Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Mutton dressed as Spam

Well, here we are approaching the end of July in 2008 and we are experiencing another warm patch in the schizophrenia that is our British Summer. My husband had the day off yesterday and we took child number two off to the Common for a picnic and a kick about - yes I attempted to play - and was even complimented on my ball control. I suspect my sexy husband was just surprised having recently devoted a great deal of his time trying to coach me at tennis of which I have no skill whatsoever (I blame the intense ballet training I undertook as a child and teenager - apparently tennis works all the opposite muscles.)

It was most pleasant and being a Tuesday, it was nice and quiet. Child number one had gone to the beach with her friends - dressed in white jeans and a hooded top. She refused to take it off because she feared her white t-shirt was too clingy. How are 11 year olds so self conscious nowadays? She is slim and beautiful and already 3 inches taller than my 5 foot nothing self and yet off she trots on the hottest day of the year looking like she has a sun allergy. 

As we munched on houmous, tomato and rocket sandwiches - lovingly made by my husband. I kicked back on the grass and enjoyed the views. What views? The rippling ocean? The Isle of Wight? The many monuments? Clarence Pier? No, no - the great British public. Or the inhabitants of Southsea and surrounding areas that happened to be passing by where I sat. So, my daughter's all trussed up in jeans and a jacket while most of the female Common visitors appeared to be wearing nothing at all. There's the obligatory Mums who have got dressed in a hurry who are clearly sweltering in a not too dissimilar fashion from child number one in jeans and a t-shirt. Then there's the ladies who have come down to the Common simply to sunbathe, laying in their patches in nothing but a minuscule bikini. I have no problem with either of these tribes.

I watched in awe as a young teenage thing jumped up from where her group of friends sat and ran barefoot at quite a speed like a young Zola Bud with long flowing blonde locks across the grass towards the park where her other friends were sitting on the swings. She ran with panache wearing a short kaftan style blouse which just skimmed her hips and pair of black pants. Black pants? Yes. Black pants - pants as in knickers - no shoes and a tiny kaftany blouse. She carried it off with such aplomb that I wanted to cheer as she reached the fence and did a very grand skip and a wave to her friends. I wasn't expecting her to take a leap at the fence then lose her footing before smashing her face on the post. Ouch, that had to hurt. Did she take a tumble? No, she regained her composure instantly. What a first class filly. She carried on skipping towards her friends before greeting a girl in a green tube dress with a theatrical hug. I inwardly chuckled and glanced at my husband to see if he had taken it all in - but he seemed quite unimpressed. There were some chic sights and there were some fright sights to be seen on that fine Tuesday in the sun.

What is it with women who are not just content at being mutton dressed as lamb? (I very often fall into that category) There are women who have morphed into a whole new disturbing category I call it "mutton dressed as Spam." They pour out of the ground like flying ants in the hot weather. These are not just women who dress 10, 15, 20 years too young and let's face it - that's not such a bad thing nowadays. These are women who are overly processed. Contain too much salt. Come in kitsch packaging. Look cheap and nasty and couldn't be appealing even if they were battered. The kind of women you might find on Jeremy Kyle or loitering in a doorway in Amsterdam. They have leathery skin the result of a thousand sun beds and a 40 a day lifetime smoking habit. They wear big jingle jangle metal jewellery that must be burning their already hot orangutan skin. They boast that can wear the same ra-ra skirt that they bought back in the 80s and convince themselves that they are a size 10 just because they can still fit into it even though it's straining at the seams and their legs are poking out from the bottom like two hot sausages waiting to burst from their skins. They fail to notice the 2-3 Stone that they have gained over the decades. They always sport a big parched hair. They stink of cheap perfume, which coupled with the fags and hairspray leaves a nasty zing in the back of your throat if you happen to walk past one of them.  They wear PVC stilettos or high heeled sandals with their cracked heels and bunions hanging out. They are so sad - and yet so funny. They ARE Mutton Dressed as Spam.

I have a huge disdain for VB - she makes clothes look cheap. She's not quite in the Spam category but she just has an air of ridiculousness about her. I am quite upset that Marc Jacobs who's designs I adore, chose old Posh to be his advert model. I'll give her due - she does have a sense of humour but she takes her image very seriously and often gets it very wrong. I laughed like a drain when I read about the recent flight fiasco. There was a scare for Posh because a bird flew into the plane's engine so the pilot had to land shortly after take off. A scare because VB feared for her life? No. She was scared that she might be seen in public without the make-up that she had already taken off. She had also removed her clothes and was all comfied up in her jim jams. Horror! I'd have been terrified if I'd been on that flight and caught a whiff of her.
It was so kind of her to get dressed again and look - as a special treat she matched her belt bag and shoes to the tan on her legs and ridiculous chest!

I am giving my website  a re haul as I am not happy with the way it looks. It's not particularly sleek. It should be done in the next few weeks but I am delighted to have taken the work of two new designers on board. Sharei La Mar a Central St Martin's Graduate who has a boutique offering one offs in Covent Garden and a concession in London's flagship Topshop store and BelleBika who make wonderful luxury shoes.

Sharei La Mar makes adorable cotton dresses with original styling. This Daria dress for example is lightly boned with a stretch smocked back. The fabric is covered in cute little cherries, it's fully lined and it has a contrast fuchsia underlay with matching belt. It's also an absolute steal at £65 for such craftsmanship. It also comes in an array of different colour ways and backgrounds. Please contact me if you are interested or keep checking back to the website.

BelleBika are an Australian based duo who design superb quality shoes. The aspiration to create sexy, timeless designs which don’t follow trends is the incentive behind BelleBika. Together they engaged in the vision and combining childhood nicknames was the most fitting choice when deciding upon a name. BelleBika felt strongly about having their product made in Australia supporting local industry & enabling them to closely oversee the product development and ensure high quality.

BelleBika always aspire to create something that is different and not seen before. Their current collection has been inspired by their European work and travels. 'We were motivated by their non-inhibition when it came to the use of colour and have injected this into our range. Each piece is designed as if the foot were a woman's figure, accentuating and exposing the sexiest constituent; this blended with an appreciation of bygone eras has resulted in designs that create a seductive look with a classic edge’.

As soon as you see their designs you will fall in love. Keep posted to for more BelleBika designs available in the UK.

Saturday, 19 July 2008

The Veal Story

Despite being a dairy free, egg munching vegetarian - I still find great enjoyment in watching Gordon Ramsay's F Word. It's a hugely entertaining show. But the whole Janet Street Pensioner killing a baby cow story was pretty tough. Tough in that it brought back some harsh memories of being a very bored teenager. (She was rearing the calves near the part of the Yorkshire Dales that I spent my teenage years in.) But more tough seeing as the little calves were living moving creatures that just looked so healthy. I've never seen a calf with clearer more sparkly eyes.

When it came to slaughter I had to leave the room and headed to the back of the house to make a cup of Oolong tea. I left my husband (who only became a vegetarian a year ago) to watch it. He said he wanted to. As the kettle came to a boil I heard my husband shout out in dismay. Something you don't often hear from a strapping 6'3 tree surgeon. Oh dear.

I am wondering if perhaps Gordon's attempts to encourage the nation to eat carefully nurtured veal will cause more of the nation to actually turn their back on meat all together? In my mind all I can think of is the big doe eyed calves slurping on bottles of milk, which brought back memories of being a child and force feeding my plastic doll with one of those magic baby bottles. I felt so happy playing Mummy until I got cross because my doll didn't have a proper mouth opening because it wasn't a real Tiny Tears, just a cheap Redcar Market version.  Of course, not that many years later at the tender age of 21 - I had my own baby to take care of. Did I need a Tiny Tears then? Not one bit. I had real poop to scoop. Did I relish in the pleasure of popping a bottle of milk into my own babe's mouth for her to suck on? No I did not! Why not?

There is only one type of milk that is fit for human consumption and that is human milk. I was not going to get the milk intended to make cows grow that had been chemically treated, reduced to a powder and then mix it up with some water before forcing it down my own childs throat. Was I a purveyor of you are what you eat back then? Not really. I was young, naive and pretty scared. But I knew that if I was going to be responsible as a parent the best thing I could do was breast feed. You must have heard by now - cows have four stomachs. Us humans only have the one. Cows milk is designed to make a 90 pound calf turn into a 2000 pound cow in the course of two years. That could be happening to our babies.

Here's an example of social experimentation. When my sister was born back in 1974 - she was starved of oxygen at birth, this resulted in her having cerebral palsy. She has never been able to do anything for herself although she toddles about aged 33 giggling with contentment most of the time. She still lives with my parents even though my Dad's in his 70s - they are saintly beings my folks I'll tell you. And because she was so badly brain damaged - she didn't even have a proper sucking relex - so Mum had to bottle feed her. (Of couse - the fact that she had the option of cows milk was a blessing as expressing is pretty time consuming - and thanks to dairy farming makes you feel like a prize heifer.) So what happened to my sister? She became huge. She was like a great big round enormous pudding - relatives nicknamed her buddha.  Only  11 months later (my parents got on with things pretty sheepish) out I popped and luckily my birth was less traumatic so I got to feed from my Mum's breast. The milk that nature intended for me. Did I grow? Yes. I grew length ways rather than width ways. We couldn't have looked more opposite as babies if it was possible.

A lovely friend of mine Katharine who came to visit from LA the other day told me how mummy cows get super upset when their babies are taken away from them. She had heard it first hand when she visited her parents in France, they live next to a veal farm. The mothers cry out and stamp their feet - making a real heartbreaking fuss.  I couldn't believe it.   My husband confirmed this - he grew up on a dairy farm. The mothers will go to the spot where they last saw their child and just wait there for days, hoping their child would come back to them. I'm sure if we could explain to them that it's okay because Janet Street Porker is going to take them and feed them the milk of another cow whilst brushing their fur and chatting to them before stunning them with a gun and slicing their throats open, then the mothers would feel much better. Could you think of anything more horrific to happen to your child? I guess the throat cutting would be the merciful part - how on earth was that woman ever a fashion journalist?

Not only is it really not on to eat meat and drink milk for cruelty's sake. It just isn't really something we humans are designed to do. Butter and cheese are 70/80% fat and that's why they taste good but you'll get huge. And sure cows have udders but they are not supposed to be constantly stimulated and milked and milked and milked over and over and over again. No way. They are injected with bovine growth hormone to create this over production. Their udders get sore from the milking machine - they can crack and bleed. So they are given antibiotics to stem infection. Oh and all those nasty sore bits get pumped right on up the tube of the milking machine. Mmm. Creamy. Then the milk has to be treated at high temperatures to kill all these nasty germs - what else do they kill? All the goodness that was in milk in the first place.

Would you eat pig cheese if it came on the market? How about some lady cream drizzled over your strawberries? Sounds gross - but if it had been marketed to us in the way that dairy has we'd see it as something that is good for us. But it's not! Far from it. Try replacing cows milk with rice milk and soya milk. Rice milk tastes absolutely delicious on cereal. You'll be amazed. Your stomach and thighs will love you for it too.

I do enjoy sitting down to the F Word though. "Why?" I hear you ask after such a rant. Well, Gordon is thoroughly amusing. But before I decided to put a preservation order on my body, I would try anything, from garden snails to steak tartare. And just because I have chosen not to delight in the flavours of such morsels as scallops and fillet steak anymore it doesn't mean I have forgotten how good it all tastes yet.

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Utter Smugness

In my quest for utter smugness I have done many things including; becoming vegetarian, watching my weight, carefully disecting my rubbish and sending it off to various different sites to prevent the poo hill by the side of the M275 from increasing futher, teaching my children good manners - (this quest is failing me somewhat as my smug smile usually wavers into an embarassed grimace as a result of their manners), giving up my petrol guzzling Japanese import car for a modest bicycle and never leaving the house without colouring in my eyebrows. Okay the latter was more of a nod to my vain insanity than my smugness.

Of course, I would never display any direct smugness, that would be most undignified and the things that I have done could be simply equated into normal everday measures that most people take to improve their lives and the lives of others round them. Hell, if I were to leave the house without my eyebrows filled in - I might just kill someone with the sheer spectacle - or worse still - get mistaken for Whoopi Goldberg. But let's face it - keeping up with the Joneses and the Chans and the Alis is not just about having a well manicured lawn, the newest car, the latest gadgetry and a well manicured wife anymore. It is now more about being seen to be doing our bit for this failing World. Big 4x4 for the school run anyone? No, no, no! To quote Amy Wino. Hang your head in shame if you drop little Jack off at the school gate whilst smothering the lollipop lady in your carbon emissions. Honestly, that is so 1994. It seems everyone wants to be an Earth mother, it's not just relogated to the mad hippy types swathed in tie-dye. It looks like lovely Linda McCartney, she of the veggie lasagne and fashion forward Mighty Boosh mullett should be made a saint.

Now, my forte is fashion, I rely on people's consumerism as ironically unfashionable as it is. I am a clothing snob. I won't set foot in Primark if I can help it. I'd rather elbow my way through the Nana's buying pick and mix for their Grandchildren in Woolworth's to cut through Cascade's and onto Commercial Road than have to breathe in the acres of cheap fabric and neon lights that is Primark. But now, the clever people in the fashion industry have begun a back lash against cheap clothing. Saving money is not ethical. Yes, you heard it. Buying cheap clothing means that someone had to suffer along the way. Ding, another bell on my smugness tally. Hmm. £3 for a t-shirt? What a bargain. But wait, it has shrunk and twisted to something only a 4 year old with scoliosis could find comfortable in it's first wash. What a waste of money! Put your money where the quality is - and then at least when you have ruined something yourself by washing it on the wrong setting - then you can at least take it to the Charity shop in the hopes that someone more petite might be able to carry it off then having to relegate said item into a rag for wiping the hybrid car.

Oh dear, in these credit crunching times, we really do have to be rich to keep up with those Joneses. Because god damn dual fuel hybrid, cars come sandwich toasters, come giant child carrying prams, come waste paper baskets (the innards of my cars always resembled a green recycling wheely bin - so ahead of my time) are just not that affordable now. You can't just get one on HP because the mean loans people keep turning us all down as our credit scores have failed from defaulting on the big loan we took out to buy that big 2.5l petrol 4x4 back in the 90s. Okay, okay, I had a Ford Ka back then - but I'm still paying for it now and I sold it in 2001.

Anyway, I digress. I want to discuss the way in which we are being sold the dream regarding our lifestyles. The McCartney legacy lives on, not in the form of miserable Mills and her poor child who has to fly on commercial airlines instead of private concorde (which I suspect Heather Mills would like to have resurected just for her.) I'm talking about the wonderful Stella McCartney. Not only does she produce the most dreamworthy clothes a woman could ever hope to have in her wardrobe - but she has been one step ahead of the rest of the fashion pack and prduces ethical clothing that hasn't caused an ounce of suffering to anyone. Except probably me that is.

My first suffering comes in the tension that has arisen from the fact that I will not be able to buy many of her clothes due to a failing bank balance that funds a very high cost of living and my relatively low maintainence children. The second comes in the fact that she has rather cleverly produced none leather shoes. All rather pricey for none leather, but they are so ethically sound and beautiful (we're not talking crocs here ladies) that it hurts. Now, I don't eat meat, dairy or fish - even though Fruits de Mar is my favourite meal of all time - because I do not want my tummy to be the end result of any creature's suffering. I do however eat eggs from my father-in-laws farm - free to roam, fed on a diet of Omega 3 rich grain and I know that there is no pain in their little chicky arses when laying those eggs. So why oh why am I such a big hypocrite stomping around in my size 4 platform leather shoe boots, carrying a Chloe leather bay bag and wearing a lambskin leather jacket? Funny it sounds less sickening in the label than it does seeing the words written on my computer screen. What a hypocrite. You see, that's the fashion snobbery. My little fashionista mind is telling me that faux leather shoes just won't be comfortable. The lack of "give" creates blisters. Leather speaks quality does it not? Even if Gok Wan says "Your feet look fabulous" in a pair of £20 New Look stilettoes, he might be right - but he doesn't have to lose 2 inches of skin while walking up Albert Road to the pub on a Saturday evening does he?

I will save the money. I will take the plunge. I will slowly but surely purge the animal objects away from my person. I will perhaps swap my leather jacket for something more millitary to give my outfit an edge (although that might present other faux pars) in my attempt for eternal utter smugness. I will save up for these super cute Stella McCArtney boots as pictured above - only £395 (gulp) from Net-A-Porter.

But really it's so hard. I absolutely cannot carry a none leather bag can I? I physically recoil when I see PVC high street copies of designer bags. Oh and what about the greatest comfort of wearing butter soft leather gloves in the harsh old winter?

I have bee approached by a company called Gruba who sell eco leather bags. They are bags made from recycled cows leather. that sounds promising. I am considering selling them on my website - but I am not entirely sure about the designs. I would love to hear people's opinions. They are made by a group of Argentinians and they look really interesting. The leather outer houses a fabric removable inner that comes in a contrasting colour. My sexy husband quite rightly pointed out that they look a bit like art folders and would probably appeal to students with expensive laptops. They would be retailing for around £85, not bad for a nice leather handbag - that's ethically sound. What do you think? Would you buy one. Do you really like the design - or are they a grower? Much in the manner of Crocs and Uggs which people love to adorn their feet in? Smug, smuggedy smug.

I don't know. I guess the sad truth is that A. I need to get over myself. And B. I have absolutely nothing to be smug about. Ooh, i feel better already.