Thursday, 25 December 2014

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

I Drink Your Health with Cheerfulness

The weather outside is frightful. Chestnuts are roasting on an open fire. Mummy is kissing Santa Claus. For those who think it's looking too much like Christmas, I say let the bells ring in dulce jubilo.

Tweed Towers is welcoming visitors for sherry, mince pies and innuendo-laden parlour games. We won't be doing much more till 2015. Let's regroup then.

A firm handshake and our very best wishes for Christmas and the New Year.

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Cordings - Donegal Tweed Coat

Merry Christmas to You

Do we need more to put us in the Christmas mood than a Donegal tweed coat by Cordings? I think not, gentlemen. This is a Christmas present to ourselves.

The raglan-sleeved Follifoot Donegal Coat is made in England from weighty 20oz Irish Donegal tweed. As Cordings say, an 'investment piece', and perfect for the post-prandial walks along beach and vale through the festive period. Don't forget to take your hip flask and pipe.

And attach a sprig of holly to the lapel, as is tradition.

Get the 'Betjeman Look'

Perhaps I'm over-scrutinising and confirming my bias, but I couldn't help noticing a similarity of 'look' between our previously published photo of Sir John Betjeman and the photo of Cordings' Follifoot coat below.

The coat is certainly handsome enough to inspire the muse in the most distracted poet. I feel inspired just looking at the photo. There once was a man from Donegal... 

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Hideous Tie So Kindly Meant - Christmas with Betjeman

England's Teddy Bear

Sir John Betjeman's poem Christmas has to be recited at this time of year, capturing (and fondly mocking) so well the commercialisation of the season. Choose one of your elderly relatives to give it a go.

If they're reluctant, either fill them with sherry or use our worthy standby below — Sir John reciting it himself.

Betjeman recorded a series of albums with composer Jim Parker, who set the most popular of Betjeman's poems to music rather nicely. Can we call it genteel rap music?

You will find Christmas [Amazon] on Sir John Betjeman's Varsity Rag, recorded in 1981.

Christmas by Sir John Betjeman

The bells of waiting Advent ring,
The Tortoise stove is lit again
And lamp-oil light across the night
Has caught the streaks of winter rain
In many a stained-glass window sheen
From Crimson Lake to Hookers Green.

The holly in the windy hedge
And round the Manor House the yew
Will soon be stripped to deck the ledge,
The altar, font and arch and pew,
So that the villagers can say
'The church looks nice' on Christmas Day.

Provincial Public Houses blaze,
Corporation tramcars clang,
On lighted tenements I gaze,
Where paper decorations hang,
And bunting in the red Town Hall
Says 'Merry Christmas to you all'.

And London shops on Christmas Eve
Are strung with silver bells and flowers
As hurrying clerks the City leave
To pigeon-haunted classic towers,
And marbled clouds go scudding by
The many-steepled London sky.

And girls in slacks remember Dad,
And oafish louts remember Mum,
And sleepless children's hearts are glad.
And Christmas-morning bells say 'Come!'
Even to shining ones who dwell
Safe in the Dorchester Hotel.

And is it true,
This most tremendous tale of all,
Seen in a stained-glass window's hue,
A Baby in an ox's stall ?
The Maker of the stars and sea
Become a Child on earth for me ?

And is it true ? For if it is,
No loving fingers tying strings
Around those tissued fripperies,
The sweet and silly Christmas things,
Bath salts and inexpensive scent
And hideous tie so kindly meant,

No love that in a family dwells,
No carolling in frosty air,
Nor all the steeple-shaking bells
Can with this single Truth compare -
That God was man in Palestine
And lives today in Bread and Wine.

Monday, 22 December 2014

Joy at Christmas

Tinsel and Lights

Michael Bublé aside, do many artists release Christmas albums nowadays? I think the answer is no. Since the sweater-clad heyday of Como and Crosby, it's sad to say that the Christmas-themed album has (probably) been in sharp decline. Yes, we have had the odd single, but even that tradition seems to have been diminished by the singing baubles manufactured by Simon Cowell.

This changed a little a couple of years ago when dear Tracey Thorn of Everything But The Girl released the marvellous Tinsel and Lights [Amazon] — resolutely a Christmas album. Tracey covers lesser-known contemporary Christmas songs by undervalued songwriters such as Ron Sexsmith and Stephin Merritt, but the clear standout track for me is the one she wrote herself — Joy [Amazon], a reflective song exploring the need for simple expressions of joy at Christmas.

Two years out is enough time to consider Joy a Christmas classic. Over to you, Michael.

(Pop Trivia: We actually have a Sexsmith connection between Tracey and Michael. Michael covered Ron's 'Whatever it Takes'.)

Sunday, 21 December 2014

The Idler Calendar

Take Your Time in 2015

All the trouble in the world is caused by people who want to change things too quickly — more haste, less speed, as the saying goes. Our collective resolution for 2015 will be to take our time, okay?

Let's all write this in the January 1 square of our spiffing new Idler Calendars for 2015:

"Take your time. Read The Tweed Pig. Ditto rest of year."

Cool People Love Real Books

I have to share this anecdote relayed by Tom Hodgkinson of The Idler from his recent Idler newsletter — as it confirms my own bias. He was explaining the continuous popularity of printed Idler books when we are being told the printed word is dead and we should switch to ebooks. I seem to remember a similar thing happened with recorded music. We were told to ditch our vinyl records, despite the fact it was the best format to hear music (particularly on one of these). Thanks goodness some people refuse to go with the flow.

The anecdote:

The death of the book was an idea enthusiastically promoted, weirdly, by the chairman of... Penguin Books. Here he is talking at a conference in 2010 (note the undignified use of the phrase "this cool stuff" and the way he calls books "content"):

"We will be embedding audio, video and streaming in everything we do. The 'epub' format, which is the standard for ebooks at the present, is designed to support traditional narrative text, but not this cool stuff that we're now talking about. So for the time being at least, we'll be creating a lot of our content as applications, for sale on app stores and HTML, rather than in ebooks. The definition of the book itself is up for grabs."

What an unutterable load of hogwash that turned out to be. Everyone knows that the cool people love real books and don't want a load of embedded video in their copy of Pride and Prejudice. And the chairman of Penguin Books should stick to selling books, and not trying to reinvent himself as some sort of Silicon Valley dot com guy. Next thing we know, he'll be removing his tie and wearing training shoes to meetings.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

The Philosophy of Beards

Peak Beard

They say we hit 'peak beard' last year, but anecdotal evidence tells me that men who sport a growth are not going to give it up on the mere say-so of fashion writers.

If you wear a beard, and it suits you, you hang on to it. Some men just look better with beards. It will look even better as you get older. Look after it though. First Olympian can help with this.

And talk to your beard. They're like plants, science tells us. They grow better if they're happy, and they're happier if you talk to them. I'm sure they'd like to learn more about The Philosophy of Beards [Amazon].

The Gowing Defence

The Philosophy of Beards is by eccentric Victorian writer Thomas S. Gowing, and re-published by the British Library. Gowing uses his book to present a manifesto, nay polemic (it was adapted from a lecture), for the wearing of a beard as a projection of manly virtues. Even then the beard was under attack from the impulses of fashion: 'O Fashion! What strange vagaries playest thou with the sons and daughters of men! What is there so lovely, that thou canst not, with a word, transform into an object of disgust and abhorrence?' We know what he would think about 'peak beard'.

Take it away Mr. Gowing:

'Though there are individual exceptions, the absence of Beard is usually a sign of physical and moral weakness.'

'Take two drawings of the head of a lion, one with and the other without the mane. You will see how much of the majesty of the king of the woods, as well as that of the lord of the earth, dwells in this free-flowing appendage.'

'With every attempt at freedom on the Continent the beard re-appears. Greek freedom and Greek Beards expired together.'

Beard-lovers will also be pleased to know that the book contains illustrations of great beards from history.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Castle Forbes Cologne

Castle Forbes

I struggle to write anything for perfume. The old mind jumps into a sack and refuses to come out and help. Nonetheless, this Gentleman's Cologne [Amazon] from Castle Forbes satisfies some vague notions that I use to narrow the field. The packaging is unfancy, so will fit well with the classic line-up on my select bathroom shelf. It's not endorsed by a footballer. It has provenance. And it smells well, with traditionally manly wafts of citrus and woodiness. It's also made in the UK. One to squirt when you're wearing worsted and off for a late-afternoon game of snooker at your club.

Castle Forbes is a country house in Aberdeenshire. It has been the home of the Forbes family for many generations. The current incumbent being the 23rd Lord Forbes.

The estate offers accommodation with fishing and golf, and in the 90s the former dairy was converted into a small-scale perfumery. The perfumery has developed a collection of gentlemen's perfumes and grooming products, including a well-regarded shaving cream, which I need to try.

Castle Forbes Gentleman's Cologne

Top note: Bergamot, Lemon & Lime.
Middle note: Lavender & Sage
Base note: Sandalwood, Cedar & Musk

Monday, 15 December 2014

R M Williams - Indestructible Trousers

Frantic Australians

I was recently bombarded with frantic correspondence from Australian readers. I mentioned that I used to own a pair of trousers that were made in Australia, and I thought they were originally used by sheep-shearers.

Common consensus has it that they would have been the 15oz Moleskin Stockman Trousers by R. M. Williams (below). If they are the ones — and I think they are — by gad, sah, these beauts are indestructible, designed as they are to withstand the jab of barbed wire and the bites of indignant sheep. I lived in a pair of these when hitch-hiking around Europe one summer, and they never flinched.

The Stockman trousers are available in the UK from Dene Wear.

R. M. Williams - Outback Outfitters

The trousers are part of Williams' wonderful Australian heritage. R. M. Williams was founded in 1932 by legendary bushman Reginald Murray Williams, who designed and crafted clothes for the Australian outback.

The Longhorn brand has since become an intrinsic part of the cultural identity of Australia.

Tweedy's Note: I'd welcome more intelligence from Australia, please. In fact, let's have more from any of the Five Eyes nations. You can be our man in Sydney, Washington, Southwold...

Friday, 12 December 2014

Christmas Stocking Filler - Linley Cheese Knife

Of Mice and Men and Cheese

The darling Mouse Cheese Knife from Linley (above) would make a suitable cheese-lover's gift this Christmas. The knife has a stainless steel blade, with a rosewood and walnut handle.

The mouse will need something pretty decent to spike on its ears. Might I recommend a truckle of Mrs Bells Blue from Shepherds Purse, the Yorkshire cheesemakers, for your cheeseboard? Mrs Bells Blue is an award-winning British blue cheese made with ewe's milk, and looking positively ravishing in the alluring photo below.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Christmas Stocking Filler - Merchant Fox Slippers

King of the Slippers 

They say always judge a man by his house footwear. A savage might be observed parading in sport socks, they counsel; a man who has given up on life in novelty animal paw slippers. The Japanese as ever show the civilised way. As well as the wearing of house slippers being akin to a bye-law in Japan, the custom sometimes extends to include a sub-set of slippers designated for the bathroom only. Now that's civilised.

Exhibit a healthy self-esteem and respect for your guests this Christmas with the wearing of these magnificent Fox Exmoor Check Albert Slippers from The Merchant Fox. By golly — these wondrous things are constructed of Fox Flannel in an Exmoor check, with a classic quilted satin lining and hand-lasted leather sole — the very pinnacle of house footwear, and this quintessence of an English slipper is made categorically in the UK.

In fact, why not have a range of these slippers available in different sizes for your guests too? A move like that could just well tip civilisation back in the right direction.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Christmas Stocking Filler - Chocolate Cigars

Do You Mind if I Don't Smoke?

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, but sometimes it isn't. What do I mean? I mean what you see above and below are actually cigars that you eat rather than smoke. I suppose you could eat a normal cigar, but it would be utterly rank. Best stick to these confections, which would make a thoughtful Christmas stocking filler for that sweet-toothed cigar-loving person in your life.

Above we have 3 Robustos from Xocolat of Austria. A mix of their fine chocolate cigar range with walnut, whisky and rum flavours.

Next we have Praline Cigar, a nougat cigar from Venchi (1878) of Italy:

Finally, we have this chocolate Dulce Puro from Simon Coll of Spain:

So much choice. What we need now is an edible humidor to keep them in.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Christmas Stocking Filler - Sir Plus Housecoat

The Polo Housecoat

The snow is falling outside and mounting on the window ledge of your living room window. The sky is milk white and fecund with flakes. There will be no visitors tonight.

Vince Guaraldi's The Christmas Song [Amazon] is playing as you sit by the fireside, whisky in hand. You pull the collar of your The Polo housecoat around your neck. What a thoughtful Christmas gift it had been back in 2014. This winter you can't bear to be detached from it, the same as every winter. You are reminded of the person who bought it for you each time you wrap yourself inside it.

The Polo housecoat (so much more than a dressing gown) is made in the UK by Sir Plus. The coat is in a herringbone cashmere blend with Jacquard cotton lapels.

If you are unfamiliar with the modus operandi of our good friends at Sir Plus: read here.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Christmas Stocking Filler - Carl Auböck Paperweight

Foot Paperweight

The countdown to Christmas has begun. In order to facilitate more traffic to our humble organ, I'm going to fire off a number of ideas for Christmas stocking fillers this week. Do let me know if you have any other ideas for manly gifts we would all enjoy.

First up is this splendid paperweight, a modernist wonder from the archives of Bauhaus alumni Carl Auböck of Vienna. The family-run Auböck workshop is still located in Bernardgasse 23, Vienna.

Put your foot down on all that unruly correspondence. And if an aunt is being particularly irritating over Christmas, it could serve as a very effective bludgeon in the manner of Tom Ripley's efficient dispatching of Freddie Miles. Actually, it might be a wee bit small for that — best use some lead piping.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Kent Clothes Brush

Brush Everything

I saw a moth near my wardrobe the other morning. Thankfully it wasn't one of the horrifying variety of moths that can so easily lay waste to entire wardrobes of clothes. Look them up and know their faces well. Terrifying things.

A scare, but also a prompt to continue with the precautionary practice of airing and brushing suits, jackets and coats — and everything — regularly. This restores the cloth to its full vigour by dislodging lint and dust, and anything else, without putting it through the trauma of a full chemical clean after every wearing.

I'm a Kent man when it comes to brushes. For clothes brushes, that means the Kent CG1 Compact Clothes Brush. Made in England, the brush is of pure bristle with a lightweight cherry wood handle. Never leave home without one.

Monday, 1 December 2014

Dufflissimo with Art and Jack


Dufflissimo — a term freshly-coined for the art of looking good in a duffle coat. The only coat where it is acceptable to have a hood. Alan Bennett can do it. Paddington Bear can do it. R. S. Thomas can certainly do it; tough military types and adventurers from history always do (see below). But Jack Nicholson and Art Garfunkel?

Well see for yourselves. Jack Nicholson and Art Garfunkel starred together — and wore duffle coats together — in the quite good Carnal Knowledge [Amazon], directed by recently-departed Mike Nichols and released in 1971. Have you seen this film? It examines the contrasting (male) attitudes to relationships of two friends, Jonathan and Sandy — played by Art and Jack — from their college years to middle age.

I think it's Jack Nicholson's best role, before he got all hair-stuck-in-the-air 'crazy Jack'. He displays an element of craziness here, admittedly — a portent — but he also brings a complexity, even warmth, to his character — a strikingly unpleasant Priapus destined for a flaccid end.

We seek dialogue-driven films at Tweed Towers, and the dialogue from Jules Feiffer's script is witty and honest; and a bit fruity, exploring as it does themes of a sexual nature in cheek-blushing detail. Hold on to your tea cup, you're in for a bumpy ride.

You Want One

Could you look good in a duffle coat? Of course you could — just project dufflissimo.

If you don't have one, then this one from Nigel Cabourn is quite simply the ultimate; but everyone should have a Gloverall duffle. Gloverall simply set the benchmark in duffle coats.

Here we see Gloverall's Classic Duffle Coat. Made in England, it has buffalo horn toggles and leather straps. Perfect for throwing snowballs at the prof in the university quad this winter.

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