Friday, 26 August 2011

Between the Woods and the Water

I travelled home from London the evening before last on a heavily crowded train. My exhaustion only allowed for slumping in the seat while watching trees and towns swoosh past. The many crop fields that sped by (already shorn and given buzz-cuts) confirmed that autumn has definitely jumped ship and arrived early. As for summer, it slouched off with its hands in its pockets to play truant ages ago; hasn’t been seen since.

Yellow leaves are even now scattered across the city pavements of Portobello and Primrose Hill, whilst back home the smoke from garden fires permeates the valley outside my window. Our house also smelt of burning yesterday, but that was because our new internet modem started smoking ominously when we first plugged it in. That makes it sound like a rebellious teenager. It wasn’t - but it was just as irritating.
Although I love this season – full of spiced colours, misted endings and new beginnings – there is one thing I will be particularly sad to say goodbye to: reading books outside. I have a feeling that by September the only alfresco page turning will happen while swaddled in a cable knit jumper or welsh wool blanket.

A book is a book whether it falls open in Mumbai, Japan or the Cotswolds. Wherever it is read, the pages will spin webs of worlds to get snagged in. However summer (in Britain at least) is roughly the only time of year when one can pack a drink and a copy of Wildwood by Roger Deakin, and then relax to experience his words as I am sure they were meant to be heard; accompanied by the sound of birdsong and breeze. This is completely different to hunkering down with a cup of hot chocolate by the fire on a December evening.
The act of being transported to another location – be it Deakin’s bluebell wood or Patrick Leigh Fermor’s Germany – is the same regardless of weather or season. What changes is how the surroundings affect what is being read.

Take Laurie Lee’s ‘A Rose for Winter’. The first time I heard his beautifully crafted memoir it was while recovering from surgery in hospital. The soothing sound of my mum reading aloud the details of places and characters was the only thing that could lull me to sleep. I hardly remembered the events, as they were all half-heard, but I did feel moved nonetheless. Maybe my groggy state helped to make post-Civil War Spain all the more vivid. I could almost feel myself seeing the same views Lee must have enjoyed.
I re-visited the book during the summer months, and gobbled it up in about two sittings. If I remember rightly I picked it up after my exams had finished and grabbed a few hours of sunshine. Often I read while listening to my ipod, but this isn’t always the case. Outdoors it is better to be absorbed completely.

Travel writing – especially the trinity of Laurie Lee, Patrick Leigh Fermor and Roger Deakin – is a very distinct genre. These books are not plot-driven, but chug along at a sedate pace, propelled by the power of description alone. They can be dipped in and out of. They are not furious reads, but languorous. Just the kind of book I pick up at midnight if I can’t sleep (I have tried and failed to see if I could spend an entire night reading, but I always get too tired).
The mark these books leave is a desire to visit the places depicted. That’s fine if the novel in front of you is ‘Waterlog’, as one could pay homage to the rivers and lakes that Deakin swum in. Not so easy if one is reading ‘As I walked out one midsummer morning’ . The parts of Spain portrayed by Lee’s pen have crumbled away now. Our constant evolution as a human race is reflected in the landscape around us. We tear down buildings and construct new ones. Forests are cut down and replanted. Cars, computers and electricity have completely changed the way we live. My great-grandma was born in 1917. How different was her childhood? Books, like photos and films, act as preservatives. The images are pickled, dried or suspended in formaldehyde.
This was especially clear to me when I visited Spain for the first time this summer. I can’t remember if Lee ever travelled as far as Galicia, but although there were elements I recognized (terracotta roofs, yellow buildings, large rocky outcrops in the sea), this country is of course as much a part of the twenty-first century as the rest of Europe.
Thank goodness we do have books to give us a rich history of these countries. Not static museum exhibits, but tales with a beating pulse that remind us why it is as important to remember the past as to look towards the future.

Conversely, Berties Vintage – described in detail in my previous post here - is a modern shop decorated to resemble another decade. Like a good travel book, trying on dresses behind two gold, draped curtains immediately lifts an otherwise mundane day. To step into the shop, which is scented with the kind of perfume one imagines ‘ladies’ dabbing behind the ears with glass stoppers, is to dive headlong into another time. Who needs a Tardis?

The original twenties dress was kindly lent from Berties Vintage, and is accessorized with a second hand hat and a sash from the dressing up box. The high heeled sandals were from ebay (they’re Office) and the silk shirt was found in my local charity shop. The bag was from the Big Chill St Michaels charity stall.

Finally, thank you to everyone who sent me comments, emails and twitter messages to let me know that they had seen an image of me in the September issue of UK Vogue, on page 204. This was a very wonderful shock. I had no idea the photo would appear, as it was evidently snapped by a street style photographer while at London Fashion Week in February. I am uncredited. Here is the photo:

I don't who the photographer was, but thanks to them. I recently showed the image to the woman whose antique stall the vintage coat came from. She was thrilled as she can now claim that her clothes have been "seen in Vogue!" She and I agreed it was wonderful to see her vintage stall coat alongside the great and good designs.


Natalie Suarez said...

this is absolutely beautiful!! and how amazing to see you in that magazine. the look you wore with that coat is definitely one of my favorites from you! xx

Anonymous said...

I just popped over to see if you had posted whilst in the middle of writing my own post about the transition of Summer to Autumn - and, like you, making a three hour train journey the other evening I noticed also how summer is slipping away. The nights are drawing in earlier now - though still with those magnificent sunsets that take your breath away as you reach the peak of a hill.

Travel writing is one of my favourite genres, and definitely my favourite non-fiction genre. I'm currently reading Waterlog and wherever I am it can transport me to the hidden coves and secret bays of Deakin's travels.

Indeed - books can take us back in time to places which have now, very unfortunately, by modern office blocks and skyscrapers. But they still live on in the minds of those who have experienced them in the form of the printed word.

One of the things I love most about your blog Rosalind is that even without the date or the writing I can tell what season it is just from the photographs - I sometimes wonder why more people don't as it brings so much to the writing.

Have a lovely weekend, Alexandra x

The Fancy Teacup said...

I will need to peruse “A Rose for Winter” sometime. Traveling in a train and seeing all the scenery in the whirlwind is such an interesting spectacle. And that dress is remarkable. Congrats on your feature, well deserved, beautiful lady!

♥, Jamie

Maria Elyse said...

Aw, congrats on being featured in Vogue! That is seriously so incredibly exciting, and it couldn't have happened to a sweeter lady. :) ♥

Maria Elyse
First Impressions
Flying Ships Vintage

Page said...

so so prettty! congrats on the UK feature!

Closet Fashionista said...

Wow I LOVE this outfit you look so amazing! And congrats on the Vogue feature!
I really should make an effort to read outside more often, but I am always so consumed with the stupid internet world that I forget to take time out to go outside and read...Fall here is still pretty warm so maybe I should make it part of my routine :)

Lydia said...

I love the long scarf hanging from your hat. Must do this for fall.

Anonymous said...

beautiful writing and i love your hat. i'd love to see a post of your favorite books!

styleeast said...

Look at you, Vogue girl! Amazing -YOU'VE INSPIRED A VOGUE STYLE FEATURE. Just think about that for a minute ;)

The sun in your photographs is making me wistful. It's absolutely chucking down outside! xx

Anonymous said...

Привет, Roz.
Очень нравятся твои работы, ты необычная девушка. У тебя интересные идеи. Была бы рада с тобой познакомится, мне тоже 15 лет. Но я живу в Белоруссии и плохо знаю английский язык. Желаю тебе успехов и всего хорошего. Юлия. :)

Polka Princess said...

You are sooooooo right! A book's effect on us change drastically change depending upon the surroundings we are reading in....I mean, a horror story sends chills down our spine when we are reading it in absolute solitude, rather than when we read it sitting in a bus/train! :)

Congratulations on the Vogue feature!! Am so proud of you! <3

Shervin Nassi said...

STUNNING!! your photos r 2 die 4!! loving your work! AWESOME JOB on the Vogue Feature!

sacramento said...

September is my favourite month. We can star living with the heat easing slowly.
Loving the quality of your writing and your wonderful choice of outfit.
Congratulations again for being in Vogue.

Anonymous said...

you are BRILLIANT!

Jessica said...

I have changed my mind this is my favorite outfit post of yours now! I agree today it was so cold and dull, it also rained all day. Litterally!

WOW congrats on Vogue, I will look out for it only read the first 10 pages so far!

Please take a minute to look at my trunkshow;

Maria Tereza said...

Oh you always post beautiful photos!!
And you looks amazing in Vogue UK, congratulation for them to be alert for good bloggers like you!!

isa telaraña said...

I like the hat very much and I agree with Vogue´s taste.
You set the trend. That is my favourite urban look.

Autumn said...

Books are my dearest friends. And seriously the outfit you are wearing in this post is SO gorgeous. I adore it! And being in Vougue. WOW!

The Foolish Aesthete said...

My earliest travels were through poetry and books! And you are right, our own location while reading them provides a very different experience (like the difference between being huddled under the covers with a single light, or being awash in sunshine at the beach can lend a different feeling to the words on the page).

Your Vogue look is beautiful! I've yet to look through my US Vogue for September and wonder if that snapshot made it there as well. xxx

AvaPilar said...

Congratulations, you must be thrilled with your little cameo in vogue! I have found it impossible to find a copy of a Rose for Winter anywhere, and have been dying to read it. That dress is beautiful, it reminds me of something sewn together during the depression era.

Anonymous said...

Interesting post :-), you look very stylish in the Vogue shot - you look every bit the part for fashion week! Must have been a nice surprise for you!

Amy x

the nyanzi report said...

Vogue? ooh la la...

love the first two shots.

PinkBow said...

congratulations, that is amazing and i have to say you look so at home in the pages of vogue. i loved those shots of you from the last lfw.

Stephanie Hoff Clayton said...

Vogue UK....oooh, congratulations!
Your post makes me want to devour all the books on my shelf that I've yet to read.
Pretty outfit. The soft muted colors are very "you".

Kate said...

Everything about this post is beautiful- from the dress to the hat to the gorgeous background in the photos, and then of course you in Vogue! It must be amazing seeing yourself in the magazine! Congrats!

Soccer Mom Style said...

what you write about reading certain books during different seasons is so interesting... Congratulations on teen Vogue feature!
Love your background design. Did you draw it, or your brother? Very charming.

Page said...

thanks for your comment!! i would love to wear those caps too :)
and just want to say i love your poses!! how do you do them? im always soo awkward with the camera haha :D

Meena Dhuga said...

love this post! firstly congrats on the feature in vogue-that is sooo amazing! and i love all the photos you took :)

Meena ♥

Virginia said...

you look so great in that photo! loving your trench too!

Irina Lakicevic said...

quite a banal question compared to what you write about in your blog, bur I was wandering what brand are your shoes?

Akasya said...

Really nice handbag!

The Violet Lion


It's kind of funny how you are talking about the passage from summer to autumn, and i'm so glad here spring if bursting out! I can't wait for my summer readings, i hope they're as fruitful as yours.
the dress is amazing.

adrielleroyale said...

Congratulations on you fashion week find!! How exciting!! :)

Rosie said...

Beautiful photos! love the dress :)

Shervin Nassi said...

I jsut wanted to let you know your on my blog roll! please check me out and if you like add me to urs! :)

Love your blog always very true and deeply sensitive!

Macarons&Coquelicots said...

Amazing shoes !

Vanessa, Take only Memories said...

That's so cool that you got featured in Vogue! And you look very pretty, as always!

Fashionistable said...

I mirror David's Nyanzi's retort, Vogue oh la la, you made the September issue fantastic. All this good news around you. Hooray. Beautifully written post as always. Thank you for these reviews. And you are wearing another very lovely dress from Berties. Xxxx

Evi said...

You are sooooo pretty and I'm in love with your outfit..every time!!!!! Camera loves you ;)

A big fan!

Evi xoxo

thiesco said...

Your look looks so cool! FAB!Xx

Blue said...

I LOVE reading outside, it makes you feel so connected. I have not read many travel books, but I'll definitely get into that!

the Citizen Rosebud said...

You are wearing the color scheme I've been craving lately. I am soooo ready for Fall. I love your writing Roz, something I forget to mention as I am also a huge fan of your styling prowess and your vintage wardrobe; This post proves you've got chops.

As for your amazing appearance in Vogue- congrats. I wish they would soon do an editorial with you in it! xo. -Bella Q

RETRO REVA said...

Your images always inspire me to do better and I LOVE the hat/vintage scarf look!!!
( I put your looks w/a/ link in my early fall guide, I hope it was OK :)
if not, i will remove asap!
(I try to read all the legal stuff and always include links, but it can be sticky ;)
You inspire me so much!
This color palette is perfection!

Anonymous said...

ohh you have such an interesting etherial style, congrats on the vogue feature!

Sigrid said...

thank you so much love! For the loverly (hahah get it) comment on my blog! I got a second call back today so I think they are really considering me for eliza... butttt we will see. I always try not to get my hopes up too high.
As for this post well it is amazing! And every time i see your lovely arched feet i always have a little green emotion of envy :)
that dress is truly beautiful! and so you <3

love sigrid


goodbadnfab said...

-The pictures are blowing me away. I'm definitely subscribing to your blog! Please check out my blog when you get a chance.
a fashion lawyer by day, fashion police by night...I play at red carpet events, shop all over town, and live life in the fab lane in LA!

Oh are you sure about that? said...

Thank you for sweet comment on our blog.

Love this dress and the hat is wonderful too. Berties vintage sounds like a treasure trove ! X

Vix said...

That drop waisted dress and suede shoes are just so beautiful on you, you are the epitome of how to dress perfectly in August.
I adore travel writing. Anything India-related is my ideal read but I'm also very fond of the late Eric Newby (possibly as he and I shared a birthday and Sagittarians are born travellers) and I really recommend (if you haven't read any of her writing already) Lisa St Aubin de Teran for wonderfully dreamy and powerful writing. x

SabinePsynopsis said...

Beautiful you, Roz-Rosalind! I don't think I once read a book outside this year, and now it really seems to go towards autumn.
It was an amazing moment to see you in Vogue. I do think they should name the people they show though.

Isi, Wake up & smell the azahar said...

Your pics al always so lovely & the background so green & wonderful. Love that shoes!

Florence said...

beautiful blog and pictures!
followed you!
so gorgeous!

:) visit me if you want

Mustika Hayati said...

i like your photo!
and love your hat !


Pull Your Socks Up! said...

We don't have the September issue here in Oz yet but I will certainly be looking out for a copy just to see your pic - how exciting Roz!!! It must have been such a comfort to hear your mother's voice lulling you to sleep in hospital - the comfortable memory of childhood, the safety of a mother's presence. xoxo

valncami said...

That dress is absolutely beautiful. I can't believe its in such great shape from the twenties! I have one that was handed down to me but it is in awful shape. I still keep it because the design and fabric is so amazing.


london loves said...

Lovely pics! Congrats on the feature!

London Last Night

Shauna said...

Adore the way you speak about books
and the clothes you wear.

Heavenly blog.

Vanessa, Take only Memories said...

Did you know you also got featured on Vanessa Jackman's blog?

You look stunning with your leather coat!

Cami said...

from blog to blog I jut found yours! the truth is that I really love it! So i am following you since now!I leave you my blog! I hope you like it!


Room on the third floor

dusanabotswana said...

So great you were able to compare your readings to your travels, it really is true how reading transports us and there's nothing like seeing something in person that reminds you of it. Funny you mention summer being the only time to enjoy the author's words outside as it's quite the opposite in central Arizona, just now are we enjoying tolerable weather & outdoor activities. Beautiful dress & gorgeous styling w/ the coat and hat as well, you look so pretty, great pics, & your hair is amazing. happy fall : )

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