Thursday, December 23, 2010

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Buy of the month

Hands up if, like me, you haven't updated your idea of Laura Ashley fashion these past 30 years. Even back then, when long granny print dresses could pass unremarked down any street, her Little-House-on-the-Prairie look was too much for me. I whole-heartedly embraced ethnic girl but drew the line at pastoral maiden, in spite of regular breadmaking and an impressive vegetable patch.
Nowadays this style looks positively sinister. Only the lowish neckline on this one counteracts the impression that its wearer belongs to some nasty fundamentalist sect that marries 14-year-olds off to old men to kill time while they wait for the end of the world.
Think Big Love's strait-laced Nicky (played by Chloe Sevigny), for instance. The sight of whom immediately calls to mind her evil prophet dad, played chillingly by Harry Dean Stanton. First-rate television, and I wonder if we'll get another series. But I digress.

Even Nicky would draw the line at Laura Ashley's home furnishings. These were cut from the same cloth as her fashions, with enough flowers and frills to make you fear for your sanity.
This afternoon, however, I stumbled on a second-hand shop I didn't know existed, right on Lambton Quay. Its prices were already good but it was also running a 20%-off sale.
For the grand sum of $111 I picked up two luscious, new-to-me tango items: a Keith Matheson black silk chiffon skirt, which not only has a frill at the hem but half-a-dozen diamantes too, and, yes, a Laura Ashley dress. The dress is utterly plain raspberry silk - bias-cut and sleeveless with a cowl neckline. As unfrilled and unbeflowered as you could want.
I've spread these two beauties on my bed and keep sneaking in to take another look at them.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Predictable, really

The bargain-priced, smudge-proof L'Oreal mascara I reported on so eagerly yesterday proved to be neither a bargain nor smudge-proof. I got home from the tango ball at 12.30 this morning looking like this, only not so cute and furry. The question is, how long had I been looking like that on the dancefloor?

Friday, December 17, 2010

Save! Save! Save!

In case there was any doubt, I hereby freely declare myself a puppet of multinational capitalist/consumer forces. On Wednesday out of the paper fell one of those ugly pamphlets advertising a fragrance and cosmetics sale. UP TO 80% OFF! and IMPORTERS CLEARANCE!, it screamed, too excited to worry about apostrophes. WHY PAY MORE? Why indeed? So off I went to town.
No point searching for metered parking the week before Christmas, so I drove into a parking building and took the lift down to the street.
The pavement outside the temporary premises (recently vacated, I was sad to discover, by one of the last city dress fabric shops) was clogged with customers and security men. Just inside the door, we were separated from our bags, and invited to take up a plastic bucket. I declined, not without a sniff of disdain. I had come here for one thing and one thing only. I had no intention of joining the lines of fervent women, and not a few men, edging past the trestle tables, inspecting every bottle, jar and tube, and slipping favoured items into their buckets. I would make a lightning strike and be out within minutes.
It took 30 seconds to locate where my perfume would be waiting for me. Another five for the helpful university student-assistant on the other side of the table to tell me it had long since sold out.
Motivated by what I see now was a vague but misplaced refusal to be beaten, I made a quick tour of the other tables, picking up a L'Oreal lipstick (excellent value at $9) and smudge-proof mascara (ditto at $7).
After queuing for the checkout and reclaiming my bag, I went across the road to Kimberley's. After a quick flick of the racks I was sensibly on my way out when I noticed a useful, summery swing t-shirt reduced from $69 to $48. Done.
Next, I nipped down to Kirks to pick up sheer black footless tights - $18.99 and not on sale - to wear to the Christmas tango ball tonight. I was back at my car within the hour, so only had to hand over $4.
The upshot of this failed mission to buy perfume for $40 less than usual? A total spend of $87. 

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Gone gardening

Remember Margot (Penelope Keith) in The Good Life? She who used to "garden" in a wide-brimmed hat and gloves, carrying a trug? I never look like that. At least I don't think I do. I've never actually checked because I don't give a damn what I look like when I'm gardening. The priorities are ease of movement, freedom from concern with tearing and muddying, and protection - from the elements and from the garden itself.
The current ensemble de jour is an unpleasant blue t-shirt that lost its shape after the first wash, a pair of trackpants that long ago gave up the fight to stay black and which are tucked into flowery No1 Shoe Warehouse gumboots, and black canvas and rubber gloves. If the sun is shining, add a thick layer of sunscreen on all exposed parts, and a kahki brimmed hat that looks as if it should be protecting the balding head of an angler. Dressed like this I can accomplish almost anything.
I often have to. "Garden" is a euphemism for a patch of hillside bush, to which  my basic approach is slash, pull and chop. This has to be done at least twice a year at the macro level unless I want the greenery to engulf the house. Amidst this, I tend two or three little spots of dug earth that I fondly think of as beds, and where every summer I even plonk a few annuals. My annuals of choice are usually Crystal Palace lobelia, if I can get it, and dwarf cosmos, as much for their ferny foliage as for their shining white faces.

I often drift outside to inspect these little outposts of civilisation during the course of the day. Within seconds, I'm getting earth under my nails and collecting dirt and biddybids on whatever non-gardening clothes I'm wearing. My favourite activity during a long telephone call is digging the moss, dandylion and baby dock from between the bricks that form the terrace at the front of house. Conversing while bent double has an odd effect on the voice, but most people are too polite to ask what the hell it is I'm doing.
I always wear long pants outside, to avoid the mosquitos and numerous scratchy things that lurk in the undergrowth. In winter, my arms will also be well-covered but in summer it's just too hot. Consequently I went to tango on Sunday night looking as if I'd barely survived a dog attack.
The freedom I feel when I launch a planned assualt and dress for it is exhilerating, empowering. It's true, what feminists have always said - we dress boys and men for action, girls and women for being looked at. There's lot more to be said on this topic. But not by me, not now - I'm off to work in the garden.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

OK all you Scrooges ...

I was chased out of New World yesterday by a choir of chipmunks chorusing: "Just hear those sleigh bells jingle-ing/Ring ting tingle-ing too/Come on, it's lovely weather/For a sleigh ride together with you."

This, though, transcends mere seasonal sentiment so give yourself a treat and watch.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Avoiding The Fringes

If you know where The Fringes are and who lives there, you're probably a John Wyndham fan. I became one in early adolescence, when my father handed me a battered Penguin copy of The Chrysalids from his own bookshelf. I swallowed it whole, and read it several times more in the next few years, along with The Day of the Triffids, The Midwich Cuckoos and The Kraken Wakes.
It's a marvellous book, guarranteed to appeal to adolescents going through that "why am I so different to everyone else?/I must be adopted" stage.
You can find a detailed plot summary here. All you need to know for present purposes is that The Chrysalids is set in post-apocalyptic Labrador. Here, a small group of survivors adhere to a harsh fundamentalist doctrine that sees transgressors exiled to - yes - The Fringes. And it all it takes to be cast out is to be revealed as deviant from a tightly defined genetic normality.
Ten-year-old David is the son of a pious and powerful patriarch. He therefore keeps quiet about his strange recurring dreams of a beautiful lighted city and horseless carriages. However, he and a few other young people discover they are carrying their own blasphemous deviation - the ability to read each other's minds. Soon, they are forced to flee to The Fringes themselves.
Eventually the group is rescued - by a woman who contacts them telepathically from a far-off place called Sealand. When they reach it, David recognises the place of his dreams.
My father told me this place was New Zealand. As we were still living in England and I knew nothing of parental plans to emigrate, this was of little interest to me.
What made it of complusive interest was that I was a deviant myself. The medical diagnosis is that my right ear lacks the usual cartilege folds, which means it's shapeless and prominent, like the one on the left.

And what got me thinking ears was my recent blog on resumed ponytail wearing. I said that:
one of things I hated back then, apart from lack of ponytail perkiness, which was closely correlated with popularity, was that girls sat behind me in class playing with it and boys whizzed by in the corridors and playground and pulled it
I quite forgot the thing that I hated more, the thing that lay behind my dislike of any attention paid to my hair: how heartlessly a ponytail revealed my deformity.
I wasn't teased or bullied about my ear, but, from the day I changed from plaits, which hid the ear, to my ponytail, I was subject to helpful observations along the lines of "Your ear sticks out", and innocent inquiries, like "Why does your ear stick out?"
My mother had asked herself the same thing. Apparently I spent the first few weeks of life with the offending ear sticking-plastered to my head. Until some medico pointed out that this was never going to fix it, that it would take an operation to do so. Someone - perhaps the same health provider - told my mother there was no point doing this before I was 14, since it might just revert. But when I got to 14 and 15 and 16, my ear was the last thing anyone was thinking about. Instead, we emigrated en famille to New Zealand.
Only on bad days does it seem like The Fringes; mostly, it lives up to the promise of Sealand.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

A tango milestone

No, I haven't just executed the perfect ... er, one of these.

Nor am I ever likely too - I'd have to marry him.

What happened was that in a drive to reduce wardrobe crush and streamline the deciding-what-to-wear-tonight process, I separated all my tango options from my real-life gear and hung them in a wardrobe in another room. No more ferreting through hangers of ageing cardies, abandoned jeans and office-y dresses. Now I have glam at a glance.

Am I dismayed by this display of self-indulgence? A bit. Don't I think that with all the misery in the world my money could be better spent? Yup. 

I confessed my sin to S and was immediately reassured. "You're so lucky to have another room with cupboard, I wish I did. Now that would be a real milestone - moving to another house because of tango."

Those not infected with the bug will find this reprehensible, if not just plain silly. It might be both, but it's also normal. So normal that tango shoe collection is the subject of one of series of deliciously sharp cartoons from Tangocynic.


Friday, December 3, 2010

Ankle fur

Down with the marketing of absurd items that give fashion a bad name. Like these so-called legwarmers.

Thanks to the The Fashion Police for running these offenders down. And they're from such a good home too - Marks and Spencer, no less. But then these were the very people who, only a few months ago, thrust bulge-enhancing male underpants into polite company. If my mother had a grave, she would be turning in it.