30 October 2014

Chocolate Box

Tired of being 'pear' or 'apple' shaped? Try one of these exciting new variations. From top to bottom, and left to right:

Globe: Well-rounded, or even spherical? This is you!

American Footballer: Shoulders like a bull, tapering towards some sort of waist.

Mature Globe: As for Globe, but wrinkly. Dark colours suit this shape. (Hah!)

Torpedo: Shape developed by lying prone for too long before a television.

Square: Solid rectangular English brick. Stout-hearted. Try a girdle.

Mature Torpedo: As for Torpedo, but over fifty five.

Ovoid: Substantial fatty deposits around the waist result in this characteristic form. In males, this shape may be termed the 'Beer Belly'.

Lozenge: A more angular version of the Ovoid.

Crescent: Shape developed by older women who have carried too many heavy burdens over the years.     

This message is gluten-and-nut free.            

30 September 2014

Shoe of the Season

Marc by Marc Jacobs, according to The Fashion supplement that appeared with my Saturday Guardian (September 2014): 'Now in the hands of Brit pair Luella Bartley and Katie Hillier, the label has regained serious momentum. The first collection was a statement of intent..', and nothing was more intentional than the blatant homage to market forces within the fashion industry made concrete with this in-your-face trainer. Times are a little rocky, but the intention is that profits should go up, and up, and up.

16 September 2014

Heavy Goods

A quickie. Fat, again. It has come to my attention that the British are now top of the European league table in fatness. 'We're eating our way to disaster', and so on, say the newspapers. Apparently 67% of men and 57% of women in the UK are either overweight or obese, according to the Global Burden of Disease Study. ('What this?', you ask. I've no idea, but it's published in the Lancet Medical Journal, so it must be True) Still, it's nice to be top of something, isn't it? And a little bit of fat makes it easier to stay warm in winter.

I have a tendency to colour things up to see if they look more 'important'. I suspect I nearly always prefer them in plain old black and white. I leave the choice up to you.

5 September 2014


I've recently returned from a brief cruise with my father. It sounds exciting, but it comprised only four nights on-board, in the company of several hundred pensioners. All very nice, although I found it difficult to keep up with the other guests when it came to eating (four lavish and delicious meals daily). Luckily for me, there was a gym in the 'basement', so my lower half was able to work off what my upper half was busy consuming.

Not my picture, I regret to say. It comes from Tomi Ungerer's 'Underground Sketchbook', a book that is brilliant and horrible in equal measure.

4 August 2014


The Foreign Office has advised British nationals to avoid the Oxford Street area in central London, which has been designated an 'insecure region'. Thousands of shoppers have converged on the hotspot for the summer sales, with skirmishes breaking out in Primark, Topshop, and other sites of special interest. There have been several recorded incidents of aggressive and antisocial behaviour, numerous arrests and a handful of hospital admissions. An eye witness described scenes of devastation, with shoppers running rampage amongst the rails of bargain goods. 
A spokesman for the Oxford Street Traders Association expressed surprise at the Foreign Office advice, saying that it was just business as usual, and that traders were happy with the sales figures.

23 July 2014

Arabian Nights

Still no time to do blog pictures, so instead here's a warm weather trip down memory lane. These illustrations come from one of my favourite childhood books, an edition of 'The Arabian Nights', 'selected and retold for children by Gladys Davidson with many illustrations in colour and in black-and-white by Helen Stratton', printed circa 1910 (although the publishers, Blackie and Son Ltd, reissued it several times at later dates, with variations on the tales and illustrations included). The book lived at my French grandmother's house, and it was one of my rules of holiday behaviour that it was the first thing I read on our annual visits. This book and, especially, the rather lovely Art Nouveau-influenced illustrations by Miss Stratton, represented escape  to another world, an exotic and magical place in which the landscapes, if not the plot lines, somewhat reflected the hot Mediterranean location of 'Villa Maite', as my grandparents' house was called. At the time, the likes of Dulac and Heathcote Robinson (in his romantic rather than his humorous work) were my favourite artists, and Helen Stratton was very much in the same mold. The extravagant gestures and  exotic costumes (those turbans!), the pleated and flowing drapery, the curling smoke and piles of gold coins and jewels, the endlessly blue skies, were all mesmerising. The oriental fashions, heavily embroidered and sequinned, appealed to my budding sartorial tastes, and there were other fascinating details- the heroines, so often in distress, all seemed to possess long, serpentine and untamed hair. No sign of combs or plaits! And so many of the characters dispensed with shoes and ran around on their improbable errands in finely-drawn, bare (although often bejewelled) feet, despite the obviously rocky and snake-infested terrain they inhabited. A fabulous and perfect realm of the imagination.

9 July 2014

Repeat Business

River: 1. a copious natural stream of water flowing in a channel to the sea or a lake, etc.
             2. a large and disparate group of veins in the legs, affected by a condition (varicosecausing them to become dilated and swollen and hideously visible when the owner attempts to wear a skirt without the benefit of tights, usually during the spring and summer seasons; thereby generally necessitating expenditure on a product  to disguise these veins, and consequential frustration when said product proves to be completely ineffective. An annual occurrence.

(Apologies for the reappearance of this drawing. Other business has got in the way of new work)

25 June 2014

Dyed and Gone to Heaven

When I was in college I was very high-minded. I wore no make-up (and never would) and I didn't dye my hair (and never would). I don't think I even registered other possibilities. I still wore outfits my mother sewed for me. Well, things have changed. As it turns out, Nice 'n Easy and I have been together for longer than I was married. 

Malcolm Gladwell's 1999 essay 'True Colors', a really great read, is in large measure about advertising hair dye. 'Between the fifties and the seventies, women entered the workplace, fought for social emancipation, got the Pill, and changed what they did with their hair. To examine the hair-color campaigns of the period is to see, quite unexpectedly, all these things as bound up together, the profound with the seemingly trivial. In writing the history of the postwar era, did we forget something? Did we leave out hair?' The slogan 'Does she or doesn't she?' was written in 1956 by Shirley Polykoff for a ground breaking Clairol D.I.Y. hair colour product, Miss Clairol. About this, Gladwell says, 'The question "Does she or doesn't she?" wasn't just about how no one could ever really know what you were doing. It was about how no one could ever know who you were. It really meant not "Does she?" but "Is she?" It really meant "Is she a contented homemaker or feminist, a Jew or a Gentile - or isn't she?' It was all about self-invention.

A couple of decades on, a woman called Ilon Specht was working on a campaign for Preference by  L'Oreal. In an angry response to the rather traditional ideas her male colleagues were coming up with, she wrote a commercial ending in the now famous words 'Because I'm worth it'. Sprecht is quoted as saying, by way of explanation, 'It meant I know you don't think I'm worth it (Preference was a little more expensive than Nice 'n Easy), because that's what it was with the guys in the room. They were going to take a woman and make her the object. I was defensive and defiant. I thought, I'll fight you. Don't you tell me what I am. You've been telling me what I am for generations.' L'Oreal later turned the phrase into a slogan for the whole company. (For arcane reasons of consumer psychology, it was eventually changed to 'Because we're worth it'.)

Shirley Polykoff also coined 'The closer he gets, the better you look' for Nice 'n Easy. I just checked the box in my bathroom cabinet to see if the phrase is still in use. It seems not to be. These days it's all about technology.

18 June 2014

Light and Cool as Your Own Hair

The original advert from which my illustrative hair was taken. Such a wonderful clip, it apparently dates from 1987, although I don't think the styles can have changed since the inauguration of Franklin Fashions Corp in 1960. Every detail is a delight, from the Stepford Wives females on display, to the promise of a 'valuable free gift' (box of matches?), to the great copy. Made of 'miracle modacrylic fiber.. (which) behaves better than real hair', dog, children or possibly even husband. Hormone and indeed life-free, this fiber is on a par with the kitchen table as far as behaviour goes. 'Packs in your purse', something I have yet to achieve with my own hair, even with a larger Louis Vuitton at my disposal. 'Crush resistant' (great for public transport). And the coup-de-grace, the capless stretch wig 'looks and feels like real hair- you'll mistake it for your own', which might cause a mild panic attack when you open up that handbag.

12 June 2014

Permanently Disappointed

There is an Alice Munro story in which she describes a woman as having let everything go except for her hair, which remained an elaborate pile of teased, curled, coloured and sprayed blonde locks, years after the rest of her had gone to the dogs. She may have been a brunette. I'll let you know if I ever find that story again.
When I was around twelve or thirteen, my mother took me with her to the hairdressers for my first perm. It was, I think, an attempt to bond in girly activity. She was not a vain woman, but she maintained her hair pretty rigorously with regular perms and sets. I, on the other hand, was the sort of girl who needed to be told to brush hair and wash face before setting off for school. Somewhere in our family archive is the photo my father took of us on our return from the salon- and if I ever find that, you'll never hear about it. I imagine my mother had thought I would be delighted by the change (improvement!) in my appearance- more grown-up, more womanly, etc. Instead, I was just acutely uncomfortable with my new hair, as though an alien had taken up residence on my head and was waving at passersby. I whined about it enough over the next few hours that she eventually smacked me over the head, shutting me up, but not doing half enough damage to that indestructible hairdo, as I recall. Well deserved, I should emphasise, and the end of grooming for some months. 

One of the above might be a close representation of myself, but I'm not letting on which.

29 May 2014

Skating 1

I realise we're only just creeping into summer, but it's best to begin preparations early. Want to be ice-fit when the temperature dips below zero again? Start now, with this simple exercise, as demonstrated by Captain S. Duff-Taylor in his little volume, 'Skating', published at some point in the 1930s, I'd guess, although no date of publication was in evidence. As is noted on the fly leaf, 'Captain Duff-Taylor is (was) world famous, not only for his own achievements as a skater, but also for his skill as instructor.'   'Every detail of the International and English styles of skating' is fully dealt with, along with figure skating, exhibition skating and ice hockey. All in under seventy pages. 
The caption above reads, 'Balance on one foot, raising the other leg until the knee is in a straight line with the hip. Now straighten out the leg so that the top and hip are in a straight line, gradually swing the leg from the forward position until it is directly behind you.' 
Try it, and see if you can maintain the cool demeanour of the captain, in his natty hand knit, knee-highs and immaculate hair. The photography gives him a rather strange, guru-like aura. 
Even more guru-like in this photo, our hero demonstrates another exercise, for when we have the first under our belts: 'Stand on one leg, push the other out in front so that the toe is in line with the hip. Hold this position and gradually sink down as near the floor as possible. From the position shown here, gradually straighten up, still holding the unemployed leg (!) straight in front, until original position is gained.' Nothing is said about the delicate hand gestures.     More from 'Skating' later in the year.
(Many thanks to Caroline Holden-Hotopf, who drew my attention to this fine volume.)

4 May 2014

Share the Secret of Top Models!

Another lovely little promotion from my personal collection. It's altogether more optimistic and upbeat than the weight-loss flyer I recently displayed, probably because it's American.  Who cares, though? To read it is to improve the shining day. Despite not being either natural or herbal, the Posturmatic promises to make your bust shapelier, more youthful instantly. The straps are super-comfortable, and it will make budget fashions (your wardrobe and mine) look like a million dollars. Even the refund will be cheerful.
Possibly just a little work needed on the name.

28 April 2014

Lose Weight, Maintain Weight, Gain Weight

Some time ago, this charming little flyer came through my letterbox. 
'Please excuse the unusual approach', it begins. As if! It goes on, 'Do you, or someone you care about, need to lose weight, maintain weight, or gain weight?', a question to which the only answer can be 'yes'. Or it would be, were it not for that little bully of a word 'need'. Substitute 'want' for 'need', and we can all relax. We can think twice before contacting Annie and John to order some of their 'natural herbal' products that involve 'no exercise, no gimmicks, substantial weight loss and inch loss (though not, presumably, for the minority who want to maintain or gain), good nutrition, no hunger pains, and no drugs, in addition to maintaining energy and allowing us all our favourite foods. Plus, there's a 30-day money back guarantee if the products fail to achieve the 'lose weight, maintain weight or gain weight' promise. Though of course, they're sure to achieve one of those three.

24 April 2014

Big or Small or None at All?

When Justice, that paragon of impartiality, takes a day off, leaving thieves, rapists, despots and murderers to get on with their business, I like to imagine she finally has time to sort out the really important questions of life. Like, is it better to wear big pants or little pants? Knickers, I mean. A brief internet search provides a wealth of quotes on the subject, with which I hope to clarify the arguments for both sides.

Power is not something that can be assumed or discarded at will like underwear. John Kenneth Galbraith, Economist 
Huh? I can't imagine he was the sort of chap who took off his Y-fronts during a lecture, even to make a point.

Life is like underwear, should be changed twice a day. Ray Bradbury, Author    
Again I say, huh? This approach requires too great an initial expenditure on underpants, let alone laundry bills. Likely his mother was the type who went on about the importance of clean underwear in case of an accident. 

I've taken my knickers off. My friends told me my panty line was visible, so I went without. Helena Christensen, Model
Miss Christensen demonstrates some sort of logical approach to the question. To wear no underwear is at least economical, and can have visual benefits, although these benefits only come into play when the person involved has a very acceptable figure. Like a model. For my part, I fear both leakage and draughts, and in general am happy in the knowledge that my stout and voluminous jeans rule out a v.p.l. You'll note that the question of thongs- those knickers designed by some sadist to provoke maximum discomfort and irritation- never arises. As far as the v.p.l goes, it's all or nothing.

Underwear makes me uncomfortable, and besides my parts have to breathe. Jean Harlow, Actress
Again this is a reasonable approach, but only if you're prepared to die young, as did Miss Harlow (1911 - 1937). 

Ageing doesn't mean giving up style and individuality; it doesn't mean abandoning fashion and living in comfy slippers and flannel knickers. Twiggy, Model
Two items I am in fact sporting at this precise moment. This comment is wrong, wrong, wrong. Knickers are not about fashion (with the exception on the v.p.l: see comments above); they are about comfort on the one hand, sex on the other.

This is an occasion for genuinely tiny knickers. Bridget Jones, Girl About Town (i.e. Helen Fielding, Novelist and Screenwriter)
Sex, indeed. A hot date is the time for tiny, crotch-searing knickers.

From the cradle to the coffin underwear comes first. Bertolt Brecht, Dramatist and Poet
Good to have evidence that even the greatest minds have dwelt on this question. I'm with Mr. Brecht here.

I'm definitely the kind of person to wear underwear all the time. Ashley Tisdale, Actress
Well, almost.

8 April 2014

1 April 2014


Around rush hour, London is awash with working women striding to or from their offices wearing trainers. So speedy, so comfortable, so kind to the feet, and so good to see that  fashion has at last caught up with me. Or possibly, common sense had caught up with the working woman.
Rihanna, on the other hand, described in the March 2014 issue of Vogue USA as wearing  'four-inch pointy-heeled Saint Laurent black suede booties', is quoted as saying, "I can dance in them.. It's not about pain. It's about the commitment. I say to myself, 'I want to look like this,' and worry about the pain later. I've had nights I had to tiptoe home and the balls of my feet wouldn't even allow me to stand." That's bravery. You've got to admire the woman. But then, of course, she can afford the ministrations of a chiropodist.

21 March 2014


Do your breasts precede you into a room? 
I was fitted for a new bra. The fitter looked at me and said, 'That bra does nothing for you'. (I so like the idea that your bra should be working actively on your behalf.) She came back with a selection- in minutes, I went from being a cup A to a cup DD. 'But I have teeny breasts!' I cried. The fitter looked scathing. 'Cup sizes have nothing to do with your breasts!' she said. 'The cup size corresponds to the size of your brain.' 
What could I say? My new bra fits like a dream, and when I go jogging, my brain doesn't jiggle around like it used to.

3 March 2014

I Got That Spot Some Therapy

This might get expensive.

Yet Here's a Spot

Spot (O.E.D.): 1.a. a small part of the surface of a thing distinguished by colour, texture,                       
                           c. a pimple
                           e. a moral blemish or stain 

Of course, I sympathise with Lady Macbeth. One cannot but agree with her heartfelt wish, 'Out damned spot. Out, I say'. These things always do crop up on the eve of a big occasion. 
Such a little word, yet so versatile- spot illustration, penalty spot, in a tight spot, spot welding, spot check. And spots are always described as 'angry'. You don't get mild-mannered pimples or cheery zits. 

Above, a spot illustration, of course.

13 February 2014

Should I Wear Jeans Again Today?

So often I ask myself this question, usually when I have worn a pair of jeans for seven days running. Then the next seven days I wear the other pair, while the first lot goes through the laundry cycle. When you work from home, it's so difficult to persuade yourself that any other garment is necessary. Jeans are warm/ easy to put on/ mindless wardrobe/ go with anything/ viable for most activities! Also, frugal, in the sense that I don't have to shop for variety. 
I put up with comments along the lines of 'Did you pay for those holes?' from my dad. They're a small price to pay.

(Again inspired by Wendy MacNaughton, whose peerless 'Should I Check E-Mail' can be seen at wendymacnaughton.com}

20 January 2014


A bit of fur on a collar or hat can be charming; in fact, I rather think of my cat as a hat-in-waiting. Just remember, though- one day your fur may bite back. 
I'm afraid I have been, and will probably continue to be, very sporadic with these posts. I am currently working on more commercially viable projects. A bit of money can be charming..