Saturday, 17 December 2011

I Capture the Castle





Have been hither and thither, with last minute deadlines and all the shenanigans of Christmas. One small disappointment -- my Uniqlo order hasn't turned up yet (where are my Heat-Tech tops, not to mention the presents?). But this has been out-weighed by the seasonal blessings: a Christmas carol service at the Parish Church in Hampstead, with a choir to gladden the heart (I was reminded, again, of how inspiring it is to hear children singing Gaudete). And yesterday I made a cranberry and almond cake, which I ate with my friends and family this afternoon (it slipped down nicely with prosecco and freshly squeezed mandarin juice; delicious...).
Anyway, here is this week's Closet Thinker. I took the pictures at Cockermouth Castle at little while ago (a wildly romantic place, in a beautiful little town) -- in search of the spirit of Wordsworth -- though it reminded me most of all of my beloved Dodie Smith novel...

If Sunday is no longer the day of rest, then today is likely to be particularly agitated, for retailers and shoppers alike. This is, traditionally, a weekend when we are expected to rush around, buying Christmas presents in a flurry of seasonal consumerism, but glad tidings are currently thin on the ground. You already know the headlines, and the reality of rising costs and falling income may well feel more personal by now. Not that I’m encouraging undue pessimism, nor recommending pre-rehabilitation Scrooge; simply acknowledging that these are uncertain times, and splashing out on a party dress won’t necessarily solve anyone’s anxiety about how to pay the bills.

What does seem more important is staying warm; obvious, I know, but cold feet induce misery, as do icy hands. Hence my attachment to a cosy pair of FitFlop furry boots; still going strong after enduring several freezing winters, and also good for toning the bottom. (Speaking of which, poor Pippa Middleton, condemned by the press for – allegedly – crimes against fashion on a skating rink. Apparently she shalt not wear a white princess coat. Treason!)

The best winter survival kit will bring good cheer, as well as a level temperature; a formula that requires comforting kit, without making you look like a hibernating arctic beast. In fashion, as in life, it’s all a question of balance: just as high heels don’t work with too much uncovering of flesh elsewhere (the overkill of cleavage, bare thighs and stilettos), so too the bigger the boot, the narrower the leg should be. Hence Kate Moss’s de facto winter uniform of furry footwear plus skinny trousers. I rely on layers of Uniqlo Heat Tech underwear, so fine that they don’t add bulk; then an ancient Holland & Holland green parka on top, which is padded, but miraculously lightweight.

Brown, I think, can be too depressingly muddy a colour for a winter coat, though pink puffas are only good on little girls; better to go for ivory, olive, navy or black. And when all else fails, I return for advice to one of my favourite books, Dodie Smith’s ‘I Capture The Castle’, in particular the scene wherein Rose Mortmain is mistaken for a bear in her great grandmother’s beaver-lined coat. Rose longs for the luxuries of wealth – couture suits, silk stockings, bluebell scent, pale suede gloves -- and becomes engaged to a man who can afford these, then finally realizes her heart lies elsewhere; ‘her trousseau turned into fairy gold’, but true love is revealed to be more heart-warming than expensive new presents.

12 comments:

Gondal-girl said...

lovely post Justine - I recently discovered this novel ( I had seen the film but for me it had no magic), but the book was amazing - so enchanting - thanks for reminding me how wonderful a book it is. Have a lovely Christmas - hope it has a smattering of snow

enid said...

Have a warm loving Xmas and if all else fails a cup of hot chocolate and a cashmere scarf should warm the cockles of your heart. I wish I could wrap up some sunshine and send it to you. I have just read a delightful book sent to me by Lutyens and Rubinstein The Girls in the Blabk dresses by Madeleine St john- it warmed my heart.

amanda white said...

I do so love popping in here whenever you post. More often than not there's a chime of something going on in my creative life - Wordsworth, the Bront√ęs and Keats House for example - and a lovely slice of England (and cake). Thanks for posting and have a splendid Christmas.

Justine Picardie said...

Lovely to hear from all of you.
GG: I'm hoping for just enough snow in Scotland to make it Christmas-y, but not so much as to bring travel to a halt. And you're right, the book is far more enchanting than the film.
Enid: just talking about you in Cape Town to my mother, who is staying with me in London at the moment; and we were remembering past Christmases in South Africa, when the grandparents were still alive...
Amanda: glad to hear that some of this chimes with you. Keats, Wordsworth, the Brontes: we could talk all night about them, I'm sure!

enid said...

Tell your mom that Xmas in Cape Town is marked by hydrangeas and lovely summer fruits and days on the beach - no snow and now we have beautiful beaded Xmas tress and the lights in Adderley street have an African theme and we no longer have those wonderful department stores with their Xmas decorations but we still have carols in Kirstenbosch garden and at Zoo lake in Johannesburg. Tell her I send warm African greetings to her.

jaywalker said...

Happy Christmas, Justine, from Down Under. Thanks for all the links - I found some connection or interest with all of them.
I have an elderly friend here in Oz who is from Cockermouth and at least I know now when Keats' House is open - we have made two trips there on our frequent visits to London and it was closed both times - we probably went in the morning without checking the times so thanks for that!
Sounds as if you're already having a great Christmas and more to come! It was 28C here yesterday and then today the worst electrical storm I can remember for many years - Charlie, our KC Cavalier, required extended cuddling but all is now back to normal and 23 predicted for Christmas Day.

Justine Picardie said...

The joys of Christmas in the southern hemisphere -- I still remember the astonishing sight of the Milky Way on a clear night...

Nicola said...

I am just reading Daphne and am very entertained by it particularly as I used to live at 25 Cannon Place which was opposite Cannon Hall - I am wondering if you had ever lived in that vicinity? Nicola Clark (now living in Australia)

Lilacs In May said...

I've so enjoyed our diverse and cheering chats this year, thank you. I hope 2012 brings health, love and laughter to all. Happy Christmas.

Justine Picardie said...

Nicola -- how intriguing to hear that you used to live across the road from the Du Mauriers' London home! I was born close by, and have explored every hidden corner of Hampstead over the years; so yes, the descriptions in the book arise from my own memories and experience. Hope you are enjoying revisiting your own landscape, in the pages of 'Daphne'.
Lilac: many thanks for your lovely message, and for all your contributions (and cake!) in the last year. It has been a pleasure getting to know you here...

unitedfreeware.com said...

The building is beautiful and amazing.

StopTurbinesonPressendye said...

"And I've been admiring the trees outside Tillypronie, as well as the glorious one inside the house. There has been time to walk across the hills -- such a luxury, to feel the Highland air upon my cheeks ...whatever the unhappiness that might have beset you in the last year; courage, mes amis... and let us celebrate the threads that we have woven together, in this, another year... "

I hope in your meanderings you had time to open your eyes to the destruction of the Aberdeenshire countryside by the hundreds of vanity wind turbine schemings which are destroying your and my precious hills. In the case of the Tillypronie Estate's turbine proposed for the prominent Gallows Hill, you may consider it more yours than mine but many of your neighbours will continue in our unhappiness to fight for yet another year against one fashion we can certainly do without.

And a Happy New Year...