Thursday, 25 September 2008

A Golden Wedding

Last Saturday was my parents' Golden Wedding ; 50 years of laughter and happiness ! Even though the carefully planned "do" has had to be postponed (due to one pinned and plated leg in plaster !) we had an enjoyable family day together . In the evening we watched a DVD of "Some Like it Hot" which I took with me as a little cheering-up present - it turned out to be rather apt , as it was nearly the same age as my parents' marriage ; having been made in 1959 . Even my sons watched it , and I caught one of them actually laughing at a black and white film .... which as every tech-savvy teen would agree are generally so beneath contempt they're off the radar !!! Lol ! I noticed that Marilyn Monroe wore a fur wrap very similar to the one I saw in Bath .

I had my own 20th wedding anniversary this year - Ceramic , apparently ! Well here we are in the heart of the Potteries , but as Ashley worked for Wedgwood for many years I've got more dinner service than I could shake a stick at - so we passed on the presents this time . In another 5 years it will be Silver... hmm sounds more promising ! I can't believe that it's 25 years ago that I made a celebratory , fully iced cake for my parents' silver wedding ! I was only 20 myself (sigh) and then practically equi-distantly I made them a Ruby wedding cake 15 years later for their 40th anniversary . I was really proud of that one with its sugar paste ivy and roses arranged on top . Perhaps I should have produced a cake this time .... maybe I made the scheme of things go wonky by not doing so ? Oh , I dunno ....

Here are some of the beautiful , vintage style original wedding cards from those 50 years back in time.

When I was looking for photos to illustrate this post I first found this gorgeous golden rose , snapped in a Norfolk stately home garden -

and it is a lovely symbol for a Golden Wedding ; both myself and my mother adore roses - especially scented ones . They epitomise romance and perfection , so they are a wonderful visual allusion , but I prefer this next photograph to end my post . I forget where Ashley took this , but I love the golden dappling along the way , and shafts of sunlight ahead on that long road ; to me it is the perfect symbol for a long and very happy marriage .

TaTa For Now ,
Ruth xx

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Action packed weekend ...

I had an absolute blast at Hugglets on Sunday , and managed to squeeze in lots of beary chat with some wonderful people . I hadn't been to Kensington for the September Teddies Festival for a few years , and I was reminded what a fantastic day out it makes ! There is a great atmosphere inside , with an assortment of different rooms on 3 levels ; in fact it's beary Heaven !

"But isn't that a TinyBear ?" I hear you say . Well , yes ; the pretty little bear in this photo is called Baby Jane - and she was a surprise present from Tina Jensen , who had travelled all the way from Denmark to exhibit at Hugglets . Tina is taking an extended holiday to visit a few of the places I've been blogging on about (!) including Bath , and as you can see Baby is clutching her very own copy of "Emma" by Jane Austen :0)
A million "thank you"s Tina - what a lovely , kind and thoughtful lady you are xx

Just a note here to add that Friday was a bit too action packed for some of my family . My poor mother ended up in hospital with a very nasty double fracture in her leg and a dislocated ankle ! I was already intending to go to Cambridgeshire , as my Hugglets journey starting point, so I was at least able to visit her in Addenbrookes hospital . She has now had her lower leg pinned and plated and will be enjoying her Golden Wedding celebration this weekend from a wheelchair. One misplaced footfall on the stairs has a lot to answer for !!

T.T.F.N Ruth x

Tuesday, 9 September 2008


"Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree ,

Merry , merry King of the Bush is he ,

Laugh Kookaburra - laugh Kookaburra ;

Gay your life must be ! "

I used to love singing this funny little ditty as a child ; with its cheery looping refrain , but I never really thought much about the words or the subject . In August I visited the Raptor Foundation just outside Cambridge , which is an amazing sanctuary / education and breeding centre for a whole host of birds of prey (raptors) and that's where "Dundee" was introduced to us .

Now , you don't think of Kookaburras as birds of prey - but they really are ! In the wild they hunt out small birds and animals as prey , and don't bother with fish unlike their near relatives the Kingfishers . Dundee was just six weeks old when we saw him ; looking like the adorable , fluffy invention of a toy manufacturer , and astonishingly he was being trained to the glove in the
exact same way as the hawks and falcons .

We were waiting patiently in the audience at the flying display grounds for the next star performer to appear when , accompanied by the most cacophanous hee-hawing laughter , a cat box arrived in front of us ! I was so surprised when this fat , stumpy little creature was popped up on the flying post - but how could anyone not totally fall in love with him ! His parents ( in a nearby aviary) clearly thought he was the total bee's-knees - and continued their decibel breaking encouragement from time to time ..... well , it was the first time he'd been exhibited at the flying ground . The wonderfully knowledgeable handler explained that she would hold out a chick's leg for him just a tiny hop and a flap from the post ; so enticing him to her glove .

In the end he pluckily managed three of these tiny flights , spurred on by "chuck-chuck-chucking" and a tasty reward .
Look at his little face - like a cat with the cream !

Ashley took some fantastic photos at the centre which I hope to post next time , till then -

T.T.F.N ,

Ruth x

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Been there too !

When I saw the trailer for the new film "The Duchess" ; where Keira Knightley runs up an imposing marble staircase , it reminded me that on first seeing it Ashley and I recognised that very hall way instantly and squeaked "we've been there !" That's because this scene was filmed at Holkham Hall in Norfolk , and I stayed in nearby Holt just weeks ago !
I love to get in to Norfolk when I can , and just breathe in those wide , flattened landscapes . Holt is such a quaint little market town , and a great base for forays in to the surrounding area ( and here you were thinking I was working for the Bath Tourism Council!!) Holkham Hall ; a grand Georgian house , had been on our "to visit" list for ages .

The photo above shows the deer park of the estate - I forget what the monument commemorated now . The house exterior , it has to be said , is not particularly attention grabbing ; like a lot of Georgian architecture it's slabby and pared down , but the interior! It was eye-popping !

Back to the scene in the trailer.... the hallway is a spectacle of red marble pillars flanking a sweeping , grand staircase . Totally impossible to photograph I'm afraid , but we do like to look up don't we ?

The upper , galleried level is festooned with marble statues .
I've since read that five different locations make up one house in the film , which is about Georgiana , Duchess of Devonshire and her unconventional life .

Amazingly , Holkham Hall is still privately owned by the original family ; the Cokes .... which is pronounced "Cook" , and the three of us were impressed by the fact that photos were even allowed , and also the genuinely friendly guides in each breath-taking room were so eager to offer as much information as anyone could ever ask .
Now , the real reason I've wanted to post this experience up is this - in one of the rooms I was struck by a beautiful painting , of a lovely young lady and her sweet tiny dog .

I asked the cheery guide if he knew what the dog was - no , he didn't , so I gained a childish delight in telling him it is unmistakably a Phalene ; the drop-eared version of a Papillon which was the preferred conformation in the 17th and 18th century . The word means "moth" , as opposed to "Butterfly" in the perked ear shape , like my own little Lilah . These delicate little dogs were also called "Continental Spaniels" , and were the beloved company of aristocrats and royalty : Marie Antoinette was besotted with hers as was Madame de Pompadour !
From the close up detail it is easy to see the "hare-like" feet which characterise the breed .

What a gorgeous little face !
Occasionally Papillons/Phalenes are mis-identified in paintings as Cavalier King Charles Spaniels so I hope that won't ever happen now with this beautiful , serene portrait .
I wonder if there are any Papillons in the film ? I guess I'll just have to go and see it to find out !

Ta Ta For Now ,
Ruth x

Monday, 1 September 2008

The Octagon Room .

We hurried off to The Assembly Rooms , or The Upper Rooms as they used to be referred to , as fast as our tired legs could carry us up the steep hill side of Bath . The Fashion Museum is housed here, and I was really hoping to see some examples of Regency clothing - however this was one of those days when Serendipity intervenes; we were ushered toward The Octagon Room where the current travelling exhibition was Bill Travilla's Hollywood dresses ! We arrived at the exact time the exhibition's curator (Andrew Hansford) was starting his talk .

As an aside I must tell you that The Octagon Room is a beautiful , high ceilinged room , famous for being a meeting place / musical venue in Georgian times - in fact , the very setting of the music recital where Anne Elliot so romantically re-encounters Capt. Wentworth in "Persuasion"!
If I could only remember half of what the guide had to say I'd be an expert on the glamorous heyday of Tinsel Town ! His audience moved spell-bound from one mannequin to the other ; his witty anecdotes (he personally knows the collection owner Bill Sarris , who was a friend of the designer) insightful comments about dress design , and rather risque observations ( well , for 2.30 pm ) held us all captivated . Bar one . My 12 year old son was completely indifferent to the glitz and remained unaffected by so much fashion over-load !! Meanwhile I couldn't believe my luck in stumbling upon such an entertainment filled hour .

One thing the curator wanted to stress was that Marilyn Monroe , whose dresses formed the major part of the collection , was not a larger UK size 16+ as we are often led to believe . She was in fact - and I've stood in front of the dresses - a size 10 .... but in the '40s and '50s - when you could still be voluptuous at that size . She was 5ft 6" tall and a 36 . 24 . 36 hour glass .

I thought it was unbelievably generous to allow photos to be taken , and I made sure we put a donation in the Alzheimers Society tin , for whom the exhibition was to raise money .Click on each picture to see the detail larger .

The Octagon Room - and "that" dress ! On the floor are the priceless original pattern pieces , made to fit Marilyn Monroe's body , which Andrew Hansford found under the collection owner's bed !

This was one of the dresses made for "The 7 Year Itch" - 1955
Famously Marilyn never wore underwear , and one copy of the dress which was see-through , and not lined was swapped at the crucial moment as she was filmed standing over the air vent (with knickers !) The sun ray pleating was all done by hand , and it's a really pretty , feminine dress .

The pink satin dress from "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" - 1953
The strapless bodice is constructed from 3 layers , and the whole dress is extremely heavy . The skirt sides are lined with metal wires , moulded to Marilyn's shape , to enable the dress to keep in place during the dance routine of "diamonds are a girl's best friend " Travilla's original design required black gloves to be worn .
In the background is a white sequin and crystal strewn gown made for Judy Garland , who never wore it . Later Susan Hayward took her place in "Valley of the Dolls."

Travilla's dress for Marilyn's private collection . The central gathering point of the pleating is held by lead weighting . As the curator pointed out ; there was no toupe tape back then !
The fur and handmade lace/rhinestone drape is actually a pair of "sleeves" and not just a wrap .

Pink ruched bias cut evening gown.
This was my favourite dress in the whole collection ; made of a beautiful silk crepe de chine .You would need a fantastic figure to carry this one off ! The dress was a prototype , later to have crystals on the topline of the bodice , but I think it's perfectly gorgeous like this - here's a close up ..

After all that we still had the rest of the museum to go round , which was extremely interesting but of course no photography was allowed . I particularly liked the case of 17th century gloves ; which I learned had extra long , slim fingers due to a fashion started by Queen Elizabeth 1st's pride in her very long digits ! The workmanship was astounding , and I could have stood there all day .
It was also amazing to see one of Queen Victoria's mourning dresses , from her later life , fairly close to, in a floor length glass case . She was very short , and very wide , and must have looked a bit like a weeble in black crepe !
If you are at all interested in clothes this is a great place to visit , with some nice little shops tucked away at the end .
Oh , I wish men could be persuaded to wear double-breasted frock coats again ! sigh .....

T.T.F.N Ruth x