Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Tuesday Tales: The Duke of Wellington Misplaces His Horse

      Sincere apologies for the late post:  This week's is more of a Thursday Tale.   It's been busy 'round here (which is the reason why this series began, as Debi has had a lot on her plate, so I'm filling-in where I can).  Things should return to normal (whatever that is) shortly, and Debi will be back with new sewing projects.

     This week's tale comes from the creative mind of Susanna Clarke, author of two of my favourite books dealing with the Faerie Realm.  I particularly enjoyed her book of short stories, The Ladies of Grace Adieu, which includes some wonderful illustrations by Charles Vess.  It's been several years since her last publication, so I hope Ms. Clarke will be releasing another tome soon.

     This particular story is set in the world created by Neil Gaiman (another favourite) and Charles Vess in Stardust; taking place in the fictional English village of Wall, named for the stone boundary that divides the village from the land of Faerie.    As I encourage you to read Susanna Clarke's book, I am intentionally leaving out much of this story, to get to the part relevant to this blog.

Illustration:  Charles Vess, from Clarke, S. 2006.  The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories.  London:  Bloomsbury Pub. Plc.

     In the Autumn of 1819, Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, having recently defeated the armies of Napoleon Bonaparte not once but twice, was perhaps the proudest man in all of England.  Alas, he found himself staying the night in the rural village of Wall, whose inhabitants held conceit and pomposity in contempt.   Whilst staying at The Seventh Magpie Inn, this clash of personalities set in motion a rather peculiar series of events.
     Mrs. Pumphrey, who was minding the inn, had left her embroidery scissors upstairs in the parlour, where the Duke was enjoying his dinner.   She asked her husband to fetch them but the Duke sent him away, as he did not like to be disturbed whilst eating.  Mrs. Pumphrey was so incensed that she set the roast pork down very roughly when she brought it to the Duke's table.   With that, the Duke decided to hide her scissors in his trouser pocket for the night, intending to teach her a lesson in deference, and then return the scissors to the parlour in the morning.

     However, when the Pumphreys realised that the scissors were missing, they began to search for a method of getting back at the haughty Duke; which of course, soon presented itself, as so often is the case when one is cross.  
     That night, a poor clergyman arrived at the inn in need of a room.  As there was no room for his horse in the stable, the Pumphrey's decided to put the Duke's belovéd chestnut stallion, Copenhagen, out to pasture and give the clergyman's gray mare its place.  The stable boy was instructed to lead Copenhagen across the road and let him graze in the meadow for the night.
     The Duke awoke the next morning to see his favourite horse grazing in the meadow beyond the glass, and went out to give him a piece of bread.  He stepped through the entrance to the meadow, and entered Faerie, just as Copenhagen disappeared behind two trees.

     The Duke followed his horse, catching glimpses of him just before he seemed to fade into the woods or tall grass, reappearing a good distance away each time.   
     After about a mile's walk through woods overgrown with honeysuckle and ivy, he spied a stone house surrounded by a dark moat.   The bridge over the moat was so covered in moss, it seemed more velvet than stone.  He walked along the wall of the house, looking into the windows but each room was empty, until he came to the last window. 
     In this room, he clearly saw a young woman, clothed in a gown of deep garnet-red, sitting and sewing a beautiful piece of embroidery that seemed to spill out onto the floor at her feet.  The fabric was richly embellished, the colours seeming to shine on the walls of the room, as if they were made of liquified panes of illuminated stained glass.
     Peeking his head into the open window, the Duke addressed the young woman.   "Good morning.   Would you have happened to see my charger by any chance?"
     "No, I have not."  She replied.
     "Ah," he said.   "It's a shame - he was with me at Waterloo and I should be sorry to lose him."   His brow wrinkled a bit and he truly hoped for the animal's safe return, all the while admiring the graceful curve of the young woman's neck.  
     He then asked the young woman's leave to speak with her for a while.
     "As you wish,' she said, "so long as you don't disturb my work."
      "And for whom are you doing such a monstrous quantity of embroidery, my dear?"
     "Why, for you, of course!"   She replied.
     The Duke was taken aback, as he felt certain he'd not met this attractive young woman before (and was equally certain he'd have remembered her if he had), and peered over her shoulder to have a closer look at the glowing silk embroidery.   To his amazement, the panels reflected the morning's journey through the wall, and over the hills in search of his chestnut stallion, and the newest panel showed him in this very room, peering over the beautiful young woman's shoulder!   But how could this be?  
     The next pane showed an armoured knight crossing the mossy bridge to the house, and the Duke looked outside the window to see the glint of an armoured figure on horseback approaching over the moat.   He looked back at the tapestry to see the knight shown plunging his sword into the Duke!  
     The Duke of Wellington appealed to the young woman to sew him a sword or some weapon to defend himself with but she refused.  She finished her embroidery with a tight knot, rose, and saying nothing more, left the room.   The Duke looked out the window to see that the knight had crossed the bridge and was steadily easing closer to the house.   
     "Well, this isn't fair," thought the Duke, "I must have form of escape or way of defending myself!"   He thrust his hands into his pockets, and felt the cold steel of Mrs. Pumphrey's embroidery scissors, and an idea struck him.   He quickly snipped at the threads in the panels depicting the knight, his arrival over the bridge, and the Duke's own death.   When he looked up at the window, the knight was nowhere to be seen.   
     "Ah, that's better," the Duke thought, and he quickly took up the needle and with a great deal of pin-pricked blood, perspiration, and some very choice foul language (for he had never attempted needlework before), he set to work creating the final three panels, showing his reunion with Copenhagen, their safe return over the hills, and re-entry into the fair village.  As the Duke was more a soldier than a seamstress, the images were more like stick figures than the detailed and accurate images the young woman had sewn.   But just as he finished, Copenhagen's nose was pressed against the window, and they had a happy reunion before setting off for the inn, where they soon arrived and made plans to leave the town the next day.
     In later years, the Duke of Wellington became a Diplomat, a Statesman, and eventually Prime Minister.   But he came to realise after a while that all his efforts seemed in vain.   He confided to his close friend, Mrs. Arbuhnot that being a politician and making so many sacrifices and compromises sometimes made him "feel like little more than a stick figure."
     Mrs. Arbuthnot would later remember that the Duke's expression suddenly changed, and that he grew very pale indeed.

Main Source:  Clarke, S. 2006.  The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories.  London:  Bloomsbury Pub. Plc.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Tuesday Tales: The Seamstress of Salzburg

   This tale is a favourite from my childhood.   I first read this in the library in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, where I spent my childhood summers.   Their shelves were chock-full-o' great children's stories and dusty, old-smelling, wonderfully-ragged cloth and leather-bound books with colourful illustrations to set the mind a-wandering.

Stockbridge Main Street and Town Library

        I don't own a copy of this wonderful book, and alas, it is extremely difficult to find, especially on this side of the pond, so this will be purely from memory.  Forgive me if I get it wrong, it's a long time since I've read it...

Illustration:  Anita Lobel.  Cover of The Seamstress of Salzburg

     Long ago, there lived a young seamstress named Anna, who loved sewing and embroidering more than anything else in the world.   She delighted in making dresses and skirts, blouses and shirts, and bonnets for her parents and little brother and sister, and even small hats for her little black cat.

     Everyone in the village remarked on the fineness of her handiwork, and before long, Anna was receiving orders for dresses and frocks, and her parents encouraged her to take on the work, as they needed the money.   Anna's time became more and more taken-up by these paid sewing projects, and she had to work late into the night, for nights on end.

     Soon, the Queen heard of Anna's skill and invited the young seamstress to court.  Anna was entrusted with the work of making the Queen splendid gowns and capes in rich fabrics, adorned with ribbons and jewels and fine embroidery in threads of gold and silver.   The ladies of the court, wishing to emulate the Queen's splendour, wanted equally fine dresses, and poor Anna worked day and night to create more ornate and splendid garments; all along wishing that she could return to the days when she only made clothes for herself and her family and her little black cat.

     The ladies of the court demanded finer and more elaborate costumes, and soon Anna's fingers and eyes were sore from all the fine needlework she had to do well into the night.  Just as Anna thought she could not work any harder, the Queen called Anna to her.   Her son, the Prince, was returning after a long absence, and she wanted to greet him in the most splendid dress ever made.   The Ladies in Waiting all demanded dresses too.

     Poor Anna!   Already exhausted from months of sewing for the Queen and her Ladies every day and night, she was now faced with making dresses for the whole court in two days, all with cloth-covered buttons, interwoven ribbons, and plumes, and frog ties, and slashed sleeves, sewn-in lace petticoats and skirts lined with silk, and ruffled hems, embroidered with flowers and birds...   it was all too much, yet the Queen and her ladies kept demanding more embellishments to the garments.

   All too soon, the day arrived for the Prince's return.  The Queen and her retinue assembled before the Palace to greet the Prince.   Poor Anna could hardly stand up, but the dresses were truly the most splendid (if somewhat outrageous) creations ever seen in Salzburg.   But the weight of the cloth and the buttons and bows and embroidered skirts and quilted shoulders were too much for the fast stitches that Anna had sewn to finish them in time.   Slowly the seams began to give way as the Prince approached.   When he arrived at the gates of the Palace, a great cheer went up and the Queen and the Ladies' dresses all burst at the seams at once, leaving them standing in their naughties before a bewildered Prince, with a splendidly floral carpet of fabric around them.   There was a moment of stunned silence, then chaos erupted as the Ladies snatched up their fallen garments and made haste to their rooms.

     The Queen was furious.  "BRING ME THE SEAMSTRESS ANNA!"  She shouted.  "I WANT HER HEAD!"

     Poor Anna was roughly seized and brought before the Queen.
     "You miserable wretch!   You've RUINED EVERYTHING!   You will pay for this WITH YOUR LIFE!"
     Anna was distraught and tried to explain that she was tired and worked far beyond her abilities but the Queen was adamant, and ordered her to be thrown in a dungeon cell while they prepared for her execution.

    Once some semblance of calm was restored (and the Queen and her Ladies clothed in Anna's earlier, more durable creations),  the Prince asked the Queen to tell him the whole story.   He took pity on the poor girl, as he knew what demanding, petty, and vain women the Queen had surrounded herself with (which somewhat explains his absence from the court).   The more the Prince learned about the whole affair, and how his mother and the women of the court had treated her, the more concern he felt for the young seamstress.

   He visited Anna in her cell and learned her side of the story.  He was immediately taken with her; he dried her tears and vowed to her that he would do everything to see that she would be spared.

    Although he tried to reason with the Queen, her pride had been bruised and she was set on punishing the seamstress.  He looked at the fine dresses she had made, and found it difficult to believe how one woman could produce such fine and glorious clothing.   Soon, he felt his compassion give way to other feelings, and an idea occurred to him that would save Anna's life.

    "Mother," he said to the Queen, "you cannot kill the young seamstress Anna."
     The Queen and her Ladies laughed.   "Oh?   And why not?"
     "I am in love with her, and I intend to make her my Princess."
     The Queen sat up, aghast.   "I forbid it!"
     "Then I shall ride from here and never return!"

     The Queen, for all her faults, adored her son and could not bear the thought of him leaving forever.   She had Anna brought from the dungeons to kneel before her and explain herself.  

     "My Queen,"  Anna said in tears, "I tried so hard.  Please believe me - I wanted to make the most wonderful dresses for you all!   I knew how important it was, but I couldn't do it all without help.   I am your only seamstress and could not sew fast enough to keep up with all the demands of your ladies.   Forgive me.   Please spare me."

     When the Queen saw the poor girl cowering, her cold heart was moved, ever so slightly, to pity.

     "Besides," added the Prince, "With all those baubles and beads, the fabric would never have held together.   Honestly, I don't know what you were all thinking.   But I am honoured that you wanted to make such a show for my return.   Please, mother, be merciful and let Anna live and become my wife."

     The Queen soon not only forgave young Anna, and consented to the marriage, but moved Anna's family into the Palace, giving them all titles and riches of their own.  Even Anna's little black cat was made a Marquess, and given a staff to see to her needs.   The Prince and Anna were soon married, and Anna happily sewed her own simple (but nonetheless beautiful) gown.

     In the months that followed the honeymoon, Anna taught all the Queen's Ladies to sew, and the Kingdom became known for it's fine needlework and fortnightly sewing bees.

    And they all lived happily ever after.

Main Source:  Lobel, Anita.  1970.  The Seamstress of Salzburg.  New York:  Harper Collins.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Tuesday Tales: The Elves & The Cobbler

     This chapter was begun with UFOs (Unfinished Objects) in mind:  Debi was particularly keen on my writing about this subject, as I had told her a few stories I knew from different parts of the world, about how evil spirits and vampires will have to stop and count seeds, broom straws, threads, or discarded pins if they are left on the floor.  I also recalled Scottish Tales of "Brownies" (Imps, Wee Folk or Faeries) finishing any sewing, spinning, or carding left undone if they were "attached" to the house, especially if gifts of milk or bread, or cheese were left out for them.
     Debi felt better about her UFOs when she learned that they were protecting us from vampires and other nasty beasties (we don't subscribe to the ridiculous, pouting teenage version being hawked these days).  That said, I'm sure that at times, we all wish we had little helpers finishing our projects for us.

     Although my favourite source (W.Y. Evans Wentz) has a few such tales, I've decided to tell a favourite from my childhood, and so here is

Illustration:  Rie Cramer "The Elves Began to Stitch, Sew, and Hammer."  Grimms Fairy Tales. 1927

 Once upon a time there was a shoemaker who lived on a small dirt road between a tiny village and a Royal Burgh.   In earlier days, the road had been the main thoroughfare to the Burgh, which had a grand palace, but a newer and straighter road had been built to the east, and the traffic past the cobbler's house and shop had slowed to a mere trickle.   Although he had once been very successful, soon he was unable to sell enough shoes to purchase new materials as well as food, and he was finally left with only enough leather to make one pair of shoes.  He cut the pieces of each shoe with care, as he'd always done, but he soon grew weary and dejected, and decided to climb upstairs to bed to rest.  He would begin the work in the morning.
     He awoke early to his wife praising his work - dazed, he descended the stairs into the workshop by the kitchen, where his wife had the kettle on.
     "These shoes, these shoes!" She exclaimed, "I've not seen you make a pair this fine since you were young!   How did you make them so quickly?  You came to bed earlier than usual last night!"
     The cobbler was amazed.   Even in his younger days his work was never this fine - he was very skilled but the stitching on this pair of shoes was remarkably intricate; so fine was the work that it seemed as if the thread was simply wrapped around the shoe rather than stitched.   They were dyed a wonderful, deep oxblood colour and polished to a brilliant shine.   The laces were tightly braided in a pattern he didn't know how to reproduce, and the soles were adorned with strange curvilinear patterns.
     "I must admit, my dear," he said, scratching his head through his tartan nightcap, "I did not make these shoes.   They are far beyond my skill."
    "But who could have made them?"   His wife asked as the kettle began to whistle.
     "Who indeed?"   He replied, dazedly dropping some tea leaves in the acorn-shaped strainer, and setting it in the pot.
     Just then, a splendid carriage came down the road and stopped before the cobbler's house.   The cobbler's wife quickly grabbed the shoes from the workbench and put them in the display window.  No sooner had she done so than a finely dressed gentleman knocked on the door.
     "Those shoes!"  He exclaimed, "I've never seen a finer pair!   I must have them!  I am riding to the Palace and these shoes will make me the talk of the Court!"
      And with that, he took seven gold coins out of his purse and gave them to the cobbler.   Stunned, as this was many times what his shoes usually merited, his wife took the shoes out of the display window, as the cobbler pulled up a chair for the dandy young man to sit in.  When the shoes were on, the man stood up, bouncing a bit on his heels.
    "These shoes are the most comfortable I've ever worn!   I will be back in three days:  I want seven more pairs in different colours!"
    And with that, he was gone, leaving the cobbler and his wife to marvel at the great inexplicable turn their fortunes had suddenly taken.
     The cobbler set out to the tanner's just after breakfast, and was able to buy enough leather to make more shoes.   Again, he began to carefully cut out the pieces for the shoes but by the time he finished, he was far too tired to continue, and felt that with a good night's sleep, he would be able to make the shoes in the next two days.
     But in the morning, he and his wife awoke to find seven pairs of shoes, even finer and more colourful than the first pair; with fancy frills and intricately-tooled designs on the toes and heels.  As promised, the gentleman returned and delighted with their craftsmanship, paid handsomely for the shoes.
     The gentleman's shoes had been greatly admired at Court, and the cobbler now had many customers coming up the old road to purchase his shoes.   Every night, he cut out the patterns from the leather, and every morning he awoke to find expertly-crafted shoes and boots ready to put in the window.
     After a while though, the cobbler suggested to his wife that they stay up and see who their mysterious helpers were.  That night, after cutting out pieces of shoes, they secreted themselves in a corner of the room behind a curtain and waited.
     At midnight two little brown men wearing nothing but ancient-looking, tattered aprons came and started sewing the shoe pieces together, singing merrily; their laughter sounding like glass bells. The two elves did not stop until the shoes were completed and then they vanished as quickly as they had come.
     Now the cobbler and his wife knew who were making the shoes. The wife suggested, 
     "The wee men have brought us such wealth and happiness, we must show them our gratitude.   They must be cold, wearing such flimsy, threadbare garments.   I will sew them little shirts and trousers, waistcoats and jackets, and you make them hats.   I'll knit them a pair of stockings while you make their shoes."   The cobbler readily agreed, and they put the kettle on and set to work.
     They were quite excited to give their gifts to the two elves. They hid behind the curtain again, but this time they laid out the little outfits for the elves to find instead of work.
     That night, the two elves ran in as usual, but did not find anything to work on. All they found were the sets of clothing. They were delighted. They put on all the clothes and then said:
"Now we are boys so fine to see,
Why should we longer cobblers be?"
The elves danced out the doors and they never came back. The shoemaker and his wife continued to make fine shoes and garments, and were well-off and happy the rest of their lives.

Main Source:  Grimms Fairy Tales.  1927.  Olcott, F.J.(ed). Philadelphia:  The Penn Publishing Co.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Scotland Sundays: London Road Gardens, Edinburgh

It's been some time since I've done a Scotland Sundays post.  Today, I wanted to highlight one of my favourite places in Edinburgh; London Road Gardens.  Right in the middle of town, this park is an oasis.  It features lovely tree-lined paths and lots of greenery.

For this particular stroll in the gardens, I wore my 'First Crepe of Summer' dress (McCall 3908 from my 1940 McCall Project).   I topped it off with a lovely late 1930's black hat with a striking red feather that I bought from Adeline's Attic Vintage (also known as the lovely Vintage Baroness):

Photo credit: David McNie

The London Road Gardens has some of the most beautiful trees I've ever seen!  It would be the perfect place for a summer picnic.

Right in the middle of the gardens, there is an adorable, recently opened, little restaurant called 'The Gardener's Cottage' which serves up local and seasonal food.  It's also a social dining venue meaning that a six course set menu for dinner is served up on one long communal dining table.  You can also order a la carte and they serve weekend brunch.  I definitely want to check it out one of these weekends!!

Within the gardens there is an upper path and a lower path.  The lower path runs parallel to London Road but the upper path heads up towards the Royal Terrace and Calton Hill area.

The garden is lovely in the summer sunshine with the sun streaming through the gaps in the trees.

Here's another close-up of the dress and hat. I just love how they go together!

Photo credit: David McNie 

Sometimes it's the small gardens and hidden-away paths that are the most rewarding in urban spaces. Do you have local gardens or walking paths that you visit regularly?

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

A Vintage Lover's Guide to the Fringe - Part 2

     Carole Kidd Sings Cole Porter - Carole Kidd with Brian Kellock, piano
     "Scotland's First Lady of Jazz... don't miss this relaxed and intimate evening of great music 
     performed by two great artists." 
     The Brunton * Ladywell Way, Musselburgh EH21 6AA * Aug 10: 19:30 (2hrs) £15.50/£13.50

     Christine Bovill's Piaf - Christine Bovill
     "Grown men wept." -
     The Famous Spiegeltent * 54 George Street, EH2 2LR * Aug 2-3, 8-11, 21-25: 20:30 (1h)

     The Gramaphone Jazz Band's Late Night Speakeasy - The Gramophone Jazz Band
     "...sip classic teacup cocktails and enjoy the live music and 78s from the prohibition era."
     Henry's Cellar Bar * 16a Morrison Street, EH3 8BJ * Aug 6, 8, 13, 15, 20: 23:50 (3h) £8.00/£6.00

     The Genius of Jerome Kern - Ensemble
     "Fife operatic group Ensemble presents a magical evening of Kern... showcasing his most famous
     work, Showboat." 
     St Andrews and St Georges West * 13 George Street, EH2 2PA * Aug 25: 19:30 (2hrs)

     The Jive Aces - King of the Swingers Tour - The Jive Aces
     "UK's No. 1 jive band and stars of Britain's Got Talent." 
     Assembly George Square * George Square, EH8 9LH * Aug 12: 18:10 (1hr) £10.00

     John Hunt Four O'Clock Afternoon Blues & Swing -John Hunt & 21st Century Blues Legends
     "Boogie-woogie.   Hunt is a master of the slide guitar." ****(Scotsman)
     The Jazz Bar * 1a Chambers Street, EH1 1HR * Aug 3, 8, 17, 24: 19:00 (1hr)

    Little Jazz Bird -Victoria Bennett
     "...Victoria Bennett has a talent for interpretation and a whimsical approach to melody."
     The Jazz Bar * 1a Chambers Street, EH1 1HR * Aug 3-4, 8-10, 15-17, 22-24: 16:00 (1hr)
     Aug 15: 20:30 (1hr)  £6.00/£5.00

     Orkney Jazz at the Guildford - Ken Ramage & Friends10th Annual Jazz Jamboree
     ".New Orleans to Dixie to Swing and more."
     The Guildford Arms * 1 West Register Street, EH2 2AA * Aug 2-14: 21:00 (3hrs)   Free
     Peter Straker's Brel - Peter Straker
     "...a barnstorming performance covering the songs and life of [Jacques] Brel." *****(Scotsman)
     Assembly Checkpoint * 3 Bristo Place, EH1 1EY * Aug 1-2: 16:55 (55min) £10.00 Aug 3-6,
     10-11, 16-18, 23-25: 16:55 (55min) £14.00/£13.00 Aug 7-8, 13-15, 15-20, 22-26: 16:55 (55min)
     £13.00/£12.00.    And no, I don't know why the pricing varies so.  I hear he's worth it.
     Aug 15: 20:30 (1hr)  £6.00/£5.00
     The Rat Pack - Live - Louis Hartshorn and Brian Hook in association with C
     "...Frank, Sammy, and Dean hit the stage with their 12-piece jazz orchestra."
     C * Chambers Street, EH1 1HR * Aug 2, 12, 19, 20: 19:20 (55min) £10.50/£8.50
     Aug 3, 6, 9, 11, 16-18, 23-26: 19:20 (55min) £12.50/£10.50

     Sing Sing Swing - Swing Sensation & Guests
     "A toe-tapping hour of vocals from the era when big band swing was king..."
     St Andrews and St Georges West * 13 George Street, EH2 2PA * Aug 24: 14:30 (1hr) £9.00/£7.00

     The Ivor Novello Story - (by arrangement with Samuel French, Ltd.)
     "Ivor Novello captured the ease and diffident charm of the world between the wars.  Cairney's 
     script brings this man of the theatre, and  musician of real worth, to life." 
     St Cuthbert's Parish Church * 5 Lothian Road, EH1 2EP * Aug 12-14: 16:30 (2hrs) £12.00/£10.00

      Keep Smiling Through - Claire Evans
     "A nostalgic look back at the 1940s, evoking memories of the dance hall through the well-loved 
     songs of that era." 
     The Space@Symposium Hall * Hill Square, EH8 9 DR * Aug 3: 16:30 (1hr) £11.00/£8.00
     Aug 7, 13, 15, 19, 21: 16:20 (1hr) 

     The Seven Deadly Sins - A Scottish Opera and Company Chordelia Co-production
     "Kurt Weil and Bertolt Brecht's sassy 1930s satire is a remarkable fusion of opera, 
     dance, and theatre.  Sharp and sexy, this award-winning show embodies the glamour, and
     the desperation of the time." 
     Patterson's Land * 37 Holyrood Road EH8 8AQ * Aug 20-22: 20:00 (45min) £12.50/£10.00
     Aug 21, 23: 12:30 (45min)  £12.50/£10.00

     Sinatra: The Final Curtain - Kingdom Theatre Company
     "With live vocals, the crooner sees his former self as he faces the final curtain." 
     Whitespace * 11 Gayfield Square, EH1 3NT * Aug 9-11, 13-18, 20-24: 20:15
     (1hr 15min) £12.50/£10.00
     Aug 21, 23: 12:30 (45min)  £10.50

     Desdemona, a Play About a Hankerchief - 4Theatre Productions
     "A contemporary twist on Shakespeare's Othello.  Set in the Roaring 20s with live music..." 
     Sweet Grassmarket * Apex International Hotel * 31-35 Grassmarket, EH1 2HS *
     Aug 2-11: 16:20 (40min) £8.00/£6.00

      I'll Be Seeing You - Between The Bars
     "A dramatic and poignant insight into life in Cambridge during the Second World War." 
     Paradise in the Vault * 11 Merchant Street, EH1 2QD * Aug 3-4: 17:25 (1hr 20min) £8.00
     Aug 5-11, 13-18, 20-26: 15:55 (1hr 20min)  £8.00

     The Lady Vanishes - Big Spirit Theatre
     "It's 1936 and Iris Henderson wants to get home to England.   The only thing is, the old lady
     who sits opposite has vanished and Iris has to find out where she is!" 
     Paradise in Augustine's * 41 George IV Bridge, EH1 1EL * Aug 20-24: 14:20 (55min) £8.00

     The Lost Gatsby - 8pB Theatre Company
     "In 1926 a silent adaptation of The Great Gatsby was produced by Paramount Pictures, and
     even to this day, all evidence of the production...lost.  Follow 8pB as they delve into the mystery
     of The Lost Gatsby." 
     The Space@Surgeon's Hall * Nicholson Street, EH8 9DW * Aug 12-17: 12:55 (1hr) £8.00/£6.00

     Our Friends, The Enemy - Alex Gwyther
     "Christmas, 1914:  Allied and German soldiers stand opposite one another.  What follows
     are some of the most astounding and undocumented stories of the Great War, told through the 
     eyes of one soldier." 
     The Space@Surgeon's Hall * Nicholson Street, EH8 9DW * Aug 2-3, 5-10, 12-17, 19-24:
     18:05 (50min) £8.00/£7.00

     Tea at Five - Old Joint Stock Theatre Company
     "...Matthew Lombardo's stage adaptation of fiery screen star Katherine Hepburn's memoirs..." 
     The Space@Surgeon's Hall * Nicholson Street, EH8 9DW * Aug 2-3, 5-11, 19-24: 11:05 (50min)

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Tuesday Tales: The Fairy Flag of Dunvegan

      As it so often is with local legends, there are several versions of this tale.  I have chosen to combine the story as I've heard it with a version collected by the Reverend RC Macleod, which was told to him by Mr. Neil MacLeod, the Clan Bard in the latter half of the Nineteenth Century.  The lullaby at the end was obtained in the Gaelic, translated into English, and published it in The Gael in October 1878.

    The powerful Clan MacLeod ("Family of the Sons of Leod") held the Lordship of the Isles for many years, and has had its hereditary seat on the Isle of Skye for 800 years.  Their castle, Dunvegan Castle (the oldest continually-inhabited castle in Scotland), the Fairy Bridge, and the Fairy Flag, all mentioned in this Tuesday's Tale, still exist, and draw many visitors to the Isle of Skye each year.
    Without further ado, let us turn to

Illustration:  Dundee-born artist John Duncan:  The Riders of the Sidhe, 1911

     Once, long ago, there was a handsome young Chief of the Clan MacLeod who had come of the age to marry.   He had never given his heart to anyone, although many young women hoped his eye would shine on them.  It seemed that he might not find a partner to share his life with, until one day he met a mysterious young woman; he felt his heart stir the moment he set eyes on her.
     To his delight, the young beauty felt a similar warmth for him, and in no time, they developed a very strong affection for one another.   They walked in the heathery fields together each day, marveling in the land, the sun on the water, and the things they saw in each others' eyes.   The Chief soon grew bold, and one fine morning, knelt before her and asked the young woman to marry him.   

     She grew quiet, then seemed to make up her mind, and asked him to sit down with her.   The young maiden revealed to him that she was not a mortal woman, but a Faerie Princess, and as such, would have to ask her father, the King, for his permission before she could consent to marry him, as there were many rules that forbade it amongst her people.
     The Princess approached her father the Faerie King, and explained that she had fallen in love with a mortal, and that he had lovingly asked for her hand.  The King saw the look in his daughter's eyes, and knew that she was fully in love with the mortal Clan Chief.  He was not unsympathetic, but explained to her that he could not give his full consent to the union - for she was Faerie, an immortal, and would live forever, but her belovèd MacLeod would perish all too soon, leaving her to pine and grieve eternally for his loss.
     The Princess and MacLeod were distraught at the thought of parting so soon, and eventually, the King took pity on them, and consented to their union, but for only a short time - they would have a year and a day together, but then the Princess must cross the Faerie Bridge and return to her own people.
     The couple were wed, and spent a blissful year in Dunvegan Castle, towards the end of which, a son was born, making their happiness complete, although they knew that their time together was coming to an end.

     Exactly one year and a day later, the Faerie King and his retinue appeared at the far side of the Faerie Bridge.   Chief MacLeod held her tightly as she wept, and they prepared to bid their farewells.   As she got ready to leave, she bade MacLeod promise never to leave their child to cry, as the sound of his wailing would reach her in Faerie, and the anguish would be unbearable.   The Chieftan gave his solemn word, as she walked towards her father and the rest of her people, waiting for her on the other side of the bridge.   The Chieftain wept as she crossed, and faded from sight.
     Time passed and the Chieftain sank into an unbearable sadness.   He played with his newborn son but his eyes were so alike to his mother's that the Chieftain had to look away, and felt his heart sinking at the loss of his true love, even though she had left him a son and heir.
     The Chieftain's court grew more concerned each day, as the Chieftain became more and more withdrawn and solemn.   Finally, they decided that a great feast should be held in order to lift the Chieftain's spirits.   His birthday was fast approaching, which seemed to them a good opportunity to call for a celebration.   And so, the grieving MacLeod reluctantly gave his consent, and preparations were made for the great feast.

Illustration: A photo of the Fairy Bridge, Dunvegan, Isle of Skye - courtesy Wikimedia Commons.
      At last, the day of the Chieftain's Birthday Party arrived, and people came from far and wide to take part in the festivities:  Bards from the mainland and surrounding islands were in attendance, and good food and drink poured into the castle from all directions as guests and merchants came to pay homage to their Clan Chief.
     The party was of such grandeur and intensity that the Chieftain was soon caught-up in the festivities, and for the first time in a long while, could be seen smiling and engaging in the revels.
     The wee bairn (child) had been entrusted to the care of a nurse.   Eventually, the sounds of the party reached the nursery, and the young maid grew curious as to what was happening in the great hall.   She should have kept to her post, but the sound of the revelries downstairs were irresistible, and she left the room to watch the party from the top of the stairs for a while.
     While the nursemaid was away, the child became restless in his sleep and kicked off the blanket that had been covering him.   He soon grew cold and uncomfortable, and began to cry.   As the party was in full-swing, the nursemaid was unable to hear him.   Soon his cries grew louder and louder, until they could be heard far and away, in the land of Faerie.
    The babe's mother, the Faerie Princess, heard his cries, and she set off, her heart breaking, to soothe her crying babe.   When she appeared in the castle, she saw the party in full-swing and realised what must have happened.   She comforted her baby with whispered words, and lay him down in his cradle, taking off her own silken shawl and wrapping it securely around him.
     She sang to him as he drifted off to sleep, then faded away back to her father's lands in Faerie:

Behold my child, limbed liked the roe or fawn,
Smiting the horses,
Seizing the accoutrements of the shod horses,
Of the spirited steeds,
Behold my child.

Oh, that I could see thy cattle folds,
High up upon the mountain side,
A green shaggy jacket about thy white shoulders,
And a linen shirt,
My little child.

Oh, that I could behold thy team of horses,
Men following them,
Serving women returning home.
And the Catanaich sowing the corn.

Oh, tender hero, whom my womb did bring forth,
Who didst swallow from my breast, who on my knee wast

My child it is, my armful of yew [bow and arrows],Merry and plump, my bullrush, my flesh and eggs, that will
soon be speaking.
Last year thou wast beneath my girdle,
Plant of fertility, and this year fair and playful on my
shoulder, thou wilt be going round the homestead,
My little child.

Oh, let me not hear of thy being wounded.
Grey do thou become duly ;
May thy nose grow sharp [with advancing years],
Ere the close of thy day.

Oh, not of Clan Kenneth [MacKenzie],
Oh, not of Clan Conn [MacDonald],
Descendant of a race more esteemed.
That of the Clan Leod of swords and armour,
Whose father's native land was Scandinavia.

     The nursemaid heard this song over the revelry, and returned to find the baby sleeping soundly but wrapped in a strange shawl, and she was perplexed.  She confessed to the Chieftain that she had left the babe for a few minutes, but neither could solve the mystery of the intricate silken shawl.
     Some years later, when the child was older, he told his father that he remembered his mother's visit to him on the night of the birthday party, and repeated the words she had whispered to him so many years before:  The shawl was a magical faerie flag, which could be used to protect the Clan MacLeod in times of great peril.  Should the Clan be in danger, the flag was to be taken out and waved three times, and the danger would pass.   But the flag could only be used three times, after which, the magic would no longer work.
     It is said that the Faerie Flag has been used twice to this day - once when the Clan MacLeod was outnumbered by the Clan Donald.   The Chieftain knew he faced certain death, so he had the flag brought out and waved thrice.   No sooner had he done this than the ranks of his army were swelled by hundreds of Faerie Folk, and the Donalds took flight in fear.
     The second time it was used when all the cattle in the MacLeod lands had fallen ill and were dying; the Clan faced starvation over the winter without milk and meat.   The flag was again brought out and brandished thrice, and the Faerie Host descended upon the lands and healed all the ailing beasts.
     Several members of the Clan MacLeod carried photographic images of the Faerie Flag with them into war during the Battle of Britain.   Many British pilots were lost but none of the MacLeods lost their lives.
    Many would dismiss the legend of the Faerie Flag, calling it a hoax, or a relic of the crusades, around which a fanciful tale has been woven.   Regardless, the Faerie Flag of Dunvegan Castle is lovingly preserved, ensuring the continued good fortune and preservation of the proud Clan MacLeod.

Illustration: A photo of the Dunvegan Cup, Fairy Flag, and Rory Mor's Horn from MacLeod, C.  1927.  The Macleods of Dunvegan from the time of Leod to the End of the Seventeenth Century.  pp. 38-39.  Edinburgh: The Clan MacLeod Society.

Main source for this tale:  MacLeod, R. C. (1927). The MacLeods of Dunvegan from the time of Leod to the end of the seventeenth century. Edinburgh: Priv. Print. for the Clan MacLeod Society. 

There is more information on the Faerie Flag of Dunvegan here

Monday, August 5, 2013

McCall 3865: The Bright Side Dress

Thanks for all your sweet comments when I gave a sneak peek of this project over at the Mandors Fabric blog.  Now, McCall 3865 deserves a post all its own!

This is my first 1940 McCall evening gown pattern.  I knew the moment I saw this pattern that I was inspired by View A...the dashing red tropical print:

I knew I wanted to wait for the perfect fabric for this dress.  Something with great drape that could transition from the beach to a nice dinner party.  I think I found a match made in heaven.  I used a lightweight floral cotton fabric that sews like a dream (from Mandors Fabric Edinburgh).

The bodice front is gathered down the centre with a stay attached behind the gathers to hold them in place.  The bodice waist makes a nice v-shaped line and is attached with a lapped seam over a gathered skirt.  The open back is also in a v-shape:

The straps are pleated in the front and attached to the upper bodice back.  I made several significant alterations to the pattern.  First, I didn't keep the back opening.  The original pattern closes at the back with a series of small buttons and button loops.  I think if I was doing the evening gown version, I would have kept that design...but in the more casual version, I knew it would drive me crazy.  So I sewed the back bodice seam closed and inserted a side zipper instead.

I ended up moving the shoulder straps about an inch towards the center.  I also took up the skirt by about an inch and shortened the back bodice piece by about half an inch.

The dress pattern is featured in the September McCall's magazine with this description:
McCall 3865: Wide straps are the smart ones now.  The blue evening frock with these new wide straps, is also important for its pretty bodice cut in heart shape.  The skirt fulness is slight, it goes perfectly with the bodice fulness and in rayon jersey it adds nothing to the hipline.
This dress is incredibly comfortable!  I can't wait to go somewhere tropical in it.  The weather in Edinburgh this summer has been almost tropical and we took a walk out on a beautiful day with the sun shining through the trees:

What can I say? This pattern is indeed the bright side of day and night!


Saturday, August 3, 2013

A Vintage Lover's Guide to the Fringe Festival

     This year's Fringe Festival began this week; and that means our city's population has more than doubled in size; music, art, and performance rule the days and nights, ending with spectacular midnight fireworks!
     This is by no means an exhaustive list, just a wee sampling of some of the hundreds of events and performances occurring in our city this month.  Click on the links below to find out more about each event.  

     Dance Derby - A Company Chordelia & Scottish Opera Co-production
           "...a jazz ensemble and soprano Nadine Livingston bring the drama of the 1930s dance marathons to life."           
          Patterson's Land * 37 Holyrood, EH8 8AQ * Aug 14-17: 20:00 (1hr) £12.50/£10.00

     Tap Into Health:  Movin' With Melvin - Movin' Melvin Brown
          "...tap, juke dancing, clogging, jazz, swing...tap shoes not required.  Fun for everybody!"
          C * Chambers Street, EH1 1HR * Aug 3-4, 18, 25-26: 11:00 (1hr)  £14.50/£9.50

     Hendrick's Parlour Bar
     "A swell place to get spifflicated!  Boop-boop-be-doo! Hic!" 
     Hendrick's Carnival of Knowledge * 1 Royal Circus, EH3 6TL * Aug 8-9, 11 (11h) Free

     Tea Dance - Flyright Dance Company w/the Nova Scotia Jazz Band
     We love the Flyright Dance Company - last year we joined them in dancing into the Guinness Book of World Records for the most people simultaneously dancing the Foxtrot.  "Micro dance classes, tea/coffee and scone included."  
     The Brunton * Ladywell Way, Musselburgh, EH21 6AA * Aug 10, 24: 14:00 (2hr) £14

      The Loveboat Big Band Summer Love-In - The Loveboat Big Band
      "...a multi-dimensional musical cruise featuring aerialists All or Nothing and the Miss.Fit Sisters, McFall's Chamber, Horndog Brass Band, DJs and surprises galore." 
     Sumerhall * 1 Summerhall, EH9 1QH * Aug 2, 9, 16, 23: 22:30 (4hr 30min) £16.00/14.00

     A Patchwork of Leith Memories:  Photos and stories of Leith, Edinburgh 
     "Picturing Leith's Past through a great selection of unpublished photographs and memories."  
     Living Memory Association * 5 Quayside Street, EH6 6EJ * Mon-Sat 10:00-17:00 Free

     Anything Goes - A Tribute to Cole Porter - Pam Lawson

     "Join Pam and her four-piece band to celebrate Cole Porter's genius." 
     The Outhouse * 12a Broughton Street Lane, EH1 3LY * Aug 19-22, 19:00 (1h) £10.00/£9.00

     Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered - Lorna Reid
     "Lorna Reid and band perform spellbinding songs.  Rogers & Hart, Gershwin to Tom Waits and Joni Mitchell, plus acclaimed originals." 
     The Jazz Bar * 1a Chambers Street, EH1 1HR * Aug 22-23, 19:00 (1h) £8.00/£6.00

     Beyond the Great American Songbook - John Muriello, baritone and David Gompper, piano.
     "...cabaret songs by William Bolcom, Richard Pearson Thomas, and Marc Blitzstein..."
     St Andrews and St Georges West * 13 George Street, EH2 2PA * Aug 7-8, 12:30 (1h) £9.00/£7.00

     Big Band Swing - Jon Ritchie's Swing Sensation Big Band
     Debi and I love the Swing Sensation Big Band.  "If swing's your thing, don't miss it." 
     The Outhouse * 12a Broughton Street Lane, EH1 3LY * Aug 19-22, 19:00 (1h) £10.00/£9.00

More music and events to be posted tomorrow.   If you're here in Edinburgh, enjoy the Fringe! 


Sew Weekly Reunion Theme Announced!

The Sew Weekly 2013 Reunion theme has just been announced.  The theme is to sew a project using one or more of the fall 2013 Patone colours.  Great way to do a bit of stash-busting.  Hmmm...I can't decide between Vivacious, Acai or Carafe or a print fabric with a bit of everything.  We'll be sewing up our projects in August...come and join us!
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