Sunday, 22 January 2012

From blogging to jogging...

I’m taking a bit of a break from blogging this month, to recharge my batteries after the busy Christmas period. Last year I went on a juice fast and yoga retreat, but this year I’m contemplating a slightly gentler, French-style programme of healthy living, which you can read about in my latest post at The Dabbler.

In my efforts to find some suitably chic footwear for my new fitness regime, I designed myself a pair of ShopCurious Shox at Nike ID. I wanted to make them totally unique - I doubt that anyone else will be opting for this curiously clashing colour combo...

Do you?

PS I’ll be back very shortly with some new curiosities for Valentine’s Day. Be first to see them, by signing up for our monthly Curious Cognoscenti Newsletter here.

Friday, 13 January 2012

The Art of Concealment

As the luxury-priced streets of London are gradually appropriated by the likes of Tesco Metro, it’s refreshing to find a gem of quirky individuality on a thoroughfare just off Piccadilly. The Jermyn Street Theatre once housed changing rooms for the staff of the Getti Restaurant (formerly the Spaghetti House).

In 1991, Howard Jameson had a vision to transform the space into an intimate studio theatre in the heart of the West End. The theatre opened in late 1994, thanks to a major donation from building firm, Laing – and further renovations were made in 1997, with the help of a National Lottery Grant from the Arts Council.

Prior to the first night of the theatre’s latest production - The Art of Concealment, a play about the life of Terence Rattigan - I met up with movers and shakers behind the show for a celebratory drink at Getti (see above).

Producer, Alexander Marshall, showed me his Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club tie.

And, as curiously cumbersome juggernauts manoeuvred awkwardly in the narrow street outside, writer Giles Cole told me about his new play.

Cole’s tribute to the legendary playwright is based on material gleaned during his editing work for Rattigan’s official biographer, Geoffrey Wansell. The plot cleverly weaves together episodes from Rattigan’s early (1920s and ‘30s) and later (1950s to ‘70s) life, to tell a story encompassing homosexuality, deception, torturous familial relationships, ageing, love and loss.

The casting is strong, with Judy Buxton and Graham Pountney impressively taking on double roles. Alistair Findlay makes a very convincing Older Terry, as does Charlie Holloway, as his lover - and Christopher Morgan as Cuthbert. But it’s Dominic Tighe, as the younger Terry, who steals the show, with a commanding swagger of narcissistic bravado that hides inner torment. Tighe’s sonorous voice is worth the visit alone, and his mastery of the play’s most poignant moments makes for a laudable performance.

An after-party, held at the Garrick Club, was a suitably splendid affair.

Inspired by the art of concealment, I whipped out my carefully hidden camera to take a few snaps of the grandiose surroundings and mind-blowing art collection for readers of the ShopCurious blog. I hope that’s not going to cause any embarrassment

Do you?

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Reality checkpoint: curiously convoluted thoughts on thinking

I didn’t make any resolutions this year, but if there’s one thing I’d like to do, it’s to trust my intuition more. Do you ever have those moments when you feel as if a greater force is trying to get a message across? The sort of times when everything seems to somehow be linked together, and falls serendipitously into place?

It happened to me this week. First I went to see The Iron Lady at the cinema. The film has had mixed reviews, though there’s a general consensus that Meryl Streep’s performance is outstanding. Personally, I liked the way the storyline focused upon human elements as well as history - the struggle of womankind in a man’s world, the juggling to make ends meet (with the application of home economics to the nation’s finances), the balancing act of marriage, and of bringing up a family – and, above all, the complications of ageing and death (a reality for each and every one of us). There was one line in the film which particularly stuck in my mind – it was when Margaret Thatcher said, “what we think we become.”

I was reminded of this again, when, a couple of days later I attended a talk by renowned astrologer, Shelley von Strunckel. One of her observations was that 2012 is going to be “a year of thinking.” In relation to this, she quoted the famous line of Jacob Marley’s ghost in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol: "I wear the chain I forged in life…I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it. Is its pattern strange to you?"

I considered this as I watched a curious new ‘reality’ television show called the Fat Fighters on Channel 4. I wondered if the fact that, to quote TS Eliot, “humankind cannot bear very much reality,” accounts for the extreme things people do to change their appearance, even their essential character, out of fear, self-loathing or vanity…

Then at a new play called the Art of Concealment, about Terence Rattigan, (read ShopCurious’s review in the following post) the main character says, “plays aren’t real but can contain more reality about human nature than anything else.” So is this unreal reality the sort of reality that humans can bear?

And how do we measure our reality? “Am I really living, or just surviving?” asks student jewellery designer, Jelka Quintelier, an exhibitor at the Royal College of Art’s current show. Her reality is ‘cycling and recycling.’ She sources things for recycling, whilst cycling from her home in Brick Lane to college in South Kensington, and has made a primitive looking tool from shards of glass - pieces of broken bottles that are regularly strewn across the street outside her flat by drunken revellers.

I reflected back in time to my own student days in Cambridge, where a local curiosity is a lamp-post called Reality Checkpoint (see photo above right). How does my reality compare to Jelka’s? Or Terence Rattigan’s? Or Margaret Thatcher’s unique experience? And does our reality even matter, so long as we are happy? That being said, what makes us happy? Is it a trip to the cinema? A nice box of chocolates? Being thin? Getting drunk? Running the country? Creating an artwork?

Or is happiness just a state of mind?

And if we create our own reality, I suppose we can simply think ourselves happy? Or think whatever we want - and that’s exactly what will happen…

Just trust your intuition.

Will you?

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Retro design revival goes analogue

The other day I spotted a rather curious biscuit tin at Sainsbury's. The lid was painted to look like an old fashioned radio.

I guess it’s all part of the latest retro-progressive, analogue-inspired design trend – as reported in ShopCurious’s latest Curious Trends post.

Read more about analogue design in my post at The Dabbler, where I consider the advantages of vintage versus digital television sets...

Will you?

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Not your Everage style icon...

Happy New Year!

The ShopCurious style icon for 2012 is Dame Edna Everage – for the following reasons:

1) Dame Edna is most admired for her unique sense of style, which has been much emulated. Margaret Thatcher adopted her hairstyle - and her flamboyant clothing and accessories have been widely copied by Madonna and Lady Gaga. A curious trend is that, in 2012, almost everyone will be after a copycat pair of Dame Edna’s trademark curiosity glasses

2) Edna is knowledgeable on all manner of issues - from fashion and beauty, to gardening and politics – and she's not afraid to speak her mind.

3) She's also a vintage treasure. (Never underestimate the advantage of age – after all, old is the new young).

4) Edna loves flowers too, especially gladioli – and floral inspired fashions are another key trend for 2012.

5) She also has a great sense of humour, which is just what we need in these times of economic uncertainty. Dame Edna’s down to earth opinions are the perfect antidote to political correctness, technocracy and spiritually debilitating celebutarditis.

6) Unlike Madge Allsop, Dame Edna is naturally beautiful, and would never subject herself to plastic surgery or artificial enhancement. “I'm beautiful inside. I think it’s what I radiate that people love. There's an inner beauty there,” she explains on her website.

7) She’s curiously clever as well - according to Wikipedia, “Dame Edna has transcended her modest origins as a satire of Australian suburbia to become one of the most successful, best known and best loved comedy characters of all time.”

Dame Edna is not just a living curiosity with stupendous spectacles, she genuinely has style with brains…

Do you?