Deck Chair

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As the Summer swelter continues, up goes an impassioned plea “Lead me to my deck chair!!”.

The humble deck chair ….Perhaps? Or the well travelled ship’s “deck chair” – if this linen and teak could talk imagine the gossip it holds – from a Golden Era of luxury transatlantic ocean liner travel. Or the End of The Pier, seagull serenaded, fish and chips frying, spearmint rock munching of Brighton, Cromer or Southend – the World’s longest.

Called a Lawn Chair in the US, the Deck Chair has an illustrious history. It was the victim of some on board snobbery. Around the turn of the 20th century, first class passengers would typically enjoy the padded loveliness of a “Steamer” deck chair -Port Out Starboard Home – their legs raised and clad in a woolen rug, invariably sipping broth, if the climate demanded, whilst more lowly passengers would enjoy their trip on a slung hammock canvas and teak deck chair that could be positioned to follow the sun around the deck and be folded for easy stowage.

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The origins of the folding chair has its history in Ancient Greece, Rome and Egypt. More recently, patents were obtained in the 1880’s in the US and UK for the classic steamer chair. R Holman & Co of Boston (Mass) were the manufactures of the Steamer Deck Chairs that graced the deck of the SS Titanic. Of the 600 supplied only six survived – below is a shot of one.

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There is some debate as to the precise origins of the more rudimentary wooden framed version. Primarily it comprises two rectangualar wooden frames, hinged, with an adjustable back piece and a single length of canvas forming the seat and backrest. Some sources  attribute it to a British inventor, Atkins, in the late 19th Century whereas others credit its design to being similar to “The Yankee Hammock Chair” as advertised in 1882.  The name “Brighton Beach Chair” also seems to predate our currently understood use of “Deck Chair”.

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In my Grandmother’s house in Hertfordshire – I think it was 1976 – she had a row of Edwardian faded green canvas chairs which not only had arms and a footrest but also a large sun canopy that flapped in whatever pathetic excuse for a breeze we had that summer. I recall that the covers perished quite frequently and the local nurseryman supplied rolls of 18” wide canvass to restring your chair. The look was completed by a white parasol, two Lloyd Loom chairs – see our previous post here – Lloyd Loom Chairs – and a bentwood table covered in a circular linen tablecloth with a jug of iced lemonade and tall glasses covered in weighted net – to avoid the flies.

Similar products are still made today by people such as Southsea Deckchairs Southsea Deckchairs

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Images used with grateful thanks – Southsea Dechairs and The V&A Museum

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Jacques-Yves Cousteau

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If you ask anyone raised in Europe or the US between the 1960’s to 1980’s to name an iconic and impactful TV programme, I can assure you that for many the under water natural history films of Jacques Cousteau would rank very high on a not very long list.

From the curious French soundtrack of slightly strident strings, to the Gallic, faltering commentary – I can never hear the French pronouciation of the name “Philippe” (one of his four children) without thinking of Capt Cousteau – this was pioneering television at its best. It left such an impact on us, a Jacques-Yves Cousteau sized hole that I suspect David Attenborough fills, but who was Cousteau?

Born 11th June 1910, Cousteau, in 1930 studied at the École Navale in Brittany (West France) after graduation he joined the French Navy. His commission was brief curtailed by a car accident where he sustained breaks to both arms. In 1937 he married Simone, the mother of his first two sons, Jean-Michel and Phillipe, who both would accompany their father on subsequent adventures.

In the late 1930’s Jacques first used diving goggles and in 1943 he received an award for the first French underwater film, filmed on a pressurized camera, entitled “Par dix-huit mètres de fond“ (“18m Deep”). The same year Cousteau’s team made “Epaves” (“Shipwrecks”) – which resulted in his commission to establish the French Navy’s Underwater Research Group based in Toulon. During filming he using pro-type aqua-lungs incorporating the recently invented demand regulator.

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The resultant freedom of the Aqua-lung allowed his team to explore the depths of the oceans of the World and document them through a myriad of films. His first films from the late 1940’s were celebrated at the Cannes Film Festival in 1951 and his early adventures were captured in his book published in 1953 “The Silent World”.

In 1956, a film of entitled “The Silent World”, made with famed director Louis Malle won the Palm d’Or at Cannes and an Academy Award for the Best Documentary in 1957. The Rolex Submariner – Rolex – The Submariner – the first divers’ watch waterproof to a depth of 100 metres with a rotatable bezel showing the diver their immersion time, was featured prominently in his film which shows Cousteau wearing a pre-launch Submariner The Silent World – The Film

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Leaving the Navy in 1949 he founded in 1950 the French Oceanographic Campaign (FOC) and leased his trusty ship Calypso from its owner, for a symbolic one franc a year, and wealthy benefactor, Thomas Loel Guinness.

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The documentaries commissioned by US TV stations, “The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau ran from 1966 to 1976 followed by a second series “The Cousteau Odyssey” from 1977 to 1982. Cousteau had spent time growing up living in the US so his English was excellent but he retained his Gallic accent that added much to the authenticity of his films.

In 1979, Phillipe – Cousteau’s favourite child – was sadly killed when a sea plane he was piloting crashed in Portugal.

Following Simone’s death in 1990, in 1991 Cousteau remarried, Francine, already the mother of his two other children. Cousteau died from a heart attack on 25th June 1997 and Francine continues her husband’s work as President of the Cousteau Foundation and Cousteau Society. The Museum in Monaco – where Cousteau was a Director from 1957 to 1988 – is well worth a visit.

In the early 1970’s, like many other teenagers I enjoyed snorkeling. The clear influence of Capt. Cousteau stimulated my interest to know more that resulted in my first steps to undertake the British Sub-Aqua Club’s training course that included pool and open water diving. For quite some time, prior to me realizing my future lay not in the sciences, in response to that irritating question from a friend of my parents, “What do you want to do?” my response was always “To be a Marime Biologist” – Merci Capt. Jacques!

A lasting tribute in Cousteau’s own words: “The sea, the great unifier, is man’s only hope. Now, as never before, the old phrase has a literal meaning: we are all in the same boat.”

Join Jacques Cousteau’s on his undersea adventures – by clicking the Amazon link below the image 

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Jacques Cousteau – The Ultimate Collection [DVD] [2007]

May be for those who are not yet ready for Capt. Cousteau’s Ultimate Collection and would – how do you say – like to put a toe in the water….the Undersea World of Jacque Cousteau must the finest starting point – click the Amazon link after the image 

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The Undersea World Of JACQUES COUSTEAU 6 DVD Box Set PAL

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Image credit – with grateful thanks – Globalfirstandfacts.com, The Cousteau Foundation, The Cousteau Society, ABC, NBC, Metromedia and Fred Muller II.

Holiday Breakfast

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Late last week we escaped to the City for a few days in London. Extraordinarily beautiful at most times of the year but at Christmastime London is awash with street lights – Regent Street’s were particularly stunning – the slight hint of wine flavoured with cinnamon and a warm uplifting spirit.

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Whilst family time was precious and the opportunity for a little lazing about minimal, as major retail therapy was required, the best start to any day – a good breakfast – was essential. The kitchen was particularly well stocked but a visit to the wonderful Paul’s bakery in South Kensington for fresh croissants was vital.

A brief dip into Aestheticons and we will guide you in the ways of carefully combining and judiciously using a number of  iconic items to make the perfect Holiday Breakfast.

Pretty much any bread, however “day-old”, can be improved by toasting. A Dualit toaster – please see our earlier posts here Dualit Toaster is brilliantly controllable, sturdy and iconic design. Mine over twenty years old but is still fully functioning.

Why not get your own Dualit by clicking this AMAZON link for a 2 plus Combi toaster Dualit Combi 2+2 Toaster 42174 – Polished

A Four Slice Toaster DUALIT 4 Slice Vario AWS Toaster Polished Stainless Steel 40378

Or a Six slice toaster Dualit 6 Slice Toaster 60144 – Polished

Of course you can boil water in all manner of ways but none is more stylish than an Alessi kettle – Please see our earlier post here Alessi Bollitore kettle An Alessi Bollitore Kettle is an icon of design and practicality as vibrant today as when first designed in 1983 Officina Alessi Hob Kettle with Steel Bottom, Silver

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Mornings are for Coffee and Afternoon’s are for tea….

One of the very best quick coffees comes courtesy of Nescafe Original Decaffeinated – Nescafe Decaffeinated Instant Coffee 100g If time is not pressing, then freshly brewed coffee cannot be beaten. If coffee is not your thing then I cannot more highly recommend an amazing tea Fortnum & Mason’s Assam Superb – please see our earlier post here Fortnum & Mason’s Assam Superb

Using a Bialetti Moka coffee pot – please see our post here Bialetti Moka Coffee Pot make perfect coffee when combining with Lavazza’s Decaffeinato Coffee – please see our post here Lavazza Caffè Decaffeinato By clicking here you could add a Bialetti Moka Express Espresso Maker, 6 Cup to your kitchen. Please try this beautiful coffee – Isn’t “Lavazza” Italian for coffee? Lavazza Caffe Decaffeinato Ground Coffee 250g

Serving coffee or tea in a perfect cup is very important. A Falcon enamel mug is both beautiful and practical – please see our earlier post here Falcon Enamelware  Get your own Falcon enamel mug – or two – by clicking this link 1 x Falcon Enamelware Mug, Heavy Gauge (White with blue rim). 9cm

Aside from salt free butter, the perfect spread for your toast has to be Bonne Maman Blackcurrent preserve – please see our earlier post here Bonne Maman Jam Bonne Maman Blackcurrant Conserve Jam, 370g

For those of you who prefer salty to sweet then on top of cool butter Marmite is simply perfect – please see our earlier post here Marmite A big jar of Marmite should always be in your kitchen cupboard – get one here Marmite Yeast Extract Paste in a Glass Jar , 500g

Do you know what, if its a weekend and you are feeling a little indulgent why not order and make a perfect Bloody Mary –  please see our post  Lea & Perrins – the vital ingredient in a Bloody Mary which contains both the recipe for the best Bloody Mary ever it also gives you all the links to enable you to gift a Bloody Mary pack to a deserving friend, colleague or other half!

Go on, enjoy …. and make the most of those chilly holiday mornings….

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Images courtesy of Dualit, Alessi, Fortnum & Masons, Bialetti, Lavazza, Falcon Enamelwear, Bonne Maman and Marmite.

Bonne Maman Jam

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Click here to buy from AMAZON – Bonne Maman Blackcurrant Conserve Jam, 370g

As many of you know I am a huge admirer of many French products. My list includes Duralex “Picardie” glasses Duralex Glass – Picardie a favourite mustard, Maille – Maille Dijon mustard , a favourite polo shirt, Lacoste – Lacoste Shirt , three favourite cars from Citroen Citroën 2CV Citroen DS Citroën Méhari , my favourite fragrances are from Chanel including Chanel Egoiste and I really like Baccarat glassware – Baccarat Chrystal Paperweight .

When it comes to my favourite jam then that trophy goes to the black fruit jams including  Blackcurrant and Blackberry coming from the fine kitchen of Bonne Maman. “Bonne Maman” literally translates to “Granny” and the company stresses that its recipes are traditional – perhaps suggesting they may have been handed down by a Grandparent.

The pretty jar and screw topped lid – draped in a bistrot-style gingham-tablecloth pattern – both enjoy certain Intellectual Property protection around the world. The designer of this iconic packaging, including the quill-like script, was Pierre Roche-Bayard.

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The simple presentation is in the style that you may have seen, possibly produced by any older relative and sold at your local equivalent of a Farmer’s Market, at any point over the last fifty years.

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Click here to buy from AMAZON –

Post World War II, Jean Gervoson and his co-founder Pierre Chapoulart established the  Andros agro-business, in the Department of Lot in South West France. They decided to make jams from the fruits – primarily plums – that remained unsold. The business developed during the 1960’s and in 1971 the Bonne Maman brand was launched.

Jean’s sons Frederic and Xavier continue to be in charge of the business and its various divisions. Since 1997 Bonne Maman has diversified launching of a biscuits, desserts and pastry /muffins ranges.

Unsalted, perhaps French…., butter on a lightly crisped tartine – a day-old toasted and halved baguette – which once coated in butter should be loaded with Bonne Maman’s wonderful jam. A perfect breakfast when combined with a good strong coffee.

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Don’t throw your empty jars away – sorry fans of recycling – as you may well be inspired to make your own jams or jellies and use the attractive jars as gifts for your pals.

Images – Courtesy of Bonne Maman

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Citroen DS

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In the mid-1970’s South West France was my family’s holiday destination of choice. My Father believed that an ability to speak foreign languages broke down barriers and what better place to explore our newly acquired school French.

Myth and legend has it that my Father’s family, apparently Huguenot and named De Winton, hailed from La Rochelle and left during an early era of persecution to settle in the South West UK. So returning to our ancestral roots felt very natural to our DNA.

My sister had the bright idea to contact certain Cognac makers asking if we could visit their production facilities. She received several embossed replies, and we visited several but the most engaging and somewhat surreal visit was to the House of Hine. We were flattered to be greeted by Jacques Hine at his empire’s front door; forty years ago it was unusual for a factory to receive non-trade visitors.

M. Hine made us very welcome and showed us around the wonderfully archaic catacombs of his business explaining in poetic detail the process of making their fine Cognac – which to this day holds the Queen’s Royal Warrant.

You can enjoy a bottle of Hine’s fine VSOP Cognac by clicking the link under the following image 

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Hine Rare Vsop, 70 cl

M. Hine apologised but explained that he has to attend a funeral but had asked his works Director, Gilles, to continue our tour to the company’s new facility outside town. He insisted that we should use his car. The image of this charming, and I suspect wealthy French distiller, in his black suit disappearing into Jarnac on his aged Solex scooter – see our post here – Solex moped – was comical.

Meanwhile Gilles beckoned us to the courtyard where M. Hines’ gleaming black Citroën DS sat waiting to for us. The clunk of the heavy doors, the smell of the black leather and the oh so Bentley-comfortable gliding ride was truly magical. The Citroën DS had always been my Father’s favourite car. This was truely a French icon of progress and technology and always ahead of its time.

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The Citroën DS – if pronounced carefully sounds like the French word for “Goddess”-  was manufactured by Citroën from 1955 to 1975 – selling over 1.4m cars and was a true symbol of French ingenuity. The classic French icon was designed by the genius, Flaminio Bertoni, engineered by André Lefèbvre and the ingenious pneumatic self-levelling suspension was developed by Paul Magès. It was the first production car to have front disc brakes, it also had power steering, semi-automatic transmission and directional head lights.

Our featured image shows the DS Pallas 23 from the mid-1970’s.

Our visit to the then new facility was fascinating and upon our return to the main office we were ushered into the Hine tasting room. M Hine, having returned from the funeral, proceeded to present us some souvenirs of our visit including a silk scarf for my Mother and a bottle of Hine’s finest, for my Father. He then explained that we all needed refreshment and produced a ice-chilled bottle of champagne which he served into the finest Baccarat crystal glasses Baccarat Chrystal Paperweight

Dreaming of beautiful and fine Baccarat Champagne Flutes? You can order them individually by clicking the link below the image

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Baccarat Mille Nuits Champagner Flute

If like me you love the car why not get the T shirt – in appropriate Burgundy – by clicking the link below the image

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Men’s Citroen DS T-Shirt Burgundy, XL

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Images courtesy of Citroen, Hine and Baccarat Christal with grateful thanks