Saturday, 19 December 2009

My Nail Polish Collection


From left to right:

OPI Lincoln Park After Dark (lovely, my staple vamp creme)
MAC Baby Goth Girl (not as sparkly as I'd hoped)
OPI Siberian Nights (gorgeous dark blue-purple creme)
MAC Dark Angel (lots of coats needed but a fab dark purple creme that looks purple, not black)
OPI Can You Dig It? (some spillage issues, but I loved this bright purple creme!)
GOSH Wild Lilac (bit too bright for me - for toes only)
M&S Blackberry (bit runny but gorgeous bright violet creme, lovely in summer)
MAC Love & Friendship (very sweet purpley pink creme, lovely for spring)
OPI Parlez Vous OPI? (possibly my favourite shade - a sophisticated greyed lavender creme, really different and very flattering)
MAC Silverstruck (although I usually only wear cremes or glitters I had to make an exception for this unusual frost. Currently on my toes!)
OPI Tickle My France-y (the perfect nude creme for my colouring. I feel very grown up when I wear it!)
OPI Boris & Natasha (lovely maroon-with-a-hint-of-purple creme that doesn't turn black)
Nails Inc Savile Row (hate how this polish wears, it chips in hourrs, and colour is similar to Boris & N)
OPI Mrs O' Leary's BBQ (claret coloured creme, but old formulation so it streaks on application and isn't worn much as a result)
Bourjois Rouge Diva (my HG cherry red creme, deep and glossy and I've had lots of comments when wearing it!)

A couple have been added to my collection since I took the pic:

No& Totally Teal - just what it says on the tin, and fab (no pic though)

and this baby which with OPI Parlez Vous OPI? and Can You Dig It? makes up my favourite 3, OPI Merry Midnight:



I have a lot of OPI because I think it's the best formulation I've come across. In the UK one polish sets you back a good £10 but it's soooo much cheaper Stateside! So I use US Ebay for new collections and this site to but old collection colours for less than half UK prices:

http://www.ballbeauty.com/

and I swear by Seche Vite topcoat - I'm super clumsy and always knocking my nails before they're dry - I swear I'm not allowed to have a perfect set, one is always messed up or smudged! But this speeds up the drying so much (5 minutes to touch dry) and minimises the chances of me really wrecking them. I've just started using Rimmel Strenghten & Harden basecoat after finishing a horrid Nails Inc base coat, it's much better but I'm not sure if it's an HG.

Unfortunately I chopped half a nail off when cooking the other day so my nails are in no state to be polished right now :(

So what polish are you wearing and what are your favourites?

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

7 Things Purple Tag

As tagged by the lovely Lou. As purple is my favourite colour, the challenge for me was to pick 7 of the many things I own that are purple - and as you can see from the pics, I could've picked my room too!

1. Dress, H&M. I'd forgotten about this dress until recently but I spent weeks tracking it down a couple of years ago! How fickle the mind is. Or rather, forgetful - because I still love it.

















2. My Blackberry Curve 8520 - I have to say I'm increasingly envious of iPhone owners but it's still a great phone and it's PURPLE!

















3. OPI Merry Midnight nail polish. The sparkliest purple polish ever! When I wear it I can't stop gazing at my nails. It's positively galactic.














4. Not the best pic of it, but my beloved purple Comptoir de Cottoniers coat.













5. Leather bag, Topshop. I bought this a couple of years ago and it's still going strong - in fact it's getting better with age.










6. I'd love to say that I ran out of options here, but having switched recently from a green inhaler I'm still pretty chuffed mine is purple now! Plus it has a counter so I never run out abruptly any more. The miracle of progress! (and I have no idea why this section is underlined, but there you go....)









7. And finally, my "Dorothy" glitter heels, Office. If the Rabbit were to follow that yellow brick road, she would do it in these shoes and she'd be singing all the way too. I only have to look at these to smile.






I tag everyone to do 7 things - but in YOUR favourite colour!

Monday, 30 November 2009

Swathed in Memory

It was one of those mornings. I woke up today at seven, it was pitch-black outside and I felt more tired than I did when I'd gone to bed. My heart was heavy from the waking realisation that none of the many problems in my life right now had been miraculously resolved overnight. The weather announced that today it would feel like -3 degrees. I blinked thinking that was for the night. But no. The sinking feeling grew. It's a feeling I describe as "hide-mode:" when my inner self recoils at facing the public world. One of those days you don't want to leave the house.

Invariably, those days are often the days you have to. What, therefore, to do? My strategy is often to swathe myself in comfort, reaching for my favourite pieces of clothing and cashmere and soft cotton or jersey, and less poetically, my UGGs. Makeup is often a good mask too - particularly when my dark circles are as pronounced as they are today. So: floral jersey tea dress, new green glittery bow and white pearl necklace, green eyeliner.

But today I felt I needed an extra dose of comfort and protection. I reach for it rarely, purely because it's precious to me and I feel its power and durability will both be diminished with too much wear. It's nothing overtly "special:" not a Tiffany ring or some other designer trophy. It's a black cropped cashmere cardigan from Sainsburys. But its power derives from the fact that it was the last thing my father bought me.

Whenever I wear it, my mind casts back to the day of its purchase: a golden, perfect day, the last perfect day before the big C and before everything went to hell. In my determination to acquire this cardigan I'd persuaded my parents to take me to a Sainsburys some distance away, in Merton. My dad drove my mum and I there. Having located the cardigan and ready to pay for it myself, my dad grabbed it out of my hand and paid for it, charming the female sales assistant as he entered his card details, as was his way. It was a golden autumn day, and having made the journey it seemed a shame to leave straightaway, so the three of us went to explore Merton Abbey Mills nearby, a permanent craft and jewellery fair I'd always begged my dad to take me to as a child. Locking my arms through my mum and dad's, I joked that this is how it would have been had I been an only child. We ate hot mini doughnuts and I bought my mum some Palestinian glassware. My dad got involved in a political discussion with the seller, as was his way. (He also, despite his atheism, laid it on regarding Muslim brotherhood, in order to get a discount. This was also his way.)

There was a strange sense of past, present and future coinciding that day. This branch was one of the first hypermarket-style supermarkets in the South East - and my family and I visited often when I was a child, on our way from visiting family in Mitcham. There were also moments when my sheer sense of joy in the moment was unsettled by a sense of foreboding: when my dad didn't eat many doughnuts, and when he found it hard to walk (later it was discovered, due to my incredible medic sister, that this was due to tumours pressing on his spinal column.) But the worries were unformed, unspoken, easy to quieten. I felt loved, happy and protected.

Those feelings return often when I think of my dad, my Baba. But my memories of that day never return so viscerally as when I wear the cardigan he bought for me that day. I wear it as a charm. I feel stronger already.
Sent using BlackBerry® from Orange

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Up/Down

Yup, you've guessed it - I'm on the train again! So here goes:

Up

Nail Polish

I'm loving No. 7 Totally Teal (a murky teal creme) which unlike green polishes doesn't clash with my skin or make me look like Grotbags. It just looks modern and really cool. It stains a bit though - but I blame my Nails Inc base coat (NOT a favourite brand of mine!) I'm also loving OPI Merry Midnight which is a super-sparkly purple glitter jelly, perfect for Christmas!

Shoesies

My new black and dark gold platforms from M&S, of all places. They go with pretty much ALL of my going out dresses and just lift an outfit (they lift me too, at nearly 5in - I'm almost normal height in them! Which is weird.)

My Thermos

Bartimaeus has transformed my commute with this purchase. I'm now a much happier bunny at the end of my 4.5 hour commute, sipping Rooibos Vanilla and reading Look! magazine.

Budgeting

I've been much stricter with my spending and instead of feeling deprived or depressed I feel a real sense of achievement. We'll see if - can sustain it over the holiday period though!

Where the Wild Things Are/The Wild Things

The film looks utterly magical, and Dave Eggers' book a very tempting option for my book vouchers.

Down

MAC Baby Goth Girl

Loved the name of this polish, and the look in the bottle, but it doesn't look like anything special on. Putting OPI Merry Midnight over it helps, mind.

Weather

The rain was practically horizontal just now! My knees are still damp. The nightly storms keep waking me too. Me no likey.

X Factor

So dull this year - and all the more so now Jedward have gone. I've had no goosebumps or punch-the-air-nailed-it moments this year and don't really mind who wins. Not that I'll stop watching it though!

Train Delays

My train has stopped for 10 minutes because it's waiting for extra carriages, and it means I'll miss my next one. The exact same thing happened last week. Not sure why the carriages can't be here on time but hey-ho. Hopefully I won't have to wait an extra hour like I did last week because I have a dinner date with Bartimaeus and don't want to be late!

Builders

They come, they destroy, they bugger off with your money. Grr.
Sent using BlackBerry® from Orange

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Shampoo

Not the girl group, alas. But the stuff. I've had an ongoing battle with it - well, with the ubiquitousness of the ingredient sodium lauryl sulphate in particular. Since childhood I've suffered from extremely dry, sensitive skin (it can crack and bleed of its own accord if I don't moisturise - quite the incentive!) and from eczema. I've also had a horribly itchy, flaky scalp that is prone to sores and bleeding (sometimes so much so I can barely put my head on the pillow). Sorry for the gruesome detail!

The funny thing is, that when I've been to the GP about my scalp I've always been prescribed incredibly harsh dandruff shampoos that have further stripped my scalp and made the condition worse. Excuse the pun, but it left me and my GP scratching our heads in puzzlement.

Until I read about SLS when I started to get interested in natural skincare. This foaming agent is in most shampoos, body washes and (yuck!) toothpastes. It doesn't do anything except create lather - which we psychologically associate with cleanliness. And it is a known skin irritant.

Since I've opted for shampoos free of SLS and its milder derivative sodium laureth sulphate my scalp has been sooo much happier, I can't tell you how different it is. I can't believe I've had this scalp problem for years and years and all this time it was my shampoo that was causing it. I'm pretty horrified that even many BABY shampoos (including Johnsons & Johnsons!) contain these two ingredients. I also try to avoid it in shower gels now too - and my skin has felt much less itchy as a result. The difference in both makes me realise what toxic ingredients they really are. I've also read the SLS in toothpastes can give people mouth ulcers which I also suffer from, so I'm considering changing that too.

However, the unfortunate thing is that a lot of SLS-free shampoos are very drying on the hair, and mine is long and very thick so it needs a decent, moisturising shampoo and an ultra rich conditioner to stop it being a tangled mess with lots of split ends (though I think those have also reduced remarkably since I switched - and I blowdry my hair every time I wash it). I've gone through quite a few by now with varying degrees of success, so I thought I'd give a lowdown of the ones I've tried so far:

Lavera Almond Milk Shampoo for Sensitive Scalps:

This is a special "natural" brand. This smelt like marzipan, but in a sickly cyanidey way. It was also quite drying on the hair. I felt no desire to rebuy. And the lime green old fashioned packaging's hideous too. I'm superficial, it's true.

Vo5 Soothe and Shine:

This was so cheap at £1.15 and was up until recently easy to find on the high street. This has ammonium lauryl sulphate in, which can also irritate, but I had a good run with this until it was discontinued :( Recently my final remaining bottle has been irritating my scalp, though, so I guess it is time to move on, but what I loved was that my hair was indeed very shiny after using this, and very soft too.

Daniel Galvin Junior Kids's Shampoo in Watermelon:

A great everyday shampoo with a yummy watermelon scent that makes me think of NERD sweets we had as kids. Not drying, and reasonably prices at £3. I'd buy this again if I could find it! I think larger branches of Waitrose stock DGJ but I rarely can get to one.

Danier Galvin Junior Hair Rescue Shampoo with Lavender:

Very very soothing when my scalp is extra-stressed (usually when the rest of me is!) It is rich and non-drying. I really rate this range.

Trilogy Smoothe and Shine:

The priciest I've tried at £11. This has ALS in it like the V05 Soothe and Shine, which narks me a bit given its "luxury naturals" price tag. But it doesn't irritate and it makes my hair look and feel fantastic (it has a really noticeable straightening and de-fuzzing effect!) Though I'm not commenting on the corresponding conditioners, I have to say the Smoothe and Shine conditioner is my HG conditioner - my hair has never felt so soft. I just wish it didn't cost £22 for the two!

Dr Organic Honey Shampoo:
This is £5 and part of Holland & Barrett's new own-brand line of bodycare, all of which is SLS and paraben free. There are tons of products (body washes, lotions, butters, toothpastes and deodorants) and several ranges (Pomegranate, Tea Tree, Lavender and Vitamin E) to choose from. This looked like the most moisturising bar the Vit E (but I'm a sucker for honey scents and so bought this instead!) In hindsight perhaps I should've opted for Vit E as this had the unfortunate effect of drying out my hair and making it greasy quickly at the same time. I also had some scalp itchiness which I was not pleased with! I'm using it up as a shower gel right now. The positive thing about it is that you can actually feel the honey content in it - it's kinda gluey and sticky to the touch! But not sure you really want that in a shampoo!

As my scalp is stressed right now I've bought a new one to try today: Waitrose's own brand Organic Moisturising shampoo. Incidentally, Waitrose's baby shampoo and body washes do not hav SLS or sodium laureth sulphate in them, and they stock a wide veriety of "natural" bodycare ranges including Neal's Yard, Weleda and Burt's Bees. My shampoo was £3.90 and I'm hoping it'll be good. Fingers crossed!

Friday, 13 November 2009

One word tag

Following Lou and the Witterer:

Where's your mobile phone: desk
Your hair: black
Your mother: amazing
Your father: irreplaceable
Favourite Food: curry
Dream last night: stressful
Favorite drink: tea
What room are you in: bedroom
Hobby: drawing
Fear: failure
Where were you last night: here
Something that you aren't: tall
Muffins: chocolate
Wish list item: flat
Where did you grow up: Laandan
What are you wearing: PJs
Your pets: cats
Friends: happiness
Something you're not wearing: jewellery
Favourite shop: Liberty
Favourite colour: aubergine
Last time you laughed: yesterday
Your best friend: sis
Best place you go to over and over: Bluewater!
Person who emails you regularly: Facebook
Favourite place to eat: Carluccio's

I tag:

Geeky Weirdo Chick

Passion for Fashion
Lionlovingtiger
VexintheCity
Butterfly Wings

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Give blood...

I'm currently waiting in the queue to give blood at my local church hall. It's my first time - not through lack of trying, just that I've always come down with a cold just before the appointment! But I'm here now, and on the tail-end of a sniffle for once.

I'm pretty surprised by the number of people here, and the diversity of the group. It's a cold, wet Tuesday evening and yet everyone's waiting patiently for their turn. I think of the transfusions both my brother and my dad had during their illnesses and I feel grateful to them, to everyone who turns up to do this thing. For once, an ad rings totally true. It is something amazing.

I'm sure many of you already do this, but if you don't, please think about it.
Sent using BlackBerry® from Orange

Friday, 6 November 2009

HMmmm & S

So I seem to have acquired £35 of M&S vouchers (courtesy of my lovely mum giving them to me!) And I cannot seem to decide for the life of me what to spend them on! There are actually several lovely things in M&S I have spied - which I am now umming and ahhing between.

First and foremost, these shoes, £29.50:

I have come very latel to the "toughened" shoe trend (and actually, these really are quite tame in comparison to some out there) but I spied these in my local M&S the other day and I love them. I have some other Limited Collection heels that are staples now for me because they're the comfiest heels I own, and having tried these on today, they're just the same, super-supportive with a squishy platform sole. I don't usually like black shoes, but these are broken up with the bronze sections and I can see them being quite versatile. My only reservation is that I have a pile of heels I hardly ever wear - can I justify adding these to it?

Secondly, this dress:

A girl can never have too many black dresses, and I like the stud detailing on this one. And it has pockets!

But then, there's this dress:
Okay, it's kinda yawn-ville. But since seeing lots of pics of the Victoria Beckham dresses (sshh) with the zips that go all the way down the back, I am really hankering after one. (Particularly if it can be slightly unzipped as per the VB dresses.). And the shape of this is perfect for me. My reservation with this one: pink lining (eughh) and perhaps too long for munchkin-me.

Finally, this oversized pure cashmere scarf, which would have 50% taken off its price, but in black (my staple winter coat is purple!):

I adore cashmere in the winter - for warmth and softness, there's no beating it. I'd love a huge wrap I could bury myself in on my Kent commute. However, from M&S's helpful reviews, I'm not sure this is The One, given some have mentioned that it is very thin. I want a scarf-blanket!

Sooo - which should I go for, do you think?

Friday, 23 October 2009

May We Always Remember: Half a Yellow Sun, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

So I'm in Canterbury, in a B&B, the day before the start of the tw0-day Global Youth Cultures conference I'm working on. I've just had curried goat at the local Caribbean restaurant, during which I finished Half A Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Following last night's television "event" I could link from this rundown of my day to a celebration of a globalised post-national identity. But somehow, it doesn't seem appropriate, because I am thinking of Biafra.

The short-lived nation of Biafra (pronounced Bee-Afra) seceded from Nigeria in 1967 and existed in a state of war for three years before starvation and the brutalities of war brought the infant nation was reabsorbed into Nigeria. Ngozi Adichie's epic novel traces the courageous stories of a group of Biafrans during this period, and in doing so, reveals the history of a nation that now endures only in memory, and words.

I came to this novel in a roundabout way. I was doing my regular internet trawl for material on Bangladesh, when I stumbled upon a review of Half A Yellow Sun in which Bangladesh was mentioned. The two secessionist struggles occurred in parallel in the late 1960s, but with radically different outcomes, leading to a series of political science papers that used the two as comparative case studies upon what it takes for a nation to succeed. The "case" of Biafra, seen as a "failure;" the "case" of Bangladesh, a "success."

I meant to read this novel as research, but at some point during reading, my "postcolonial-theoretical" mind shut down. It seemed somehow disrespectful to Ngozi Adichie's magnificent act of remembrance, to immediately unpick it in terms of narrative technique or the representation of gender. Instead, I kept thinking of these two groups of people, Biafran and Bengali, fighting and dying to bring their nations into being and to keep them alive, thousands of miles apart. I thought also of others: Algerians, Vietnamese, Palestinians. With each page, postmodern critiques of nation rang hollower and hollower.

The horrors of war and starvation, and the courage and resourcefulness of a people in spite of them, brought to mind many stories I've read of Bangladesh. And it makes me consider what things would have been like if that war, so close to my heart, had turned out differently. I would, perhaps, be a British Pakistani right now, with a green and red flag stowed away in a suitcase, my soul, under occupation. And in turn, I wonder how it must be to be Igbo in Nigeria today, to have known autonomy, and then to go back to being a minority - but now more exposed and scrutinised than ever before.

I realise this isn't much of a review. I haven't spoken about the plot in anything but the most general terms, I haven't mentioned a single character. But perhaps it is testament to the novel that this is so (especially given that the last time I was so stunned by a novel, it was with Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man, a novel so great I could never bring myself to write about it). But I will write on it, and, I hope, from it. Like Guillermo de Toro with Pan's Labyrinth, with Half A Yellow Sun, Ngozi Adichie has also shown me a way of telling history that one day I hope will inspire me to write Bangladesh's story, just as Achebe and Chinodya guided her.

Sometimes, I find the work of picking apart books to be so remote from the world that it depresses me. Sometimes theories that justify humanities research in terms of ways to comprehend the complexities of that world only seem like empty funding-application-speak, merely to justify our salaries. And then I read books like Half A Yellow Sun, and remember.

Monday, 12 October 2009

In/out

So here I am, playing the proper commuter and mobile-blogging on my Blackberry on my 2 hour commute home from university. (When I assumed thar Canterbury couldn't be too far from Surrey because it was a Home County, I was a tad mistaken). So I thought I'd try to make good use of the time.

I haven't done a simple Good/Bads type post this month and it is one that works without pictures so here goes:

IN

Chilli Paneer
Bartimaeus introduced me to this at Wembley's legendary Sakoni's a few months ago and I ate it again this weekend when we went to the Diwali festivities. It is one of tastiest things ever and I could easily get as addicted to it as Chinese roast duck and Bengali dried fish curries!

Winter coat
Today's the first day I've worn my purple empire line Comptoir de Cotonniers coat and I still love it so much. It reminds me of my trip to Paris and Berlin last year where I saw so many girls wearing it, I felt I was part of some secret club of chic.

New phone
My purple Blackberry 8520! I've had a hideous phone for 2 years and it is such a relief to finally be rid. I'd have loved to get an iPhone as a lover all things Mac but the BB is better for work.

X Factor Live Shows
Although I don't think the quality's as good as last year (I mean, just HOW good was Alex last night!) I still enjoyed the show on Saturday and it is only going to improve.

Mawwiage
My friend, who's the closest thing to an elder sister I have, got engaged on Friday! And two of my Oxford friends also took themselves off to a registry office and got married. I'm just so happy for all of them!

OUT

Predictive text
QWERTY keyboards are a revelation!

Train journeys
Yup, getting sick of them already. And expensive! So glad I only have to do them a couple of times a week.

Disappearing winter accessories
The reason I can't bring myself to buy cashmere gloves. I lose my hats, scarves and gloves every year! I always vow to put them in a labelled box at the start of spring but it never happens...

Neglecting friends
I've been so busy getting to grips with my new job and the commute that I've not seen or spoken to any of my friends for ages. But I"m determined to change that this week!

Rucksacks
I'm carting my books to work in my old trusty Eastpak and I look like a fresher! But there's no stylish lightweight alternative I can find that won't involve back or shoulder pain. All suggestions welcome!
Sent using BlackBerry® from Orange

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Etsy

Etsy is fairly well known now - but those of you who aren't familiar with it, it is an electronic marketplace for sellers and buyers of handmade and vintage goods, and truly addictive for those who are looking for items beyond the ubiquity of the high street. There are thousands of sellers from all around the world who post their crafting magic on this site, and there are some beautiful, original pieces to be found. However, the sheer number of sellers can make it tricky to find things if you're not looking for something very very particular! It can be quite overwhelming to navigate, but slowly becomes engrossing - and then costly!

Over the last two years of trawling I have accumulated some favourite shops, so I thought I'd share them with you. I've had custom pieces made (particularly wonderful for gifts that are truly unique and personal). It's not quite as good value as it was when sterling was stronger (those were the days, sigh) but if you consider that a lot of the items still retail at Accessorize-level prices but are beautifully handcrafted, and often feature genuine gemstones and precious metals, it is still very reasonable indeed.

BINAGEYER

http://www.etsy.com/shop.php?user_id=5012898

Bina is my favourite jewellery seller on Etsy. I love her pretty, dainty designs and own several pairs of earrings in this style, which I've worn and worn (I like a little drop on an earring in daytime, it's very flattering but not too OTT, but it seems you can only get studs or Pat Butchers on the high street!) Bina made me some custom versions with colour combinations I dreamed up whilst doing my PhD, and she was so helpful and patient with my fussiness. I've given several of her pieces to dear friends as gifts. She often has discount codes and always has free shipping so can't be beaten on prices either.

babastudioPrague

http://www.etsy.com/shop.php?user_id=5006746

Last summer, I desperately hankered after the Prada SS08 collection (it still tugs at my heartstrings now). As well as the beautiful dresses, I adored and coveted the Fairy print tote. In my quest for alternatives, and following a tip-off from a friend, I stumbled upon this magical seller, who transforms gorgeous storybook illustrations into even-more gorgeous bags. Now, it saddens me to admit I don't own one of these bags, but I did buy one of the silk Alice pouches for a friend who did as I recommended and wore it to a wedding. Smug Rabbit. I love the Alice bags in particular, but the botanical and Japanese fairy images are stunning too.



Madewithlovebyhannah

http://www.etsy.com/shop.php?user_id=2945

This was another post-Prada find, again on the fairytale theme (though it's also theorist Barthes' fault though - I remember reading about his idea of fashion-as-text on my Greek tragedy course as an undergrad, and it has stayed with me - but a longer post on that to come). I love Madewithlovebyhannah's skirts, which she sews and screenprints herself. The fairytale, apple and winter woodland skirts are all favourites, but I only own the green fairytale forest one so far.




itsthelittlethingsut

http://www.etsy.com/shop.php?user_id=6897463

I've not bought from this seller yet (I've got a strict spending ban on at the moment!) but aren't these fascinators just stunning? They beat any of the high street offerings hands down in terms of quality, detailing and colours. It's going to be my first stop the next time I've got a wedding to go to!






So, there you are. I have many, many more sellers in my favourites folder, but I think I'll leave those for another day. In the mean time, happy Etsy shopping!

Monday, 28 September 2009

Fashion Weeks


So it looks like it's going to be a sugary, girly, pastel summer next year. At least, that's what seemed to jump out for me from the rundowns of New York and London Fashion Weeks, and from the first few days at Milan (right, at Versace). I'm not really a fan of pastels - they look horrid against my skintone, by and large, and when paired with a feminine style, they can be far too sickly.

However, I was really taken with the Luella show. Here, pastels were broken up with brights, prints and mink/black polka dots. I have to make a particular mention of mink/black polka dots - a couple of years back I had this ridiculously specific vision of a cardigan that featured a mink background and fine black polka dots. I thought that this would be both grownup and cute, and a perfect way to break up a plain black outfit. This cardigan did materialise - in River Island of all places - but the fabric was horribly itchy, alas, and I did not buy. I've been on the lookout since, and really hope it is produced on the back of this Luella show in a nicer fabric!


So I really liked the use of mink/black with pale blue and red. Substitute the blue for pistachio, and it is one of my favourite colour/print combinations, bringing to mind one of my favourite films, Pleasantville, and its sepia tones with hyperreal Technicolour details. Pistachio is one of the few pastel shades I can and do wear (I love it with red, burnt orange and plum) and I noticed that it featured several times on the S/S catwalks. If pastels materialise on the high street, I dearly hope for rich, complex interpretations like pistachio, blush, and mauve rather than the flat shades of light green, light pink and peach (yuck!) that are usually opted for. Well, one can dream...


It's really the one show that stuck out for me, but I also liked hotly-tipped Erdem's collection. Though florals for summer are perhaps going the way of nautical, yawningly ubiquitous, I will always like a prettily executed floral print!

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

The Book of Lost Things, John Connolly


I finished this book yesterday. It was another serendipitous charity shop find, and I confess that I was initially attracted to it because of its Rob Ryan-illustrated cover (one of my favourite graphic artists). But on further inspection, it turned out that the book including its charming, quirky cover and graphics could have had "For the Postcolonial Rabbit" written all over it in Rob Ryan's lovely handwriting. An adult fairytale about childhood grief, featuring a dark, often terrifying fantasy world that draws heavily on Grimm's Fairytales, Angela Carter and Hans Christian Andersen, this was just my cup of tea.

Actually, in parts, it was too scary for me and I had several nightmares during the course of reading. (I am a wuss when it comes to horror and scary stuff in general and probably shouldn't have read it so late at night just before sleeping). Yesterday, in the final pages, Bartimaeus called me and I jumped out of my skin!

I did enjoy it though - and I suppose I'm starting to understand why some modes of terror can be pleasurable (I've never been able to understand that, until Pan's Labyrinth came along. I've always refused to watch scary films but I can't resist its dark, tragic beauty, and it is one of my favourite films). Anyway, The Book of Lost Things is in a similar vein, and I think it would make an incredible Guillermo del Toro film. There were some episodes in this novel that I think would make for fantastic cinema.

But it's the episodic, quest-orientated nature of the novel that I also found somewhat wanting. The story follows David, a boy grieving for his mother in WW2 England, into a dark alternate world, where he has to complete a quest to find the Book of Lost Things, and find his way home. On his way, David meets both friends and horrific, terrifying foes. I think the strongest part of the novel were the fairytales that David stumbles into, which were wonderfully realised. Whilst the overarching narrative structure was weak (I didn't feel that David's journey was particularly urgent, and the connection between the two worlds was laboured rather than executed with the panache exhibited by China Mieville in Un Lun Dun) the fairytales had a tightness of form that made me wonder if the novel had been produced from a series of short stories strung somewhat clumsily together. In addition, the prose, striving to be pared and simplistic, is often merely workmanlike, and this renders what could have been truly wondrous merely a fun ride. Connolly is no Carter. While there's darkness a-plenty, the magic is scant.

As a result, although the novel is about coming to terms with the death of a parent, I didn't feel as moved as I think I should have done (particularly given I've lived through this experience recently). In fact, I think Rowling renders grief and the process of living with it, with more emotional clarity. But for the grownup fairy stories, and the illustrations, overall, I would recommend this to fans of fantasy fiction. Connolly's is a dark, nightmarish world that is interesting to visit, even if one isn't compelled to remain.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Iridescence



So NY Fashion Week is on at the moment, and all fashion heads are turning to next summer's trends. But the air here is developing a distinct chill, and I'm dreaming autumnal dreams.

My vision for this autumn is to accessorise, accessorise, accessorise. Whilst I love interesting, original prints, these are hard to come by at the best of times, and I think they're going to be particularly thin on the ground this year. In the absence of prints, it is left to accessories to lift and add texture, dimension and character to plain outfits.

As I've said previously, iridescence in nature is of continued fascination to me. I love the magic of the fact that the complete spectrum of colours is contained within (for the same reason, I also love rainbows),that this quality can turn up in the most unlikely of places: puddles by the pavement, upon beetle casings, magpies' feathers. I love that it is also so elusive, and hard to describe or pin down. What "colour" is iridescence? All, and none...

This quality means it really does come into its own on accessories - the lightplay dazzles the eye, and sparks the imagination, adding magic to what could otherwise be a dull outfit (incidentally I always imagine the Philosopher's Stone to be iridescent). In rainbows, the colours shine pure and bright, but in iridescence, the rich, bejewelled shades of the spectrum are emphasised. Whilst rainbows are fun to draw upon as colour inspiration in summer, the engima of iridescence means it is perfect for winter.

I love the creepily beautiful collection Christopher Kane has come up with for Swarovski, which perfectly demonstrates this. I think it would look magnificent with a raggedy black silk gown, Serafina-Pekkala style:
Perusing this month's In Style, it appears that Gucci are also clearly taken with iridescence this season (the patent finish makes it a bit tacky, which is a shame, but it does really magnify the colours!):


Now, I can't hope to afford CK Atelier or a raggedly black silk dress, but I've already incorporated iridescence into my autumn wardrobe in three ways.



Black pearls are one of nature's prettiest glistening gifts, and freshwater black pearls are actually surprisingly inexpensive.














Feathered hairbands, such as the one I got recently from Accessorize, often feature peacock feathers and really glam up simple outfits. This one is by itsthelittlethingsut at www.etsy.com.







It's also fun to try to come up with iridescent effects in makeup. I've had this image stored on my desktop for sometime, and came up with something similar using MAC Delft Paint Pot, with hints of pistachio green Shu Uemura shadow in the corners. Although I only wear creme nail polishes, I think the idea of an ultra-glossy black iridescent polish is kinda wonderful, too.

Finally, to my favourite form of iridescence: peacock feathers. This is a fan that's displayed in my bedroom that I acquired at the Bangladeshi Mela in Brick Lane one year. Decadent, proud, beautiful.




Sunday, 13 September 2009

Tagged: Ten Random Things

This has been doing the rounds in various forms - I've previously written a 25 Random Things as a Facebook note, but have decided to try to come up with ten new ones (I'm a pretty random kinda gal so it's not that difficult!)

I was fast-tracked as an emergency orthodontic case and had braces for 7 years.

Despite being very talkative in person, I don't like chatting on the phone to people outside my inner circle. I get disconcerted by the lack of eye-contact.

I only wear creme nail polishes.

I'm obsessed with my teeth and clean them at least three times a day, but never in front of anyone apart from my sister. Watching people brush their teeth on tv makes me feel sick.

I am fuelled by tea and can sputter out visibly without it. But I don't drink coffee.

At the age of 30, I'm finally learning to drive.

Long, quiet train journeys and baths are where I do my best thinking.

I started dyeing my hair this year - both my parents went grey early, and I decided It Was Time.

My PhD is in English Literature but all the texts I studied for it were in Bengali.

Even though I'm less than 5 foot 1, I'm happiest and most me in flats.



So there you go. I think most people have already completed one version of this - so I tag anyone who hasn't done it yet!

Sunday, 6 September 2009

-24hrs.

In 24 hours from now, The Rabbit will be fidgeting with her hair nervously at the Arrivals gate of a London airport, awaiting Bartimaeus's imminent return from Bombay, alternately switching her gaze from the board that'll tell her when his flight has landed, when he's collecting his baggage etc., and the automatic doors. She'll be doing silent battle with the other waitees to secure the best spot and keep it, and will be weighing up in her mind just how close she feels she can get to the line that says "Do Not Cross" without a) causing an international incident b) feeling like she's Breaking A Rule. (The latter is of much greater concern to the Hermione-like Rabbit). She'll keep checking her Clinique compact to make sure her makeup's perfect, and she'll spritz herself with her little 20ml bottle of Viktor & Rolf Flowerbomb, which Bartimaeus loves.

It's been six weeks since he left, and I've missed him like mad. I've amused myself with lots of quality time with friends, but it's still felt like I've been treading water. There's just much more colour and laughter in the world when he's about.

I've really agonised over what to wear - last time he was away it was April and I wore my favourite Russian paisley silk dress from Warehouse. This time, I've opted for the pretty printed circle skirt I'm wearing here, because it matches a necklace and earrings he bought me on his last trip.



I'm feeling giddy. My heart's racing. And I have no idea how I'm going to concentrate at work tomorrow!

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Peacocky Outfit


I don't usually do "outfit of the day" posts, mainly because my mirror's rubbish (as you can see), and because my outfits are fairly repetitive at work, but I was pleased with my outfit yesterday, as I think it perfectly encapsulated my vision for the coming season: feathers, jewel colours, and metallics. I'm continually intrigued and mesmerised by iridescence in nature: peacock feathers, petrol on water, beetle wings. I'm going to post a longer entry on it as a theme, but this was my take on it yesterday. The dress is Holly Willoughby at Littlewoods (I tend to shy away from "celebrity" fashion lines, particularly the more tenuous ones, but I couldn't resist the deep plum colour, my favourite shade of all).

My makeup, featuring MAC Delft paint point with touches of shimmery pistachio Shu Uemura P Green 450 in the corners to make it "iridescent", and my recently acquired Accessorize hairband:

My products

Copied from RandomLondonGirl

Shampoo
: Was V05 Soothe & Shine before it was discontinued, now on the hunt for a reasonably priced SLS free non-drying replacement. Pout

Conditioner: Trilogy Smooth & Shine. Pricey, but an HG.

Styling products: L'Oreal Liss Control Frizz Control Cream

Shower Gel: Imperial Leather Shower Lotion with Shea Butter

Body moisturiser: Palmer's AHA Cocoa Butter Lotion

Deodorant: Sure 4hhr stick

Fake Tan: Don’t use it, funnily enough!

Cleanser: Liz Earle Cleanse and Polish

Exfoliator: Olay's Thermal Regenerating Scrub

Eyeshadow Primer: Either MAC Paint in Bamboom or UD Primer Potion if I'm wearing shadow

Foundation: MAC Mineralise Skinfinish Powder in Dark

Foundation Brush: MAC 182 brush

Concealer: MAC Select Moisturecover in NC43

Powder: MAC MSF as above.

Blusher: Either MAC Breezy, or Shu Uemura Glow On Pearl P Red 19D

Bronzer: Don't use!

Highlighter: Clinique compact my friend bought me. Or MAC Cream Colour Base in Shell

Eyeshadows: My faves are MAC Expensive Pink, Woodwinked, All That Glitters, Shimmermoss (can you see I'm a fan of the Veluxe Pearls?), and Shu Uemura P Green 450.

Eyeliner
: GOSH for pencils, Bobbi Brown or L'Oreal HiP for gels.

Curler: Shiseido

Mascara: YSL Faux Cils

Lipstick: MAC So There Scarlet or Kirsch. Boy did I heart that Cult of Cherry collection...

Lipgloss: NARS Rose Birman, NARS Metis or MAC Cremesheen Looks Like Sin. Berries all the way

Nail Colour: Always creme, either deep reds, plums, purples, violet, lavender or black. Especially: OPI Parlez Vous OPI (lavender) and a violet creme cheapie from M&S.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Animal's People, Indra Sinha


My first postcolonial post!

I finished this a couple of days ago, and whilst I mostly had my "fun" reading hat on whilst reading it, I also kept straying into thinking about it in terms of work.

First off, it's fantastic and I heartily recommend it. Animal's People is based vaguely upon the Bhopal chemical disaster, for which the multinational Union Carbide has evaded charges of corporate manslaughter for over 25 years. In spite of the subject matter it is caustically funny, engaging and also, in parts, affecting. It has some sharply satirical, politicised teeth. And I'm tempted, now, to write about it.

Particularly in conjunction with the project I start work on in October. The project is based at Kent, led by Caroline Rooney and called Radical Distrust:Radical Distrust: A Cultural Analysis of the Emotional, Psychological and Linguistic Formations of Religious and Political Extremism. The project aims to examine the breakdown in trust between citizen/state in the postcolonial period, arguing that this breakdown results in a rise in extremism, oppression and violence from both sides. Regions to be looked at include: Southern Africa, Israel/Palestine and Egypt. It's a fascinating premise and I'm excited to be part of it as Research Associate.

I was thinking about the project vaguely whilst reading Animal's People, and another text - Mohsin Hamid's The Reluctant Fundamentalist. In tone, the two novels are very different. But they both develop a similar narrative conceit, positioning the reader very self-consciously as the "Western" "Other" and both, to me, seem to address this notion of radical distrust (the way the narrative technique specifically works to explore this idea is something I'd like to explore in detail). Except, what's striking is that in both texts, the "state," is a noticeable absence. Rather, the confrontation at the heart of both novels is between the very local and the giant multinational (the big US corporation that the narrator works for in RF, the Kampani in AP). In both, the "nation-state" is seen as remote, out of touch with local needs and impotent against the force of global capital.

This doesn't necessarily contradict the argument of the project - in fact, the nation-state's apparent remoteness may confirm that a near-irreparable breakdown in trust has taken place, to the point where it hardly figures at all in its citizens' lives (but I'm hesitant to really assert this due to my own ideological leanings). But I think it does call for a closer examination of how the flows of global capital have impacted upon the relationship of trust that exists between citizen and state. If the state makes promises to its citizens, only for these to be dashed by multinationals, where is the frustration and violence that is provoked directed? If multinationals exert pressure on the state to control its citizens' behaviour, can the state protect its citizens' freedoms, or must it yield?

Stuff for further thought...

Monday, 31 August 2009

Shamelessly copied: In/Out

I love fashion columns that are of the “up/down” “in/out” variety – of which The Guardian’s The Measure is my favourite. Pithy, fickle and fun. Though mine, predictably, isn’t quite as pithy!


In


The Return of Bartimaeus

A week on Monday (fingers crossed). Not sure I’ve ever looked forward to anything as much. Now, what to wear…


Autumn

The season of the chicest clothes, nicest food and X Factor. Oh, and mellow fruitfulness etc.


Embellished accessories

Feathered hairbands, jewelled flats, pearls and zipped corsages. Perfect for enriching a plain outfit.


Oreo Chocolate Cream cookies

I’m addicted to these. Like Bourbon creams, but darker and saltier. And way too moreish as a result.


Woolly tights

They’re back in the shops! (Though not quite weather for them yet)… These stop my winters as a dress-wearer from being miserable (in fact they make mine cosy and snug, indeed, smug, whilst I watch others drag trouserhems through puddles and sleet). I collect coloured ones wherever I find them, and have, so far, charcoal, red, pink, mauve and several shades of purple. What colours will I add this year, I wonder?


Out


British summertime

And a disappointment every year, it seems. Luckily I refrained from too many sundress purchases this year!


Salads for lunch

Bring on the homemade soups and stews.


Sandals

Soggy post-downpour feet are no fun.


Embellished dresses

Lovely dresses cheapened by an excess of studs, cheap diamantes, ruffles and hitched hems (sometimes all on the same item!). Less is more (accessories!)


X Factor Auditions

I don’t like the circus style format, and am bored already of the freak-freak-freak-ASBO-diamond-freak-freak-freak-ASBO-diamond rigmarole. Bring on the live shows!

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

The One-Eyed Cat Company

Apart from starting a blog, one of my other "When I've finished the PhD" resolutions was to start drawing and painting again. I did A-level Art, and was very much torn between doing English at uni and going to art school. Obviously I chose the former, and drawing became a hobby instead that I kept up during my undergrad, but it has been much neglected since.

This was my first foray back into drawing earlier this year, a quick doodle of my sister's one-eyed cat Molly, who likes to poke her head round corners in a most endearing way. I had this caption in my mind when I was drawing, and thought it might make a sweet card.




















I've found a good incentive to get me drawing again has been card-making, in part influenced by my friend Sara who makes beautifully handdrawn cards, and my colleague Sue, an avid craft-based cardmaker. So far I've made two for my colleague, of her cat, Hunter. These were quick pencil sketches, really, coloured with water soluble wax pencils, the latter of which I finished yesterday. I loved doing his tiger stripes!


I'd like to do a series of cat cards, I think, perhaps line drawings I could reproduce and then colour individually, to raise money for Cats Protection. In tribute to our optically challenged feline friends (both my sister's cats are missing an eye) I envisage my little philanthropic venture to be titled The One-Eyed Cat Company.

Monday, 24 August 2009

Food, food, glorious food. (Or: baath, baath, moja moja baath).



Last week there was a ripple of excitement amongst foodie-Bangladeshis I know (i.e. most of them), for Bangladesh was on tv, not on a news special about floods, poverty or climate change, but purely from a culinary perspective, as the final destination on Rick Stein’s Far Eastern Odyssey (I was puzzled by Bangladesh and Sri Lanka’s inclusions as part of the Far East, but whilst the moniker might be geographically odd, I can see the connections between Bangladeshi and Sri Lankan food with Malaysian and Thai more clearly than Lahori/North Indian cuisine, which is so much richer, heavier and more meat-based).

Now I felt quite smug about this – I’ve always thought that given Bangladeshi food revolves mostly around fish, this’d be the perfect place for Rick Stein to go. I in fact had visualised (and as is my daydreaming wont, mentally sold) a series featuring Stein travelling around BD sampling its different regional cuisines. So this wasn’t quite a series, but an hour was more than I had ever imagined would be dedicated to proper deshi food on the Beeb.

I found the episode to be a mixture of things: informative, amusing (hilarious Steinisms such as “colonial tea plantations had their own schools and hospitals, there really wasn’t any reason for workers to leave” but also the ridiculously over-posh pretensions of a Bengali couple) but mostly evocative and moving. I’ve not been to Bangladesh in almost two years now, and my heart ached for Dhaka whilst watching.

As Stein observes, whilst 90% of Indian restaurants in the UK are owned by Sylheti Bangladeshis, the food you get in them is usually a world away from authentic deshi dishes. Everyone knows of the chicken tikka masala, but even the rogan joshes and baltis of the restaurant trade lean much more towards Lahori cooking and aren’t things we as Bengalis would eat at home. Fish is definitely a major feature – Bangladesh is the world’s largest delta, and criss-crossed by rivers, so this makes sense, and Stein made curries using rui and hilsa, our two most prized of fishes. I’d also have liked a mention of pithas – sweet and savoury cakes made with riceflour, of which there are hundreds of regional varieties (some of which are really ornately decorated). – Actually it is an ambition of mine to do an anthropological sideproject titled “The Pithas of Bangladesh” in which I’d travel around Bangladesh sampling said cakes and recording recipes and stories. It’d be tough, and I’d probably get diabetes, but such sacrifices must be made for the cultural good...

Anyway, it’s still on iPlayer until Thursday, so please do watch it for yourselves. It made me glow with pride and sob with homesickness. The only other disappointing omission, for me, was the absence of a mention of shutki, which is sun-dried fish (and of which there are many different varieties), a mainstay of Bangladeshi cooking.* It is pungent and smoky (somewhat akin to Thai fish sauce in taste and scent), used sparingly or in chunks in curries, or pounded with garlic and onions to a paste and eaten with plain rice. I’m totally addicted to the stuff – but it is an acquired taste (my sister and brother, for example, can’t stand it). This is a curry my mum cooked last week, with the freshest, sweetest fine green beans (on the right of the plate; a simple spinach bhaji is on the left). Yum. I’m hungry now!

*I was amused by an astute entry on a Facebook note titled “You know you’re Bangladeshi when…” which said “when you or a relative have tried to smuggle shutki through customs in your hand luggage.” Of course, neither I, nor any of my family, have ever done this – we dry our own in the blistering Surrey sun ;)

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Winter pretty

Apologies for the previous rant, and torturing your eyeballs with hideous illustrations. Now for some more aesthetically pleasing images of some of my favourite autumn/winter catwalk pieces. My interest in high fashion has only arisen quite recently (until now I've always been quite petulant about it: I can't afford it, so am not interested, pout.) But I've found myself increasingly drawn to it - thanks in part to the Guardian's excellent coverage of shows and my own increasingly expensive (or at least, particular) tastes. The colour palettes are much more imaginative, and if viewed with an open mind, collections can provide rich pickings in terms of inspiration.



A collection that endures in my memory is Alexander McQueen's AW08 collection, which perfectly encapsulates one idea of wintryness for me. A magical, icy, Hans Christian Andersen-esque wintryness, of Russian princesses, the fragility of icicles, and biting cold. This beauty of collection still leaves me a little short of breath. Whilst recreating this on a high street budget is obviously impossible, I take from it, delicacy, sumptuous fabrics and textures (lace, velvet and silk), winter white, red and black.








I also loved Alberta Feretti's offerings last year - in particular, her combination of jewel tones, which are my favourite colours. This combination of plum and burnt orange makes me think of golden autumn days and crunching leaves underfoot. I plan to recreate the colour combination with a plum dress with burnt orange red coral beads.










Moving to AW09, Lanvin's collection has been referenced in many mags as the ladylike alternative to the 80s powerdressing trend, ubiquitous on the 09 catwalks. And I'm glad of it: for me, '40s styles seem to work best in winter, cheerful '50s in summer. Waisted shifts, gloves and hairbands are all winter favourites of mine.












And finally, to my favourite AW09 collection, by Valentino. Even though the great man is no longer at the helm, this was a gorgeous collection. I particularly liked the accents of dark cherry red with black, a favourite combination of mine (I think the particular shade of red is important), the teal dress paired with cherry red shoes, and teal/black/cherry red combined with leopard print. Just fabulous, and fantastic inspiration for the coming season.









Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Everything is Ugly




A little melodramatic, perhaps, but that's how I'm generally feeling about fashion right now. The autumn/winter offerings are starting to appear on the high street (typical, that I start composing this post when its rainy and autumnal, only for it to hot up and seem premature), and in general I'm really not liking what I see. I have always hated the 80s with a passion - and it seems I'm living though Groundhog Decade, as the 80s have been recycled at least four times in fashion within very recent memory. Just when you think that no aspect of the decade remains unresurrected, along come shoulder pads (I remember cutting them out of salwaar kameez despite my mum's protests, with a grimly determined expression when I was 9! I might have to get those scissors out again this season...) In particular, most of the prints I've been coming across are eye-wateringly brash, or just plain ugly (and I love a pretty, unusual and sympathetically coloured, print so this really makes me wince).

I don’t do tough, edgy or power-dressing. I do pretty, quirky, and feminine. I suppose if you have a very distinct style (and I do) then some seasons may chime very well with it, and others, not so much. I have a feeling that for me there'll be slim pickings this autumn/winter. But this isn't necessarily a bad thing, given the mountains of clothes I possess and my general aim to be much more discerning with my purchases, and more inventive with the things I already have.

Until recently I've always considered myself a high-summer person, happiest in vivid colours and floaty summer dresses and sandals. But I was a goth as a teen, so I also love the darkest, deepest shades, as well as black: plum, aubergine, forest green, charcoal and indigo. I love thick tights, boots and the smug, happy feeling you get when trudging through rain in decent boots (and my winter boots are burgundy - I love them so much). Summer brights just don't get much of a look-in the UK, and ultra-vivid colours never seem to fit anyway: in fact, they leave me wistful for another climate and landscape entirely.





Over the next few of posts, I'll aim (really in order to organise my own mind, more than anything else more authoritative!) to give my take on the approaching autumn/winter - starting off with some of the catwalk creations (not necessarily just 09) that have captured my imagination, and a couple of posts on ideas/looks/themes I’ve been mulling over.

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Love Aaj Kal


Last night I went to see the Bollywood movie Love Aaj Kal with my mum. We don't often go to see Hindi films in the cinema (the release periods are quite limited round our way, and we usually miss the ones we want to see) so it was a bit of a treat for Amu and I.

I'd previously seen two songs from the film on Zee Music (I usually scan the Hindi music channels while having my breakfast in the morning before work). One was a lovely, simple ballad and featured Saif looking rather fetching in a turban, and a captivating girl dressed very simply in a cotton salwaar kameez. The other was the kind of Hindi pop I really can't abide - loud, Punjabi-dance-based and without any kind of melody to my ears (how old do I sound!) with Saif and Deepika waggling about wearing the trashy, lurid and overembellished stuff that does the rounds as contemporary fashion in Hindi movies (yuck. I don't know who likes, let alone wears, this stuff in real life!). The contrast between the two got me intrigued and a recommendation from Bartimaeus in Bom sealed the deal.

And the contrast is central to the plot of the film, which compares an old fashioned love story set in the 60s, with a modern day love affair. It worked well as a premise, and crucially both love stories had enough charm to keep an audience emotionally engaged. The cynic in me thinks it is also perfectly conceived as a "family" movie with two parts to appeal to two different generations - and sure enough, I wasn't the only one there with her Amu.

I think there wasn't quite enough of the what I found to be the more beguiling of two romances, the 1960s one, and a little too much on the jet-setting and the casual nature of modern love, but it was amusing, well observed, and quite moving at points. Saif really is one of the best actors in Bollywood today, and played his double-role very well. It's not as charming as Jab We Met (one of my very favourite modern Hindi films) but it's good, and to be honest, convincing Hindi romances don't come around all that often, so I think it's worth catching.

Bartimaeus informed me that there was a bit of a surprise to the casting. I watched the whole thing bemused by this bit of information, and couldn't grasp what he might have been talking about. He let me into the secret today, and it is indeed a surprise. More and more international actresses are appearing in Bollywood, but usually they are cast very prominently as the "non-Indian" girlfriend (who is usually ditched right at the end for the good Indian girl - or is that me being jaded? Well this is indeed poor Swiss Jo's fate in Love Aaj Kal too, so I think there is some truth to it.) But the surprise here is that the role of the innocent, lovely Harleen, Saif's 1960s love, is played by a Brazilian model. Very convincingly too, I might add - I really had no idea she wasn't Indian! She doesn't have much dialogue, and that was dubbed but I think she coped with the dancing a heck of a lot better than some actresses in Bollywood today (Katrina, I'm talking about you, and your flailing limbs).

What is now particularly amusing, is my mum's comments after the film that Indian actresses nowadays are unnaturally tall and thin, and her hypothesis that they are injected with growth hormones to be so from a young age. Tee hee. I was also struck this morning by a comment I read by the director, who claims the role of Harleen could not have been played by an urbanised Indian actress:

Even when Harleen became visible in the trailers she remained inaccessible to the public. Imtiaz says, “Why a Brazilian girl to play an old-fashioned Punjabi girl? Well, I was auditioning girls from all over the country to play the Punjabi girl opposite the Sikh Saif. I couldn’t find the right girl to play the 1965 ki gali mein rehne wali ladki, purane zamane ki.”
[...] Significantly Giselle understood the old-world values of her small-town character better than an urban Indian actress would have. Says Imtiaz, “The small-town mentality in every part of the world is similar.” Times of India


I'm not sure if this is true, - rather it seems to be a hasty defence of a quirky bit of a casting. But it's still an interesting statement on the nature of the "modern" Indian woman (have we become so "Westernised" that we can really not do "demure" anymore? Moreover, should we even want to?)

I'm also bemused by the fact that Giselle Monteiro's name was left off the trailers and credits (it isn't even on imdb.com). Whilst Denise Richards's role in Kambakkht Ishq has been prominently advertised as a draw for the film, and Katrina Kaif, who is half-Indian and from Hawaii/England, is one of India's hottest actresses right now, it seems that the film's producers felt that India's not quite ready for a non-Indian actress playing an Indian role. Which makes me wonder exactly what kind of roles ex-Pussycat Doll Nicole Scherzinger is being offered, on the back of Jai Ho...