Grand Designers

I had a bit of a Couture thing going last weekend and ordered half a dozen books on Haute Couture and Historical Fashion from the library (God bless public libraries).
BTW did you know the difference between Haute Couture and Couture? For a fashion house to call its garments Haute Couture it must follow the rules laid down by the Paris Chamber of Commerce which are –

  1. Design made-to-order for private clients, with one or more fittings.
  2. Have a workshop (atelier) in Paris that employs at least fifteen people full-time.
  3. Each season (i.e. twice a year) present a collection to the Paris press, comprising at least thirty-five runs/exits with outfits for both daytime wear and evening wear.

When selected they then become members of the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture. What an excellent way to keep skilled embroiderers, hat makers etc in work. I wonder if British couturiers do the same sort of thing.

Anyway, back to the books. Whilst leafing through them and salivating over the beautiful outfits I came to the conclusion that modern fashion designers could learn a thing from the old Masters. I fell in love with this coat (made in 1919) from Paul Poiret.
Paul Poiret Coat
It’s stunning. The cream design down the front is leather filigree and hand sewn to the coat. The collar is fur which is not so nice. I was thinking that something like this could be recreated – machine embroidered design on the front with a thick man made fleece fabric for the collar. The more I looked at it the more I felt the urge to make a tribute coat, so now I am looking around to source fabric and suitable designs for the front………watch this space.

Elsa Schiaparelli also knew a thing or two about embroidery. At the height of her fame in the late 30s to early 40s she was producing beautiful pieces like these. My favourite is the Elephant Embroidery. She was a designer ahead of her time.

Elsa 4

And what about this from 1951 – a ball gown designed by Jacques Fath.
Working Title/Artist: Ball gown Department: Costume Institute Culture/Period/Location:  HB/TOA Date Code:  Working Date: ca. 1951 photographed by mma in 1995, transparency 3c scanned by film & media 4/30/04 (phc)
Must go now before my sweaty palms ruin these lovely books. Also I’m just about to take delivery of the book “The Collection of the Kyoto Costume Institute.” Be still my beating heart!

Kyoto Costume Institute


Linda xx

Why I Love Charing Cross Road

The main reason I love Charing X is because Foyles bookshop lives there.

I could live there – free Wi-Fi, a lovely clean cafe with gorgeous eats and floor upon floor filled with books on every conceivable subject.


foyles cafe

While having a coffee there last week I decided I needed to get to the Creative Writing section. I found it literally straight across and down the stairs from where I was sitting. It made me wonder if they’ve realised that siting it there would be a good business decision as probably half the people in the cafe are drinking coffee and busily typing the ‘Next Great British Novel’.

Scanning the shelves I found this book ‘The Amazing Story Generator’.
It’s a writing prompt book where all the pages are split into 3 pieces and you can mix and match them.

I hope I didn’t disturb the rather serious lady next to me with my snorting and giggling as I haphazardly created such gems as
“Suffering from incessant hallucinations, a computer hacker goes on a blind date”
“A thousand years from now, a night watchman joins the Mafia”
I’m currently challenging myself with this one, “With only a week to live, an old lady with twenty cats is transported to another galaxy!”

This is one reason why there will always be bookshops no matter how big Amazon gets. I think ‘flickability’ is what will ultimately save bricks and mortar shops. Even Amazon’s ‘look inside’ does not stack up against having a book in your hand and flicking through the pages. I probably wouldn’t even have seen my story generator book on amazon, but I saw it straight away on the shelf, picked it up and had 10 minutes of good concentrated flicking and of course I bought it. I had to, it appealed to my sense of humour. At the same time I bought Terry Pratchett’s last Discworld novel “The Shepherd’s Crown”. Yes, I could have bought it cheaper online, but it was there, displayed front and centre and it was the first day of publication. As readers will know I’m a huge fan of the inimitable Sir Terry and the memory of buying his last book at Foyles will stay with me forever. Similarly despite having bought hundreds of books online over the years I only have memories of one purchase. It was in the mid-90s and I was making my very first international internet purchase. I bought ‘Your Money or Your Life’ by Joe Dominguez from Barnes & Noble in New York and cheering when it all went through smoothly. Incidentally spending money online did get easier as time went on – too easy and forgettable!

But my ‘in person’ book purchases were all memorable. I vividly remember queuing for hours outside a Horsham bookshop waiting to buy Sir Terry’s ‘Thief of Time’ with him there in person to sign it. The bookshop staff kept us fed with big boxes of sweets being passed up and down the queue.
Terry pratchett

Or the time Alan Titchmarsh regaled me at a book signing with anecdotes about his mate Russell Harty. I remember chatting to the beautifully elegant Bruce Oldfield about his book on fashion. He was my favourite designer at the time and I’m sure I was almost walking out backwards and curtseying at the same time!

bruce oldfield

How can you have experiences like these without bookshops? A YouTube video of an author signing just doesn’t cut it. Getting back to Charing X there are also glorious dusty second-hand bookshops on the road and a wonderful musical instrument shop selling mainly guitars. More flickability with some strumability thrown in for good measure. Note to self, Ukulele practice is long overdue!


Linda xxx

Watching the Detective

I never knew it was possible to hold my breath for an hour but that’s what it seems when I’m watching the new series of Line of Duty currently airing on BBC2. Keeley Hawes, Martin Compston, Vicky McClure and Adrian Dunbar are the main actors.
keeley hawes In short the plot involves the not very popular DI Lindsay Denton (Keeley Hawes) who is charged with murder following the murders of a protected witness and three police officers.
prison warders
She tries to persuade her colleagues investigating the case that she has been set up by someone within the force and despite being badly beaten on remand by two prison warders who make Bond villains look like pussycats she persists and at the end of the last episode she appears to be getting through to one colleague DS Steve Arnott (Martin Compston).
martin compston
I love how the writer Jed Mercurio gives us glimpses of the characters’ personal lives. How even a police officer can be frustrated by noisy neighbours and who hasn’t wished they could go round and deal with them as DI Denton did. We also get to see a softer side of her with her love of playing the piano and her cat (I’m glad there is a cat!).
We also see Kate Fleming (Vicky McClure) who only sees the world in black and white, utterly convinced at the beginning of DI Denton’s guilt, gradually and very subtly beginning to question her original decision.
vicki mcclure
When I watch her I have this insane wish that someone would just tickle her or tell a funny joke just to see if she’s physically capable of having a good laugh.
Jed Mercurio has put his characters through some very harrowing scenes – the boiling water on the hands, 2 of them set on fire, an officer’s head pushed down the toilet. Not a programme to watch if you are in to fluffy bunnies but definitely one to watch if you want to be thrilled, angry, frustrated at unfair treatment or you just want to watch a damned good story!
I sincerely hope that in the next round of TV Awards Joe Mercurio and Keeley Hawes are remembered for this wonderful series.


Linda xx

A Thoroughly Modern Pharaoh

It was a comment on my previous post from Briony at Crafty Cats Corner that sparked my idea for this one. A blanket, a flask and googling cat paintings would be her idea of heaven (mine too). I started thinking about heaven and the afterlife and the Ancient Egyptians’ take on it.

Eye of Horus

All those Pharaohs building their tombs everywhere and deciding what they were going to take with them to the afterlife assuming they passed the ‘weighing of the heart’ test.  (This is where the deceased had to stand before Osiris and declare a list of Negative Confessions, for example –

  • I have not caused anyone to weep
  • I have not slain anyone
  • I have not stolen food.

If you made enough of these confessions so that their total weight was heavier than the Feather of Ma’at or Truth then you got a pass through to the afterlife. I wonder if that’s where our saying “Weighing Heavy on My Heart” comes from?)

weigh heart

Anyway I digress. I started to wonder what we modern Pharaohs would each take with us to the Afterlife if we had our own personal pyramids or tombs to put everything in. So really, if you could take it with you when you go, what would you take?

Firstly I’d probably take my underwear drawer. I just could not bear the thought of someone going through my collection of grey and not so grey knickers after my demise. I’d have to leave orders for it to sealed immediately after my passing and taken straight away to my final resting place. And instead of holding a Crook & Flail I’d be holding the key to my knicker drawer in my hand.

crook and flail

Probably in my other had I’d have my lovely Waterman Fountain Pen. No way would I want to leave that behind.

waterman pen

Instead of a load of Papyrus I’d have a few reams of writing paper as well and sealed bottles of coloured ink. Fountain pen ink is more precious to me than perfume!

blue ink

I definitely would make sure there was room for my camera and lenses and I’d have some sort of solar charger connected to the outside world so the minute I got to the Afterlife I would be up out of my Sarcophagus, hands on camera and ready to take heavenly snaps.

There’s not much else I would want to take – probably just my embroidered clothes, my copy of Bounce by Matthew Syed, and my big bumper Dictionary of the Unexplained as there would be quite a few entries I’d want to run past whoever was in charge up there. No cats or animals as I would have already left instructions for their future wellbeing in my will and knowing my present Tortie cat Daisy, she would probably be up there already playing her own version of “House of Cards”.

Oh and a boat. I’d take a large one. I just have a feeling that boats will be very useful things to have in the future.


That’s my Pharaonic List – what would you put in your Pyramid?????


Linda xxx

Posted in Art

And I’m Not Very Good at Picking Lottery Numbers Either!

Just watched Doctor Who live to find out that Peter Capaldi has won the coveted sonic screwdriver.



Whilst I’m DEEPLY disappointed that Benedict Cumberbatch won’t be thrilling us in time and space, I think Peter will be excellent. I thought he was great in Torchwood and he has appeared in Doctor Who as Caecilius in The Fires of Pompeii with David Tennant. A real character actor.


But to console myself and Compostwoman here is another photo of Benedict….



And one of my all time favourite Doctor Who pre the Russell T Davies productions


Jon Pertwee




Linda xxx

Posted in Art

All Will Be Revealed on Sunday

Of course I am referring to the identity of the new Doctor Who. The BBC are screening a special edition of The One Show on Sunday at 7pm. The new Doctor will be revealed then.


Doctor Who- Image Courtesy BBC


I have no idea who they’ll pick, however I am hoping with all my digits crossed that he (has to be a he I’m afraid) will be Benedict Cumberbatch. I think he’d make a great Doctor and after all he did get a bit of sci fi training in the last Star Trek film.




It is a long shot I know as he’s filming the new Sherlock series at the moment and he can’t be in two places at the same time….or could he??


Apparently Ben Daniels and Peter Capaldi are also favourites for the role. If I had to go for second and third choices they would be Richard Armitage and Rupert Penry-Jones.


Richard Armitage


rupert penry-jones


I do trust the judgement of Steven Moffat the lead writer and executive producer of Doctor Who and I know whoever he picks I will like. I find it so heartening to know that such a fuss is being made of this programme. I cried buckets when Michael Grade, Director General of the BBC gleefully axed it due to his personal dislike of the Doctor. What goes around comes around Mr G.





Linda xx

Posted in Art

The Inimitable Mr P.

The Mr P I’m referring to is Sir Terry Pratchett author of the fantasy Discworld series and other brilliant tales.


I discovered his novels one day in my local library. They had a display of well known authors’ own favourite authors. I noted that somebody called Terry Pratchett listed Spike Milligan as his favourite. I remember thinking ‘Anyone that likes Spike Milligan can’t be bad’. (Spike Milligan’s ‘Puckoon’ is one of the funniest books in the history of writing).


So I had a forage around the library and found The Hogfather and that was it. I became one of the legion of Terry Pratchett fans.


I think it is his humour that does it for me, it’s not a joke a minute but clever musings from an extraordinary brain.

These are some of my favourite quotes from Sir Terry

Every procedure for getting a cat to take a pill works fine — once. Like the Borg, they learn…

I think that sick people in Ankh-Morpork generally go to a vet. It’s generally a better bet. There’s more pressure on a vet to get it right. People say "it was god’s will" when granny dies, but they get angry when they lose a cow.

I must confess the the activities of the UK governments for the past couple of years have been watched with frank admiration and amazement by Lord Vetinari. Outright theft as a policy had never occurred to him.

Let’s see, now… in HOGFATHER there are a number of stabbings, someone’s killed by a man made of knives, someone’s killed by the dark, and someone just been killed by a wardrobe.
It’s a book about the magic of childhood. You can tell.

Oh dear, I’m feeling political today. It’s just that it’s dawned on me that ‘zero tolerance’ only seems to mean putting extra police in poor, run-down areas, and not in the Stock Exchange.

My experience in Amsterdam is that cyclists ride where the hell they like and aim in a state of rage at all pedestrians while ringing their bell loudly, the concept of avoiding people being foreign to them.

My dream holiday would be

a) a ticket to Amsterdam

b) immunity from prosecution and

c) a baseball bat 🙂

And from his Discworld novels …

"Alcohol didn’t seem to go to her brain at all. It could be that it couldn’t find it." – Thud!

What sort of man would put a known criminal in charge of a major branch of government? Apart from, say, the average voter. – Going Postal

This man was so absent-mindedly clever that he could paint pictures that didn’t just follow you around the room but went home with you and did the washing-up. – The Last Hero

If you trust in yourself … and believe in your dreams…and follow your star…you’ll still get beaten by people who spent their time working hard and learning things and weren’t so lazy." – Wee Free Men

I talked with Sir Terry once at a book signing hoping to get him to come and talk to my local writers’ club. He gracefully declined saying that he didn’t do that sort of talk and found that writers’ clubs were generally populated by dry, boring old men on the pull. Thinking back on his comment I think he was partly right, I do remember a few mature and eager gentlemen at my club.

The Hogfather remains my favourite book of the series, Death being the best character. All his lines are written in capital letters, very powerful, after all who can argue with DEATH?


I love Wee Free Men too, it’s sort of like Braveheart on speed. I’d love to have a Nac Mac Feegle to keep in my bag to have handy for those awkward little moments out and about with traffic wardens and jobsworths

Wee Free Men

You’re a lovely man and my hero, Mr P!

Linda xx