5 Oct 2017

Autumn Menu with a Hint of Halloween

Delved into my bookmarks and consulted good old oracle Pinterest in order to compile an Autumn menu with recipes slightly out of the ordinary, without obsessing about it - and a hint of the unexpected. It had to be a poetic menu to spell out loud, with each dish almost akin to a verse by Edgar Allan Poe...

Think velvety monochrome textures, smoked flavours, dark syrupy fruit, gooey sauces, messy blends, unusual colours and rare alcohols, to keep you warm inside and chill you out at the same time! Red splatters to keep you on your toes... All in all, a grown-up Autumn menu without the hearty pumpkin chowders, versatile enough to celebrate not only Halloween but also All Saints Day (Catholic calendar, 1st November) and Guy Fawkes Night (Great Britain, 5th November) without stating the obvious!

So let's get those taste buds into overdrive and that kitchen ready to sizzle!

A P É R I T I F 

The Black Heart by Julep
Cranberry & Pomegranate Spritz by Donna Hay
Pitaya (Dragon Fruit) Margarita by Muy Bueno
Cocktail Snow Cones by HonestlyYUM
Palomitas de Curcúma by La Baguette Magique


Beet-Pickled Curry Deviled Eggs by Viktoria's Table
Fig and Goat's Cheese Tart by Donna Hay
Spicy Corn Bisque by Bakers Royale
Roasted Red Pepper Tortilla Soup by Cookie & Kate

M A I N     C O U R S E

Roasted Carrots Cooked in a Pomegranate Syrup by Un Déjeuner de Soleil
Vegan Winter Harvest Hummus Bowl by Heather Christo


Blood Orange Granita by Cook Republic
Pomegranate and Greek Yoghurt Panna Cotta, via Cooked


Beer-Laced Sticky Toffee and Ginger Pudding by Delicious

S W E E T     A F T E R S

Raspberry Brownie Ice Cream Sandwiches by The Bojon Gourmet
Juniper + Smoke Marshmallows by Local Milk

Further Resources:
  • For a little otherwordliness that remains firmly on the safe side, visit my K ° Mystique Pinterest board.
  • Ideas to ease you into the Halloween spirit with a little chill and none of the tack.
  • Robert Doisneau photography: black and white, atmospheric and - if you are looking for it - spooky.
  • Cocktails that are odd beyond the odds, The Gibson's Cocktail Menu has it by the muddler! Their cocktail list flirts with the quirk and the bizarre in equal doses, if not the borderline bootleg (Scandal in Bohemia, a mixology 'high' of Sweet Grass Steeped Woodford Rye Absinthe + Hemp Cannabis Poppy 'Opium' Oil + Preserved Oriental Lemon Brine + French Confetti Candy Syrup + Forbidden Jelly Ice + Smoking Wood Mushroom)! You couldn't make this one up if you wanted to! For a cocktail slightly less far fetched in terms of ingredients, the Way of the Dragon might persuade an enlightened Classic D&D gamer to give it a try, if only for the rambunctious dragon that is served with the drink: 8 years old Bacardi + Gibson's Seabuckthorn Liqueur + Madeira Wine + Lime + Fresh Rambutan & Mangosteen + Butternut Squash & Walnut Conserve + Galia Melon. Good grief! I'll have a simple G&T anytime!

Way of the Dragon cocktail by The Gibson Bar, Shoreditch, London

24 Sep 2017

Paul Gauguin: Painter in Paradise

Gauguin, Voyage de Tahiti lands upon our shores as a compelling welcome distraction to an otherwise calamitous September of hurricanes, earthquakes, civil unrest and threats of WWIII. Despite its languorous title, it promises no Tropical bliss or frangipani blossoms as it whisks us away from our daily contrivance and the Autumn chill for the Paradise atolls of French Polynesia, the backdrop to the last decade in the life of anti-conformist 19th century French Post-Impressionist painter Paul Gauguin (1848-1903) who had fled modern civilisation in order to live the simple life, immersed in nature.

(pict source)

Few of us will have been aware of Gauguin's life beyond his enchanting Polynesian portraits, and the film by Edouard Deluc attempts to remedy that. Be warned though that any hope for a smooth, fancy-free voyage across lush lands and ombré waters sprawled below heavenly Summer skies is 'compromised' as our voyage is in fact a tale of trouble in Paradise... and this means dark clouds!

Soon the landscapes of the island merge with the landscapes of a troubled mind. This is no blockbuster, no special effect in sight, no big budget, and no unnecessary pathos. It commands however a certain curiosity and sensitivity on the part of the viewer in order to appreciate such a movie. Here we have a painter's tale of Paradise lost.

'Haere Mai', oil on burlap by Paul Gauguin, via Guggenheim Museum, NYC

Gauguin, Voyage de Tahiti depicts Gauguin the artist (Koké as the locals called him) entertwined with the man himself, who had rejected the French Establishment, relinquished wife and offspring who he could no longer financially support, only to get caught up by his demons and by Establishment again thousands of miles later. This is a tale of artistic genius, moral dilemma, financial destitution, a tale of redemption and disillusion, a quest for identity and authenticity, a depiction of mysticism and a rejection of the so-called civilised world.

Paul Gauguin could have enjoyed a comfortable existence should he had kept to the conformist route he had taken as a marine merchant and a stockbroker's assistant, but then there would be no Paul Gauguin the artist. He died a pauper instead, yet rich within from the life and travel experiences he acquired along the way. His frugal livelihood contrasts with his oeuvre dotted across the world in art places and private collections, testimonies to his posthumous glory and recognition. When he relinquished his privileged upbringing and financial stability in order to embrace the artist's lifestyle, Gauguin embarked upon the exciting, harsh, morose, unpredictable, temptation-laced, financially unstable existence at odds with the traditional family life, the picket fence and the prim and proper.

This poster features 'Tehamana Has Many Parents', oil on jute canvas by Paul Gauguin

Vincent Cassel wears Paul Gauguin's role like a glove. One of the most prolific, versatile, immersive French actors of my generation, he excels at playing troubled characters with heart and soul: the known and the unknown, the modern and the period, the suave and the slick, the affable and the utterly despicable. In a nutshell, he lives and breathes and inhabits each of his roles. Cassel took up art classes to get under the artist's skin and learn the ropes like how to hold a paintbrush properly and how to apply paint. He caught the bug and ended up painting for himself in his spare time!

From the outset, the film appears to incarnate French cinéma d'auteur in the manner in which it explores the life of its main character. The methodology is by way of a close-range character study, down to the minutiae of glance, heartbeat and sigh. It strives for detail, and an intimate - intimist - soul journey, a stark-naked biopic portrayal in its varied facets that distills the character with spirit and truth, no embellishment or happy ending for the sake of it. It soaks in the atmosphere and takes us on with it.

'Orana Maria (We Hail Thee Mary)', by Paul Gauguin, via WikiArt

The film hasn't been out a week that it is already being criticised for its lack of objectivity. It conveniently - controversially - glosses over the fact that Gauguin then aged 43 fell in love (in lust?) with a 13-year old local Tahitian girl called Tehura (also known as Teha’amana), whom he then married. The girl was a juvenile! A closer look at Gauguin's biography reveals that his private life was dissolute: a life-long philanderer who contracted syphillis along the way, which he then transmitted to his conquests. Some will wave it off as an element of Bohemian territory - oh lovely!

Yet not looking at discrediting the critics, it must be added that the History of France and the world at large demonstrates that however morally wrong it was (is), the mature man-young girl 'paradigm' was (is) no rare occurrence, especially in the Arts, the Royal courts and under certain ideologies!

'Tahitian Pastorale', by Paul Gauguin, via WikiArt

Digression aside, such straightforward revelations in the film would have dented an already morally-questionable complex, flawed character but a glossing over ends up as a disservice and as an unvoluntary form of complicity. Truth hurts, so does its misrepresentation by way of a lie.

Those of us who had been blissfully unaware of Gauguin's dirty little secrets until today, are likely to be left confused, tainted, unsure as to whether still respect the artist, or dissociate his paintings from the man: respect the oeuvre but dislike (repudiate?) the man. Artist and man being intrinsically entertwined, this is simply impossible. My only surety in this is that I will never look at the portraits of Teha'amana and her virginal, innocent girl friends in quite the unbiased way I used to.

It remains that Paul Gauguin was a creative genius, the precursor of Modern Art and a visionary in his own right. His Art navigated the troubled waters of his soul in a spellbinding way. To see and think of him as a painter solely is restrictive: he was an accomplished artist whose Art encompassed printmaking, engraving, sculpture, ceramics and decorating. His creations are showcased in the most prestigious modern art galleries of the world, including Guggenheim and the Art Institute of Chicago, as further testament to his worldwide recognition.

"Gauguin was radically creative throughout his career. He never stopped experimenting with new methods, and his art continues to fascinate because it remains unpredictable, contradictory, and enormously varied in medium, form, and content." - Artist as Alchemist, the Paul Gauguin exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago (June 25 - Sept. 10, 2017)

Gauguin, Voyage de Tahiti, directed by Edouard Deluc, starring Vincent Cassel, Tuhei Adams, Malik Zidi and Pua-Tai Hikutini, out now in France.

P.S: There is an interesting parallel to be drawn between Paul Gauguin and Scottish novelist, poet and travel writer Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894): both artist contemporaries from the second half of the 19th century, travellers and adventurers, who both died in Polynesia (Stevenson in Samoa), in middle age. Stevenson documented a particular segment of his journey to France as a short story, 'Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes.' If Stevenson is still fondly remembered in the Cévennes to this day, it is because - according to a local politician and historian - 'he showed us the landscape that makes us who we are.' Such a statement may well apply to Gauguin too, in relation to Polynesia.

18 Sep 2017

Aerial Views of Bygone England

In order to visually grasp in one quick swoop the extent of Britain's heavy industrialisation during the 1920s (notwithstanding the fact that the bulk of its Industrial Revolution had already been through by then), seek no other evidence than photographic - and better still the aerial shots! Britain from Above has made this possible, not only for institutions and corporations but also for the general public, by releasing its impressive photographic archive collection (over 82,500 records for England alone!) which provides the tools for a spot of investigative geography and history, right from the comfort of your home. And fascinating it is bound to be to anyone with a connection to Britain and curious to discover the face of its past!

Beswick, Manchester (1927), via Britain from Above

Second to none, Manchester was once my second home; I spent 16 years of my life there. Naturally as soon as I came across Britain from Above, curiosity got the better off me and I sifted through Manchester's photographic records, seeking the familiar neighbourhoods I had lived in and semi-familiar environs which I had travelled through, worked in or visited for one reason or another. Needless to say that present-day Manchester bears little resemblance to its bygone self, bar for specific landmarks: town hall, churches, flagship stores (the Lewis's department store, now Primark), canals, railways, certain roads and playing fields, and the odd pub here and there that has survived the accelerated nationwide 'pub cull' of the last 20 years.

As shown in the Beswick ward above, like elsewhere throughout the working-class areas of the city radiating right out of its centre, row upon row of identikit 19th-century brick terraced and back-to-back factory houses used to be tightly laid out, taking up every inch of available space for cheap low-rise high-density working-class housing - which was turning to slums by the 1920s. Nineteen thirties Manchester was a crowded place; its population had peaked at 766,311 inhabitants in 1931 before steadily shrinking, in line with the collapse of the textile and affiliated machine tool industries, down to 404,861 by 1991, a massive 52% fall in numbers within 60 years! By 1991, the slum clearances and industrial wastelands were lending a surreal urban landscape, especially east (Ancoats to Ashton-under-Lyne axis) and northeast (Cheetham Hill to Oldham axis).

Ordsall Hall Paper Works, Pomona Docks and Manchester Ship Canal, Old Trafford (1929), ibid.

From such a bird's eye view, from such a height, with eveything appearing like distant patterns dotted upon a canvas, it is all too tempting to feel nostalgic and gloss over a time period that was actually anything but kind and sweet. Although full employment was on - except during the Great Depression, it still came at a price, even by 1920s standards: harsh working conditions, long working hours, low wages, poor health, cramped and unsanitary living conditions, not to mention the smog, a deadly combination of smoke pollution (from factory and domestic coal burning) and fog, creating pea soup, which plagued industrial cities with a thick yellowish toxic shroud, bringing asthma and other respiratory ailments and drastically reducing visibility.

Manchester Ship Canal and Partington Coal Basin (1929), ibid.

Furthermore, the nation was still recovering from the throes of WWI, where 23,792 men and women from Greater Manchester alone had lost their lives on the front! Extrapolate this to the number of households affected by loss, the mothers, widow(er)s and orphans, the harsh economic reality of daily life sharpened the grief some more. You can be certain that the photographed households you are looking at are testaments to pain and hardship.

Manchester's cityscape is industrial no more! Photography by Daniel Nisbet, 2008, via Flickr

Further Resources on Manchester and the British Industry:

15 Sep 2017

A Matriarchal Society

You may or may not have realised by now that our Western societies are moving full-throttle into matriarchies. Their manifestations are multi-fold and encompass feminism, gender theories, identity politics, equal pay, and body positive movements, all facilitated by the PC brigade, mainstream media (MSM), social justice warriors (SJW), the one-way liberal free speech and the art of virtue signalling.

Plus model wife, mom and feminist Tess Holliday urges you to #effyourbeautystandards

Yes, we are firmly treading buzzword territory here, yet instead of shrugging it off as some passing fad, we should be worried because the rise of matriarchy goes hand in hand with the neutering of male masculinity, which historically has led to system failure and societal collapse.
Change agents are at play in the remodelling of the West that we used to know as kids, into a new paradigm that seems at odds with traditional values: you are not losing the plot, this is all part of Cultural Marxism! It all looks good and promising in theory though - superficially - giving us the impression that we are moving into an egalitarian, fair, sustainable and empowered society. But take a harder look and you will see for yourself that we are moving into a fractured society instead.

Glamour model, drama queen, mum and a loose woman who rules her roost: Katie Price

A matriarchy is a society ruled by women, as opposed to a patriarchy, a society ruled by men. More broadly so, a matriarchy is characterised by female dominance over a family (microcosm), a corporation, government, or society at large (macrocosm).

Here is what to expect from a modern matriarchal society and note that we have already ticked every box of it:

  • Emphasis is placed upon the individual within society, for their own personal needs and aggrandisements to be met: me, myself and I! Selfies galore testify to the obsessed, narcissistic reflection that has been promoted, encouraged and engineered. The quest for fickle, instant, brief fame is on.
  • Permissiveness in society and emancipation of women are emphasised and blown out of proportion, misleading the young, the gullible and the confused into believing that with nothing being sacred anymore, all taboos being lifted, you can just behave any way you want, without repercussion! A society that lets go of its moral compass, that operates without bearings, and whose rules and goal posts of virtue are always shifting, is dysfunctional. Paragons of virtue, a thing of the past!
  • A society run on emotion and feelings instead of reason, pragmatism and logic, makes it volatile and unpredictable!
  • Questioning men's traditional role within a couple/ family, as the head of the household, bread-winner, protector, nest builder and DIYer. Questioning and attacking manhood, misinterpreting it as machismo. Men have it tough as it is nowadays: no male role models or mentors who can help shape their formative years (absent fathers, no close family members, fairweather friends, peer pressure, Mcjobs, unemployment, etc.). Compulsory military service used to bring structure, obedience, independence and used to be a rite of passage from boyhood to manhood. Besides the collapse of christianity and fragmentation of communities has also led men astray. Meanwhile equal pay between man and woman in the workplace is not a sign of equality; it is falsely empowering the woman by disempowering the man. It is also sending a signal high and clear that men are no longer considered bread-winners of the family and may be dispensed with. Patriarchal values are shaken up and belittled.
  • Breaking up the traditional man-woman family set-up and ruling it out under this newfound no-holds-barred permissiveness is a sure way to undermine both the male and the female, and break down family values once and for all. We run the risk of ending up with generations of confused kids who come from test tubes and surrogacy, plus those who suffer the consequences of divorces and illicit affairs. They will have no idea who their biological parents are. Such a confusion erases in effect personal family history: no more lineage, no more anchorage, no more roots, no more identity.
  • Promoting the gender-neutral agenda to kids: deterring little girls from looking girly (no more pink skirts and flowery cardigans!) and little boys from exclusively playing boys games (electric trains, football, etc.).

Neither male nor female: YouTube beauty sensation Jeffree Star

  • Metrosexuality, androgyny, and asexualisation: ultimately what we are witnessing is a blurring of the physical, cosmetic, societal, and moral characteristics between male and female. This comes to light as artificial intelligence and the increased robotisation/ automation of our lives are coming into force. We are losing the humane side of our human selves and turning bionic. Transgenderism is part of the transience of modern society.
  • Beauty standards are retuned and redefined. Sexualisation of pre-pubescent girls and boys on catwalks, fashion advertorials and in the entertainment industry. A body positive attitude towards obesity and its polar opposite might sound encouraging yet this brushes aside health implications and moral issues; it encourages the individual to pursue their hedonistic or punitive ways, not to aim for a balancing act. Sports and entertainment personalities are turned into heroes and role models (the Kardashians, here we go!) and given status and airtime. 
  • Empowering the odd and the misfit: as harsh as this sounds, it is true. Anything goes, a woman can be fat and sloven, tarted up like a tart, tattoed up like a sailor, swearing like a trooper, polyamorous (new spiel for promiscuous), woman one day and man the next, working traditional men jobs (as an army chief, a miner or a roofer for instance), proudly sporting body hair as a badge of honour! A woman is given permission to be unwomanly. Shun at your peril and the little SJW worms will crawl out of the woodwork to give you an earful!
  •  A lenient judicial system that fails to protect traditional values and puts women at risk, victimising the victim: 'She was wearing a skirt, walking home late at night, she was looking for trouble'.
  •  Any cultural incompatibility is played down instead of being addressed. Thus the incompatibility between a matriarchy and an ideology that is intolerant towards women's rights and liberties (ex: Islam), this being exacerbated under the West's open-border policy and lenient immigration legislation.

When males have been stripped out of their masculinity, of their role within society, they are left with nothing but asserting their masculinity through derisive cosmetic enhancement: bushy beards and tattoos. Enough said.

Men and women shouldn't be competing against each other no matter what. They are biologically different. Men's built and musculature naturally means that they are more suited to physical tasks than women; they also are more pragmatic in their approach to life's problems.

Likewise women tend to have an attention to detail and an ability to multi-task and empathise that men do not quite get and this is fine. Biologically-speaking, men are the hunters-gatherers (providing food and shelter) and women the nurturers (looking after the home and kids). There should be no reason for a battle of the genders in the name of fighting sexism. Men and women complete each other. Within the partnership, women bring sensitivity to men's sensibility and vice versa. Equality is about complementarity of the fortes and the highly-strung feminists out there who are pushing ahead with matriarchy are failing to recognise this.

Further Reading on Cultural Marxism:

2 Sep 2017

Mireille Darc, a Role Model for French Women

Mireille Darc was more than a French actress and a household name. I would go as far as describe her as France's sweetheart - and by the same token as the understated embodiment of the French woman inside and out. With a first name that sings the sunny South of France (my mum's name!) and a surname that is a tribute to Joan of Arc, you are off to a good start!

Mireille Darc, the quintessential French woman!

Mireille was a leading actress in her younger days, a valeur sûre: effortless, true to self, a natural. Yet her film portfolio might not be considered consequential by those cinema purists who shun popular modern-day stories and comedies of errors about ordinary life. No superheroes, special effects, Shakespearean tirades or costumed dramas in sight. What interested Mireille was to portray life as it happens, without artifice.

Mireille Darc and Alain Delon: each other's biggest love in life!

A word of caution: to confine Mireille to her movie acting days would be to rob her of her vibrant off-screen personality, philanthropy, grace and kindness, her business acumen, her second career as a successful TV documentary-maker, and her involvement in TV series and theatre roles later in life. The smouldering beauty was also a muse - not least to the love of her life, the incandescent French actor Alain Delon, and a loving second mum to her stepchildren.

On screen and off screen (pict source)

Mireille was driven: a plate-spinner, fingers in many pies lady. Starry-eyed and an award-winning dancer, she left her native Provence at the age of 21 for Paris where she intended to make it. She never looked back!

Unlike many of her contemporaries (Jeanne Moreau, Brigitte Bardot, Claudia Cardinale), Mireille remained timeless, ageless. She kept her slender figure, impeccable dress sense, elegance and positive attitude. Not to mention her fresh face, trademark sleek blonde bob, beautiful gleaming smile and a glint in her eye that made her the endearing mother, sister, best friend and confidante all along. She didn't let age get in her way: who would have guessed she was in her late 70s?! She kept her health problems under wraps, behind close doors, only for the very close few; she wouldn't have allowed it to vanquish her.

Even after splitting up in 1983, those two remained close till the very end! (pict source)

Mireille's legacy is multi-fold: she is a case in point, not only to young actresses but also to women in general. She shows us how to incorporate longevity into a career, stay grounded, focused, true to self, open to opportunities that ring true to us. Follow your heart, love with all your might, stay loyal. Stay strong and do not get mislaid by the deadly temptations of the art world, excesses and burn out. Ironically very few actresses paid their respects to Mireille on her funeral yesterday. Yet the populace was there, crammed outside the gates of the Saint-Sulpice Church in Paris: they didn't let her down! Mireille was one of us and never left us. She lives on in our hearts.

16 Aug 2017

No Future Without a Past

I have been incensed at the sight of the Confederate statues falling prey to the cultural marxist treatment, unceremoniously torn down, either by the local authorities or by private individuals themselves, then kicked about, trampled down and spat on. The proud, serving, dutiful, Confederate soldier and general, mocked, ridiculed, disrespected, by a bunch of savages who oscillate along that very fine line that separates the pro- from the anti-American.

George Washington's Mount Vernon

The culling of the Confederate statues is a historical and architectural auto-da-fé, promulgated under the pretence for equality. Sugar-coat it all you want, it is in no uncertain terms the rewriting of the past. It also indicates that a segment of the American populace still believes the War between North and South was a Civil War fought in the name of freedom for the black slaves. It was no Civil War, buddy, it was a Secession War: the Southern states had formed a confederate of states and expressed their wish to quit the United States, which is legal according to the Constitution. However the North didn't see it that way and anti-constitutionally declared war on the South.

The Confederate soldier statue at Old Durham County Courthouse, NC, was torn down on 14th August.

Back to Summer 2017, clashes and riots have ensued the removal of Confederate statues across the American Old South, feeding the mainstream media's anti-Trump and anti-fascist (?) frenzy at the same time. Anything goes as long as it leaves a trail of destruction of wares and reputations. The obligatory culture of blame, laced with the Soros-funded political correctness/ minority campaigns vs. white male privilege, culminates into high-voltage politicised disarray. Summer of Love, it is not.

I said it loud and clear in the comments section of The Conversation and I will say it loud and clear here:-

A nation that erases its past stands no chance of raising a future, simply because without the past, there is no future. Cleansing a nation of its history is the first step towards dismantling a nation.

The danger is that in “our* haste to obliterate the past and customise a present that is devoid of certain elements of said past, we end up uprooting ourselves and our identities - all in the name of political correctness. This is exactly what the global agenda ultimately has in mind for us: a rewritten, pared-down historical mish-mash.

Donald J. Trump's Twitter account, 17-Aug-2017


*Our” is a generalisation I use to describe our redefined, retweaked, society: its redesign purported by the loud Godless liberal left, cultural marxists and nihilists, under the auspices of the mainstream media. A society that destroys its past has no future to look forward to and this is exactly what the leftists/ communists have in mind. A dangerous game is being played here through this history cull. Destroying statues, effigies and other monuments of historical significance: which one will be next, Mount Vernon or Mount Rushmore?

*Last updated 18-August-2017*

27 Jul 2017

InstaGlam - Dolce & Gabbana

Welcome to LBM and Mirabelle's brand new series, InstaGlam, which explores brands that celebrate the beauty of life on Instagram! We start off on a strong and vibrant note with Italy's dynamic fashion duo, Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana.

D&G Alta Moda Collection, AW2015-16

There is something warm and generous about the Dolce & Gabbana brand, a little like a seasoned Italian mama: warm, spicy, friendly, coquettish, hands-on, streetwise and nurturing all at once. And no better way to appreciate it than via Instagram, where both D&G and Stefano Gabbana go beyond the call of fashion duty to share inspiration.

D&G Alta Gioielleria, Palazzo Gangi Valguarnera, Palermo

It is a sunny, vibrant, joyful, technicolor celebration of life, where the D&G man, woman and child lust for life. It is a far cry from certain couture houses out there that have a clinical, rigid, no-frills, monochrome approach to fashion and lifestyle, season after season. D&G is actually more than a fashion brand, it is a lifestyle umbrella.

Elements of nature, religion (Alta Moda Collection), tradition, artistry, and couture wizardry combine their threads to compose a tapestry of covetable craftsmanship with faerie-like, romantic, folklore and bohemian accents. Much detailing and ornementation are at play and those wearable works of art manage to pique our curiosity and send a message to those fast and furious fashion creators who have sent the high street bland and drab.

In our troubled times of transience and fickleness, and under the globalised aseptised world that elites are pushing us towards, D&G spells Italian heirloom, old money, oodles of originality, opulence and a waff of quirky flamboyance, not to mention an ode to cultural enrichment through the rediscovery of culture. In other words, they bridge past and future, like their flagship retail store on Via Montenapoleone in Milan.

Moreover D&G does not rest on their laurels. Their marketing and brand management is savvy, edgy and responsive. When a couple of months ago D&G faced a backlash due to their supporting US First Lady Melania Trump who proudly and consistently wears their outfits, Stefano Gabbana, a fervent admirer of Melania's style and persona, responded to his detractors boldly. He pre-empted any call for boycott on their part by actually launching a... #BoycottD&G campaign through social media as well as a matching tee-shirt range! No adverse publicity, just a smart move; what appeared risqué at first immediately brought limelight, coverage, and ultimately served the brand in a positive fashion! Well done!

D&G is fashion that sings and flutters and seduces like the Italian language itself. This is fashion lifestyle by a life-loving duo, and you can feel, breathe and eat it all you like! Bellissima pasticceria della moda!

D&G Sneaker Patches

6 Jul 2017

Espadrilles with Attitude

My love of espadrilles knows no limit: I would be lost without them! They are my essential Corsican Summer footwear, inside and outside. I don't just wear them, I wear them out: a pair lasts me a season (sometimes less according to the quality/ finnish or the wear and tear I put them through). When I lived in colder climes I would wear espadrilles essentially at home during the Summer in lieu of slippers (much more pleasant) and out, weather permitting. My love story goes back a long way: I first started wearing them as an 8-year-old, if I remember right, and have been wearing them year upon year ever since.

My pair of Little Marcel espadrilles, which I have worn a few times...

Talk about versatility: espadrilles are available in every colour and pattern under the sun, from basic white to coastal blue, via chintzy Liberty fabrics, warm Catalogne/ Basque Region stripes, pastel shades and polka dots... Along the way, fashion designers have pimped up the pump with gusto: dressed up in leather, adorned with sequins, laced up, filigreed in gold, propped up with a wedge heel... Anything goes.

'Madcarina' Wedge by Christian Louboutin: espadrille-inspired braided rope and a chic turban twist toe detail

Espadrilles are a social leveller in my book. Everyone can afford them at their most basic. Their understated chic makes them preppy, while their vivid colours and bold patterns lend a boho vibe. Their restrained Summery look makes them resort. Their overall design makes them as comfy as a pair of no-frills sneakers. Depending upon their colour and the way you wear them, you could get away with wearing them at church, at a town hall meeting, at the doctor's surgery or a garden party without anyone blinking an eyelid. Just dress up your attire and lend a little sassiness and confidence to your step.

'Vogue 125' Sandals by Soludos

I doubt orthopedists would recommend the regular wear of espadrilles because in all honesty their canvas upper and basic jute sole combo does not support the feet adequately like a pair of good quality flats would. Though for pottering around the house and garden, running a few errands, driving, and walking down the beach and back, they cannot be faulted. Despite the fact that I do routinely walk miles in them (flattish urbanised terrain of roadside and pavement - and the occasional dirt track), I wouldn't expect anyone to trek rocky terrain in those: this is not what they are made for! Consider the espadrille a week-ender, a city slicker with a garden for countryside, not a country lass per se.

Soludos for J.Crew Espadrilles in Chambray

Despite their very basic no-frills construction (no Air Max technology, ergonomics or air-cushioned soles here folks!) and their identical right foot/ left foot, espadrilles are comfortable for what they are, then again strictly for dry Summertime (not weatherproof unless you upgrade to the Sea Star Beachwear Beachcomber Espadrille) and to be worn on flat terrain. Their canvas upper makes them tempered and breathable. So no nasty sweats like you would with plastic beach sandals or even with the not-so-innocent flip-flops.

'Elisa' Espadrille Wedges by Tory Burch

The sole is natural woven jute (which absorbs perspiration like a dream), usually with a thin rubber underside, and sometimes with the insole lined in canvas (which I recommend because it will make your walking experience more comfortable).

'Baja' Satin Espadrilles by J.Crew

Espadrilles, especially if worn daily over a whole Summer, will harden the soles of your feet, yet by the same token you will never get a blister wearing those little darlings: bonus for a carefree Summer and to keep those tootsies in tip-top condition!

'Joanne' Embroidered Espadrilles, by Polo Ralph Lauren

Espadrilles are affordable if you are looking for basic ones (less than €10.00/ $11.50/ £8.80). But how high can you go in price? I mean some of those featured here are pimped up, dressed up variants, still reasonable in price and they may last the distance by a few more miles than the standard espadrille.

Wearing my (now worse for wear) Mellow Yellow Liberty Espadrilles on the beach with Tickle!

Espadrilles are essentially still manufactured in their locale of origin, the Pyrenees, Catalogne and French and Spanish Basque region. China and Bangladesh now produce them too. Regardless of how you look after them, one downside is that overall quality can be flaky, and funnily enough I find that this is not dependent upon the country of origin. The weakest link is the stitch that frays and comes undone and/ or poor-quality fabric that gives way and/ or splits in the big toe area or the heel... 

The Chut Charlotte espadrille atelier in the French Pyrenees

Espadrilles are flats with attitude regardless: versatile, slip-on, unisex, easy-going and still able to pull a dressed-up look together. They are comfy but not sloppy, and no matter how much you put them through their paces, they shall never lose that vacational, continental, sun-kissed, sand-filled, sea-salt-stained mojo!

29 Jun 2017

Toxic Love in a Southern Garden

There is a deathly obsession going on in gardens of southern France and elsewhere in the sunkissed regions of Spain, Italy and Greece. No matter how toxic the relationship, the likes of my mum and my unfortunate next-door neighbour will pursue the affair nonetheless, despite the warnings.

'Oleanders', oil on canvas by Vincent van Gogh (1888), via The Met Museum

The affair involves misleading lust for mediterranean flowers of the easy kind: easy come, easy grow, easy show, easy go. A native of the Mediterranean Basin and the Middle East, it was later introduced to the Far East and Central America. Give them a good watering in times of peak Summer heat, they take care of themselves the rest of the time. They even remember to flower year on year in time for Summer and would even do a little dance if they didn't look so conceited. They're a novice gardener's delight, thus can be pruned back, hacked hard and generally grossly mistreated. Still they will manage to summon enough gusto to thrive back to shape within a trimester and reward you for your carelessness with a myriad blossoms.

The Terrace at Méric (Oleanders), oil on canvas by Frédéric Bazille (1867), via WikiArt

Those come out all over in a rash, in shades of pink and white. The blossoms may look prim and proper as you drive by but get off the car and take a closer look: they are messy. They discard leaves and flowers on a whim, like a furry pet sheds hair, and the freshly-shed flowers end up sticking in clumps to the pathways and pavements and garden tables and the sole of your shoe. Maybe Charles Baudelaire spared them a thought when he penned The Flowers of Evil. You might call them pretty if you're my mum or the woman next door but that sort of beauty is lethal: avoid it at all cost!

(pict source)

They look impressive to the easily impressed, but it's all falsely affected to the tune of fakery in a flurry, like soul sisters begonias and petunias. They're a fifties garden fashion throwback that never actually went away - or went anywhere for that matter - passed on from generation to the next like a heirloom. Why? Because - remember - easy come, easy grow, easy show, easy go. Ubiquitous, so they are, especially when originality is unsummoned and garden space needs to be filled, a hedge be hastily erected at a moment's notice: Nerium oleander is the shrub of choice.

Fatal attraction

No surprise to be had: they behave as expected. The plants are easy on the dollar sign too. In their droves, they charm the charmless garden and will even endeavour to hide a multitude of sins like the ugly breeze-block wall they are backing onto or the irregularities of the terrain. They may fool you with their myriad petals and get you to absolve them of their sins. But their aroma shall fool you not with the old sweaty tee pong, yes the soaked-out worn-out garment that should have been thrown in the wash (or best, in the bin) but clocked an extra day instead. Sweaty pong is all there is to get out of that shrub, and if you stand long enough nearby, you may decide the heavy lingering aroma is posh speak for 'putrid'.

Pretty poisonous is the ugly truth!

Call it oleander all your might, it is of ill repute, plaguing life and playing with death, for it is toxic through and through. My next-door neighbour knows it, yet she amorously planted a couple of those next to her plum tree and allows for the branches to get jiggy with it under the midnight sun. And she still won't come to her senses, instead dragging her chaise longue across her patch of land so it stands exactly right under the flimsy shade of her protégés, admiring their pretentious stance from underneath as she lays down. A morbid rehearsal to God's waiting room?

Putting on a show!

My mum built hedges of those in her dreams and now her dreams are coming true. Leave it to her and leave her to it: she'll talk to them and caress their finger-like leaves with maternal care. Care for them to grow big and vigorous and take over her front lawn like a corporate mission statement: bold and boring. She'll refuse to notice the sap seeping out of the branches and scores of ants and white flies glued onto it. My mum taught me as a child about the toxicity of oleander and now she can't have enough of it in her garden's front row. Such a puzzling contradiction!

Where's Tickle gone? To the safety of the nearby bougainvillea!

I don't see birds showing an interest and rare are the butterflies that do so. I don't take an interest either: I actually dislike the plant with a passion and, as a nature lover, this is one strong statement. Tainted love for some, quiet desperation for others!


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