ALEXANDRA SHULMAN’S NOTEBOOK: 6.56pm Tuesday… when the good times returned
If there was a single moment when real, high-voltage, in-person glamour returned, it was at 6.56pm last Tuesday with the arrival of the Duchess of Cambridge at the premiere of No Time To Die, in a shimmering Jenny Packham gown.
The dress was a masterpiece of red-carpet style, with a zillion sparkling sequins, beads and crystals and an extravagant superhero-style caped back, accessorised with a pair of golden, saucer-sized drop earrings.
Of course, it wasn’t the first sign of normal life powering back. But the allure of the 007 franchise, a pillar of our culture for a mind-blowing 59 years, gave the premiere’s display of glamour a special potency.
Here was the long-awaited collective exhalation of breath that said: We’re back – good times are rolling.
In-person glamour returned at 6.56pm last Tuesday with the arrival of the Duchess of Cambridge at the premiere of No Time To Die, in a shimmering Jenny Packham gown
As if to underline it there was also Daniel Craig’s fuchsia tux. Fuchsia, for heaven’s sake! Now that’s a man who’s clearly not in the shrinking violet, let’s- all-stay-at-home frame of mind.
Emma Raducanu (increasingly the poster girl not only for tennis but post-pandemic partying) was there, beaming her trademark beam in lustrous silver.
Phoebe Waller-Bridge, parachuted in to sharpen up the script for these #MeToo times, was dressed in her usual cool, sexy androgyny way – a jumpsuit plunging to the navel. And not a mask in sight.
All in all, the evening was a brilliant demonstration of a time- honoured phenomenon: the way the joint forces of Hollywood (OK, in this case, Pinewood) and royalty have so often been the cavalry galloping in to rescue us from bleak times.
Back in the 1920s, after the Great Depression, it was silver screen movie stars like Jean Harlow, Clara Bow and Carole Lombard who America looked to for much-needed escapism.
And after the Second World War, it was Cecil Beaton’s portraits of the Royal Family (especially the young Princess Elizabeth) shown in front of highly romanticised, Utopian backdrops that were released by the Palace as feelgood propaganda.
There was also Daniel Craig’s (pictured) fuchsia tux. Fuchsia, for heaven’s sake! Now that’s a man who’s clearly not in the shrinking violet, let’s- all-stay-at-home frame of mind
It’s not only movie stars and royalty who have been putting on their glad rags – so have the fashion crowd. British Vogue and Tiffany hosted a do in London with Emma Raducanu, but also Idris and Sabrina Elba and Claire Foy (who must feel quasi-royal after The Crown).
In Milan, Donatella Versace celebrated her collaboration with Fendi with a party that rolled out Kate and Lila Moss, Elizabeth Hurley and Naomi Campbell.
There will be those who will say this is all too soon, that we are not yet ‘out of the woods’.
And certainly there is a different edge to the celebrations now that everyone knows how precarious these freedoms can be.
But that only makes them all the more delicious.
IT’S MY SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS THAT’S REALLY IN SHORT SUPPLY
Can it really be true? Are we thinking about Christmas again? It seems only a nanosecond since we were all in a heap of anxiety over what to do about last year’s festivities, when we were in and out of lockdown.
Were we or were we not going to be able to get together? Was it worth ordering a turkey? Never had the concept of relatives gathering around the tree in a cosy, mutually supportive group felt more potent.
If I remember right, and I probably don’t, there was a moment when the vision of a big Dickensian family feast looked possible. And then, at the last minute, it was snatched away from us.
And now there’s more chatter about Christmas being cancelled again, not because of Covid this time, but supply shortages.
Frankly, a few toys missing from the shelves and a run on brandy butter or pigs in blankets can’t cancel Christmas. But you know what? I don’t care anyway.
I’m all out of fret when it comes to this Christmas, which is an extraordinary condition for me, one of the festive season’s evangelists.
Trees, stockings, plum pudding, stuffing and, yes, turkey, even though most people think it’s as tasty as cardboard – bring them all on.
Usually I love the large gathering at home, the overcrowded living room with a sea of wrapping paper, the prepping and the cooking, the piles of presents, the cards that cover the mantelpieces.
But the strangeness of the past year has meant that I want a break from it all. It’s just come around too soon. Possibly that’s a reaction to the groundhog-day repetition of life during the first half of the year that feels like we lost time.
Possibly it’s just a weariness with the chaos Covid brought to plans, and still might do. Or possibly it’s simply laziness.
No doubt if I had small children I would pull myself together and get with the programme. And it’s possible that, as the day creeps closer, my inner Scrooge will be put back in its box and I’ll be dusting off the Christmas decorations.
In the meantime, if anyone has a good suggestion for restaurants that do a nice lunch, let me know.
The devastating testimonies from Sarah Everard’s mother and father spoke to every parent’s greatest nightmare – except in their case the brutal loss, misery and anger is their reality.
In the same week, a man was held over the murder of teacher Sabina Nessa.
The other evening, I found myself in an unfamiliar part of London. It was getting dark and the app I was using directed me through a tunnel under a railway bridge.
The devastating testimonies from Sarah Everard’s (pictured) mother and father spoke to every parent’s greatest nightmare
Behind me I could hear footsteps approaching and, like women everywhere, I felt a familiar kick of anxiety.
Nothing unusual in that, which is what makes it so depressing. Our normality is that a woman walking through a tunnel feels vulnerable.
I was lucky. A perfectly harmless young man passed me with not even a sideways glance. It was a different story for Sarah and Sabina.
NO ONE COULD SHINE A LIGHT ON OUR BLACKOUT
SO there I was, soaking in the bath one night last week at about 8pm, when the lights went out. Total blackness. I couldn’t see a thing.
It wasn’t the just lights in the bathroom nor the whole house, but everywhere. No warm glow from neighbours across the way. And outside, no street lights, which made the whole area utterly alien. Where’s the Moon when you need it?
I fumbled for my towel and eventually found a number to call. Naturally, I was put on hold with the helpful clarification that all conversations were recorded. A conversation would have been a fine thing, but no one picked up.
Eventually, it emerged that the blackout was some underground cable issue that would take time to resolve.
Meantime, we were left realising how difficult it was to function in any recognisable way. No oven, no working fridge, no computer, no TV. Darkness is fearfully boring – you can’t even read.
It was one of those moments when you realise how dependent we in our modern lives are on circumstances out of our control.
We have it all – until we don’t. When you live in a comfortable home with all the basics on tap, it’s easy to forget how easy and quick it can be for the systems we rely on to crash.
Memo to self: stock up on candles – and remember where you put the torch.
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