31 December 2012

Beer Belly

The beer belly- not a good look. I realise that of course one doesn't develop this sort of feature on the basis of one night's drinking, but, tonight, the drinking and firework night of the world, I would recommend sticking to one or two slender glasses of champagne..
Happy New Year!

23 December 2012

A Seasonal Merkin

Time for a little decoration and merriment. This is the time of year when those who have been rigorously waxing and shaving might come to regret a lost opportunity. There have been moments in centuries past when more hair, rather than less, was the thing, and even the adornment thereof with flowers, ribbons, jewels. Only viable under voluminous petticoats rather than lycra, perhaps, but definitely fresh territory for some Martha-Stewart-inspired holiday styling.
Season's greetings to all!

14 December 2012

Pierced 2

 According to Desmond Morris, in some parts of the world, a woman needs to have long, dangly earlobes in order to be considered beautiful. Mutilation begins in infancy, with increasingly heavy earrings being attached to holes in the earlobes in order to stretch them: 'by puberty, only the girls with the longest ears are considered to be beautiful.' ('The Naked Woman', Desmond Morris, Jonathan Cape 2004) The size and number of earrings- apparently up to 1 kg of metal dangling from each lobe-  appears excessively high to the likes of me, and a considerable burden. But I must confess that I do have pierced ears, onto which I attach generally modest items- nothing larger than, say, a teaspoon. I'm not tempted to acquire more holes, or elsewhere, but others seem to go overboard; the piercings spread and multiply like a rash.. 

.. a little nose ring appears, and then a stud or two. Bit by bit, the wearer is eroded..

.. until very little of use remains..

6 December 2012

Three Easy Poses

Tonight is my regular yoga night. I'm a yoga agnostic, or possibly just a slacker yogi.
I attend classes in an attempt to prevent my body seizing up as I creep towards general decrepitude. I treat the poses as exercises, which is not the attitude of a true devotee. Rather than attaining self-purification and the conquest of the body to render it a fit vehicle for the soul, etc., I only hope to be able to touch my toes when I hit eighty.
Early on, when I was in a more enthusiastic phase of practice, I acquired the classic guide, 'Light on Yoga', by B.K.S.Iyengar, 'the world's foremost authority'. I have taken the liberty of reproducing a few photographs of Mr. Iyengar demonstrating a few simple poses, and some rather more advanced variations. You'll notice that in none of the snaps does Mr. Iyengar look happy, but I suppose that's not the point. He's certainly taking it more seriously than I am. My 'down-facing dog', above, and his, below:
Followed by 'prasarita padottanasana', of which I can manage only the simplest version:

And finally, a balancing pose. 

2 December 2012

A Nose

Yesterday I visited the Tanks at Tate Modern in London for the first time since they opened earlier this year. I was blown away by a multi screen installation by William Kentridge, a series of preliminary studies he produced for his staging of Shostakovitch's opera, 'The Nose', which was in turn based on a short story by Nikolai Gogol. I haven't read it (yet), but apparently 'The Nose' tells the tale of a civil servant who wakes up one morning to find his nose has left his face to enjoy itself gallivanting around St Petersburg. 
It's entirely reasonable that the nose should star in a satire. The least regarded of the elements that make up the face- the female face, at least- it generally attracts negative rather than positive consideration, & and is the feature that most readily demands 'improvement' with cosmetic surgery. Well.. but I value my sense of smell extremely highly, so closely it is linked to memory and sentiment. The smell of a Gauloise cigarette, for instance, takes me right back to childhood summers in France.  And I recently came across a lone tree in a botanic garden that gave off the very same delicately honeyed aroma as the miles of spruce forests in Newfoundland, Canada. I hope I've got the right tree there. All very Proust, of course, but I'd seriously miss my nose if it took a holiday. 

27 November 2012

Buttoned, Pierced, Pocketed

The above illustration comes from Bernard Rudofsky's book, 'The Unfashionable Human Body' (1971), which I believe I have enthusiastically recommended on a previous occasion. This book was based on the catalogue Rudofsky wrote for an exhibition he curated at the Museum of Modern Art, New York in 1944, entitled 'Are Clothes Modern?', in which he ridiculed various aspects of clothing in the hope of 'immunising the public against the persuasive power of advertising and the seductive appeal of continually changing fashion'  (from an entry about Rudofsky at the J. Paul Getty Foundation website). Fat chance! But the book remains an enlightening and funny read, all the same. 
The diagram on the left maps the 'seventy or more' buttons punctuating the correctly dressed gentleman of the early 20th century (rather than the average Joe), and that on the right does a similar job for the placement of pockets. A shame cargo pants weren't around at the time. 
These have provided inspiration for my own up-to-date version, below, which features locations for body piercing. It's deliberately rather unspecific, as I'm rather squeamish about some of the regions available for this variety of decoration. Suggestions welcome.

22 November 2012

Cut and Sewn

Not sure why, but when I see the words 'plastic surgery', I think of patchwork quilting. It's possibly a somewhat tenuous connection: both are largely feminine concerns involving meticulous cutting and sewing, and the reworking of old material to fashion something fresh,
yet familiar. Needles and thread are essential to both. Quilting, however, is a pastime of economy and overt patterning, whereas plastic surgery is one of excess and subtle tailoring. And quilting, of course, doesn't require a big insurance policy.

17 November 2012


Learning to tie your own shoelaces is one of those developmental milestones. It involves the kind of co-ordination and problem solving skills for which, unfortunately, no amount of technological prowess can substitute. I'm glad to be able to report that I've managed my own shoes since the perfectly respectable age of 5, but these days (some decades later) I find myself becoming increasingly resentful towards laces and knots. It's a sad truth that I walk everywhere, and that nothing suits the walking foot as well as a laced shoe. No use, either, to claim that a Velcro fastening is a solution. For children's footwear, perhaps, but as far as the mature shoe is concerned, Velcro is to the shoelace as tights are to stockings.

14 November 2012

Mum Reveals Shocking Trick for Erasing Wrinkles

Recently my computer screen has been awash with little ads declaiming things along the lines of 'Mum reveals shocking £4 trick for erasing wrinkles. Doctors hate her.' Or, 'Mum is 57, looks 25 again. Local mum publishes one simple trick that has angered doctors'. The ages and prices vary a little; the medical practitioners are always, strangely, in a lather, although they might well count some wrinkled mothers amongst their own ranks. I fear these ads are an invitation to tread lightly on quicksand and have, so far, resisted the temptation to so do.

Much online information about wrinkles concerns their reduction or removal- more often than not, advertising dressed lightly as fact or recommendation. I did, however, come across an attractive title, the 'Textbook of Aging Skin', edited by Miranda A. Farage, Kenneth W. Miller and Howard I. Maibach, a 2 volume compilation of articles with such fascinating titles as 'Aging Skin: Some Psychosomatic Aspects', 'Key Trends Driving Anti-aging Skin Care in 2009 and Beyond', 'Global Warming and its Dermatological Impact on Aging Skin', etc etc.  The myriad authors seem to come from both academic institutions and pharmaceutical companies, and it's heart-warming to know that so much research is being carried out on my aged behalf.  And although I feel that it's a little pricey for the averagely vain public (at £306.64 for the eBook version), I was able to download & print out another interesting piece called 'Progression of Temporary Into Persistent Facial Wrinkling: An 8-year Longitudinal Study' (Greg Hillebrand, Xianghong Yan and Takashi Yoshii). I recommend it to anyone. It comes to the happy conclusion that 'Repeated skin flexure during facial expression causes persistent wrinkles. While skin wrinkling progressively increases over one's lifetime, the most significant period of change was in the 40s'. Lighter and/or dryer skin individuals are more prone to skin wrinkling that their darker and more hydrated counterparts.' 

In other words, too late now to die before I hit 40, but I can stay on the right side of leatherette if I avoid grinning/frowning, and slap on a bit of face cream. 

11 November 2012

Crow's Feet

I've been noticing wrinkles in the past few years, first and foremost crow's feet.
As defined in my Oxford English Dictionary, a crow's foot is: 'a wrinkle at the outer corner of a person's eye, usually in plural'. Oh, yes. And as a crow is 'slang derog - a woman, esp an old or ugly one', that probably makes me an old crow with crow's feet. Curiously, the term becomes, in French, 'patte d'oie', or 'goose's foot'. Gooseflesh, on the other hand, is 'chair de poule', or chicken flesh. Plenty of gooseflesh at a hen party, then, and possibly some with crow's feet thrown in.

1 November 2012

Home Barber

I'm afraid I pay insufficient attention to male grooming. I offer this, an advert from an Army & Navy catalogue of 1926 - 27, as a corrective. I myself would have put the quotation marks around the word 'barber', rather than 'home'. Grammatical quibbles aside, this type of comb seems to be still available on Amazon, and probably in all 'quality' stores. Would that I had bought one and put it to the test when my sons were still young and biddable. The great charm of this, of course, lies in the hirsute illustration.. definitely a bad hair day.

30 October 2012

Pumpkin Head

Has the skin lost its usual elasticity? Have those underlying muscles started to sag? There comes a time, even for pumpkins, when a little surgical assistance could help restore the fresh appearance of youth. If you're not quite ready to be turned into soup, come into our clinic for a free consultation, etc..

26 October 2012


Why stop at dressing wall-to-wall Chanel or Prada? Now that the days are drawing in, why not go further? Have yourself lined in your favourite brand.

21 October 2012

Ascot Hat

In honour of Frankel, the horse that yesterday at Ascot won his fourteenth and final race, and who, from his interviews, seems to be a lively and unaffected beast, I offer a design for a hat to be worn at the races.

17 October 2012

Long Lens

Film canisters in use again, making it evident that this is another rather dated image. I have been drawing, but find it increasingly difficult to like what I draw, and my store of old pictures is dwindling. This one was done in response to my agent's request for an exhibition piece on the theme of 'Celebrity'.

8 October 2012


I'm guessing that hair straightening is currently more popular than hair curling, so this drawing is somewhat passe.  I say 'guessing', as my own styling at its most labour-intensive involves twisting the ends of my hair under while still damp, the desk lamp doubling as dryer (surprisingly effective). Still, on behalf of womanhood in general, I am very glad about their diminished use, although the females below look happy enough. 

 I freely apologise to Wil-hold for borrowing the above. They may still be in business, although they're quite wrong about my needing two types of rollers. I hope I only have one type of hair at a time. On the other hand, if it's Problem and Normal and Fine all at once, should I use both types of roller simultaneously? I'm pretty sure that my hair is beyond all this; I'm sure it's showing at least seven signs of aging, or more, and rollers aren't going to be enough to fix that.

1 October 2012

Bag Lady

A thin excuse for putting up this picture today- a close, overcast sky and damp streets. I felt the need for a little cerise and scarlet. The even thinner excuse for the original picture was a pun on the word 'bag'. No lady dressed like this would appear without the appropriate high-end  handbag. Seated as she is with a cup of darjeeling, why not multi-task her bag? The idea has yet to be taken up by Chanel or Hermes. etc.

Bag: 1.'a receptacle of flexible material with an opening at the top'
         2. 'a woman's handbag' 
         3. 'a woman, esp. regarded as unattractive or unpleasant' 
(All from my trusty Oxford English Reference Dictionary)

26 September 2012

R. Varicose

Autumn rolls in, and I can wear tights again. Uncovered, the central regions of my legs reveal an impressive mapping of veins and tributaries, bearing some resemblance to the Mississippi, or the Nile, or the Amazon. I wonder idly whether varicose veins show superior development in British women, given the prevalence of wet weather and wellingtons; my legs throb in sympathy as river waters in the north and west of the UK swell with the unusually high rainfall, break their banks, flood the surrounding country..

19 September 2012

Automotivation 2

A little more on the automotive theme. The shape of a car door is so very suitable as a variation for the rear pocket on a pair of jeans. With the added benefit of easy access to bare skin for the odd scratch or suggestive fondle, depending on inclination.  

13 September 2012


As with everything sartorial, I'm pretty much at least six months behind the trend. These shoes, from Prada's 2012 spring collection, were widely flagged up in editorial fashion pages earlier in the year. I have borrowed this photo from a site called Autoguide.com, which noted that the designs referenced classic American cars of the Fifties, borrowing details such as chrome, lights, wings and flames. So pretty (and so crazy). There's considerable scope for  the imaginitive combining of cars and femininity: the suggestive back seat, the skin-soft leather, the mirrors, the headlights. The soft top that can conceal or reveal. The grimace of the grille at the front.
The reverse has potential, too; this drawing is by the sublime Tomi Ungerer, from his book 'Horrible', and is made particularly wonderful by the uncertain expression of the chap behind the wheel.

7 September 2012


Inspired by the spaghetti image of a few days back, I thought I'd try a few more pasta styles. How much easier to have pasta instead of hair- a dusting of powder or a slick of oil, and, voila- perfection. What bliss no longer to have to wash, dry, comb, style, spray, tint, perm, braid, tease, gel. And pasta shapes imply a certain style- the long, luscious waves of fettuccine (above), the corkscrew curls of fusilli (below)...

... or the soignee chignon of vermicelli..

... and all edible, to boot.

4 September 2012

Ladies Who Eat Cakes

On my regular route into town, I often pass the tiny shopfront of Stephen Jones, milliner. The windows are crammed with exotic and desirable hats, restrained or wild, always witty, and delightfully free of price tags. I spend one or five or ten minutes deciding which I would purchase, were I a wearer of hats. In another life, I hope to be such a person. I am, however, an eater of cakes, tea being my favourite repast, and cakes being a good deal more necessary than headgear in a mild but mournful climate. Nothing will cheer me up so effectively as an hour diverted from the daily grind in pursuit of a slice of Victoria sponge, coffee-and-walnut, scone and cream, or even a more fanciful patisserie. The combination of hat and cake is my idea of bliss, provided, of course, that it isn't raining.
This all might seem a little fey, but I would like to add that cake eating is not only for the dilettante. Just today I was reminded by Radio 4 that tea rooms were often used as meeting places by suffragettes. Darjeeling and dissent, rock buns and rocks thrown, etc. 

29 August 2012


Almost the end of the bikini season, although it ended for me some decades ago.

23 August 2012

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

As so often, I just spent a couple of days toiling away on some ideas that have come to naught- or at least, come to a good deal less than expected. And then at the last moment, this thought arrived whole and perfect and al dente.

19 August 2012

Flip Flops for Weightwatchers

Nothing much to say about this one. I've long considered this novel combination of weighing scales and footwear to be one of my better money-making ideas, but have yet to find a backer. Still open to offers, though.

15 August 2012

Strike A New Line

A digression. I have been revisiting a delightful little volume purchased in a small, second-hand bookshop in pre-Amazon days. 'Strike A New Line', by Inge Brandeis and published in 1946, promotes 'physical culture through everyday movements'; that is to say, it's a workout  book, albeit very modest by today's standards. It is written in simple and unpatronising language that nonetheless sounds surprisingly modern, give or take the odd moment ('See how your girl carries her doll or pushes her pram exactly like you!'). Miss Joan Garside provided a series of robust line drawings, alongside photos by Mr. Waldo Fergusson..
Ways of Walking. From left to right (in twos): exaggerated self-importance; simulated elegance; near approach to perfection; slack walk (this one closest to my own).
Ways of Standing: Apparent relaxed position, involving deformation of the spine and compensatory twists of groups of muscles.
Ways of Standing: Apparent comfort, with insidious curvature of the spine.
Attitudes to Work: Unnecessary stress on back and shoulder muscles while ironing.
Attitudes to Work: Inevitable stoop and hunch with badly adjusted sitting position at keyboard (very close to my posture at this precise moment).
Everyday Actions: Apparent comfort, but actually a tiring posture.
Everyday Actions: The careless sacrifice of the figure in favour of the face.
Casual Movements: Tiring inelegant variation (of shoe-installation, presumably).
Casual Movements: Clumsy gait arising from swinging the weight of the body to achieve upward motion (otherwise known as going upstairs).

A further digression. In her preface, the author credits a  'Madame Mensendieck' as the source of the movements and approach advocated, a rather Dickensian name which prompted more time wasting on the internet. Bess Margaret Mensendieck (1864-1957) was apparently an American physician who was called to Austria to instruct in her method of exercising, promoting good posture and correct body mechanics. She was herself the author of several books, and had been summoned to Europe by Kaiser Wilhelm II, who was greatly vexed by the daily sight of pot-bellied ladies-in-waiting, standing to attention with their hands over their stomachs in an attempt to disguise the bulge. Problems of self-image among females at court: plus ca change.