Sunday, May 30, 2010

Scooter Girls

The time of year is upon us when girls all over Europe take to their Scooters, I have spent many a time in an outdoor cafe watching independent sassy young women, pulling up to the curb, parking up their scooter, shaking their hair free from helmets and striding happily and confidently to go about their business, be it some shopping, meeting friends for a coffee a romantic interlude or going to work.   I am quite envious of them, I think if I lived in a big city or a sun drenched Mediterranean haven, I would have to have one, so much more practical and environmentally friendly than a car, easy to park, nippy in traffic and judging by the looks on faces lots of fun.....

Audrey Hepburn The original Scooter girl

Audrey Hepburn In Roman Holiday

The spiritual home of the Scooter has to be Italy although the design style of the Lambretta and Vespa
 dates back to Pre-WWII Cushman scooters made in Nebraska, USA. These olive green scooters were in Italy in large numbers, ordered originally by Washington as field transport for the Paratroops and Marines. The US military had used them to get around Nazi defence tactics of destroying roads and bridges in the Dolomites (a section of the Alps) and the Austrian border areas.

Aeronautical engineer General Corradino D'Ascanio, responsible for the design and construction of the first modern helicopter by Agusta, was given the job by Ferdinando Innocenti of designing a simple, robust and affordable vehicle. It had to be easy to drive for both men and women, be able to carry a passenger and not get its driver's clothes soiled.  Hence the first Lambretta was born, shortly afterwards D'Ascanio fell out with  Innocenti so he took his designs to Enrico Piaggio, together they developed the Vespa.

In Italy by the late forties and fifties Vespas and Lambrettas soon became a must have item, they were inexpensive, stylish and ideal for negotiating the war scarred roads of Italian cities, they were a symbol of future prosperity and offered young women new opportunities for independence and freedom.

It was not long before the rest of the world followed, Scooters became huge in India and Asia, and factories sprang up making their own versions of lambrettas and Vespas.  In many parts of Asia particularly India and Vietnam Scooters rule the pot holed roads.

I love the early Italian Ad campaigns for Vespa and Lambretta, mainly targeted at women, you can really see the independence conveyed in these images, they seem to be saying, "I may want to be with you, but I am a busy girl, I have options, I am independent I can do what I want and choose who I want"!

By the mid fifties and into the sixties people were starting to travel again, Scooters were marketed as the ideal vehicle for getting round sundrenched destinations.

In the early sixties the Scooter was facing stiff competition from the likes of The Fiat 500 and The Mini, these stylish inexpensive small cars for 'The people' had the advantage of seating four.

Fiat 500


Lambretta stepped up it's advertising campaigns with glamorous sixties Icon, Jean Shrimpton.

Back to the present day, retro Scooters are making a comeback, the environmental issue has probably sparked this off.  Not to mention the ease with which the scooter can nip through modern day traffic.

Jenifer Lopez

Anne Hathaway

And so much fun.....

Friday, May 28, 2010

Notorious Dresses

Liz Hurley was merely Hugh Grants girlfriend and a struggling actress until she turned up wearing this Versace dress to the premier of Four Weddings and a Funeral. Offers came pouring in for Liz,  including a very lucrative one from Estee Lauder.  Wannabes have been trying to recreate 'That Dress Moment' ever since.

Whilst Prince Charles was spilling the beans on the BBC, Diana turned up to an event wearing this dress, a new beginning for Diana. This was the start of Diana's modern and sexier new look.

It was a far cry from this outfit which became notorious for very different reasons.

Twiggy demonstrating how to wear the 'Mini Dress', hemlines had never been so short.

Coco Chanel may have been the creator of 'The Little Black Dress' but nobody did it better than Audrey in 'Breakfast at Tiffany's'

Marilyn created ripples in this dress which she had to be sewn into.  Singing Happy Birthday to JFK at Madison Square Garden.

Not sure if it was the dress, Anita Ekbergs impressive proportions or the fact that she was cavorting in The Trevi Fountain but it has become one of the most iconic moments in cinematic history.

Christian Dior caused outrage when he launched 'The New Look' in 1947, people were upset that he used so much fabric in a single dress or suit, fabric was still being rationed as a result of shortages in World War II.  During one photo shoot in a Paris market, the models were attacked by female vendors over the profligacy of their dresses—but opposition ceased as the wartime shortages ended. The New Look revolutionized women's dress and re-established Paris as the centre of the fashion world after World War II.

Rita Hayworth raised eyebrows and blood pressures when she wore this dress in 'Gilda' the image became one of the most popular pin ups of the twentieth century. Rita Hayworth famously said; "People go to bed with Gilda, they wake up with me"

I believe Jessica Rabbit was inspired by Gilda

The scandalous Wallace Simpson, became an unlikely style icon after wearing this Mainbocher dress for her wedding.

Elderly Edwardians must have got a shock when hemlines were raised in the twenties followed by the flapper era, they were not used to seeing ankles let alone knees!

Wishing You all A Fabulous Weekend.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

More French Rustic Charm

I first spotted this typical Bigourdan farmhouse about six years ago, whilst getting lost tying to find a friends house, it has always stuck in my mind and was the inspiration for me to plant red climbing roses on the front of our house.  I returned today to photograph it.  It still looks as good as when I first saw it.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Rustic France

The entrance of our next door neighbours potting shed.

It's been another fabulous day here, although very humid, a few rumblings of thunder in the sky, and dark, ominous clouds lingering over the mountains.  I think we are in for a big storm tonight, I love storms, one of the beauties of living here, on a ridge, close to the mountains is you can feel and see the weather coming in, you can smell it in the air, see the change in the wind, and plot the course of the storm and we have some spectacular one's, forked lightening, sheet lightening, very loud thunderclaps, followed by a torrential downpour, I love to watch them, from the safety of the covered  balcony, usually with some rousing Italian opera music on in the background, storm watching is one of my favourite things.

On the balcony, storm coming in.

The eerie but beautiful sky

I have digressed, I was supposed to be writing a post about rustic France, today has been a productive day, I have got round to doing things, that I have been meaning to do for ages! I went into the local town, booked a check up, scale and polish with the dentist, booked a colour, cut and blow dry with my hairdresser, deposited a huge number of clean but wrinkled sheets at the dry cleaners for ironing, went to the supermarket.  On the way back home, driving through one of the local villages I spotted a wonderful sign for a new beautician who has just set up shop, I screeched the car to a halt outside, popped in got on very well with the beautician and promptly booked a full leg, bikini wax and pedicure for Saturday, God by Saturday night I should look like a Goddess!

Apologies, still not sounding very rustic! Feeling smug and happy I decided to take a detour through one of my favourite villages, there is a house here that I covet, it's an old auberge, that is now derelict, someone started to renovate it about ten years ago, then stopped.  Reason, inheritance fallout, there are literally thousands of potentially beautiful, derelict properties in France, that are crumbling, because of archaic Napoleonic inheritance laws, up to forty members of the same family can own a single property in France, they cannot come to an agreement on what to do with it, so the house just crumbles and eventually nature reclaims it.

(French inheritance laws, were designed to keep families together.  In France it is impossible to disinherit your children, which in principle is a good thing, however more often than not it drives families apart).

Imagination and vision required.

This was probably the old mill house for the auberge, it would make an excellent guest house

This property is one of those, when we first saw it, we found a way in through the garage, you should have seen the bats that flew out, very cross that they had been disturbed, we looked round and saw evidence of renovation, it has the potential to be stunning, we were interested in it as a renovation project, we went to visit the local mayor, he confirmed it, not for sale, a complicated inheritance situation, that could take years to resolve.

The view opposite.

Looking left outside the entrance.

Looking right outside the entrance.

This land at the back, also belongs to the property.

A river at the bottom of the garden.

Same village, another property.  I was attracted by the roses growing through the gates.

Just want to slide that stone back into position, though at the same time I quite like it like that.

Lovely tree lined driveway.

 Now, safely back home and waiting for the storm.