Mary Quant: Freedom In A Dress.

On Tamara’s recommendation we went to the Mary Quant exhibition at the V&A in London. Your intrepid reporter reports…

Because of Mary Quant and her Bazaar shop in the King’s Road, Chelsea ceased to be a small part of London; it became international. Its name said there was a new way of living and a new way of dressing. It was a break: It wasn’t what your mum wore, any more.

In 1960, Quant and her partner flew to New York, just two years after the first commercial transatlantic flight. British newspapers publicised Quant’s exciting venture, epitomised in a terrific photograph of Quant and her partner Plunket Greene. They are hand in hand but separated; each is a complete person – woman as well as man. With them on a lead is a very English sheepdog, and they are all running down Fifth Avenue in New York, running towards us into a bright, free, go-getting future.

American journalists pushed her ‘kooky’ look, which increased her celebrity status. Quant pitched her clothes and ideas to US buyers in upmarket department stores. She met fashion editors and she got down to business – touring the garment district, she was at home in that world, impressed and eager to make the most of the scale, pace and organisation of American ready-to-wear. Her ground-breaking designs were displayed in New York store windows.

Manufacturers spotted Quant’s unique ‘Chelsea’ style and its appeal to the youth market and youth culture, and recruited her for their designer collections. Quant learned about efficiency, scaling, pricing and sizing from American manufacturers, and in exchange she gave them British ‘cool’ that American consumers adored. By 1965, she was regularly commuting between New York and London. She was international.

Mary Quant’s designs are sexy, but only when they are worn. On their own they are boyish, echoes of schoolgirl uniforms, designed for a small bust, a small frame. The colours say freedom and ownership, owned by those who wore them.

The exhibition is on at the V&A in London until the 16th Feb, 2020. It’s on two floors, with videos of Mary Quant talking about how she started, what she did and why she did it. And of course, there are the clothes.


Our American Friends

Can’t say he didn’t warn you. He warned Mrs May. He told her she should play hard ball and leave the EU without a deal.

He loved Boris, probably would say he still does. But Boris has got himself tangled up, just like Mrs May.

So it is with regret that the USA must leave the UK to fend for itself in the choppy waters of international trade and treaties without the super treaty that Trump dangled earlier.

Except, Nancy Pelosi said months ago that the Congress would never do a deal with a Parliament that left Ireland and the Irish border out in the cold. Vice President Pence said the same thing.

So what exactly did Boris expect with his solution that was no solution at all.

Trump is ‘America First’, and he will make sure that anyone he deals with, the UK included, learns that.

Before the referendum, some people in Britain got in a huff when Obama said that Britain would have to go to the back of the queue if it left the EU.

That was then: What crumbs of huffiness have we got with which to comfort ourselves now?


Fracking Earthquakes In Search Of A Headline

In seismic shift, Britain orders immediate moratorium on fracking

That’s a Reuter’s headline from today.

A seismic shift in position to match the seismic events – the earthquakes that have followed fracking explorations in the north of England.

Such low-hanging fruit is better left hanging on the tree. The pun on the word seismic is too cute, and better resisted.

The facts cry out for a headline that puns, the journalists might say. Well, not exactly the facts, some assert. Some say that the statement is just a pre-elction publicity stunt, and that the Government will reverse its position as soon as (if) it wins the election on December 12th.

It’s a hard one to come back from, but some people believe that some Governments change their minds, or never intended to carry out their promise in the first place. They fudge evidence and show how contrary to what they said earlier, the truth is now the opposite.

A decent amount of time, a few months, other more important business to conduct, and a quiet Government statement that floats out under the wire, and fracking begins again. That’s how the critics see it.

Newspapers won’t be able to use the headline again. A seismic shift in intent that follows an earlier seismic shift that followed a previous course of action? No, that’s too many seismic shifts. What would it have to be, next time? It would need a ‘full and thorough investigation’ (or some equally high-sounding phrase) that reveals that fracking is no threat to the stability of the landscape. 

Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom (a loathsome person in the eyes of some) said on the radio that the Government has always been clear that it will follow the science, and that as they cannot be certain that shale gas can be extracted safely, they are imposing a moratorium until the science changes.

Until the science changes. Hah! Those opposed to the cull that is wiping out tens of thousands of badgers have the backing of science. But the Government presses on killing badgers.


White Dead-nettle

white dead-nettle flower

White dead-nettle (Lamium album) has hairy, toothed leaves like all nettles I know of. It doesn’t sting, unlike other nettles.

The dead-nettle leaves in the photo are the small ones around the flower. The big leaves in the photo are from a different plant.

If you were to carefully pull off one of the white flowers and suck gently on the tubular opening at the base of the flower, you’ll enjoy a puff of a sweet aromatic taste.

Film Politics

Project 100,000

There’s a scene in the film Full Metal Jacket where a raw recruit joins the platoon and is instructed not to leave the path. He is of limited ability and unable to follow instructions. No sooner does he join the platoon than he leaves the path and is skewered in a Vietcong man trap.

In Apocalypse Now there’s a scene where the young soldier, hardly able to follow any orders, wasted on dope, starts shooting wildly. He is out of control, as much a terrified observer as an active combatant.

And in Forrest Gump the hero joins the army and miraculously manages to survive and do well despite being odd and below average in IQ. The way things work out well for him are fantastical. That’s a device used repeatedly in the film.

The connection between Full Metal JacketApocalypse Now, and Forrest Gump is the that the war in question in each film is the Vietnam War.

You might wonder how men of below average IQ ever got into the army. I knew people from poor backgrounds, disproportionately black, were the ones who were most likely to be drafted, but I didn’t wonder at all beyond that. I just watched the films.

Hamilton Gregory

But today I watched a talk by Hamilton Gregory, a man who volunteered for service in Vietnam. He was a college graduate, so he could well have avoided the draft. Many middle class young men did. They didn’t have to try hard; there were exemptions of which they could take advantage.

But Mr Gregory volunteered and as chance would have it, he was ordered to escort another recruit to Fort Benning in Georgia. That recruit was educationally subnormal. He didn’t know that America was at war. He didn’t know in which state he had been born.

Hundreds of thousands of men like him were drafted under Robert McNamara’s Project 100,000. That was the project under which young men of poor IQ were inducted each year.

Robert McNamara

Robert McNamara was the U.S. Secretary of Defence, so it was his call. The army couldn’t get people to go to Vietnam, So McNamara lowered the IQ requirement. He said that the army was one of the world’s best educators, and it could raise the IQs of the draftees. So people who were previously unfit to server were now fit.

In battle they were too slow to react, too slow to understand what was going on, two slow to formulate a plan. They were poor marksmen, erratic and a danger to themselves and their fellow soldiers. And they died in Vietnam at three times the rate other soldiers were killed.

Unofficially, the soldiers in McNamara’s Project 100,000 were called McNamara’s Morons. Nice, eh?

Hamilton Gregory was so appalled by Project 100,000 that after the war he gathered whatever evidence he could and wrote McNamara’s Folly: The Use Of Low IQ Troops In The Vietnam War. And that is what he was talking about in the video I watched.

So now I wonder whether the makers of Full Metal JacketApocalypse Now, and Forrest Gump knew all about Project 100,000 and whether they were making an oblique reference to it?

the beach and the sea

A potbellied dog

I’m in the mood to walk in the hills
In the hills and the dales
with a potbellied dog

To struggle up hills
And skitter down dales
And be put on my toes
By a short-legged dog

I’m in the mood
To be in the mood
And now all I need
Is a suitable dog

A dog with a yen
To struggle up hills
With a man with a yen
For a potbellied dog

bench below the spread boughs of a ginkgo blob tree