Happiness is good health and a bad memory ~ Ingrid Bergman

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Time is my new ‘thing’… 

Having almost completed my Masters dissertation now which is rooted in the 1800s, it has been a long time since I ‘escaped’ to the 1940s. I’ve completely indulged my love of the physical book, and I fully intend for things to stay that way. So here are some tips for bookish happiness:

  • Try choosing your next read by the time or era that it is set in
  • Keep tabs on your choice list by using Goodreads or LibraryThing – you can plot your journey and review it – a bit of reflection is always good for the soul
  • Try reading a selection of books all set in the same place, for example Cambridge
  • To broaden your horizons retrieve all your reads from your local Library…peruse the Library, and see what it has on its shelves.  Even in the most provincial town, there are treasures to be had

‘There are whole years for which I hope I’ll never be cross-examined, for I could not give an alibi.’ ~ Mignon McLaughlin, The Neurotic’s Notebook, 1960

Published in: on February 22, 2015 at 8:03 am  Comments (1)  
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Winter in Madrid by C J Sansom

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This is a story with interdependent relationships, winding roads and the inertia of war…moving along under its own fuel of obligation, social expectation, love, loss and devastation. Set during World War II, our narrator Harry Brett has suffered at Dunkirk and finds himself reluctantly working as a spy in Spain, ‘watching’ his old schoolboy chum Sandy who is suspected of anti-government shady business dealings. Its 1940, and the Spanish Civil War is over and has left the country flat both literally and metaphorically, and to add insult to injury, Hitler is marching through Europe.

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Its a compelling tale of love and nostalgia, against a backdrop of vivid and haunting wartime Spain, and takes the reader to the very core of living with intense choices to make and the consequences thereafter.

I found the sub story about Barbara intensely moving. Here is a woman, as shell shocked from war as her counterpart Harry; not something that is usually considered in wartime narratives, who rebels against her own chosen salvation, to rise up in hope once more. In some ways, her and Harry are very much alike.

The enduring ‘feel’ of this story, is one of reality…the reader gets the sense that as with life, not everything is plotted and known in advance. This quality sustains the readers attention, along with the affable writing style, and historical fact.

I would recommend it either on Kindle or in paperback. Lots of tea!

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Keep your pecker up! xx

Dominion by C J Sansom

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I was immediately drawn to this book by the synopsis...

1952. Twelve years have passed since Churchill lost to the appeasers and Britain surrendered to Nazi Germany after Dunkirk. As the long German war against Russia rages on in the east, the British people find themselves under dark authoritarian rule: the press, radio and television are controlled; the streets patrolled by violent auxiliary police and British Jews face ever greater constraints. …At once a vivid, haunting reimagining of 1950s Britain, a gripping, humane spy thriller and a poignant love story, with DOMINION C. J. Sansom once again asserts himself as the master of the historical novel.

Synopsis from Waterstones


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The book begins with a very vivid encounter in 10 Downing Street in May 1940 between players Churchill, Lord Halifax, Margesson and Chamberlain. After this prologue it quickly jumps to a very striking Remembrance Service which has a cutting impact on the reader who can relate to Services in the 21st Century involving their own family. It is a very different Remembrance to the ones that we know. It is 1952 and Britain is involved in a very economically viable alliance with Germany, however this is having a detrimental impact on society emotionally, encroaching on personal freedoms of which the consequences are that of an increasing underground Resistance.

In the year of the 68th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz concentration camp, scenes in this book serve as a stark reminder that given the right set of circumstances, and the persuasion of a common enemy by governments and leaders, that the Holocaust was not a fluke…it could happen again. It is a reminder that before you believe everything you read, hear or watch on TV, think for yourself.

If that doesn’t grip your imagination I’m not sure what would! I’ve read a little about an alternative history before in the brilliant Stephen Frys Making History. Dominion is a captivating read, a thought provoking journey, and elegant creation of what might have been.

I strongly recommend you take a peek!

Dominion is available as a hard copy or Kindle edition.

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Keep your pecker up! xx

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

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The Night Circus by
Erin Morgenstern
I can hardly contain
 my enthusiasm for this book!
Well written, completely absorbing, fascinating, wildly imaginative and creative. I couldn’t put this book down, nor did I want it to ever end…

The Night Circus is the story of game. But this is no ordinary game…there are no rules, the competitors do not know each other, and the loser has everything to lose. This is a game between two very old (crossing centuries) illusionists. This is real magic. And the illusionists, real prestidigitators. One was the master, the other the student. An age old tale of the student transcending his master, and then pitting their methods against each other by using other students to out perform each other.

The chosen students have a very unusual set of skills, and grow up aware of their forthcoming game. They do not know however, when it will begin, where it will take place, or who their opponent will be. Trained and instructed for all of their formative years, the game is their life.

The book* is wholly credible. That is its biggest triumph. It is a journey, a coming of age, of belief, of charms and enchantment,  of surpassing ones own imagination.

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‘A dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world.’

~ Oscar Wilde 1888

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. The black sign, painted in white letters that hangs upon the gates, reads: Opens at Nightfall Closes at Dawn. As the sun disappears beyond the horizon, all over the tents small lights begin to flicker, as though the entirety of the circus is covered in particularly bright fireflies. When the tents are all aglow, sparkling against the night sky, the sign appears. Le Cirque des Reves. The Circus of Dreams. Now the circus is open. Now you may enter.

Synopsis from Waterstones

Read. I promise you will enjoy!

reading is sexy

Keep your pecker up! xx

*This was my first Kindle reading experience, and I have to say I couldn’t have chosen a better book. I highlighted, I could make notes, and the whole read was very pleasurable.

The Original Fan Dance

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Dita Von Teese performs The Fan Dance

Sally Rand (1904 – 1979) was a burlesque dancer and actress, most noted for her ostrich feather fan dance and balloon bubble dance. She also performed under the name Billie Beck.

‘What modern day burlesquer hasn’t been influenced by Sally Rand?’ ~ Dita Von Teese, Burlesque and the Art of the Teese/Fetish and the Art of the Teese

During the 1920s, she acted on stage and appeared in silent films. Cecil B. DeMille gave her the name Sally Rand, inspired by a Rand McNally atlas. She was selected as one of the WAMPAS Baby Stars in 1927, seen as a rising movie star and selected as an awardee to be honoured at that years party.

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Sally Rand with her Fans

After the introduction of sound film, she became a dancer, known for the fan dance, which she popularized starting at the Paramount Club in Chicago. Her most famous appearance was at the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair entitled Century of Progress. Surprisingly, Sally was arrested many times for her burlesque performances. She was arrested four times in a single day during the Fair due to perceived indecent exposure after a fan dance performance. She also conceived and developed the bubble dance, in part to cope with wind while performing outdoors. She performed the fan dance on film in Bolero, released in 1934.

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In 1936, she purchased The Music Box burlesque hall in San Francisco, which would later become the Great American Music Hall. She went on to star in her own “Sally Rand’s Nude Ranch” at the Golden Gate International Exposition in San Francisco during the start of World War II in 1939 and 1940.

sally rand nude ranch

Sally was arrested twice in San Francisco in 1946 whilst performing at Club Savoy, and then whilst on trial, after the judge had granted her immunity should she be arrested for the same offense during the trial. This seems even more ridiculous when you consider that for her performance she was wearing long underwear and a note that read “CENSORED. S.F.P.D.” on stage!

Sally Rand at The Chicago 
Worlds Fair 1934

Sally Rand continued to appear on stage doing her fan dance into the 1970s, her 60s, something that Dita was keen to point out during the filmed interview of the recent ‘Dita Von Teese in Paris’ 2012.

Keep your pecker up! xx

The Greatcoat ~ Helen Dunmore

the Greatcoat...a book review

Described as an elegant flesh creeper, this delicately woven chilling romance is a wonderful piece of narrative from Helen Dunmore. Set in the 1950s when England is still recovering from severe wartime austerity, but also a return to the ‘womens place in the home’ ethic, the story is a testament to  the political paradox of inequality of the era following wartime. Its underbelly is a backdrop of womens rights, sense of community; positivity in the ‘spirit of the blitz’ versus intrusion and lack of privacy, the economy and exploitation of lack of housing, and the fact that the 1950s is a transition decade where rebuilding is a slow drive, and areas are left to naturally decay.

Isabel is in fact very lonely. Is it her needs that summons her visitor, or is it the needs of someone else?

In the winter of 1952, Isabel Carey moves to the East Riding of Yorkshire with her husband Philip, a GP. With Philip spending long hours on call, Isabel finds herself isolated and lonely as she strives to adjust to the realities of married life. Woken by intense cold one night, she discovers an old RAF greatcoat hidden in the back of a cupboard. Sleeping under it for warmth, she starts to dream. And not long afterwards, while her husband is out, she is startled by a knock at her window. Outside is a young RAF pilot, waiting to come in. His name is Alec, and his powerful presence both disturbs and excites her. Her initial alarm soon fades, and they begin an intense affair. But nothing has prepared her for the truth about Alec’s life, nor the impact it will have on hers…

Synopsis from Waterstones

This story will not disappoint you. You will be entranced. At once you are drawn in by this enchanting ghost story and you will not want to put this down until you are through. I recommend making a pot of tea and getting a slice of cake…

Keep your pecker up!

Vintage is not necessarily a synonym for Lace & Cupcakes

Calling all wedding event
 organisers!
You are cordially invited... 


This year I have taken my Hello Nails! Pop Up Nail Parlour to several ‘vintage’ wedding fayres. I can’t tell you how disappointed I have been! At all of the fayres I have been to, vintage has appeared to be a synonym for ‘lace’ and I wonder why organisers have used the term ‘vintage’ as an all encompassing vogue for pulling in the brides-to-be et al, when actually it’s a regular wedding event pitch. There has been a distinct lack of imagination at all of them!

So imagine how pleased I was to discover this little treasure! A bi-monthly gem of creative vintage brides showcasing unique weddings and wedding fair.

Things that jump out at me as being distinctly game for a creative vintage wedding fayre are:

For the Bride & Groom –

War Bride, Pin Up, Steampunk, Themed Era i.e 1950s, Rockabily or Burlesque.

And for the accessories –

Dried Petal Confetti, Totem tents, Tattoos!, Irregular Choice shoes, Swing dresses and Petticoats, Glass camping lanterns, Paper flowers and Lollipop cake bouquets.

Lollipops!

Butterflies!

A red & black bouquet!

There is so much room for creativity, individuality and expression, that there is only one way to do your wedding and that should be uniquely.

A Rock and Roll Bride and her Groom

A Pin up Bride and her Psychobily Groom

A 1940s War Bride Wedding

So, when you organise a creative vintage wedding fayre, ask me to pop along. I’ll be looking out for something unique!

And Brides-to-be…

Keep your pecker up! xx

All That I Am, Anna Funder

‘All that we are not stares back at all that we are’

All That I Am is a fictional novel by Anna Funder who recognises her sources and factual accounts in the addendum. The character Toller is based on the German socialist poet Ernst Toller and although Funder has made connections and assumptions in this unravelling of the tale of his life, she acknowledges this gracefully and with credibility. Therefore the facts remain factual, any emotion remains a rendering of the authors’ imagination not dissimilar to how art is interpreted.

I chose this book based on its opening line: ‘When Hitler came to power I was in the bath.‘ That was enough to draw me into this deeply woven, political and poetic, account of the lives of a group of Socialist acquaintances in the early 1930s.

‘Hanging the red flag out our window in Berlin had no immediate consequence. What followed were the mojito weeks, a time of false calm and cocktails’ p.103

The story moves from Hitlers Reichstage Fire Decree, to the public murders of 1934 known as the Rohm Putsch. The story comes to fruition before the start of World War II in 1939. What is covers, is the period in Germany and even Europe, that leads up to the declaration of war…by this I mean, the antisemitism promulgated prior to the rounding up of what the Nazi party declared not in favor of the Fatherland. They stripped all ‘undesirables’ of their identity and made them homeless.

As for the fictional heroine, Dora…‘the curse of the capable; it leaves them prone to pockets of aloneness, sudden elephant traps in the ground.‘p.285

They generated a nationalistic desire for a pure bred society, to purge their country, at first in a legal way. What was illegal, they legalised. This story covers friendship, loyalty in the most profound way, love and betrayal, politics in pre-war Germany, desperation and loss.

‘This vast life – the real, interior one in which we remain linked to the dead (because the dream inside us ignores trivialities like breath, or absence) – this vast life is not under our control. Everything we have seen and everyone we have known goes into us and constitutes us, whether we like it or not.‘ p.294

This book is filled with the passion for life. I would highly recommend it.

Funder, A. (2011). All That I Am. Penguin Books, London

Keep your pecker up! xx

What Would Audrey Do?

Browsing the Library in the seaside town of Burnham-On-Sea, I came across this little gem! Browsing the library is more for nourishment of the soul than needing to find a book to read (I always have a back store of several books usually from Waterstones good to go!), because of the way being around books makes me feel …essentially, calm. So anyway, there I was just taking in my surroundings and this pink book just lept out at me in the metaphorical sense of course!

‘What Would Audrey Do?

Pamela Keogh

Being a bit of a long term Madonna fan, I’ve always gone with the old adage ‘What would Madonna do?’ faced with any conundrum, so with Miss Hepburn being the very antithesis of everything about Madonna, of course I was curious. The clue was in the subtitle: ‘Timeless Lessons for Living with Grace and Style’.

I am torn as to what I think about this book. Essentially, I feel its a harmless bit of fun, a life coaching book, using the beautifully associated name of Audrey Hepburn to appeal to a certain reader. It worked for me!

So here are a few snippets of advice based on Audrey’s own life – marked by challenges such as growing up without a father, surviving the Nazi threat and deprivation in WWII, unfaithful husbands, 2 divorces and living under constant scrutiny from the media. Of course it is also based on her inimitable film career, and her reputation for being the paragon of chic.

Stardom or popularity: ‘Be memorable….Be Modest…’

Dating: ‘I have more sex appeal on the tip of my nose than many women have in their entire bodies. It doesn’t stand out a mile, but it is there’ – Audrey Hepburn.

The “Romance Central” chapter includes advice on attraction and terminating a relationship, flirting, respect and keeping a clear head. There is a nice little section on “Plan B:-If he has no interest in saying “I Do”..”

Raising children: ‘I was born with an enormous love of people, of children. I loved them when I was little! I used to embarrass my mother by trying to pick babies out of prams at the market. The one thing I dreamed of in my life was to have children of my own’ – Audrey Hepburn.

This chapter is about Audrey as a daughter, and as a mother. ‘In 1988, she recalled, “I had to make a choice at one point in my life, of missing films or missing my children.”‘

How to travel: ‘Face it, if you are going to have to take your shoes off before you pass through security, you want your feet looking sharp! You know Audrey would have. And did.’ I like this idea of maintaining your own personal auro of first class style the Audrey way!

Philanthropy: ‘Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, “What are you doing for others?” – Martin Luther King, Jr.’ If you didn’t already know, in 1988 Audrey was asked to serve as Special ambassador for the United Nations Childen’s Fund. Her devotion to UNICEF is awe inspiring.

So if your question to yourself is whether to get your tattoo, come on…audrey did not even have her ears pierced!

Girls if you want some tongue in cheek advice on how to deal with life the Audrey way, this one is for you. And don’t forget…

Keep your pecker up! xx

Keogh, P. (2008) ‘What Would Audrey Do?’ Aurum Press Ltd. London

Nail polish…a provenance

 Have you ever wondered about the origin of nail polish?

Zoya:
 long wearing natural nail polish 

Although it is unclear how the decoration of nails progressed, it originated with the Incas painting pictures of eagles on their nails.

The concept of the manicure began in India well over 5,000 years ago with the use of henna as a nail paint.  This practice spread and was adopted by different cultures. Nail polish as we think of it, was invented by the Chinese in about 3000 B.C. It was made from a mixture of Arabic gum, egg whites, gelatin and beeswax.  It is believed that the people of southern Babylonia took it a step-further around 4,000 BC and turned to solid gold to achieve the perfect manicure. By the turn of the 19th century, nails were tinted with scented red oils, and polished or buffed.

English and US 19th century cookbooks had directions for making nail paints. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, people pursued a polished rather than painted look by massaging tinted powders and creams into their nails, then buffing them shiny. One such polishing product sold around this time was Graf’s Hyglo nail polish paste. Some people during this period painted their nails with clear, glossy varnish applied with a camel-hair brush.

Cutex produced the first nail modern nail polishes in 1917 with the introduction of colored nail glosses. Once nail polish was refined, it was often used in the place of gloves to cover up the grime underneath the nails.

French manicures may have originated in 18th-century Paris and were popular in the 1920s and 1930s, but today are a particular trend in Essex as a finish on Acrylic nail enhancements.

Nefertiti (was the Great Royal Wife of the Egyptian Pharaoh Akhenaten) and Cleopatra (the last Pharoah of Ancient Egypt) are remembered as two of the most beautiful women of their time.  Allegedly, they were the first to make  red nail polish famous.  During their respective reigns, societal hierarchy was indicated by the specific color worn.  The stronger the shade of red, the more power the person possessed.Nefertiti, Queen of  Egypt (14th century BC) coloured her fingernails a ruby-red color.

Zoya Carrie Anne

In 1932,  Revlon began selling  the very first modern style of nail polish that we know today in the 21st century.

Glamour is at your fingers…

Keep your pecker up! xx