The Rise and Rise of the Topshop Cult

Topshop Queues

As I sit here at my desk, drowning in the emotions of Kate Bush’s vocals I try not to think about the torrent of exams I have to face next week and beyond. I know that as long as I do my best then no one can ask for more. The post below was written as a practice essay for English Language, the stimulus being “don’t get me started on”. This style of writing is intended to provoke a reaction in the reader, be it positive or negative. I would rather receive heaps of criticism and know I’d struck a chord – albeit a rather out of tune one – than have my writing shrugged off as lacking in passion. In some ways this is the continuation of my first ever blog post, written two years ago, which discussed in somewhat less detail the many negative aspects of the Topshop experience. 

Topshop, like other popular retailers, can be easily defined by its clientele – those who shop there – and its target market – those the brand would applaud for stepping over their threshold. The Topshop Girls (or clones, depending on how strongly opposed to the chain you are) can often be seen congregating on patches of grass in the centre of University Campuses; blackberries clutched in one hand, ‘Topshop Make Up’ bags dangling from the crook of their other arm. Don’t think I’m getting on my high horse – I have a blackberry and it’s incredibly useful – but I don’t utilise it as a fashion accessory.

One of these individuals will have been entrusted with the act of selecting a suitably skimpy floral outfit which the remainder of the contingent will have been required to observe before clothing themselves in a variation of the same ensemble. In a nutshell, the more items purchased in a shop with a name beginning with the letter ‘T’ the better (just to clarify that’s Tiffany & Co, not Tesco – too easily confused, I know). It’s female peer pressure which channels itself into a bizarre spectacle of consenting uniformity; a sad but nevertheless honest reflection of some corners of today’s society.

The cunning sales technique employed in every Topshop from Oxford to its giant flagship store on Oxford Street has no doubt been the most profitable idea to emerge in the last twenty years (apart from Google and, erm, Apple but that’s by the by). Grown women morph into wild animals upon the arrival of a new collection and God forbid Kate Moss collaborates with Topshop again or she’ll have the blood of many a shopper on her hands; death-by-stampede. The alpha male of last season’s Limited Edition capsule wardrobe is indisputably squabbled over; the statement Christmas party dress which was probably held up on the pedestal of Topshop Boutique until it’s price was slashed.

Not even the instincts and rivalry displayed on the plains of the Serengeti could match the ferocious scenes of fracas on Boxing Day morning when the fashion food chain really comes into play… The top predator is the thirty-something marketing manager who replaced potentially child-shaped holes with clothes several years ago and who stops at nothing to gain internal workplace promotion – even if it means a four-figure yearly wardrobe. The primary consumer is the proactive student out looking for a bargain which she’s likely to achieve given that she is welcome to a ten percent discount when using her NUS card. She’ll know what she’s here for but will lack that scary, “in at the kill” attitude others possess.

The producer on the other hand is, very aptly, the expectant mother or mother with baby in tow. I would advocate the plastering of warning signs all over the entrance to the shop in a heartbeat, bearing the message “KEEP OUT unless you are willing to lose an eye for an eye(catching cardigan)”. To summarise: Topshop is unsafe unless you are a) trained in the art of combat, b) the owner of a pair of particularly pointy elbows or c) very, very determined to purchase something your were too much of a cheapskate to last month.

On a more serious note, I know that I am not alone in having been embarrassed by the sizing Topshop deploys. I see myself as a healthy teenager and, although I’m not a stick insect, large I most certainly am not! It therefore worries me that, being the size twelve or fourteen in Topshop that I am, there are girls out there shimmying into size sixes. We can joke about how they should be given the benefit of reduced prices considering how little fabric the garments they buy are created from, but I can see how little things like this could lead to allegations of encouraging eating disorders of anorexia – irrespective of whether or not the brand actually is.

I could have ended up a Topshop girl if it wasn’t for the guiding hands of several people who pulled me away from the bright lights of the Manchester Arndale and down the un-crowded streets of the Northern Quarter – the vintage Mecca of the North.  Whilst I acknowledge the act that we can all be permitted a couple of pieces in our wardrobes I feel very deeply that we are, as a nation, in acute danger of getting sucked into a vicious spin-cycle of lazy, over-priced and clique-induced fashion. I know that the day when I feel a thrill when handing over any amount of money in Topshop will signal that it’s high time the men in white coats come and drag me away. I’ll probably be wearing a slogan t shirt reading: “I left my soul at the sales desk”.

Advertisements

Do Magazines Maketh The Man?

The magazine section in my local Sainsbury’s can, I find, be a minefield (metaphorically of course – unless there’s a special “celebrity” wedding edition of Hello just out). I am perpetually baffled by the categorisation of magazines; always weighing up whether I’m simply over analysing the psychology behind the situation of the publications or whether there’s an underlying sexist issue to be found lurking near the kiosk counter. For once, I’m sure the latter has happened. It turns out that Sainsbury’s have dispelled the need for a specialist “technology and gaming” section, or words to that effect anyway, in favour of lumping premier film magazine Empire and other such volumes in with the likes of Nuts and FHM.

Apparently, the “Men’s Lifestyle” banner now covers a broader spectrum of journalistic works; that is to say, not just magazines featuring girls who are paid to be photographed practically naked and whose covers are shielded from the eyes of young children and anyone else who doesn’t want surgically enhanced human flesh forced upon their retinas. How very inclusive of them. NME and Empire were but two magazines which were unfortunate enough to suffer the humiliation of being classed as such.

Not only do I feel a deep-rooted sense of annoyance bordering on anger about this, but I felt rather uncomfortable at the time when I wanted to employ my periodic flick through Empire preferably in an environment which didn’t include titles which have to have their covers censored in the form of being covered up when on display in shops. Surely Empire, the world’s leading source of film coverage, isn’t classed as a male orientated publication? I have one friend in particular – my personal knowledge fountain of all things cinematic – who would be mortified if she received raised eyebrows or disparaging looks when indulging in movie reviews in our school library as she is apt to do (I’m ransacking the uni prospectus shelves by this point, but there you are).

Granted, magazines covering a broader spectrum of interests – such as Shortlist, sister publication to the also free Stylist – are visibly geared to a male audience, although this certainly doesn’t stop me devouring it. The fact that Stylist is its female counterpart, though the two overlap in many areas, means that everybody effectively has access to the same information. In the case of Empire, however, both men and women are interested in its content and this should be recognised by the purveyors of the publication; after all, it is in their interest to market items such as magazines to their advantage to sell as many as possible. Even from a purely monetary profit it is obviously more lucrative to ensure the reading public have the optimum access to magazines across every interest and genre.

Female orientated publications can also be described as guilty, with their plethora of fashion and beauty-saturated volumes. It could be argued, though, that this is allowable as these magazines feature almost exclusively women’s fashion and beauty and articles intended for a female audience. They could quite easily direct males with just as strong an interest in fashion to men’s magazines such as Esquire and GQ which feature a decent amount of it and male versions of Vogue, though we regrettably don’t have a British version (though that may say more about Britain than the fashion industry).

When we reach the rather murkier territories of entertainment and technology, the line is often a little blurry and can results in gender stereotyping. Nowhere is this more prevalent then on the shelves of any good newsagent. There’ll be women’s lifestyle and fashion all together, then the hobbies and interests and then the men’s lifestyle, technology and current affairs all shoved together. That’s another one; I always have to dive into a herd of men peering into gaming and computer pages to search out a copy of Total Politics which seems to be permanently hidden away from the masses, as if its content were some great secret of national importance. Indeed the politics of magazine selling strategy is certainly beyond me!

The Bard Lives On

Ben Crick as Romeo

Ben Crick as Romeo

Outside of the English department, professing my enjoyment of Shakespeare in school is hardly likely to gain me any smiles of agreement; in fact I’d be lucky to get a nod of acknowledgement. It is with this in mind that I rejoiced (or rather, breathed a deep sigh of relief) upon seeing British students like myself immersing themselves in the infinite capabilities of the greatest writer the world has ever seen. Shakespeare: Off By Heart – a talent competition with a difference – corresponds with the BBC’s current focus on all aspects of Shakespeare’s life and works, rather sensationally titled Shakespeare Unlocked.

Whittled down from 2000 people aged between 13 and 15 throughout the nation, nine finalists were chosen to attend workshops at the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-Upon-Avon before appearing solo on stage and performing a well-versed soliloquy in front of several hundred people and three thespian judges. Jeremy Paxman hosted – an interesting choice as I can’t imagine anyone with the ability to unnerve young contestants any more than the man who berates swathes of intelligent under and post-graduates on University Challenge with put downs such as “No no no Corpus Christi you’re in the wrong century let alone decade” or similar such remarks. This choice was presumably intended to offer some gravitas to a relatively unadvertised BBC2 programme where the critics were three people you vaguely recognised from having seen on tv a few times.

As most people know, BBC2’s track record of, as Paxo put it, “X-Factor for intelligent people” programmes is pretty sparse and rightly so; we tend to leave that to BBC4. Due to this, the format of the show lacked any real sense of structure and although this wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, their inexperience at behind the scenes, diary-like, “reality” tv footage showed, refreshing as it may have been. Clips of the patronisingly described “children” undergoing voice and acting coaching were dispersed between video of the actual performances and portraits of the 9 and their backgrounds. If I were to be critical I’d say that this didn’t help viewers to sustain a real sense of watching the action continuously in the theatre as the audience would have done, though on the whole this didn’t detract from the show’s overall message or impact.

There were some real characters among the chosen few and all showed a real enthusiasm for the literary gospel they were proclaiming the words of. My favourite, however, had to be Ben. Aged 15, he delivered the famous balcony scene monologue of Romeo and Juliet with suitable exaggeration and aplomb, despite the fact that he didn’t care much for the character of Romeo – deeming him naive to become besotted with Juliet so swiftly. He used his inner thoughts to his advantage by portraying Romeo almost comically and capturing the attention of the audience on all three sides. I was sorry that he didn’t make it through to the final three – each charged with the task of performing Hamlet’s daunting “To be, or not to be” speech – though from the wallpaper of his room being made up of rosettes from local drama festivals and as a member of the NYT (National Youth Theatre) I’m sure he’ll go far.

For anyone who missed it I offer you my sincere apologies as it is no longer on i-player (they definitely need to extend the one week limit to two at least), however I am able to point you in the direction of a couple of other reviews which will fill in the gaps for you and hopefully make you feel like you’ve watched it through alertly, twice. Here’s what The Telegraph,  The Times and Sunshine Tomorrow had to say. I’d be very interested to know your views if you did manage to catch it first time around and hopefully it will be repeated soon for those who didn’t.

Shakespeare and his plays may often seem another world away – and sometimes they are – but his comedies and tragedies speak reams about human nature and even today stand up against the most respected of writings as works that define literature. Last year, I studied Macbeth and loved every minute of it. It’s alternative title for the superstitious, The Scottish Play, doesn’t do it justice. The challenge of understanding what appears to be a different language altogether is directly proportional to the levels of satisfaction felt on revelling in the richness of the words once understood. If nothing else, it’s certainly the only incentive I’ve ever had to wield a carving knife around the kitchen, proclaiming wide-eyed and as if possessed “Is this a dagger I see before me?”

We are the Youth of Today

Teenagers from Badminton School in Bristol, Lucy Warden, Sam Crumpton and Maddie Sunter celebrate in the rain

It’s late August. The last remnants if the summer are swept away in a scourge of last year’s games kit and M&S have been promoting “back to school” buys for at least three months. But something else is about to happen; an air of tension and nervous excitement pulsing through the brick work and vibrating around the gates of schools and colleges across the country. When the public examination results are finally revealed and the predictable, posed photographs of jumping girls in flowery summer dresses (though read this for an interesting take on the politics of results day pictures) literally leap out at you from the front page of The Times, spare a thought for those same teenagers who will have their achievements waved away like a swarm of irritable flies by the time the following day’s news drops through the letterbox.

“A-Level results are up in Britain by an overall figure of 5%” announces the Radio 4 newsreader, whilst the pompous proprietors of educational supplements will mock these findings incredulously with a chortle of “oh well they’re surely making the exams easier then!”. Why this incomprehensible need to put a negative slant on the painstaking hours of work and revision from so many students across the country? As someone who is on the brink of sitting the first in a long line of external exams this summer I find it ridiculous that the significant measure of time and effort allocated to what I have been educated to believe are some of the most important exams I will ever take has the frightening potential of being blown out of the water by someone at News International who decides it’s about time the youth of today were on the receiving end of some criticism for a change.

Sadly, it’s not the only item on life’s agenda we’re ever reprimanded about. All too often, sweeping statements are made about the attitude of the under-twenty generation, be it a lack of interest in current affairs or our supposed appreciation of all things rebellious and anti the establishment. Unfortunately, more often than not it is the people who issue such generalisations whom are guilty of shunning the very portion of society they complain about. This manner of discrimination I find indescribable, though I am not short of examples and none so obvious as when we are paying passengers on public transport. If I had a pound for very time I’d been refused a child ticket whilst still legally a child, or had the details of my ticket unnecessarily scrutinised by an officious employee of the GMPTE I’d have been wealthy enough to avoid the aforementioned people by chartering my own private jet for even the most local of journeys.

I can still vividly remember,  although the memory isn’t so much tinged with anger as it is saturated, being publicly humiliated when boarding a bus into my nearest town. I was fourteen years old at the time and after cheerily greeting the driver I politely asked for a return child ticket to my destination. After receiving the most obvious once-over, the driver sneeringly told me to “pull the other one love” as he blatantly believed me to be lying about my age. I wasn’t trying to scrounge the saving of a measly 47p or whatever it is by saying I was younger than sixteen; I was younger than sixteen! I do apologise if my smart appearance suggested that I might actually be an ambassador for the polite and educated contingent of Britain’s youth population. Or rather, I don’t apologise one bit.

The Nature Of Change

I don’t particularly like flowers. Or rather, I like looking at them but I would never go out to buy plant seeds and make painstaking attempts to grow my own. I admire beautifully-kept gardens but am not one to relish the process of striding towards unruly bushes with trowel and secateurs in hand. I don’t know whether this aversion to getting my hands dirty and spending hours bent double sifting soil will remain with me forever, although perhaps there is a connection between age and willingness to devote time, money and effort to making your immediate surroundings flowery and bright or calm and tranquil. There is, however, something undeniably rejuvenating and wholesome about fresh flowers – be they wild or lovingly greenhouse-grown.

One aspect of greenery that must be universally acknowledged is it’s comparisons to other examples of new ventures, beginnings and ultimately – life. I once read a newspaper article which shunned the traditionally January-made New Year’s resolutions, suggesting instead that there would be something like a 60% better chance of them being kept if made in March or April, when Spring was well under-way. The claim for this apparently lay in the belief that the season offered an altogether more optimistic outlook on life due to factors such as there being longer hours of daylight, (supposedly) warmer weather and a more abundant sense of positivity throughout the land as opposed to the bleak oppressiveness of dark January mornings.

In the interest of becoming a more-rounded individual, I myself have invested in this period of  “change”. I remember writing a post on the theme of “transition” last August in which I outline my feelings about the fruitful promise any type of change can bring. I even coloured the page with one of the most memorable posters from President Obama’s 2008 election campaign – the now ubiquitous “change” image. Watching his inauguration live on television whilst eating my tea in my school uniform I was inspired by his speech; by his clear direction and determination. We all experience change whether it is something we covet or not – but it is those who embrace it who believe in its goodness.

Personal changes are often the catalyst for making a new beginning or starting a positive stretch. For example, I had an appointment at my hairdresser’s on Saturday and when I arrived I told my stylist that I wanted curly hair (it’s currently short and straight). She said “no problem” and within an hour I exited the salon happy, my face framed with curled locks. Of course it looked perfect for the rest of the day but proved somewhat difficult to emulate the day after and the day after that. When Monday came I arrived in school with a version not completely dissimilar from the style I donned at the weekend but it was considerably less well-curled. It’s a significant change for me, although to borrow a scientific process it is a “reversible change”.

It only takes a comb through with water and my hair is poker straight once more, as it is today because I couldn’t summon the energy to wake up twenty minutes early to painstakingly create twenty-something curls. It’s still change though; having a new style I can adopt whenever I fancy, to be made permanent in June when it’s chemically waved. The term “waved” is apparently the new “permed”; to invoke fewer shudders as people cast their minds back to painful memories of 80s ringlets gone wrong. However vain it may sound, this will mark the beginning of a long and (hopefully) enjoyable summer for me, which is why this kind of transformation is as important in my mind to global changes we experiences as nations or continents. Shouldn’t we all be advocates of change?

The photographs were taken on a coastal walk over Easter. 

White Heat: A Tangled Web Of Revolt

1960s: L-R Jack, Charlotte, Lilly, Alan, Jay, Orla, Victor

White Heat: a piece of original British drama starring seven young actors; six of them relatively unknown and emerging from obscurity in one of the finest adaptations the BBC has produced in recent History. Spanning five decades – each of the six episodes set several years on from the previous part and with appropriate costumes, props and hairstyles to reinforce this – the series follows the trials and tribulations of seven students who have descended on London to begin their undergraduate degree courses, all aged eighteen and from an assortment of different backgrounds.

There’s Charlotte – finely acted by Claire Foy (of Little Dorrit and Upstairs Downstairs fame) who leads the gallant band of fine young thespians (both acting and character-wise) – a resolute middle-class girl from Buckinghamshire, eager to experience the freedom the Big Smoke has to offer, whom embraces the sixties as if it were up for auction to another century and revels in the liberty it affords her. There’s a particularly memorable scene in one of the early episodes in which Charlie (as she quickly becomes  known to the gang) has a stand-off with her father on the steps outside the flat after he interrupts her New Years Eve party. He showers her with insults ranging from jibes about the shortness of her dress to his disgust at her new-found smoking habit.

A deep-rooted theme of the six-part drama is women’s rights – a cause which Charlotte and fellow feminist and flatmate Lilly (Myanna Buring) campaign for in their own thrilling way by covering adverts (and sometimes people) with stickers proclaiming “this man degrades women” before being chased away by the police. Lilly, an art student, is forced to endure a battle with her none-too-impressed parents who look unfavourably on her chosen career path and would instead prefer her to return to Yorkshire to work in her auntie’s shop. She also faces personal crises with catastrophic consequences both for her and the remaining six, although these disasters are somewhat softened by the presence of Alan (Lee Ingleby), who adores her from the very first time the seven sit down for dinner in the flat.

Of all the themes White Heat encapsulates in the total six hours of its existence, it is those of feminism and rights which grabbed me most and made me sit up and listen. It is strange to see women such as Lilly and Charlotte fighting for their reproductive liberty and egalitarianism when, for many countries in the western world today, abortion is available practically on demand. It is unfathomable, at least to me, why some people (and this includes men as well) don’t use their vote after the dedication of so many lives to the cause resulted in forced feeding, imprisonment and even death. Although this thread is a little off topic, if White Heat had been set at the turn of the 20th century I can guarantee the chief aim for the female characters would have been Votes For Women.

If you’re interested in reading an actual review I can heartily recommend this article from The Guardian which presents a perhaps more balanced perspective of White Heat. All six episodes are available on iPlayer until Thursday and if you want to read up on the characters before watching you can visit the BBC’s White Heat Homepage. One final push required to beat you into viewing submission? I can reveal that all seven students are played by not one but two actors. Episode one actually begins in 2012 when the gang regroup after the death of one of them requires the flat to be cleared and sold, with the older Charlotte being played by stalwart of British acting Juliet Stevenson and Lilly by the equally formidable Lindsay Duncan. They’re performances alone make White Heat worthy of a viewing, however sceptical that viewer may be. Let me know what you think.

1970s: L-R: Jack, Alan, Charlotte, Victor, Lilly, Orla, Jay

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

The Hand Of Kinship

Have you ever reached the end of a novel or a film or a play and wanted it to continue, not because you didn’t want the fiction to end and reality recommence, but because you felt that should a character cease evolving, you should dissolve into nothingness along  with them? At its lightest, this feeling of being parted from your alter ego can extract a little sigh of momentary sadness from the one who is occupied with such a book, as it is usually from the printed word this feeling of longing slithers into the soul; silent reading is, as the title (pun heartily intended) suggests, a past-time to be undertaken in solitude.

Only a little brain racking is required by most of us to reminisce upon a character from which we couldn’t bear to be parted. Waving a close-to-tearful goodbye to Hermione (both on paper and on-screen) marked the end of the period of my childhood which will be forever spoken of as the ‘Harry Potter Years’. She was the girl everybody related to: you were either like her and rejoiced in her bookishness or unlike her but couldn’t help secretly admiring her all the same. She was smart, sarcastic, confident and oh so easy to emulate in costume form on World Book Day (which other girls in my year did but I opted for the more considered approach of Professor Minerva McGonagall – mask of Maggie Smith’s face, long black dress, green shawl, Scottish accent).

For me, this feeling of sorrow is difficult to extinguish in a hurry. It can be distracted from by events in reality, or even other works of the same medium, but it cannot be suppressed or banished. It lingers at the back of one’s mind – only to meander to the forefront in moments of quiet or calm. It is due, more than to our yearning to continue with them on their journey through a fantasy land and instead to the uneasy notion that they will embark on adventures and experiences that we will never be able to share with them.

As if, by some cruelly unfair twist of fate we are forced to make hasty farewells to the humans and animals and creatures great and small with whom we have shared so much of ourselves; our hopes, our dreams, our spirits. For me it was with The Twins of St Clare’s and The Famous Five, the Fossil sisters of “Ballet Shoes” fame and any number of Michael Morpurgo creations. These characters – or people, to many of us – will never age, will never change their personalities, their fears or their goals. They are cast in a bronze haze of memory and long may they remain that way.

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

The Emerald Isle – St Patrick’s Day

When I think of Ireland, the images conjured up in my head are a jumble of memories, maps, photos, Visit Ireland adverts and downright stereotypes. My perceptions of the Emerald Isle are, for the most part, extremely positive. There’s the lilting accent, the beautiful coastline, the luscious greenery, the myths and legends, the craic (humour) and the dancing. It only takes one attendance at a Céilidh or a single viewing of the interval display of the première of Riverdance at the 1994 Eurovision Song Contest held in Dublin to feel yourself being gravitated across the Irish Sea.

It has always struck me that Ireland is an island steeped in traditions and superstition. Be it kissing the blarney stone for luck or wearing a shamrock there is a sense of being guided by supernatural beings. The breathtaking landscapes, the majority of which lie unchanged and unpopulated, only add to the natural beauty and mystery of the place, whilst its villages, towns and cities have produced some of the most notable writers, actors and musicians known to all.

Kenneth Branagh, Michael Fassbender, Sir Michael Gambon, Brendan Gleeson, Liam Neeson, Enya, Sinead O’Connor, The Corrs, Westlife, Ronan Keating, Eoin Colfer, Roddy Doyle, Maeve Binchy, Seamus Heaney, James Joyce, C S Lewis, William Yeats, Bram Stoker and Oscar Wilde are just a few which “spring to mind”. Whilst doing background research for this post I also discovered that revered milliner Philip Treacy is also Irish which surely garners respect for the country.

Images of mythical creatures often associated with Ireland such as leprechauns can be found gracing the sashes of brownie packs across the world, whilst writers such as J K Rowling have brought them to life on the printed page. Her descriptions of the Irish supporters at the fictitious Quidditch World Cup in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire erecting tents bedecked with shamrocks and waving orange, white and green flags for all they were worth has stayed with me as it always seemed an accurate description of Irish, well, togetherness. It is sad that this is juxtaposed by events such as the recent bombings in Londonderry, especially as the city has been named Uk City of Culture for 2013. We can only hope that peaceful solutions can be found to existing conflicts and that the future of Ireland as a nation is a bright one.

Outfit snapshots:

  • Green nail polish = Barry M
  • Ring = Charity shop
  • Shirt = H&M
  • Cardigan = Charity shop
  • Belt = Dorothy Perkins
  • Necklace = Present
  • Beret = Present