Hitched – let them eat cake

Saturday, 25 April 2009

being part 1 of 2 on the whole getting married business. Astute readers, or twitter followers, will have spotted that I got married last Saturday. We’ve a great many thanks/shout-outs to give to the people whose work made the day go so ridiculously well. Part 2 will be all about the clothes…

Part 1 is about everything else.

I’d picked an outfit which dictated the broad style of the day, and seemed to end up accidentally dictating the food as well. I may, in short, have overdosed on Mad Men, Dior and classic Hitchcock during the preparations.


The stationery, including the graphic design on them, was by Reneé at R studio and was a version of her Type Block design.  We used the red of my outfit as a base colour, and then shades of charcoal and silver for the detail. She was a delight to deal with, and the invites were as fab as we wanted.  I did slip in a folded page with the day’s details on it behind the RSVP card, and used a free Hitchcock typeface for the heads and captions.

My friend Nicola arranged for Bobby Burden to do the official photography and he was excellent. I’d briefed him that I hate posing and that most of my family have a fear of cameras (possibly due to so many of us being keen photographers outselves), so he kept things relaxed. I’ll be getting the official snaps soon, but unofficial ones suggest we look happy to be in front of his camera.

For the music in the evening, more friends were roped in. Alistair and Dave spun the ipod and CDj controls to the extent that people were dancing that I’d never seen dance before.

For the favours, we were totally stuck. I hate sugared almonds, and have been to so many weddings where the alternative is champagne truffles. Struggling to think of anything, we finally hit on the brainwave of badges. We both wear them and they would be sweet without being sickening. Laurie Pink did us a cute little design (which I’m not going to reveal just yet as I’ve some to send in the post) and then big wow supplied us with the finished goods.


We tried a lot – a lot - of restaurants in the Bloomsbury area. As soon as we had agreed to marry, I’d wanted a wedding with no cars. Or horse-drawn carriages. Or hot air balloons. I wanted us to be able to walk from the registrar to the ‘breakfast’ venue. The downside was finding a venue we both loved. Just as we had nearly given up, I spotted that Savoir Faire – which we had previously discounted as being too small – had ‘more seating downstairs’. On our trial of it we agreed by the end of the starter that, unless the veggie main was disappointing, we’d found our restaurant. It was delicious and they worked hard to produce a good menu with cheese free options as well as veggie ones. I recommend the place very highly.

In the evening, we crossed New Oxford Street and headed upstairs at The Old Crown. We liked this partially for the great view of a Hawksmoor church, but also because they do lovely bar food and are pretty chilled people. I sadly saw very little of the canapes, foolishly rushing around checking people had got some instead. But everyone seemed to like them. They also took delivery and then revealed the cake.

The cake was from Patisserie Valerie and was one of my few indulgences. Everytime we walked past the Bloomsbury branch, I would gaze at their profiterole wedding cake displays in awe. I knew I’d not see much of it, and that the logistics of getting into it would be troubling, but I wanted it. Several guests demanded to know the supplier – and one was already trying to think of an excuse to order one.


On the Sunday, we got ourselves onto a Eurostar and back to Villa Royale in Paris. I love Pigalle and Montmartre over the Champs Elysseses: I prefer staying somewhere that comes alive at night (and has all-night boulangeries).  We went back to Le Dan Bau – a Vietnamese place that has become so popular since I first went there that you now need reservations – and also Le Fumoir which remains a perfect place for good cocktails and healthy veggie eating.

…go to part 2 for details of the clothes and accessories…

This is the Age of the Train

Saturday, 28 July 2007

I travel by train a lot. I was, if not actually born, raised on the railways. Childhood holidays included Camping Coaches in Marizion, and trips through the Alps. So as well as doing things like the trenhotel to Barcelona, I also use the train nearly weekly, often to get up to London. Exeter has two routes up to town: the old Great Western to London Paddington and the old London & South Western to London Waterloo. I mostly use the Paddington route. First Great Western, who now run the route (and Exeter St Davids station – see fulminate’s architectures of control blog for my thoughts on that), have taken to advertising their cheap fares. When I first saw the advertising campaign they ran from winter 06 till summer 07, I burst out laughing. Here’s an example of one of the posters, along with what it instantly reminded me of:

Hitchcockian train travel ~ bass

Saul Bass is one of my favourite graphic designers, who produced many fabulous title sequences as iconic as the Hitchcock films they introduce. For example, the title sequences to Vertigo, North by Northwest and Pyscho. Bass tended to favour a limited set of bold colours (like the FGW adverts) and reduce forms to shapes (like the FGW adverts). The image is often tilted to induce a sense of being off-balance (like the FGW adverts).

The problem here is that the advertisement designed by FGW wants to entice us to use their online booking in order to get cheap fares, but it uses iconographic images which suggest the nightmarish world of Hitchcockian chaos where the everyman is confused, bewildered and caught up in a system they do not understand. A world in which Jimmy Stewart is conned and sent insane. A world in which a simple error results in Cary Grant being forced to flee on a train before being attacked by a crop-spraying plane and eventually dangled off a cliff. A world in which strangers on a train plot murders. Is that really want FGW want their potential customers to be reminded of when trying to get them to use a train booking system?

The campaign seems to be being replaced with a rather more boring set of posters which lack the same accidental subtext but also any visual flair.

Some other random train advertising fun:
The National Rail Musuem’s History of British Railway Posters
Screenonline’s history of British Transport films

You tube finds – WARNING! once you start watching old adverts on you tube, forever will you be in their thrall (due to the “similar videos” listing):
This is the Age of the Train (late 1970s)
British Rail – Relax (1980s)
British Rail – The Night Mail (1980s)
GPO Film Unit – The Night Mail (1936 – music by Britten, words by Auden)
Intercity brings something good (pre-decimalisation)
British Rail Weekend Away advert (very Benny Hill – BR appears to be a cheap date)
Cyclists’ Specials 1 Cyclists’ Specials 2

I’m not the only person to notice Hitchcock had a thing about trains.

The Art of War

Tuesday, 28 November 2006

“No, painting is not made to decorate apartments: it’s an offensive and defensive weapon against the enemy.”
Pablo Picasso

Simon Schama on Picasso‘s Guernica, this Friday, 9pm, on BBC2.

On the trailer for The Power of Art, they mention the “unexpected end” to the story of Guernica. As far as I know there are two details about the painting which give it contemporary meaning:

  • The dispute over where it should reside.
    Madrid (traditionally part of Castillan Spain) wants it as Picasso is Spain’s most reknown – and critically acclaimed – artist. Bilbao want it because it represents the destruction of the ancient capital of the Basque region.
  • The controversy when the UN covered a tapestry of it so it would not be in shot when Colin Powell discussed Iraq.

When people ask why bother with the history of art, it is this on-going interaction of art and society which is interesting. That is how a work from 1937 can still carry weight and meaning nearly 70 years after its painting.

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