Because you can't have depths without surfaces.
Linda Grant, thinking about clothes, books and other matters.

Sunday, 20 January 2008

Long to reign over us

(This is what 62 can look like)
Within one second I am totally in awe of her. She is so confident and so beautiful that the thought of it flies out of my head. She is, to be honest, dazzling. She is wearing a black, strappy, knee-length linen dress with a red belt, a black shrug, black high heels and a bunch of pearls. Her hair is dyed the palest ash blonde and so expertly cut I want to ask her who did it. But it's her eyes that are so amazing. They are deep, deep greeny-grey-blue.Usually it's men who go into raptures about Helen Mirren. In the past I have been told she's a man's woman, but I say phooey to all that because she is as about as charming to me as she could possibly be. Not that there isn't a hint of steel in her. But how on earth could she have survived the past 40 or so years in her profession without developing a pretty tough skin?

read on

Literature and the planet


Philip Pullman, who is one of the nicest people I know, is interviewed today, about his life and his concerns for the environment: Well worth reading the whole thing, but here are a couple of highlights:

Frightening people is a very good way to make them passive and supine. You can be terrified into an abject denial of everything and you don't want to know about it: you just shut your eyes and your ears. But the most useful, the most helpful and most energising thing is to say: "You can do this, and this, and this, and you can press your Government to do that."

Environmentalists need to know something about basic storytelling in order to make their words effective. Samuel Johnson apparently said something I find very useful to remember: "The true aim of writing is to enable the reader better to enjoy life, or better to endure it."

Research is much easier than writing, so the temptation is to shove all the research in. But page after page after page of the stuff goes by and, of course, people stop reading.

I suppose the real story, the basic story, the story I would like to hear, see, read, is the story about how connected we are, not only with one another but also with the place we live in. And how it's almost infinitely rich, but it's in some danger; and that despite the danger, we can do something to overcome it.

. . .



AS: What gives you a sense of wellbeing?

PP: My first answer would have to be a good day's work. If I have done my thousand words, my three pages, and it's gone well, then nothing else matters - I'm satisfied. If I've done it and it's gone badly, well, I can correct it tomorrow, it's there.

If I combine that with a little bit of exercise, a little bit of play, which for me involves usually making things with wood, or playing music, and if my family is well and happy, and I have something nice to eat - that would be a good day for me.

I am very lucky. And I'm wary of preaching about how we should live, because I know how lucky I am: very few people have the chance to do what they want to do and stop doing it when they want to, and I do. Mind you, for 30 years I didn't. I had to write in my spare time while I was doing other jobs.

So perhaps I am entitled to preach a little bit. I'm entitled to say that in order to do the thing you want to do then you have to do it, whether or not you've got the time. If it means missing Neighbours, then miss Neighbours, or EastEnders or whatever. You must ask which is more important to you in the end.

The Great Mutton debate - menswear


With with AW/08 collections about to kick off, in the Observer Jeremy Langmead, editor of Esquire, explains that for the past few years the menswear shows have been throwing stuff down the catwalks that looks like it should only be worn by the founders of facebook - beanie hats, jeans with the crotch slung down the mid-thigh. Who wants, he writes,

. . . to look like the work experience guy unless they are the work experience guy? More fun surely to look like the boss with the bonus, comfortable in your middle-aged skin, rather than tragically aping the low-slung, hip hop style of the mail boy?

Personally, I can't say I know any 40-year-olds who dress this way and I do know several style-conscious men (and one who recently replaced a US army surplus jacket he bought in New York in 1970 while in town from Boston for a demo against the Vietnam war, with another one exactly the same, which went in the wardrobe for 'best' while the original remains his everyday wear.)

But Jeremy assures me that

The kidult look that has, for the past three or four years, monopolised the catwalks and therefore the high streets - cue hordes of metropolitan men dressing like their children, a sad sight in every sense - may finally be on the way out. There are early signs that fashion-conscious men may start dressing like grown-ups again. Instead of baggy, low-slung jeans or skintight trousers, the designers are sending models down the catwalk looking like adults: three-piece suits, loose trousers and coats that actually keep the cold out. Gone are beanie hats and manbags; in are briefcases and spectacles.

Someone in Milan and Paris, the world's two most influential fashion hubs, has recognised that style-conscious metropolitan men with money, usually those from their thirties up, may be wearying of being forced to look as if they want nothing more than to get down with the kids.


And then he makes rather a cutting point:

It is women, in fact, who have helped men realise how dangerous the desire to look young can be. We have watched them submit themselves to the surgeon's knife, spend thousands on caviar-filled potions and eat nothing but low-cal yoghurt in order to fit into size six dresses. It doesn't look fun. Men might have been oafish enough to encourage it, but we're not foolish enough to follow it. While gender generalisations are never popular, men, on the whole, do tend to look a little longer before buying into something. And thankfully, with this youth cult thing, we've realised just in time that it's not worth the money.


And still we await the return of the doublet, hose and pantaloons.

Thought for the day

(Yoko Ono being presented to the Queen - there is only a seven year age gap between them)

A man must be a profound calculator to be a consummate dresser. One must not dress the same, whether one goes to a minister or a mistress; an avaricious uncle, or an ostentatious cousin; there is no diplomacy more subtle than that of dress. Edward Bulwer-Lytton