Archive | May, 2010

Trying to Rekindle the Heyday, or, ‘Doncaster College’s Fashion Show 2010’

30 May

Everything was set to be an utter disaster.  After an unsuccessful fitting the day before, an outfit with about as much visibility as having your contact lenses coated in Tippex, and Stevie making his arrival folded less than elegantly into the back seat of a convertible Peugeot 206, I can’t say I was overly optimistic about our success as a designer/model dream team in this year’s end-of-year fashion show.  As I waited outside Doncaster Dome, occasionally catching a whiff of the sweating men making their way out of its rather sanguinely named ‘fitness village’, my worry about donning the ‘cone of doom’ was rapidly mounting, and I was regretting not downing an unhealthy dose of tranquilisers to get me through the inevitable horror before leaving the house.  Little did I know how truly unnecessary my anxieties were; Stevie Hockaday, after a bit of a strop and many an hour seated at a sewing machine, had created a masterpiece, and I really hope he wasn’t joking about establishing the ‘Haus of Cone’ based upon it.

I’m getting ahead of myself though.  Once we had both arrived at the aforementioned Dome, the moment of truth took place. Did the cone fit??? A last minute hip-alteration had left us both greatly concerned that my rather sizeable ones were no longer going to fit into the bottom half of this outfit:

Stevie's original designs.

To Stevie’s relief, and my lack of expected embarrassment, with a little bit of breathing in, I was zipped into it with ease, and it was a totally perfect fit, if you can accept the fact that most of your ass is on show to the world. Which, surprisingly, as it turned out, I could.  Euphoria ensued, and we both settled ourselves down for a lengthy wait until the dress rehearsal, with a charming Phoebe Philo interview and plenty of first year fashion BA gossip to keep us occupied.  Both of us tried to ignore the elephant in the room: how to see through a cone of fabric, held up at arm height, well enough to walk down a catwalk, walk back up a catwalk, join a procession of other models, and successfully make it down some stairs without falling over and breaking my face and dignity.

We were faced with three options: counting steps and following a straight line on the ceiling, having a male escort to grab me around the waist and steer me away from certain broken bones, or some sort of cone trickery that would enable vision.  A combination of the first two was seemingly like the most plausible option, whilst also being the most risky, as the dress rehearsal proved.  After ignoring the ‘no news is good news’ principle, and panicking when I heard no words of warning or encouragement as I walked blindly down the catwalk in six inch heels, I tentatively stuck my head out of the lowered cone to see if I was in danger of staggering off the end,  and consequently received some stern looks as I exposed my bra to all observers.  Brows were furrowed and heads scratched: something needed to be done.

As Stevie and I sulked backstage, certain once more that our day was going to end in mutual humiliation, exposed nether-regions and potential broken limbs, I draped the hoop that made the circular structure of the cone over my shoulders. ‘It looks really good like that you know!’ said a model lurking nearby, probably delighting in our misery. Thus, the light-bulb moment of the day occurred. Stevie and I worked out a sequence of walking blindly in the cone and positioning it over my shoulders, enabling me to SEE, creating the ultimate ‘best of both worlds’ scenario: elaborate cone was displayed, and I did not have to engage in kamikaze modelling.

The 4:30pm show went excellently:

Image stolen from Chris Jones, who photographed the event.

Sadly I can’t find a photograph of the cone fully extended, but hopefully one will appear. Apparently it was hard to photograph anyone in motion due to the slow shutter speeds being used because of the bad lighting…. or something. Anyway, as my smug expression indicates, I HAD NOT FALLEN OVER DURING MY BLIND WALK TO THAT POINT. I was in the clear! Everything was going to go perfectly at the 8:30pm show.

It almost did, except for the fact that I nearly forgot the absolutely crucial part of the whole thing – to extend the cone structure.  Off I went, tottering down the catwalk, making a good two paces before realising that I could actually see, and therefore something must be terribly wrong.  Images of Stevie’s FACE OF RAGE began to flash before my eyes as I rapidly lifted my arms, but thankfully, the large cheer that ensued when the cone was deployed completely alleviated any telling off I was expecting to face.  After a brief hi-five and a cry of ‘DID YOU HEAR THAT???!!!1!!???’ I zipped myself out of the cone for the final time, and back into my far more workable attire of jeans and a vest.

However, it was wishful thinking that I might be able to leave, despite how staggeringly tired everyone had become after 10 hours of worry.  I was employed, amongst the fashion students, as a ‘dresser’ helping the professional models who had to get through five complete outfit changes before the end of the show.  Regardless of my cries, Mean Girls style, of ‘I DON’T EVEN GO HERE!’ I was somehow lumbered with a clothing rail heaving with fiddly accessories and beautiful, but impossible to get in to, dresses.  As I fretted about untied bows and laddered tights, I began to wish I was still inside the now-preferable and stress free cone.  Thankfully, all went well, and no graduating designers had to yell at me for ruining their final show.

At about 10:30pm, I cycled home, exhausted but thrilled, leaving Stevie to delight in his conical success after a day of miraculously avoided catastrophe.  I never should have doubted you!

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Dog Days

23 May

As today was the first day of freedom from academic work, and the dreadful, dreadful sweltering computer clusters on campus, I decided to celebrate accordingly with a short walk around my locale.  As all my house-mates were otherwise occupied with revision, or in the process of packing their belongings for the final move back home, I set out alone, to explore what is fast becoming my favourite part of Newcastle.

About 200 metres downhill from my humble abode lies this verdant scene.  I am sure for many this would mean nothing, but I can’t express how much I love living so close to so much wild greenery.  In my home-town of Doncaster I often ride my bike in the areas near my house, and the closest I come to anything that could be classed as a departure from suburbia is a huge, man-made lake, and a similarly huge, man-made hill consisting of what they removed to make the lake.  It’s not an unpleasant sight, but it is all very sterile, and any tranquillity achieved is swiftly negated by the realisation that you are sandwiched between the Keepmoat Stadium and an Asda Superstore, and will apparently be poisoned by toxic blue-green algae should you dare to dip in a toe.  My feelings towards the unpleasantness of Doncaster are, however, a post in themselves. After a further walk downhill, past my local pub and many a shirtless Geordie, I found myself in the hinterland that is Ouseburn, with only the sounds of trickling water and allotment owners digging to accompany me.

I find the world of allotments located in Jesmond Vale and Ouseburn fascinating. Never have I seen so many in one place! And one place that is in a valley and encased by greenery at that.  As I walked along the main dirt footpath, I could see over hundreds of well loved allotments, causing me both pleasure and a sizeable amount of envy.  It has been my dream to have a vegetable plot for so long! Every so often I would pass an open entrance into this literal gardeners’ world, this one appearing the most mysterious.  I managed to resist the temptation to creep in, just in case of any Elmer Fudd style situations and accusations of veg theft.

This crappy phone picture, taken by waving my camera above a fence and hoping for the best, captures neither the scale nor grandeur of the allotments, but gives a general impression of how nice they are!

As I carried on with my walk, I came to some open grassy spaces, and then followed the Ouseburn for a while, which was particularly picturesque in the sunshine…

until my stupid choice of footwear became too ridiculous, and I had to head for more stable, less muddy paths.

Very unwise, I do realise.  It was just so hot!! And my usual twee uniforms of high wasted skirts, thick tights and brogues do not cut the mustard in the summer months, particularly when there is a ‘heatwave’ (I’ve had to have two cold showers today – apparently my loft bedroom has a lot in common with my mum’s greenhouse), and consequently I panic and can barely dress myself.  Finding some summer footwear is definitely my top shopping priority at the moment.

Once I had followed the river for a while, I headed back on myself, as I can never resist a glimpse at my favourite houses in Newcastle. They look like perfectly normal, three storey terraces from the front, but at the back, due to the valley, they fall away, revealing secret, hidden floors, glass ceilinged rooms and gardens that descend at about 45 degrees to a some decking by the river. I wanted to get a better photo, but due to the glorious weather, the owners of my very favourite were basking/taunting me from one of their many terraces, so this sneaky glimpse through the trees will have to do.

All in all, it was a really, really lovely day, although I am hugely looking forward to it ending at this point, as the collective seven hours of sleep I have had over the last two nights has finally caught up with me.

Dust to Dust

22 May

I knew I was going to be disappointed by the final ever episode of Ashes to Ashes.  Maybe it was because I didn’t watch Life on Mars, so had no attachment to Sam Tyler and his mysterious circumstances, or maybe it was because I had foolishly, excessively become emotionally invested in this series, and nothing was ever going to tie up all the massively loose ends to my satisfaction.

I liked, and had speculated at, the roles of Gene Hunt and Jim Keats, as guardian and satanic figures respectively, and the fact Gene was the dead soldier was something I had guessed at, but could not logistically work out for myself, so I was intrigued by that aspect of the narrative.  And I really did enjoy the episode; it was complex, made me experience far too much anxiety for a Friday night, and was certainly thought provoking.

However… I am sorry, but I am a romantic, and was hoping for a little more of this:

and a little less of Jim Keats throwing things around CID and doing that laugh that will linger with me rather longer than I would like.  In an ideal world, I would have liked Alex to stay with Gene, in his fantasy purgatory existence, a little longer, and for him to admit that yes, he did need her.  As a non-believer, the heaven that Nelson and The Railway Arms presented did not seem as worthy of Alex as Gene himself.  I would have settled for a cliché ending in which Alex was taken back to the most annoying child in the world, Molly, but for her to choose to leave my favourite television pairing of recent times was just too much for me! One measly kiss and she was off, away from the world where it was perpetually 9:06, and crushing my fangirl fantasies with her.

I understand that everything must be concluded, and that Alex needed to follow the correct route in death or there would be room for further questioning etc etc, and I am truly trying to look at the bigger picture, but I can’t help being left feeling as empty as Gene Hunt’s department, rather than satisfied with a finale befitting the tension of the three previous seasons.

Hope in the Air

22 May

Today seems a particularly apt day to start a blog, as it marks the final day of my undergraduate English Literature degree.  The fact that, hopefully, depending on that all important 2:1, I will be returning to academia in September for an MA in the mysteriously titled ‘Literary Studies’ is by the by; that will be a grown-up experience, involving terrifying things like a part-time job, and a flat with only my boyfriend, rather than five other students to watch Challenge TV with in the mornings.  Not that my new living situation will be a bad thing in the slightest: the flat is perfect, our garden is shared with someone who has already offered full use of their herb plants, and it is a short walk from my favourite part of Newcastle, Jesmond Vale. It will, however, be a very different experience, one that fills me with both great excitement and the occasional fit of night terrors.

Before the ceremonial move to my adult existence occurs, there is the small matter of what the hell I am going to do with a looming four month summer vacation.  I do have several plans, but I cannot help but feel that they constitute little towards the greater good:

  • Learn to solve a Rubix cube, even if it takes the entirety of my four month holiday. At the moment, my mind BOGGLES at the very notion of those little colourful squares ever being feasibly aligned, but I am sure, in this modern age where all skills can be acquired through a youtube tutorial (learning to speak RP English, 1950s hairstyles…) that success is distinctly more possible than originally thought.
  • Learn how to use a sewing machine, and make a BASIC item of clothing with one.  I am really, really determined to do this, as I consider my inability to manage such a seemingly simple machine a great personal failing.  At school, I was an absolute super-nerd, refusing to allow myself to be bad at anything, and forcing myself to understand physics and how to bloody solder computer chips despite my complete hatred of such things, yet I HAD TO GET MY MUM TO DO MY TEXTILES HOMEWORK SO I DIDN’T FAIL.  As soon as I could escape my own personal hell of pretending to be able to control that dreaded finger eating machine, I took up graphics and never looked back.  But I am still ashamed of my cheating, and a bit embarrassed that my mum still has to take in my clothes should the occasion arise.  As I have a very clever mother and grandmother, who I am sure would be thrilled to pass on some domesticity, this aim should not be hard to fulfil.
  • Sort out my bedroom.  I realise the simplicity of this statement, but you have not seen my bedroom.  It is bloody massive, low ceilinged, and packed to its dangerously-head-height rafters with what can only be described as crap, which I clearly do not need, as I survive perfectly well without it when spending the bulk of my time in Newcastle.  The job is unenviable on several levels: getting rid of stuff, removing the hundreds of pictures of skinny models from the walls, and finally, persuading my parents to let me get rid of the solitary pink wall.

So, that should be something to be getting on with.  On a more personal level, I am really keen to put a bit of effort into looking after myself this summer.  I think I have just accepted that feeling under the weather is normal and must be tolerated, but I think with some trial and error, beginning with the elimination of wheat, dairy and artificial sweeteners, I could feel a lot happier and healthier.  And that’s without even addressing my mental health, but I think that is a whole other topic.

One other summer aim can be expressed in three, concise words: HARRY. POTTER. CHALLENGE.  Despite my great enjoyment of studying my course materials on the whole, and a positively fetishistic interest in the 18th century, I just cannot escape the fact that the Harry Potter books are my favourite things ever and I love them infinitely. The one week, seven books challenge is a personal favourite endeavour when one has nothing else to do, although my unstoppable sorrow at the death of Dumbledore (every time…) always halts progress for a few hours.

And that is my attempt at breaking up the monotony of my so far, so aimless summer. I should maybe look for a job too, but Doncaster… I suppose there is always hope.