“Couture isn’t art. It’s not meant to be hung in a closet like a painting.” It was French fashion expert Pierre Bergé, Yves Saint Laurent’s maecenas and long-time partner, who uttered the plaidoyer for wearable fashion. The Milanese would agree. In the Middle Ages the city’s craftsmen’s guilds were famous for the high standards which have made the capital of Lombardy a bastion of style ever since.
Today’s fashionistas cut a bella figura as they flit between the elegant boutiques of the Fashion District, the area enclosed by Via Montenapoleone, Via Manzoni, Via Sant’Andrea and Via della Spiga. And yet, until the 1970s, Italy’s top fashion designers were more likely to be found in Florence (Gucci) or Rome (Valentino) than here....Read the complete chapter in the book
February / September
I like to dress egos.
If you haven’t got an ego today,
you can forget it.
“We are all African,” claimed Sir Winston Churchill, paying respect to the continent as the cradle of human life. Early hominids descended from the trees to take their first upright steps into the glaring equatorial sunlight of the ‘endless plains’ of the East African savannah; and homo habilis gathered in social groups to hunt the hoofed herbivores which have roamed the semi-arid grasslands since time immemorial. The human dimension fades into insignificance in the face of the sheer vastness of this almost featureless triangle of land between the Ngorongoro crater and the Serengeti National Park in northern Tanzania and the Masai Mara Game Reserve in Kenya. It is the home of more than 200 species of birds and countless zebra, impala, gazelles, oryx, elands and buffalo.... Read the complete chapter in the book
May – July
I’m a Gnu, A g-nother gnu
I wish I could g-nash my teeth at you!
I’m a Gnu, How do you do
You really ought to k-now w-ho’s w-ho.
I’m a Gnu – spelt G-N-U,
Call me Bison or Okapi and I’ll sue
G-nor am I the least
Like that dreadful Hartebeest,
Oh, g-no, g-no, g-no, I’m a Gnu.
Michael Flanders and Donald Swann
Sunrise at Angkor Wat
Heralded by a hint of crimson on the eastern horizon, the first rays of sunlight rise heavenward. Hesitantly they caress the dense jungle canopy, banishing the blackness of the tropical night and casting a honey-coloured glow on the symmetrical towers of the central sanctuary, silhouetted like giant lotus buds frozen in sandstone against the lightening sky. As another day dawns at Angkor Wat, the ghosts of past centuries retreat into the shadows and the exquisitely carved bas-reliefs come to life.
Graceful apsaras, celestial nymphs, smile enigmatically whilst the deities and demons of the Ramayana epic wage their eternal battle of good and evil along the gallery walls. Eight-armed Vishnu greets meditative statues of The Enlightened One, for the complex was built to honour the Hindu god and later converted to Buddhism.... Read the complete chapter in the book
December – February
Within the palace there are wonderful chambers
which are closely guarded and closed to ordinary
mortals. The king sleeps at the top of a golden tower
inhabited by a nine-headed serpent.
El Día de
The Mexican way of death has its roots in the pre-Hispanic belief of many local tribes – the Tarasco, Purépecha, Nahua, Totonac and Otomí peoples, et al. – that the dead could return to earth for one day each year to be with their loved ones. With an element of fatalism standing godfather beside every child’s cradle, nowhere in the world is the transience of life treated with such lightness of being. The frightening Grim Reaper of Dante’s Inferno and the nightmarish paintings of Hieronymus Bosch and Juan de Valdés Leal may have crossed the Atlantic with the Spanish conquistadors, but they stood no chance beside the Mexican Chamaco, the family friend, whose presence is accepted unquestioningly and who is even the subject of ribald jokes. Mexican folk artist José Guadalupe Posada’s caricatures portray Death as an ever-present companion in everyday life: jolly skeletons in sombreros and flamboyant costumes going about their daily tasks.... Read the complete chapter in the book
“The word death is not pronounced in New York,
in Paris, in London, because it burns the lips.
The Mexican, in contrast, is familiar with death,
jokes about it, caresses it, sleeps with it... it is
his favourite plaything and his most lasting love.”