Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Queen Catherine enjoys half term

I've got to kill some time, so while I wait here are some photographs of this morning, when I tried to take advantage of the sun and take some portraits of my beautiful bicycle.  (Also pictured, my amazing bicycle-and-handbag co-ordinating skills.)  (Lengthy effort to get me in the picture as well proved disastrous, but nobody wants to see my face anyhow.)

Black, cream and brown Dutch bike:  Capital Cycles
Black, cream and brown handbag:  Primark

Catherine capsized during the taking of these pics, due to the sloping nature of the front garden.  After that we pootled off to the supermarket, but that also turned disastrous when I got to Morrisons and found that my bike lock was still in the flowerbed, post-capsizing.  So we pootled back again, and the front garden was full of ladders and workmen measuring Mrs Upstairs' windows (either that or they were burglars), and I feared they would laugh at me if I just picked up a bike lock out of the grass and cycled away again, so I came inside the house as though I had meant to do that all along, and here I must hide until they go away again.  I hope they buzz off soon, I'm extremely hungry.

The end.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

A spot of Make Do and Mend, for the war effort

Here's a new theme for Bette on Toast - a crafty post!  I'm not really a crafty person, but when I happened across this tutorial (and this one and this one and this one), I decided to try my hand at making shit out of other shit.  Specifically, accessories out of a pair of ruined tights.

A bow headband made from tights, made (and modelled!) by Megan Nielsen
I think I have mentioned before that I am the kiss of death for tights.  The skin-coloured ones in particular never seem to last for more than one wear.  I don't know what I do to them, but by the end of the day they're in tatters around my legs.

Here is a picture of me wearing my faaaavourite pair of tights.  They're (or rather, they were, *sob*) pale, greyish blue, ribbed, unusual and surprisingly versatile.  I also claim that they're vintage, on the grounds that I swooped on them when my Granny was having a wardrobe clear-out last year, and I'm pretty sure that she hasn't bought new tights this decade!  Needless to say, despite surviving God-knows-how-many years in Granny's drawers (Er, as in chest-of-drawers...!), after five minutes in my possession they began to bear the scars of battle.  I kept on wearing them throughout the winter and spring, darning the holes in the toes and ignoring the multiplying ladders, but the end was drawing nigh.  I couldn't bear to throw them away, sentimental sap that I am (They were practically a family heirloom!), so when I stumbled upon Megan Nielsen's series of blog posts about re-fashioning old tights, I leapt at the idea.

Lovely, no?  Here they are just before I hacked them to pieces:

It was a bit hard to chop into the tights, but I bravely chopped, and with Megan's help (I'm not going to go through how to do these projects because Megan's instructions are undoubtedly better than the mess you'd get if I tried to rehash them.) I made those tights into a headband, two necklaces and a pair of socks.  It was ridiculously easy - the only time I ran into problems was when I tried to be clever and combine two of her projects into one and stick some completely un-necessary ruffles onto my socks.

Sewing on the train!

Modelling my new headband...

...and my new necklace

This plain white dress is the perfect canvas to show off my matchy-matchy accessories.  I like being matchy-matchy.  I might even wear the above with...

...my new socks!

Oh, and as for the second necklace I made, I found a good home for that too.

Monday, 23 May 2011

That infernal nonsense Pina-Pinafore

Last week a very strange and exciting thing happened to me.

I achieved my life's dearest wish and time-travelled to the 1940s!

I took a boatload of my best friends with me, and for three nights only we sailed the ocean blue, wearing (or not wearing, as the case may be) our best '40s finery and singing our Union Jack-patterned socks off.

HMS Pinafore:  The War Years

It is 1945 (yes, really.  More on that later.) and the British Navy is busy ruling the waves and keeping Britain's waters free from the invading Hun.  Aboard the good ship Pinafore, currently anchored in port, morning has broken and the crew of remarkably fine sailors (many of whom are actually sailorettes - there is a deplorable lack of available singing men around these parts, don't you agree, readers?) awaken to greet their gallant captain, and to buy some black market goodies smuggled in under the radar by local dodgy tradeswoman, Little Buttercup.

For those of you who are fans of the infamous Simon and his blog cameos (and he seems to have many fans, though I could never tell why), here he is as icky sailor Dick Deadeye, with Northern Irish accent, plastic eyepatch and 1950s copy of Picturegoer masquerading as a '40s mucky magazine.  (Quote from Simon: "Ralph's ballad was so boring that I actually read that magazine.  I never remembered to sing the chorus responses because I was busy learning about Burt Reynolds.")

Meet Ralph. He's the one with the pigtail.  (Ralph is pronounced 'Rafe' because... Oh, never mind why.  While we're on the subject, 'boatswain' = 'bosun', ok?) He's gin-sodden and suicidal because the woman of his dreams, Captain Corcoran's beautiful daughter Josephine (Josephine pictured with some rather splendid victory rolls, hand-crafted by yours truly!), does not love him.  (She does love him, but it would disgrace her noble father's reputation if she married a plebeian sailor, so she's being haughty and unfeeling.) 

If it were up to her father, Josephine would marry the exceedingly rich, influential and boring Sir Joseph Porter, KCB, who, fresh from enjoying a spot of sunbathing with his family, has come aboard for a little word with his prospective father-in-law.

I spent a hilarious day assisting with costumes for the show - it is unsurprisingly difficult to find a olde-fashionede men's bathing suit for a very tall youth, when your budget is limited to Primark and charity shops!

(Interesting fact:  the character of Sir Joseph Porter was inspired by a certain Victorian figure of tabloid ridicule, a well-known stationer who was appointed First Lord of the Admiralty despite never having set foot on a boat.  Ever heard of a Mr W. H. Smith, readers?)

Sir Joseph is followed everywhere he goes by a pair of little sisters, a disapproving aunt and two amorous cousins. (Spot me!)

The dramatic Act 1 finale (complete, in our version, with air raid sirens and an actual bomb) sees Ralph attempt suicide, assisted by the crawly Deadeye, only to be thwarted by Josephine coming to her senses and declaring her love for Ralph.  The happy couple are rapturous, Deadeye is packed off to sulk in his cabin, scheming cousins Hebe and Phoebe spot an opportunity of bagging Sir Joe for themselves, and a plot is hatched for Ralph and Josephine to secretly elope.  Everybody sings about how brilliant sailors are.  Exeunt.  

Act Two opens with another thwarted love affair.  The lowly Buttercup has taken a shine to Captain Corcoran, but his social-climbing ambitions will not permit him to marry a member of the working-class.  
Ugh, the very idea!  

As the captain muses, Sir Joseph, pursued as always by his increasingly drunken and vulgar cousins Hebe and Phoebe, appears to complain that Josephine does not seem terribly impressed by his advances.  The lady herself, meanwhile, has been dithering about Ralph again, contemplating the grand existence she would have as Sir Joseph's wife ("and all that's new purchased from Marks and Spencer's!"), versus the humble, working-class life she would lead, married to Ralph. ("and bath time, a flannel and a kitchen basin!" - Double ugh!)  Sir Joseph, attempting to persuade Josephine to accept his proposal, accidentally convinces her that true love outweighs social position, and she decides to go along with the original plan of eloping with her humble sailor.

Oh no, what's this?  Dastardly Dick Deadeye has grassed them up to the Captain, and the pair of them are hiding out in the orchestra pit, ready to give the unlucky couple a nasty surprise!  The crew try to convince him of Ralph's British virtues, but to no avail.

 Captain Corcoran is furious, and in his fury he says a naughty swear word!  (Well-bred Victorian lady theatre-goers swooned en masse upon hearing the awful "damn" blight the air, I'm sure!)  If there's one thing Sir Joseph Porter cannot abide, it is bad language, so he and his appalled female relatives pack the captain off to his cabin in disgrace.  

Poor Sir Joe learns the truth of Ralph and Josephine's affair and it looks as though Ralph is headed for the ship's dungeon, but Little Buttercup steps in to save the day with a ludicrous story about baby-swapping.

Note the legs.  Somebody, and I'm not naming any names, but she was wearing red shorts, tried to upstage everyone by fainting across the middle of the action.  Bloody attention-seeker.
Buttercup reveals that Ralph is really nobly born, and thus eligible to marry Josephine.  Captain Corcoran, on the other hand, was actually born a commoner, and can therefore marry, oh, say, a humble tradeswoman.  Sir Joseph needs a wife, and, while Phoebe is distracted by a convenient sailor, Hebe finally gets her man.  Joy and rapture all round, and we ended with a rousing chorus of Rule Britannia!

The End!  Hope you liked.  If you are particularly interested, you may view the overture and opening scenes on YouTube.  (Uploading issues mean that that is all there is at present - the rest will be appearing sooner or later!)

HMS Pinafore has always been my absolute favourite G&S operetta, and this unusual production has only made it rise even higher in my esteem.  The show was written in 1878 and, as such, isn't usually set during World War Two.  I think it was a bit of a brainwave to update it, though, and not just for OMG'40shairandmakeup!! reasons.  There are a great many interesting facts, themes, satires and stylism in Pinafore, but I left my textual analysis days well behind me when I ran, screaming, from my bullshitty Master's degree, so I will leave you to look them up yourselves if you want to!  It is sometimes quite clever, though.

Anyway, this pictorial post took me a hundred years to put together, and I'm going off to wash my hair and have my tea.  Maybe in that order, maybe the opposite.

Well done to all sailors, captains, sisters, cousins, aunts, musicians, technicians, bumboat women and first lords of the admiralty onboard the Pinafore, and thanks for a jolly good time.  I loved every minute of this show!

Almost all photographs by Matt Goode or Ashley Bell

Rule bloody Britannia.

Monday, 16 May 2011

"...since Thespis first stepped out of the chorus line..."

Post-Show Bereavement ought to be a recognised form of depression, and medication ought to be offered by the NHS.  Elizabeth Queen of the World Hamer says it must be so!  Whilst temporary relief can be afforded from constant and intense facetime/text messages/Facebook commenting with one's erstwhile fellow cast members, currently the only known cure for Post-Show Bereavement is immediate immersion in the exciting opening stages of another show, which is how I avoided the brunt of the malady after The Grand DukeHMS Pinafore: The War Years has sadly sailed away into the distance, but while it was here it was UNPARALLELLED.  I tell you what, any Navy with us lot on board would have won any number of wars and vanquished any marauding Jerries by SINGING THEM TO DEATH!

When I get my hands on some good onstage photos I shall spam you all to tears.  In the meantime, apparently real life has carried on happening to other people.  As for me, still cycling to work every day (Oh, I never told you, did I?  Bicycle is called Catherine after the new duchess.  Good name for a bicycle, no?  I'm getting a leetle bit less frightened every day, soon I shall be a positive daredevil, wheee), computer is still broken and languishing in computer hospital (today's toast post brought to you by Simon's cute little toy laptop.)

A long time ago, before I let Bette on Toast slide into neglected decline, I had an Easter holiday.  I had a lovely time.  Here are some photographs of me having a lovely time:

Giving a lamb its breakfast, with STERN MISS HAMER VOICE

Balancing in a bluebell wood on Easter Sunday

This graceless infant is my distinguished grandfather:

And these photographs are of my great-great-great-grandmother, pictured with unbecoming ringlets.  And an unbecoming face.

I suppose I ought to go to bed now, but I shouldn't think there's any point.  Post-Show Bereavement manifests itself for me in insomnia.  During show week I never get any amount of sleep, and then afterwards my body clock goes "You want me to go to bed?  But it's merely 11 o'clock!  Sleep is for ordinary people.  We are thespian, darling!"

My body clock is a bit of a twat, really.

Monday, 9 May 2011

The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.

Not dead, just been as busy as a bee, doing festive Easter things, spending far too much time and money on trains, buying a bicycle, having a virus-ridden, non-working computer and rehearsing more or less every night.  I'm so tired my legs and eyes have felt like they're vibrating all day!  It's SHOW WEEK!!  If you don't know how exciting that is... well, you probably never will, so don't bother your head about it, but it's bloody brilliant, anyway.

I have been a cyclist for exactly one day, and have already formulated my list of Things I am Never Doing.

Things I am Never Doing:

- Leaving my nice safe bike lane to go around a stopped bus
- Taking my hands off the handlebars to indicate
- Cycling up a steep hill, i.e. the one my house is at the bottom of
- Turning right.  Ever.
- Cycling in rush hour
- Cycling in the rain

Nighty night.  It's 8.39 and I genuinely think I'll go to bed in the next half hour!

Oh, and since there haven't been any Boring Outfit Posts for a while (I have been wearing clothes, honest!)...

... a little sneaky hint at my Pinafore costume!

"For I am the Captain of the Pin-a-fore, and- LINE ONE, LINE TWO, LINE THREE!"
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