Furcoat favourites: birthday book bonanza

I didn’t get quite as many books for my birthday as I did at Christmas – probably for the best – but I did get a few nice things that I’ve been mulling over this week.

1) Mapp and Lucia, E. F. Benson – You may recall that I was recently ranting about not having read any Mapp and Lucia. I’d never even heard of them! I wanted to get this intro for a really long time, but was forcing myself to read all the serious books I got at Christmas first before I treated myself. Still sloggigng through one last epic, but hopefully I’ll be ready to start on this just in time for my holiday next week. Because frankly, it looks like holiday reading. This one came courtesy of my brother.

2) The Ballad of the Sad Cafe, Carson McCullers - And after I’ve read some jolly Mapp and Lucia, back to the miserable books I like best. This was a gift from Laura, who as a fellow former employee of Waterstone’s and avid reader of awesome things, is a trusted source of reading material. I can’t pretend to know anything about this compilation of short stories but I see the words ‘haunting’ and ‘brawling’ and I figure it’s got to be good.

3) Hairstyles and Fashion: A Hairdresser’s History of Paris 1910-1920, Steven M. Zdatny - Perhaps verging on textbook, but you can’t deny that I don’t take my job seriously, right? This book covers an interesting time in hairdressing, when the bob was invented (well, in a fashion sense, obviously the cut had been around for years) and when hairdressers were celebrities, who got taken on holiday with their clients so that they could look marvellous at all times and got paid ridiculously sums of money for doing so. This educational tome comes from my step-dad, who clearly pays attention.

4) A Privileged Life: Celebrating WASP Style, Susanna Salk – Recommended to my by Natalie, this fashion book is a salute to a very specific sector of American style. Loads of beautiful pictures of preppy style and ridiculously beautiful houses in fantastically-named places like Fire Island, it makes me want a veranda and a boat more than ever. Proper highlights of this book to come soon in a blog post. Another one from my bro here.

5) What to Cook and How to Cook it: Fresh & Easy, Jane Hornby - Jane Hornby’s first book – What to Cook and How to Cook it – is one of my favourites, based entirely on how it looks. The recipes are great, but they are definitely quite simple and probably not anything you hadn’t thought about cooking before. But my god, it’s beautiful. All the ingredients are lined in up satisfying straight lines, like something from Things Organised Neatly. This latest book has an emphasis on seasonal eating and fresh ingredients and again, while there aren’t too many challenging dishes it’s sometimes the simplest dishes that I forget about. Already cooked a couple of things and can give it a big double thumbs up. Thanks Aunty Anne!

Book club: Arabella Boxer’s Book of English Food

This week I received an unexpected treat in the post, in the form of a book from my dear friend Harriet. Love books, love cookery books and especially love cookery books that are related to the 1920s so thumbs up, Reuter Hapgood, for ticking all of the boxes.

Let’s take a minute to breathe in the press release:

If you were Wallis Simpson and had a king coming round for supper, what would you have cooked? Or if you had a stunning estate in the country and were throwing a party for all your friends, what might you have served as canapés? Which cocktails would you have sipped?

That’s EXACTLY the kind of thing I spend my time thinking about!

Arabella Boxer’s Book of English Food: A Rediscovery of British Food from Before the War was first published in 1993 and is a celebration of English food in the 1920s and 30s – a pretty interesting time for food, actually. At one end of the spectrum you had Edwardian-style dinner parties and stately home nursery teas still very much in abundance, but there was also the added excitement of the American influence (from people like WALLIS!), French influence (from smart society deciding that’s where the best chefs were from) and more exotic influences from the Bloomsbury set who liked to travel, a lot, and bring their new-found tastes back with them.

I haven’t had the chance to make anything from the book yet, but here’s the jist. There’s a really interesting opening section which I have read, which covers a bit of history of the era and how food fits into that. It’s then broken down into sections by courses, with the all-important ‘Picnics and Shooting Lunches’ as well as, obviously, ‘Drinks’. Each of these sections opens with a bit of context about that specific course and how it fitted into life and social occasions, what was popular and why, and who was responsible for its popularity. The answer should always be: Wallis Simpson.

You’ve then got a bunch of recipes, which have been compiled from all sorts of sources ranging from country house cooks’ records, family memories, old issues of things like Vogue and lots and lots of historical recipe books.

As I said, I’ve not had the chance to cook anything just yet, but here’s a delicious-sounding cocktail instead;

Wine Cup

This recipe came from Justerini & Brooks, one of the leading wine merchants in the inter-war years, by appointment to King George VI. Justerini & Brooks were established in the 1750s, and are still going strong. This is a most delicious cup, pale pink in colour. It is slightly too sweet for drinking at a meal, but perfect for a pre-lunch drink, or at a party, on a summer day.The original recipe called for maraschino as well as brandy, but this is very hard to find nowadays, so I leave it out.

1 bottle of good vin rosé

75ml brandy

450ml fizzy lemonade

450ml soda water or sparkling mineral water

a few slices (unpeeled) of green apple, oranges and lemons

a few strips of cucumber peel

Serve very cold.

This isn’t the only book I own that covers historical cooking, and cooking for high-society. Clearly it’s something I do regularly, so I like to stock up. Arabella Boxer’s Book of English Food has an utterly fantastic bibliography too, so I’m sure there’ll be plenty more to add to the list. However;

The Duchess of Devonshire’s Chatsworth Cookery Book is the most famous of this genre, I guess. Famously she opens it with the words, “I haven’t cooked since the war,” but should you fancy salmon gravlax and cheddar terrine with beurre blanc sauce for 48 people, this one’s your best bet. Sticking with Chatsworth, I also love Rachel Green’s Chatsworth Cookery Book which isn’t quite so ridiculous and mostly covers cooking quick and easy meals with seasonal ingredients – but it mentions Chatsworth so it must be a bit fancy, and plenty of the recipes are historical. Finally, another new(ish) addition to my collection: Kitchen Essays by Agnes Jekyll. A Persephone publication, it rounds up Agnes’s recipes and food writing from the 20s with such categories as ‘entertaining bachelors’ and ‘dinner before the theatre’ – a delicious slice of inter-war life, for a certain sector of society anyway.

Arabella Boxer’s Book of English Food goes on sale 26 July and will be priced at a very reasonable £20. The above is clearly a review copy, hence the spiral-bind. For your twenty quid you’ll get a lovely hardback.

FUN FACT! Arabella Boxer’s grandson runs Frank’s Campari Bar in Peckham.

Thames & Hudson release Cycle Chic by Mikael Colville-Andersen

Every time I see an adult on a bicycle I no longer despair for the future of the human race. -H.G. Wells

You only need to take a cursory glance at most street style blogs to know that bikes are as ubiquitous as the knock-kneed stance and centre-parted fringe. The perfect accessory, bikes have the added advantage of actually being useful – YSL Arty rings might look the part, but you can’t type wearing them and Wang bags might be  dreamy but they are also heavier than a wet dog, and that’s without having anything in.

Still, being popular is no bad thing – the abundance of bicycles on blogs is hopefully encouraging more people to get on their bikes and ride which can only be for the best. Personally, I failed my cycling proficiency test and can now only be tempted onto two wheels when I’m in the middle of nowhere – but that only serves to make me admire these ardent, stylish, savvy cyclists even more.

While the likes of The Sartorialist and Hel-Looks sneak in the odd cyclist, Danish photographer Mikael Colville-Andersen has gone above and beyond the call of bicycling duty, launching a street style blog dedicated to the cause. Cycle Chic is now something of a blogging empire with ‘copycats and collaborators’ in cities across the world, but it all started life in Mikael’s hometown of Copenhagen – apparently, the cycling capital of the world.

Tomorrow, Thames & Hudson is launching Cycle Chic – a comprehensive collection of some of Mikael’s best pictures organised by themes including Colour, Pattern & Attitude, Dress Me Up, Dress Me Down and the delightfully charming Vélo à Deux which features double the style in every picture. And before you barf, don’t for a minute think that each couple is made up of people… there are plenty of dogs on bikes for us animal-obsessives to behold.

Mikael isn’t convinced by the street style tag and to be honest, I prefer his description – even if it isn’t accurate for everyone in the book: “bicycle advocacy in high heels”.

He goes on to say:

This book is a selection of photographs of beautiful people who are adding to the social fabric of our cities by choosing to ride a bicycle. Cycle Chic is just a way of describing how citizen cyclists have used the bicycle since it was invented in the 1880s. Fashions and fabrics have evolved, as they always do, but the simple imagery of people using bicycles in our cities is timeless. It is my sincere hope that these photographs, taken in the now,  not only reflect the past but also allow us a glimpse into our future – a future in which bicycles are accepted and respected, and are a truly feasible form of transportation.

Ride on!

Inspired by these awesomely style-conscious cyclists? Here’s the Cycle Chic Manifesto;

  • I choose to cycle chic and, at every opportunity, I will choose Style over Speed;
  • I embrace my responsibility to contribute visually to a more aesthetically pleasing urban landscape;
  • I am aware that my mere presence in said urban landscape will inspire others without me being labelled as a ‘bicycle activist’;
  • I will ride with grace, elegance and dignity;
  • I will choose a bicycle that reflects my personality and style;
  • I will, however, regard my bicycle as transport and as a mere supplement to my own personal style. Allowing my bike to upstage me is unacceptable;
  • I will endeavour to ensure that the total value of my clothes always exceeds that of my bicycle;
  • I will accessorize in accordance with the standards of a bicycle culture and acquire, where possible, a chain guard, kickstand, skirt guard, fenders, bell and basket;
  • I will respect the traffic laws;
  • I will refrain from wearing and owning any form of ‘cycle wear’.

For that last reason alone, I mean… I’m a convert. Cycle Chic by Mikael Colville-Andersen is out on 7 May and for now, you can check out the original Cycle Chic blog here.

[My copy of Cycle Chic was a gift of Thames & Hudson]

A bunch of books I got for Christmas

Not quite a Christmas ~haul post, but I did get rather a lot of books for Christmas and as I always enjoy seeing what people are reading, I figured I’d share.

Clearly I haven’t read all of them yet… Actually half of them are still in Sheffield because books = heavy, especially in a suitcase which is also stuffed with Christmas cake and cheese. I actually can’t remember what all of them are, but here’s what I’ve got from memory – and don’t forget you can follow my IRL-time progress on GoodReads.

1) Good Evening, Mrs Craven – Mollie Panter
A collection of essays covering a housewife’s life during wartime (this ain’t no party),  originally published in The New Yorker and now republished by Persephone.

2) Art Deco Complete – Alastair Duncan
Possibly the heaviest book I own, this glorious tome is packed with art deco porn. It’s coffee table stuff, if your coffee table can stand the weight.

3) The Temptress: The Scandalous Life of Alice, Countess de Janze – Paul Spicer
I really, really like biographies of rich women in the 1920s and this one ties in with another favourite ~scarlet woman – Idina Sackville, who was profiled in The Bolter (and in several Nancy Mitford novels). I’m quite into the Happy Valley business, so this should be a treat read.

4) 1920s Britain – Janet and John Shepherd
I’ll be honest. I added this to my wishlist in a bid to fulfil my desire to own every book about the 1920s on Amazon, without really reading much about it. I mean, it’s nice, but it’s basically a school textbook.

5) Westwood – Stella Gibbons
I’m well aware that this is a classic I should have read – forgive me, I’m on the case.

6) Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
Yes, and this. My step-dad was vaguely horrified at my lack of Stella Gibbons reading, until I pointed out that as the person who raised me it was kind of his fault. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.

7) Kitchen Essays – Agnes Jekyll
Another Persephone compilation, this time featuring a series of recipes and food essays written for The Times in the 1920s.

8) West End Front – Matthew Sweet
I’ve wanted this book for a while (since November 11 precisely) and it’s next on my list to read. If you’ve missed hearing about it, it’s essentially about life behind the scenes at the Ritz and other posh London hotels during the war – PROPER SCANDAL. If you like posh scandal, I also recommend a favourite trash read of mine – Stately Passions: The Scandals of Britain’s Greatest Houses by Jamie Douglas-Home.

9) The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro
Another classic I’ve somehow missed along the way. Added bonuses; it’s about a butler and it’s set in the 40s.

10) Miss Hargreaves – Frank Baker
I added all of The Bloomsbury Group series to my wishlist and got four, which is a superb start. It sounds like a combination of Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day x Mary Poppins, so looking forward to cracking on with it.

11) The Thirties: An Intimate History – Juliet Gardiner
In a bid to move on from my 1920s thing, I’ve got a book about the 1930s see?

12) The Brontes went to Woolworths – Rachel Ferguson
Another one from The Bloomsbury Group series – it just so happens to be a trio of sisters in a bohemian London family in the 1920s, that’s not my fault.

13) Love’s Shadow – Ada Leverson
Another Bloomsbury book! This one shows the slightly OTT covers they all have, which I’ve been attempting to disguise. Pretty sure anyone observing me reading this will assume it’s shit chicklit, when in fact it’s an Edwardian novel about a London couple. IN YOUR FACE, IT’S OLD-TIMEY-CHICKLIT.

14) The Penguin Complete Novels of Nancy Mitford
Well, you all know what this is. Of course as a Mitford monster I have read ‘em all, but my life wasn’t going to be complete until I had this doorstopper-sized anthology too.

15) Henrietta’s War: News from the Home Front 1939 – 1942 – Joyce Dennys
A final Bloomsbury book – this one is described as a 1940s version of Adrian Mole, so I can only assume it will be amazing.

16) The World of Jeeves – PG Wodehouse
Well, it wouldn’t be Christmas without some Wodehouse.

17) Shanghai: The Rise and Fall of a Decadent City – Stella Dong
The Wallis Simpson biography I just finished got me pretty interested in Shanghai in the 1920s and 30s and a bit of searching threw up this book as a good source of stories. This is what I’m reading at the moment and while it is mega interesting, it’s less about casinos and opium and glamorous hotels, more about gangland murders and finances. Still, I’m only half way in so we shall see – it is totally fascinating though and a dead good read – again, my fault for not reading more reviews.

18) Straight on Till Morning: The Life of Beryl Markham – Mary S. Lovell
Mary S. Lovell wrote arguably the most famous Mitford biography, so this should be a good read. This book looks at one the most famous female aviators of the 1930s – check out some of my other favourite female fliers from the era here!

19) On Booze – F. Scott Fitzgerald
You’ve heard me harp on about this before – still amazing to get it!

20) The End of the Affair – Graham Greene
One more classic which I haven’t read before – I KNOW, guys. The real question now is, when will I ever be emotionally stable enough to read it? By the way, don’t panic – I have read other Greene, I’m not a total heathen.

Furcoat does Christmas: Books, beautiful books

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1) and 2) It’s not a topic I imagine you’re supposed to talk about, but The Vice Guide to Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll and Do’s and Dont’s: 10 Years of Street Fashion Critiques are the most popular toilet-reading I’ve ever owned. I don’t suppose it would be a good idea to write that on your Christmas present labels but it’s definitely true. Both are, obviously, NSFW, so not a choice for your mother probably.

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3) One of the most-talked about fashion books this year, Irreverent by Carine Roitfeld is a beautiful compendium of the best of Carine’s career. You also get to see the veteran French Vogue editor’s boobs quite a bit. 4) The internet is divided into two camps; those that love Daphne Guinness and those that can’t stand her. I firmly stand in the adoration camp and Daphne Guinness by Valerie Steele documents the style doyenne’s transformation from heiress to high priestess of fashion.

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5) Fashion books are a no-brainer at Christmas and the Yves Saint Laurent compendium by fashion historian Farid Chenoune would be a happy addition to any coffee table. 6) Slightly tricky to find but available in most gallery bookshops, The and Craft of Gianni Versace by laire Wilcox, Valerie Mendes and Chiara Buss is the ideal gift for anyone who worships at the gold, paisley, spandex alter of Versace. Packed with flamboyant designs, 90s supermodels and textile technology, it’s a right old treat for the eyes.

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7) The Book of Skulls by Faye Dowling came out last year but I still don’t own it, so here it is again. Featuring skulls from the ornate to the graphic in branding for such diverse names as Black Sabbath and Hello Kitty, it’s basically just a big book of nice designs. 8) Art Deco Complete is sub-titlted the definitive  guide to the decorative arts of the 1920s and 30s, which tells you all you need to know really. A beautiful hard backed encyclopedia of style, it covers the lot from interiors to adverts, fashion and food.

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9) I’m sure I’m not the only person living in London who is obsessed with buying historical books about my adopted town. Edward Bawden’s London features 200 illustrations from the famous artist, mostly depicting London in the 1920s and 30s, but also work up to the 50s and the Festival of Britain. It’s dead nice! 10) Not a recipe book, just something to look at, A Visual History of Cookery by Duncan McCorquodale features vintage food adverts, posters, propaganda, catalogues, kitchens… really just everything to do with cooking except how to do it.

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11) Sheffield bonus: Round About Chatsworth by the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire (or Debo Mitford to us) just has lots of nice pictures of Chatsworth Estate sooo… always nice. If you’re in Sheffield or surrounding areas, you can probably pick up a signed copy by Debo herself in one of the gift shops. You should! My signed cookbook is one of my favourites. Imagine! A Mitford pen touched it!

Penguin x Ink project

Notes on a Sacandal by Valerie Vargas

The Rotters’ Club by Han van der Sluys

The Accidental by Judd Ripley

I’m the kind of mug that rebuys duplicate copies of my favourite books just because they’ve been tarted up with a limited edition cover. Recent additions include Eley Kishimoto’s re-imagining of Good Behaviour and, obviously, Penguin’s gold embossed editions of Fitzgerald’s finest works.

The latest book re-branding I’ve spotted is Penguin’s Ink project, which sees six British novels given an update from a selection of tattoo artists. Penguin launched the project in the US last year, and now it’s our turn to see some ink-inspired illustration. Unfortunately none of the books are favourites that I want more than two copies of, but they still look nice eh?

[Via Stylist where you can see the rest of the series too.] 

Incredible Bruce Davidson photos of Brooklyn gang, the Jokers

My friend Sofie posted some pictures on Facebook this week from an old Retronaut post. Took me by surprise I have to say, I didn’t think there were any posts left on that site that I hadn’t already pillaged but what do you know? An amazing picture post I’ve never seen!

These images of a Brookyln-based teen gang called the Jokers, and were taken in 1959 by photographer Bruce Davidson. They’re part of a book called (wait for it) Brooklyn Gangs, but you may be disheartened to note it costs over £1,000 on Amazon at the moment. With that in mind, we’d better just enjoy them online for now.

Teenagers really haven’t changed much. Everyone (OK, the Daily Mail) berates today’s generation but young people have always been confused, misunderstood and misinterpreted. If I could make everyone read one book it would be Teenage: The Creation of Youth 1875 – 1945 by Jon Savage which debunks the idea that teenagers were invited in 1950s America and firmly puts pay to the idea that the yoof of today are in any worse than any generation that’s gone before it. It’s a brilliant, inspiring, engrossing read and – don’t let this put you off – was the catalyst for my 1920s obsession. Read it, make me proud.

[See more at How to be a Retronaut]

Fashion at Royal Ascot: Three Centuries of Thoroughbred Style

Last week I was invited to the launch of a book about Ascot style. As a sucker for anything to do with high society and/or fashion I obviously jumped at the chance and the tome in question, Fashion at Royal Ascot: Three Centuries of Thoroughbred Style  combines all the best bits of both.

Although the book appealed as soon as I read what it was about, it was the prospect of the launch itself that really excited me. As those who suffer my inanities on Twitter may have spotted, it was held at Heywood Hill - the bookshop synonymous with Nancy Mitford.

While anyone is obviously welcome to shop at Heywood Hill, the concept of snaffling free booze and mingling with Mitfords in such historical surroundings was an opportunity too good to miss. Even more exciting, a friend of my friends works there and showed us piles of secret Nancy leftovers hidden away in the basement while revealing all sorts of scandalous stories. Too much!

Above we see a shelf of Mitford literature including a few first editions that I inhaled greedily, Nancy’s favourite chair which some chump had just broken and which is now destined to a life in the cellar, and the pigeonholes where orders live now, but where secret letters and special packages once got smuggled.

Adding to the excitement was the presence of a genuine living breathing Mitfordonian granddaughter – alas and alack, I missed which one – and, even better, a speech from Stoker Devonshire – or the Duke, as he is also known. My Mitford dreams came true on Tuesday, I can tell you.

The book itself is a treat for anyone interested in fashion in history and is packed full of beautiful images as well as a good deal of commentary from the author, fashion critic James Sherwood. Released to coincide with the 300th year of Royal Ascot it celebrates three centuries of the event, from hats and handbags to royalty and rioting.

A coffee table-sized thing of beauty packed with pictures from Hollywood interpretations of the races to the likes of Luella and Todd Lynn’s involvement with the event. Obviously my favourite parts cover the 1920s and 30s, as seen above in what has to be the most stylish era of racing.

Now I just need to find a book about Henley style and all my upper class fascinations will be covered…

Making the transition to Filofax

Inspired by the likes of Kris and Gala (and egged on by a very sophisticated, list-writing colleague), this year I delved in to the world of Filofax. I feel like I’m cheating on Moleskine, but whatevs, we’re very happy together. And I still use a Moleskine notepad so… all is not lost.

I really wanted a gold leather version (inspired by my beloved Ladydate), but astoundingly, such a thing doesn’t exist. I settled for what appeared to be the next best thing – the metallic bronze Domino Snake, in ‘personal’ size. I say ‘settled for’, and ‘next best thing’, but it was love at first sight really – and the bronze is more like gold really anyway.

Work has only just got back to normal, so my Filofax is still a little lacking in lists and dates, but I did want to share the all-important storage wallet. My research tells me it’s the done thing to keep something of interest in here, so I opted for a Mexican lotería card, predictably featuring ~LA CALAVERA~. I think I will change it around to fit with my mood, as I have an entire lotería kit which doesn’t actually get played with, and I do like La Sirena a great deal too…

It’s not all skulls though, as my Filofax also includes a rabbit with a lil’ bell in it. My cousin lives in Japan, and sent me it for Christmas, but alas my phone doesn’t have space for phone charm, so it lives here. Ah.

I’m excited about filling my Filofax with all sorts of neat stuff over the coming years – here’s some Flickr inspiration (via Gala):

PS I can’t find a suitable pen anywhere. I want a gold one, but Parker pens are stupidly expensive, and no-one else seems to sell nice gold fountain pens. Wah wah wah.