My mother loved Fashion.
More than fashion – which was prone to lapses of taste unacceptable to her – she loved STYLE.
She grew up in Dublin at a time when most people were intensely proud and incredibly poor. Money, when it was there, was for essentials.
Essentials included clothes, but style– the wearing of things that were beyond essential, but necessary simply because they were beautiful – was frowned on, as was aspiration or rebellion.
But my mother wore beehives, heels with stiletto toes, coats that were there to be shapely and luxurious rather than just to keep the cold out, in colours of chocolate brown and raspberry red, in hues of ochre, with explosions of turquoise blue and jade green.
And she passed her love of style, her quietly rebellious nature, and her aspiration – less quiet, but necessarily so – on to my brother and I, though I suspect she sometimes wished she hadn’t.
I went through a period, in the 80s, of sporting a vintage* tuxedo, lined with orange and blue candy striped silk for everyday wear. The sleeves were rolled up to display the lining, and the whole thing screamed Dandy, Daring, or Sissy, depending on where you stood in 80s Dublin…
Continue reading Style For Living
When I was a child – without fail – November smelled of cinnamon, nutmeg, jewel-bright candied carbuncles of citrus peel, and rich, shiny brandy.
My mother baked Christmas cakes then for a mid-December delivery.
It was a skill she’d acquired at a women’s club in the local primary school where I’d been taught by the nuns.
As a kid, I found it impossible to imagine these stern bewhimpled disciplinarians running around the vast industrial convent kitchen, laughing, joking, clucking like chickens as they instructed the local housewives on how to make a fruitcake. As an adult, the image gives me great comfort, and makes me smile every time I imagine it.
Every year, my mother would pull an array of bowls from our cupboards.
Into one, a bag of raisins would be mixed with a bag of sultanas, the dark – almost scorched – scent of the fruit hovering like a lurking threat over the bowl; you had to put your face close to the fruit to smell the musky, oriental funk.
Continue reading Mrs Farrell’s Christmas Cake
The first time I went to New York was in 1993.
The Twin Towers still stood, monolithic orientation points that allowed the visitor to tell uptown from downtown.
The city – pre the Giuliani and Bloomberg sandblasting of its gritty façade – was the ultimate grown-up, deviant playground.
The Port Authority Bus Terminal teemed with strays, thugs, and shysters; the Chelsea Meatpacking district displayed its tranny hookers like a duchess sporting paste diamonds on a decaying décolletage; and Times Square held up huge signs saying “LIVE GIRLS XXX.”
I supposed, at the time, there was likely to be more of a market for Live Girls as opposed to the obvious alternatives, but – in hindsight – this may not always have been the case.
Continue reading My New York