The sky behind the townlet and the church was orange-red; the flower-garden was flooded with a strange warm light that lifted every leaf into significance. Paul passed along a fine row of sweet-peas, gathering a blossom here and there, all cream and pale blue. Miriam followed, breathing the fragrance. To her, flowers appealed with such strength she felt she must make them part of herself. When she bent and breathed a flower, it was as if she and the flower were loving each other. Paul hated her for it. There seemed a sort of exposure about the action, something too intimate.

Sons and lovers, D H Lawrence


Where I’m from a haircut is about a tenner – and you can be sure to get all the town gossip from the past year thrown into the deal as well as well. Here in central London it’s a different story. It’s perfectly alright to charge 100 quid for a simple, straight-forward cut justified by some “senior stylist” title bollocks. I know I have myself to blame for being such a push-over but I find it virtually impossible to walk into a hair salon without being talked into having the most ridiculously priced stuff put into my hair. Your hair needs it. Does it now, really? Because I can never say no, nor have the guts to complain, I have had some pretty wacky – and expensive – hair cuts in the past. That’s why I’ve stayed clear from hairdressers for a good year now. Then yesterday I gathered some strength and went for it. Five hours, four hair colour removal runs, one exceptionally gentle (i.e. exceptionally expensive) hair-colour, three absolutely essential treatments, a cut and a blow-dry later, I could walk out as the red-head (although not quite the shade) I had come for. I didn’t even dare listen to the total cost, I just paid and ran out before they managed to convince me to get the super amazing “Brazilian blow-dry” for the fantastic price of £200. Such bollocks.


Don’t ask yourself so much whether this or that is good for you. Don’t question your conscience so much—it will get out of tune, like a strummed piano. Keep it for great occasions. Don’t try so much to form your character—it’s like trying to pull open a rosebud. Live as you like best, and your character will form itself.

The Portrait of a Lady, Henry James

I listen to Tim Buckley’s Song to the Siren about ten times every day. I have no idea why; I’m not a Buckley fan otherwise. Sometimes This Mortal Coil’s cover will do as well, but never, ever Robert Plant or Brian Ferry (although Ferry’s live performance on Jools Holland was quite acceptable). And for the rest of my waking hours, it plays inside my head, over and over again.

It haunts me to say the least (thought I’d better get it out of my system).

Which, of course, leads me to present these various Ondines / Victorian pin-ups…

Maillol BanyulsSurMer.

The steadfastness of generations of nobility
shows in the curving lines that form the eyebrows.
And the blue eyes still show traces of childhood fears
and of humility here and there, not of a servant’s,
yet of one who serves obediantly, and of a woman.
The mouth formed as a mouth, large and accurate,
not given to long phrases, but to express
persuasively what is right. The forehead without guile
and favoring the shadows of quiet downward gazing.

This, as a coherent whole, only casually observed;
never as yet tried in suffering or succeeding,
held together for an enduring fulfillment,
yet so as if for times to come, out of these scattered things,
something serious and lasting were being planned.

(Self-portrait by Rilke; Arthur Hughes; Dante Gabriel Rossetti; Jean Delville; Steichen; Munch; William Hazlitt; Samuel Palmer; Charles Hazlewood Shannon)

‘When?’ said the moon to the stars in the sky
‘Soon’ said the wind that followed them all

‘Who?’ said the cloud that started to cry
‘Me’ said the rider as dry as a bone

‘How?’ said the sun that melted the ground
and ‘Why?’ said the river that refused to run

and ‘Where?’ said the thunder without a sound
‘Here’ said the rider and took up his gun

‘No’ said the stars to the moon in the sky
‘No’ said the trees that started to moan

‘No’ said the dust that blunted its eyes
‘Yes’ said the rider as white as a bone

‘No’ said the moon that rose from his sleep
‘No’ said the cry of the dying sun

‘No’ said the planet as it started to weep
‘Yes’ said the rider and laid down his gun

The Rider (The Proposition) – Nick Cave & Warren Ellis

How many wonderful period dramas we have been treated to lately…Downton Abbey, Any Human Heart, Upstairs Downstairs, The King’s Speech. Of course, BBC makes the mistake to overdo the drama on the expense of the period setting as usual.  I’m quite happy for the camera to linger on pretty sights instead of cramming in a major plot-changing event every sodding minute (something ITV learnt to do to perfection 30 years ago with Brideshead).

Nonetheless, in whatever shape, this is a great love of mine (something which harks back to the unhealthy amount of Catherine Cookson adaptations I had to endure as a child). And in Maid in Britain, BBC did some great digging into why we watch it and why we love it, and whether it is socially relevant or mere escapism. Surely it can be a little bit of both and more still?

Personally, I’m especially weak for the kind of master/servant dichotomy we find in both Downton and Upstairs, Downstairs. The most touching portrayal I have ever come across for this is Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day. I find it almost unbearable to read. All work is of course noble, but to take such pride in doing your duty that you suppress your whole being is impressive. To live not only for your master, but trough your master.

Let us establish this quite clearly: a butler’s duty is to provide good service. It is not to meddle in the great affairs of the nation. The fact is, such great affairs will always be beyond the understanding of those such as you and I, and those of us who wish to make our mark must realize that we best do so by devoting our attention to providing the best possible service to those great gentlemen in whose hands the destiny of civilization truly lies. …

Tragic yes, but the dignity I admire. On the other side of the coin we have the people who live trough their servants, one sees this happening too often still and it is nasty business.

Oh, please give me more wonderful costumes, stately homes, grand dinners and complex, restrained characters and less freaky “coincidences” and raree-show worthy people. Thanks!

2011 will be the year of excessive reading. I’ve found it so, so hard to read properly since graduating. From reading like four books a week, I have now been going at the same novel for five months. Five months! To my defense, I have been working a lot, and I have been reading other stuff (erm, like the Internet). Nonetheless, it is just plain wrong. I can’t even look at my bookshelves; all the unread books stress me out.

Clearly, it can’t go on like this any longer. So, I thought I’d tag along on one of these many reading challenges that are going on at the moment. And as all good things come in threes, I thought I better do three of them.

I find the American South endlessly fascinating as a dramatic setting and I love Tennessee Williams and should really give Mockingbird a rest and explore new territory. So, I’ll have a glass of sweet iced tea and read Faulkner, Chopin and Margaret Mitchell (because, even though I might possibly, once or twice, have implied to have done so, I have never actually read Gone with the Wind) for the Southern Literature Challenge.

As I have a soft spot for the Irish I am also set on reading Oliver Goldsmith, John Banville and Elizabeth Bowen (and hopefully find inspiration for a fourth along the way) for the Ireland Reading Challenge.

Last, but not least, will be my own baby: The Decedent Reading Challenge. I’m thinking Theophile Gautier, Octave Mirbeau, probably some poetry and perhaps, as icing on the cake, a masked ball at The Last Tuesday Society (because one must give one’s body pleasure so that one’s soul is happy there).
Fingers crossed, this will work!

Well, I have never seen so many happy faces on the front row. But then, who wouldn’t be, with such gorgeous ladies strutting their stuff. I’m loving the glitter, the fringes and the high hair, and most of all, the man himself.


The very last day of 2010 is fast approaching, and I intend for it to go down in style (or at least to remain conscious for the better part of it which would be a vast improvement from other years).

The plan for the evening is some sort of 1920’s swing ball cabaret type of thing. I’m not sure exactly in what direction all of that is heading but I’m thinking French soiree, feather boas and sickening amounts of dubonnet. Or, L’Officiel circa 1926:

I’ve been to the Cotswolds. It was pretty as a picture. If you walked through the blue door at the bottom of the garden you came to someplace very similar to Narnia. I took loads of pictures but there was so much snow everywhere, it looks like I have taken about a hundred shots of a sheet of paper.

“Look, it’s Rudolph hanging on the wall.” “It’s not Rudolph. It’s Bambi’s dad.”

Freaky man for dinner company.

I went through about a year’s worth of Country Life.

This was only the beginning…

River Windrush


Karen Knorr, I love, I love, I love! This sort of reminds me of the pictures you see from places like Chernobyl, where nature has been so quick to reclaim human territory. That whole world-without-humans hypothesis…civilization is fragile, don’t we know it. What surprises me is how perfectly natural it looks with a  badger in your 19th century french boudoir, or a couple of bucks fighting it out underneath the chandeliers. Work like this could easily take on a surrealist tone where dislocation is the main principle. But this looks perfectly natural, don’t you think? Or maybe it is only wishful thinking from my side. I mean, personally I would love to live like this. At least a little peacock…please!

A mixed bag from different series:

Things we have discussed most frequently this week at the office (except for work itself of course): Champagne, student fees, diets, self-development strategies, Tamara de Lempicka, food, Flashdance and Christmas (food and diets being our constant topics). Tamara de Lempicka is an interesting subject because we use her as a style inspiration for brand development. I adore her, whilst others…not so much. I can’t explain why, I clearly have no consistency in taste.

… my goal was: Do not copy. Create a new style, … colors light and bright, return to elegance in my models – Tamara de Lempicka

I’m not a big fan of the Penguin’s editions of Ayn Rand with Lempicka covers as it is so blatantly obvious to link them together, although it works well enough I guess because of similarity in artistic vision between the two. I readily admit I have a certain weakness for Rand’s aesthetic theory (even though it may fall on its own accord) and Roark’s praise of Stephen Mallory in The Fountainhead could perhaps be used to explain my love for Lempicka: I think you are the best sculptor we have. I think it because your figures are not what men are, but what men could be – and should be. Because you’ve gone beyond the probable and made us see what is possible, but possible only trough you. Because your figures are more devoid of contempt for humanity than any work I’ve ever seen. Because you have a magnificent respect for the human being. Because your figures are the heroic in man.

Inspired by Lempicka…

Cutler and Gross



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mimi harcourt