrong.

3. Set (and publish on here) a writing goal each month, keeping track of my progress as I go.

Let's get this clear: I need to write more. I need to be more disciplined about finishing my own stuff, as opposed to helping birth other people's stuff (though I love doing that too and don't intend to stop). I've got unwritten ideas spilling out of every drawer and that needs to be marshalled. And I do like a target - the point is they have to be realistic, which is why I'm not setting them out for the year now as that would be a recipe for disaster given there are a couple of projects in the 'pending' tray which could knock my plans sideways if they came off.

4. Upload to What I Wore Today every day.

I started uploading to the fab WIWT back in the summer and then (yes, you've heard this excuse before, but then it is my excuse for everything from that I didn't get round to doing last year - and quite a few things I did) I went to Edinburgh and stopped. But I think it would be a lovely way to record the year in the outfits I've worn each day - and also to encourage me to find the way to the back of my wardrobe. You can follow along here (as you may note I've buggered this one up slightly by uploading my 6th January outfit after midnight due to my coming home after midnight, slightly tipsy. And, since you can do one upload a day I'm just going to have upload two different outfits in one go on the 8th January. Phew. You can bet this is going to happen at least once a month).

5. Have a holiday.

Y'know. Go somewhere quiet. Go for walks and visit NT properties. Write a bit. Read. Relax. I haven't had an actual holiday since I went to Berlin in 2009. I think I'm probably due one.

6. Be a home tourist and visit 12 places in London that I haven't already visited.

At the point last year that I got a bit 'theatre-ed out' I ended up spending some of the time that would normally have been dedicated to sitting in darkened auditoriums going places (I even, shock horror, went to the cinema) that I don't normally have the time to visit. Plus, it's a tad ridiculous that I've been to Keats-Shelley House in Rome but I haven't even seen the outside of Keats House in Hampstead.

7. Blog at least once a week.

Fairly self explanatory, but I clearly could do with some discipline around here.

8. Make the effort to shop locally (and ethically).

I know this point sounds a little bit broad, but I think this one's an ongoing journey. Ideally I'd like to think that by the end of the year I'd have made serious inroads into not using Supermarkets. Lots of little things I'd like to make more effort on in relation to my opinions on THE ISSUES come under this one, in terms of buying handmade/ recycling / upcycling and generally doing my (little) bit to live in a manner that reflects the kind of society I would like to live in.

9. Send a postcard to each of my brothers once a month.

Because phonecall are alright and all that, but getting postcards is definitely cool.

10. Make a quilt.

I've started and finished this list with things that I (foolishly) suggested at some point that I would do before the age of 30. After seeing the V&A quilt exhibition (in 2010?) I proclaimed on twitter that I'd add this to my list. So: quilting, right?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Wherein there is talking on the tube

"I've got a present for you" Arsenal Fan says as we sit opposite each other on a Northern Line train.

"How exciting" I respond as he begins to go through the contents of his bag.

And then pulls out a copy of The Metro.


(It should be noted this isn't my standard response to being offered a battered copy of a free newspaper - I have some standards - but I have an inkling as to what might exactly be in this particular copy)

"It's somewhere around the middle" Arsenal Fan offers.

I flick to the middle and then - I see what my present is.

Namely: Harry McFly without his top on.

(Yes, I know. Small pleasures and all that please)


(And let the record state: I'm not really into that whole 'look at me without my top on thing' given my prediliction for arty, pub-beats-gym boys. But even I am not immune to Harry McFly's chest it would seem).

"Look" I say folding the paper over so that Purple, who is seated next to Arsenal Fan, can see Topless Harry McFly. I do so in the sort of generous manner which means everyone else on that side of the tube gets to see the photo too. What can I say? I am a nice person.



I turn the paper back to face me. "This is a great present".

The woman sitting next to me starts to giggle. "That is great" she says "Look at him!"

Only she doesn't need to say this because we are all already looking at him. It turns out that you can file Topless Harry McFly in Free Paper along with Freak Weather and The End of Days as situations which make it okay to talk to strangers on the tube.

"I think this might have made my day."

"Mine too!"

"He has to win after this"

"Harry to win!"

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

I am mainly listening to:

Every so often Breakfast Club Boy pushes some music my way which won't result in my having earache for the following three days. Thurston Moore's album came with some disdainful commentary on my taste in such matters but, apparently, "if you're a man and you decide you must sing about your feelings and make an album with an acoustic guitar then this is as good as it's ever going to be". Given my love for the BoyWithGuitar genre I was, naturally, loudly irrate about such damning-with-faint-praise. But Demolished Thoughts is gorgeous and 'Benediction' especially so.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

A brief return to the spires

"And that sweet city with her dreaming spires
She needs not June for her heightening."

Oh, yes, Oxford. You still have it.

Monday, December 05, 2011

dressSTORY: The Tartan One

The blog post I wrote about hoarding made me think harder about stories and histories and all the ones that go unrecorded and disappear. Combine this with my urge to catalogue and the fact I'm wanting to have some running threads on here to help me back into this 'being a good blogger' lark and dressSTORY was born. The deal is - for each dress I own I will catalogue it with a story/history/something creative involving words. I'd love to know the history of some of my dresses before they got to me - and maybe, though it may never be this, these stories might pass on with my dresses.

The Tartan One
The Facts: 1980's M&S.
Purchased: £10 from Armstrongs in Edinburgh during August 2011

It was 48 hours before the end of my Edinburgh Fringe, I'd been existing on somewhere between four and six hours sleep a night for the past month, the rain was torrential, I was full of the impotent rage of the morning after a first falling out, my brogues had developed a hole, and I had two hours to appease myself with a dress for the following night's party.

And then I found this dress nestled in the midst of oversized 1980's kitsch. First thought: would it be too horribly cliche to comemorate my month in Edinburgh by buying a tartan dress? Answer: Probably but I suspected I was about to do it anyway. And then when I tried it on and it pretty much fit (as ever with 1980's vintage it's slightly too broad of back and long of arms, but nothing that some clever placing and artfully rolled up sleves doesn't disguise) I knew I wasn't leaving it, even though I knew it most definitely was not a dress for a slighty very sweaty drunken goodbye party. But that's probably in its favour rather than against.

So excited was I with this dress I promptly wore it the next day (okay, yes, I do normally wash vintage first but, hey, it was Edinburgh Fringe and I was excited to have something to wear that I hadn't worn seven times already in the past month. Hopefully I didn't smell too badly of old lady.). As I was walking through the meadows a Chugger caught my eye:

"You're from Scotland, right?"


"Oddly - no."

I can't say this dress has led to further confusion over my nationality but it is destined to forever be a reminder of the damp feet, sore throat, full heart of Edinburgh in August 2011.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

My N30

It's worth noting: I am not a public sector worker. But then nor was I a student when I joined the NUS march last autumn, or equally pertinently, when I got charged at by horses on the day the tuition fee bill was passed. I do, however, fundamentally disagree with many (most?) of the values espoused by the current Government. What Cameron and Osborne are engaged in (and the Lib Dems are supporting) is an ideological attack disguised as economic necessity. Because, however much they like to pretend otherwise, there are choices. You can choose who (and how) you tax. You can collect that tax effectively. You can introduce the so-nicknamed 'Robin Hood tax'. You can decide who (and where) your loyalties lie.

Of course N30 was about a specific issue - and my attendance was as a marker of my support for all those who picketed and marched throughout Britain. Work longer, pay more, get a smaller pension at the end of it. And the notion that public sector pensions are better than public sector ones and thus everyone should shut up is blatantly ridiculous. We shouldn't be playing to the lowest common denominator - we should be aspiring for the best. For everyone.

My N30 looked something like this (excluding the bit where Arsenal Fan and I kept getting papped by tourists. It would seem we look like the acceptable holiday-snap version of the protest. I also got papped by a woman with an awesome vintage camera but I like to think that was because I had my awesome coat on):