Friday, December 30, 2011

Avoiding putting a foot wrong

It's exactly a month since I broke my left fifth metatarsal - that startlingly long bone connecting your ankle to your smallest toe. Any number of friends and acquaintances have nodded wisely and declared there's no need to ask how I broke it, all assuming I plunged from my high heels while tangoing.
I've taken grim delight in informing them that, au contraire, I was wearing gumboots at the time.

After a day's gardening and with rain forecast, I was filling the wheelbarrow with a last load for the compost heap when I stepped backwards into a void and came down hard on my buckled foot.
If nothing else - and it would be difficult to identify any other benefits - this last month has been a miniature lesson in empathy for those suffering any kind of restricted mobility.
As described before, I was incapable of using crutches or a stick with any degree of reliability, let alone panache. In fact, the latter was a further health and safety hazard, having slipped on the path between house and road. And I simply don't have enough strength in my arms to support my body weight for more than a few steps at time. After I dispensed with these, I walked flat-footed, to avoid flexing the damn foot. It made for slow, awkward progress.
My confidence was shaken, too, especially after the orthopaedic chap said to beware of uneven ground and walking around at night. And I was nervous of steps and slippery surfaces. An intimation of old age, this - the way your  world can steadily shrink around you.
The ortho also told me that if I was involved in a vehicle collision while driving within three weeks of the breakage, my insurance company would probably refuse to pay out.
All that I could have put up with with good grace - after all, friends kindly rallied round and drove me out every day for a latte and my mail. But what's really hurt is that the breakage has stopped me dancing and miserably restricted my footwear.
Heels have been out of the question. If I put a foot wrong, I risk displacing the bone, which would mean surgery and plaster. Anyway, they hurt - something to do with the pressure down through my foot. Even sandals have been no-go, because I feared slipping sideways.
Bad weather, of which there has been quite lot, is no problem because I can wear boots. But through those gorgeous hot days of Christmas, barbecuing and beaching, I was clomping about in sneakers. In a small way I was reminded of my childhood and the ever-present one-kid-per-class who spent his or her primary school years in a corrective boot, usually because of polio.

A childhood polio
victim, 1960

You just can't dance or feel good - off your own property - in gumboots or sneakers. So I'm signing off for 2012 with this beautiful specimen - one of the last images from my 2011 shoe calendar (go here to order your own for the coming year). Thank you to everyone who read the blog and/or commented. And please stick around!

Signs of life (2)

Hunters and Collectors,
Cuba Street, Wellington

Signs of life (1)

Global Fabrics, Garrett Street, Wellington

For the man who has everything ...

... except the real blond on the back of the bike, the build-her-yourself version:

Kent Terrace, Wellington

Friday, December 9, 2011

A seriously outdated accessory

Art Deco-ed as it was from top to bottom, our apartment in Buenos Aires featured, along with some classy prints, framed magazine images of the time. This one depicts a fashionable young couple cementing their bond by sharing a cancer-inducing moment. That toothy grip on their cigarettes looks absurd now, but it reminded me that from time to time I saw both my parents hanging onto their fags in this way. 
No surprise, I suppose, that tobacco was sold as an intimacy enhancer. We can assume that, just seconds before, the gentlement struck a match then romantically held the lady's hand steady as she inhaled to get her cigarette going.
He was one kind of male smoker. Marlboro Man was another - a bloke with no use at all for female companionship or intimacy because he was never alone with his horse and a smoke.

BA is still rife with tobacco addicts. Now banned from offices, restaurants and milongas, they cluster around doorways, puff energetically as they dodge pedestrians and traffic, and monopolise the outdoor seating at cafes.  Here are two of them.

Man and cigar outside
a Plaza San Martin cafe

Young woman smoking outside
a Calle Cordoba cafe

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Accessory or not?

That pink-shod foot illustrating my last post is broken. Well, a bit of it is. After six weeks negotiating dodgy Buenos Aires dance floors and treacherous pavements, I came home and slipped off the edge of my very small front step.
The nice doctor asked if I heard anything snap. I didn't. Although I did curse, then burst into tears and feel foolish. But when she showed me the x-ray, she said her eyes would have watered too. I've never broken anything before - this is a first.
My immedate reaction - after applying frozen peas and a crepe bandage - was to employ my father's walking stick, which leans against the hall table. A sturdy, plain, crook-handled length of polished knotty wood, it often accompanied us on family walks.

My father had only one operational eye (which is why he couldn't get into the airforce and had to make do with the army), but his legs worked perfectly. So his walking stick was less a strictly necessary tool than a symbol - a signal to himself and others that he was relishing his leisure in the fresh air. As well as flourishing it with Sundayish enthuisasm, he would poke it inquiringly into piles of leaves and mossy banks, and plumb shallow ponds and rabbit holes with it. 
My mother kept the stick when he died in 1979, possibly for sentimental reasons, possibly because she thought she might one day need it herself. When she died 10 years ago, I got in touch with the new owner of her house who promised to keep it until I turned up to collect it in Dorset, England.
I'd always fancied myself as an old lady with a stick. I wasn't sure when old ladyism would set in, but I knew I would have to be much more imperious and much less eager to please than I am now. I would wave the stick furiously at speeding drivers, and poke inattentive young people with it. So more of a weapon than a means of transport. Something to counter social invisiblity, to make me someone to reckon with once I was past the age when people usually bother to reckon with you.
It may yet come to that. In the meantime, I've had to abandon Dad's stick. He was six foot two, and I'm only five seven. This means his stick is too long to offer real support for a fragile foot. At the clinic on Sunday they hired me crutches like the ones above, and a nice nurse gave me a lesson on using them. She whizzed across the floor at the rate of knots.
Not me though. Since then, several people have kindly pointed out that I'm using them back to front, that I should keep my arms straight, that I shouldn't slouch ... . And getting myself and the crutches in and out of friends' cars (because I can't drive), I've nearly broken the other foot and simultaneously knocked the friends unconscious.
I still hold out hope for the stick, though. I'll get it shortened. Although not quite yet.
In the meantime, here are some images of women with sticks, as either walking aids or accessories - you decide.


Only this last (whom you've seen here before), melds the two perfectly together, making a virtue of necessity.  And I can't imagine her ever needing to shake her stick or poke anyone with it. Her body language would do the job perfectly.

Thursday, November 24, 2011


The Writer has always said she would never be seen dead in a loafer (too preppy/suburban housewifey, and in danger of veering towards the dreaded boat shoe). Ergo, the shoes she had just bought couldn't possibly be loafers.

The Lawyer (rather cruelly) mentioned the term moccasin.

The Writer reared up in dismay. The thought of donning, let along paying for, a moccasin had never crossed her mind.

The Lawyer followed up (as they so often do) with a stated intention of consulting precedents, which is to say Google and a site helpfully dubbed differencebetween  This will also tell you the difference between deacons and elders, boys and girls, shredded and grated. The loafer/moccasin page is presided over by this unidentitfied chap (who bears a startling but surely accidental resemblance to writer Chris Else).

Whoever he is, he adds an air of authority and distinction to the following explanation (and I quote in full for the sake of what lawyers like to call "completeness"):
Moccasins and loafers are different types of shoes. A moccasin is a shoe that is made from deerskin or any soft leather. It consists of a sole and sides made of a single leather piece which is stitched together at the top. On the other hand, loafers are flat shoes which have no laces. A loafer is made from several leather pieces.

One of the main differences is that moccasins have laces and loafers have no laces. Loafers can be also called open shoes or slip-ons.

Loafers first appeared in Norway in the mid-1930s. Loafers began as casual shoes and gained popularity in later years. Moccasins were footwear that were widely used by Native Americans especially hunters and traders.

Unlike loafers, moccasins have a soft and flexible sole, and the upper part is lined with embroidery.

The word “moccasin” has been derived from the Algonquian language Powhatan word “makasin” and from the Proto-Algonquian word “maxkeseni” meaning “shoe.”

In the 1930s, the Norwegians who produced the moccasin-style of shoes exported it to the rest of Europe, which was then taken up by the Americans and was championed by the “Esquire” magazine. Some of the photographs had featured Norwegian farmers in a cattle loafing area. It was the Spaulding family of New Hampshire who began making shoes basically based on the moccasin design. They gave these designs the name of loafers.

Loafers are used as casual or informal wear in America and certain European countries. Moccasins are worn in very formal situations. Black and brown laced/non-laced shoes are in vogue. Though loafers were designed as men’s shoes, there are several designs that fit women.

1.A moccasin is a shoe that is made from deerskin or any soft leather. It consists of a sole and sides made of a single leather piece which is stitched together at the top.

2.Loafers are flat shoes which have no laces. A loafer is made from several leather pieces.

3.Moccasins have laces and loafers have no laces. Loafers can also be called open shoes or slip-ons.

4.Moccasins were footwear that was widely used by Native Americans especially hunters and traders. Loafers first appeared in Norway in the mid-1930s. Loafers began as casual shoes and gained popularity in later years.

5.Unlike loafers, moccasins have a soft and flexible sole, and the upper part is lined with embroidery.

6.Loafers are used as casual or informal wear in America and certain European countries. Moccasins are worn in very formal situations.
Don't you love that six-point summary!

So here's the footwear in question. Your starter for 10: what kind of creature is it?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

More milonga wear. Possibly.

Shop window

But it's leather, folks, so maybe ... I don't know ... cave-woman wear?
A couple of weeks ago we talked with an intrepid middle-aged couple at the next restaurant table. He was consuming a plateful of tripe, but we'll pass quickly over that. They'd intended spending just one night in BA on their way to Patagonia with friends, but she'd had her bag snatched at the airport and they were hanging around town waiting for a temporary passport.
Anyway, in the course of the conversation, he said BA had the best clothes shops he'd ever seen. They were both kitted out courtesy of Katmandu's urban survival section, and were from Hamilton, but even so.
Certainly the leather and the menswear store windows are nicely turned out, but we've been astonished by the women's-wear windows and what lies behind them. Gypsy-princess costume has overrun the city: the stores are full of crocheted, fringed and tie-dyed items that have forgotten how to be retro and look as if they've spent the last 40 years languishing in Grandma's attic. Your average window display resembles a pile up of leftovers from the church fete. Difficult to imagine anything sadder than une femme d'un certain age draped in most of this stuff.
Oh wait, yes - I have seen something sadder. I had my camera with me at the time but not the heart to take a picture.
She was a shrunken deprived-looking woman, aged somewhere between 50 and 70, wandering the intersection of Florida and Cordoba and its milling shoppers. She was dressed in a red parka-nylon cape and skirt, her poor old matchstick legs poking out below. And she carried a hand-written placard advertising "Sex Shop".
It was a sight from which one could only flinch and avert one's eyes.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Cross fox. And extremely annoyed rabbit

Silver fox jerkin, and the furrier's
daughter, Moira

In a triumph of imaginative flair, S purchased a fur jacket in 30 degree heat and 70 percent humidity. Although, to be fair, the furrier's just off Plaza Martin in Calle Santa Fe was an air-conditioned haven. Like many such transactions here, this one was a pleasure. Senor Furrier spoke only a little broken English but his small daughter acted as translator.
S chose the garment she wanted on our first visit and left it to be altered. I'd never in my life spent time in a fur shop. We both stroked the silvery item in the picture, but (entirely hypocritically, because leather shoes and bags, and lamb jackets pass well beneath my moral radar) I couldn't repel a twinge that it must have felt pretty good to the original wearer, too.
Online later, I learned that silver fox is "widely ranched". Which means, presumably, that some of what ends up on stylish backs is hunted down in the wild. To my delight, I also came across the "cross fox".
S's sleeveless jacket - a vest, Americans would call it - is cleverly dyed rabbit. Senor Furrier was at some pains to make clear, this wasn't your common or garden Argentinian native, but Spanish rabbit. Quite why this made it more valuable we couldn't tell.

The furrier, and S in her Spanish rabbit jerkin

I do wonder why, when large areas of New Zealand countryside are plagued by rabbits, our designers don't seize on their skins. Even possum fur isn't used to the extent it could be. A fashion niche here, surely?

More (luridly) dyed rabbit

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

More advanced style

I've lifted pictures of this beautiful woman from Ari Seth Cohen's Advanced Style before. She looks even more fabulous in his latest post. Here are her life and style tips. By the way, she's 100.

1."I never go to bed with my makeup on. that is number one.At night you must let your skin breathe."
2."I use a lipstick brush to paint on my lipstick--It stays on longer that way. I can also use a lipstick longer than anyone else because I can dig into it."
3."Every night before I got to bed I use Elizabeth Arden's 8 hour beauty cream on my lips. You must keep your lips moisturized."
4."When it comes to fashion you must be aware of your skin tone. You don't wear orange lipstick with a red dress."
5."I make myself go out everyday, even if its only to walk around the block. The Key to staying young is to keep moving. You are never too old to exercise."
6."Invest in Quality pieces, they never go out of style."
7."Don't look at the calendar, just keep celebrating everyday."
8."I dress up everyday and I don't wear blue jeans. I dress up even to mail a letter, you never know who you will meet along the way."
9.I have been active my whole life. An old Elizabeth Arden Ad said,"If you want to look like this when you are 40 start when you are 20."
10.I wake up every morning and say, "This is the day the lord has made."

The long and short of it

Plain Jane is tallish, S even taller. Our upper bodies being deceptively slight, we shock many of the portenos who invite us to dance. As we unfurl from our chairs, their eyes widen - either in mock alarm or the real thing - and their mouths drop open.
The most dramatic reaction I had was at Flor de Milonga last week, when I stood up in my new Raquel shoes - possible the highest I've ever worn. The man reeled back and held up his hands with a loud, "Mama mia!"
S had one man pretend to reach for a chair to stand on. And yesterday at Nueve Chique someone mimed growing taller on the edge of the dancefloor, while I obligingly bent my knees as we walked towards one another.
The laughter that results from these situations is often a good start to a tanda. Although not in the case of the man at Flor de Milonga, who proceeded to race me around the floor like a man with something to prove.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Dial-up sex

Bums are big in Buenos Aires. This is how most sex workers sell their services.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The leather jacket and the singing shop assistant

The new leather jacket ...

A week ago I decided OK, no new leather jacket! I'd been looking to replace one I bought in Florence in 2001, which I've worn to death and is due for retirement. On its first outing back home 10 years ago, a lovely acquaintance greeted me from behind a table bearing those sticky name labels you wear at functions, and enthusiastically slapped one on the left side of my new jacket. When I peeled it off a couple of hours later, the surface of that deliciously soft leather came with it, leaving behind a label-shaped scar that - no matter what I tried - never faded.
So, I thought before I left home last month, time for a new jacket. But everything I'd seen was either not soft enough, or too expensive, or - this is BA, after all - over-designed.
I found one I liked in a store on Florida. This is THE shopping street, and therefore the last place you're meant to buy anything worth more than a few dollars. But it's also where the stylish stuff is, so what can you do?
The jacket I tried on was simply and elegantly designed in reasonably soft black leather but, although the arms were long enough (Plain Jane's knuckles narrowly avoid skimming the floor), the small was too small and the next size up too roomy across the back. I was swamped with assistance, spear-headed by a heavily made-up middle-aged woman with a constant flow of complimentary chat in broken English. I was given a price, then another for the necessary alterations. But the idea of going back to pick up an expensive jacket that had been altered to fit me and still didn't evokes the classic shopper's "thank you, I'll think about it" response.
It was like flicking a switch. The light went out of the woman's eyes; she fell back; barely acknowkedged my goodbye. No sale, no interest.
But the day before yesterday, browsing in a store along the street while Suzanne was scanning handbags, I found virtually the same jacket, but in softer leather. It was still the best we'd seen. When I tried it on, it fitted perfectly and instantly felt like mine. 
This time the assistant was humourous, outgoing, fluent in English. And she didn't prevaricate for ages before giving me the inevitable "discount". She brought over a similarly styled jacket in cheaper, more crackly leather, then gave a couple of loud baaas and mooos to explain their origins. As we were waiting for the cashier to log my deposit, she admired Suzanne's dress then followed up the compliment by singing to her. Two things were suprising about this - well, three, if you count the fact that New Zealand shop assistants rarely sing to you - she had a real voice, and no one else in the shop turned a hair. I turned to see how her male colleague was taking it, and he wasn't taking it at all, just getting on with his work.
She told us she was a professional singer and wrote down where was singing that night. We didn't go because we were tired and lazy, and, to be frank, imagined something amateurish. When I went back yesterday to pick up my jacket she gave us her website address and I've only just now clicked on it - to hear this. Her name is Chela, and boy, can she sing. I hope we see her perform before we leave here.

and the woman who
sold it to me - Chela Lopez

And if I'm wearing my new jacket, don't even think of getting near me with a sticky label!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Milonga wear

Tango dress shop window

A sign on the hall wall at the Nueve Chique milonga stipulates "Casual elegant". God knows what you would have to wear to be deemed unfit to enter.
Older men are the best turned out. Dark suits, and crisp shirts and ties are common. Their hair is beautifully groomed, and they all smell delicious. The younger ones dress more casually. There's the old gentleman at El Aranque in yellow satin trousers and gold shoes, but male flamboyance is a rarity. Menswear tends to leave less freedom for error than women's wear. By contrast, you can spot all kinds of sartorial misjudgments on the part of the women. Most of it is to do with not knowing when to stop. "Less is more" seems not to be a Porteno motto. The women's milonga dress code has more to do with being seen to have made an effort than with the actual effect of that effort, and its latitude is vast. In one room you can spot satin, sequins, lace and denim; micro skirts and long handkerchief hems; harem pants and jeans; bustiers and teeshirts; fishnets, ankle socks and bare brown legs. By and large, the locals dress up. It's the tourists who tend to take to the floor in trainers and those wretched zip-them-off-at-the-knees-and-call-them-shorts trousers. A bunch of Brits who keep turning up at the same milongas as us dress in the fashion equivalent of unappetising wholemeal bread.
No question my mother (a Brit to the core) would have turned up her nose at all tango wear, deeming it, regardless of its cost, "cheap tat". We're rather more accepting of the vamp code, but even so we've seen some gobsmacking sights. The most excruciating so far has been a nice-looking older woman who had mistaken opaque tights for leggings. When she danced, her top didn't cover her bottom, thus revealing through the stretched nylon a g-string and two pale buttocks.  You could only look away, and hope that sooner or later a friend would clue her in.  

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Los banios at the Fall in Love Cafe, Plaza San Martin

Men's toilet sign

Women's toilet sign

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Private lessons

Our first private lesson with Maria Plazaola on Wednesday. Running late (as we often seem to be here), we took the longest taxi ride ever out into the suburbs, where the houses had gardens and there were lots of children and dogs on the street.
Maria is a divine dancer, whether leading or following. She danced with Carlos Gavito for several years; they were stars who travelled the world. Hard to imagine what she went through when he died. You can find any number of clips of them dancing show tango, but here, although rather inexpertly filmed, they are dancing classic milonga-style.
And she couldn't understand why we were both so nervous during our first dance with her!

Friday, October 28, 2011


Killing time in Santiago airport and listlessly cruising the shops, we paused to inspect a bag. "Leather?" we inquired, having searched in vain for a label saying so.
The brown-eyed young man searched himself, then, when he couldn't find what he was looking for, said, "Yes, is leather. "
I doubted it. Leather makes itself known. I smelled it, and shook my head. "I don't think so."
"Yes, is leather." Then, faced with our sceptical expressions, added, "Is fabricated leather".
At that point (blame the jetlag) I felt like snapping, "Did a cow die for this bag or didn't it? If it didn't, this isn't leather!"
To talk of "fabricated leather" is akin to believing that the scalpel can restore lost youth. That fabrication is as aesthetically pleasing as the real thing.
The other day we were chewing delicious steak on the mezzanine of a restaurant, facing the inevitable screen, when the camera zoomed deep into a perfect peachy decolletage. It was an commercial for cosmetic surgery.
There's an awful lot of it going on here - the fabrication of youth. And that's an estimate based only on the bad stuff that makes itself obvious on the street and at the milongas. Dismal attempts at stretching, filling, shrinking, smoothing and lifting that leave each woman with the same dreadful parody of a face.

"Beauty is a natural value that is admired, enjoyed... and like life, it comes to an end. As a result, we work to preserve it, retrieve it... and even if Beauty is present, we wish to enhance it; this is precisely the path of excellence in plastic surgery: it means the devotion to improve on what we can achieve" - from a BA costmetic surgeon's website.

A 1997 piece, wittily entitled "Don't Starve for Me, Argentina", claimed the country had an even higher rate of anorexia and bulimia than the US. Starvation and plastic surgery were rampant, it said. Nearly 15 years on, that situation surely has't improved.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Plaza Dorego etc redux

Sunday evening we went to San Telmo to dance at Plaza Dorego as we did last time we were in BA. But it was entirely different. Back then, the "dance floor" was a series of far-from-seamless rubber mats covering a good area of the plaza, unpredictably wavy but good enough. This time it was reduced to about three, which barely approximated the size of a decent table top. In May the crowd was friendly and enthusiastic, half photo-snapping and applauding tourists, the other half prospective dancers. This time tourists outnumbered dancers, and there were precious few of either.
You can't cabaceyo here - the lighting, such as it is, is too dim - so you make instant decisions and take your chances. Consequently, I had several nice tandas with a young man who sang in my ear, and an appalling one with a manhandling bully. In the end, even the younger man turned into a liability, becoming all too pressing about going on somewhere else.
All in all, a weird atmosphere. A said later that it might have been the result of election day, so we'll give it another try some time. I do love dancing outdoors, it's so picnic-y.

Yesterday was Ideal, for which I have a real soft spot. It was afternoon, so we expected just a sprinkling of tourists and a few lounge lizards, yet it was non-stop action and some really nice dances. One, admittedly, from an archtypal lizard ("Muy linda; elegante"), but a very musical one. 

We ate, then went on to Club Gricel, another milonga I enjoyed last time. But the move gave rise to a new rule: if things are going well at one milonga, don't leave it go to another - it's highly unlikely it will be as good, let alone better.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Due to public demand ...

Well, all right - an email from N ("Shoes! Lets hear some news on the dancing, moments, life and love!"), this blog will stray temporarily (but enthusiastically) from its style brief.
Last Tuesday evening, El Aranque - our first milonga, and still our best so far. The usual early crowd of older people, and a relaxed, good-natured atmosphere. The women variously turned out in everything from office pants to glitter, but the men, as usual, sleek in their suits and ties, and smelling delicious. If only older New Zealand men understood that they could be well-groomed without sacrificing their manhood.
Some nice dances, and even one of N's "moments" with someone whose name and face I will never remember when we go back tomorrow. Charlie, or Oscar or Hugo. It was a vals, I do remember that, and if I'm ever to have a moment, it will be during a vals. We were distinctly nervous beforehand, but left after a couple of hours well-satisfied.
Wednesday night, late - El Beso. We came here on a Tuesday on our first visit here at Easter and were entirely underwhelmed. Sadly, this time was no better. We were given a good front row table because we were early, but alas caught the eye of no-one. The better male dancers survey the floor from either end and (so we felt) from down their noses. There were quite a few couples who never broke rank, and an excess of women. We danced one tanda each with a short, slightly mad Italian, who stood in front of us with an extended hand rather than cabaceyo-ing, then proceeded to fling us about the floor in open embrace. We could only imagine how much good this did our credibility with the alpha males. The attmosphere was "show and judge". Exit left, grumpy.
Thursday night we skipped, can't remember why. Still jet-lagged, I think.
Friday night - Canning, to be greeted by Alejandro and his friend Horacio. A asked if we'd like to sit at a separate table, but we declined - I think we both liked the idea of conversation between tandas. A poor decision, as it turned out, since tandas were rare, H spoke no English and we no Spanish beyond "cafe leche, por favor". The men were kind and frequently left us alone us at the table to find dances. Sometimes it worked, but we think we were pretty much marked down as "being with" the men. The crowd was much more varied in age than at the afternoon milongas, and there were large groups of friends and much meeting and greeting. By 1am, the dance floor was too tight to move. We might try Canning again at an earlier time.
Saturday we subte-ed all the way out to La Glorieta in Belgrano. It was a cold evening, with a nasty wind blowing through the band rotunda. Mid-dance with Robert from Montreal (a nice dancer), the wind caught my ponytail and slapped it in his face! Lots of action here, some good, some not so. But the atmosphere is fun, and we'll definitely go back. Locals and tourists, young and old. A showy young Romeo with a ponytail whizzed Suzanne around with giant strides. A small, perfectly formed woman in red heels, black tights and short denim shorts swivelled in front me and revealed a much-worked on 60-year-old face.
Robert, with characteristic North American frankness, said I leaned rather hard for his liking - he wanted to open up so we could "do more", adding that "Nevertheless, you are very pleasant"!
We wrapped up a cold evening with hot chocolate at a nearby cafe, but my submarino - two small blocks of chocolate melted into hot milk - kept me awake most of the night.

Talk about stylish

Horror stories abound - Buenos Aires vistors ushered into apartments looking nothing like the vacation rental they studied online: delapidation, dirt, noise, unforeseen "fees", cockroaches and mice. And that's just getting in. Getting out can mean your agent being "unable" to make it in time before you fly out to return your massive deposit, or fobbing you off with knock-off notes.
Since it's more than a month til we leave, I can't yet say we're free and clear, but the prospects look good.
ByT Argentina have been efficient, communicative and reliable. Darryl and Isi, the agents who let us in, were charming and helpful. And the apartment itself is a winner.
It's been art-deco-ed front to back, down to the framed prints, the tea trolley coffee table, the lamps and the handsome walnut furniture. The lift is a antique delight, and the door onto the street so elaborately wrought, it's practically a two-woman job to push it open.
But the place isn't just a show piece. There are comfortable chairs and a couch to slouch on. In short, we are muy confortable and stylish.

Friday, October 21, 2011


Talk about giving antipodean style a bad name. A row of these abominations was lined up in Auckland Airport's international lounge, in clear view of every departing tourist.
It's an unfair contrast, but look at my smashing new suede and patent tango shoes, purchased from Scarpe Mahara on Suipacha, just today. With any luck I'll christen them tonight at Salon Canning.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Packing. Again.

Suzanne's packing prepations

One of the advantages of flying to Buenos Aires is the generous luggage allowance - two 23kg cases each. Especially useful for those staying nearly six weeks, and expecting to dance most nights.
I've found myself paying most attention to the tango component of my luggage, which includes four pairs of high-heel shoes. And that's not especially useful, since, with the best will in the world, we shall spend more time not dancing than dancing. So hanging-about-the apartment-and-on-the-street clothes and shoes should predominate.
Picking and choosing these isn't helped by the wavering weather forecast - 26c today, 17c predicted for Tuesday, and colder at night.
I've said it before and I'll say it again - I always pack too much. When travelling, this has often entailed posting home a parcel of stuff with a great sigh of relief from Hong Kong, Montpellier or San Francisco. Since we're staying put this time, I doubt I'll need to do that. But I'm sure, sooner or later, to be annoyed at how much stuff I carted across the world and then didn't wear. I've read of women who travel with only one carry-on bag containing a pair of black pants and two white tee-shirts. Do these paragons of reason really exist? 

And mine

Monday, October 10, 2011

Last tango before Buenos Aires

And to complete this trio of images (which, whatever their intrinsic value might be, are also a substitute for "proper" written blogging due to lack of time), here's one of (ahem) me.
Posting me pictures is something I usually avoid. The exceptions so far have been either a) because I'm in fancy dress and with friends, or b) visible only from the neck down. Here's exception c) - the back view.
I always cringe when blog authors - and fashion bloggers are especially prone to this - liberally post fetching pics of themselves in outfits de jour (no, I'm not naming them, I don't want to start a war). It's so narcissistic.
But you're getting this one because it was taken by Des on Sunday then skilfully photoshopped and the caption added. Because it's tango. Because it's so untrue-to-Plain-Jane-real-life ethereal. And because, although highly unsuitable for dancing, it's the dress Suzanne made me.

Second-hand rose

Student, Kelburn, Wellington

Pacaso said ...

Victoria Street, Wellington
But not, unfortunately, the fact that we can't spell our hero's name.

Monday, October 3, 2011

More advanced style

Here, courtesy of  Ari Seth Cohen's wonderful site, is a beautiful woman on the eve of her 100th birthday, and, so she told him, about to go off on a Bermudan cruise with her boyfriend. Allelujah!