Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Penny a Flower

Wrapping up one’s hair in purple silk and feeling the scratch of several underskirts has a strange effect. It encourages wistful ambling along country lanes; hands brushing hedgerows and mossy stiles. This is possibly accompanied by a strong desire to shout “penny a flower.” However, my mock-cockney accent is worse than Audrey Hepburn's as Eliza Doolittle, and thus I stick to inhabiting the look of a character, rather than giving it voice.
Yet, the flower-girl feel of the clothes here brought to mind a favourite book of mine - Clive Boursnell's selection of photographs capturing Covent Garden market in the sixties. There were barrow boys, porters and violets sold for several pennies apiece, arched windows glowing and apples stacked high. But the 'flower girls' there were dressed much more practically than me. I'm assuming that anything as whimsical as white brogues would have received short shrift. My get-up is rooted in fantasy rather than function.
Clive is my 'honorary' Uncle (in other words, I adopted him into the role). He is a warm, giving person with a rich past and a truly great capacity for portraiture. He recently followed up the initial depictions of working lives with a new book called 'Covent Garden: Then and Now'. Previous traditions and locations are no more. His updated images show gaggles of teenagers with shopping slung across their arms like treasure. The cobbles are crowned by brand names and crowds. As photos of old and new Covent Garden sit side by side, one can see a direct transition from the market as a place of selling and bartering as livelihood, to the market as an economic concept geared towards profit. Or maybe that's me, idealising the past again (it's a habit that's hard to shake).
Vibrant markets do still exist. Take Borough Market. Although laden down with tourists, their iPads held aloft, it retains the element of visual wonder. Huge rolls of cheese stacked like car tyres. Salamis and chorizo fringing the meat stalls with red. Squid, lobsters and prawns displayed alongside the massive head of a monkfish. Piles of fruit, lines of olive oil, rows of spices in pots, squat jugs of sangria, chutney jars, cider barrels, wine bottles, thick chunks of meat. The other four senses have their turn too: smells of bubbling curry; the rough texture of parmesan crushed between tongue and teeth; sounds of stallholders shouting; the tart, musky taste of balsamic glaze with truffle. It is food as a spectacle, albeit one where the audience is packed so tightly that movement may become difficult.
It’s a far remove from my local weekly market. Trading in the same small town hall for years, the crates and tables were recently relocated following a town council decision to renovate the hall and remodel it into an events and wedding venue. What could have spelled interim disaster for the market instead fostered renewal. The site transferred to is larger and busier. Customer trade is up, and the sense of life and community continues. Maybe that's what I enjoy so much about markets. Big or small, they're communal places. Plus, there's some really tasty food.

My outfit is composed of a vintage Betty Barclay dress bought from a vintage stall in Bath, second hand brogues and family inherited accessories.


Ivana Džidić said...

penny a flower:)! yes, I can imagine you shouting that...though this outfit doesn't look like quite one that a flower girl would wear- it is more interesting...

I'm not that familiar with garden markets but I must say I like open markets and bazaars.

beautiful scarf!

Charmaine said...

Good gracious, what a dress! Jealous! I love markets too, the atmosphere is what keeps me coming back time and time again. I miss all the London markets.

Tabet said...

beautiful pictures and this dress - AMAZING! :)


shipshapeandbristolfashion said...

What a beautiful dress - the forest green colour really suits you. I've never been to Borough Market but I'd love to go, I'd also like to visit the Columbia Road flower market, too. We have a great farmer's market in Bristol but it takes place while I'm at work so I rarely get to sample any treats.

Closet Fashionista said...

Sadly we have nothing old-timey like that here. Though I wish we did!
I love this look on you, green and purple is such a fun color combo. I wish I could dress up as characters in my imagination like you do, sadly I don't have the fun wardrobe)

Vix said...

What a gorgeous dress, I love the pumps and headscarf you've worn with it, you look wonderful! x

Vanessa, Take only Memories said...

Sounds like an amazing book. I love Covent Garden!

And wonderful photos. So lovely!

Thrifted Shift said...

Yes, I love perusing farmers markets, too. The sense of community is wonderful. That green dress is also wonderful.

Emalina said...

Gosh I love that romantic dress on you, especially with the purple head scarf and posy. I can see the Doolittle resemblance, and you'd be perfect selling your flowers on Colunbia Road, but I'm also reminded of Arthur Hughes pre-Raphaelite painting 'April Love' with your full skirt in these dreamy photos.
Markets are fascinating places aren't they. I once lived near to Portobello which was a hive of creativity and fun but meant I never saved any money!
Thanks so very much for your kind words on the Mermaid post, the fact that you enjoyed the poem in particular means so much to me as you're such a talent at it yourself! I used to write poetry a lot but haven't for years, time for a resurgence methinks.

Anna said...

Very Victorian ;)

LandGirl1980 said...

Sheesh - how I love this outfit!

Izzy DM said...

Gorgeous writing here. I just returned from the farmers' market at Grand Army Plaza, so I particularly enjoyed this piece, especially the paragraph detailing the food to be found, which I reread twice! I think I'm hungry :).

I loved the shot of you behind the gate; it would make a beautiful painting.

Ray Brown said...

wow such a beautiful modeling, lovely dress Love your styled outfit,You look absolutely gorgeous!

vintage clothing

Eesh said...

Penny-a-flower...YES! I absolutely adore that look and to pair with oxfords was genius! "Old style" makes me leap for joy...as does Old English.

Stay beautiful.


Caitlin Rose said...

Oh Rosalind that book sounds amazing! I must check it out. I went to Borough market a few years ago while I was living in London: it was amazing. I remember going inside where there was all these little vendors full of the loveliest laces and trims! It was a feast for the eyes!

p.s. you look lovely in green : )

L'age moyen said...

I do love purple and green together. You almost disappear into the late summer greenery in that dress. I love your hair like that. - though I love it any which way!


What a marvellous dress and how you so perfectly styled it with the silk scarf. You look gorgeous Roz, love the smiling photo as well!
Yes, going to markets are often my favourite things to do when travelling, even when I was growing up my parents always frequented markets like these. Enjoy the coming week. xx/Madison

Hannah Gottlieb-Graham said...

This green dress is so so beautiful on you!

Xo, Hannah


Wioletta M. said...


Rosalie Ava said...

The dress and accent colors suit you beautifully, and paired with such a fitting backdrop! Absolutely stunning.

xx Rose


Anja said...

Not only are you smart and beautiful, but apparently you also have good taste and a wonderful sense of style. Wow!