Friday, 29 March 2013

Mussel Up

London is a smorgasbord of pop-up food ventures at the moment. I've been to a few, but my favourite so far has been Mussel Men. I heard about them ages ago, then got contacted by them out of the blue for something business-related. I've been trying to get down to actually sample the shellfish delights myself and tonight, finally, the planets aligned.

Thanks to my computer acting up, I have 2.5 seconds to write this post. So the pictures will have to do. GO.

Just make sure you try the Prawn on the Lawn Scotch Egg, the oysters, the delicious fat Shetland mussels, the AMAZING chips and the waffle. Oh, and the Sprizzato spritz. So, everything, basically.

Oh, and make sure you play Thumb Wars with Cap'n Bob. I lost, even with long fake nails.

Mussel Men are at Brew For Two in Hackney in east London all weekend - perfect Easter treat. Thank you for having me, Robin!

Fleur xx

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Wherefore art thou, spring?

I have so, so much to write up but life is kind of getting in the way at the moment. If you're reading this and I owe you a post - never fear, I shall get to it soon. I just want to have a quick moan about the weather. I am English, after all.

Side note: I do realise that 'wherefore' actually means 'why', but it seems appropriate anyway. Because this isn't like any spring I recognise! Man alive, it is nippy.

Two years ago next week, I was doing this.

The VM ladies and I were on a (somewhat staged) picnic in Victoria Park, because a French journalist was following me about for a story in Le Figaro, and he wanted some awesome pictures of the things I get up to for fun. Picnics are definitely something I indulge in (if that could even be the right term) in the summer, and the weather that day was glorious - warm enough for cotton dresses and no stockings.

I am so sad that this week, I am in vests, my sheepskin coat, scarf and a hat... I would have gloves but I left them at home, and my fingers may fall off from frostbite. People have died of exposure, snowdrifts have cut power in the North, my parents got snowed in AGAIN. I know other countries are also suffering, it's not just us. And there's literally nothing anyone can do. Nonetheless... WAH!

This photo amuses me a lot because I look like I'm walking in EXACTLY the same way my late grandmother walked... plus I'm dressed like her too. Must walk a little more elegantly though, channeling catwalk models should be where it's at.

They also snapped me at a shoot for Heyday's then-latest Fleur dress, which is on sale at the moment at a ridiculously low price (this wasn't an excuse to write about that but it's worth mentioning). Lovely Gordon Ayres was the photographer - he likes to pose his models!

The following weekend, we even went punting.

Anyway, this was a bit of an excuse to post these pictures again since Flickr ate them (stupid iPhoto) so my original post about it just has broken links. But mainly, I just wanted to reminisce about how nice it was back then. Hurry up summer. Please.

Fleur xx

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

New video tutorial! 1940s working girl hair

The second of my vintage video tutorials for Superdrug Look at Me went live yesterday. It's for  a simple 1940s style semi-updo with a back roll and a scarf to finish it off.

How To: Vintage Hair from The River Group on Vimeo.

I hope you all like it!

Fleur xx

Monday, 18 March 2013

Spirits of Kings and commoners alike

Not to be morbid or anything, but this month's King's Ginger piece is my first look at death and mourning in the Victorian and Edwardian eras. They were big business indeed! The actual customs will be covered in a later blog as they deserve a post all of their own (Queen Victoria's life-long grief being a huge part of Edward's story) but today I'm looking at the very interesting history of the Necropolis Railway of London. And so it begins, where everything ends...

 Every monarch since Queen Victoria has been carried on a funeral train. When King Edward died in 1910 at the age of only 68 years old, he was carried on just such a train to Windsor and Eton Central station for his funeral. But this practice wasn't limited to royalty at all - from 1854 the ordinary man or woman's mortal remains could also be transported from the city to their final resting place in the beautiful Surrey countryside.

 In the 1850s, following a doubling of its population, London's churchyards were seriously overcrowded. Necessary legislation was passed in 1852, with the Burial Act facilitating the first public cemeteries around the capital. They then spread out to the Home Counties. Brookwood Cemetery was a private burial ground opened and run by the London Necropolis & National Mausoleum Company. It buried a lot of London's poor in a much more dignified fashion than mass pauper graves and it's said that Brookwood probably took on half of East London's late residents during its heyday. Special trains were put on so the parent railway company's living customers could not possibly end up on a carriage that had recently contained caskets. They ran daily from Waterloo, which had a casket-loading platform complete with hydraulics. The trains had separate hearse cars for Anglican and non-Anglican dead (which corresponded to the south and north sides of Brookwood. There were also divisions of class - a first-class fare saw mourners housed in fancier compartments and the coffins handled much more carefully than second, and third fell below event that. Which isn't to say third-class wasn't perfectly civilised.

In 1902 a beautiful new station was opened on Westminster Bridge Road, with the Waterloo terminus building being demolished to make way for the growth of the latter. It was designed to look much fancier than any normal funeral directors. The daily trains also stopped, and services were then laid on as and when needed, until 1941 when WWII bombings destroyed it all. They never ran again.

Anyway, onto the service itself. These sombre trains left London and wound their way through the suburbs, past my home town of Walton on Thames and terminating (perhaps an unfortunate choice of word there) at the Gothic stations built within the cemetery itself - the north and south areas had their own station.

Brookwood Cemetery is a fascinating place. It's still very much in operation and, as such, I had to get special permission to visit and take some photographs. They kindly agreed since I was doing this for a history piece and would obviously not be snapping any modern gravestones. Besides, the older ones are so much more dramatic!  Let me first show you where the railway came into the cemetery.

Ta da!

It's no longer there any more, of course but its ghost remains. The path from the North station is shown above. From Brookwood station the trains would turn and trundle through the grounds to the South station building. Neither are there any more, sadly - the North station was demolished in the 60s due to dry rot, and the South burned down in the 70s. A monastery now stands on the original place of the latter.

This is the spectre of the South line, the old station would have been just beyond the horizon.

This photo, if you look carefully, also features snow. Brr.

Many of the King's contemporaries (or at least notable personages from his time as Prince of Wales) are buried here. Dr Gottleib Leibner is one chap who will feature in a future post on here, due to his work. And if he doesn't embody the image of a Victorian gent, then I don't know who does.

More fascinating still, perhaps, are the memorials of those who are all-but-forgotten. Take this beautiful statue of an obscure lady who was married to an obscure man.

I don't know what Mrs Faulkiner did in her time, but her grave has incited avarice in robbers not so long ago, with the owners of Brookwood finding it toppled and wrapped, ready to be taken away in the night...

I wanted to capture some classic Edwardian gravestones. They seem to feature a lot of flora. Ivy...

And clematis and passion flowers.

They were also fond of angels, always with finger pointing towards heaven.

Then, there's the beautiful Lady Mary Laura Wyatt, who reads serenely for all eternity.

There are a lot of beautiful mausoleums dating from the Edwardian era as well, some with ornate inscriptions but many more with no date or message at all.

This picture does not adequately convey just how blooming FREEZING it was that day.
I couldn't feel my feet by this point.

If King's Ginger had been available to the masses back then, I feel pretty sure it would have been sipped by chilled mourners to boost the spirits and bolster them against inclement weather. I didn't drink any of course, nor did I pose with it near any gravestones as both would have felt very disrespectful. But I did take it on a journey along the ghostly railway.

There's no evidence to suggest King Edward ever visited Brookwood Cemetery, but I thought this little insight into the funeral customs of the time would be interesting, not to mention the way that common people would so often end their journeys, both physically and metaphorically with funeral train services that his Majesty would also have for his own, state funeral. It was also a fascinating trip all round, not least because I got to 'meet' this fellow... he died in the 1930s but I thought him worth a peek anyway. Splendid facial hair!

Thank you to the owners of Brookwood Cemetery for granting me permission to take photos and write this story! I hope you have all enjoyed it, as ever, do let me know!

Fleur xx

Friday, 15 March 2013

Something for the weekend, sir?

Call me naive, but I just found out yesterday what that well-known phrase actually means. It's been the title of a weekend TV programme for years, but it apparently used to be something that barbers would say to their clients following a haircut or shave, whilst offering them a condom! The practice of handing out French letters with a nudge and a wink might have died off but classic barber shops definitely seem to be making a comeback. I don't often post things that appeal to chaps on here, so as it's Friday, here's something a little different!

I was in Sharps Barbers (in their Islington/Ben Sherman branch) the other day on a work-related mission, and while there I took some snaps of the owner Rory getting a cutthroat shave. It's a lovely small shop, full of vintage bits and plenty of modern but all with a classic twist (they are currently fitting out a big new venue in Fitzrovia too, which will be brilliant for men and women to visit). The fact that Time Out recently did a rundown of London's best barbershops is a strong indication of the rise in popularity in male grooming with a classic bent, and of course my beloved Chap Magazine goes from strength to strength (even if I can't seem to get anything published in there at the moment!).

I'm interested to know how many men I have reading my blog! So pipe up chaps... have you ever had a cutthroat shave and if not, would you?

Fleur xx

Thursday, 14 March 2013

New video tutorial! 1940s Eyebrows

So! I often get requests for new video tutorials, but I do find them hard work to film as it invariably goes like this. Film it, realise I've ballsed something up, refilm it again, refilm another bit, cobble the good bits from the 3 takes together, faff about with transitions and get the picture. So imagine my delight when I was asked by the mighty Superdrug to film two beauty videos for their Look At Me blog/magazine  - one makeup and one hair - thus removing any excuses or procrastination from the equation!

The first of the two videos I did is up on Look At Me today and it's all about how to get perfect vintage eyebrows that look like you've waltzed straight out of the 1940s. Well, kind of... it's really just how *I* do them.

Have a look (at my weird, smug expression on the still... why must you do this to me, Vimeo)!

How To: Vintage Eyebrows from The River Group on Vimeo.

 Do pop over and have a look at the entry on Look At Me as well, and let me know below if you've enjoyed it!

Fleur xx

Monday, 11 March 2013

Snow Joke

England in March... spring flowers and lighter layers, you might think. Wrong!

Welcome to England in March!

I woke up at my parents; place out in the country today, ready to do my latest King's Ginger piece. And this is what we found!

Dress: Heyday Fleur
Stockings: What Katie Did
Shoes: Primarni

I've been trying to wear some more spring-like clothing, due to my wistful wishing it would be summer soon. And I did expect it to be a little nippy. But not like this. A cotton frock was not the right choice. Neither were very thin little black pumps.

Luckily, I also had a scarf, gloves and a warm sheepskin jacket...

I won't lie, I was still freezing. Especially in the foot area.

Back soon with something more substantial!

Fleur xx

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