It’s been a bizarre and lovely few days since I returned from Florence. After a quick return home to sift through emails and post out items, and after a delicious Latte Macchiato (my new ‘thing’) at the highly recommended Belmondo cafe in Orpington, I shuttled myself across South London to Bromley’s very dinky (as the name might suggest) Little Theatre to attend a performance of Cleo, Camping, Emmanuelle and Dick (originally a National Theatre production about, unsurprisingly, the Carry On films). I haven’t been to an am-dram production of anything for a seriously long time, and I was pleasantly surprised.
Despite the heat and the patchy performance (I’m being kind there) from one cast member who-shall-remain-nameless, it was a rather good, clean, fun evening out. The actress playing Barbara Windsor deserves special mention for perfecting Babs’s delightful giggle and for successfully recreating the bikini-popping scene from Carry on Camping.
I was attempting not to recreate such an event on Saturday when Five Bloggers Went Pimm’sing in London.
Wendy, Kate and Margaret have blogged about the event already, and I was brilliantly useless as ever with my lack of camera facilities, so please do take a look at their blogs if you want to see how frazzled I was looking – even with my cut-out Lee Bender sundress. I don’t do heat very well. Pimm’s does a mighty fine job of cooling you down though, as does the great gloomy British pub. Al Fresco? No thank you. I should like a dark, damp corner please…
It was ever so lovely to meet Margaret, Winnie and Disneyrollergirl for the first time, and as delightful (if not more so because there were no irritating children or waiters around this time) as last time to see the lovely Wendy and Kate.
For both these sweaty post-Florence events I managed to completely forget to take my fan. I purchased on my birthday in dizzy desperation, and it was definitely the best €4 I’ve ever spent. The best €2 you could ever spend would be on Florence’s very own black and white photobooth, which is positioned near the Santa Maria Novella train station. It’s nicer if you just ‘happen’ upon it, but you can look these things up online as well. Click the photo to become a ‘fan’ on facebook. A-ha-ha. I am funny.
I return from Florence with the tiresome evidence of my having provided a gourmet meal for the mosquitoes who reside therein. But I will save you the gory, bumpy details. I had a wonderful time with M in possibly the most beautiful city in the world (I say that as though I’ve seen all the others, but I’m just making a sweeping generalisation as ever…) and had a wonderful birthday.
We gorged ourselves on art and spiritual atmosphere more than pasta (although I managed to get a bowl of my beloved gnocchi on the last night, upon realising this mammoth error) at the Uffizi, Santa Croce and several other smaller places besides.
It’s a weird thing for me, as a hugely lapsed Catholic*, to actively want to spend time wandering around monuments to something I’ve obviously rejected as a way of life. But I always loved the bells and the smells and grew up in a family who actively sought out Latin Masses. (There’s a photo of my Grandmother meeting with the current Pope. Serious stuff people!) The atmosphere is intoxicating at times, inspirational and spiritual even if you have vastly differing ideas to those who created and decorated them.
*I sometimes think that lapsed Catholicism is a religion in itself…
The Uffizi gave me the chance to indulge my (yes, I know, hugely mainstream. So sue me.) passion for Botticelli. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, and even I can see that overexposure can render something like The Birth of Venus rather tedious, but there is something about that level of perfection which makes me catch my breath and my eyes well up. Not physical perfection, whatever on earth that may be, or literal perfection like, say, Ingres, but an attempt to capture the beauty of nature in the most perfect way he could. After rooms and rooms of devotional religious scenes, the more allegorical scenes of Botticelli’s best works are rendered even more extraordinary.
[I also enjoyed noting the clear inspiration Celia Birtwell took from those paintings. They look as though they've been dressed by Quorum.]
I maintain a healthy love for those who are brave enough to outline their subjects. I had regular confrontations with my art teacher in relation to this, he felt I should smudge every line to reflect reality. And then wanted me to write an enthusiastic essay on the merits of Picasso. Weird.
Someone else who liked to outline his subjects was De Chirico, who was the star attraction of an exhibition at the Strozzi. It was pretty incredible to see so many incredible surrealist masterpieces contained within a Florentine Palazzo, and it’s always nice to pick up a few new favourite artists along the way.
What with the views from the Piazzale Michelangelo, the Ponte Vecchio, the gelati, the endless beautiful streets of beautiful buildings and, finally, a sweltering train journey through the heavenly countryside of Tuscany, I have had an almost overwhelmingly lovely time.
This one was so unbelievably beautiful; that sculpted fall of fabric down the stairs…
I note, with some resignation, that the good people of Florence do not tend to dress for dinner. Tourists are pretty useless for this too, obviously. So I took it upon myself to fly the flag for vintage for my birthday dinner at Zàzà (thanks to the gorgeous Laurakitty for the recommendation). A Polly Peck moss crepe empire line early-mini which nobody wanted when I listed it on eBay last year, I subsequently tried it on and realised it was a perfect fit, and my beloved green silk DeLiso Debs. Good rule of thumb: If you’re feeling a bit gloomy about ageing another year, wear something which is 70-odd years old. My dress was also about 45 years old, so I was doing a good job of being the youngest thing about…..er…..me.
I can’t quite believe it. My first proper holiday in three years! And it’s somewhere I’ve dreamt of going for a painfully long time. I studied A Room With a View for English A-Level, and this did nothing but exacerbate my already quite intense passion for Italy. I went to the Lakes a long five years back, but my soul still desires Florence.
I’m trying not to get TOO excited. But it’s not working. I have ironed my loveliest sundresses and prepared a few Sixties evening minis, and I’m just praying for ash clouds and strikes to stay WELL away from us and our well-earned break. It’s also timed for my birthday, and I can’t think of a better way to spend it.
A few weeks back, I spotted this amazing spread in Vogue from 1967. Bailey on location, which instantly makes Bailey a lot better than usual. And the clothes are gorgeous (particularly the Varon). But the most important aspect is the Florentine backdrop.
I. Can’t. Wait.
p.s Obviously this means I can’t post items and deal with sales until I return on Tuesday. But it’s still first come, first served for sales, so you can still buy if anything tickles your fancy over on the website.