Monday, 29 July 2013

Summer colours

Good Monday, good people.

Last week (or the week before, I am losing track), I posted a new King's Ginger piece from a very beautiful garden. I only like to post a couple of me in KGL posts as obviously, the focus is meant to be on the lovely drink and not my face. But since the setting was so very picturesque and my dress so very worthy of a whole post of its own, here it is. Lots of pictures of a magnificent dress in a magnificent garden.

This is the stunning Del Rio dress by Trashy Diva but which came from Miss Bamboo here in the UK. The amazing Miss Bamboo carries all sorts of US and UK-made goodies and will be the subject of another outfit post and a full spotlight post very soon as I need to show you all the fab things she does. In the meantime, do have a browse on her site!

It has the most amazing detailing as you can see - embroidery on the shoulders and all around the waist. The yellow rayon is perfectly drapey.

I've teamed it with matching accessories, of course. 

Bangles - most bakelite (only the blue one that isn't)!

Swedish Hasbeens sandals! 

Sunnies! Mine cost a whopping £3.99 from H&M. Quite 30s-ish in shape!

I was so overexcited with the joys of summer that I couldn't resist a twirl - the skirt flows rather nicely! 

That's quite enough vanity for one day, but do check out the Del Rio on Miss Bamboo. I am also in love with many of the new Trashy Diva styles... if anyone wants to buy me one of everything, please holler ;)

Fleur xx

Friday, 26 July 2013

Chasing chevrons

I'm getting to that point where my wardrobe is so stuffed with dresses that I am forgetting what I have in it. A couple of weeks ago, the lovely ladies at Gudrun Sjoden, knowing my penchant for all things Swedish at the moment, gave me this cute a-line skirt as a Midsommar present (as you can perhaps see from the flower crown). It's made from a light jersey fabric and will be perfect for casual wear in the autumn :)

But its chevron design reminded me that I have a vintage dress I probably haven't worn in two years that I completely forgot I even had. It's a lovely 1940s number with bodice pleats and chevrons in the skirt. I'm digging this bad gyal out right away! The moral of this story is to not have a tiny wardrobe stuffed to bursting with things - you forget you have awesome dresses hiding away in there!

Photo taken by Hannah Asprey at one of our last Vintage Mafia Sale and Socials at the Love Shake in Shoreditch. Fab place, fab friends. Good times!

Fleur xx

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Meet some meat

I like food. I am a bit of a food nerd and follow lots of trendy foodie type people on Twitter, look longingly at photos of the latest hip food openings but decide not to go until the hype dies down as they never take bookings and queuing is rubbish. And eventually go, maybe. Sometimes not. I am a rubbish food nerd, basically.

But, as anyone who follows me on Instagram knows, I do greatly enjoy taking photos of food and so when we got a new food client at the PR agency and I was tasked with the social media side of things, I wasted no time in EATING ALL... er, I mean photographing all the food they do.

Joe's Southern Kitchen and Bar is, as the name suggests, a Southern style food joint. It's in Covent Garden, so not so much hipster central but actual central. The food is really, really nice and I would know since I have tried every single thing on the menu! I'm actually quite proud of the photos I took so I thought I'd show some of them off and tell you all to pop along to Joe's if you're in the hood and fancy some Southern-style BBQ meats.

My personal favourite - Artichoke & Spinach (& cheese) dip. SO GOOD.

Or southern-fried wings with tabasco honey...

Or corn and rice balls with Monterey Jack...

Soft-shell crab and tempura...

And for mains... 

Big Apple Hot Dogs Huge Pole! 

Side of spicy Mac n Cheese... 

Beef Shortrib... 

Longhorn beef burger of dreams... 

Watermelon salad with goat's cheese... 

And the piece de resistance... BEER CAN CHICKEN! With bum-shaped potatoes. Look at it posing. It knows how juicy and good it tastes.

The desserts are good too. Here's pecan pie and a sundae! 

The cocktails are pretty photogenic as well, though I didn't try nearly as many.

The Bloody Mary comes with a side of toast! Genius. 

Hope you have enjoyed my culinary daguerrotypes and now feel suitable hungry. I do seriously recommend Joe's as a hassle-free place to go and eat, where you can book and never queue outside like a big foodie loser. 

Have a look at the full menu on the Joe's site and the rest of my photos on Flickr

Fleur xx

Friday, 19 July 2013

Ginger and Grey

With such a heatwave on the go, I thought it was only right that for my latest King's Ginger adventure, I should head out into the Great Outdoors. Well, outdoors, anyway. So here I am, in a very beautiful garden, designed by the Edwardian era's most famous and celebrated green-fingered lady. Come along with me and meet the inestimable Gertrude Jekyll.

Gertrude Jekyll was born in 1843, was the fifth of seven children and came from a long line of notable personages, including those who has already served royalty. Her grandfather served as solicitor-general to an earlier Prince of Wales - a great uncle to our hero King Edward VII. She also lived in Surrey, like all the most awesome people do (because I live here, although not for much longer!), spending her formative years near Guildford, town of my own misspent youth.  At her home in Bramley, she had her first garden, which she shared with her sister, and she was home-schooled, as many young ladies were. But her extraordinary artistic abilities were soon noticed by her parents and governesses and, when she was 18 years old, she enrolled at the National School of Art in South Kensington to hone her talents. This led to her exhibiting at, among other places, the Royal Academy when she was still only 22. She met William Morris a few years later, and the Arts and Crafts movement became a source of inspiration to Gertrude throughout her life.

Her rise to being a superstar garden designer was a slow and steady one. It began in earnest when her family moved from Bramley to Wargrave Hill in Berkshire. There, one George Leslie RA, remarked that she was:
Clever and witty in conversation, active and energetic in mind and body, and possessed of artistic talents of no common order … there is hardly any useful handicraft the mysteries of which she has not mastered—carving, modelling, house painting, carpentry, smith's works, repoussé work. Gilding, wood inlaying, embroidery, gardening, and all manner of herb and flower knowledge and culture, everything being carried on with perfect method and completeness. 
What a lady!

Starting small with both crafts and garden design she was doing everything from windowboxes in Manchester to textile designs for Pre-Raphaelite artists like Edward Burne-Jones, and soon she was receiving commissions from the upper echelons of society - interior design for the Duke of Westminster and Queen Victoria's personal composer Jacques Blumenthal. Throughout all this though, she was travelling around the Mediterranean and collecting plants from there as well as from across England and other European countries. She had a special pick, with which she would collect her samples and have them sent back to the UK where she tested growing them. She cultivated rosemary and lavender, had less success with agave, aloes and bougainvillea, but she didn't let any small failings stop her experimenting. The Jekyll siblings were all very greenfingered as well, so they encouraged each other along!

 In 1876 Jekyll's father died, and her mother commissioned John James Stevenson, one of the leading architects of the Queen Anne style and an adherent of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings founded by William Morris, Philip Webb, and others, to design a new home for them at Munstead Heath, Surrey. Gertrude designed a very unconventional garden that 'broke the mould' of traditional Victorian flower gardens. 

It apparently featured a pergola, Scotch briars, an alpine garden, a grove of azaleas, an auricula garden, an orchard, a hardy flower border, a reserve garden, and a kitchen garden. Plus swathes of lawns and rhododendron plantings. She looked to nature for inspiration in her planting and she used her artistic talents to ensure it all flowed together beautifully. It was, by all accounts, astoundingly good The garden designer, author, and student of Kew, William Goldring, visited in 1882 and described:
the brilliancy of the border … was beyond anything we had hitherto seen in the way of hardy flowers—as different from the ordinary mixed border as night from day … The great point in this border is the grouping of the colours in broad masses, all being blended as to produce one harmonious whole.

Floods of important people in the horticulture world came to have a look at Gertrude's garden of wonder. And she won awards too - in 1897 she became only the second lady to receive the Victoria medal of honour of the Royal Horticultural Society for her work developing and breeding plants - of which she did absolutely loads. She had her own nursery at her home in Munstead Wood - delivering thousands of plants to her gardens across the country. She tried to take care that her plants were preserved by sending samples to Kew, but sadly, only eight are still with us today.

Gertrude Jekyll wrote many books and carried on designing gardens - over 400 of them in total across Europe and even the USA - nearly until her death in 1932. She never married.

There is a very good tie between Ms Jekyll and our hero King Edward VII. She did design gardens for many institutions and one was a new hospital - The King Edward VII Sanatorium, founded in 1901 for tuberculosis victims. It was situated in Midhurst where the ground is high and the air clean for those poorly-lunged souls. Gertrude Jekyll was commissioned at the age of 63 (and still in her prime) to design the gardens there, to ensure they were therapeutic and thus perfect for the recovery of the patients. The Sanatorium itself was built between 1903 and 1906 and upon its completion was opened by his Majesty in the presence of Miss Jekyll. I like to think they had a good old chat about plants, perhaps even about ginger and its healing properties? Who knows. It's fun to imagine, though.

Sadly, this garden, as well as most others, have long been lost to time and its destructive attitude towards man-made things, even woman-assisted nature. Luckily, the organised Gertrude left a wealth of detailed plans, most of which are in the Design Archives in California, so along with photos we can imagine what the gardens must have been like. Here's the Sanatorium ...

And because not only are the gardens gone at the King Edward Sanitorium but the site itself if closed down and barred to the public, I had to choose an alternative venue for this piece. The one I chose, which will explain the photos here, is Upton Grey in Hampshire - one of the gardens, along with the one at her home in Munstead Wood, Godalming, which has been fully restored with love and care to its original glory, using all the same plants and layout. It's an interesting old house, evidently bought in the 1980s by the couple who have worked their behinds off to restore and maintain it ever since. An absolute labour of love.

It's an astoundingly beautiful place and now was exactly the right time to visit - with roses in full force, peonies, everything. I hope my modest photography talents capture even a tiny amount of the gorgeousness. Here are a few more from the gardens - both Formal...

And Wild... 

And for good measure... of course... some of The King's Ginger back in its Edwardian comfort! 

Dress from Miss Bamboo - watch out for the next post with full details! 

I would have killed for an ice cold King and Tonic during the shooting of these incredibly boiling photos but unfortunately, I was driving. Have one for me instead?

Thanks as ever to the King's Ginger who let me do these fun adventures, and to Upton Grey for letting me prance about taking photos. What a thoroughly beautiful place - I recommend a visit. The whole village is chocolate box pretty! Full outfit post on this dress with a few more Upton Grey photos coming soon, too.

Till next time... 

Fleur xx

Monday, 15 July 2013

Roaring Engines in the Roaring 20s

Occasionally, I get the chance to go out of my comfort zone and write about something a little different so here, for your Monday delight is just that! This post is all about the motor cars of the 1920s as seen in the Great Gatsby and is brought to you in association with Adrian Flux.

So, the Great Gatsby. It's been in the media rather a lot lately for obvious reasons - namely the new film which I haven't seen. As a result, I avoided a very great deal of themed press releases and tie-ins. But I did go and see a stage production of it a few months ago at the wonderful Wilton's Music Hall - a semi-derelict Edwardian music hall in the East End. And I did read the book... when I was at school.

The Great Gatsby is set in New York in 1922, during that brief period of excess between the Great War and the Great Depression, two years after the introduction of prohibition. This small legal impediment preventing the sale of alcohol did very little to stop the Bright Young Things of the Twenties from having a right drunken old time partying.

I hard many criticisms of the Baz Luhrmann Gatsby film of yestermonth, many concerning the modern music/touches and superficial characters. The first people have evidently not seen a Luhrmann film before. The others have not read the book. It's entirely about superficiality, skin-deep beauty and material excess. But all that aside, one thing is for sure: all the cars that were brand-new back then are now genuine classics.

Here is a little bit of Gatsby-esque vehicular insight provided by our hosts, Adrian Flux. It's a fascinating read!


Vehicles of Delight and Destruction

In the story, cars are used to demonstrate the characters’ wealth and power, or lack thereof. Compare Gatsby’s ‘circus wagon’ to the ‘dust-covered wreck of a Ford’ that Myrtle’s husband has in his garage and we’re already establishing contrasts between plenty and poor.

But, cars don’t just represent social status; they’re also vehicles of destruction. After all, the narrative is punctuated by car accidents, from the drunken man’s crushed hand to the death of Tom’s mistress in the Valley of Ashes.  In this way, Fitzgerald uses the power of cars to represent the carelessness of the main characters and their ability to damage the lives of those around them.

Gatsby’s Rolls-Royce

Whilst Fitzgerald is rarely specific about brands, he does tell us that Gatsby’s drives a yellow Rolls-Royce to match the yellow music of his famous parties. It must be a pretty large model too, as we are told that it ‘became an omnibus, bearing parties to and from the city’.

No doubt Fitzgerald was referring to the Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost. However, in Luhrmann’s version of events Gatsby drives a Duesenberg which, as a number of sources have pointed out, wasn’t manufactured until 1929 - seven years after the story takes place.

Unless you’re a classic car expert, this historical inaccuracy can be overlooked. The real problem here is that the Duesenberg doesn’t quite fit in with Gatsby’s character, or at least not in the same way the Rolls-Royce does.

Think of it this way: Jay Gatsby exists behind a European façade. Just as his house resembles a Hotel de Ville in Normandy, Gatsby is rumoured to be an Oxford man, with clothes flown in from England. His typically aristocratic term of endearment, ‘old sport,’ polishes of his old money disguise. Therefore, a Duesenberg doesn’t gel with his faux-European persona, but the Rolls-Royce works perfectly.

Tom and Daisy’s coupe

Tom and Daisy own a blue Pierce-Arrow Coupe. Although the make isn’t explicitly stated in the book, we’ve reach this assumption for a number of reasons. Firstly, Tom is skin-crawlingly xenophobic and wouldn’t want to own a foreign car.

Secondly, at the time, Pierce-Arrow’s Coupe were a status symbol favoured by politicians, royalty and film stars. President Taft ordered two, and they became the first official presidential cars when the 29th President of the United States, William G Harding, rode in one to his inauguration. Nick describes Tom as having ‘a supercilious manner’ so it’s easy to imagine that he’d want to lord around the road like a president.

Nick Carraway’s Dodge

Nick Carraway, our delicate narrator, lives far more modestly. His house is a ‘weather-beaten cardboard bungalow’ and instead of a livery of servants he has ‘a Finnish woman, who made my bed and cooked breakfast.’ Naturally, then, he drives ‘an old Dodge’.

Again Fitzgerald isn’t specific about the model of Nick’s car, but it’s likely that Nick owned a Dodge Model 30, the main competitor to Ford’s Model T. Oddly Nick describes the car as being old. In fact the first Dodge was only produced in late 1914, so even if it was one of the first models to be made, it would still only be just over seven years old, which is no age for a classic.

Be that as it may, cars are implicit to the characterisation of Fitzgerald’s main characters. Far from racing through the streets of New York like a twenties version of the Fast and Furious, Gatsby’s classic cars mobilise the narrative undertones and draw out Fitzgerald’s critical take on the wanton excesses of the age.


Fascinating, non? I do so enjoy a bit of literary criticism, even if part of me wonders whether Fitzgerald (or any author) really did put so many hidden themes in there...

I leave you with some photos from when I saw Gatsby at Wilton's... till next time!

Fun things at The Great Gatsby at Wiltons

Fleur xx

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