Monday, 31 October 2016

Happy Halloween!

Halloween cake
Halloween's my favourite holiday; I don't care if it's not something we've traditionally celebrated in Britain. I had planned to do a monster spread (literally) for work this year, but then I got ill last week. I soldiered on for three days, but on Thursday and Friday completely lost my voice and couldn't do anything.

I hate being ill. Hate it. It's so unproductive. I have no end of admiration for the bloggers I see who keep on going despite chronic illnesses. I just lay around on the sofa feeling sorry for myself. (On my sick days rewatched Partners In Crime; I'm more annoyed than ever that both that and Jekyll and Hyde got cancelled. There's very little in the way of decent deco-era programming on telly at the mo.)

Anyway, here's this year's Halloween cake, which draws on 2013's pumpkin patch and 2014's Martian - both those were pretty successful, so instead of being adventurous I went with what worked. I made a load of monster cupcakes too. I hope your celebrations, if you're celebrating, went more to plan than mine did. My piping skills (I piped the bones and tombstones from white/ coloured white chocolate) are improving to the point where I'm thinking of asking Santa to bring me some acetate and a chocolate thermometer so I can make patterned 'collars' for cakes. That's not at all a vintage technique, but I suppose I could turn some of my favourite vintage embroidery patterns into chocolate collars.
Monster cupcakes
Monsters!

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

The Mystery of Tunnel 51 [books]

Oh, what a refreshing surprise this 1920s adventure story was! The first in Alexander Wilson's series of Wallace novels, it begins with a mystery: a soldier carrying the plans for the British defences in India is murdered on his way to deliver them to the Viceroy, and the plans are stolen by the Russians. With no idea how the plans were taken from him without anyone noticing, let alone where the plans might now be, the Viceroy calls in the head of the Secret Service, Sir Leonard Wallace, and his second-in-command, William Brien. They fly across from England to solve the mystery. Car chases, secret tunnels, and even the occasional bomb all follow as Wallace pits his wits against the nefarious Levinsky.

Monday, 24 October 2016

Snapshots from the 60s

I want that dress. MUM Y U NO KEEP THE DRESS?
My mum turns 70 next month, so my brother, his girlfriend, Mr Robot and I are throwing her a party. This is the first time we've had the money to throw her a proper party, and I'm not sure if she's ever had one organised for her before by anyone else. Even her wedding to my dad was a fairly small-scale event. Because of that I want to make it really special, and so I asked her for some old photos, though I didn't say why. I can't say why here yet, in case she's reading this.

(Mum, if you're reading, stop snouting.)

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Tellybox roundup time

Have you been watching Victorian Slum? Two episodes have been broadcast so far, and see a group of intrepid individuals moving into a slum in the East End of London, living through conditions decade by decade, Back In Time For Dinner-style. I was a little surprised that Michael Mosley was presenting as he's not a historian, but he is very entertaining. So far the 1860s and 1870s have been broadcast. The people taking part include a tailor and his family, an extended family, a single mother, and a couple from the country running a shop, so a broad spectrum of the social groups who would have lived in a slum area is covered. One participant is an amputee, and says he took part to get an idea of what life was like for poor people in Victorian London.

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Gisela and Mim get Kinky!


Three women in front of a vintage clothing stall
Gisela, Vix and me
Yesterday the splendid Gisela (Miss Magpie) came to Bath as Vix was in town - Kinky Melon were trading at Judy's Affordable Vintage Fair and we both fancied a bit of shopping. I met Gisela from her train, and we both headed off to Bath Guildhall for the fair.

Monday, 10 October 2016

Five killer plants from outer space

Audrey II from The Little Shop of Horrors
Feed me, Seymour!
Okay, not all these plants are from outer space, but that headline had you hooked. It did, didn't it? As it happens, two of these monster plants are from outer space, one's from the lab (in Soviet Russia, PLANTS eat YOU) and two have simply evolved to kill people because they're inherently mean little buggers (probably provoked by vegetarians - you never hear of cavemen having to worry about man-eating plants while chasing down woolly mammoth, now, do you?).

Here are five excellent lean, mean, chorophyll-green killing machines...

Sunday, 9 October 2016

1960s beaded bag from Bristol

Yesterday I met up with one of my steampunk chums in Bristol. She lives in South Wales and I live in Wiltshire, so Bristol makes a great meeting point - and the Gloucester Road has some fab charity shops (including a couple of specialist vintage ones) and all sorts of interesting places to eat, so that was our destination. It looks like there might be some interesting steampunk stuff going on later in the year, so hopefully I'll have some fun things to write about.

I didn't buy masses of stuff yesterday. I got a modern blouse - white with embroidered polkadots in black, beige and navy - that will be great next summer. And in one of the charity shops, rummaging through a basket of evening bags, I found this little 1960s number. I don't need another evening bag, but the sorry state of this one and the knowledge I could fix it fairly easily made me feel quite sorry for it. After all, if I left it behind, would another person prepared to mend the beading come along to claim it, or would it get more and more battered till it ended up in the bin? As it was only £2.50, I bought it to add to my mending pile.

Friday, 7 October 2016

Junk in my trunk

Pippin having fun on the new old trunk
Sorry about the recent silence. I always try to make October a bit special, but I moved into my new job on Monday - same company, same job title, but I'm now on Official PlayStation Magazine - and have been busy getting to grips with that (I moved in on deadline week!). In my spare time I've had a load of work from SFX and Horrorville. Busy, busy, Mim. Still, all that freelance keeps me in shoes. And, um concert tickets. I'm off to see both Iron Maiden and Black Sabbath in 2017. Is this a midlife crisis? If it is, it's bloody good fun.

It looks like Mr Robot and I are going to have a smarter, sprucer living room too by Christmas. We've been saying for a while that we'd like to get more of it sorted out – a house this old is one never-ending project – and the catalyst was finally getting the chimney swept a couple of Mondays ago. From the state of the knackered fireplace we're pretty sure a previous resident of the house burned stuff in it, even though there's no proper insert. Not knowing the state of the chimney, we've never lit a fire ourselves. From a clogged chimney catching fire to a leaky one spewing carbon monoxide into the upper rooms, fires aren't something to mess about with. We'd really feared that the chimney would need relining or repointing, but the chimney sweep said it was fine, and gave us our safety certificate, which means our plan to replace the fireplace is going ahead.

Saturday, 1 October 2016

Bloofer Gent: Ralph Bates

George Phwoarleggan
I was looking for a lady for this year's Bloofer choice as we've had gents two years running, but then I watched The Horror of Frankenstein and decided only Ralph Bates would do as 2016's creeptacular crumpet. Due to his sadly early death, if you're under 40 you probably won't know who he was, and if you're in your 40s you might only know him as the star of 1980s divorce-sitcom Dear John and some biscuit adverts, but, like Led Zeppelin, Laura Ashley and kids' TV, he was in his best in the 1960s and 1970s.

Ralph Bates was television's original George Warleggan, bitter and ambitious beneath a charming surface, thwarting Ross Poldark whenever he could. “But that's not horror,” you cry, “What makes him a Bloofer Gent?” The Horror of Frankenstein, remember? Oh, before that raised the undead as rakish Lord Courtley in Taste the Blood of Dracula, but as Baron Frankenstein he excels.

While he was able to convey ruthless ambition with ease, there was also something incredibly seductive about Bates, and his Frankenstein is no exception: his mentor's daughter falls in love with him, unaware that housemaid Kate O'Mara is providing a few out-of-hours services to the Baron. (And who can blame her?)

As the most seductive Baron Frankenstein
I really enjoyed The Horror of Frankenstein; while the script was nothing especially new, it was a satisfying version of the story, and I very much liked both Frankenstein's idealistic friend and the cheerful graverobbers who collect, erm, raw materials for the baron's work. The end of the film left me hoping there would be a follow-up, but sadly Bates' next horror outings were the dreadful Lust for a Vampire (which he himself called 'one of the worst films ever made') and Dr Jekyll and Sister Hyde. Never mind those, we'll always have Poldark and The Horror of Frankenstein.

Charming and sinister, Ralph Bates, Bloofer Gent for 2016, we salute you!