Great British Schooling Tradition

“Where They Are Just And Loyal”

It always struck me that, of the four illustrious Hogwarts houses, the fair students of Hufflepuff never had any glory or recognition bestowed upon them. Everyone hated Slytherin, apart from the Slytherins themselves who all garnered a sinister pride from their membership of the House that had produced the highest number of, shock horror, dark wizards, the Ravenclaws all seemed a snobby bookish lot and the Gryffindors, well, everybody loves the Gryffindors. Gryffindor is Harry and Ron and Hermione. It’s the Weasleys, it’s Neville and his toad Trevor, it’s the Fat Lady and that perpetually roaring fire.

Can you imagine what it would be like if your school was structured in the same way as Hogwarts? I’m not suggesting the council install a starry ceiling or programme staircases to sporadically change direction, but how would you feel if you and your peers were divided up into four houses; separated by colours and mottos and even living space? For a long time the tradition of schools having “House Systems” has been thought of as only for those attending the most prestigious of schools or those who want to mark themselves out as institutions of heritage and history. You only need to flick through the opening chapters of any of  the Harry Potters or Enid Blyton’s “The Twins of St Clare’s” or the “Mallory Towers” series to understand the quintessential Britishness of these such systems.

It isn’t so much the fancy regalia of cloaks and hats proudly bearing the crest of a founder or the novelty of being, to use a rather strong but apt word, segregated into dormitories and common rooms with the people who bear the same stamp of affinity as you which those of use who aren’t or have never been part of something which offers such certain stability in exchange for loyalty and honour find attractive. It is the togetherness of it all; the team spirit, the camaraderie, the feeling of belonging to something, to someone, to many people in fact. Kinship is the most honest way to describe house systems at their strongest and most enforced, although there is most certainly a spectrum of the importance of these systems in the life of a school. I have been in a house, at Primary School, where they assigned the three primary colours and green (green being classed as a secondary colour is one of the few facts I remember about year seven Art) to the names of four explorers. Let’s see how many I can remember…

Sharman, named after Helen Sharman was the yellow house, or ‘group’ as it was sometimes referred to. She was the only female featured and I remember being disappointed to be in Sharman being clueless as I then was as to her ground-breaking role as Britain’s first astronaut in Space. My older self now feels proud to have been devotedly acquiring ‘points’ to be drawn up on our house noticeboard which would win the whole house prizes if we were to win and in doing so honouring a female pioneer in the Scientific world. Unfortunately my school didn’t award a ‘House Cup’ and promptly lay on a spectacular feast for us if we were victorious. Fiennes (as in Ranulph) was up there too along with Captain James Cook and another – I forget who. To this day I still wonder who made those crucial decisions as to the names of the houses we represented!

Outfit Snapshots:

  • Mustard chinos: New Look
  • Electric blue shirt and turquoise nail polish: H&M
  • Blue cardigan and turquoise silk scarf:  a Vintage Fair
  • Blue suede shoes: Clarks
  • Grey cashmere socks: M&S
  • Hufflepuff badge, blue beret, gold Accurist watch, brown leather satchel and Ray Bans: All Gifts
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Primavera, Printemps, Spring

It isn’t often I play the part of a tourist in my own region, but today has been one such day. Sometimes it’s revitalising to get out there and appreciate where you live, wherever you are. This post was supposed to be a debate on gender stereotypes, entitled “Pink for a girl, blue for a boy”, due to the array of contrasting pink and blue in the outfit featured above, but after reading Libby’s post Spring Light I felt it far more apt to talk of my first experiences of the Spring of 2012.

Today I have witnessed the opening of beautiful daffodils, experienced the sheer pleasure of feeling the sun on my skin, seen children running and playing as the golden light glints off their hair and truly enjoyed the beginning of this season. For me, Spring symbolises new life, new ventures and optimism for the future. I hope the sun has shone down on you today and that this glorious and unexpected weather lasts. It reminds me of last April – that month of the most anticipated wedding of the decade – when we were graced with blue skies and warm, breezy days. Let’s just keep our fingers crossed that this isn’t just a ‘spell’  and holds out until the Diamond Jubilee. I’ll be celebrating twice as enthusiastically if it does!

Outfit snapshots:

  • Navy blouse = Charity shop
  • Scarf clip = Church Fair (this is the sister piece of the brooch seen here from the 1950s collection!)
  • Shorts = Forever 21
  • Tights = Next
  • Shoes = Clarks (can be seen in more detail here and here)
  • Hairband = New Look

Dorothy Meets Glastonbury

Being able to pick a single item out of my wardrobe and team it with a collection of other mis-matched purchases to create a unique outfit is perhaps my favourite aspect of my love affair with fashion. This is what I imagine Dorothy (she of Wizard Of Oz fame) would wear to attend the Glastonbury Festival, although she’ll have to be patient as the next time thousands of people will be greeted with open arms on a Somerset farm won’t be until 2013; the fields need to recover and what with the Olympics going on Britain doesn’t have enough portaloos as it is!

I digress. Anyway, this is a modern-day Dorothy. She’s done away with the blue and white Gingham in favour of a more masculine take on the festival look: a charity shopped men’s Levi’s shirt cinched in with a handed down black and gold buckle belt. Dorothy is still a feminine dresser at heart, however, and can’t resist accessorising the rather industrial denim with a vintage gold brooch she picked up at a jumble sale in the Emerald City. She was reliably informed by the lady on the stall that the brooch formed part of an extensive 1950s collection a wealthy elderly lady who lived locally had owned before she passed away and that the jewellery had been donated to the sale by her family. On hearing this Dorothy also purchased a rather ornate scarf clip with which she will probably adorning another outfit in the near future.

The blue tights (an ancient purchase from New Look) were necessary as although the festival takes place in the South of England, it is important to remember that this is still England and therefore the weather is extremely unpredictable. Despite wellies being advised, Dorothy just couldn’t bring herself to part with her ruby slippers; although Toto was regrettably resigned to remaining at home in Kansas. Unfortunately this means Dorothy won’t convincingly be able to once again speak that immortal line “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas any more”. The red shoes pictured above aren’t Dorothy’s favourite ruby slippers – her prized pair are under lock and key at home, guarded by Toto, meaning this pair are standing in and were bought only last week from the Henry Holland collection at Debenhams.

All photographs were taken by me using a Canon 500d and all are copyrighted to me. Please do not reproduce without permission and credit from alexandratherese@ymail.com.

Rolling and Pitching in the Deep

The relationship between humanity and the ocean which surrounds us has always fascinated me. As a little girl I was afraid of the sea – stood at the edge of the beach, the precipice between the safety of the golden sands and the comparative danger of the dark, swirling waters. They weren’t of course, dark and swirling, but green and bathed in sunlight and cool and calm and alive with seaweed and tiny fish. I wasn’t to know that then though, to me the sea was a monster rolling up the beach towards me. I would squeal as I ran away from it, desperate that not even the tiniest drop of water should touch my toes. It was only as I grew older and began to appreciate the sea for what it really was – a blissful escape from anything and everything – that I started to learn about it, to understand it, to love it. I love the sea.

Although some people may rarely give it a second thought, the various stretches of water that surround this little island, this ‘United Kingdom’, are essential to us. We need them. For imports, exports, food, power supplies, employment, entertainment and enjoyment. Generations of families have worked as fishermen in their communities and rely on the sea for their source of income – often risking their lives on treacherous seas to bring in a decent catch. I only really realised the dangerous that these trawlermen were facing after watching the BBC2 documentary series ‘Trawlermen’ which first aired in 2006 and highlighted the difficulties of such a job such as working in gale force conditions, getting perhaps only two hours sleep in twenty-four, having to make snap decisions about whether to leave behind thousands of pounds worth if nets if they had become caught on the sea bed and the possibility of getting caught in machinery or falling overboard and being lost at sea. The tag line for the programme was always, “these men have one of the most dangerous jobs in Britain” – and I really believe that they do.

The beauty of the sea

It is from these fleets of faithful fishermen that our nation developed a key part of British culture – fish and chips, the ‘British’ take away food. Nothing can compare to a portion of fresh from the sea fish with chip shop chips, everyone knows that. But there lies a problem – we are getting increasingly low on fish stocks, cod in particular. It appears that the balancing act of supply and demand has faltered – falling down heavily on the side of the demand. It is obviously a struggle to try to accommodate the needs of the fishing industry who need to take home a wage for their catch whilst attempting to employ and new ‘sustainable fishing’ plan and I can only hope that the people with the power know what they’re doing and will come up with a viable solution to the problem.

If you were to ask someone who the most well-known British watersports athletes were they would probably say Rebecca Adlington (the Olympic gold medallist) or Tom Daley (the diver). I would say Ellen McArthur – the sailor with so many achievements and awards to her name that you’ll just have to have a good read through her biography to find out about them. I read her first autobiography “Ellen McArthur: Taking On The World” – appalled at the difficulties she faced in her attempts to sail single-handedly round the world but with admiration for her perseverance to do the thing she loved – sailing. But it wasn’t only sailing she loved, it was the ocean. She has the respect for the sea that so many people don’t have – the people who dump their litter in it because they think it’s an open sewer, or the people who are careless and spill oil all over the Gulf of Mexico (although I know that the spill wasn’t intentional – BP have hugely impacted the lives of the people and wildlife in the surrounding areas very much for the worse), or the North Sea for that matter. 

Such transparency

The other types of people who don’t respect the sea are the people who think they can beat it – the people who do stupid things like trying to cross the Atlantic in a dinghy and then need to be rescued by the Lifeboat. The RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institution) volunteers have to be some of the bravest, most selfless men and women on the planet. They are our fourth emergency service and yet they have to rely on charitable donations to stay afloat in both senses of the word. Absolute Madness, especially when the crew aren’t even paid (apart from the mechanic) – hence being volunteers. Without the RNLI many British seaside holidays would have ended in tears and serious injuries, possibly even death.

I’ve just started a book called ‘Waterlog’ by Roger Deakin documenting “A Swimmer’s Journey through Britain”. I’ve only read the first chapter but already I feel completely in tune with what the author is trying to say. Two lines in particular jumped out at me: “When you enter the water, something like metamorphosis happens. Leaving behind the land, you go through the looking-glass surface and enter a new world, in which survival, not ambition or desire, is the dominant aim”.  The line that follows fits perfectly with my thoughts above about respect the sea and not trying to beat it; “The lifeguards at the pool or the beach remind you of the thin line between waving and drowning”. I think that last line sums up my feelings about the sea – yes, it is beautiful and essential and we should respect it – but it is also dangerous and shouldn’t be messed with.

Where the land meets the sea

Penultimately, the outfit I’m wearing is a real mix up of items. The top was from Cow Vintage, the shorts from Warehouse (which also appear here) and the scarf I’m wearing as a belt was charity shopped and can also be seen in my second ever blog post. The black sandals are Clarks (again see them here), the beret brought back as a present from France and the bag, from a craft stall somewhere many years ago has been languishing in my wardrobe for quite some time until I finally realised that it was a) made in a rather lovely mix of sea colours and b) rather practically being a cross-body bag and all.

I’ll leave you with a link to Jill’s lovely post ‘Swimming in the rain’ and a collaboration of comments that I’ve left on her swimming themed posts of the past couple of weeks:

“I’ve been swimming all week too and I love to swim in the rain – it is possibly the only time when rain doesn’t ‘dampen’ an activity, but enhance one’s enjoyment of it! Also, hardly anyone else wants to swim when it rains so quite often I feel like I have the Atlantic Ocean all to myself. I think that swimming is the ultimate freedom – I feel so privileged that I can swim, I don’t know what I’d do if I couldn’t”.

French Summer

High contrast to show the warmth of the belt

Continuing the French theme which has been meandering through my recent posts I thought I’d finally show you some snippets of one of my French outfits. This particular outfit is perfect for summer days, hence the reason I’ve worn it so much recently because hey, this is England!

I bought the high-waisted black shorts in the sale at Warehouse last summer for £17 and I have to say that I’ve had good wear out of them. I had a Debenhams voucher and thought that the shorts would be a staple summer item, alas I was right! Now the blouse has a little side story, being that I discovered it in a newly opened local charity shop and oh the excitement when a new charity shop opens – I thought Christmas had come early! I was attracted to the cream background and the black flowers as my first thought was that it would go well tucked into my Warehouse shorts, and as it was in my size and bore the trusty old St Michael’s label I couldn’t really leave it languishing on the rail could I?!

The same little excursion to this particular charity shop also held the delights of a very reasonable black and gold Jacques Vert 80s blouse and a pale pink tailored jacket. Needless to say I’ll be paying it another visit soon! Clarks sufficed, yet again, in the shoe department in the form of these very comfortable and durable black leather wedged gladiator sandals. I’ve had them for three years and as of yet there’s been no sign of any breaking of the leather or any damage to them whatsoever, and so somehow I think they’ll be my summer companion for years to come.

I have to say that my favourite piece of this ensemble is the belt – such a rich, warm plum colour and it’s texture is one of velour. It was passed down to me by my Mum and I fancied showcasing it with this outfit. I attempted to pull the belt down lower to give an air of the shorts being ‘paperbag’ shorts and I’m not too sure whether my efforts are very apparent. Either way I really enjoyed wearing this outfit – I felt very fifties with my high-waisted shorts and cats eyes sunglasses (though were they fifties? If anyone knows the answer please let me know in the comments!) and the blouse can  also work buttoned to the neck and with the sleeves rolled down.

Unfortunately no shots of my black beret but I was wearing it as well! That is what becomes of photographing oneself without a tripod! Hope everyone is enjoying this warmish weather we’ve been having, and here’s to it continuing!

Sunday Girl – Part 2

Extreme Editing!

Blue Suede Shoes

Lots has happened since my last post – my wrist has healed, I’ve been off galavanting in London and my Summer has officially begun! But I don’t want to leave any posts unfinished which is why I want to complete part 2 of my previous post ‘Sunday Girl Part 1’. Now I am at last physically able to tell of my attire and where all the pieces were sourced from I shall!

I bought the dress new, from Next, last Summer. Originally it was a light blue colour (giving the impression of being denim when it’s actually cotton) but I hadn’t had much wear out of it so back in April I decided to dye it dark blue, and since then I’ve worn it so much more!  The scarf in my hair was handed down to me by my Mum (so I suppose it’s vintage!) and the blue socks you can barely see were £3 from Topshop – one of I think three purchases I have ever made from that shop, to see why read my first ever blog post.

The beautifully crafted bag made from re-worked leather was a present and can be seen in more detail in my post from February entitled The Beauty Of Leather, in which the silk scarf tied around it also features. The blue shoes (which are suede – well spotted Roz!) were one of my best ever buys and I found them nestling in a corner in the Clark’s January sale. They were marked down from £60 to £15 and being real suede on the outside and real leather on the inside I just couldn’t resist! In fact, I love them so much that they were featured in their very own post, Blue Suede Shoes, in March.

Re-worked leather bag + vintage scarf

Re-worked leather bag + vintage scarf

Sunday Girl – Part 1

This post is very different to what I usually write on the blog as I have managed to sprain my wrist which is now being supported in a splint (basically a sheet of metal strapped to my hand and lower arm to stop me from moving it). That being said, hand-writing is impossible and typing is proving rather difficult and painful. In case you were wondering, this splint is the reason my right hand and lower arm are hidden in each of the photos! So without further a do, here is today’s outfit. Normal (lengthier!) posts will be resumed as soon as my wrist is healed. Let’s call this post ‘part 1’, and I will elaborate on where each item was from and how I have styled it when I get rid of this splint…

The French Girl

Noir is a very satisfying word to say. It’s one of those words which has to be spoken in a French accent to give it justice and I’ve always thought that the sound of the word really suits its meaning. Immediately images of smoky jazz clubs in 1920s Paris occupy my mind – the people, the clothes, the music – everything. I would love to visit Paris. I’d go on my own and shop to my heart’s content. I’d visit  The Louvre and go up the Eiffel Tower so I could drink in the entire city. I’d sit in a cafe drinking hot chocolate, eating croissants, reading, writing and watching the world go by. This is my idea of the perfect holiday. Obviously all of the shopping and sight-seeing and eating would have to be done in suitably French outfits – my mission for the duration of my stay would be to blend in with the French students and appear as cool and as effortlessly chic as they do.

I’ve been in a very French mood the past few days – I think it’s something to do with my finding a Carolina Herrera top in a charity shop for £5. Even though she is a New York designer this top just feels French. It is long-sleeved with a little rollneck and is black. It has these brilliant white stripes down both sides and white squares on the top of the shoulders. I feel like a cross between a 90s minimalist and a Max Mara collection.

I’ve been wearing the top with grey skinny trousers (I’m currently on a hunt for a black pair which will complete the look) and my black wedges from H&M. Going down the French route even more I’ve been sporting my black beret and a fake Chanel scarf I bought at a vintage fair. Of course I knew it wasn’t real – it was £3! Oh and Chanel Coco Mademoiselle perfume which is a heavenly scent and probably as near to any ‘real’ Chanel as I’ll ever get!

Recently I was visiting a friend in hospital and one of the porters asked me in all seriousness if I was French (I was wearing skinny jeans, black mary janes, a black cashmere jumper and a black beret). Laughing, I told him I was not, but that it had been my aim in dressing to appear so. I felt quite complimented actually!

Hopefully there will soon be a part two of this post where I can show you the actual outfit! At the moment I have three Paris-inspired outfits so if I can I’ll get some snaps of those too! Now, a few images which sum up the way I envisage Paris and its (well-dressed) people  to be…

Clémence Poésy

Parisian Girl

French Vogue

Jean Seberg

Black and Red

Here as promised are the photos of my new finds!

Jacket front

Jacket front

 

Jacket from behind

Jacket from behind

 

Full outfit

Full outfit

 

Austin Reed label

Austin Reed label

The jacket is Austin Reed and cost just £3.50 from a charity shop, as did the dress worn underneath which is a Primark number. The black tights are from M&S, the black roll neck jumper was £3 from the H&M sale and the black boots are Fly London and ridiculously comfortable. I actually bought them off Amazon UK for the much discounted price of £48 and I have worn them so much that the leather is wearing away! Thanks go to my very best friend for taking the photos!

Alexandra Thérèse xx