Monday, 31 January 2011

Musical sustainability

In memory of John Barry I’d like to share Back to Nature, from the soundtrack to Nicholas Roeg’s mesmerizing 1971 film, Walkabout, starring Jenny Agutter.

The musical accompaniment to this poignant tale of urban materialism and modern social values versus time honoured tribal rituals and sustainability is as beautifully haunting as its breathtaking cinematography.

ShopCurious very much appreciates naturally beautiful style. And Barry’s score for the film perfectly captures the sights and sounds of nature in the the Australian outback.

Barry was an extraordinarily prolific musical genius - and for all the pleasure he’s given us over the years, and left with us for future generations to appreciate and enjoy, I just want to say thank you...

Do you?

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Health, happiness and other heavenly gifts

Whatever your views on the ethics and aesthetics of fashion model and celebrity images (as discussed in my post at The Dabbler), I believe that true beauty comes from within. I refuse to be told how I should look and I don’t believe in dieting. However, I do aim to maintain a healthy lifestyle, with good food and plenty of exercise. With this in mind, I decided to do something a little bit crazy – I took a few days out to attend a juice fasting and detox retreat.

It was here that I discovered how the likes of Kate Moss get their flat stomachs: Curiously, by sticking plastic tubes up their bums and flushing out their insides with twice daily enemas. This was the least pleasant part of my visit to picturesque Littleton Mill in Wiltshire.

Jiva Healing runs rejuvenating retreats all over the world, and if you’re somewhat pressed for time, they’ll help you relax, unwind and clean up your eating act in as little as four to five days.

Environmentally aware Melissa Kendall, who runs the courses is a mine of information on all things eco-friendly as far as far as sustainable living is concerned. She’s also brilliant at whipping up fabulously tasty juice shakes from an amazing variety of fresh organic fruits and vegetables in her impressively equipped farmhouse style kitchen.

Melissa, formerly an investment analyst for socially responsible funds, is totally passionate in her commitment to environmental responsibility, and instinctively takes each of the participants under her wing. What’s more, she not only grows her own wheatgrass, but magnificently exudes the benefits of a healthy lifestyle too… she certainly has style with brains.

The retreat offers a holistic approach to wellbeing that includes healthy eating and nutrition lessons, along with cookery sessions - and some surprisingly creative ways of using natural, commonly available ingredients to make deliciously wholesome meals. These include a uniquely simple recipe for mouthwatering banana ice cream (containing nothing but bananas). Plus, there’s a chance to concoct your own fruit and veg smoothie. Mine was curiously green.

There’s also guidance on the psychology of eating, ‘the science of happiness’, gentle daily yoga - and therapists on hand to provide relaxing massages and other treatments to help transport your mind as far away from food as possible.

I was heartened that from my window I could see chickens feeding, potentially within reach, on the other side of the mill stream…Though, fortunately, as the juices are supplemented by detoxifying herbs and nutritional powders, I didn’t once feel hungry.

Anyway, I’m feeling rather angelic, having not yet raided the fridge on my return. I might even reward myself with an upcycled Rococo style cherub brooch from ShopCurious for Valentine’s Day.

Will you?

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Curiosities of love

Got any plans for Valentine’s Day? A trip to the cinema perhaps?

The realities of being in a relationship are often far from the rose-tinted, idealized version we usually see on the big screen. However, a new film, Blue Valentine, directed by Derek Cianfrance aims to present an honest portrait of coupledom.

The couple in question, Michelle Williams as Cindy and Ryan Gosling as Dean, try to revive their failing marriage by going to a ‘theme hotel.’ The film compares the dreams of two people who were in love with the reality of the entrapment they’ve created.

The critics say: “Blue Valentine is not for the weak-hearted. It’s a dark tale that explores the reasons why we fall in love and provokes questions about examining our own loved ones. Like Dean and Cindy, you may not like what you find on the backend of the analysis, but you should be intrigued to have been challenged to do so.”

If you’re interested to know more, there’s an interview with Ray Gosling, along with some clips from the film on the BBC's website.

Or, if you’d prefer to stay in on Valentine’s Day, then simply cuddle up on the sofa and present your loved one with a beautifully blue vintage style Valentine heart from ShopCurious.

This unique gift can be worn as a brooch, but would also make a lovely addition to a homemade Valentine card - or a pretty keepsake and reminder of your everlasting love for each other…

Do you?

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Bags of ancient bushido style...

This weekend we’ve got a distinctly Japanese flavour. I’m not sure if you’ve already seen the unusual handbags by British artisan designer Vivien Hew at ShopCurious? Viv’s latest ‘Bushido’ collection is inspired by the five moral codes of the Samurai Warriors.

“I was intrigued by the contradictions; the image of the ferocious head-carrying warrior in battle with the dignified, artistic, and spiritual, tea-drinking individual. I sought to separate the myth from the reality and to try to acquire some understanding of their conceptions of the world,” she explained to me.

Apparently the Samurai were habitual recyclers of armour; whether this was booty acquired on the battlefield, or heirlooms passed down from generation to generation. They frequently replaced the lacing of their armour to repair, update or personalise their battledress. Vivien also uses recycled materials wherever possible. Much of the leather in her products comes from recycled leather garments.

Personally, I love the funky Samurai tassels, however, probably the most unique thing about Vivien’s highly collectable bags is the woven fabric. Not only are the bags handmade, but the textiles and trims for every single one of them are also individually created by hand. Vivien says, “I drew on the vibrancy, the symmetry and order of the armour for my fabric designs. I used the vertical and horizontal stripes of the armour scales but made them less ordered and less predictable.”

I’ve noticed that all things Japanese are gaining ground over here too, from paper and origami in product design and art, to sculptural folding and pleating effects in fashion. I think we might be even see the rise of more curious fashion sub-cultures here too, like the gothic Lolita trend, featured in my post today at The Dabbler.

Do let me know what you think.

Will you?

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Lost for words: A lassie's lament

Burns Night is celebrated in Scotland every year on or around January 25th. It commemorates the life of poet, Robert Burns, who was born on January 25th, 1759. The day also celebrates Burns' contribution to Scottish culture – his best known work is Auld Lang Syne.

I wouldn’t normally be mentioning this before the event, but this year I’ve been asked to do something very curious – especially so, as I’m what’s called a ‘sassenach’ – although one of my grandfathers did grow up in Scotland (not sure if that counts?)

Anyway, I’ve been asked to make a speech at a Burns Night Supper. Not just a speech, but a response to the Toast to the Lassies (which… typically, comes after the toast to the monarch, the toast to the haggis and the toast to great bard himself). Anyway, your guess is as good as mine as to what sort of thing I should say - and only one well known Scottish phrase comes to my mind: 'after dinner sit a while, after supper walk a mile.'

So if anyone has any helpful hints, or ideas - or has given one of these uniquely Scottish after dinner speeches before, I’d love to hear from you, as the clock is ticking away, and I’m still psyching myself up for the role.

Meantime, I’ve been finding comfort tracking down some curiously cute accessories to make sure my outfit for the evening is in keeping with the theme. If you’re looking for something curiously Celtic too, there’s a wonderful winter white, vintage rabbit foot brooch at ShopCurious. I’m certainly going to be wearing one of these, as they’re meant to be lucky... and I need all the help I can get - as does the haggis, apparently.

Once again, any ideas for the speech would be very much appreciated – but please feel free to leave other comments too.

Will you?

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Windows on the gothic world

Now I’m looking through the oval window and am reminded of the words from cult retro children’s TV programme, Play School. But this is a very grown up play school. It’s Strawberry Hill, the 18th century gothic revival style residence of Horace Walpole, former home to his world famous private collection of curiosities and works of art, and inspiration for the first ever gothic novel -The Castle of Otranto.

Walpole called his castle a ‘plaything house’, as its design deliberately avoided the fashionable classical features of the time, such as columns, pediments, order and symmetry. In collaboration with a group of amateur architect friends, Walpole based his designs on the architecture of the great gothic cathedrals and abbeys.

According to the website, “Medieval tombs, arched doorways, rose windows and carved screens were models for his fireplaces, windows, doors and ceilings. Books of prints rather than the buildings themselves were his reference point and, instead of carved stone, the rooms and ornament of Strawberry Hill are wood, plaster and papier mache.”

Walpole intended a tour of Strawberry Hill to be a theatrical experience. “You enter a gloomy hall and pass up a staircase of grey stony appearance before finally entering the sumptuous state apartment – a burst of crimson and gold.”

The house has recently been refurbished to the tune of £9 million and I took a sneak preview, before it fully re-opens to the public in April this year. The works were still in progress - I doubt they will ever be finished, judging by the painstaking attention to detail and requirement for specialist conservation and regular maintenance.

The renovation of Strawberry Hill is a masterpiece of professional craftsmanship down to the very last detail. From the carpentry and gilding, through to the glass painting and even the careful choice of colours used for the decoration – everything has been done with absolute precision and expertise – as you can see from these photographs of some of the fabulous hand painted glass windows.

Gothic style has become increasingly popular in recent years, undergoing something of a modern makeover in fashion as well as interiors. And, thinking ahead to Valentine’s Day, fans of gothic style might like this vintage heart shaped curiosity box from ShopCurious. Or you could always book a visit to the curiously romantic Strawberry Hill instead…

Will you?

PS Read more about post-gothic steampunk style over at The Dabbler blog

Friday, 14 January 2011

Fantasy in the fog

The weather has been the most curious I can remember for the time of year. Before Christmas there was lots of snow and now there’s tons of rain. And in between was… the fog.

I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Cornwall? I spent part of the recent holiday there, though I might as well have been on the moon, considering the circumstances. I understand that virtually the whole of the UK was swathed in similar low hanging cloud at the time, but this sort of climatic condition regularly affects the Cornish peninsula. I was once there for a week in June when the weather was exactly the same. I went to see a play at the outdoor Minack Theatre and could barely see the stage for fog – though it rather added to the authentic atmosphere of The Scarlet Pimpernel.

Some people find the Cornish mizzle strangely romantic. It can be eerily beautiful to see the gnarled branches of Lamorran wood rising out of the fog. Or to accidentally stumble upon an apparition of a gothic style mansion with lion-topped gateposts - the quirky turrets vaguely visible through the mist (I wasn’t trespassing, honest!)

Talking of gothic, we’ve some gorgeous feather-trimmed, fingerless gloves at ShopCurious – and they’re on sale now too.

Anyway, I’d like to know what you think of this type of weather? Does it make you go all misty eyed? Or are you wary of the ghosts that may be lurking, hidden inside the curiously creepy fog…

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Curiously cool retro diaries

Around this time of year many of us will be starting new diaries. However, it’s the old diaries that seem to be making the headlines lately.

A curious and growing trend has seen people flocking to read the intimate details of their teenage diaries in front of an audience of complete strangers.

I’m not sure I’d be up for this, though I did stumble upon some of my ancient adolescent scribblings when having a bit of a clear out recently. As you’d expect from the 1970s, these diaries have rather funky styling, with suitably fashionable retro illustrations.

I love the introduction in my 1973 diary, which says:

Keep it? Keep what?
Cool, calm and collected. Your head. Your temper. Keep dates. Appointments. A record of those special occasions. Keep your boyfriend. It might not be easy, if you fix to meet him on Saturday, turn up on the Friday and call him Ted, or Antonio, or Jeff. That’s what this book’s all about. Something to read, something to write in. A handbag computer or a memory-system that never lets you down.

Of course, the stuff about boyfriends is utter girly drivel – perfect, I guess, for someone who was still at primary school at the time. Much more fascinating is that ‘handbag computers’ were already being mentioned in the early ‘70s.

Personally, I still like to have a proper book-style journal. Apart from being useful, especially if your laptop crashes (or heaven forbid, gets stolen), a regular diary is also rather nice as a keepsake. If you haven’t got yours already, I'd recommend the curiously characterful L’Apres-midi Jardin diary from ShopCurious, which is undated so you can make entries and notes any time you like.

I look forward to hearing more about the types of diaries you’ve kept in the past – and you can read more about mine in my post today over at The Dabbler.

Will you?