Sunday, 31 July 2016

Black Tot Day with Pusser's Rum

Splicing the Mainbrace
Today's the day the Royal Navy ended its tradition of supplying a daily ration of rum to sailors. The 31st of July is known as a Black Tot Day. The Queen is still allowed to issue an order to splice the mainbrace and provide sailors with a measure to reward good service, which she does.

The bos'n piped Up Spirits for the last time on this day in 1970; the tradition ending disappointingly on health and safety grounds.

You may not keep up with your own daily tot, but today, if any, deserves a drop of Nelson's blood in your veins. Pusser's remains the rum of choice at Tweed Towers, as it was for the Royal Navy. Remember we tried their 15-year-old rum? Absolutely splendid stuff.

Pusser's also produces Overproof (top), a high-strength rum made for layering in a cocktail like a Rum Runner. Overproof comes in at a manly 75% alcohol by volume, and is only available in Germany, apparently — until we petition our local Pusser's rep that is. I'm no killjoy, but it probably is best to avoid operating machinery after a couple of measures of this one.

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Summer Slip-Ons

What Hath Night to Do with Sleep?
If  I dreamt of heaven, it might well be in the image of a transparent sea calmly lapping at the shore on a fine summer's night.

What would I be wearing on my feet? you ask. I would be seated wearing a pair of slip-on shoes in unlined leather (to absorb the sweat when going without socks), gin in hand. Such shoes would mean seamless navigation of a heavenly summer's day and night. You can wear them to the beach, on to the restaurant, continue to the club, and then wherever you find yourself afterwards, and never look out of place — the word is versatile. Who says heaven has to be impractical?

I suspect these horsebit loafers — with classic hand-sewn beef roll moccasin construction and welted sole — will be scarred and battered from all the summer activity, as they should be — so for this purpose, it's a capital idea to avoid investment-grade shoes that can't take the merry-go-round.

Summer tip: Load up on unlined loafers of every denomination and colour and keep them on standby for getaways.

The Barry Lyndon Imperative

In the name of God, Go!
The BFI tells me that Stanley Kubrick's 1975 masterwork Barry Lyndon is being re-released in cinemas from tomorrow. I insist you see it in all its painterly glory on the big screen at venues listed here.

2001 a Space Odyssey bores the trousers off me; I enjoy the style and lingo of A Clockwork Orange, but Barry Lyndon is Kubrick's finest colour film — and often described, rightly, as one of the greatest films ever made. And what colours! The film captures the light of Britain so well — much like another great favourite at Tweed Towers, The Draughtsman's Contract — with Kubrick agonising over each painstakingly-assembled shot and insisting on filming in natural light, and by candlelight in some scenes, inspired as he was by the paintings of Gainsborough and Hogarth.

Barry Lyndon is based on the novel The Luck of Barry Lyndon by William Makepeace Thackeray. The plot is divided into two acts that describe the rise and comeuppance of Barry Lyndon (played by Ryan O' Neal), an Irish fortune-hunter trying to integrate himself into English society in the Georgian period. The novel was based on the life of Anglo-Irish adventurer Andrew Robinson Stoney.

Kubrick included some of his favourite classical music in the soundtrack, none working better than the use of Handel's glorious Sarabande in the title music.

A wonderful film that demands three hours of your company. In the name of God, Go!

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Day at the Seaside

“And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.” F. Scott Fitzgerald

I've been looking forward to our annual summer coach trip to the coast for yonks, though it takes some organising. Such larks we had last year. Remember those splendid pork pies we brought from Fordhall Farm (England's first community-owned farm)?

This year we travel in a rather racy-looking Harrington Cavalier in Southdown's famous green livery.

This is the British coast, so with a considerable chance of rain and gloom this year I would recommend a more muted wardrobe than, say, a trip to Laguna beach.

C. W. Dixey & Son - Chartwell 16 Sunglasses

Aquascutum - Voyager Packaway Trench Coat

Purdey - Plantation Jacket

New & Lingwood - Bermuda Vintage Poster Pocket Square

Emmett London - Awning Stripe Shirt in Cotton and Linen

Charles Tyrwhitt - Navy and White Spotted Tie

Ede & Ravenscroft - Terrance Trouser

Russell Moccasin - Saddle Moccasin in Horween Chromexcel Leather (Made in the USA)

Cherchbi - Library Tote Bag in Herdwyck Tweed (Made in the UK)

Pembrokeshire Beach Food Company - Ship's Biscuits with Seaweed (Made in the UK)

Daines & Hathaway - 4oz Cup Set in Tan Bridle Leather (Made in the UK)

Urban Pocket Knife by Moki Japan for Jinen Store

Summer Staple - The Cricket Sweater

Good Innings
Has it really been three years since we covered the incredible Alan Paine cricket sweater? Apparently so — and I'm happy to report that it's still going strong, unchanged in fact, and that cricket sweaters are a timeless summer essential.

Friday, 22 July 2016

Sounds of Summer

A Quiet Life
The Sounds of Summer returns with a triple-bill that spans the decades, but has one thing in common — it won't disturb the drowsiness of bathers on their sun loungers or overawe the droning bees slurping away in nearby flowerbeds.

As Bertrand Russell was keen to bang on about: 'A happy life must be to a great extent a quiet life, for it is only in an atmosphere of quiet that true joy can live.'

C Duncan - For
We've had our eye on Glasgow's C. Duncan for a while — he wears some decent tweeds and his debut album was nominated for a Mercury Music Prize in 2015.

This song could easily fit with the Music to Button a Cardigan By series, but For has a nice sunshiny feel to it, too. And there aren't any drum solos or any bangs and crashes to make anyone jump up with a start if they're half-asleep in the summer heat.

Pink Floyd - Grantchester Meadows
Tired of the pap churned out by producers and lip-synced by air-brushed airheads, the kids return to real music played by ugly musicians with real instruments from a time when pop stars invented themselves. Rock is back.

Well, not quite — this song by Pink Floyd is more akin to From Gardens Where We Feel Secure, the pastoral evocation of high summer in England by Virgina Astley.

The droning bees make an appearance on this one, so they will be more than happy to hear it.

Astral Pattern - Sitting in the Sun
A slice of dream pop from London-based Astral Pattern completes the three. Sitting in the Sun shimmers away nicely as singer Melissa Rigby sings softly about sitting in the sun —  and rather appropriately given the context.

I think Astral Projection may have ceased to be a band last year, but we're left with a nice little addition to our summer collection.

Quiet, please.

Summer Book Club - Ashenden: Or the British Agent

Undercover in the Summer Sun
Ah, summer, my favourite day of the year. We really only need a slim volume for the Summer Book Club  (British humour). Joking aside, it's good to read a little, but not enough to hurt us, so we have a one-book only rule for the club each summer.

I considered À Rebours and the timeless appeal of aesthete Jean des Essientes turning his back on the barbarity and vulgarity of the modern world to live a life of splendid isolation — attractive. In the end, I've gone with Ashenden: Or the British Agent this year — more our style.

Ashenden was written by W. Somerset Maugham in 1927 as a series of interconnected short stories relating to the eponymous secret agent. Ashenden is considered to be the archetype for a certain Mr Bond and other literary spies that followed. (Ashenden's boss is only referred to as 'Colonel R', for example.)

William worked as an agent for British Intelligence in the First World War. His reputation as a writer and his worldly disposition gave him good cover in the field. In short, he had some insight into the subject matter of his novel, which is considered to be a thinly-veiled (if exaggerated) memoir; so much so, in fact, it is rumoured that fourteen additional short stories were destroyed in the national interest on the recommendation of Churchill.

Because it's Maugham, and because of the time it was written , the prose style and character studies should be excellent. We also get to travel around the world at a languorous early-twentieth century pace — to Geneva, Naples, Paris, Petrograd — with the manners and customs of the time. Of the titles in the collection of stories, I'm particularly intrigued by The Hairless Mexican and The Traitor.

Of the novel, the Daily Telegraph wrote: 'Thoughtful spy novels began with Somerset Maugham's Ashenden, featuring a detached hero on a journey to disillusion, a process brought to its apotheosis by le Carre via Greene.'

I'm looking forward to it.

Tweed TV - Ashenden

The BBC produced a four-part series based on the novel in 1991 starring Alex Jennings in the title role, with the wonderful Joss Ackland and dear old Alan Bennett co-starring. I think we need to take a look at this too, chaps.

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Tweed TV - David Bowie's Ice Cream Oddity

The Pop Ice Cream
Here's a clip of David Bowie promoting Luv ice cream in 1969. The advert was directed by Ridley Scott with music by the legendary Alan Hawkshaw.

Bowie, Scott and Hawkshaw would imply timeless classic, but the advert feels more like an ice cream oddity. I can't stop humming the song though.

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Throw on the Towel

Towelling Clothes for Serious Inaction
Orlebar Brown have added more items to their towelling clothing range with the Tavish (above) — the result of a collaboration with Rake magazine.  Tavish is a towel jacket with white piping and all the accoutrements of a standard summer jacket - buggy lining, sleeve buttons, patch pockets - but it's made from towelling. Sophisticated with a dash of decadence or should that be with other way around? They say we English regard sophistication as decadence anyway.

Have you worn clothes made from towelling? Do try it. My first time was on a trip to Biarritz where I found a shop selling vintage beach clothes. I bought a navy towelling polo shirt that had red and white stripes on the sleeves and hem — so very comfortable. Gone but not forgotten.

Since that time, towelling has always played a part where beaches were involved. And Orlebar Brown have been the supplier of choice in recent years.

Here we see Orlebar Brown shirts and shorts primed and ready for serious inaction. They look like they want Tavish to join them.

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Men Wearing Sandals

Do it with Your Socks On
Men's sandals have a bad reputation, certainly the proliferation of  Velcro-fastening, flip-flop based abominations passing as sandals. They're impostors when you compare them against the classic styles.

Remember the desert sandals (or chapplies) worn by the tough-as-nails Long Range Desert Group in the Second World War?

The desert sandal is perhaps a bit too rough-and-ready for our tastes — a better bet would be the closed-toe sandal, which let's in the breeze but doesn't reveal anything potentially unpleasant to the eye.

The sandals you see here are from Paul Smith in soft and supple stone-coloured leather, with leather lining, and copper buckles. I think there's something very modernist about them. They deserve to be in a Style Council video. Perhaps because they look a bit like a bowling shoe.

The sandals are also very similar to the ultimate sandals by John Lobb featured in a Day at the Seaside.

Fashion commentators mostly dismiss the socks and sandals combination as a crime against humanity. Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts. Closed-toe sandals should be willingly worn with socks (though they don't have to be): and such sandals deserve proper socks, not those silly 'liners' that you see poking out of training shoes.

In muted tones you might get away with wearing them on a hot and sultry evening in Rome:

But they're really built for summer colours and a daytime saunter in Llandudno with an ice cream in one hand and a pot of cockles in the other:

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Squire Haggard - I'll Fight Your Tailor to the Death

Deplorably Funny
I have a copy of Squire Haggard's Journal somewhere, but now I can't find it. This is a shame, as it's a great read and out of print as far as I can gather. The introduction I looted online gives you a flavour:

A bawdy parody of a late 18th-century gentleman's diary. Amos Haggard is a gargantuan, warty toad of a character. Along with Roderick, his idiot sidekick son, he carouses with prostitutes, imbibes copious amounts of wine, evicts the poor and fires his pistols at poachers, dissenters and foreigners.

Squire Haggard's Journal was written as an epistolary novel by Michael Green in the form of diary entries. The book was first published in 1977. As well as Three Men in a Boat, Squire Haggard's Journal is a comic standby at Tweed Towers.

I also located a sample diary entry, which gives you a flavour:

Sept. 30: Drizzle. Grunge, who at times has a Philosophick turn, does not approve of
my smuggled brand V barrel. ‘One day, sir,' he said, ‘there will be no barriers to trade
and the smugglers will be out of business. I foresee a time, perhaps in about 223 years,
when all Europe will be one; when trade will pass unhindered between all States
without the imposition of excise and men will sail to Calais and return laden with as
much French wine as they can carry. Yet no Revenue Officer will hinder them.'

At this my face grew stern and I spake harshly. 'Let me never hear such sentiments
again in this house!' I cried. 'Mark my words, the day this country allies itself to those
mincing pederasts, papists and dancing-masters in Europe will see the end of all we
value. Our golden sovereigns will be replaced by groschen or livres; our roast beef
supplanted by fricassees; our lives subject to the whim of envious French officials. I
would pay double, aye treble, for brandy rather than see that happen.'

Tweed TV - Haggard the TV Series

I have no quarrel with you, sir, but I'll fight your tailor to the death.

The quote above is from the comedy TV series Haggard, which was written by Eric Chappell — Rising Damp, Only When I Laugh, Duty Free — and based on Squire Haggard's Journal.

Haggard was broadcast in the UK from 1990 to 1992, running for two seven-episode series. Keith Barron plays the Squire, Reece Dinsdale his son Roderick, a headstrong Regency Buck, and Sam Kelly his faithful manservant Grunge. If the premise sounds a little like Blackadder, perhaps Squire Haggard's Journal was an inspiration for that (not so good) comedy series.

Haggard is a rip-roaring romp of a period comedy where much of the plot revolves around the Squire attempting to restore the family's fortunes by any means necessary. Being written by Eric Chappell, the dialogue is first-rate.

The series was woefully overlooked when it first came out and remains a bit of hidden gem, but it can still be enjoyed...

Oddly, the DVD box set of Haggard is only available on US import, but I suppose that's better than nothing.

Otherwise, all the episodes can be tracked down online. Of particular interest, gents, might the episode called Beau Haggard. Haggard accuses his dapper son of being a 'peacock, a popinjay and a real prick-me-dainty' and then proceeds to sharpen up his own dress when the Prince Regent wishes to meet with him. Great fun.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

The Travelling Gin Garden

Foraged Cocktails
The Gin Garden are a travelling gin garden who transform a space into an oasis of 'seasonal colour and scents', as if by magic, then create 'drinks inspired by garden, meadow and hedgerow' using our favourite summer drink — (lashings of) gin. What a lovely way to earn a living.

Naturally, they appeared at the RHS Hampton Court Flower Show last week. This week you need to dash over to the delightful cloister gardens at the Museum of the Order of St. John in Clerkenwell, London, to order your drinks.

The Gin Garden's summer recipe for Wild Mint Collins uses wild mint infused Botanist gin, pressed cucumber juice, mint syrup, lime and sparkling water. How's that for delicious?

Forager's Tea uses Botanist gin, hawthorn flower, wild strawberry leaf tea, honey syrup and lime. Yum-yum.

Beautiful gardens and large glasses of gin. Isn't that what summer is all about? Even if you have to squat under an umbrella to enjoy both.

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Somax - Pyjamas for Purists

Suitable for Matron
Traditional pyjama enthusiasts are saying that Somax are delivering the goods when it comes to pyjamas and nightshirts. We need to listen, chaps.

Somax use an admirably fogeyish selection of colour schemes and patterns for their pyjamas — some of which you might have last seen in Carry on Matron. We're talking pyjamas for purists. How do patients dress for hospital now? I would like to think they dress respectfully in proper pyjamas, slippers and dressing gown — and carry a good wet pack or sponge bag about their person — but I fear lounge wear rules the day — and that's just the nurses.

This summer I swooped on a pair of Somax light-blue-and-white-striped cotton short pyjamas you see here from their Christopher James range. The shirt is short-sleeved with a revere collar and breast pocket, and the shorts have a nice length that comes between knee than mid-thigh. I'm very impressed with them; so much so I might go for the same style in royal blue stripes. The cotton is smooth and crisp, and they provide the comfort and fit we want from summer pyjamas. Just add a glass of gin and you're set. Oh, and I'm teaming the pyjamas with a travel book on Jamaica from 1962 introduced by Ian Fleming, who adored the island. I think I've mentioned before that I enjoy reading old travel books; they make the best kind of history books (without the tiresome revisionism). Fleming's Thrilling Cities series is a great read. And Patrick Leigh Fermor's books, although he wrote his retrospectively. Actually, we might make one of Patrick's books a read for this year's Summer Book Club.

I believe Somax are based in Northern Ireland. If so, this might be the first item we've featured from that part of the UK. If anyone knows anything about the brand do get in touch. I had the devil of a job trying to find any information on them. Or anything from Northern Ireland we might be interested in for that matter.

I obtained these shorties from Wood's of Shropshire — an excellent shop for finding things you won't find on a typically tedious high street.

Thursday, 7 July 2016

Summer Beard?

Grooming Options from St James's
The 1911 portrait above by Joaquín Sorolla of Louis Comfort Tiffany — the American artist and designer and son of Tiffany's founder Charles Tiffany — is quite exuberantly summery and a delight for lovers of gardens.

Sorolla liked to paint outdoors, rapidly in a lightly impressionistic manner on large canvases. He is probably most famous for his beach-themed studies off the coast of his native Valencia. He loved light, particularly the special light you have at the beach, intensified by the water and the sand. If you are ever in Madrid, a visit to the Sorolla Museum is worth a couple of hours.

Sorolla would not have appreciated the weather in the UK this week, which has been cold enough for me to have worn my field coat from Alan Paine. July and all — can you believe that? I haven't got around to removing the old winter beard either. Do I shave and hope the weather warms up a bit or do I hang fire and stay bearded? The painting reveals to me that a beard might actually be an option this summer. It does look rather splendid with the cream suit.

Either way, the St James's barbershops have some new options to hand.

Taylor of Old Bond Street - Aloe Vera Shaving Cream
If the beard comes off —likely — Taylor have released a new shaving cream with Aloe Vera to provide a smooth shave and a soothing effect on the pink reborn skin that is hiding below. Being new to the world, we want to try and avoid any irritation and calm any tenderness.  

D. R. Harris - Moustache Wax
If the beard stays, the wayward tash can be twirled into order, like Louis' in the painting, with a smidgen of the new moustache wax from D. R. Harris. The wax has coconut and jojoba oils to keep the lip hair well-maintained.

Trumpers - San Remo Beard Oil
Trumpers have a delectable new beard oil for the 'gentle taming' of whiskers. For the San Remo beard oil, Trumpers have conjured the whiff of that famous city and its 'mixture of palm trees, cactuses, carnations, begonias and roses' — thus imbuing your beard with the delightful character of a summer garden in full bloom and ensuring that it glistens in the summer sunshine.

That does sound rather good.

Perhaps I'll keep the beard after all.

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