Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Sartorial Questions - 1 (suspenders + evening dress etiquette)

Maybe it’s as a result of the Eccentric Club award (This Blog: 6th April 2009) or possibly from the interview/profile I did for the site (ditto: 7th August 2009 ), but recently I’ve started to receive questions about fashion and style. I reprint two of them here (with their permission):-

: I was watching a western movie today, probably set in the 1870s, 1880s, they are just trying to plan for the railroad lines.

The men were wearing suspenders [uk = braces], but they had the metal slides on their suspenders like we have today to adjust the fit. Would they have had those in that time period? [Pape G, USA]

A: I contacted my friend Chris at the Historical Emporium who suggested:
“Adjusting buckles were common, even back to the civil war period.
Here's a picture with a variety of suspenders styles from the civil war period.

“As to the specific metal buckle styles, I can't answer your question whether the specific style that we carry was common or uncommon.” [ ].

May I also suggest, Pape, this would make an ideal discussion topic for the website - there is a wealth of Western re-enactors here who might have a definitive answer for you. Try my profile [ ], go into my Friends list and search out a chap called Staggers - he seems to know his stuff.

“I’m writing this letter to explain you what is just happened to me, to be advised and to be elucidated by a Dandy as you.

“A couple of days ago I received an invitation for a Gala Dinner, for Dandies only, in which there was specified that wearing a tuxedo would be requested. I immediately wrote back about the coarseness of wearing that kind of suit compared to a Frac [ie. tailcoat] and the answer was: ‘We all love masquerades, but this is a modern event and smoking is binding‘.

“I can’t explain the sense of astonishment I felt and doubts arose in me after reading something that seemed so bourgeois And written by a presumed Dandy.

“What do you think about it? Am i guilty of inappropriateness?” [Gianfilippo, Italy]

A:Well, Gianfilippo, I do feel rather honoured advising on style to an ever-stylish Italian, but I accept the compliment.

Their response does seem rather odd. I would have thought, if the event was “for Dandies only” the mode of dress expected would demand flamboyance and extravagance. Personally, I would wear white tie and tails or possibly a frock coat.

Perhaps you might consider a compromise: perhaps a black tuxedo suit (normally worn with a black bow tie) but with an extravagant Regency-type bow tie or a cravat / ascot with stickpin.

I’ve also found in my archive a few other variations you might consider [click on the pics for the full version]:

(I am not sure how the smoking reference comes into it - unless you mean Smoking Jacket? - but I would recommend a good cigar or pipe).

Finally…I have a couple more questions ready to run with (including a fascinating one about Spats), but if anyone out there has a question they wish to ask me about clothes and style please just send it to me (e-mail: ). I can’t promise a definitive answer, but I will Always have an opinion, and might be able to point you in the right direction.

Friday, 16 October 2009

Broken Britain - 9: Transport for London Bully.

I feared the Broken Britain strand in this blog might become redundant. How wrong could I be?

You think everything is fine in London? this. you may not be able to hear him but the TfL employeee tells the elderly passenger he "should be slung under a train".

This is typical of the culture of Transport for London - throwing their weight around, bullying their “customers“… This is what we Londoners have to put up with these days.

The TfL chap – Ian – referred to the grey-haired passenger as a "jumped up little git" and a "little girl", in a torrent of abuse filmed by another commuter.

Here’s the extract from the blog by Jonathan MacDonald, the man who filmed it all:-

“Today [Friday 16th October], just after 2.30pm, I saw an elderly man with his arm trapped in the closing door of a faulty train at Holborn Station.

“We all thought the train was heading further east but actually, for reasons we shall never know, the train was terminating at Holborn and we were ushered out onto the platform by two (shouting) staff in Underground uniforms.

“The elderly man was slow to get off in the mad rush, hence the entrapment.
A few people around called to staff to open the door again so he could be released.
About 30 seconds later the doors opened again and he removed his arm.

“I watched as he calmly relayed his experience to the staff member (who was called Ian by the way). Ian didn’t think it was a problem – in fact, he was furious that the guy had mentioned it at all, especially as the guy was standing close to the track.
After a while, Ian started shouting at the guy to “stand back there is a fucking train approaching“.

“The elderly guy quietly questioned why Ian had to swear (as did several other passengers). Ian literally screamed in this guys face (and I quote): “because there is a fucking train approaching and I need to make sure nobody is over the fucking yellow line“.

“The elderly guy stood his ground – admittedly the wrong side of the yellow line (which was hard to see as there were hundreds of stranded people on the platform).
Ian then told the guy that he wasn’t allowed to get on the next train and had to “come upstairs to speak to the police“.

“That was when I pulled out my video camera. The below clip is taken immediately after Ian’s initial outburst and you can hear him repeat the police part too.
All seems fine until the incoming train arrives and the elderly guy tries to get on it – although watch how twitchy Ian is during the train arrival..

“You will hear Ian telling him not to get on and then threatening a halted service until he gets off again. Listen to what Ian says. Watch the reaction of the other passengers.
But then – right at the end of the clip (at exactly 50 seconds), you will hear Ian exclaim (again, I quote): “sling him under a train“.”

Initially, MacDonald was filming a little before this clip started but decided to stop filming. Then the woman employee came over to him and ordered him (!) to “stop filming”. MacDonald said “you know he could lose his job because of this?” and she just shrugged her shoulders and said “Huh!”.

At which point the brave Mr. MacDonald started filming again, and this is what we see.

Believe me, this is NOT an isolated case.

I hope my friends abroad take note of this, because sadly This is the kind of welcome you can expect from London these days.

Postscript: Within hours of this film appearing on YouTube the employee was suspended, pending investigation.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Bratislava Hot Serenaders: Time On My Hands + Rhapsody In Blue

Time to cheer myself up - and it’s been a while since I featured my favourites.

So here they are, filmed at the Whitley Bay Jazz Festival in 1998, with a lovely little vocal by Milos Stancik, of the Ray Noble / Al Bowlly song “Time On My Hands”.

[You will have to Copy / Paste these two links to You Tube (as the direct links have been disabled]

And for those who want longer, more “serious” fare, try this: George Gershwin‘s Rhapsody In Blue (well, ten splendid minutes of it anyway).

I hope your spirits are a little uplifted.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

How to take on BT - and WIN!

Back after a holiday break… I was in a coffee shop recently, advising a friend who was having serious problems with BT (British Telecom), his online suppliers. I explained the whole process I went through over a year ago - and I won [see end of this blog]… and a lady sitting at a nearby table started asking questions…she was also taking notes! I realised this was advice others might benefit from too, so here we go.

Unfortunately, you Have to go through these Steps, one by one, you cannot leap to the final step (and get it resolved).

Keep a DIARY
(of dates, letters, telephone calls, conversations, promises and broken promises, threats, etc). This applies to any complaint you may have against a company. ALWAYS keep a contemporaneous Diary.

Step 1: Write a letter to Ofcom [Riverside House, 2a Southwark Bridge Road, London
SE1 9HA. Telephone: 020 7981 3040 or 0300 123 3333 - I would advise you call them, they are very helpful).

In your letter, outline your complaint fully. They will then issue you with a Complaints Number (This is Important). [Note: On All future correspondence, quote this Complaints Number]. They will also send you a letter outlining what you do next. Which is:

Step 2: You write to BT (to their general address in Durham is OK, they won’t bother to reply). In your letter you outline your complaint, also write down what you feel is a reasonable compensation and give them a deadline to respond (eg. 10-14 days). Like I said, BT won’t respond anyway.

Step 3: Then you contact OTELO (the Telecommunications Ombudsman). PO Box 730, Warrington, WA4 6WU. Phone: 0330 440 1614 or 01925 430 049

[Note: These telephone numbers may be cheaper to use if you use a mobile phone or phone provider other than BT, and will be “free” if you pay a monthly charge for calls to numbers starting 01 or 02]]. You can also call them on: 0845 050 1614

Again, in your letter you tell them you wish to pursue BT through the ADR process (Alternative Disputes Resolution). [These words strike fear in the heart of BT!].

Otelo will give you the direct line and address info for BT’s complaints Department and tell you to send the outline letter also stating what you regard as reasonable compensation, and (finally) BT should get back to you - and things will actually start happening.

[Trouble is, you can’t jump straight to this point, you have to jump through all these above hoops first].

Step 4: FINALLY, you get to the BT Complaints Number, which is...
Switchboard: 013244 52933

One of their officers is Tony Crawley. His direct line number is 013244 57956 (although he might have moved on, or been made redundant - BT tend to make redundant their best staff].

Don’t expect to get through immediately - they are very overworked!

And send your complaints letter off to them, with what you regard as adequate compensation. They Will get back to you.

…and do get back to me if you have any success with this method.

In my own case, I spent almost eighteen months being buggered-about by BT. Once I started the OfCom process it was resolved in about eight weeks. Indeed, once I’d finally reached the right person at BT Complaints, he phoned me up with the words: “It’s taken me about four days going through your case to find out what it’s all about, and I have to say: we really have F***ed this one up, haven’t we?”.

Eventually I got:
- a wiping the slate clean of any claimed outstanding monies
- free line reconnection
- free line rental for one year and
- free BT Broadband for one year.