Monday, 31 May 2010

I Want To Ride My Bicycle

On a swoon-worthy summer day like today, there really is nothing like taking a little jaunt on the ol' bicycle. You get to simultaneously explore the country side, enjoy the sun and get a pleasant breeze going through your locks. Amazing! My current favourite route is particularly dashing, as I get to ride through a field with daisies on one side, buttercups on the other.

I also secretly hope that there is some sort of correlation between this fine summertime activity and greatness. Aside from the obligatory middle aged men with their buns of steel encapsulated in Lycra, some rather fine and dandy people favour the odd bike ride or two. To name a few....









Paul, John, Ringo & George!

So, if it's good enough for them, it's more than good enough for a mere mortal like myself. Plus, I will soon have thighs you could crack walnuts with (or maybe not). Now, if I could somehow get my hands on a sweet ride like this bad-boy, I will be absolutely set for life. 

Friday, 28 May 2010

Manech Aime Mathilde.

It takes a rare film that can make me shed a tear, but A Very Long Engagement managed with ease to make me do a little weep. To put this revelation in context, Titanic only nearly moistened my tear ducts. However, Jean-Pierre Jeunet's wartime romance is far from a bog-standard 'weepy', that would be far too straight forward for him. This absolute cinematic dreamboat tells the tale of Mathilde (played by the ridiculously beautiful Audrey Tautou) who is determined to find her fiance, Manech, who's been missing since he was drafted to fight in the first world war. 

Despite all the odds, she just knows he is still alive. So, using her lame leg to garner sympathy, she hires a private detective, and the two go about exploring every tiny possibility and any lead to find out what has happened. She discovers that Manech was one of five soldiers condemned for self-mutilation, which he did in attempt to return to her sooner. She learns several inconclusive accounts of his fate from fellow soldiers in the Bingo Crepuscule trench. As the plot thickens, we are treated to a series of deliriously lovely flashbacks which shows just how she and Manech met and fell in love. 

As well as being a romantic film, it is really quite war-heavy and graphic, and at several points I had to shield my eyes! The all-too-realistic portrayal of the horrors of war ensures that this film never verges on being too saccharine-sweet or twee. The regular revelations of character's little quirks has become something of a trademark for Jeunet, and this includes gems such as her aunt saying 'Doggie fart, gladdens the heart!' every time their dog lets rip, Manech constantly engraving M.M.M. (Manech Aime Mathilde) wherever opportunity strikes, and Mathilde setting herself little challenges, for example 'If I don't break the peel, Manech is alive'.

Die-hard fans of Jeunet's work will recognise several of the cast members that he loves to re-use, in particular Dominique Pinon and, of course, Tautou. The very handsome and incredibly French-looking Gaspard Ulliel is wonderful in this as the lovelorn and traumatised Manech, and Marion Cotillard puts in a brief yet very impressive cameo as the murderous Tina Lombardi. The director's ever-present surrealist feel manifests itself in the creative death scenes (look out for the annihilation-by-mirror and Lombardi's brilliant spectacles to gun pulley-contraption) not to mention a certain barman's fully functional wooden hand!

I shan't ruin the ending for you, but I will say that I honestly didn't breathe for about five minutes, it was so tense! As the film came to a conclusion, I definitely had to pull that old 'oh, just something in my eye...' excuse. And as testament to the universal appeal of this outright masterpiece, even my parents - who thought Amelie was 'a bit whimsical' and Pan's Labyrinth 'not very realistic' - absolutely loved it. At two and a half hours, it is A Very Long Film, but if you sat through Titanic or Atonement you can sit through this - it's much better!

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Swearing's For Art Students

Today, I'm going to show off some pretty damn amazing pieces by an artist very dear to me... Laura Dixon, a.k.a. my sis! Lo is in her second year of Illustration at the prestigious Edinburgh College Of Art, where she spends her days drawing pretty things, watching amazing bands and creating mad culinary concoctions. I am rather jealous, I must confess. When she reads this (Oh hi, Laura!) she will no doubt be blushing furiously, but if you have such wonderful skills, why not show them off, eh? Here are some of my favourite creations of hers to date....

Now, I don't care for mushrooms but this still makes me salivate slightly. 

If a robin flies overhead on St. Valentines Day, you shall marry a sailor!

One of a series of bearded men portraits, this is our favourite artist, Mister Gustav Klimt.

Laura's homage to one of the most fascinating races in the world, surely!

Another bearded man, this time one that makes her swoon - Bill The Butcher/ Daniel Day Lewis 

Well, now I'm blushing! 

She's really quite talented, don't you think? 

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Can't You Feel The Knife?

For a while now, I have been torn between two very different renditions of one very lovely song - which do I love slightly more? In fact, do I really have to choose? Who says you can't love two versions at the same time, anyway! I have plenty o' room in my life for them both.

For starters, here is the stupidly talented Grizzly Bear, singin' their own song a cappella. No instruments, yet it still sounds like heaven! I particularly enjoy how thoroughly uncomfortable Ed Droste looks to be wandering around Paris singing his heart out - see how he keeps trying to obscure his face with his hands and jumper, bless him. (Interesting little tidbit for you - the name 'Grizzly Bear' comes from Ed's nickname for an old boyfriend. How sweet.)

For dessert, here is a slightly sloppier, but nonetheless charming, version of the song. We all like a drunken sing-song with our friends after a night out on the razz, but if you happen to be Zach Condon and your friends are the La Blogotheque crew, it's gonna go on the Internet the next day. Not to mention sound infinitely better than anything most of us could muster, sad times. 
Personal highlights include; when they all forget the words, the sassy little dancing friend, and when the camera turns to the smoking, completely deadpan French lady - she clearly does this all the time. He gets definite brownie points for managing to sounds so divine after several drinks.... what a man!

The jury really is out on this one.

Monday, 24 May 2010

Tastiest Ever Scones.

Despite being a bit of a scone afficionado, I've never actually attempted to make 'em before. But today was to be the day I finally manned up and went for it, with the help of my darling sis, Lo. To our extreme joy, they came out pretty damn delicious! If you fancy giving it a whirl, here's how you do it.

1) First thing's first, pre-heat your oven to 220 degrees. Weigh out 225g of self-raising flour and then sieve it into a mixing bowl, so that it looks all fluffy and lovely, like so.

2) Throw in a pinch of salt and weigh out 55g of butter. Then - this is the rather messy bit - rub the butter into the floury mixture.... it feels a bit like 'pinching bits off a really fat person', Laura reckoned. Once it's all bread-crumby, add 25g of caster sugar and 150 ml of milk to your mixture. At this stage in life, it does look a bit like vomit, I must say.

3) This bit's optional, just to add a little somethin' somethin' to the scone. It could be chocolate chips, flakes of almond or slivers of cherry... or if you're a bit boring you can always make plain scones. But we're not boring, so we sliced up 100g of crystalized ginger and stirred it in! 

Here's an action shot of Lo mixing up scones, and clearly loving it.

4) Here comes the fun bit. Throw flour all over your work top with reckless abandon! Don't worry too much about cleaning this up when you're all done and dusted, the idea is your family/housemates will be so grateful for the delicious scones, that they'll do it for you. If not, one word - vacuum. Anyway. Grab the mixture and knead it on your surface, until it's about 2cm thick.

5) Using a pastry cutter, stamp out as many future scones as you possibly can, because you're gonna want the lot. Now, place them on a pre-greased baking tray. Utilise your artistic skills, and brush them with milk! Pop them into the oven for fifteen minutes until they're all golden and delicious-lookin'. We used this agonizing wait to invent a new summer playlist, I reccomend you follow suit.

6) Once they're finally out, leave 'em to cool on a wire rack for a further twenty minutes or so. Personally, I rather like them a bit warm, so if you really can't wait, just go for it! They would be pretty amazing served with Nuttella and/or clotted cream, or just some good ol' fashioned butter. Naturally a cup of tea is pre-requisite. 

Bon Appetit!

Paris, Je Déteste!

Just read this little gem on the always-amusing Platform page....

'The novelist Guy de Maupassant hated the tower so much that he allegedly ate lunch there every day because it was the only place in Paris where he couldn’t see the tower itself. That’s a pretty funny and typically French story, a Brit would have just turned his chair through 180 degrees and resentfully sipped his or her tea.'

But....Paris is my wet dream of a city! How anyone could not adore it, I haven't the foggiest. You have to admire this guy's absolute dedication to his loathing, though. 

Sunday, 23 May 2010

California Dreamin'

It's a crime to spend lovely, hot, balmy days like this cooped up in work, as I did today - they should be enchanced with a perfectly twee picnic, a bike riding adventure and this song played on repeat!

Friday, 21 May 2010

Old York

Today, to celebrate my ma & pa's 27th wedding anniversary, we ended up paying a visit to one of my all-time (well... top ten) favourite cities. York is a wonderfully pretty old city that used to be the the capitol of England before London muscled in. The Vikings were pretty fond of old 'Jorvik', leading to it hosting a rather dodgy overpriced museum which somehow manages to attract hoardes of tourists. It's quite a lot like Edinburgh, except without the funny accents, although that is debatable. In my humble opinion, the best bit of York is The Shambles - all cobble pavements, street performers and secret little tearooms. 

It bears more than a passing resemblance to Diagon Alley in Harry Potter films, which is always a good thing. It also features some rather Hogsmeade-esque street names, the best of which being Whip-Ma-Whop-Ma Gate - see below for photographic proof. I went out with the full intention of spending the none-existant money burning a hole in my pockets, but in the end I bought nothing but a cowboy mug, which is admittedly quite excellent. Here are a few snaps from our lovely day out...

This is a beautiful delicatessen named The Hairy Fig (which sounds like a euphemism if I ever heard one!) It sold the most delicious-looking food known to mankind, including a honey glazed dead pig from which they carved slices on demand - fresh, indeed. They also sold this rather novel package of tinned escargot complete with snail shells.

One of the tastiest attractions in York is Betty's, a very traditional English tearoom which first opened in 1919, and I don't think anything has changed much since. The interior is very grand Art Deco-style and I'm always quite envious of the uniforms the waitresses wear, which looks like something a Victorian parlour maid would wear to serve Ma'am her afternoon tea. The restaurant is pretty amazing, my favourite dish being the mouth watering Swiss Rosti, but sadly I wasn't feeling too flush today so the shop had to suffice. Much love to the adorable lady working there, who gladly let me take many photos for your viewing pleasure.

My lovely parents bought me a box of macaroons for my birthday, since they're pretty hard to come by in England. However, the suave man in Betty's informed me that they're best eaten with four days, so lucky me, I get to eat them early! I opted for the raspberry, pistachio and chocolate flavours - I am nibbling a pistachio one now, and I must say, it's rather delicious. 

You may stop salivating now.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Still Very Loveable

How I adore this sweet little ditty! Never ceases to amaze me that these genuine angel voices come from three men who look a bit like someone you'd see buying White Lightning at your local off license. This guy on the left looks all bashful to be there, bless him. Enjoy!

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Fromage Homage.

As mind-nourishing as it is to watch clever films by respected directors, sometimes you just need to view some pure, unadulterated shit – the McDonald's of the film industry. And no one does deliciously naff films like the 80's. Film folk in this decade clearly had far too much money on their hands, and decided to compete for the most implausable plot imaginable. Ever since being thoroughly amazed by Earth Girls Are Easy (where a jazzily-attired manicurist falls in love with Jeff Goldblum the alien after his spaceship crashed into her pool) I have become something of a tacky 80's film connoseur. Here are a few seriously worth adding to your DVD collection, or, if you truly have excellent taste, merely re-watching.

Weird Science

First up is the classic John Hughes film about two self-described dorks who are pretty into science and unattainable girls, so naturally they attempt to combine the two. After scanning photos of various sexy ladies body parts, and connecting it all up with a doll they have just lying around, their beloved PC goes mad and causes sparks, smoke and multiple other special affects, and then whaddya know they've created a girl. Not just any girl, but a spandex-clad supermodel, who inexplicably is quite taken with them. She makes it her mission to help the boys become popular, which she achieves by magicking up new clothes, a sports car and fake ID – a valuable message for all the youngsters watching out there, I think. Despite both looking roughly thirteen, they make their way into a club, get progressively tipsy and decide to throw a party. Without totally spoiling the plot of the film I will tell you that it culminates with the party getting gatecrashed by MUTANTS. If that doesn't make you want to watch this now, then I don't know what will.

Choice Quote: ''Maybe it was a dream, you know - a very weird, bizarre, vivid, erotic, wet, detailed dream. Maybe we have malaria.''


Do you love Mean Girls? Silly question – 'course you do. In which case, you may want to take a seat, because I've got some heartbreaking news – it ripped off Heathers, big style. The main difference, apart from an infinitely superior wardrobe department, is that instead of writing in a Burn Book, this particular lady got her revenge on whoever pissed her off by killing 'em. Winona Ryder plays Veronica, the monacle-wearing protagonist, who hates her horrible and not-actually-that-hot friends, conveniently all named Heather. 

After meeting local the bad-ass J.D. (quite clearly meant to be a Brando/ Dean type but he actually has the whiniest voice going) they fall madly in lust over a game of croquet which, naturally, progresses to a bit of a killing spree. Cleverly they disguise their assorted murders as suicides, so they get off dirt-free. Soon J.D.'s slash-happy ways start to disturb Veronica, and she wants out, but of course he's not having any of it. Shan't ruin the ending but watch out for a certain someone's middle finger getting shot off -  it truly is a classic scene in cinematic history.

Choice Quote: Football season is over, Veronica. Kurt and Ram had nothing left to offer the school except for date rapes and AIDS jokes.


The thoroughly unrealistic story of this tasty little number is one of the all too often overlooked love between man and mannequins. Struggling artist Johnathan sculpted his vision of the perfect woman (artists make mannequins, right?) and it just so happens to be Samantha from Sex In The City. Years later, he spots his creation in the window of a department store, and is so smitten that he gets a job dressing windows in order to, er, spend more time with it. Lucky for him, this mannequin is in fact possessed with the spirit of an Ancient Egyptian princess (despite being thoroughly caucasian looking) and therefore is able to come to life when no one except Johnathan is around. How convenient.

Inspired by his 'love' for her, he becomes the best window dresser in town (artists dress windows, right? What else are they gonna do - paint?). Naturally his fellow colleagues notice he is unnaturally attatched to the dummy, but hey, he dresses windows so well that the majority of them are willing to let it slide. Not all are quite so forgiving, including his recently-shunned girlfriend, their rival department store's owner and, for some reason, the perenially pissed-off care taker, who utters the immortal line 'You are one sick puppy!'. Together, they scheme to expose his shady plastic-lovin' shenanigans, but not before some excellent fun-in-a-department store montages. I can't conclude without mentioning the frankly under-used character Hollywood Montrose, Johnathan's flamboyant sidekick, who sports an impressive array of statement sunglasses and more makeup than a Mac counter.

Choice Quote: Two things I love to do is fight and kiss boys!

The Lost Boys

Frankly, Twilight gave vampires on film a bad name - nowadays, they are percieved as being all sensitive, glittery and more than a little bit emo. Decades before Bella & Edward's frighteningly intense relationship captured the hearts of angst-ridden teens the world over, there were The Lost Boys. The Harley-riding, blood-sucking gang of impressively-mulleted vampires quite rightly enjoy terrorising Santa Cruz, and when a new boy arrives in town they decide to recruit him, why not. 

After consuming some dubious-looking 'wine' (read: blood), Michael wakes up the next day with a dangly cross earring, chalky skin and a sudden aversion to sunlight. Only his pesky lil' brother is having none of it, and so recruits two young comic afficionados who, of course, know exactly what to do. They set about killing the head vampire - and anyone else who gets in their way - before it's too late for Michael and his obligitary love interest lady-vampire. Will they ever manage it? The odds are admitedly against them, considering they're pre-pubescent boys against a gang of full-on men that also happen to be vampires, but it's a family film - of course they do! Good always triumphs over evil, and all that jazz.

Choice Quote: My own brother, a goddamn, shit-sucking vampire. You wait 'till mom finds out, buddy!  

Pretty In Pink

This little bundle of cinematic joy contains everything I desire in an 80's film – extreme clothing, wonderful soundtrack, and an impromptu dance routine. The lovely Molly Ringwald plays Andie, who lives on the 'wrong side of the tracks', makes her own clothes and works in a record store (what a rebel). Naturally a lady so unique attracts an admirer, in the form of Ducky, by far the films best character. The boy has style to cobble dogs with and talks like something out of a 50's mobster movie, but alas, his love is unrequited – Andie only has eyes for the rich and popular Blaine, and in a quite unrealistic fashion, the feeling is mutual. 

At first things seem to be promising for their burgeoning relationship, but the pressure piles on from the folk around them – family, friends, not to mention the unethically rejected Ducky - and, eventually, the shit hits the fan. You can learn of all the ins and outs when you watch it, which you ought to, because it is a truly wonderful film. I have just one teeny tiny little niggle – she quite clearly opts for the wrong guy. Really, who wouldn't plump for someone that strolled into their place of work, and just for giggles, did this..?