Tuesday, June 26, 2012

On writing...

Like prophets and seers, writers are driven by a force, an irresistible desire to give to the inner impulses, the material form of sound, colour and word.

This desire cannot be held back by laws, traditions, or religious restrictions.

The song that must be sung will be sung; and if banned, they will hum it; and if humming is banned, they will dance it; and if dancing is banned, they will sing it silently to themselves or to the ears of those near, waiting for the appropriate moment to explode.

Professor Ngugi wa Thiong'o
In his address to The South African Literary Awards

xxx elle

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Dennis Was Here

Truth be told, I was a little taken aback by Mick Pedroli's appearance, as Mr Nielson better known as Sid, and I ran towards 18 Folgate Street Spitalfields in a last hour bid to see Dennis Severs House!

There he was standing casually at the black front door, grinning happily at us in his shorts and t-shirt. And who could blame him on such a glorious summer's day. He wasn't to know that I was expecting a more Hogarthian character, someone at least in 18th Century garb to answer the door!

Within just a few minutes of his delightful introduction we were opening it, and stepping into the compelling world of the Jervis family.

'Ssshh' I whispered to Mr Nielson  as we stood on the landing, allowing our eyes to adjust to the candle-lit gloom, for the house is best seen and felt in silence.

Only then do you truly 'hear' it whisper to you all its secrets.

Dennis Severs wanted his guests to feel as if they had stepped into a painting with 'a time and life all of it's own.'

And he did everything he could to help that painting come to life.

In one room the clock ticks quietly, whilst voices can be heard murmuring from another. Sounds of street life seem to be coming from outside, along with the clatter of passing carriages.

Bowls of half eaten food hint at a meal interrupted, and crumpled sheets suggest a bed newly vacated.

Although you never get to see this family of Huguenot silk weavers, evidence of the rich fabric of their life begins to take root in your imagination.

It's just as Dennis wished it.

And although he passed away in 1999, he lives on here along with the enchantment he created.

Mick Pedroli sees to that.

Making sure everyday that the beds are crumpled just so, the flowers fresh, fires stoked, the unfinished rolls still crusty.

And then it is you, who steps into the quiet, into the warm smokey light to breathe into it new life.

Let the magic begin...

PS: The ultimate way to see the house in all its dramatic splendor is at night on a private tour. Go here now and Mick will arrange it.

xxx elle

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Where the dogs are

 On the streets of Manhattan, clearly.

Everywhere we went we were reminded of our boy Baxter, who was causing havoc at the Dog sitter's house by all accounts.

Hounds, big and small with owners alike...

We were constantly enchanted.

And entertained...

But the eccentrics in prams that we found on the streets of Toronto, well they were the cat's meow!

xxx elle

impossible conversations

In the 1930's, a column by Miguel Covarrubia's in Vanity Fair explored imaginary conversations between public personas with polar ideologies. Inspired by these dialogues, Harold Koda and Andrew Bolton curated the Schiaparelli to Prada exhibition currently showing at The Met as an illuminating discourse between these two fashion greats.

In a space that even with the curious crowds feels hallowed-like, faceless mannequins stand adorned in glorious splendour.  

Objects of desire, constructed from the finest threads of imagination and intent...

They create a visual dialogue between the past and present that is exciting, intelligent and relevant.

Baz Luhrman's taped interviews with Muiccia Prada and actress Judy Davis who steps in for the more theatrical Elsa Schiaperelli, create a dramatic ever present voice over to the scholarly procession.

The often opposing points of departure are an ode to history. Schiaperelli focuses on the upper body which is most often exposed as society woman gather in the cafes and at dinner tables of her day. Prada is drawn to the lower body, no doubt the influence of a more earthy experience of hippie roots.

Both explore the wide range of the couture, from the serious and sleek to what is known in 'fashionese' as  the more playful 'naif-chic' with it's charming whimsy.

Schiaperelli gains the upper hand for me. Her surreal creations triumph, and leave one thinking for a long time about a hat that is a shoe ,and her flesh-coloured 'tears dress' with it's printed slashes and rips designed by Salvador Dali.

Lady Gaga must swoon at the sight of a black and white photo of that 'Lobster dress', all white silk with an assault of red lobster down it's front.

It's no wonder that the beautiful Marisa Berenson has such a sense of grace and style: Marisa and her sister wore matching ruby red dresses with shocking pink ribbons at the waist, designed by their grandmother for a photo shoot for Elle magazine when Marisa was five years old. It was her first cover, and with such a genetic advantage the first of many.

Later in the day, as Erin and I played in the shoe department of Saks on 5th Avenue, Erin got to try on some Prada shoes.

A girl could take flight in a pair of these...

xxx elle

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A for Amanda

She's the beautiful muse to Karl Lagerveld, one time muse to John Galliano and yet still manages to come across as warm and engaging.

 In fact, any bad press I've read about her just appears to be sour grapes, understandable really, for who can't feel a little unnerved by Lady Harlech's many accomplishments. Ballerina, horsewoman, model, muse and pianist, she's also a writer and has managed to throw a title (through marriage) into the mix! What's not to love?

This what she says in an interview with the always amazing INTO THE GLOSS:

 "For me, beauty is grace. So, it's not just how somebody looks in a photograph. It's much more about a woman in motion. It's the life that I find really beautiful. For me, things like lines are what makes a woman beautiful...So, my beauty philosophy is really to look after yourself...giving (myself) time. Time to breath. Time to sit still. Time to look at the sky."

Then later in the same interview; " Beauty it's just very caring. It's not about looking in the mirror and thinking, ' I hate you! Transform you! Obliterate you! Disappear! It's about saying ' This is me. You're tired. You've got great bags under your eyes - that's not surprising!' So, don't stop loving your skin. That's all we are. We're a heart pumping with a spirit somewhere and we're a bunch of bones and skin."

Of course, it's always women with perfect cheekbones and a dancer's body who say such things but there is something translucent and lovely about the Lady that transcends mere genetics.

Amanda recommends Anne Semonin beauty masks, and Mimosa Cream from Santa Maria Novella, just in case you were wondering!

xxx elle

Monday, May 7, 2012

The Museum of Innocence

I am not a great shopper.

Slow, indecisive and  then later regretful...I am happy just to peruse,delight and leave.

But put me in a bookstore anywhere in the world and I come out laden!

In Istanbul, I emerged from the small densely stocked book shop onto the busy street in Galata, with a bag laden with 'Turkish delights'. Orhan Pamuk, Elif Shafak and Ahmet Handi Tanipar had all found their way into my shopping bag.

So, when my mother and sister decided to visit Istanbul I was excited to tell them about Orhan Pamuk, Turkey's Nobel prize winning writer whose memoirs 'Istanbul, memories of a city' had so deeply moved me.

Like Pamuk I felt the 'huzun' in Istanbul, the melancholy that permeates this beautiful city, trapped as it is between a golden, quite extraordinary past and a crumbling present. The sense of disorientation in a city of faded grandeur balancing precariously between Islam and the West.

In Beyoglu, Pamuk has finally achieved the living embodiment of his novel, 'The Museum Of Innocence' which tells the story of the obsessive love Kemel, a wealthy businessman has for Fusun, a lowly shop assistant.The novel traces this single minded passion over 30 years starting in 1975. Kemel's obsession becomes more and more bizaare and self destructive as he creates an actual 'museum' to his lost love, collecting whatever he can find that is in any way connected to the short-lived love affair they once shared.

"It was the happiest moment of life", Kemel recalls of their affair "though I didn't know it. Had I known, had I cherished this gift, would everything have turned out differently? Yes, if I had recognized this instant of perfect happiness, I would have held it fast and never let it slip away. It took a few seconds , perhaps, for that luminous state to to enfold me, suffusing me with the deepest peace, but it seemed to last hours, even years. In that moment, on the afternoon of Monday, May 26, 1975, at about quarter to three, just as we found ourselves to be beyond sin and guilt so too did the world seem to have been released from gravity and time."

In a magical example of life imitating art, Pamuk has finally inaugurated an actual 'The Museum of Innocence' in which he has recreated the temple of obsessive love, created by Kemel for the object of his desire. It is the gilded cage Kemel so longed to trap Fusun within.

Here you will find all the excruciating minutiae of their daily lives, navigating their crossed paths from ticket stubs to locks of hair, serviettes with a trace of lipstick to the forbidden, now empty wine bottles from which they imbibed.

'Real museums are places where time is transformed into space'. Kemel tells the reader, and here Pamuk has achieved just that.

"When we lose people we love, we should never disturb their souls, whether living or dead", Kemel advices, "instead we should find consolation in an object that reminds you of them, something...I don't know...even an earring"

xxx elle


The tulips were waiting,

On the other side of the door this evening
while the sky was widening with the idea of night
and the dogs were being walked,
the crickets coming to life.
The tulips were waiting.

Purple and yellow bells.
Cups of colour
seeking out the light.

They grew quiet when they heard the key in the lock.
Only stretching out towards me
as if to exclaim "Hello!"
with childish excitement.

Bowing and reaching
their long clever limbs,
we said good night,
more politely.

Skye Katzeff 2012

xxx elle

Right side ...

What I try and remember when I wake up on the wrong side of the bed!

xxx elle

Of Worriers and Warriors.

It all started when I heard Mr Nielson better known as Sid, laugh out loud at the computer.

'I'm reading a letter from Steele', he informed me.

Our boy Steele has been traveling on a gap year these many months.

A letter is always an occasion.

I sank down on the bed with my ipad ready for a good read. He writes well, my boy.

It started just fine.

Steele had left the kibbutz near Eilat and having arrived in Jerusalem, made his way to Ben Yehuda street. He describes the sights and sounds of the street and then:

  'I tried calling Benji ( a good family friend ) off a public phone but it wasn't going through, so I was a little stranded. I was also desperate to get to the City/Man United Derby. Next thing I know, this 50 year old guy from North Carolina, ( the place where I will be working as a camp Councillor come summer ) comes up to me and starts chatting. I tell him I'm looking for an internet cafe, so he invites me back to his apartment. His name is Roddy. I'm typing this to you all from his apartment right now. We really hit it off, and he has given me the keys to his apartment. I basically have my own, fully furnished, really nice apartment in the centre of Jerusalem!!! I have my own apartment, computer, washing machine...ah ha ha ha...the universe hey,  ...'

While Mr Nielson chuckled at the marvels of an abundant universe, I sank into the depths of despair!

All through the night I envisaged the horrible fate that 'Roddy' had destined for my precious son. The kidney syndicate, the peadophile ring...the horrors!

I spent all night e-mailing every friend he knew in Israel.

And by morning had planned a 'Taken" like rescue, after all everybody knows the first 24 hours are crucial!

At about 9h 00 Steele mailed me on Facebook. He was staying at Benji and was appalled at my hysteria.

'I'm an adult mum, you have to trust my judgement. Roddy's a legend, a really decent family man. People do stuff like that here. They invite you for dinner, offer you a room for the night...Honestly mum, you need to have more faith. don't let your mind always take you into darkness...'

And he was right, of course.

With perfect synchronicity the days Counting of the Omer arrived in my inbox.

Day 25: Netzach of Netzach...Endurance in Endurance.

'Everyone has willpower and determination. We have the capacity to endure much more then we can imagine, and to prevail under the most trying of circumstances.'

 It went on to ask, 'Instead of cultivating endurance in healthy areas, have I developed a capacity for endurance of unhealthy experiences?...'

The truth is that I give in too readily to my fears and wild imaginings.

Mr Nielson ( who refuses to read the newspaper or watch the news, and who is always the last to know of wars and catastrophes) is the Warrior, traversing life with the ultimate faith.

And I am the worrier...

As my boy finds beauty and makes music a midst the ancient stones of The Holy Land, I too must sing a song that finds the light...

xxx elle

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

To a summer's day...

If I must bump into someone iconic on the streets of New York, let it be the Honorable Daphne.

The cheekbones, the attitude...the wit make her style all the more marvelous.

Perhaps she'll be decked out in one of Isabella's hats.

She is 'more lovely and more temperate'!

xxx elle

Monday, April 16, 2012

stripped bare

Not everyone appreciates the new Restoration Hardware deconstructed range.

To some they smack of inauthentic pretension.

I love them for their quiet presence, stripped bare and unadorned.

And yes, we'd all prefer a chair denuded by time instead of folly but these make endearing surrogates for the real thing.

I'd like one naked in my living room right now!

xxx elle

Pass the passport!

Only another South African knows the twists and turns in the tale of two visas.

Trying to gain access to distant lands is more difficult a negotiation then a marriage contract.

I've known couples who got married knowing less about one another then the border agencies seem to need to know before they'll let me in!

They want a full background check that includes everything you own, earn, believe and love!

And fill those forms in at your peril; every mistake seems to render them null and void.

Just a medical degree ago, Skye was able to spend a year working in the UK, as a waitress at Belgo's. The gift of the commonwealth. But one too many arrivals at Heathrow, bearing a passport with a photo of the opposite gender, and another racial group to the traveler put paid to that!

So 'we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past'.

See you in Central Park then.


xxx elle

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Glad tidings

I thought a lot today, about people who shine a light wherever they go.

They leave a room feeling brighter then when they arrived.

I like to avoid the other kind...the ones who leave bits of their own bitter pain as reminders that they have been near.

Spreading light is a beautiful thing.

Happy people, do it naturally.

My gorgeous friend Colleen, better known as Bardot, once got a Saturday morning job delivering flowers!

It paid very little but for Bardot arriving on somebody's doorstep with flowers, was worth more then money could buy.

Imagine doing something that makes others happy each day.

Like the 'balloon troopers' at Geronimo, Jirhan 'Jihanimo' Zancirli, began her business delivering beautiful, bright balloons all over Seattle.

'The Balloon Girl', as Jihanimo is known, traversed the city, arriving on her yellow 1974 French moped with balloons for a lucky recipient tied to her bike.

Today you can pop into her downtown Los Angeles store or order on line.

Andrea Galvani creates exquisite art with the help of balloons.

And my favorite Mormon, well person really, the glorious Nie Nie releases a bunch of balloons at every family birthday!

Maybe not such a good idea, considering the island of plastic the size of Texas floating off the coasts of America.

Geronimo will credit you for your deflated balloons, and pass them onto public school classrooms to be reused in the art room!

That way the light goes even further...

xxx elle