Sunday 23 October 2022

Hat Chat


B&W Norman Parkinson Vogue magazine fashion photograph of Le Groux Sœurs Hat, 1952.
Caution: Hat idioms ahead.
Norman Parkinson, Vogue, 1952

What's not to love about a hat, Dear Reader? Why aren't our wardrobes brimming with these (ahem, sometimes) practical and stylish items any more? While I'm no brass hat on the matter, I gather the advent of the enclosed motorcar apparently signalled the demise of the once essential accessory - where a failure to be wearing one could even be a distinguishing feature on a police Wanted poster. 

Fortunate reprieve in the fashion world came from the stalwarts, the racing fraternity and royal families, who continue to cling on for dear life and where there is no space for the timid, and I tip my hat to them. Strange how it only took a couple of generations for the rest of the world to become distinctly shy about covering up the crown, while a corresponding lack of inhibition is required for the rest of the body. 

There's an even more stubborn reluctance on the young to wear a hat beyond the studied irony of the trucker variety or the bland uniform of the ubiquitous baseball cap. In times past, my own notorious high school, formed on the St Trinian's model, was once a hat-and-gloves establishment. And yet to suggest a reintroduction of the hat would be met with howls of derisive scorn, while serious chat takes place about the formation of uniform policies around permanent and outré fashion statements like tattoos. 

From the chicly sheltering to the stylish, Your Corespondent thinks they should make a comeback into everyday wear. Even in a windy city like Sydney, a reacquaintance with ye olde hat-elastic, hat-pins and -combs can keep them more or less attached. For the curious and bare-headed, try something new! You can tell the world you're flinging your hat over the windmill and forging a new trend. Even this Le Groux Sœur marvel from the 1950s couldn't fail to turn heads, even if it's just to wonder if the chic beauty got adventurous with a commercial fan before dashing out to the shoppes. 

Anyhow, enough of the forced idioms, they're getting tighter than Dick's hatband to squeeze out. This post is really a public service announcement:

There's a marvellous one-hour documentary to watch on the interweb if you are a hat person or, if not, someone who might appreciate traditional skills and the painstaking transmission of such knowledge. Or maybe just someone who enjoys seeing a thoroughly appreciated older person in action. It celebrates the life of the inspiring, nonagenarian couture milliner Marie O'Regan.

The Millinery Lesson by Mike Southon, 2021.

Image credit: via Pinterest

Thursday 20 October 2022

Are Your Ports Of Slumber Wide Open?

S-is-for Swan
Do not despair, Mae, sleep may yet come.

'Tis Night, dead Night, and weary Nature lies
So fast, as if she never were to rise ...

Nathaniel Lee, Theodosius, c. 1680

'Tis night, dead night, and yet your weary self is not as dead to the world as you would like. The mind is whirring with matters of great or small import* and sleep is elusive. 

Whilst dramatist Mr. Nathaniel Lee spake of the delicious kind of sound sleep as being as fast as Death itself, you may be inclined to think that since he was certified a madman and had a goodly spell in Bedlam to boot, mayhaps his words are thus ravings? But no! As we do know what he's on about and have from time to time slept like a log, the dissipated lunatic in fact speaks of the nighttime goal! So what is to be done when your ports of slumber are troubled and stand wide open?

Why doth the crown lie there upon his pillow,
Being so troublesome a bedfellow?
O polish'd perturbation! golden care!
That keep'st the ports of slumber wide open
To many a watchful night!

William Shakespeare, Henry IV, c. 1597

Loath though Your Correspondent is to deliver instructions, a slumber-inducing tip was passed to me by a friend and as I find it works a treat, I shall pass it along to try if you find yourself perturbed and tossing and turning in your own swan bed one night. It's a variation on the Counting Sheep model for stopping the incessant chatter and skittishness of the nocturnal mind, which I've dubbed Animal/Vegetable/Mineral and can be tweaked to suit oneself.

The starting idea was to mentally flick through the alphabet, visualising five different animals whose name starts with each letter as you pass it, (a very apposite enterprise when the Good Doctors found themselves on safari in Africa with similar jet-lagged travellers), and by determinedly trying to think up what's actually quite tricky to do, focussing on this task will quiet the mind and sleep will come.

After giving this a go for a while, I discovered that my knowledge of the natural world was lacking in that I couldn't sufficiently identify five animals by sight for each letter, while oftentimes more than one parse of the alphabet was required before sleep finally came. Prescription to these failings came by widening the net and sweeping in a few of my favourite things.

Giuseppe Arcimboldo, "Vertumnus", 1591

Viz. take each letter of the alphabet in turn and exhaustively (hem hem) visualise all the animals, fruit and vegetables, plants and flowers, metals and gemstones which start with that letter. So alongside your menagerie you can be lulled to sleep by a veritable cornucopia of beauteous nouns**! 

C: Caterpillars are handsomer thus

Nota bene: my customised couple of caveats: in the animals department, no spiders-and-snakes or other creepy crawlies that might be classed as nightmare-inducing & in the plants department, no weeds or ugly things. 

Divine Mughal emerald
E: elephant, eggplant, & mmm ... emerald! ...

My own choice images run the gamut of real-life remembrances, photos, jewellery, objet d'art, cartoons, postcards, artwork; a payoff for spending an inordinate amount of time in galleries and books and on the internet, and owning lots of Stuff. Mentally wandering through my favourite greengrocery for fruit & vegetable prompts helps, as does a well-stocked garden to call upon. Plus a natural attraction to, ahem, shiny baubles.

Since some letters are still hard to furnish with a decent array of attractive nouns, doubling up mental stock images is perfectly fine: 
This beauty qualifies for A-is-for Amaryllis and H-is-for Hippeastrum. Very handy when you are across the Latin names for the plant world.

Phil Went, Summer Fruit and Bowl oil

This three-for can pop up as C-is-for Cantaloupe, R-is-for Rockmelon and M-is-for Melon.

Iain Welch Dog

And while D-is-obviously-for Dog, it is also multiplies usefully into Dachshund, Dalmatian, Dingo and Doberman. So long as you know what they each look like.

Ordinarily, Vulture should be disqualified as these birds are in the ugly camp, but if you have a good mental stock of Gary Larson cartoons to call upon when you get to the tricky V-is-for, you're in luck!

Ditto for Shark if you're circling around S getting a bit desperate the alphabet is nearly done and you're still awake.

Carl Bertuch

You get the drift. I find I get bogged down sorting the cloven-hoofed ruminants, for gazelles and antelopes, impalas and gnus all look much the same.

François-Xavier Lalanne, Gorille de Sûreté

The primates and big cats also need close attention, but that's all for the good. It keeps the mind on the task, for segueing off is always a given. There's nothing like a few choice prompts to have the wakeful mind skittering off again so a firm hand is needed.

So, if you find your Shakespearean ports of slumber are wide open one night, snuggle down in a quiet and darkened place and try thumbing through your mental illustrated dictionary for the A to Zzzz's that will hopefully drag those ports firmly shut.

* A whole other topic for another post.

** Of course, if your pet subject is for inst. tropical fish or dinosaurs, go mad and supplement therein. Similarly, the man-made world is ripe for exploitation and if motor cars or the Greco-Roman pantheon of gods is your Mastermind Special Subject, throw that into the mix and the humble alphabet may thusly send you into the arms of Morpheus.

Image credits: 3, 6, 11, Wikimedia Commons; 7: Blue Thumb; 8: Iain Welch Art & Design; all else via Google

Bats In The Belfry