Sunday, 22 November 2009

In Praise of Paloma Faith

"Roses are blue, violets are red,
Say it isn't true, don't tell me romance is dead.
Wake up sleepyhead, think of all the magic we could make;
All your dreams are just a kiss away"

Inspired by her rather whimsical performance on the habitually rather more boisterous Never Mind the Buzzcocks, I have been enjoying the Paloma Faith album 'Do You Want the Truth or Something Beautiful?' Her sound is lush, all sweeping strings and forlorn brass and dramatic drums, and richly overproduced to create something really quite old- fashioned and unusual. I can't decide if it's more big band or sixties influenced.

Her voice is husky, a little Amy Winehouse or Duffy-like, but vaguely off-key in the most deliciously mournful and quirky way. I've never seen her videos but if the album artwork (yes, I bought a CD: how very retro!) is anything to go by, I imagine them to be full hyperreal colour, kaleidoscopic jewelled detail and rows of dancing showgirls with plumed headdresses doing Busby Berkley moves. She may well ride in on a unicorn. (Have now seen video - I wasn't far wrong...)

Favourite songs so far - and I've only listened to it twice - are:
- New York
- Do You Want the Truth or Something Beautiful?
- Stone Cold Sober
- Romance is Dead

There's only one bum note for me and that's the track called 'Stargazer' which veers too much towards Mariah Carey R'n'B-lite for my tastes: even then, when the chorus comes, the expected cadence is interestingly subverted which goes some way towards rescuing the song from Magic FM territory.

Most original, and all songs you can sing along to, which is very important on a 3 hour car journey.

Anglo-French Relations

Staying with good friends - the Anglo-French couple - in Bristol, I am pondering the acquisition of language and, more specifically, bi-lingualism.

Their daughter, all curls and extreme obsession with 'Charlie and Lola', is two. She swings from determined babble, which you can tell is communicating something specific from the tone of voice, to imitation and repetition, to almost fully formed sentences and questions.

She has also moved rapidly from combining French and English words - seemingly unable to differentate the languages - to a careful selection of the one most appropriate to the audience. French for daddy, and English for mummy, although both parents speak to her in both languages.

Fascinating. And very, very cute. I wish I knew more about the development of language: there is clearly some inherent ability to moderate language to audience even before the language capacity is fully developed.

On the same subject, I loved the story of the US linguist who spoke only Klingon to his child as an experiment: at the age of three, the child stopped paying attention to him.

A lesson to us all!

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Making a purse (out of a sow's ear?)

In search of creativity and inspiration beyond our everyday lives, Cuttings on a Blog and I went to the Zandra Rhodes Fashion and Textile Museum for a sewing workshop.

The FTM is a wonderful bright orange edifice in Bermondsey Street, standing out against the Georgian relics and Manhattan style loft apartments carved out of Dickensian warehouses - something like a cyber-adobe casa, cheerful and defiant against the blustery November skies.

Currently showing: 'Foale and Tuffin, Made in England', a celebration of the independent early sixties fashion house. From geometric zippered shift dresses to bumpkin-inspired smocks, the clothes are joyfully redolent of an era of freedom, Swinging London, Twiggy haircuts and leggy young women jumping in and out of Mini Coopers. 

The workshop was rather chaotic but fun: my frame purse was, as ever with these things, not as perfectly crafted as in my imagination but the whole exercise was very satisfying and nourishing.  The sense of being caught up in creative flow - oblivious to anything except the methodical, attention-demanding task in hand - is quite delicious after a hectic week of work.

Wikipedia paraphrases Csíkszentmihályi's positive psychology theory of flow as "focused motivation ... single-minded immersion ... [oneself] aligned with the task at hand" - very much the effect that knitting, gardening, reading and crafting have on me!

Have you heard about Rainy City Stories?

It's an interactive literary cityscape project for Manchester: stories for specific areas of the city.

Genius idea. I love the idea of cities as being full of people living in separate, self-contained, self-absorbed orbits, colliding in fleeting moments of human interaction and drama, and then moving on, changed or unchanged as event and temperament dictate.

And I also learned that the poet Jackie Kay lives in Chorlton!

Listen to the Guardian podcast feature.

A walk in the woods

A weekend in the homelands (otherwise know as Manchester) with the Aged Parents and a Sunday morning walk in the woods around the Styal Estate in Cheshire.

Styal is home to a water powered calico mill, famous for being a well-preserved example of Industrial Revolution technology and purpose-built workers colony.

Quarry Bank Mill, run in the mid-1800s by the Unitarian Greg family, utilised unpaid child labour, frequently the children of the workhouses - and can be toured today, while costumed guides regale you with gruesome tales of fingers lost in satanic machinery and deaths from cotton lung and damp-induced consumption. Ahh, many a happy school trip spent in such a manner.

And it is also a beautiful park of dense woodland, meandering rivers and steep gorges, which in the crisp autumn sunshine was an absolute delight.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

A thing of beauty is a joy for ever

This is a tale of an ugly duckling-to-swan, caterpillar-to-butterfly style transformation.

Take one battered old sofa - an eBay bargain spotted and snapped up by the Boy's eagle eye and nimble mouse, and hauled home from deepest Hackney:

And - after many months of work* and a bit of posh fabric - et volia:

That battered old bedsit favourite becomes a thing of beauty and a joy for ever ...

Finally the sofa is revealed as a fifties Danish (we think) piece of gorgeousness, and a damn comfortable sit down too.

Welcome home, sofa.

* Work, obviously, not done by our own fair hands, but by the very talented Gabriel of Gabriel's Classic Upholstery, craftsman and neighbour.


Blog Widget by LinkWithin