In the 1941 film Holiday Inn, during a particularly memorable Thanksgiving dinner, Bing Crosby sings an Irving Berlin tune, “I’ve Got Plenty to be Thankful For”.
Looking beyond the blatant and hackneyed racial stereotypes for a moment, the thing that has always struck me about this scene is the dialogue between the real Bing and the singing Bing. It’s hilarious. The words of the song are saccharine and his voice – the timbre so smooth, so, er, croonerish – slides around on the recording like a pat of melting butter, contrasting nicely with his bitter quips. I don’t know how, but somehow the scene (for me at least) always works to reinforce the sentiment in the record, and not the proto-hipster detachment he voices from his chair by the fire.
I thought of this scene a lot this week, because it has been a very difficult week. For reasons of privacy, professionalism, and procedure, I can’t go into detail here, but suffice it to say that the combination of the internet and someone’s anger was one that filled my week with stomach-wrenching anxiety, gastrointestinal distress, and sleepless nights. Eye of the storm anyone? To top it all off it was the week all my students submitted assignments, a week for which I had written nary a lecture for 4+ hours of teaching, and the week which I managed to round off on Thursday by spilling the entire contents of a 4-cup French press all over my left hand moments before getting a call from my mother who was deep in the throes of her “Diane Keaton on crack” mode. As I stood in the midst of a kitchen splattered with coffee grounds, holding a hand scalded red by boiling hot coffee, I found myself answering my mother’s accusatory “Well. I haven’t heard from you lately” with a cheery “Well, you’re hearing from me now” before slamming the phone in the cradle (sorry mom!).
Surprisingly, through all of this, I still found time, and a great degree of solace, in thinking about what I was going to wear each day. Sadly, I didn’t take any photos.
And the whole string of incidents this week has made me even more aware of all the good things in my life. Excuse me while I go all Bing Crosby.
- My partner, P. Through this week o’ hell he was nothing but supportive, conscientious, concerned, and gentle. And he cleaned up my kitchen after the French press exploded.
- Grounded, grown-up friends who put the world, and the behaviour of others, into perspective: R, MB, G, J&J, HL, MS, LH, CL – you guys rock. As do pints of Ben and Jerry’s.
- My blue electric guitar and tab sheets for Kinks songs. Music-making has always been a source of great joy in my life and this week, curling up with my guitar and playing through some fave tunes momentarily made the world a kinder place.
- Spring in England. Daffodils. Snowdrops. Little fuzzy lambs. Gorgeous, practically edible sunsets.
- Doing business with two lovely Etsy sellers – Etsy really puts some of the humanity back into commerce. And the care with which my purchases were made and packaged warmed my heart. It’s always refreshing to see how much people care about what they craft.
- Peggy Seeger. If you haven’t checked out the awesome prolific-ness of this groundbreaking Queen of Folk – seriously, Joni Mitchell and all those 1970s girls with guitars would be no where without the musical contributions of this woman – do it now. Watch this vid below. Peggy is now in her 70s, but she still tours and does amazing shows. ‘Cause sometimes, there’s nothing better than a dose of good ol’ fashioned Raging Grannies feminism.
I’m off to London this morning to take some of my upper-year seminar students to an exhibition at the London Cartoon Musuem on the work of British artist, Ronald Searle. Being in the city will feel good. I love the thrum of people, the clunk of the Tube, the peculiar smell that is only found in London. Urban therapy. So good, so necessary.
I think it might *finally be spring here in England. After months of grey skies and waaaay too much rain (as in ducks are swimming in the puddles on the road and farmers fields here in Sussex are now lakes) we’ve had three whole days of sunlight. If you’re vitamin D starved, as I am, you wander around in a daze, shielding your eyes from the glare of the strange yellow orb at the same time that you marvel at the warmth of it on your pasty white skin.
In keeping with this change in the weather, the Guardian Life and Style section recently released their 10 wardrobe picks for spring, and as I digitally leafed through, I was struck by the biker cardigan which, according to the G‘s fashion editors, is the #1 spring essential. I’ve seen these sweaters/jackets around for awhile now, and love the jersey variation, like this one from Paul & Joe,
but with a hefty price tag of close to £200, it is incredibly outside of my budget.
After a bit of scrounging around on eBay, however, I did locate this bargain, for £7.99.
Yes, £7.99. That’s a “savings” of roughly 96%. Now, I realize that my eBay bargain is different in a lot of ways – cut, colour, number of, and placement of, zippers, but all in all I think it basically sends the same message: tough and cuddly – Perfect for throwing over a couple of flowery spring dresses, or pairing with some fun, tapered, cropped, light grey dress pants I picked up earlier this year. (£7.99! £7.99! – I still can’t get over it!)
Today, the strap on my favourite polka-dotted laptop bag ripped off as I was walking to my office. Admittedly, I have put it under tremendous strain – I’m continually shoving far more than just my laptop into it (papers, the odd paperback, keys, wallet, etc.) Last night, I think was the breaking point. I could feel my bag banging against my back as I made a last-minute, no holds barred dash for the train at London Bridge (Total Urban Chick Moment, as my friend MB and I are fond of saying …) and this morning, as I hiked it up on my shoulder, I noticed the tab that affixes the strap to the bag was holding on by only a few stitches. I’ve had a good run with it, as it wasn’t an expensive bag to begin with – one of those £14 jobs from Paperchase – so I shouldn’t be too sad.
And this afternoon, between bouts of marking, I found a replacement.
After a bit of browsing around, I found a brilliant kelly green leather school satchel on eBay, of the same design as the ones pictured above. It was a bit more expensive than I was originally looking to pay (£55), but as it’s leather, I think it will hold up better than another £14 job, and should the strap break, I can take it to my local shoe maker and have it repaired.
I’ve wanted a satchel like this for a long time, mostly because for the past two years, I’ve taught a course on “The Schoolboy Novel” that starts with Tom Brown’s Schooldays and works its way forward to the Harry Potter phenomenon and I’ve always (anachronistically) pictured the characters in these novels hauling their books around in bags such as these. I have fantastic nerdy fantasies of carting around my laptop and a few papers, wearing my Oxford brogues, on my way to the British Library. *sigh. It should be here in a few days and I’ll be able to give it a test run when I head to the BL on Friday.
Here are some of my fave non-outfit (non-Eiffel Tower) photos from Paris. I hope you enjoy!
1. Valentine’s Day
Black jersey blazer: Ebay
Giant grey and white striped shirt: H&M (£2.99!!)
Black leggings: Uniqlo
Black butterfly scarf: Joy UK
Pink combat boots: ASOS
Pink leather handbag: Gap UK
Silver clasp bracelet: H&M
This was my “taking the Eurostar/Valentine’s Day dinner in the Latin Quarter/Repertory cinema movie date” outfit, which was incredibly comfortable for traveling, eating (yay stretchy legging waistbands!), and movie watching. P and I took the Eurostar to Paris, dumped our bags at our hotel in the Marais and went out for a Valentine’s dinner in the Latin Quarter, before heading over the Action Écoles cinema to catch Marlene Dietrich in the 1937 film, Angel. Enroute, I got P to snap a couple of photos outside Saint Severin, where I unceremoniously plonked myself down on the front steps. Below are a couple of photos from Action Écoles, my new favourite place in Paris to see an old movie.
2. (Late) Valentine’s Day Dinner @ Le Train Bleu
Silk stockings (gah!): John Lewis (they’re very grown up dontcha know!)
Black shoes (can’t see): London Rebel (see them in this post)
P surprised me with dinner reservations at the most amazing belle epoque restaurant in the Gare de Lyon ~ Le Train Bleu. I had long planned to wear my Daniela Besso dress for our fancy Paris dinner, but I had no idea that it would be getting its debut in such sumptuous surroundings. Following dinner, I ventured to the loo and managed to put my entire hand through the top of my very grown up silk stockings from John Lewis, but thankfully, you can’t see that in the picture that P took outside the restaurant. Here are a couple of atmospheric shots from inside.
Isn’t P the cutest dinner date ever?
3. North American Clichés About Paris
Grey luxe sweatshirt: Uniqlo
Breton striped top: ASOS
Black shorts: H&M
Grey knee socks: Camden street vendor
Black leather pirate boots: ASOS
Rose-coloured pashmina: London street vendor
I am obsessed with taking photos of the Eiffel Tower. I’ve been to Paris quite a few times, and each time I vow that I’m not going to take any more photos of it, but every time, I cave it. Every time. There’s something about how it changes in the light and how the sky behind it gives it a different character. That I took the photos below wearing the outfit above (complete with Breton striped shirt) all seems wonderfully cliché. Though it didn’t make it into the photo, I had a light grey wool beret in my bag, too. Later that evening, P and I met our art historian friend Daphne, and newly minted grad school buddy, Liz at a delightful Breton restaurant near the Gare du Nord – Yes. I wore the Breton striped shirt to go to a Breton restaurant, where among other things, I proceeded to devour the world’s biggest cheese plate for desert.
4. The Infamous Evening at the Charbon
Grey luxe sweatshirt: Uniqlo
Cream jersey scarf: I made it myself!
Turquoise ring: Brighton street vendor
This isn’t an outfit photo so much as it’s a record of another infamous evening with the English Department at the Charbon café – a fantastic bar in the north-east corner of Paris on the Rue Oberkampf. Every year, P and I meet up with out colleague “Unkel C” – or when he’s in Paris, “Oncle C” – and assorted other colleagues (Daphne and Liz were also there, as well as my dear friend, R) and we eat good food, drink bottles of Petit Chablis, and have some laughs. This time around, former poet laureate John Betjamin joined us courtesy of a book R managed to snag for P (a Betjamin scholar) at Shakespeare & Co., while wandering the Left Bank.
Unfortunately, these are the only outfit photos I have from this trip – the other 4 days, I promise you I wore clothes! I’m hoping to find some time later tonight to post some other (non-outfit) photos from the week … Stay tuned!
Over the weekend, I put in 1.5 hours on my bike – needless to say I’m realizing this morning how much I am now in need of padded bike shorts. Ouch.
The other thing I realized is how essential it is to have some good filmage flickering in front of you if you’ve decided to do one of your long bike workout indoors (1.5 hours +), and thus have complied a list of my 5 all time favourite pieces of training footage. Here they are, in no specific order:
1. The Awful Truth (MGM, 1937 ~ Cary Grant and Irene Dunne)
I watched this one yesterday. Cary Grant and Irene Dunne play a young married couple going through a divorce. Of course they still love each other, of course they fight like cats and dogs, and of course there’s some great physical comedy from both to match with the brilliant screwball-esque dialogue. The scene in which Irene Dunne impersonates Grant’s low-life nightclub-singer sister Lola in front of his wealthy fiancée and her family makes me laugh every time.
2. Holiday (Columbia, 1938 ~ Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn)
I love this film for so many reasons, but primarily because Prof. Nick Potter and his wife, Susan remind me of my uncle and aunt, Justin and Julia. Another reason? Katharine Hepburn executes a somersault from a-top Cary Grant’s shoulders at an impromptu meeting of the 5th Avenue Anti-Stuffed Shirt and Flying Trapeze Club.
Grant is a free spirited young man who meets a wealthy heiress, and upon being introduced to her family, falls in love with her black sheep of a sister, played by Hepburn.
3. The Palm Beach Story (Paramount, 1940 ~ Claudette Colbert and Joel McCrae)
There has to be at least one Preston Sturges film on this list. Joel McCrae and Claudette Colbert are a struggling young married couple who decide to divorce for economic reasons. Colbert reasons she can help her husband more as a successful adventuress than she can as his spendthrift wife. Hilarity ensues. Especially after the arrival of the Weenie King. The Palm Beach Story is crazy, madcap, and at moments, completely ridiculous, as the opening 10 minutes firmly establish.
4. His Girl Friday (Columbia, 1940 ~ Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell)
Hmmm … another Cary Grant film. Sensing a pattern here? Grant is spectacular as a newspaper editor scheming to get his ex-wife, Rosalind Russell back in his life, and on the newspaper payroll. I have a girl crush on Russell in this movie. I also wish that people talked like this in real life. Oh were has all the wit and charm gone?
5. State of the Union (MGM, 1948 ~ Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn)
I’m a sucker for Frank Capra, and I’m a raging West Wing fan. I’m not American, and I’m not necessarily enamoured with all things American, but there’s something infinitely appealing about Capra-esque idealism, no matter your nationality or political stance. I also enjoy watching the reunion of Spence and Kate, in spite of the best efforts of a purely evil and ambitious Anglea Lansbury – she’s obviously warming up for her later role in The Manchurian Candidate! This isn’t a widely known film, and was only released on video/DVD a couple of years ago, so as a result, the only YouTube clip I could find was of a NY Times critic talking about his favourite bits from the film.
Grey t-shirt: Gap
Check print drape skirt: All Saints
Mauve tights: Uniqlo
Pashmina: Random London street vendor in Oxford St.
This morning, I thought I’d give one of the outfits I plan on packing for Paris a test run. I love this All Saints drape skirt I recently found on sale, and this is the first time I’ve had a chance to wear it. The only response I got was a comment of “interesting skirt” from one of the Castle’s maintenance staff. I love the fabric and the exposed zip at the back (which unfortunately, I didn’t photograph. I just noticed I also managed to cut off my feet in both pictures – I’m wearing my Office brogues!). The whole outfit feels a little springy – don’t worry I have a brown leather blazer that I throw over it when I head outside – and for a day spent marking papers and writing lectures, spring is most definitely in order.
In other news: Only one more sleep till the Vampire Weekend concert – SO EXCITED
And in further news: I switched up today’s bike ride with tomorrow’s run and did 30 mins/4.5K on the treadmill this morning. Tomorrow, I bike, and Sunday, I run/bike in blocks of 30 mins. We’ll see how that last one goes. I have a funny feeling I’m going to be very sore come Sunday night.
I woke up this morning in a mild panic over how much I was expected to accomplish in the next 24 hours. The only thing I know that allays that panic is a good run, so at 6:30, I attempted to crawl out of bed without waking up the sleeping P – an attempt which failed completely of course – and I logged 30 mins/4.5K on the treadmill at the gym. Not only did I get the gym almost completely to myself that early in the morning, I also came back feeling refreshed and much, much calmer. Roll on crazy Wednesday. I can deal with you!
I’m a complete sucker for French Chanson – Serge Gainsbourg, Françoise Hardy, and even Scott Walker in a pinch. Today, while hunting around iTunes for some music to help “get ready” for Paris – a building up process that involves cheese, red wine, lots o’ Edith Piaf, and at least one Juliette Binoche film (this time around it’s Paris) – I discovered Chat and have consequently spent the afternoon grading papers and listening to her latest album, Folie Douce. If you’re fans of Coeur de Pirate, Emily Loizeau, or Eleni Mandell’s French EP Dis-moi Au Revoir Encore, Chat may be your next big thing. She’s certainly mine.
Here are a couple of my fave chanson-y type songs, to give this rave some context:
Serge Gainsbourg – the original dirty old man:
Françoise Hardy, singing “Tous les garçons” and rockin’ the eyeliner:
Phew. Workout #2 on my new bike trainer. Tough going. While I’ve been good about my runs, the last couple of weeks I’ve been shirking from my bike. I was supposed to get in a bike workout yesterday, but after the crazy-busy-ness of last week, all my body wanted to do was sleep. This week, however, I promise to be a good bike girl. Today’s workout will count as 1 of 2 bike workouts this week. Tomorrow and Wednesday, I’ll get in a run and Thursday will be bike workout 2 of 2. We’ll see how I feel on Friday – I may sneak in another run as Saturday and Sunday won’t really be possible workout days. My that sounds very virtuous, doesn’t it? And exhausting. But I can do it.