Thursday, 29 September 2011

The Eames Lounge Chair - The Past Through Tomorrow

















Whither the next Eames Lounge Chair?

The London Design Festival recently concluded. Some nice exhibits and an interesting mix of exhibitors. Names and designs that have stood the test of time alongside up-and-coming designers. Nothing jumped out at me.

I was looking for something that I could identify as a future classic. Longevity in design is often elusive, as much as the ability to spot it. But by decidedly expressing the here-and-now, through smart application of form and function applied to the technology available, the future can belong to a design too. So it is with the furniture of American designers Charles and Ray Eames.

The Lounge Chair and Ottoman

The Eames' Lounge Chair and Ottoman was introduced in 1956. Just in time for the mod sub-culture of the late 50s and early 60s to pick it up. New materials and techniques were used in its construction of curved wooden veneers and leather cushions, but they were also trying to get "closer than anyone else to incorporating craft ideals into the mass production of furniture", as Charles Eames put it. The result is something that looks well-designed without being over-designed, but is also damned comfortable.

The original chairs used a Brazilian Rosewood veneer, but the tree is now protected. As such, there's a big demand for authentic originals. Lots of cheap copies abound also, but Vitra in Europe and the original company associated with the chair in the US, Herman Miller, still produce a creditable Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman, which they can supply in new colours. You'd go for the original colours though, wouldn't you?

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

A Smashing Shave in Split


















Split, Croatia - not many ties, but a good shave to be had

Having a couple of days to spend in Split, Croatia, I tried to fit in a little bit of investigation for The Tweed Pig.

I found some interesting hand-made shoes in the Green Market. They had what seemed like old car tyre as a sole, which was nailed to the upper. Quite ugly, but quite unique. I should have taken a photo. Sloppy work.

Split is a beautiful city, with lots to entertain and surprise, particularly within the walls of the Diocletian's Palace - the most complete Roman palace in existence. Hell of a lot of Australians around. They were being matey seemingly everywhere.

Surprisingly, considering Croatia is reputedly the home of the cravat - whence it gets its name - there was little tie action to be found. It was blisteringly hot though, mid-30s. Linen trousers and sea-island cotton polo shirts were the order of the day.   

However - and its always something I seek out in a new place - I did find an old-school barber's shop where I could get a no-nonsense haircut and a good wet shave. (A good barber's shop where you can get an unfussy shave and haircut is definitely a consideration for the Tweed Pig Index of Civilised Cities.) 

Recollections of the shave and haircut. See how it compares with your local barber:
  • Shave
    • Shaving cream applied with brush.
    • Two passes with an open razor. First going with the direction of the beard. Second going against the direction.
    • Open razor with disposable blade used on ears and back of neck. 
    • Cold water splashed on the shaved face.
    • Alum rubbed on neck.  
    • Ralon Classic applied over face (see below).
  •  Haircut
    • Clippers applied to back and around ears.
    • Hair washed.
    • Scissor work in which the scissors were held in a very becoming pen style. 
    • More work on the ears with clippers and scissors. Three instruments used on ears. (Starting to think I have pretty hairy ears.)
    • A parting and brush into shape. Bit of wax to hold.
    • Dab of cologne behind ears.
    • Talc brushed on neck.
A very agreeable start to the day. Well cut hair and a refreshing close shave - although it was not quite as close as a shave I had in Rhodes - facial hair refused to appear for almost three days. Downside to that one was the old duffer had cut me to ribbons.


















Ralon - on the medical side of after-shaves

Intrigued by the sweet medicinal whiff coming from the application of Ralon Classic after my shave, I bought a bottle. A souvenir. Uncompromising label, shall we say. The composition includes camphor, sorbitol, boric acid, menthol and citronella. Unlikely to attract celebrity endorsements (or mosquitoes), which is something I suppose.




Monday, 26 September 2011

Tinker Tailors - Timothy Everest and Huntsman
















CV on the way to SIS

Returning to the new film production of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy - I'm still thinking of the layers of deception at work – personal and political. It's a sign of a good film that it leaves a trail of afterthoughts in one’s bonce.

Nice also to see the old-style Trebor Mints get a supporting role.

I'm not saying the film had a profound effect on me, but let's just say I've emailed SIS with my CV. If you find the pages of The Tweed Pig suddenly peppered with cryptic statements, it will probably be me relaying coded messages to agents out in the field.

Intelligence 1 - Timothy Everest suits for Smiley and Guillam

More intelligence on the tailoring in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. Having de-briefed me on Smiley's Aquascutum trench coat, my field operatives have informed me in a number of communiques that Tweed Pig regular Timothy Everest tailored some of the suits for the film.

Timothy was pleased to be able to do this, as it's one of his favourite books. He was also pleased to be able to work on 70s suit silhouettes, including three-piece and double-breasted creations.

As Timothy explains, Gary Oldman, as George Smiley, was kitted-out in "a sports jacket in charcoal grey with a royal blue and wine-red overcheck, to give it an almost tweed-y feel, plus a three-piece in a dark grey Holland & Sherry birdseye."

Benedict Cumberbatch, as Peter Guillam, wore "a three-piece Holland & Sherry grey herringbone and a three-piece brown, coffee-coloured flannel."

Of course, if you were to go bespoke with a Timothy Everest suit, you could have some special pockets sewn in to store your stolen blueprints, garroting wire and vintage Trebor Mints.
















Intelligence 2 - Huntsman for Bill Haydon

The teleprinter has just started ringing for an important message: Colin Firth character. Stop. Bill Haydon. Stop. Wore a Huntsman suit in the film. End.


















When I get the call from SIS, I'll have to think long and hard about the correct attire. I know you're meant to look inconspicuous, but if they insist on flip-flops I'm afraid we'll have to part ways. There's doing it for Queen and Country and there's beyond the pale.

Friday, 23 September 2011

Topic Records - June Tabor Sings Joy Division
























Topic Records championing British folk music for 70 years

It's the 70th anniversary of Topic Records this year. Some of the great names in folk through that time have recorded for Topic, such as John Tams, Shirley Collins, Nic Jones, Martin Carthy, June Tabor and The Watersons.

Folk has been finding a new and growing audience in recent years. And you can't get a more authentic musical experience than seeing a live folk act playing in a poky pub venue. No auto-tune, no trickiness, just raw musicianship and soul.

Topic has played a part preserving this part of Britian's music heritage, the singers and the songs, but also in keeping folk music alive and vital.      

June Tabor records again with the Oysterband

A new album is released this week by folk doyen June Tabor and the Oysterband. Ragged Kingdom is a somewhat belated follow-up to their first album collaboration, Freedom and Rain, which was first released 21 years ago.

The collection of tracks on Ragged Kingdom include folk classics such as Bonny Bunch o' Roses (Nic Jones' version is pretty definitive), but also a few more contemporary songs including P J Harvey's That Was My Veil and a fine, haunting version of Joy Division's Love Will Tear Us Apart. Here's a live recording. It really works.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Soho's Secret Tea Room - An Oasis of Radical Gentility



















A nice cup of Rosie Lee in the heart of London's Soho district

The family Tweed were on a mission. We assembled in Old Compton Street in Soho, London in our search for the Soho's Secret Team Room.

Through the hordes of nice young men we made our way to the famous Coach and Horses pub. The Coach and Horses is of course, famous for its association with Spectator writer Jeffrey Bernard and with Private Eye writers. Soho's Secret Tea Room is upstairs. You need to ask at the bar and they'll let you through - if room - to access the tea room via some rickety stairs. It felt like we were part of some underground tea-drinking resistance movement. If you consider Starbucks as the opposition, then it's probably not far off. 




























Once inside, it all turns winningly genteel. We noticed the traditional cakes laid out and the vintage china ware. Soothing, original gramophone records played in the background. The hustle and bustle of outside seemed another world.

A young man dressed in a vintage blouse took our order. We ordered two afternoon teas, plus extra sandwiches, and two pots of tea - a rose tea and an Earl Grey. Real loose leaf tea, wonder of wonders. It's a crying shame that it's so difficult it is to get a decent cuppa in the UK nowadays. A very pleasant excursion and diversion.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Piccadilly Pleasure with Old Town


















Old Town herald new products and fabrics with a quiet drink

A charming postcard arrived recently from our good friends at Old Town informing us that new styles of clothes and fabrics are now available. As you will recall, Old Town is highly regarded at Tweed Towers for their wonderfully complete aesthetic and the importance they place on heritage and provenance.

They have also produced a collection of photos, taken by Matt Hind, called Piccadilly Pleasures to show off their wares. The photos for Piccadilly Pleasures are a delight. If only all pubs were made this way.

Red Lion - St James's, London

The shots for Piccadilly Pleasures were taken at a Red Lion in St James', London. I believe it's the one with the lovely interior next to Geo. F. Trumper in Duke of York Street (first picture, below), although there is another Red Lion in St James's - hidden down Crown Passage (second picture) - not far from Truefitt and Hill, coincidentally.  You access that one from a tiny lane, but I'll leave you to discover it yourselves.


















































Funnily enough, I was getting round to featuring one or both of these pubs. I suppose I have now. 

Hearteningly, there are still lots of pubs in London that have retained their fine old interiors. Pubs in other UK cities haven't faired so well. Are we doing enough to preserve them? I'll trawl up the quote from Hilaire Beloc again, as I think it's an important one:

"When you have lost your inns, drown your empty selves, for you will have lost the last of England.” 
Hilaire Belloc (1911)

With the frightening rapidity of pub closures in the UK, so much local history is in danger of disappearing with them. What to do?  Maybe councils could help by closing the giant drinking warehouses masquerading as pubs that cater to a single (young) age-group. It's much nicer to have the mix of ages of a proper drinker. Maybe there should be some sort of stakeholder initiative along the lines of The National Trust that could take on the work? Maybe CAMRA are on the case? I vow to do my bit by hunting them out and using them.

Monday, 19 September 2011

London Fashion Week - A Brandy-addled Perspective


































Swirling a brandy and ensconced in his leather high-backed armchair, Tweedy casts a gimlet eye over London Fashion Week
 
London Fashion Week began on the 15th of September, and there is a dedicated menswear day on the 21st. 

Running through the list, and filtering out the more gentleman's clubby from the night-clubby catwalk shockers, some of our favourite names are there: Aquascutum, E. Tautz, Oliver Spencer, Mr Start, Rake and Hardy Amies.

And, lo, the houndstooth Harris Tweed overcoat above is launched this winter by Top Man, no less - as part of their Top Man Design collection. Has a bit of vintage Dunn and Co about it. I could fair see myself in that. I'd need to touch it, check labels, and try it on first, mind.  

[Thoughts: when The Tweed Pig Festival of British Classics is inaugurated (unlikely), it would be nice to set up something to exhibit textiles and styles -  Ventile cloth, say, or a Norfolk jacket. Maybe next to the ale tent.]

Kasabian at Mulberry's Birthday Bash

Mulberry, who are showing on the 18th, have been collaborating with a number of bands as part of their 40th birthday celebrations. Kasabian performed in New York at a Mulberry party last week. And at London Fashion Week the less scruffy Hurts will be playing.

Fantasy band and label collaborations? Who'd look good in a Barbour? Actually, better not, I could agonise over that for a long time.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Tweedy, Tailor, Soldier, Spy - Smiley's Aquascutum Trench Coat



















A film adaptation of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is under surveillance

Old Tweedy's donning his trench coat, lifting its collars and keeping to the shadows, and out of car headlights, as he heads to the cinema to see the new film adaptation of John le Carre's spy novel Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Alec Guiness' performance in the BBC adaptation of the late seventies was riveting from start to finish, in what is probably the best spy suspense series ever broadcast on television. It's a great story, so a film adaptation is overdue. 

The new film has a first-rate cast and Gary Oldman's performance as George Smiley has received glowing reviews. The customary spy garb of the 70s appears to involve some nicely crumpled suits and trench coats.













Intelligence: Smiley dresses in Aquascutum

In the new film, George Smiley sports an Aquascutum trench coat created from their archive. To get the Smiley look, you may want to look to the lovely Walton double-breasted trench (below). Made in England, with leather buckles, real horn buttons and lined with the signature Aquascutum check. Plus pockets for flashlights, maps, tiny cameras, cudgels and so on. Communication ends. Tweedy out. 















Thursday, 15 September 2011

Madder for It - Hand-Printed Ties Reveal an Ancient Tradition






























Madder print ties are a result of ancient craft techniques

Any English madder in your wardrobe? English madder is a type of finish used in the hand-printing of designs on cloth - usually silk ties or pocket squares.

Also known as ancient madder, the process involves printing a pattern on cloth, which is then dipped into dye. As the pattern is resistant to the dye, it is left only on the area without the print. The cloth is then finished. Or something like that. It's the finished article we're more interested in, and the results are works of beauty.

Good to see that the craftsmanship behind this time-consuming technique is still alive and well, and being done, more or less, as it always has been. I believe highly-caustic lime was once used, but, perhaps sensibly, this is no longer the case.  

New and Lingwood ancient madder ties

New and Lingwood have a selection of madder ties in 36oz silk. The patterns are Macclesfield neats (above) and paisley (below).  I love the mix-and-match of the colours and patterns in the photo below. Very English. I must see if I can locate a photo of Alan Whicker I have somewhere where he mixes it up nicely.

If you're wondering how to spot a real madder tie, New and Lingwood suggest that the cloth will have a "dusty chamois appearance and handle unique to this process."






























The ties are self-tipped, meaning that the same cloth used at the front is also used on the inside and back, rather than using some filling of man-made fibre or such. A sign of great quality.

The cloth, print and manufacture is all English. 

Drakes have madder too

For thrusting young bucks, Drakes offer slimmer versions of madder ties in 36oz silk, like the navy number below with madder red and madder blue paisley patterns. Also made in England.

It's time to get madder for it, not least to bore your chums about English madder. 

 

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

The Chap's Brown Study - Toasted Tea Cakes and Profound Thoughts






















The Chap creates their first blend of pipe tobacco 

Who’s the most serene person you've ever met? A pipe smoker? A pipe smoking gardener? A pipe smoking gardening vicar? Well, thanks to The Chap, you can begin your three-stage path to serenity. They now have their own pipe tobacco blend - Brown Study.  

Blended in England, Brown Study is named after the term used for a state of deep reverie. Indeed, Dr Watson falls into a brown study in the Sherlock Holmes story The Adventure of The Cardboard Box

"Finding that Holmes was too absorbed for conversation I had tossed aside the barren paper, and leaning back in my chair I fell into a brown study."

In The Chap's words, the Brown Study blend is "an aromatic tobacco with hints of citrus, peach, plum, raisin and vanilla, with a room note that can best be described as toasted tea cakes and profound thoughts."

A nice blend to enjoy when trimming your privet hedge or working on your sermon, perhaps. 

Pipe smokers of old may equate brown study as akin to a Condor moment

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Floris Show their Latin Side with Mahon Leather























Floris releases Mahon Leather - a new perfume for men

A new gentleman's scent from English perfumers Floris has launched this month. It celebrates the Minorcan heritage of their founder Juan Floris. Mahon Leather - Mahon is the capital of Minorca - is a masculine, all-season scent, with a warm, lingering aroma of leather, a touch of spice, and the clean and woody smell of vetiver.       

Since I got my hands on a bottle, I've found it suitable for work and evening - hitting just the right notes of lightness and sophistication. De repente, El Tweed Pig siente sangre espanola en sus venas.

Breaking News - Floris to be probed
So pleased was I with this scent, that I've given young Mrs Tweed instructions to find out a little more about Floris. One of her infamously penetrating interviews with a big fish at Floris is coming soon.

Mahon Leather combines the scent of the warm liqueur Calent, an infusion of wine and spices dating back to ancient times, paired with the exhilarating aroma of leather tack worn by the Minorcan Horse, symbolic of most cultural celebrations and fiestas on the island. Key notes of leather and saffron woven into the elegant heart of vetiver, underscored by deep woods and amber. - FLORIS

Monday, 12 September 2011

Back to Bitter - Shropshire Gold












The Tweed Pig feels bitter on his return to Blighty

The pig has landed. A lovely break in Croatia, but it's good to return to the green and pleasantness. I don't normally miss things when I'm away, in fact I have a tendency of going native in a rather affected way, but this time I missed a nice pint of bitter. A good glass of wine you can get anywhere, bitter is more elusive.

Whilst paddling in the waters of the Adriatic, I pondered over the words of the star chef and, ahem, eccentric Marco Pierre White. I can't recall exactly the why and when, but he recently posited something along the lines of British food needing to be accompanied by British ale and not wine (Britsh or otherwise).

We enjoy the whole a-b-c of the cocktail cabinet at Tweed Towers, from Absinthe to Zinfandel, but I wondered whether he might actually have a point?

Shropshire Gold turns a ham sandwich into an ambrosian delight 

Pining for bitter, the first on my return is a very fine ale indeed - we have fine wines, so why not fine ales? It's called Shropshire Gold – a fitting name for a beautifully golden ale. It has won several awards for the Salopian Brewery, and is described as being "golden", naturally, "with a floral aroma, hoppy, malty". But does it taste good? Indeed it does. Very good. I had it slightly chilled. The beer left a very pleasant finish on the palate, and it made a fitting accompaniment to a simple, thickly-cut Wiltshire ham sandwich on crusty bread with English mustard (I pined for a nice ham sandwich too). Marco Pierre White experiment successfully completed.

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