Friday, 21 December 2012

The only Christmas present I can think to give you is The Nutcracker performed by the Royal Ballet at London's Royal Opera House in 2009.   The Guardian presents a full-length film of the production (in two parts) on its website,  free, gratis and yes, on "the House".  Running on the website for a week from 19 December,catch it quick if you want to be enchanted and transported to the land of the sugar plum fairy. Absolutely magical.  Here.

I was lucky enough recently to be at a  concert featuring  The Nutcracker by the young Docklands Sinfonia Orchestra at St. Anne's Limehouse, a magnificent Hawksmoor church in London's East End.  Under the baton of the talented and imaginative Spencer Downs, it wasn't  just any performance however because it was illustrated in time to the music on a big screen by celebrated and much-loved children's author James Mayhew.  See his report of it and my tribute to him here. 

Monday, 17 December 2012

BACK from the Blue

If you thought I had committed blog suicide, so did I, yikes - having posted nothing since August. So I am just back from the brink with  a desperate offering of random leaves from my sketch book until I get some more inspiration.  Hello to all my old chums whose blogs I've neglected to read as well. Why?  I dunno. Sorry!

 Flamenco after El Jaleo by John Singer Sargent


 Peep Toes


Toy horses


All images ©  Rosie West 2012

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Listen Up!

image from

 May I recommend that as well as holiday reading you try holiday listening  at Read Me Something You Love.  Steve Wasserman invites people (and they're quite some people) to read him short stories or extracts from larger ones that, yes,  they love. The reading is accompanied by conversation and it's mostly pretty wonderful. 

The story, not for the faint-hearted, that really blew me away was Bones of the Inner Ear by Kiara Davenport here

I am off to the English seaside for a fortnight!

from The Bethnal Green Museum of Childhood © Rosie West

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Blue Sky Thinking

Blue Sky Thinking :
A management cliché, most commonly heard in the UK, referring to open-ended thinking and inspired by the idea that 'the (cloudless) blue sky is the limit'; it allows creative brainstorming unfettered by reality

I was tempted to call this my Olympic legacy since my car was parked not much more than a mile away from the Olympic Park for the duration, outside my house.  But on reflection I think it was probably one of me neighbours. 

Sunday, 5 August 2012

When I wasn't watching The Olympics

They tried to chuck the elderly tramp off my train yesterday.  I noticed him on the platform at Portsmouth & Southsea: an intelligent head, a courteous demeanour, an interesting natural suede jacket now wreathed in bands of black grease,  longish shorts; oh I know that one, the shorts and the brown, purple and white spotted legs. Decent workish black boots, polythene bags for socks. He asked permission to sit in the booth in front of me and I could only see the young woman he was talking to.  She engaged with him politely at moments, her blue eyes widening before putting her magazine back in front of her face.
His voice began to rise as he warmed to his complaint about the state of the nation and I noticed he was central european, educated, somewhat barmy and most probably harmless.  Was he an eccentric millionaire, a refugee from Nazi Germany, emeritus professor of law with mental health issues? 

 He did get voluble so the young woman moved quickly a distance away and the female ticket inspector arrived to address him. I am not entirely sure
that they saw each other's point of view but I returned to the scenery, which is why I take this rather slow train along the South Downs and up through Sussex to London Victoria.  I particularly love the water meadows, where the River Arun winds, the grassy dykes, the big skies.  It could be Holland were it not for the majestic, knightly Arundel Castle on a high crag in the distance. 

 The train stops at Horsham and a bullying guard in good-customer-relations-mint-green arrives to chuck the old geezer off his journey.  The charge is abusing the ticket inspector and upsetting the other passengers.  My eyes roll and so do another passenger's.  The old man is getting louder but he's genuinely puzzled.  "I'm disabled, I'm not drunk, I don't drink, I've paid my fare, I live in South London. Can I get the next train?" ("No YOU CAN'T") Just as I am debating whether to throw my hat in the ring, a castle-sized man weighs in, "F***ing get off the f***ing train! I've got a  f***ing flight to catch! GET HIM OFF THE F***ING TRAIN." The situation is definitely confused and summoning the police is threatened but the guard has "another case in the toilet" to deal with and happily we move on towards our next stop, Gatwick (Airport). 

The old gent relaxes and I hear him do a perfect rendition of a steward advertising his wares "I've got a range of soft drinks, coffee, tea, donuts, ice-cream... Bring out your dead! Bring out your dead and kindly put them in the receptacle provided.."  

Uh oh, we've stopped at Gatwick and suddenly the carriage is flooded with the Old Bill: four officers in black airport anti-terrorist patrol uniforms and baseball caps.  "Excuse me sir, we've been asked to remove you from this train for abusing the ticket collector" blah blah blah. Well, I'm not having this and luckily, neither is the other eye-witness.  We intercede on his behalf and I'm impressed that the policemen are prepared to listen to us and negotiate with grandpa, who now behaves like a lamb .. until a young officer kneels beside him, politely requests a promise of good behaviour and, big mistake, asks for his details.  Oh god, he's about to blow it now, refusing to divulge anything, asserting his human rights, threatening to have the police impeached, telling them they're disgraceful.  Well, I'm not having that either as they've behaved with admirable patience and tact. I put down my needlepoint, lean over the seats and say "Look here matey, we've been sticking up for you, now you can bloody well sit down and behave!"   What on earth am I doing?  It's completely surreal.  The father and son alongside me, who've had an away-day to the Ralph Lauren shop at Gunwharf outlet park, are shrugging their shoulders and smirking. The irate air traveller is long gone, thank god. There's a crackle of police radio.

And then somehow it all settles down in a very decent British way, the coppers leave the train and the naughty old so-and-so is quiet as a mouse. Job done.  Except that a few minutes'  later there's an announcement: due to delays caused by an incident, the train will now terminate at East Croydon to regulate the service.  We all gather our belongings and shuffle along to the waiting platform. Our barrack-room lawyer is sitting there contentedly and there's still no sign that he has any intention of disembarking.

Drawing © Rosie West
Photos courtesy

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Put the F back into Fashion

Fashion, by Polygoon-Profilti (producer) / Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision (curator), is licensed under Creative Commons – Attribution-Share Alike.

F is for Fun!

And  could be for Fed Up today with  Fashion's  aesthetic of  sick circus ponies
strutting balefully down the runway ?  I have no idea why Fashion takes itself so seriously and models in  Fabulous clothes must  look so totally tired of life.  

Oh to inject a little Vintage Verve into the whole game..

Friday, 6 July 2012

Bad Girl - Or Am I?

I'm smoking again (after 18 months of being a good, boring girl). Shock horror!!!.  But I'm not because this isn't a real cig. yet see how realistic it is.  Last week I found myself having a cocktail in The Savoy with my chum Emily Evans Eerdmans, on a whistle stop visit to London researching her new book,  and then she took me along to Notting Hill to meet up with lovely Colette Van  Den Thillart who happens to live in this very apartment. Blimey.

Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy by David Hockney 1970/71

Feeling un peu sophisticated already, I couldn't have been more pleased when  Colette's associate, legendary interior designer Nicky Haslam arrived looking fit and fabulous in a crisp white shirt, navy jacket and sand-coloured cotton pants of a tres au courant cut.  His boots of distressed leather had a whiff of Mad Max about them and a clue to Haslam's wild hinterland as a fearless setter of individual style and an adventurer in many senses of the word, not least socially.  Call him a wicked old snob but he only does it because he knows it teases and the fact is, his company is intoxicating and he is charming and engaging with everyone.  Oh do read my profile of him here if you have a mo.

Anyway, the point is that he produced an elegant black cigarette and puffed away contentedly.  It glowed red when he drew on it and emitted a harmless odourless vapour.  But the smoker gets a hit of nicotine which whilst addictive, I admit, is proved to aid concentration and clinical tests have shown that it can stave off senile dementure. Devoutly to be wished in my book.  .. Oh where was I?

.. happy in my study with my Easyciggy working away through my 500 puffs before I put it
in my virtual ash can and start a new one.  Easy as that.

But oh dear, just as I was warming to the idea, there was a bonkers incident on the motorway yesterday when a coach passenger, observing another messing about with something vaporous, deemed it suspicious and called 999.   The response involved 16 fire engines, 15 police vans, 12 police cars, ten undercover cop cars, an ambulance and incident control vans. It is good to know that in the run-up to the Olympics terrorist threats are taken seriously.. but the motorway was shut for seven hours causing untold grief and chaos.  Have a look here. (Oddly enough the article was written by my son who was just about to be given an easy-cig by me.)

I guess this has put paid to my childish fantasies of using my virtual cigarette in a restaurant or other congenial spot, now that smoking is universally outlawed, and waiting for the hysterical intervention  to occur. The sad thing is that smokers were inconsiderate of others' comfort but I was also shocked how rude and intolerant those others were becoming in a civilised society.   Let's hope there can be a truce with these totally harmless pleasure sticks now.  

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

My Fair Lady

Monday, 16 April 2012

Queen Elizabeth II : Here and Hair for Sixty Years

My modest tribute to Queen Elizabeth on her Diamond Jubilee is to wonder how many times and with what patience she has submitted to having her hair done.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Cat Nap

My granddaughter Beatrice and Mimi in perfect accord.

photo © Joan West

Sunday, 18 March 2012

OK, so I get sentimental

Mothering Sunday in England today and I want to be reminded of mine, Blanche Apperley Gillam always known as 'Mitzi' (1910 - 1990).   She hated the name Blanche and my father employed it on occasions to tease her; perhaps in retaliation for her calling him 'Flash' (because he was so ponderous).  I wrote more about her on this day a couple of years ago here.

Me and my offspring in a ghostly faded studio pic by Olan Mills (how kitsch is that?)  The big one is my husband.  I wouldn't exactly call it a generic image of my joy and serenity as a mother because I was pretty bad tempered a lot of time, particularly when my sailor was away on the high seas.  (For the first ten years practically all the time).  The kids now remember with a mixture of amusement and horror a necklace made of yellow and black striped elastic - the iconography of the ejector seat handle in a military jet. If I put it on, it was the early warning system that they were standing into danger.  

I am delighted to say that apart from some 'moments' the whole project of motherhood has been deeply satisfying and this lot, now in their thirties, are a constant source of pleasure and comfort.  Ahhhh.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Shall I Trash The Red Carpet Again? - Oh Go On Then!

My first reaction to the 2012 Oscar modes (that's what a big dressy number was called in my day) was not to bother. This year I just didn't feel physically sick at any point in scrolling along the Red Carpet and really loved some of the dresses.  Then I realised how much the hairdo contributes to the YES/MAYBE/ SORRY DEAR/BE OFF WITH YOU ratings.

Here are my winners for getting it right top to toe:

 Gwyneth Paltro,  perfect ivory column inches in Tom Ford and she's axed her folk singer's middle parting, hallelujah.  Commendable restraint in focusing her jewellery at the bottom of one arm.

 Ah, Penelope Cruz looking fabulously 50s in the sort of dress my mother didn't quite wear, I wish she
had.  Love the MGM Studios hair style and the soft blue chiffon used to its very best effect. Some may be disappointed that she's not channelling primal sex here but the  look produces in me a low groan of envy and delight. 

 More vintage glamour from Milla Jovovic in Elie Saab. Not just soignée but smouldering. 

This is just one of those magnificent surprises that stops you in your tracks. Emma Stone, pitch perfect
in fluid Giambattista Valli.  Big retro halter neckline shows off lovely shoulders, jawline, eyeliner, eyebrows.  Titian hair a non-clash clash with cherry red. Well-judged jewellery.  
[Come on, that's enough! Ed.]

This Louis Vuitton is another front runner for the gorgeous vermilion chiffon with the pink clutch, oh oh.  The little diamond bow is perfect but I'm just blocking out the defeatist necklace and realising that's what's very slightly annoying.  Less is generally more and  Michelle Williams gamine hair does cut it. Charmant.  But talking French...

Uh oh.  I am afraid there's some cognitive dissonance between this relentlessly ingenue hairstyle (or has she just forgotten to take the pins out?) and the concert party diva's gown.  Better not go on.. Mais quel dommage, Berenice Bejo dans votre Elie Saab.

Nobody loves a piece of 1950s Christian Dior couture more than I do.  But why does Natalie Portman look so high-school prom and prim in this?  I think it's the damn hairstyle again - lovely in itself, but had she done a Cruz or a Jovovic she would have looked a million dollars.  And that ice. Just looks like she's borrowed Mummy's necklace. All wrong, all wrong. Sorreee.

We're in the Box of Chocolates merchandising category here.  Ellie Kemper in Armani and..

 And lovely old Meryl Streep doing Ferrero Rocher a good turn. Or is that Terry's All Gold?
Isn't that dress going to fall off her right shoulder sometime soon?

Talking of which. This is one of my favourite colours which suits Missi Pyle's  colouring nicely and can only really work in georgette.  But the just-out-of-bed hair somehow reinforces the top notes of Sears Catalogue negligée in this odd design by Valentina Delfino. It's something about the last section that gives an expectation of maribou trimmed mules.
Apparently this fabric was made 'without cruelty to silk-worms'. (Is that because it's

Jury's out on the transgressive angel look here.  I do get it, particularly the severe hairline and the red lips with the gossamer fabric, but just to be annoying - can anyone say just exactly what's wrong with the bustline?  Perhaps it just doesn't fit?  That's Rooney Mara in Givenchy.

 I can't improve on this being 'the colour of old bras'. I wish I 'd
thought of that but it was Tom + Lorenzo here.  Click on them for a really funny tilt at the Red Carpet. Kristen Wiig in J. Mendel being mildly subversive by doing the careless dressing-up box thing. It looks as if it smells of mothballs.

Ouch, there had to be an undisputed booby prize. Does Busy Phillips in Dolce & Gabbana remind anyone else of a parking lot?  Worn tarmac and something-reminiscent-of-a-crash-barrier earrings and bracelet.  Who chose the shoes at random?  Finally I have to agree with Tom + Lorenzo about the bad hair styling.

Monday, 20 February 2012

In At The Deep End

Found myself this morning, nine o'clock at the Olympic Aquatic Centre. Nobody more surprised than me, really,  a) to be going to the Diving World Cup and b) to have got anywhere significant by that time in the morning.  Ah but when I was describing where I lived in the last post I didn't tell you that I am 30 minutes away from the Olympic site  and guess who hasn't got any tickets. 

These are computer generated images of architect Zaha Hadid's stunning design which I was keen to see and experience. I found them here.

Unfortunately our approach from Stratford Underground station did not create the best vista.

Below, you can see a part of the main stadium at left and that big grey thing in the background  is the water polo venue.  It was a bit parky as you can tell from the two marshalls who didn't have the benefit of the big foam rubber gloves worn by the London Underground staff.  At every point there were friendly and helpful men and women directing the crowds, checking tickets or doing airport style security checks.  This seemed a good sign.

 Backtracking then, this picture was on exiting the Stratford hub which I gather is the main gateway to the Olympic park. Cunningly, you have to walk through the  massive spanking new Westfield Retail Therapy Mall first. (I was victim to it on my way out after rather a good lunch with my friends of a certain age  in  a Jamie Oliver restaurant.  I simply had to worship at John Lewis, L K Bennett and Kiehls.) 

Getting there finally..   The Pool.  It was  bright and  warm and thankfully didn't  smell of chlorine, feet and mouldy old swimsuits like the school swimming galas I remember.  A couple of hours on the hard seats was about enough and I could have done with a bottle of water.  My husband  later poured scorn on my dehydration issues with his usual rant about General Montgomery's army crossing the desert in World War II on half a pint. So annoying.

Oh and the diving itself?   The Men's Synchronised Three Metre Springboard.  Disappointed not to see Britain's cute superstar Tom Daley, just 17,  but it was  riveting watching a pair of athletes like peas in a pod producing variations on the perfect flight of fancy. With some authority I began giving them marks myself occasionally getting it spot on, more often than not well wide of the mark.  Once I'd watched the action replay, I could see exactly where I had misjudged things. Ha.   Loved it and now desperate to see the Synchronised Swimming. Oh yes.

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