Friday, 4 September 2015

Do Put Your Puppy on the Stage Lady Bedlam, oh DO put your Puppy on the Stage (with apologies to Noel Coward)

The Summer that never really got going here in soggy ol' England is over. Last weekend saw the end of the holidays, such as we didn't have. To mark the occasion, it ended as it began, with more water pouring from the sky and, also appearing as if from Heaven, our blog. Please refer to the previous edition for a photograph of rain, it hasn't changed. And if rarity increases value, then these posts shall soon be priceless.

August may have been a meteorological wash out but it was characteristically dust dry in terms of trade. It happens every year but still we start to think the phone will never ring again when the only thing through the door is tumble weed. But lest you mistake this for a missive of gloom, be reassured that the Bedlam pecker stayed aloft with all sorts of heart warming jollity, a selection of which we lay before you here.

The first diva from our troupe of high kickin' stars is Molly, who took delivery of her Bedlam horse blanket in her dressing room stall at This was her shamefully belated reward for her starring role in the Jocks & Nerds photo shoot half a lifetime ago. As per the one presented to Pimms,  her colleague, it sports a dedicated carrot pocket. It is trimmed in pink fake fur (sourced for Elisabeth Ratiu's coat) and made up of fine fabrics left over from our tailoring jobs.

Then an ingenue starlet appeared up our stairs, bearing the name she was born with, Flora Pettit. Flora, like the goddess of Spring, wafted up our stairs like fresh, fragrant air, if unannounced, to ask if we needed an intern. I was about to send her away as we were in the middle of a fitting, but having heard she came up from Brighton especially, I told her to conceal herself behind the curtain until we were done with our client. Her Fashion Degree course at Westminster University requires her to do two placements. For her first, she worked for H&M in Stockholm, where she saved her money in order that she could do a stint with someone small and poor (that'll be us). She was only required to stay two months but put up with us until August 28th. She made an enormous contribution and we hope to one day lure her back with a fat salary (or blackmail and threats). I have compiled a little tribute album on our Facebook page thus allowing room for more here. Facebook-phobes, be not afeared, you can click and view without signing over your soul:

To pick one of our faves from the album. here's a jolly shot of Flora with Mr Wesley & another showbiz doyen, Mister Simon Le Bon. We are excited to be making a suit for him at the moment. Simon was but one of many projects Flora got to work on - she also made a silk scarf for Nile Rodgers and a little something for the Pope (yes, THE POPE, not "Mister Pope" but THE Pope).

Simon has been wearing our t-shirts on stage, and this shot below, from a show in Austria, is particularly hot. If you'd like one, click this way:

Dipping one's own toe back into the world of talent promotion, in early June one accepted delightedly the invitation to host a musical evening at the studio. This was to promote the latest album from Theo Jackson, Bedlam's musical ambassador. It goes by the name of "Shoeless and the Girl".
We dubbed the night "Son et Fou-miere", opened some crisps (Polly, our prima inter pares client, baked a quiche!) and were thrilled by the turn out. Theo had had the idea of performing in strange contexts and there's now't so strange as the Bedlam atelier. In the audience was Dave Swift, friend, client and celebrated bass player with the Jools Holland band and others. He sat in for a number with Theo, as did the fine keyboard player, Giazonne Reyes, allowing Theo to stand up to sing a few numbers, with Marco Quarantotto on drums. We direct you to Theo's website to hear clips

And then some rowdy friends of my parents (it's always the oldies, is it not?) made a song and dance about yours truly taking the stage. Seeing as I'm not allowed to post the clip of Theo OR the clip of Kevin, the Bard of Bedlam, reciting his Ode to Flora, I will post a roughly topped and tailed clip of the consequences ENTIRELY in the spirit of self-deprecation as I was velly, velly drunk at this point and look like I've fallen out of a tree. Tim'n'Ian (Bedlam Global Area manager and Auxiliary Graphic Dept. respectively) remarked, "Weren't you relaxed, checking Facebook messages while you were singing!"
Peering myopically at the lyrics more like. It's been a while. Once upon a time I didn't wear glasses and could remember all the words. Sadly my edit deprives you of hearing Clive the Upholsterer play the harmonica towards the end but that would make it taxingly long. So here's a taste of the great musicianship upon which I was privileged to impose.

Another space appropriated for a show over the summer was Hyde Park. As ever, we were spoilt to stand in the wings to watch Nile Rodgers and his gang of Chic-sters perform on the same bill as Kylie and Grace Jones. We told Ocean, youngest scion of Mr Wesley, that we were going. Having form as a stage-crasher, body popping next to Nile in Juan-les-Pins a few years ago, his face lit up like a super trouper and his limbs started twitching in anticipation - "I will dance?!"
I explained as gently as possibly that that was not guaranteed, that it was entirely at the gift of the person whose show it actually is. We arrived and stood looking out at the sea of fans. The pent up energy in Ocean was palpable and I wondered if I should attach an elastic lead to his back so I could ping him back if he made a dash for it.

Jackie came to tell us to move round to the other side, where we found Kylie grooving as a warm up for her own set. Before you could chant un, dos, tres, cuatro, my old pal Mark Moore of S'express turned up so we grinned for the camera before someone brighter suggested we face the other way to give you a sense of where we were:

Then the cue came for the giant dance party to invade the stage and Ocean was off like an eel to claim his spot centre stage next to his "best friend" and hero.

 To get a bit of piece and quiet, Nile moved down the cake walk into the crowd -

 Bruno from Strictly Come Dancing had a go at upstaging Ocean but he generously conceded backstage later to our boy.

The Edge didn't get to close to... the edge, having tumbled off stage during a U2 gig a few weeks earlier. Perhaps we should attach an elastic lead to the back of his jacket?

A comely young lady came up to congratulate Ocean on his dancing. Generously, he said she could have a picture if she liked. Possibly, it was a refreshing novelty to the Face of Our Age to encounter someone oblivious to her fame.

Back stage, more people came over to express their appreciation of his moves, Nile of course, the wondrous Miss Kimberley of Chic, Sam Smith, and, once out in the crowd, untold people who recognised him from the close ups on the big screens either side of the stage.

At the waggy tail end of June we were invited to take part in the Lambeth Palace Fete. This is staged in the back garden of the Archbishop of Canterbury's London pied a terre, whichis not normally open to the public. We printed up some "Lambeth Walk" t-shirts especially as the local road names we had made up for the Cleaver Square Fete had been a hit. Mr Wesley used the original playbill for "Me & My Girl", the musical that brought all walks of Londoners together, from the actual King & Queen to the Pearly Kings & Queens, during the War with the anthem "Doing the Lambeth Walk". (It occurred to me the other day that my parents' generation will be the last that can say "The War" without everyone going "Which war??"). There is a council block behind our studio on the Lambeth Walk called "Lupino House" and we wonder how many of its residents know why? Lupino Lane was the star of the show.

And then it was time to muster on the lawn for the Dog Show, a hotly contested parade that made the X-Factor auditions look casually ambitious. Knowing our Brian as I do, and not wishing to court humiliation, we did not enter him into anything requiring order or discipline. We thought, however, that we might be in with a chance when it came to dressing up. Accordingly I crafted a lace collar, paw ruffs, and a velvet cap trimmed with a cockerel feather. It went swimmingly in rehearsal at home, he actually seemed to enjoy the theatre of it, but of course in practise, in a field full of other new dogs that had him hysterically overwrought, it was bloody pandemonium. It was tasking in the extreme to get a photo of him wearing all the elements of his costume at once but our pal Paul got the closest to it. And so, in various stages of falling off, we presented Brian in the Fancy Dress section as...
The Earl of Bedlam as painted by Van Dyke.

When they read out the results, backwards as tradition dictates, I swooned to almost drop The Talent as they reached the Top Three (there were four entrants in the category). Let the pictures tell the story:

Outstripping all showy-offy activity in this edition, Brian scampered home with the Tony, Oscar and Grammy of the Performing Arts rolled into one with his #1 Red Rosette -

Amongst his huge haul of prizes was a hedgehog. It took him fifteen minutes to eviscerate the squeak but not the glory.

Aside from that photo, the one we shall cherish as the shot of the summer is below. It was taken out of England, in Spain, and is drenched in the warmth of the place and the love of the people in it. It was taken at the wedding of Gio to Adele, and we made the young groom's suit and his father's, too. You may recognise Piero's suit as "The Brian", created in honour of our talented puppy. Mr Wesley was wearing his prototype when Piero came for his first consultation. Famously uninterested in clothes and a nightmare to shop for, Piero took one look and declared it was love. He wanted the same in every respect. It made us very happy indeed to receive the photos from Gio with this message:
“You guys ere incredible and we enjoyed the experience so much. Everyone loved my suit, especially Adele [his bride] which was important! and Dad looked great."

So while our name may not yet be in lights, it has been most splendidly immortalised in... carpet. This piece of rubber-backed fabulous was presented to us by Mark Deveney, MD of the company that makes for all the grandest establishments  
He was a stranger to us when he came along to collect a Leigh tee to wear on his summer hols. The shirt is the latest in our gallery of Bedlamatic characters, this one honouring that most theatrical of dresser-uppers, Leigh Bowery 
A few weeks later the mat below arrived and for such extraordinary kindness we commend him. 

All we need is a roaring fire in front of our dreamy mat and we are set to hibernate until Spring. Frost is forecast for tonight folks so we recommend staying indoors to plan your winter wardrobe.

Friday, 3 April 2015

"Va Roule Ma Poule"- a lunch of love; a dinner suit for the Master Chef; and a jacket for la Belle Giselle

The earth has spun on its axis and Summer Time is now upon us in the Northern Hemisphere. First picture in from Bedlam's observation tower:

Entertainments, it seems, are best kept indoors for a few weeks more. One of the our top recommendations for dining non al fresco would be crazy good value set lunch at London's greatest gastro temple, Le Gavroche, in Mayfair

For  back in January - you know we love a rewind at Bedlam -  Mr Wesley and I were allowed to attend my Ma's 80th and Pa's 86th birthday bouffe there, on the proviso we delivered my ninety-five year old godmother to the restaurant. You may recall, dedicated readers of these postings, that it was Elisabeth who gave us a roof and her old sewing machine when we first started out, in her apartment building in St.James, snug behind the Ritz hotel. Not a shabby start at all.

So it was there that we arrived to collect her and await a taxi that never came. Elisabeth told me to find the number in her address book and check where it was. By the time I had run back upstairs, located the book, stared in despair at the smudged and faded entries one written over the other as the decades have removed or replaced friends and services, puffed back to the lobby, called the car service to be told that no car had been ordered, then tactfully suggested that perhaps we should just get the next black cab that pulled up, time was ticking on. I could picture my pa fuming "tempus fugit" or something that rhymes with that, while his face got progressively more puce and hear my mother saying "Now, now Arthur, just relax, I'm sure they'll be here soon."

From the back of the cab I had the idea to tweet a message to Master Chef extraordinaire, Michel Roux Jnr., to say we were en route, stand back, nonagenarian trouble's coming atcha - and was there any chance of a lift rather than stairs? Within seconds he personally replied to say he was most looking forward to greeting us, and a lift would be available. After extracting Elisabeth from the cab - "What a good looking driver," she remarked - we moved through the doors, three or four little steps at a time, then a rest.  Finally - I'm picturing our party on pudding by now - we get into the service lift which opens into the kitchen. It was at full lunch time service throttle. Instead of clattering pans and blue air, everyone in the kitchen stood back respectfully, offering welcomes and hellos until we reached Chef himself, who shook Mr Wesley's hand warmly and gave Elisabeth a little bow that made my eyes glisten. I heard someone say, "What a great suit he's wearing," and we made our way into the dining room and collapsed into chairs held back for us with care.

Mr Wesley escorts Elisabeth through the kitchen at Le Gavroche
Lunch was mouthful after mouthful of rolling eyes and hand gestures expressing inexpressible delight. Every detail, from the china and the cutlery to the attentive but not stuffy service, was what you would hope a celebration meal would be. 

And then Michel appeared at the table to ensure that everyone was having a fab time, which we clamoured to assure him. When he had made his way round to Mark and me, he confessed our Twitter name had intrigued him, that he had already had a look at the website and would, accordingly,  like to talk dinner suit. At which point our flutes ranneth over with bubbles of bonhomie.

Michel congratulating my Pa on being really old; in the middle, my other, "Carry On", godmother Barbara Thomas (widow of film director Gerald); and Ma Butler on the right.
And so it is on this cold and rainy day, that we are awaiting Michel Jnr. and his wife Giselle at the studio to deliver the jacket we have made for Madame, and fit Chef in his dinner suit. Giselle's jacket we have named "Uptown Punkette". She chose the most Mayfair of tweeds, a deluxe burnt orange wool / cashmere mix from the Holland & Sherry "Callanish" range, before enquiring if the collar and pocket flaps could be done in denim, to match the blue overcheck. Never let it be said that we don't encourage ordering off-menu. And so began a hunt for a cloth de Nimes that would do the job. From clothier to clothier I schlepped with the Callanish bunch in my hand. Everything was just a shade away from being right. "Sacré Bleu!" I muttered, "I can SEE the exact colour in a pair of favourite, faded old jeans...!!"

WHOA, back right up to that thought.

I sent a message to Madame, to see if she would have any objection to the cloth being sourced from a vintage pair of jeans. Pas de tout came the reply, for she is a a cool chick (and, on that subject, Happy Easter everybody). As it transpired, we had a visit from our beloved honorary son and one time intern, Ingmar Patton, great grandson of one of history's best dressed generals, General Patton. We are sentimentally thrilled to be making his graduation suit from his school Schule Schloss Salem. Here he is at his fitting:

At that time, our intern was a Dutch art school student, Marlies Heerema. The Dutch are, largely, well disposed toward General Patton and, I hoped, by association, his progeny. And so I packed them off together on the downtown bus to Brixton (in the pouring rain), with the Holland & Sherry bunch, to trawl the charity shops for jeans. They returned having successfully executed their mission (it's in the genes. HAHAHAHA!!! Sorry, drinking alone in the studio, writing), with a pristine pair of jeans from Dr Barnardo's,  fresh stock donated by H&M, so, thank you H&M, I could assure Madame R that no smelly ass has ever had anything to do with her jacket trim.

Marlies & Ingmar flushed with the spoils of success after their mission to Brixton
The Dr Barnardo's jeans against the Holland & Sherry wool / cashmere tweed with the paisley lining by Huddersfield Fine Worsteds
In the meantime, Michel was not forgot, and we were making progress with assembling only the finest ingredients for his dinner suit. He had an idea for something a bit skull & cross bones for the lining, which we were going to print on silk twill, or Bedlam's print dept. Mr. & Mrs. Hatley, were, anyway. When you consider the traditional elongated white chef's hat, there is something about it that lends itself to a skull, and when Mr Wesley cunningly added crossed cutlery underneath, voila,  un motif worthy of the Master. We sampled for him three scales and four reds, and from such assiduous preparation does one deliver the dish:

The large, medium, and small scale on red #1, and then the smallest one sampled on three further reds
Dig the prongs 
Flora - we ador'er - our current intern from Westminster University, with the unfurled finished silk for Michel Roux jnr.
Michel's lining is the reason Madame edged ahead of her mari in the delivery stakes, how come we have her finished jacket, with buttons from Grandma Butler's button box (hence no set, but enough for variegated blue on the cuffs to match the denim, with a different one to fasten), with his suit for fitting tonight. Here, alors, we present for your La Belle Giselle's "Uptown Punkette" jacket:
"Va Roule Ma Poule!"

What do we learn? That if you want to become a Master of your Craft, you put in the years, and never stop taking the trouble to ensure that every last detail is comme il faut.

If you are not so far from us, and seeking another NON al fresco entertainment ce soir,  then we cannot recommend too warmly the theatrical presentation at our local theatre, the Southwark Playhouse, ,"The Cutting of the Cloth". It closes tomorrow, so you have two chances left to see the lost play of Michael Hastings, who did his apprenticeship on Savile Row before becoming a world renowned playwright, discovered in his desk after his death. A perfect example of ensemble work, one of the cast, Abigail Thaw, was in the year below me at RADA. Her older sister Melanie was in the year above me. Their  daddy was John Thaw.

The story concerns the tension in a Savile Row workshop in the 1950s between the school of hand stitching a bespoke suit and the new fangled machinists. It is a rewarding, engaging and emotional evening. Would Michel Roux Jnr. eschew technological assistance in his kitchen? He proudly told us that the convection cooking (I think I got that right, let me double check when he arrives!) keeps temperatures and tempers in check - hence they can be so polite when funny people pour out of their lift. But, we propose, success, or recognition of your artistry, is a delicate mélange of advance and old fashioned passion that makes the dish, or the dress, so sweet.

You may enjoy knowing that when Ma Butler learnt that the great Chef was to attend the studio, she insisted on preparing a plate of her "signature" canapés, delivered with the message that should he be sufficiently impressed that he would want to add them to the repertoire of amuse bouche at Le Gavroche, she was quite happy to share that with him. Here Michel delivered his verdict:

And here, a post script addition do we have the pleasure of presenting Madame Roux in her finished jacket, (and perfectly judged denim skirt to go with it), while Michel tries his work-in progress dinner suit. Brian assisted with the fitting, much to Mr Wesley's frustration, as Flora is back in Brighton for the long weekend:

Sunday, 4 January 2015

A Frozen Moment of Time Warmly Recalled

A warm hello to anyone who finds their way to these words, the first of the New Year, and well done for making it this far - and, to start the only way we know, this will be a retrospective look back at the last bit of last year. In other words, this is a late post posing as a round up. No resolve to be more timely will change the habits of this old cat!

Had we been awarded an honour by Her most gracious Majesty in the New Year's throng of gongs, we would have been elevated to an Ear LOBE (*thanks to Simon of Croydon for that cracker gag*) but we console ourselves about the oversight with the totally unexpected prize of having had the best New Year's Eve ever that saw our view elevated if not our status.

Now that doesn't set the bar very high, "best New Year's Eve ever", as there have been some properly shabby ones. So we set expectations manageably low, by deciding to stick with a low-key, local celebration. As I walked to the studio along the Lambeth Walk a few days prior, a poster invited me to bring one, bring all, to a party at the Chandlers Community Hall (its name a nod to the days when the ships of the Thames got their supplies from the streets around here)  on Dec 31st - for £2.50 inc. buffet! The troops were consulted and all the brave hearts were in - 'though to ward off gastronomic disappointment we did decide to pre-bouffe chez nous. The pulsing nucleus of Bedlam appeared with contributions for the table before we waddled over to the hall.  Even Brian came along. And there we found the true bedrock of the Lambeth Walk - the old residents gathered with their families. It appeared that the dj, too, collected his free bus pass quite some years past and I have to say, that new fad for "mixing" really throws away the build up of anticipation you get with a ninety second gap between each record. We loved it.

There was a raffle in which our youngest won a Terry's Chocolate Orange, that I wasn't sure was even made anymore, and I scooped a bottle of Radox bubble bath. Drunk on that success we took our leave of the vintage assembly that we hope sees in many more new years. A day earlier, we had bumped into Wiggy the Carpenter on Walnut Tree Walk. He kindly asked us to watch the midnight fireworks from the roof of the old Housing Association for which he had lately found the key... for "the doorway to a place of enchantment."

And what a view we had! Big Ben that keeps faithful time for us was upright straight ahead with his face glowing gold; in the middle the Millennium wheel (already, canubelievit, almost old enough to drive!) offered us bouquet after bouquet of shimmering fluorescence; and to the right the Shard sent laser greetings to whoever was watching in outer space.

For next year, we might replot the tree that was the only thing between us and the gunpowder but really, there was not one thing to bemoan. Up amongst the Victorian chimney pots we felt like Mary Poppins and and her sooty beau Bert so toasted the infant MMXV with a verse of Chim Chiminee Chim Chim Cheree Chim Cheroo. And let me assure you, "nowhere was there a more happier crew!"

Up where the smoke is all billowed & curled,
'tween pavement and stars is the Bedlamites' world.
When there's hardly no day and hardly no night,
There's things half in shadow and half way in light.
On the rooftops of London... coo, what a sight!

All together now!!....

Big Ben at the back; from left to right, Kevin, ambience co-ordinator in chief; myself, Lady C; friend & client Richard; Bedlam's Global Area Desk Tidier Tim; Ian, our Auxiliary Graphic Dept; the Sisters Carr, the graceful caryatids that hold up the Temple of Bedlam; and Protector of Brand Identity, Piers. For a change, Mr Wesley was behind the camera!
The Shard beams into space with the dome of old Bedlam to its left.
That was a schmokin' night!
The Italianate beauty of the Victorian Housing Association on the same street as our studio. Wiggy had us all back to his for further revelry. His carpentry workshop is built around a tree in his back garden.
So far, then, so up to date, but rewind the camera to the closing days of July and you would find us in the yard at Bedlam Mews gathered for the photograph commissioned for their third anniversary edition by Jocks & Nerds, arguably the coolest magazine on the planet -

The idea was to recreate a photograph so iconic that it has its own Wikipedia entry. Known as "A Great Day In Harlem" it captured a perfect storm / moment in time of a collection of some of the greatest jazz cats of... ever:

This is it:

To do the job they engaged legendary lens woman Jill Furmanovsky, yet further compliment. Rather than list the enormous amount of iconic pictures she has shot of iconic musicians, I'll give you the link to some of her work:
She has taken portraits of everyone: Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, Bob Marley and perhaps our Nile's favourite ever photo of him with Bernard and the Chic ladies at the Apollo Hammersmith in 1979:

She also took this famous image of Roger Daltrey at the Rainbow in 1972:

As you will see in the last blog, we made some clobber for Roger last year so we were hoping to have  both him and Nile, and Goldie, and some other busy peeps, in the group shot but if you have ever tried to coordinate a few of your mates for a get-together and found it a teeth-gnashing trial, try co-ordinating the diaries of international megastars to make themselves available for a certain day. Nile wrote endearingly, "Hey Mark, unfortunately it's absolutely impossible for me to be there, and it's a shame because that really is one of the best photos of CHIC ever!.. and I'd love to be there to be with you and the genius who took that shot...N",  but we were honoured by a magnificent turn out of clients / friends including local hero Andrew Roachford, crime writer supreme Jake Arnott, MOBO winner Soweto Kinch, Theo Jackson (Bedlam's bad ass musical ambassador); Dave Swift, Steve Murray, Simon Willis, Mr. Harrop from't Mill (Huddersfield Fine Worsteds), Selin and baby Henry, my Ma & Pa, Mark's oldest son Harry, cousin Cayenne, a heap of my godchildren - Marcello & Mathilde, Tommy & Bonnie, Ingmar Patton (great grandson of General P whose graduation suit is currently under construction), Jakub our handsome house model, Vivienne and her handsome brood, and even two horses from the Vauxhall City Farm with their lovely ladies. My god-daughter Mathilde sat atop Molly and Marcela Curbishley (a fine equestrian and wife of Roger's manager Bill) sat upon the other, Pimms. She has a fine horse called Duchess that you may recognise from the leaderboard of the Horse of the year Show, so we thought it would be funny to have her on a proper Lambeth cobb. 

Jill works extraordinarily fast - part of her appeal to the busy rock god - and she had a little team from Hasselblad to assist. Soweto brought his sax, Andy Davies brought his trumpet, as did Jay Phelps while young Noah brought his trombone. Dave Swift brought his double bass (you may have spotted him in the Christmas TV ad for Asda with Jools and the rest of the band, wearing our suit). My heart supplied the percussion when they all started to play and I wondered if the horses might spook and someone lose a tooth. other than one relived itself rather too near Mr Murray for his comfort, they were statues of good behaviour.

There are so many photographs that I shall direct you to the album I made earlier in time honoured TV cookery style:

And here is the shot that the magazine chose:

I have to run home for dinner now before we go to the closing night of the Vauxhall Pleasure Ground Ice Rink, but I shall return later to put up some more images from that wonderful day that caught so perfectly what we are about - a democracy of style and syncopated harmony. We are truly grateful to Jill, and Marcus the Ed. and Mr Webster at the magazine for making it happen. We later got to reciprocate in a small way by taking Jill to meet Nile where she presented him with a print of that moment in time most dear to him, so everybody came away smiling.

Back in a bit, so if you read this early addition, do please check back for the later amendments, in between having the Best Year of Your Lives, with health and happiness in rare abundance. Our thanks  for your enthusiasm and support, it is our very succour.
Caroline & Mark