Sunday, 28 September 2014

The Mitford Sisters / VÍDEO bellow,The Dowager Duchess of Devonshire

The Mitford family is a minor aristocratic English family whose main family line had seats at Mitford, Northumberland. Several heads of the family served as High Sheriff of Northumberland. A junior line, with seats at Newton Park, Northumberland, and Exbury House, Hampshire, descends via the historian William Mitford (1744–1827) and were twice elevated to the British peerage, in 1802 and 1902, under the title Baron Redesdale. The Mitford sisters are William Mitford's great-great-great-granddaughters.

The sisters, six daughters of David Freeman-Mitford, 2nd Baron Redesdale, and Sydney Bowles, became celebrated, and at times scandalous, figures that were caricatured, according to The Times journalist Ben Macintyre, as "Diana the Fascist, Jessica the Communist, Unity the Hitler-lover; Nancy the Novelist; Deborah the Duchess and Pamela the unobtrusive poultry connoisseur"
The family traces its origins in Northumberland back to the time of the Norman conquest. In the Middle Ages they had been Border Reivers based in Redesdale. The main family line had seats at Mitford Castle and Mitford Old Manor House prior to Mitford Hall in 1828.

The sisters achieved notoriety for their controversial but stylish lives as young people, then for their public political divisions between communism and fascism. Nancy and Jessica became well-known writers: Nancy the author of The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate and Jessica 1963's The American Way of Death. Deborah managed one of the most successful stately homes in England, Chatsworth. Jessica and Deborah married nephews-by-marriage of prime ministers Winston Churchill and Harold Macmillan, respectively. Deborah and Diana both married wealthy aristocrats. Unity and Diana were well-known during the 1930s for being close to Adolf Hitler. In the early 1980s, Deborah became politically active when she and her husband Andrew Cavendish, 11th Duke of Devonshire joined the new Social Democratic Party.

The children of David Freeman-Mitford, 2nd Baron Redesdale, known to his children as "Farve" and various other nicknames, their mother was Sydney Freeman-Mitford, Baroness Redesdale, known as "Muv", the daughter of Thomas Bowles. David and Sydney married in 1904. The family homes changed from Batsford House to Asthall Manor beside the River Windrush in Oxfordshire, and then Swinbrook Cottage nearby, with a house at Rutland Gate in London. They also lived in a cottage in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire which they used as a summer residence.

The sisters and their brother Thomas grew up in an aristocratic country house with emotionally distant parents and a large household with numerous servants; this family dynamic was not unusual for upper-class families of the time. There was also a disregard for formal education of women of the family, and they were expected to marry at a young age to a financially well-off husband. The children had a private language called "Boudledidge" (pronounced 'bowdledidge'), and each had a different nickname for the others. Their parents were described as "nature's fascists". At least two of their daughters followed in their footsteps; one turned her back on her inherited privileges, ran away to become a communist, a result of the excitement of European politics in the 1930s. Jessica's memoir Hons and Rebels describes their upbringing, and Nancy obviously drew upon her family members for characters in her novels.

Upon the outbreak of the Second World War, their political views came into sharper relief. "Farve" remained a conservative, but "Muv" usually supported her fascist daughters, and they separated in the late 1940s. Nancy, a moderate socialist, worked in London during the Blitz. Pamela remained seemingly non-political, although reportedly a rabid anti-Semite.Tom, a fascist, refused to fight Germany but volunteered to fight against Imperial Japan. He was killed in action a short time after arriving in Asia. Diana, married to Sir Oswald Mosley, leader of the British Union of Fascists, was imprisoned in London for three years under Defence Regulation 18B. Unity, distraught over the war declaration against Germany, tried to commit suicide by shooting herself in the head. She suffered brain damage which eventually led to her early death. Jessica, a communist supporter, had moved to the US, but her husband Esmond Romilly volunteered for the RCAF and died when his bomber developed mechanical problems over the North Sea. In numerous letters Jessica stated that her daughter received a pension from the Canadian government from Esmond's death until she turned 18. The political rift between Jessica and Diana left them estranged until their deaths. The other sisters kept in frequent contact.

The sisters were prolific letter-writers, and a substantial body of correspondence still exists, principally letters between them.

The Mitford sisters - Unity, Diana and Nancy Unity Mitford; Diana Mitford (Mrs Bryan Guinness, later Lady Diana Mosley) and writer Nancy Mitford. Photograph: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

There is more to the Mitfords than Hitler and the high life

Friends mock my fascination with the family as a ‘posh crush’, but Debo and her sisters showed women what was possible

 Hadley Freeman           

As I write this, my desk is stacked high with remnants of “the Mitford industry”, as Decca Mitford referred to it with scorn. I have been collecting them since I was a teenager, the way football fans collect programmes, and with news this week that Deborah (or Debo, as she was nicknamed by her nickname-loving family) Mitford, the youngest and last surviving member of the family had died, I’ve been rereading them all.

There are the biographies and collected letters, starting with my personal favourite, Mary S Lovell’s The Mitford Girls, as well as those written and edited by the family’s friends and relatives, some with predictably glamorous surnames (Waugh, Guinness); some with predictably ominous ones (Mosley). But most of all, there are the books by the women themselves: Decca Mitford’s autobiography, Hons and Rebels; Diana Mitford’s A Life of Contrasts; Deborah Mitford’s titled, charmingly, Wait for Me! Memoirs of the Youngest Mitford Sister; and Nancy Mitford’s glittering novels, From Highland Fling to Don’t Tell Alfred, via The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate.

So yes, I am one of those people who loves both to read about the Mitfords and to read the Mitfords. This is probably a hopelessly non-U habit of mine, but being a hopelessly middle-class American, everything about me is non-U. But I hadn’t realised until relatively late in my obsession how other fellow non-U-ers frowned on it too. “You’ve got a posh crush, I see,” one journalist sniffed at me, on spotting a Mitford book sticking out of my bag.

DJ Taylor summed up the Mitfords as “witty remarks and textbook flippancy [underpinned by] an absolute and obdurate self-belief”. In a review of a collection of letters between the sisters, Andrew O’Hagan, one of the best critics and writers living, described their style as mere “posh aesthetic”: “The posh aesthetic appeals to people who want life’s profundities to scatter on the wind like handfuls of confetti,” he wrote in the London Review of Books. Liking the Mitfords, I realised, was seen as something girlish, shallow and immature, like having an over-developed fondness for ponies, or wanting to be a ballerina. And this, in all honesty, amazed me, and still does.

The Mitfords were posh: of that there is no doubt. Their parents, David and Sydney Freeman-Mitford, were Lord and Lady Redesdale, rich in land but not in cash, and when it comes to English aristocracy, you can’t get more posh than that. To read the names that run like beads through the sisters’ biographies is like reciting a rosary of the early 20th-century British upper class: Curzon, Cooper, Churchill, Cunard, Strachey, Beaton. This is part of what Taylor describes as the “Mitford chic”, and it is how they’ve long been packaged and sold.

Their particular brand of upper class snobbery is now so anachronistic it’s simply amusing: in an obituary this week of Deborah, the writer pointed to a list of the late Duchess of Devonshire’s dislikes, which included but was not limited to “the bits of paper that fall out of magazines; female weather forecasters; the words ‘environment’, ‘conservation’ and ‘leisure’; supercilious assistants at makeup counters; dietary fads; skimmed milk; girls with slouching shoulders and Tony Blair.”

And then there are the Nazis. Of the seven Mitford children – Nancy, Pamela, Tom, Diana, Unity (“Bobo”), Decca and Debo – most had met Hitler and one, Unity, had an intensely close relationship with him and signed off her letters, in classic Mitford style, “Heil Hitler! Love, Bobo”. Unity is probably the ultimate example of nominative determinism, having been conceived in Swastika, Ontario, and given the middle name Valkyrie at birth. Diana fell passionately in love with Oswald Mosley and the two married in Goebbels’ drawing room, with Hitler as a guest. At the other end of the scale, Decca ran away as soon as she could and became a committed communist.

As a middle-class American – and Jewish, to boot – I should be repulsed by the Mitfords. That I’m not is because they collectively represent something much greater than their (fascinating) biographical details. For a while I thought it might be “posh-crushing”, and so read books about other aristocratic families. I couldn’t finish a single one, they were all utterly deadly.

It astounds me that anyone could dismiss the Mitford mentality as simply a “posh aesthetic”, because their writing is so much more layered than that. Yes, Nancy’s two most famous novels are witty, but they are underpinned by great hooks of self-awareness and sadness that snag on the lightness. “Keeping up a good shop-front” was the aim in the face of the enormous personal tragedies suffered by the whole family.

Even though Nancy wrote The Pursuit of Love at the height of her love affair with Gaston Palewski, even she couldn’t envisage a happy ending for them and killed her alter ego, Linda (but in classic Nancy fashion, she also killed Linda’s lover too.) And she was right: Palewski would eventually devastate her by marrying someone else, and she died soon after. One can only maintain the shop-front for so long.

But the Mitfords represent more than glamour and tragedy. To me, and I suspect to a lot of other women (for it is mainly women) whom they fascinate, they remain an exciting reminder of a woman’s ability to shape her own life, for better or worse, uncowed by familial and social expectations and restrictions.

Decca fell out with most of her family due to her political beliefs; David’s heart was broken by Diana’s marriage and Unity’s antics, and his and Sydney’s marriage was eventually destroyed by the strain of it all. But each of the girls pursued their own wildly different paths, whatever the personal cost.

Decca went from being a pampered, uneducated aristocratic child to a fierce civil rights campaigner in the US; Diana remained unapologetically devoted to Mosley to the day he died; Nancy lived a somewhat lonely life in Paris, writing novels. How many of us can say that we pursued such individualistic lives, utterly unshaped by our parents and unlike our siblings?

If they were all fascists, or novelists, or communists, there would be of no interest. The fascination comes from the unapologetic differences. So it might sound odd to say this about a family spiced with such bitter ingredients as Hitler and loss, but what the Mitford sisters represent is courage and freedom.

Wait for Me! Memoirs of the Youngest Mitford Sister, by Deborah Devonshire
Debo Mitford's story, written aged 90, is a worthy addition to the family oeuvre
Rachel Cooke

The great thing about loving the Mitfords is that a fresh treat seems to be delivered almost every week. Already this year, we've been blessed with a new edition of Wigs on the Green , Nancy's long-lost skit on the dubious politics of her brother-in-law, Oswald Mosley. And now, hard on its heels comes Debo, the youngest sister, who, at the grand old age of 90, has written her memoirs.

Naturally Debo is somewhat at a disadvantage here, given how many have come before her. Nancy and Decca weren't the only writers in the family – Diana (Mosley) also published her memoirs – and I've long since lost track of all the letters and biographies. Can her book really contain anything new? Certainly, it's striking that its author's eccentric childhood, being so familiar, makes up one of the least interesting sections of Wait For Me! But this isn't really the point. You read her for her qualities, not for her revelations.

Of course, the Mitford parents, Lord and Lady Redesdale ("Muv and Farve"), still have the power to charm, even when depicted by one more willing to stick to the facts than Nancy, whose novels made Farve famous. Debo has the sharp beak of a magpie when it comes to wrenching from memory just the right anecdote. I like this one. Farve, she writes, would take his coffee to his study, where he would proceed to drink it cold at regular intervals throughout the morning: his "suckments", he called this. When a housemaid was rash enough to empty and wash his cup, he thereafter locked the vessel in his safe.

There are also warm portraits of her sisters. As a child, Decca (Jessica) was Debo's favourite, being closest to her in age, though her love for Unity, whose pathetic life caused the whole family so much pain, ran very deep. When, in the book, war breaks out, and Unity, a fascist with a pash for Hitler ("she would be arrested as a stalker today," observes Debo), shoots herself with a mother-of-pearl pistol in a Munich park, her sister's prose, previously lively, falls mechanically flat. You sense that behind the stiff lip, all this still hurts terribly (Unity was thereafter retarded, and liked to dress up as a clergyman). "We knew the bad side," she writes a little later. "We knew she had condoned Nazi cruelty … [but] there was something innocent about Unity, a guileless, childlike simplicity that made her vulnerable and in need of protection." Horrible to have to all but apologise for loving your own sister.

She met Andrew Cavendish, a second son and therefore not, at the time, the heir to a Dukedom and the Chatsworth estate, in 1938, the year she came out: "That was it for me … nothing and nobody else mattered." They married during the war, at the height of the bombing, a time both heady and terrible. Decca's husband, Esmond, had already been killed; Debo's brother, Tom, and Andrew's brother, Billy, died soon after. Diana, meanwhile, whose politics meant she was considered a threat to the nation, was in Holloway Prison. (Debo believes Nancy told the Foreign Office that Diana was "extremely dangerous" because she was jealous of her.)

Through it all, however, Debo is the best kind of stoic. It's not only that, like everyone in wartime Britain, she learned to cope (when petrol rationing came in, she used an old horse-drawn milk float to get around). She is in possession of what I can only describe as a uniquely Mitford-esque sensibility: loving but unsentimental; devoid of self-pity; unwilling to bore others with her own travails; able to find the ridiculous in almost anything. I realise, all you Mitford haters, that she was cushioned by her class, and her husband's wealth. But these qualities – dismayingly rare in Oprahworld – are, to me, indisputably admirable. No wonder she has so many friends.

In her memoir, you'll find everyone, from Hitler (he wasn't "like his photos", and his flat, being very brown, was horrible) to Ivor Novello ("What an enchanting bit of beige," he said, on meeting her whippet, Studley). Visitors to Chatsworth, and to the Duke's Irish home, Lismore Castle, include Evelyn Waugh, Hubert de Givenchy and Duncan Grant, though first up is Lucian Freud, enlisted to paint cyclamen on the wall of a Chatsworth bathroom, a task he never completes (he would greet Debo every morning with the words: "I've had a wonderful night taking out everything I did yesterday"). I can't share her enthusiasm for the moaning minnie Prince of Wales, but we all have our blind spots.

Admittedly, the Duchess's work at Chatsworth – its farm shop was her idea – hardly makes for thrilling reading. "My eight-year association with Tarmac came about by chance," is a sentence so crashingly dull, I half wondered if she was being satirical. But there is something cherishable about her enjoyment of her Derbyshire life. Her enthusiasm for the big house, and for all that it brings with it, is generous, and occasionally batty: when Oscar de la Renta comes to stay, she worries he will find mere flowers boring, and creates a table decoration featuring a cockerel (alive) in a glass box.

Above all, though, it is enduring. Since the Duke's death in 2004, she has lived in a nearby village, but her appetite – for friends, for fun, even for work – belongs to someone half her age. This is what stays with you. As she relates the deaths of her sisters – Diana was the last to go, in 2003 – you feel, by rights, that her world should narrow, that she should, by now, be marooned on the survivors' island that is extreme old age. Yet this is emphatically not the case. She misses them. How could she not? But her eyes – always a special shade of blue – seem to me to be as beady, and as full of mischief, as ever.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Paraboot / "Michael" Model / Legendary "Chaussures".

The audacity and entrepreneurial spirit of Rémy Richard

It all began in the late nineteenth century in Izeaux, a small village at the foot of the Alps. Rémy-Alexis Richard, born in 1878 into a humble farming family, became a semi-skilled cutter at Chevron, one of a score of shoe factories in this Isère village. These factories received orders from contractors "in the city", bought the leather, cut it and had the pieces assembled by farming families at home in the surrounding hills, before fixing them (by nailing or sewing them) onto wooden or leather soles, depending on the product in question.
Rémy Richard soon realised that these contractors from the cities earned more money than his own boss, and decided to try his luck; he went up to Paris with the designs for his own models to sell them as a "factory agent".
His plan worked! Rémy had "his" first shoes manufactured by the factories in Izeaux – including the one he had just left – and sold them to the "major" clients in Paris. In 1908, he began to hire his own staff.

Rubber becomes the DNA of the Paraboot brand

From Paris to London via Amsterdam, Rémy Richard loved travelling and tradeshows, where he collected plenty of medals.
In 1926, although he didn’t speak a word of English, he set sail for the United States. With an eye for innovation, he noticed the rubber boots worn by the Americans, and above all the assets of this brand new material, also known as latex or gum. This was an epiphany for him. He returned with this material and knowhow to Tullins Fures, a small town close to Izeaux, where he had just bought a new factory building.
Rémy began manufacturing boots that were guaranteed to be waterproof, with "layers" of latex added by hand on wooden lasts and vulcanised in vats.
Rémy Richard was not the first to do this, however. In 1853 the Englishman Hiram Hutchinson had already set up a rubber boot factory in France, the forerunner of the Aigle group. Hutchinson acquired the patents from Charles Junior Goodyear, the inventor of vulcanisation, as well as patents from his father, Charles Goodyear – who, a few years earlier, had developed a sewing machine that was to bear his name.
Rémy did however have eleven years’ start on Vitale Bramani, the founder of the "Vibram" brand: it was Rémy Richard who invented notched soles for mountain boots. Such were the interweaving paths of destiny.
Rémy then had the idea of using this rubber to replace wooden soles. These were inexpensive but uncomfortable and tended to wear out too quickly
Rémy just needed to find the right technique: at that time, the leather uppers of shoes were either nailed to wooden soles or sewn onto leather soles. Neither technique was possible with rubber soles.
Rémy Richard therefore developed a system using fine rubber soles which could be sewn to the upper and then glued with liquid latex to a thicker rubber sole.
The only remaining problem was vulcanisation; an old walnut oil press (another local speciality) made it possible to bake, and thus vulcanise, these shoes in steel moulds, using the humble principle of the waffle iron.
From then on, all the work boots had rubber soles. These became the distinguishing mark of footwear produced at the Richard Pontvert factory.

Le plébiscite de « la » Michael sauve Paraboot de la disparition

Whilst negotiating with the Trade Tribunal, Michel Richard went to Italy in search of more efficient equipment. He sought to understand the methods of his most formidable Italian competitors. In the end, he met "WP lavori in corso", an Italian distributor of fashion garments, and negotiated a contract.
The Italian stylists had decreed that men needed to get themselves a new look: gone were the dark suit, shirt and tie and black thin-soled moccasins. Instead they were to wear tweed jackets, corduroy trousers and polo-neck jumpers. All that was missing was a thick-soled shoe made from decent materials. Although they had all they needed in Italy, they chose the Michael model by Paraboot.
The popular demand for “the” Michael saved Paraboot from going under.
The fashion quickly caught on, orders flooded in and the workload management schedule was assured. The historic suppliers who had been spared when bankruptcy loomed remained loyal! Paraboot had been working with the same tanneries for several generations – suppliers who were friends first and foremost, who shared the same passion for the job and enjoyed mutual trust. That made all the difference.
The French clients were still there and were right to have waited: two years later, the Italian fashion arrived in France, providing them with unexpected additional business.
The only thing left to be done was to reorganise everything: the staff trusted the young boss and accepted his new rules. Management control became sharper, with computers rolled out to all departments. Productivity improved - as did pay.

The bankers were relegated to counting income and expenditure.

Friday, 26 September 2014

Downton Abbey Series 5. ITV: Downton Abbey Series 5 Official trailer

Downton Abbey review – Down There Abbey, more like: they are all sex-mad
The aristocratic Crawley clan are back – and it’s all going on upstairs, downstairs and in my lady’s chamber
    Sam Wollaston            
Rump of yellow labrador, wagging faithfully towards big cedar and Jacobean-style stately, accompanied by tinkly easy-listening piano and soaring strings. It’s back: Downton Abbey (ITV, Sunday), posh soap – more Howard’s Way than Howards End … I know, I did that one before, but I like it, OK? I’m plagiarising myself.

She (presumably) – the lab – is called Isis, unfortunately. Well, the Crawleys weren’t to know what that would come to mean, 90 years down the road (Downton has now reached 1924). Likewise when they named their (as yet unseen) cat Al Shabaab …

So what’s going on? Dark clouds are gathering. No, not the iClouds with the sex tapes, clouds of change. “I feel a shaking of the ground I stand on,” says poor Carson. Earthquake, is it? Suicide attack by Isis, the caliphate hound? No, just momentous social upheaval. The village wants Carson, not his Lordship, to chair their war memorial committee, and it has put Carson in a fearful tizzy.

On top of that, the country has elected a Labour prime minister, Ramsay MacDonald, son of a farm labourer and a housemaid, who is upsetting the old order, like Carson. The downstairs people are starting to look at those stairs with thoughts of ascending. Even Daisy is considering bettering herself. While above, the toffs are beginning the long slow slide towards irrelevance.

Not that they’re going quietly. “They’ve cast the net wide tonight,” says the Dowager Countess, clinging on with old-lady claws to the past and to every fibre of her own snobbishness, on noticing that a teacher has been invited to dinner. A teacher! Imagine! It gets worse – she, the teacher, Sarah, Tom’s new love interest – has an opinion too, and isn’t afraid to express it, over the soup. A woman, with a brain, and an opinion, who wants a conversation, whatever next? No wonder people are upset. “The nature of life is not permanence but flux,” laments Carson.

“Just so, even if it does sound faintly disgusting,” replies Mrs Hughes. Mrs Hughes! What the … are you suggesting what I think you are, flux without the l?

And that’s not the end of the filth. It seems everyone is having carnal thoughts; if not actually doing sex, then at least waking up to its existence. Even Bates, officially the most sexless man on television, wants in. “I can think of one thing,” he says, when Anna says there’s nothing they can do about not having children. “Mr Bates!” she says, which is presumable what he goes and does, sulkily.

There’s more; this is the sex episode, Down There Abbey. Lady Mary, who still hasn’t decided between her two suitors (zzzzzz), decides the best way to make up her mind about Lord Gillingham is to shag him. Not exactly how she puts it, but it’s certainly what she means. “Even now, we must decide whether we want to spend our lives with someone without spending any real time with them, let alone … you know,” she tells prudish Anna.

This new one too, aristo sex-pest Lady Anstruther (Anna Chancellor, joining briefly), entices James the servant toy boy upstairs. Upstairs, downstairs, in my lady’s chamber, for flux and everything else. Maybe that iCloud was overhead after all; now it’s burst and is raining down a deluge of smut. But then Lady Edith carelessly sets fire to the place, which puts a stop to things before the earth can move again.

“Save the dog,” shouts Lord Grantham. It’s reassuring that he’s thinking of the dog before the servants – the old way isn’t quite over yet. And by the time the fire brigade arrives, Isis has been taken out of the crisis, and is safe and wagging again, on the drive. I’m glad, she’s the only character I care about.

Picture preview: Episode two

A new guest joins the Crawley family for dinner, but will he be welcome by all?
Will Miss Bunting and Branson's friendship develop further?
Can Edith live the truth without telling the truth?

Will Daisy's unrest continue as she pursues further study?