Sunday, November 29, 2009

The NZ Series # 9 - On Vacation to Mount Cook

"Low Combined Rail and Motor Fares" and a joyful woman sporting a beret with Mount Cook, or Aoraki in Te Reo Maori, in the background.
No publication date provided.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Dutch Series # 3 - De Waerknöppele

Dutch, or really I should say, Limburgian, duo "De Waerknöppele" are the Dutch province's of Limburg weathermen, having a show on the local Limburgian TV-channel TVL.
Not that the weather is taken very serious during the show, if mentioned at all by the beret wearing comical duo Jos Hanssen and Pierre Lemmens, but they manage to attract a good local following - local indeed, as it is not easy to understand the Limburgian dialect for people from "north of the big rivers" as they say in the Netherlands.
Blog readers from Belgium, Germany and Luxembourg could give it a try...

Friday, November 27, 2009

Hemingway, Boina and Gattorno

A researcher in the Ernest Hemingway Collection is Colette C. Hemingway ~ the wife of Sean Hemingway who is the son of Gregory and grandson of Ernest. Colette is an art historian and is currently writing a book on the art collection of Ernest Hemingway. As a result of her research the Ernest Hemingway Library has gained a far better understanding of the significance of a watercolor stored as Oversized Material within the Other Material series. It is in fact a wonderful watercolor portrait of Ernest Hemingway in a beret.

The title on the verso in violet ballpoint pen is “Ernest Hemingway by Antonio Gattorno / 1934.”

The watercolor portrait is adhered
into an old mat with “Scotch” tape,
masking tape and strips from a
gummed address label.
The portrait is slightly cockled and
has surface grime.

Antonio Gattorno (Cuban, 1904-1980) was one of the pioneers of the modern art movement in Cuba. Ernest Hemingway and John Dos Passos sponsored Gattorno’s first U.S. exhibit. From the 1930’s through the 1970s, reviews of his solo exhibitions in the New York Times and other important newspapers consider him a major talent and compare him to artists as diverse as Eduard Manet and Salvador Dali.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

A few more Facts, on Berets and Georgia

A few more facts on the beret, according to the American Basque berets company. Did you know that:
  • in Spain, during the 11th Century, the women wore plain berets, whereas those worn by the men were decorated with flowers and feathers?
  • superstitious newly married couples of Tahiti present a native beret to each other on every wedding anniversary as a symbol of good luck?
  • peasants and common people of ancient Greece for a time during the 3rd Century, were not permitted to wear berets? Only the privileged classes wore berets at the time.
  • The Cheusur people of the Caucasian Mountain District today still wear the same type of beret as their ancestors, the early Crusaders, wore 1400 years ago.
I have lived and worked in the countries of the Caucasus for quite a while, but this last fact really dazzles me. Besides, I always thought the crusades happened only a mere 1000 years ago...

It does make me think of another hat though, the felt cap of the Svan people in the Georgian district of Svanetia, bearing some similarities to the beret. A nice and simple hat, typical of mountain people, from arguably the most beautiful country in the world.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Ilya Ehrenburg

Ilya Ehrenburg, the leading Soviet propagandist of the Second World War, was a contradictory figure.

Ehrenburg was born in 1891 in Kiev to a non-religious Jewish family. In 1908 he fled Tsarist Russia because of his revolutionary activities. Although he returned to visit after the Bolshevik revolution, he continued to live abroad, including many years in Paris, and did not settle in the Soviet Union until 1941. A prolific writer, Ehrenburg was the author of almost 30 books.

Ilya Ehrenburg and Gustav Regler with Hemingway in Spain, 1937

As a Jew and a dedicated Communist, Ehrenburg was a relentless enemy of German National Socialism. During the Second World War, he was a leading member of the Soviet-sponsored Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee. (At fund-raising rallies in the United States for the Soviet war effort, two leading members of the Committee displayed bars of soap allegedly manufactured by the Germans from the corpses of murdered Jews.)

The Soviet Jewish writer Ilya Ehrenburg in a meeting with partisans following the liberation of Vilnius in 1944.

In 1954, Ehrenburg published a novel titled The Thaw that tested limits of censorship in the post-Stalin Soviet Union. It described a corrupted and despotic factory boss (a "little Stalin"). The boss's wife could not bear to stay with him and left the despot during the spring thaw that gave her the courage, an analogy of Krushchev's 'Thaw' in the USSR.

Ehrenburg was the first legal Soviet author to mention positively a lot of names banned under Stalin, including the one of Marina Tsvetaeva. He was also active in publishing the works by Osip Mandelstam when the latter had been posthumously rehabilitated but still largely unacceptable for censorship. Ehrenburg co-edited The Black Book that contains documentary accounts by Jewish survivors of the Holocaust in the Soviet Union and Poland. Ehrenburg was also active as poet till his last days, depicting the WW II events in Europe, the Holocaust and the destinies of Russian intellectuals.

Ehrenburg died in 1967 of prostate and bladder cancer, and was interred in Novodevichy Cemetery in Moscow,

where his gravestone is adorned with a reproduction of his portrait drawn by his friend Pablo Picasso.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Christmas Presents?

Going into Central Wellington these days, it is hard to avoid the Christmas trees, the shop window Santa's and carols blaring from loudspeakers onto the street.

I don't think I'll ever get used to Christmases in the Southern Hemisphere, the Christmas lunches on the beach, the Santa's in shorts on jandals and listening to how people dream of 'a white Christmas' while sweating it out on the beach.

Luckily, the WWW is border-less and if you are still looking for a great Christmas gift for your beloved dad, son, brother, grampa, nephew, boyfriend... why not give him a gift that will last him a decade or two?

Beautiful merino berets from Spain and Argentina are available via easy mail order through South Pacific Berets and when ordered this week, they'll arrive in time for the silly season!

For the New Zealanders, Australians, Africans and South Americans among you - why not go for the fantastic cotton thread made Tolosa Tupida 31?

You like it wrapped in Christmas wrapping? - leave me a message when making payment!

The Southern Cross looks down

O little town of Bethlehem,
the Southern Cross looks down,
As once a star shone bright and clear
above an Eastern town,

The hearts of Bethlehem are cold,
the streets are hushed with snow,
The doors are locked, there is no room,
dear Lord, where will you go?

Oh come sweet Jesus, come to us,
New Zealand's shores are warm,
And here are loving hearts enough
To shield you from the storm.

Come we will give you all we have,
Each bird and flower and tree
The breeze that stirs the mountain tops
The music of the sea.

Mary Tomlinson on Bette Davis

The following piece comes from the BBC Radio - the story of Kangol factory worker Mary Tomlinson and the beret she packed for Bette Davis.Beret


"Bette Davis' beret"

One day, working in the Kangol beret and hat factory in Cleator, Mary got a special hat to ship off to California ...

About the author

My name is Mary. I was born in Frizington. I chose this story about Kangol because it happened when I was working there, and I always remembered about the secret. I have always liked writing since my 80th birthday. I have written my life story.

I have enjoyed being with the Group and the Tutors. Everyone is so nice and helpful.

It was an experience visiting Radio Cumbria and Tullie House.

Bette Davis' beret

Kangol was the famous beret and hat factory in Cleator where I worked as a young woman.

Mrs Gregg’s room was for “end products” where we verified the berets and packed them for sending abroad. Mrs Gregg herself was the designer, a very nice woman who the girls all liked.

Mr Meisner and his uncle brought the business here from France and gave employment to many people. The wages were not good, but machinists earned more as they were on “piece work”.

I loved watching the process of making the berets from start to finish; it seemed very complicated to learn, but berets were becoming very popular and we also made them for the Forces.

One particular memory I have is from the Queen’s Coronation in
1953 when we had an order from the Gurkhas for a pill-box type of hat with large chinstraps. For this the firm received the Queen’s Award for the first time and all employees were given a a five-shilling piece as a souvenir.

So, when they started making hats for civilian men, not just ladies, business really started booming! I remember that when Kangol advertised their hats, their slogan was “Kangol, cute from every angle.”



One morning, Mrs Gregg approached me and asked me to look for a perfect white beret, and to sew into the white satin lining, which was stamped with gold lettering, “Anglo Basque - made in Cleator, Cumberland.” It was examined and I put it in a box lined with tissue paper and sealed it. She gave me the label and said, “Mary, I will let you into a little secret. This beret is going to Universal Studios in California, for Miss Bette Davis, to wear in her next film.”

I kept this secret for decades until we were writing the book about the history of Frizington when I was told it was my claim to fame! I had never thought of it in that way; it was just a secret I had kept … for all those years.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Scientific Facts on the Beret?

Through an auction I got hold of a number of very old "new" berets; once the stock of a New York hatter, stored for decades on an attic and finally sold to this collector by the hatter's grandchild after a cleaning spree of the old house...
Some of these I sell on to other collectors or donate to museums, but this one here, I am very happy to keep in my collection.

It's a French made Basque beret, only 21.5 cm diameter (8.5") in it's original box. The box proudly displays the US flag and advertises the beret as "American Basque Beret" with a registered US patent. But, more interesting is the back cover, stating all sort of facts about the berets that really make me wonder. I quote the most interesting (or fantastic...) ones:
  • When the ancient Roman male wished to become engaged to a girl, he merely snatched off her beret. This symbolized that she was accepted.
  • The aboriginal inhabitants of England during battle wore only close-fitting berets and no other apparel whatsoever.
  • The Lhardi tribes of Northern Tibet always wear berets made from the hair of departed relatives as a sign of respect.
  • Korean gentlemen always wear two berets, one above the other. They take off only the outer one when indoors.
And how do you like this one: Superstitious maidens of Afghanistan sleep with their native beret on so they will not be annoyed by evil spirits that prevent them finding a husband.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Agustin Ibarrola and his Painted Trees

Agustín Ibarrola (born 1930) is a Spanish Basque painter and

sculptor, well known for his 'Enchanted Forest' of painted trees in the Forest of Oma (in the Spanish Basque Country).

Being Basque himself, didn't protect Ibarrola from the fanatics in the ETA, who

denounced him as a "Spaniard" and an "Honorary Fascist", terrorized him and his

wife and vandalized his artwork.

Since these accusations refer to the artist's politics, rather than to his work, you might think that Ibarrola represents some vestige of the old regime, but the contrary is true: being an ethnic Basque, born in a traditional basseri (traditional Basque farmhouse) and always donning his txapela, he was a militant anti-fascist and member of the Communist Party (for which he spent many years in jail under Franco and in exile in France).

What the ETA doesn't like is his outspoken criticism of violence, his joining anti-terrorist platforms like Basta-Ya where his condemnation of the ETA turned into condemnation of Basque nationalism in general. The sad truth is that condemnation is wider than just within the ETA, but much within local politics too.

I much admire Agustin Ibarrola; for his work and his morals.

Friday, November 20, 2009

They're In: The Cotton Basque Berets from Buenos Aires!

Happy to announce that they are in, finally, the beautifully made Cotton Basque Berets from Bonigor, Buenos Aires, and just in time to get your Christmas presents organized!

So many hats are called berets, mistakingly - all those beanies, newsboy caps, cheese slicers, skull caps...
But, one variety on the traditional merino woolen Basque beret, is this fantastic piece of headgear that truely does deserve the name Boina Vasca (or Béret Basque). Invented in 1996 by the present (and 5th generation) owner/manufacturer of Boinas Bonigor SA in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

These berets are ideal (but not only) for warmer climates - beautiful craftsmanship using the traditional pattern of the Basque beret and not available anywhere else outside South America except for South Pacific Berets!

Orson Welles in the Basque Country

You can see lots of berets on these two short films by Orson Welles, shot in the 1950's. Beautiful material, even though it comes over as slightly naive now and very amusing to watch.
George Orson Welles (1915 – 1985), was an American film director, writer, actor and producer, who worked extensively in film, theater, television and radio. Welles was also an accomplished magician, starring in troop variety spectacles in the war years. Noted for his innovative dramatic productions as well as his distinctive voice and personality, Welles is widely acknowledged as one of the most accomplished dramatic artists of the 20th century. His first two films with RKO: Citizen Kane and The Magnificent Ambersons, are widely considered two of the greatest ever made. He was also well-known for a radio adaptation of H. G. Wells' novel The War of the Worlds which, performed in the style of a news broadcast, caused widespread panic when listeners thought that an actual extraterrestrial invasion was in progress.
Despite his wide exposure to berets, I can't find any evidence of Welles wearing a beret himself.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Guardian Angels

The Guardian Angels is a non-profit organisation of unarmed citizen crime patrollers, founded in New York City in 1979 by Curtis Sliwa, a former McDonalds night manager, and presently with chapters in 13 countries (140 cities) around the world.
Sliwa originally created the organisation to combat the widespread violence and crime on the NY City subways, training members to make citizen's arrests, patrolling the streets and provide education programs for schools and businesses.
In the beginning, NY Mayor Ed Koch opposed the group, like many US government officials, but he later reversed his stance. The Guardian Angels have been recognized and praised by a number of US presidents, like Nixon, Clinton and Bush.
Here you can take the 'Underbelly Tour' of New York City.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The NZ Series # 8 - Fane Flaws

Fane Flaws has spent the last thirty years working in a variety of media. He has worked as a graphic designer, painter, songwriter, director of Music Videos, Short Films, TVC’s, and writer, illustrator and publisher of Children’s Literature, among other things.
I do enjoy his unique and original artwork, like this composition 'Self-Portrait with Beret'.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The NZ Series # 7 - More Anti-French Sentiments

A homie (or 'Bro', Maori slang for 'Friend', or the NZ-English equivalent 'Mate') offers some snails with tomato sauce to a Frenchman wearing a beret and striped shirt, who turns them down with disdain.
It never fails to amaze me how popular the stereotypical Frenchman is, all over the world, in his striped shirt and with a beret on his head. At least this one doesn't have a cigarette hanging from his mouth or a baguette under his arm. Probably unintentional, the homie does a good copy of an American stereotype with the baseball cap backwards and his NY-Tee, but then, this is becoming a much imported stereotype outside the US too...

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The NZ Series # 6 - The French as viewed by NZ'ers

The relationship between New Zealanders and the French is a troubled one. Maybe here is a reason for the minor presence of the beret in this country..?
The animosity is partly taken over from the British (NZ still identifies largely with the old colonizer), but French government terrorism (blowing up Greenpeace's Rainbow Warrior in Auckland harbor) and the
long term nuclear testing by France in NZ's back garden didn't help much either.
Neither did the latest incident with French rugby player Bastareaud claiming he was beaten up by a gang of Maori in Wellington (despite his apologies in the end).

But, it does provide me with some pictures of berets in the country's media.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Digital Beret

For all those people who are afraid to wear a beret, they have the opportunity to modify their own pictures exactly the way they fancy - with beret.
Content Paradise sells a variety of digital berets, complete with badges of the most famous, or notorious, military units from around the world.
Even though, I personally prefer to stick to my unobtrusive but real Béret Basque.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Labels (3)

For those of you who enjoy the embroidered labels as much as I do:

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The NZ Series #5 - Sir Jon Trimmer

One of New Zealand's great dancers is also -not surprisingly, of course- a consistent beret-wearer.
Sir Jon Trimmer, 70 years old, joined the Royal New Zealand Ballet at the age of 19 (the RNZB was only 3 years old itself). His last lead role was that of Don Quixote, last Summer season, and was no finale for him. He had two New Zealand tours planned for next year, as well as one overseas one. Ballet in New Zealand is in good health.
There are very few dancers still on the stage at his age; Sir Jon says his secret is simply: "Enjoyments and self discipline."
The native Wellingtonian played with many great stars of the art: Dame Margot Fonteyn, Rudolf Nureyev and Erik Bruhn, to name a few.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Saint Pierre and Miquelon

The archipelago of Saint Pierre and Miquelon is a group of islands in the North Atlantic Ocean, the only remnant of the former colonial empire of New France, remaining under French control. The main islands, Saint Pierre and Miquelon, are just south of the coast of Canada's province of Newfoundland and Labrador, just over 6 miles being the shortest distance to Canada.
The history of the archipelago is full of interesting facts and anecdotes; about possible invasions by Canada, the undermining of the alcohol prohibition in the United States,

the changing control between the British and the French during the 17th and 18th centuries... Too much to list in this tiny blog-post.
In recent history, we saw the movie "Widow of St Pierre", with (film director) Emir Kusturica as the main character together with Juliette Binoche.
And, being part of France, it is obviously beret-country as well. Galerie Ravenel actually sells French-made berets with an interesting logo of Saint Pierre and Miquelon - I continue trying to order one for my collection.