Respectable

The evenings of my youth smelt of Jazz aftershave and tasted of Jack Daniels poured over chinkles of ice. Nothing much mattered except good lipstick, mascara, big hair and reciprocated urges. Thursdays officially marked the beginning of the weekend, when my friend Gina and I would see if we could club solidly for three nights in a row. I always think of Gina as my sophisticated side-kick – she really could suck the crème from an egg without smearing her lipstick. She always looked stunning in Miss Selfridge black lycra mini dresses and six-inch stilettos, whereas I preferred tight belted baggy trousers from Top Shop and ballerina pumps; she liked to pose, and I liked to dance. We were a good team, she could immediately attract and I would do the chatting. We never used to eat before going out, perhaps we’d share extra strong mints and a squirt of Goldspot spray in the back of the cab before we arrived at the club, but we’d usually be too hyped to eat food.

Anyhow, one night Gina had been force-fed a curry before coming out and she said that her stomach felt a bit grumbly but reckoned she’d feel better after a drink… so she drank… half a bottle of Piper Heidsieck Champagne, four glasses of house white, and two Crème de menthes [looks like washing up liquid, but pretty with a pink cocktail umbrella]. We left the club at about 2am and there were no cabs left, but I never minded walking home, I liked to burn off the buzz. Half way home and Gina began to complain that she needed the loo really badly. She was desperate. Busting. So although it meant taking a short-cut through a really dodgy estate, I said we could probably use the loos on the platform at the railway station. By the time we got there I also wanted to go, and being faster on foot than she, I dashed into the only working cubicle. Big mistake. When I came out something terrible had happened. On platform 2 of the railway station there was a perfectly round cow-pat. Still steaming. Very odd because we were in town. And Gina must have been knocked over by the cow because she was crouching on the floor staggering to get up….
Oh happy days. No CCTV back then. Only the station manager to contend with.

First published on The Scarlet Blue Archive, 13th August 2009

A Peculiar Story and Occasional Calligraphy

Iwas asleep at my desk, my head cushioned by my keyboard, when Harold flounced into my light and airy studio snapping a pair of castanets for no good reason other than he believed he was a flamenco dancer.

‘Why you do this, Madam Scarlet? Why you let stupid girl abuse pens? Is not right.’

I lifted my head from the keyboard leaving a thread of spittle connecting the s and the k.

‘Oh Harold, I’m tired of all this nonsense, you are a plumber from Southend-on-Sea; wearing a frilly crimplene blouson and a tight pair of lycra bell bottoms is not going to make you anything other.’

Harold snapped his castanets and pouted.

‘So, what’s the problem? What’s Charmaine done now?’

‘She is writing the modern calligraphy, she make letters look like spider ‘aving epileptic fit on paper. I come ‘ere with belief that Madam Scarlet teach traditional calligraphy.’

I glared at Harold. My head felt fuzzy.

‘Are you doing a French or Spanish accent today?’ I asked, wishing he’d just talk like a plumber.

‘You are mad woman. On first day ‘ere you say we must learn proper letter form and now you let stupid girl do what she like. What will ‘appen to the wonderful craft of calligraphy if no-one learn it proper? It will die out and no-one will know ‘ow to use pen; we will ‘ave nothing left of our calligraphy heritage other than childish scribble.’

Harold was looking puffed up and red in the face, so I glared at Harold some more, but with added swagger.

‘So what?’ I said, controversially, with a dash of evil in my eye.

As expected, my reply was like a red flag to a bull. Harold exploded in a Fandango, there was much fancy footwork, an enviable castanet technique featuring numerous redoble rolls, and an eye-watering misplacement of a maraca, which was unpredictable and belonged to an entirely different culture.

After reassembling the wooden floor, I dismissed Harold, dabbed the spittle from my keyboard, and pondered my latest calligraphy request – I had been asked to recreate an ancient village document with Gothic lettering and gold illumination. I smiled to myself, silly Harold, as if the wonderful craft of calligraphy would ever die out!! To be fair this request was probably beyond my remit, but thankfully I knew plenty of calligraphers [this highly talented one in particular] who would rise to the challenge. Horses for courses as they say.
I pushed my laptop to the side of my desk, it was time to get on with some occasional calligraphy of my own….

modern-calligraphy-envelope-invitation-uk-white-on-grey
An Invitation….

Oh Dear…

Well, we all knew it was going to happen, it is Wednesday – my regular posting day – and I have nothing to say…. blah, blah, blah. Can’t be bothered to take pictures of calligraphy… can’t be bothered to do the uploading pictures thing, so I am just sitting here caressing the keyboard in an indiscriminate manner, which is nice.

On Sunday I did some light gardening, and found a live electricity cable only two inches beneath the lawn, I also found a well by the backdoor. I think it’s a groundwater well, it seems to be about 13ft deep, which might come in handy if I ever have anything large to hide.

Other significant news….

I am letting my hair go grey. This is not technically correct, what I mean is that I have not had my hair coloured since late February, and I am still having regular cuts, so at the sides my hair looks like grey pencil shading whilst the top is still colourful-ish. I look like some old rag-tailed ginger mog, but it seems to suit…?! And I can’t say I’ve missed sitting in the salon with foils all over my bonce, reading Hello! magazine. I am not sure how far I will go with this, but feel that if I don’t like it, it will be easy to dye blonde. I am not brave enough to show you pictures. It feels mildly rebellious to go grey. I have been studying women of my age and pondering whether the grey ones really do look any older than the ones that still colour. Sometimes hair colour can look very harsh, unflattering, and ageing. I like the idea of having grey hair and red lipstick, but I’m not sure if I’m sophisticated enough to pull off this look.

And this is why I usually plot and plan my posts, the world is going to hell in a handbag, and I am musing over the colour of my hair. I have deleted the paragraph about nail varnish, I will save it for another time. It feels strange to post without a photograph, so I have added one. Thank goodness for the photoshop app on my iPad – so much cheaper than botox!! And yes one of my ears is higher than the other, hence my glasses are always wonky, and yes I do have a lazy eye, and yes I am going boss eyed…

Thoughts regarding hair colour are welcome.

Charmaine escapes, and an accident waiting to happen…

'Nobody is interested in broad edge calligraphy, Aunt Scarlet’, said Charmaine with a whine in her voice.
She had somehow escaped from the attic and was slumped in the doorway of my light and airy studio.

‘What do you mean, you silly girl, why do you come out with such piffle?’ I said as I balanced precariously on a sixteen foot ladder trying to dust my chandelier.
I glanced down at her. The girl had gone an unattractive shade of puce, and I made a mental note to take her out in the afternoon for some fresh air and a brisk trot around the paddock.

‘I’ve been looking at your blog stats, only 0.256 people read your recent post about the dimple nib reservoir on the Mitchell nib. Nobody cares, Aunt Scarlet, your arse is way more popular than stupid broad edge stuff.’

I smiled to myself, my rear end had always been popular with my readers, but I knew where Charmaine was going with this conversation, it was obvious to me that she was desperate to get her mitts on my pointed nibs. I intended to stand firm and resolute, I wanted her to have a good grounding with broad edged calligraphy before she progressed further, after all she was my protégé; I had hopes of her becoming the calligrapher I never could be; there was nothing she could say to temper my resolve.

‘It’s no good, Aunt Scarlet, if you want this blog of yours to be popular then you’re gonna have to get your tits out next week.’

I felt the ladder sway and wobble as I let her words sink in. The girl probably had a point, but it was not the one I had been thinking of.

hand-lettering-and-calligraphy-uk
Chin Up, Tits Out!!

Myth Busting….

Dear Scarlet,

I am 50 tomorrow, what does this mean for me?

I look forward to your insight,

Kindest Regards,

Mrs Karen Rogers

Hello Karen, and thank you for your enquiry. I reached this milestone way back in March. I had a filthy cold and didn’t make much of it… but, to date, this is what I have noticed:-

1) You will suddenly find yourself labelled as a ‘Baby Boomer’, and derided as such. Technically this is incorrect. 1964 is considered to be the cut off date for the Baby Boomer generation. To be fair you are in the ‘Just Missed the Boat’ generation. Be grateful that you’re not in the ‘Can’t See the Boat for Looking’ generation, or the ‘What Boat?’ generation.
Your formative years were the seventies and eighties. In November 1979 UK interest rates were 17%. In 1982, when you left school, unemployment topped 3 million. Your teachers didn’t believe you’d get a job and you were not encouraged to go to university as you were deemed to be too stupid.

2) You grew up looking a bit like THIS, but magazines and fashion blogs are now advising you to look like THIS, because this is what real women look like. Please note that clothes for real women generally only come in size 12 and above.

3) For some reason even though you grew up listening to this…

… it is now generally assumed that your age group prefers something along the lines of this…

4) You will find yourself becoming increasingly disconcerted about joining the over fifty demographic, and you will feel the desire to write ranty blog posts about your dissatisfaction.

Basically, Karen, it appears that there is a pervasive mindset that equates being over 50 with being born in the 1850’s. Sigh. Obviously everyone is still crap at maths.
My advice? Stick two fingers up at the lot of them [didn’t we always?]. Do what you want, wear what you want, be who you want to be. It is time to redefine what being over 50 means. And here is my contribution to the redefinition. Here is my 50-year-old bum in a pair of skinny jeans…

picture of me in skinny jeans 2015
My Bum 2015, Age 50

I hope this helps,

Warmest Regards,

Scarlet x

P.S Happy Birthday!!!

Calligraphy Tip no. 58

You are a silly old bat, Aunt Scarlet!’ Charmaine yelled down from the attic.
I frowned and considered getting some further insulation so that I couldn’t hear the girl whenever she got in a tis.
‘You don’t need a reservoir on a Mitchell broad edge nib!’ she continued, ‘All you need to do is drop some ink in the dimple on the top of the nib and it writes fine.’
I frowned some more, but I was so concerned by her revelation that I roused myself from my chaise longue and wandered into my light and airy studio to test her theory…

close-up-of-mitchell-nib-no-2-for-calligraphy-uk
Dimple on the top side of the Mitchell nib.
close-up-of-mitchell-nib-with-ink-in-dimple-uk
The dimple filled with ink
mitchell-nib-experiment-using-top-side-dimple-as-reservoir-uk
It works!!!

I frowned some more. I had always wondered what that damn dimple was for. The girl was correct and the only downside to this technique was that the dimple did not hold as much ink as a conventional underside reservoir, thus it needed to be filled more often. This didn’t bother me as I believed it would be an easier for beginners who struggled with the reservoir.

‘And pray tell me Charmaine, from where did you find this tip?’ I shouted up to the attic.
‘Fink it was from Instagram… fink it was Cheryl Dyer’s feed.’

I nodded to myself as I had long been an admirer of Ms Dyer’s work [website HERE] and it didn’t surprise me that she would know such useful things about the mysteries of calligraphy nibs.
I looked around my studio and feeling inspired I sat at my desk to continue working on my own little project…

hand-lettering-project-uk
My latest masterpiece…. an extract from my favourite book.

Dear Scarlet….

Way back in June 2011, Wendy, a regular commenter on my old Scarlet Blue blog, made the following request:-

Scarlet, could you start an agony aunt column? My friends have so many problems and I’m sure your insightful feedback would steer them in the right direction.

For example:-

I’ve got a friend in their late 50’s, very GEEKY with a real anorak, inability to button shirt in the right holes, cardigan, bum-fluff beard, bald, and knows more trivia on Dr Who than the whole Dr Who production team put together. Anyway, he’s in love with Mario (Big Brother contestant last year), and keeps on talking about it. Currently I smile and talk back as if Mario were a friend of my friend. I suspect my friend is internet stalking Mario without realising it.
what should I do? If anything.

Originally I felt overwhelmed by Wendy’s request…. who was I to deal with other people’s problems? Who am I to tell other people what to do with their lives? What do I know? And then I thought, what the hell, I’ll give it a whirl….

Dear Wendy,

Many apologies for such a tardy response. Please do not worry about your friend, he is simply ahead of his time! In 2015, it would be considered odd not to have a passing fancy for Dr Who. As for his dress sense and facial accumulation, well, again, truly ahead of his time, and it’s probable that he was one of the original Shoreditch Hipsters. If I were you I would buy a house next door to him [in Hipster areas house prices tend to go through the roof], and jot down any fashion tips that come your way. Does he now has his own lifestyle blog? Does he wax lyrical about whittling spoons beneath the stars in a Sussex woodland… and then sell them for £1,180 a pop from a stall in Old Spitalfields Market?
I’m sure that back in June 2011 your friend seemed a little incongruous, but in 2015 he fits right in!

Moving on to the Mario situation… Oh!! You mean Mario the Mole!!! Z list celebs such as Mario are created for our entertainment; I am sure they know exactly what they are getting themselves into when they sign up for the BB experience, namely financial reward and fleeting fame. After leaving the BB House they have a porthole of opportunity to cash in on their popularity before public interest wanes. Quite frankly, Mario should be grateful for your friend’s adoration.

I am assuming your friend is male? If your friend is female, and is unhappy, then perhaps a trip to her GP would be advisable? A female with a button disability is worrisome and beyond my remit, I can only suggest velcro.

Warmest Regards,

Scarlet xxx

If anyone would like to feature their problem on this blog then my email address can be found on my ‘About’ page. Thank you, I look forward to reading your dilemmas.